Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Esther Bible Study

Esther: Finding Yourself in Times of Trouble
Eugene Peterson
Tyndale House, 2017
English, 112 pgs

Color with Friends. Be Drawn In to Scripture. 
An unlikely queen. A murderous enemy. A miraculous turnaround. The story of Esther is breathtaking. Through study, coloring, and conversation, discover how to find your voice and grow your faith during times of trouble.

Deepen your friendships as you gather around Scripture for coloring and conversation. Drawn In offers simple four-week Bible studies―perfect for groups or personal devotions. Coloring quiets your heart and mind so you can enter fully into Scripture’s stories. The Bible’s passion and personality come through in The Message, surprising new and old Bible readers alike. Discover the delight of being Drawn In.

Within minutes of receiving the book and looking through it, I called our women's Bible study leader and told her "I've found our next study!" I love this for so many reasons.

First, it's a study of Esther. She has a story of quiet grace and strength and is one of my favorite females in the Bible. I could do every study on her and still look for the next one. There is always something new to learn from her. The questions (of which there are a lot for each session) are not the typical scribble-something-down-just-to-get-it-done type questions. They require a lot of thought and introspection. 

Second, it's a four session study, with a background introduction from the author. The scriptures are in the book for you. (I, of course, always recommend reading multiple versions when you're doing an in depth study.) I've found that shorter studies keep the other women interested. There is a lot to dig into between sessions and that may turn some off, but we do every two weeks so that gives you plenty of time to get the "homework" done. 

Third, each session has multiple parts to it. There is the scripture and questions, but there are also pages for coloring and doodling. At first, I thought it wasn't a good format for coloring, but I figured out that the spine of the book can be forced to lay flat, allowing you to get to the whole page for the coloring. I like that the scripture is broken into parts with the questions immediately following. There are also little bits from the author to help you understand some of the historical and cultural references. The end of each session has questions for reflection or additional consideration as well as a guided prayer.

This is a new and unique format for Bible study. I'm really excited about it and look forward to doing it with our group in the fall. There are also studies on Ruth and Mary in the series. (Yes, I'll be looking forward to those too!!)

I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review on this site and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been received, or is expected, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Tranquility Coloring Journal

Tranquility Coloring Journal
Tyndale House, 2017
English, 112 pgs

Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal invites you to mix creative journaling and coloring into your personal time with God. Prayers that focus on topics such as being thankful, dealing with stress and heartache, caring for yourself and others, listening for God’s leading, and waiting patiently on Him will guide your thoughts and calm your spirit. Filled with more than 100 designs to color, plenty of space for journaling, and 40 needs-based prayers, Tranquility will help you express your devotion to God with your whole heart

I really wanted to like this journal. I love the "adult" coloring books and I keep a prayer/scripture journal as I'm reading my Bible every morning. So I thought this would be perfect for that. I was slightly less than excited when I actually began looking through it. Lots of the pages are in full color, most of them have a short guided prayer and only a few have ample journaling space. I'm adding some pictures so you can see what I'm talking about. 

As you can see, lots of pages have 3-5 lines for your reflections. Some have almost full pages. I would have liked to see more space for writing and less for the coloring/full color pictures. I'm not entirely disappointed, but I would have done it differently.

I received a copy of the book for the purpose of this review on my blog and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been received, or is expected, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book Review: I Can

I Can
By Kathryn O'Brien
Tyndale, 2016
English, 32 pgs
For ages 3-6 years

With a repetitive, rhythmic introduction of Philippians 4:13 (“I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”), I Can turns Bible memorization from a duty to a delight for children, using the author’s unique teaching strategy. This purposeful presentation of Scripture will help children memorize, understand, and absorb passages as the author presents this powerful verse one word at a time, teaching the meaning of each individual word before presenting the entire passage. I Can builds a meaningful connection between God’s Word and a child’s life experiences, laying a foundation for a love and comprehension of Scripture. Parents and children will enjoy interacting together over the passage.

I set this book out on a side table, waiting to see if my 6 year old would see it. He did and picked it up and started reading it. He worked to sound out words and got very excited when there were words he already knew. The best part though was when he got to the end and was excited to see that he had been reading a Bible verse as he read the book.

The book starts very simply with "I Can" and then has a short list of things the kid can do. It adds words to the scripture and then continues to show all the things they can do, explains that nothing is too hard for them, describes who Jesus was (and gives the plan of salvation in one page!), tells them some of the things Jesus does for His children.

