Monday, December 29, 2014

We sing, "These are the special times...".

We seem to live for them. The special times. Christmas. Other holidays. Vacation times.

We live from peak event to peak event, from one bright moment to the next.

We don't know how to live in ordinary time---the in-between time.

WAITING is the in-between time.

Football season just ended. We are WAITING for baseball season to begin.

We seem to feel that life doesn't happen while we wait.

We don't know how to act in ordinary time, the in-between time.

We act like life isn't happening NOW---it's only happening in the future.

Life is calling for us to be in the moment, this season---now.

When we learn to wait we learn that life is packed in the MOMENT.

T. S. Eliot was right when he wrote that there is, "a lifetime burning in every moment."

We need to stop straining and struggling and simply let life unfold.

There is so much wonderful life packed in the MOMENT!


Friday, December 05, 2014

Wilbur M. Smith was one of my favorite professors at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.

He had a library of 25,000 books. He always looked upon his library as a workshop.

When he walked into the classroom he would be carrying a stack of books. He would plop them down on the speaker's stand and then he would begin talking. And for the next hour I was held spellbound.
Early on in my education I had attended a class on the Old Testament. It put me to sleep! Wilbur Smith brought the Old Testament to life. I would run out of his class and drive straight to my little office at the church building and begin preparing a sermon. I couldn't wait to preach. I was on fire for God.

I decided I had to have many of the books Smith had in his library and talked about. I never had a goal of 25,000 but I did line my shelves with many good books. When I retired from full time preaching I disposed of fifteen cases of books. But I retained many volumes. On one wall in our family room is a built-in bookcase full of books. In my office closet, one wall of shelves is full and there are two other bookcases in there. Out in the office there are four bookcases full of books and books stacked on my study desk and my computer desk and on a stand by my reading chair.

Now, since the only messages I deliver are funeral messages I am slowly beginning to get rid of books I no longer need. I am doing so with mixed emotions. I am a little sad to see the valuable books go but I am making wonderful discoveries. I am discovering all over again great articles on vital topics. I not only have many hard back volumes but stacks of magazines that contain outstanding writing on every theological subject imaginable.

Just yesterday I picked up a magazine thinking that I would toss it and ended up reading and studying the articles for over an hour. Serendipity!

Another magazine that was on its way out the door has inspired some thoughts that I will be posting on my blog soon. The thoughts come from a sermon that William Willimon wrote for Pulpit Resource. I smiled when I read anew this message that I first read back in 1997. I thought to myself, "This is good stuff." Serendipity!

So I go on sorting through books and magazines. I do so no longer dreading the work. I do so with eager anticipation. I'm finding treasures that have been "buried" far too long.


The Japanese Art of Decluttering And Organizing
By Marie Kondo

OVERVIEW: Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo's clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). With detailed  guidance for determining which items in your house "spark joy" (and which don't), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home―and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

AUTHOR: Marie "KonMari" Kondo runs an acclaimed consulting business in Tokyo helping clients transform their cluttered homes into spaces of serenity and inspiration. With a three-month waiting list, her KonMari Method of decluttering and organizing has become an international phenomenon. The Life-Changing Magic of tidying Up is a best seller in Japan, Germany, and the UK, with more than two million copes sold worldwide, and has been turned into a television drama for Japanese TV. She has been featured on more than thirty major Japanese television and radio programs and in the London times, the Sunday Times, Red magazine, and You magazine, among others.

MY REVIEW: Many books on decluttering have been written. And I have read most of them. This one is the best! That's not to say that I agree with everything Kondo has to say on the subject. But I do agree with almost all of it and I think this is a great book.

When I first saw the title I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the book. Tidying up is a term I am familiar with but not one that I use very often. And I wasn't too sure about the Japanese art of decluttering because I really didn't know anything about it. Even now, I'm not sure if Kondo is really describing a method that can be described as a Japanese method or if it is just her method and she happens to be Japanese. It doesn't matter either way. This is a book that you need to read if you are interested in decluttering.

Kondo had my attention from the first chapter or section, Why can't I keep my house in order? to the last, The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life. If you are seriously interested in this subject, you will not want to put the book down. Marie Kondo makes the claim that she is showing how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever. Is that true? Maybe! Yes, I think it just might be.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Thursday, November 20, 2014

What Ever Happened To The Good News
By Phillip Yancey

OVERVIEW: In his landmark book What's So Amazing about Grace?, Phillip Yancey issued a call for Christians to be as grace-filled in their behavior as they are in declaring their beliefs. He now returns to this vital subject, asking why Christians continue to lose respect, influence, and reputation in our modern culture. Yet people everywhere still thirst for grace. How can Christians present truly Good News amid the changing landscapes of our time? Why do so many people dislike Christians? How can we communicate faith in an appealing way to future generations? Using his trademark journalistic style―story-filled, compelling, accessible―Yancy explores how grace can bridge the gap between Christian faith and a world increasingly suspicious of it.

AUTHOR: Philip Yancey serves as editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. He has written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books and won ECPA Book of the Year awards for What's So Amazing About Grace? and  The Jesus I Never Knew. Four of his books have sold over one million copies. Yancey lives with his wife in Colorado.

MY REVIEW: I agree with Max Lucado who said, "Every Philip Yancey book is worth reading. He is a gift to our generation." This book is one of his best. I also agree with Shane Claiborne who wrote, "There's not much I'd rather read about than grace. And there's no one I' rather have tell me about it than Philip Yancey."

In this book Yancey does a splendid job of telling why the church stirs up negative feelings and then he counters the bad news. He spends much of his time relating stories about how too many Christians make bad news out of the good news. And then he tells stories and gives many examples of how Christians can and are making a positive, grace-filled difference in a world of desperate need.

This is an important book that every Christian needs to read. Yancey does a good job of helping us to see what the world would look like if Christians fulfilled the command to "See to it that no one misses the grace of God."

(I received this book from the Booklook program in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Thursday, November 06, 2014

How Much Prayer Should A Hamburger Get? is the title of an excellent little book of articles on prayer compiled by William J. Krutza and the title of an article in the book written by Eliot J. Carey.

I received the book years ago from friends who wrote these words inside the cover: "Clif, I know you like to read. We enjoyed this so thought we'd get you a copy, hope you enjoy it too. In Christian love, The Overturfs, P.S. Thanks for your terrific lessons!"

I'm going to quote several passages from Carey's article that express how I also feel about saying grace every time we open our mouths for food.

"Saying grace every time we open our mouths for food is a ritual that needs clarification. I know some people who consider it virtually a denial of the faith if they fail to bow their heads and mumble a few words before eating, whether in private, in public, or in the home of a friend."

"Ritualism in saying grace confronts us with all kinds of problems. Obviously we do not pray over all forms of sustenance, else we have sinned at the water cooler and the kitchen tap for years. Nothing is more essential to the body than water---unless it be air, and you can see the problem that raises---but I know of no one, however devout he may be, who prays at the drinking fountain in the park. We also have confession to make over a sizable backlog of Lifesavers, breath mints, salted peanuts, and licorice allsorts, all of which contain frightening amounts of nourishment."

