Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Boundaries for Your Soul by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

I have read many books on external boundaries and found them very beneficial. I was intrigued by the idea of establishing internal boundaries. It might offer help for runaway thoughts and feelings.

The authors present a Christian approach to the Internal Family Systems Model of Therapy, integrating it with boundaries concepts. The first third of the book concentrates of helping us understand the parts of our souls, how to identify the parts that need care, and how we can be Spirit-led. The authors write, “The focus of this book is to help you access the Spirit of God abiding in your soul and to encourage you to invite his Spirit to be near those parts of your soul needing care.” (722/4229)

The next part of the book outlines the five part strategy the authors prescribe to do a you-turn and bring the parts of the soul under the leadership of the Spirit-led self. They include focus on an overwhelming part of yourself, befriend this part you don't like, invite Jesus to draw near, unburden this weary part, and finally, integrate it into your internal team of rivals. Specific instructions are given as well as personal examples from their counseling experiences as to how the technique works.

The authors address specific issues in the last third of the book, such as anger, fear, perfectionism, etc. Readers are taken through the five steps for each issue, including an example from the authors' counseling experiences. The authors even point out good aspects of each of these emotions generally thought to be detrimental. Each can be put to good use. There is even a chapter for strategy when the other person has the challenging soul issues.

I think this book has great personal potential. It reminds me of the healing of memories technique that was popular in the Christian realm decades ago. Imagining Jesus coming into the situation is essential. The successful examples in the text are of people doing the imagining as they are directed by one of the authors. How well this process can work by reading a book may be very different. I tried to go through a few of their exercises but my scientifically trained mind had difficulty with the whole imagining Jesus idea.

I do recommend this book to readers who desire to deal with parts of their souls and establish soul integration. Just know there will be much work on the part of the reader required. Just reading the text will not create the healing. Reading this book and going through the suggested exercises might be quite a journey. It may be most helpful to read this book with a trusted friend who can help with the process.

You can watch the book trailer here.

You can read an interview with the authors here.

You can download a free chapter and take a quiz here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Alison Cook, MA, PhD, practices in the greater Boston area, where she specializes in the integration of spiritual formation and psychology. She has taught and counseled teens, adults, and couples, for over two decades and speaks on emotional and spiritual wholeness at churches, conferences, and retreats across the country. She earned her MA in counseling from Denver Seminary and a PhD in religion and psychology from the University of Denver. She is certified in Internal Family Systems Therapy. You can find out more at www.alisoncookphd.com.
Kimberly Miller, MTH, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice, specializing in preventing burnout among leaders. She is the founder of Leading Wholeheartedly, a ministry equipping people to cultivate their inner lives so that their service to others is more deeply rooted, productive, and sustainable. She also founded Doing Good Well, a program of Christians in the Visual Arts. She studied at Davidson College, earned a master's in theology from Regent College, and an MA in clinical psychology from Azusa Pacific University. She is certified in Internal Family Systems Therapy and Image Relationship Therapy. She and her husband live in southern California. You can find out more at www.kimberlyjunemiller.com.

Thomas Nelson, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Christianity at the Crossroads by Michael J Kruger

I am a layperson writing a review of an academic text. My goal is not a scholarly review but to describe the possible insights laypeople can gather from reading this book about Christianity in the second century.

We may think Christianity in the world has always been as it is now. Kruger reminds us that is not the case. Christianity was frail in the second century. It had little cultural influence in a hostile environment. There was no clearly defined theology and heresies were running rampant. There was no New Testament and there were no longer apostles to lead the church.

Kruger notes this was a time of transition and important decisions for the church. It was the era in which Christianity was clearly recognized as separate from Judaism. Gentiles were being brought into the faith with their intellectual and cultural challenges. Apologetics developed in the midst of a pluralistic environment.

