My Review on Little Black Books: Science and God by Scott Petty

200x200-CFR-Badge-review imageBook Review: Little Black Books: Science and God by Scott Petty 

Science and God is a short booklet that’s part of the Little Black  Books series distributed by Matthias Media (of St. Matthias Press,  Australia). The basic tenet presented in this booklet is a response to  certain celebrity scientists and atheists who have publicly expressed  antagonism toward a belief in God by stating that science can  replace belief in God. But the author points out a flaw in their  “reasoning” when he states, “The conviction that our universe is  ordered and relatively stable is at the very heart of science. And this  is partly why the historical development of what we know now as  modern science has had a generally happy relationship with the  Christian faith.” Some of these scientists want us to view “religion”  and science as direct opposites.

Illustration of the expansion of the Universe ...

Illustration of the expansion of the Universe after the Big bang. In Bulgarian. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So in the booklet, Scott Petty lays out three reasons why we do not  need to choose between God and science:

“1. Science and God have historically been good friends.

2. Some of the big name, heavy hitting scientists of the past and  present were/are professing Christians.

3. Science and religion answer different questions.”

The authors goes on to explain, “If we take a layered approach,  science and God can touch on the same questions from various  perspectives, and the fact that we can understand the mechanism of  how something works does not prove that there is no purpose or  creator behind it.” We can use science to observe and learn about  things like cosmic background radiation and galactic ripples which  point to a sudden beginning of the universe. The Bible can tell us  about the causes of these explosive events on a spiritual level. Both  play their part so that we do not have to choose one over the other.

I agree  with Mr. Petty when he states that science doesn’t answer all questions. It is completely ill-equipped to help us get to  know God and understand Him better, to know our family members and our friends. That comes from personal and relational knowledge. Science doesn’t assist us much when we want to remember something in the past. That requires historical knowledge. And science isn’t helpful with philosophical and metaphysical questions such as why there is crime and hunger and poverty and how to eliminate them. It is only a small slice of all knowledge and is limited to the observable and predictable physical world.

Petty also touches briefly on other similar topics that get the reader thinking such as the Big Bang, who caused what (the Law of Causality), the design of the universe, what to think of evolution, the fossil record, the Genesis account, different religions of the world, science and miracles, life on other planets, and DNA. His common sense, sensible logic and everyday language make all these topics very interesting to read. What I especially appreciated were the resources and footnotes at the end of each chapter. There’s enough information there that a person who wants to do some additional investigating has plenty to get started with.

This book in the Little Black Book series makes a handy reference that can be perused in short time and referred to as often as it’s needed. It is easy to read, non-technical but still accurate with interesting illustrations. I enjoyed the author’s quirky sense of humor. I would recommend this book for any young person 6th grade and up. Adults will even enjoy reading this. It poses several questions to ponder.

English: WMAP observes the first light of the ...

English: WMAP observes the first light of the universe- the afterglow of the Big Bang. Patterns imprinted on this light encode the events that happened only a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. In turn, the patterns are the seeds of the development of the structures of galaxies we now see. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Science is a great pursuit because it unpacks the universe that God brought into existence; the universe that God designed with great precision and sustains with great care.” Science had always been one of my favorite fields of interest. There is so much to observe, to test, to learn about. God did not create a boring world. He wants us to look around and explore. What we learn can teach us quite a bit about Him: how He must have had a sense of humor when He designed the dinosaurs, the platypus, the dodos, and so many other things. How He must have wanted us to enjoy His creation’s beauty when He made flowers, rainbows, and the Aurora Borealis. To me, science has always been a means to point to a loving, caring God. It is one of many ways He uses to seek us out and demonstrate His love for us.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC) and Matthias Media. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Review on Good Mood, Bad Mood by Charles D. Hodges M.D.

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Published by the American Psychiatric Associat...

Published by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM-IV-TR provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Book Review on Good Mood, Bad Mood: Help and Hope for Depression and Bipolar Disorder by Dr. Charles D. Hodges M.D.

What is a worldview? It is a way of looking at the world and allowing that viewpoint to influence the way we work, play, communicate and relate to people, and everything else. The way we interpret the world events influences the way we think. Dr. Hodges, the author, has written this book based upon his medical experiences and worldview as a person who loves the Lord Jesus as his Savior. Sadly, this viewpoint is rare in the medical community which makes this book very welcome and valuable to me and to other Christians who have been in need of a reference in this field for a long time.

