"Luther and Katharina," by Jody Hedlund, was not what I expected. I don't care for sappy Christian romances that are predictable in their tension and resolution, and I was a little hesitant to read this book, thinking that might be what I found between these pages. Not so! This is a delightful book, historically accurate and detailing the unlikely love between Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora.
The famous leader of the Protestant Reformation and a nun on the run from an abusive convent abbot should never have met, let alone fallen in love and married. However, God showed each of them necessary truths about their faith that led to a permanent relationship---despite multiple obstacles and near-death experiences.
Most surprising to me in this book were the accounts of horrific violence by Catholic leadership against those who did not agree with them--and vice versa. Although I am familiar with the "big picture" events of this time period, I had never before known the details of the depravity involved on both sides.
If you enjoy historical fiction, you will enjoy this account of a nonfiction couple. It is not only wonderful enrichment reading for anyone interested in the Reformation...it is also a beautiful love story!
For more on Jody Hedlund and this book, go here,
I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for a fair review.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Old-time evangelist Billy Sunday used to say, based on Hebrews 7:25, that God could save "to the guttermost"--meaning that no matter how deeply entrenched in sin you are, Jesus can and will meet you there and save you. Dimas Salaberrios, in his book, Street God, tells us how Jesus did that for him.
A major drug dealer on the streets of New York while still a teenager, Salaberrios envisioned a future as a "street god"--a player so powerful and unrivaled that he would get all the glory. However, after several stints in jail (including the infamous Rikers Island), he lost some of his traction and began using the drugs he sold. One night, during a frightening descent into drug-induced madness, three elderly women prayed over his soul for three hours; prayers that resulted in deliverance from demonic possession and unto salvation.
Now pastor of Infinity Bible Church in New York, Salaberrios now goes after drug dealers and users to win them to Jesus. Desiring now that God get all the glory in his life, he lives as a surrendered servant to the very community he used to rule in intimidation and violence.
I got chills reading about Salaberrios' deliverance and his immediate, on-fire, Spirit-filling for the kingdom of God. To see God's true purposes in his life as he grew in his knowledge of the Bible and searched for a church home was exciting.
If you would like to learn more about this book, go here. Visit Salaberrios' site here.
I received this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
What a beautiful love story!
Set against the backdrop of European combat during World War II, this simple but riveting account of Ray and Betty Whipps' life stories is precious. Unexpectedly finding himself on the ground with the U.S. Army instead of in the air with the Navy Air Corps, Ray meets Betty--who had unexpectedly found herself an Army nurse instead of a Navy one--during a 30 day stay in the hospital for a combat injury. Their nearly instant attraction to each other became a proposal of marriage before Ray headed back to the battlefield...where he was promptly captured by the Germans. Thank goodness we know from the outset that this couple has now been married for nearly 70 years!
I enjoyed most about this book the reminder that truly, though man plans in his heart, the Lord directs his steps. Both Ray and Betty had plans for their lives that the Lord changed, much to their initial disappointment. After finding each other, both realized that had He not interrupted their ideas of what was best, they would never have experienced what He had to give them, which was ultimately so much better.
I was inspired by the faith of these young people, holding onto their faith through the incredible proving ground of a world war. Neither wavered; both prayed.
If you are looking for a sweet, page-turning love story, this is it!
I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a fair review.
If you'd like to know more about the book and see an interview clip of Ray and Betty, go here.
Monday, August 17, 2015
We all watched the headlines as the Ebola epidemic hit West Africa last year. For the first time, we had an Ebola patient leave Africa and step out of an ambulance onto American soil: one of our own. The now-iconic photo of the man in the protective suit is of Dr. Kent Brantly, medical missionary to Liberia. In "Called for Life," Dr. Brantly describes his experience as a victim of the deadly virus.
Dr Brantly and his wife Amber, a nurse, moved to Liberia in 2012 with their children to serve God as medical missionaries with Samaritan's Purse. Loving the people and serving them as best possible given limited medical supplies and equipment, they were front and center when the worst outbreak of Ebola hit in the summer of 2014. Serving in a supportive role alongside her husband and the rest of the team, Amber and flew back to the United States, with the kids, for a planned vacation just three days before Kent woke feeling "just not right."
When Kent's positive Ebola result came a few days later, he faced it with courage and steadiness. Even at his sickest, he did not question God but, rather, leaned on the prayers of family and friends. His teammates at the Liberian hospital took care of him while the decision was made to not only use an experimental medication on him (one never used on humans), but also to fly him back to the United States for treatment.
If you followed the headlines, you know that Dr Brantly survived the Ebola virus. This book, however, tells you what it was like to suffer from the disease as family, friends and the world watched.
I enjoyed reading the book because, like most of us, I was curious about what it was like to have gone through this virus. It truly is a terrible disease, yet hopefully, because of Kent's positive reaction to the experimental medication--and the likewise positive reaction of Nancy Writebol, Kent's coworker and fellow Ebola patient in the hospital in Atlanta--progress will be made so that people can be protected from its high fatality rate. Dr. Brantly tells his story with the professionalism of a medical doctor yet tempered by the very real human viewpoint of a husband, father and friend.
