Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: Pirates on the Farm

This was a great week to review children's books, since we're on Thanksgiving break.  Pirates on the Farm received multiple readings today and was even written about by my 1st grader in his school reading log.  He chose this book over the 3-4 others he'd read today, so I know he liked it.

Here's my review of Pirates on the Farm:

Five wild and unsavory pirates cause an uproar in a "proper little southern community" when they purchase the farm next door to the narrator's family.  They lack both farming and social skills, which horrifies the mother.  The father, however, shares his farming expertise and friendship with his swashbuckling neighbors.  When the pirates steal from the church's collection plate and tear up the General Store, a "Ban the Buccaneers Brigade" begins to catalog the damage.  Only a timely sacrifice from one of the wronged townspeople can save the pirates from being run out of town.

The message of this story can be summed up in the father's words, "When you plant love, it grows."   While the story stands well on its own, the final page provides parents (and teachers) with questions leading to a discussion of the deeper meaning of the story:
  • Who is my neighbor?
  • What character most consistently lets his light shine before the pirates? 
  • How were X's (I won't give it away) actions Christ-like when the pirates' bill was paid?
The author's hope is that this story will inspire readers to show God's love to the "pirates" in their lives and plant seeds so that love will grow.

Perfect for ages 4-8 (even a 9-year-old who couldn't resist coming over to listen). Pirates on the Farm has fun characters, colorful illustrations, and includes a pirate glossary of Seadog Definitions at the end.

Pirates on the Farm
by Denette Fretze
Illustrations by Gene Barretta
Zonderkidz, 2013

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for an honest review.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Book Review: Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst

A few months ago I reviewed the Unglued Devotional and wished I had a copy of the original Unglued book. Then, voila, the opportunity to review it arose this fall.

Just like my review back in March 2013, this one is a long time in coming.  It seems that fall just becomes so hectic that I can barely keep up with work and family, much less book reviews....but here goes.

Unglued is a book about examining our reactions to life in light of Scripture and according to a 4 quadrant grid that Lysa TerKeurst explains in the book's appendix.  While some people sail calmly through life, the rest of us find ourselves at wit's end--coming unglued--by circumstances and stressors.  TerKeurst identifies 4 types of unglued reactions:  the stuffer that builds barriers, the stuffer that collects retaliation rocks, the exploder that blames others, and the exploder that shames herself.

There's an introductory chapter that allows readers to figure out where they fall on the continuum. Subsequent chapters explore ways to identify when you're beginning to either stuff or explode and offer guidance on how to stay calm and handle life more wisely. 

I admire Terkeurst's openness about her own "imperfect progress" as she seeks to become a calmer wife, mother, and friend.  I think the best part of this book is her willingness to come alongside the reader as an encourager. Her writing style makes her seem like a welcome friend, the type you invite in for coffee when your house is a mess...and you are too.

This book would make a fantastic book study for a women's group and it's great simply to read on your own.  Pair it with the Devotional and you have a program for becoming a little less unglued and more of the godly woman you really want to be.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for an honest review.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Book Review: Encouragement for Today

A friend of mine regularly forwards devotionals from Proverbs 31 Ministries to a bunch of us moms. I find they are always worth reading--as if the women who wrote them have been eavesdropping on our lives.  Lysa TerKeurst is my personal favorite.  She has a way of revealing her inner struggles in a way that just grabs me and when God's grace breaks through and she writes about that....well, preach it sister!

So I jumped at the chance to get an early review copy of Encouragement for Today, containing 100 devotions by TerKeurst and other members of the Proverbs 31 Team.  Each devo follows a set pattern: Bible verse, essay, prayer, a 1-3 sentence main point, questions to reflect on, a challenge to respond, and a few more verses to look up.

The women who contributed to this volume write about friendships, husbands, children, physical struggles, work and the economy, spiritual growth, and finding one's way as a woman of God in American culture.  You'll laugh; you'll cry, and sometimes you'll find yourself in the story.  Best of all there's honesty, authenticity, and truth contained within these pages.

This would make a great personal devotional, but lends itself well to a women's group study, particularly using the sections entitled "Reflect" and "Respond."

The release date is September 24th so this'll be out in time to order as a Christmas gift.  Highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program in return for an honest review.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book Review: Runaway Emotions

Worry, frustration, anger, loneliness: as believers in Christ we know that when we feel these negative emotions something is wrong. In Runaway Emotions, Jeff Schreve invites us to consider that we should not deny, hide, or ignore these emotions, but use them to find out how God is speaking to us.  In writing about negative emotions, Schreve uses the analogy of the smoke detector: its alarm goes off long before we experience the full force of the blaze to let us know that there's a fire somewhere that needs to be addressed. 

