Wednesday, November 12, 2014
No Greater Valor: The Siege of Bastogne and the Miracle that Sealed Allied Victory by Jerome Corsi is a very different book from what I expected. I normally do not read non-fiction history books. I enjoy history when it is coupled with fiction and told as a narrative. I enjoy historical fiction. I also enjoy learning about history, particularly about the people involved. I like the personal stories. I expected this book to follow that pattern and tell a story. I expected it to share the perspectives of those involved in this part of the war. To some extent, this book did do that. However, it did not read like a fictional novel. For someone like me, who struggles with memorizing historical dates and facts, this book was somewhat hard to follow. There is so much information, and I felt as if it jumped around too much for me to keep track of who was who and what each person's connection to the story was. I had to re-read some sections to understand them better. However, this being said, I greatly enjoyed the premise behind the story. Although parts of it read like a textbook, the idea behind the story is faith. Everything was against the soldiers in this story. They were outnumbered, the weather was against them, there were gaps in communication. From all outward appearances, Bastogne should have been a failure. Yet, the men involved believed they could win. They believed they were not alone in this battle. And their faith and courage helped seal victory for the Allies. It was enjoyable to read of their faith and the miracles that occurred during this time. If the book had been told in a more narrative form, I would have enjoyed it from beginning to end. It is definitely worth the read, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys history. There is vivid imagery and the reader can feel the surroundings that enveloped these men. It is well-researched and inspiring. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Friday, October 31, 2014
Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World by Johann Christoph Arnold was a book I received from Handlebar Publishing in return for posting a review of the book. The book points out all of the obstacles that face today's children in our society: the amount of media available, their exposure to unfavorable things such as violence and sexuality, lack of family time, busyness, stress, academics, etc. The book assures us we are not resigned to allowing these things to cause our children a lifetime of resignation. We are able to help children today, to navigate the world and help it to be a better place. We are not resigned to a downtrodden society. One argument in the book is that we need to restore the values that make society a great place. It is not enough to say we need to help children, but we need to be sure our resources and time support that stance. In other words, we need to start from the top and change our priorities so children can be taken care of. This includes national spending, budgeting, prioritizing education, and reclaiming family values. We also need to model for our children balance in our lives. We cannot expect them to learn to balance their time and priorities if we are always busy, rushing from activity to activity and complaining about the stress in our lives. We need to model appropriate budgeting and finances. We need to demonstrate the importance of family by making time for others. We need to model healthiness by exercising, eating right, and living balanced lives. The book goes on to argue parents need to be there for their children, especially fathers. Parents need to take an active role in their children's lives, setting boundaries and helping to educate them on the important things in life. The book makes a good case for helping children so they can grow up and live healthy, balanced, lives. However, I would have liked to have seen more practical suggestions that could be implemented in families, rather than some of the generalized ideas from the author. The book does cause us to pause and truly think about what we are modeling for our kids and whether our actions are teaching them what we want them to learn. Reading it will help people focus on making changes to give kids a better chance at a better future.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Leadership Lessons: Avoiding the Pitfalls of King Saul by Ralph K. Hawkins and Richard Leslie Parrott is a book that discusses the principles for leadership and personal success. The authors point out that leadership is not just about being a good or kind person; it is not about wanting to do the right thing or about having the right knowledge. Leadership encompasses many traits. And sometimes knowing what NOT to do can be just as helpful as advice for the right things. After all, we have all learned from our own experiences and gained wisdom from our mistakes of the past. This book demonstrates that leaders can learn from mistakes as well, and it is to a leader's benefit to learn from the mistakes of others. King Saul was a failed leader. He started with good intentions and did not set out to be a flawed leader. However, his own flesh got in the way. As he gained power, he also became more arrogant and off track. He stopped following God's plan and tried to become his own god. This book offers valuable lessons for those in leadership based off these mistakes. Saul failed in many areas: he wasn't humble in his authority, he isolated himself, he spoke without thinking, he failed to love people, and he failed to consult God. By looking at these and other areas of failure, the authors are able to show where Saul went wrong and how leaders can choose better. Sometimes it helps to see the pitfalls of another leader and how they affect others and the leader. This book does just that. While I found it interesting and a different way of looking at leadership, I would have liked to see more practical suggestions within the chapters to help leaders avoid these pitfalls. I did like that there were additional reading suggestions and questions for discussion and personal reflection. This would be a good book to read through in a small group. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Friday, September 19, 2014
