Friday, April 18, 2014

No More Ordinary by Carol Burton McLeod

God has a plan for your life, McLeod writes, that is beyond what you could dream or imagine. It is an abundant life but it may not be what you think. McLeod looks at God's Word to find the definition and the purpose of the life God has for you.

She encourages us to tap into the glory and grandeur of friendship with God. She explains how we co-labor with God, how God longs for a relationship with us, what He has given us, what it takes to live a life only divinely possible, the reality of the unseen, the peace that God gifts, having joy in the midst of suffering, the choices we must make, partnering with Jesus in the miraculous, and leaving a rich legacy.

McLeod has included several stories of people who have defied their circumstances and lived abundant lives. They are really encouraging. They evidence that, though we may not be able to choose the events of our lives, we can determine the atmosphere with which we live those events. We can live with joy.

She ends each chapter with a prayer, a declaration of truth about us, a Scripture, and an encouraging quote. She ends the book with a challenge. Each of us has a choice. Do we settle for a merely ordinary existence or do we partner with God for a life that is “no more ordinary”?

Food for thought: “Anything and everything you could ever need to live life this side of heaven has already been given to you because His power has been given to you.” (55)

Carol Burton McLeod is a conference and women's retreat speaker. She is the author of three books and has produced several teaching DVDs. She has a daily radio program, “Defiant Joy! Radio.” She is a 1977 graduate of Oral Roberts University and currently serves on the ORU Alumni Board as chaplain. Her husband, Craig, is the senior pastor of Life Church near Buffalo, NY. They are the parents of five children and the grandparents of five. You can find out more about her ministry at www.JustJoyMinistries.com.

Bridge Logos, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Book Group Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin

4/1-4/19!
Quilts of Love Joyce Magnin Maybelle in Stitches
The time is World War II and the place is Chester, PA. Maybelle and several other women are working at Sun Ship, welding plates on new ships. They are young women helping support the war their husbands are fighting overseas.

Maybelle's life takes a serious turn when her mother suddenly dies. As she later goes through her mother's room she finds an unfinished quilt. Her friends identify it as a Crazy Quilt, one made from scraps of memorable material such as dresses, shirts, and baby blankets. They encourage her to continue her mother's work. But there is only one problem: Maybelle can't sew. She did, in fact, sew the zipper into the neck opening of her dress when in high school. But they offer to help her. It will help pass the evening time, especially after she receives the notice that her husband is missing in action.

This is a novel that concentrates on the working women of the period. There is lots of dialog of the time, like, “None of your beeswax,” and “Okeydokey.” There are lots of other indicators of the time. Remember oleomargarine and Burns and Allen on the radio?

The novel is not quite as emotionally wrenching as I thought it might be. Maybelle really misses her husband, as do some of the others. When one of the women gets word that her husband was killed, she seems to take it in stride. God is her stability but I was a bit surprised that she was ready to consider romance again in a couple of months.

There is not a great deal of action in this novel, nor is there much character development. In that respect it is what I might describe as light or low key historical fiction. It concentrates more on revealing the era than dealing with the character interaction. This might be fiction older (as in elderly) readers would enjoy, something quite nostalgic.

This novel is part of The Quilts of Love series and you can find out more about them here.

In the Author's Note, Magnin says she wanted to paint a picture of what it was like for women to work at Sun Ship. That aspect of the novel is based on the actual shipyard that made and repaired ships during the war.

Discussion questions have been included for reading groups.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

Joyce Magnin is the author of the Bright's Pond novels, including the award-winning The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow. She lives near Philadelphia. You can find out more about her and her books at http://joycemagnin.blogspot.com/.

Abingdon Press, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through Litfuse Publicity for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Blood Moons Rising by Mark Hitchcock

Much is being written about the four “blood moons” (lunar eclipses) taking place in 2014 and 2015. Their significance was discovered by Mark Blitz in 2007 and made popular by John Hagee in a book he published last fall (see my critical review of Hagee's book here).

Hitcock agrees with much of Hagee's views of the end times (such as pre-tribulation rapture) but thinks Hagee misinterpreted some Scripture and drew wrong conclusions from history. “My view,” Hitchcock writes, “is that much of what people are saying today about blood moons is based on speculation and a misinterpretation of Scripture.”

He reviews what he believes Scripture says about the end times, examines the historical evidence for the blood moons prophecy, and then draws conclusions.

