Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West by Kevin Swanson – Review

ApostateApostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West by Kevin Swanson

“Epistemology is the study of what is true and how one determines what is true. When any philosopher of epistemology wants to develop a theory of knowledge, he must seek an ultimate authority, since there must be some final standard by which all claims of truth may be tested. For the humanist, the final standard is man himself. For the Christian, the standard is God. The Christian recognizes that this is God’s world, planned and implemented by the mind of God. Therefore, God’s truth is the only possible standard for truth.” This book is written from the Christian worldview, acknowledging that God is the author’s source of truth.

Western civilization was built upon a set of ideas expressed over 2,000 years ago with the advent of Christianity. Establishment of such a culture was not an easy thing to do, especially when ideological opposition was present from the beginning. Greek and Roman philosophies were polytheistic and man-centered. You might even go so far as to say that humanism was birthed, or at least well expressed, through Aristotle and his contemporaries. Christian thinking gradually replaced pagan thinking from AD 475 through AD 1200. It was a war of ideas…a war of culture. But the tables turned and humanist ideologies began to overcome Christian thought over the next 800 years (from AD 1200 to AD 2000).

“Philosophers…dismantled the Christian faith in the Western world and replaced it with humanist ideas and institutions. As always happens to empires built on man-centered ideas, these humanist empires will soon collapse. Insofar as Western civilization remained a Christian worldview at its base, the foundations were sound [at first]. But when the philosophers of a new humanism introduced dry-rot into the foundations…they planted the seeds of their own destruction. By the end of this book, I hope the reader will fully understand how this happened.”

The author identifies three stages in which apostates of the Christian worldview participated in the dismantling process. The first stage involved philosophical ideas foreign to biblical truth. He introduces to the reader eleven men of “renown”, ones who are considered “great” thinkers by the modern educational elite: Thomas Aquinas – forming the humanist synthesis; Rene Descartes – forming the humanist philosopher; John Locke – forming the humanist theologian; John-Jacques Rousseau – forming the humanist society; Jeremy Bentham – forming the humanist ethic; Ralph Waldo Emerson – forming the humanist person; Karl Marx – forming the humanist political state; Charles Darwin – forming the humanist scientist; Friedrich Nietzsche – forming the humanist psychology; John Dewey – forming the humanist education; and Jean Paul Sartre – forming the humanist culture. Each chapter is dedicated to examining each person’s philosophy and
personal life. The author then explains how each influenced institutions such as the universities which at the time trained men for the ministry. These men moved their ideas from the universities to the pulpits and on to the ears of the congregants.

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The second stage of the deconstruction of the Christian worldview addresses the arena of literature. “Since education is typically centered on literature and reading, we conclude that this is a critical, though oft-neglected battlefield in the war of the worldviews. Therefore, any treatise that intends to grapple with the disintegration of the Western Christian mind and culture must address the field of literature.” Kevin Swanson chose to examine five literary giants: William Shakespeare – Macbeth; Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter (severing the heritage); Mark Twain – Huckleberry Finn (rejecting the faith); Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck (20th century literature). “Every author begins somewhere; he works off a baseline and a heritage. But his work also follows a trajectory that reflects his heart direction.” And wherever the heart direction leads, that is where the literature will attempt to lead its readers.

While the first stage of deconstruction began in the 1700’s with the philosophers of the Enlightenment period (Age of Reason) and moved into the 1900’s through the education system designed by John Dewey with the second stage repeating this pattern through literature, the third stage is pretty much unique to the latter part of the 20th century and early 21st century. The third stage involved the cultural revolution through the use of mass media. With the advent of radio, television, and the computer and internet, culture changes moved swiftly when the emphasis shifted from literature to the music and entertainment industry. The philosophies formerly expressed for the educated “pillars of society” was now conveyed to everyone else through music and movies. The author dedicated the final two chapters of the book to this phenomenon.