I received a copy of the book Never Ever Give Up: The Inspiring Story of Jessie and her Joy Jars by Erik Rees from Handlebar Publishing. After finishing the book, all I can say is Wow! Jessica Joy Rees was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor at age eleven. However, she did not let that stop her from her mission on this earth. She was determined to do as much as she could for others in her short time on earth. Jessie was a kind-hearted, warm soul who focused her love on others and was determined to be a light for God. She was diagnosed with DIPG, a rare cancer that usually does not allow children to survive even a full year after diagnosis. Jessie made the most of her time, and even when she was in pain herself, she was never selfish. Jessie's story demonstrates love and grace. She helped her family deal with the situation. She showed courage beyond her years. As I read this book, I was at times crying over the unfairness of it all, and at other times smiling and laughing at the wonder that was Jessie. She created her Joy Jars to distribute to kids who were in the hospital because she wanted them to have something to smile about and to know they weren't alone. Although she did not get a chance to grow up, she impacted many more people than she could have imagined. The book takes the reader on a journey of one family to try to help their daughter and themselves cope with a tragic situation. You see the positive outcomes of the situation, and you feel the frustrations and hurts of the family throughout this process. Erik Rees (Jessie's father) is honest in his struggle to find peace within the situation, and he shares many of his thoughts and fears throughout the book. It is an inspirational story, and one I think needs to be shared. Jessie's attitude throughout the book gives us hope that there are good people in the world, who want to make a positive difference and show God's love to others. Because of Jessie and her Joy Jars, many families and children have been given joy and courage. Jessie's motto was Never Ever Give Up, and her prayer warriors became known as the NEGU Nation. NEGU lives on, even after Jessie's short life ended. NEGU reminds all of us daily to never give up and never take one another for granted. This book was truly inspiring. #NEGUBook.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
The Jesus Code by O. S. Hawkins is basically a series of questions. Fifty-two questions, to be exact. Hawkins takes 52 essential questions from the Bible and asks them of the reader. Thankfully, he also provides background, context, and answers from scripture. The questions Hawkins addresses are ones that believers need to understand and be prepared to answer. Many of them are questions asked by Jesus within the Bible. The format of the book is simple to follow. Hawkins begins with the question and the verse of scripture from which it is taken. He then provides the context and background for the question. What was happening at the time the question was asked? Who was involved? It is important to see the cultural context and understand the purpose of the question. He then ties the question into a more modern context and looks at ways it may apply to modern believers. He wraps up each chapter by repeating the question with a summarized answer.The introduction states the book is set up into 52 chapters, allowing for readers to study one chapter a week for a year, really taking time to dig into each question, go back into the Bible and read the references, and pray over the answers. I enjoyed reading this book. Each chapter was short enough to fit into a small window of devotional time in the morning, yet the concepts covered required much more thought. The book was easy to follow, and it felt as if I were having a conversation with the author each morning as I read. The questions covered topics ranging from what new believers must do, to following the Holy Spirit. This would be a great book to give to new believers to help guide them into Bible study. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to deepen their relationship with God. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Woman of Courage is the story of Amanda Pearson, a Quaker determined to become a missionary to the Nez Perce Indians. When she discovers that her fiancé is in love with her friend, she sets out on a journey of over 3000 miles. Traveling in 1837 is not easy, and she has difficulties on the way. She suffers loss that leaves her wondering if she on the right path or not. She also meets many people on her journey, and has effects on them in ways she did not expect. There are twists and turns in the story, catching the reader off guard. However, the ending was somewhat predictable based on the genre and some of the foreshadowing in the story itself. There are many interesting characters, and I enjoyed reading about the diverse cultures represented in the book. However, I did have some difficulty with Amanda's speech at the beginning of the story, as she used "thee" and "thou," which sound foreign to our ears. It did help me understand her background as a character, though. Overall, the story was enjoyable and a quick, easy read. I actually liked the character Jim the best, and his transformation as the story continued. Although I liked the premise of the book, this is not normally a genre I read. I would recommend this book, though, to anyone who enjoys Christian literature or historical fiction. I received this book from Handlebar Publishing.
