STOP the Violence: Seven Stages to Sanctify by Dr. Phyllis Davis and Rev. Carrol Davis ~Review~

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STOP the Violence  Seven Stages to Sanctify

STOP the Violence: Seven Stages to Sanctify by Dr. Phyllis Davis and Rev. Carrol Davis

STOP the Violence: Seven Stages to Sanctify is a companion book to another book written by the same authors, Dr. Phyllis Davis and Rev. Carrol Davis. It is essentially a workbook version of Journey of the Soul: Cracked Pots and Broken Vessels (Live the Victorious Life Christ Died to Give You). While the original book contains the same core material, more example stories, and the authors’ personal stories, the workbook can stand on its own as text/workbook. The book fleshes out the concepts more fully, and is not absolutely necessary to do the work in the workbook, although I recommend reading the book if possible.

I feel it is important to understand, however, that this workbook was not intended to be a self-help or self-guided book. It was written with group activities in mind, or as a workbook to use while in one-on-one counseling. After reading this, I feel it is still filled with practical applications that are useful for every day life for the lone reader. It can also serve as a handbook guide for professional counselors, pastors, Christian psychologists, and group leaders who have been trained in the techniques used in both books.

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The premise: [from the back cover of the workbook] “STOP the Violence: Seven Stages to Sanctify goes beyond academic exercises and focuses on self-awareness, deep reflection, honesty, and faith. Different from ‘talk therapy’, the Seven Stages to Sanctify is designed to address life’s problems and challenges at the heart of [an] issue, rather than treating symptoms only. Based on the teachings of the Master, it is a powerful discipleship tool that is appropriate for one-on-one use, small and large groups.”

Too many people fall away from the faith because they are not taught to rightly apply the Word of God to their present needs. The workbook “takes you, the reader, on a personal journey to apply the words of the Master to specific areas of challenge in your life. The techniques used in the workbook are tested principles of sound psychological living from the Mighty Counselor, Great Physician, and His word to us through His love letter, the Scriptures. The two companion books are written to the church and fellow Christians that want to mature in Christ.”

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How it works: The authors have developed seven stages in the maturing process they call SANCTIFY. Stage one is represented by the letter “S” in SANCTIFY. Stage two is represented by the letter “A” in SANCTIFY, and so on. In the first stage, the individual identifies his problem areas, sins, behaviors, habits, and attitudes that do not align with God’s Word. In stage two, he identifies the things he does to cover the behaviors and attitudes identified in stage one. Stage three is where he identifies and overcomes his uncomfortable feelings. In the fourth stage, he digs down to the core issues that caused the pain in the first place. The two books spend the lion’s share of time on these four stages because failure to get to the core issues can result in the person’s return to the destructive behavior–to relapse. The remaining stages move through the process of recovery.

What impresses me most about the book/workbook combo’s philosophy is how centered on Scripture the process is. It melds both psychology and theology into one unified practice, filling the gaps missing in secular behavioral psychology today. It removes the barriers between the church’s accepted sins and behaviors pulpits can preach about and the more intimate, unmentionable behaviors and habits. It treats them equally under this new paradigm–as it should be. The process called SANCTIFY is applicable to bad habits and criminal sins alike. The participant chooses an issue, works through the process to completion, and then repeats by choosing another behavior. You can repeat the process over and over for every issue you can identify whether it’s something minor (in our opinion) or serious (by man’s standards).

One segment of the workbook in particular caught my interest. It was a part of Stage Three: Overcoming Your Feelings. In this segment, the authors include one of the most practical applications I’ve ever read or heard of a statement Paul made in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I’ve often puzzled over how to do just that. This book gave me ideas how to apply that Scripture. I will be putting many of these ideas into practice. This part of the book also teaches the reader how to avoid letting their emotions control them, to listen to what their feelings are really telling them about themselves.

