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Sunday, January 31, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Lights Out

"It would be the ultimate irony if the most connected, the most media-saturated population in history failed to disseminate the most elementary survival plan until the power was out and it no longer had the capacity to do so." 

In Lights Out, Ted Koppel gives a compelling, thorough overview of Americans' naivete and lack of preparation for a cyberattack that could disrupt the country's power grid in a catastrophic manner. Shocking in its reveal of avoidance and utter helplessness among the very agencies we would expect to be preparing for such an attack, he interviews numerous science, security, and military experts for their assessments and recommendations. Threading through these interviews is a consistent theme: we are not ready for that. 
This book should be distributed to our President, Cabinet members, and Congress. Leading members of agencies that would be directly involved in assisting Americans through a disaster lasting weeks, perhaps months, should familiarize themselves with the facts and warnings Koppel has worked so hard to gather in these pages. Then they should take heed and prepare. 

As for me, I am thankful for the wake up call. While I can't prepare on as a large a scale as some individuals and groups described in the book, I can step back and plan, with my family, what we would do for at least two weeks if the electricity failed in our city. 

I received this book free of charge from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for a fair review. 






Monday, January 25, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: You're the One That I Want

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What fan of the passionate, complicated Christiansen family isn't going to be excited that the sixth book of the series is hitting bookshelves? I can't wait to catch up with this amazing family as they conquer a new set of very honest, very believable struggles--and this book does not disappoint. 

In "You're the One That I Want," author Susan May Warren re-connects us with Owen Christensen, who has been missing in action since his regrettable fight with brother Casper at sister Eden's wedding. Oh yeah, remember that? While Casper has put his engagement to Owen's former girlfriend Raina (oh yeah, remember that?) on hold to search for his wayward brother, Owen has run from one city to another to flee his constant feelings of guilt and failure. Ending up on a crab boat in the Bering Sea, Owen impulsively jumps overboard to rescue Scotty, the new girl he has his eyes on--and almost dies in the process. When the brothers are reunited in Owen's hospital room, Scotty quickly sees the problems between them and is about to get as far away from them as possible. But a bit of a legal glitch--murder, actually--loops her into the Christiansen fold, and we're off and running through the pages to another gripping story of redemption among very real characters who, like all of us real people, fall short of it. 

I grabbed the opportunity for a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a fair review. 

For more on this book, and to download the first chapter for free, go here. While you're at it, peruse Warren's other series; you'll want to run through them too! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Under Our Skin

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Ferguson. Perhaps many in this country had never known of this city in Missouri before last summer. Suddenly, Darren Wilson and Michael Brown were household names, and many people debated for and against one and the other...their opinions on the situation perhaps determined by the color of the opinionee's skin.

Into this cacophony of strong emotions and words came a Facebook post by NFL tight end Benjamin Watson, after the grand jury voted not to indict Officer Wilson for Brown's shooting. The post, expressing strong emotions and yet seasoned wisdom, went viral. In Under Our Skin, Watson takes each point from his post and expands it, weaving in anecdotal information from his father and grandfather as well as his own experiences as a black man in 21st century America.

I found Brown's book to be thoughtful, balanced, and kind. He stands in the shoes of those on either side of the race problem (because it is still a problem today), both describing what the world looks like from that vantage point as well as how each view is faulty. He does this without anger or accusation.

The chapter "Fearful and Confused" was probably my biggest takeaway from this book. Watson describes the constant background fear for many black men, sometimes grounded in reality and sometimes not, of negative--perhaps even deadly--interactions with white police officers. Although he is an upstanding, educated Christian man who has a recognizable face from Sunday football and does not choose to violate the law, a simple police stop breeds a fight-or-flight response. This helps me to understand why I look at the news clips on my TV and see that yet again, another black teen or man has fled from what could have been a simple few moments of compliance with a law enforcement officer. My not understanding this to this point in my life is humbling. I get it now.

The solution, according to Watson? The gospel. Jesus' blood ran red for skin of all different hues, and the ground is even at the cross. We each need to admit that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Once we are set right with God, He transforms minds and hearts to bring unity. I agree.

The book ends with some practical suggestions to bridge the gap between races. We can start in our own neighborhoods and workplaces to step across lines of color and begin understanding.

If you would like more information about the book, you can visit the website here.

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a fair review.

Friday, January 1, 2016

What the devil doesn't want you to know

In Matthew chapter 4, satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness. He repeatedly challenges Jesus, "IF You are the Son of God..." do this, that, or the other thing. Plenty of Bible studies exist on this segment of Scripture, but I would just point you to--satan knows Jesus IS the Son of God. 

This is the first mention of Jesus as the Son of God in the gospel of Matthew. 

The second mention comes in chapter 8. This time it's the demons in the man from Gadarenes (a lot of them--legion refers to a Roman troop of 5,000 soldiers) who address Jesus as the Son of God:

 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted." (Matthew 8:29)

Interestingly, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of satan. They don't believe Jesus is the Son of God...but the demons He is casting out do. 

