Saturday, June 25, 2016

(Review) Gathering Courage: A Life-Changing Journey through Adoption, Adversity and a Reading Disability by T.A. McMullin

Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: Gathering Courage Media
Genre: Nonfiction, biography, learning disability, courage
Pages: 222
Source: Free paperback copy from T. A. McMullin
Rating: 5 stars for excellent

Amazon link for the book















About the author:
T.A. McMullin has become a champion for the encouragement and success of others. She has earned two degrees from Texas A&M University and has served as a 4-H Leader and FFA Advisor. Her professional career involves teaching agriculture, science, developing material for science and science fairs, working with students in an alternative school setting, teaching students with visual impairments, and mentoring students with dyslexia. T.A. McMullin lives on a small ranch in Texas, a forever home, with her horses, donkeys, and rescued Border Collie dogs.

Summary:
T. A. McMullin was born in 1954, in Fort Worth, Texas. At birth, she was given to the Gladney Center for Adoption. At twelve days old, she was adopted. A grandmother and friends loved and accepted T. A., but her adopted family struggled to accept her. 
Gathering Courage follows the life of T. A. McMullin: birth, adoption, school years, struggles in school, natural ability with animals, support network, college, work, and a Christian testimony. 

My Thoughts: 
I enjoyed reading Gathering Courage. McMullin established early in the story a tenacity and strength to persevere against the odds. She did not give up, but instead kept her eye on the goal. 
Often while reading McMullin's life story, she reminds the reader of God's active role in her life, and she is quick to give Him the glory for every blessing. 
Sad and disappointing experiences did not harden her heart. She did not become a bitter person; she became a better person. 
God opened up opportunities for McMullin to share how she felt with people who had caused pain. She spoke "plain" but did not speak with malice. 
Gathering Courage is a story of hope for people who have disabilities or hardships. Sometimes people do not pick back up and persevere, they loose the "wind in their sails" and cannot move forward. McMullin picked herself back up and dusted her self off and kept moving. 
The pace and rhythm of the story is steady. 
The attitude of the story, even during sad moments, is balanced. Sometimes a biography that is filled with dysfunction and sadness can be overwhelming. Instead, I felt an attitude of hope and grace. 

"Yes, forgiveness is an ongoing process, and many times has to be applied over and over. Forgiveness is the gift we give to ourselves." Page 35. 

"However, I do have control as to how I act and react to those situations. I can honestly say there is a peace in my heart and forgiveness for the way I was treated. Most of all, I knew that I was God's child and He protected me and filled in the gap with people who showed me love and kindness. Their acts of kindness were paid forward years and years ago. It was love and kindness that gave me the courage to survive and to keep my heart pure. It is through love and kindness that I choose to live the rest of my life." Page 111.



Friday, June 24, 2016

Bible Reading Update

The last Bible reading update was posted May 4, 2016. 
Since May 4, I've read:
2 Kings chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25.
1 Chronicles chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. 
2 Chronicles chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36. 
Ezra chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 
Nehemiah chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13. 
Esther chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 
Job chapter 1. 
Hosea chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. 
Joel chapters 1, 2, 3.
Amos chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
Obadiah chapters 1, 2, 3, 4. 
Micah chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. 
Nahum chapters 1, 2, 3. 
Habakkuk chapters 1, 2, 3.
Zephaniah chapters 1, 2, 3. 
Haggai chapters 1, 2.
Zechariah chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. 
Malachi chapters 1, 2, 3, 4. 
John chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. 
Acts chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 
All the above Scriptures have been read in the New King James Version.

Since the beginning of the year, I've read Acts twice, and I'm in the process of reading it a 3rd time.
Acts has been read in the NIV and the NLT.
Reading Acts 12 times in 12 different translations for this year's challenge is tough. Acts has 28 chapters, it is a larger book than the other NT books.

Are you reading your Bible? 

All Scripture links are courtesy of Bible Gateway. 

(Review) The Love of God: An Intimate Look at the Father-Heart of God by Oswald Chambers

Publication Date: Abridged and updated 2015.
Publisher: Our Daily Bread Ministries
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: 128
Source: Free paperback copy from Our Daily Bread Ministries
Rating: 4 stars for very good

Oswald Chambers Biography

Oswald Chambers 1874-1917
Summary:
The Love of God combines several booklets in one book.

The Love of God---1938
The Ministry of the Unnoticed---1936
The Message of Invincible Consolation---1931
The Making of a Christian---1918, 1935
Now Is It Possible---1923, 1934
The Graciousness of Uncertainty---1938

This book is updated from the 1965 book.