My first reaction after reading the book was fascination at the array of unique information and approach to the theme of the deconstruction of Western Civilization. Then when the implications finally hit me, I felt awed at the patterns in history, the battle plans and the lines drawn in the sand. For the most part, this is an analysis of an invisible, silent battle, that has taken place over hundreds of years, in graduated steps. The author does a wonderful job of stepping back from the details of life and looking at the big picture over the past 800 years of history. His approach is well organized, logical, thorough, and fairly easy to understand especially for those of us who align ourselves with the Christian worldview. Then I felt dismay at the scope of the battle, how like dominoes once one structure started to tumble others began to topple as well, until I remembered that “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Trust_Engineer

I found it helpful to keep a glossary of terminology that I created myself as I read. Some of the terms I was only superficially familiar with and needed to consult a good dictionary to get the historical context as well as the complete meaning of the term. I think a short glossary should have been included in the book. I would have loved to have had this text to use with my two home-schooled high school students. I can easily see how this would have lent itself to the development of a one year history, literature and philosophy course. Like the author, I want my children and grandchildren to understand how our civilization became unraveled.

Cross Focused Reviews

Cross Focused Reviews

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Generations with Vision (publishers) and 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.

Freedom from Depression: Emotional Healing Through Spiritual Health and Wholeness by Jenny Swindall –Review

Lord near broken heartedFreedom From DepressionFreedom From Depression: Emotional Healing Through Spiritual Health and Wholeness
by Jenny Swindall

Every which way you look at it, I have had an intimate and face to face relationship with depression. I’ve known the stuck-in-the-mud type that comes when life delivers a sucker punch to the gut. I’ve also experienced the depression that accompanies the gut wrenching grief we feel at the loss of loved ones. I’ve seen up close and nasty when a family member became stuck in one of the stages of grief and couldn’t move on for years. Everyone else around this person suffered too. I’ve personally experienced the type of depression that is the result of hormone changes after the arrival of a new family member, and the ravages of PTSD when life became overwhelmingly unbearable for awhile. I just shut down for a few months. I’ve experienced the biological kind of ups and downs associated with monthly mood swings. And finally, there have been the wild fluctuations of the bipolar nature whether there were triggers or not. Definitely depression and I are old school buddies.

I have examined depression from a clinical point of view. I have dealt with it from a teacher’s point of view. Regardless how one turns this many faceted prism, I’ve witnessed or experienced many of its surfaces. So you can believe me when I state that this is a book that offers practical and workable solutions for depression. The steps outlined within these pages work. What we find in this helpful workbook is an author who has been in the trenches of depression herself. Those of us who have been in the pit appreciate it when a fellow sufferer offers a guiding hand. And you will not find any psycho-babble in these pages.

you will be free indeed

“This is not a self-help book; it is more like a “Jesus-help” book, because it was written for people who are desperate to find a way out of depression and who know that the Lord is their hope for freedom.” Freedom from Depression is set up to serve as a small group study or as a handbook/workbook for an individual. Each chapter presents a Biblical principle and builds on the previous chapters. The participant is encouraged to read one chapter each week, working through the study questions and actively doing the given assignments.The author has drawn on her own experiences as illustrations for some of the points. She also employs Scripture verses, word pictures, tables or graphs to illuminate a lesson. At the conclusion of each chapter is a short heart-felt prayer.

As I explored each chapter I was impressed with the honest simplicity of the author’s approach. There’s no clinical analysis, no judgment, and no preaching. The amount of material to read is not overwhelming or technical. Instead I felt as if I were sitting on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa warming my hands, talking about a shared experience with my sister…or chuckling over an amusing incident. The empathy and warmth in each precept introduced seems to flow from the author’s heart to the reader’s. I could tell that Ms. Swindall really cares that her readers find healing and wholeness through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

The other thing I noticed about the book’s make-up is how easy it would be to return to a chapter, and guided by the clear headings and sub-headings, find exactly the place you need to repeat an exercise, rework some of the questions, re-read a section pertaining to some new trial that’s come your way, or to regain some assurance. The book is well organized with succinct divisions that make this a terrific resource.

If a person becomes serious about overcoming depression using this book as a guide, the author recommends working through it with a friend or a small group. Another person is able to help hold the participant accountable and provide much needed encouragement. Emotional healing takes time. It isn’t unusual to feel like giving up mid-stream. Achieving wholeness when all you can think about is your brokenness is a process where sometimes all the progress a person can make for awhile is baby steps. Another person sharing the journey can help prevent discouragement.