I found that some of the conditions of that century are similar to our contemporary situation. Even though the church had not developed a precise theology and there were heresies popping up, there was a core set of beliefs developing. There was also an interesting exploration by Kruger as to what it meant to be “Christian” at that time. Some designated themselves as such, as today. Their claims were considered with respect to the Apostolic teaching and the rule of faith. That's a wise practice for today too.

Kruger notes, “...it is clear that women played a substantive role in early Christianity...” (36) That's encouraging for this woman to hear. Kruger also notes a distinguishing characteristic of Christianity among religions is that it used books and written texts. We see that today with scores of new books on Christian faith and practice each year.

Kruger notes that his book is an introduction to and not an exhaustive study of Christianity in the second century. (9) It is a scholarly work and laypeople may have difficulty easily reading the text. There are some sections where Kruger concentrates on evaluating the works of other scholars, for example. Nonetheless, I appreciated learning about how Christianity developed in that era and how we can apply principles from it to Christianity today.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Michael J Kruger is president and professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. You can find out more at https://www.michaeljkruger.com/.

InterVarsity Press, 256 pages

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Leaving Cloud 9 by Ericka Anderson

I had difficulty with this memoir style biography. I found Ericka's writing style somewhat hard to follow, events of her husband's life interwoven with her own opinions and facts from research. I also found the third person point of view rather odd. For example, “Rick wants people to know...” (3924/4152)

Ericka shares her husband's childhood experiences and the effect they had on him. Some might say his life wasn't so bad. He had to eat stale sugared cereals, although the milk was never sour. Some kids might have nothing at all for breakfast. While at his grandparents, he was forced to eat everything on his plate or it would be there the next morning for breakfast. (1113/4152) Yep. That was my parents' philosophy too. Rick felt unwanted in his grandparent's home. (1135/4152) Yep. I was relegated to play in a dank basement while at my grandparent's. I had lunch with a lady this week who had her teeth punched out by an abusive parent. She came out of her abusive childhood a mentally healthy woman even though she became a Christian as an adult. It seems to me that Rick's childhood experiences were not nearly as bad as some, from other memoirs I have read. Ericka says Rick was “a sensitive child.” (1100/4152) Perhaps that is more telling about this memoir than the actual circumstances he experienced.

Ericka's account of her husband's childhood is rather detailed and I had trouble keeping engaged with the text. It also seemed that Ericka had an agenda in her writing as she included much commentary with the record of her husband's early life. Some of it was about findings from research. Some of it was about her own emotions, I think. There was even some commentary about the Republican party.

I felt that sometimes Ericka embellished the hardness of Rick's childhood. She writes of Rick and his sister, “These siblings never heard the affirmation and encouragement all little boys and girls crave, not even from a schoolteacher or a social worker.” (1252/4152) Really? I find that very hard to believe, that never even once did they hear an encouraging word from a teacher. I did not like the racial implications either. Ericka writes that, “the problems of children like Rick [white] aren't addressed as thoughtfully as those of racial minorities.” (1307/4152) Really? I bet there are many who would greatly disagree with that.

In the end, Rick is finally healing through his relationship with Jesus and his increasingly more stable marriage to Erika. That is encouraging.

Some may appreciate Erika's style of writing and the very detailed account of her husband's hard childhood, hard army experiences, failed marriages, etc. It was okay, I suppose, but I feel the book could have been written so as to be much more positive and encouraging for readers.

You can watch a book trailer and read a chapter at http://leavingcloud9.com/.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Ericka Anderson is a freelance writer who also serves as the Digital Marketing Director at the Independent Women's Forum and as a consultant for The Steamboat Institute. She previously wrote for, and was the Digital Director at, National Review magazine. Prior to that, she was the Digital Manager at the Heritage Foundation and worked in communications for Vice President Mike Pence at the GOP Conference. She attended Indiana University. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband and their son.

