Book Reviews

Unstuck, a non-fictional book about the lack of spiritual faith many Christians face in today's society, offers proven ways to rebuild your faith, engage scripture on a daily basis, and better connect with God.

Arnie Cole and Michael Ross partner together and share their own personal stories about being a spiritual loser or feeling like there were a thousand steps between us and God. Laced with real-time statistics, Unstuck offers readers factual data pertaining to the Christian faith and what causes individuals to get caught in the fog of biblical illiteracy; an "issue believed to be the number one problem facing the church of America."

"That's why I'm applying science to faith. I want to be used by God to open hearts and minds to the truth. I want to help burned-out, spiritually stuck Christ-followers to get unstuck - to show how spiritual losers like me can start winning battles and carrying the day. I'm telling you: Bible engagement is the key. The changes won't happen in a flash, and Bible engagement isn't about axioms or theorems that pledge a healthier, wealthier, wiser new you. But engaging God's Word will change you."

Throughout Unstuck, the authors have added a subsection to every chapter entitled Spiritual Stepping Stones. They provide a scripture to remember and questions for the reader to consider. In the third portion of the book, worksheet guides are present to help readers define their goals to becoming unstuck.

Unstuck is not a light read, yet it is engaging and helps readers to re-evaluate their faith as a priority in life. With 45 Stepping Stone daily devotionals, Unstuck is meant to take you on a true journey of spiritual growth.

{This book was provided to me at no expense from the publisher, Bethany House.}

For the review on Linnea in Monet's Garden, please visit this link.

For the review on Chasing the Sun, please visit this link.

Is childhood entitlement becoming a problem in your home? Are you looking for a solution to encourage kids to take responsibilities and chores seriously? If so, you have got to read Kay Wills Wyma's Cleaning House, a mom's 12 month experiment to rid her home of youth entitlement. But, you don't have to take my word for it.

"In an age of youth entitlement, this is a must read for moms who desire to raise godly kids with servant hearts!" - Joe White, president of Kanakuk Kamps

"Parents, take note: Kay Wills Wyma's experiment could change your life, especially if your kids suffer from 'me first!' syndrome. If you want your children to be more responsible, more self-assured, and more empathetic, Cleaning House is for you." - Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family

Kay begins Cleaning House with her newly discovered epiphany: her children don't appreciate what they have and they definitely don't understand where their possessions truly come from. She feels they believe they are 'owed' things. Her biggest push to change the way her household runs is when her eight year old son asks one day, "Why should I make my bed? That's your job!"

As a stay-at-home mother of five in the age range of three to fourteen, Kay was at her wits end. She decided to redo her thinking and implemented changes forever altering her family's lives. She set up a rewards and loss system strictly dependant on the children and her actions for each day of the month. She began each month with a challenge and $30 in a jar. If the monthly challenge was met each day, the money stayed in the children's jars. If the goal was not met daily, money was removed from the jar and paid to Kay for services rendered. It didn't take long for the kids to catch on.

The tasks Kay assigned her family were simple, but worth knowing and doing correctly. She wanted her children to gain something more than responsibility - she wanted them to gain self-confidence, understanding, respect, and a sense of pride in their accomplishments. She hoped, through their constant positive actions, her children would come to reap the rewards of their hard work; as well as build a stronger relationship with their siblings.

The Cleaning House challenge for the Wyma family included the following tasks to be mastered: make a bed and maintain an orderly room, cook and clean the kitchen, do yard work, clean a bathroom, get a job, do laundry, do handy man tasks, host a party, work together, run errands, put others first through service, and act mannerly. Kay didn't ask her children to do all of these things on Day One; she gradually worked up to these objectives throughout the year.

I really enjoyed the way Kay set up her book. She went beyond just discussing how she got her children to participate each month; she included in every chapter advice from her "Ironing Board," a group of special friends, what her children learned at the end of the month, as well as what she learned. She also added wonderfully inspiring quotes, as well as great links to resources.

One of my favorite chapters in the book deals with teaching the children to cook and clean up a kitchen. Every child must prepare an evening meal once a week. Of course, she helps the younger children, but even they must pick out a recipe and go shopping for the ingredients. I enjoyed Kay using these lessons as teaching moments every chance she got. Her youngest child was unfamiliar with a grocery store and the definition of produce. Her eldest child tried to get by with purchasing the family dinner because he was not confident in his cooking abilities.

Even if your children help out around the house, I believe your family can glean something positive from Cleaning House. I'm not sure I would implement the monetary system used in this experiment, but I did like the ideas behind it and how Kay tried to teach her children fiscal responsibility along with mastering tasks. I highly recommend this book for all stay-at-home parents as we (the larger communal we) often times tend to do the work for our children instead of allowing them to do things for themselves. I'm also very glad Kay Wills Wyma cared to shared her story with all of us.

Here is your opportunity to read the first chapter of Cleaning House.

{I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.}

Shine Shine Shine

Lydia Netzer, a Hampton Roads homeschooling mom, recently published her first novel, Shine, Shine, Shine. A love story gone awry amidst the historical section of Norfolk’s elite and affluent, Lydia introduces a family of three and a half who lose themselves to find themselves to understand they’ve lost everything but gained something in the end. It is a complicated tale of life and love. 