Believe God more than feelings

Finally, Jenny Swindall encourages her readers to visit her website where she provides a video introduction for each of the chapters in the book. The website address is provided on the final pages. If the reader is part of a small group working through the book together, these short videos are a great way to open each session.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Charisma House Publishing and the Booketeria. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Forever Friday: A Novel by Timothy Lewis – A Review

Forever Friday: A Novel by Timothy Lewis

a beautiful life

“As the fingers
Of souls
Who are one
Intertwine
To form complete and perfect trust,
Our todays and yesterdays
Eternally refine
Tomorrow’s most precious gift…not just
That we are lovers…
But each other’s “bestest” friend.
Forever, Gabe”

Forever Friday

Every once in awhile you find a story that feels special when you read it. There’s an intangible something that rises above the storyline and the physical workings of a plot, setting, and characterization. It’s as if a song had been captured mid-flight from ear to ear, and craftily inserted into the essence of the story in some mysterious way. This author is an artist, a song writer, and a poet. Somehow he snared all the elements of art, song and poetry and wove them into a mere story about a man and a woman. This new entity then shines through the story from the beginning and retains its glow throughout the tale.

This is a well-penned love story told in two dimensions of time. One man fell in love and lived his dream with his soul mate in the early twentieth century. The other man, living in the present, has no clue what a soul mate is nor what love is. So he embarks on a quest to find them, fueled by a failed marriage and the discovery of an elusive tale told in a series of postcards found in some photo albums at an estate sale of which he was in charge.

At first, Adam didn’t think anything was special about the Alexander’s photo albums. They were nearly thrown out in the trash when no one claimed them by the end of the sale. But the poetry caught his eye and he was intrigued. The cards spanned a period of 60 years. His own marriage hadn’t even lasted twelve years. How did a couple retain that special closeness he found evidence of in the notes? “Throughout each gloomy day, I’d pour over the postcards every spare minute, searching for the precious secret to Huck and Gabe Alexander’s happiness.”

Adam tracked down friends and family of the Alexanders and under the guise of asking questions about the estate he was settling, tried to ferret out more information. No one ever mentioned the post cards. Eventually he learned that the couple had a housekeeper for 26 years–Priscilla. She was like a daughter to them. She had a daughter of her own…Yvette. When Priscilla was killed in an auto accident, the Alexanders wanted to adopt the little girl. They shared a close relationship with her the rest of their days. Adam decided he needed to talk with Yvette to see if she could shed some light on the circumstances behind the weekly poetry. Each time Adam and Yvette met and talked, another chapter was born: the intriguing life story of Huck and Gabe Alexander.

Enjoy_little_things

Did Adam find what he was searching so diligently for? I’m not telling! But about two- thirds of the way through the story he pondered: “The trust between [me and my former wife] had soon evaporated, leaving completeness wounded at the matrimonial starting gate. For the most part, neither of us was unfaithful as such, but as I’d already reasoned, we each had a scandalous love affair with our own selfishness. And under the twelve year strain of making ‘me’ happy, our link weakened until it finally broke.” Adam wasn’t certain he would ever find the kind of relationship the Alexanders had, but with every revelation he received through the tale told by Yvette, he felt hope.

I absolutely fell in love with this story. The author derived his inspiration when he discovered postcards his great Aunt had received from his great Uncle, carefully preserved in photo albums. There was an original poem written for her every week and delivered every Friday for 60 years. The collection had been kept a secret. At the estate sale, the author literally rescued the albums from the trash. I was drawn into Gabe and Huck’s story by the author’s expert storytelling, just the right amount of historical context (the early 20th century), and a slight hint of mystery. Who was Mr. Jack? I am thrilled to share this discovery with you.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Waterbrook Press and the website, Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/blog/2013/06/28/video-forever-friday-by-timothy-lewis/

http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/blog/2013/02/04/podcast-forever-friday-by-timothy-lewis/

http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/blog/2013/07/03/sneak-peek-forever-friday-by-timothy-lewis/

http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/author-spotlight.php?authorid=176289 (Author’s bio)

http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?work=227694 (More information)

Reviewing Some Children’s Books ~~ Part 2

clipartreading 1I’m one of these old school former teachers who believes that children’s books should have a purpose to them. I’m not really talking about formal lessons per se, but there should be something to appreciate in what children read. That might be a great story line, great illustrations to help us capture a dream or an idea, characters you just have to love, good character development, great setting, and so on. I’ve even changed my mind about some types of children’s books I’ve questioned in the past because of the good they brought about. I’m not trying to stand in judgement of children’s literature, but time with them is so precious that I hate to waste it on fluff.

