From a Church Divided to a Church United

“If you turn that place around, you’ll be a hero. But if you don’t, no one will blame you, because that’s impossible!” (All Saints, pg. 17, paragraph 3)

Being a minister can be a challenging task in and of itself, much less, being a new minister fresh out of seminary and being thrown into a church that had just undergone a huge split and in a financial crisis due to a large mortgage. For Father Michael Spurlock, this was exactly the situation he found himself in when he took the vicarage at All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tennessee.

All Saints by Michael Spurlock and Jeanette Windle details the true story of a church that was split down to 25 people when Father Spurlock took over and the way prayers were answered and the Karen people group not only helped them grow in congregation size, but helped them see how to make the most of the land they were blessed with and grow their faith (and crops) as God provided miracle after miracle. In the book, we read as this church goes from the brinks of having to sell the church building and property after a terribly messy church split, to being a thriving, flourishing, and growing church. This is also a story of the Kunzoo family of the Karen tribe and how God proved himself faithful to bring them out of oppression in Burma to a new life in America.

The book was very interesting and a quick read. The only part I didn’t really care for in the book was the last few chapters when it became more like a documentary to making the All Saints film rather than the actual story of the church itself.

If you’re looking for a book that describes the story of what it was like to be a refugee and unwanted people group in Burma in recent years, this is it. If you are looking for a story of the ways God works for the good of those who love Him, you will also find that in here. And if you are looking for a story to uplift you when you feel at the very end of your ropes and not sure if God is really listening to your prayers (or even if you’re trying to understand the sometimes humorous ways God answers prayers), then this is a book you will want to pick up.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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A Trilogy with a Great Ending

Finally, the third and final book in Cindy Woodsmall’s “The Amish of Summer Grove” trilogy has arrived! If you have followed her other two books in the series (Ties That Bind and Fraying at the Edge), then Gathering the Threads is the book you have been waiting for to fill in all the gaps. My grandma and I have been following this series and both of us were thrilled to learn that the new book was being released. Being that she is not a blogger, she had to wait a little longer than I to read it, but she was glad to know that all the threads have been gathered in this final book.

If you remember from the other two books, Ariana Brenneman and Skylar Nash find out that they were accidentally switched at birth. The one who should have gone to the English world went to the Amish world and the one who should have gone to the Amish world went to the English world. Ariana is content with her life in the Amish world and is reluctant to spend time getting to know her Englisch family with limited contact to her Amish world and per the hopes of her Englisch father, to expand her thinking beyond what she knew all her life. The tradeoff, Skylar would go spend time with her Amish birth parents in hopes that she would be able to cut her addiction with prescription drugs. The original plan was for a year, but due to some prayers and talking on Ariana’s part, she is able to return home after 3 months.

The third book starts off where the second book left off. Ariana just comes home from spending time with the Englisch and Skylar is just starting to feel some security in her Amish home. Things have been running great at Ariana’s café with Skylar in the lead and she has finally found her place in with her birth siblings. Ariana comes back and finds herself overwhelmed with the closed minds of the Amish she grew up with and the pressure that comes from her Daed, Bishop, and her boyfriend, Rudy, to reconform to the old ways and have limited contact with her Englisch family. But most of all, she is to cut off all ties with Quill Schlabach who left the Amish community years ago to help her best friend get proper medical treatment and escape the abuse of her father. Overwhelmed, Ariana decides to get away for a few days to a bed and breakfast, that unbeknownst to her, helps the cause of people trying to escape the Amish lifestyle. The only person who she feels fully understands her is the one who she is forbidden to see, and so out of desperation, she reaches out to Quill to help her get her head wrapped around everything.

Skylar, in the meantime, is trying everything she can to ruin Ariana’s good standing with her family. From planting Ariana’s forbidden cell phone in places her Daed will find it, to finding a way to keep her out of the café Ariana started so that way she can remain in her place of security, Skylar is willing to stop at nothing to make sure her security is not pulled from her. She also finds herself falling for one of her twin brother’s old coworkers, Jax. Being that Skylar was not raised Amish, she is not forced to attend any Amish Sunday gatherings or observe their rules.

As Skylar struggles for control and Ariana fumbles to find exactly what her new identity is in life after her world has been shaken to the core, both ladies must learn to work together to achieve a common good for their families and café and life and learn to lean on God for support through the messy situations in their lives. In a sudden twist, Ariana figures out what she was meant to do in her life and Skylar learns to live in a world without a prescription drug addiction.

This book is very good overall and answers a lot of lingering questions I had as a reader. I feel that some of the “voices” of the characters changed, but a lot of it probably is to artistically distinguish who the characters are now from who they were in the past. If you read the other two books and are just itching to know what happens to these characters, this is the book you will want to read! I would suggest reading the other two books before starting on this one. As with most of Cindy Woodsmall’s books, this is a book that would be suitable for any age.

