Monday, August 14, 2017

Finding God in the Waves

   Finding God in the Waves is a far cry from orthodox Christianity, and it may be better for readers to approach this book with that in mind. Mike McHargue - better known online and by his friends as Science Mike - did not write this book for the Christian with a firm, rooted faith, seeking an inspiring story that validates their belief. He wrote this book for almost everyone else - the doubters, the seekers, the lost.  It is not a book to explain, answer, or convince. It is not a book to complain, convict, or condemn.

   Science Mike does what I imagine Christ did, and does, in meeting people where they're at - anyone, anywhere, anytime. This book walks through his experiences and transitions from Fundamental Evangelical and Southern Baptist, to atheist, to...something else. This is not a book of answers, or a backslider sliding back into the fold, because after his transition to and from atheism, Science Mike's approach to Christianity, Christ, and even God, is not at all the same as his pre-atheism days.

   There is an incredible pressure in many Christian circles that attacks doubt and questioning as the root of all kinds of evil, and a one-way-ticket to eternal torment. But the reality is that everyone has doubts. This book, even if it is an impersonal ink and paper vessel, is a safe place to experience, allow, and explore those doubts and questions. This book is for the Doubting Thomases of Christianity, the believer turned atheist, turned agnostic, turned somewhere in between. This book is for those who are dissatisfied with what their particular stream of Christianity has taught them, but who still hold onto belief - some kind, any kind, of belief. And it's for the scientists within those brackets.

   The reconciliation of science and faith is a major tension in so many religious contexts contained within Christianity. I personally do not have a very scientific method of thinking, but I have found tension between some scientific truths and faith truths that are difficult to contend with. The magic of Science Mike's book is that it contains all of the wonder of scientific discovery and all of the explanation, with none of the abstract language. He never lost me in statistics or convoluted theories. Finding God in the Waves was written to be approachable, and it is, in the most comforting way.

--Elise--

   For more information on Finding God in the Waves visit our website here.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Boy Named Queen

On our website (here), my friend and co-worker Lauryssa left a short review of A Boy Named Queen:
"Short and sweet, this is an excellent story to help kids to deal with bullies and to accept others (and themselves) just as they are."
    She recommended this read to me the other day - whether she expected me to actually follow through is besides the point, and I did that very day, to my great delight and pleasure. A Boy Named Queen is an excellent, short chapter book starring a ten or twelve year old girl who is just going back to school, and on her first day, a new student is transferred into her class.


   His name is Queen.

   It's incredible how one small detail - one small quirk - that causes a person to stand out from the crowd can pave the way for all kinds of bullying and harmful teasing. But we've all seen it happen. From where the narrator sits, the only thing really different about Queen is his name: Queen. He is just as interesting or uninteresting as the rest of the children in his class - just as quirky or conventional as our main character, Evelyn, and simply because of his name he is treated differently.

   The story is written for children around the ages of 8-12; short chapters with a voice for description and dialogue that a child would come up with. The story is a gentle but effective way to promote the welcoming of differences and the acceptance of the unexpected. The author, Sara Cassidy, has a gift for making the children's mocking reaction of Queen seem unfair and completely unfounded, rather than blatantly pounding out an opinion or rule. By following this narrative, the mind is guided toward the conclusion of the story, lacking any kind of force but holding a hugely significant amount of conviction.

   I'm definitely older than 12, but I found A Boy Named Queen to be unparalleled, refreshing, and an absolute joy to read. Hats off to Sara.

--Elise--

   For more information about A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy, visit our website here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Unblemished

   Unblemished is what I would call a "coming of age" story. The lead character, Eliyana, is nearing her eighteenth birthday when her life is suddenly upended and forever changed. Her mother - the only family she's ever known - dies tragically, and a series of strange, seemingly random events draw Eliyana into another world where nothing is as it seems, and nothing is as it should be.


   Sara Ella writes Unblemished with a mind for twists and turns on every page. Every character seems to interact in such a way that trust is questionable, the truth is never the whole truth, and there's always something else going that hasn't been figured out yet. As young adult fiction, this story could be aimed at teen girls anywhere from the ages of 13-19, but greatly enjoyable for those above that age-range who still look for cheesy teen-romance, love triangles, and all of that coming-of-age awkwardness that makes a world-hopping, battle-raging, hormone dancing story all the more worth reading.

   The most powerful part of Sara Ella's Unblemished, however, is the message she is trying to communicate - a message of worth, beauty, and trust. Eliyana is on a journey that seeks to teach girls and young women that yes, they are absolutely beautiful, but that their worth extends so far beyond their beauty and the way that they look. This is such a crucial message for today, in a world where appearance sometimes seems to be the only thing that matters or makes anything or anyone of any worth at all. There is so much more to a woman than her beauty or her appearance. Why should her appearance even be a measure of her worthy? When did something so surface-level, fluctuate, and subjective become a measure of any kind of worthiness or value?

