The Tainted Coin The Fifth Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon by Mel Starr

How could I have missed this author and why didn’t I find him sooner!!!!   Oh how I enjoyed this book!  Talk about being transported back into time!  It is so unusual to find historical fiction books written about the 1300’s.  The setting is Medieval England, 1367.  Hugh de Singleton is a surgeon and a bailiff for Lord Talbot.  You might say he was a Dr. Quincy, doctor/detective of the time, but his sleuthing depended upon keen observation, intelligence, and quick thinking.  There was no internet, forensic medicine, or criminal records to aid him.

The story opens with him being called to the chapel to care for a man the priest had found badly beaten.  Before he dies, he utters the words, “They didn’t get me coin”. In preparing the victim for burial, Hugh finds an ancient Roman coin in his mouth.  It is now his duty to find the murderers and bring them to justice.   His search is not a simple one and leads him into many perilous situations, endangering his family, and one almost costing him his life.  The further he investigates the more tangled the mystery becomes and the more problem’s Hugh becomes personally involved in and feels responsible to resolve.

The character’s dialogs are written in the same manner that people would have spoken during that time.  For me this added to the realism of the period and drew me into the story as a participant.

In addition to being extremely entertaining, the book was a veritable treasure of history lessons in many aspects.  I learned so many new facts!  Day to day living, especially with the peasants, was severe and uncompromising. Even the poorest of poor today live better than these did.  While nobles and upper-class citizens such as Hugh fared better than the average citizen, their lives were grossly lacking in comparison to ours today.  Social classes had clearly drawn lines between them and they were strictly observed.

Hugh’s interaction with the people he meets sheds great light also on what foods were eaten, how it was prepared, superstitions, homes, traditional festivals, and religious ceremonies of that age.

I love anything to do with the medical field and was awestruck by the detailed information about the practice of medicine.   The use of herbs was extremely interesting.  Who knew crushed lettuce seeds could help pain?  A stark reminder of how little they had to work with.   Surgery without anesthesia seemed a bit barbaric, but pain was accepted as there was no other remedy.  I must admit that I cringed with the patients as I read some of the treatments.  Though no extensive medical training as we know today was available, I saw the surgeons definitely had impressive skills.  What really stood out was that recovery depended upon food, rest, and allowing the body repair itself.  You had to be tough to live during those times!

The author’s detailed research in all these areas not only dispelled my vague ideas of medieval life but also stripped me of many of the modern conveniences and perks I take for granted today.

How Mr. Starr combined, history, mystery, suspense, and humor into one novel is nothing short of amazing, but he did so, and with great skill!  This was a book I didn’t want to end.  I was thrilled to find out there are 4 previous books in the series and another on the way.  I look forward to reading ALL of them and any others Mr. Starr might write.

I received this book free from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Candle Bible for Kids: Toddler Edition

This is the perfect book of Bible stories for little hearts and minds learning about God’s Word.    The soft cover and size are perfect for small hands to hold and use.  I also liked the fact the cover is washable.  An especially nice feature where kids are involved! 

The illustrations were excellent, with bright bold colors.  This will be a real attention holder for young ones.   Each page has one to four lines on it; just the right length for short attention spans.   What was surprising was how very clearly they conveyed the Bible stories with so few words.   The simplicity will definitely enable a small child to grasp and understand the story.

I particularly liked the book and chapter Bible references at the end of sentences that showed where in God Word the story was taken from.  This makes it easy for the parent to go directly the Bible read the complete story.

This would be a beautiful gift for a baby or young child.  A very nice addition to any young child’s “library”.

I received this book from Kregel Publications for my honest review.

 

WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR CHURCH? Part 1 by Narita Roady

The pathway to a new year stands before us, unknown and untraveled.   We will all experience adventure, joy, sadness, and loss.    Sometimes that loss will involve regrets concerning those things we have taken for granted.  Ingratitude fueled by busyness and the lack of correct priorities will allow precious things to slip away.  The saddest part is we will not realize their value nor how important they are to us until they are gone.  Then it will be too late.  Children grow up, loved ones and friends pass away.   Even sadder is in some cases, our neglect was a major part of their demise.  Disregard  for our health and use of the finances God gave us can play a major role in losing what we thought would always be there.   Along that line of thought, let me ask you, “What would you do if your church closed its doors this year.”   After all, isn’t a strong, truth preaching, loving, biblical church something most people take for granted.   Yes, your church may have been here for 20, 30, 50 years or more but if neglected by her members she cannot remain open.