To check out a preview of this book or order a copy, you can click here.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

 

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Tender Prayers for Daughters

Girls go through so many different stages and emotions in life. Matter of fact, sometimes having a daughter can be like you’re the passenger of a rollercoaster. One minute they love you to the ends of the earth and then the next minute you are their worst enemy: so many ups and downs. As a mother of soon to be 3 girls- one who is a teenager, one who is a preteen, and one who is due to arrive any day now (and one boy, poor guy!)- I understand the stages they go through. And as a mother of girls, there are many times I wish I knew the words to pray for them in certain circumstances that have left me speechless and knew how to minister to them in their needs. Teri Lynne Underwood attempts to approach this in her book Praying for Girls, based on her blog “Prayers for Girls”.

This book is tenderly written from the heart of a mother and each prayer is immersed in Scripture with scriptural references from where it comes at the end of the prayer. But it is so much more than just a book of prayers. This is a book that will minister to the heart and soul of mother and daughter alike (and I’m sure this book would even be great for grandmas!).

Teri encompasses a few different categories to pray for regarding our daughters, such as her mind and identity, then each of those categories is broken down into even more specific areas and all are put into an index so if your daughter is really struggling with one area specifically, you can target your prayers on that. Each section starts out with an introduction to why that area is important and then when it breaks down into individual chapters, there is a little bit of a study and/or story that goes with it. After that, Teri has written out several specific, scripturally based prayers in that area for the daughters in our lives using blank spaces for you to insert their names and concluding it with a little bit of a heart to heart with the moms (and a prayer for them as well), and then finally for each chapter she gives some phenomenal tips on ways to minister to daughters of different age groups for each topic. Some ways she suggests are special mother/daughter dates and others are as simple as just talking with them and figuring out where they stand in each area.

Praying for Girls is a tool you can use for specifics when needed or as an overall “love dare” type book for your daughter. This is probably not a book a lot of dads are going to want to read as it is written from a mother to mother standpoint, but I do think that both parents can pray all of these prayers over their daughters. Even though it specifically said girls in the title, many of these prayers were still applicable to my little boy as well and I found myself praying several of them over him. I only wish that there was a book like this specifically for praying for boys because as a mom to a boy too, there are days I need guidance on how to minister to him. I do strongly recommend this book if you are a mother of a daughter because not only will it enrich their lives, it will enrich yours as well.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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Beautifuly and Masterfully Written Work of Fiction

From the very first page to the very last sentence, Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt is nothing short of a fast paced page turner. If you enjoy historical fiction novels that are loosely based on actual events and people with some phenomenal research put into the period, then you will enjoy this novel (and from what I have read by Angela Hunt, many of her novels have been excellent works of fiction with some strong research before she puts the pen to the paper).

Most of us have heard of the famous queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. Whether it be her love affair with Mark Antony or Caesar or her being the last of the Ptolemy ancestry to rule Egypt, she is not an unknown character. But have you ever stopped to consider what her life might have been like or how she came to be. This novel is not Cleopatra’s story, but the story of her through the eyes of (a fictional) someone who could have been her childhood friend. This is Chava’s story.

Chava is the daughter of Daniel the Scholar who is a Jew living in Alexandria, Egypt. She is not an Egyptian citizen because of her religious status as a Jew, but since her father is educated and a tutor for the young Cleopatra, her family is upheld as wealthy Alexandrian dwellers and given that her father educates the young princess, she is brought up with Cleopatra and her absolute best friend. The girls are inseparable growing up and even make the bond of being “blood sisters” and Chava even feels a calling from HaShem (God) that she is always suppose to be there to be able to bless Cleopatra. The story follows their humble beginnings as girls, when suddenly, Cleopatra’s father dies and she is left as Queen of Egypt.

Things begin to shift and change as Cleopatra begins to take possession of the country with her younger brother (which was Egyptian royalty custom of the time for her to marry him). Chava feels that her best friend will always be close to her, but her father warns her that events like this have a way of changing people. Convinced that God’s message to her means that she will always be there by Cleopatra’s side and her lady in waiting, she dismisses what her father says and keeps hoping that in the rush of all the events that Cleopatra will remember her and ask her to accompany her on her new queen travels. She finds that Cleopatra leaves and does not ask her to go with, but still holds out hope that life will resume for them as best friends and the closest confidant when she returns. A year comes and goes, Chava begins to stop actively waiting (although not without hope) and her heart begins to fall for a young man named Yosef. Given that she feels she is suppose to serve Cleopatra all her life, she neglects herself and her desires so she can be available when the queen returns.