Friday, July 11, 2014
The Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston came to me at a perfect time. I am a teacher, and I use some of the time during my summer break to reflect on the past year and prepare for the next one. This being said, hope is a huge part of teaching. Johnston argues hope is the main ingredient of any success, and after reading his book, I would agree. If I didn't have hope for my students each year, the problems I see in their lives and in education in general, would leave me broken. Hope is what gets us through. Hope is believing that God has something better, that better days are coming, and that I can be part of that. Johnston explains how hope can change everything, because it changes how we see and how we act and react. Without hope, there is no point to life. And all hope stems from God. Through personal stories, biblical ideals and real principles, Johnston touches on ways to increase your hope and areas of life in which we need to raise our hope. He argues that when we have hope rather than discouragement, there are eleven major differences in our lives. Some of those differences include being healthier, being more willing to help others, being more successful, and being more forgiving. Johnston asserts that hope is the beginning of everything. But he doesn't stop with just trite words or cute phrases. He digs into the areas in life where real people struggle: marriage, parenting, career, church, community and the world. The struggles we face may differ, but Johnston gives practical advice on how to raise our hopes in each area so we are better able to face those struggles. And when we face our struggles with hope, we provide hope to others too. Johnston writes in a conversational way, making you feel like he is talking directly to you. He provides real examples of people in history who were knocked down, but got back up because they had hope. And he gives you tools along the way to help you gage your own level of hope, and tools to help you improve you hope quotient. Johnston's book reads like friendly advice. His ideas and writing style cannot be ignored. You will want to pass this book on to others who seem to be losing hope. And it will inspire you to go out into the world and be hopeful and to make a difference. I highlighted many helpful passages that I imagine I will return to over and over when I need to build back up the hope I have that things will continue to get better. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Friday, June 13, 2014
What's Best Next is a book by Matt Perman. It is what I would consider a self-help, and other-help, book. To explain, the premise of the book is that it will help you get organized and set goals, and do both with the mind-set of helping others and following God. While I truly believe in many of the statements in this book, I did have some issues with it as well. First of all, I agree with many of the concepts in this book, and Perman makes valid points along the way. His basic argument is that in an age of technology and busy-ness, we need to stay organized and focused in order to do valuable work and accomplish goals. This is true. It is easy to get side-tracked with entertainment, technology and a "me first" mentality. He points out that if we are to be our best, we not only need to be organized and goal-focused, but we need to be sure what we do helps others too. The book has 24 chapters covering all of the ways we can do these things. To be honest, the issue I had with the book was that I felt a little overwhelmed. As Perman is trying to convince me I need to simplify my life and focus on what is best, he is also setting up a system of organization that seems heavy. According to his methods, I need to do things on a weekly and daily basis to be organized. I need to set a mission and clarify my roles in my life. I need to create routines that free up time and allow me to do some things automatically, with little thought. I need to eliminate or delegate less important items that are not on track with my personal (and biblical) mission. I need to create a weekly plan, which entails multiple lists and strategies, including project lists and action lists. To me, these are valuable ideas, but due to the length of the book and the multiple ways he addresses things, I became overwhelmed at the idea of setting all of these systems into place. I like the concepts, but I wish Perman had created a simple check-list with an overview of his ideas, and then spent time developing each one. That way, I could use the book more like a reference manual. At the end of the book, Perman does complete a recap of his information. I found this to be the most helpful part of the book. For me, I think his entire concept boils down to this one sentence in the recap, "The gospel teaches us that the good of others is the be the main motive in all that we do and the chief criterion by which we determine what's best next." In the recap, Perman provides good advice and a short outline of the basic ideas in his book. This was short, sweet, and direct. On a personal level, I found the book to be to encompassing for what I need in my own personal life. I will adapt some of his ideas, such as the action lists and focusing on helping others. However, most of the ideas seemed more directed at businesses to me. I would recommend this book to those who are managing other people or need to help develop leaders in their organization. It was worth a read, but I only pulled a few things from the book for my own personal use. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Soul Keeping by John Ortberg addresses the part of humans that is often ignored; the soul. The Bible talks about the soul frequently, but it is ignored often in daily life. The soul deals with our interior lives, our spiritual lives. It is imperative to live the life we were meant for. This book talks about the soul in detail and explains why taking care of our souls is so important. It is easy to get caught up in the physical life, in the material life around us. It is easy to be selfish. But to be free to live the kind of life God planned for us, to know God and have an intimate relationship with Him, we need to nurture our soul. Ortberg discusses the multiple areas that care of our souls can affect. He gives reasons why nurturing the soul is so important. And while this is an important topic, I felt this book was very repetitive. Ortberg covers the same topic in each chapter, and takes many of his points from his mentor. Although his points were important, I felt as if Ortberg discussed the same ideas over and over. The book covers the needs of the soul, but I felt as if I could've read the first few chapters and absorbed the points he was trying to make. I enjoyed the main concepts and Ortberg's writing. I just felt this would've made a better small group study than a book. Ortberg needed to expand on practical ideas for this book to have been more valuable for me personally. Ortberg tells us to nurture our souls, for example, but in general terms, rather than specific suggestions. While the book had value, it is not one I would recommend for those looking for action steps regarding soul nurturing, but more for large ideas. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Sunday, April 27, 2014
