A Touch From Heaven: A Little Boy’s Story of Surgery, Heaven and Healing by Neal Pylant and Christopher Pylant ~ Review

A Touch From Heaven: A Little Boy’s Story of Surgery, Heaven and Healing by Neal Pylant and Christopher Pylant

“If all things are possible with God, then all things are possible to him who believes in Him.” Corrie Ten Boom

A Touch from Heaven

One of the things I like about true stories is that often they are stranger than fiction. This story is no different. It may even be considered bizarre by some who disclaim anything supernatural. A little guy the age of a pre-schooler, who the medical experts on his team claimed could not live, survived a stage 4 brain tumor. His parents were told that medical science couldn’t do anything for him. So why is he alive today?

By the time Christopher Pylant arrived at John Hopkins Hospital his medical tests revealed a defused brain stem tumor which was placing pressure on his brain stem and the cerebellum. They believed it had nearly consumed the stem and after surgery to relieve some of the pressure, it was considered inoperable and terminal. But that wasn’t the end of the story; it was the middle. To get the full picture and learn how and why Christopher lives today, you have to read all the story from the beginning. All I can say is that the entire sequence of events from start to the present is hard to believe even for those of us with a living relationship with God, not just a religion with a system of rituals.

If there had not been a viable medical history and record, this story could be shoved aside as fanatical belief, wishful thinking, extremism, or pure fantasy. But one of the pediatric neurosurgeons on Chris’s medical team was Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr. MD, who wrote the forward to this book. He was a Christian who prayed before surgery and who has seen many unexplainable things in his medical practice. In fact, he wrote a book himself later–Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential or Excellence in which he shared some of his experience with the Pylants’ son. He also shared a conversation he had with another member of the medical team, a neuro-oncologist who up to that point was an atheist until he encountered the Pylants’ faith and saw with his own eyes what had happened with the tumor to make it operable. The man said it made him a believer.

be strong let your heart take courage

It’s true. The tumor had begun to die. The doctors saw a remarkable thing happen: Chris woke up from the coma he was in, his body which had started to shut down had begun to revive, he could speak a little bit, and when the doctors could finally remove the massive tumor, they found his brain stem, smashed and twisted, but still whole. Later, when Neal Pylant began documenting the events for this book, he talked with one of the operating neurosurgeons and asked how many others had survived this type of cancer. The answer was a disconcerting “no one”.

While I was reading this chronicle of the roller coaster events effectively written by Chris’s father, which includes his family history, his first marriage and daughter, how he found Carole, her family background, and the events leading up to the surgeries, it was easy to see this was more than just an unusual medical story. It seems to be a puzzle piece that fits into a much larger picture in which God has allowed us a glimpse to witness His hand in the work of transforming many lives…all through His healing touch of a little boy.

Trust_in_HIS

Sometimes it was hard for me to read of all the challenges faced by this small family unit. I had to put the book down and return to it later more than once at the intensity of emotion I experienced with the family. I had already seen the effects of cancer and chemo on a body. I have lost four members of my family to cancer, two grandparents, a brother and my father. My brother and father had both been discovered with cancer when it was already in the fourth stage. They were both told it was inoperable and terminal. I knew some of the pain this family was experiencing.

But in the end, I came away from reading this book encouraged and uplifted. I am sure that was the original intent of the writer by relating this heart-stirring true story. I can enthusiastically recommend this book to you. It may not always be easy to read because the author is honest and open about his reactions, his feelings, his faith, and his despair. It may raise more than a few questions about their decisions, their faith and even about God. The Pylants were normal human beings with as many flaws and faults as you and I have, and they faltered along the way from time to time. But their faith grew as they met one challenge after another. We can relate to others like that. And I know for a fact that asking questions and seeking out answers is a good thing. God is never put off by our inquiries and entreaties.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Destiny Image Publishers, Inc. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Eternity Changes Everything: How to live in the light of your future by Stephen Witmer ~ A Review ~

Eternity Changes Everything: How to live in the light of your future by Stephen Witmer

Nik Wallenda Niagara Falls tightwalk

I remember watching online Nik Wallenda walking on the high wire across Niagara Falls, Ontario in June, 2012. I just watched the highlights a few minutes ago to refresh my memory. I was impressed with the fact that although he made it look easy, it was apparent that it was a dangerous feat to accomplish because of the winds, the mist, the slope of the wire as it dipped 35 feet downward and then upward again. The balance beam moved around more than I had ever seen in a performance before. It was hard work, but he made it across.

