Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dancing with Angels

Today I am guest posting at my dear friend and gifted writer Christa Sterken. I met her at Jeff Goins TribeWriters course.

She came up with a wonderful concept of doing advent guest posts reflecting thoughts on Christmas.
Please visit her website and read what Christmas means to me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Capturing Camelot by Kitty Kelley

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031264342X
ISBN-13: 978-0312643423
Price: $29.99
Purchase: Amazon | BN









Description

A bestselling author goes behind the lens of a legendary photographer to capture a magical time.

A consummate photojournalist, Stanley Tretick was sent by United Press International to follow the Kennedy campaign of 1960. The photographer soon befriended the candidate and took many of JFK's best pictures during this time. When Kennedy took office, Tretick was given extensive access to the White House, and the picture magazine Look hired him to cover the president and his family. Tretick is best known today for the photographs he took of President Kennedy relaxing with his children. His photographs helped define the American family of the early sixties and lent Kennedy an endearing credibility that greatly contributed to his popularity.

Accompanied by an insightful, heartwarming essay from Kitty Kelley—Tretick's close friend—about the relationship between the photographer and JFK, Capturing Camelot includes some of the most memorable images of America's Camelot and brings to life the uniquely hopeful historical era from which it emerged.

Review

I had the pleasure of meeting Kitty Kelley at the BEA Blogger's Conference in June. She was one of the authors who sat at my table to discuss her new book Capturing Camelot. When she started to describe her book, I was taken in by her gift of storytelling. I became intrigued by Capturing Camelot. 

When St. Martin's Press reached out to me to review Capturing Camelot, I was beyond thrilled. I couldn't wait for the book to come in the mail.

I rarely say this in my reviews, but this book is beautiful. I absolutely loved it. Kitty Kelley does a extraordinary job of drawing you in, much like she does in person. You are taken back in time where you imagine what life was like for John F. Kennedy and his family.

The photojournalist, Stanley Tretick (who was Kitty Kelley's best friend), took exquisite photographs of the Kennedy's. He was an incredibly talented photographer. He captured amazing moments with photos as Kitty Kelley does with words.

I would define Capturing Camelot as a tribute of sorts. A tribute of her best friend Stanley Tretick and of our 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.

Capturing Camelot is a "keepsake" of never-before-seen photos and a poignant story. I highly recommend this book.

In conclusion, I want to thank Kitty Kelley and St. Martin's Press for sending me a complimentary copy and allowing me the privilege of reviewing such a beautiful book.

KITTY KELLEY is an internationally acclaimed writer, whose bestselling biographies focus on some of the most influential and powerful personalities of the last fifty years. Kelley’s last five books have all been number one on The New York Times bestseller list, including her latest, Oprah: A Biography.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How To Use A Runaway Truck Ramp by Shawn & Maile Smucker

Paperback: 268 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1481033581
ISBN-13: 978-1481033589
Price: $14.95
Purchase: Amazon











Description

Like all epic road trips, Shawn & Maile's story covers as much interior mileage, from one state of mind to another, as their big, blue bus does the physical miles across the United States. This book is many things: a travelogue, a parenting manual, a spiritual narrative. But most of all, it's an engrossing tale told by two wise and thoughtful writers. Don't read it if you're not prepared for the oncoming wanderlust." - Jason Boyett, author of "O Me of Little Faith" and "Pocket Guide to the Afterlife".

Review

I read How To Use A Runaway Truck Ramp slowly and deliberately like savoring a delicious meal. This story is such a delight.

I enjoyed getting to know this family as they embarked on an adventurous road trip across the United States in a big blue camper bus called Willie.

In the book, Shawn and Maile took turns narrating their perspectives of this adventure. There were ups and downs as they shared which left me either thinking or on the edge of my seat.

What a treat it was to read their cross country adventure. They both equally write beautifully. Their story is honest, heart felt and genuine.

I highly recommend How To Use A Runaway Truck Ramp.  I haven't read a story quite like it and I'm sure I never will. I guarantee you will love reading their story.

If you don't already, I would also recommend you follow their blogs. I can't wait for their next book.

Maile and Shawn live in Lancaster, PA with their four children. Shawn is the author of Building a Life Out of Words and blogs daily at shawnsmucker.com. Maile blogs at mailesmucker.blogspot.com.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Godwink Stories by SQuire Rushnell & Louise DuArt

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Howard Books
Language: English
ISBN-10:1451678568
ISBN-13: 978-1451678567
Price: $14.99
Purchase: Amazon | CBD | BN











Description


Building on the themes in his popular book When God Winks, SQuire Rushnell shares real-life stories that are certain to uplift and encourage you. The stories in this book reaffirm that godwinks happen to everyone. We just need to learn how to see them, allow them to unfold, and accept them as direct, person-to-person communications from God to each of us.

As you’ll see, those so-called coincidences that you’d been dismissing so easily really do mean something. And you need to pay attention. They are like unopened gifts that have been placed upon your doorstep.
You will be amazed to read how every joy, every hurt, and every worry that happens to you has already been written about in the Bible. Godwink Stories simply draws upon the parallel between the stories of real people and God’s wisdom in the scriptures.

Godwink Stories can be read in various ways. You can read the book cover to cover. Or follow along each week for a year. It’s also perfect to read for a pick-me-up story that fits your need of the day.

Whether you’re looking for encouragement in a time of need or a story that speaks of joy, there’s a godwink story just for you.

***

Godwink Stories offers weekly readings of godwinks and miracles to encourage and inspire you in every situation. These true stories— from ordinary people—provide

Messages of “don’t give up”

Heartfelt need for love and guidance

Hope in the midst of medical crises

“Just in time” moments

Peace in times of sorrow

Tender love stories

Amazing answers to prayer

Review

Isn't Godwink Stories a great title? Just by the title alone, I wanted to read this book. I was pleasantly surprised.

