Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Book Review: The Simplest Way to Change the World (Moody)

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This book is a very practical guide to the biblical command to hospitality. It builds on the premise that hospitality is counter cultural and that true hospitality builds connectedness and relationships, and believers must be intentional and purposeful. The authors are point on, with the suggestion, that while we want our homes to be an oasis or refuge in life, that home is to be a refuge for all who enter it, not just me, and that will be radical to many people. They explain how this is a book for ordinary people to have no excuse to change the world in which they live!

The books not only shares the theology and biblical reasons to be hospitable, it is a resource of ideas, strategies, and authentic examples of a lifestyle of hospitality. Having grown up with hospitality ongoing, and continued the practice in our home, this concept was not one that was new to me. I appreciated how the authors addressed simple ideas to fulfill this command in your neighborhood. It's an easy read, has bullet point summaries throughout, personal reflection questions at the end of each chapter, and a built in discussion guide for small groups. So it's an excellent resource and would be most appropriate for group discussion.

It's really a book centered on how to live out the gospel, wherever you live- house, apartment, dorm room. You can love your neighbor as yourself.

Some favorite quotes: "When we are loving, warm, and gracious, we put the gospel on display."
" Any time we practice hospitality, we put human flesh on this gospel story"

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One wonder I had- was if adoption/foster parenting could have been also included as a way to change the world, even knowing that it will prevent or alter your in your home hospitality. It definitely is a fitting lifestyle to help heal the broken, and lead them to a Savoir.

Thanks for the chance to read a pre-release copy. I was provide a copy in exchange for my honest review

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Kregel Book review: Refresh Spiritual Nourishment for Parents of Children with Special Needs

I was blessed to review this book.  It's a devotional for parents of Children with Special Needs. My first comment is that most parents have children with special needs (gifted, learning disabled, adhd, behavior concerns, dyslexia) but this is geared to parents who have children with demanding, time consuming special needs that require a lot of parent support daily (1/5 of all parents).  The authors were thinking cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, chronic illness, etc.   I would definitely add this is a book for parents of children from hard places (trauma, RAD, adoption, foster, mental health issues, ....).  We are parenting such a child, and this book is a gift to me. One of the reviewers, Janet Thompson, printed in the book calls the book "a life-line of hope."  And it is.  

Here's what I appreciated most about the book: 
  • Rich Scriptural connections, this is founded in the Word of God, truth statements for all believers. 
  • Format:  
    • Table of Contents with 8 Section Themes, each devotional titled
    • Stories from parents of children with many different special needs, including bloggers I was familiar with, and adopted parents.  
    • Brings perspective that is relate-able to all parents, no matter the special need.
    • The intro explains how this book is to 'pour hope and courage back into you.' 
    • Two authors, so different tones in the narration.  (Jocelyn and Kimberly)
    • Each devotional contains:
      • title, author, and a KEY verse.
      • a personal narrative that shares a story of struggle, dedication, consuming parenting, .... 
      • more scripture
      • an italics potential application/prayer
      • Digging Deeper, 3 questions that are higher level thinking, and help you connect your experience with the promises from God's Word.  
  • Digging Deeper really approaches the layers of feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and perhaps our actions/responses in the struggle or joys of parenting.  It really helps the reader process and internalize how he/she might feel and empathize with the experience of another. 
  • Stories are integrated with thinking and what the Word of God says to help empower parents, give insight to daily living, and help us know that we are not alone in the struggle, and to help us take care of ourselves, or have a moment of respite in life. 
  • Theologically accurate, it acknowledges the struggle inside of us, our fear, seeking truth/faith, role of sin and the need for nourishment, growth, pruning, bearing fruit, and branching out.  Good analogies for the Christian life.  
  • Short, sweet, to the point.  Even parents who don't like reading, could easily read these short thoughts and find promises to build their day on.  
  • It's affordable on the kindle: $1.99.  It's worth a whole lot more!  
This book I've kept in the van, and picked up while I wait for kids at school, at the doctors, etc.  It's a great perspective change, and really does Refresh me.  I'd recommend that local churches who aren't sure how to help parents with special needs kids, gift this book to those parents, and ask their leaders to read this book, and learn how life might look in homes where children's needs restructure everything.  It might help those who want to help, but don't know where to start, to have an understanding of daily life, and give ways to pray, support, and sympathize with parents who life this way for decades.  It certainly will encourage parents who are struggling.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review, Kregel- When There Are No Easy Answers, Thinking Differently about God, Suffering and Evil by John Feinberg

Kregel Book Review Tour

When There Are No Easy Answers: Thinking Differently about God, Suffering, and Evil

I read this 160 page book primarily in one sitting.  The author explains in his preface that the book is his story of embracing suffering, thinking about evil, and God.  He is a theological professor at Trinity University, so his lay person's approach to his story was rich with doctrine and scriptural support, but he makes it very readable, and easy to comprehend. Some of his big struggles were just that, his personal spots that his mind might get stuck on like: why they didn't discover that his wife had the gene when they investigated it, and what about the future.  But his answers to his questions delved into his specific needs, but also embraced many wonders and levels that anyone could have with any type of suffering present in their lives.  So I appreciated his style and the richness of the teaching that was layered into his testimony.  

