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Bible Sleuth: New Testament

Bible Sleuth: New Testament Illustrated by Jose Perez Montero

A million different red and white striped Waldo's cover the page and you are supposed to find the one with a ski cap and green glasses?  The series of books devoted to finding Waldo were both fun and darn near frustrating at the same time.  The same idea holds here for the new book, Bible Sleuth: New Testament illustrated by Jose Perez Montero.  The book looks at particularly significant themes int he NT such as the birth of Jesus and the Beatitudes and also includes a synopsis of what's going on in the story.  The illustrations and the characters that you are supposed to find are very large and that is good, because you don't want to hunt for hours for Mary.

The illustrations in the book were both fascinating and humorous.  On the section where The Apostles Heals many, you have Roman guards looking sternly at the people while a man in the past confined to a wheelchair is pushing his chair down the way careenin…

Women in the Reformation

Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity's Rebirth by Rebecca VanDoodewaard

The luminary figures of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer, and Melancthon are just a few of the men who shaped the Reformation of religion and society in the 15-16th centuries.  Left in the dustbin of history are often those people who are at home raising families and praying for husbands, leading others to change through writing, and keeping safe those who would continue the Reformation.  In her new book, Reformation Women, Rebecca VanDoodewaard focuses in those women who particularly impacted the continuance of the Reformation started by the likes of Luther and others.

Rebecca begins her book looking at the life of Anna Reinhard, the  wife of Zwingli.  She cared for her husband in a most beautiful manner and was a woman of humility and virtue. Rebecca writes, "Anna welcomed large numbers of her husband's friends and entertained guests..The upper chancellor of Silesia …

How Music Works by David Byrne

Music makes people dance and this is one reason why I have always loved listening and playing music from a young child until now.  Yet, there is many truths and ideas about how music happens both in history and in record making that I don't understand.  David Byrne, in his new book, How Music Works, takes us on a journey inside both the background of music from long ago to present but also gives us the lowdown on how the music industry works, both behind the scenes and in promotion and advertising.  Collaborating with the Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and others, David has experienced the highs and lows of music in all its forms, from jazz to rock, soul to publishing.

One of the most astonishing features early on in the book was Byrne's understanding of symphonic and classical music went from an all-inclusive event with much response from the audience to a more peaceful and immobile activity from the audience.  He writes,"With classical music, not only did the venues change…

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson

The regular printing of sermons is something that was commonplace in Civil War days and in the early 20th century, but rarely do we now find sermons in printed form that are deep with wisdom and interesting also.One notable exception to this truth is the new book of sermons entitled As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson, author of the Message.While much is praised about Peterson’s work on ministry and spiritual theology, these edited sermons bring the best of his deep knowledge of Scripture and love of God to the foreground.In fact, after reading the book one can imagine Eugene as a scholar and a poet, who fuses the loftiness of scholarship with the real needs of the people.
In writing about the relationship between Balaam and Balak in the OT, Peterson brings us to the fountain of humor.He writes, “Hilarity is integral to Christian pilgrimage.There is no question that being a Christian involves us in many sorrows, many struggles, sober hours of repentance and meditation.But ther…

The Ecumenism of Beauty Edited by Timothy Verdon

The Ecumenism of Beauty


How do we make sense of visual arts in the church and in the history of the Christian church?  There has been a bit of rediscovery of this question and answers to the issue by both Catholics and Protestants, Orthodox and Anglican.  This new book, The Ecumenism of Beauty, edited by Timothy Verdon captures the essence of seeing the beauty of art in the church as a vehicle to understand God's character and man's genius.  The various contributors to this volume write with a vigor and wisdom that is rarely seen, commenting on aesthetics in Calvin, the artist as contemplative, and the way in which the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts bears together both the simplicity and brilliance of art in a house of worship.  Although the book is short, it is rich with pictures of art past and present, and the writing points our gaze toward the heavens as we contemplate both God and beauty.  With a learned introduction by Monsignor Timothy Verdon,…

