Thursday, April 28, 2011

A short, but powerful, book -- Secrets of the Vine for Women

Secrets of the Vine for Women by Darlene Marie Wilkinson is a great example of good things coming in small packages.  This quick read (I probably spent an hour and a half to two hours reading it) is packed with conviction and hope. 

As a follow-up to responses her husband Bruce received to his Secrets of the Vine, Darlene takes Jesus's lessons from the vineyard in John 15 and directs it specifically to women.  She presents some very simple, yet profound, principles and examples of what it means for us to bear much fruit by abiding in the Vine.  She shares how God has a plan for each of us and how He guides us to reach the abundance He wants for us through one or more of three stages:  (1) intervening in our lives to discipline us so we will bear fruit; (2) intervening by pruning us so we will bear more fruit; and (3) inviting us to abide more deeply in Him so we will bear much fruit.

This book is one that spoke to me from beginning to end and which I will likely come back to for reminders of Christ's invitation to abide and experience abundance.

Please take a minute to rank this review. It helps me have a broader selection of books to bring to you. Your email address is required only to make sure the system is not being taken advantage of. (If you don't want the newsletter, just uncheck the box.) Thanks!
(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program for my honest review.)://

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A book of inspiration -- Amish Prayers

Amish Prayers compiled by Beverly Lewis, is a small book with a large dose of inspiration.  The book contains English translations of prayers from the German prayer book Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht.  The prayer book has been special to Anabaptists (including Amish) since its earliest printing in 1708.

Beverly Lewis is one of the very first and most well-known authors of Amish fiction.  Her collection of prayers provides insight into the heart and worship of the Plain people with whom she shares both family roots and close friendships.

I enjoyed a quick read through Amish Prayers and believe that I will find even more inspiration as I return to spend additional time of reflection.  The prayers, though simple in their words, can lead to a deep sense of personal communion with God.

(For the purpose of review, I was provided a free copy of this book by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  The views expressed, however, are my own opinions.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

An Amish story set where? -- Paradise Valley

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Holmes County, Ohio.  The Sierra Madre of northeastern Mexico.  Which one of these places does not belong in a list of settings for Amish stories?  The answer is: they all belong!

Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer is a fictional story (although with some basis in fact) of a small group of Amish people who moved from Ohio to Mexico in the early 1920s.  Caleb Bender was one of five Amish fathers briefly jailed for refusing to obey Ohio's new law requiring all children to attend public schools.  To be released from jail and to have their children returned to their families from a state-run home, the men had to agree to send their children to the local school.  After some time of struggling with the issue of how to honor his promise to abide by the law and living true to his own convictions, Caleb found a small pamphlet that appeared to provide a solution:  "Paradise Valley -- five thousand acres of prime, flat, fertile farmland nestled in the Sierra Madre of northeastern Mexico . . . ten dollars an acre."  Others in the community became interested in the potential, but they all shared concerns about making such a move with no one having any firsthand knowledge of what they would encounter in the wilds of Mexico.  It was finally decided that Caleb and his family would be the trailblazers, moving ahead of the others and reporting back home so their friends could decide whether to follow. 

Dale Cramer is the great-grandson of one of the leaders of a group of Amish who made such a trek from Ohio to Mexico.  He weaves together a real historical context and some very "real" fictional characters into an excellent story of faith and struggle among Amish families.  Although it was very different from the Amish stories I usually read, I enjoyed this book and look forward to future installments in The Daughters of Caleb Bender series. 

(For the purpose of review, I was provided a free copy of this book by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  The views expressed, however, are my own opinions.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Gripping Mystery! -- Under the Cajun Moon

Murder, mayhem, mystery, kidnapping, snakes, alligators, hidden treasure, romance, God's grace -- you'll find all these and more in Mindy Starns Clark's Under the Cajun Moon

Chloe Ledet is an international business etiquette expert, living in Chicago.  When she gets a call from her hometown of New Orleans that her father has been shot, she quickly flies there to be near him.  Before she can get to the hospital, though, she finds herself at her father's famous French Quarter restaurant, hearing a story of family treasure and mystery.  The next morning she wakes up in an unfamiliar hotel room and learns that she has been framed for murder.  When Travis Naquin, the grandson of her father's sometimes partner/sometimes adversary appears on the scene and seems intent on helping Chloe, the quagmire of mystery and danger grows deeper.  As the story unfolds through the lakes and bayous and marshes of south Louisiana, Chloe (as well as the reader) finds herself doubting the motives of almost everyone she knows.  And one of the biggest questions she struggles with is whether she can trust God to know or care about where she is and what is happening to her.