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Another aspect of this book I like is the workbook concept itself. We are too used to passively taking information in, assuming we’ll absorb it to our benefit. Teachers know that passive learning is not as effective as active learning, where a reader becomes a participant. That’s one benefit of using a workbook. All of us at one point or another accept unbiblical statements as truth. This workbook helps the reader to practice identifying Satan’s lies and exchanging them for God’s truth. The more we practice, the more our lives become “sanctified”; we live more in accordance to God’s will. This book and workbook set can help us take responsibility for our lives, become more purposeful and less like a fish out of water, flopping around and letting life just happen to us. I highly recommend this workbook and book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network (bookfun.org) on behalf of the authors. 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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Fur Elise (Book 1) by PeggySue Wells ~Review~

Fur Elise (Book 1) by PeggySue Wells

Fur Elise

Travel the world with Parajumper Captain Michael Northington, a member of an elite team of rescuers on special ops missions with the US Air Force. Get a taste of the intense, grueling training that made him the the hero you’ve always wanted to read about. In contrast, experience the idyllic life of leisure with Elise Eisler on the tropical island of St. Croix. Elise is the daughter of prominent artistic and musical parents of the island where culture and the rhythm of life blend seamlessly in an atmosphere that attracts tourists, and the rich and famous. Elise’s world cocooned her from the harsh realities of life. Michael’s life is one that faces the ugliness of the world’s underbelly almost daily. It would seem unlikely they would ever reconcile these two worlds with each other’s.

Michael wasn’t part of the Air Force as a parajumper merely for the adrenaline rush; he believed in saving people. The missions gave him purpose and a reason to live, especially after the death of his mother and two little sisters. But then, a mission went wrong and Michael lost his vision. He quit the team and went in search of a place to rest his mind and body. He found his solitude in a rented cottage on an island. Time slowed down for him and he regained his sense of balance.

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Elise owned the cottage Michael rented. She respected the mystery man’s privacy, so it was months before they crossed paths. In the meantime, Elise was growing up fast, trying to shoulder the responsibility of preserving an aging and decaying building–her parents’ legacy–the town’s theater/symphony hall. In her mind, she was equating the showcase theater’s well-being with her own. She had rented the cottage, a place associated with her childhood memories of music, art and her parents, in an effort to raise money for the badly needed repairs. It wasn’t enough. When an old family friend suggested she create a special painting to auction at a benefit for the renovations, she was thrilled. But when her work of art gained a great deal of attention, Elise was faced with a choice of futures. What did she really want?

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This is the first book I’ve read from Ms. Wells. What impressed me most about the book is the detail that went into its creation, the research about parajumper training and operations as well as the details of the island’s history. The author did a great job getting behind Michael’s eyes, especially detailing the team efforts put out when they attempted a rescue. That part of the story was exciting to read.

The second aspect I liked about the book was how well Elise’s slower-paced world contrasted with Michael’s dangerous world. While each character faced dilemmas in their own world, the contrast created a larger dilemma that took on greater importance as Michael and Elise grew to know each other. Could their relationship work?

St Croix snorkling turtle reefs

This is indeed a love story that almost surprises the reader in its brevity. Saying that, I don’t think you should mistake it for a romance. In my opinion, a romance is where a couple works through their developing relationship; they clash, falter, hesitate, recover, and even gain strength. Ultimately, they can face challenges within and without until they are knit together and ready to face life as a team. Michael and Elise didn’t quite reach that level of intimacy by the book’s end. There is, however, an additional book, part two, that I anticipate may resolve this issue. I’d be interested in reading it to find out.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from bookfun.org on behalf of Elk Lake Publishing. 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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Book Blast!! God Tells the Sun to Shine by Femi Bolaji

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GOD TELLS THE SUN TO SHINE: An amazing story of love and forgiveness
By Femi Bolaji

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About the Book:

God tells the Sun to Shine is a short story about ambition, love, intrigue and forgiveness. The main character is the second-born of twin boys Esau and Jacob. Jacob struggles to come to terms with the privileges that the natural birth order accords the first-born twin Esau. He becomes so obsessed with the desire to become the alpha male in the family enterprise that he plots with their mum to upstage Esau. Although his plan succeeds, he is forced to flee the homeland after Esau plots to kill him in retaliation. For two decades, his life in exile is marked by turmoil in love, marriage and work. When a business arrangement goes pear shaped and he is faced with bankruptcy and the loss of his family, he decides instead to return to his country and face his nemesis – Esau. How will Jacob manoeuvre his way through the ordeal?