I laughed and cried through this heartfelt devotional. I was moved, inspired and encouraged by the stories.
The stories are basically letters from people like you and I who had, what I refer to as a God moment. Godwinks are moments where God shows up miraculously in someone's life.

The various chapters in this devotional are filled with stories which will leave you spiritually encouraged, invigorated and refreshed.

I was especially touched by Chapter 3 entitled Angels, Chapter 4 entitled Prayer Encouragement and Chapter 52 entitled Love Times of Sorrow. These stories made my cry.

I believe Godwink Stories will make an excellent Christmas present. I highly recommend this book and believe this devotional will be an encouragement to many.

In conclusion, I want to thank Howard Books for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to review.

SQuire Rushnell, a former television president and CEO, was for twenty years an executive with the ABC Television Network. Father of such programs for young people as Schoolhouse Rock and the ABC Afterschool Specials, he also led Good Morning America to the #1 spot. Author of the word-of-mouth phenomenon When God Winks, SQuire lives in Martha’s Vineyard with his wife, Louise.

 Louise DuArt, one of the world's top comedic impressionists, has costarred with comic icon Tim Conway in a national touring show for one and a half decades. In starring roles on Broadway and in her eight-season talk show on ABC Family, her roster of 100 characters ranges from Judge Judy to Barbara Walters, Bart Simpson to Barbra Streisand. Louise has toured as a speaker with Woman of Faith, and performs with her husband in Three Couples, a life-changing evening of music, inspiration and comedy. With SQuire, she coauthored Couples Who Pray, a breakthrough book encouraging partners to take The 409 Prayer Challenge.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Debt-Proof Your Christmas by Mary Hunt

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Revell; Updated edition
Language: English
ISBN-10:0800721438
ISBN-13: 978-0800721435
Price: $12.99
Purchase: Amazon | CBD | BN










Description

Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also one of the most stressful--and most expensive. Expectations run high and it's tempting to whip out the credit cards to create the perfect Christmas for your family, with lavish meals, new decorations, and the latest, greatest gadgets and fashions for everyone on your Christmas gift list.

But you don't have to overspend or go into debt to have a fabulous holiday.

Financial expert Mary Hunt shows readers how. She helps readers assess their financial situation, commit to no new debt, and think creatively about their gift list. With Mary's guidance, readers will identify what has caused them to overspend in the past and approach this Christmas with a plan and a new attitude toward holiday spending. This just might be the best gift you can give yourself and your family.

Review

Many years ago, I read The Financially Confident Woman by Mary Hunt. I was blown away. I can't tell you how much I learned from this book. It completely changed my life and helped me get out of credit card debt.

Credit card debt is like walking around with a huge sack on your back. I remember those years like if it were yesterday. I am grateful I am no longer in the same situation.

When I heard about Debt-Proof Your Christmas, I had to read it. Mary Hunt's books are so helpful, full of savvy ways to learn how to budget, spend, save and much more. You won't go wrong reading any of her books.

I don't know about you, but Christmas is a stressful time. I struggle with wanting to be generous and buy nice gifts for those I love. However, my budget doesn't allow for it.

I have been guilty of putting everything on a charge card and incurring debt. It then would take me months to get rid of the holiday debt with all of my regular monthly expenses compounding. Debt-Proof Your Christmas served as a great reminder to me on where my priorities should be and it's not on gifts.

Unfortunately, Christmas has become a materialistic holiday. We seem to get caught up in the fervor of spending and lose focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

With all the hustle and bustle, running here and running there, we hardly have time for what truly matters. It isn't about spending a ton of money on expensive gifts and incurring debt which only adds more stress and ultimately makes you miserable.

Debt-Proof Your Christmas put everything in perspective. I love all the tips, recipes, creative and practical ideas this book offers. I am glad I was able to read this book before Christmas. I learned so much and will definitely implement what I learned this Christmas season.

If you struggle with spending too much around the holidays and need practical advice and ideas on how not to, then this book is for you. I highly recommend Debt-Proof Your Christmas.

In conclusion, I want to thank Revell Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to review.

Click here to watch Mary Hunt’s interview on the Today Show (with Kathie Lee & Hoda) talking about Debt-Proof Your Christmas.
 
Mary Hunt is an award-winning and bestselling author, syndicated columnist, and sought-after motivational speaker. She is founder and publisher of the interactive website Debt-Proof Living, which features financial tools, resources, and information for her online members. Her books have sold more than a million copies, and her daily newspaper column is nationally syndicated through Creators Syndicate and is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Everyday Cheapskate readers. Hunt speaks widely on personal finance and has appeared on shows such as Good Morning America, Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Focus on the Family. She and her husband live in California.

The Good Life by Trip Lee

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Language: English
ISBN-10:0802408583
ISBN-13: 978-0802408587
Price: 10.99
Purchase: Amazon | CBD












Description

Nicer car, bigger house, whatever your heart desires. Everybody wants to live The Good Life. But what happens when dreams become nightmares and the promise of freedom leads to a life of imprisonment? What happens when you discover that all that's gold loses its glitter? Maybe the rich and famous aren't living The Good Life. Maybe our dreams are rooted in lies. And maybe, just maybe those who have less really have more. What is The Good Life...really?

In this book, titled after his acclaimed fourth album, The Good Life, Christian rap artist and author, Trip Lee, unveils what the world, the flesh and the devil promote as the ultimate and most satisfying life. He then explains what The Good Life really is: a life within our reach and yet beyond anything this world has to offer. Imagine: The Good Life.

Review

The Good Life is only 176 pages, but potent. I confess, I thought I would breeze through the pages in no time. But I was wrong.

