Posted in Book Reviews, Life as it happens.

In the Middle of the Mess by Sheila Walsh {A Review}

A few years ago Bissell had a slogan, “Life’s messy, clean it up”. I don’t know if it helped them sell vacuum cleaners or not, but it brought a truth to the forefront of our minds. Life is messy and needs to be cleaned up.

Life is messy and it oozes it’s mess all over. Life is messy when those we love don’t love us in return. Life is messy when friends say good-bye. Life is messy when mates say good-bye either by death or divorce. Life is messy when people are in it.

Sometimes life seems more messy for some than for others. This is, or can be, especially true when we’re on the outside looking in, or on the inside looking out. We all have a tendency to judge our neighbor’s outside by our inside.

And we lose badly when we do that.

We need to realize we each have pain. And each life is messy.

Is there hope? Is there a cure? What can we do? Can a Bissell vacuum clean up this mess?

Sheila Walsh knows very well how messy life can be, she knows well the sting of gut-wrenching, leg crippling pain. Her father passed away when Sheila was still a very young girl, she grew up believing she was responsible for his death. She has battled depression and thoughts of suicide.

She has written several books about her struggles, the latest of these is In the Middle of the Mess. It’s a book about finding Jesus in the middle of our mess. It’s finding Him and His strength and healing. It’s a book about inviting Him into the middle of our messes and experiencing His life and His healing. It’s inviting Him in so we can hear His voice right there in the middle of our messy life.

You can get this book through your local Christian bookstore or online retailer.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

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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.

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.

20171108_142500

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 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. 

Posted in Book Reviews, Life as it happens.

Counseling Under the Cross by Bob Kellemen {A Review}

My first experience with counseling was as a young teenager. That counselor was a lifeline of Jesus to my soul. I saw Jesus in him and his relationship with Jesus drew me like a moth to a flame.  So much of who I am now and the path I’m following is a very direct result of his influence on my life. He showed me a different way to live, a different life and I am so thankful for his careful care and concern. He is one of the very precious Jesus grace-gifts of my life.

As a direct result of his influence in my life, I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. I wanted to be a Christian counselor, I have wanted to help others the way he helped me. I want to point others to Jesus, to be a beacon of light in someone else’s darkness. I have wanted to be used to draw others to the flame of Jesus until they can, like I do, dance in His Holy Fire.

Because of all this, I am still drawn to books about counseling or by counselors. When I find a book by a counselor on the topic of being a better counselor I am giddy. You can imagine my immense giddiness when I received an email from Litfuse about Dr. Bob Kellemen‘s book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther applied the Gospel to daily Living.  I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t think twice, I immediately clicked “Review This book”.

20170918_152631In Counseling Under the Cross, Kellemen teaches counselors to counsel the way Martin Luther counseled..under the cross and with the full gospel. Kellemen has divided the book into two sections. The first section is to get us acquainted with Martin Luther before Jesus gripped his heart. He lived in constant fear of the anger and wrath of God. He would spend hours confessing every known sin in his life. Martin Luther saw God, not as a good Father, but as a righteous and vindictive Judge.

And that is where chapter one ends. And where chapter two begins. Martin Luther went through a metamorphosis of ginormous proportions. He moved from seeing God only as wrathful to seeing God as his loving and kind Father.

This transformation not only changed Luther’s relationship with Jesus, it changed how he related to Jesus and to those people under his care.  His new freedom in Jesus drove him to share it with others.

Chapters 3-11 talk about how Martin used his freedom in Jesus to minister to others.  He used a cross-shaped method of counseling:

  • Sustaining,
  • Healing,
  • Reconciling, and
  • Guiding

Kellemen shares Luther’s theology and methodology of each one. He shares through letters Martin wrote to those he was helping, his table talks, and other writings.  Kellemen writes in such a way the reader really sees the heart of Martin Luther for all believer, but especially those who were hurting.

This book should be on the Must-Read list of every Christian counselor and/or pastor, as well anyone who has a heart to bring health and healing to the hurting in Jesus. 

What did I like about the book? In short, everything. Bob Kellemen wrote in a manner that drew me in deeper with every page. I had to read it with a highlighter in my hand because there is just so much good!

Bob Kellemen also wrote in a way that opened my eyes to circumstances I’ve experienced personally. I had many personal a-ha moments. So while this book is written for those in the role of counselor, anyone could read it and benefit greatly.

What didn’t I like about the book? From the introduction when Kellemen would quote someone, he only used their last name. I know this is nit-picky of me, but I would rather have the author’s full name at least the first time he is cited.

I also wish he had capitalized pronouns referring to Jesus.

A few of my favorite quotes:

When life stinks, our perspective shrinks.

When the devil casts up to us our sin, and declares us worthy of death and hell, we must say, “I confess I am worthy of death and hell. What more have you to say?” “Then you will be lost forever!” “Not in the least: for I know One who suffered for me and made satisfaction for my sins and His Name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. So long as He shall live, I shall live also.”

The Spirit empowers us to live out who we already are in Christ.

Faith activates love.

You who are so pugnacious in everything else, fight against yourself!

I give this book 10 out of 5 turning pages. Yes! It is that good!

I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse for the purpose of review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews, Jesus

The Bad Habits of Jesus by Leonard Sweet {A Review}

If you’re like most people I know and have talked to about this book, the title scares you. It probably conjures up thoughts like, “But MY Jesus didn’t have any bad habits! He was God!” And you are right.

Leonard Sweet is in full agreement with your statement, but in this delightful book he encourages us to look at Jesus in a different way. He wants us to take off the Sunday School glasses we tend to wear when we view Jesus and read the Word.

He points out that Jesus did things and said things that we would not dare say or do today because it is considered bad.  A few examples:

Jesus spit.  Think about that. He spit and made mud. If that wasn’t bad enough, He then smeared that mud on a man’s eyes.

Jesus procrastinated. His procrastination led to a man’s death, and He was completely unbothered and unapologetic about it. He simply kept on being God.

I loved this book. I have been reading Leonard Sweet’s books since “A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Cafe” was published in the late 90’s. When I see a book with his name on it, I gravitate towards it like a moth to a flame because I know I will be challenged by it.

This book, The Bad Habits of Jesus, did that. It challenged me to look at Jesus and what He did in a whole new way. I was encouraged to think outside of the box, or even to throw away the box, when looking at Jesus and the familiar stories. In a world full of fluff books that preach to the Millennial “me first” gospel, this book was refreshing in it’s simplicity but also in it’s meat. This is not a milk-toast, watered down gospel book. This book will require the brain to be fully engaged. Leonard Sweet does not offer milk, but steak and he doesn’t feed you.

I love the cover. I’m a Harley-loving woman and the resemblance to the Harley-Davidson logo on the front is eye-catching.

I received a free copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.