The pictures are of children on a farm, doing various activities. While they're good pictures, I think more diverse pictures would have been good too. My kids don't have a farm to run around and it kinda made the little one think that he could only do the things the book says if he's on a farm. Of course, we corrected that.

But I think it's a good book and a part of a good series of books for little ones. It is clear and I didn't have to explain what any of the words meant.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review on this site and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review: Having a Martha Home the Mary Way

Having a Martha Home the Mary Way
By Sarah Mae
Tyndale Momentum, 2016
English, 192 pgs


Get your home and your heart in order in just 31 days!

Sarah Mae wants to let you in on a little secret about being a good homemaker: It’s not about having a clean house. She’d never claim to be a natural, organized cleaner herself―yet, like you, she wants a beautiful space to call home, a place where people feel loved and at peace. Where people can really settle in with good food, comfy pillows, and wide-open hearts.

Is it possible to find a balance? To care for your heart―and your home―at the same time?

Journey with Sarah Mae on this easy, practical 31-day plan to get you moving and have your house looking and feeling fresh. But even more than that, you’ll gain a new vision for the home of your dreams, and how to make it a place of peace, comfort, and community. Originally published as the e-book 31 Days to Clean and now revised and expanded in print for the first time, Having a Martha Home the Mary Way will inspire you to find a happier, healthier . . . cleaner way to live.

 There are lots of things to like about this book. It is highly encouraging. It is honest about struggles many women face regarding themselves and their homes. It is easy to read and doesn't take too long each day. It has easy to accomplish challenges and Bible study prompts.

There are cons to the book too though. Mainly in the form of the cleaning challenges. While they are easy to accomplish every day, they simply don't go far enough. Each day you're to clean your dishes, counter and sink and complete a load of laundry in addition to the challenge.

I realize that my situation is unique and not everyone is in the same life place I am right now, but I simply do not think it should take more than one day to clean a room. In all the challenges, you only wash sheets once. In 31 days. That is not my idea of clean. I just can't get with the idea of taking it so slowly to clean.

I personally feel it's easier to tackle one room (or style of room) each day of the week. My personal schedule is Monday: bathrooms, Tuesday: kitchen/dining, Wednesday: bedrooms, Thursday: office/living room, Friday: grocery shopping/meal planning, Saturday: laundry, Sunday: rest. Everything gets done every week and my home is one that I feel is tidy, clean and healthy. It's not spotless. It's not a wreck either.

Basically it comes down to finding what works best for you and sticking to it.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review on this website and a commercial bookselling website. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: Veggie Tales Bible

Veggie Tales Bible
By Zondervan, 2013
English, 1344 pgs

In the VeggieTales Bible, Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, and all their VeggieTales friends invite children to join them and get to know the Bible. In this full-text New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) Bible, each feature is specially designed to help children understand and love God’s Word.

I love it.

I guess I need to tell you more than that though. I got this for my 6 year old who is rocking his way through the Awana program at our church. Every week they get points for bringing their Bible and he's been upset that he only has a small Gideon style New Testament. We tried a picture style Bible with just a few stories. That wasn't anything that kept his attention. (In fact, he gave it away to someone who didn't have a Bible at all.)

So, I decided to get him his very own, every book included, Bible. We was over the moon about it. He was excited to have "every word, and every verse". He is still learning to read so he just flips through and looks at how it's arranged and the pictures, etc. But he's so excited to have his own copy of God's Word. (Wish everyone reacted that way.)

The Bible itself is in the New International Reader's Version, which I think is pretty easy to read and I haven't found any major complaints on the translation. I love that there are several Veggie Tales comic book style stories throughout the pages. Some are where you would find the Bible story that inspired it. For example, Dave and the Giant Pickle is where you will read about King David. This isn't the way for all of them though. Esther, the Girl Who Became Queen is in Psalms and Rack, Shack and Benny is in Isaiah. I think it's done more in the way to spread the stories evenly than to match up to the books.

Each book has an introduction which is quick and gives a general overview. And there are lots of "Veggie Values" throughout which point out themes in the Bible and give you ways to apply and understand them in life. There's a fairly short dictionary and several pages for notes at the back.

I received a copy of the Bible in exchange for a review on this blog and a commercial bookselling website. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Book Review: The James Code

The James Code 
52 Scripture Principles for Putting Your Faith into Action
By O. S. Hawkins
Published by Thomas Nelson

Book Description
The James Code helps believers go from knowing about God to living for Him.

