Sunday, January 30, 2011

FASTING by Scot McKnight

Fasting by Scot McKnight is one of eight books in Thomas Nelson’s The Ancient Practices Series, which address the spiritual practices of the first Christians. Produced under the General Editorship of Phyllis Tickle, they cover such topics as communion (The Sacred Meal), praying without ceasing (Constant Prayer), pilgrimage (The Sacred Journey), feasts and festivals (The Liturgical Year), giving (Tithing), a day of rest (Sabbath), spiritual hunger (Fasting), and spiritual disciplines (Finding Our Way Again).

The practice of fasting has ancient roots going back to the very earliest Old Testament Patriarchs. It appears in the New Testament as well, yet remains largely misunderstood and, therefore, ignored by large portions of the modern Church.

Scot McKnight does a superb job of delineating what fasting is — a whole body response that enables us to sanctify an event or a moment; and what it is not — a means of manipulating God.

All too often modern believers end up putting the cart before the horse. The result is people who fast to emphasize their commitment and show God how much they want something. Then, suitably impressed with their sincerity, God in turn will acquiesce.

In one form or another the question is often raised, “Does Jesus really expect us (me) to fast?” McKnight’s answer is an unequivocal “Yes.” Jesus leaves no wiggle room when in Matthew 9:15 he answers a question about fasting by saying, “The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”

In one of the more insightful passages in the book, McKnight addresses the modern body image. Today, rather than having a unified view of ourselves as body and soul, many of us tend to see ourselves as a soul within a body. This is a fatal error. The soul, of course, is immortal while the body is mortal. Thus, because the body will die and corrupt and we (our spirit or soul) will live on for eternity, the body is devalued. By adjusting our thinking, we can experience what McKnight terms whole-body spirituality.

He also deals with the difference between abstinence and true fasting. As well as the health concerns that should be taken into consideration when considering a fasting regimen. The book is full of down-to-earth, practical explanations, examples, and suggestions designed to enhance a person’s spirituality and allow them to tap into the practices and principles of the early church.

I highly recommend it.
— E G Lewis

Product Details:
Trade Paperback: 208 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 978-0-84994-605-9

HERO'S TRIBUTE by Graham Garrison

Michael Gavin—football star, war hero and philanthropist—has died. Expectations run high in his small hometown of Talking River as to who will be the one honored to speak at his funeral. None of those expectations include an obscure local newpaper reporter, Wes Watkins. Why?

Wes Watkins and Michael Gavin never met each other, yet Michael leaves behind a written request that Wes deliver his eulogy. He also leaves Wes a list of names and one week to find out why.

The list, people from Michael's present and past, yields more information about their hometown hero than anyone expected—and that few of them wanted to know. Michael's purpose: to teach the town the difference between a legend and a man.

Wes's investigation encounters speed bumps and roadblocks right off the starting line. From his micro-managing senior editor, whose primary motivation is the revenue Wes's exclusive is sure to generate, to Talking River's high school football coach, who digs in his heels to protect the hallowed image of his childhood friend, Wes struggles against a waxing tide of resistence every step of the way. Only Michael's immediate family understand his purpose, and they lead Wes with measured steps in the right direction with enough—but not too much—information. For there's a hidden personal lesson for Wes in Michael's request, too.

Mr. Garrison selects an intriguing premise for his debut novel and follows it through with a great narrative style. I wish my first novel read as well as Hero's Tribute does—okay, I wish my fourth one did! Delivered in a distinct and engaging voice, Mr. Garrison paces his story fluidly, filling in flashback narratives at just the right time to propel Wes's investigation—and our enlightenment—to a startling ending. We stumble into plot twists along with Wes—one of the most surprising epiphanies coming at the hand of the adorably precocious Addy, Michael's young daughter—as gradually we absorb the lesson Michael is so intent on bequeathing to Talking River.

Excellent story, solidly written and definitely worth the read.
— Bruce Judisch

Product Details:
Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Kregel
ISBN: 978-0-82542-685-8

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

ANGEL HARP by Michael Phillips

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Angel Harp

FaithWords (January 26, 2011)

***Special thanks to Sarah Reck, Web Publicist, Hachette Book Group for sending me a review copy.***


Michael Phillips has been writing in the Christian marketplace for 30 years. All told, he has written, co-written, and edited some 110 books. Phillips and his wife live in the U.S., and make their second home in Scotland.

Visit the author's website.


Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie "Angel" Buchan realizes at 40 that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away. A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined! Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.

The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before. History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it. Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder. Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (January 26, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 044656771X
ISBN-13: 978-0446567718



I thoroughly enjoyed Angel Harp by Michael Phillips. Although Mr. Phillips is writing in the first-person voice of a woman, the story is believable and realistic. His attention to detail and descriptions of Scottish locales sets the mood and makes it easy to imagine oneself there. He also captures the Scottish brogues in a credible manner that doesn’t slow the story.