The Good Life is deep and meaty. It's not a glass of milk, but a thick piece of filet mignon. I found myself chewing long and hard through this small, but powerful book.

As you know, I read and review many books. I sometimes come across books which I believe are not doctrinally sound. However, I didn't find this to be the case with The Good Life. Trip Lee presents the gospel in such a sound and balanced way.

I've known Trip Lee by his music. He is a gifted rapper. I happen like good Christian rap music and follow him and others.

I have to say, I was impressed to see his level of spiritual maturity and insight expressed in his book. I could see him transitioning and becoming a full time pastor.

The following excerpts in the book stood out for me:
  • My good life begins at the end of me. (Page 61)
  • Many of us have used our imaginations and created our own personal gods. Almost like a Build-A-Bear or a little girls doll. We grab the parts we think are necessary, we clothe him with our own ideas, and we make him into a god that we like. Maybe our imaginary god doesn't judge anyone, or maybe he would never allow evil to happen. (Page 69)
  • Our culture teaches us that we can do whatever we want if we just put our minds to it. They say if you work hard enough, you will achieve it. But that's not biblically true. Listen to what the psalmist says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1). Some of us will work harder than everyone else and never reach those "dreams." Unless God blesses our efforts, our work will not succeed. (Page 119-120)
  •  Some preachers will tell you that if you obey God, He will bring all your wildest dreams to pass. They say to plan big, follow God, and watch Him give you everything you ever dreamed of. That's simply not true. Proverbs 16:1 says, The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord." Not every dream is from God, and He doesn't owe it to us to many any of them happen. We should dream big for His glory, and plead with Him to bring those dreams to pass. (Page 120)
Overall, I think this is a great book. I believe The Good Life should get into the hands of everyone, whether saved or unsaved, but mostly, our youth. I believe this book will resonate with the youth in a profound way.

I commend Trip Lee for writing such a biblically sound and relatable book. May the Lord bless him as he continues to follow, live and glorify Jesus here and across the earth.

Thank you Moody Publishers and Pure Publicity for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to review.

The following is a song called I'm Good from Trip Lee's The Good Life cd.


William Lee Barefield III, better known as Trip Lee, is a Christian hip-hop artist under the Reach Records label. Trip Lee's music has topped Billboard charts, the iTunes chart, and has received Dove nominations and a Stellar Award. His Christ-centered and God-exalting music has reached thousands with the Good News of Jesus Christ.Trip Lee now resides in Washington, DC with his wife and is finishing his Biblical and Theological Studies degree with Boyce College. Trip's unending desire is to proclaim the grace and beauty of Jesus Christ to anyone that will listen. Ultimately, he hopes this journey will someday lead to pastoring a church.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Drunk Dialing The Divine by Amber Koneval

Publisher: eLectio Publishing (November 11, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00A6FCLZG
Price: $2.49
Purchase: Amazon






Description

How would you respond when a friend drunk-dials you to make a prayer request? What do you say when you are furious with God, but aren't willing to part with Him? How do you vent your frustrations to your Creator? When is it okay to be angry with God?

Drunk Dialing the Divine is an attempt to capture a glimmer of the darker side of the emotional struggle of the deeply faithful. Though each poem begins in a negative space, they resist both the angry and the naively optimistic ending--instead finding a ray of hope in the maxim "Things are because God is."

Read short excerpt here.

Review

I don't usually read or review poetry. But I couldn't resist reading and reviewing these poems written by the young and talented Amber Koneval.

I admit, I was pleasantly surprised. I totally resonated and identified with her poems. What a gem to come across such a gifted poet.

I found her poetry to be raw, truthful and relevant. She crafts her words with such depth, precision and artistry.

I related to her poems as I have struggled in my faith with God. So I appreciated the authenticity and power of her poetry.

If you love poems or even if you don't, you are in for a treat reading Drunk Dialing The Divine.

In conclusion, I want to thank eLectio Publishing for sending me a complimentary copy of this ebook to review.

Amber Koneval is a college student in Denver, Colorado, double-majoring in English and Religious Studies. She is slated to graduate in December of 2013. Her poetry has appeared in such print journals as Time of Singing, The Wayfarer, The Storyteller, Bop Dead City and devozine (forthcoming). Her work has also appeared online formats at Crack the Spine and Exterminating Angel.

Her first collection of poetry 'Drunk Dialing the Divine' is now available from eLectio publishing.

Follow her at:
facebook.com/akoneval
amberkoneval.wordpress.com
amberkoneval.wix.com/theamberofthemoment

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031032906X
ISBN-13: 978-0310329060
Price: $26.99
Purchase: Amazon | CBD | BN









Description

Ten years ago, Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Life, which became the bestselling hardback non-fiction book in history, and is the second most-translated book in the world, after the Bible. PDL has inspired and changed tens of millions of lives ... more than any modern book. NOW, Rick has updated and expanded the book with new chapters on the greatest barriers to living your purpose, plus 42 video introductions to each chapter theme, and 42 additional audio messages that go deeper into each chapter. He has also created a new small group curriculum and new sermon series for pastors, and new follow-up events to conserve the evangelistic and discipleship results you will experience. In the original 40 Days of Purpose campaign, churches averaged 28% growth in attendance, and over 100% growth in small group Bible study! People WANT to know their purpose in life! The Purpose Driven Life will enable a new generation in your church to discover God's purposes for their lives and empower your church with a fresh new wind of hope, joy, and vitality!

Review
Wow! I can't believe it's been ten years already. I first heard about The Purpose Driven Life in March 2005. It was when this woman was held hostage. Her name then was Ashley Smith. She's married now and goes by Ashley Smith Robinson.