Right now in America up to 7,000 churches close their doors each year.  Many of those shouldn’t have had to die.  That may not sound like a lot but what if it was YOUR church.  Some members would be sad, some wouldn’t care, some would just find a new church home,  and some would simply look at it as an inconvenience rather than a loss.  Others would just drop out of church completely.

We are undeniably in the last days, therefore God’s work is being attacked on every side.  Our religious freedoms are being challenged and attempts made to take them away.  Even our freedom to worship is gradually dwindling.   Not all these are in our control, but how grievous when Satan is enabled to destroy a church from within.  There are 8 major “ Assassins” of the church.

1. Sporadic Attendance. Being a Christian is not a hobby, it is a relationship with Christ.  Being a church member is not optional, it is a commitment to obey the Lord and also to His church that He died for “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”   Hebrews 10:25

Where do people ever get the idea that attending services is based on mood, convenience, or if there is something else they would rather do?  The church is a family and you are important and of value whether you recognize it or not.  As members of a local body of Christ (your church) scripture compares us to the physical body. So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:5

Yes we might be able to function without certain body parts, but certainly not effectively.  Over a period of time this loss will cause the health and efficiency of the body to drastically decline.  This applies to churches also.  If a school is not supported by the faithful attendance of pupils, it will have to close. If a library does not have regular patrons to check books, it will have to close.  Do you get the picture?

When members decide to lay out of service I assume they are looking at themselves as only one member.  What happens when 2 or 5 or even 10 members decide to do the same?  In a large church this might not have an impact but in a medium to small church the effect can be devastating.  Churches lose an estimated 2,765,000 people each year to secularism. Members that begin skipping 1 or 2 services are in danger of eventually leaving the church and being absorbed back into the world.  The habit develops so gradually that you don’t realize how much or how long you have missed.  Church attendance dropped from 1,606,000 in 1968 to 881,000 in 2005. I am sure it is safe to say the numbers are even greater now.   If you want your church to exist,  support it by your presence to all services.  The blessing of having a church home and the freedom to attend is a gift.  Don’t take it lightly.

2. Not supporting the church financially.  Yes this is the one everyone hates, everyone shys away from, and many get angry about.  (Well at least the ones who aren’t doing it.)  Tithing.  The word “tithe” means 10 %.  Everything we have belongs to God.  Every chair, every alarm clock, every dust bunny and every penny we own belongs to God.   All of it is on loan to us. Unfortunately many Christians look at their money according  to one of the “Toddler’s Rules of  Possession”: “If it’s in my hand it’s MINE!”   All He ask for is 10% and that adds up to only 10 cents from every dollar we earn. You have to admit that is a  pretty fair trade!  You keep 90% and He gets 10% of what is all rightfully His!   No family, business or institution can remain open without financial support.  It’s just impossible. If every customer that frequents your local grocery store began only spending $5.00 to $25.00 a week or even a month, how long would the doors stay open?   How long could you provide for your family if your boss decided to pay you what he felt like each paycheck.  “Ralph, this week your paycheck will just be $20.  I know you’ll understand, me and the wife have had some unexpected expenses and Junior wants a new X-Box.”  How long could you support your family and keep a roof over their head this way?  Does your church have heat for the winter and air-conditioning for the summer?  Is there toilet paper, hand towels, soap and running water in the bathrooms?   Is lighting provided for night services?  Who then pays for all these comforts we enjoy?  This doesn’t include many other expenses, not to mention the pastor’s salary and his need to provide for his family.  Our giving is more than just putting money in the offering plate.  Giving is another way we show the Lord we love Him. It is also an act of  obedience to God.  This obedience opens the door for Him to bless us. Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”   Luke 6:38   

No I don’t mean we will turn into Donald Trump or Bill Gates, but we will ensure the opportunity for God to provide for our needs in miraculous ways.  Countless Christians have not experienced such blessings because they are afraid to step out in faith and take God up on His offer.   Non-giving members are good, loving, moral, Bible believing born again believers who would never dream of doing something unlawful, especially agianst God.  But the Bible says they are thieves. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.Malachi 3:8   Definitely a severe accusation, but it shows us how serious God views giving Him His part.    No, the Lord didn’t instigate giving to take from us or hinder us from meeting our financial obligations.  He began it to make us an intimate part of His work here on earth.  Giving is just one of His tools to help us grow in faith and learn to trust our Heavenly Father for all our needs. The opportunity to give to God is an honor, don’t neglect it.