In the following series I found an author who wrote with very important purpose. She was trying to prepare our children for social events in their lives. And yes, this particular series teaches a lesson. These are also secular books, but I think you’ll see how valuable these lessons are.

1.  A Help Me Be Good Book About Teasing by Joy Berry

Help me to be good about teasing

Joy Berry has written several series of picture books that deal with social behavior for children. The Help Me Be Good books seem to be written for preschool and kindergarten age children. They are written in cartoon form, almost like a comic book, with visual examples of the “rule” being taught. If you are familiar with the Highlights magazine for children, sometimes the cartoons take after the Goofus and Gallant series. One person demonstrates how it shouldn’t be done, and the other models the desirable behavior. The pictures are colorful and simple enough to get the point across. They are reminiscent of the Magic School Bus books where other side characters make funny remarks about what’s going on.

Ms. Berry explains her rationale behind these series. “Children have the ability to be good, and they are often eager to please. However, they often don’t understand their own egocentric or self-centered behavior. This self-centeredness often leads to misbehavior, and the misbehavior often leads to negative responses from others. The purpose of the Help Me Be Good books is to help your child break the cycle of negative action and reaction. Your child will learn how to replace misbehavior with acceptible behavior.”

In this book about teasing, T.J. teases his younger sister, Tami. The lessons teach her how to deal with her brother’s poor behavior. Other books in this series are about: Disobeying, Being Bossy, Accepting No, Throwing Tantrums, and Being Forgetful…to name a few.

I have found the philosophy of replacing bad behavior with good behavior is a good workable solution. Not every method is perfect, nor is it guaranteed to work all the time, but in my experience good discipline (not punishment) includes positive training. The key is to be persistent. I believe these books are a great tool for parents to use with younger children. I am especially impressed with the scope of topics covered in this series.

2.  How to Have Good Table Manners (A Survival Skills Book) by Joy Berry

Good Table Manners

Joy Berry has written several series of picture books that deal with social behavior for children. The Survival Skills series is written for 5 to 8 year-old children and covers a wide variety of common topics such as table manners, talking on the phone, being a good guest, how to behave in public, how to handle emergencies and so on. They are written in cartoon form, almost like a comic book, with visual examples of the “rule” being taught. If you are familiar with the Highlights magazine for children, sometimes the cartoons take after the Goofus and Gallant series. One person demonstrates how it shouldn’t be done, and the other models the desirable behavior. The pictures are colorful and simple enough to get the point across. They are reminiscent of the Magic School Bus books where other side characters make funny remarks about what’s going on.

In this book, Pamela asks Maggie to come over to dinner at her home. Pamela is setting a good example while Maggie is a mess. Her antics are comical but a little disturbing to the other people sitting at the table with her. The approach the book uses is to help someone who is baffled when they are told to be gracious at the dinner table. The first half of the book explains that gracious means thinking of others and that good manners are a way to be thoughtful; she then demonstrates how the rules apply. In the second half of the book, it covers in detail the pieces in a proper place setting of dishes, bowls, glasses, cups, napkins and flatware. Other topics include cutting your food, passing dishes to others, use of utensils, removing something discreetly from your mouth, placement of silverware when finished, how to excuse yourself from the table, and how to treat your hosts.

“The more you practice good table manners, the more natural they will become to you and the more you and others will enjoy mealtimes together.” I think that it is best to use a book like this to explore this topic first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. It can be approached as a “coming of age” skill to be mastered before their first visit to a friend’s home. A child that is dealing with hurt feelings, shame, or embarrassment has a more difficult time learning these skills after the fact because they often get defensive. I highly recommend this valuable book and series.