This updated version is what as an educator we refer to as meta-cognition, Mr. Feinberg thinks aloud on the pages of this book and in his updates, about his wonders, concerns, struggles, with God in the midst of a genetic terminal disease that his wife was diagnosed with when they had three young boys, active full time ministry together, and a whole different plan and expectation for their lives.  His book is also helpful with ideas of what people would say to him that helped, and what hurt or wasn't helpful. He also teaches you what kinds of help and offers really help individuals and families who are living with long term suffering and need in their family.  He delves into real concerns in each chapter like: how dismal life can seem, Recipe for Disaster, or How Not to Help the Afflicted, the Goodness of God, Hiding the Future, and Grace, Justice, and the Suffering of the Righteous, Deceived by God?, Living with Dying, and Providence and the Purpose of Our Lives.  

Each topic is handled with his testimony and his view on the lens of the Word of God and then how that looks in life, changes his thinking, or helps him cope and live with ongoing suffering, as well as recognizing God's plan for evil as it appears in the lives of believers.  I think his appendix at the back with biblical reasons that God might use when a person or family is afflicted with suffering was a highlight of the book for me.  

This book would benefit someone who is living with ongoing suffering in any form.  In my case I interact with many adoptive and foster families who are parenting children from hard places and by embracing and loving the kids, their home often faces evil and suffering on a daily basis. But it would also benefit a family who is living with a terminal illness, a disease that includes chronic suffering, but isn't terminal, grieving individuals, and those who interact with anyone who suffers.  So I see it as a great resource for church leaders and in ministry, as well as tender-hearted individuals who want to grasp how God works in a sinful world.  

I enjoyed this book, and the thoughts are my personal opinion. I was blessed to receive this book for free as a part of Kregel Blog Tours, but it is expected I give it an honest review and that is what I'm sharing here. My thoughts. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Book Review: The Lion Comic Book HERO Bible

The Lion Comic Book Hero Bible
From Kregel:

The Lion Comic Book Hero Bible

A stunning new comic book version of the Bible now given the superhero treatment by the team behind The Lion Graphic Bible andThe Manga Bible

The story of the Bible is a unique tale of origins and cosmic powers; of the ageless battle between good and evil; of human potential and human treachery; and of a Messiah--a savior for the world. This is indeed the stuff that graphic novels are made of. Superheroes are the biggest comic genre of all, with many heroes having their origins in biblical characterization and imagery. This is the first Bible retelling to engage with and challenge the superhero genre.

The Lion Comic Book Hero Bible is a dynamic expression of the Bible's depth and power, produced in the style of Marvel™ Comics. You've heard of Spiderman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Now meet Earthman, Lawman, Warrior Man, and many others. With dynamic illustration using a range of styles, Siku (Old Testament) and Jeff Anderson (New Testament) bring the Bible stories alive for a new and graphically sophisticated generation.
- See more at: http://www.kregel.com/bibles/the-lion-comic-book-hero-bible-2/#sthash.aql405Oq.dpuf

My review:

This is a graphic novel.  For me, there is no draw to graphic novels or comic book style. But as a Mom to 3 boys,  let me tell you- there is a HUGE draw to the boys.

My 10 year old took this Bible for a spin.   Now please note, we are Bible storybook collectors, and my boys have Lego Brick Bibles, the Action Story Bible,  and many other story Bibles to choose from.   My 10 year old was enticed at the cover, but when he went to read it, he stopped after one or two viewings, and commented that this Bible is abbreviated. He was most annoyed that the Tower of Babel, got only 1 page, and a few words.  He then didn't want to read more of the Bible, as it was too many excerpts to him.  I was shocked!