Nik_Wallenda_Niagara_Falls_closeup

If you could picture yourself as a tightrope walker, what lines would you be trying to balance between? What would you use as your balance beam that keeps you steady and surefooted on that high wire? Is your beam helping you keep your footing effectively? If your foot has slipped a few times, and whose hasn’t, perhaps you are using a balance beam that’s not so helpful. I would like to share with you a book that may hold the key for surety of foot in the balance act of life: Eternity Changes Everything by Stephen Witmer.

“Our view of the future–whether it’s our vacation, our career, our health, or anything else–affects how we feel and how we act, in the present.”

Eternity Changes Everything
The author devotes the first half of this compact 12-chapter book skillfully drawing vivid mental pictures of our future from a Biblical perspective. His intention is to offer his readers more than hope–a certainty we can count on without the plague of doubts nagging at us. He uses a variety of illustrations, a giant golden cube, a tic tac toe game, an oak tree, and his GRE exam, to drive home his point.

“And because those chapters are about our future, the rest of the book is about our present, about the difference knowing our future makes to how we view our lives, and live our lives, right now.”

Our lives seem to be all about a balancing act. Should we live for right now, or should we live for the future? Or can we do both? How much should our view of the future influence our present? How much should we invest in this life to improve it? When should we settle and when should we not settle for what life seems to offer us? If you are struggling with a disconnect between looking back, looking forward, and living in the here and now, this book may help you gain a better perspective.

Witmer coins an intriguing phrase in this book: restless patience. It’s a paradoxical combination of terms that may not make much sense to us until we have finished the second half of his book. But ask yourself these questions. When is restlessness a good trait? How much patience is the right amount and when is it alright to be impatient? I won’t spoil the idea by telling you more, but I can tell you that this concept has already fixed itself in my mind’s eye through the use of illustration and will stay with me a long time. It has set me thinking about my motivations for the things I do right now and will do in the months to come. That’s a sign of a great book.

Eternity Changes Everything book trailer

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC)on behalf of The Good Book Company. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida written by Robert Scott Thayer Illustrated by Lauren Gallegos; Little Ray books by V.R. Duin ~ Reviews~

Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida written by Robert Scott Thayer and Illustrated by Lauren Gallegos

Kobee Manatee

Kobee Manatee by Robert Scott Thayer is a children’s picture book written with a purpose. This 34- page richly illustrated book tells us important facts about the manatee that normally lives off the warm coastlands south of the US. Kobee is a West Indian Manatee, although they are called Florida manatees as well. In the fiction portion of the book, Kobee has gone up to northern waters for the summer. But when it gets a bit colder in September, he is ready to head on south for the winter.

On his way back home to Blue Spring State Park, Florida, Kobee meets up with a seahorse and a hermit crab, Tess and Pablo. They travel together to the warmer climate and experience a few adventures while we learn all about manatees with the use of little notes called “Kobee’s Fun Facts.”

Kobee Manatee back cover

The illustrations by Lauren Gallegos are warm, friendly and vivid. They create an inviting atmosphere for Kobee’s good-hearted personality. Young children will love the gorgeous pages with the deep blue color of the northern waters and the lively sea green of the southern and warmer waters. Fantasy and fact meet amicably in this work of art.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Thompson Mill Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Amazing Flight of Little Ray

The Amazing Flight of Little Ray by V.R. Duin

What happens when a critter asks itself, “Why can’t I?” This is a great story for those of us who are parents, grandparents, or teachers of little ones who sometimes ask us, “Why can’t I?” One day, our friend, Little Ray does just that. He wants to do something more…he wants to fly like a bird. His wise but worried mother doesn’t say a thing as he sets out to try his “wings” over and over. She knows some lessons in life are best learned through experience. Then poor Little Ray has a mishap with the very creature he wants to emulate. But he has a secret that he knows will solve his problem and he escapes without injury. While he plunges down toward his wet and sandy home, he becomes so thankful for the safety of the shallows off the coast. But even in his relief to escape, he still wants to try his “wings” again…sometime.