   --Elise T--

For more information on Unblemished by Sara Ella, visit our website here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Firstborn

   I came to you once before, sleep deprived and overwhelmed, with a story that demanded to be told. When I read The Progeny by Tosca Lee last year, I did it all in one sitting and sang its praises for months. Now I'm back with the second installment - the conclusion to this thrilling ride - Firstborn, a progeny novel.

   Following Audra Ellison (known in the first book as Emily Porter) Firstborn picks up right where The Progeny left off. Audra now knows the secret she was protecting when she gave up her memories for the bliss and protection of ignorance, and now the stakes are higher than ever. The more she learns, the more dangerous everything becomes.

   Tosca Lee's adventures following Audra are riddled with car chases, crossfires, hostages, blackmail, and a cast of characters who never fail to sweep the reader into their plight of wild turmoil, and even wilder emotions. Rarely do I find an author who can entertain as thoroughly as Ted Dekker, but so far Tosca Lee has been the closest - dare I say, close enough even to rival him. Tosca Lee's writing is high energy, always moving, and I'm hoping that she can keep up the pace for many more years to come.


   --Elise T--


For more information on Firstborn by Tosca Lee, visit our website here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Quiet

   Susan Cain is another acclaimed public speaker and author, broadcasted over social media by her viral TED Talk, "The Power of Introverts", based on her book Quiet. This book led to the foundation of Quiet Revolution - a company "dedicated to unlocking the power of introverts" (see their website here).
quiet-book-softcover
   Quiet is a book for the soft-spoken, the listeners, the withdrawn, and the thinkers. There are many more attributes that could be singled out, and these listed may not apply to every introvert across the board, but Quiet is a book about introverts, introversion, and the rise of the Extrovert Ideal. According to Cain's extensive research, included in detail in this narrative, we live in an extroverted culture. Our schools, workplaces, and media all perpetuate and praise the power in and desire for extroverted students, leaders, and characters. And while extroversion is indeed a powerful, beautiful characteristic, the undervalue of introverts continues to grow deeper.

   Susan Cain takes it upon herself to highlight and lift up the overlooked: the ones "who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams". These are people like Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak - at least one-third of the world's population consists of introverts. As such, this book is a book by an introvert, for introverts, but it is as much for the introverts as it is for the extroverts who need to understand them. They need to understand each other, in order for the structures of culture and social life to work together in uplifting and healthy ways.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Quiet by Susan Cain, visit our website here.

Quotes taken from back flap of Quiet copyright 2013 by Random House, Inc. ISBN 9780307352156

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Daring Greatly

   Brené Brown is an acclaimed researcher and public speaker, perhaps best-known for her viral TED Talks, "The Power of Vulnerability" and "Listening to Shame". Her book Daring Greatly expands on these ideas, tying her extensive studies and research in worthiness and shame with empathy and vulnerability, but this last is the main focus.

   Vulnerability tends to be seen as an undesirable, even feared state of being to be avoided at all costs. Vulnerability is most often seen as weakness. In the second chapter of Daring Greatly, Brené Brown debunks this perception as the biggest myth that is believed about vulnerability. She does this by providing a long list of examples that display an act of vulnerability (p. 35-37):
    Image result for daring greatly
  • Sharing an unpopular opinion
  • Standing up for myself
  • Saying no
  • Helping my thirty-seven-year old wife with Stage 4 breast cancer make a decision about her will
  • Initiating sex with my wife/husband
  • Calling a friend whose child just died
   Her list goes on for a page and a half more examples of what is regarded as vulnerability, to which Brené applies a questions: "Do these sound like weaknesses" (p. 37)? And her answer is a resounding, satisfying and powerful no. She writes "vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage", two things which may be uncomfortable but would never be considered weaknesses.

   This is only a few pages out of the larger picture of this book as a whole, but Daring Greatly is brimming with page after page of these brilliant, powerful sections about honesty, courage, and emotion. There is an entire chapter on applying this knowledge to parenting, and another on education and work. Brené's other book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't), takes the concept of shame that she writes about in Daring Greatly and delves even deeper into the studies and research that she has compiled over the years, specifically surrounding shame in the lives of women. Daring Greatly is a compelling precursor, guaranteed to make you pause and redefine your patterned, maybe harmful, ways of thinking.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, visit our website here.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

God has a Name

Exodus 34: 4-7
"So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD [Yahweh] had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the LORD [Yahweh] came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD [Yahweh]. And as he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD [Yahweh], the LORD [Yahweh], the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation." 

The bold cover and the title is what drew me. Then when I opened it and realized he wrote a book on God and only used two verses...well that drew me even more. It's not very often that you'll find a book in the Christian Living section written solely on God. A lot are written on Jesus and his character because he came down in the flesh. We know he was man and God and that he died and people witnessed him on earth (via the Gospels). Still not an easy topic but its easier than trying to tackle God-the Almighty, El Shaddai, YAHWEH.