Bestselling author of The Joshua Code and The Jesus Code, O.S. Hawkins is back with a new book that is all about putting your faith into action.

Together, The Joshua Code and The Jesus Code have sold more than 300,000 copies. The James Code, designed in the same format, will capitalize on The Joshua Code's core audience of churches, pastors, and readers who appreciate the year-long study format. With applicable truth from the book of James, The James Code is both practical and personal.

As with The Joshua Code and The Jesus Code, all royalties will go to Mission:Dignity, whose mission supports retired pastors and their wives and widows living near poverty level in their declining years. What a meaningful way to show support and appreciation for the work of retired pastors and their families.

 I really took my time with this book. The book of James is so rich in instruction that I didn't want to rush reading this and miss something. The book itself is a smaller "gift sized" book and has 52 readings, supposedly one per week for a year. I read it far faster, but it would be great to take it that slow and really dig into the words from the Bible.

 There are 13 main sections, with several chapters each. They range from stress to money to wisdom. The readings follow the book of James and only take a few verses for each. Every reading has a "Just Do It" at the end to help you put what you've read into your life.

This is an excellent book and will make a nice gift for pastors or anyone who loves reading the Bible. I really love that the book supports Mission:Dignity. That is a very worthwhile organization that I think needs more promotion and support.

I received a copy of the book for the purpose of this review. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Book Review: Wicked Women of the Bible

Wicked Women of the Bible 
By Ann Spangler
Zondervan, 2015
English, 224 pgs

What can Jezebel, the Bible’s wickedest queen, reveal about God’s holiness and power and even about his sense of humor? What about the Woman at the Well—the one with five husbands and a live-in lover? And what of the prostitute whose tears bathe the feet of Jesus in front of people who despise her?

There are also “wicked good” women like Deborah, Ruth, Hannah, Abigail, Esther, Mary, and more.

What do their lives tell us about God’s invincible love and his determined plan to save us?
In Wicked Women of the Bible Ann Spangler tells the stories of twenty wicked and “wicked good” women in greater detail. At the end of each story, Ann provides a brief section including additional historical and cultural background as well as a brief Bible study in order to enhance the book’s appeal to both individuals and groups.

The stories of these women of the Bible reveal a God who is not above it all but who stoops down to meet us where we are in order to extend his love and mercy.

About the Author
Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and the author of many bestselling books, including Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, and The One Year Devotions for Women. She is also coauthor of Women of the Bible and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus and the general editor of the Names of God Bible. Ann’s fascination with and love of Scripture have resulted in books that have opened the Bible to a wide range of readers. She and her two daughters live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Website: http://www.annspangler.com/

Blog: http://www.annspangler.com/category/blog/

Such an enticing and juicy title for a book! The women she discusses were radicals. They didn't sit down and have babies and tend house like women were expected to do in Bible times. And they were radical, and in some cases faithful, enough that they were discussed in the Word of God. Their names and stories have been told for generations upon generations.

There are your typical "big names" like Eve, Sarah and Esther. But there are also smaller stories like Tamar, Michal and Gomer that don't always get lots of attention. The chapters are fairly short yet thoughtfully written. Each story has background on the times when they women lived and why they were so wicked in what they did. Why they went against social convention and expectation to become women we can learn from and study. Ruth was wicked for laying down at the feet of Boaz yet she showed a faithfulness that put her into the lineage of King David and Jesus. The extreme wickedness of Jezebel shows us that it just doesn't end well when you fight against God.

Each chapter has a "takeaway" section which is questions for reflection or discussion.

I like this book. It's good for personal study or group study. It's fun to dig into women's stories and find the greater Biblical truths contained within.

I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review on this blog and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review: Chivalrous

Chivalrous (Valiant Hearts Book 2)
By Dina Sleiman
Bethany House, 2015
English, 368 pgs


From the Back Cover

With Her Future In Jeopardy, This Unforgettable Heroine Won't Go Down
Without a Fight!

Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers, but her parents view her only as a marriage pawn. When her domineering father makes plans to see her wed to a brutish man, Gwendolyn must fight for her future.

She's surprised, however, for that clash to include a handsome, good-hearted newcomer. Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, but he finds in Gwendolyn the most unexpected of women.

