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


Link for more info at Eerdmans


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

Monday, May 23, 2016

(Review) Hunting Hope: Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light by Nika Maples

Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Worthy Publishing Group
Genre: Nonfiction, suffering, hope, Christian life
Pages: 240
Source: Free copy from Worthy Publishing and Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent

Link for further information @ Worthy Publishing Group. 

Barnes and Noble
Christian Book

Hunting Hope Nika Maples

About the author:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram
Nika Maples is the author of Twelve Clean Pages, the memoir of her survival of lupus and a stroke that left her quadriplegic at age 20. After learning to walk and talk again, she became a public school teacher, winning 2007 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year. She holds an MA in English Education from Columbia University and currently is pursuing an MDIV from The King's University. When she is not traveling to speak, she lives, writes, and laughs as much as possible in Fort Worth, Texas.

Hunting Hope is written for an audience of readers going through a dark time of suffering and despair. 
An opening question begins the focal question to be answered in the book: where is God in the hard times? 
Maples explains, 
Questions about suffering are questions about sovereignty, Either God is in control, or He isn't. If God is in control, then what we know about God is more important than what we know about our circumstances. Page 7
Maples answers the focus question by teaching us to be "hope hunters." Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Lazarus, and Paul were all hope hunters. Their stories bring a Biblical perspective and reminder to us: we are all hope hunters, hunting for hope in the hard seasons of life.
The hope hunter's response to obstacles is always to surrender to God's work through our trials. God is for us, not against, us. Perhaps our best question is not "How could You let this happen to me, Lord?" but "How are You using this for me, Lord?" Page 7
My Thoughts: 
I love this book for several reasons.
Afterwards, many of her teachings continue to recur in my mind. I feel this is one of those books that I will go back and read again and again, sort of like a devotional book.
Nika Maples has gone through hard seasons in life. One particular time is when she was left a quadriplegic after a stroke. She has since recovered. Maples looks back on this period in her life to bring about a blessing to readers going through hard times.
Maples shares from her life, but the focus is not on her, it is on the Lord and His work in her life.
Maples tone in the book is of a dear friend, holding my hand, and speaking gently. She is personable, transparent, and loving.
Often, while reading the book I had to stop and ponder. Hunting Hope is a deeply moving and penetrating book.

Hunting Hope is full of rich quotes:
Suffering refines our character, and when we grow closer to God because of it, suffering reveals God's character. The Bible tells us that faithfulness is His character, and we see that clearly through the way He sustains us in our trials. Pages 22
God doesn't want to stay in our lovely chapels. He wants to walk the much of our streets. Page 33 
Is it possible that the dark seasons in your life have had similar themes? Ask the Lord to help you see what they are. Maybe yesterday has prepared you for today. Before you begin a battle, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the sword in the corner-the weapon or tool that already belongs to you. Page 76
...but God has used your yesterdays to strengthen you for today. Page 78 
Jesus is always beside me, but He doesn't take the trash to the curb. He doesn't help me clean the pool. Instead, He gives me the patience, gives me the inner strength, gives me the grace, and gives me the wisdom to do it myself. Page 148
There is a webcast this Thursday, May 26, for Hunting Hope.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

(Review) The End of Law: A novel of Hitler's Germany by Therese Down

Publication Date: March 27, 2016
Publisher: Kregel
Genre: Historical fiction, World War II, Nazi Germany
Pages: 320
Source: Free paperback copy from Kregel in exchange for a review
Rating: 5 stars for excellent

Link @ the publisher for more info: The End of Law. 

1933, Germany.
When the story begins, Hedda Schroeder, age 20, is a glamorous woman who is interested in a social life, and parties held in "smoky clubs." Her parents are Ernst and Mathilde Schroeder. Her father is a well-known German Chemist. Hedda began dating Walter Gunther, "a General Staff Officer, serving under Chief of Staff Officer Ludwig Beck." He is "on occasional social terms with Goering." Walter and Hedda marry. Walter believes their marriage will help his career and standing with the party. They have two children, Agnette and Anselm. As the story progresses, Walter's demeanor and mental instability spirals downward into an abyss of hatred, bitterness, hostility, and murderous rampage. On the other hand, Hedda, who at one time cared for parties and dates, and cast a blind eye to the Nazi Party, becomes a depressed and fearful wife and mother. Walter is involved in the T4 Euthanasia Program. The program affects personally the family of Walter and Hedda.