And let me just say that John Mark Comer does a REALLY good job.

He says, "When we talk about God, it turns out we're all over the map. In the West, we still live in a hangover from our Christianized past. There was a time when you could say "God," and people would immediately think of the God we read about in the Scriptures and see in Jesus. Most people would even come to the same basic conclusions about God. That time has long since gone the way of the earth. Today, when I say"God," you might think any number of things, depending on your country of birth, language, religion, church experience, background--and, of course whether or not you have cable".

Which is true. Today, when talking about God, the "fear of the LORD" isn't there. Even in the church, with all the different denominations, everyone has just a slightly different view from the next person and that can get confusing (I'm thinking especially of non-Christians who want to know more).

Comer writes in a way that's like you're sitting at a table with him and having a conversation. He doesn't assume you know what he's talking about, (because his audience could be anybody) so if he's jumping into a Bible story, he gives the context without going into great detail to help get the point he's trying to make across.

I loved this book. It's quickly become one of my favorite books I've read so far this year. I've learned a lot about who God REALLY is, because as I quoted earlier, we've forgotten who He is. At least I had. I hadn't forgotten Him the way we forgot where we put our keys, but I forgot who He says He is. I had forgotten His character. The church today, I've noticed, is SO worried about upsetting somebody, that we focus on that God is love only, because preaching about a God who wipes out entire people groups is a tough pill to swallow. And He is love, (we can praise Him for that) but He's SO much more than that: He's merciful, faithful, trustworthy, righteous, holy, slow to get angry, forgiving, and the list goes on!

So go and pick up this book! You won't regret it.

--Elise Fast--

For more information on God has a Name visit our website here.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Usborne Creative Writing Book

   Just by paging through, this book offered me the nostalgia to reformulate the dreams of my tween-self back into present day reality. I've been writing since I was twelve, and my style, skill, and genre choice have all changed and developed so dramatically that the wonder of writing feels a little different every time I pull out a pen or sit down at a keyboard. The Usborne Creative Writing Book is everything I would have loved as a young author, and everything I could still use to recreate that magic a decade later. The last line on the back of the book is the writer's pride and joy: "There's lots of space for you to write in, but no scary blank pages".


Image result for the creative writing book usborne   One of the most interesting things I have learned about writing is that a blank page is sometimes such a daunting task that the only way to get anything started is to write something - anything, regardless of the state of its gibberishness or uselessness - just to make the page less empty, which gets the thoughts and ideas freer to flow and grow.

   This book is so exciting to me - I sat down with it for an hour at a table and just flipped through, reading and looking over each colour-laden page and exciting scribble notes. It's the young writer's dream, for everything from stories to poems, comics, reviews, blogs, scripts, and other forms of writing. The illustrations assure that no page is boring, inviting the reader - actually, the writer - in to learn and immediately create. There is extensive space to trying out new writing tips and tricks for all the different kinds of platforms. Some of the most fascinating are the article and journalism portions, and character creation/building sections, not often included in the idea of writing.

   If your child, or you yourself, at any age, is/are a poet, a novelist, a journalist, a blogger, a columnist, a critic, a fanfiction addict, and/or a short story fanatic; if they or you are in search of inspiration to feed their/your desire for creation, The Usborne Creative Writing Book is an exciting, extensive, uncomplicated way to explore the incredible creative experience of writing, in any form.

-- Elise T --

For more information on The Usborne Creative Writing Book visit our website here.

  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Story of Reality


Gregory Koukl, author of Tactics, released a new book earlier this year entitled, The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends and Everything Important that Happens in Between. And it’s only 160 pages.
This book is recommended by well known authors such as – Lee Strobel, Rick Warren, Joni Eareckson Tada, J. Warner Wallace, Sean McDowell, Nancy Pearcey and many more.

Here’s what Fred Sanders, author of The Deep Things of God, had to say about this book: “When I looked into Koukl’s Story of Reality, I thought, ‘This is not how I would say this.’ I would have used more technical terms, added quite a bit of history, expanded it by a couple hundred pages, and put in about a thousand footnotes. So readers can rejoice that, instead, Greg Koukl is the right man to tell the story in such a clear, concise, and conversational way. This book explains the central ideas of Christianity and answers questions people are really asking.”

And I agree. For many of us, books filled with “churchy jargon” are incredibly intimidating, whether we've grown up in the church or not. In The Story of Reality Gregory Koukl has taken the convoluted history of humanity and made it bite size. This is not to say he has dumbed anything down, rather, it’s like he’s asked you to pull up a chair and have a conversation with him about these big truths of our reality.

Koukl is asking both the Christian and the non-Christian to think about the world around them. To use reason to assess Bible’s worldview because being a Christian is not meant to be “a leap of blind faith”.