Her story is amazing because as a result of reading excerpts of The Purpose Driven Life to her captor, he let her go and turned himself in.

When I read this story in the news, I went out and bought the book right away. I was fascinated to know what The Purpose Driven Life was all about.

I read it back then and started telling everyone in my circle about it. I even bought copies and gave them out to people.

I love everything Pastor Rick Warren preaches and writes about. He has a brilliant way of breaking things down and making difficult concepts easy to understand. He keeps your interest and he is never boring.

The anniversary edition of The Purpose Driven Life is even better. There are two new chapters added: "The Envy Trap - I must be like you to be happy" and "The People-Pleaser Trap - I must be liked by you to be happy".

Also, what I totally think is fabulous, is there are QR codes and web links incorporated providing a video intro and 30-minute audio message by Pastor Rick Warren for each chapter.

If you are not familiar with Pastor Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life is a great introduction. This is one of my favorite books ever. I highly recommend it to everyone.

In conclusion, I want to thank both Zondervan and Thomas Nelson for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to review.


As founding pastor of Saddleback Church, Dr. Rick Warren leads a 30,000 member congregation in California with campuses in major cities around the world. As a theologian, he has lectured at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, University of Judaism, and dozens of universities and seminaries. As a global strategist he advises world leaders and has spoken to the United Nations, US Congress, Davos Economic Forum, TED, Aspen Institute, and numerous parliaments. Rick has also founded the global P.E.A.C.E. plan, which Plants churches of reconciliation, Equips leaders, Assists the poor, Cares for the sick, and Educates the next generation in 196 countries. www.purposedriven.com

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Night With A Perfect Stranger by David Gregory

Format: Hardcover
Pages: 144
Vendor: Worthy Publishing
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 1936034867
ISBN-13: 9781936034864
Retail Price: $14.99
Purchase: Amazon | BN | CBD








Description

Nick Cominisky's spiritual life is running on empty. With his passion diluted by religious routine and the sapping circumstances of everyday life, he longs to reconnect with God, but following the standard spiritual prescriptions just isn't working. Since when did loving God become such an overwhelming, tedious task?

After meeting Jesus in person under amazing circumstances six years ago, Nick figured life would be smooth sailing, not coasting downhill. Why didn't Jesus tell him how to make the Christian life work?

Just when Nick is stopped dead in his tracks--stranded on the side of the highway with an empty gas tank and miles to go--he finds himself in rich compoany once more. Jesus has returned to give Nick the refueling he desparately needs. And like their first meeting, it's not at all what he expects.

Review

Over a  year ago, I read and reviewed Dinner With A Perfect Stranger by David Gregory.  I really enjoyed the book, so I was excited to be able to read Night With A Perfect Stranger.

I read this short book in one night. I couldn't put it down. I have to be honest, I love reading David Gregory's books. His books are fun, not preachy and loaded with theological truth.

I had this book sitting on a shelf for awhile and was prompted to read it this weekend. I understand why now. Night With A Perfect Stranger addressed a lot of my questions and concerns.

For instance, why religion and a set of rules doesn't work. Recently, I have been provoked to look at my Christian walk more closely. Perhaps going through Hurricane Sandy made me look deeper into myself and my walk with Christ.

There is nothing like going through storms to see where you are at in your Christian walk. Night With A Perfect Stranger was a healing balm for my anxious heart and questioning soul.
"Without personally knowing how deeply you're loved, without living in our love, you can't function. Not as you were designed to. Being filled with God's love means being filled with God himself. And someone who overflows with God will bear all the fruit God ever intended--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness." (Page 100)
This paragraph really spoke to me in a personal way. I believe what is missing in Christians is love. There is a lot of religion, but not love. The only way Christians can love others the way Christ does is when they know how much God loves them.

I can't recommend this book enough. I believe this book is a great ministering and evangelistic tool.

In conclusion, I want to thank Worthy Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy to review.




David Gregory is the author of the New York Times Extended Bestseller Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, as well as A Day with a Perfect Stranger, The Next Level, The Last Christian, and coauthor of the nonfiction The Rest of the Gospel. After a ten-year business career, David earned masters degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and the University of North Texas. He now writes full-time and lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Let There Be Light by Dr. Demetrius S. Carolina Sr.

Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Fortis Publishing (August 30, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1937592200
ISBN-13: 978-1937592202
Price: $8.95
Purchase: Amazon




Description

For the rest of your life to "work well"... and for you to be able to help others... you have to focus on yourself first. But, in order to do that, we all need help and guidance along the way.

And that is the purpose of this book... to offer practical guidance on how to get from where you are to where you want to be in your spiritual life-and we all know that what is in our heads and hearts can be manifested in the real world.

What you will take away from this book is how the things you control are the key in creating a life worth living and having a relationship with yourself and others that is fulfilling and sustainable... one that can last... forever.

I have served others as a counselor, pastor, teacher, leader and friend for many years. In that time I have seen good people, who were well intentioned, go through life-just getting by-existing rather than truly living it to the fullest. There are many reasons for this situation; the most prominent being that human beings are creatures of habit. We are most comfortable with what we are most familiar.

Left on our own, it's often very hard to make changes to improve our lot in life. In fact, for many it's hard to even pinpoint what's really wrong without some sort of outside stimulus-some prod-that goads us to evaluate or assess ourselves. And while everybody is responsible for their own lives; it certainly helps to have something or someone that becomes a catalyst to break through your life routine and be the "kick in the pants" needed to take action.

Life is short and too often many have a voice inside that says, "I wish I had...," or "If I only...," or worse it's whispering to you, "You're just not good enough... not smart enough...." The voice in and of itself is not a terrible thing. I believe all humans have heard it inside their head at some point. The tragedy is when that voice becomes a constant-never ending-drumbeat in your head that becomes a question you can't answer or a statement that you can't refute. It becomes something you believe about yourself that is only true if you let it become true.