This book is also up close and personally involving for me because I grew up in a home with a parent who, in my opinion, demonstrated the characteristics of a manic depressive person (the way it is described technically as Bipolar I) who was never diagnosed and never treated for it. In addition, I was diagnosed as bipolar by a psychiatrist when I was in my young 30’s and a mother of young children. My life experience, watching my mom react in extremes and deny any problems led me to study special education and abnormal psychology in college where I graduated with a degree in special education, psychology and elementary education. I experience an empathy for anyone who struggles with the symptoms of this condition, whether it has a pathology or not.

I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was in Junior High and lived in an atmosphere that was not very encouraging for spiritual growth. In spite of that, Jesus changed the way I perceived the world and the events of my home life. So I share the same worldview as Dr. Hodges, the author of this book. That does not mean I agree with everything he said in this book. But the points I disagree with him are minor and may be applicable to the 10% of people diagnosed with bipolar II for whom the medications and diagnoses actually do help the patients. In my opinion, that is the category I may very well be in myself. I hope my views written here in this review will encourage the reader to read this book.

From a Christian worldview I agree with Dr. Hodges when he stated, “Over the last twenty years, there has been a major effort to educate people about depression. The main tenet of that education is that depression and mood disorders are medical problems that require medical treatment. When most people feel depressed today, they go to the doctor in search of a medical answer. Today very few would go to their pastor first and few caregivers would view the Bible as relevant to the problem (p.21).” And with this statement on page 34, “The end result is that people with very dissimilar problems wind up with the same labels: depression and bipolar disorder…millions in our country [are] diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder and then treated medically.” In a study written about in 2010 in a major medical journal, patients with mild, moderate and even sever depression experienced the same therapeutic benefit from a placebo (sugar pill) as an active antidepressant medication in 70 to 87% of the patients! So while it would appear that medical professionals who treat patients with depression agree about its causes and treatments, there is actually more disagreement than you would at first expect.

The first three chapters of this book discuss how our increasingly secular society views depression and treats it. Chapters 4 and 5 examine the way sadness has been confused with depression. As a result, the amount of diagnoses of a disease called bipolar looks as if we are nearing epidemic proportions. The reason for over-diagnosis is not always obvious. For one reason, there has been a lack of medical pathology for depression in spite of the theories in the 1980’s about a chemical imbalance. Studies and trials do not back up the theory. And second, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was changed in 1980 to broaden qualifications to add a Bipolar II category (DSM-III). Dr. Hodges likens this action to qualifying all people with sore throats as having pneumonia. Third, many physicians admit they do not even use the DSM-IV (current) criteria when making a diagnosis of depression.

“The medical profession may have good intentions…[but] without a way to make a reliable diagnosis, physicians do not know exactly what they are treating (p. 29).” In my opinion, some doctors do not even know that they do not know. So if about 87% of patients with “mood disorders” are not getting real assistance from medicine, where can they turn for hope and help? A study notated in this book reported research that “believing in God appears to be a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. Even better, believing in a God who cares about you makes medical treatment 75% more likely to work among the clinically depressed. (p. 51).”

This leads to the remaining subject material outlined in chapters 6 through 13 where Dr. Hodges’ qualifications as a licensed marital family therapist coupled with his vast Biblical knowledge and the amount of experience he has accrued allows him to bring hope to the hopeless. This book is a valuable resource for churches who desire to assist the many who suffer silently, especially those who are Christians fearful of the stigma still attached to so-called mental illnesses in Christian circles. But I can also see how this study lends itself to a completely differently ministry, where churches are led to reach out to the secular community who feel depressed, anxious, stressful, anger, and worry and reach out to them on this basis with the hope and rest we can all find through a relationship with Jesus Christ. They can step in and succeed where the medical alternative has faltered. The end result of such counseling can be summarized this way: “When we choose to see sorrow the way God intends, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope. Godly sorrow leads to changes in our mind’s perspective and our heart’s priorities. The sorrow of the world [in contrast] often leads to deadly detours in living (p. 155).”

