Monday, September 30, 2013

Don't Miss the Boat by Paul Taylor

Don't Miss the Boat: Facts to Keep Your Faith Afloat by Paul Taylor is a much needed book for today's generation.  Part documentary and part creationism text- book, this hybrid book packages science and faith in a scholarly and easy to read format. This book is like a course in evolutionary theory and how it relates to creationism.  This book separates the facts from the myth when it comes to creationism and the worldwide flood.  As the author mentions in the introduction, the account of the flood has been downgraded to a fairy tale, and at best, an allegorical story. Even Christian churches are disowning that creation account in favor of evolution- claiming that many bible stories are not literal but symbolic only.  Taylor's book lends credibility to the flood narrative as well as the bible account of creation.  He also addresses the issue of false teaching and false accounts such as the apocryphral writing which have served to confuse many.  Overall, the author gives more credibility weight to the bible in a society that has diminished the bible.  This essential guidebook to deciphering and explaining the book of Genesis and the account of the flood is an eye opening book for any reader.

This comprehensive text covers sociological, historical as well as scientific aspects of the flood account in the bible.  The author draws on archeological as well as historical accounts and commentaries.  By covering these areas- greater weight is given in favor of the flood.  This book can effectively serve as an apologetic tool in the defense of flood and biblical creation.  Paul Taylor draws heavily on scripture- not only the account from the flood in Genesis, but any reference found in the new as well as old testament that pertains to the flood.  In fact he relates the time period before the flood in Noah's day to what the world will be like prior to Jesus' return.  This powerful analogy drives home the significance of faith in the word of God as well as the significance of living one's life and world view. 

Many readers have many questions after reading the accounts of creation and the flood in Genesis.  Each and any question is addressed by Taylor from a scientific, archeological and sociological viewpoint to give the reader a complete and well rounded explanation.  Each verse is dissected and explained. He provides realistic building plans of the design of ark itself as well as a scientific explanation of the flood describing plate tectonics, radiometric dating, the ice age and the theories of Pangaea.  Science students as well as sociology students will find satisfying explanations.  Fossil evidence and how it supports the worldwide flood is covered. There is sufficient scientific background provided to satisfy any science, geology or anthropology student or educator.
In contrast to other sensational tabloid styled books, the tastefully simple cover photo, depicting the underside of a boat in deep ocean waters, appears to today's logical, common sense readers.  He anticipates and addresses ever possible objection or argument that could be presented against the
biblical account of the flood and creation. Diagrams, illustrations and charts are included to supplement some of the material.  There are diagrams of the continental rift zone, fossil timelines, ark design, and carbon dating.  There are a few photographs of fossils and a few other graphics. If there was ever a faith building book printed in this modern day- this is it.  I would be great if a copy of this book was available in every public school and college. This book is educational for readers of all ages: students and adults alike in all academic disciplines.  The only improvement that could be made with this book is if it were published in full color, with full color photographs and charts on glossy pages.  Publishing this book as a text might add greater credibility and acceptance in the public school market. Nevertheless, this book is published as a black and white trade paperback, which makes it more available and cost effective for the mass market. As a blogger for New Leaf publishers, I received a copy of this book published by Masterbooks, an imprint of NLP for the purpose of writing this review. 

Available at NLP

book trailer @

New Leaf Publishing Group

available at B&N

Static Jedi by Eric Samuel Timm

Static Jedi by Eric Samuel Timm is more than a book describing how distractions can interfere with one's spiritual life.  This book does not simply itemize each possible distraction, nor does it tell the reader how to make priorities or rework to do lists to include prayer time. Even at first glance the uniqueness of this book is obvious.  Timm's book is not simply a linear book of text, but rather it includes biblical truth and insight in the form of poetry and bullet points as well.  He speaks to the modern generation using analogies and illustrations that apply to the lives of today's hi-tech media infused generation. The concept of the "Jedi" is a reference from the popular movie Star Wars.  In the preface, the author describes a "Static Jedi" as "One who masters the noise. Noise, existing in many shapes, consumes our time, real life, and ability to hear God.  A jedi is a form of master, teacher, and sensei." (page xxv)