I just shared with you something that is worth an incalculable amount of money if you take it to heart. Things, bad and good, become true only if you let them or make them come true.

In this book we'll talk about letting light come into your life and creating a life worth living.

Review

I received this book from a co-worker friend of mine. I have known this young man for many years and have a great deal of respect for him. When he asked me to review his pastor's book, I didn't hesitate to say yes.
I finished Let There Be Light in a couple of days. I was unable to review it sooner because I was away at a conference.

This book offers common sense mixed with biblical wisdom. Dr. Demetrius S. Carolina, Sr. generously shares his life experience and education.

Let There Be Light offers encouragement as well as gives practical advice and pointers to create a life worth living.

If you are going through a difficult time in your life and need a book full of anecdotes, positive thinking and inspiration, then this book is for you.

I would be remiss not to mention the creative illustrations done by Ian Coate. I think his illustrations are a nice addition to this book.

In conclusion, I want to thank Dr. Demetrius S. Carolina, Sr., Fortis and my friend Daryl Moore for giving me a complimentary copy of this book to review.

Reverend Dr. Demetrius S. Carolina Sr. is widely recognized as a spiritual leader and advocate for justice and human rights. He maintains a respected reputation as a man of conviction, one who consistently demonstrates hands-on leadership and a commitment to his congregation and issues affecting all humanity. Having a deep concern for issues that relate to spiritual empowerment, economic equity, educational development and human rights, his work has taken him to several continents on behalf of these issues. He holds an Associate’s Degree in Communications, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Science, History and Education, a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration Leadership from Temple University and a Doctoral in Educational Leadership and Management from the University of Phoenix. He also accomplished post graduate work at New York University, CUTS Theological Seminary, Westminster Seminary Graduate Studies Program and Philadelphia College of the Bible. He is married to Bernice Resto-Carolina and they have three wonderful children: Dior Isaiah, DeLisa Monet and Demetrius Solomon Carolina, II. http://www.DemetriusCarolina.com

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rainbows in the Midst...

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6
I woke up with this scripture on my mind. I thought it apropos given the aftermath of the Allume Conference and Hurricane Sandy.

Courtesy of Kurt Wilberding

It was a blessing to be able to attend the Allume Conference and finally meet Tricia Goyer (who is an absolute sweetheart), Mary DeMuth, Sarah Markley, Sarah Mae, Jessica Heights, Christin Slade, Kelly Thorne Gore, Rachel Wojnarowski, Christy Stroud from Tyndale Publishers, Revell Publishers, Zondervan Publishers and so many other wonderful people.

We drove three hours to get to Pennsylvania, checked in and headed over to register. I was given a beautiful bag filled with goodies.

It was my first time attending this conference, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But I was definitely excited with the line up.

Darren Rowse (a.k.a. ProBlogger) and Ann Voskamp were on the top of my list. I never heard either one of them speak before.

I was really touched by what Darren Rowse shared at his key note. He didn't speak about how to make money with your blog, but more about his testimony and faith.

I enjoyed listening to Sarah Mae and Jessica Heights key notes as well. I love their hearts.

My hat goes off to Sarah, Jessica and their entire team for all their hard work and pulling off such an amazing conference. It was truly a success.

After awhile, it began to feel more like a Christian woman's conference than a blogger's conference which was refreshing.

My favorite place was the Prayer Room which was sponsored by The Seed Company.

Courtesy of Laura Gish

Isn't the prayer room beautiful? I spent my free time there to unplug, pray and write in prayer journals. The Seed Company blessed us royally.

The highlight of this conference for me was hearing Ann Voskamp speak for the first time. I never read Ann Voskamp's blog or her best selling book, One Thousand Gifts. I only heard wonderful things about her through the grapevine. Now I know what they were all talking about.

Prior to her keynote, there were two videos shown by (In)Courage and Compassion International which moved me. I love to support causes helping disadvantaged children and Compassion International does amazing work.

After the videos, Ann Voskamp began to speak and tears rolled down my face. What she spoke about pierced my heart. I was riveted and touched by her every word. What an anointed woman of God. I pray I could get a copy of her key note, because I want to hear it again. I felt God used her to confirm what He was speaking to my heart throughout the conference.

Unfortunately, I had to abruptly leave right after she spoke due to Hurricane Sandy. We left and drove home to prepare for the impending storm. I do not believe I have to reiterate how devastating this hurricane was to our city. It was truly unprecedented. Please keep us in your prayers.

I am grateful the Lord is still in control and on the throne. Despite the devastation, I chose to see rainbows in the midst of the storm. I continue to pray for all those who were affected.

Please let me know how I can pray for you today. Please leave your prayers in the comment section below.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope by Kim Tews

Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: CrossHouse Publishing
Language: English
ISBN-10: 161315027X
ISBN-13: 978-1613150276
Price: $15.95
Purchase: Amazon | BN











Description

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope is the inspiring true story of a Midwest husband and wife that become disenchanted with the relentless pursuit of the American Dream and embark on a journey that spans six countries and redefines their values and lives. The story begins in a small town in Wisconsin and weaves its way through South and Central America as the couple gathers an army of supporters and establishes an organization to save the lives of children in the end stages of starvation in eastern Guatemala. The narrative is filled with action-packed adventure and heartwarming victories as the characters face incredible odds and seemingly hopeless situations, while hundreds of volunteers join mission teams to offer help and hope through the programs of the ministry. Readers of all ages will enjoy the roller-coaster ride of emotions--from laughter to tears to sheer joy--as they realize that ordinary people can make a difference one life at a time.

