BOOK REVIEW: Their Name is Today, by Johann Christoph Arnold

Their Name is Today, Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World, by Johann Christoph Arnold, is written to bring immediacy to the vital role of raising children today.  Arnold doesn’t pull punches, he leaps into the common argument of overpopulation ruining the planet (page 1) with his assertion that greed and selfishness do a much better job of daily ruination.  Instead, he states that parents and teachers are well equipped and vital to fight against such loud foes.  His points reflect the need for better methods in raising any set of children, starting with a recall of the wonders they allow us to revisit again and again.

Chapter 2 focuses on “Play is a child’s work”, encouraging anyone who interacts with children to allow them the time (more vital than planned outings, money or even supplies) to explore their world in playing. His quotes though the book begin each chapter with thoughtfulness, and are spattered throughout from a wide range of sources.  Albert Einstein, to family, to interesting studies and other authors or random gleanings, each one is a delight supporting his topic.  I particularly liked the inclusion of a letter written by Sluyter, a resigning kindergarten teacher, expressing her opinion why American education is woefully inept at teaching our young, with it’s focus on meetings and scores rather than the individual strengths of teacher and child(p.20-22).  Typically, Arnold does not address why such deficiencies are present, his method is more encouragement and peaceful argument.

Arnold is the senior pastor of Bruderhof, a  Christian commune/sect, and speaks and writes about children, education, dying, and marriage subjects often.  Bruderhof advocates a family style of living in which no member has an individual bank account or possessions, rather exhibiting first Christian church practices of communal living and shared income and expenditure.  As a result, this is a very small and tightly controlled environment – several sites (some assisting with efforts to exit such societies) did note that it is possible to tour and observe their efforts easily.

Arnold makes for well-thought arguments, but his answers are esoterical, rather than practical for those of us who live and work in a typical American main-stream environment (not his commune).  It did inspire some thought upon the subject, but the fleshing out of the actual change will require either my own creativity or another middle-ground author (something along the lines of Focus on the Family, for example).

I received this book from Handlebar Publishing, in return for my unbiased review.

BOOK REVIEW: The Trail, A Tale about discovering God’s Will, by Ed Underwood

When life gets chaotic, it is common to look for guidance, direction, planning.  Sometimes we just want an easy sign to follow.

The Trail is an allegorical telling of our search for God’s will.  Matt & Brenda are struggling with a decision: should they take the job and move to Pasadena?  What does God want them to do?  They seek direction from Sam, an old firefighter/pastor during a weekend retreat in the mountains.  Through the walk, the hike, the struggle to follow the trail and directions, more than simple events unfold.  Sam wastes no time explaining his 8 principles of knowing God’s will to the couple, but everyone gains knowledge in the end.

I found the fresh outlay of the eight principles in story format worked well.  Although the story was pedantic at times, it drew me from point to point as the characters hiked and talked, and echoed the technique Jesus had of teaching thru parables, or stories.  (Matthew 13:34)  I liked the character of Sam, the rugged and straight-shooting firefighter-turned-preacher, for his clear mind, tender heart, and encouraging spirit.  He felt believable to me, especially when he revealed his own shortcomings and struggles.  The couple seemed perfect at first, Matt an edgy accountant, out for facts, details, speed and accuracy.  His struggles would be internal, and tension mounts when they conflict with his wife, Brenda, his tender-hearted helpmeet.  I thought the resolution of their conflict a bit forced, (especially the urging of Sam for Brenda to offer quick forgiveness to Matt for a major indiscretion), but the continued reminders to seek God’s truth in His Word were refreshing.  In the end, whether a big decision, such as forgiveness, or the smaller matter of which job offer to take, framing the question in these principles will help with perspective, and Godly choices.

The book is written by Ed Underwood, a self-stated radical follower of Jesus, and pastor for Church of the Open Door.  Underwood states that you must be in God’s general will (established principles any Jesus-follower can glean from the Scriptures for what we are to be doing), before searching for further personal guidance.  He does not clarify these principles, which could confuse a new believer.  He simply describes being in God’s general will as intimacy with God, a daily effort.  Though Underwood does not get technical,  or theological, he does outlay a lot of Scripture to back up his principles.   Sam seems to be a fount of Biblical references, and requires the couple read verses linked to each point.  I think the message is written to those who need a fresh look on an old question: What does God want me to do?  The answer Underwood gives is held in a story that will keep you pondering long after you finish these pages.

 

I am required to note that I was given a copy of this book in return for my unbiased review for Tyndale House Publishers., as part of the Tyndale Blog Network.

