The Forgiving Jar By Wanda E. Brunstetter

The author’s great reputation as a writer drew me to the book, but also something a bit odder. The word jar in the title! I love jars and using them for something more than food. A journal jar, a “why I love you jar’, my list could go on. In the end the wonderful story of mercy and compassion were the best part! I have not read the previous book to this series but I it can be read as a standalone.
I fell in love with Willis and Ruth Lapp! They are such a sweet elderly couple with such wisdom and love for others. Sara grew up without knowing the Lapps were her grandparents. After discovering they were her family she visited them only to find a young woman had been impersonating her! The impersonator, Michelle leaves and Sara returns home to work. The dentist she works for retires leaving her jobless. She decides to move Strasburg and make it her home. Hoping to live with her grandparents until she finds a job and a home, she is filled with anticipation. Everything comes crashing down when she arrives and finds Michelle has returned and apologized for her deception. Much to Sara’s chagrin the Lapps had not only forgiven her but allowed her to move in again! Sara is more than furious she is seething with anger! With Michelle and her in close quarters her bitterness festers even more and consumes her. She turns green with envy at the love and closeness the Lapps share with Michelle. Willis and Ruth are well aware of the girls’ conflict but continue to bath them in prayer and affection. Sara finds a jar hidden in the cellar filled with Bible verses and notes on forgiveness. Rather than letting the truths touch her, she hardens her heart and nurses her grudges. Michelle finds it difficult to deal with Sara’s animosity and hostility, but works hard at turning the other cheek and applying God’s Word.
I love the way true scriptural forgiveness is played out in this story! The author vividly captures resentment and bitter attitude that is displayed by those who refuse to forgive an offender. She also displays the strength and peace that comes from obeying God’s command to forgiven others as He has forgiven us. A beautiful story! I liked the bonus of the Amish recipes at the end of the book. I am looking forward to reading the other two books in The Prayer Jars series!

The Reluctant Belle By Beth White

The aftermath of the Civil War left much loss and destruction in its wake. This was not only physical but also emotional. Joelle was trying to rebuild her and her sister’s lives by turning their grand home into a hotel. It was not an easy transition financially or otherwise. Her strength and determination were impressive, especially during a time when women were considered lesser than men. Her courage was even greater in her compassion and work to help the ex-slaves build lives with their new found freedom. There is no doubt that Joelle’s driving force in her integrity was her faith in God.
If only helping her family and the slaves was that easy. The war had left bitterness in the hearts of many men who did not agree with the outcome. Without national combat on their side, they crept into the woodwork, hiding their hatred and plotting in darkness. Like many, Joelle was unaware of exactly who these sinister people were until she was viewed as their enemy.
Schuyler Beaumont is a childhood friend of Joelle’s. He is wealthy and had a reputation before the war of being self-serving. It has changed him too, as also wants to help the newly freed people. The murder of his father during a political speech puts him on the path to find the killer. Working undercover he draws closer to finding his man, even going as far as to join the Ku Klux Klan.
This book is not only rich in historical facts but also in detail what those in the South faced after the Civil War. The characters are and in-depth. I saw there was another battle raging I had not considered after the last shot was fired. You hear of the evil workings of groups like the KKK but don’t realize how terrifying the people they targeted. In the midst of all this there is also romance and humor. A fantastic book!

On A Summer Tide By Suzanne Woods Fisher

What a fun book! Whenever I pick up a book by Ms. Fisher I know I will enjoy it!
Since his wife passed away, Paul Grayson not on struggles with what to do with his future, but missing his daughters and the family connection they shared. He comes up with (what he feels) is not only a brilliant, fulfilling idea, but something that will bring his family back together. He buys Camp Kicking Moose on the coast of Maine which gives him 51 % ownership of an island! The purchase is sight unseen with only the memories of how it used to be when he met his wife there.
His three daughters upon hearing the news are not as excited as Dad. They think he has lost his mind and even more so when they see the camp! All the sisters’ relationships have drifted apart. Different isn’t an adequate word to describe their pursuits, personalities and quirks. Now Dad throws this into the mix. They travel to the camp on their fathers’ insistence at which point they are SURE he is mentally unstable! The cabins and buildings have disintegrated, the caretaker’s home is in need of huge repairs and the few inhabitants are unhappy about the new owner. These modern sisters cannot even fathom poor internet and cell phone connections, not to mention the rustic accommodations.
As this dysfunctional family is confronted with changes, situations and choices they never dreamed of, they do what most people do, fight it on every level. But as this mountain they deem as a nightmare does not budge, things begin to happen within them. The girls are force to slow down and detach from their crazy lives causing them to have a different view of what’s important, who is important, and what they really want to do with their futures. These transitions are inspiring to the reader. It reminds me of how we can all be blinded to and trapped in day to day life forgetting to allow God to speak and guide us. It made me long for a quieter simpler time and place. Don’t get me wrong the book isn’t all seriousness. There was lots of humor! The vomiting cat had me in stitches! I cannot wait for the next book in this series!