"So we are faced with the problem of classification. Does food rate grace because of its quantity? Or its price? Or the time of day when it is eaten? If one eats a doughnut with coffee at 10:00 A.M. without grace, is one obliged to pray over a sandwich and coffee at noon? If the sandwich is classified as lunch, it requires prayer, because surely one must give thanks for one's meal."

I find the Bible is strangely silent on the topic of saying grace. There is no instruction that I know of for saying grace. I consider the Lord's Supper and Christ's prayer before feeding the multitudes highly special occasions. I do believe the Bible teaches us to always be in the spirit of prayer and I am. I am gratefull for many things and tell God so. Food is one of those things and I thank God for it often---but not just when I am eating. I believe that praying before meals is a good thing but should not be done as a ritual.

I have a copy of Norman Rockwell's painting, in which the old lady and the young child bow their heads and fold their hands in the diner. totally and completely unaware of the glances of onlookers, they say their grace in unaffected sincerity. This is a picture of two people saying in their hearts, "Thank you, God, for everything." With that kind of public grace there can be no fault. But if I feel compelled to do it because others expect it and are looking, then I might need to consider my motive.


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

A Memoir of Loss and Love
By Anna Whiston-Donaldson

OVERVIEW: In Rare Bird, Anna Whiston-Donaldson unfolds a mother's story of loss that leads, in time, to enduring hope. With this unforgettable account of a family's love and longing, Anna will draw you deeper into a divine goodness that keeps us-beyond all earthly circumstances―safe.

AUTHOR: Anna Whiston-Donaldson is a popular blogger at An Inch of Gray. A graduate of Wake Forest university, she taught high-school English for six years before becoming a full-time mom and writer. She lives with her husband, Tim, and daughter, Margaret, in suburban Washington, DC.

MY REVIEW: This was a difficult book for me to read and review. I have had a hard time reading it because it is so sad. I am finding it difficult to review because of mixed emotions. Anna is a splendid writer and her story needed to be told and needs to be read. But it is a story of loss and that makes it difficult to read. However, the book is also filled with hope and love and we desperately need that. I recommend this book and agree with author Gretchen Rubin, Rare Bird is "Profound, tender, honest―and utterly unforgettable."

Rare Bird is the story of how twelve-year-old  Jack was swept away in a freak neighborhood flood. His parents and younger sister are left to wrestle with the awful questions: How did God let this happen? How can we ever be happy again? They each fall into the abyss of grief in different ways. And in the days and months to come, they each find their faltering way toward peace.

Glennon Doyle Melton, founder of Momastery.com. called the book "A masterpiece of hope, love, and the resilience and ferocity of the human spirit." If someone you know is struggling with the loss of a loved one, I recommend you put a copy of this book in their hands.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Thursday, October 02, 2014

A memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again
By Preston Yancey

OVERVIEW: In Tables in the Wilderness, Preston Yancey arrived at Baylor University in the autumn of 2008 with his life figured out. Then God slowly allowed Preston's secure world to fall apart until every piece of what he thought was true was lost: his church, his life of study, his political leanings, his girlfriend, his best friend...and his God. It was the loss of God in the midst of all the godly things that changed Preston forever. This is the story of God found, lost, and found again.

AUTHOR: Preston Yancy is a lifelong Texan-raised Southern Baptist who fell in love with reading saints, crossing himself, and high church spirituality. He now makes his home within the Anglican tradition. He is a writer, painter, baker and speaker. An alumnus of Baylor University, Preston completed a masters in theology from St. Andres university in Scotland before returning to the States. He and his wife, Hilary, currently live in Waco, Texas, where Hilary is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Baylor.

MY REVIEW: The sub-title of this book, A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again is what caught my attention. Having been a Senior Minister of the Church of Christ/Independent Christian Church for forty-seven years I have a great interest in Christians and their individual faith. In this book Preston tells his story. And an interesting story it is. Very interesting!

Preston's story is liberal. Mine is more conservative. Therefore, I had a lot to learn from him. And I did! Yes, I was uneasy when reading about his life at Baylor where he took mostly classes that I consider liberal. When in college I never had the kind of classes Preston chose because I had no interest in them. But I was interested in learning about the mindset of his professors and what he was taught. Again, his story interested me---but troubled me.

My review as far as the value of this book is concerned is not about my feelings about Preston's theology and worldview. I recommend this book to every Christian who has struggled with their own faith or has been concerned with the faith of a friend. I'm not sure you will find answers here for anything. But I believe you will be challenged to think about this subject more deeply than you have ever thought about it before. And I believe we all need to be challenged to think seriously about our faith, theology and worldview.

Preston Yancey is a splendid writer. His book is written on a high intellectual level. You will be caught up in his story. I received the book in the mail one afternoon and finished reading it the next afternoon. It's hard to put down.

(I received this book from Booklook Bloggers Book Review Bloggers Program for a fair and honest review.)


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This post is my response to Joe McKeever's article posted on Face Book, "What To Do When Your Church Changes." I was amazed at the many comments he received and how many different views were expressed. These comments convinced me that we will never all reach agreement on this.

I am not against change. However, I am not in favor of ALL change.

Every church that isn't striving to be a mega-church is not dying.

There is a place for, and a need for smaller churches that have a close, Christian family feel. As they grow too large for that intimate feeling they can plant a new congregation and keep growing and going.

The church does not have to tear down or remodel their traditional building to make it look secular like a modern shopping mall in order to reach non-Christians.

The Scriptures instruct Christians to assemble on a regular basis to encourage one another. That assembly is for worship and so it is going to be a religious service and we should not try to hide that purpose by disguising it in secular garb and jargon.

The church should be evangelistic but the Sunday morning worship service is not the time for that or so much so that it needs to become more secular than religious. Let the church be the church on a daily basis and like the early church described in Acts 2 souls will be added.

McKeever states in his article that Rick Warren and Andy Stanley and the churches they are with will always be changing. And so they should. They were never traditional. We need churches out on the cutting edge reaching those who cannot be reached by the traditional church. But we do not need to "kill" a great traditional church by making changes it is not ready to make and doesn't need to make just in order to be for change.

We need to stop accusing Christians who oppose changes they consider radical and not needed as being against all change.

Change is the motto of our President and government. I am not against all changes in government but I am strongly against some changes. But that doesn't make me narrow minded and against change.

In a "nut shell" my convictions are that change is good---but not all change. A traditional church that is not dead should not be destroyed in order to rebuild it into a less religious environment so as to appeal to a secular society. I believe this so strongly that I believe that any preacher or group of elders that do this will give account for it on the day of judgment. If a person desires to be with a less traditional church they can join one or plant one of their own. But do not tear apart Christ's church, which is His Body.


