Tuesday, January 31, 2012

ESV Grow Bible, Published by Crossway

I was excited the day the box containing this bible landed on my front porch. This has quickly become one of my favorite translations because of it's easy readability.

I really liked this children's bible because it is set up like a study bible with extra information in it. It is designed for children between the ages of 8 and 12 years old. This is a great bible for those in-between years when children want a "big person's" bible but they still enjoy colored photos and extra neat stuff. I especially liked that this bible is separated into the sections of the bible. For instance 'The Books of Wisdom and Poetry' on this page it lists the books that would be included (Job, Psalm, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) then gives a brief overview of these books. This overview includes: Themes in these books, Two Paths of Life, Biblical Wisdom, Biblical Poetry, and style. The children are then introduced into a broad overview of this section giving them a deeper understanding of these books.

At the beginning of each book there is also an overview of that book. This overview points out key stories or themes of the book, the author, date, places, people, God's love, and God's special message. On this page is a time-line to give a visual reference point of the book. I think this is very helpful for children to be able to visually see as well as read the date of the scriptures. This allows for them to put into context what is going on at the time the book is written and what had happened prior to and after the book was written.

Another neat aspect of this bible is the "wh" questions that a sprinkled among the text. These questions of who, what, where, why, when offer children another opportunity to dig deeper into the meaning of God's word and develop a stronger understanding of scripture. There are also "4U" sections that give a deeper explanation of different scriptures. These even sometimes show examples in modern history of this scripture in action for good or the effects of the violation of the scripture. I think this section helps children to see the absolute relevance of scripture to daily life.

I would like to give special thanks to the publisher for this free review copy. As a mother of 4 children ages 10, 8, 5 and 4 (and one due any day) I appreciate the opportunity to get my hands on material that will cause my children to be excited about opening the Word of God. This bible has opened the door to many discussions on different topics as the 4U sections and "Wh" questions cause them to ask more questions and discussions.

To see more great resources from this publisher please visit http://www.crossway.org/blog

Thanks again Crossway to you commitment to print quality resources for families!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Summer of Promise, Amanda Cabot

Content with her life as a schoolmarm at Mrs. Drexel's school in Vermont Abigail had her life planned out - even the man she would marry. Life was secure, happy, stable and predictable. However, nagging her were her concerns for her older sister who's letters held a certain not of melancholy in the carefully worded letters she sent from Wyoming.

Urged by these feelings that something is terribly out of place with Charlotte Abigail makes a decision to spend the summer with her sister in Wyoming at Fort Laramie. Little did she know that when she stepped onto the stage coach headed out West that the perfectly layed plans she had for her life would slowly disappear for a new road that God had planned.

Abigail has a set time and purpose for being in the dreaded baron landscape of Wyoming. Her distaste of the West is apparent to a fellow stage coach member who finds this very amusing. To keep her focus Abigail constantly reminds herself of the beautiful state she left and the steady, reliable man that she plans to marry upon return. However, another man, an Army Lieutenant, makes an undeniable impression on her.

Upon arriving at her sister Charlotte's house Abigail finds her sister saying all the right words about happiness with none of it reflected in her eyes. Abigail is determined to fix this for her sister. However, this proves to lead to more than what Abigail thought.

This big-hearted, forgiving woman touches the lives of everyone at the fort before the story ends. Her spirit of forgiveness and extending God's love softens every heart and changes those around her. This gentleness is just what Ft. Laramie has needed.

In this beautifully written story of love and redemption and following God's plans the reader is invited into a world of adventure, love and forgiveness from past pain. I especially like that though this story does have a love story threaded through it that is not the most dominant point of the story. This makes the unfolding love story all the more believable and likable. The author spends much time with character development, looking at the heart and and thoughts of the characters instead of focusing on an outward love. So the love the reader sees developed is one that is based on a mutual journey into God's plans and and acceptance of His grace and forgiveness.

Thank you Revell for this review copy.
“Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Where Wildflowers Bloom, Ann Shorey

This is book one of a new series entitled 'Sisters at Heart' and seems to be a promising opener for this series. Ann Shorey has yet again created a story that is heartwarming and easy to read.

The Civil War has devastated a country - leaving families destroyed, homes lost, dreams shattered and lives forever altered. Towns are changed as young men, fathers and sons never come home and others that have lost everything and are seeking a new start stumble into towns looking for work. It seems that everyone is dealing with a grief of their own - trying desperately to make it all work out into something new.