3.  How to Say the Right Thing (A Survival Skills book) by Joy Berry

Say the Right Thing

Joy Berry has written several series of picture books that deal with social behavior for children. The Survival Skills series is written for 6 to 8 year-old children and covers a wide variety of common topics such as table manners, talking on the phone, being a good guest, how to behave in public, how to handle emergencies, how to go to bed, how to clean your room, how to be kind to your guest, how to make your breakfast and lunch, how to take care of your clothes, and so on. They are written in cartoon form, almost like a comic book, with visual examples of the “rule” being taught. If you are familiar with the Highlights magazine for children, sometimes the cartoons take after the Goofus and Gallant series. One person demonstrates how it shouldn’t be done, and the other models the desirable behavior. The pictures are colorful and simple enough to get the point across. They are reminiscent of the Magic School Bus books where other side characters make funny remarks about what’s going on.

Ms. Berry explains what this book sets out to accomplish: “When you talk with other people, you need to know about
*handling introductions
*handling conversations
*acknowledging compliments and gifts
*making and accepting apologies
*saying no
*excusing yourself.”

The book is about Pamela when she meets and greets friends and acquaintances. Then Arnold comes along and again you have the Goofus and Gallant scenario where friends interact among themselves. Pamela models proper conversational skills and Arnold displays disruptive or rude behaviors. Other lessons include being gracious when people ask you questions and friendship skills.

I find that it is best to introduce these topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A child that is dealing with hurt feelings, shame, or embarrassment has a more difficult time learning these skills because they often get defensive.

“The most important thing to remember when you are with other people is this: Treat other people the way you want to be treated. If you follow this guideline, you will usually end up saying the right thing.”

4.  Every Kid’s Guide to Making Friends (A Living Skills Book) by Joy Berry

friends

Joy Berry has written several series of graphic/picture books that deal with social behavior for children and young people. The Living Skills series seems to be written for children 8 to 10 years old. Other books in the series includes: Every Kid’s Guide to Nutrition and Health, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Disagreements, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Family Arguments, Every Kid’s Guide to Laws that Relate to Kids in the Community, Every Kid’s Guide to Intelligent Spending, Every Kid’s Guide to Good Manners, Every Kid’s Guide to Making and Managing Money, Every Kid’s Guide to Being Special, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Fights with Brothers or Sisters, Every Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Prejudice and Discrimination, Every Kid’s Guide to Laws that Relate to School and Work, Every Kid’s Guide to Handling Illness, Every Kid’s Guide to Understanding Nightmares, Every Kid’s Guide to Laws that Relate to Parents and Children, Every Kid’s Guide to Decision Making and Problem Solving, and more.

The graphics in the book are very much like The Magic School Bus series. Little animal characters at the bottom of the page make humorous comments to each other while the kids above them interact with each other. The lessons are fast paced and short. The graphics are bright, simple and succinct, and the guidelines are something even adults should practice every day.

Ms. Berry explains what this book sets out to accomplish: “In Every Kid’s Guide to Making Friends, you will learn about
*friends
*guidelines for making friends
*guidelines for keeping friends
*the importance of having friends.”

I especially agree with one of her concluding statements about friendship. “Friends don’t just happen. It takes work to create a friendship. However, the good things you do to make friends are worthwhile because friends make life more interesting. Friends can also help make you happy.” I agree. It’s important that our young people know that good things are worth working for.

I find that it is best to introduce these topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A child that is dealing with hurt feelings, shame, or embarrassment has a more difficult time learning these skills because they often feel defensive and put up walls.

5.  You Can Be a Star! (A Winning Skills Book) by Joy Berry

be a star

Joy Berry has written several series of graphic/picture books that deal with social behavior for children and young people. The Winning Skills Books series seems to be written with middle school age children in mind–the fifth through eighth grades. I’m sure depending on the maturity of the child, third and fourth grade young people could also benefit from this series. Some of the books I’ve found in this series include: You Can Overcome Fear, You Can Be Assertive, You Can Handle Criticism and Rejection, You Can Handle Rude People, You Can Be a Winner, You Can Handle Stress, You Can Have a Great Future, You Can Get Rid of Bad Habits, You Can Be Liked, You Can Be Beautiful, You Can Handle Tough Situations, You Can Attain Your Goals, You Can Get Organized, You Can Be Creative, You Can Be Smart, You Can Be in Control, You Can Be Happy, and others.