Friday, September 19, 2014

A Culinary Tour of the South's Best Restaurants & the Recipes that Made Them Famous
By Chris Chamberlain

OVERVIEW: From chops to loins, belly to bacon, and every complementary side dish in between, Chris Chamberlain's culinary curiosity has once again yielded the ultimate field guide to the South's storied gastronomic landscape. In this book he explores the region's best sources of pork perfection. The Southern Foodie's Guide to the Pig dishes up both generations-old and newfangled recipes, weaving together a story of the South's longstanding love affair with pork and those well-loved accompaniments that complete the meal. State by state, you'll uncover the secrets of the region's best chefs, pit masters, and hog farmers. (Adapted from the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Chris Chamberlain is a food and drink writer based out of Nashville, TN. He is a regular contributor to the Nashville Scene and Their "Bites" food blog as well as Nashville Lifestyles magazine. He is also the Southern correspondent for FoodRepublic.com, a national website dedicated to "Drinking, Eating, and Living the Way a Man Should." He has written about Southern food and drink for local Palate, Relish, Taste of the South, Julep, the Bourbon Review, the Southern Foodways Alliance's Gravy newsletter, and as a kitchen gadget reviewer at www.geardiary.com.

MY REVIEW: Wow! Wow! Wow! Yes, I realize this may not be the most mature way to begin a review. But I have really been impressed with this book. I like it a lot. My first Wow was when I opened it and thumbed through it looking at the great pictures. My second Wow was when I looked at the table of contents. And my loudest Wow came when I started reading the recipes. When the book came in the mail and I took it out of the box, I said to my wife, "This is my kind of book."

Part of the long title, sub-title I guess, is: How To Select, Prepare, Cook, And Enjoy Everything But the Oink. Does it actually do all of that? You know, I think it does. I really do.

I haven't tried any of the recipes yet but I know the one I am going to try first. It's Chicken Fried Pork Chops From Delta Bistro. If it is half as good as it looks in the pictureWOW!

If you don't like pork, don't buy this book. But if you do this is the book for you because that's what it is all aboutPORK.

(I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good is the title of Jan Karon's new book.

After a nine--year absence from publishing, Jan is revisiting the iconic community of Mitford, North Carolina. Fans are eager to be brought up to date with changes in the sleepy mountain village.

The title of the book is what caught my attention.

I immediately thought to myself, "Yes, that's what everybody wants. Is to be somewhere safe with somebody good."

It's a rare, overcast morning here in the Phoenix area. Rain is moving in. A tropical storm off the coast is pushing rain into the valley.

My thoughts turn to autumn and cooler weather, the fireplace and a good book.

My mind is also filled with thoughts of life in general.

Life is marching on. Relatives were here for a few days and have now gone home. We won't see them again for several months. Some of us are elderly and won't be around too long. All my brothers and sisters are gone and I am the last man standing on that side of the family.

I get lonely at times but I am never alone. God is always present.

I receive great comfort from having my wife and children with me. I think of them when I think of Jan's book title, Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good.

But even above and beyond them is the feeling I get from knowing God is with me.

He gives real meaning to the thought: SOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD!


Monday, September 08, 2014

The greater Phoenix area was hit by a monster today.

History was recorded.

A summer monsoon moved in along with the remnants of a hurricane.

Freeways were closed. Streets were flooded. Schools were closed. Many stayed home from work.

Two dozen cars were stalled, flooded and floating around in just one place on a freeway.

I woke up at 2:45 with wind and rain beating against our bedroom windows.

Charlotte and I both stirred, grunted, touched, rolled over and went back to sleep.

Around 7:00 we walked into the kitchen and looked outside.

The pool was full. The patio and yard were flooded. The weather people on television were talking like politicians. We were making history.

This is the most rain EVER in such a short period of time.

The rain has stopped----for now. The sun is shining.

We needed the rain. We just didn't need this much at one time.

Things are really going to bloom out and be beautiful now.

Weeds? Oh yes, there will be weeds----lots of them.

I'll slowly but surely kill them.

I'm thankful to God for the rain, sun and the beauty that follows.


We began with "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and then we went on to "We Will Glorify," "Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners," "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," and "You are My All In All."

All songs praising Jesus. Songs that I know well and love.

The powerful, encouraging message directly from the Scriptures was about listening to Jesus.

The service closed with communion.

I walked out into the morning sun feeling energized, refreshed and closer to God.

Lunch with two of my favorite women was an Italian Beef sandwich with sweet peppers.

Instead of jumping on the freeway to head home I said, "I'm not going that way today we have a tank full of gas and we are not in a hurry." We slowly meandered through a beautiful neighborhood. Charlotte said, "This is a nice drive." We didn't get home nearly as soon as we would have if we had gone on the freeway but we were more relaxed and in good spirit.

We watched some of the Diamondbacks/Dodgers game. The DBacks lost----again. We laughed and agreed, the Diamondbacks can't pitch and they can't hit.

For dinner Charlotte served up some of the best pancakes I have ever had along with bacon and coffee.

As I pulled the covers up under my chin I thanked God for many things.

This was a good day. It's been a good summer.

God is always good!


Monday, September 01, 2014

The Practice of a Writing Life
By Robert Benson

OVERVIEW: In this masterful blend of the practical and the spiritual, Robert Benson invites you into the work and rewards of a writer's life. More than a primer on effective writing, Dancing on the Head of a Pen is a winsome guide to the place in the heart where the life of the spirit meets the life of art. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Robert Benson is the author of numerous books. A retreat leader, Benson writes and speaks often on the life of prayer and contemplation, the practice of faith and spirituality, and the art and craft of writing. He is a graduate of and an adjunct faculty member for the Academy for Spiritual Formation, a program of the Upper Room. He is married to literary agent Sara Fortenberry. Benson lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and he dances on the head of pen every day no matter where he happens to be.

MY REVIEW: Best-selling author, James Scott Bell calls this book a gem. And a gem it is! I agree with author Melody Carlson who said that it is a delight to read.

Dancing on the Head of a Pen is small book but packed full of advice and inspiration. This may not be a book for everyone but it is a book for anyone drawn to a life of artistic expression, like writers, artists, musicians, and painters. I, like many others, have tried my hand at writing but I am not a writer. But I found this book fascinating and inspiring. If you want to live a disciplined life, this book will help. It will help you focus and live with purpose. So I recommend this book to every person wanting to deepen his or her spiritual life. Benson is witty and wise and this book is fun to read.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Friday, August 29, 2014

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY hates having a cold like I do.

You do?

No you don't. You just think you do.

Prove it?

Oh, I can prove it alright. Just come hang around with me for a few minutes.

You'll go away saying, "Nobody hates having a cold as much as Clif."

Who else but me gets a summer cold in a hot place like Arizona?

Well, my wife does. But she probably got it from me.

Yes, I know, I know. Arizona, summer, heat---all have nothing to do with getting or not getting a cold. I know that!

But it just doesn't seem right!

People who have colds should be found in cold places. Not here.

Get over it? Oh, I'll get over this lousy cold alright. But these thoughts I'm having about it--never.

These are my thoughts and I'm stickin' with them.

Nobody living in Arizona should get a cold in the summertime!!


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Trading Fear And Defeat
For An Adventure With God
By Kimberly Wright

OVERVIEW: "Believing Out Loud is a bold reminder that God never intended for us to live in fear, but to trust him to lead us on an adventurous journey. using personal stories of humor and warmth, Kimberly wright both encourages and challenges you to lay your fears and past regrets at the foot of the cross and accept his calling with daring courage."
                   Rita Davenport, Nationally Recognized CSP
                   CPAE Speaker, Author, And Entrepreneur

AUTHOR: Kimberly Wright was named the 2009 National Young Mother of the Year by American Mothers, Inc. and is the author of Bedtime Thoughts for the Christian Mom. She earned a BA in psychology from the University of Oklahoma and blogs weekly at www.believingoutloud.com. She travels across the U.S. speaking at women's church retreats and conferences sharing funny and encouraging stories of hope and God's endless grace. Kimberly and her husband John have four children and make their home in Overland Park, Kansas.