If satan knows Jesus is the Son of God...and so do the demons...why are we so often unbelieving of the power this represents? Two thousand years after these exchanges between Jesus and the demons, we're still debating and denying His true identity because satan knows once we really, really get this--he's defeated. 

One of the devil's best kept secrets...don't let him get away with it. 

Jesus, I believe afresh today that You are the Son of God. I believe You hold all authority in the spiritual realm. I believe that with a word You dispel demons and make the afflicted whole. I believe You are in the midst of my family, a mighty warrior to save and fight for us. I freely and newly give You Lordship over my life, worshiping You as Almighty God. 




Sunday, December 27, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Ties That Bind

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I have a minor fascination with the Amish, as I'm sure many do who live in this electronically cluttered, fast-paced world. However, although I am a voracious reader, I often avoid Christian fiction about the Amish because, in my opinion and unfortunately, it is so often predictable. Ties That Bind, by Cindy Woodsmall, is a wonderful exception!

Although this is the first book I have read by Woodsmall, a look through her website shows that she has written 20 books previous to this one, all about the Amish. The first book of a new series, "The Amish of Summer Grove" is a delightfully complex work with real characters and surprising plot twists. It had my attention in the first few pages and was hard to put down.

Eighteen-year-old Ariana Brenneman, one of nine siblings, is the steadfast hub of her family. Her cheerful heart and willing hands bless everyone who comes into contact with her. However, not only is she recovering from a hurtful event that occurred a few years previous, she also faces a threat to her family from the very man who hurt her. Further, while pursuing and achieving her dream to own a cafe in town, she comes face to face with news that turns her life upside down. The book ends with one chapter of her life on hold while another unwanted one begins.

Eighteen-year-old Skylar Nash, raised by divorced parents in the Englisch world, is in a trainwreck situation. Using too many drugs and beginning to experience the destruction to which they inevitably yield, she also gets life-changing news and her life also begins a new, unwanted chapter--one from which she is ready to run at the first discomfort.

Although Skylar and Ariana do not meet in this book, I suspect they will in the next. As they essentially trade lives for one year, each is sure to come to an understanding of a culture that feels completely opposite to all they know. Ariana seeks to influence her new family for the Lord...and Skylar is poised to receive the lifesaving good news she needs.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah publishers in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the next!

Monday, November 23, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson, taps into something that probably lurks deep in the hearts of most people. At some level, there is, I believe, something in each of us that wants to walk away from the crazy cacophony of life for awhile and connect with the simplicity of nature. Bryson did just that, and because of the adventures he records we are able to connect as well.

This book combines detailed information on each section of the Appalachian Trail, such as plant and animal life, historical background, and interesting anecdotes, with Bryson's personal experiences while hiking it. His overweight friend and co-hiker, Stephen Katz, offers comic relief as he struggles to keep up. Together the two of them meet some remarkable characters; in fact, one is so remarkable they may or may not have ditched her along the way. The constant threat of a bear attack lends background suspense. And although Bryson does not hike the trail through from one end to the other, he samples enough of it to give readers a thorough overview. 

Bryson's dry humor had me chuckling many times. His quirky perspective on the adventures he encountered on the AT was refreshing, and it made the wilderness come alive. If you've ever wanted to get out in the open and away from it all but can't quite quit your job and leave your living room, you will enjoy A Walk in the Woods

For more on the book, go here. I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for a fair review. 







Tuesday, November 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: God and Churchill

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Having recently homeschool-journeyed through World War 2 with my preteen, this book was a perfectly timed read. I have always been struck by Winston Churchill's strength, as evidenced in his courageous leadership during the war, and welcomed the chance to get to know him better through this book. "God and Churchill: How the Great Leader's Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and Offers Hope for Ours," by Jonathan Sandys (the great leader's great-grandson) and Wallace Henley, was not what I expected...but it was a valuable book nonetheless, and I do understand his life more for having read it.

Two caveats. First, I did not find detailed information about God and Churchill, in the sense I expected from the title. Coming from an evangelical point of view, I thought I'd hear more testimonial about his Christian life, faith struggles, prayers for others, etc. What I found, rather, were the author's assurances that God was foremost in Churchill's life and in the background of all his decisions, quietly and stolidly--and quotes from Churchill to that evidence. Second, I also didn't find detailed accounts of battle strategies, pivotal political decisions, or even life events after he came to the office of Prime Minister. This book is not a biography, per se.

This book reviews Churchill's early life and how he came to the position of Prime Minister. It then contrasts, in detail, his worldview with that of Adolf Hitler's, highlighting Churchill's reasons for stepping up to the fight against the Nazis and never backing down. The final section of the book examines how Churchill "kept calm and carried on" to victory--again, not with detailed accounts of events, but rather by describing the personality qualities he possessed. It concludes with what we need in this day and age to do the same, against perhaps even more formidable foes.

I found most amazing about Churchill's life the fact that he had prophetic understanding, from a young age, that he was destined to save Britain from a terrible enemy. He also knew that God would be his help, and that assurance never seemed to flicker even through the darkest times. He was stalwart and steady, and I admire him more for having read about him in this book.

For more information, go here.

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an impartial review.