Mr. Phillips handling of a widow’s loneliness and angst over her former faith is artfully done. Many of her troubling thoughts and questions are some readers may have asked themselves after a tragic loss.

In addition to details about harps, woven into the story are old mysteries and likable characters, as well as music. In an effort to restore her dreams, will this woman find happiness again? Angel Harp is an enjoyable read!
— Gail Lewis

Monday, January 24, 2011


Deborah: Mother of Israel is a comfortable tale of the renowned Old Testament judge (Judges 4-5). The book exalts her as a woman of integrity and faith, endowed by God with extraordinary wisdom. Deborah uses this wisdom to flawlessly dispense justice in difficult civil cases among her countrymen, while continuing in her responsibilities as a young, small-village Israelite woman.
Ms. Lake fills in the Biblical account with skirmishes between the Israelites and their northern nemesis, the Canaanites, under the leadership of the evil Sisera. In one raid by Canaanite soldiers on her village’s livestock, her betrothed is killed, and another villager, Lappidoth, is severely wounded. Deborah helps nurse Lappidoth back to health, a process during which they become attracted to each other, then finally marry (Judges 4:4).

Over the years, the Canaanite oppression becomes so intense, something must be done. The fragmented Israelite tribal confederation seeks unity, looking to Deborah for spiritual leadership and to Barak for military expertise. The story reaches its climax in the battle against Sisera’s overwhelming army, and the Israelite’s subsequent victory, largely due to Deborah’s inspiration.

Ms. Lake strictly follows the Scriptural account of the famous Israelite prophetess, only creating fictional characters and scenes where necessary to propel the historical account to its well-known conclusion. She also scatters snippets of Biblical history throughout the story, providing some insight into the life and times of ancient Israel. The story ends with an antiphonal rendering of Deborah’s and Barak’s song of victory (Judges 5).

Fans of the Old Testament figure of Deborah will likely appreciate Ms. Lake’s pristine rendering of her character. And those who love to loathe the vile Sisera will find plenty to fan their fire in the pages of Deborah: Mother of Israel.

Product Details:
Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Language: English
Publisher: OakTara
ISBN: 978-1-60290-164-3

Sunday, January 16, 2011

AMERICA BY HEART: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag by Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin’s courage is astounding. Despite the mean-spirited media attacks she endured during the presidential campaign, she didn’t go into hiding, back away or adopt a low profile. Unlike Dan Quayle—a good man who’d had enough of the media’s sniping—Palin continues to weather the storms of ridicule and hatred to speak out for what is morale and right for America. She calls it like it is and pulls no punches.

What greater patriotism is there than to sacrifice one’s privacy and serenity, and that of their family as well?

In America by Heart, Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, Sarah Palin stands up for integrity, morality and ethics. She’s proud of our country and its heritage and tells us why. Quoting other courageous, honest, and loyal Americans she points out where our country came from, what it has accomplished, and what it is struggling with today.

For those who fear the Socialist agenda of the Leftist elite currently in power, Sarah gives hope for the future. This book is encouraging and positive—something our country greatly needs now. Many on the Right believe she is the one who can turn our country around and return us to the economic and moral advantages enjoyed during the Reagan era.

America by Heart, Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag is a highly recommended read for all those who love America and believe in a Constitutional Government. Those who don’t should read it too…it might help them see things in a clearer perspective.
— Gail Lewis

Product Details:
Paperback: 270 pages
Language: English
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0-06-201096-4

Monday, January 10, 2011

FLIGHT PLAN by Lee Burns and Braxton Brady

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Flight Plan

PDS Publishing (2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Lee Burns is the headmaster at Presbyterian Day School, an independent school serving over 630 boys in grades PK-6 in Memphis. In addition, Burns is vice-president and on the executive committee of the Elementary School Headmasters Association (a group of approximately 200 headmasters around the country) and is a member of the Country Day School Headmasters Association and the Visionary Heads Group. He served as a task force member to help the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) develop Principles of Good Practice for Middle School Educators. In addition, he has been a presenter at annual conferences of the National Association of Independent Schools, the International Boys' School Coalition, and the Elementary School Headmasters Association.

Burns plays tennis and enjoys squash and most any sport, as well as reading and writing. Lee is married to Sarah, and they have three children. They are members of Second Presbyterian Church, where he serves as a deacon.

Braxton Brady is the chaplain of Presbyterian Day School (PDS) in Memphis, TN. Before coming to PDS, he worked as Bible teacher, athletic director, and assistant principal at Central Day School in Collierville, Tennessee. Brady has served on the boards of various inner city ministries in Memphis. He is a graduate of the Emerging Leaders Program, a program that helps disciple and develop spiritual leaders in the city of Memphis, and founder of Strategic Dads, a ministry that seeks to provide fathers with practical ways to disciple their sons and lead their families.

