Monday, January 30, 2012

A True and Amazing Story

The Devil in Pew Number Seven
Author:  Rebecca Nichols Alonzo
Release:  August 2010; 2012
Pages:  289
Publisher: Tyndale


What happened in the Spring of 1978 that would irrevocably change lives?   How was a community so radically changed by these events?  Where was God when all this was happening and why didn’t it stop?  Would those closest to the event follow God with all their heart despite the depth of pain then and still living with now?
“Devil in Pew Number Seven” is a book for people everywhere to read.  Why?  Well, because the world needs to know that in spite of what occurs today, God gives us such a beautiful tomorrow.  It is a testimony of lives altered forever, including those yet born, who must know the truth of what happened and not let the Story end there.  It is testimony of the power of God, God-fearing parents, forgiveness, sacrifice and living with pain.  There is no one else so capable of leading people through the “valley of the shadow of death” than God alone.
While the author doesn’t dress up the truth of the savagery she witnessed, neither does she play down the role of how God continues to work so faithfully in her life.  One cannot imagine what she and so many have experienced; only God knows the depth of each person.  Rebecca loving leads us on a journey of forgiveness and candidly expounds on why she forgives the people who hurt her and others so deeply.  This book is not a novel; it is based on actual events, real people, places and more.  At the end of the book, she exhorts all of us to move on toward living lives that forgive regardless of the length and breadth of suffering.  Rebecca can do so because God has shown her and continues to show her how His forgiveness is a reality.  He died to set all of us free.  To not forgive would place each individual who didn’t forgive in a prison that has no key.
             I could not help but place my life span alongside hers and remember where I was and what life I was living at that time.  It awoke within me the gratefulness of my upbringing as well as a fountain of gratefulness toward the God who saved me.  I pray you read her testimony, including the testimonies of other people and be challenged to live a life of forgiveness every day no matter the cost.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of The Devil in Pew Number Seven from the Tyndale publisher.

Face to Face review

Title:  Face to Face with the Prince of Darkness
Author:  Grace Mongi-Clifton
Publisher:  Dorrance Publishing Company, Inc.
Year:  2011
Pages:  257
                When I first read the title of this book, I was intrigued to say the least.  Was this a book about spirituality?  Then, as I read on, I learned it was about the many trials and the persecutions this woman endured.  The story was hard to follow when I first opened the book.  I couldn’t understand the line of thought or tell where the author wanted to take the reader.  Mrs. Mongi-Clifton was sharing her heart and true life story in the hopes that others will step in and help change the way people were treating other people.
                It was apparent from the start that she was also sharing her faith and her belief in God; this is what carried her through to the victorious end.  While now living elsewhere with her husband, this woman is gracious in not outwardly naming people.  Instead, she uses initials in her stories so as not to play in the “mud” just because others do.  Grace liberally quotes Scripture not because she wants to appear “religious”, but because the God of the Word is that real to her.  I admire that she chose to turn to Him instead of trying to live through her experiences without Him.
                I do recommend the “Face to Face with the Prince of Darkness”.  It is a testimony of God working in and through people regardless of race, nationality, language or any other barriers.  While reading, I asked myself if I knew the many names of God in the reality of my life.  I can say that I do in some ways while in other ways I am learning too.  Read this book and allow yourself to ask the same question:  “Do you know God in regards to the many ways He has revealed Himself?”  It isn’t just the ancients who were learning to know Him in His infinite character through the many names used to describe Him; Grace is learning to know Him also.  Are you?
Note:  I received a complimentary copy of “Face to Face with the Prince of Darkness” from Dorrance Publishing Company as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Review Team.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Who Cares for the Givers of Care?

It has been on my heart and mind for a long time, having experienced and still experiencing, the changing ways we can meet the constant need of care givers.  I am sure that there are many support groups that meet in person as well as on the internet, I have no real experience to draw from.  However, the question looms in my mind, "Where is the Church?"

Perhaps many local places of worship have groups meeting there who try and support each other as they provide care for someone they love.  The heart breaking realization I have had is that the Church is so busy trying to do a lot of things, expecting people to come to them, or perhaps even promoting in some way that training is needed or desired before people engage in caring for others.  In the course of this, I have also seen where there are many people who give words or maybe write checks when the commodity that is most desired by caregivers is being cared for.  Time is the biggest gift in my experience that is most appreciated as a caregiver.

I can't get out of the house as we care for someone in our home, so when someone mentions a group meeting, that feels like the last thing I want to do.  While I am sure there are benefits to this, for me it feels heavy and in some ways impersonal, and in other ways frightening.  I recognize that not all caregivers have the same needs or desires, caregiving situations are as unique as the people involved--those receiving care and those giving care.