Here are the dates of the blood moons of 2014-2015:
  • Passover (April 15, 2014)
  • Tabernacles (October 8, 2014)
  • Total solar eclipse (March 20, 2015)
  • Passover (April 4, 2015)
  • Tabernacles (September 28, 2015)

Hitchcock notes that the blood moon theory is built upon four main ideas. 1) God uses the heavens to give signs to humanity. 2) The scientific fact of four blood moons in 2014-2015 falling on the Jewish feasts of Passover and Tabernacles. 3) Scripture mentions the moon turning to blood in conjunction with the end times. 4) When the four blood moons fell on Jewish feasts in the last 500 years (three times), something significant happened regarding the Jews.

He looks at what prophetic signs are and their significance. He takes us through the feasts in Leviticus 23, reviews where the eclipses are visible and the significance of that, looks at each of the Bible passages mentioning signs in the heavens and the end times, and finds problems with Hagee's conclusions.

He then looks at the past events associated with previous tetrads, noting that in two cases the historical events preceded the tetrads and in the third case preceded all eclipses but the first one.

Hitchcock reminds us of the detrimental effects resulting from previous declarations of dates for Christ's return (such as William Miller – 1844, Jehovah's Witness founder Charles Russel – 1914 and eight more dates, Edgar Whisenant – 1988, Harold Camping – 1994 and 2011). He notes the danger of assigning “significant” events to particular years (one can find an event of significant for practically every year), and his concern that proponents of the blood moon theory will find something in 2015 to validate their claim.

He also reminds us that Christians are always to be ready for the Lord's return. One reason – because we cannot know when that will be. “Date setting is futile and foolish,” he writes. We are not to get caught up in speculation about end time events.

Hitchcock has written a well researched response to Hagee's speculation. I highly recommend it. My only caution is that Hitchcock is a proponent of the currently popular pre-tribulation rapture end times theology. Readers need to be reminded that in the history of the Christian church, other views of the end times were held. Hitchcock bases much of his critique of Hagee upon his own belief that the (secret) rapture could happen any moment. While a (secret) rapture is not part of my end times theology, I do heartily agree with most of Hitchcock's critique of Hagee and do recommend this book.

Mark Hitchcock graduated from law school in 1984, thinking his career was set. He received a call to ministry, however, and went to Dallas Theological Seminary, completing a master's degree in 1991 and a doctoral degree in 2006. He has been the senior pastor of Faith bible Church in Edmond, Oklahoma for over twenty years. He has authored more than fifteen books related to end times prophecy. He and his family live in Edmond, Oklahoma. Find out more about him and his books at http://marklhitchcock.com/.

Tyndale House Publishers, 224 pages. Publisher's product page.

I received a complimentary egalley of this from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fulfilled - The NIV Devotional Bible for Single women

Being a single woman in America is not unusual. The latest U.S. census indicated there are more single/divorced/widowed women than married ones.

In that category myself, I know the challenges of living single. When I was offered the opportunity to review this Bible, I quickly accepted.

I really appreciate the devotions, all written by single women. Some have never been married. Others are on their own, having lost their husband. They all understand how single women feel in a world that often labels them as misfits. The devotions cover issues like depression, grief, divorce, peace, waiting, bitterness, loneliness, and many more. There are over one hundred in all, spread through the text. Each one has a quote and a prayer as well. They serve to inspire us to continue in our Christian walk and also feel more comfortable with being single.

Another feature of the Bible is highlighted verses – ones that are especially meaningful to single women. There are also interesting profiles of nineteen single women in the Bible. They are encouraging vignettes, revealing how God used each of them in His plan.

This Bible includes a unique topical index listing subjects of interest to single women. Under each topic are two entries. The first gives passages on the subject and the second gives the page of the devotion on that topic. The Bible could be read through, enjoying the devotions as they appear, or one can go to the topical index and find the devotion addressing the current need.

The text is the New International Version, the world's most popular modern language translation.

This is an encouraging Bible for single women. I recommend it.

Mary Hollingsworth is the general editor for the Bible. She planned and compiled the materials in it and wrote all of the profiles. She's been single for nearly 30 years and has authored over 100 books. She worked with twenty one other well-known single, Christian writers such as Luci Swindoll, Lisa harper, Helen Hosier, June Hunt, Sheila Bailey and others.

Zondervan, 1280 pages. See the publisher's product page here.