Tournaments, intrigue, and battles--along with twists and turns aplenty--await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.

I really enjoyed this book. I have not read book one in the Valiant Hearts series but it didn't in any way impede the story of this book. There is enough "backstory" to help you understand what happened in the first book.

I'm a fan of knights and kings and that whole world of chivalry, jousting and courts. I think this book is an excellent example of that genre. The main characters, Gwendolyn and Allen, are very well developed and very easy to like. They struggle with not only their own identities but also with finding out who God is and how He relates to their lives. 

The family dynamic for Gwen, while hard to read at times, was actually pretty accurate for that time and I appreciate that the author didn't gloss over the lack of women's rights at that time.

For Gwen (and even the Duchess Adela) to do the things they do in the story requires courage and no small amount of faith. They learn to set aside preconceived notions of women and become heroines of their own stories.

I liked that the author uses points of view from both main characters. It made it a little easy to figure out what was going to happen, but it was still a fun read.

I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review on this blog and a commercial book selling site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Book Review: Adventure Bible

Adventure Bible for Little Ones
By Catherine DeVries
Zonderkidz, 2015
English, 40 pgs

Ten stories from the Adventure Bible Storybook are now available for toddlers in the popular and affordable padded board book format.

The Adventure Bible for Toddlers starts children ages 2-5 on the journey of a lifetime, teaching them about the Bible's great stories and themes. Using simple text and art from the wildly popular Adventure Bible Storybook, it helps young children grow closer to Jesus as they learn about all God has done in the world. With ten beautifully illustrated and iconic Bible stories from the Old and New Testament, this sturdy padded board book will stimulate toddlers' minds and fill their hearts with love for their heavenly Father. Parents, grandparents, and children alike will treasure the Adventure Bible for Toddlers as a classic addition to their read-aloud library.

This is a very small board style book for little ones just learning about the Bible. My youngest has been asking for his own Bible for a while now but he's still in the "I'm going to tear pages" stage of development so we've been hesitant to get him a larger Bible. This one has made him very happy and has been read over and over already.

Each of the stories is four pages and has full color photos to go along with the story. The words are easy to read and understand. We've been using it for sight word recognition as well as getting him to remember the stories that are in the book.

I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review on this blog and a commercial book selling site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Book Review: My God and My All

My God and My All: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi
By Elizabeth Goudge
Plough Publishing House, 2015
English, 310 pgs

The captivating story of the world’s favorite saint is now retold for a modern audience by one of the great novelists of our time.

Perhaps more than any other figure in Christian history since Jesus Christ, Saint Francis of Assisi has captured our imagination, for his is a story of extreme self-sacrifice, of love to God and man. How could this wealthy, handsome youth cast away all the advantages that were his by birth and choose instead a career of poverty and humility? How could he attract members of all strata of society to his mission? And how, when his order became established throughout Europe, could he renounce great personal power and humbly continue his life’s work?

Here is Francis, from his twelfth-century boyhood to his life as a missionary roaming the very boundaries of the known world. Here too are the men and women who followed him―Bernard de Quintavalle, the rich businessman; Peter Cathanii, the lawyer; Brother Giles, the farmer’s son; Lady Clare; and so many others―all drawn together by the personal magnetism and humble faith of their leader, all re-created by bestselling novelist Elizabeth Goudge against a rich medieval canvas.

My God and My All: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi does not read like a traditional biography, rather presenting the life of the famous preacher in novel format. While this approach allows for author Elizabeth Goudge’s writing to flow in a more readable manner, there are times when it feels awkward to the point of unnecessary flattery. Use of “dialog” and first-person presentation takes an unwarranted license with the subject.

The author is clearly familiar with Catholic theology and presents Francis from that perspective – the acceptance of Francis’s canonization is clear as well as several other distinctly Catholic points. While this is understandable given the dominance of Roman Catholicism at the time, a more balanced approach as a biography would be welcome. Due to the odd format of the book (originally published in 1959) source citation and footnotes are nonexistent. Those who read from an evangelical perspective may stumble over usage (even the use of “saint” as a position, rather than a description of a follower and believer in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord).

It’s difficult to recommend this book to anyone other than those who are already reasonably familiar with Francis’s life. It does not serve as a scholarly work of biographical research and it’s frankly too dry as a novel. It’s that lack of format that hinders this from being a usable work rather than a mildly interesting diversion.

I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review on this blog and a commercial bookselling site. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.