The reader is brought face to face with the meaningless distractions that take valuable time from life and relationships.  Meaningless wasted  hours each day passively watching TV, reading magazines or scrolling social media translates into days and years of time stolen from more meaningful relationships with God, family and children. This book is an eye opener as Timm shares with the reader the urgency to master these distractions in life that he compares to meaningless noise or static and how to master and overcome these distractions just as a masterful, skilled jedi.  And just like the message of opposites in the movie, Star Wars, the opposite of noise and static is clarity.  In fact it is to be each and every believer's goal to increase those valuable but rare moments of clarity in which one engages in spiritually meaningful activity with God and other human beings. The problem is that people crave the static and are actually addicted to the static.  In fact many publications and materials sold to modern day Christians are based on the premise that the average Christian has very little time to devote to meaningful spiritual development and prayer.  This is proven by the fact that daily devotional books and devotional themed bibles are so popular.  The author rightfully marvels at how Christians can be a storehouse of useless trivia and information memorizing lyrics to songs and movie dialogue yet cannot even remember even five verses of scripture! And ironically, reading a lot of Christian books, but nor the bible itself can contribute to the static noise as well.  In fact, the author goes on to state on page 67, "A pitfall for this generation is that we read more books with a publisher's logo on the spine than we do the Logos itself".  This is harsh truth for many readers, but true nonetheless.  He continues to explain that we read more of man's words than the words of God creating a false sense of spiritual assurance- also known as false mastery or pseudo-static masters. Bible memorization where we house God's truth in our hearts, should be our goal. Today's bible apps and search engines have become a crutch that Christians use instead of remembering bible scripture. What an abrupt awakening to the truth that many readers will be confronted with.  The author explains how Jesus is the ultimate Static Jedi.

And just as there is a Jedi, and Jedi master, there are pseudo-static masters as well.  Anyone familiar with the bible's teaching about false teachers and luke-warm Christians will easily grasp this concept. This book wonderfully integrates modern concepts, culture and media- the very static that takes over our lives, in order to reveal the irony of our wasted lives. This clever approach will capture the attention of the reader and hold the attention of any Christian who feels his or her faith is washed out.
This is a book to be read and re-read.  Though written in a graphic, reader friendly interface with bold sub titles, Twitter tweet like excerpts and hashtags and bullet points, the truths contained in this book require  multiple readings to be absorbed.  This book looks like a quick read, but really isn't.  It deserves meditation and time to fully digest its truth.  The brief, yet poignant questions at the end of each chapter encourage the reader to journal and meditate on the important spiritual truths.

As a blogger for the Booketeria I received this book published by Passio for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Success by Dave Ramsey educates the reader with common sense financial planning.  This book is not written for the wealthy, but all socio-economic walks of life.  Ramsey's financial wisdom can apply to the single mom with a $20,000 income or a family with a $70,000 income.  The strength of this book is that it can be applicable to everyone's financial situation- even those who find themselves unemployed and burdened with debt. The author offers a glimmer of hope- a way out of debt in a world where so many despair after losing jobs.

This release of the original classic is timely considering the large unemployment rates, and record high numbers of people collecting food stamps and other assistance.  A financially struggling society needs a book like this- filled with common sense steps as well as spiritual biblical insight.  One point of issue is that I do feel that Ramsey's income to housing ratio is either out of date, or not applicable to many places with very high costs of living such as New Jersey and California.  As Ramsey suggested, housing should not be over 40-45% of the gross income.  Yet, for many disadvantaged individuals and families who do not own homes and find they must rent, there is no way to avoid this discrepancy.  In NJ, it is the norm to find an average apartment under 1100 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom- to cost $1500 per month.  Housing costs are high even for a modest homes. Relocation to cheaper housing is not an option when it requires relocating to a new state.

This author addresses the psychology behind the science of saving money and budgeting.  He encourages simple "baby" steps in order to show the reader that it is possible to master their spending and saving.  He introduces simple to understand concepts- with concrete steps to follow.  This is not simply an academic book on the theory of budgets and savings.  Ramsey actually takes on the role of the personal life coach or accountant with specific steps and a plan to follow.  In cases where one's financial situation is so dire that the basic needs cannot even be met he challenges the reader with aggressive yet effective tactics- such as a second job or selling non essential or expensive items such as cars, boats, jewelry.  He even suggests garage sales as a way to squeeze out a bit of money.  Yet- this book isn't about accumulating money and wealth simply for the sake of accumulating wealth.  The author shares the greater purpose which is to reduce, and eliminate debt as well as the use of credit cards. Additionally, watching spending habits and making smart choices contributes to the sustainability of a budget. This book is a real eye opener as it educates the reader with valuable information about loans and debt. He provides interesting facts about the dangers of payday loans, rent to own payment plans, car payments and buying lottery tickets- explaining how  institutions and loan sharks  take advantage of the poor and desperate- creating an ongoing cycle of poverty. This book stats from the beginning with the "baby steps" of saving a smaller sized emergency fund- down to the more advanced final steps of paying off a mortgage and buying a car with cash and saving for retirement.  Throughout the book are real life stories of regular ordinary families and people who succeeded in their financial goals with Ramsey's money makeover plan.  The back of the book includes several very useful budgeting worksheets as well.  I feel like this book makes a great resource.  As a blogger for booksneeze I received this book published by Nelson Books, and imprint of Thomas Nelson publishers.