MY REVIEW: This book is an incredible resource for people whose lives have been limited by fear.
Kimberly writes from experience. She knows what it is like to live with feelings of low self-worth and to be filled with fear. It is out of that experience that she has written a book that you can relate to and be inspired to move on with your life as an adventure with God.

God is the central figure in this book. Kimberly has written fifteen chapters dealing with the battle with fear and in six of them God is in the title. And God is mentioned several times in all fifteen. The sub-title of the book is, Trading Fear And Defeat For An Adventure With God. I believe all of us had rather have an adventure with God than to live in fear. This book will show you how to do that.
After you have read this book you will want to run out and share it with somebody.

(I received this book from Leafwood Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


More Than 50 Recipes for
Fried Chicken and Sides
Lee Brian Schrager with Adeena Sussman
Photographs by Evan Sung

OVERVIEW: Whether your prefer it cold out of the fridge or hot and crispy on a buttery biscuit. You will find your new favorite fried chicken recipe in Fried & True. Serving up more than 50 recipes for America's most decadently delicious food. Lee Schrager has left no stone unturned in his quest to find America's best fried chicken. From four-star restaurants to roadside fry shacks, you'll learn how to brine your bird, give it a buttermilk bath, batter or even double batter it, season with loads of spices, and fry it up to golden perfection.

AUTHORS AND PHOTOGRAPHER: LEE BRIAN SCHRAGER is the founder of the Food Network South Beach and New York City Wine & Food Festivals. He is also the vice president of corporate communications and national events at Southern Wine & Spirits of America and the author of The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Cookbook. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Lee has appeared on Today and Rachael Ray and serves on the board of directors for the Food bank for New York City. He lives in Miami and New York City.
ADEENA SUSSMAN is a food and recipe developer who has been published in Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, Cooking Light, Health, Self, and Every Day with Rachael Ray, and on Epicurious.
EVAN SUNG is a prominent food, lifestyle, and travel photographer based in Brooklyn. His work appears regularly in the New York Times and he has worked on cookbooks with some of the top chefs from around the world.

MY REVIEW: Review a book about fried chicken? I didn't think so! I wondered what could be said about fried chicken that I didn't already know. I love it and have been watching it cooked and eating it all my life. But then I saw some of the pictures and read a few pages of the book and found myself saying, "Wow. This is a book I need to look into.

I haven't been disappointed. The photography is excellent, the recipes are wonderful and the reviews of the restaurants are outstanding. I will certainly be trying some of the recipes and hopefully someday I will be able to visit some of the restaurants.

If you like fried chicken, and who doesn't, you will want to get this book. You will probably end up buying a few extra copies for friends.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Monday, July 21, 2014

A Call To Linger in the Savior's Presence
By Sherri Gragg

OVERVIEW: With a storyteller's giftedness, Sherri Gragg transports you into life-changing moments with Jesus where you'll feel touched, healed, and spiritually blessed by the assurance that the Messiah, the Healer, the Friend is alive with you now. Experience firsthand the power and devotion of the Savior in your own life. You'll know Jesus like never before. Sherri writes in fictional narrative form while mixing biblical history with scripture, creating a setting that transforms readers back in time and places them right in Jesus’ presence. For thirty-five days readers walk with the Savior to witness miraculous healings and events, and give fresh insight into His power by thinking and feeling with people whose lives became instantly transformed by His love and grace. Readers journey with Jesus and His disciples in the most important time in history.

AUTHOR: Sherri Gragg is a nationally published writer who was a winner in the 2012 Writer’s Digest Competition (inspiration).  She discovered the beautiful Jewish roots of her Christian faith during the course of a trip to Israel, and now passionately uses her gifts of writing and teaching to share the gospel of Christ through the Middle Eastern cultural lens.  She and her husband, Michael, have five children and live in Franklin, Tennessee.

MY REVIEW: Arms Open Wide—A Call To Linger in the Savior's Presence is an inviting title. I like to read it slowly and let the invitation sink into my mind. I get a mental picture of Jesus waiting with outstretched arms. I like the words of Robert Morgan: "Sherri's writings seem as if she parachuted into the middle of the Gospels, saw all the action for herself, and returned to tell us about it!

If you have ever wondered what it would have been like to witness the miraculous healing of a leper, to watch Jesus walk on water or to be in the mind of the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus, this book will help you with that. Sherri also concludes each chapter with a prayer that is helpful. She says they are simply cries of her own heart but she believes they are a little like your heart's cry too. I think they may be.

This book is small and easy to handle. Each devotion is just the right length. They can be read easily and quickly. But you will not close the book quickly. You will want to linger and meditate letting the story travel deep into you mind. This is a good book to begin OR end the day with.

(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Friday, July 11, 2014

Do's And Don'ts Of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, And Living A Good Life
By Charles Murray

OVERVIEW: For those starting out in their careers—and those who wish to advance more quickly—this is a delightfully fussy guide to the hidden rules of the road in the workplace and in life. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of such national bestsellers Coming Apart and The Bell Curve (with Richard J. Herrnstein).

MY REVIEW: Charles Murray is one of my favorite writers. I love his easy style and his quick wit. He is extremely knowable about what he writes. Even though I didn't even know what a Libertarian was when I picked up his book, What It Means to Be a Libertarian, when I put it down I felt like I had received a college education on that subject. In this, his newest book The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead he writes about how to behave around the curmudgeon's you will meet if you wish to work at the senior levels of an organization. He gives many day-to-day tips for young people on what to expect at the senior level.

Charles has a lot to say about life in general. he urges us to leave home no matter what, get real jobs (not internships), put ourselves in scary situations, and watch the movie, Groundhog Day repeatedly.
"Witty, wise, and pulling no punches, The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead is an indispensable sourcebook for living an adult life." He doesn't make the claim that this little book will fix all that needs fixing in life, but he thinks it might help. And it will!

(I received this book free from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Saturday, June 07, 2014

Bring them home! Never leave a soldier behind!

Is it an absolute that we should never leave a soldier behind?

Today we are hearing that it is. If any criticism is made regarding the price paid to bring a soldier home, we immediately hear, "We never leave a soldier behind."

Oh, ok I guess that's right, we never leave a soldier behind. There's nothing else to say.

But there is more to say.

We have to ask ourselves if there is ever a time or reason when we just have to leave a soldier behind.


The influential conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer says he would have made the deal to bring St. Bowe Bergdahl home. Yes, he would have freed the five Taliban militants in exchange for Bergdahl.

I have great respect for Krauthammer. But I would not have made this exchange. It is bad in many respects. I rarely disagree with him but I do this time. Krauthammer and I do not agree on all theological and religious topics why do we have to agree on this? We don't! As wise as he is, he doesn't know everything.