What can we learn from this whimsical story? It’s OK to try something new. It’s OK to fail and try again. It takes time and experience to learn what is
realistic to aim for and what is not. Some of our experiences in life tell us what our limitations are. Others encourage us to take a risk and aim higher. And it’s up to us help our children find a balance between learning from experience and learning from the experience of others.

I think children of pre-reading age will love this book read to them. The pictures are bright and cheerful, and will help to draw them into the story.

Little Ray’s reading trailer

Author’s website

Little Ray and Shark Patch Things Up by V.R. Duin

Solving problems is a very important skill for children to learn. Little Ray turns tense to fun. I found this to be a delightful story. It is written in the type of rhyme that has rhythm. It wouldn’t take much for the children to chime in. I know my own children loved meter as well as rhyme. As a former teacher, I immediately thought of many ways to incorporate this story into some lesson plans. It’s a great launch piece and you could move right into a lesson pointing out how inaccurate first impressions can be. Another lesson would be on cooperation in solving problems. Little Ray and the shark worked together to solve the problem. Everyone deserves second chances. The shark wasn’t such a bad guy after all. And so on. The illustrations are bright and cheerful and whimsical. They are going to catch your child’s eye.

Little Ray website

link to other books by V.R. Duin

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The British Brides Collection by Bonnie Blythe, Pamela Marie Griffin, Kelly Eileen Hake, Gaylel Gaymar Martin, Tamela Hancock Murray, and Julie Stengl ~ Review

The British Brides Collection by Bonnie Blythe, Pamela Marie Griffin, Kelly Eileen Hake, Gaylel Gaymar Martin, Tamela Hancock Murray, and Julie Stengl

[This will be released on March 1, 2014]

British brides collection

This anthology, released by Barbour Publishing, is a collection of nine historical romance novellas from the Isles of Britain. Each novella is a fully developed tale with characters we grow to love. All the authors wrote their piece using the nuance of language of the period, richly researched in such a manner that their costume, mannerisms, circumstances and surroundings create a credible world the reader could become immersed in. I enjoyed reading every story in this collection.

A collection such as this allows the reader to become acquainted with authors with varying writing styles. For example, Julie Stengl wrote two of the stories: Fresh Highland Heir and Woman of Valor. The latter, a tale of the 1600’s, tells us about a timid lass who has had to travel across the country to become governess to the three motherless children of a cousin Helen has never met. She meets this cousin’s prideful brother-in-law who like her has met misfortune and been displaced from his home. She falls in love with this horsemaster though their future is uncertain.

Fresh Highland Heir is the second of a loosely bound trilogy that’s setting is in the highlands of Scotland. Each story of the trilogy centers around Kennerith Castle, though the tales are separated by centuries. As one would expect, there is conflict between clans MacMurray and Galbraith. Both lay claim to the castle and its surrounding lands. The current Earl, a Galbraith, hires Allen Croft (secretly a MacMurray) as bodyguard for his daughter Celeste, who has been threatened. The complex plot keeps the reader guessing who is on which side. The love story between Allen and Celeste that comes out of this situation is sweet and heartwarming.

Pamela Marie Griffin wrote Moonlight Masquerade and English Tea and Bagpipes. The first tale involves a mystery and double identity, two men with hidden agendas, while Letitia, a Spanish beauty, must submit to the indignity of her cousin’s airs until the final moments when the truth of all involved is revealed. English Tea and Bagpipes is the third story of the trilogy I mentioned above. Fiona is a fiery Highland maiden whose entire life has been lived in Kennerith Castle. Her stiff independent spirit creates friction when she learns her sister has run off to marry an Englishman. Fiona reluctantly teams up with the Englishman’s brother, Dr. Alex Spencer, to try to stop the marriage. Her antagonism clashes with the doctor’s stubborn will. There’s never a dull moment in this quest.

learn_from_lifePamela Hancock Murray wrote A Duplicitious Facade and Fayre Rose. Fayre Rose is the first story in the loosely knit trilogy in which Fayre, a surf’s daughter, is taken from her father when he could not pay his taxes, to Kennerith Castle to grow a certain rose for their gardens. Thus began the
legend of the MacMurray roses which played a part in the remaining stories of the trilogy.