The graphics in the book are black and white pencil drawings in comic book fashion (not superheros). The young people in the cartoons are a little older than middle school age in appearance. The lessons are relevant to young people and short in length. The graphics are simple and succinct, and the guidelines are something even adults should practice every day.

The first half of the book explains famous, infamous, and the characteristics of being a star. Stars are usually respected, appreciated, receive special attention, and recognized by others. Some are little known and some are well-known. A star has the ability to affect others in a positive or negative way. There are advantages and disadvantages to being a star. Most people want the advantages of being a star because they want to be respected, appreciated, recognized and receive special attention. The author talks about balance, give and take, and fulfilling our purpose in this world. “People are healthiest and happiest when they are fulfilling their purpose.”

The second half of the book gives attention to how a person can fulfill their purpose by honing their skills and finding and using their talents. The author talks about using those talents as a young person and eventually segues into a discussion of goals and careers using these same talents and skills. “The focus needs to be on what you can give rather than on what you can receive out of life. If you concentrate on what you can give, you will make a contribution to the world of which you are a part, and this will make you a star.”

I find that it is best to introduce these topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A young person that is dealing with hurt feelings, insecurities, shame, or embarrassment has a much more difficult time learning these skills after the fact because they often get defensive and put up walls.

I believe this series would be very helpful to parents of middle school age children and young people. I encourage the parents/guardians to include family discussion with the use of these books, especially when incorporating the value system the family espouses.

6.  Change and Moving by Joy Berry

change and moving

Joy Berry has written several series of graphic/picture books that deal with social behavior for children and young people. The Good Answers to Tough Questions Books is a series that appears to be geared toward Middle School age and Junior High age young people. Depending on the maturity of the young person, I believe upper elementary young people would benefit from the series as well, as long as there is good interaction with care-taking adults and/or loved ones. Some of the books I’ve found in this series include: Good Answers to Tough Questions about Death, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Divorce, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Traumatic Experiences (or Trauma), Dependence and Separation, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Disasters, Weight Problems and Eating Disorders, Step-families, Physical Disabilities, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Substance Abuse, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Moving, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Adoption, Good Answers to Tough Questions about First Time Experiences, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Learning Disabilities, Good Answers to Tough Questions about Mental Illness, Serious Illness, and others.

The graphics in this book are colorful and focus on students who appear to be middle school age. The lessons are relevant to young people and short in length. The graphics are simple and succinct, and the guidelines are something even adults should practice every day. Most of the material is conveyed in a dialogue format between students at school and a teacher in a classroom.

The first half of the book discusses different types of changes. They talk about how we react to change and what our choices are to the different types of change. “Although you can have control over many of the changes in your life, it is impossible for you to have complete control over all of them. This is especially true of unwanted changes. Unwanted changes are a natural part of every human being’s life.” The author concludes, “When you handle a change appropriately it has a positive effect on your life.” Then she explains how to handle circumstances appropriately.

The second half of the book discusses moving which is often perceived by some young people as an unwanted change. The author writes down how many react to a move, their fears and uncertainties. Then she offers several steps to take to handle these emotions. I think this advice is practical and workable if followed.

I find that it is best to introduce these kind of topics first as preventative skills rather than bringing the book out after a problem has occurred. A young person that is dealing with hurt feelings, insecurities, shame, or embarrassment has a much more difficult time learning these skills after the fact because they often get defensive and put up walls.

I believe this series would be very helpful to parents of middle school age children and young people. I encourage a person to include family discussion with the use of these books, especially when incorporating the value system the family espouses.

Red Like Blood: Confrontations with Grace by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington — A Review

Amazing_graceRed Like Blood: Confrontations with Grace by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington

“Grace is more of a liquid than a solid. I think most of us know that implicitly which is why we say that grace flows. A liquid needs to be contained or it will run all over the place. Liquids are not passive. Once [Grace] is unleashed there is no telling how far it will go or where it will end up. In the middle of Walmart my friend Noel unleashed grace [through a generous incident], and grace flowed into the cracks of a broken heart as it is always prone to do. Grace needs one thing. It needs cracks. The bigger the crack, the deeper grace will penetrate. A soul with no cracks is like a piece of marble. Grace just runs off but never gets in. At Walmart, Noel found a woman whose husband had just died. Cracks and grace go together. When grace does find a crack to move into there is no telling how far it will go and what it will end up doing. Such is the nature of grace.” Joe

Red Like Blood graphic
Life stories are a remarkable phenomenon–a unique gift from God. Life stories take time to develop; they are sometimes years in the making. They usually have a beginning, a middle and an end. Sometimes a person can experience several life stories over the span of their existence. When we become acquainted with other people, we are usually unaware of their particular life stories until we find common ground. Then one friend tells a life story of theirs to them.