My Thoughts:
I've read a long list of books on World War II and the Holocaust. This is the first book I've read on the T4 Euthanasia Program. To state this is a difficult book to read is an understatement. However, the historical fiction story must be told to share the horrors of what other humans did to their own, in hopes this will never happen again.
Several reasons led me to award The End of Law 5 stars for excellent.

  • External and internal conflicts. The Holocaust, war, and the Nazi killing machine are the external conflicts. The internal conflicts are the victims, and the people who defy the Nazi's murderous pogrom.
  • A story of domestic violence. Its affects on the abused adult and on the children. It also shows the abuser's need to control and dominate. The End of Law is an education on domestic violence. Some readers may find this subject to be unpleasant and will not read a story with this type of element. I am a victim of domestic violence and feel the subject should be talked about and it should be given attention, which will lead to educating people in hopes of saving a life. 
  • Development of characters. Hedda has a remarkable transformation. Her moment of change came when she became a mother. I saw throughout the story a continuing rise in her development. 
  • The effects on the people who worked in the T4 Euthanasia Program. From those who created the chemicals, to those who gave orders, to those who carried out the administrations, and to those who were affected by the fatal dose. 
  • The story is intense, but there are moments of tenderness and love. 
  • The End of Law is the story of sacrificial love. 
  • The quote below gives an example of symbolism. The descriptions show Walter's demeanor, but it also shows the lack of intimacy in the marriage and home.
Walter felt love for no one. He was permanently angry, resentful or disgusted. If he allowed any softer sentiment to colour his thoughts it was self-pity. As for Hedda, he loathed her. Loathed her tired, permanently sad, mooning face; loathed the insolent reproach of her sidelong, glances as he passed her in rooms they couldn't bear to share. 
Links for further information on the T4 Euthanasia Program and Nazi medical experiments.
From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Jewish Virtual Library
Holocaust Research Project
The Holocaust Chronicle
The Euthanasia Program and Nurses Participation

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

(Review) Chronological Study Bible, New King James Version by Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: New King James Version Bible
Pages: 1728
Source: Free copy from Thomas Nelson in exchange for a review
Rating: 5 stars for excellent!

Link @ the publisher for more info: Thomas Nelson

Christian Book


  • Described as rich stone/midnight blue leather-soft. The edges of the Bible are silver.
  • 9 point text size.
  • Cream colored ribbon marker.
  • Ten color maps are located in the back of the Bible. Plus, dozens of other maps are included in the Bible.
  • Concordance of 195 pages.
  • Glossary.
  • A topical index.
  • Index of Scripture passages.
  • Two choices of Bible reading plans: one and two year. 
  • Time capsules. This information provides dates and historical information on history given and not given in the Bible. 
  • A time structure is given for Bible events.
  • Background notes.
  • Nine Epochs are defined.
  • Daily life during the Bible period.
  • An introduction on the definition of a Chronological Study Bible.
  • A short study on reading theological history.
  • The history of the arrangement of the canonical Bible.
  • The history of the text of the New King James Version. 
  • Beautiful color illustrations on most pages. 

The three photographs are from my Bible.

My Thoughts:
This is the most beautiful Bible I've reviewed thus far in my 9 years of writing reviews!

