Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jesus

So it all started with a kids' book about Christmas.

I was reading it to our little preschooler and explaining how Christmas is Jesus' birthday.  You could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he was trying to process and then came the natural question. . .

We eat birthday cake?

Well, yes, that would make sense wouldn't it.

So since it is Christmas Eve, we are going to try to start a new family tradition and make a birthday cake for Jesus.  And if you are at all familiar with this family, that means ICE CREAM CAKE!!!!

We love to find occasions to eat ice cream cake, but that habit can get kind of pricey.  So we make our own.  Here is my tutorial on how to make an easy ice cream cake.  Click here for the do-it-yourself version.

Now if we can just figure out how many candles to put on it?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pastoral Ministry - Be Encouraged

When God calls your husband to be a pastor, the gift of encouragement should be a prerequisite for you as a wife.  Just as there are times of overwhelming joy in the ministry, there can be times of discouragement as well.  I saw a link to this article today on Facebook and thought it was a good reminder.  Check it out here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review: Oliver Twist - Radio Theatre


Oliver Twist is the fascinating tale by Charles Dickens produced by Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre.  Our family has loved listening to other great Radio Theatre productions, usually in the car while on long road trips.  They are very well done and much more captivating for all audiences because it is a drama and not just a reading of the book.

Oliver Twist has proven to be our favorite production so far.  This beautifully packaged Dickens classic comes with 5 CDs containing over 5 1/2 hours of audio drama and 1 DVD.  The real surprise being the DVD.  The DVD is a behind-the-scenes view of the making of this audio drama and a heart-wrenching look at our modern foster care system (or as they refer to them as "modern Olivers").  I loved how they made an old story so relevant to today's world and urge the listeners to respond.

As far as the drama - well done.  Really, it is just that simple.  You will have to listen to it yourself to see if I'm right.  They mention on the documentary that this rendition contains more of the story than any other production.  While I cannot verify this from personal knowledge, just the length of the drama should serve to validate their claims.  The acting crew does an incredible job of drawing the listener into this tale, and you will be amazed as the time flies by while you listen to it.  (That is especially nice when you listen to it while exercising!)

5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this drama from Tyndale in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall

 Christmas in Apple Ridge: Three-in-One Collection: The Sound of Sleigh Bells, The Christmas Singing, NEW! The Dawn of Christmas
Christmas in Apple Ridge is a special collection of three romance novels which take place in the quiet Amish community at Apple Ridge.  The books included are The Sound of Sleigh Bells, The Christmas Singing, and The Dawn of Christmas – which is the new one of the bunch.  While the books are not part of a series, you will recognize certain characters overlapping between books.  These delightful stories are a perfect read for the holiday season.

Having read one book by Woodsmall before, I have come to enjoy the fact that her Amish fiction is not what I have come to expect/dread about the genre.  She portrays the Amish respectfully, but definitely as real people with intriguing plots and well developed characters.  Though the book is quite large (well over 500 pages), you will be turning the pages so quickly that you will fly through it.  

On a side note, the second story centers on a character who bakes and decorates cakes.  I enjoyed the story so much, but my I was so hungry for cake after reading about all the yummy flavors she could bake.  I was surprised and glad the author included a few cake recipes for some of the cakes talked about in the book.  Now I am just going to have to try them out!

5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Press through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book Review: When Your Parent Becomes Your Child by Ken Abraham

Having worked as both a nursing assistant and then a registered nurse in a memory support unit of a long term care facility – I was interested to hear the perspective of a dementia patient’s son.  And I was not disappointed by this deeply personal and touching account of the life of a wonderful mom, wife, and friend.  Her son beautifully points out her faith and enthusiasm for life while tracking the ups and downs of watching his mom battle dementia.
Unfortunately, the one word I could use to describe this family and countless others in this situation is – DENIAL (which the author admits).  Abraham and his family had many ways to explain away his mom’s increasingly bizarre behavior, which sometimes caused them to misjudge her ability to safely care for herself.  As she continued to decline, it took a very honest doctor and some “incidents” for Abraham to gain an accurate picture of his mom’s disease.

