Archive for Book Reviews


I am a girl with many questions. I am also a girl who likes to have all the answers. Unfortunately, I am in a really uncomfortable place for me… a place with many unknowns and therefore lots of potential for growth or failure. Failure is my biggest fear. My husband and I have known for a while that God was calling us to go, to serve full-time in ministry. We have been following God’s lead, one step at a time. Last September, when I began the Revelation study with Bible Study Fellowship International (BSF), I was praying for a revelation of my own, where God would answer all my questions about the future. Well, God has made many things clear in this study of Revelation. For me, the biggest revelation has been Jesus! This study has been a Revelation of Jesus first and foremost.

If I have all the answers, I will rely on myself, but God has opened a huge door and called me, my husband and our three kids to go to Yaound̩, Cameroon Рfrancophone Africa. That was one question answered, but it led to so many more questions with so much potential to fail. Every moment, I have to make a choice: will I freak out because the circumstances around me are far beyond my abilities or will I look at Jesus and trust Him.

Revelation has made me focus on Jesus. Each week at BSF, I’ve learned lessons about God’s sovereignty and power to control everything. Jesus is worthy of praise and complete trust too, even in the midst of seeming chaos. Jesus is victorious, king, lamb, lion, sacrifice, worthy, faithful, true, mighty, perfect, bright morning star, holy, above all, reigning, powerful, just, merciful, living, gracious, beckoning… and so much more. As a children’s leader, each week we ask the kids questions after the story. The kids know that the answer is Jesus. We ask: Who is perfect? Jesus. Who judges rightly? Jesus. Who reigns in heaven? Jesus. Who is coming again? Jesus. This is what I needed to be able to understand the book of Revelation. It isn’t about all the symbols and judgement, though that is in there; it is about Jesus.

The very first week from lecture, I wrote down: “Follow God’s dreams, not mine. Don’t focus on what ‘seems’ to be, but on Jesus.” What seems to be is not always what is… It seems like I am in this awful place where I feel so lost and out of control. I am full of fear. I am overwhelmed and failing as a mother, wife, friend, missionary, children’s leader. I see how I am not measuring up and it seems so hopeless.

I am working hard at developing a partnership team and obeying God’s call, and I am tired, but in my weakest moments and when I keep messing it all up, God keeps picking me up and calling me back to Him. God wants me not to focus on me, but on Jesus. I dream of being perfect and having everything just so. God’s dreams will get me there one day, but His dreams are taking me a different way than I’m inclined to go.

So, the biggest lesson I’ve learned was stating succinctly in the intro to this study, and then repeated each week. “Keep your eyes on the Lamb!” When I have my Jesus in sight, my doubts and questions lead me to worship, not worry. With Jesus in His rightful, central place (Rev. 5:6), I say “Yes, Lord” no matter the cost and am able to take the next step forward in faith, not fear. I can see that the wild place (Rev. 12:6) may really be the safest place because that is where Jesus is.

It seems so hard at times. But then, I look at Jesus and I see all that He has done, eternally, for me and I see Him at work, here and now in the little details. My kids are sharing their deep thoughts openly and asking for prayer. My husband is talking to strangers and friends alike, confidently – if you know him, you understand that this is a huge God-act.

Our financially partnership team for our Wycliffe ministry is at over 60% and that is God’s work. I am humbled to be part of what He is doing. God has brought me from not knowing where or what He was asking me to do last September – to clearly calling me and my family to Cameroon in December, to providing what I need, at exactly the right moment for His glory now. I am often full of tears and fears, but God is so gracious and I’m learning to trust Him each moment and to focus on Jesus, following His dreams not mine.

I don’t like being in this uncomfortable place, not knowing all the answers with great risks, but I know Jesus and with Him, I can take the next baby step. I can be bold and look at Jesus. As I confess my self-focus and repent, my focus changes to Jesus. Jesus is the answer for life and for all my questions too!