Pursued by Lisa Harris

Pursued by Lisa Harris


This new book in The Nikki Boyd Files series by Lisa Harris is a thrilling, mind -bending journey into the work of Missing Persons Detective Nikki Boyd, who in the opening salvo goes on a plane ride that will change the course of her life.  In Pursued, author Lisa Harris untangles various  webs of money, murder, and dangerous criminal activity that come to light as Detective Boyd can't seem to put down her knack for finding out the right clues to the case.  This is my first knack at the Nikki Boyd files books and I was clearly impressed.  What was notable about the book was its fast paced and detailed approach to solving the case of the missing lady who was to testify in a court case.  Further, there was enough detail in the book to keep you on the edge of your seat but not too many extraneous details or unnecessary fleshing out of the characters in lewd or inappropriate ways. 


The plot seemed to move along seamlessly as Nikki picks up clue after clue afte…

Misfit Faith

Misfit Faith: Confessions of a Drunk Ex-Pastor by Jason J. Stellman
I usually go for a book with a good title and this one has quite an edgy and provocative title.  To go along with it, the author at one time was a PCA pastor, a denomination I belong to and wanted to see what he had to say about life in ministry.  This new book, Misfit Faith, is a story of someone who still wrestles with the faith and was pulled toward the Roman Catholic Church from being a church planting pastor in Seattle prior to his change.  The book is a critique of those who have their theology all lined, ducks in a row, and more a conversation about how to have doubts and still believe.  In the book, Jason explains the first segment of the Apostle’s Creed concerning believing in God the Father and how this changes the way we should think about faith.
In the opening chapters, Jason seeks to draw the implications of God as Father in relationship to the Calvinist system that he says minimized this idea and promoted …

Kingdom Family Devotional

Kingdom Family Devotional by Tony Evans and Jonathan Evans
This new devotional by pastor Tony Evans and his son, Jonathan, is a wonderful exploration of what it means to be kingdom minded people in God’s world.  With Scripture, illustrations and stories, Tony and Jonathan get to the heart of loving God and loving people in these short entries.  What I enjoyed most about the book was the way in which the entries got straight to the heart of issues rather than skirting around the central idea.  Further, the daily devotions are rooted in the gospel and are applicable to life in an everyday way.
One of my favorite entries was on respect.  The authors write, “God wants us to treat family members as nicely as we would the president.  Why? Because each of us has been made in the image of God.”  There is value in people and Tony gives us the freedom to be real with people, look them in the eye and address them with respect rather than a disrespectful informality.  The authors go in the week to …

Murder is No Accident

Murder is No Accident: A Hidden Springs Mystery by A.H. Gabhart

This the first book by A.H. Gabhart, known as Ann H. Gabhart to many, that I've read and it was a fast paced and intriguing work of fiction.  One of the key elements of the story is the cantankerous nature of the characters in the story, from Deputy Michael Keane, to Aunt Lindy, and Reece, each member at some point in the story rubs each other wrongly and suspicions remain.  In any good story, there must be a bit of uneasiness in the plot that moves the story along.  I found this book to be amusing and easy to follow, and the clues were there to keep you guessing.

The story centers around a small town that holds within it the Chandler residence, a mansion that is on the market, an owner of the house, the aged Miss Fonda, the real estate agent Geraldine Harper, sheriff Michael Keane and other characters.  The plot thickens when a body is found at the bottom of the steps to the tower room.  One of the amusing scenes in …