I was particularly struck by the commitment of his coworkers in Liberia and the medical team at Emory University, caring respectfully and compassionately for him despite the very real possibility that they too could become infected.
I received this book free of charge in exchange for an impartial review. If you would like more information about the Brantlys and "Called for Life," go here.
Friday, July 17, 2015
I really enjoy getting in on the ground level of a new book series, and this one is no exception. Drawing Fire, by Janice Cantore, is the first in the "Cold Case Justice" series. Cantore, herself a 22-year law enforcement veteran, knows how to create an absolutely compelling landscape of characters and plot lines.
As a child, Abby Hart lost her parents in a fire that claimed not only their lives but the restaurant they owned. Devoting her life to police work in the secret hope that someday she will be able to find her parents' killer, Abby has distinguished herself as an investigator. When her life collides with that of Luke Murphy, a private investigator, the sparks fly...and the cold case of her parents' murders re-ignites.
This is not a predictable detective drama. You won't be able to figure out whodunit, and the plot will keep you guessing most of the way through the book. Cantore does a great job creating believable, complex characters who interact in a way that brings them off the pages and into your living room. In fact, you may not want to leave your living room (or wherever you most love to read a book) until you've turned the last page. One thing that is easy to predict: you will love this book.
I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an impartial review.
For more about Janice Cantore, go here.
I read this book in about 24 hours. Having heard of this case in the news while it was happening, I was very curious to hear more about Rifqa's side of her compelling story.
Born in Sri Lanka, Rifqa's family moved to the United States when she was young. Brought up in strict adherence to Islam, Rifqa nevertheless sought a God who would understand the profound difficulties of her life and shower her with love. Through a school friend, she found Jesus as a teenager...and then the real battle began.
The very real danger Rifqa faced as she fled from her parents in Ohio to obtain safety in Florida increased as those harboring her were unable to keep her hidden. Journeying with her through a long dependency battle with social services, I scarcely caught a breath. And although Rifqa is now an adult, technically safe to practice her faith, she certainly must still remain hidden..but she is free in Jesus.
I highly recommend this book as an inspirational biography.
I received this book free of charge, in exchange for an impartial review, from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers.
For more information about Rifqa, go here.
Saturday, July 4, 2015
Can you see them? The footprints in the sand? No, this isn't a sappy re-rendering of the famous "Footprints in the Sand" poem, though I find that lovely and have drawn on its truth many times.
When on my last writing retreat in April, I walked from my room to sit and pray on a bench above the shore. It was early morning. My attention was drawn to this tractor, which was going up and down the beach smoothing out the sand. However, it seemed that as soon as it would pass any particular point, some other early-morning walker/runner/prayer would have the nerve to mar the pristine section the machine left behind. I thought, how useless! All that work and yet it gets messed up as soon as the tractor passes by!
The voice of God then gently directed my attention to the area of shore where the sand met the sea. People walked there also, but the sand remained smooth. Why? Because the sea constantly washed their footprints away.
Suddenly I had the message.
See, I'm often on the tractor side of this whole picture. I often feel cluttered and fragmented in my head. I never get everything done that I'm supposed to do. I forget what God said to me in my morning reading and don't follow through with my resolves. I forget to pray (gasp! yes it's true). I ignore stuff on my to-do list, then kick myself for doing so. I get to the end of the day and feel like there are meandering footprints all over my desires to live like God wants me to live. Go to bed feeling defeated and like a complete failure.
I wake up the next morning and rev up the tractor. I "clean up" yesterday's "footprints" on this beautiful shoreline called My Life on this Planet by resolving to do better, obey better. I read my Bible again, confess again, pray again, resolve again, and head out into my life...only to footprint all over it in no time. Call that tractor back!
But God whispered to me, "Walk by the water."
Water in the Bible usually represents a few different things: a fresh start from sin, the presence of the Holy Spirit, eternal life.
When I walk surrendered to Jesus, knowing I belong to my heavenly Father FOREVER, allowing the Holy Spirit to wash my footprints and nudge me through the day, I can look back at the end of the day and see--clean sand.
It's easier said than done, of course. But the visual above helps me to remember it. I can call the tractor back time after time all day long, or I can walk by the water.
Later in the day, on a break from writing, I did just that. Kicked off my flip flops and walked down at the shore line for a couple of miles, feeling the breeze, smelling the salt water, hearing the crash of the waves clear out my head. I rolled up my pants and waded through the clean, clear surf as it fizzled over the sand and washed it clean.
Yes, eventually I had to leave the beach and resume Life, and I can't say I've "walked by the water" every day since--many tractor tracks at this house, unfortunately--but that's just the point. As soon as I remember, and head for the shoreline, it's ok. Because the sea will continue flowing in to cover--and ebbing out to remove--the footprints for every minute of every hour of every day of every year until I go into eternity.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do
therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1
"Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Galatians 5:16
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Galatians 5:25