3. Lack of involvement.   When there is little participation in any type of group, it becomes impossible for just a few to carry the responsibilities long term.  With no help the basic needs cannot be maintained, little alone the major purposes be fulfilled.  We have all experienced this at home and in the workplace.  The co-worker that doesn’t do his job so it falls on others to do his work and theirs.  What about child that refuses to do chores around the house, leaving it all to mom and dad?  Eventually everything falls apart.   The problem arises when members come and act as “guests” to be cared for rather than doing their part as a church family member.  Being involved in your church home can be accomplished in many ways.

Of course there are the ministries of the church such as teaching and serving in church offices, but we all can’t do that.   You might consider offering to be a last minute fill-in for watching nursery or teaching a class.  Volunteer nursery workers are needed all the time.   If your church does not pay someone to clean workers are always needed to help here.

It is important to be spiritually involved too.  Studying your Bible, praying for church ministries, fellow members, prayer requests and the pastor and his family.  Simply ask God to show you where He needs you to serve. I promise He will.  The chance to be involved in your church in anyway isn’t a burden, it is privilege.  Don’t waste it.

. . . . to be continued

Published in the Oklahoma Baptist Newspaper, January 2013

WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR CHURCH PART 1

WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR CHURCH?

The pathway to a new year stands before us, unknown and untraveled.   We will all experience adventure, joy, sadness, and loss.    Sometimes that loss will involve regrets concerning those things we have taken for granted.  Ingratitude fueled by busyness and the lack of correct priorites will allow precious things to slip away.  The saddest part is we will not realize their value nor how important they are to us until they are gone.  Then it will be too late.  Children grow up, loved ones and friends pass away.   Even sadder is in some cases, our neglect was a major part of their demise.  Disregard  for our health and use of the finances God gave us can play a major role in losing what we thought would always be there.   Along that line of thought, let me ask you, “What would you do if your church closed its doors this year.”   After all, isn’t a strong, truth preaching, loving, biblical church something most people take for granted.   Yes, your church may have been here for 20, 30, 50 years or more but if neglected by her members she cannot remain open.

Right now in America up to 7,000 churches close their doors each year.  Many of those shouldn’t have had to die.  That may not sound like a lot but what if it was YOUR church.  Some members would be sad, some wouldn’t care, some would just find a new church home,  and some would simply look at it as an inconvenience rather than a loss.  Others would just drop out of church completely.

We are undeniably in the last days, therefore God’s work is being attacked on every side.  Our religious freedoms are being challenged and attempts made to take them away.  Even our freedom to worship is gradually dwindling.   Not all these are in our control, but how grievous when Satan is enabled to destroy a church from within.  There are 8 major “Assasins” of the church.

1. Sporadic Attendance. Being a Christian is not a hobby, it is a relationship with Christ.  Being a church member is not optional, it is a commitment to obey the Lord and also to His church that He died for “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”   Hebrews 10:25

Where do people ever get the idea that attending services is based on mood, convenience, or if there is something else they would rather do?  The church is a family and you are important and of value whether you recognize it or not.  As members of a local body of Christ (your church) scripture compares us to the physical body. So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:5

Yes we might be able to function without certain body parts, but certainly not effectively.  Over a period of time this loss will cause the health and efficiency of the body to drastically decline.  This applies to churches also.  If a school is not supported by the faithful attendance of pupils, it will have to close. If a library does not have regular patrons to check books, it will have to close.  Do you get the picture?