Read Chapter One Here

Review

There are times when things happen in the most interesting way. For instance, how I found out about this book, Tears Water the Seeds of Hope.

I happened to be visiting a book bloggers page on Facebook, when I came across Lori Caswell's post requesting bloggers to review Tears Water the Seeds of Hope for her blog, Great Escapes Book Tours. I read the description of the book and was hooked. I wrote her a private message and expressed my interest in reviewing Tears Water the Seeds of Hope and she graciously accepted.

A couple of weeks later, I received the book in the mail directly from the author Kim Tews. I was so surprised when I opened the package. She had tied a ribbon around the book, which also had a flower on it and matched the flower on the book cover. She even wrote a lovely note on matching stationary, thanking me for being willing to read her book. I immediately saw Kim Tews heart and was touched by her kind gesture.

I was eager to begin reading the book and I finished it in four days. I couldn't get enough of this book. I simply didn't want to stop reading it. I was completely drawn in from start to finish.

Kim and Randy Tews live in Wisconsin. They are both successful real estate agents. They were living comfortably and had all they needed, except they felt a void. They began attending church and felt a calling to help the poor in Central and South America. They eventually wound up helping high risk children in Guatemala and started a program called Outreach for World Hope.

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope is about their story, from their humble beginnings to the present. Kim Tews did not sugar coat anything nor did she hold back anything. I found their story to be riveting and convicting.
I was touched and inspired by the what the Tews were doing. They took many risks and witnessed a lot of difficult situations. Quite frankly, I admired that they didn't lose their faith by all they witnessed and experienced.

I really respect the Tews, many people would have simply given up and thrown in the towel with everything they've been through. But they did not give up. They kept going by the grace of God and kept loving the children of Guatemala no matter what. Now this is what I call exemplifying the Lord with your life, which is very rare today. 

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope especially touched me because I did a short missions trip in Guatemala years ago. Everything described in this book is the truth. I know it to be true, because I was there and saw it with my own eyes. 

Tears Water the Seeds of Hope provoked, inspired and challenged me all at the same time. This book resonated with my heart's desire to help children. I hope I can return to Guatemala again one day.

In the meantime, I will continue to read and tell others about wonderful books like this one. Christians, here and around the world, who making a difference in this world.

I highly recommend this book. If you have been on a missions trip, this book will inspire you.

In conclusion, I want to thank Lori Caswell, Kim Tews and Cross House Publishing for facilitating and sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Kim Tews was raised in Madison, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in Economics. She and her husband, Randy, pursued careers in real estate before beginning mission work together in Ecuador, South America, in 2001. In 2005, they established the non-profit organization Outreach for World Hope to save the lives of starving children in eastern Guatemala. The couple lives in Verona, Wisconsin, with their three children, traveling back and forth to Guatemala frequently to facilitate the ongoing programs of Outreach for World Hope (www.outreachforworldhope.org and Facebook).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Everything by Mary DeMuth

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Date: October 16, 2012
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400203988
ISBN-13: 978-1400203987
Price: $16.99
Purchase: Amazon | BN

Sample Chapter








Description

“I don’t write this book as a condemnation or as a sermon. The last thing I want to do is provide a ‘how to be the best Christian in ten easy steps’ guide. I pen these words as a fellow struggler who is learning that what we think about God matters, how we allow Him to reign in our hearts matters, and how we obey Him in the moment matters. It all matters. Everything.”

Author and speaker Mary DeMuth has been abused, foreclosed, abandoned, and betrayed. She has been pressed and drained till it was too much . . .

But it was just enough to bring her to a place of surrender, piece by precious piece. In that surrender, she found the freedom of giving everything to God. And through Scripture, community, and the work of the Holy Spirit, she gives it all over again, every day.

In this gentle and challenging book, DeMuth describes the process and the nuances that shape us to be more like Christ. Her words are clear, vulnerable, and thought provoking, and every chapter is infused with Scripture.

Most of all, DeMuth provides personal and practical evidence that there is no greater pursuit than Christ. We must surrender everything, but it does not compare to the Everything He is, the Everything He gives.

Review

I received an advanced copy of Everything to review. I also had the privilege of endorsing this beautiful book.

I read this book on my week off from vacation back in July. God spoke to me that week through Everything. I was beyond blessed.

While I was reading about Mary DeMuth's life and experiences. I was able to put myself in her shoes. At times, I even felt we lived parallel lives.

I laughed and cried throughout this book. Everything made me think; it convicted me as well as challenged my walk with Jesus.
 
I had to ask myself the same question many times while reading this book, is Jesus my everything? If I say He is my everything, do I live as though He is?

I loved Everything and I highly recommend it.  I believe in the message and believe every Christian should read this book.

***Special Offer -- Limited Time Only***  If you’d like to receive these sweet gifts, purchase Everything October 16-23 and send the receipt to EverythingPromo@ThomasNelson.com. Check out the details here.

Mary DeMuth is an author and speaker who loves to help people lived uncaged, freedom-infused lives. She's the author of fourteen books, including six novels and her critically acclaimed memoir, Thin Places. After church planting in Southern France, Mary, her husband, and their three teenagers now live in a suburb of Dallas.

Website:    MaryDeMuth.com
Facebook: AuthorMaryDeMuth
Twitter:      MaryDeMuth

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

He said He Wanted to Kill Me

Last night I decided to go to church for prayer service. Before I was married and had kids, I lived at Times Square Church. I was there every Tuesday and Friday night and all day Sunday. I even served on the choir before someone told me they wanted to kill me.