These life stories are like the bubbles children enjoy in the summer. A story becomes a free agent and floats around bumping into other bubbles from time to time. Sometimes the bubbles only touch briefly and go on their way. Occasionally the bubbles bump hard enough to cause one or both to change direction. I’ve seen some bubbles collide, exchange some material and break apart, somewhat altered. From time to time some bubbles may stick together after they meet and touch. Perhaps those are the ones where their life story caused them to bond and continue along the same path together. This last bubble type reminds me of Bob and Joe. Their life stories collided and they bonded. They became stronger for the alliance. As they moved on, they encountered other life stories and like bubbles bumped, changed directions, exchanged material, and proceeded. Like bubbles, our life stories take on a life of their own, known only to God. We can’t even begin to imagine the results when they touch others.

bestow grace on others

This book is different in that there are stories within stories. There is a broader story, but its life is in communicating others’ stories as they touched along the way. The connecting medium for all these shared stories is Grace. We get up close and personal, see the cracks form, watch Grace as it flows and oozes down deep inside. The story was never the same after that. So this book isn’t just about Bob and Joe. It is also about Roland, Ricky, Jay, Mark, Randy, Tim, Andrew, Gene, Frank, Stan, C.J., John, Philip and Euretta, Karen, Dave, Joni, Amy and Rita, Rob, Grace, Big Dan, Jerry, Tom, Byron, Marshall,  Steve and others. Over and over, the stories are about brokenness and God’s Grace.

I loved this book. It is not religious in the sense that it tells you how to do something. No, it is a collection of enjoyable stories that reveal something marvelous, something true. Grace will transform us if we let it. I highly recommend it.

Cross Focused Reviews

Cross Focused Reviews

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Shepherd Press and 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.

Reviewing Some Children’s Books ~~ Part 1

I thought I would try something different today. Since September is back to school for many families, I am going to review some children’s books. There are quite a few genres represented, and several types of children’s books. The ones I review today are basically children’s picture books with an animal theme.

The first three are by James MayRose, an author who creates his children’s books with photography. His pictures are beautiful, attractive for children, up close and personal. He has a talent for capturing animals in winsome poses.

1. High Five: Caught on Camera by James MayRose

High Fivin Animals Caught on Camera

Children love picture books. They usually come in different types. This one is a picture book you sit to read to the little ones. This one features photographs of a variety of animals in comic poses, all as if they were offering a ‘high five’ to the viewer or another furry friend. With each picture is a caption that catches the moment and personifies it. Even a beluga whale gets into the act. “I see the ‘high’, but where’s the ‘five’ ?” Since this book is on a kindle, the pictures are alive and vibrant, and sure to entertain the little ones with the cute and the weird.

2.  Dear God…Twenty-six Very Short Prayers for Children (To Inspire and Make Them Smile) by James MayRose

Animal Prayers

My children always loved picture books when they were very young. This type of picture book is one where you sit down to read to them while looking at the various animal pictures. This book features photographs of many kinds of animals in poses that look like they are praying to God. Some of the captions accompanying the pictures are serious, and some are light-hearted; none are disrespectful. A mother monkey holds her little one close and prays, “God, thank you so much for my beautiful daughter. She is the love of my life. Please help me to do my best for her and raise her in Your image. Amen.” Children can learn so much about God when they hear prayers modeled for them. This book is on kindle, and the pictures are alive, warm and friendly. There’s a great variety of animals represented in this book.

3. In the Hands of God: 24 Message to Inspire You and Life Your Spirits by James MayRose

In the Hands of God

“In God’s hands we are all beautiful…
for God sees the prince inside every frog.
God helps us to see the inner beauty in all people and things.”