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Femi Bolaji - photoFemi Bolaji is a seasoned writer and commentator on topical Christian themes. He likes to tell Bible-based stories in contemporary language and style that would appeal to all, yet with profound insight and application to the pressures of modern day living. He is an alumnus of the Bartlett, University College London. He lives in London, United Kingdom.

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The Comfort of Holding Your Hand by Mare R. ~Review~

The Comfort of Holding Your Hand by MaryAnne R.

Comfort of Holding Your Hand

A friend of mine, MaryAnne R., wrote a touching tribute to her step-father, Sam, who literally stepped up to the plate to rear four children plus a foster child of a grieving widow of 33, Mare’s mom.

Mare’s biological father died unexpectedly during surgery to replace a heart valve. She was only a 10-year-old at the time. His death hit her hard and filled her with regrets; she hadn’t had a chance to say good-bye, and tell him she loved him.

Once her mother started dating, Mare discovered she was dating a friend’s Uncle Sam. In just under a year he went from being the unknown Uncle Sam to daddy. After he was married into the family, he emphasized to the four siblings that he had no desire to replace their biological father; he just wanted to be there for them and to take care of their mother. Mare, being the second youngest, was the first to call Sam, “daddy.” She and Sam bonded in a unique way.

This memoir is filled with loving memories of the impact of two loving fathers on a young girl. Yes, there were plenty of rough spots, but overall, this is a positive account of the importance of a loving dad. The stories are candid, well organized, and heartfelt. The author’s mother has said often that she found her love with her first husband, and her soul mate with her second. It wasn’t long before Sam was not only Mare’s daddy, but also her friend. He supported her, encouraged her to follow her interests and her heart. He was even instrumental in knocking down the barrier she had set up between herself and her mother when she was a teenager. She learned how to relate to her mom as adult to adult with his help. It changed her perception and their relationship forever, for which Mare is grateful today.

God hears our prayers

When Sam came to their home, the four siblings were aware he limped. They soon discovered he was an amputee. He lost his leg when he was only fifteen when a broken leg had gotten infected. “There are so many funny stories about [Sam] and his [prosthetic] leg. We found humor in all that went with Dad and his leg mishaps.” There are a lot of funny stories in the book, but one short one is my favorite. Sam was playing, rough-housing, with Mare’s two brothers in their upstairs bedroom when they jumped up and challenged him, “You can’t catch us!” They were running down the stairs when they heard a thump, thump, thump behind them. Sam had gone down the stairs on his belly to catch up with them. He even caught one of the boys! Now, that’s determination and adaptation.

The author closes this tribute with reminiscences of her daddy’s final year. MaryAnne had been married a few years with two sons and a daughter, when her mom called her to come over and talk with them. Medical tests showed that Sam had lung cancer. He was dying. He was immediately put on oxygen and started radiation treatments. The final segment of the book concentrates on that final year where Mare had the privilege of helping her folks cope.

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This book of stories is worth reading. It was not written with the intention of being organized like a published book. It doesn’t have chapters, although the headings make it easy to read bit by bit. The overall writing style, reminiscences, is basically in chronological order, but not strictly so. Some stories out of order are a means of looking back within the story structure.

There are a few places that need some editing such as in spellings, punctuation, grammar and structure. It is easily fixable, and I just ignored it for the sake of the story. So when readers look beyond the raw surface, they will discover a gem. The telling touched my heart. I love reading about relationships as they are dynamic and change occurs for all parties. My hope is that you will be touched as well, when you read this story. My congratulation to my friend for fine storytelling. I recommend this book to anyone who loves memoirs and tales of family life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this commentary from 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.”

 

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Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West Bk 2) by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan ~Review~

Where Trust Lies (Return to the Canadian West Bk 2) by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Where Trust Lies

Where Trust Lies is the second book in the Return to the Canadian West series. Book 1 is entitled Where Courage Calls. The protagonist of both books is Beth Thatcher who had rejected a life of ease to attend college and then choose to teach in the Canadian West where life was more about a roof over your head and food in your belly than shopping excursions in an upscale store and the latest fashions. That was in book 1. In book 2, Beth has returned home for summer vacation after completing her first year of teaching.