The story is the same for Faith Lindberg who lost her father and brother to the brutal cruelty of war. In her small town she is constantly confronted with the memories that lurk on every street and around every corner. To add to this her fiance, Royal Baxter is presumed dead. All the dreams that Faith had held so dear prior to the outbreak of war and the onslaught of loss are shattered and she longs desperately for a new beginning.

Left with her ailing and aging grandfather, Faith looks to move west. The problem is how will she convince her grandfather to sell the family store and move with her. In the midst of all this comes an unlikely ally - a veteran of the war and his sister, a nurse. As Faith gets to know the two she becomes aware that what God has planned for her is not what she has planned. Add to this the unexpected return of her fiance and you have a mix of all kinds of emotions.

How far will Faith go to see her dream of leaving behind the small town with all the memories go - will she slow down and ask God what He would have her to do?

See the story unfold in the vivid imagery classic of Ann Shorey.

Thank you Revell for this review copy.

The Jerk Magnet, Melody Carlson

The ugly duckling turned swan, the wall flower turned center attraction. What if you could become something that you never were before? What if you discover first hand that beauty really is more than just skin deep - because you are the transformed one - the overlooked that becomes the looked upon? That is just what unfolds in this teenage drama.

Chelsea Martin has long been the one to fade into the background. She has managed high school by just blending into the crowd, where no one notices her. That is until her father decides to marry a woman that is both beautiful and fashionable. Kate, the soon to be step-mom sees herself in Chelsea. Wanting to connect with her step-daughter she offers to give Chelsea a make-over, and what better time than when they will be moving to a new state. Chelsea has the unique opportunity of truly starting over.

Little did she know how different her life would become when she changes her appearance just a little.

This novel brings about a very interesting topic that most girls will be able to easily relate to. The very question that most girls struggle with is inner beauty enough, and can you have outer beauty and still be just as beautiful on the inside?

Chelsea goes from being the one that people pity, avoid or overlook to the one that people flock to, drool over, and even envy and hate. She quickly learns that being beautiful on the outside isn't what it was cracked up to be when people don't even take the time to get to know who she is on the inside and being overlooked isn't great for the same reason. So, how do you find the balance - what is it that Christ has called you to do?

This is a great teen novel. Once again Carlson has done an excellent job of tackling the subject of self-esteem and the struggle of becoming who you were always meant to be.

Thank you Revell for this review copy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chasing Mona Lisa, Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

This fast paced novel is set at the close of World War II in German occupied France just as France gains it's freedom. Four people are racing to save the beloved French artwork - the Mona Lisa while German Reichmarschall Hermann Goring sets out to claim it for himself.

From the first page the action and intrigue is non-stop. I was surprised at the depth of the characters since there were so many in the novel. Just as the reader thinks they have it all figured out - and have chosen the character they want to see win - things change. As it is in war time there are so many dynamics that the reader is torn between loyalty for certain characters and the greater cause.

What is it about this mysterious lady that makes her the most sought after piece of art - she truly is the most wanted lady in the world? Yet as each character takes their first look at this beloved piece of art they are captivated by her smile and poise.

I am forever amazed at the this particular period of history. Those living in this time were forced to make choices that I would never want be forced to make. Loyalty is constantly tested as black and white shifts to a hazy color of grey. Which side is the right side to belong to - and how should one serve to benefit the whole?

In this story you are invited into an exciting, life altering race that will forever change the lives of four individuals.

Small Space Organizing by Kathryn Bechen

Kathryn Bechen is no stranger to small living spaces having lived in more than a fair share over the past 30 years. Instead of despairing Kathryn has allowed God to develop a talent at organization and style that make small space living livable and peaceful. As a mother of 4 children that home schools living in a 3 bedroom home that has a separate school room I am always looking a ways to maximize the space I have. My children are two to a room and there is furniture every where. Sometimes I feel claustrophobic even thinking about entering their rooms.

This book is just the book for a person like me. It is very practical, and well layed out making it an easy and enjoyable read. The down-side, if you could even consider it thus, is that you will feel motivated to tackle each room - even the ones that are pretty well organized. I particularly enjoyed the fact that she included helpful websites and products and that much of it was very reasonably priced.

This is certainly a book I would recommend - as it is helpful and does not leave you feeling utterly discouraged by the clutter you once thought was so very organized.

Thanks to Revel for this review copy.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Showing Love and Hospitality to Others By: Roxanne Packham, author of "Inspired Design'

Before we are inspired about how to show love to others, we must first ask why?

Quite simply it is because in Romans 12:10 & 13 we are told to be devoted to one another in brotherly love, to honor one another above ourselves. We are also told to share with God’s people who are in need and to Practice Hospitality. Notice the vocabulary: practice, not perfect.