A Tender Hope By Amanda Cabot

Ms. Cabot is an author I truly enjoy. Her historical fiction is wholesome and entertaining. This is her third in the Cimarron Creek Trilogy. I have read the other two and could not wait to read this one! I am sorry to see the series come to an end. This can easily be read as a stand alone
Thea arrives in Cimarron Creek, Texas, recently hired as the new midwife. It is the late 1800’s. She comes here hoping for a fresh start. Her husband has died and she has also lost her child at birth. Her hopes are to go about a job she loves and keep to herself. The wounds are fresh and her heart is raw. Unbeknownst to her, this fresh start drags along part of her past, some of which she had no clue. A Texas Ranger named Jackson is on the hunt for outlaws that killed his brother and badly hurt is partner. While out searching for clues he finds a newborn left in the middle of nowhere. He brings the babe to the only person he knows can care for it, the new midwife.
The vast range of emotions of each character and the detailed description of their lives and experiences make the story enjoyable and inviting. As with all of Ms. Cabot’s writings the importance of God runs strong throughout the book. Something that jumped out to me as a reminder and lesson for my life is the miscommunication and misunderstandings between people when they assume but never talk about it or ask. This book made it hard for me to turn out the light at night and go to bed! I just kept saying I would read one more page!!!

Five Brides By Eva Marie Everson

I am drawn into any book that is based on a true story as was this one! I so enjoyed this one! It is the 1950’s and things are changing in the world and society. Young women are choosing to leave home before marriage and have careers. This is about 5 such women. Combining their money to purchase an extravagantly expensive wedding gown they see while window shopping. Afterwards all made some very special promises and conditions to each other involving it.
Each is very different in personality and back ground which makes the book even more interesting! There is a wealthy rebellious socialite, a British expat, 2 totally opposite sisters from a small town and farm girl. Quite the mixture! I love the way the author captured their thoughts and emotions so intimately. These young ladies all were raised with strong morals and Christian values that were a part of that era. Yet as with all young people today striking out on their own, their new found freedom and the temptations the world has to offer can prove difficult to handle. Due to economic difficulty (except for one) and through various events they share an apartment together. What makes it even more interesting is that they have never met before! Their struggles and learning to adapt to a new home, friends, jobs, and maturing is played out beautifully by the author. I was impressed how they supported each other in their discoveries, and mistakes. There is so much to this book! You will not want to miss reading it!

Managing Worry and Anxiety By Jean Holthaus LISW, LMSW

Worry and anxiety are things I have struggled with on and off throughout my life. When facing those times it can be overwhelming. I was interested in reading this book not only for new insight and ideas but also because with anything in my life I want to approach from God’s point of view, spiritual and scriptural. The author is definitely through in covering the subject from all angles. She knows what she is talking about.
I liked how she explained the difference between anxiety and worry, two things I had always clumped together. The book also had several graphics throughout that did a wonderful job in helping me understand concepts discussed. Reading about all the various aspects of life that affect anxiety opened my eyes to sources I had not thought of before. Of these the most surprising was misconceptions in how I view God!
Ms. Holthaus covered all areas that are a part of anxiety: Biological, mental, emotional, social, environmental, and spiritual. This allowed me to see the big picture instead of clumping my ideas into one or two areas.
She doesn’t leave you hanging! At the end of the book she gives necessary skills to overcome and control your emotions in daily living and when life throws those unexpected curves. I particularly liked “Feeling Words” in the back of the book.
This is not a quick fix or a quick read, but a very informative and helpful writing. It is almost like having a series of appointments with a therapist just for the price of a book!
I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

The Worst Christmas Ever By Kathleen Long Bostrom

If your family has the tradition of wrapping up Christmas and reading one a day until Christmas day, you will want to add this one to your list! I really liked the illustrations. Not only are they colorful but the characters and their expressions are very appealing. I think their visual quality really added to the story.
Matthew thinks he will have the worst Christmas ever. His family has moved to California, new home, new school, no friends, a new church and no snow! I am assuming from his disappointment that there will be no snow, they have moved from a state with a much colder climate. Everything was different, too different. His family volunteers to be in their new church’s live nativity, not Matthew’s choice either. To make matters worse, his dog Jasper runs away! Many days without his faithful companion leaves Matthew feeling very low on Christmas Eve. The book ends in special surprise one that helps Matthew see Christmas isn’t about the physical trappings but something much more important. A unique and meaningful holiday book.