Monday, September 23, 2013

If You Were Me and Lived In... Norway... A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World By Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived In... Norway... A Child's Introduction to Cultures Around The World By Carole P. Roman is a new picture book introducing young readers to a new country. This book is the newest edition in a series of picture books focusing on a particular country.  This book follows a similar format as the first books in the series about Mexico, South Korea,  and France. Yet in this newest edition, the author makes greater use of a variety of textures and mixed media in producing the illustrations. The stone texture, sky image and grass textures add instant appeal to an outdoor illustration.  The Northern Lights backdrop against the illustration  of a snow scene makes for a beautiful and unexpected presentation.  The beautiful sunset and authentic brick texture adds an authentic appeal and beauty to a simplistic scene. I would like to see this trend continued to a greater degree in future books.  I am happy to see the direction that Roman is taking with the illustrations in her geography picture books. I believe the "Carlesque" styled mixed media illustrations in her  newest book on Norway are  an unexpected treat.  Mixed media illustrations are very popular and appealing for young readers as evidenced by the popularity of Eric Carle's kids' books.  By combining geography with mixed media- I believe that Roman will generate even greater interest and attention for her educational series.

This story would also be a good choice for a family that is interested in their Norwegian ancestry, a family vacation or even appropriate for pre school children as part of a social studies lesson. This consistency of these geography books makes this series perfect for the school setting. An educator can count on the fact that young children will be introduced to the basics.  The predictability of the book's format will also appeal to younger readers who are familiar with the series.  In this addition to the series, the  child will learn about the geographical location of Norway and will be  introduced to its climate, tourist attractions- and the impressive Kirkenes Snow Hotel, local foods, winter sports and other social norms. Full color, simply drawn cartoon drawings with the unique  texture accents compliment the text.   The pronunciations at the end of the book introduces the child to the native language but it would be better to have the equivalent English words listed as well and definitions to reinforce the material learned in the story.

At  some point in the future, I would like to see Roman combine all the editions of this series into one larger encyclopedia type of volume in order to create one single comprehensive text.  I would also like to see the illustrations revamped and updated in order to incorporate more of the mixed media textures as well. I believe that her loyal readers would be interested in having all these editions in one book.  To do this would be a wonderful educational and entertaining resource.  This would also make the book more accessible and convenient to educators and schools in the  public and  private sectors as well as  home schoolers.   As a blogger I received this book for the purpose of writing this review. 

The Spirit of Python by Jentezen Franklin

The Spirit of Python by Jentezen Franklin prepares the reader for the invisible, spiritual battle with Satan.  The concept of the "Spirit of Python" refers to the tactic of the devil to squeeze the life or Holy Spirit, out of each and every believer.  In other words, if Satan can not stop you from believing the good news and being born again in the first place, he has an evil  "plan B"  in which Satan will attempt to squeeze the spirit filled life out of you- in essence making you miserable and ineffective as a Christian. This empowering book has the ability to give even the most apathetic of readers, a renewed faith and energy.  What a wonderfully accurate analogy to describe Satan's tactic to that of a Python that slowly squeezes breath and life out of its victim. While there are so many writers that attempt to describe spiritual warfare in a passive academic way, this author presents a new twist in explaining spiritual warfare and literally shows its impact in the reader's life. 

Spiritually this book is uplifting and eye opening.  Practically it addresses common issues effectively.  For example, spiritual dryness and the lack of willingness to pray- are also "python" styled tactics of the devil.  Simply the sense that we have a million things to do or worry about- with no time to pray- is a tactic of the devil!  And Franklin's effective response is genius in its simplicity.  Write down everything that occupies your mind, everything causing you to worry or be too busy.  Write each and every thing down on a sheet of paper- then when you finish the list, thank Satan for reminding you of these things then move on and pray to God! Its simple, yet effective nonetheless in redirecting one's worries to something more spiritually fruitful.  The author provides a lot of insight into circumstances that many readers might never consider, such as the importance of one's environment or spiritual atmosphere. Idea of atmosphere has multiple meanings when it refers not only to the physical environment or location, but also the world we live in and the air we breath- Satan's sphere of influence through deception, brainwashing, society and media.  He also covers the different types of evil spirits or demons, based on their style of torment. As a Charismatic Christian writer, Franklin believes in literal spiritual gifts such as healing and the reality of demonic possession as he describes true incidents from his own life experiences.  To his credit he does acknowledge that many mainstream readers may find these stories difficult to believe- nevertheless Jentezrn does not apologize or compromise on his faith.  He does not water down his message or tone down the anecdotes he shares in his book for the sake of those who may scoff.  He writes with credibility and authority and uses scripture to back up the validity of his message. 