In America, as a culture and as individuals, we are suffering in part because popular media gears everything to perfection. We are bombarded with messages that if we aren’t the very best at something, we just shouldn’t bother. We compare ourselves to others, rather than knowing our worth in God’s eyes.

I suffer from insecurity and wonder if I can be creative enough to inspire. Are my tips original? Are the photographs beautiful enough? Are my suggestions too simple for some, but too fancy for another? The problem: my thoughts revolve completely around me. My creativity, my skills, my ability. This is not about me but about God’s purpose for me. I suddenly realize the bigger picture; I can’t do it, but I can through Christ who strengthens me.

This dance in my mind between my preciousness in His sight and the enemy’s interjections has slowed me down at times, but God showed me this dance is the very reason for us to love others; to encourage each other. Because we are human we suffer from doubt, insecurity, and rejection of one sort or another. We are God’s tool to encourage others. God uses us as His hands to love others, but make no mistake it is His power, His grace and the Holy Spirit that do the real work, not ours.

God’s path of creativity in me began with a family history of silversmithing eight generations back, a degree from USC, design school in Paris, then design school in Los Angeles. Call them spiritual or otherwise, but they were the gifts God saw fit to give to me. Who am I to argue with my Creator? They are unique and I celebrate them. What are your magnificent and unique gifts that you can use to inspire others?

I do not want the gifts received as a blessing from God to “turn into spiritual dry rot,” as Ann Voscamp suggests in her book One Thousand Gifts, as the manna did when it was hoarded in Exodus 16:20. I want to use my blessings.

Inadequacies and all, imperfections and all: I want to inspire others to practice Hospitality and to LOVE others.

Creative Ways to Encourage Others on Valentine’s Day


A handwritten note with quotes, scriptures and words of encouragement is a wonderful thing to find in the mailbox.

Leave a sticky note on your child/husband’s pillow or be bold and write your note on the bathroom mirror or car window in red lipstick saying “I love you”.

Even an email just to say “thank you for your hard work, you bless me” can make a person’s day. A cute poem, scripture or old photograph will remind them they are remembered.

If someone has lost a loved one, kind words of some way that loved one inspired you to do something better will let them know that their loved one’s legacy is living on.


Take some time out of your days to meet someone for coffee, lunch, a long walk, or even just leave a phone message with a sweet sentiment. If you have more time, take a picnic basket to their home. Set up a lunch, tea or coffee, with all your tea cups and a candle. It is a lovely surprise! Just rinse when you finish and pack back up so they don’t even have to do dishes. They will have a lovely memory of a special time.


Hang flowers on the front door handle, leave a pretty tiny package in the mailbox with a beautiful red bow, or cookies delivered to the front door. Create a breakfast plate for your child that says you are special . This is especially significant if your child has struggled with something recently.


Of course this takes more time, but try for a beautiful table setting complete with candles, fresh greens or flowers and a lovely menu either handwritten or printed out on your computer. (Visit Roxanne’s Pinterest account, via the Inspired Design blog, for darling printouts, including gift tags, and much more.) Don’t concentrate on the gourmet or complicated quality of the meal: remember it is about relationship and encouragement!


A beautiful table for Valentine’s simply consists of reds, pinks and perhaps some purple. (Although it could be beautiful in all white too.) Of course, it has to have some hearts and some colorful candles. Leave kind words of some sort on each place setting. Every Valentine’s table should have its share of sparkle, of course!

Visit Roxanne Packham’s blog at www.InspiredDesignPublications.blogspot.com

for more pictures and Inspired Design ideas for Valentine’s Day.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wayward Son, Tom Pollack with Jim Alves & John Loftus

Wayward Son is one of those unique novels you stumble across ever so often that is both interesting and thought provoking. The captivating plot draws the reader into an adventure of a life-time that crosses ages and centers around a person of historical and biblical magnitude.

What would happen if the one cursed by God somehow 'cheats' death and lives throughout the ages influencing many people in many different time periods? Find out in this exciting novel that encompasses world history and biblical history. A theme that seems to be explored is the danger of greed, and self-sufficiency.

Amanda, a beautiful (overly stated in the novel) and intelligent young lady is called upon to use her amazing (again over stated) Linguistic skills to translate a door that is found after an earthquake. Apparently our lead character is a master of multiple modern and ancient languages and so brilliant that she is highly sought after for this and her unbelievable beauty.

In the course of going to this archeological site Amanda is faced with a great offer to become a television host and make more money in one year than she could make in a life time at the Getty working ancient artifacts and translating ancient texts. This temptation is a lure to keep her from what lays in wait for her at the archeological site.

