I Can Learn the Bible by Holly Hawkins Shivers

This little book is one of the absolute coolest things I have ever seen.  As a parent of two young kiddos (our oldest is four, and our youngest is almost 18 months), I chose to review this book because I thought it might be something I could use with our little guys.  I am absolutely thrilled to say that it is.  To start with, the book has a hard cover (much more durable for little hands to be grabbing), and it has a super fun graphic on the cover (major kudos to the person who did the cover design!).  But more than being fun on the outside, this book is tons of fun on the inside too.  Each week has a relatively simple verse on a really fun graphic, then there are three pages with info you can study that week, related to the verse you’re working on memorizing.  That information is broken down into little nuggets, so it’s easy to sit down and read one section if you don’t want to do all of it at the same time, but the way things are described is perfect for little ones.  If you’ve read many “kids” books, especially if it’s based on an “adult” book, you will know what I’m talking about.  It can be very hard at times for the ideas/concepts/stories to translate into something that kids will grab onto and be able to appreciate on their own level.  This author did an incredible job making the book easy, understandable, exciting to read, and FUN!

I can’t wait to get started on this book with my kiddos.  I really do want to make the Bible a regular and consistent part of their lives, not just in Sunday School or preschool or Vacation Bible School (VBS), but at home and on a daily basis too.  I’m so excited to have this book as a resource, and think it’s a wonderful way to make the Bible come alive for children.  Long before they’re able to sit and read the Bible for hours, this book will help to make the verses come alive in a way that makes sense to them.  What a gift that is, on so many levels!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

I Can Learn the Bible Cover

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Move On by Vicki Courtney

When Mercy Meets Your Mess.  What a great way to describe this book!  That’s what mercy is all about though, changing the way you look at your “mess” and messy situations.  The reality is that we ALL have those messy situations in our lives… but what we do about them is what defines us as people, and shows others who we really are.  Will we live like pigs, being happy in our mess?  Or will we move through the mess, into a better life?

The author started the book by telling readers about her son, and how he shared some “bombshell news”.  She was quick to say that we’re “all a mess” though, no matter what kind of news we’re sharing, or what’s happening in our lives.  That’s the beauty of God’s mercy – it’s available to ALL of us, no matter what we’ve done, or what messes we get into.  She tells us that “this book is for those of us who are weary of hiding and pretending.  It’s about finding the courage to come clean about the messes we are.”

There was a section that really spoke to me, because of friends who are struggling right now.  It was under the heading “You Are Not Alone” and said that “when we open up to others about our struggles, others can walk with us in the valleys”.  I feel like this is SO true.  People don’t know they can walk with us if they’ve never heard us talk about taking walks in the first place.  Our struggles in life are always easier when we have someone (anyone!) to walk WITH us.  This book kept coming back to that point, that we all need to have people who help us see that we’re not alone.  And beyond that, we all need to BE that person for other people.  No matter how blessed our lives have been, we all have an area we can identify with, something that we can do to really be there for others.  The question is – are we doing it?

Each chapter ended with a section called “Coming Clean”, a page of questions for personal reflection.  They would also be really great for discussion with a study group or book club, but they’re questions that really make you think about how you can apply the things you’ve learned as you’ve read through the book.

All in all, I’d say that it was well worth the read, and it’s a book I would highly encourage others to read as well!  You won’t walk away from the book as the same person – you’ll come away with a lot of thoughts and ideas of how God will use you in the lives of others.  More than that, you’ll see that maybe you need to allow someone else to be used by God in yours.

On a design note, I really appreciated how the cover of this book is of something active.  It’s a person clearly walking/running in the rain, with a gorgeous bright umbrella… moving.  I would have thought that a book titled “Move On” might have had a picture of a moving truck, with boxes being loaded into it, but there was clearly “movement” in this picture, and it really fit.  So, to the team who worked on this cover – nicely done!

The author has a really great personal website:  http://vickicourtney.com/.  It’s definitely worth checking out!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – all thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Move On Cover

 

Love Skip Jump, Start Living the Adventure of Yes by Shelene Bryan

While part of me hates to admit this, I often do judge a book by the cover.  If it “looks” boring, or “looks” strange, or “looks” bad in any way, I don’t want to read it.  But with this book, I thought the cover was not only really fun, but it made me want to see what was inside.  I recognize that covers are the work of many people, and not just the author, but they do reflect on the author… if this author could have a cover like this, I really thought she was going to be well worth checking out!  I definitely was not disappointed.