The first point I want to make is this is not the normal canonical Bible. I've read a few reviews from people who were surprised by the lay-out of the Bible books in this Chronological Study Bible. The definition of this type of Bible is in the title and should not be a surprise: Chronological Study Bible
A definition is given on page xiii, "The Chronological Study Bible makes the Bible's historical background more accessible by rearranging the Bible text according to nine epochs of time." In this section, an explanation of the Bible's compilation is given. The "historical text" of the whole Bible is the emphasis. 
"...whole books of the Bible are relocated according to the historical time period narrated in the books. This reordering disrupts the canonical order of the books, and though this might seem irreverent to some people, it actually continues an ancient practice. The order of books in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) differs from that of the older Hebrew Bible, and some of the Septuagint reordering is reflected in our English Old Testaments."
"Nine Epochs" divide this Bible:
"Epoch 1": The time before the patriarchs and the beginning of civilization.
"Epoch 2": The time of the patriarchs and Egypt.
"Epoch 3": The Exodus from Egypt.
"Epoch 4": The Israelite tribes and development of Canaan.
"Epoch 5": The two divided kingdoms. The fallen kingdoms.
"Epoch 6": "The Exile and Return." Books of wisdom.
"Epoch 7": The Greek and Roman empires.
"Epoch 8": Jesus Christ and the Gospels.
"Epoch 9": "The Church Age." Revelation.

An example of the lay-out or order of the "Church Age" is the book of Acts is already in chronological order, but the epistles are dispersed or interjected into the places where their time event happened. For example, after Acts 15, Galatians 1 begins, and after Galatians chapter 6, the books of James begins.
In the Gospel books, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are arranged similar to the Harmony of the Gospelsbut the lead off is John chapter 1, followed by Luke, and Matthew and so forth. After Luke chapter 4, Mark begins.

It is important to read the introduction sections of this Bible in order to fully understand the intentions and purpose.

An important question to ask when looking for any type of Bible to purchase: how will I use this Bible?
The Chronological Study Bible is an excellent tool for daily Bible reading. It is also excellent for reference.
I do not believe this Bible would work for a Bible study, for example, Bible Study Fellowship.
This is not a Bible for Bible journaling. The pages are thin. The pages do not have room for taking notes, unless small handwriting is used. Plus, most pages already have illustrations.

Having stated the above pros and cons: I love this Bible! As my fellow blogger friend states sometimes (Becky @ Operation Actually Read Bible). I am just giddy about this Bible!
I have already began using it for daily Bible reading. My starting point is "Epoch 9", "The Church Age."

Are you reading your Bible? 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Africa Study Bible Kickstarter Campaign

Major Christian Organizations Partner to Launch Africa Study Bible Kickstarter Campaign Planned to Help Raise 1 Million for 100,000 Study Bibles 

Wheaton, IL – Millions of English-speaking Africans know and love Christ, but for many, God’s word is hard to grasp. With nearly every full evangelical study Bible written from the viewpoint of the United States and United Kingdom, Africans have lacked a resource that connects with their unique experience, hindering discipleship. But that is about to change as major Christian organizations, led by Oasis International, are joining together to launch the Africa Study Bible (ASB), a six-year, cross-continental effort that has produced the first study Bible developed by Africans for Africans. “With the ASB, we’re bringing the power of Scripture to Africa in a new and culturally relevant way,” says Dr. Matthew Elliott, president of Oasis, publisher of the ASB. “Under the leadership of an 11-member editorial board of scholars from across Africa, we’ve brought together 350 writers and editors from over 40 African countries, representing 50 denominations. This is an unprecedented project that will impact the global church.” With the editorial nearly complete, Oasis, with the support of its partners, is inviting fellow Christians to join with them in helping get the ASB into the hands of Africans. With a goal of raising one million dollars to print the first 100,000 copies, Oasis is seeking private donors as well as launching a Kickstarter campaign, which begins April 18 and runs through June 16. Contributors to the Kickstarter campaign have the opportunity to receive incentives ranging from artwork prints to limited Italian leather editions of the ASB as well as all-expense paid trips to the launch of the ASB in the United States and in Africa. “Our goal is to have the first run of the ASB available in Africa by the end of 2016,” says Elliott. “We already know of more than 100 million people in denominations and movements in Africa whose leaders want to use the ASB for discipleship so there is a lot of anticipation throughout the continent.” Designed to grow the faith of African church members, teach them to evangelize their communities, and apply a biblical worldview to their society, the ASB uses the New Living Translation and includes 2,400 plus features such as application notes, stories and proverbs, touch points that link Africa and the Bible, learn notes that explain basic theology, and major theme articles that apply the Bible to key issues. Oasis plans to initially release the ASB in English with French and Portuguese translations in development. Oasis is also developing a full-featured app of the study Bible. To support the effort, Oasis is partnering with Tyndale House Publishers to create the study Bible. Other participants include Campus Crusade for Christ, International, Willow Creek and Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students), Scripture Union, Africa Leadership, TransWorld Radio, Moody Broadcasting, Center for Early African Christianity, PJA (Publications pour la Jeunesse Africane), MMD Global, The Livingstone Corporation, InSight Books, Urban Ministries Inc., and the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, with additional participants being added on a regular basis. “We have seen the hand of God in amazing ways throughout the development of this project,” says Elliott. “In the words of our supervising editor, Dr. John Jusu, the content of the ASB is bubbling up from the cultures of Africa. The biblical truth is percolating through our own cultures and stories to create a rich and textured tapestry that Africans can claim as their own.” 