Could it be that the modern world is still plagued by a god who is faceless, and just as ruthless as ever? A deceiver in the purest form - the ancient enemy of the one true God?

See this epic adventure unfold as you are invited into a modern world that collides with the ancient and see the battle of the adversary and God.

This is truly an interesting book.

Thanks to the Publisher for this free review copy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Every Body Matters, Gary Thomas

I have read many books that Gary Thomas has read and for the most part can say that I enjoy them. The fact that he chose to write something on this subject matter does not surprise since it seems to be a popular subject to write on. I have to say honestly that the title is cute - it is one thing that caught my attention. As a youth teacher I am constantly telling the youth that their bodies matter to God because they are the temple of God. This fact alone should stir each of us to take better care of what God created as a special place for the indwelling of his spirit.

In this book Thomas explores the negative and positive aspects of caring for ones body. He ties the healthy body to a healthy soul. His main goal is to show that our desires should not be for the outward appearance but should be for the goal of growing closer to God.

I would recommend this book for someone who is looking to make changes in their lifestyle while staying focused on God's design.

Thank you Zondervan and LibraryThing for this review copy.

Every Woman's Battle, Shannon Ethridge

Back in May of 2011 we bought a copy of 'Every Young Woman's Battle' as we had a teen aged girl living with us at the time. Being familiar with the book 'Every Man's battle' and 'Every Young Man's Battle' we were confident that the book would be solid. The same was true when I saw this book for review: having read the other books I was glad to get a copy of this one too.

The author does an excellent job exploring a subject that has too long been tabu to talk about. I have found this to be a sad state of affairs. As a minister's wife, a women's ministry teacher and a teacher to Senior High Teens - as well as other ministries involving women - over the last 13 years I have met many young ladies and grown women who have been devastated in the area of sexual and emotional intimacy. Many have been wounded in such ways that they do not feel worthy. Others struggle silently with things they are too embarrassed to speak about, feeling they are the only ones struggling in these areas.

I found the book to be an excellent resource. The writing is very personable and easy to follow and the advice is biblical and scriptural based. Shannon Ethridge has stepped out to tackle a subject that has long needed to be tackled.

I would recommend this book for all women. I think that while reading it women will come face to face with issues that have long lay hidden in the dark recesses of their hearts and minds. This will produce a healing that will then produce a more intimate marriage or in the case of single women will provide a foundation on which to build an intimate marriage as well as tools to protect their hearts from things that should not be allowed into their hearts.

Thank you to WaterBrook Press for this free review copy.

The Daniel Fast, Susan Gregory

This is the second book on the Daniel Fast that I have picked up to read. Again this book hits the reason to fast right on the head.

Though this book does go into the hows of fasting it focuses a lot of the why of fasting. After all the "why" of things is what gives us motivation and drive to follow through with something once we start. This book puts the focus right where it needs to be - on growing closer to God. In biblical text anytime fasting was used was for a person to spend time focused only on God and hearing His direction and guidance. The thought being to take away other distraction.

This book lays out a way to safely fast and I really appreciate the authors question and answer section in the back about common concerns. This puts to rest the person that is still uneasy about fasting. Also included is a 21-day devotional to help the person that is fasting. These devotionals are very solid in biblical application. Combine all this with yummy recipes that after 21-days will most certainly cause a certain amount of change in an unhealthy diet and you have a great book for those looking to fast for the first time.

Thank you Tyndale for this review copy.

A Year with Jesus, R.P. Nettelhorst

A Year with Jesus is just the book needed for new and older Christians alike. After teaching the true meaning of theology to our teens and exploring that it in fact means the study of who God is and His personality - this book is easy to recommend. How better to get to know Jesus(God the Son) than by reading and studying His own words each day. If studied with an open heart that is seeking a deeper and more intimate knowledge of Jesus this book will open the door for solid foundational theology.

Each day is devoted to a teaching or saying of Jesus. This allows the reader to get to know the real Jesus to explore the character and nature of a Great and Awesome God and discover firsthand the personal love Jesus showed as he walked in human form on this earth.

This is an excellent book to start out your morning with or end a hectic day with. I would recommend it to any one.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for this free review copy.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Keeper, Suzanne Woods Fisher

Sometimes our best laid plans, and the deepest desires of our hearts, even our hopes for the future of our dreams must be laid on the alter in exchange for God's perfect plan and His ultimate will. In doing this we are often surprised that what God had in store was far better than anything that we could dream up and that the deepest desires of our hearts are pleasantly and overwhelmingly met to the point of making us fall to our knees with thanksgiving - overwhelmed by the knowledge that we are loved that much.