This book is something I would give to a non-Christian seeking answers, a high-schooler feeling challenged in his faith or a Christian friend who wants to better understand the Biblical story. It’s something I think should be on every church or school library’s shelf.

-- Kristyn --

For more information click here to visit our website

Wings of the Wind

"When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. Then Israel made this vow to the Lord: "If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities." Numbers 21: 1-2 

This is the continuing story and final book from the Out of Egypt series which builds upon the previous novels with Kiya, an Egyptian slave who left during the Exodus, embraced Hebrew faith and married the brother of Shira, a midwife among the Hebrew nations. We are now introduced to Alanah, a Canaanite woman who was raised motherless alongside her warrior brothers. When her entire family is killed in battle by the Hebrews, she disguises herself as a man and sneaks onto the battlefield, desperately fighting to avenge her family, with one intention... not surviving.

Image result for wings of the wind connilyn cossette
Tobiah is a Hebrew warrior who has spent many years on the battlefields and is shocked when he finds an unconscious woman among the casualties. An act of compelling compassion causes Tobiah to bring Alanah back to the Hebrew camp and seek a healer. Unaware and unprepared for the consequences of his kindness, he must boldly face the new challenges and changes to his imminent future.  In order to survive, Alanah must unite with her enemy, but will a terrible revelation drive her toward an even greater danger?


The final book's setting takes place some years after the horrific fallout of Korah's rebellion,  with the Israelites roaming the wilderness for forty years whilst fighting to claim the Promised land of Caanan. The author wonderfully creates a story from this blank space where little is known to us. Connilyn Cossette expresses "if readers get anything from [her] books, [she] hopes that it is a desire to taste the Word again and regain that sense of wonder about the mystery of God who desires his children to be fed from its nourishment daily. May it never be mundane to us, or drudgery, to collect the freely given treasures tucked between its pages." 


This series has done just that and opened my eyes to the unknown possibilities within our history but also reflecting upon the amazing journeys and trials God leads his people through, vowing to never leave us or forsake us. 


-- Candace --

For more information visit our website here.

Hello Stars


Faithgirlz has a new series called Lena in the Spotlight, a chapter book geared towards girls ages 8-12.

Have you seen the movie The War Room? (If you haven’t I highly recommend it for the whole family). If you have, then you know the author. This book was written by the 12 year old Alena Pitts who stars as Danielle Jordan in the movie. She proved herself to be an incredible actress, so she thought she’d try her hand at writing.

Here’s how she put it, “Just recently my mom and I were thinking about writing a book. Like a real book. We thought it would be really fun and a great mother daughter experience! But in reality, writing a book is pretty hard and even harder to actually get the book published. So it was really just a thought……or so I thought. But guess what?! A few weeks later my mom was emailed from Faithgirlz! They wanted to know if I would partner with them on a fictional book series! My mom and I were amazed!”

As a 24 year old I was skeptical about a book written by such a young person and her mom, but was pleasantly surprised by this captivating story entitled Hello Stars.

As Priscilla Shirer puts it, “Hello Stars is a bold and colourful story that will engage and inspire young readers.” It’s loosely based on Alena’s own experience of being cast in the movie War Room.

It’s not technically for my age group, of course, but I was drawn into the story by the relatable emotions, experiences, and personality of the main character, Lena, who is simply telling you her story.

Besides the storytelling Alena and her mom have managed to tie in life lessons from the Bible that will bring encouragement and biblical knowledge to young readers. The verse Jeremiah 29:11 is weaved into the story line teaching a valuable lesson about trusting in God and his plans for you.

This book also includes delightful pictures every now and then helping bring this story to life.

The next book in this series, Day Dreams and Movie Screens, is already scheduled for release in September this year. You can reserve a copy of it with us today!

-- Kristyn --

For more information visit our website here.

Catching the Wind

"Better that one heart be broken a thousand times in the retelling... if it means that a thousand other hearts need not be broken at all." 

Melanie Dobson uses this quote by Robert McAfee Brown which perfectly encompasses the inner struggle that Daniel Knight faces as he tries to find out what has happened to his childhood friend Brigitte Berthold. They escaped from Gestapo agents who had arrested both of their parents and the young children fled Germany and crossed over to England where they were separated upon arrival. Daniel vowed to find Brigitte after the war, a promise he has fought to fulfill for more than seventy years.
Image result for catching the wind melanie dobson
With the aching retelling, constant searching and investigating of the possibility of her whereabouts, Daniel hires an American journalist named Quenby Vaughn whose tenacious ability to discover missing people and reports on various wartime accounts convince Daniel that she can uncover the details of Brigitte. Quenby is currently investigating WWII espionage stories which gives her the success necessary to move forward where the countless investigators before failed to locate Brigitte. With the assistance of Lucas Hough, Daniel's lawyer, the two delve deep into the past following a trail of deception, sacrifice, and healing that could change all of their futures. 