The author gives a brief history on the origin of sin and Satan and how it relates to the deception and tactics of Satan we find that confront us.  This background information gives the reader a complete and comprehensive view on the subject of sin and evil, in general as well as the particulars of Satan and his Python-like strategies to choke the life out of us. I believe every reader will be able to understand and relate to this book.  I feel that every Christian can benefit and find renewal through this book as the author illustrates how Satan's python styled tactics interfere in every believer's life.  As a blogger for the Booketeria I received this book published by Charisma House for the purpose of writing this review.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

NIV Pink Bible

The NIV Pink bible- is a newly themed bible for Breast Cancer awareness.  The box that contains the bible depicts a small picture of a  pink breast cancer ribbon and a sub title- a message "An Invitation To Hope".  This edition of the bible is produced in support of the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc.   Other than that, once you slide the bible out of the box, there isn't much that stands out visually, other than the graphics on the removable dust jacket- to specifically indicate that this is a breast cancer bible. The binding features a flexible hot pink Zondervan trademarked "Italian Duo-Tone" cover.  The small lightweight size, and larger sized text makes this a perfect choice to carry in a purse. The attractive pink cover and contrast stitching and details make this bible a perfect fashion accessory as well.  Yet I would have liked to have seen at least a pink ribbon graphic on the cover to indicate that this is a breast cancer awareness bible. If you removed the 8 glossy inserts, there would be nothing whatsoever to distinguish this bible from any other modern, compact bible.  This subtle, unassuming bible features the new revised, gender inclusive 2011 NIV bible text.  Mixed throughout the text are eight pages of devotionals or prayers to encourage those women who are going through breast cancer. 

The text is easy to read, and standard with bold chapter titles. There are no graphics or other visual elements other than the eight glossy pages of supplemental readings, title presentation page and fore ward. This is not a study bible as it lacks even the basic chapter introductions or maps that even many minimalist bibles have. This makes sense as those who are dealing with breast cancer need just one thing- to jump into the word of God without any extraneous information. The minimalist approach for this breast cancer bible is the most appropriate way to handle such a painful and difficult disease such as cancer. The devotional pages are encouraging and get right to the point addressing the grief, suffering and day to day experience of cancer.

 Yet- one of the suggestions in the devotionals I found to be a bit too cliché, such as the devotional theme "Asking For Help".  I know for a fact that not all women with cancer have the ability to count on friends and family for help.  Just because you get a cancer diagnosis does not mean friends and family will pop out of the woodwork- if you didn't have any in the first place.  All too many well meaning counselors and writers seem to assume or take it for granted that when a woman is diagnosed with cancer that there are many willing helping hands ready and willing to help that just pop out of the woodwork.  I know for a fact that this is not always true as I have a sister diagnosed with cancer who has no family or friends nearby who can help her.  Due to her health insurance constraints she can not relocate.  She begs for help, but living 4000 miles away, completely on her own and with such severe financial constraints makes it such that she must depend on herself to do everyday tasks and to be her own advocate at doctor appointments.  When she is tired, physically and emotionally there literally is NO ONE to offer help.  She drives herself to day long chemotherapy treatments.  In my opinion, this advice might simply serve to highlight her sense of isolation. It would have been better if the article also listed 800 numbers for cancer resources or volunteer networks willing to lend a hand for those who find themselves short on support.

This is a high quality standard bible that looks sturdy enough to stand up to daily use.   Overall, I would neither endorse this bible, not reject it.  I don't have any strong opinions about this bible either way. I feel that this bible gives a minimalist, clean, contemporary feel- nothing to distract the reader from the word of God.  it is good to see acknowledgement for breast cancer- I just would feel a more bold approach visually would improve this bible.  Also a directory of cancer resources- phone numbers and web sites for cancer services would have made this bible an even better choice for those with breast cancer. As a blogger I received this bible published by Zondervan for the purpose of writing this review.