Brady enjoys spending time with his family, serving in the inner city, and playing golf. He is currently completing his master's degree in theological studies from Covenant Theological Seminary. Brady and his wife, Carrie, have three children.

Visit the book website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Perfect Paperback: 196 pages
Publisher: PDS Publishing (2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615380611
ISBN-13: 978-0615380612


Buckle Up

“Roger, liftoff, and the clock is started.”

- Alan B. Shepard Jr., Astronaut

“It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.”

- Chuck Yeager, General

The engines roar so loudly you can feel your whole body shake as the fighter jet accelerates down the short runway on the aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You can smell the burning fuel. Standing on the deck of the carrier, you can’t even see the fighter pilot inside because his plane is racing by at such an incredible speed. You can, though, sense the power of the great plane and the intensity of the takeoff. Just seconds before, the jet was calmly stationed at the end of the carrier, along with a few other ones. But now, just seconds later, amidst burning fuel and an awesome display of speed, it’s at the end of the runway and quickly airborne, racing up into the blue sky.

But where is the plane going?

Like the fighter jet, you are also about to accelerate down a short runway and take off on a great adventure with many possible missions and destinations. During your childhood, your life has probably been pretty steady and stable for the last few years. Sure, there have been ups and downs and you’ve changed and grown as a boy, but boyhood is usually marked by very slow and gradual development compared to the upcoming season in your life. But soon, instead of just hanging out at the end of the runway with the other fighter jets, instead of slowly taxiing back and forth on the runway, your life is about to accelerate in a very intense and rapid period called adolescence. And at the end of adolescence, you will take off into the sky for an even greater adventure: manhood.

Any fighter pilot will probably tell you that good preparation before the flight is essential to a successful mission. He has spent thousands of hours learning to fly. He has considered problems he could encounter and maneuvers he could use in those dangerous situations. He has tested and serviced the plane. He has filled it up with fuel. He has studied the specific flight plan, considered the weather, and learned the goal and details of the mission. The takeoff is but a few seconds; the mission is but a few hours; but the preparation is years in the making.

You are a man in the making. Before you race down that runway and head up into the sky, it’s important and wise to make sure you are well prepared and equipped for the flight. You’d better make sure you know how to fly the plane and that it has fuel in it. You’d better know what you’re going to do when you come under enemy attack. And, most importantly, you’d better know what the mission is and where you’re going. It’s easy to get lost in the vast sky without a plan.

Manhood is the same way. You’ll be there before you know it, and if you haven’t done your preparations in advance, you can make a lot of unnecessary mistakes as you’re racing down the runway of adolescence. Not only will you make more mistakes without good preparation now, but you can cause yourself—and others—a lot of harm and heartache as well. You can crash on the runway or take off in the wrong direction, and you might never grow into the sort of man God designed you to be. We don’t want you to crash or fly to the wrong destination or get lost in the sky.

This book is designed to give you a mission and flight plan:

We’ll tell you what your purpose is as a man. We’ll tell you what it means to be a man: what your destination is.

We’ll tell you how to accelerate properly and safely down the short runway of adolescence you are about to begin.

We’ll tell you about some problems you are likely to encounter and how you can defeat them before they make you crash or change your flight plan.

We’ll encourage you to get some good co-pilots and flight instructors and technical staff, both your age and older men, who will support and help you on your journey.

So buckle up! The next few years of your life will be a great adventure. Changes like these are on the way:

Your mind, body, emotions and relationships will be changing in ways that you can’t fully understand until you have experienced them.

You will feel new and more intense passions and desires.

You will think about girls, your friends and your parents differently than you do now, and you will relate to them in new ways.

You will think about yourself differently.

You will long for more independence and new challenges.

You will dream new dreams and develop your own identity.

Every adventure also has its share of difficulties and dangers. Self-esteem often dips during your teenage years (though many boys try to hide that on the outside). While you will enjoy and appreciate the increasing freedoms, they will bring temptations that can be hard to resist, and the consequences for a poor decision can be costly. While your body will grow in size and strength, it can be an awkward process with aches and acne. Girls can make your heart race and your heart break. All in all, adolescence can be like riding a roller coaster with many ups and downs.

In this book, we’ll give you as complete and honest of a look at the journey ahead as we can. We want this to be authentic and cover the real issues and temptations that you will likely encounter in the upcoming months and years. We are addressing the topics that boys tell us are on their minds and that teenage boys say they are struggling with. While some of these topics can be embarrassing or difficult, we believe that it is better to know on the front end what you will probably face, and we want to help equip and prepare you for facing them.