I would recommend this book to anyone who may find themselves caring for a loved one with dementia.  You will not find any magic solution, but you will find the comfort of knowing others are going through the same thing.  The road is difficult, but there is support out there for you among the many others who find themselves still raising their own family plus caring for aging parents paralyzed by dementia.
5 out of 5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review: Breaking Free From Fear by Kay Arthur

This is the second book from this 40 minute Bible Studies series that I have worked through and you can see the first book I reviewed here.  As I have stated in my previous review, I am not a huge fan of all the "doodling" Arthur makes you do with all of the Scripture.  All of the Scripture is listed right in the book, but underlining, circling, drawing pictures, and all the other things you are supposed to do - well, I just find it distracting.  I am sure it works great for some people- it probably just depends on your learning style.  Anyway, I gave it a chance, and did that stuff at first, but then I just kept working through the Bible study and ignored all the suggested markings. 
One of the things I like about Kay Arthur is that she likes to let Scripture speak for itself.  She provides thought-provoking questions to keep the discussion moving making it great material for your small-group or Sunday school class.  One thing I wish it had was an answer key in the back.  I didn't have this issue with the last book, but with this particular study there were several times that I was just plain stumped by a question.  It would have been helpful to have had the author's answer somewhere to figure out those parts where you are just not sure what is being asked.
One other thing I would note is the 40 minute time frame.  This particular study, I am sure, would take a good bit longer than 40 minutes to finish each week.  If you have a group that can keep moving at a good clip - then this will be fine.  But if you have a group like mine that will want to discuss many of the questions in greater detail, then be prepared for the lessons to take longer than 40 minutes. 
In all, this is a good study that probably will not work for my particular group, but I am sure many will find this a great resource.
5 out of 5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: 90 Devotions for Kids

The thing I like about material from Adventures in Odyssey is that you know what you are getting.  The Bible principles found in this book are solid and exactly the kinds of things I think kids need to be learning.  The book itself is formatted nicely with lots of pictures, puzzles, and special ideas to make the devotions interactive for the whole family.

Each devotion is about 2 pages in length and teaches a Biblical principle with the help of Whit and the rest of the characters your kids know well from AIO.  A verse from Scripture is included daily and often additional passages are listed for you to look up as time/interest allows. 
This is, however, a devotional book aimed at helping kids learn Scriptural principles.  It is not particularly deep and does not contain a ton of Scripture.  I would say the age range for this book is the same as the AIO radio program, approximately middle school aged kids. Probably the best use of this book would probably be to get your family started with family devotions. 
5 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Review for John MacArthur's Twelve Unlikely Heroes

            Let me begin by stating that I like John MacArthur. I enjoy his preaching, and many of his books have struck a chord with me personally and spiritually (Slave and Fool's Gold, along with his Pastor's Library Series have made strong impacts). With his latest work, Twelve Unlikely Heroes, it seems that he has fallen prey to the mass-marketed, sequel-driven tendencies that have overtaken other (lesser) authors. The first question that came to mind when reading the book was, "who is the target audience?" If pastors, then the book fell short in that it gave only a very basic overview of each character's life, with blanks left by scripture filled in by information from church history that largely goes without documentation. If written for laymen, the book serves a good purpose, but intertwines biblical and extrabiblical material without making clear distinction at times. On several occasions the book makes a claim that information about a character is taken from church history, then later restates the claim, with the assumption that it is true. Undocumented claims of this nature are sloppy at best, and unverifiable and unscholarly at worst.

            A second challenge with the book is the actual authorship. While John MacArthur certainly "wrote" the book, based on his "acknowledgements" section, I wonder if the byline should have reflected more the contribution of Nathan Busenitz as the compiler and editor of the work. The work simply felt "manufactured," possibly because it is apparently older material gathered together and "smoothed out." While this is a good way to produce a lot of books quickly, it eliminates the personal feel of authors who labor through every line of everything they write.

            I don't mean to be completely negative. Twelve Unlikely Heroes is what it is: a good devotional book about characters in the Bible who the author deemed as "unlikely" to be used by God. I will leave it to the individual reader to figure out the difference between "Ordinary" men, "Extraordinary" women, and "unlikely" heroes….except that it makes for a catchy series of books.

I give Twelve Unlikely Heroes 3 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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