Soldiers take comfort in knowing that Americans never leave a soldier behind if there is any way humanly possible to bring them home without paying a price that even the soldiers themselves would refuse to pay.

The price for Bergdahl was absolutely too high to pay. And if that is the only deal that the enemy would make, then it should have been refused.

War is hell!

THE REAL WIN—Pursuing God's Plan for Authentic Success

Friday, June 06, 2014

Pursuing God's Plan for Authentic Success
By Colt McCoy and Matt Carter
with Marcus Brotherton

OVERVIEW: In The Real Win Colt McCoy and Matt Carter wrestle deeply and personally with the challenge to succeed in a world that seems to get in the way. They raise a lot of questions about this and then deliver down-to-earth, biblical answers. Based on their personal experiences and a close study of Scripture, McCoy and Carter show men: Why so much depends on who you trust and who you serve. Why every man is called to lead and why every man can. How to man up to temptation—and conquer it. How to find the "win" even in your biggest failure. The book now includes a bonus-section on mentoring, plus a small-group reading guide.

AUTHORS: Colt McCoy is an NFL quarterback who, while at the University of Texas, led his team to the BCS national championship game and became the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. Colt is involved in ministries around the world. During the off-season, he and his wife, Rachel, live in Austin, Texas. Matt Carter is founding pastor of the eight-thousand-member Austin Stone Community Church. He is a champion for the For the City Network, which helps churches partner with social service agencies to meet local needs. Matt is the author of several books, and he speaks at conferences nationwide. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. Marcus Brotherton is the author or co-author of more than twenty-five books, including the New York Times bestseller We Who Are Alive and Remain. He lives with his family in Washington state.

MY REVIEW: Best-selling author, Max Lucado said, "Colt McCoy and Matt Carter lead men to win—not just in athletics or careers, but in life. This book is packed with inspiration and practical guidance. I heartily recommend it." And so do I.

The Real Win will challenge and convict you. What I like best about it is that it will help you grow in your faith. It touches all the areas in which men struggle. It points the way to success by pointing to Jesus. Colt and Matt are not afraid to share their own struggles and failures. But they want you to look past your failures, their failures and look to Jesus Christ for your picture of success.

This book will point you to the real win!

(I received this book from Blogging For Books for a fair and honest review.)


Support Your Local Jesus Revolution
By Jonathan Storment

OVERVIEW: How To Start A Riot is a story about shipwrecks, snakebites, beatings, meetings, and other church events. This book takes us back into the first century so we can turn our world upside down as the Spirit through Peter and Paul did in their time. The way of Jesus has always been wilder than we think and more dangerous than we'd like. This is  a book about what it means to belong to the community of God—a book about how to Support Your Local Revolution. (Adapted from the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Jonathan Storment has been in full-time ministry for over a decade. He served as associate preaching minister at The Hills Church in the Dallas area until 2010, and has been preaching minister at the Highland Church in Abilene, Texas, since 2010. Jonathan is a regular contributor to Scot McKnight's blog "Jesus Creed" and preaches at churches, university chapels, and conferences all over the world. He and his wife, Leslie, have three children: Eden, Samuel, and Hannah.

MY REVIEW: I don't know Jonathan Storment and I have never heard him preach. However, I do know Mike Cope, the preaching minister at Highland Church in Abilene, Texas, who preceded Jonathan. Mike is an outstanding preacher and writer and so I have been anxious to hear from the man who followed him in that pulpit. I still have not heard Jonathan preach but I have read this book and it is excellent. Mike likes it also. He said, "How To Start A Riot" is deeply theological, playful, and imaginative."

In the prologue Jonathan states, "I wrote this book because there is something breathtaking about the first Jesus followers. They are risky and gentle, kind and convicted, imprisoned and compassionate, dying and yet fully alive. I wrote this book because I have always wanted to get in on that. And I suspect I'm not the only one." He's not. He's not the only one! I want to. And I believe that many others do also. You may be one of those. If you are. Get this book. This book presents the Book of Acts in a way that you have never seen it before.

(I received this book from Leafwood Publishers for a fair and honest review.)


By Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey

OVERVIEW: In The Closer. Rivera takes readers into the Yankee clubhouse, where his teammates are his brothers, and discusses the other "Core Four" teammates with whom he came up in the game—Jeter, Pettitte, and Posada. He examines the mental preparation that goes into being a world-class athlete, taking us on the jog from the bullpen to the mound―a place where the game, or the season, rests squarely on his shoulders. We come to understand the laserlike focus that is his hallmark, and how his faith and his family kept his feet firmly on the pitching rubber. Many of the tools he used so consistently and gracefully came from what was inside him for a very long time―his deep passion for life; his enduring commitment to his now wife, Clara, whom he met in kindergarten; and his incredible instincts for persevering. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHORS: Mariano Rivera was a New York Yankee for nineteen seasons. He is Major League Baseball's all-times saves and ERA leader, a thirteen-time All-Star, and a five-time World Champion. He and his wife, Clara, have three sons and live in New York. Wayne Coffey is one of the country's most acclaimed sports journalists. A writer for the New York Daily News, he co-wrote R.A. Dickey's bestselling Wherever I Wind Up and is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Boys of Winter, among other books. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife and children.

MY REVIEW: The man who intimidated thousands of batters merely by opening a bullpen door is finally sharing his life and journey with his many fans. Today he is considered a global legend and often listed with Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Jeter as one of the top six Yankees of all time. And yet when he was first scouted by the Yankees, he didn't own a glove and arrived at his Yankees tryout with his big toe sticking out of his shoe. He had never flown in an airplane, had never heard of Babe Ruth, and spoke no English

The thing that impresses me the most about Rivera is his faith in the Lord to guide him.  The Wall Street Journal called him the greatest closer in baseball history. ESPN said, "...There has never been anyone like this. And it's likely there never will be." Sports Illustrated called him one of the most respected athletes in the country for almost two decades. I agree!

If you are a baseball fan you will not want to put this book down. Even if you are not a fan of the game you will be inspired by the story of this son of a poor Panamanian fisherman.

(I received this book from The Barnabas Agency in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Friday, May 23, 2014

Confessions of an Everyday Disciple
By Randy Harris

OVERVIEW: This book offers down-to-earth wisdom from a lifetime follower of Jesus. Out of his own practice of the spiritual disciplines, his presentations before hundreds of churches and university audiences, and his deep love for his students, Randy draws us into the circle of love for God and for our neighbors. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Randy Harris is a popular speaker at conferences, churches, and college campuses across the United States and around the world. He is a professor of theology and ethics and has received numerous awards for his classroom work. He holds degrees from Harding School of Theology and Syracuse University. This book completes a trilogy, which began with God Work: Confessions of a Stand-up Theologian (2009) and Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-time Monk (2011).

MY REVIEW: If you get the opportunity to hear Randy Harris in person―do it! If not, then by all means read his books. This one, Life Work: Confessions of an Everyday Disciple is the third in his excellent trilogy. And it is a good one!

This is a book about ethics. Its about good and bad behavior. Harris shares from his experience as a teacher of ethics, from reading a lot of books, and from being in a different church almost every week. Most of us do not get too excited when we hear the word ethics. But Randy Harris writes like he speaks―in an entertaining way. Entertaining but deeply spiritual. Sometimes when reading one of his books I feel like I do when the nurse is so good at injecting the needle that I am surprised that I have been jabbed with a needle. Thinking about it I realize there was a little pain but I didn't really mind. This is a book that will prick you occasionally but most of all it will bless you.