The God First Life by Stovall Weems is based on Matthew 6:33. "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these thing will be given to you as well." Weems states that until we put God first in all things and seek Him above anything else on this earth, we cannot live a fulfilled and satisfied life. It isn't circumstances, relationships, or material items that satisfy us. It is only when we seek God and His kingdom do we find what we require for life. By understanding this, Weems says, we discover that God has a plan for our lives. We don't have to carry the burdens of this life ourselves. And we realize His ways are so much better than ours. When we seek God above all else, He promises us a new family (with Him and the church), a new life (in Christ), and new freedom (to be who He created us to be). We enter God's family through salvation. We enter His righteousness through Christ, but we seek His righteousness by ordering our lives according to Him so our priorities reflect His priorities. Finally, when we live His way, we experience true life and breakthroughs we never knew of. Weems insists that whatever has first place in our lives order them. That force is what shapes all of our decisions and actions. To live a life of blessing, God has to be that force that has first place in our lives. In this book Weems describes how we can make that happen. We need to start by being part of a local body of Christ, His church. No church is going to be perfect. However, we were made for community and we need corporate worship as part of our lives. To do this, we need to meet regularly with fellow believers. We need people to hold us accountable and to walk with us in tears and laughter. We need an extended family, and God will provide that when we become part of this community. We also need time with other believers in worship and study. We need to immerse ourselves in the Word individually and in a setting where we can talk about its applications. When others see the freedom that comes from putting God first, they will want it too. We need to keep our priorities in order according to God's kingdom. This book is clear and easy to follow. Weems intertwines personal experiences with stories and Scripture. He talks with passion about being part of God's kingdom. He demonstrates that freedom and joy are possible. I would recommend this book to anyone feeling stagnant in his or her walk with God. Or even to those who may just need a fresh infusion of God's love and practical advice on how to put Him first. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Saturday, March 29, 2014
How High Will You Climb? by John Maxwell is all about attitude. The right attitude can make the difference between a successful leader and someone who is stuck in neutral. The book begins by talking about what attitude is. Maxwell defines attitude as "an inward feeling expressed by behavior." (10) The idea is that we can express our attitudes even without speaking. When we let our inner feelings take control of us, we will demonstrate them by our expressions and mannerisms, not just our actions. He reminds us the heart is the most important part of our attitude, because how we feel and think will lead to how we act. He also discusses the importance of an obedient attitude, particularly in our spiritual growth. Sometimes our circumstances and our emotions do not seem to put us in the right place to have a positive attitude, but we can overcome those by being obedient despite them. Maxwell insists our attitudes can be controlled, and our attitudes affect many things: our approach to life, what we expect from life, our relationships with other people, whether we find success or failure, the outcome of a task, and even whether our problems become blessings or not. The second part of the book discusses ways to construct a positive attitude, all of which have a biblical basis. When we are young, our environment plays a large role in the development of our attitude. As we get older, we begin to have more control over what we allow in our environment, and therefore, have more control over our own attitudes. He encourages us to see ourselves as loved children of God, because we can never perform in a way we cannot see ourselves. Our self image is extremely important in developing our attitude. We cannot let fear or the opinions of others damage our self esteem or cause us to shrink back. We need to find ways to squash negativity when it enters our lives. We can prepare a plan ahead of time to be ready for attacks to our attitude. Overall, this book has a lot of practical pointers, and it includes a study guide, as well as questions and scripture to help guide readers. It is easy to understand and well organized, so the reader can return to sections of the book for inspiration as needed. The questions help the reader apply the principles Maxwell discusses throughout the book. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out by Mark Hall and Tim Luke arrived at a perfect time for me. I had been reading and studying the Scriptures for years, and was ready to dig deeper and learn how to use the information I was receiving from The Word. But sometimes it is difficult to know where to begin. Mark Hall has a way of helping me understand how to dig deep into God's Word; not just to gather information, but to see how the Word applies to me and how my life should look as I read the Word. Hall begins by explaining how life seems to work for the majority of people: we go from task to task, hoping for things to get better, rushing through things looking for the elusive thing that will satisfy us. We tend to gaze fondly into the future, as if life will be better when we get there. However, we are missing the present. God meant for us to enjoy life every day, not just when things are working out the way we want them to. Hall explains a drawing he created of a tree, with its branches reaching high into the sky, and its roots digging deep into the ground. In order for us to thrive daily, we need to dig deep. Our roots need to be in our relationship with God and Jesus. We need to understand who God is, and who we are in Him. Then we use this root system to allow us to reach out to others, to make God known to the world. Every moment matters. In our daily lives, we need to glorify God. We do this by spending time with God, in His Word, in prayer, in reflection. And then taking the things He speaks into our lives and sharing them with others. We are commissioned to share Jesus with the world. If we only have roots, but no reach, we are out of balance. The spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, and the study of Scripture are essential, but on their own, they are missing balance. We also need community. We are to share our lives with other believers. And then we are to glorify God by knowing Him and making Him known to others. This book offers personal stories and practical ways to apply this knowledge. Hall writes as if he is writing a letter to a friend. He wants his readers to know the joy of a relationship with God, and how to thrive in this life by living for Him. Overall, the book offers great insight and is a tool to return to over and over as we read Scripture and apply it to our lives. I would recommend this book to anyone feeling a need to dig deeper or unsure of how to reach out to others. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”