Wednesday, November 18, 2015

(Review) As Silver Refined: Learning to Embrace Life's Disappointments by Kay Arthur

Publication Date: 1997.
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Genre: Nonfiction, Life's Disappointments.
Pages: 288.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.


As Silver Refined: Answers to Life's Disappointments

For more information, see publisher's site: WaterBrook Press.
A 16 week Bible study is available in the new edition.

As Silver Refined explains God's work in molding us in a refiner's fire, by turning up the heat process through hardships in life (that seem to us as mistakes) in order to remove impurities in our character. The refining work of the Father transforms us into a vessel where God "...can see Himself in the silver...."
Arthur begins by explaining the work and purpose of a silver refiner, and then emphasizes and focuses on God's process in the refining work.
Arthur explains that people do not always accept and submit to God's refining work in life. Further, Satan uses strategies to hinder God's work. These strategies are "distraction, deception, disappointment, discouragement, dejection, despair, and demoralization."
Several themes in the book are taught (the following list represent a few):
Submission to the Lord,
Resisting the enemy,
Our future hope.

My Thoughts:
I've had As Silver Refined in my to be read pile for several years. A few years ago I began reading the book, but placed it aside (not sure why.) Possibly it is because I was not ready to read the book. Instead, I needed to read it at this point in life. This has happened before, a book (Christian nonfiction) is purchased, I may or may not read a few pages, it gets placed aside, later I pick it back up and it's just what I needed to read at this particular stage.
The first point I want to mention is As Silver Refined is not a quick read and it's not meant to be. It's meant to be thoughtfully read, studied, pausing to reflect and pray.
I love Kay Arthur's point in "not looking back at our past as failures." Although I'm still having a problem with this point. It's hard for my human mind to accept my past abuse as being apart of God's plan; but I trust Him, and have faith in Him, that some how and some way He has a plan for my painful past.
Arthur is a kind and patient teacher. Her readers are referred to as "beloved." As Silver Refined is rough, because the subject matter pokes at our hearts, it pierces our pride and expectations. However, Arthur with loving composure has a way of taking the reader by the hand and stating matter-of-fact, beloved you've been looking at your life through the wrong lens.
Several gems are hidden among the pages-teaching what is rarely spoken of: a new view of the people who wronged us, a lengthy definition of meekness, and rejoicing in the crisis.
Lastly, most of the book is about difficult teachings, but the book also shows us how to move beyond the dark cloud of disappointments, and toward growth and hope for the future.
Kay Arthur has written a splendid, meaningful, beautiful, and edifying book. Anyone who struggles with regrets, disappointments, and depression over their past or present life circumstances can be ministered to by this book.

Friday, November 13, 2015

(Review) Restless: Because You Were Made For More by Jennie Allen

Publication Date: Paperback 2014.
Publisher: W. Publishing Group.
Genre: Nonfiction, Story of Joseph, Calling.
Pages: 240.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 3 stars for good.


Restless has been written to an audience of women who struggle with finding their calling, and pursuing the dreams that have been squeezed out by the realities of life.
Jennie Allen uses the story of Joseph from Genesis chapters 37-50, as the Biblical passage.
The book is divided into three parts: "The Call," "The Threads," and "Living On Purpose."
"The Call" introduces us to the concept and feeling of having a call that is unrecognized or ignored or unknown.
"The Threads" is the mechanics (so to speak) of the calling.
"Living On Purpose" addresses those problems that hinder us, or drown out the call. This section gives a final encouragement to be steadfast and obedient to God in our call.