( I received this book free from Leafwood Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Treasuring the God Who Loves You
By John Piper

OVERVIEW: John Piper invites you to experience deeper intimacy with God through these thought-provoking and soul-enriching meditations. Whether you are just discovering the divine richness of Scripture or have long been a passionate student, you'll find a deeper understanding of God and renewed insight for your journey. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. For thirty-three years he served as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the author of more than fifty books, including the contemporary classic Desiring God.

MY REVIEW: I have been a long time admirer of John Piper's writing, of his devotion to Bethlehem Baptist Church where he devoted thirty-three years of his life and his strong proclamation of the supreme-ness of Christ in all things. I do not have the same appreciation for his deep and sincere devotion to Calvinism, which he has proudly proclaimed on numerous occasions. But that aside, John is a excellent writer and this collection of short devotions is spiritually uplifting.

There are fifty short devotions in this book and each one can be read in just a few minutes. His paragraphs are filled with Scripture. His thoughts on these Scriptures are thought provoking and challenging. Many days after reading some of them I find myself still considering them and rethinking what they mean. I recommend this book to students of the Word and all who are serious about daily devotion.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.)


Monday, May 19, 2014

In the movie, "Inventing The Abbotts" there is a reference to an old barn being torn down.

Joaquin Phoenix said, "They always tear down the good stuff."

They do. They always tear down the good stuff.

When I was a kid every Saturday afternoon found us down town people watching.

I loved that old town.

They tore it down.

At my last congregation we had a beautiful baptistery, communion table, with a preacher's stand up in the pulpit area that matched it and a beautiful wooden cross that also matched.

They tore down the baptistery, took out the communion table and speaker's stand and hid the cross.

So many things are being torn down.

On a regular basis as I move around from place to place  I find myself saying, "I can't believe they tore that down!"

Today's theme seems to be: "Change Is Good."

Many times it is. But not always!


I'm old and well used. But I'm not ready to be cast aside or torn down yet.

Old barns, church buildings, towns----everything old and well worn needs to be given careful consideration before it is torn down.

Many times change is good. But not always!


Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation,
Reorientation, and Activation
By Brian D. McLaren

OVERVIEW: From critically acclaimed author Brian McLaren comes a brilliant retelling of the biblical story and a thrilling reintroduction to Christian faith. This book puts tools in the readers hands to create a life altering learning community in any home, restaurant, or welcoming space. The fifty-two (plus a few) weekly readings can be read a loud in 10-12 minutes. They offer a simple curriculum of insightful reflections and transformative practices which will guide an individual or group of friends through a year of rich study and growth. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Brian D. McLaren is an author, a speaker, an activist, and a public theologian. After teaching college English, Brian was a church planter and pastor in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area for over twenty years. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings in the United States and internationally, and is theologian-in-residence at Life in the Trinity Ministry.

MY REVIEW: I received this book from Hachette Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review. And that's what this is. It's fair and it's honest and it's hard for me to write. It's hard because I like Brian McLaren and I don't like to disagree with him―but I do! Brian is a brilliant author, speaker and theologian. But I just honestly do not agree with some of his theology and philosophy. So there is great parts of this book that I don't like because I simply do not agree with what he is saying. Therefore, I can't recommend it.

The idea for the book is excellent and it is laid out in a beautiful way―a year long quest. Brian is an excellent writer. Much of what he writes is like reading poetry. Poetry that is interesting and fun to read. The problem with me is, I just don't agree with some of his conclusions and what they encourage. So my recommendation for my conservative friends is―don't waste your money on this book, you won't like it. But if I have any liberal friends that are reading this blog, I have to say―you will love this book. If fact, you may think it is the best book you have read in a long time and that it was written just for you.

(I received this book from Hachette Book Group exchange for a fair and honest review.)


We would head South out of town toward the Red River and cross over into Texas. Once inside Texas we drove straight to the Liquor store. Loaded up two or three cases of whiskey and headed back across the Red River into Oklahoma.

My sister-in-law's father was a bootlegger. Once he got home with the liquor he would take the bottles out of the case and distribute them in hiding places around the house until a buyer came by to pick up a pint or two.

I liked Henry. I liked him a lot. He was a quiet man with an easy going disposition. He took me on his liquor buying trips to have somebody to talk to and maybe I made him less of a suspect to the Highway Patrol sitting on the side of the rode just inside the border looking for bootleggers.

I lived with my brother and his family when I was young. My sister-in-law and her father were close so I spent a lot of time at Henry's. I watched men and women, usually men coming in and out. The police watched this also but he paid them off so they never bothered him. One day I was at his house when the police came unannounced. They walked around in the house for a few minutes, raised the table cloth up from the kitchen table, looked under it, put it down and said, "there's nothing here" and left.

Henry had once worked full-time at Fort Sill, a nearby army base. I don't know what kind of work he did but he had lost some of the fingers on one of his hands. All the time I knew him he made his living from bootlegging and playing Moon. Almost every day he could be found in the back of a pool hall playing Moon. He was very good at it and always had a roll of money.

One of the high lights of my youth was a trip I made with Henry, his girl friend, my brother, his wife and their young daughter. We all piled into Henry's Ford and drove from Oklahoma to California and back. It was a great trip for a young boy who had never been anyplace outside of Oklahoma except to the liquor store in Texas and that was just fifty miles away.

Even as a young boy I never thought liquor was a good thing. I didn't drink it then---or ever. I didn't think it was a good thing to break the law and I knew that bootlegging was against the law. And I didn't think I was breaking the law by being friends with somebody who did. Henry was such a nice man that he didn't seem like a criminal to me. I was glad when the law changed and Henry got on the right side of it. He eventually opened his own liquor store.

I never did learn to like the idea of people drinking whiskey. Because so many times they end up getting drunk. And that's bad.

Henry's gone now. The house where he lived and bootlegged from is gone. My brother and Henry's daughter are gone too. I have a lot of memories from those Oklahoma days so many years ago.
For two years while a student at Abilene Christian College in Abilene, Texas I crossed over the Red River back into Oklahoma to preach for a little country church. I drove over the same road that Henry and I had traveled together several years before.

Monday, May 05, 2014


Caring for The Most Important
Part of You
By John Ortberg

OVERVIEW: Bestselling author John Ortberg presents a spiritually satisfying classic that will help you rediscover your soul―the most important connection to God there is―and find your way out of the spiritual shallow-lands to true divine depth. With characteristic insight and an accessible story-filled approach, Ortberg brings practicality and relevance to one of Christianity's most mysterious and neglected topics. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: John Ortberg is Senior Pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is the bestselling author of Who Is This Man?; It All Goes Back in the Box; The Life You've Always Wanted; and If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat.

MY REVIEW: John Ortberg is one of my favorite writers. He knows and writes about the needs of people. In this book he addresses anxiety, depression, fear, loneliness. Many times, not always, these are symptoms of a soul that has lost touch with its source of life. Ortberg points out that like a flower snipped from the vine, the soul that is not turned toward God can only wither away.