I read this book in less than eight hours, the vivid historical details and mysterious interlaced stories all connected with espionage drama takes your mind on a whirlwind journey of anticipation and heartfelt delights. The novel boasts very interesting and thrilling accounts of British aristocracy and upper class specific to their involvements of conspiracy with the Germans which included handwritten letters, invisible ink, micro-photography and secret codes. All with the goal to aid Hitler's assault and wreck havoc on England's facilities. Despite all the heartache and sorrow war and unknowns can bring, we are reminded that "resilience springs from hope, and hope from love." Every history lover will not be able to put this book down as all adult responsibilities were gladly set aside.

--Candace--

For more information visit our website here.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Beyond Loneliness

   Trevor Hudson writes with a voice of comfort and compassion in his book Beyond Loneliness, to describe the gift of friendship that we have in God. He begins his introduction, "An Invitation to Transforming Friendship", with some statements regarding loneliness: that it "touches each one of us" and is "no respecter of age or rank", and that it "may be one of the most painful experiences that we go through in this life" (15). Then he asks a few questions:

Cover image for Beyond Loneliness
      - Do you feel lonely?
      - Is there a friendship-shaped hole in your life?
      - Are you open to reimagining your relationship with God as a friendship?
      - Do you want to be transformed into the person God wants you to be?
      - Does the possibility of starting a lifelong journey with God attract you?
      - Do you long for a real experience of the living God?

   If you answered yes to any of these questions, he asks that you "join [him] in discovering how to begin a transforming friendship with God" (18). He then takes the reader on a journey through the different aspects of God's friendship with each of us; the facets of it, the benefits, the determinants of its necessity. He explores spiritual disciplines such as prayer and meditation, as ways of growing closer in friendship with God, and what I found the most striking was the way that he considered what he called "Our Friend's Address Book". In other words, the friends of our friend - the friends of God. This offers an excellent perspective on the verse in the Bible which reads 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’" (Matt. 25:40). From Hudson's writing, "the least of these brothers and sisters" is an address in God's address book, and a location where we will be able to see and live out the Gospel in everyday life.

   Nathan Foster reviews the book quite well in a couple of sentences: "There is something very inviting about this book. With the heart of a wise and caring pastor, Trevor Hudson effectively creates a safe space for us to work honestly with a topic all humans face. This book will help so many!"

   Aside from a voice of care and guidance, each chapter also includes a friendship exercise and reflection to make the journey from loneliness to friendship a tangible and attainable goal.

   -- Elise --

For more information on Beyond Loneliness by Trevor Hudson, visit our website here.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Practice of the Presence of God


Cover image for Practice Of The Presence Of God
     This little book is a quick read, which makes it all the better for pausing and reflecting on the depth that it holds. I read it for a class that I was taking. The Practice of the Presence of God emphasizes the spiritual disciplines of servitude and stillness.

     Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen at the monastery where he ended up, after time served in the army and a stint of isolation in the desert in search of spiritual growth. There is a short biography detailing his life in this book, but most of The Practice of the Presence of God is a collection of letters written by Brother Lawrence to his Brothers and Sisters in Christ who had written to him troubled, struggling, and searching. His literary voice is that of a gentle mentor seeking to counsel and to comfort with the wisdom that he seeks from God to offer. His words emanate humility, patience, and kindness that comes from a life of intentional servitude. Brother Lawrence practices the art of finding God in every instance, every act, and every moment, through a discipline of service so thoroughly honed as to be renowned even now as inspirational.

--Elise--

For more information visit our website here.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Us Versus Us

Surprisingly, 86% of LGBT people spent their childhood in church.

Gay rights and homosexuality are a hot button topic both in religious and secular circles. Mention one side of the discussion and you are bound to get someone breathing down your neck about how incorrect you are. Even within your circle of belief, there can be disagreement.

Us Versus Us breaks from that in a very refreshing way. Rather than discuss theology, Andrew Marin takes us on a sort of guided tour on this social civil war between the two camps and shows how not so far apart we are. The book draws on the largest scientific survey of LGBT religious backgrounds, beliefs and practices to create a more clear picture of their story. The research is anonymous, but features both quantitative and qualitative information to show the variety of experiences and mindsets out there. Marin uses this information to speak to both sides on the theology of reconciliation and seeking to show Christ's compassion to all. Throughout the book he continually points out that it is not a theological change that needs to happen, but a ministry and heart change.

Both encouraging and heart-breaking, the combination of the survey and personal stories builds a fuller picture of the issue. If you need a starter on the discussion, or are already in the thick of it, I highly recommend you read Us Versus Us. I think everyone needs to read this, to learn to understand what the LGBT community needs from us as followers of Christ.

--Lauryssa--

For more info check out our website here or come in to the store.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Believer's Bible Commentary

A staff recommendation; Brent can be found on and off in our Bible Department. He is a wonderful addition to the House of James family.
Cover image for Believer's Bible Commentary     My wife Jolanda and I prefer the Believer's Bible Commentary because of the richness and depth of it's over all content. There are some commentaries that emphasize a more scholarly type of presentation and investigation and these commentaries are also very popular and valuable.