In our society, we get so busy and we don't make time to walk with people through this hard time, which varies in duration. I feel challenged in the care giving season not to be focused on the season, what I perceive as unmet needs, but instead focusing on relationships with someone who cares.  I have been blessed with that person, and I believe that we, the Church, need to be seriously praying and looking for ways to meet the many needs of caregivers--ways that are expedient and not patterned like "social" non-living entities such as the government.   We need to find ways to move swiftly to meet a need, give a listening ear, a hug, a helping hand, or whatever the need is.  We must be able to be free to come alongside those caregivers in a way that encourages them in the most arduous journey of their lives.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Who is Jonathan Edwards anyway?

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards

By:  Dr. Steven Lawson

From:  Reformation Trust Product
Pages:  168
Publish Date:  December 1st, 2008
Rating:  4.5 stars

              Who is Jonathan Edwards?  Ever hear of his name or read anything he wrote?  There is much written about this man from the past.  We can learn the basic facts such as where was he born, siblings, pastorates, marital status, etc…  How about going further into the life of Jonathan Edwards to the man, to know the heart of this man of God?  What if you were told he wrote something called “Resolutions,” and there were seventy of them!  We think we are doing good to make one and really stick to it, but seventy!  You may think he was striving to be a perfectionist; however, nothing is further from the truth than to accuse Mr. Edwards of straining to be a perfect Christian. 

                Jonathan Edwards lived a short life compared to how long mankind on average lives today.  He wrote many things while he lived, and as Christ followers we should be grateful for this faithful witness.  Though this particular book is not extremely long, it is challenging none the less.  Lest we think Edwards was out of touch with himself, society and the Church, we need only read his journal entries to gain a glimpse of the inner workings of the Spirit of God on his heart as well as in his life.

                In nine chapters, the author takes the seventy resolutions of Edwards and puts them into groups that have the same theme.  At the end of the book there are the seventy resolutions for one and all to read for themselves.  In between the preface and the appendix, readers will glean bits and pieces of the heart, mind and soul of Jonathan Edwards.  There are included at the end of each chapter “Notes” that list the author’s sources used in expounding the themes presented.  In Hebrews 12:1, we read the following:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.   And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” (NIV).  If any particular Scripture could be stamped to encompass Edwards’ life, I believe this is the one.  As I read I could not get this thought out of my mind--that we have had many who have been, are and one day will be, a cloud of witnesses.  There are Biblical examples of witnesses and there are examples throughout America’s History, some are even happening today though we may not as yet know about them.  Who will be counted among the witnesses tomorrow?  Will I?  Will you?

Note:  I received a complimentary copy of this book of The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards from Ligonier Ministries.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rejoice that You Rock!

1 Peter:  Finding Encouragement in Troubling Times

By:  Sue Edwards

Complete Lesson 3 (pages 28-35)

Rejoice That You Rock: 1 Peter 2:4-10

Tell us about your ministry. What have you been called to do? 

        Different from past seasons in my life, the ministry the Lord has entrusted me to do is from home.  I have had my mother-in-law living with us since June of last year.  She is 88 years old and has Alzheimer’s.  Since she can’t live alone and care for herself, we rearranged our house to accommodate caring for her.  At first, I felt more restricted and in some ways I am with the 24-hour care responsibilities.  Recently though the Lord has opened my eyes to see that He has brought people to me.  We have 3 companions and 1bath aide that come weekly, and for the next 3-4 weeks we have Occupational and Physical Therapists coming in twice a week.  We have been in a care-taking season for almost a decade now so we know the therapists and companions well.

        I have learned that caretakers, companions, therapists, whoever they are, are all human beings in need.  The only variable is their needs and ways to minister to them.  I get to be a blessing to them in ways I can’t share, but I also am blessed by them as well.  We get to talk about the Lord; we express praying for each other.  They are a gift to us and I strive to remind them of that always.  God has given them to us to be touched by His love and presence that really goes beyond comprehension. 

        My life is blessed with having a faithful friend.  She is faithful first to the Lord, her family and has been walking with me through the hilltops and valleys.  We meet weekly to do Bible study, share our hearts, pray for each other and fellowship together.  During the week we stay in touch frequently in various ways, touching base as we are able on Sunday mornings as well.

In 1 Peter 2:9 you are called by not one but four names: "you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God." Which one of these speaks the most to you and why?

 1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV

 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of  

        When I first read this verse, I wanted to grasp a better understanding of the four names: chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation and a people belonging to God.  As I meditated and looked up these words, I found them to be rich with meaning.  The first words are adjectives: chosen, royal and holy.  Then the words: people, priesthood, nation, belonging are all nouns.  This is who we are and not what we do, and that spoke to my heart.  These four names are not separate to me, but four threads that are intrinsically woven together to make an awesome tapestry that reflects the glory of God.

What do you think is the key from keeping your past from exercising power over your present or future?