Between Midnight and Dawn

Between Midnight and Dawn, Compiled by Sarah Arthur
This vibrant and rich collection of stories, poems, and prayers that connects Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide is a wonderful compilation.  Called Between Midnight and Dawn, compiled by Sarah Arthur, each an Opening Prayer, Scriptures, Literary Readings (both contemporary and older), personal prayer and reflections, including a closing prayer at the end.  Beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding in Eastertide Week 7, the collection spans a broad range of themes from repentance to consolation and deliverance.  The entries are rich with interesting stories and beautiful poems, that each reader is sure to find something that catches their spirit. 
In the first entry on Ash Wednesday, included is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story called the The Minister’s Black Veil in which Reverend Mr. Hooper came to the pulpit one Sunday wearing a black veil.  The crowd bemused that he had gone mad or weren’t even sure it was him.  But Hawthorne says o…

Still Pilgrim

Still Pilgrim: Poems by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell
There is a kind of distance that you often gauge when I read poetry, the feeling that you’d like to experience what the poet describes but you don’t know if you ever will.  Descriptions sometimes fall by the way because they are either too elevated in nature or too base in feeling, the way a movie can bring together both elements.  Yet, in certain cases, poems hit one squarely in the heart, because the experiences land so universally and the emotions too real to forget.  Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s new collection of poems, Still Pilgrim, captures both the events of every life and the feelings that flow from them in a beautiful and captivating way.
In the Still Pilgrim Sings to Her Child Angela pens;
But you are you, my mystery, my gray-eyed boy, my history Embedded in your body made of love. This the moment I still dream of. Though twenty years have come and gone I sing to you, and you’re my song.
The beauty of birth, of bearing a child made from G…

The Spirituality of Paul

The Spirituality of Paul by Leslie T. Hardin
Robust and dense argumentation, heavy theological jargon, and weighty social issues, are a few of the things that come to mind when we think of the apostle Paul.  Yet, key to his development as a follower of Christ is his life in the Spirit, his spiritual life.  Professor Leslie T. Hardin steps in with a book entitled The Spirituality of Paul: Partnering with the Spirit in Everyday Life, a work focused on the prayer, proclamation, and worship of Paul given to Christ. 
Leslie explores the context of prayer in the life of Paul by looking at his writings.  In the writings of Paul, Leslie finds an enormous freedom in prayer that also looks at the kind of prayer that Paul called others to carry out.  He writes, “Paul will not prayer degenerate into simple asking, though, as if God were a spiritual vending machine.  The language of “thanksgiving” is the most frequent of all the prayer vocabulary in Paul’s epistles. (47)  His prayers of thanks were…

The Hum of Angels

The Hum of Angels by Scot McKnight

There is an ever-present commentary running through the lives of many we meet about angels.  Whether it's guardian angels, our relationship to angels when we die, or some other inquiry about angelic beings, we are somewhat obsessed with these divine creations.  Yet, we often have misguided and wrongheaded beliefs and thoughts about angels that give more credence to New Age thought than to a biblical picture of angels.  In steps Professor Scot McKnight, who are written many books on the New Testament, Jesus, and the church.  His new book, The Hum of Angels, presents an engaging portrait of angels in the Bible, and how every Christian should relate to these beings.

Scot opens his book with a foray into providing a rational or defense of belief in angels.  Often, ordinary folks don't want to tell anyone they've seen an angel or had an angelic visitation because they might be thought of as stupid or ignorant.  Scot writes, "Most people w…

Esubscription for Lent and Easter

Paraclete Press has just launched a new Esubscription service that sends daily devotional emails to your inbox. These messages tell the story, history, and theology of both Leng and Easter. Taken from two books, God with Us and According to Your Mercy, these authors give readers a broad glimpse into the heart of each liturgical season. Take a look at http://www.paracletepress.com/Products/7107/god-for-us-esubscription.aspx

Love Him Anyway

Love Him Anyway by Abby Banks The story of Abby and Jason Banks is a remarkable one at that.  From finding out their 3rd child Wyatt is paralyzed to both Abby and Jason having different surgeries, including Austin having two hernias removed, the road of life has been a bumpy one at that.  Yet, there are these glimpses of grace in this book that are evident throughout the pages.  It would be easy to go through the life of this family and become jaded, cynical, and downright pessimistic about life and God, but they have been able to work through much pain in faith, not letting those around them be pushed away by their experiences. One moment of God’s grace shining through when Abby writes, “A short time later, the doctor called Jason and me into the counseling room. The surgery was over, and Austin had done great. The doctor said she did indeed have two hernias that needed to be repaired. He told us they would call us back shortly to be with Austin in recovery, but first there was a nurse…