Thomas Nelson, 272 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Running by Dave Milbrandt Blog Tour

About the Book

Book Title: Running  
Author: Dave Milbrandt  
Genre: Christian Suspense  
Release date: May 1, 2018

An assassin’s bullet sends Jim Mitchell running. When he’ll stop is anybody’s guess. A tragedy propels Jim into a vacant state assembly seat. The new lawmaker and his wife have a baby on the way, but that doesn’t stop the people trying to keep him from a job he never wanted in the first place. Then Jim gets involved in a plan to thwart a major terror attack that could either make him a hero or get him killed. Political intrigue and high drama accent this tale of what it costs to find one’s purpose, and what the rewards can be when you do. Running is the third book in the Jim Mitchell series. Previous titles include Chasing Deception and Undue Pressure.

Click here to purchase your copy.

My Review

I liked this novel, the first I've read by Milbrandt. I could tell it was part of a series and that I had missed earlier events in the hero's life. Even so, the novel read quite well on its own. Quite a bit of the plot in this novel has its roots in a previous one and more backstory would have been appreciated.

The novel really gave me a sense of what it is like to be a politician in a state assembly and balance the responsibility with family life. It also reminded me of how devious some people can be and I was glad the hero maintained his Christian character even in tough times.

I recommend this book to readers who would like to get a glimpse of the pressures politicians face. It's a short read and flows well.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

The author of Chasing Deception and Undue Pressure, Dave Milbrandt fell in love with writing in junior high and has been a storyteller ever since. A former staff writer for a daily newspaper, the Southern California native spent five years in journalism and public relations before becoming a teacher. Having worked at several area colleges, Dave has taught high school English and Social Studies classes since 2005 and fills his evenings sharing a passion for politics with his community college students. Dave and his wife, Lynn, have been married since 1997.

Guest Post from Dave

In 1998, I feverishly pounded out the first draft of Chasing Deception (book one in the Jim Mitchell series) in five weeks. Full of ambition, but bereft of wisdom of how the publishing world works, I assumed my novel would be published in short order. Despite my overly abundant self-assurance, I had to wait until 2013 to get that story out. I was in a hurry, but God, as usual, had other plans. Over the last 20 years, I have discovered the gift of patience and more about the craft of good writing than I ever could have expected during that summer half a lifetime ago. With Undue Pressure (2016) and Running (2018), I have completed the trilogy I never planned to write and hopefully given readers some characters that will stick with them after they reach the end of the story.

Blog Stops

Carpe DiemJuly 28
At the FenceAugust 1
Cathe SwansonAugust 1
MultifariousAugust 3
Mary HakeAugust 3
Simple Harvest ReadsAugust 5 (Spotlight)
Texas Book-aholicAugust 6
Artistic NobodyAugust 8 (Spotlight)
Reading is my Super PowerAugust 9 (Interview)
BigreadersiteAugust 10


I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Danger Rising by E D Richards

I was impressed with the debut novel from Richards. I liked the futuristic setting of the end of this century. Richards projects to a time when the nations of the world have finally taken climate change seriously after decades of ignoring it. There are serious consequences for those who commit crimes against the environment. It is an era of amazing pod transport under water and personal devices that fly though the air. I would have liked a little more description of the futuristic machines and how they worked.

The characters were crafted rather well. The hero of the novel was a noted climate scientist. She seemed almost super human in her ability to get out of hopeless situations. Other characters were drawn well. Many were not who they appeared to be. Near the end of the book this made for many twists and turns and surprises.

Richards' writing style is pretty good but there were a few irritations for me. One was the number of people screaming their words. That was too much some times. Something else Richards did that I just will not tolerate is ending a chapter with the hero in an imminent death situation and then beginning the next chapter with the hero all well and fine. We do ultimately find out how she was rescued but I just do not appreciate that technique.

I do recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a plot based on a very possible future and includes plenty of action and suspense.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Independently published, 327 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

I received a complimentary egally of this book through NetGalley. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Desperate Prayers for Desperate Times by John Eckhardt

I have mixed feelings about this book. I mostly liked what I read at the beginning and the end but there was one area in the middle with which I have great reservations.