             The key has been continuously being in the Word of God, learning to have daily time with Him, seeking out Bible studies that challenge me to obediently follow Him and accountability with another Christian woman.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Scroll

Title:  The Scroll
Authors:  Grant R. Jeffrey & Alton L. Gansky
Pages:  352
Publisher:  Waterbrook Press
Copyright Year:  September 6, 2011\
What would cause such tension in the hearts of these characters?  How can one be a Biblical archeologist and not believe?  How in the world do love, intrigue, murder and more weave such an intriguing story?  Like a tapestry woven by the artisans of old, the authors weave a story that grabs the mind and heart of the reader never letting go.  Like various colors of yarn, this novel interweaves the theme of prophecy, a temple being built with artifacts from other temples, benefactors, enemies, God Most High.
            There are many characters in the story that portray fields of archeology, rabbis’, billionaires, military personnel and photographers.  Biblical archeologists aren’t told at first what the end goal is in this novel.  Readers may try to figure out where the story is going, yet there are many twists and turns that keep the reader pressing ahead to the conclusion.  There isn’t one climax here, but many.  It involves scenes that take the reader to Israel and the United States.  It also takes them both above ground and below.
            What are these characters going after?  What does a billionaire who is pouring untold amounts into the project really want?  Is it for the good of all or for self promotion?  The novel captivates us by picturing the locations as well as hearing the interaction between friend and foe.  In fact, one can almost feel as if they are there digging for…oh, I can’t say as I don’t want to ruin it for you. This novel was especially enjoyable to me as I have studied a little of the Temple, the artifacts of the Tabernacle and the political atmosphere that surrounds the story.  If you haven’t studied or read anything I just mentioned, don’t worry because after reading this novel I bet you will want to know more.  On the back of the book is the following sentence: “The Scroll offers a different journey, a gripping adventure to find truth worth dying for.” 
            I have only one problem with the novel and that is in its use of B.C.E. (Before Common Era) as well as C.E. (Common Era).  While most don’t see any problem with it, I believe as Christians we must remember that the center of all things is Christ.  While B.C. and A.D. may not be in the Bible, it still reminds mankind that the center of our lives should always be Him, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We who believe in Him must not allow Him to be replaced or ignored in a society today that seeks purposefully to erase anything which brings us to see Jesus. May He alone be the reason we do anything and may it all be for the glory of God.
            To find out more about the authors go to:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

English Setting Novel at It's Best!

Title:  Unhallowed Ground
Author:  Mel Starr
Copyright Year:  2011
Publisher:  Monarch Books
            A man who commits suicide or was he murdered?  Buried where?  Why?  The year is 1360 something in an unfamiliar land and unique sounding words describe people, positions, and responsibilities.  Never before has such a novel attracted my attention…until now.
            Mel Starr has written “chronicles” of a character named Hugh de Singleton.  This character has more than one job in his village.  What the name of the village is, I can’t say.  What is this character’s occupation?  I can’t spoil the book and reveal what he does.
            He is caught in a web of intriguing mystery that twists many times almost like a rope.  Maybe that is why there is a picture of that on the cover.  It sure grabs one’s attention doesn’t it?  In the language of the setting, it seems like one is transported to a time where words such as almoner, farthing, bailiff and Cow-ley were ordinary words.
            When I first looked at the book and read the words and definitions, I was thinking I bit off more than I could chew.  Would I understand the story or not?  Would I be able to follow the characters while trying to figure out the plot?   After the first few pages of chapter 1, I was hooked.  I had to know how this medieval novel ended.  I kept reading as I was carried away to Bampton, following the actions of priests, sires, bishops, and carpenters.  There are many more fascinating people in this story who travel to other lands to seek answers.
            Sometimes when one reads a novel the characters seem so unreal; however, Mel Starr has done a superb job of helping his readers “feel” the human part of mankind in the story.  Never before have I read a book where the setting has taken place in medieval times.  Prior to Unhallowed Ground, I would have just looked past the book to genres I am more familiar and comfortable with reading.
            I cannot recommend the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton enough.  If Mel Starr wrote his past and future novels with the same brilliance as he did this one, he has found a loyal fan indeed!  Most novels are based on some known, unknown or little before known fact in history; Mel Starr’s writings are no different.  There are other books in this series of chronicles, though each one stands alone, and are titled:  The Unquiet Bones, a Corpse at St. Andrews Chapel;  A Trail of Ink and then the forthcoming book, The Tainted Coin. 
            These are stories you will surely read more than once, maybe even getting them for family members, friends or coworkers who love a good mystery.  I don’t want to spoil the suspense felt as the book is read so I won’t let the preverbal “cat out of the bag” by saying more.  Get the book, curl up, turn off the noise, and get lost for a while in Unhallowed Ground.  You will never regret it!
Note: I received a complimentary copy as a blog tour participant for
Kregel Publications.