     We have three Bible commentaries that we have bought from the House of James and I have also looked over some other commentaries that the House of James carries. We also look for a commentary that brings to light our Jewish roots so that context and depth of meaning in our interpretation of Scripture are not lost. The Bible is a complete whole as God intended and you must not divorce the Old Testament from the New Testament. Paul in I Corinthians 10:1-11 is a good example and there are many more New Testament examples.

     All the commentaries have their own good points, but the most consistent one for additional content that can help with personal Bible study or leading a Bible study group, for us has been the Believers Bible Commentary. I will use John 18:5-6 for the comparison and have also included the comments from the NLT study Bible. I bought one for Jolanda and liked it so much that I also bought one for myself. And I am a King James die-hard.

     Comparing John 18:5-6:
1. NLT Study Bible 2008 Second Edition
Cover image for NLT Study Bible Large Print     "18:5
"literally I AM. Jesus identified himself by the divine name God had revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai."

     18:6
"The soldiers and guards all drew back before the Lord. Even Roman soldiers, who were trained not to fall, fell to the ground before the Christ."

2. The MacArthur Bible Commentary
Cover image for MacArthur Bible Commentary

     18:5-6
"When He spoke "I am He", a designation He had used before to declare Himself God, they were jolted backward and to the ground."



3. The Moody Bible Commentary
Cover image for Moody Bible Commentary     18:5
"His reply 'I am He' ('He' is not in the Greek) recalls Jesus' use of the same term to claim deity."
     18.6
"Precisely when He said to them, I am He, his opponents fell to the ground. The collapse of the soldiers came in reaction to a small taste of the divine power of Jesus."

4. The Believer's Bible Commentary
Cover image for Believer's Bible Commentary      18:5
"They sought Jesus of Nazareth, little realizing that He was their Creator and their Sustainer- the best Friend they ever had. Jesus said "I am" (the "He" is not found in the original but needed for English). He meant not only that He was Jesus of Nazareth but that He was Jehovah as well. As mentioned previously, I AM is one of the Names of Jehovah in the Old Testament. Did this cause Judas to wonder afresh, as he stood with the others in the crowd?"

     18:6
"For a brief moment, the Lord Jesus had revealed Himself to them as the I AM, the Almighty God. The revelation was so overpowering that they drew back and fell to the ground."
Best Wishes,

Brent

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Carol Recommends

A staff recommendation! Carol is one of our lovely Giftware Department experts, always welcoming with a smile and ready to help you find exactly what you're looking for, before even you know it.
"Gretl, an orphan girl, finds herself totally alone at age seven. Through harrowing experience she is spared from the concentration camp but life looks so bleak, she wishes she would still be on the train until she hears and sees the smoke from it being blown up.

Cover image for Girl From the TrainJakob is fighting for the Polish resistance and finds Gretl. They become very close but are separated by continents, politics, language, and religion.

Will Gretl ever see Jakob again, and if so, what will become of their relationship?

I dare you to read this book."
--Carol Dyck--
 For more information on The Girl From the Train by Irma Joubert, visit our website here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Tangible Kingdom

     The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay is one of several books of its kind presenting what they might refer to as a "new hope" for anyone looking for a new way of living out God's mission. This book is is a "call for churches to take a leap from their safe environments of their buildings and truly enter into the real world - God's reality".

Cover image for Tangible Kingdom     I read this book for one of my Bible College classes last year and the reviews from the other students in the class were very mixed, which is why I really took an interest in it. The concept of re-defining the way the church gathers in community was one that I had heard talked about, one that I had been in discussion with other people about, but not one I had ever taken the time to pursue on my own. The Tangible Kingdom reminded me in various ways - especially in tone and gentle openness - of the book Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli. While Yaconelli is exploring the ides of personal, spiritual growth and the ways we are perhaps enslaved by tradition, Halter and Smay in The Tangible Kingdom seek to expand the bigger picture. They seek to develop the growth of the church.

     On a spectrum of avid disagreement or absolute consensus, the responses to this book were so varied. I find myself neither here nor there in many ways but my impression of the work as a whole was quite positive. Approaching their ideas with an open mind, Halter and Smay are two experienced followers of Christ always searching for a better way. As with any push back on tradition, there is a certain amount of aversion to their message, but I personally found their ideas refreshing. They are actively pursuing more and more tangible ways to build faith communities whenever and wherever they are.

    "Many faith seekers have tried different churches, methods, programs, leaders, teachers, and styles only to discover that nothing holds their interest." Halter and Smay want to present another possible way, in no way easier, and possibly in no way better than anything else the world has tried before. But they are actively pursuing possible avenues, which is more than many of us are doing, engrained in our places of comfort and ease of living.