I never told a soul. I just stepped down quietly from the choir. I mean, who in their right mind was going to stay in the choir after that? Maybe I should have stayed, but deep down, I was disillusioned.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Early one Sunday morning, I was praying alone in the choir section when I sensed a presence. I opened my eyes to find a tall male standing before me. I recognized him, he was in his choir robe like me. He said he needed to ask my forgiveness. I asked him for what (since I never had any dealings with him). He said for wanting to kill me.
 
I think I was traumatized at that moment because all I said was, I forgive you. I can’t believe that’s all I said.
Why couldn’t I have told him, “Hey dude, what did I ever do to you to warrant your wanting to kill me?” I mean, wouldn’t that have been more normal?

Eighteen years later, I think back and wish I would have had enough courage to ask him why.

I went through a whole gamut of emotions and questions. All I was doing was praying. Aren’t you suppose to feel safe in church? I did not feel safe at all. I actually never looked at church the same way again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Times Square Church greatly. It is where God brought me, put me, planted me and where I grew up in the faith. It is where I first experienced the presence of God. The preaching is phenomenal and I’ve made great friends there. Many who are now leaders or serving overseas as full time missionaries.

It’s not the church’s fault, it’s not anyone’s. However, last night, memories began to flood my mind and emotions began to well up. Yes, I forgive this man, wherever he is. The irony of it all is that I didn’t even know his name. But his face will be forever etched in my memory.

Conceptually, I understood at twenty-seven that evil was using this man as a host. But it’s still hard to grasp something like this magnitude, especially since it happened in church by a supposed brother in Christ. I couldn’t understand it, still don’t and perhaps I never will.

However, since then, I no longer close my eyes when I pray in church. I do for second or two, but then I open them again. I only pray with abandon when I’m alone and in the confines of my home.

I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience in church?  If so, please share. I would love to know I’m not alone.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 19, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061999857
ISBN-13: 978-0061999857
Price: $14.99
Purchase: Amazon | BN 










Description

Caught up in grief after the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch decided to stop running and start reading. For once in her life she would put all other obligations on hold and devote herself to reading a book a day: one year of magical reading in which she found joy, healing, and wisdom.

With grace and deep insight, Sankovitch weaves together poignant family memories with the unforgettable lives of the characters she reads about. She finds a lesson in each book, ultimately realizing the ability of a good story to console, inspire, and open our lives to new places and experiences. A moving story of recovery, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is also a resonant reminder of the all-encompassing power and delight of reading.

Review

Have you ever fell in love with a book? Well, I fell in love with Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. I did not want this book to end. As a matter of fact, I even stalled to finish it.

Nina Sankovitch is a beautiful writer. Every page of this book spoke to my heart. I will forever remember this exquisite and graceful memoir.

This memoir is about how Nina Sankovitch dealt with the untimely death of her sister Anne-Marie. She decided to read one book a day for an entire year. She did this as a way to grieve and heal.

Now, for a old bibliophile like me, this equates to heaven. I couldn't help but live vicariously through this inspiring memoir.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair begins with the stark reality of Anne-Marie's illness and all that it encompasses. I felt as if my heart was going to burst from sorrow. I was in tears and felt everything Nina Sankovitch described. If I could have jumped into the pages to console her and her family, I would have.

I was grateful for Nina Sankovitch's generosity in writing this poignant and transparent memoir. I felt as if I was walking alongside her on a beach and listening to the twists and turns of her life, her story. She really won my heart.

I enjoyed the progression of this memoir; the richness, nuances and color. There is beauty exuding from each page. Each chapter brought insight, wisdom and meaning.

The following quote encapsulates this memoir for me:
"I was ready--ready to sit down in my purple chair and read. For years, books had offered to me a window into how other people deal with life, its sorrows and joys and monotonies and frustrations. I would look there again for empathy, guidance, fellowship, and experience. Books would give me all that, and more." (Page 31)
I wholeheartedly agree, books do that for me too. Nina Sankovitch and I are kindred spirits for sure.

I highly recommend Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. I do hope Nina Sankovitch writes another book because I definitely want to read it.

In conclusion, I want to thank Regina Eckes of HarperCollins who generously sent me a complimentary copy of this book to review.

Nina Sankovitch launched ReadAllDay.org in 2008, and at the end of her reading, she was profiled in the New York Times. She continues to review books on ReadAllDay.org and for the Huffington Post. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and four sons.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Holy Surrender

Courtesy of Creative Commons
Daniel Smith Photography
   
God woke me up at 6:00am this morning. I don't know what is happening lately, but I feel as if my heart is about to explode. Since reading books like Mary DeMuth's Everything and Seth Barnes Kingdom Journeys, something is changing in me. I can't quite put my finger on it or explain it, but it's all good.

I woke up to this song on my mind, "A Broken Spirit and a Contrite Heart". Interesting that I would wake up to this song in my head. It's not like I've been thinking about Psalm 51 which is David's prayer of repentance to God after committing adultery.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:16-17
I meditated on the above verses this morning and just wept. I have no idea why I was weeping or why my heart felt like it was going to come out of my chest. But I didn't move, I just stayed with it and worshiped God.

I have this great love for God, but if I try to explain how or why, I am at a loss for words. How does one explain the enormity of God's love? Words get in the way or become small and limiting. He is so big and vast. He is beyond beauty and grace. He's perfect and wonderful.

My logical mind wants to confine or define Him. But you can't put God in a box or explain Him. He says, I am that I Am. Simple as that. But we seem to want to complicate Him.

There are times I want to convey Him to others. I want them to see the enormity of His love. But again, I am limited. Limited by my flaws and failures.

My words don't do Him justice. I can't really translate what it is I feel for Him. My love for Him goes beyond feeling and emotions. I just know Him.

I hear Him, feel Him, see Him and love Him. He is the air I breathe and my beating heart. He is the light by day and a song by night. He is my inspiration. He is my all and all.