BOOK REVIEW: Nothing to Hide, by J. Mark Bertrand

 

In the second of the Roland March Mystery series, Nothing to Hide, by J Mark Bertrand, loses me quickly.  There is no requirement to read the previous novel, and this one takes off into the grittiness that characterizes Bertrand’s work.  However, the plot holds together loosely, and I am left wondering why it took me so long to finish it.  March investigates a headless corpse in Houston with ties to the Mexican cartel, and links to his own past.  Everyone has something to hide….  I still like the character of March, the tough homicide detective with characteristic troubled past, yet he is less engaging than in the previous novel.

Still, the attempt is worth praise for the unusual addition to Bethany House Publishing, and I encourage Bertrand to continue.

 

My spotless advance copy was provided me in return for my honest review for Bethany House Publishing.

BOOK REVIEW: You’re Stronger Than You Think, by Dr. Les Parrott

When the first page of a book promotes the author’s website and another $5.95 (after coupon code), one must be wary.  You’re Stronger Than You Think: The Power to do What You Feel You Cant, by Dr. Les Parrott, does make such an offer, and leans heavily toward ‘think-and-grow-powerful’ mentality of the mega-churched.  In fairness, his practical suggestions are good, but the overall impression is vague empty promises based on human effort.  Linking Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz with the Apostle Paul, Parrott summarizes his self-help strength source: “It’s found in your mind, your heart and your soul.  To use it-to summon your strength- all you have to do is say you need it and then listen for the still, small voice.”  No humility here.

I disliked the frequent ‘plugging’ of the author’s website offers, and the questions at the end of each chapter were silly.  He generally talks around a subject, quotes others, and ties in cute stories.  Pure feel-good fluff, with a touch of Scripture on top.  The darker grey pages at the end of sections hold good specific ideas (for instance, to clear your head, practice a mind-dump: write down every little thing that is on your mind, even the silly thoughts, for more clarity.), and evaluation quizzes (also silly).  I did like chapter 6: “Be Bold: there’s strength in taking risks”, but you could borrow the book from the library for those 20 pages.

In short, don’t bother (unless mega-church mantras are your style).  Read Think and Grow Rich, by Hill for the real thing.  I’m sure it will have the same effect: dust, not wealth.

My advance copy of this book was my only compensation for this frank review, for Tyndale Publishers.  My thoughts are my own, and haven’t made me rich yet.  Everything I have is grace from my Giver.

Resources:

pdf first chapter 

Dr. Les Parrott

  bio

other works

website

BOOK REVIEW: Help for the Fractured Soul, by Candyce Roberts

Thinking I was about to read a typical book on emotional healing, I picked up Help for the Fractured Soul: Experiencing Healing and Deliverance from Deep Trauma, by Candyce Roberts.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  The book is a gutsy advocate for therapeutic intervention of those who have experienced trauma at the hands of others – often thru ritual and repeated abuse.  It speaks to those dealing with multiple personalities, and related disorders caused by such abuse.  This book is not for the faint of heart, although I thought the author’s portrayal of such true scenarios was gracious and tender.  A simple approach of prayer, coupled with quiet compassion and the expression of trust, are key elements of this author’s healing process. I ended the book in respect for the humility and love this author has shown to some really tough patients/clients.  I would highly recommend it to any pastor seeking knowledge and hope in this area of ministry to a small but tortured (and often hidden) set of members of any congregation.

This review was in return for my receipt of an advance copy of this book from Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group, thru Bethany House Publishers. My thoughts are my own.

 

Resources:

Candyce Roberts

BOOK REVIEW: Unplanned, by Abby Johnson

Delving into non-fiction for a look at the dramatic conviction experienced by Abby Johnson, a pro-choice leader, into a pro-life spokesperson, Unplanned is a gripping relation of events.  While Abby tends to be verbose and overstated in her attempts to bring clarity and depth to a simple story, it was still eye-opening to hear her version of events.  The tenderness and compassion of the pro-life response to her change of heart is nothing more than inspiring, while the relation of her exposure to an abortion procedure is gut-wrenching, and yet should be required reading.  The book inspires compassion, not only for the smallest members of our human race, but also for those who have the courage to stand in that gap, and for the blind who continue abuse.

My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers, whose summer reading program caused me to read this book, and did not compensate me in any way (I read it from the library this time), for my candid review.

RESOURCES:

Abby Johnson

Pro-life

Planned Parenthood

BOOK REVIEW: Short-Straw Bride, by Karen Witemeyer

An enjoyable addition to the Christian chick-lit category, Short-Straw Bride, by Karen Witemeyer, brings a gentle romance into life.  Meredith Hayes finds herself in a marriage to save her propriety, in a houseful of angry Archer men.  Despite an earlier encounter with her trumped-up husband Travis, for whom she has had childhood fancies, she discovers that a new marriage, especially under duress, will put her faith to the test.  Travis is honorable, yet fiercely protective of his property – will he allow her to truly be his helpmeet?