The foreword to this book was written by Francis Chan, who didn’t mince words.  At all.  He was up front about the fact that years ago, he never would have seen himself writing anything to support something Shelene wrote.  But he also told us that she had changed, and he’s excited about those changes.  Isn’t that something we’d all like to have said about us?  That someone else can see how God is working in our lives, to change us for the better?  That’s what the Christian walk is all about!  (Clearly, I was enjoying this book well before I even read anything that the author wrote.)

The author started by telling us about how someone had seen a couple pictures on her fridge, of two kids they sponsored in Uganda, and asked a great question – how do you know they’re real kids?  She felt like that was a crazy question and really just brushed it off, but it kept coming to mind for her, and she decided that she wanted to go meet these kids.  That decision radically changed the trajectory of her life, in ways she never could have foreseen.  The book was impossible to put down, because you really had to see what would happen next.  She didn’t just go meet her kids (both of whom were definitely real!), but she bought things for those children, for the local pastor and church (a dock, for one!), she was the catalyst for other financial donations that came in later, and ultimately, she started her own nonprofit organization, dedicated to helping in areas of need.  Shelene was very real in this book, very honest about her struggles, and very much the kind of person that I think a whole lot of us can relate to.  I really appreciated that, because nothing she shared seemed to be something that I wouldn’t be able to do myself.  Clearly, I don’t have the kind of disposable income that she does, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give out of what I do have!

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone, but I will just say that if you’re going to read this delightful book, you need to be prepared to make changes in your life as a result of what you read.  I don’t know how you could read it and feel like you can keep going with the way things have been.  I definitely couldn’t.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – the thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Love Skip Jump Cover

Plain Peace by Beth Wiseman

This book is part six of the Daughters of the Promise series, but is the first one that I’ve read and I can definitely say that even if you haven’t read anything prior, it was a great story.  Many parts of it were “typical” or “common” in terms of Amish fiction – a boy meets a girl, they fall in love, there are challenges along the way, they wind up getting married in the end and everyone is on great terms… but many (many!) parts of this book included things I’ve never seen before in Amish fiction.  Hoarding, secrets (on a pretty big level!), lies, adultery, and more – things that you wouldn’t expect to see in Amish fiction, but at the same time, I wonder why that is.  Why do we think that the English world is more apt to have issues like these?  It was really good, in many ways, to see that even thought we have completely different lifestyles from those who are Amish, we’re also very much the same.  I appreciated that in the midst of it being a love story, it also showed the power of forgiveness – what a great lesson to learn, and so well portrayed.

Reading this story made me want to find the other books in this series – I think that if they’re anything like this one, they would be just as hard to put down!  I highly recommend the book.  It was thought-provoking, and at the same time, a really great read.  There are discussion questions at the end, which makes it the perfect book to use for a book club.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Plain Peace Cover

The Mercy Prayer: The One Prayer Jesus Always Answers by Robert Gelinas

Lord, have mercy.  This phrase is often used to joke about something, I hear people using it whenever anyone does something that’s kind of crazy… but it’s actually a prayer.  It’s the one prayer in the Bible that God always answered (in both the Old Testament and New Testament), and the one prayer that will still always get a response today.  At least the one prayer that will give a response we can see and know about.  Jesus never turned away from showing mercy to those who asked for it.  This book showed how important that prayer was in the Bible, and how important it should be to us in our lives today.  The book goes through the many, many times that this prayer was uttered in the Bible.  The one we all probably know best is “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner”.  But there are others: Lord have mercy, I want to see.  Lord have mercy, I want to be healed.  Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.  I appreciated how easy this book was to read, but I also really appreciated how easy it was to apply to our lives.  We each need to remember how important this little prayer is – to recognize that not all prayers are long, and full of extra words that sound good, but they can be short too.  Short can be just as effective as long!