"But what he realized, looking at her there splashing in the water, making a star with her body and then contracting down to do a somersault, was that he really recognized her, down inside. He knew that, if the planet was spun like a top, and stopped suddenly, and he as asked to point her out, that he could do it. There might be crowds and crowds of people all in gray, with gray hair, and gray eyes, and in order to be identified they would have to be logically processed according to age, and intelligence, and financial merit. He would not know any of them But he knew Sunny, he knew her without looking, without asking. She would be like a lightbulb in a basket of wool. She would be there like a red balloon in an asteroid belt. She was the only one, ultimately, in the whole world that mattered. She was the only one he would have known anywhere. How he wanted to insure that she would only be his. He had a ring in his pocket. It looked exactly like an engagement ring should look. But he had no script. He was on his own now."

Sunny (the wife, the mother, the born bald child) tries her best to be the poster wife for her world renown scientist husband, Maxon, as well as super mommy to Bubber, the heavily medicated autistic son, and the unborn child Sunny carries. Yet, Sunny’s created and ideal life shatters one fateful day.

During a wreck, (while Maxon is on a space mission to colonize the Moon with robots) Sunny looses her wig, and with it her identity. As her friends race to help her, Sunny realizes her secret of baldness is out. She comprehends her world is no longer in her control; and she decides to let go of everything. 

She gathers Bubber up to visit her dying mother in the hospital and makes the decision to remove her from life support. She also decides to take Bubber off his medication. Her ultimate decision: to never wear a wig again and to remain true to herself.

She picks the pieces of the day up and marches to her next social function in her historic neighborhood. She wishes the fight she had with Maxon had never taken place. She needs him home; she needs his arms around her.

Lydia’s story takes another turn. Sunny hears her husband’s shuttle has been hit with a meteor the size of a nut, a fatal nut. I’ve left a lot out, deliberately.

Lydia includes a back story of how Sunny and Maxon’s love bloomed and how they grew into this pseudo-couple before that fateful day. Her detail for imagery vividly took me through the scenery of the mountains and the city. Her use of intricate verbiage and elemental flare made this book a lovely read. Lydia’s ability to create amazingly life-like characters and her immaculate detail to their personalities, made Shine, Shine, Shine absolutely enjoyable.

{Disclosure: I was allowed to read this book digitally via Net Galley. A temporary digital copy was provided to me by St. Martin's Press.}

For-give-ness as defined by Meriam-Webster means the action of forgiving. But what does it truly mean to offer forgiveness or to be forgiven? In The Truth about Forgiveness, John MacArthur broaches the subject of the Christian idea of forgiveness.

Written more for a biblical scholar, this book is a challenging read. I found myself constantly seeking out verses when they were simply referenced in parenthesis to put the paragraphical text into biblical context.

The first chapter, We Need to be Forgiven, discusses MacArthur's disease-theory model for understanding sin: the idea of escaping bad news by denying it or trying to explain it away; by classifying every human failing as some kind of disease. While I understood MacArthur's disease-theory argument when applied to a drunkard being classified as having a "chemical dependency," and how this sin is being disguised as a "sickness;" I disagreed when he used the same theory to discuss children with OCD or other mental disorders. I could not correlate pediatric mental illnesses with sin; of which, the author fails to satisfactorily make this point.

   "But assume for the moment that the problem is sin rather than sickness. The only true remedy involves humble repentance and confession - then restitution and growth through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, communion with God, fellowship with other believers, and dependence on Christ. In other words, if the problem is in fact spiritual, labeling it a clinical issue will only exacerbate the problem and will offer no real deliverance of sin. That is precisely what we see happening everywhere."

The rest of the chapters in The Truth about Forgiveness addresses the steps that were taken by Christ to ensure God's forgiveness of man today. The stories of Luke and John are heavily referenced though the body of work.

MacArthur reiterates his message that as individuals seeking forgiveness, there is a necessity of a humble, repentant faith and the need to accept the responsibility for our sins.

The Truth about Forgiveness is in interesting read. It begins quite advanced with MacArthur's disease-model theory, yet his approach on forgiveness is quite simple.

John MacArthur is a popular author and conference speaker, as well as a pastor. His bestselling titles include The Gospel According to Jesus, The Truth War, The Murder of Jesus, and The MacArthur Study Bible.

{Disclosure: I recieved a copy of this book in exchange for my review.}

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing an adorable children's book titled Life is a Bowl Full of Cherries: A Book of Food Idioms and Silly Phrases by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Robin Hegan. Published last Spring by Vanita Books, this is a splendid introduction to idioms experienced in the English language.

When my son hears an idiom in daily dialogue, I can just see his mind creating the picture while his nose crinkles up in semi-disbelief. He has some difficulty in fully comprehending idioms and sarcasm. I made sure to include him when I read through this book; testing his grasp of idioms. He learned quite a bit!

Vanita's interesting food idioms coupled with Robin's lively illustrations kept his attention as we discussed the idiom, its meaning, and its proper use. These ladies created a wonderful resource to help children discover couch potatoes, sweet toothes, and the big cheese.

Parents of children with special needs will find this book a great addition to their therapeutic collection. Children from all backgrounds will enjoy the word play and benefit from a better understanding of idioms and their uses.

In 2009, Vanita Books published their first idiom book, Birds of a Feather, featuring bird, insect, and animal related idioms. As much as my son enjoyed their second book, I will be adding this one to our reading list.

{Disclosure: I was allowed to read this book digitally via Net Galley. A temporary digital copy was provided to me by Vanita Books.}

1 comment:

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