My Thoughts:
Restless is for an audience of women younger that me. I'm 51, and have moved passed the thought pattern of "gosh, what is God's calling in my life." In theory, this question is not a bad question. But, it can certainly trip us up in that we are more focused on asking the question than in realizing that if we are a Christian and we are praying for God's calling/will in our life, we are already in His will. Secondly, I want to make a statement. God's calling in our life is not always dreamy and dramatic. More often it is faithfully enduring in the current work or tasks we are already engaged in.
When we are in an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, reading His Word, studying His Word, and allowing Him to have reign in our life (all parts of our life.) Then we are in His will.
I appreciate Restless. I felt it had good teaching, with easy to remember and applicable one line quotes.
For example:
"We know our mission is to know God and make Him known." Page 122.
"This journey is a chance to lay out what you have, what you know, and hand it up to God." Page 67.
"The kind of life you want lies on the other side of death" page 17.
And the best quote!
"Great people do not do great things; God does great things through surrendered people." Page 23.
And to this last quote I say Amen!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

(Review) Holy Subversion: Allegience To Christ In An Age Of Rivals by Trevin Wax

Publication Date: 2010.
Publisher: Crossway.
Genre: Nonfiction, Christian living, Lordship.
Pages: 159.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

Holy Subversion is a brief look at Lordship in a Christian's life.
Chapter titles:
"Jesus And The Gospel Of Caesar"
"Subverting The Self"
"Subverting Success"
"Subverting Money"
"Subverting Leisure"
"Subverting Sex"
"Subverting Power"
"Subversive Evangelism"

The word subvert means to overturn, overthrow, or upset (religion, government, morality, etc.)
Definition from Oxford Pocket American Dictionary.
Trevin Wax explains,
There are two ways to understand the word "subvert" or "subversion." The first definition refers to "overthrowing" or plotting the downfall of a kingdom. The second way that "subverting" something is commonly understood refers to "undermining" or "pushing something back down into its proper place." In this book, I use the term "subversive" in the second sense. Each of the "Caesars" that we will deal with in this book are good gifts from God that become idolatrous when they are placed above God himself. Therefore, our job as Christians is to identify and unmask some of the more insidious "Caesars" that seek to muzzle our message and demand our allegiance. Page 26-27.
My Thoughts:
My first thought while reading this book is I feel it is a very good choice for a small group discussion study.
  • Holy Subversion is an quick study at 159 pages. 
  • The topics are applicable to current problems. 
  • Several points in the book are convicting. For example: money is an idol, and how we spend our free "leisure" time. 
A few points about the book I want to address:
  • I feel it would help to have discussion questions at the end of each chapter. 
  • I would have liked an additional chapter on busyness. People are busy being busy. Too busy to have an intimate conversation, too busy to return phone calls, too busy to spend time with older parents, too busy to enjoy a hobby, too busy to spend time with children. Humans have drowned out intimacy from their lives with being busy. For example: a family is in a restaurant, no one is talking, no one is looking at each other, they are all engaged in checking their cell phones. 
  • Chapter 6 is "Subverting Sex."
When people choose to be deliberately childless over an extended period of time, they are rebelling against the Scriptural intention for sex. God does not intend that the marriage bed be inward-focused, but outward-focused, which means that marriages should be open to having children. Page 114.
Trevin Wax is referring to couples who are unable to have children, but those couples who have decided to not have children are "rebelling." I believe this statement is harsh, and may ruffle some feathers in the Christian community.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

(Review) A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J.A. Myhre, Illustrated by Acacia Masso

Publication Date: October 6, 2015.
Publisher: New Growth Press.
Genre: Children's Fiction, Africa.
Pages: 128.
Source: Free copy from Litfuse Publicity Group, in exchange for a review.
Rating: 3 stars for good.

Christian Book
About The Author: 