Stories behind the Songs and Hymns about Heaven By Ace Collins

No doubt about it I love hymns. They are not about entertainment but worship. This book was not only inspiring but so informative! There are the stories of 30 hymns included. All but 5 I have either sung as a special or in congregational singing. We sing hymns over and over in church. They have become familiar and a fabric of our song services, but we have little idea about their background. Each hymn has the scripture that it relates to its special story and how it can apply to us today. I appreciate the author’s attention to detail in researching these beautiful songs. Knowing the trials, heart aches and tests of faith that moved these men to pen these famous words definitely puts them in a different light to me. These were ordinary Christians reaching out to God from their hearts and spirits. I will never sing them again without thinking of their roots and deeper meaning. Their message to me will be much more than words on a page and the personal feelings they evoke. This would be a wonderful devotion book, study book, or something for the song leaders to share during the service.
I received this book from Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

The Coming Revolution in Church Economics By Mark Deymas

I can tell the author put a lot of thought and work into writing this book. He did an excellent job of that. Past that I cannot agree with him. First his approach of tithing in the New Testament is not biblically accurate. We live not under the law now but by grace. It still applies.
The concept of the church becoming involved as a worldly business to support itself is a sacrilege to me. The focus will be on money and possessions, not its true calling. The church is not building and assets, it is the people. Is it possible that some churches like individuals have stepped over the boundaries of what they can afford and now cannot maintain it? Yes the church needs an adequate building, classrooms, lights, heating, the basics but beyond that no. It is there to spread God’s Word and Christ’s sacrifice, not have all the latest technology, impressive decorations, etc. To say that God will not provide for the church’s NEEDS is offensive. Yes “needs”, not wants. God does and He will. My husband pastored a small church for 21 ½ years before he died and I still attend there. In number we are on the small side still, and no not all our member’s tithe, but the church has been functioning a alive for 36 years now. The miracles we have seen in God’s provision is nothing short of amazing. When I great need arises God has always miraculously provided, many times to the exact cent. It grieves me to think that God’s church would turn away from complete faith in His promises to take things into their own hands.
I received this book from Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

God’s Hostage By Andrew Brunson

This book is very emotionally charged to read. Pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife Norrine had served as a missionary’s wife in Turkey for 23 years. Their love of the people and commitment to sharing the gospel with them ran deep. So much so they applied for a permanent visa and make the country their forever home. In 2016 they were both arrested. Norrine was shortly released but Andrew remained imprisoned for 735 days in horrible conditions. He was accused of being a spy and a terrorist. His is an incredible story of being persecuted for righteousness sake.
I applaud and admire Andrew’s courage to be transparent about his thoughts, emotions and testing of his faith. He didn’t pretend to be the hero or a super saint, just the real deal.
While I have never been imprisoned with false accusations nor faced any of the extreme trials he did, I have experienced emotions and situations in lesser situations that he shared. Andrew speaks of his time of depression, anxiety attacks, hopelessness, thoughts of suicide, fear, and even questioning his faith and God’s existence. Pretty extreme right? Some may read this a judge him. “He is a pastor! He is a Christian! He should have these thoughts and feelings!” Wrong! We are all flesh and of this world. Anyone in circumstances can falter and fall. That does not mean we are not Christ’s. I felt like a failure during those times and that I was probably the only one or a rare few of God’s children to disappoint Him so. I am not happy the author went through these things but it helped me see even His strongest, most dedicated servants waver.
I have felt all of these in times that crushed my spirit and if most Christians were honest they would admit to the same. Satan can put us in a place where his attacks wear one down. He also admitted to needing medication to get through. This is frowned up on in the Christian community.
The bottom line is God delivered him! Did he fail as God’s man? No! He went through the fire and always came back to his Savior and God. As horrific as these events were, he came out stronger and is still serving God. Bravo Pastor Brunson!
I received this book from Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.