I like that Eckhardt begins his book by reminding us that we actually need times of desperation and desert experiences. “Without these seasons we would not be able to build the spiritual strength and character we need to withstand the weight of God's glory.” (x) It may be that God is bringing us to a new level. He reminds us of the work God can do in us when we are in a desperate place. I like that we need to realize the importance of personal prayer. We must recognize that we are in a spiritual battle and we must be in it for the long fight.

I like that Eckhardt explores the many possibilities there might be for God's delay in answering our petitions. It may be demonic activity. It may be we need to experience the results of a bad decision. God may be using the time to work deeply in us.

I like that in the latter part of the book Eckhardt writes that we must deal with the sin in our lives. (160) We must take away those things God tells us must go. (165) We cannot live just any way we please. There are such things as righteousness and holiness.

I was disappointed in the middle part of the book. Eckhardt goes into the typical Word of Faith teaching about multiplying finances and about how God has given believers authority over the earth and circumstances. We are to make confessions, to declare. “When I decree,” he writes, “something is going to change.” (113) “When you pray,” Eckhardt promises, “God will shake up every ungodly, wicked system that stands in your way.” (137) (He has included declarations at the end of every chapter for readers to use.)

Wait a minute. Eckhardst writes before and after this that God has a purpose to accomplish through our difficult circumstances. God is working on us, on our character. He is preparing us for something. Yet Eckhardt would say that our decreeing and praying would change those circumstances. Which is it? Do we humbly seek the character change God is doing through our circumstances or do we boldly (arrogantly) declare the circumstances changed? This is an example of contradictory teaching: suggesting we learn from our circumstance yet that we declare those circumstances changed.

At the very end of the book, Eckhardt says there is a purpose for being in a desert place. God is doing a work, perfecting character traits we need for what He has for us and to be able to bring glory to God. (199) I like that. Rather than declaring your circumstanced changed, find out what God is working in you through them.

My rating: 4/5 stars. This book releases August 7.

John Eckhardt is overseer of Crusaders Ministries in Chicago, Illinois. He has ministered throughout the United States and overseas in more than 80 nations. He is a sought after international conference speaker and has authored more than 20 books. He and his wife live in Chicago.

Charisma House, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Stars Uncharted by S K Dunstall

I grew up reading science fiction and still like to take the plunge from time to time. Dunstall takes us to a future with ships racing through space, worlds to be discovered and fortunes to be made. Ships can nullspace, reminding me of Kirk's Enterprise zipping from one location to another. There are plasma canons, havoc bombs, ionizers, and all kinds of futuristic weapons. There is the hunt for an elusive treasure, something for which a huge company is willing to kill to find.

The futuristic machines I found most interesting and ones forming an essential part of the plot were those modifying human bodies. Modders are people trained to use the machines. Nika, a main character, is an expert in the field. I was fascinated by the possibilities, a new nose, fat removed, remaking damaged body parts, even a change in gender. That concept brought an interesting aspect to this sci-fi adventure and made me wonder what the future might be like with DNA manipulation.

I recommend this novel to readers who like a good shoot 'em up science fiction adventure.

You can read the first chapter here. The book releases August 14.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

S K Dunstall is the pen name for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall, sisters who have been telling stories – and sharing them with each other – all their lives. Around five years ago, they realized the stories they worked on together were much better than the stories they worked on alone. A co-writing partnership was born. They live in Melbourne, Australia. You can find out more at http://www.skdunstall.com/. Photo by Andrew Kopp (c) 2015

Ace, 416 pages.

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Misstep by Deborah Dee Harper Blog Tour

by Deborah Dee Harper
Review Promo Blast July 1-31


Pastor High Foster: His heart was in the right place, even if, in hindsight, it appeared he'd clearly taken leave of his senses.