When members decide to lay out of service I assume they are looking at themselves as only one member.  What happens when 2 or 5 or even 10 members decide to do the same?  In a large church this might not have an impact but in a medium to small church the effect can be devastating.  Churches lose an estimated 2,765,000 people each year to secularism. Members that begin skipping 1 or 2 services are in danger of eventually leaving the church and being absorbed back into the world.  The habit develops so gradually that you don’t realize how much or how long you have missed.  Church attendance dropped from 1,606,000 in 1968 to 881,000 in 2005. I am sure it is safe to say the numbers are even greater now.   If you want your church to exist,  support it by your presence to all services.  The blessing of having a church home and the freedom to attend is a gift.  Don’t take it lightly.

2. Not supporting the church financially.  Yes this is the one everyone hates, everyone shys away from, and many get angry about.  (Well at least the ones who aren’t doing it.)  Tithing.  The word “tithe” means 10 %.  Everything we have belongs to God.  Every chair, every alarm clock, every dust bunny and every penny we own belongs to God.   All of it is on loan to us. Unfortunately many Christians look at their money according  to one of the “Toddler’s Rules of  Possession”: “If it’s in my hand it’s MINE!”   All He ask for is 10% and that adds up to only 10 cents from every dollar we earn. You have to admit that is a  pretty fair trade!  You keep 90% and He gets 10% of what is all rightfully His!   No family, business or institution can remain open without financial support.  It’s just impossible. If every customer that frequents your local grocery store began only spending $5.00 to $25.00 a week or even a month, how long would the doors stay open?   How long could you provide for your family if your boss decided to pay you what he felt like each paycheck.  “Ralph, this week your paycheck will just be $20.  I know you’ll understand, me and the wife have had some unexpected expenses and Junior wants a new X-Box.”  How long could you support your family and keep a roof over their head this way?  Does your church have heat for the winter and air-conditioning for the summer?  Is there toilet paper, hand towels, soap and running water in the bathrooms?   Is lighting provided for night services?  Who then pays for all these comforts we enjoy?  This doesn’t include many other expenses, not to mention the pastor’s salary and his need to provide for his family.  Our giving is more than just putting money in the offering plate.  Giving is another way we show the Lord we love Him. It is also an act of  obedience to God.  This obedience opens the door for Him to bless us. Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”   Luke 6:38   

No I don’t mean we will turn into Donald Trump or Bill Gates, but we will ensure the opportunity for God to provide for our needs in miraculous ways.  Countless Christians have not experienced such blessings because they are afraid to step out in faith and take God up on His offer.   Nongiving members are good, loving, moral, Bible believing born again believers who would never dream of doing something unlawful, especially agianst God.  But the Bible says they are thieves. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.Malachi 3:8   Definitely a severe accusation, but it shows us how serious God views giving Him His part.    No, the Lord didn’t instigate giving to take from us or hinder us from meeting our financial obligations.  He began it to make us an intimate part of His work here on earth.  Giving is just one of His tools to help us grow in faith and learn to trust our Heavenly Father for all our needs. The opportunity to give to God is an honor, don’t neglect it.

3. Lack of involvement.   When there is little participation in any type of group, it becomes impossible for just a few to carry the responsibilities long term.  With no help the basic needs cannot be maintained, little alone the major purposes be fulfilled.  We have all experienced this at home and in the workplace.  The co-worker that doesn’t do his job so it falls on others to do his work and theirs.  What about child that refuses to do chores around the house, leaving it all to mom and dad?  Eventually everything falls apart.   The problem arises when members come and act as “guests” to be cared for rather than doing their part as a church family member.  Being involved in your church home can be accomplished in many ways.

Of course there are the ministries of the church such as teaching and serving in church offices, but we all can’t do that.   You might consider offering to be a last minute fill-in for watching nursery or teaching a class.  Volunteer nursery workers are needed all the time.   If your church does not pay someone to clean workers are always needed to help here.

It is important to be spiritually involved too.  Studying your Bible, praying for church ministries, fellow members, prayer requests and the pastor and his family.  Simply ask God to show you where He needs you to serve. I promise He will.  The chance to be involved in your church in anyway isn’t a burden, it is privilege.  Don’t waste it.

. . . . to be continued 

 Published in the Oklahoma Baptist Newspaper, January 2013

 

IF CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT, WHAT’S IT GONNA DO TO YOU? by Narita Roady

The air was crisp with autumn scents and just a hint of coolness hung in the air. A rainbow of fall colors were scattered across the yard where leaves had fallen. It was the perfect afternoon for a cookout. Six couples had gathered to enjoyed hamburgers and hotdogs with all the trimmings. The coals on the barbecue had burned down and the party was preparing to fix an all-time favorite, toasted marshmallows. Long metal skewers had been passed out and everyone had their marshmallows ready to toast.

