Posted in Book Reviews, Life as it happens.

Murder in Disguise by Donn Taylor {A Review}

murderPreston Barclay is normally a History professor, but every now and again he puts on his detective hat and solves crimes.

Even when he claims he isn’t investigating anything, as is the case in Donn Taylor’s new mystery, Murder in Disguise. His friend, Jordan Collier is the History Department Chair when he commits suicide.

Or does he?

And is Preston really investigating? And if he is, what does his investigation uncover? Does it show a seedy side of his friend who is caught in a web of evil?

You know I’m not going to tell you those answers. That would ruin the book and trust me, you will want to read this book!

Murder in Disguise has all the best elements of a mystery novel. Characters, romance, intrigue and humor. Oh my soul this book is hysterical. The best kind of hysterical, the kind that creeps up on you until the laugh burst from your lips. You can’t help but laugh out loud while reading this book.

What did I love about this book? In short, everything. The characters were well developed, the story line moves along at a nice pace. The funny parts are, well as mentioned before, hysterical. Donn Taylor is a masterful storyteller.

This was my first time reading his books and you can be sure I will be reading more of his books. If you haven’t read any of his books you should start now.

What did I not like about the book? Very, very little. Only one small, small, minute detail. And since I’m not a detail person the simple fact that I noticed this is amazing. The one thing I noticed was Preston had a thing for a ham sandwich and coffee. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m nuts about coffee but with a ham sandwich? Ham sandwich and coffee for breakfast. Ham sandwich with coffee for lunch. And a ham sandwich with coffee for supper. Not all in the same day, but you get the idea. He had it a lot.

So as it all goes down, I love this book and I give it 50 out of 5 turning pages. Yes. It’s that good.

I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse for the purpose of review.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Life as it happens.

Big and Little Coloring Book {A Review}

Artists run in my family. Down throughout the generations there have always been those souls so talented. I am not one of them. I struggle to draw stick people. As a girl I always wanted one great talent, something I could say, “I do this well!”

I remember trying so hard in art class. And failing so miserably. I would look at others and feel a pang of jealousy for their wonderful creations while knowing mine was destined for the trash heap and it looked like an infant created it.

So I threw myself into coloring. I could color for hours. I would put myself in the pictures and mentally tell myself stories.

20171108_142431I still enjoy time spent coloring. So when I saw this book was available from B&H Publishers I knew it would be something I loved. What could possibly be better than coloring with your child and sharing a devotion?

This book is designed in a way that you have a page to color and your child has a page to color. Each page also has a short devotional to read and discuss with your child. The adult coloring page is much more intricate in design, so you can use this with even very young children.

The adult page has a verse at the bottom and this corresponds to the child’s color page and the devotional. The devotional is on the parent’s page and only takes a minute or two to read.

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The child’s page, as I mentioned, is less detailed, meaning it would be great to use with young children. The devotionals seem to be geared more towards adults and seem very incomplete.

What I liked: I liked the way it is designed, to open flat so you can color at the same time.
I liked the Scripture and that the child is coloring the words of Scripture.  It is a great way to renew our mind.

What I didn’t like: I wish the devotionals were longer and pertained to more than just adults.

If you’re looking for a devotional to use with your child, you should check this one out! You could add meat to the devotionals, or just talk about them while coloring.

I give this 4 out 5 turning pages.

I received a free copy of this book from B&H Publishers for the purpose of an honest review. All opinions re my own.

Posted in Book Reviews, Life as it happens.