This is just what the Lapp family discovers after a series of unexpected storms in their life that have left them in a state of disarray, discouragement and disheartened. The Lapp family is filled with quirky characters that fall short of the "normal" standards of the Amish lifestyle. This makes this story all the more personable as you see in honesty the struggles they face.

Julia Lapp has long dreamed of marrying Paul Fisher but he has yet to cut the apron strings that are like iron bands connecting him to his over-bearing, supremely controlling mother. When he yet again postpones their wedding Julia knows that Ms. Fisher is directly behind this - she knows the Ms. Fisher does not approve of the Lapp family. In fact she finds the Lapp family to be the black sheep of the Amish Community.

Amos Lapp, once healthy and fit is suddenly struck with a disease of the heart muscle that has left him with failing health. He struggles with depression as he sees his older daughters try to hold together the farm - working endless hours to do what the entire family once did.

Mary Kate (M.K.) and Menno the younger of the Lapp kids are facing their own trials as the family struggles to make things work. The spirited M.K. has made a resolve to help her sister finally marry the man of her dreams - Paul Fisher and to help her other sister Sadie discover a relationship with Gideon.

Throw in an uncle that is anything but the cookie-cutter Amish - his antics are often the talk of the little Amish community. However, in the midst of his quirky ways his heart is big and deep and filled with love and loyalty.

Can two unlikely people change the Lapp family and give them the hope and joy they so desperately need? The Bee Man, Roman Trower, shows up with his bees he unexpectedly decides to stay on and help get the farm up and running. This mysterious Amish man soon makes a deep impression on the family and on one heart for sure. Fern - or Stern Fern as M.K. calls her - is recruited by Uncle Hank to help get the family house in order. She does just that with authority and sternness. Though Fern changes the family the greatest change is in Fern herself.

God's best is often a surprise - the changes He has in store for us are often unimaginable.

This is a unique and fresh approach to Amish fiction. The Keeper is certainly a keeper.

“Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

*** I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review ***

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lucky, Craig Inglis

This endearing story of a man and his dog teaches a deeper principle of over-coming obstacles and adversities.

When the man's best-friend dog gets run over by a car and loses his leg the dog must relearn everything. With the help of the man this dog overcomes the trials and teaches that no matter what the obstacle with a little determination things turn out good. I liked that in the end the dog did all his tricks better with only three legs.

This book is a great spring board for discussions concerning physically disabled people. It teaches the principle that despite these things a person is still talented and viable - able to accomplish many of the same things they did before or would have done despite the disability. I think there is also an underlying thought that we should all be sensitive to those with disabilities and that we should also be the one to encourage the best in people.

I recommend this book to school teachers and to parents alike.

I received a free copy of this book directly from the author in exchange for an honest review of the product. As a mother of 4 children I can say that it was great. My children enjoyed the illustrations and the discussion of what it would be like to lose a leg, arm, or be in a wheel chair. We also discussed how we can help those with disabilities while encouraging them to strive for excellence in their endeavors. We talked about how it would be easy to get discouraged if you thought you were not the same as others and if it were harder for you to do things.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

That's My Girl, Rick Johnson

Subtitled "How a Father's love Protects and Empowers His Daughter" this book is just that. Many father's get lost in the provisional respects of their role in the family life forgetting or never fully understanding that love is a key element.

As the Senior High Girls Youth teacher and the Sunday School teacher for younger girls I see first hand what a lack of a father's genuine love does to a girl. Few father's truly understand the magnitude of influence they have in what type of young adult emerges in their daughters. They wonder why their daughters make bad choices in careers, life style, dates, etc - it boils down to what they were taught by their fathers. A girl's worth is often tied up in what she thinks her father thinks about her.

I am impressed with Rick Johnson's book in that it not only explores the importance of a father's love and influence, or what a father should do for his daughter, but it goes a step father to empower men to be the very best fathers. In this book Johnson attempts to give men direction, encouragement and advice on how to accomplish the task of loving their daughters in a way that protects and empowers them.

Our children are faced with a myriad of decisions. They desperately need a solid foundation of love to succeed in this unstable world. After reading this as a review copy I found myself wanting to buy the book "That's My Son" and "Better Dads, Stronger Sons". As a mother I want to know firsthand how I can help my sons become godly men - and if Johnson handles the subject of sons as well as he did daughters I do not expect to be disappointed.

Although I am a mother, I would highly recommend this book for fathers (and mothers to read with your husbands). If you are a single mom - read this book to better understand what it is your daughter may be longing for - then begin to pray for godly men to step into that role.

I received this book from the publisher Revell as a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

“Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”