It has been twenty years since my own diagnosis of bipolar. The psychiatrist did not distinguish what type and to me it really did not matter. I was only looking to get some assistance with mood swings. I was superficially familiar with manic depression through my special education and psychology studies, but was not aware of the development of additional bipolar classifications back then. So when I started reading books and articles in libraries and eventually online I learned that my particular symptoms may fit the Bipolar II qualifications, mainly because of the addition of a symptom called hypo-mania. Hypomania is a milder episode of the mania which is present in patients with Bipolar I. I noticed that the DSM-IV still requires a two week period for hypo-mania, something I have not experienced. My periods of mania-like symptoms usually only last a few hours, about once a year. Over the years as I learned to recognize my own symptoms of depression, hypo-mania and euthymia (the normal between time), the labels just didn’t matter. I was a Christian and I employed coping techniques to deal with the swings.

In addition to reading, I also visited several communities, mostly online, where many people diagnosed with bipolar hung out. I observed and listened to people talk out their difficulties. In one community, I made some lifelong friendships. I discovered a huge disparity in peoples’ syndromes all in the name of Bipolar Disorder. I came to the same basic conclusions Dr. Hodges came to. The label does not matter. People living in the new secular environment still need to learn biblical perspectives on suffering, sadness, and hardships and learn how to cope with their symptoms. To me, coping techniques that work and fit within biblical parameters (excludes alcohol and drugs, etc.) should be our top priority once we are able to view our life circumstances from God’s perspective. If a person needs some medication along with coping strategies, then fine. But in my opinion, we could do without the labels. What a wonderful ministry a church could have.

In reflection, I recognize that I did need some medications, but not because I have a disease. I may fit some qualifications of some type of bipolar. Perhaps Unipolar. But my goal back 20 years ago was to cope with circumstances well without ruining someone else’s lives in the process. That’s because my experiences growing up with an explosive parent made me sensitive to the damage a person without a biblical worldview and coping strategies could have on others. This book is a wake-up call for Christians and church ministries alike. We have an opportunity and some tools to serve others around us with compassion and hope. I highly recommend this to church personnel involved in ministries to hurting people, and for that matter, to anyone suffering from depression, anger, and anxiety.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Book Review: Renee of France by Simonetta Carr

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Book Review of Renee of France by Simonetta Carr

“Calvin reminds Renee that we are by nature weak and sinful. Her denial of faith [at Ferrara] had been sorely disappointing, but not beyond remedy. When God allows his children to fall, Calvin explains, it is never with the intention of destroying them or casting them into despair. On the contrary, as we have noted earlier, he gives them double strength to resume the fight.”  Simonetta Carr

“Renee of France” by Simonetta Carr is a part of the Bite Sized Biographies series. With only 10 chapters, we are given a brief overview of a person in history many may not be familiar with. Renee of France was the daughter of

John Calvin started the Protestant Reformation...

John Calvin started the Protestant Reformation in 1536 AD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

King Louis XII. She was a little girl when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg and a young adult observing the birthing pangs of the Protestant Reformation. When in her young twenties she met John Calvin, a contemporary of hers, and had an invigorating discussion with him about the changing times. They agreed to correspond, and it is those letters with some historical context that this book is based upon.

Before she was even 18, Princess Renee married Duke Ercole II of Este and moved to Ferrara, Italy in an effort to strengthen political ties between France and Italy. After the death of her father, her brother-in-law became King of France. When she married, he told her he would always support her and assist her when she needed him. Renee gave birth to five children, a son the heir to her husband’s duchy, three beautiful daughters and the youngest another son.

Français : Renée de France duchesse de Ferrare...

Français : Renée de France duchesse de Ferrare (1510-1575), Chantilly, musée Condé, inv. MN 28 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tensions between the established Roman Catholic church and the Protestants during the Reformation and Counter-reformation was intertwined with political tensions. It was a common practice among the leaders of the religious communities to keep close ties with a number of Ladies of high birth, seeking asylum and aid, refuge and support during these early years of Protestantism. Renee corresponded with John Calvin, and did as much as she could to support the movement in both financial support and physical refuge. She often surrounded herself with a number of refugees fleeing persecution, even hiring some as tutors for her children, and supporting others as artisans. Leaning toward Protestant beliefs caused problems in her marriage, especially since Duke Ercole’s duties allied his duchy with the local Church politically if not spiritually.