This is a book about the most overlooked, underrated, and least-understood part of your being. "The health of your soul isn't just a matter of saved or unsaved. It's the hinge on which the rest of your life hangs."This is an important book! Ortberg points out that we've neglected the eternal part of ourselves, focusing instead on the temporal concerns of the world―and not without consequence.

I love the way he uses stories to make a point and illustrate the truth. The three sections of this book are: What The Soul Is, What The Soul Needs and The Soul Restored.

A favorite part of this book for me, is his many references to, stories about and quotes from Dallas Willard. If you are an admirer of Dallas Willard, as I am, you will appreciate this part of the book also.

(I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Saturday, April 26, 2014

The tape is almost worn out. But I still pop it in occasionally and listen to the whining voice of Linda Ronstadt belting out "...on the California coast" from her hit song, Adios.

I once loved living in California. In 1957 I left Abilene Christian and headed west. I ended up at the end of the Santa Fe Trail in El Monte, California. I absolutely loved it there. I had never seen a freeway before but I loved driving into Los Angeles to attend Pepperdine University and to Pasadena to attend Fuller Seminary. Hollywood, Disneyland, the Dodgers and Angels, football games at the coliseum, the beach---ah yes, the beach, and the list goes on and on. I loved Southern California.

My first time to drive up the California coast was in 1958 when Charlotte and I went to beautiful Carmel by the sea on our honeymoon. And then on to San Francisco, the city by the bay. San Francisco was different then. It was beautiful, quiet, sophisticated and it was an easy place to leave your heart.

In 1970 we felt a "call" to move up north to Stockton in the San Joaquin Valley. We stayed for twenty years. Good years. Now that we lived so close to San Francisco we would drive occasionally to the city we loved. But things had changed over the years. In 1967 the Haight-Ashbury district of the city experienced its famed Summer of Love. What went on there that summer was felt in various ways around the world. Times were changing!

Ok, California has always been just a little crazy, always on the cutting edge, always liberal. As far back as I can remember, there have been reports that earthquakes were going to tear it loose from the rest of the country and toss it into the ocean. Is that what I am ready to do? No! Absolutely not!
There is much to love and appreciate about California---and I do. However, there is so much that is bad, bad, bad! So bad that I don't even want to bother you with stating it all. If you don't already know about it, you wouldn't believe it if I told you.

My heart in San Francisco, Stockton, the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley?
NO! Not now. However, if God wanted me there I could live there and be happy. I grew up loving Oklahoma and would have been happy living there all my life. When I graduated from Abilene Christian I was ready to go anywhere God wanted me to go. I have always felt that I could live anyplace and be happy. I used to sing: "I'll go where you want me to go Dear Lord, over mountain or plane or sea, I'll say what you want me to say Dear Lord, I'll be what you want me to be." I've tried. I'll keep on trying.

I'm grateful for the years spent in beautiful California. God opened up His heart and poured out great blessings on that part of our great country. I only wish that young people growing up there could still experience the good that I did back so many years ago. But most of that is gone forever. It's sad to bid it ADIOS!!


Friday, April 25, 2014

15 Ways To Get Ahead In Life
By John C. Maxwell
#1 New York Times Bestselling Author

OVERVIEW: In this concise volume John Maxwell explores the principles which are proven to be the most effective catalysts for growth. Here you will learn what it takes to strengthen your self-awareness, broaden your prospects, and motivate others with your positive influence. Combined with discipline and determination, the instruction in this book will help you become a lifelong learner whose potential keeps increasing―and never gets used up. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: John C. Maxwell is an international leadership expert, coach, and author who has sold more than 21 million books. He is the founder of The John Maxwell Company and EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained nearly 6 million leaders in 177 countries worldwide. Each year he speaks to Fortune 500 companies, foreign government leaders, and diverse organizations such as the NFL, the United States Military Academy at West Point, and the United Nations. His blog can be read at JohnMaxwellOnLeadership.com. He can be followed at Twitter.com/JohnCMaxwell.

MY REVIEW: He just keeps writing. And we keep buying his books. He has sold more than 21 million. How does he do it? He never stops growing. And in this book he shares with us 15 ways to get ahead in life. He is successful! And we want to learn from him.

I was impressed with his first point that we should become intentional learners. He says that growth doesn't just happen. He's right. It doesn't just happen. That's why I am recommending this book telling us how successful people grow. We need to put forth effort to learn and grow. John teaches us how to grow and how to help others grow. This is a book you will want to read and pass on to someone else that YOU want to help grow.

(I received this book from Hachette Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


By Joyce Meyer

OVERVIEW: Joyce Meyer says that regardless of your past failure or your present struggle, God offers you a new beginning. Fresh starts aren't the exception; they're the rule. We see them all throughout the Word of God. Time after time, story after story―God offers a new beginning and His people make the most of a fresh start. The circumstances change, and the stories vary, but the grace of God never wavers. God always offers a new chance. A new opportunity. A new life. That life can be yours today. You can begin again.

AUTHOR: Joyce Meyer is one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. Her daily broadcast, Enjoying Everyday Life, airs on hundreds of television networks and radio stations worldwide. Joyce has written 100 inspirational books. She has several bestsellers. Joyce travels extensively, holding conferences throughout the year, speaking to thousands around the world.

My Review: This book will help you to understand that it's never too late for a new beginning. If you look closely you will see that theme all through the Bible. Page after page. Joyce Meyer explores the beauty and infinite supply of God's love and grace. Through inspiring stories, Scriptural principles, and her classic practical, life-application approach, Joyce powerfully demonstrates that God isn't done with you yet.

I have friends who don't think I should review books like this one and they certainly think that I should not recommend it. I don't agree! If I only read and review books that I can completely agree with I may never read or review another book. It's ridiculous! I accept truth wherever I find it!
I don't read Joyce's books because I think she is a brilliant theologian. I read her books because of the practical application she makes to life. For example, in this book she takes the stories of Moses, Rahab, David, Ruth, Paul and others and help you to see that time after time, story after story―God offers a new beginning and His people make the most of a fresh start.

I recommend this book as a kind of self-help book. No matter what, it's never too late.

(I received this book from Hachette Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.) 


Monday, April 07, 2014

Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong
By Brad Gray

OVERVIEW: Make Your Mark unpacks the story of Samson to show how there is more to this man than his long hair and superhuman strength. Samson's story is about how he lost sight of God long before he lost his secret power. It's a story for humanity because it's about humanity. Samson was called by God to be a Nazirite: someone who is not allowed to kill. He strayed from this calling and each deviation escalated in degree: he started with a lion and went on to kill three thousand men and women. Brad takes this fascinating story and explores what it means to live out God's fullest design. when we understand how Samson missed his calling, perhaps we can learn how not to miss our own. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Brad Gray serves as the Teaching Pastor of Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, Michigan. He has traveled extensively to the biblical lands of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Greece, and currently leads two-week, biblical study trips to Israel and Turkey. Brad has a BA in Business Management from Cornerstone University, an MDiv from Western Theological Seminary and did additional graduate work at Jerusalem University College.