Karen Witemeyer has written her fourth novel, and I enjoyed every page of it.  Sure, the typical farm setting was in place, and the drama of a trumped-up marriage to put doubt and sizzle into everyday encounters, but yet Karen infuses it with humor, strength and drama.  The characters are all believable, likeable, and some are memorable.  The plot is simple yet drew me in, and the Biblical references seemed appropriate, not pat.

I enjoyed this book, and would read more by this author.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers, for the receipt of my copy of this book, which is my only remittance for my candid review.

Resources:

Karen Witemeyer

video for book trailer

freedmen’s schoolhouse (an interesting detail of the story…I wondered how accurate)

BOOK REVIEW: My Stubborn Heart, by Becky Wade

 

Becky Wade makes a cheerful and clever addition to the realm of light Christian romance in her latest book, My Stubborn Heart.  I found it easy to read, loved the characters, and related to many of their emotions and questions.

When Kate Donovan takes a side-trip into the small town of Redbud, PA to help her grandmother restore her family home, she little knows what awaits her, when the surly contractor shows up.  (I know, it’s Christian fiction, I bet you know too).  Yet Becky writes an engaging and funny love story, along with character development and growth.  My only regret is that it is not Christian growth: several flaws are blatant with our hero and heroine in terms of their faith.  Their faith is fluffy: they mention God, yet don’t go to church, engage in study or prayer, and seem rather like ‘good people’ with a few handy Bible verses.  While I would usually hammer down on this watered-down version, Becky’s characters don’t simply move, they dance and sing.  I would read more about them in a heartbeat.  The heroine’s grandmother has a motley assortment of friends who do some creative poker and blind-date arranging, and are memorable in themselves.  Altogether, an admirable effort, but slim on the Christian side.  And when you do read it – please tell me why it is so important to God that you must play professional hockey?

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers, who provided me with this advance copy in return for my candid review.

 

Resources:

Becky Wade  (note: had to use publisher’s site, as author’s site, beckywade.com would not open at time of this review)

BOOK REVIEW: MOONBLOOD, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

 

With her third allegory in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series, Anne Elisabeth Stengl offers Moonblood.  While I love the allegorical works of C.S.Lewis, and appreciate the effort for Christian fiction, this book failed to draw me.  It would have helped incredibly to have an introduction of some sort, to set the stage from the previous 2 books, but as I believe most works of fiction (even in a series) should stand alone, this lacked a simple plot.

The characters, set in a mythical kingdom,and bordered by several more, felt stilted and withdrawn, while the dangers and purpose lacked clarity for me to push on in reading it.  Even re-reading the dust-jacket descriptions left me more puzzled than before.  Prince Lionheart, second in command of his kingdom, with an aging father hoping to set him up for ruling, is still reeling from the distrust of himself and his people after he returned from a battle with dragons.  After seven chapters, I still couldn’t figure out if he actually battled the animal, or had a conversation with it.  His betrothed, Daylily, is typecast as proud and beautiful, without depth.  Servant Rose Red hides a grotesque set of features and her own secrets in serving Prince Lionheart, but it is never explained what her feelings on the matter are.  The Prince, consistently, vacillates in his, and as his subjects distrust her, kicks her out of the kingdom, and a chapter later, is chasing after her for some unknown reason.  I lost track of several other characters that had even less clarity than these.  Prince Lionheart’s peer, Prince Aethelbald of the kingdom Farthestshore seems to have characteristics of redeemer, and appeared to have the clearest set of goals in the book: rescue.  Prince Lionheart could not assist, tortured as he was by doubt and self-recrimination, and possible  dragon-possession.  Are you confused?  A clear plot is vital, and this book stands in proof of it.  Clever cover illustration, though.

My copy, which I will not keep, is in return for my candid review for Bethany House Publishers.

Resources:

Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Tales of Goldstone Wood

BOOK REVIEW: The Mentor Leader, by Tony Dungy

In my second review of a Tony Dungy book, The Mentor Leader, takes a focused approach to the valuable attributes of a mentor leader.  Looking at eight different sides of this unique approach to leadership, Tony makes the case for a very humble style of leadership, while citing stories from various heroes of the football arena.  Most of the stories are found here, so the application takes some stretching for women, mothers or anyone not involved or interested in football.  Yet I did find it an interesting read, with valuable points to share.  The very servant-esque element of his approach is probably what I related to most, and the stories were a bonus.  For example, “If you do it right, as a mentor leader you may make it all but impossible for other people to give you credit.”  Amazing.  He even argues that character (off the field especially) matters, in contributing to your personal, leadership and team’s success.  Refreshing.

Each chapter is concluded with several thought-provoking questions, or action points to make the learning process functional.

I would recommend this book to a very-sports-oriented team player, and aspiring leader to bring Tony’s perspective home.

This review was completed with a library copy, for the Tyndale Summer Reading Program, which you can join also!

RESOURCES:

Tony Dungy website

bio

podcast

blog