"These studies were originally given as lectures and sermons by Oswald Chambers and recorded by his wife, Biddy." After Oswald Chambers died in 1917, they were published.

Oswald Chambers is the author of My Utmost for His Highest.

My Thoughts:
The Ministry of the Unnoticed is my favorite from the compilation.
The true character of the loveliness that influences for God is always unconscious. Conscious influence is prideful and un-Christian. When we begin to wonder whether we are of any use, we instantly lose the bloom of the touch of the Lord." Page 34.
Reading Chamber's writings are like reading devotional material. The speed at reading is slower giving time to digest. Thinking and praying about what has been read is tantamount to understanding and remembering what has been read.
We are often much more concerned about offending other people than about offending our Lord. Our Lord often offended people-but He never put a stumbling block in anyone's way. Page 40.
The above quote is my favorite. It does not matter what historical age, this quote applies to all humans. It is a classic quote, resounding through the ages.
The mountain is not the place for us to live; we were built for the valleys. This is one of the hardest things to learn because spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mount. Page 47. 
Easier to read than live out. I certainly would love a carefree and simple life but this is not possible. It has been the valleys of life where I've grown the most. Mountain peaks are a blessing, but not sustainable, I must be in the valley in order to mature.
 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

(Review) Bedeviled: Lewis, Tolkien and the Shadow of Evil by Colin Duriez

Publication Date: March 16, 2015
Publisher: IVP Books
Genre: Nonfiction, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Spiritual Conflict
Pages: 235
Source: Self-purchase
Rating: 5 stars for excellent

Amazon












C S Lewis 1898-1963
The official website for C S Lewis.
The C.S. Lewis Foundation. 
From Christianity today: C.S. Lewis. 
Biography


J R R Tolkien 1892-1973
The Tolkien Society
Biography
Britannica

Summary:
Bedeviled is a study of the literary works primarily of C. S. Lewis, and followed by J. R. R. Tolkien. Smaller studies of Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers, Owen Barfield, and Warren Lewis are explored. Dorothy Sayers was not a member of the Inklings group; however, she was a friend and fellow author.
The study focuses on several key features and themes in the Inklings writings: dark forces, magic arts, spiritual conflict and warfare, hell, good versus evil, and the supernatural world.
Brief biographies are given on the writers but not lengthy bios. The emphasis is on their writings, and the motivations and examinations of their works.

My Thoughts:
I know you will be shocked but I have just began reading The Chronicles of Narnia. This is the first time to read the fantasy fiction stories by Lewis. I have read a few of C.S. Lewis's nonfiction books. I have read a few of J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy fiction books.
The Inklings group wrestled with meaningful themes of "modern evil in literature."
Lewis's development from atheist to Christian, and his growth in Christianity, is shown in his writings. Duriez examines Lewis's transformation as a writer.
Books are examined, looking for the theme and purpose. For example:
The correspondence between devils in The Screwtape Letters, which we explored in chapter two, focuses on the individual human soul, whereas the Narnian Chronicles are somewhat more concerned with the nature of human and Christian society and the meaning of history in its peaceful and dark periods." Page 136.
Tolkien believes that joy in the story marks the presence of grace from the primary world...Tolkien gives more consideration to the quality of joy, linking it to the Gospel narratives, which have all the qualities of an other-worldly fairy story, while at the same time being primary world history...Dominating the entire cycle of Tolkien's tales of Middle-earth is a longing to obtain the Undying Lands of the uttermost west." Page 178 
Being acquainted with Lewis and Tolkien's books help.
I'm aware not all people are interested in dissecting the background and reasons for an author's work. Some people want to read and not really understand any symbolism in the story.
Bedeviled is for an audience of readers who want a full examination of Lewis and Tolkien's writing style and books.
Both men were in combat during World War I. Their experiences deeply affected them. The battles in a war, and the battles in life, are interwoven in their belief of "the very real powers of light and darkness."


The pub where the Inklings met. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

(Review) The NKJV, Full-Color Study Bible, Personal Size, Published by Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Bible
Pages: 2400
Source: Free paperback copy from Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins Christian Publishing
Rating: 4 stars for very good

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Further info @ the publisher: Thomas Nelson. 