Paradox Uganda

J.A. Myhre serves as a doctor with Serge in East Africa where she has worked alongside her husband, Dr. Scott Myhre, for more than two decades. She earned her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed her pediatric training at Northwestern University’s Children’s Memorial Hospital. She also received a Master’s in Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
Myhre works in the AIC Kijabe Hospital, which provides healthcare in the name of Jesus to the vulnerable people of East Africa. She has given a special focus in her work to HIV prevention and nutrition and has invested heavily in training emerging indigenous leaders. Myhre is currently spending one year living and traveling in the U.S., telling others about her work in Africa. She and her husband have four children, all of whom attend university in the States.
This beautifully-written adventure book for young readers brings to life the African Savannah Myhre calls home, inviting readers to explore the country through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy named Mu. Orphaned as a toddler, Mu has served his whole life in his great uncle’s house where he is unloved and ignored. In his drudgery-filled life, Mu has little hope of happiness and doesn’t believe anything will ever change.
On his way to draw the morning water one day, Mu is astonished when a chameleon greets him by name and announces they will embark on a quest together. Mu and his chameleon guide face peril and find unexpected allies as they journey through an ever-changing African landscape. Throughout his adventure Mu learns many things about himself and the nature of good and evil.
Myhre has served alongside her husband as a doctor in East Africa for more than two decades. While living in a very remote area on the Uganda-Congo border, Myhre noticed that although her children were avid readers, none of the books in their hands related to the world in which they lived. So she began to write short novels for them each Christmas, which they would read aloud together. “Most of the kids who hung out at our house every day had lost one or both parents and struggled to stay in school. Our next-door neighbor ended up in a rebel group,” Myhre admits. “This is reality for kids in much of the world. So I wanted a story where kids who live with that kind of challenge had courage and hope, even if they made mistakes.”
A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest gives a voice to the millions of children like Mu who must make painful, irrevocable choices along the path of growing up. Dealing with real themes African children face every day, such as forced labor, the duties of child soldiers and the Ebola virus, Myhre hopes A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest will captivate young minds and foster in them a new sensitivity toward the forgotten orphans of the world. “I think our kids are the generation that will grasp justice,” says Myhre. “They know we are all responsible to struggle for those who are oppressed. I hope by giving the poor names and stories, kids everywhere will embrace their struggles.”
New Growth Press now brings the powerful message of this story, originally told from one mother to her children, to all bookshelves, drawing families into a tale about hope, happiness and what it means to be human.

My Thoughts:
A Chameleon, A Boy, and a Quest is an adventure, coming of age story, and a teaching story.
The main character is named Mu, and he is a ten year old boy. The book is written for children or young adults. However, I'm confused. I feel after reading the story it is written for an adult audience. For example: the vocabulary words and sentence structure is for an adult or older teen. Secondly, in the later half of the story, some of the story-line is harsh and violent. Lastly, the story has an element of allegory, which will require explanation to a young child (under 14 at least.) I feel the book needs to be stated for exactly what age group it is written for. This will help a parent and shopper feel knowledgeable about the product. 
A Chameleon, A Boy, and a Quest is a creative and unique story. The story gives an opportunity to educate the reader about life in Africa, especially in regards to the treacherous life of a boy in Africa.
I researched a little at Amazon under the theme of African children's stories.  Twenty pages are given, most have the setting in America. There are less books with a setting in Africa. I'm thankful Myhre wrote this story with the less often setting in Africa, and I'm thankful for the books strong elements of moral and character.
The illustrations are in black ink. A brief acknowledgement is given to the illustrator, Acacia Masso, but I feel a specific page devoted the illustrator is needed. I wanted to read about the artist, especially in the creation of the book. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

(Review) Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God by Joanna Weaver

Publication Date: February 2011.
Publisher: WaterBrook Press.
Genre: Nonfiction, spiritual growth, strongholds, forgiveness, a new creation, the story of Lazarus.
Pages: 240.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Lazarus Awakening includes several additional sections: the Bible verses from John 11:1-12:11, a Bible study guide, "Resources for Resurrected Living," a "Who I Am in Christ," "Identifying Strongholds," and "Hints for Unwinding Grave clothes."


The story of Lazarus, his death and resurrection from the tomb, is the Bible story for several points in the book.

  • Disbelief. 
  • When hope seems lost.
  • Strongholds.
  • Bitterness.
  • The great enemy, Satan.
  • Getting rid of the grave clothes. 
  • Listening to God's voice.
  • Wrestling with what we feel are "our rights." 
  • Death is not the end. 

My Thoughts:
Lazarus Awakening is a powerful book.
I've never known a person who is not broken in some aspect. Some people hide their brokenness more than others, but they're just better actors.
We are all broken people in need of redeeming grace. We cannot save our souls from eternal death. And we cannot save our broken spirits from the pain and suffering in this world.
We need Jesus.
Two questions in chapter five that resonated in me.