Descriptions and Prescriptions by Michael Emlet {A Review}

OCD, ADHD, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder . . . these are no longer just technical terms and medical diagnoses, they are part of our common vocabulary andculture.
As Christians, we shouldn’t isolate ourselves from this discussion or dismiss these important issues. But we also should be careful not to accept the entire secular psychiatric diagnostic and treatment enterprise without question. What we need is a balanced, biblically (and scientifically) informed approach that neither blindly accepts nor harshly dismisses psychiatric labels, diagnoses, andmedicines that are prescribed to help those who are suffering.
As both a Biblical counselor and medical doctor, Michael R. Emlet, MD, gives readers a Christ-centered approach to psychiatry and guides both lay and professional helpers through the thicket of mental health labels andtreatments with a biblical lens. In a clear and thoughtful way that puts the person experiencing mental health issues at the forefront, Emlet uses Scripture to show how the Bible engages in the discussion of psychiatric labels and the medications that are often recommended based on those labels. The first book in the “Helping the Helper” series, Descriptions and Prescriptions will give readers a biblical, gospel-formed perspective to help them understand and minister to those struggling with mental health issues.
Michael R. Emlet, MDiv, MD, practiced as a family physician for over ten years before becoming a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He is the author of the book “CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet,” the minibooks “Asperger Syndrome;” “Chronic Pain;” “Angry Children: Understanding and Helping Your Child Regain Control;” and “Help for the Caregiver: Facing the Challenges with Understanding and Strength,” andmany counseling articles.
Find out more about Michael at http://newgrowthpress.com/.
My Turn
I was giddy with excitement over the opportunity to review this book.  As soon as it arrived in the mail I skimmed through it and couldn’t wait to dive in.
The church seems divided into to camps when it comes to mental health. Those who think medication is the only way, and those who think counseling/prayer/Bible study is the only way.
Dr. Michael Emlet writes Descriptions and Prescriptions to show people helpers, pastors, church lay counselors how the two can work together.  He writes the first part of his book to give us a quick understanding of psychiatric diagnoses. Is there any value in a diagnoses of our mental health? What is the value? Does it help or hinder the lay counselor? How?
The second part provides some understanding of  psychoactive medications. How do they work? How can they benefit the people we are called to help? What is their place? Do they have a place in Christian counseling?
I found this book to be incredibly informative and is one I will need to read and re-read. It appears to be written from an assumption that those reading it will have a degree in counseling, psychology, or related field. Most it was over my head, because of this I struggled through it.
A few quotes that stood out to me:
“Psychiatric labels don’t tell a story.”
“‘Be still, and know that I am God’ involves learning to quiet both our minds and our bodies.”
“Submit psychiatric diagnosis to biblical diagnosis.”
This book would be a wonderful addition to any pastor’s or people helper’s library.
I give this book 5 out 5 turning pages.
I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.
Posted in Life as it happens.

Humble Thyself

Humble Thyself: 7 Steps to Resolve Conflict

By Susan K. Stewart

 

unnamed (15)A recent undercurrent of discontent infected our congregation. I’d developed a terrible attitude about the situation, and I sat trying to be attentive for the sermon titled: Resolution: The Mathew Solution. I missed it.

 

During the following week, God led me to James 4:7-10. My heart opened to the clear steps to resolving conflict.

 

  • Submit to God

No matter the circumstances, submit to God. Ask for his wisdom to see the truth, not the colored viewpoint of humans. Be willing to follow him … wherever it may lead.

 

  • Resist the devil

As we submit to God, we resist the devil. But the attacks will continue during the peacemaking process. Satan wants to convince us we aren’t at fault and that following God’s way is troublesome, a lot of work, and a hindrance to the outcome we want.

 

  • Draw near to God

The more we resist the devil, the closer we draw near to God. As we move closer to him, the better able we are to resist the devil, remove our own desires and submit to his.

 

  • Cleanse your hands

We’ve become ingrained with Mt. 18—go to the one who has sinned against you. Instead we should be looking at our own sin. “First take the log out of your own eye” (Mt. 7:5 NASB). We need to face our own sin before we confront anyone else’s.

 

  • Purify your heart

The goal of conflict resolution is reconciliation with God. To approach a solution to the friction, our own hearts need to be clean. This is done by seeking to please God, not other people. Not everyone will be happy, but God will be delighted.

 

  • Be miserable and mourn and weep

Sin is the root of strife and we should be saddened and repentant. As we submit to God’s authority and purify our hearts, we come to realize how destructive our own sin is in the conflict.

 

  • Humble yourself

Humility isn’t weakness; it’s the opposite of pride and admits we can do nothing on our own. When pride takes hold, we think we have the solution to any problem. But only God is the true peacemaker.

 

The next time conflict resolution is the topic, remember James’s steps to peacemaking. Resolve the strife in yourself, and then you’ll be prepared to help others.

 

Is there a conflict in your life? How will you follow James’s steps to resolve it?

 

 

ABOUT

 

When she’s not tending chickens and donkeys, Susan K. Stewart teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers and listeners with practical, real-world solutions. Her books include Science in the Kitchen and Preschool: At What Cost? and the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. Contact Susan to speak to your group her website www.practicalinspirations.com.