The constant wooing, yearning, craving and longing perpetually drawing me to Him. Sometimes I don't know whether to throw myself at His feet or scream from the highest mountain. The intensity of His love is too much for my body and heart to contain.

How do you explain love? When you love someone, you know you love them. From hence does it come?
It comes from God. The creator of the universe. He composites love. He embodies love. He creates love. He is love.

By now, you are probably wondering if I'm a flake? Nope. I'm not. I'm just sharing my love affair with you.
My intimacy and relationship with God is a big part of who I am. I am who I am because of Him. He created and formed me. He gives me life, He makes me breath, He motivates and inspires me. He makes my heart sing and speaks to me in the night. He is my constant companion and my loyal friend.

Jesus is my Everything.

So no, I don't know what exactly is happening, but I want more. I want to experience the fullness of God. The depths and heights of His love, I want to experience it all.  I don't want the rules and regulations. I don't want the stale bread of religion. I don't want to live a hum drum existence. I want to live a life of bountiful faith. I want to live fully alive.

I want to live holy surrendered in Him.

In conclusion, I want to share an awesome worship song I listened to this morning. It's called "Sweetly Broken" by Jeremy Riddle. I love the lyrics.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Insecurity, The Bully

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Do you know her? Insecurity? If you do, then you know she’s a possessed bully.

Insecurity has an uncanny way of showing up even when she's uninvited. She is obnoxious and rude. She is no friend of mine. No siree.

Insecurity annoys me to the utmost. Every time I think I’m going to beat her at her own game. She winds up winning.

What makes matters worse is that she’s always laughing at me. You know the sinister kind you hear in a horror flick. Infuriating.

I want to kick her in the butt, like “Karate Kid” or “Rocky”.

Insecurity has been bullying me all my life. Every time I would get on stage to sing, I would hear her cackling and saying, “Ha! She thinks she can sing. Watch her crack or forget her lyrics. It’s hilarious.”

I start to recite scriptures to myself to drown her out. Nothing works, I could feel my throat constrict, heart race and palms sweat. Insecurity wins again.

Insecurity always sneaks up on me unawares as I sit staring at a blank page. She howls, “You can’t write, just like you can’t sing. There are so many other talented people who can really sing, write and do everything much better than you. Haven’t you realized you don’t matter? Nobody is even remotely interested in what you have to say. Look at you, what have you accomplished in your life? You are going to be 46 years old and you’ve done nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. You know why? Because you are a loser with a capital 'L'.”

At this point, I’m either going to do "Moves like Jagger" or go "Rambo" on her. Or better yet… shoot her! Metaphorically speaking, that is. I shalt not murder. So, get thee behind me... Insecurity.

I’m sick of listening to her go on and on and on. She's incessant and never shuts up. I’m tired of her already.

I want to be free of Insecurity, once and for all, whatever the cost.


Do you struggle with insecurity? Are you ready to kick her in the butt and tell her where to go?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Oh Religion, How I Hate Thee

Courtesy of Creative Commons

No, no, I haven't thrown in the towel. I'm still a Christ follower. Jesus has nothing to do with this. He is in a class by Himself, for the obvious reasons. Jesus is Jesus. He died for me, you and the whole world. Someone who would be willing to die for the likes of me, well, let's just say, they score big time.

I have no problem with beautiful, amazing, lovely, sweet, gentle Jesus Christ. He is a rock star. I love Him, plain and simple.

What I do have a problem with is religion. The Pharisees. The arrogant, stuffy, stuck up, know-it-all, condescending, judgmental, legalistic Christians. You know the ones who have an answer to every problem, and spout a bunch of scripture at you in one breath with saliva and all... yeah, those kinds of Christians.

I don't have anything against Scripture. I love the Word of God, even when it cuts deep. Like I said, my issue is with those who call themselves Christians, but will be the first to criticize, judge and gossip about you.

Oh religion, how I hate thee... Where is the love?

I have to say, I don't love others nearly the way Christ wants me to. I realize I don't have it in me. If Jesus doesn't love through me, it ain't gonna happen.

Hollywood portrays their version of love, but that's not what biblical love is about. Love isn't about feelings or moods... it isn't about goose bumps and racing hearts.

Mature love is grounded, steady, selfless and resilient. Real love stands the test of time. [Tweet this]

Religious people don't know how to love others. All they know is how to preach scriptures, which doesn't even penetrate... because half the time, they have trouble believing in it themselves.

When the Word really buries deep in your heart, it will manifest in your life. Love will be evidenced by how you live, act, speak and treat others.

Unfortunately, there are tons of people in the pulpit who don't know how to genuinely express love toward others. They preach something they themselves don't live or practice from a real and authentic place. There is a total disconnect.

To me, this equals bondage and death. There is no life, only rote and ritual. Where is the passion?

I look to my left and to my right, and I don't see it evidenced anywhere. I just see a bunch of people filling up the pulpits and pews every Sunday. When they leave, you wouldn't even know they went to church. And if you watch closely, there is no evidence of Jesus in their life, just a bunch of empty words.

A sad state of affairs indeed, which is why we need revival.

So what's the answer? Surrender. How do we surrender? We pray and sincerely ask God to change our hearts to reflect His. We do not have the power to change ourselves. But God can and wants to. He is waiting on us to give up our "act" and come humbly to His throne.

God wants us to be real and authentic, not a bunch of actors memorizing lines on His stage called Life. [Tweet this]

I'm reading a very provoking and convicting book right now called Kingdom Journeys by Seth Barnes. This book is helping me understand why religion doesn't work. It's a dead end. God has so much more in store for us if we really take Him at His word.

I woke up this morning with this song on my mind, "Love is a Movement" by Switchfoot. The lyrics really speak to me.