Cleopatra does eventually come back to Alexandria and Chava waits to visit, but one day she goes to the palace to give Cleopatra a gift of all the names of HaShem carved into a wooden plaque. Cleopatra doesn’t really have an allegiance to HaShem, but to the Egyptian gods of Isis among others; nonetheless, she is touched by Chava’s gesture and wants to do something to thank her for her kindness and for always being a friend. A few days later she calls for Chava and offers to give her one of the best gifts she could get, citizenship granted for her and her family… the only requirement is that she would have to give up the One True God to worship the gods of Egypt so she can conform to be like a citizen. Torn between the kind offer from her best friend, but knowing that she cannot worship anyone other than HaShem, she turns down the offer and finds her life catapulted into a life she never dreamed of. Chava faces many emotions, from hurt and bitterness and rejection, to acceptance and realizing that God’s promises for our lives don’t always look like what we want them to.

While there is no allusion to strong questionable details, this is a book I would recommend for anyone to read who are of teen to adult age. Younger children may not quite understand some of the context even though it is found quite frequently in society. Beautifully and masterfully written, this is a great book from start to finish and you will not want to miss it.

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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Have you ever wondered what the Song of Solomon was really about?

Growing up, I was eager to study and learn my Bible like a lot of young Christian girls. I’m not sure if I was trying to read it in book order or if the title “Song of Solomon” intrigued me because it was suppose to be a song (or maybe perhaps it was because I didn’t remember ever hearing about this book in church, but however I came across it, I did. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.”- Song 1:2 (NIV). In my young, pre-pubescent mind, part of me wanted to shut my Bible right then and there, however, part of me was intrigued to read on since I had never come across this before… and it was in my Bible! But, being of the mindset if I did read it and my parents were to come in my room and catch me that it would be my utter demise, I opted to turn to a different book and never said a word about what I had read to my parents, because surely, since I had never heard of this book before, there had to be a mistake or it was something that I was not suppose to read, even though I thought I could read everything in my Bible.

Fast forward several years. Those words I read that day still clung to my mind. It wasn’t until I was quite older that I attempted to read the Song of Solomon again, still not ever hearing a sermon preached on it. That time, it was a bunch of flowery Shakespeare poetry that I had no idea what it was suppose to mean, even though I had an English teacher that encouraged us one time to find the hidden meaning in songs and poetry. Well, even though she was an ordained minister, I didn’t feel that this book would be appropriate for discussion in the classroom even though we were all in AP English and most of us were soon turning 18. Still curiosity loomed in my mind over this book in the Bible. Why would God put it in there and what exactly was it suppose to mean? Was this a mere book of mild “porn”, but if so, why was it in my Bible and why is it that preachers rarely preach on it?

I happened across He Calls You Beautiful: Hearing the Voice of Jesus in the Song of Songs by Dee Brestin when I was browsing some books to review and it immediately got my attention. Not ever fully understanding the contents of the book, a complete study of it had always intrigued me and this study guide did not let me down! Written for a group or individual study use, this study guide goes through chapter by chapter and sometimes line by line and depicts the meaning behind it and the similarities between Solomon the bridegroom and the bridegroom of the church, Jesus and between the Shulammite woman and the church as the bride of Christ, pointing out that this book is not only meant to depict the perfect marriage, but in the middle of the Bible in general, this book outlines the complete love story of the Bible and Christ’s love for his people. It even references other scripture that describes different attributes of God like a pillar of smoke and even details why the bride wants “dove’s eyes” (who knew they were very near sighted).

This study guide also features some of the most comprehensive examination questions at the end of each discussion chapter. These questions encourage whoever is studying it to delve deeper and really grasp the full meaning of the Song. The study guide is also very interactive with activities to open the group up and media usage to get in the mindframe for the questions. The study can be used without the group activities and media usage though. Through the study, it is the hope of Dee for the studier to understand just how much God loves them and sees them as a beautiful bride rather than who the Devil tells them they might be.

If you have ever desired to study the Song of Solomon in the Bible, since it’s not really talked about much at church, or even if you are at the pit of your life and think you are completely worthless to everyone, including God, I encourage you to pick up a copy of this study. You will be glad you did! This study is definitely for a more for mature readers as I feel that younger minds, even though they may benefit from understanding the Song, won’t fully grasp the meaning and will probably see this book in the Bible as nothing other than silly. A great study overall for groups or individuals!

To check out a preview of this book or order a copy, you can click here.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

 

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Choosing to Love Thy Enemy

A riveting tale from the first page to the very last word of the novel, readers will be enthralled to turn each page of Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette! Based in a time before Jesus, back before “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho”, but Moses still walked on the earth, the children of Israel were condemned to wander the desert for 40 years while waiting to enter the Promised Land. This novel takes place towards the end of the 40 years right before the Israelites are about to claim the land flowing with milk and honey that God had promised the generation before them.