But it’s not just the next few years that we care about. We want you to have a vision for the sort of man God wants you to be when you have passed through the adolescent years. That’s our ultimate goal. If you will set your eyes on the final goal—the sort of man you should become—then that will direct you in how you navigate the teenage years. Approaching challenges with the end result in mind is always the best way to begin. Great coaches begin the season talking about where they want the team to be at the end of the season. They talk about conference championships and bowl games and final rankings.

Coaches give their players a playbook to instruct them on how they want the game to be played. God has given you His playbook to help you navigate through the issues that you will be facing in the next few years. Boys are often surprised to hear that the Bible speaks on so many topics. Drinking, peer pressure, friendships, families, girls, even puberty and sex—the Bible gives us perspective and instruction in these matters. It speaks to the role and responsibilities of men. It tells you the sort of man, husband and father you should be one day. It tells all of us how to approach our work and worship and the girls and women in our lives. It talks about our self-worth, our successes, and the stuff we own, use and want to have. It covers difficulties and failures. It tells us about the forgiveness you can experience for all of our mistakes, including ones you may have already committed. We’ll cover all of these topics in this book.

But even more than covering these topics, the Bible describes God’s love for you. Rather than primarily advice and rules, the Bible, most importantly, is the true story of the good news of how much God loves us and how He is seeking to save us. It’s the good news of what He has done for us rather than what we can do for Him. It’s about what we can receive rather than what we must achieve.

We hope that by helping to develop your thinking about these teenage topics and understanding God’s love, grace and pursuit of us, you will grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. Our desire is that one day you will become a better man, husband and father, and we hope that you will, long before then, deepen your faith and walk with the Lord Jesus Christ; we hope you at least begin to explore questions in your mind and heart about who this God of the Bible is and what He means when He says in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has plans to grow and prosper you.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. What are some of the issues that you think will be difficult for you in the next few years?

2. Does the idea of becoming a man scare you or make you nervous? Why or why not?

3. If you could have one question answered about the road ahead for you, what would it be?

4. Is your dad available to talk with you about adolescence and the journey to manhood? If he is not

available, who could you talk to about this important topic?

5. What do you hope to accomplish by reading and studying this book?

6. What is the best piece of advice your dad, mom, adult leader, coach, or mentor has given you so far?

7. How would you define manhood?

8. Do you view the upcoming years of your life as an adventure or just a regular part of your life? Why or why not?

And now, our review:
The models of manhood presented to teen-aged boys in movies and television is representative of the secular, self-centered, irresponsible mindset that is rapidly undermining our societal structure. The subliminal message for young men today is that the good life consists of fast cars, noncommittal relationships, casual sex, drinking, and wild parties.

Given this corrosive influence, how can we expect to raise strong, independent men, self-sacrificing leaders who are good husbands and loving fathers? The sad truth is, we can’t.

Flight Plan is a book that attempts to counter this media onslaught with some straight talk about what it really means to be a man. The book’s format is designed along the lines of a military briefing. Just as fighters pilots must prepare for their mission with a solid Flight Plan, so too a young man must have realistic goals and guidelines to successfully transition into manhood.

I enjoyed the book’s straight forward, no holds barred approach. It’s the man-to-man discussion that every teenage boy needs, but often never gets. If you have a teen, or pre-teen, boy in your life, I recommend it for your consideration. I’m going to see that my 15-year-old grandson gets a copy.
- E G Lewis

Thursday, January 6, 2011


In Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead, Ms. Granfors delivers a unique and convincing perspective on life through the eyes of a coming-of-age Hispanic girl trapped between two identities.

Marisol’s journalist father is dead, an apparent victim of the drug war on the Mexican-American border. In hiding from further danger, his family camps on a dry riverbank in southern California, eking out an existence as migrant workers. Although legally an American citizen, Marisol suffers external pressure from her white peers and the internal angst of a capable adolescent facing an uncertain present and an even less certain future.

One fateful day, a brush fire separates her from her family. She is on her own, albeit with the help of a few friends—some more trustworthy than others—to find her way home. Her goal is to reach her home in Mexico in time to honor her father’s memory on Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Seemingly insurmountable obstacles present themselves during her quest, but the young girl’s tenacity will not be denied. The joy is in the journey.

The author employs the first-person, present tense mode to pull us into Marisol’s world and into her mind. And she does it well. Clever wording—for example, using English idioms nonsensical to a nonnative speaker who is forced to deal with them anyway—lends both humor and pathos to the tale. Ms. Granfors also teaches the reader a lot about Día de los Muertos and its importance to the Mexican culture.

“There are rivers in us all,” her father told her. Marisol’s real quest is to discover where her river leads. Does it truly end at Día de los Muertos, or does it flow beyond?
— Bruce Judisch

Product Details:
Paperback: 280 pages
Language: English
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN-13: 9781453801901
ISBN: 1453801901