There had always been a gulf between Beth and her mother and youngest sister, Julie. She had hopes she could somehow close that gap over the summer. When she arrived home, she found her family preparing to go on a 6-week cruise from Toronto to the St. Laurence River and on to the east coast, finally moving into the United States before returning. At first she was reluctant to go on the trip, but her father challenged her to get to know her mother as adult to adult, rather than as a daughter to a mother. But Beth had another reason to hesitate. In her year away from home Beth had attracted a suitor–Jarrick “Jack” Thornton, an officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He was stationed out west and Coal Valley, where Beth taught, was part of his jurisdiction. He requested they keep in touch over the summer to become more acquainted with each other. She agreed to write.

Where Trust Lies quote1

When Jarrick learned of this opportunity to travel with her family, he urged Beth to go. They could keep in contact with each other through letters, phone calls and telegrams. So it was decided that Beth would go, albeit a little reluctantly. Not only was Beth’s mother and two sisters going, but so were little JW and his nanny, her mother’s best friend, Mrs. Montclair, her daughter and their maid, and their own tour guide Emile Laurant. Close quarters, differing interests, the rapid pace of events, and personality conflicts kept the pot bubbling with tension and interest. At the apex of the story, Julie was abducted, throwing the small circle of family and friends into turmoil and onto their knees in prayer. None of them were ever the same again.

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It was so good to read another of Janette Oke’s books again. I have already read nearly all the books she’s written. Like the first book in this series, her voice is distinct and heart felt. Where the focus is usually historical fiction of the Canadian west, this book explores the historical east. Building community is one of Oke’s writing talents; in this book that legacy continues but within the tight circle of friends and family on the cruise. Writing in tandem with her daughter allows for the sense of contemporary issues as well. The new voice brings with it freshness that nevertheless blends well with the familiar Oke memes. Mother and daughter make a fine writing team.

Another reason I enjoy reading this author’s books is that faith in God is nearly always faith in action. It is the driving force for many of her characters’ actions, yet not portrayed as if these men and women who loved God could do no wrong. It is their inner struggles that brings life to every individual and makes them real to us. The reader can’t help but empathize with people whose faith is neither great nor less than their own. We falter where they falter, and gain courage from the same God these characters draw courage. There’s no preaching here, only life lessons and hope.

Where Trust Lies quote3

Finally, the authors write with humor, keen observation of various personalities amidst the conflicts and employ some fairly intense suspense. There is an undercurrent of romance, especially when Jarrick rushes to Beth’s side at the height of the frightening events of Julie’s abduction, and a strong sense of more to come at the book’s end. Events do resolve, so there is not a cliff-hanger, although not all threads in this book are settled. It seems that there must be at least one more book in this series to come. The issue of trust, dealt with all throughout the book, is not yet completely finalized. I’m looking forward to reading more.

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

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To Everything A Season (Song of Blessing Bk 1) by Lauraine Snelling ~review~

To Everything A Season (Song of Blessing Bk 1) by Lauraine Snelling

To Everything A Season

To Everything A Season is part of the Bjorklund family saga that is covered in five series of stories. All of these are historical fiction with some romance included in many of the tales. The Song of Blessing series is the fifth Bjorklund family series. I like to think of it as a two-in-one series because it wraps up the previous series’ loose ends as well as begins a new series about the Bjorklunds in Blessing, North Dakota. It is able to stand on its own, although I think it would be appreciated best if read along with its predecessors. This book came out in 2014 and the second book in the new series, A Harvest of Hope (Song of Blessing Bk 2) by Lauraine Snelling, has just been released (2015). This book is a springboard for the next book which will be more about Trygve and Miriam.