Loosely based on Biblical context, the reader finds themselves in the midst of a war between the Israelites and Canaanites. It is there we meet Alanah, the woman warrior that none of her fellow soldiers is aware is a woman. After the death of her family members in the war, Alanah feels obligated to fight to defend their country and so that their blood is not shed in vain. With no allegiance to any gods, or anyone except Canaan and the memories of her family, she joins the military and is not afraid to stare death in the face if it means that she will be preserving her nation. After making a random shot into an enemy soldier, Alanah finds herself shot in the shoulder and fading in and out of consciousness.

Enter Tobiah, an Israelite soldier. He finds Alanah wounded on the battlefield and has orders to finish her off. However, upon closer view in her eyes, he finds that she is a woman and is left flabbergasted on what to do next. Not wanting to kill a woman, he figures he can do nothing else but take her to a healer so that her life can be saved. Upon finding said healer, he is informed that since he rescued Alanah, even with her being a Canaanite, the Torah requires he marries her to provide her with protection and her honor. Being a man who is very devout and law abiding, he has Alanah prepared for the wedding ceremony and marries her with a 30 day betrothal period where she can decides if she wants in that time to leave him. Knowing her only other choice (and an unpalatable one at that!) would be to go back to Canaan and be a temple priestess, Alanah decides her best choice would be to marry Tobiah.

Alanah finds herself rejected by Tobiah’s sister, who is the wife of his best friend who was killed in action; however, being a lady who enjoys a challenge, she decides, at least at first, to stick it out. Tobiah’s sister tries to do everything in her power to make Alanah flee so that he can marry the girl that their family had chosen for him instead of this outsider. Alanah finds herself falling in love with Tobiah, but is not sure if he returns her feelings, and Tobiah finds himself in the same predicament.

Already on fragile ground, one day, Alanah finds Tobiah’s bag and decides to search through it to see what he might carry. What she finds she does not want to see and before she can put things back, her secret is exposed to none other than Tobiah’s spiteful sister who says that Tobiah will never forgive her. Not knowing what else to do, Alanah runs and that is when calamity ensues. The problems do bring her to a sister she didn’t realize she had (Rahab in Jericho), and she shares her faith with Rahab, which leads to the helping of the Israelite spies.

Even though this is a work of fiction, it does stay consistent with Biblical events of the end of the 40 years of wandering for the Israelites. Connilyn does a fantastic job of painting a picture of what it could have been during that time and the possibility that a family member was the one who helped bring Rahab to faith in God. If you enjoy reading fiction that expounds on some of the vague details from Scripture, then you will enjoy this book. Filled with action, adventure, love, and forgiveness, this is a book you will have a difficult time putting down. I do not recommend this book for younger readers, as while it is not horribly graphic, there are references that are not suitable for children. This novel is the last of a 3 part series, and while I am very interested in reading the other two novels, I feel you can easily pick this one up and not feel like you have missed anything. This is a book you will want to pick up from your local bookstore or library!

For a preview of the novel or to purchase, please click here.

I received this book free courtesy of Bethany House Publisher’s Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

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We Stood Upon Stars (a good book for camping)

Imagine sitting around the campfire with a good friend one evening during the summer sharing tales of trips through mountains and VW Van wagon trips ending up on the side of the road. Reading We Stood Upon Stars by Roger Thompson is like doing just that. The imagery he creates in the book/travel guide makes it so you almost feel like you were there with Roger on his travels; catching the big fish while fly fishing, sampling the coffee at all the local coffee shops, and sitting on the side of the road with him after unpacking his van while waiting for the tow truck to come along so the van can be fixed and you can get on with your travels.

While this book is very interesting in its tales of good vacations past, it also gives you a very detailed map of where he went for each chapter he writes about. The maps will provide you with road names, as well as where to stop for good food, drinks, and scenery. If you ever breakdown on a mountain road in Montana, you will find the name of a tow company he utilized a few times and really enjoyed. Going on a fly fishing trip and want a good fishing guide?; there are some names of local fishing guides that he recommends to use. This book would be a great book to use to plan a vacation out west from California to Montana.

This book is a good read, but it is written more to the men who purchase the book. He talks a lot about finding yourself as a man and some heritage and legacies men want to leave with their children. The female readers who enjoy the outdoors will enjoy the traveling and outdoorsy aspect of the book; however, it is a book that will speak very much so to a man’s heart. It is almost like men having a man to man conversation around the campfire, but one that the females in the group still enjoy listening to. This book would be okay for young readers to read, although, I don’t feel that it would hold their attention for very long. It is more for the mature readers who want a good book on traveling.

To check out a preview of this book or order a copy, you can click here.

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

 

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