Suddenly the quite evening was pierced by the sounds of sirens. Two fire trucks sped past the house with lights flashing. To everyone’s surprise, they stopped at a home just a few houses away.

Curious about what was happening; everyone stopped their party and ran down the street. They were shocked to find a family standing in front of their burning home looking lost and helpless as everything they owned was demolished. The group stood in shock as firefighters fought to extinguish the fire. As the host couple turned to speak, they saw the bereft family glaring at them in disgust. They were completely caught off guard until they realized in the entire party stood by the blazing home, each holding their roasting stick with marshmallows on them!

I am sure the “siren chasers” never intended to offend those in trouble, but their curiosity did just that. The situation could have even been worse. Their uninvited interest could have hindered the rescue workers in their efforts and the marshmallow roasters could have been hurt or injured themselves. Either way, their unbridled inquisitiveness would have still ended with someone being hurt, emotionally or physically.

Curiosity by itself is not necessarily a bad thing but whatever we are curious about determines if it hurts us or benefits us. Curiosity is defined “as an intense desire learn or know about something and causes one to be drawn into or involved in the interest”. There is no doubt that it can lead one into dangerous situations, physically and spiritually.

I have no doubt God created us with a natural inquisitiveness because Eve possessed it before the fall. After all, her misuse of it is what got her and all of us in trouble! When God gives us an ability or characteristic, it is meant for us to use it within HIS guidelines and for His purpose. He states those rules in Romans 16:19, “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”

Satan is cornering the curiosity market in the world today. Instead of it being an avenue to gain knowledge about the Lord or worthwhile wholesome information and wisdom to improve one’s life and those around them, it has become an insatiable preoccupation to fulfill the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh. Far too many Christians are more inquisitive about worldly sin than about God and His Word.  Modern media has made it far too easy to aid such inquiring minds. Movies, documentaries, televisions shows and the internet all beckon people to learn more about deviant lifestyles, sinful pastimes, satanic followers and more. These make temptation even greater because they can be viewed in the “privacy” of one’s home, car or office, with no accountability to others or shame of being exposed.  We have no such privacy! “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.Psalm 90:8

Christians follow in the footsteps their Garden of Eden relatives, Adam and Eve, and deceive themselves into thinking God does not know! “And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” . Genesis 3:9-10

If He lives in us, how can He ever NOT see what we are doing?! “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”  Hebrews 4:13

Even the 6 o’clock news is guilty feeding ungodly curiosity, by graphically displaying and reporting painful, bloody, and violent happenings in the lives of others. By chance we are convicted, Satan provides the salve of “just keeping up with local and current events”

The consequences get even worse. The Devil is getting two for the price of one. He  has a head start on destroying our children through their natural child-like curiosity. These innocent little souls have access to all the same smut as their parents. Dad and Mom lack godly standards in their own curiosity appetites so they fail to see how and where their children are being defiled. They have become insensitive to evil through repeated exposure. Failing to see it taking root in the lives of their precious offspring until it is too late and the seeds of immorality begin to sprout. To compound the problem, in the name of being a “good parent”, they give their kids internet access and cell phones with little supervision, which translates to free rein into this unlimited realm of sin. It takes time, diligence, and commitment to protect your youth by knowing what they are watching, listening to, and texting.  Countless young lives in Christian homes are being ruined by exposure to porn and other wickedness they picked up on the “information highway”.

God commands us to train our children in the way they SHOULD go. Like it or not, the fact is a large number are training them in the way they SHOULD NOT go! “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Instead of parents teaching Scripture in their home throughout the day, as Deuteronomy 11:18-19, instructs, the Devil’s has his textbook out holding classes with their children. “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.

And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”   

Years later, these same parents will shake their heads and grieve wondering what happened to their children when they had them in church faithfully and had regular family devotionals.