This author was new to me, but he is one that I will definitely follow going forward.  His style was great, and the book was one that I really enjoyed!  I would recommend it to anyone looking to learn more about the Lord, ways to pray, and ways to recognize answers… even the ones that aren’t expected.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive – the thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

 

The Mercy Prayer Cover

The New Spirit Filled Life Bible – New Living Translation (NLT)

This Bible was something I couldn’t wait to review.  While I’ve been doing book reviews for a little while, I haven’t had the opportunity to review a Bible before now, and I’ve been really excited for the chance to review one!  I deliberately chose a  translation that I don’t normally use, because I thought it would be easier to compare it that way – and I was right!

The New Living Translation is a thought-for-thought translation, not word-for-word, and that really makes it very easy to read.  The study notes in this Bible are pretty fantastic, with things you never would have thought of before!  There are the “normal” notes (with great outlines!) at the start of each chapter, as well as the bottom of each page (as you see in study Bibles in general), but there are also three great additional resources woven throughout the entire Bible: Word Wealth, Kingdom Dynamics, and Truth in Action.

Word Wealth tells you about specific words (over 550 of them throughout this version of the Bible!), referencing Strong’s Concordance – the number of times it appears in the book or the Old Testament/New Testament, notes on other verses that have the same word, and the meaning of that word in a literal translation.

Kingdom Dynamics are the sections that are probably what most makes this Bible unique, because they are study notes from a large number of speakers and authors, and help you to really see how the Spirit is leading in forty-one unique areas.

Truth in Action sections are charts that, according to the description tell “how you how to act upon the summons the Holy Spirit is issuing in the Word”.  There are charts for most books of the Bible, and they are filled with really great, practical information.

I was impressed to see so many Kingdom Dynamics points in just the first few pages of Genesis, with thoughts and insights into the Word that are things that I hadn’t thought about before.  I especially appreciated how many of them would end by telling you to look up notes on other verses, and if you actually do that, you can dig even deeper into what’s being described.  While it might feel a little bit like a bunny trail, hopping around your Bible, it’s absolutely worth doing.  I actually thought it was fun!  There’s a lot you can find out if you’re willing to do a little bit of digging.  I read through some of the Proverbs as well, and really liked the study notes found throughout – especially the focus on the Holy Spirit.  No other Bible I’ve read has had that focus, and I thought it was extremely helpful!

All in all, this really is a great Bible on so many levels.  It’s great for study, great for reading, great for personal devotions, and great for helping you to see things in a way that you may not have considered ever before.  I absolutely recommend it!

I was provided with a free copy of this Bible from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  I was in no way required to write anything positive, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

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Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings by Sheridan Voysey

This book offers a very real look into the heartbreak associated with infertility, IVF, negative pregnancy tests, and positive tests that don’t wind up being the happy thing you would think that they would.  This couple went through this for ten years before they realized that their dream of becoming parents just wasn’t going to happen.   Ten years!  After their dreams for a family were dashed over and over again, they decided to start over – not just by moving to another city, but another country.    Throughout the book, you’re seeing journal entries by the husband (who wrote the book), and you also see emails written by the wife – they are both incredibly transparent in telling their story.  All of their story.  You read about the hard decisions they had to make with the IVF process, you see how they struggled through applications to adopt (and then gave that up in order to pursue a round of IVF instead), and you watch the multiple times they met with prayer groups and heard positive words, only to at the end of it all wind up wondering where God was and if He actually cared or not.  I was encouraged by how real the stories were.  This isn’t a couple that tells you they have it all together and God is amazing and they have complete faith because they just do.  They’ve struggled and in some very hard ways, but through it all, they kept going back to God and being honest with Him about their struggles.  They kept praying, kept talking to others, kept reading books, kept being real with God and themselves.  I was truly impressed by how much they talked to each other too – it wasn’t as though they went through their struggles alone, they were very real with each other too.  And it showed how great their marriage was/is.  In spite of all their heartbreak, they remained together, supportive of each other and excited for the successes of the other one.

A great thing about this book is that it does tell a true story, and it’s a unique book in the way that it doesn’t end with something miraculous or unexpected – it ends with a couple who had their faith strengthened, who learned a lot, who grew through their experiences, but who were left at the end of the day in the same position they were before – childless.  But you saw that in spite of that, they did learn how to be happy, and I think that’s a lesson we all need to learn.  No matter what happens in each of our lives, we aren’t always going to know why it happened or what the purpose was for the hard times…. but we DO know that God is always there with us.  That’s what matters most.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are completely my own.

 

Resurrection Year Cover