My Holy Bible for Girls

I am accustomed by now to the onslaught of specific oriented Bibles, from the men's devotional to the archaeology Bible and the word study Bible, all have something to offer for the student of the Bible.  The My Holy Bible for Girls is no different.  This new Bible put out by Zondervan is beautiful in its appearance and looks much like a personal journal would.  The turquoise color and the elastic band going around the Bible makes it a welcome addition to the growing number of individualized Bibles.

The margins on the sides of the Scripture are full of room for notes, drawings, or anything that comes to mind when reading a particular passage.  My daughter really likes this Bible and its journaling feature because she's always wanting to put her own thoughts on paper.  The entire NIV text is big enough to read and comes with an easy to read font.  The Bible is designed for younger girls but I think the appeal of this type of journaling Bible is much wider, from young to old. …

You Carried Me: A Daughter's Memoir

You Carried Me is a poignant story about a young girl who finds out at 14 that she is a living survivor of a botched abortion.  In our world which comprises of individual choice and freedom, we often don't heart the stories of those who most need to tell their story.  Melissa Ohden tells her personal story that is both moving and alarming in these pages.

Melissa tells the beginning of her story in the first chapter of the book by outlining the details she came to no later on in life.  She writes, "Like other babies born prematurely, I had a host of serious medical problems including low birth weight (2 pounds 14.5 ounces), jaundice, and respiratory stress. But my troubles were complicated by the after effects of the poisonous saline solution I had endured in my mother's womb." (3) Into the arms of a loving family, both Ron and Linda Cross welcomed little Melissa with all the tenderness they could muster.  Life was not all easy as she grew up in the Cross household, R…

Preaching Old Testament Narratives

Preaching Old Testament Narratives by Benjamin Walton
How does a minister faithfully preach God’s Word from the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament?  How must he be faithful to the original intent of the text but bring it to today’s audience?  These questions are answered in Dr.Benjamin Walton’s new book, Preaching Old Testament Narratives.  Walton, president of PreachingWorks, a company designed to help pastors faithfully and consistently preach God’s Word, delivers the goods in this book by carefully bringing us along in his journey. 
One of the aspects of this book that is very valuable is Benjamin’s insistence that we preach CUT’s or Complete Units of Thought, identify historical and theological contexts, and finally at the end craft the take home truth (steps 3-4 include studying the plot and the original theological message).  Why is it important first to preach complete unit of thoughts?  For one, “a poorly chose preaching text can doom the sermon before it begins.  In general, we nee…

The Travelers by Chris Pavone

The Travelers by Chris Pavone

What makes a good spy book come to life?  How does  a writer of suspense and intrigue bring out the subtleties of his characters?  These questions are answered with honesty and creativity in Chris Pavone's new novel, The Travelers.  Many  know of Chris' other works such as The Accident and The Expats, but his work is new to me.  While I was a little unsure about what to expect in this novel, I was caught up in the story line and the characters.

The novel is broken up into various parts aligned with the different characters.  The main story follows Will Rhodes, a travel writer for the magazine The Traveler.  Will takes his writing to new levels as he visits Ireland, Great Britain, France and other international destinations.  Little does he know that at one venture, after a steam night with a lady named Elle, not his wife, that his life would never be the same.  He is thus ushered into a  new life as CIA operative that takes on the role as agent l…

Finding God in the Waves

Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost my Faith and Found it Again Through Science by Mike McHargue

I really thought this book was going to be a dud.  I was under the impression that this was going to be another one of those 'find god through the particles' book that didn't really move anyone to believe or not believe.  Yet, as I read through Finding God in the Waves, it was different, very different.  Mike isn't really trying to sell you something in the book but tell you a story.  Really, the book is good at gathering Mike's story and telling it through the lens of a boy's curiosity.