Dr. Matthew Elliott serves as president of Oasis International and project director for the Africa Study Bible. Oasis International serves areas of the English-speaking world where people lack access to affordable Christian literature and the Bibles needed to mature in their faith. In these countries, the measure of annual incomes is often in hundreds, not thousands, of dollars. The great needs of Africa, in particular, drive Oasis to concentrate on this continent, where the Church is experiencing significant growth yet printed resources are scarce. Matthew earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and master’s degree in New Testament at Wheaton College, as well as a Masters of Theology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in New Testament Studies from University of Aberdeen (Scotland). He was ordained at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois under Dr. Kent Hughes. He is the author of Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament (InterVarsity UK/Kregel) and Feel (Tyndale House). Matthew, his wife, Laura, and three children reside in the Chicago area. For more information on Oasis and the Africa Study Bible, visit www.oasisint.net or www.africastudybible.com

Examples of Rewards in the Kickstarter Campaign

Link @ Kickstarter Campaign
At this link you will see examples of pages from the Bible!

When you give $5 or more to this amazing project you will receive a thank you shoutout on our Twitter and Facebook pages AND a special preview of the Africa Study Bible(ASB) book of Genesis!

When you give $15 or more to this amazing project you will receive: - A social media thank you - ASB Genesis preview PLUS you will also receive a 5x8 reproduction of an Africa Study Bible inspired Tim Botts artwork! See his work at www.timbotts.com

When you give $100 or more to this amazing project you will receive: - A social media thank you - ASB Genesis preview - 5X8 ASB inspired artwork - The full ASB app PLUS you will also receive the advanced limited edition genuine bonded leather AfricaStudy Bible!

 When you give $10,000 or more to this amazing project you will receive: - A social media thank you - ASB Genesis preview - 5x8 ASB inspired artwork - The full ASB app - The edge-lined goatskin leather ASB - The two original matted and framed ASB inspired artwork PLUS we will BRING YOU TO KENYA for the launch of the Africa Study Bible and a safari!

Example of special features of the Bible

Monday, April 18, 2016

(Review) Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse by Ruth A. Tucker

Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Nonfiction, Domestic Abuse
Pages: 208
Source: Paperback copy provided by Book Look Bloggers/Harper Collins Publishing, in exchange for a review.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars for good

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Barnes and Noble

Excerpt from Zondervan. 

Ruth A. Tucker's blog @ Ruth Tucker. 
and the blog @ Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife.

Tim Challies review of the book: Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife 

Further links:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Help Guide
Domestic Violence

"If this volume saves even one woman from further domestic abuse, my dread in writing will have been worth it." Ruth A. Tucker

The above quote is the main purpose for the writing of the book. Tucker shares her story of being in an abusive marriage. She provides insight to a world many people in the Church do not understand or who have ambivalent feelings.
Pastors, leaders in the Church, and well-known Christian speakers give voice and advice, not knowing their words place the abused in harm's way.
Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is a starting point for Christians to read and educate themselves about domestic violence. The book is a discussion tool. It is a place to create knowledge and wisdom on a subject that has been kept in the shadows.