Other stories of this anthology include Love’s Unmasking by Bonnie Blythe, A Treasure Worth Keeping by Kelly Eileen Hake, and The Apple of His Eye by Gayle Gaymar Martin. I would be hard pressed to name a favorite read among all these fabulous choices. But this final selection, Apple of His Eye, is among the more memorable for me because it is based on the author’s own family history. I’ve always loved it when a family story becomes a tale that sounds like a fairytale. An ingenious and hardworking young orchardist overcomes the social system of the times when his family cider press business becomes successful and he wins the hand of the woman he loves, a daughter of a nobleman.

I highly recommend this collection. It is one of the best anthologies I have read in a long time. I will be reading this one many times over; each story is approximately sixty pages long, just long enough for a quick afternoon or evening break. [Note: most of these stories were previously published.]

Barbour Publishing website

Faith3

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Barbour Publishing, Inc. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 FR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Warriors: Every Man Matters by Michael Obermire and Gary Zelesky ~ Review

Warriors: Every Man Matters by Michael Obermire and Gary Zelesky

Warriors

Warriors is a collection of stories for men, about men, by men. Some of these shorts are fictional, some biographical, and some are allegorical. There are sports stories, personal reflections, adventures, stories of fathers, husbands, sons and more. The twenty-six chapters are brief but varied. The central theme is how God meets each man where he is and calls the man to be His warrior.

“Warriors, everyday guys like you and me, are needed to demand honesty, integrity, and character in our families. Warriors create a positive, loving, compassionate, and forgiving way of life for their family and community. Warriors determine right from wrong, and stand on the side of right, whenever, wherever, and against whoever chooses to be on the side which is wrong. Warriors win because they have to; it is their family they are fighting for.”

Each chapter of this book begins with a short story followed by a segment, “Thoughts for Warriors”. Some of these thoughts are personal experiences shared by one of the authors. There are points to consider and questions to ask yourself to help the reader dig deeper. Finally, the author shares a related verse of Scripture.

word_actions

Some of the stories are meant to create mental images to help us understand a concept. Some of the stories are written to encourage us and to make us think. A few were even written to shock us out of our complacency…to face a stark reality. One of my favorites of this nature is “The Pit and the Ladder”. It is a narration in the present tense that immediately made me wonder if this was someone’s nightmare. It was downright creepy, but the allegory made a point that will stay with me a long time. “War” was another tale that took me by surprise.

The authors do not waste the reader’s time with lengthy, pointless theoretical discussions. That’s one of the things I like most about this collection. The authors keep the topics centered on what is most important in life, driving home the points starkly and bluntly. The reader can choose to use this book as a devotional, reading one chapter at a time over a period of time. Or one can skip around in any order and read what catches the eye first. The book is short enough to be read in one or two sittings–your choice.

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The book should be shared with friends–one warrior to another. My prayer is that after reading this each person will be encouraged, stand a little bit taller with resolve to be the best warrior for God they can be. I give this book five stars for relevance and excellent storytelling ability.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Bookmasters, Inc. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Prophet on the Run by Baruch Maoz ~ A Review

Prophet on the Run by Baruch Maoz

Prophet on the Run

Many of us who have attended church most of our lives are aware of the biblical story of Jonah, a prophet of God. But we too easily relegate the story to children’s lessons and neglect the depth of revelation this book can hold for us as adults. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to review Prophet on the Run, a devotional commentary, by Maruch Maoz. The saying goes that good things come in small packages, which is certainly true of this 95 page study.

No one needs to be a theological student to enjoy Maoz’s commentary. He bypasses complex argumentation that questions the reality of the sequence of events and takes cues from the Lord Jesus Himself that the events surrounding Jonah is real, then plunges immediately into a straightforward treatment of Jonah’s life story. The story itself is a good read, and Maoz’s book makes it better.

Think of the applicability of Jonah’s plight. Doesn’t what happened to Jonah sound somewhat familiar to you?

1) Jonah heard God’s call to go to Ninevah, but instead headed in the opposite
direction. If this sounds familiar to you, join the Jonah Club!

2) Jonah knew God is everywhere, yet he ran for a country hundreds of miles away. Do we try to avoid reality? Join the Jonah Club!

3) When the storm was too much for the seasoned mariners, they tossed their payload overboard. Did Jonah’s heart fill with compassion for their lost livelihood? He could have prayed and stopped the disaster, but he didn’t. Do we sometimes lack compassion for the misfortunes of others? join the Jonah Club!