Here is the breakdown of the Bjorklund Family novels and series:

An Untamed Heart (prequel to the Red River of the North series. October 2013)

Red River of the North series (First Bjorklund family series)

An Untamed Land
A New Day Rising
A Land To Call Home
The Reaper’s Song
Tender Mercies
Blessing In Disguise

Return To Red River series (Second Bjorklund family series)

A Dream To Follow
Believing The Dream
More Than A Dream

Daughters of Blessing series (Third Bjorklund family series)
(This series has limited print availability but is available in e-book format)

A Promise for Ellie
Sophie’s Dilemma
A Touch of Grace
Rebecca’s Reward

Home to Blessing series (Fourth Bjorklund family series)

A Measure of Mercy
No Distance Too Far
A Heart for Home

Song of Blessing series (Fifth Bjorklund family series)

To Everything A Season
A Harvest of Hope (Spring, 2015)

The main theme in this book is about community and about the ones who make this community special. Since this is a series that continues the Bjorklund saga, attention is focused on an elderly couple whose legacy includes the community of Blessing, populated by Ingaborg and Haakan’s large family and their friends. There are numerous subplots and threads because the community is growing by leaps and bounds.

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One of the unusual things about this thriving North Dakota village is its hospital. There were not many hospitals available in remote areas in the early 1900’s. This one is very new and run by two female doctors, Dr. Ingrid Bjorklund Jeffers and Dr. Elizabeth Bjorklund, the senior Bjorklund’s daughter and daughter-in-law. Dr. Elizabeth was trained in Chicago and returned to open this one in her remote town mostly supported by the Chicago parent hospital. Much of the action in this story centers around the doctors, patients and the burgeoning community.

In one of the subplots, the Chicago hospital has sent three nurses-in-training out to the Blessing hospital for a year of hands-on experience. One of Ingaborg’s nephews, Trygve Knutson, became smitten with one of the nurses, Miriam Hastings. Their relationship blossomed quickly until an event at the hospital contributed to a misunderstanding between them. The books ends with a cliff-hanger and the realization that their story would continue in another book.

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One of the things that stands out most to me is how well the author built a community to which I became attached quickly. As I read the story, there were many hints of a back story that sounded intriguing and which engendered a desire to look up all the former books of the series and read them. I also sensed a closure to an era of Bjorklunds that centered around one couple, one family, and the beginning of a new era fitting for a new community filled with young families with new challenges to face. There’s the aura of a passing of the baton. It draws me in, anticipating the new series.

Not only was the baton of heritage being passed on from one generation to the next, but so was the legacy of faith-in-action being handed over from the older generation to the younger. This is aptly illustrated when a gang of bank robbers hit their small bank. When the gang was accosted, the youngest brother, just a child, was injured and left behind by his older brothers. The hospital staff and the community pitched in to help this boy recover. No one condemned him, preached at him, or rejected him. He was accepted and cared for and treated like someone of value–a new experience for him. When he was released from the hospital, he was taken in by the senior Bjorklunds where his physical and emotional healing continued. I think that this storyline too is going to be a perpetual theme continued in the new series.

With great character development, a sense of community to love, a bright future ahead, living and breathing faith that transcends mere words, this is a series and book I highly recommend to you.

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

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Book Blast! Sarah Anne’s Expedient Marriage by Cathy Lynn Bryant and Jessica M. Dorman

417Q7AkU6AL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Sarah Anne’s Expedient Marriage
By Cathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica M. Dorman

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About the Book:

Knowing he was about to die, Sarah Anne’s beloved father had arranged for her to marry Alexander Swyndhurst II. Alexander, a recent widower, had no intention of taking another wife; but after learning the young woman’s situation—that she had been the object of at least one man’s unwanted attentions, and that she would soon be left alone and unprotected—he had agreed to the marriage. He had one stipulation, however: He and Sarah Anne would live separately—he in Bristol, England, and she in Amesbury, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Sarah Anne had agreed wholeheartedly with this arrangement.

Will Alexander have a change of heart? What of the dangerous man from her past? What will happen while her husband is away—leaving her alone with only the servants? Even though there are connections, each novel in the series may be read as a stand-alone.

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cathyCathy Lynn Bryant & Jessica M. Dorman
Inspired by interesting characters and events uncovered while doing genealogical research,mother and daughter writing team, Cathy Lynn Bryant and Jessica Marie Dorman, who live in beautiful New England, have masterfully woven the stories of real people and fictional characters from the 17th and 18th centuries to develop inspirational, romantic, works of historical fiction. The Unshakable Faith series includes the following titles: Book 1 Lost Love and Shipwrecked–Madeline Pike Finds Hope in the New Land; Book 2 Grandmother’s Namesake; Book 3 Sarah Anne’s Expedient Marriage.

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