All things considered, we should not be surprised that modern technology is such an instrument of influence in corruption of God’s people. Just look who is in control of the airwaves that all this information comes through. It is no coincidence that our modern day communications come to us this way. Just look at who is in control of those airwaves! “. . . according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Ephesians 2:2

Misusing God’s gift of curiosity never works. As already mentioned, it did not work for Eve. Lot’s wife did not benefit from it. Maybe she too thought, “I’ll just take a quick peek and no one will know!” “And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.

But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:17-26

No matter how “grown-up and adult” we think, we are, there are things we should not look at, listen to, think about, or read. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Ephesians 5:11

Looking leads to thinking and thinking leads to doing. Ignoring God’s principles for our curiosity corrupts our spirit, harms our lives, and disrupts our fellowship with our Heavenly Father.  The old adage, “Curiosity killed the cat”, can apply to Christians too!

Published in the Oklahoma Baptist Newspaper, November 2012

Real Life, Real Miracles by James L. Garlow & Keith Wall

I don’t think anyone hasn’t had a time they prayed or longed or a miracle in their lives.  I believe many have experienced them, but don’t recognize what happened because they just chalk it up to luck or chance. Often times we miss them because we are moving at such a fast pace and fail to see God’s touch.   In the life of a child of God, there is no such thing as coincidence.  He is very actively involved in our lives and needs.

This book was so uplifting!   I myself had witnessed many miracles in my time and they have been left a deep imprint on my life.  Some brought about enormous changes; others met a momentary need in a supernatural way.

I could relate because the accounts were of people just like me that find themselves in what seem to be impossible situations with only 1 outcome – BAD.   Some experiencing them probably thought these are things that “only happen to other people”.    I heard a saying many years ago that stuck with me and I love: “God loves impossible situations to show Himself strong.”  Then we KNOW without a doubt the help cold have only come from Him and He can receive all the glory.  That is exactly what these stories are about.   If God has done it for others, He can do it for us too!

I liked that these were so varied from the filling of small momentary needs to nothing short of extraordinary events of healing and protection.  They certainly gave me a fresh reminder of hope for some of the circumstances my family is facing right now.  It was refreshing to read something positive after all the negative stories and reports we see daily in the news.

No, God does not always “fix” all our problems, but even should He say “No child, this is my will for you”, this book gave me great comfort at seeing testimonies of His power.  I would love more books by the authors like this, and would also like to contribute stories of my own “real life” miracles!  I am going to keep it and read it when I a booster shot of faith!

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

A Better Country- Preparing for Heaven by Daniel Schaffer

Always being interested in learning more about my future home, Heaven, I thought I would give this book a try.  When sharing with a friend that I was going to read it, they said, “What can it really say.  We don’t know that much about Heaven even from God’s Word.”

Their comment made think, “What more could this book say?”  Well it had a lot to say!   No, the author didn’t reveal anything I didn’t’ already know about Heaven but he did do something much more important.  He opened my mind to applying what I do know to my life right now here on earth.  Page after page I wanted to highlight comments and truths that made me think, “Wow, I never looked at it that way!”

Heaven isn’t just something that will affect me “someday”.  As a born again Christian, it has an impact on my life right now!

With this being the only life we know, we become bogged down in the details of the here and now, the problems, and just surviving day to day.  This book gave me a different focus.

The author also presented a thought I have had for a long time.  That our discontentment with this life and always looking for perfection comes from the way God created us.  We were meant to live in peace and happiness before sin came into the world.  That dissatisfaction is a yearning for what awaits us in Heaven.  This knowledge should help us let go of the unattainable in this life and accept what we have.

Mr. Schaffer also addressed some misconceptions we have about Heaven. While no one wants to go to Hell of course, some of these false ideas make us concerned about what eternity in Heaven will be like.   A common one is that Heaven will be boring.  He boldly brings out the things we can’t bring ourselves to admit and shares biblical truths that correct our false impressions.

Instead of a few rote recitations of verses about Heaven that one might expect from the title, there were many other scriptures references that help us understand how our eternal home influences us today.

At the end of the book there is a section for each chapter with very thought provoking discussion questions, and biblical passages for further study.  Sometimes Reflection and Focus exercises are included to personalize what you have read.