4) When the ungodly sailors began to pray that their lives be saved, did Jonah join them in prayer? No, he was down in the hold sleeping. Do we sometimes lack spiritual sensitivity? Join the Jonah Club!

5) Did Jonah cast himself into the churning sea to help save his shipmates? No, he makes them throw him into the water. Do we avoid taking responsibility for our wrong doing? Join the Jonah Club!

6) While Jonah was in the belly of a fish, facing death by drowning or starvation, he prayed his repentance to God. His prayers were nearly word for
word quotes from Psalms, giving us an indication that Jonah was an educated man. However, just 40 days later after obediently calling out the Ninevites, he threw a world class hissy fit when God forgave the city of their evil deeds because they repented. Do our actions sometimes negate words of sorrow, repentance, compassion, empathy and caring? If so, join the Jonah Club!

Believe God more than feelings

Baruch Maoz does not spare the reader from his straightforward, candid observations. His to-the-point writing style is a breath of fresh air in comparison to many writers who expend their efforts beating around the bush, apparently trying not to offend anyone. In fact, one of Maoz’s most frequently penned words is “should”. When you read this book, you may have to forcibly put off the image of a nagging mother wagging her finger under your nose when the author employs this term. I found it helpful to create a mental image of a goal line where all the “shoulds” are lined up waiting for me to strive toward them in a series of passes, rushes, tackles and sprints (forgive me if I used these terms inappropriately). In other words, they are personal injunctions.

After reading this commentary, I will never think of Jonah’s story in quite the same way again. I’ve realized the story is not about Jonah after all. It is about God. He never gave up on Jonah or Ninevah. Thumbs up for a great book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC)on behalf of Shepherd Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Summer Storms (Seasons of Faith Bk. 1) by Rebekah Lyn ~ A Review

Summer Storms (Seasons of Faith Book 1) by Rebekah Lyn

This is the first book in Rebekeh Lyn’s Seasons of Faith series.

Summer Storms

Something about this author’s writing style in this book reminds me of Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series. It seems to be organized the same way and the storytelling is similar. That’s a good thing. The main character, Elizabeth Reynolds, is an independent person who has learned in her line of work to be strong as steel wrapped in soft kid leather. She is a concierge for a top rated Orlando hotel. Throughout the story, the reader gets a fascinating glimpse of the demands of a concierge and how Lizzie networks with others in her line of work for support and information sharing.

Lizzie has taken under her wing a younger man who shows potential as a concierge but needs training and coaching. In the meantime, Lizzie has found a place to live that’s closer to her job but which needs a lot of work. While working on the house, she meets Jeffery and Ian. Jeffery is a construction manager with plenty of rough edges. His former fiance had died of cancer and he still hasn’t reconciled himself to the loss. Ian was a friend of Jeffrey’s and his fiance. Their friendship has suffered over the years since her death, yet is renewed when they both start assisting Lizzie with her home repairs. Eventually both seek out Lizzie for more than friendship and end up in conflict with each other.

The author portrays the inner storms in these varied life stories in such realistic ways that I found myself empathizing with each one even through all their flaws and foibles. Jeffrey was clearly struggling and using the bar hopping scene to ease his pain. In contrast, Ian had sought out a closer relationship with God to help handle the high pressure squalls in his life. The disparity in their lifestyles threatened their friendship in more ways than one.

TRUST future to God

Lizzie herself had gone through similar struggles when she lost both her parents in an accident just a few years earlier. Both men found peace in their friendship with her. When not one but two tropical storms hit the Orlando area in close succession, friendships and relationships become more defined and stressed simultaneously. How all this is resolved is what makes this story a satisfying one to read.

Rebekah Lyn’s smooth writing brought me close to each character so well that I could feel their pain and their triumphs in very natural ways. The characters seemed like friends I would like to have myself. Their situations seemed real and true to life. While there is some intense suspense in the final chapters, for the most part the pace of the story line is moderate, sometimes leisurely and as comfortable as a walk through a park on a beautiful warm sunny day.

I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy character driven literature. An added benefit for me was the realistic and contemporary portrayal of persons who know the Lord and have a relationship with Him. At the end, we hear the complete Gospel story retold in a way that tugs at our heart as it did with one of Ms. Lyn’s characters.

Peace I leave with you

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Body and Soul Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”