Posted in Life as it happens.

Confessions of a Walking Glue Stick

Caregiver Guilt: Confessions of a Walking Glue Stick

By Dr. Linda Cobourn

 

unnamed (14)I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

 

My father-in-law blamed me. It was unreasonable, hurled out of frustration while we stood in the trauma unit, waiting to see if my husband would survive. I was thirty miles away in a graduate class when the driver of the pick-up truck broadsided Ron’s Taurus, but the reproach stayed with me for seventeen years.

 

I’m a walking glue stick.

 

Guilt is a common emotion for those who find themselves in the position of caregiver. The 2015 State of Caregiving Report noted that 81% of spousal caregivers feel guilty, making guilt the #1 emotional trap. We think we should do it all without complaint and we become frustrated with ourselves because we can’t. We self-punish for simply being human.  I beat myself up for an accident I did not cause, questioning every decision I made concerning my husband’s care. Yes, I agreed to the emergency surgery and it damaged his heart. My fault. Yes, I let him be put into the rehab unit where his slippers were misplaced and he caught pneumonia. My fault.   I even had occasional thoughts that it might have been better if Ron had not survived the accident.

 

That thought stuck on with Gorilla Glue.

 

But God is a solvent to even the strongest of adhesives. I began to search the Scriptures for a way to dislodge my self-reproach. One day, I was led to this verse in Joshua 5:9:

This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.

 

The Israelites had been so beaten down by 430 years of slavery they no longer believed God could love them. Before they entered the Promised Land, God told them that the shame they carried was rolled off them. They were not stuck with the reproach of Egypt. They could stop being walking glue sticks.

 

So could I. It took time, prayer, and counsel from friends to realize that the guilt I bore was irrational. I held myself responsible for things that were not my responsibility. God had forgiven my shortcomings; I needed to forgive myself. Time to learn to be more like rubber, repelling thoughtless remarks.

 

Just the other day, someone ventured to criticize a decision I’d made for my husband’s well-being. I let it bounce off me.

 

Because it really is better to be rubber.

 

ABOUT

 

Dr. Linda Cobourn is a Literacy Specialist who works with at-risk learners and non-traditional college students. She holds Instructional II certificates from Pennsylvania and Delaware in Elementary Education K-6 and Reading PK-12. Dr. Cobourn earned her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership, focusing on the use of critical literacy in middle school. Currently, she teaches at Springfield College in Wilmington. She was recently cited by the Mayor of Philadelphia for her work constructing literacy programs for inner-city youth. She is the author of three published books and writes a blog at http://writingonthebrokenroad.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens., Photography

Open Heart Surgery

I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a cutsey, eye-catching way to draw you in and wow you with my 2 w’s. Wit and Wisdom. But I can think of nothing at all witty or wise to say so I’m just going to jump right in with both feet, since that is typically how I roll.

Have you ever had one of those times where the hits just keep coming? You’ve barely recovered from one hit when the next one comes. Or maybe it comes as you’re still reeling from the pain of the last encounter?

You’re left breathless and feeling more than a little like you’re coming apart, only it’s not a nice neat coming a part at the seams. No, it’s a big, ugly hole in the middle of your dress. It’s the sting of the loose string someone pulled and now you’re being exposed.

And it’s cold.

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DSC_0102It’s the words someone says to you that are true. And you know they’re true. The words being spoken to you about you are all very true, and you know you never claimed to be the opposite of the words, but there they are all up in your face. And you’re left feeling like a liar at best and a more than a little wounded as you puzzle over why on earth they thought the words needed to be said at all.

Because you never claimed to be what they are telling you you aren’t. Not once. In fact, you never even had the thought that you were or could be until they asked you too be it or do it. Until they led you to believe you could be something you weren’t.

All their encouragement and tenderness as you tried on the new and found a passion that lit the fire of your soul now feels fake and like a lie from the deepest pit of deepest hell.

And you never claimed to be good at it. You never claimed to be a professional. You never even knew you had the skills they claimed to have seen. You never would have attempted it without their encouraging.

And now here you are, months later, once again finding yourself horribly inadequate, unwanted, unneeded, unnecessary, cast aside, rejected yet again.

You never claimed or wanted any of that. But here you are. Reading words that bring a quick sting of tears to your eyes and nose, the quick intake of breath before your face involuntarily crumbles as your body convulses with sobs and you land in a shattered heap on the floor.