They say a pictures is worth a thousand words. In this picture book for children (of all ages), the theme is animals and hands. Many of the animals shown are in someone’s hands. The messages are short, usually 3-4 lines long, but powerful and important for our children. There’s one tiny message for each picture. My favorite image is two hands releasing a lovely white dove into the air. The photograph captures and essence of freedom and the bird stretches out his wings and takes flight. Having this book on the kindle shows off the photographs to their best advantage. You get a close up view of a lot of animals you normally wouldn’t see so close.

4.  The Singing Bobcat by Marie Tabler

the singing bobcat

Some children’s picture books are born out of a moment of experience and a good dose of “What if…?” The author of this book says this book was inspired by the mournful cry of a bobcat she heard while out jogging with her friend. The story of an unlikely friendship between a little blue chick and the bobcat was the result. For awhile, the friendship was sweet, but when winter began to approach, bobcat was sad because his friend had to leave and fly to warmer places. Children will enjoy what happens next.

Computer generated graphics, a rhyming scheme, and a satisfying ending give this charming story a light-hearted touch. Its message about friendship in the unlikeliest places is universal.

5. God Loves You and All the Bugs Too by Heather McBride

God Loves you and bugs

Technically, this is not really a children’s picture book nor is it a child’s read aloud book. It seems to be more like a children’s program, much like the Junior Church program my husband and I used to have with children while the adults were upstairs having worship services. The first half of the book is a grouping of children’s songs such as Jesus Loves Me, This Little Light of Mine, Angels Watching Over Me (this one I recognized from the Wee Sing Bible Songs book and tape/CD), and a couple other songs I wasn’t familiar with. [King of the Jungle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJwUvjVq9k4%5D There are graphics inserted on some pages that are common stock pictures you can find easily on the internet. Then there are some Bible verses with a few more pictures.

The second half of the book contains the story. Again, it is not a fictional story with a plot line, characters and setting, but a basic pre-school lesson with Bible verses interspersed. The graphics are cute. There’s at least one on each page. You could sit down with a young child and read them this story as you would a picture book, although in my opinion, the graphics are too small to catch and hold their interest while you give the lesson.

For very little children, it would probably be best to divide the “story” into smaller chunks and focus on a particular point and its verses and a song or two. It would be preferable to take only 10 minutes at a time. The “story” would be too long to deliver as a stand up lesson in Pee Wee church all the way through.

This would make a good reference source for a children’s worker.

21 Prayers for Teen Girls by Shelley Hitz and Heather Hart — A Review

Hemmed_in_with_prayer

“Being beautiful in Christ isn’t as easy as slapping on a layer of makeup in the morning or
making sure to pick up the right clothes when you’re at the mall–it takes commitment and
the help of Christ living within you. It’s not something that you can achieve on your own,
but it’s a beauty that surpasses any physical primping you could ever do.”

“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing
praises.” James 5:13 (NASB)

Now that I look back to my teen years, I am amazed that I managed to get through that tough period of my life without the fortifying and encouraging material I’ve found in this book. I remember being desperate for something positive in my life. I was being so overwhelmed by attacks, whether they were from the inside or the outside, that I was convinced I must be a truly ugly person. The world works overtime to make us doubt ourselves. Since that’s only scratching the surface of bad influences on our hearts and minds, then it makes sense that we need to be diligent to pour into our minds a counterattack in the form of the truth we find in Scripture. How does God really view us
and feel about us?

21 prayers for teen girls image

If you are not sure what you should believe about yourself, this book will help you with that. The authors know what it is like to feel rejection, to experience peer pressure and doubts. They know what it is like to feel uncertain about the future and believe the lies others want you to believe about yourself. They take you through many prayers based on Bible verses that affirm how valuable you are and beautiful in God’s eyes. The prayers bring to our attention character qualities we may not have given any thought to before this. There is encouragement day by day, and prayer by prayer, for us to live out that value in our lives.

I don’t think you need to be a teenager to find this book encouraging. The prayers and verses directed my thoughts toward a loving, accepting God who wants a personal relationship with me. We all need that kind of reassurance and personal relationship. I highly recommend this book for anyone who would benefit from a focused guide that helps build positive thought habits in place of the negative ones we may have unintentional accepted for ourselves.

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by the authors and Body and Soul Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.