Monday, September 16, 2013

His Treasure by Sheri Rose Shepherd

His Treasure- Gems of Love from Your King From by Sheri Rose Shepherd, is a beautiful pocket sized devotional book for women. This full color devotional features beautiful, vintage themed graphics on each page.  This small book contains short daily readings, written as letters from God, to the reader.  Each entry is addressed as a personal love letter with an endearing salutation, "My Beloved Daughter, My Precious Girl, My Daughter, My Child, My beloved", etc.  Written in a similar style to Sarah Young's best selling Jesus Calling, devotional, each entry is written from the first person point of view from the Lord himself, to the reader.  Any reader who enjoyed the devotional genre started by Young's book, will enjoy Shepherd's new devotional which is specifically aimed at women. 

This inviting little book features a quick "letter' based on a theme with a supporting scriptural passage and "Treasure of Truth".  Quaint antique styled graphics highlight a memory verse or Treasure of Truth tid bit. The beauty of this devotional will make any reader want to read this devotional.  In fact, I can imagine this book earning a treasured place on a bed side or vanity table or even a desk or purse. The quick passages will make this book easy to fit in any fast paced lifestyle.  This book is the perfect way to start a morning prayer time with God.  This book is a wonderful way to ease the reader into spiritual truths of the bible in a personal, relevant way.  This book teaches about faith, hope, time for God, prayer.  This book aims at boosting the self esteem and value of its reader with building up the reader and empowering her with vivid, positive affirmations throughout.  Not only is this book a perfect fashion accessory as well as a spiritual tool. And for those who want to really dig deep into the spiritual message, they will find this book scripturally correct as well.  For example, one entry for the day states that God's love is unconditional, but God's promises are not.  This bit of truth may take a few minutes to digest as it is unexpected, yet true to the word of God.  This author is uncompromising in sharing truth which is rare in this day of watered down Christianity.  This book makes a perfect gift for a friend, sister, daughter or any special person.

As a blogger I received this book published by Tyndale Momentum- an imprint of Tyndale publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

Why Still Care About Israel by Sandra Teplinsky

The her new book, Why Still Care About Israel the author, Sandra Teplinsky writes from the unique perspective with a professional background working as an attorney as well as a her strong spiritual faith in God. Grounded in history, and with faith, as well as objectivity and compassion, she covers a highly controversial and volatile topic: Israel. This area of study encompasses not only the study of history and religion, but politics as well.  While the most obvious readership of this book are those who have a particular academic or spiritual interest in Israel, all readers may learn unexpected yet, important lessons about faith as well as history.  The author even challenges those readers who feel Israel to be irrelevant to their faith, or secular readers who are simply confused about Israel's role in world politics, to read with an open mind.  This revised edition reflects new political developments that occurred since the first edition in 2003. Teplinsky asserts that Israel has an important role in the unfolding of prophesy in these modern times as well as in the future.  Furthermore, the author claims that how the individual perceives Israel and its people, serves as a litmus test for their faith.

This extensive book is almost like an entire course or curriculum on Israel and its role in politics, history and biblical prophesy.  The reader is introduced to the geography, history and Hebrew terminology and current events about Arab/ Palestine- Israeli conflict.  The book systematically covers the significance of Israel starting with the old testament, and the concept of covenants and even Christian history. This book is deep into theology as well as apologetics- requiring the reader to follow along carefully.  Paul's letters of the new testament concerning the Jewish people are interpreted in light of modern day Israel.  Although written for the layman, this book requires a serious commitment and is not a quick read for the casual reader.  This hybrid book is part documentary and part theology and will appeal to those readers looking for extensive information about the topic of Israel.  As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Chosen publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for the purpose of writing this review.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Exploring the World of Astronomy by John Hudson Tiner

Exploring the World of Astronomy: From the Center of the Sun to the Edge of the Universe by John Hudson Tiner, is an astronomy textbook for students and astronomy enthusiasts alike.  This guidebook is well adapted as an astronomy review  text for middle and high school aged students.  The quality presentation of this book rivals that of many popular science themed books for children and adults.  From the cover to the graphics, professional astronomy photos and professional scholarship- this book is sure to capture the attention of any  reader interested in astronomy and science. The information represents the latest scientific research.  Even social and historical background information is covered for a well rounded experience, integrating concepts from additional academic disciplines. The photos and illustrations in of themselves are thorough and represent the latest of scientific discovery- yet the limitations of the black and white printing make the book appear "dated".  The matte finish of the pages and black and white interior resembles more of a work book styled text rather than a primary textbook contrasts with the glossy full color cover. Glossy full color interior would be more suitable for a book on astronomy. This of course is not a problem, but something to keep in mind before purchasing this book.  It is a hybrid of a manual, technical guide and an educational text.  It is useful for learning as well as expanding on one's hobby of astronomy and stargazing.  This is a multi-function - multi purpose thorough book. This book isn't only educational for kids, but adult readers- parents, educators and enthusiasts will also enjoy this book.  And, most of all, the author ties this information with a biblical based view of creation.