1. Are you a tomb dweller?
Strongholds are simply those places in us where sin and the 'old self'' have established such an immense power base that we feel helpless to escape their control. We love Jesus, but we remain stuck in our mid-chambers, unable to live free." Page 71.
2. Do you have regrets?
In a sense we're like the tormented man of Mark 5. We live in graveyards filled with memories. Wandering through life in perpetual mourning over the things we have done and the things that have been done to us. We may do our best to outrun the mistakes and regrets, the hurts and disappointments, but apart from God we find it difficult to escape the cycle of shame and self-hatred that keeps our 'sin...ever before' us (Psalm 51:3, KJV). Unfortunately, the coping mechanisms we embrace in order to manage our pain only reinforce the strongholds in our souls. Page 72. 
Joanna Weaver has a graph on page 70, listing the "hurts, hang-ups, and habits." These are "things that keep us from true freedom." A second graph is listed on pages 76-77, "Dethroning Lies." These graphs are important in having freedom from the bondage of dwelling in a tomb of pain and regret.
Chapter six is on the things that keep the stone unrolled away from our tomb. These are "unworthiness," "unbelief," and "unforgiveness." There is a graph on pages 90-91, "Disciplining Your Mind."
Chapter eight is another favorite chapter, "Unwinding Grave clothes."
"Unfortunately, most of us would rather observe a resurrection than actually participate in one."
Wow! Weaver states this in response to people who don't believe a person has changed dramatically from the old self to the new self.
We unbind grave clothes "through acceptance and love, those whom Jesus has resurrected." Page 126.
As Warren Wiersbe puts it, the answer has less to do with geography and more to do with opportunity. Because the best way to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength is to love the people who happen to be standing next to me. Even when loving them involves unwinding grave clothes." Page 136.
Lazarus Awakening is a strong tool for people working through a recovery program, or for family members of those working through a recovery program.
I love the lay-out of the material in the book, bringing me from the origins of who God is as my heavenly Father, and those attributes of what my earthly father was like, because the two can become mixed-up creating conflict and disappointment. The next steps in the book are sin and redemption, followed by unforgiveness and strongholds, and ending with unwrapping grave clothes, and my eternal home in heaven. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bible Reading Update

The last Bible reading update was posted September 24. 
Since then I've finished reading the Bible.
The last books read:
Psalms, 1-150 chapters. 
Revelation, 1-22 chapters.
I read Psalms in the ESV Crossway single book edition.
I read Revelation in my ESV Crossway Study Bible.

An additional challenge in 2015 was to read 2 Corinthians 12 times in 12 different translations.
In the last month, I've read 2 Corinthians from the Amplified version, The New Testament in Modern English Translated by J.B. Phillips, and the Revised Standard Version, 
I've completed both Bible reading challenges for 2015.

I'm in BSF, or Bible Study Fellowship. The Bible book we're studying is Revelation. I've begun reading Revelation again for this study.

Links of interest:
Unglued, by Lisa TerKeurst, a Bible study beginning November 1 over at Proverbs 31 Ministries.
Bible study teacher Margaret Feinberg has an adult coloring book published.
From Bible Study Magazine, 3 Views on the Relationship Between Christianity and Culture. 
From Today's Christian Women, The Lies We Believe About The Bible.

Are you reading your Bible? 

(Review) Having A Mary Spirit: Allowing God To Change Us From The Inside Out by Joanna Weaver

Publication Date: 2006.
Publisher: WaterBrook Press.
Genre: Nonfiction, spiritual growth.
Pages: 297.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

The book includes a 23 page companion Bible study, a "Journaling Your Transformation," and "Memorizing Scripture" section.

"Having a Mary Spirit is about our attitude toward what God wants to do in our lives. The spirit behind our response to Him makes all the difference." Page 8.
"Having a Mary Spirit is meant to show us how to give God access to the deep, hidden corners of our hearts." Page 8.

God works in our lives to build maturity. Our inner person is where He works in His Spirit, changing us from the inside out, in order to reflect His Spirit living in us, and as a testimony of His grace, and for our sanctification.
Examples of women in the Bible are explored: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth.
Examples of chapters: toxic thoughts, getting rid of bitterness, loving instead of tearing others down, the problem of pride, and temptation,

My Thoughts:
My favorite chapter in Having a Mary Spirit is chapter eleven: Rooting Out Bitterness. There were several teachings I needed to hear.