What I found most interesting was the conflict within Renee herself as she experiences the pressure her husband and Church officials place on her to conform to the practices of the Church. Her low key support of the new religious movement was embarrassing to him and getting him in trouble with the powerful officials. They often threatened to send inquisitors to examine Renee, something the Duke certainly didn’t want to do. He covered and lied for her to put off the inquisition. All this concerned Calvin and shows up in his writings to Renee. At one point, she felt the need to give in to pressure and resumed attending the Mass and confessing her sins before the Church.

The Duke eventually gave Renee a villa in Consandolo, where she moved and even resumed her support of the Reformation victims, persons moving out of France during the persecution of the Huguenots, seeking asylum with her. Accusations and suspicions were still rampant, since the conflicts spilled over into surrounding countries including Italy. The letters and historical background only offer limited speculation on Renee’s spiritual state herself, whether she vacillated or just kept her head down to survive until she could resume her support. I found myself wondering what I would do if I were in similar situations as Renee.

Renee’s brother-in-law, her quiet supporter, died and the rule of France went to his brother Charles IX, son of Catherine de’ Medici. Renee felt the loss of support strongly. Charles and his mother were staunch Catholics. Renee’s oldest daughter, Anna, married the Duke of Guise in Paris, France. He also strongly supported the Roman Church. After her husband died, her eldest son Alfonso took on the duchy in Ferrara, and there was additional conflict since he did not support her efforts caring for refugees. Renee moved to France.

Eventually she moved to the fortress in Montargis, which she held title to and kept throughout her stay in Italy. The conflicts during the Reformation became the War of Religions in France. Renee continued to surround herself with refugees and leaders of the Reformation. At one point her castle had become like a hospital, caring for nearly 500 refugees. She began a school for the children in her care, which eventually became one of the first colleges of the Reformation. She continued to receive support from Calvin in his correspondence and through the ministers he sent to her to support her and teach the people she surrounded herself with. However opposition was inevitable, especially in the form of her son-in-law, the Duke of Guise.

I enjoy history, especially when there is a glimpse of humanity among the facts, and particularly when the hand of God becomes evident working through events and people for His purpose. Before reading this short biography, I had never heard of Renee, Princess of France. She brought an interesting period of history alive for me and connected some names and places together I had not previously connected. I am grateful to the author for sharing this work with us. There are even timely and relevant issues which these letters bring to the forefront, ones that even 500 years later are worth pondering, studying and praying over. Even if you do not like history, I recommend this book. It reads nearly like a historical fiction novelette.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Book Review: Fearless by Eric Blehm

Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy
SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown by Eric Blehm

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After reading this book the first time, all I could think was “Wow!” I found it hard to wrap my mind around all the things that happened to one person and the way he overcame them. It seems impossible. My next thought was to share this with the rest of my family, especially my son. I thought it would especially be relevant to him since he is also a young adult that’s still finding his way in the world.

When Kelley first meets Adam, her friend whispers to her to stay away from that one…he’s crazy. Of course, Kelley was intrigued because he was the one she was attracted to. After they had known each other only a little while Adam showed up late for a date. It was then that she found out about his former drug problem, his lack of direction in college, his partying and addiction to crack, and the sordid events that eventually led to his arrest and conviction of felonies against his friends. He told her about the year he spent in drug rehabilitation, how he found Jesus Christ as his Savior. She could relate to his story, as it seemed similar to her own history but without the drugs. Their time together as Adam fought the pull of the drugs is only the tip of the iceberg.

Adam kept running away from his concerned friends. At one point, he confessed to his friend, Jeff, “I’m a loser.” In spite of his relationship with Jesus, he couldn’t overcome the pull of the drugs. Kelley had spent nine months pulling him out of crack houses, praying for him and he’d finally run from her. He was afraid he’d been putting her in danger, and she was close to giving up on him. He and Jeff had a long talk while they discussed solutions. One of them was joining the Navy. Adam remembered a movie about the SEALS and he decided he needed direction and something challenging to work for. To become a SEAL, he would need to be completely drug free for two years. The alternative was unthinkable.

SEAL jumps over the side from boat.

SEAL jumps over the side from boat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Adam’s journey through boot camp, A-School, then BUD/S training to become a SEAL was grueling, but Kelley, now married to Adam, stood by him and he learned to lean on the Lord. The training brought out the “psycho” character trait from his school days and he would not give up. His scores were not the highest in his classes, but the instructors liked him because he gave his all and then some, was a team player, and showed leadership qualities throughout.

Navy Special Warfare Trident Insignia worn by ...