Book Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Well, maybe book review is a bit ambitious of a title for this post. At any rate, I just finished a worthwhile reading of Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter and found it very interesting. It was not quite as preachy as I originally expected it to be. There is definitely a bias in her writing, but I guess I shouldn’t have completely judged the book by its title. This book was full of research, references and historical information about trends and toys where girls are concerned. I really appreciated that the author freely admits that the questions she poses and ponders are ones that we all sort of know the correct textbook answer to, but that answer cannot really play out in real life – ie. life as a mother is complicated. I found it a very quick and informative read, which also helped me to remind me and make me more aware of the impact of the media and peers on my daughter.


Book Review: Love & Logic Magic for the Early Childhood

I totally agree with the love and logic philosophy, which is basically summarized in the idea that children need a secure foundation of love shown through empathy before delivering consequences and calm, consistent parenting with logical, natural consequences (not saving kids from the cost of their mistakes). Limited and abundant choices are an integral part of helping children have a sense of control over their lives and then not fight you in the areas where you take control. The first parenting rule of Love & Logic is: Adults set limits without anger, lectures, threats, or repeated warnings. I think this is great advice because I want to be able to parent in a way that means that my children obey me the first time and without any yelling.

I found this book to be really practical and therefore helpful in the daily tasks of mothering. For me, choosing and using the same phrase every time my kids need some correction has been really great. It helps me to remain calm and alleviates the need to think in the moment of frustration. I can simply and calmly say one thing and the kids know that they have done something wrong and often fix their behavior right then, before I even start moving. Using delayed consequences also allows me to remain calm and in control and then deliver meaningful consequences rather then empty threats or saying something I don’t mean in the heat of the moment.

While I really agree with the book and think it has wonderful and very useful ideas, I do not think it is the solution to all of life’s problems as the authors would have you believe. I found their arguments, logic and resulting conclusions to be irritating in their over-simplicity. I felt like they were talking to me as a small child and didn’t really like the tone of the book.

All in all, the book is a great tool for parents of young kids, using what works for your family and leaving the rest.


Book Review: In Search of the Source

In Search of the Source A First Encounter with God’s Word by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore is a phenomenal book. A dear friend of mine lent me this non-fiction story about translating the Bible for the Folopa people in PNG, knowing that my dream job would be doing that very thing. It is a quick, easy read filled with interesting adventures of a missionary family in a very unfamiliar place. I especially appreciated the (limited) discussion of techniques for developing the written word, teaching literacy and then the work of translation itself. More than just an enjoyable read, there is also an element of spiritual challenge contained herein as the Folopa come to understand that God knew them and has always been at work in their lives even when they didn’t know Him.


Book Review: Outlander Series

I recently finished reading the most recent (7th) installment “An Echo in the Bone” by Diana Gabaldon in her adventure, romance, time-travel series. I devoured this series and had fun reading each book. However, I was rather disappointed in this latest book for a few reasons: the story was slower than the others in the series and very jumpy with three different time periods and plots to follow and at the end of the book, when it was getting interesting (and very confusing) it just ends and now I’ll have to wait years to find out what happens.

As a whole for the series, I really enjoy the strange plot twists despite the absolute implausibility of it all and the way that the main characters survive time and time again. I also love historical romance and learning about events that really took place through things that didn’t. (The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers might be my very favorite fictional series!) The first book is the best, IMHO, and can be read by itself. If you are like me, you’ll probably keep reading and wish that you had waited until Ms. Gabaldon is finished writing this series so that all the lose ends can be tied up. Although, it might take a while to read them all, so you could just get started so you’ll be ready when the next one is released. (These books are long: 650-1500 pages.)

As a side note, I’ve been caught telling my kids “Dinna fash” and calling them my “wee bairns.”


Book Review: Don’t Swear With Your Mouth Full

Here’s another parenting book that I found useful in many ways. First, and maybe most importantly, I was delighted and encouraged to find out that I am doing something right. The punishment that I use most often is the approach advocated by Dr. Cary Chugh in this book for “when conventional discipline fails unconventional kids.” He calls it “behavior-limited discipline” and I call it “taking a break until you are ready to do/make it right.” I don’t know that I have unconventional children, but I do know that I prefer unconventional methods of parenting, namely gentle (in Christian circles, grace-based) discipline.