Runaway Emotions addresses 8 alarm emotions: embarrassment, loneliness, frustration, worry, anger, guilt, discontentment, and depression. Schreve outlines the message contained in each emotion, then discusses how God uses these feelings to let us know what God given desires in our life are out of balance.  The bulk of each chapter equips readers with Scripture and actions useful for bringing our lives back into balance.

So much of the information here is not new; even Schreve lets readers know that the fundamentals in this book came from seminary lectures by Dr. Wayne McDill. However, Schreve's writing and organization of the topics make this book a valuable, practical tool that I've found myself referring to over and over again.  Schreve's style is such that he says what he needs to say, then moves on, making this a content rich book that you'll want to read and reread with highlighter in hand. I found that, once I read the introduction, I could skip around to the chapters that I needed most then come back to the rest.  Runaway Emotions was not only useful for self-understanding, but also for understanding others who exhibit these alarming feelings.

Very highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program in return for an honest review.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Book Review: Gospel Deeps

Gospel Deeps takes readers beyond the altar call, beyond the commitment, beyond acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and into the deep water of what the Gospel means and how it transforms everything. This is not a lightweight book (full of cute anecdotes or pithy sayings), but it remains accessible to readers who are willing to do a little thinking and stick with it.

Chapters address different facets of Jesus and Christian theology (hence the diamond on the cover): the Persons of the Trinity; the meaning of atonement; why God allows suffering; characteristics of God; our longing for heaven; redemption; joy found in the Gospel; and the glory of Christ.

This book reawakens the beauty, joy, and wonder of the Gospel. I loved it because I'm not satisfied with a casual, "Jesus is my buddy" kind of Sunday morning Christian faith. I want to go deeper. Jared Wilson is awed by the majesty and excellencies of Jesus and he respects his readers enough to bring us along with him. Yes, there's some deep theology in here--but dive in--you can handle it.

Highly recommended.

Gospel Deeps
by Jared C. Wilson
Crossway Books, 2012

I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Book Review: The Christian Mama's Guide to the Grade School Years

It's been 3 years since I first sent a kid off to Elementary School and my youngest is just finishing Kindergarten next month.  So I'm in a good position to review this new book in Erin MacPherson's "Christian Mama's Guide" series.

How should a family prepare a child (and themselves) for the big wide world of Elementary School? MacPherson's book claims to have "everything you need to know" but it's really divided into a few themes:  the "15 Factors" that will help a child succeed in life, choosing a type of schooling that's a good fit for your family, social-emotional learning, and how to handle difficult situations.  Most of this book addresses preparing parents on how to be parents of grade school children: how to let go and guide children in making decisions.  If you're looking for academic preparation, there's little here--but that's a good thing, since young children need to get the social behaviors in order before any real academic progress can be made. In other words, it's important that his little bottom stay put in circle time and that he knows not to push in line or grab toys.

MacPherson is a little out of her depth since her own experience sending kids off to school is limited. So she calls in her mom and more experienced friends to help. That's where this book really shines.  The sidebars--"From the Principal's Office"--offer seasoned advice on how to be a supportive parent, how to teach kids to handle bullies, and how to grow a child's faith.  The section on selecting a school is valuable for its balanced approach to the public school/Christian school/homeschool debate.

The author's manic style of writing and endless coffee references got to be a little too precious for this middle-aged mom and anyone who's taught preschool probably already knows this stuff.  However this would be a valuable book for moms of preschool aged children and even those whose kids have already started Kindergarten.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst

Why has it taken me so long to sit down and actually write this review?  Perhaps it's because I live the kind of hectic life that would lead a woman to need this book.

I've heard of Lysa TerKeurst, and have read some of her Proverbs 31 Ministries devotionals, forwarded by other moms.  So I was delighted to get to review the Unglued Devotional.

Unglued Devotional (the companion book to TerKeurst's Unglued) contains 60 days of devotionals designed to lead women through exploring the emotions, hangups, and situations that can cause us to come completely unhinged whenever a problem arises. Her devotions are a blend of storytelling, psychology, Christ-based mentoring, and humor. She writes about responding (as opposed to merely reacting), about acknowledging emotions (rather than stuffing them), and how to accept (and give) grace as we make imperfect progress toward a goal of leading a more peaceful, Christ-centered (as opposed to me-centered) life.

If you don't see yourself somewhere in the pages of this book....you are a living saint.

Lysa TerKeurst is at her best when she opens up and shares the real challenges she faces being a woman, a mother, a wife, and a friend.  I found myself referring back to this book again and again through the day--some of the devotionals were just what I needed.  I need these lessons to be ingrained so that I can use them with my own kids and with the kids I teach so that they can learn to recognize their own tendencies and not become "unglued" themselves.

I highly recommend this book as a personal devotion book and as an excellent choice for a women's accountability/support group. You may even read this and want to buy copies for all your friends.

I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in return for an honest review.