 Tiner's book provides a well rounded background for the science student or hobbyist; technical enough to capture the interest of an astronomy enthusiast, yet simple and broad to serve as an introduction to the study of astronomy.  Presenting science in such an appealing format makes learning more obtainable for students and the public in general.  Once again, Master Books has published a text that meets the high standards of scholarship. The only change I would like to see is to have the interior in glossy, full color rather than black and white.  I feel the black and white photos take away some of the splendor and majesty of the universe that is best depicted in full color.  Many of the planets and astronomical bodies are best viewed in full color.  For this reason, this book  would serve as a better review tool to supplement a more indepth curriculum. I imagine this book was printed in black and white in order to keep production costs lower.  I would like to see a premium full color option available.  As a blogger for New Leaf publishers I received this book, published by Master Books for the purpose of writing this review.

Available at NLP

New Leaf Press

Praying For Your Addicted Loved One by Sharron K Cosby

A quick glance at the cryptic and intriguing title and the raw image of a pensive, weary young  beatnik man slumped down with a tourniquet on his exposed forearm on the cover of the new book, Praying For Your Addicted Loved One 90 in 90 by Sharron K Cosby is certain to draw in readers seeking relief.  The subtitle "90 in 90" is the only coded hint that this book is a personal 90 day devotional: 90 entries to be read over the course of 90 days. It seems reminiscent of a self help slogan.  The simple subtitle and the graphic image of a drug user against a cloudy, stormy backdrop is a dramatic image- very distinct from the peaceful nature scenery often depicted on the covers of other devotional and self help books.

This book boldly depicts the image of co-dependency and dysfunctional relationships with the slumped young man who is obviously addicted to something bad.  One can imagine that a distraught mother, an embittered sister or maybe even an enabling codependent girlfriend, might be able to relate and read this book in the hopes of seeking help for her loved one and herself.  On the other hand this specific cover might alienate an older segment of readers such as older middle aged and elderly men and women who abuse alcohol, prescription drugs or suffer from eating disorders, gambling or compulsive shopping.  In this case a more sanitized, serene cover might be more appropriate in drawing in a more varied audience with a wider variety of familial addictive behaviors. While it is true that one should never judge a book by its cover, this book's cover is so notable as to draw attention.  I believe many readers will make their decision about the relevancy of this book to their particular situation based on its cover.

The daily devotions themselves are simple and short- two pages maximum- which is perfect for those who are short on patience,  mental resources and time, and are in desperate need of a quick burst of mental refreshment.  It is a fact that it is the loved ones of an addict that suffer the most in silence.  It is usually these loved ones and family that suffer from shame and isolation as well as  codependency issues and enabling related issues.   Each day has its own theme- or recovery step, and related biblical verse to address the unique problems these families face. There is a short excerpt that follows based on an anecdote, the author's experience, observation or biblical story. The author offers valuable practical advise in dealing with family members with problems.  For example in one entry, Cosby shares how certain responses such as nagging actually perpetuate the illness, and the addiction by reinforcing a low self esteem and anger. She also covers relationships with other family members as well- which are often neglected. These nuggets of practical info can be found throughout the book.  Many are based on her personal experiences of what worked and what did not.

This book serves as a hybrid- between a devotional and journal.  There is short prayer and a blank page of journaling space to answer the reflection questions at the end of each day's devotion. A problem with addictions are the shame and secrecy- this book challenges the reader to confront it and bring it out into the open.  This book has a twofold purpose- to heal the co-dependent victim in a dysfunctional relationship of the hurts and pains associated with the addiction of a loved one and to strengthen one's spiritual faith in the process.  The overall theme is to offer hope and also redemption- recovery, based on God's promises for redemption and healing. 

As a blogger for litfuse publicity, I received this book published by Recovery publishers for the purpose of writing this review.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Living in Want in a World of Plenty and Depending on God

At this point, I don't care who reads this personal blog entry- if you want to judge me then go ahead! I challenge anyone to judge or look down on me.  I am tired of putting a phony outward appearance when inside I am fighting a spiritual and emotional battle. I am a blogger and ironically, I come across plenty of spiritually uplifting reading material which I review ( that I normally could never afford to actually purchase).  Two notable books, directly applicable to my situation came in the mail recently. These two books served as a springboard for me to pray and meditate about my current unemployed situation. One was about losing a job and the other was a Max Lucado book, "You'll Get Through This".