I would’ve liked this book a lot more if it hadn’t started with a whole chapter devoted to telling me what the book was going to say (and detailing what each chapter would cover again at the beginning of said chapter). I have lots of idiosyncrasies and one of my very biggest pet peeves is when authors tell you what they are going to tell you instead of just telling you! So, skip the introduction and get right into the research about punishments and what works in “normal” families and with most kids, but doesn’t work for the “difficult” children or if you are really short on time and think that you have a good grasp of what constitutes regular punishments in most families, skip all the way to chapter 5.

This book is great in its design for parents to use as a tool. It has neat summaries of the main points for each chapter in gray boxes along with important arguments and conclusions throughout the chapters. I will definitely be able to pull the book out again and quickly refresh on any ideas presented here, which is essential in parenting books. The final chapter has several gray boxes with all the pertinent info in one handy place along with a wonderful “cheat sheet” questionnaire so parents are ready for whatever disciplinary action might be required.

Another feature of this book is that it is a quick read and easily organized. I could’ve (and would’ve if I weren’t reviewing the book) the chapter on school-related problems and solutions since I don’t have school-aged kids. I found that chapters 5, 6, 8 and 9 would’ve been sufficient for me especially with the summary points at the end of each chapter. The author integrates a bit of light humor and keeps a the book somewhat playful despite the serious nature of the topic. However, for me, this was a bit confusing/annoying as I didn’t understand all of the jokes and alternate chapter titles and I found that they took away from the general air of authority and know-how that Dr. Chugh establishes.

I really appreciated the practical examples and ideas throughout the book. Dr. Chugh presents several dialogues where he further explains how to implement behavior-limited discipline as well as verbal rehearsal or planning or priming (basically all the same things), which in essence are discussions with kids about how to behave reminding them that their choices have consequences and they have the power to choose.


Book Review: Intimate Conversations

So, I was able to read the theme devotional for MOPS this year Intimate Conversations by Alicia Britt Chole. There are 52 wonderful devotionals, while I only had a few weeks to read the book, I would have preferred and would encourage you to take 52 days (or weeks) and read this book. There are 12 sections, which lends itself nicely to reading one section a month and one devotional a week. That would probably be a very realistic reading schedule for the intended audience – busy mothers of young kids. Each section is titled “Dear God…” as a prayer for various phases or seasons of life.

I found that the devotionals were perfect for me: I could easily relate to her stories and examples; they were the perfect length for reading while nursing or between various activities and interruptions; they were deep and meaningful and most importantly relevant to daily life and struggles. And that wasn’t even my favorite part, I really loved that application section. Often I find the application section of devotionals to be a bit contrived with questions that are too obscure or too obvious as to not be applicable, but Ms. Chole was spot on with the simple verse followed with three or four points for discussion and reflective journaling. These really are intimate conversations – between me and God. I loved that so many of the points were to wait, listen, pray to God. I wouldn’t want to go through this with a group unless it was a very intimate and safe group because the questions are hard and really get to the root issues in life.

That said, some of the sections were a little too much for me – mostly because I am not at that point currently. I really appreciated the section entitled “Dear God… Why Do I Feel So Unproductive?” because that is exactly how I feel so many days. But, I am not fully at the end of my rope and didn’t get as much from the section “Dear God… I’m Not Sure That I Can Keep Going.” The single devotional entitled “The Call” was the probably one of most personally profound devotionals that I’ve ever read, dealing with the lie that only full-time ministry pleases God rather than obedience to whatever He calls you.

I’m a little bit surprised that this is the MOPS theme devotional as it seems very much geared towards those who have been in a relationship with Jesus for a long time and want to grow more intimate, but not for the wide range of MOPS moms who are not even believers in God. This is not an intro to God, but a dig deep and get real with God type of devotional.

I will definitely re-read this devotional over a much more spread out time period and journal and grow still more in my walk with God.