What I like:

  • stories are accurate and often close wording to scripture.  
  • it is a true manga/comic book style, and the text is short excerpts, often in white boxes, so it's easy to read, and it compares to other popular dark comic books. 
  • the text- even though not copious details, is accurate, theologically accurate from what I read, and explains concepts/terms in a succinct fashion.
  • it's appealing to middle grade readers, and at an enjoyable reading level for those grades 3-5 readers.  (mine just has high expectations based on exposure!)
  • it includes both old and new testament stories and a good selection. 
  • it has a scripture index of Bible references, at the back of the book, so if a teacher wants to use it to illustrate a story (like I often do) you can tell at a glance if your passage is featured in the book.  
What I struggled with:
  • comic book names- as the kregel excerpt states:  popular characters are renamed- Adam is Earthman, Abraham is Faithman, and at the start the real names are given at the start of each section.  I imagine kids will love this and the names are fitting to the Bible story, and might make connections for children even stronger.  
  • dark images, but that's the style.  
  • pictures are realistic with naked figures, although that's included in the text, but the authenticity will bother some parents.  
Overall I think it should have a wide appeal to the intended audience, and I found that it was good information and content.  So it serves it's purpose.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

99 Prayers for Children

The publisher shares:   A companion prayer book to 99 Stories from the Bible with delightful illustrations in a strong vibrant style and prayers for all occasions. The prayers are a combination of traditional and modern and provide an introduction to family prayer time with young children, bringing talking to God to life in the heart of every child.

Target age: 5-7 year olds

My review:
I have two children in my home in this age group.   My 7 year old can read this book on his own.  This book is a compilation of prayers-- at least 10 are based on scripture, more than half of the poems have rhyming phrases, the book is broken into sections: 

  1. Thank You, God
  2. A New Day
  3. God's Wonderful World
  4. Family and Friends
  5. All God's Children
  6. Mealtimes
  7. Hear My Prayer!  
  8. Help Me Lord!  
  9. Bedtime
  10. While We Sleep
  11. Special Days
It has an index of first lines and sources at the back of it for easy reference.  

The poems are mostly kid friendly, although I'm not sure all the language chosen will be in your 5-7 year olds vocabulary.  Some examples are in a St. Patrick prayer- purify us, or beneath us to sustain us, but the poem uses all the words that are developmentally taught- above, beneath, before, behind, around- so it is appropriate conceptually and the concepts are appropriate to raise their awareness of God's ability to work in our lives.  We found the poems appealing, comforting, helpful, and child friendly. 

The pictures are colorful, friendly, represent different ethnicities, have child friendly settings, the people are unique and I think most kids will find them charming (but their heads are big, necks really thin, eyes tiny , and noses on ALL people rather round and large).  The clothing, setting, and toys are all timeless, so the book will span many generations.  

A few poems were unique and some parents might wonder, but most pointed the reader to our Big God, His Son, and their character and presence in all of our life. 

Pg. 81 From ghoulies and ghosties, and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord,  deliver us! (traditional Cornish prayer)

Pg. 86 Matthew, Mark, Luke  and John, Bless the bed that I lie on. Four corners to my bed, Four angels round my head. Traditional  

Overall I liked the book, and think even younger children would enjoy the prayers shared with them in a read aloud.   I thank Kregel for the chance to review this beautiful and timeless book. Prayer is an important skill in the believers life and this book gives many examples to make it concrete for our children. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Kregel Book Tour: Bible Stories Gone Crazy

Bible Stories Gone Crazy!

A where's Waldo style book, with 8 stories featured.  As an educator, I think like a teacher first, then a Mom.  So I'm sharing the publishers info, what impressed me, what I observed, and what I wonder about the book.  I hope to read it more with my younger kids and add in more kid comments.

Here's what the publisher tells you about the book:

Bible Stories Gone Crazy!

Eight Bible stories are depicted in bright color and comic, cartoony illustrations. There is a sentence or two explaining the scene at the top, and then details to spot, mistakes to find, and questions to answer along the sides of the picture, such as, "Did Noah's workmen REALLY have power tools?" and "How many rabbits are in the picture?" Children will love scouring the illustrations to find the answers and spot more amusing details in the busy artwork of Emiliano Migliardo.

The stories are Noah and His Great Ark, Moses Crossing the Red Sea, Joshua and the Fall of Jericho, David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lions, Jonah and the Big Fish, Feeding the 5,000, and Man Through the Roof.