It's December in Road's End, Virginia, a tiny town long forgotten by anyone but its residents, where Colonel Hugh Foster and his wife, Melanie, have chosen to live – for better or worse. The jury's still out on that one!

Road's End is comprised entirely of senior citizens whose kids have grown and left for greener pastures. Hugh, Melanie, and Bristol (one of the few sane people in town) are faced with a crumbling church in desperate need of repair and renovation, a dwindling congregation of opinionated, ornery senior citizens, and a camel – yes, a camel. And if that's not enough, the trio and the rest of Road's End residents are soon mired in danger and intrigue when a group of gun-toting drug dealers arrive in town, bent on killing the church handyman, and conspiring to ruin the doggonedest record-breaking blizzard the town has ever seen.

Poor drug dealers.

You can purchase the book here.

My review:

This novel was a delight to read. Harper's well-crafted quirky senior citizens made me laugh out loud. Yet there were scenes of suspense as well as moments that were very touching. That Harper was able to get humor, character transformation, suspense, and a clear presentation of the gospel all in one novel is amazing.

While the plot is fun, the best aspect of the novel I think is the characters. What a hoot. There are women who have not spoken to each other for seventy years. (That's the setting for the character transformation.) There are men who bicker constantly, making them the best of friends. There is a feisty octogenarian who is as likely to whack a thug on his head with a frying pan as she is to round up her escaped chickens.

I highly recommend this novel to readers who would enjoy senior citizens rising to the occasion. I'm stingy when it comes to five star reviews but this novel has it all. You'll laugh. You'll cringe. You'll root for those octogenarians. You'll marvel at God's transforming power. And, like me, you'll be longing for the sequel and another trip to Road's End.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

About the Author:

Deborah Dee Harper writes from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and specializes in humorous, inspirational Christian books for both children and adults. Her novel, Misstep, is the first book in her Road's End series for adults (although children are welcome to read them as well). She's also written a children's adventure series, Laramie on the Lam, that is inspirational, humorous, and full of fun. (Many of Laramie's fans are adults!) You can find out more at www.deborahdeeharper.com.

Write Integrity Press, 378 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Prisoner's Perspective by Mike Savage

Savage has a unique appreciation of the gospel. He knows what it is like to stand before a judge, have your sins identified, realize you have no defense, and the penalty be determined. He had been the subject of a five year investigation resulting in his indictment on 101 criminal charges.

His international money laundering activities resulted in him serving over fifteen years in prison. One of his jobs in prison was to work with the chaplain. He ultimately heard and responded to the gospel. A few weeks later his wife did too.

Savage shares his experiences in prison. He continually doubted his wife would stick with him. She is an amazingly faithful and selfless person who would go without eating so she could send him the money he needed to call her. She worked while he was in prison, the only source of support for her and their son.

Savage tells of his experiences of returning to a free society upon release from prison. He had to relearn many social graces. He was introduced to cell phones and the Internet. Feeling called to ministry, he took classes and is currently an adjunct professor teaching Bible, theology, and psychology.

This is a very interesting memoir. It reveals much about prison experiences, including those in privatized institutions. Savage is very honest about his feelings throughout his experiences, such as his anger. I was a little disturbed that he still had so much anger after his salvation and release from prison. His wife said God was working on his rough edges. I never sensed an genuine remorse for his illegal activities. I would have liked a clearer expression of the need for his forgiveness and appreciation for God's grace in his life.

All that being said, Savage's memoir is a good example of God's unfailing love. God took Savage through much in order to get his attention. Perhaps God's love was best shown through his wife and her faithfulness.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Mike Savage is a former radio personality, television news anchor, and criminal. He served over fifteen years in federal prison for international money laundering. He is currently an adjunct professor. He and his wife live on Padre Island, Texas. You can find out more at https://www.mikesavagebooks.com/.

Coralvine Publishing, 262 pages.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Shayla Raquel. My comments are an independent and honest review.