Available September 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


Book Review: Ender’s Game

This is one of the books that Brian has had me read for him and then summarize so it’s like he read it but without the effort or time wasted… He is very efficient in that way. He is already compiling a list of what he wants me to read next.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card took a bit to get involved in. It is a short science fiction novel about a kid genius who is chosen and trained to fight and command armies to fight aliens and save the human race. It is a bit of a coming of age book, but not really as it only covers Ender’s life from 6-12 years of age. It is very much about the power of love and friendships as well as compassion and the power of fear, isolation and death. I found the way that the book started and continued without setting up the scene to be annoying rather than a fun puzzle to put together. I also found myself irritated at the interest in preserving the whole at the cost of the one – sort of a Jesus figure without giving him the choice. But Ender wasn’t the sacrifice per se as it was the aliens who died, but Ender became what he hated as he hurt others to get what he wanted/needed so he did die in a sense. It’s a bit heavy as a kid’s book and as usual Eila asked me to read her some, but I found that I could read her much less of this book with all of the violence and fear-mongering than I could of Twilight – a vampire book.

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Book Review: Have a New Kid by Friday

I read this book about a month ago for my MOPS group book club and enjoyed it and the discussion that accompanied it. The title follows current book naming trends with a good subtitle = How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days. Dr. Kevin Leman is a retired psychologist who has written gobs of books including The Birth Order Book that I really loved and found to be an accurate description of my family growing up. His style is witty, but unapologetic. He thinks his way of doing the parenting thing is the only way and that really turns me off. I agree with most of his ideas and techniques, which really focus on being consistent, loving, and logical.

In this book, he starts out by assuming that you must have totally screwed up and need him to set you straight so that’s why you are reading the book, which may be true for lots of his readers. He says that his strategies will work for anyone, anywhere, at any stage/age. I just don’t buy that. So, the basic plan in the book is this: Say it once. Turn your back. Walk away. I could see this working great with older kids, but my 3 year old, who may or may not be typical in his behavior, is not afraid of being left in the grocery store or at the park and will happily wave goodbye and return to his play – glad to be rid of me and my plan to tear him away from good times.

There were also several other points in the book and these are the ones that I use and will continue to use. It’s always nice to have a reminder of good ideas and new ways to implement them. These are really hard for me to do in everyday life when I get tired and bogged down in the details of mothering.
1. Let reality be the teacher.
2. Learn to respond rather than react.
3. B doesn’t happen until A is complete.
4. Be consistent and follow through on what you say.
5. Don’t threaten or get angry. (My friend, Janet, had a great post summarizing this as I was really struggling with the difference between threatening and giving honest choices while reading this book)
6. Keep my attitude and behavior ones to be modeled!

Along with the above, there are several questions that Dr. Leman recommends asking and have really helped me to evaluate and decide how to proceed.
1. What’s the purpose of the behavior?
2. How do I feel about it?
3. Is it really a big deal?

The second part of the book is an A-Z listing of normal parenting dilemmas and his ideas on how to handle them. Some things were good, but my real struggle is currently bedtime (and naptime) and he says in essence: don’t sweat it; kids sleep when they’re tired. Again, maybe they do, but Josiah does not. Instead, he destroys things and people (not an exaggeration) when he is tired and whines a LOT, so it is problem for everyone not just him, not something we can just wait out until he falls asleep.

If you haven’t read a lot of parenting books, you may find the ideas new and helpful especially if your kids are crazy, but I’d get it from the library if it were me. But, I know some people found the practicality of the book priceless.

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Some Things Never Change

In my younger years, I was an avid reader. I was always reading something and most often it was simply fun fiction. As an adult, I’ve continued in my love for reading, but almost always non-fiction to learn something that I’ve been curious about. Occasionally I will still enjoy a fiction book, but it is the exception.

I think in the last 7 years I’ve read a handfull of fiction books – J.K. Rowling, Francine Rivers, and now recently Stephanie Meyers. One of the reasons that I don’t read a lot of fiction is because of the way that I get involved in a book… I tend to immerse myself rather completely in the fictional world and neglect all other aspects of life. This was fine in high school, but as a mother and wife it can be a bit reckless – not just for my own life. I have thoroughly enjoyed each of the fiction series that I’ve indulged in (even if Brian didn’t) and Twilight proved no different.

I read 2560 pages in about 6 days; I really did try not to read during the day when I was responsible for the care of three small children. Since I so thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the fictional world, I’m debating what to read next. Any ideas of great (and short, for my hubby’s sanity) works?

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