I received a complimentary copy of this Bible through the B&B Media Group for an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

Nick is on the train, on his way back to Gerber, Texas, with thoughts of another contract - supplying railroad ties. He can't believe his eyes when he sees Annie, a friend of his sister's, but dressed like a man in buckskins? Annie has been hiding away from society as a buffalo hunter. After all, she shot and killed her husband and has no use for society. She's only going to Gerber to find their runaway cook.

Life takes an interesting twist when Annie finds the cook, only to have the woman run off and leave Annie with her child.

Nick and Annie form a troubled friendship as he helps her find a place to live and she goes to work for him in his business office. Nick's feelings for Annie grow but things get complicated when he receives an appointment as commissioner. He wants to have Annie by his side but that would mean, well, she would have to wear a dress!

Jennings has developed great characters in this novel. Annie, the survivor of a terribly abusive husband, has a great deal to overcome before she can ever enter into another relationship. When the abandoned toddler gets left in her care, it is a healing gift from God. Nick is a godly man who is willing to give Annie time to heal. He has his own challenges when the railroad baron who has provided Nick with contracts now wants to direct his voting as commissioner. Nick realizes he may have to give up his business to remain an honest man.

Both of these characters have appeared in earlier books in the Ladies of Caldwell County series. This book reads very well on its own, however.

This novel is a good historical romance with a little humor, much growth in the characters, and a twist near the end of the book that surprised me so much I did not know how Annie could survive.

Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang. She lives near Oklahoma City with her husband and four children. You can find out more about her and her books at www.reginajennings.com.

Bethany House Publishers, 352 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Drucker & Me by Bob Buford

Bob Buford was a student of and close friend to Peter Drucker, “the father of modern management.” It began when Buford was 42 and managing the family enterprise. He was determined to become wealthy in the broadcasting business. He had resonated with Drucker's ideas about navigating the human side of enterprise so wrote him, asking for a consulting day. Drucker agreed and that was the beginning of a relationship that would last 23 years. Their discussions were not about the nuts and bolts of business but about character, vision, and responsibility.

Buford attempts to reveal the man behind the legend, a man who lived a principled life, loving his wife, his family, and his work. He gives us a bit of a biography of Drucker, intertwining it with some of Buford's own story. When Drucker came to the U.S. in 1937 he studied General Motors. He realized that corporations had to be effective and responsible if we are to have a functioning society. Management was the discipline that would be the way to get the best out of people – both for themselves and for others.

Buford tells of his own wake up call when he was confronted by his assistant. “My performance as president and CEO was becoming more important than my performance as a human being.” Wanting to make a difference in Christianity, he formed Leadership Network. Pastors of mega-churches attended seminars with Drucker. Drucker felt that religion, properly lived, was an essential element for a fully functioning society. Buford was also instrumental in forming the Drucker Foundation, initially to help train managers of nonprofits and then expanded to other leaders.

If you have not read Drucker at all, this book would be a good place to start. It really helps you understand the character of the man, giving the unique perspective of his role as a mentor.

Drucker's vision was of a fully functioning society. Buford encourages us to be a part of it by committing to making our neighborhoods and communities better.

You can find out more about Drucker's legacy at a daily blog called The Drucker Exchange, a monthly radio podcast, a biweekly column in Time magazine online, and at www.druckerinstitute.com. You can find out more about the Leadership Network at http://leadnet.org/.

Bob Buford is a graduate of the University of Texas and the Owner/President Management Program at Harvard Business School. Until the sale of his company in 1999 he was Chairman and CEO of Buford Television, Inc. He is the author of Halftime, a book about how to deal with the second half of life, and Finishing Well. He founded Leadership Network and spearheaded the efforts to launch The Drucker Institute. You can find out more about him at his website, www.ACTIVEenergy.net and on Twitter @bobbufordTX.

Worthy Publishing, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Knowing God by Name by David Wilkerson

Wilkerson does not write on every name of God. He rather emphasizes the personal revelation of several names. God revealed His names only as His people needed them, in times of crisis. He chose to explore those names of God in which he found encouragement in his own times of crisis. Rather than a scholarly book, this is a very personal look at several names of God and the personal impact they can have on our lives.

This is a book for weary or hurting believers needing assurance in time of trial. Wilkerson reminds us, “Our help is in the name of the Lord...” (Ps. 124:8a) Isaiah tells us we are to trust in the name of the Lord. (Isa. 50:106) Knowing God's names helps us understand His nature and character and gives us encouragement.