Features:

  • Weight is 2.7 pounds
  • Height is 8 inches and width is 5.25 inches
  • Red letter edition
  • Format is paperback
  • 14 pages of full color maps
  • Over 100 articles of "key doctrinal topics"
  • Over 150 articles on Bible culture
  • 3 pages of "Teachings and Illustrations of Christ"
  • 6 pages of "Prophecies Of The Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ"
  • A chart titled "The Parables of Jesus Christ"
  • A chart titled "The Miracles of Jesus Christ"
  • A chart titled "Prayers of the Bible" 
  • A 23 page subject index
  • A 194 page concordance
  • An additional 69 color maps placed throughout the Bible
  • A 7 page "Harmony of the Gospels" section placed before the beginning of the NT
  • The pages are matte 
  • The pages are a little rough (makes the pages easy to turn)
  • In the beginning of the Bible, there are sections on how to understand the Bible and the NKJV translation
  • General Editor is Earl D. Radmacher, Th.D. Western Conservative Baptist Seminary

My Thoughts:

I feel three things should be considered. 
  1. The weight of the Bible is 2.7 pounds.
  2. The print is small. I have not been able to find in the Bible nor at the publishing website what the type font size is. I found a type font size chart online @ https://www.allbibles.com/pdfs/type_sizes.pdf. I estimate the type font size of the paperback edition to be 7 point. Whereas, the hardcover edition is 8 point. 
  3. How do you plan to use the Bible? Will the Bible be for daily Bible reading? Will you take the Bible to church? Will the Bible be used for Bible study? The personal size paperback Bible is too heavy to be carried in a purse. It can be carried by hand, but if you want a smaller more portable Bible then I do not believe this is the Bible for you. Look for a Bible that is not a study Bible, because the added material in a study Bible will always make the Bible heavier. Further, I suggest if you are going to purchase this style of study Bible, purchase the hardcover edition. 
For several years my primary Bible used was the ESV Study Bible by Crossway. The Bible was like carrying a dictionary, but I didn't care. I had a few people make fun of me, but I still didn't care. The Bible was falling apart, pages were torn and falling out. In the last month, I have switched to the hardcover, NKJV, Full-Color Study Bible. I reviewed this Bible October 29, 2014.  I love this Bible! I enjoy using it for daily Bible reading, Bible study, and I carry it to church on Sundays. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

(Review) Journey to Heal: Seven Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Crystal M. Sutherland

Publication Date: April 27, 2016
Publisher: Kregel
Genre: Nonfiction, childhood sexual abuse, healing
Pages: 176
Source: Free paperback copy from Kregel in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent

Crystal Sutherland
Website for Crystal M. Sutherland
Facebook
Twitter

free online study is offered June 1-July 13.

Link for more info @ Kregel: Journey to Heal.
At the above link a study guide and excerpt is available.

Amazon



Author Bio.
Crystal M. Sutherland is a writer, speaker, ministry leader, and mentor for survivors of sexual abuse. She has fifteen years of experience in ministry, including women’s ministry, youth ministry, worship, and Bible teaching. She has also written and led a women's Bible study for female survivors of sexual abuse. Her work can also be seen on her active blog (crystalsutherland.org) and in contributions to lifelettercafe.com.

Summary:
Crystal Sutherland, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, has written a book of healing for other victims.
Sexual abuse is not something a person can "get over" and move-on, as if they've had the flu. It is a lifetime journey of working towards healing.
There is not a "simple formula for healing." It requires hard work and commitment.
There are 42 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse (male and female) in America. It is important to talk about, educate, counsel, pray, and work towards healing for the "walking wounded."

Chapter One    Step 1: Commit to the Journey
Chapter Two   Step 2: Face the Truth
Chapter Three   There's No More Disgrace for You
Chapter Four   Step 3: Share Your Story
Chapter Five   Step 4: Settle the Unsettled
Chapter Six   What is God's Role in Your Story?
Chapter Seven   Step 5: Forgive and Let It God
Chapter Eight   Step 6: Discover Your True Identity
Chapter Nine   Step 7: Establish Your New Life in Christ
Chapter Ten   There Is Hope for Experiencing Intimacy
My Thoughts:
My first impressions of Journey to Heal continued to stay with me throughout the book. It is approachable, examines a tough subject with sensitivity, organized well, and the author is transparent about her life.
Each chapter has a reading section, questions, and a "Journey Essentials."
In "Journey Essentials," four steps are included: pray, Bible verses to read, "document your journey," and "develop a thankful heart."
Bible verses are located throughout each chapter. While reading, I wrote down all of the Bible verses on a separate sheet of paper to keep for future study.
Sutherland utilizes five versions of the Bible: NKJV, NLT, NASB, NIV (2011), and ESV.
At the end of each chapter is a "move forward" section. This section is brief, only a few paragraphs. But, by ending on this element we are reminded of the goal: to "move forward" past the abuse and towards healing.
At the end of the book is Appendix A----"A Prayer for Salvation." Appendix B----"A Prayer for Sexual Healing." Appendix C----"The 'I Am' Statement of Worth." Appendix D "Additional Resources for Recovery."
The book's audience is adult female survivors of child abuse. My sexual abuse happened when I was 17, the perpetrator was a boyfriend. I was able to glean strong help from reading Journey to Heal. 
Sutherland encourages the reader to keep a journal during the process of reading the book. The journal is where the questions can be written and answered.