Growing up in "husky" jeans and being that kid who didn't fit into most conventional groups, Mike felt the pangs of loneliness in his early years.  Even at that, his brain was hardwired for curiosity, he had to know how things worked.  Growing up as Christian at 7 in a conservative Southern Baptist Church, he was baptized early on and began to be involved in the event…

Martin Luther by Simonetta Carr

Simonetta Carr has written some wonderful christian biographies for younger readers.  The books capture the stories of faithful believers in their challenges and in their victories.  Troy Howell, illustrator for the Redwall series by Brian Jacques has teamed up with Simonetta to provide some amazing artwork for this new book on Reformer Martin Luther.

One of the startling things about the book was Simonetta's writing on the sale of indulgences.  I knew the story of Johann Tetzel from my prior study but she brings to life some of the details of this work.  She writes, "Tetzel from town to town preaching about the benefits of indulgences.  "Have mercy upon your dead parents, he said." "Whoever has an indulgence has salvation.  Everything else is of no avai." (18).  This practice of selling of indulgences really brought in a flurry of people from Germany and gave people a sense of hope that was not really that.  Luther was concerned that these indulgences g…

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology, Edited by Mark S. Burrows

Bringing words to life on a page is hard work, and no work is harder than poetry.  Poets take the visceral, the mundane, and the disjointed and frayed things of life and put them on their head.  This new anthology of poetry put out by Paraclete Press and edited by Mark S. Burrows, takes the best poetry of today and brings together old and new poems from these gifted creators.  You find poems from Scott Cairs, SAID, Phyllis Tickle, and others.  The collection stems the span of 2005-2016 and includes both religious poems and themes, as well as themes covering a broad swath of topics.

One of the beauties of this collection is the array of poems that the anthology includes in its pages.  One poem in particular stuck with me as read through the collection.  Anna Kamienska is a wonderful Polish poet who interacts with the wider lens of faith while looking carefully at the world we live in.  She says in her poem named Gratitude, (44)

A tempest threw a rainbow in my face
so that I wanted to…

All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings

All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings by Gayle Boss/Illustrated by David G. Klein

This new advent book captures the essence of the Advent season in a unique way.  Gayle Boss, poet, writer and lover of all things nature, has taken the sights and sounds of nature, including animals, and given life to them through these Advent meditations.  The illustrations created by David G. Klein, an award winning graphic artist, are black and white pencil drawings of each animal in its different habitat.  With laser focus on the way these animals burrow and get ready for the winter season, Gayle and David provide their readers with a truly amazing experience of God's wonderful creation.

The descriptions of the animals were quite extraordinary and caused me to want to engage these animals in my own neck of the woods.  Gayle writes about the chipmunk by stating, "I hear a chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp, pointed as a metronome.  Ticking items off some list, a chipmunk sits up tall …

Glory in the Lord

A Spectacle of Glory: A Devotional by Joni Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby
The story of Joni Eareckson Tada is a remarkable one indeed, someone who has lived as a quadriplegic for over fifty years and yet been full of faith and trust in the living God.  This new devotional, A Spectacle of Glory, is a book that combines practical wisdom, scriptural insights, and application from a life given over to reveling in God’s light every day.  Yet, one of the greatest assets of this devotional is the way Joni uses her own experience through suffering to shed light on how God brings about his good work through it all, identifying with the certain struggles and sometimes literal pain of those who she’s writing about.
The parts in the book that fueled my spirit were Joni’s prayers at the end of each day.  One day after looking at the connection between sharks swimming with their mouth open and Christians being called to keep moving for Christ, Joni wrote, “Lord, forgive for dwelling on past hurts …