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You ask over and over, “Jesus! What? What does this mean? Why did You allow this? Why?”  You pray for eyes that are open to His answer, ears that are attentive to hear His voice whispering in the midst of your pain-filled sobbing.

You long to run. You want to be anyplace but here. But right here is where you are and you know you can’t escape. You must stay here in the agony of the hurt. You must stay right here in the painful place and wait for His voice, you have to, as my friend says,  “embrace the pain.” All you really want to do though is shove it way, make it stop. Run far and fast. So far so fast in ten years time you’ll still be running.

Over time your prayer changes to “What do you have to teach me, Lord? And can You teach me quickly?” Because you’re still about avoiding the pain.

Your friend threw an arrow and it hit its intended target with deadly accuracy. You pray, “Lord, yank it out! Yank out that arrow, even if it means I bleed to death, yank it out because it hurts too much. Yank it out, please!”

Job 23:10 runs laps in your mind:

“But He knows the way I take, and when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

And you chant this as if it was your new mantra. You pray it back to Him as you bleed out your heart to Him. Every breath a new agony, every breath a prayer.  A prayer just to keep your lungs taking in oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide.

Breathe in, breathe out. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Breathe in the Life of Him, knowing it is only His Life that is keeping you alive. Breathe out His Life. Choose to fixate your gaze on Him and not on those who would hurt you.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

And in that moment you know it’s only His life and His grace that is keeping you alive at all. You know fully now that if you can only cling to Him in this painful place you will find Him fully capable and more than willing to take your painful heart and heal it.

You begin to see that He was treated this same way by His friends. They all left Him and fled in His greatest hour of need. And you wonder how on earth He could have managed the cross all alone.

And I mean, all alone. Because not only was He alone on the cross, all His friends had fled, but His Father also left Him alone. The greatest hours of darkness this earth has ever known were that Friday as Jesus hung on the cross.

And He hung there. For love. For the love.

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For the love, He hung there for me! For you.

And what a prize He got. He hung there to the death for His enemies. Because that is what I was. What you were. His enemies.

And we dare to compare our paltry little hurts from friends to His sacrifice. I can’t say I’d die for my friends, I know that probably makes me a bad friend. If I wouldn’t die for my friends, I sure won’t die for an enemy.

But He did.

For the love.

Posted in Book Reviews, Life as it happens.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon Vol. 2 {A Review}

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a man who is often equated with great wisdom and a great love for Jesus. He has been referred to as The Prince of Preachers. He came to Jesus in 1850 after reading Isaiah 45:22 and he preached his first sermon later that year. He was 15.

C.H. Spurgeon, though, wasn’t only a preacher. He was a prolific author. Each week on average he wrote 500 letters. By the time of his death when he was 57, he had authored approximately 150 books. This does not include his sermons, which he edited weekly and were published in over 40 languages in his lifetime.

Spurgeon was always one of those authors I tried to read but just wasn’t able to grasp what he was trying to say. I always gave up in defeat. He was an author I thought “every ‘good Christian’ should be able to read his books without issue” and I believed that quoting him would show a great mind and love for Jesus.

Imagine my immense surprise when I saw The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon ( compiled by Christian T. George) was available for review and I picked it. This was Spurgeon, the very man I didn’t understand and couldn’t follow.

20171021_083759When the book arrived, I quickly opened the box and the ohs and ahs began in earnest. The book was stunning.  The colorful cover is eye-catching and has been designed to replicate the original notebook.

Inside the book are full-color pictures of the actual sermons as they were written in Spurgeon’s own handwriting.  These include any finger smudges or prints as well as his crossed through mistakes.

20171021_083814.jpgOn the opposite page from the photos of his notebook, are the sermons typed out. Each of the sermons is noted and brief explanations are given at the end of the sermon. These make Spurgeon seem a little more real.

This book is one that could be read through as any other book, but doesn’t necessarily need to be. One could very easily pick and choose which sermons to read.

This would be a great gift for the theologian in your life. It would also make a great a great addition to any library.

I give this book 5 out of 5 turning pages. Yes, I know it’s Spurgeon. Yes, I know I can’t follow him, or read him. It’s good!

I received a free copy of this book from LifeWay publishers through their review program for the purpose of review. All opinions and photos (except for the video below) are my own.