Friday, March 25, 2011

One Thousands Gifts...a book that keeps on giving....

When I requested Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to be reading.  I had read Ann's blog, A Holy Experience,  and had often came away from her posts refreshed.  Ann has a way with words.  Some people have a gift with music, others have art, but Ann Voskamp, well...the Lord has given her a gift of writing.

And she pens them so well.

She writes like a dancer dances....she literally makes the words come to life as you read them and you can SEE what she is describing.  Yes, at times her writing is '"cerebral" as one friend so aptly calls it.  Yet is not this very characteristic what makes the writing so appealing to us?  She causes us to slow down and think about what we just read... to ponder, to muse, to even grasp what she is postulating...

And the message of One Thousand Gifts is really a simple one....

Discover the things that you are thankful for...SO THAT you can SEE God in all situations....THUS you can find PEACE in this life here on earth.  

And isn't that what we truly are seeking after?

Ann doesn't stop with this simple message though.  She shares personal experiences and her own journey of gratitude and one thousand gifts as she sought peace from the Lord.

If you struggle with the "what ifs" or fears of the unknowns, or if you want a change in your perspective, I would read One Thousand Gifts.  If nothing else you will become more grateful for the small things in life.

5 stars

I was provided a free copy of this book by Zondervan in exchange for my honest review.  As always, my opinons are my own. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Suffering WITH Meaning?

“Something can be tragic without being meaningless.  Despair is suffering without meaning.” (53).  
Think about that.  Suffering IS easier when we wrestle and come to understand the “why” of our suffering.  Is it as a direct result of our own behavior?  Is it the consequence of our own sin?  or the effects of someone else’s choices?  
Are we suffering due to natural disasters?  a hurricane, flood, earthquake?  
or maybe it is due to the evils of the world?  
Whatever the cause of our current (or future) sufferings, it is our human nature to  want to know WHY.  We believe that if we know why then we will be  better able to cope.  This understanding...this explanation of the “why” is what Randy Alcorn is attempting to explain in his book The Goodness of God..Assurance of Purpose in the Midst of Suffering. 
But Alcorn doesn't start with the simple questions.  He goes to the hard ones and he goes to the ones that you have to think about and wrestle with.   Questions like "Is suffering ever in vain?  pointless?"  
Was Christ’s suffering on the cross pointless?  
Did the five missionaries who died that day in Ecuador die in vain?  
More questions he makes you ponder..."Is God Sovereign over ALL things, including evil and suffering?"  and "What is the origin of evil?"  To give you a sample of the way Alcorn handles these questions, here is Chapter 1.  

The Goodness of God by Randy Alcorn (Chapter 1)
Alcorn addresses these questions and more.  He makes you wrestle with the issue of heaven and hell and the concept of justice.  He even goes a step deeper and probes you to consider what do you really believe about yourself.  Do you see who you are in Christ?  really?  If so, then this book isn’t for you.  If not and you wrestle with the whys or the purpose of suffering in this world, then this book is for you.  

Listen to what Alcorn says about his experience as he was writing the book....

Before you are finished reading it,  you will hopefully have a new perspective on pain, heartache, and trials.  Alcorn doesn't leave you hanging either...he gives you reasons for suffering.  He also helps you find perspective in your suffering so you know what you can do...and how you can find meaning/purpose in the midst of your trials.

Definitely a must-read for all!

5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah throught their Blogging for Books program. As always, all opinions are my own.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blog Tour: A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr

The Litfuse Blog Tour has begun and I agreed to review Mel Starr's A Trail of Ink.  I love historical Christian fiction and to toss in a good whodunit in the mix sounded like fun!  Here we go.....

About the Book:
An excellent medieval whodunit by the author of The Unquiet Bones and A Corpse at St Andrew's Chapel.

Some valuable books have been stolen from Master John Wyclif, the well known scholar and Bible translator. He calls upon his friend and former pupil, Hugh de Singleton, to investigate. Hugh's investigation leads him to Oxford where he again encounters Kate, the only woman who has tempted him to leave bachelor life behind, but Kate has another serious suitor. As Hugh's pursuit of Kate becomes more successful, mysterious accidents begin to occur. Are these accidents tied to the missing books, or to his pursuit of Kate?

One of the stolen books turns up alongside the drowned body of a poor Oxford scholar. Another accident? Hugh certainly doesn t think so, but it will take all of his surgeon s skills to prove.

So begins another delightful and intriguing tale from the life of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon in the medieval village of Bampton. Masterfully researched by medieval scholar Mel Starr, the setting of the novel can be visited and recognized in modern-dayEngland. Enjoy more of Hugh s dry wit, romantic interests, evolving faith, and dogged determination as he pursues his third case as bailiff of Bampton.

My Thoughts:  
Initially, I thought I made a mistake! The storyline seems to take several chapters to get established and it felt as if I was making myself read the book.  The language Starr chooses to write in, while may be appropriate to the period, makes the story less appealing to the reader.  It slows the development of the characters and the plot. 

However, after trudging through the first several chapters, I found myself wanting to like Hugh Singleton, the main character.  He is a very likeable guy, not too puffed up or proud and always on the side of good.  I wanted his side to win (both in courting Kate and in locating the missing books) and found myself unable to put the book down because I wanted to know what was going to happen next.  

To the author's credit, this is the third book in a series and I had not read the first two.  Would reading those previous books have helped the story move along?  I don't know.  But, having finished this 3rd book, I would like to go back and read book 1 & 2 in the series now.  

Starr does an excellent job of setting development...I felt as if I was in the Middle Ages as I read.  The smells of the foods, the noises of the crowds, the jostlings of the wagons....all things I could smell, hear, and imagine tasting just from reading his words.  Probably were a few things I could go without hearing, smelling or tasting, too!  He provides a map, glossary, and some of the historical facts that helped build the story.  All of these "extras" add to your understanding and appreciation of the book.  

All in all, I would give this book 3.5 stars.

About the Author:  
Mel Starr was born and grew up in KalamazooMichigan. After graduating with a MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970, he taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in PortageMI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School. Mel and his wife, Susan, have two daughters and seven grandchildren.

I received this book  from Litfuse Book Tour in exchange for my fair and honest review.  My opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Choosing to Mary Beth Chapman

Often not the one in the spotlight, nor the one who you hear much from or about, Mary Beth takes center stage in this book and becomes transparent with heartaches and despair, trials and sufferings, good times and bad.  Wife of Steven Curtis Chapman, Mary Beth shares the story surrounding the loss of Maria.  But more than that, she shares a story of hope.

I wasn't ready for the raw honesty with which Mary Beth writes.  She reaches in to the depths of her soul and shares it with you as if you are walking the journey with her.  Being the wife of a multi-award winning singer/songwriter, you would think that their life would be a "Garden of Eden" of sorts.  No, Mary Beth reveals that they, too, have had their share of struggles before the tragic loss of Maria.  It is in this book that Mary Beth shares their journey...the journey that God has written of how He is in control and is doing all things for His glory.

While tough in some spots, this book is definitely a must read.  Especially for those who believe they can live a scripted, well-planned life.

It is intense.

You will weep and you will laugh.

And ultimately, you will know that God is God and you are not.....

5 stars