--Elise--

     For more information on Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, visit our website here.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Good of Giving Up

Lent is upon us. The season of giving up. To me, it's always been like the Christian version of new year's resolutions: an attempt at curbing some bad habit, or to try to become more healthy. Aaron Damiani's The Good of Giving Up reveals the season of lent as so much more than that.

This tradition of fasting and prayer before the celebration of Christ's death and resurrection goes way back. While some may say it's not mentioned in the Bible, it is steeped heavily in the teachings and life of Jesus himself, and the Judaic traditions. Damiani delves into the rich history of Lent and gives the reader a quick overview as a basis for understanding it's importance in our lives. With that context in mind, he provides his guidance as a pastor as to the way to approach the season of Lent, not just practically but also spiritually.

The Good of Giving Up reads well, like having coffee with your pastor. Damiani has written with a great heart for the reader to seek God in all of their life, using Lent as just another part of the Christian calendar. At the end he even includes helpful tips and tools for parents and leaders to prepare and lead those under their care for the Lent season.

--Lauryssa--

For more info, check out our website here or come in store.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Come Back

     Here is a picture of pain, unlike that of any I have read before. Written from a deep place of personal experience, Rudy Wiebe weaves together the narrative of Hal Wiens, a retired professor mourning the passing of his wife. As the story opens, a new facet of grief is revealed: Rudy Wiebe follows Hal on a journey of reopening old wounds, processing buried grief, and coming to terms with anger and pain as a result of the loss of his son by suicide some twenty-five years earlier.


Cover image for Come Back     For there to be great impact and influence, there often seems to be a call for a great amount of pain. This offers the opportunity for rejection of both the pain and the influence altogether, of which denial in grief is a clear indicator. Through writing this novel, Rudy Wiebe has taken hold of the influence through the pain; he has written through his denial, his anger, his stages of grief, to bring an account of these things. Through his initial rejection of the pain and the influence, this book welcomes the possibility of both. Rather than hiding behind the secrets of the experience, Wiebe has taken the time to offer what he may for anyone willing to understand, trying to understand, or needing to understand for their own sake.

     I would not venture to say that this book would help anyone with a similar experience, although it could. I would not even say that it is a healthy outlook, or a helpful one, although it may help somehow. Come Back offers insight into a very dark, twisted and painful place where many people would not allow themselves to go. The poetic illustration of agony is masterful, impactful, and influential to the last page. Each word seems chosen with great care, especially in the dialogue, which flows so roughly, so like actual speech in the day-to-day. Wading through grief is violent, graphic, and in Wiebe's raw and real way, it took my breath away at times. This is not an easy read, but I would say a worthy one.

--Elise--

     For more information on Come Back by Rudy Wiebe, visit our website here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mice of the Round Table


Camelot is in trouble again, and one little mouse must find a way to save the great city.

   The myths of King Arthur, the Sword in the Stone and Camelot have been retold countless times, in varying formats and styles. In fact there's a new Hollywood take set to come out this year. It's the timelessness of the rise of the ordinary to the extraordinary adventure that carries this story through the centuries to capture imaginations old and young. I know I love it. It's part of what drew me to this juvenile fiction by debut author Julie Leung.

   Young Calib is a mouse of Camelot, training to become a knight. These mice have been tasked by Merlin to protect the castle from smaller intrusions while in turn the castle provides them with protection from the elements and bigger predators. When tragedy strikes, dark forces begin arising around them, and Calib must find a way to unite all the creatures before it's too late.

   Leung has crafted an endearing tale of bravery and working together for children (and adults) to enjoy. The story is great, the characters are engaging and there is a great moral for all to learn. She crafts this neat dynamic between the humans and the mice without trying to make them a large part of each other. Now this isn't Narnia. They don't communicate, but the two stories intermingle in neat ways. Told from two points of view, the story moves between Calib and the page Galahad, the absent Sir Lancelot's son. Both have to struggle to feel acceptance in their world, and to overcome their fears to save the kingdom.

    A new tail of Camelot, this is a great addition to the library of any knight/animal loving child, with just enough magic to spark joy; without the story being held together by it.

  --Lauryssa--

For more info, check out our website here, or come in store.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Glass Arrow



     "Females are scarce. Hunted.
      And Aya's luck is about to run out."