Its ironic that I received a book titled, "Why Did I Lose My Job if God Loves Me?" by Rick Pritikin- not only once but TWICE in the mail! I assume it was an error on the part of the publisher.  Maybe God was telling me that my initial reading was not sufficient- so I took the hint from God- hence this honest and intimate blog entry.  So I read the book a second time and decided to use the guided study questions as a springboard for my own honest journaling about the subject of being unemployed.

At this point I have been unemployed for a year.  And due to other circumstances that changed for the worse- very recently-  I am especially feeling the effects of not having an adequate income.  An interesting discussion question in the devotional book asked about shame and embarrassment related to unemployment.  The author urges his readers to reflect on everything- factors and situations that add to shame.  It was uncomfortable to consider this question as I could think of plenty of things; things that many people probably take for granted.  Going to the supermarket is one major shameful thing I must endure, for example.  Its hard to hold back the stinging tears as I go down the isles and see all the food I cannot afford.  When I consider that a bag of grapes or apples costs almost $5, and that I must limit my fresh fruits to one "splurge" per trip.  And yes, a bag of grapes is a splurge on my budget.  Its easy to stick to a short list of food when you just don't have money.  My list is simple and always includes the same basics. I've started to limit the foods I buy for myself to inexpensive basics like oatmeal and pasta in order to make sure I get the food my kids enjoy.  If I eat something other than peanut butter sandwiches, oatmeal or pasta I feel guilty- not because of the calories but because I know I need to save it for my kids. I sometimes feel like I have been transported into the world of the "Grapes of Wrath".   Fortunately I could stand to lose at least 20 lbs.  And I have finally been able to lose a couple of pounds.  TP is rationed, utilities and food are rationed- budgeting is just a matter of fact reality. Its how you have to live when you need to pay the rent.

My old run down twenty year old car is another difficult reminder- especially when it requires a costly age related repair. Once again going to the car repair shop its hard to hold back the tears to pay for a repair just to keep it running a few more months.  I don't have a steady income so there is no way I could afford a more reliable car. I wonder how everyone else has brand new cars- and its always a reminder.  I find myself alternating between thankfulness for a working car and the humiliation of driving an old car.  Its especially humiliating to drive to a job interview in such an old car.

Recently I was told I dress like a "hobo".  Its no surprise as I don't have money to go to the salon or the dentist much less buy any clothes.  My self  esteem is at an all time low, I must admit. I feel inferior about how I look. Between my old run down car and clothes- I didn't feel comfortable going anywhere.   For a while I was rotating between two pairs of jeans, frayed because the inseam was way too long.  Eventually- these five year old jeans were beyond repair and were tossed in the trash. I went digging in the basement and was fortunate to find a bag of old clothes from ten years ago- yet still in good wearable condition.  I am also fortunate to get hand me downs from my sister. Yet because I weigh at least 50 lbs more than my thin family the only things I can wear that they give me are their t-shirts, shoes and select items with elasticized waist bands. Nevertheless, I am fortunate that basically my entire wardrobe comes from my sister or I would have no clothes.  The last time I purchased clothes was two pairs of jeans from Goodwill during my pregnancy- and that was a splurge for me. I do some volunteering.  Volunteering is supposed to be a good thing but even that makes me feel pretty low when I pull up somewhere in my old junky car and my old clothes.  I wonder if this exercise revealed some flaws in my faith- a tendency for self pity, resentment and anger.  I now know some attitudes that I must pray about- to overcome.  I know areas where my faith is sometimes weak.

As  long as my two children have the clothes and shoes they need I am happy.  Last spring I started putting money aside - and I even sold some things- to get enough money to get them a  pair of sneakers- of their choice! By the end of August I had enough money for them to go to a sneaker store for real name brand sneakers- it was the first time in a long while that I didn't have to take them to payless.  I also got them other pieces of clothing and  supplies for school as well.  All this was paid with cash that I had set aside and saved since the spring.

I don't go out to eat at restaurants, or go to shows or vacations or salons.  I guess I don't do too many things that costs money.  We go to the park and the library and activities- girls scouts, soccer, boy scouts etc.  A trip to a fastfood place for nuggets and hamburgers is a rare luxury or going out for ice cream! Fast food is not cheap when on a budget but sometimes children do need a treat.