The first chapter reflects on a debate Tucker and Dr. John Piper had in 1995. The subject of the debate was, "Should marriage be based on a model of mutual submission and equality or on a model of male headship?" Tucker brings out a second theme in Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: the Complementarian belief. This belief holds men and women have different roles and responsibilities in marriage, family, and church leadership.
Submission in the marriage is a stumbled upon word. It's a word misunderstood and used to take advantage of another. I appreciated Tucker sharing Bible stories of men and families who were imperfect. Men who were well-known OT heroes; however, they treated their wives disrespectfully and often brought about generational problems. Two men were admirable: Elkanah and Boaz.
A less spoke upon theme in the book, but blatantly clear is how Christians interpret the Bible. There are Christians who are conservative, fundamental, moderate, and liberal. There are also Christians who have no idea what they believe, because they do not read the Bible.
Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife surprised me with other topics of interest: parenting, marriage, and a person's character.
The main focus of the book is on the domestic abuse Tucker and her son lived through when she was married to her first husband. As well as, the choices she made as a result of the abuse, the long-term affects on her and her son, and the response of the church in regards to her abuse.

I'm thankful to writers who take off their mask and become transparent in sharing stories of domestic abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual addiction, imprisonment, child abuse, sexual abuse/assault, bankruptcy, prostitution, mental health conditions, adultery, terminal/end of life, grieving a death, and PTSD.
There will always be people who do not believe a life story shared. They will look for a loop hole or make a negative remark. But this should not stop the story from being shared. The story is meant to help. It is a personal and private story shared. Only God knows what is in a person's heart. To declare the abused is giving false information or with an intent to stir the pot on a subject is inappropriate.

If you are a reader who is liberal in regards to gender equality, this is not a pro-gender equality book. Tucker's book tries to answer the question of biblical equality in a marriage; plus her story of abuse. Tucker comes close to this subject in Chapter 5, by showing a research analysis on gender differences in brains: emotional stimuli in female brains versus male.
Chapter 8 is on cultural issues including genital mutilation and a hatred of women. I wish this chapter had been omitted. It is interesting reading material, but I don't think it helped the over-all purpose of the book. Rap music is talked about in this chapter. I feel the chapter needs further clarification, to speak on several points in this one chapter is heavy, and made me feel culture groups might feel slighted. However, I do agree with the statement on page 126, "...the demand to domineer is always present. Yet hatred of women is not easily detectable. Indeed, there is a fine line between male domination and misogyny."
Chapter 9 is on rape in marriage. This chapter I had a problem with.
Dare we ask Todd Akin's questions; Is a particular incident a case of 'legitimate rape'? I may be walking on thin ice here, but perhaps the question has merit. As we've already seen when it comes to domestic violence, we should not automatically believe everyone's story. Is there a motive for someone to lie, perhaps in a child custody battle? And what is the definition of abuse? Is it abuse when a husband tells a wife she ought to lose twenty pounds and wear sexy nighties? While such behavior may not be appropriate, we dare not flatten a crime so much that it means nothing. If almost everything is abuse, then nothing is abuse. So it is with rape. If we define it too broadly, the term almost becomes meaningless. So, then what is legitimate rape?" Page 134
I quoted the entire paragraph in order to not chop up words to take out of context.
First of all I cannot believe she said, "we should not automatically believe everyone's story." Yikes. Does this mean we should not believe her story or my story? As I stated above it is inappropriate to accuse someone else of being a liar...at least out of the court system.
I dislike the wording of defining rape and using words like "meaningless" and "legitimate". This area of the book needs clarification.

I feel a weak point over-all in the book is bringing about too many elements, because the book is not long enough in explaining and clarifying every given element.
The strong point over-all in the book is bringing to light domestic abuse and child abuse, because these affect not just the world but Christian homes. The Church must educate and prepare for helping the abused and oppressed.