Navy Special Warfare Trident Insignia worn by qualified U.S. Navy SEALs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Graduation from BUD/S and the birth of his son came at the same time. One day during airborne training, Adam called Kelley, “It’s calling my name.” That was his way of telling her he was facing temptation again from the crack. Kelley immediately dropped everything and moved to an apartment closer to his training base, and put the baby in his arms as often as she could to remind him that he was a daddy now. He had to be strong.

From energetic, spastic goofy kid taking reckless chances to consummate professional warrior, Adam found his place. When 9/11 rolled around he was even more fervent in his love for his family, God, and his country. He kept training, kept overcoming, became loving husband and daddy, responsible son, leader, and even a Sunday school teacher. But you absolutely have to read this book to find out the rest of the story. Some pretty amazing problems kept hitting Adam and Kelley, but they overcame them, one by one.

By the time you get to the end event, you really know Adam Brown, and it hits a person hard to know his life was given to serve our country. But aside from his sacrifice, his life is a celebration of dedication and commitment to the Lord and those he loved. Yes, he was human and failed at first. That’s what makes this read so compelling. This is a book I plan to read many times.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Blogging for Books (A WaterbrookMultnomah.com division). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Review for Parenting on Your Knees: Prayers and Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years

200x200-CFR-Badge-review imageI remember those years of my life, rearing preschoolers. Take the word of a mom who is on “the other side” that if you are a parent of a small child or children, it really is only a Season of life, although at the time you are experiencing it, it may feel interminable! I would have loved to have had “Parenting On Your Knees” in my desperate hands so many times during that season. There’s wonderful insight, spiritual wisdom, and just plain lots of fun stuff to read.

In the Table of Contents, we discover the book is divided into 7 segments: The Introduction, Character, Development, Social Skills, Behavior, Spiritual Growth and Salvation, and an Appendix at the end where you’ll find recommended books for children that fit with the many topics written about and recommended parenting books. In addition, there are some tips on memorizing verses and suggestions for praying on the go, and creative quiet time ideas for getting much needed spiritual nutrition.

Within each section are chapters, each one dedicated to an area relevant to toddlerhood and beyond. The introduction has two chapters discussing why we should pray for our children. I think it is neatly summed up by this verse of Scripture:

“Pour out your heart like water before the Presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to Him for the lives of your children…”Lamentations 2:19 (ESV)

Each chapter of each section stands alone very well, and can be useful as reference in case the reader need fortification from time to time. Character traits we are led to pray for: to persevere, to have wisdom, to have patience, to have self-control, to learn responsibility, to respect authority, to be honest and to develop His conscience. And while we are being intentional about these traits, we should also pray for ourselves to model each of these and exercise wisdom in their development.

As our little ones’ bodies are growing, we are encouraged to pray for their health, for potty training, for bedtime, for cleaning up toys, for clean speech and language abilities, for their safety, and for morning routines. Each chapter opens with a short story, usually personal antidotes from the author, but it may also be one friends have shared with her. So many of these stories are funny and bound to strike a familiar note if you have similarly-aged children. The author includes a relevant Bible verse and a short lesson, followed by a prayer, a section to include your own prayers and a way to record answers to those prayers.

As our toddlers become preschool age they need to learn more social skills. So Vicki Tiede guides us through praying: for manners, for mealtimes, for sharing, for tattling, for friendships, for separation anxiety, for security and for sibling rivalry. Each of these has a devoted chapter. One of my favorite stories was the nonsensical discussion in chapter 22 “Isaac’s Your Buddy”. It was slightly reminiscent of Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First?”.

In the section on behavior, prays are for public behavior, for obedience, for temper tantrums, for time out, for whining, for accepting limit and for aggression. Last, but absolutely the most important is the chapter on praying for spiritual growth and salvation of our little ones. The stories there brought tears to my eyes. I remember the poinant moments of salvation in both my children when they decided to make Jesus their Savior and Lord.

You can read this book in one sitting if you want to. But each chapter can be read independantly and re-visited when needed. The book is well organized and one I recommend as a great reference, kept nearby for those moments when you forget why you wanted to be a parent in the first place, or just need a nudge of encouragement to keep on keeping on. I like the recommended readings given for each chapter. In the appendix, the author has broken down for you the character traits, behaviors, and habits each reference covers, including a suggested book for the parent to read to the child.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.Wrap_arms_around_hurting