In the midst of the modern-day story, Mindy Starns Clark weaves an 18th-century tale that provides an intriguing backdrop to the setting.  In her masterful style of storytelling, she takes you back and forth between centuries without ever breaking the flow.  I would highly recommend this gripping mystery that you're sure to have trouble putting down.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Max on Life by Max Lucado

Do you have questions about . . .  well, about . . . LIFE?  Does God really care?  Am I really forgiven?  Does prayer really change anything?  How do I control my worries about my children?  How do I get out of a bad mood?

During his years as a writer and a minister, Max Lucado has heard many those and many more.  In Max on Life, he presents his answers to 172 questions, sharing his insights from scripture and from his years of ministry.  The subjects range from deep theological inquiries about heaven and hell to practical, down-to-earth issues like managing hectic family schedules and dealing with finances.

Lucado’s comfortable, conversational style makes reading his books very pleasurable, and this one was no exception.  His “mini-lessons” on life are presented in a very simple manner that can be understood not only by those who are Bible scholars, but also those who have very little background in the study of God’s Word.  This book can be read in its entirety in a short period of time or enjoyed in small doses.

There are a few spots where it seemed that Max’s comments never quite got to a direct answer to the question.  But overall, his responses provide sound answers and valuable food for thought.  I would definitely recommend Max on Life for anyone looking for answers to life’s questions. 

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://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.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

An inspiring story -- Called

If you have about an hour or so to spare, a good way to fill it would be to read Called by Lisa Jefferson and Felicia Middlebrooks.  Lisa Jefferson was the Verizon AirFone supervisor who took the call from Todd Beamer from Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.  Lisa's life was forever changed by a conversation that began with, "Hello, my name is Mrs. Jefferson.  I understand your plane is being hijacked," and ended with those now-famous words from Todd Beamer, "Let's roll!"

Lisa is confident that God put her in just the right spot at just the right time to handle the difficult challenge.  As she and Todd spent those fifteen minutes on the phone, their common faith provided a connection much deeper.  Her ability and willingness to share the experience with Lisa Beamer (Todd's wife) and others in Todd's family provided for them a sense of comfort.  This previously quiet and private woman has since had many opportunities to publicly share the lessons God has brought to her.  Lisa Jefferson's story of faith is a blessing and an inspiration.

An OK Amish story -- The Way to a Man's Heart

The Way to a Man's Heart by Mary Ellis is the third and final installment in her Miller Family Series.  I would call this an "OK" book, but not great.  The characters were interesting, but I found the story somewhat "choppy" and slow moving.

Leah Miller stumbles upon an opportunity that she believes is perfect for her -- the chance to use and improve her baking skills in a newly opened diner.  Several local young men visit the diner frequently, admiring more than Leah's cooking skills.  She finds herself pleased, yet confused, by the emotions she feels as she enjoys their attention, even as she finds herself falling for dairy farmer Jonah Byler.  Leah finds that she has a lot to learn about life, love, and business.  One thing she is certain of and that carries her through is her strong faith in God.

Fans of Amish fiction should enjoy the story, although this is not the best choice available.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

An introspective story -- The Walk

My latest read was The Walk by Richard Paul Evans, who may be most widely known for his bestseller The Christmas Box.  Evans has a unique style of telling a story that makes you feel like you're sitting down with the main character and almost experiencing with him the things he is sharing with you.

Alan Christoffersen enjoyed "the good life" -- an award-winning advertising business, a multi-million dollar house, expensive cars, and a beautiful wife who was the love of his life.  In a short amount of time, he lost it all and found himself unsure of where to go next.  He came close to giving in to despair and ending his own life, but instead he decided to take a walk -- and quite a walk he planned.  He checked a map and found that the farthest place he could walk from his home in Seattle, Washington, was Key West, Florida.  So with what he determined to be the bare essentials, he set out on a journey.  Along the way, Alan encountered people and circumstances that provided lessons on what life is all about and helped him begin to formulate his identity from that point on.

The Walk is the first in a series of stories (I don't know how many are planned) about Alan's journey.  I look forward to continuing the adventure with him and meeting the Alan who shows up at the end of the trip.  Somehow, I expect him to be quite different from the one who took the first steps of The Walk.