MY REVIEW: Just about everybody I know has or is struggling with finding their true calling in life. Those of us seeking to live the Christian life want to know God's purpose for our lives and what it means to live that out on a daily basis. This book will help with that!

This book helps to get right what Samson got wrong. Who is Samson? Well, every student of the Bible knows who Samson is but almost everyone, even those who never read the Bible, have heard of Samson. Samson is one of the great characters of the Bible.

Brad Gray helps us to see that there is more to the Samson story than what appears on the surface.
In this book he takes the reader beneath the surface to see the "big picture." He gives us a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the story. The real story is one that will inform you, challenge you, direct you and hopefully transform you. Samson's story is a story about life!

I recommend this book as one that will challenge and change you.

(I received this book from Hachette Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Monday, March 31, 2014

Experiencing the Savior's Presence
When You Need Him Most
By Ken Gire

OVERVIEW: Bestselling author Ken Gire weaves together stories from the Bible, history, and his own life to reveal how we can find strength and encouragement through the storms of life. Experience the joy of knowing the God who is always there to reach out a hand and pull you out of the waves. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Ken Gire (ThM.Dallas Theological Seminary) is the author of twenty-four books, including the bestselling Moments With The Savior Series and Windows of the Soul. He has won two ECPA Gold Medallion Awards, and two of his titles were selected as C.S. Lewis Honor Books. Ken teaches weekend seminars on writing throughout the country. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

MY REVIEW: Ken Gire is one of my favorite writers. So I was not surprised by how good and helpful this book is. He has done it again. I have a huge library and of all the books on the shelves, Ken's books are among my favorites. His Windows of the Soul may be my favorite book. And now this book has touched my heart and helped to calm my soul.

So many are looking for peace. Ken has written thirteen chapters that will help you experience the Savior's presence when you need him most.  An old song, one that I don't much like, but that we sang often when I was young, says "Troublesome times are here, filling each heart with fear... ."
I may not have liked singing this song, but it was true then and it is true now―troublesome times are here, filling each heart with fear.

Ken Gire says, "This miracle of the inner variety, this inexplicable and supernatural calm in the storm, is the greatest miracle you'll ever experience." Looking at the chapter titles like, "Peace Through Deep Rest," Peace in and Through Music," Peace Through the Body of Christ," I think to myself, that's just common sense. And it is! But there's not a lot of that around these days. And when we are in the midst of a terrible storm and we cry out to God thinking that all hope is gone and seemly out of nowhere we are swept up in peace―we say "Thank you God for this miracle. This kind of peace could only come from you." You don't want to call it a miracle? Okay. That's alright. But if storms are all around and your peace is gone, get this book. After you read it share it with someone else. You will not have to look far to find someone that needs it.

(I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

By Philip Yancy

OVERVIEW: In his classic book Where Is God When it Hurts?, Philip Yancey gave us permission to doubt, reasons not to abandon faith, and practical ways to reach out to hurting people. And now, thirty-five years after writing his first book, Yancey revisits our cry of "Why, God?" in three places stunned into silence by the calamities that have devastated them. At some point all of us will face the challenges to faith Yancey writes about and look for the comfort and hope he describes. There are reasons to ask, once again, the question that never goes away: Where is God when we suffer? And Yancey, once again, leads us to find faith when it is most severely put to the test. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Philip Yancey serves as editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. He has written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books and won two ECPA Book of the Year awards for What's So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew. Four of his books have sold over one million copies.

MY REVIEW: He has done it again! Philip Yancy has written an outstanding book on one of life's most difficult problems--human suffering. I continue to be amazed by his excellent writing. But I don't know why I am. He never disappoints.

This is a small but powerful book. It provides real and practical help for those in desperate need. We often want to know where God is and why terrible things are happening to us and others. Yancy explores suffering in places all over the world. He recounts his own personal experiences of suffering and tells the stories of suffering people all over the world. By doing this he will help you to respond to your own suffering in a way you never thought possible. You will move closer to God by reading this good book. I predict that before you finish reading the book you will think of someone you just have to share it with.

(I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

AFTER LAMENT―Psalms for Learning to Trust Again

Monday, February 24, 2014

Psalms for Learning to Trust Again
By Glenn Pemberton

OVERVIEW: Nearly half of the psalms are "laments"―expressions of grief, trouble, and suffering combined with calls for God's help. Glenn Pemberton's previous book on Psalms, Hurting with God, describes how the lament psalms helped him express his heart honestly before God. In this rich book, he masterfully explores how the Psalter also provides the guidance and language we need for learning to trust God after lament. How do we live with a God who said "no" in our time of greatest need? Focusing on the psalms of trust, this books lays out the Bible's answer to this question. (From the back of the book.)

AUTHOR: Glenn Pemberton teaches Old testament at Abilene Christian University, including a popular undergraduate course on Israel's wisdom and devotional literature. Glenn has been a preacher among churches for over twenty years. He earned his PhD from the University of Denver and the lliff School of Theology, and is author of Hurting with God (ACU Press, 2012) and When God Calls: Will You Trust Me Now?

MY REVIEW: This is the best book I have read this year. Yes, I know the year is young. But for now, and I have a strong feeling my passion for this book will not change anytime soon. This book is a winner. I learned things from this book that I had never heard anybody discuss before. I preached for forty-seven years,  and oh how I wish I had read this book before those years of preaching were over. I studied the Old Testament at Abilene Christian University where Dr. Pemberton now teaches but I never was taught anything about the Psalms like what is in this book.

I agree with the statement of Walter Bruggemann printed on the cover of the book: "In this book, readers will find a faithful, strong companion in the move into and out of lament, all in act of profound faith."

There is an excellent discussion guide in the back of the book. Is this a good book for a Bible class or a small group to use? If it is in the hands of the right teacher. Many classes and small groups do not have the kind of teacher I think is needed. I find no pleasure in saying this but I say it because I feel strongly it is true. Therefore, my recommendation is going to be that this is a book for serious students of God's Word. I read, re-read and prayed over large sections of this splendid book. I agree with Walter Brueggemann who said, "It is not easy in our culture of denial, to move into honest lament, complaint, and protest." Glenn Pemberton knows the pain of life and he knows how to express his heart honestly before God. I recommend this well-written, wise book to those who struggle with life. It will strengthen the faith of every student of God's Word.

( I received this book from Leafwood Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Walking Where My Ancestors Walked

I have seen this picture (above) of my grandfather, father and other relatives in front of their home on Ditmore Ford Road many times.

The name Ford comes from a small stream of water (a place where a river or other water may be crossed by wading). It is a short distance down the road from the Ditmore home.

My heart was beating a little faster than usual as I walked from the corner where this picture of me, my daughter, Carol, and my niece, Linda was taken. I walked down the road my father walked down as a young boy and man.

I stood for a long time just looking at the ruins of the Ditmore home. And then I walked over and picked up two or three old, loose bricks. They now serve as book ends on one of the shelves in my office. I'm looking at them now.

On down the road I stood in front of the Ford, stared and dreamed. I didn't cross it.

Things are different out on Ditmore Ford Road today than they were back in my fathers day or even July, 2000 when I walked down the road. Franklin, Kentucky is growing. New homes are being built. Somebody else is creating history.