Here's what I was impressed with:

  • Kid test-- I left it out in the living room and all of my children picked it up, and read it.  So it has kid appeal! My 9 and 13 year old boys said it was fun and looked at it for maybe 1/2 an hour each.  
  • nice size book (about 9 x 12 inches). It's hard bound and the pages are stitched in.  (This feature is key as a mom of boys, and many of our hard bound books the spine breaks and the pages fall out).
  • All the pages are plastic coated, so it is durable.  (Our other seek and find books all have ripped pages when you lay on a book while looking, the book looses!) So I'm impressed that this is made to last!  
  • Illustrations- I find the illustrations (comic like more than real life like) vibrant, charming, engaging, and funny.   Many Bible story book illustrations the people are scary looking, and many seek and find books are so busy, adults don't like them, but this one seems balanced, busy but not overload.  
  • Bible Story Summary, each story has a short paragraph summarizing the story, and the passage is listed on the illustration. The title page suggest you look up the passages to help answer the questions.   
  • This book needs to be read to kids, a non reader wouldn't know what to look for other than a hidden teddy bear. 
  • The images mix the Bible story images with modern day images as the 'mistakes' I assume.  But I think this is part of the charm and the appeal.  Random fun kid things in the pictures (mermaids, hot air balloons, surf boards, lions rock climbing, big bad wolf).  I think it would make talking about the book with your kids a lot of fun!  And practice great higher level thinking skills, on the child's part.  (concepts like analysis, evaluation).  
  • I could find the missing teddy bears. 
  • This could be a great quiet time book for a reader, and even a non-reader, could have the concepts or questions read, and search. 
  • I think this could lead to some fun book responses and spur art, reading connections, and even a writing project.  (i.e.  illustrate your own Bible story, and make your own mistakes, write questions.   Or List 10 things that don't belong in each picture.  Write a story about how the modern day (or other biblical people (moses on a surf board with the 10 commandments) items/people got to this story.)  
What I wonder:
  • is there a website with answers? or to connect with the author and learn more about his mistakes?  
  • is it supposed to be dry erase? I tested a dry erase marker and it wiped off immediately. Not sure if you used a marker and left it on longer if it would come off.  
  • It says to use the Bible verses to help answer the questions, but many of the questions around the images weren't related to the story.  (things like did Noah have electric tools?) But I like that many of the questions required the kids to think about current day vs. biblical times. And some of the questions you did need the Bible story to answer.    
  • Questions. I wonder if any of the kids will expect an answer key.  There is a search for teddy bears in each picture, and at the end it tells you how many where in each picture.  But I wonder about independent readers, and if they will look for a key.  
  • It's not your normal, seek and find book. The questions ask you to find something and then answer the question, so you aren't looking for hidden items, but for answers to questions.  (and I think the 'mistakes' mentioned on the cover page, like Santa and a mexican band on the roof tops in the healing of the man through the roof story).  So I wonder if people will be disappointed, that they aren't looking for a hidden item (like a highlights seek and find). 
  • Santa on the roof top.  I find it funny and a random kid concept, but will some parents find it objectionable, as they don't talk about Santa in their christian home?   
I was given this book to review by Kregel.  All ideas and responses are my own.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Game Review: Kregel's Bible Dominoes

Bible Dominoes

Kregel sent me this set of Bible Dominoes to review. It's a box that is about 5 by 5 inches.  The 28 dominoes are on a heavy cardboard with colorful and shiny pictures on them.  My daughter and I played them.  She's 5 and enjoyed matching the numbers to the same number of animals or to the same word.  Part way through the game, she realized that matches were the same color, and she didn't have to think as much.  

The game claims to help develop counting and matching skills with these numbered Bible dominoes and it met that expectation with flying colors!  With 28 dominoes, it's a fast playing game perfect for young ones attention span or even for an independent center in Sunday School.

It's traditional dominoes with Bible stories as the characters.  My 5 year old had fun guessing which story each picture represented, I was impressed with her knowledge.  The set also included a small booklet (glossy magazine paper) that shared about the stories pictured.  The stories pictured are:

  • Noah and his Ark
  • Joseph and his Amazing Coat
  • Moses, Prince of Egypt
  • Daniel Saved from Lions
  • Jonah and the Great Fish
  • Jesus Talks to a Crowd
  • A Big Lunch (5,000 people fed with 2 fish and 5 loaves)
  • Stop, Storm! 
  • The Good Shepherd
  • The Stranger Who Helped 
The stories in the little booklet are 4 lines, and very simple.  They are focused on facts and obedience comes up in more than one.  You'd definitely need more knowledge to build on the stories. I wish there were scripture references to look up the real Bible version.   But I imagine in most homes, the booklet will be separated from the game very quickly, and it was enough for connections.  In our Sunday School we cover most of these stories in our preschool classes, so it will be a nice game for a station or center.   

The box that houses the cards is a one piece box and the lid folds into it. It has a divider for the dominoes and is a heavy cardboard. I believe it will hold up as well as most board games, and when it shows wear, my husband can use clear tape to strengthen it.  The directions for play are on the bottom of the box, a very nice place to put them, too often the extra papers get lost from little kid games, and this makes it easy to have the rules.  

Thanks Kregel for the chance to review a game.  I was given this game in exchange for a review, all opinions are mine, and mine alone.