I learned so much from this book!  Its message was one of hope and joy expectation.  Our time on earth is so short and our focus should be on serving Christ, not bogged down in the cares of this world.   This book is definitely a keeper for my library.  I plan to read it again and use it as a Bible study.  It would also be great for study for church classes.   Trust me; you want to read this book!
I received this book free from Discovery House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

 

 

All Things New by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin is at the top of my favorite authors!   I couldn’t wait to read this book!

The Civil War is over and the lives of the wealthy northerners and their slaves are changed forever.  Those from the North don’t want to accept it and the slaves don’t know how to accept it.

The Weatherly family returns to what is left of their once grand home in Virginia.  Eugenia, the matriarch of the family and widowed by the war, plans to continue life as before.  She purposes, through sheer strength and determination, to rebuild the life they once had.  She has lost one son in the war and looks to her surviving son to return and take his father’s place.  Daniel comes home angry and shattered by his experiences in the war.  He too cannot accept the defeat and seeks revenge on anyone associated with that loss. He could care less about leading the family.

Her 16 year old daughter, Olivia, is spoiled and selfish and is more than happy to comply with her mother’s plans.  Twenty-two year old Josephine realizes that their focus must be on surviving the reality of their life now, not reconstructing the past.  Although practical in her outlook, she is angry with God for not rewarding her “goodness” and answering her prayers during the war.   She has turned away from Him.

The only slaves that remain on their plantation are Lizze and Otis and their 3 children.  They have no clue how to handle their new found freedom and realize they have no place to go.  For the first time, Josephine begins to see them as flesh and blood people with feelings and attempts to treat them as equals.  This only enrages her mother more.

Josephine and her family face hardships they have never experienced: lack of food, clothing, and money.  She begins to understand that this a small taste of the lives their slaves have always lived.   The only difference in Lizze and Otis’s life is that they know their children will never be sold or face mistreatment as they did.

I was astonished at this historical novel.  Ms. Austin was a genius not only in how she presented the historical facts about the Post Civil War era, but also in capturing the personal details and emotions that so many different groups of people faced in its aftermath.  I never dreamed of what these people actually dealt with.

In many ways the wealthy families coming back were almost as poor as the slaves, but their situations were made worse because they had no skills or knowledge to care for their daily needs and homes.  A culture shock confronted them as they were stripped of their money and lavish, snobbish lifestyles.  They were broken people with only their self-righteous pride left.

The soldiers left as strong, courageous young men only to return shattered emotionally, mentally and some physically.  Handicapped individuals then did not have all the medical help and devices to make life easier.  Many wished they had died rather than live as a cripple.  Some carried the guilt of being alive because their friends died.

Then there were the slaves who finally had freedom but had no means or knowledge to embrace it.   Their fear of their master’s abuse was replaced with fear being killed by angry ex-slave owners.  If they went away,  they had no means to support themselves nor any place to go.  In staying they are treated with the same disrespect and left with the workload of a household of slaves.  This was a very confusing time for them too.

Also there were the southerners who fought for the slave’s freedom and wanted to help them in making a new life.  They found themselves in danger and hated by the bitter white men of the north for whom they blamed for their losses.  On the other hand the slaves feared trusting them because they were white.

As if If all this wasn’t remarkable enough, Ms. Austin includes one more very important aspect.  In a crisis God is always at work whether we realize it or not.  We are either drawn closer to Him or turn away.  Not only was I a part of the character’s thoughts and emotions, but she also enabled me to experience their spiritual journey in such a tumultuous time.

I will never look at this era the same again.   She brought history and the characters alive!  This book is a masterpiece you WILL want to read!

I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Marriage of the Heart By Kelly Long

Novellas aren’t always my favorite to read, but I really liked this one.  Each one was complete in its self and gave me 3 different Christmas/Amish fixes for the holiday!  This book would be great to read anytime of the year though.   All of the stories were very well written.

“A Perfect Secret” is the story of Rose and Luke.   They had been friends for many years.  It was more or less expected they would marry, but his proposal doesn’t bring Rose the happiness she thinks it should.   Their relationship is well, boring.  He seems almost afraid to show her affection and she wonders how could she live a life time like this?  She wants excitement and romance!   Does she really know who Luke is?  Does he really know who she is and does he care?  The community is hit with a string of thefts, something very uncommon among the Amish.  Rose becomes enthralled by the mystery and decides she will find out who the thief is.  The culprit falls into a trap she sets and she risks following the bandit into the woods.  Her discovery intrigues and shocks her, causing her simple life to suddenly become very complicated.   A surprise ending to look forward to!