      Dystopian fiction is all the rage now, and personally I don't get it. Then I found this book.Oh boy, did it rock my socks.
     The cover is a bit deceptive, as it looks more like fantasy than dystopian. However, the heart of the book is very much on point. This is a world where females are treated as cattle again. Their numbers are kept at a certain level and those that are allowed to live are bought and sold as "wives" in the hopes that they'll produce a son for their master. Some get lucky and become forever wives, but most end up back in the system until their used up and dumped in the red light district to die. 
      Aya is lucky, her mother escaped the city before she was born and hid in the mountains, building a little family with a few other runaways. But then the hunters begin venturing deeper into the wild, and she is caught for the auction. She's all the family has left to protect them. She needs to get back, somehow.
       This book hits all the marks of the dystopian novel, and then decides to trash most of them. You have the broken world brought about by destructive past events and a girl who is trying to survive under the corrupt system's eye. But the similarities end there. There's no drawn out drama of a battle, there's no annoying love triangle that feels contrived. It's a story of survival and family, and it tells this beautifully in one book. The story is not rushed, the description is enough to leave the imagination room to wonder and the characters are well rounded and intriguing. Kristen Simmons did an excellent job.
        If your teen (or you) are looking for a new read, look no further.

--Lauryssa--

For more info check out our website here or come in store.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Mark of the King



"We believe that We can do nothing better for the good of our State than to condemn [convicts]...to the punishment of being transported to our colonies...to serve as laborers." -- Royal Policy of France, January 8, 1719

Paris, France 1719. After the death of her client, midwife Julianne Chevalier finds herself in prison and branded with a fleur-de-lys: the mark of a criminal with no hope of redemption. Hoping to reunite with her brother, a soldier, she trades her life sentence to exile in the French colony of Louisiana. The only catch, however, is a forced marriage to a fellow convict.

New Orleans is unlike anything Julianne ever expected. The fort isn't fortified and is made up of huts and cabins rather than streets and fine homes like back in Paris. And hiding her past and the mark she bears proves to be more difficult living within a small community.

This book captivated me right from the prologue. Anything I was reading currently got put aside because I could not put this book down. There were just enough twists that it didn't feel like I couldn't keep up with the story and it all flowed together so well. And I really enjoyed the theme: grace that eclipses judgment. This book was a great reminder that it doesn't matter whether you have physical or emotional scars, God's grace is bigger and grander than any judgement we face and that His judgment is the only one that matters.

--Elise Fast--

For more information on The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green, visit our website here.



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Great Spiritual Migration




     "Many of us feel on a visceral level that faith should not be reduced to a tool of social control or political manipulation. We believe faith has a more important and creative role to play in human life and evolution."

       If you feel this quote describes your current state of mind, than this is a book you should read. Brian D. MacLaren takes a hard look at the things we think we know about the Christian faith and then says "let it go". He seeks to encourage Christians to move forward and seek out even better ways to be Christian, to be human.
       This book is a big undertaking, and for the most part I think it succeeds at its goal. I had a lot of thinking to do while reading this book. There is so much that we hold as important to our Christian faith that are either founded in complete untruth or simply from misreadings we have since long moved past but have never considered to rethink. Brian's message may seem harsh and too extreme, but it's meant to be that way. If we don't take a harsh look what we think we know, we won't recognize the places we may have gotten it wrong.
       While he points to the areas we need change, Brian also holds that we should not be seeking to quickly criticize those we feel are not changing with us. Instead, to practice the Christian way of life he urges us to simply start practicing love to all, even those we disagree with. His encouragement is to begin building a better faith we should be putting it into action, including loving on those who oppose us. As he puts it, "the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better".
       Now I'm not saying I agree with everything MacLaren was going for, nor do I want you to when you read it. I don't think he does either. But there are many great truths in this book to take from this, and even if you choose not to, it's still a great exercise in figuring out where your faith stands and where your beliefs are. It also reads well, with great discussion questions at the end of each chapter (including the introduction) so that it can easily be used for a book club. There are some places where I feel too much is left unsaid by the author, leaving me unsure about what his view on the subject is. However, those are probably meant to be like that, to make you think for yourself rather than just taking someone else's word.
        "Christian faith for me is no longer a static location but a great spiritual journey. And that changes everything."

--Lauryssa--

For more info, check out our website here or come in store!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Long Way Gone



      Billy Coffey says, "A beautiful story of redemption and love once lost but found again. Long Way Gone proves two things: music washes us from the inside out and Charles Martin's words do the same."

     Martin is one of our finest story tellers, I have enjoyed many of his books and this one was particularly excellent. The relationships between various characters were very well developed and the ups and downs of their lives were portrayed so well that I had to keep reading a bit each night till I was done. Very satisfying. I highly recommended it.

--Lando Klassen--

For more information on Long Way Gone by Charles Martin, visit our website here.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Waves of Mercy

Cover image for Waves of MercyA staff recommendation; Brent can be found on and off in our Bible Department. He is a wonderful addition to the House of James family.

Hello all,

I just finished reading Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin, featured in our Christmas catalog. It is a "page-turner" par excellence; a grand story demonstrating the Lord's ever faithfulness amidst many years of extreme personal loss, anger, and terrible pain (not to give away any of the story).

I highly recommend this book for anyone needing an example of the Lord's everlasting love. Waves of Mercy could touch a wide audience from believer to seeker to unbeliever.

Best wishes,
Brent

For more information on Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin, visit our website here.