  • "Hurt and disappointment" will "become resentment" and "bitterness." "Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." Page 153. 
  • The focus is on "what I'm supposed to do" not on the offender. Page 154. 
  • Refusing to forgive is like making our self a god. Page 155.  
  • A graphic showing the "Shriveled Soul Syndrome." Page 156-157.
  • Steps to forgive. Page 159-166.
For the toxic root of bitterness poisons every area of our lives, leaving our hearts small and shriveled. Unable to give or receive love because we've chosen to hold on to our pain rather than give it to God. Page 157. 
We don't always have control over the recollections that arise in our minds. But we do have control over whether we will dwell on those memories and allow them to grow into a bitter root of lingering resentment. Page 165.
My second favorite chapter is eight, "Mind Control." In this chapter Weaver discusses the battle that goes on in our minds, toxic thoughts, the assault of fear, the victim mentality, a graphic showing "What I know, Not What I Feel," and reprogramming with God's Word.

Having A Mary Spirit and Lazarus Awakening-both by Joanna Weaver, have been in my TBR pile for a few years. Both books are excellent. They are organized well; and teach with clarity and grace.

Monday, October 19, 2015

(Review) Captivating: Unveiling The Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge

Publication Date: 2005. First published 2004.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson.
Genre: Nonfiction, women, spiritual growth.
Pages: 256.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Between 3 and 4 stars, from good to very good.


John Eldredge wrote a book titled Wild at Heart. In this book, the focus is on the core of a man, their strengths, weaknesses, and God's design for them.
Stasi Eldredge, with the help of her husband, John Eldredge, wrote a book with similar intent, but focusing on the heart of women.
Examples of points taught in the book:

  • Women define themselves by their relationships.
  • Women need to be desired. 
  • Women tend to be controlling. 
  • Greatest fear is abandonment. 
  • Self-blame.
  • "The essence of a woman is beauty."
  • Relational attacks. 

My Thoughts:
Over-all I felt the book was on target for the core strengths and weaknesses of women. Further, I agree with the thrust of the book, quoted on page 123.
"But Jesus is the only one worthy of our heart's devotion."
I can relate to the analysis that women often feel something is "fundamentally wrong with them." The self-blame that inhibits the mind when something is wrong in a relationship.
I can relate to "wounds" that were received as a young girl.
The wounds that we received as young girls did not come alone. They brought messages with them, messages that struck at the core of our hearts, right in the place of our Question. Our wounds strike at the core of our femininity. The damage done to our feminine hearts through the wounds we received is made much worse by the horrible things we believe about ourselves as a result. As children, we didn't have the faculties to process and sort through what was happening to us. Our parents were godlike. We believed them to be right. If we were overwhelmed or belittled or hurt or abused, we believed that somehow it was because of us-the problem was with us." Page 68.
There were at least two places where I felt the teaching was generalized and needed deeper explanation.
  1. The book addresses it is women who want to be in control. I believe women are not the only humans who want to have control. Further, it's personalities and insecurities that are the defining difference in the need to control, for both men and women. 
  2. Several examples are given of women who remained in difficult marriages despite abuse. I agree with the author teams point in looking to the Lord in all things. But I disagree that women should remain and continue to contribute to an abusive marriages. I believe in boundaries. I believe in defining what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. I do not believe it is ever healthy to remain in a marriage that is abusive or abandoned. Before I'm taken out of context. I am not saying that all bad marriages are not worth saving, the people in the marriage will need to determine this. I am not saying God cannot work miracles in a bad marriage. I am not saying the authors implicitly state to remain in an abusive marriage, they steer clear of all out stating this. But I do believe abuse in any form is not to be tolerated. Abuse, even verbal and emotional abuse, affects people physically and spiritually. Abuse affects a person long-term. Abuse affects the children and grandchildren of the abused and abuser. I feel an additional chapter needed to be written in regards to the points I've addressed.