Wilkerson begins with Abraham, how he received the revelation of “God most high, creator and possessor of heaven and earth” (El Elyon). We are encouraged to lay hold of that revelation too, trusting that El Elyon holds our entire lives and well being in His hands. We are to rest in knowing God is all powerful and all sufficient (El Shaddai). Abraham also experienced Jehovah Jireh, “the Lord who sees,” providing the lamb for the sacrifice.

We next read about the Israelites being given fresh water at Marah from Jehovah Rophi, “the Lord who heals you.” Wilkerson challenges us to allow our own bitterness and hurt to be healed. If not, God may be experienced as Jehovah Makkeh, “the God who smites” (discipline).

With continued insight, Wilkerson takes us through Jehovah Nissi (the Lord our banner), Jehovah Tsebaioth (the Lord of hosts), Jehovah Shalom (The Lord our peace), Jehovah Tsidkenu (the Lord our righteousness), Jehovah Shammah (the Lord is there), Jehovah Rohi (the Lord my shepherd), and Immanuel (God with us). He ends the book with chapters on the God who pardons and the God who intercedes for us

Wilkerson relates each of the biblical stories and names revealed to our own situations, encouraging us to claim the truth about God in that name. His chapter on Jehovah Tsidkenu (the Lord our righteousness) is something every Christian should read.

Wilkerson says living the godly walk includes acknowledging, believing, embracing, and acting upon the revelation we have been given of who God is. This is an excellent book on knowing the character of God through the names by which He has revealed Himself. Every chapter is a sermon full of insight and encouragement. I highly recommend this book.

Note: This is a reprint of Hallowed Be Thy Name published in 2001 by David Wilkerson Publications, Inc.

David Wilkerson was perhaps best known for his early days of ministry to young drug addicts and gang members in New York City. His story is told in The Cross and the Switchblade. He served as pastor in small churches in Pennsylvania until 1958 when he went to New York and, in the following year, founded Teen Challenge. He later worked under his global ministry, World Challenge, Inc., conducting evangelistic crusades and pastors' conferences, producing films, and authoring more than thirty books. In 1987 he founded Times Square Church in New York City. He died April 27, 2911, killed in a car crash. You can find out more about the ongoing ministry at www.worldchallenge.org. You can also read daily devotions from Wilkerson's writings at http://davidwilkersontoday.blogspot.com/.

Chosen Books, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from Chosen Books for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Irongate by Ronald Glanz

This novel centers around old family secrets. Rich, in his mid-forties, has lost his job as an engineer. That was after his messy divorce resulting in an ex-wife and kids who hate him. He's at his parents and visits the Eastwick Mansion that has been turned into a museum. He sees a photo that triggers a memory from childhood. He manages to get a job at the Mansion as a handyman, develops a relationship with, Patricia, the divorced woman managing it, and works at finding the truth about a rumor concerning Grandpa Louis and Grandma Flossie and their marriage (whether Grandpa married on the rebound, having loved an Eastwick first).

I found this novel difficult to read. There is lots of “cussing” by Rich's parents. I knew ahead of time there would be language issues but was told they were essential to the story. They were not. Why such language was included I have no idea.

The plot is thin but it did make for a nice romance in the end. There is a nice parallel drawn between Rich's grandfather's romance and Rich's own. At the end of the novel that comes out well.

The relationships between the characters is unusual. There are lots and lots of puns, sarcasm, odd comments, and “Got ya”s. I tired quickly of the banter. Rich's ex-wife is vindictive and mean. The relationship between Rich's parents, in their seventies, is sort of a caustic one. Even the budding romance between Rich and Patricia develops through dialog that is mostly teasing.

Probably most difficult for me was the writing style of the author. “Two minutes later the beeper on the microwave went off informing him that the predetermined time he had entered had expired.” (54) “Thirty-seven minutes later...” (147) It just did not seem to flow nor read well for me.

Even though I received this novel through an group that promotes Christian books and authors, I would not consider this novel to be “Christian.”

There is a great deal of information in this novel, about the Eastwick Mansion and the Eastwick family, World War I, and an Edison Phonograph. Since there is no Author's Note, I have no idea if any of it is based on actual history or if some or all of it was created by the author.

Ronald Glanz received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical Engineering from Rose Polytechnic Institute in 1967. His working years as an engineer caused him to travel throughout the world. He loves writing, antiques, and sports cars. He and his wife live in Mineral, Virginia.

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Book Group Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.