“Christmas Cradles” was such a sweet story.  Midwife, Anna Stolis, covers for her aunt’s midwifery practice while she goes on a short vacation.  The weather is turning bad and forecast to grow even worse.  Samuel Mast has volunteered to drive the midwife to nighttime emergencies, but he is sick.  His son Asa is taking his place.  Three babies are due and Anna is hoping they will wait until her aunt returns.  Of course they don’t and all three mothers deliver the same night.  At 26 Anna is considered past marrying age, and somewhat buxom. She didn’t have much hope in marrying.   Asa is a great surprise when he arrives.  Tall and handsome, not to mention she was expecting a man old enough to be her father!   All through the night they go from delivery to delivery in a horrible storm.   Anna finds herself falling in love with Asa’s kind and gentle ways and thinks he might also be interested in her.   Their time together proves to be challenging in many ways more than just the deliveries and the weather. Will unexpected information about Asa’s past threaten end her hopes of marrying him?

“A Marriage of the Heart” was my favorite of the three.  Abigail’s mother died when she was very young.  She never had a mom to teach her how to take care of a household, very important in the Amish life.  Her father was distant, harsh, and unloving which made her feel even more insecure.  All she can think about it getting out from under his roof.   The only thing worthwhile she feels she has is her beauty.  Joseph who has just returned to the Amish community doesn’t give her the attention the other boys do.   In retaliation she falsely accuses him of taking advantage of her.  She is shocked when her father, in a rage, demands they marry.  Then she gets excited thinking this may be her ticket out of her home.  Her hopes come crashing down when her new husband offers for them to live with her Dad!  Now she is married to a man she doesn’t even know, still in her father’s house and now responsible for caring for 2 men when she doesn’t have a clue how. On top of being newlyweds that are married in name only, everyone is acting like they are love birds, and they struggle to keep up the pretense.  She harbors hopes that Joseph will want to go back to the English world he just returned from thus helping her escape from what she believes to be a stifling, boring life.  When she finds out Joseph had a drug addiction he still struggles with, she wonders what she has gotten herself into.  Their journey to learn about each other is humorous and touching.  Can they ever overcome this forced marriage and truly be a happily married couple?

To be perfectly honest I wish there had been a dozen more stories like this.  A book you will want to read!

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com&gt; book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

 

 

 

Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments By Kara G. Durbin

The Bible is the only book we need for any area of our life and this definitely includes raising children!  When I was raising my girls I had a book similar to this but it only had the topics and the scriptures.  This book has that and so much more!  It is so many tools rolled into one; a biblical reference for teachable moments, answering children’s questions on different topics, a personal or family devotional guide, a scripture reference for memorization, and a prayer guide.

The first part of the book has a great deal of information recognizing opportunities for teaching your children scripture and also how exactly to go about it.  I thought this was great as many parents want to do this but don’t know how.

Topics are listed from A – Z.   Under each subject is the definition of that word.  Some might think this not needed, but you would be surprised how many words we assume our children know the real meaning of when they don’t.

Next there are several scriptures to memorize pertaining to that subject, and a set of discussion questions to help look deeper into what you are studying. These could be a real springboard into a great devotional time.

This is followed by the “Take Action” section that gives suggestions to make the concept a part of daily life. Many have a parenting tip to help you guide your child in understanding and applying the truth that has been presented.  Sometimes there is a related topic listed so you can take the study even further.

At the end of the book are two more tools.  The Scripture Appendix contains the complete texts of the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Love Chapter, the Fruit of the Spirit, the Armor of God, Colossians 3:12-14, and 2 Peter 1:5-9.  Assigned to each of these is a symbol.  These symbols appear when verses from these scriptures are listed under one of the topics.  This way you can reference back to these larger portions of scripture.  In addition the author lists 15 famous verses to memorize, memorization methods and how to pray scripture for your child.

As you can see this is a priceless reference and study tool not only for families but also church teachers and youth leaders.  This would also be a fantastic gift for a family, a child, or even new parents!  What is even better is so easy to use!  My only disappointment was that this did not come with scriptures from King James Version.

I received this book free from Moody Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255