In this economy, I am not alone- it just seems that way sometimes when I see other peoples' cars, clothes, handbags, manicures and phones.  The unemployment rate in my state is about 9%.  And that figure includes only those receiving unemployment benefits.  That super deflated figure does not count those who exhausted their benefits or stopped looking or those who work at low minimum wage jobs. Also to consider are the numbers of foreclosures and the number of people on food stamps and other assistance. So I know there are many out there hurting more than I am. It feels so petty to feel so self centered.  Its just the simple, poignant reminders that get to me.  As I near the two year anniversary of my stillborn loss- a loss recognized by God, and largely deemed insignificant by society, I realized how fortunate I am in celebrating my baby.  Not only that, but my older perfect children. As far as my health- I am without health insurance, and haven't gone to the doctor for the longest time despite my condition.  Yet, I feel healthier than I have in 20 years. Emotionally and physically I have never felt as good as I do now.  My health is in God's hands.  I trust God with my health.  And just as I held on to my faith during my high risk pregnancy, I know that a lack of money or medical care will not interfere with God's plan for me.  I remember in my pregnancy I could not afford a $560 prescription medication that the doctor said I needed to sustain my pregnancy.  I prayed and depended on God, my lifeline- trusting that the fact I could not afford a certain medicine would in no way alter God's plan for my future.  After many shed tears, I left my unborn baby's health in God's hands knowing that life is a gift of God and not simply a product of how much money I had.  I have much to be thankful in this world where so many grieve over the loss of their children or babies. If faith does not pull a person through the difficult times, then what is the point of faith in God?

I hold fast to God's promises in the book of Matthew: 
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

You'll Get Through This by Max Lucado

You'll Get Through This by Max Lucado is among the most uplifting and empowering books that I have  read. Max Lucado books will never disappoint when you are expecting encouragement in times of severe distress. This book specifically helps those who are enduring really difficult times, to endure and persevere. The author address real issues- job loss, terminal illness, grief and loss. This book is designed to help those who are suffering from extreme circumstances.   If you are bellyaching because you burned your husband's dinner, or the grass stain won't come out of the soccer uniform, or if missed an appointment for your pedicure, or your favorite coach bag sold out before you reached the mall, then this book isn't for you.  What you need is a fluffy, superficial, condescending, feel- good, women's devotional book with an image of a $6 cappuccino or a photo of a quaint Martha Stuartesque vase of garden blooms.  But, if you truly suffer from life's heartaches, then this book with its choked struggling green clover, weathered beaten, broken looking cover jacket- will offer the comfort and help you need.

In true Lucado fashion, Max writes in an animated, easy to understand style that communicates biblical truths to the reader. His books bring bible stories and biblical truth to life in an inspirational way that speaks out to the reader.  He talks about real personalities and heroes from the bible- like Joseph sold into slavery and stuck hopless in a dungeon.  He gleans every story about extreme suffering and faith from the bible for his readers focusing here on the story of Joseph. 

Lucado speaks truth to those in desperate need using poignant yet true expressions such as "stupid can not fix stupid" which addresses the idea that extreme distress can drain our emotional, physical and spiritual resources and cause us to make bad  or "stupid" decisions which put us in far worse positions.  This is absolutely true! Using a common cliché to capture the reader and applying it spiritually to accurately describe what occurs gives the reader a sense of control.  Even the most apathetic and distraught reader will respond!

His animated language is known to draw in the reader who needs a quick burst of thought.  "Catch God in a bad mood? Won't happen. Fear exhausting his grace? A sardine will swallow the Atlantic first. Think he's given up on you?" ..... Lucado's use of colorful language and his conversational tone, make it so that biblical truths are memorable and meaningful to the average modern reader. This inspirational book will be certain to leave the reader with a lasting impression. In today's self centered society, without offense Max Lucado illustrates the importance of living life based on biblical principles. After reading this book, and really meditating on the biblical truths communicated via Max Lucado, one can feel a renewed sense of empowerment to live a selfless life style. Max makes use of personal anecdotes as well as bible stories to illustrate the importance of depending on God rather than on the material things of this world .He talks about divorce, stillbirth, incarceration, cancer, job loss and any other tragedy you might experience.  I am sure any reader can relate to at least one of the anecdotes of dire straits that Lucado shares.  If you are  looking for an apologetic defense on the purpose of defending God in the face of general evil then this book isn't for you. But, if on the other hand you are looking for bible based motivation and a relief while enduring extreme dire circumstances in a heartless world that centers in  materialism, selfish ambition and competition, then this book is perfect.

This book is the perfect spiritual salve for those experiencing intense pain and grief!!!  This is a book to read and return to- it won't collect dust on a book shelf. The ending includes guided questions for reflection for greater interaction and study.   As a blogger for booksneeze, I receive books from Thomas Nelson publishers in exchange for writing an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.