Examples of questions:

  • "How has defining sexual abuse helped you?
  • "How has being abused affected me mentally and emotionally, even relationally?"
  • "Do you struggle with repressed anger and resentments? If so, where are those feelings coming from, exactly?"
One of my favorite sections of the book is learning "new truth." This section is located in chapter 6, and under the section of understanding our worth. 
The last chapter is addressed to married women who are in healthy relationships. I agree with the material presented in this chapter, but for me, I needed a chapter for women who are in a difficult relationship. 

A favorite quote:
After living with our wounds of abuse for so long, it can be easy to fall into a mind-set of coping with our pain, settling for mere survival instead of learning how to thrive. The notion of living free from the past may be enticing, but it can also seem frightening. The truth is, the familiarity of brokenness is easier to navigate than the unknown terrain of wholeness. For that reason, we may attempt to sabotage potential happiness because we fear what that might look like. I have seen this at work in my own life and in the lives of other survivors I know. Page 23.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

(Review) Wholeheartedness: busyness, exhaustion, and healing the divided self by Chuck DeGroat

Publication Date: March 2, 2016
Publisher: Alban Books/Eerdmans
Genre: Nonfiction, Christian living
Pages: 208
Source: Free copy from Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 
Rating: 2 stars for okay

Amazon

Link for more info at Eerdmans

Summary:


Part 1: Diagnosing Our UnWholeness
1. Feeling Pulled in a Thousand Different Directions
2. Perfecting Ourselves to Death-and Learning to Embrace Imperfection
3. Using Our Brains: The Neurobiology of Wholeness

Part 2: Awakening To Wholeness
4. Awakening to Our Lives: A Poetric Invitation
5. Becoming Holy without Becoming Exhausted
6. Understanding Our Whole Story

Part 3: Experiencing Wholeness
7. Returning to Our Core, Recovering Our True Self
8. Cultivating Wholeness amid Our Scattered Selves
9. Embracing Sweet Communion

My Thoughts:
Parts 1 and 2 explain what wholeness means and how as a Christian we can experience this in Christ Jesus.
In Part 1, perfectionism, shame, exhaustion, and a critical attitude are strong factors in not being a whole person.
In Part 2, Christians in history are examined. Those who have modeled "Wholehearted living for us." These people are Quaker Thomas Kelly, Jesuit Priest Gerard Manley Hopkins, and poet Derek Walcott.
Chapter 5 teaches us we need "major heart surgery" in order to live a "whole-and-holy life."
In my work, I often ask people to do this hard work of applying the scalpel. I ask them to look hard at their own stories, both how they've been hurt and how they've hurt others. I ask them to name parts of themselves that are triggered, often in our meetings together, and frequently when strong, triggering emotions arise. I ask them to transcend their reptilian brains and their black-and-white certainty left-brains and become reflective. This is very difficult work. Often the pain gets worse before it gets better." Page 101
In Chapter 6,
Wholeheartedness is a participation in the life of God, of the only whole human being who has ever walked the earth-Jesus. Wholeness dwells in human beings by the Spirit of God, whose divine life pulsates within those who drink at the Well. Page 118. 
Part 3 is applications to bring about a wholeness in our spirits. We are reminded we are on a journey and the goal is wholeheartedness. Quotes and questions are for reflection, study, and meditation. Encouragement is given to breathe deep and exhale. The search is for the "True Self." The intention of this exercise is to weed out and let go of the the bad voices, and embrace God's voice. Another term for this part of the book is contemplative prayer.

I did not order this book to read and review, but I decided to read and review it nevertheless. I would not have chosen this book because it does not appeal to me. In all fairness, it's just not my cup of tea. I know very little about contemplative prayer. I've not studied this type of prayer. I am aware there are people in the Christian community who are opposed to this type of prayer. I'm a prayer warrior, but I don't do breathing exercises nor repeat phrases, etc. For some readers, this is a book they would heartily embrace. For me, I'm just not excited about it. I did enjoy reading chapters 5 and 6. I felt the information located here was the heart of the book. 

What Paralysis Taught Me About True Strength (YouTube) by Nika Maples