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Amish Front Porch Stories–fruits of the Spirit

Amish Front Porch Stories

by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Jean Brunstetter, and Richelle Brunstetter

Amish Front Porch StoriesWhat are the fruits of the Spirit? Galatians 5:22-23 in the New Testament of the Bible states that they are love, joy, peace, longsuffering (a willingness to stick with things), gentleness (kindness), goodness, faith, meekness (not needing to force our way in life), and temperance (self-control). These are certainly admirable qualities for anyone, but do you ever ponder how these play out in the life of a Christian?

Amish Front Porch Stories is a collection of tales by Wanda E. Brunstetter and two other writers from her family. These stories demonstrate the challenges for those trying to live in such a way that the fruits of the Spirit are evident in their lives to the people around them. It is not always easy to submit your will to God to try to be like Jesus. In each story, the main character faces a dilemma, and she learns to recognize a problem in her life like pride or resentment, often with the help of a friend, mentor, or family member. She confesses to God and asks for the Holy Spirit’s power in overcoming the problem.

None of the short stories have overly complicated plots, but they address real issues people face, whether they are Amish or not. I enjoyed reading this as I prepared to go to sleep in the evenings. It was relaxing and helped me focus on positive things rather than worries. Each story ended with a Bible verse that relates to the specific focus of the story.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Christian, General Fiction (Adult)

Publication:  November 1, 2019—Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

“But the most important thing you can do to bring joy back into your life is to think about and quote some Bible verses out loud.”

If your day is hemmed with prayer, it is less likely to unravel.

“Kindness is a good thing. It can heal ourselves and others too.”   “I agree with you. It’s not always easy, but it is worth doing.”

God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road: A Biker’s Devotional

God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road

by Tim Riter

God, a Motorcycle, and the Open RoadI couldn’t imagine what a devotional with a motorcycle focus would be like. If you are a motorcycle rider or aficionado, then the answer found in Tim Riter’s God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road is fascinating, inspiring, and FUN. It could be read over the course of a year with one chapter per week, allowing the reader to absorb and apply the Biblical truths. One day I may do that, but for this reading I devoured, it not wanting to put it aside.

Having logged more than 240,000 miles on two wheels in 46 states, Tim Riter loves short rides, long rides (including Iron Butt), hot and cold rides, solo and group trips. He loves God and sees a strong connection between motorcycling and his faith. The chapters in God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road are formatted to begin with personal anecdotes from Riter’s many motorcycle trips. Then he finds lessons in the stories and connects them to spiritual truths. He finishes each section with “Kick-Starting the Application,” encouraging readers to challenge themselves.

Come along with God and Tim on motorcycle adventures, some painfully hilarious stories by a master storyteller, and some life changing lessons. You will be glad you did.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Harvest House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Religion and Spirituality

Publication:   April 2, 2019—Harvest House Publishers

Memorable Lines:

Why does God sometimes rescue some of his people and not rescue others? I have no clue….But I do trust his love even more than I trust his power. I suspect that’s the key. God’s omniscience trumps our finite knowledge. I’ve seen enough of his love to have faith in it.

Honda’s engineers want to provide the best riding experience. The closer we follow their design, the better we ride. God wants to provide our best life experience. The closer we follow his design, the better we live.

Frankly, leaning on God sometimes makes no more sense to our finite minds than does leaning a bike into a curve at speed. But that lean allows us to get through the curve. And reminding ourselves that God loves us in all of our trials and failures, that he always works for good, allows us to survive the curves of life.

Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life is Hard

Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life is Hard

by Tracie Miles

Love Life AgainI can’t think of anyone who hasn’t encountered some difficult circumstance or season in their life. In Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life is Hard, Tracie Miles offers a different perspective on life for the person struggling. She walks the reader through many aspects of looking to enjoy the life you have even if it is not the life you hoped for. This is not a list of tips and tricks, although each chapter does end with a challenge, questions to reflect on, an action item, a prayer, and an invitation to smile.

Tracie comes alongside you as a friend, one who has experienced the depths of desperation herself. She encourages you to recognize Satan as the enemy and to fight back by drawing closer to God. She shares the importance of loving and valuing yourself and reaching out to help others. She advocates forgiving yourself, if needed, and forgiving those who have wronged you. As you work through the book, Tracie will help you focus on God and the people God puts in your path. She will show you how to turn complaining into praising and convert stressful thinking into thankfulness. Tracie Miles is not offering an instant remedy, but she is sharing a road to contentment through faith in Christ and by drawing close to his sheltering love.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction

Notes: written primarily for women

Publication:   August 1, 2018—David C. Cooke

Memorable Lines:

Sweet friend, you don’t have to search for a different life in order to enjoy life; you simply have to embrace the one you have by putting Christ at the center and asking Him to help you enjoy life, despite life.

There came a time I had to accept that my life had not turned out the way I thought it would and no amount of wishing it were different was going to change it.

All too often we think our enemy is society, people, circumstances, or hardships. But the reality is that Satan is our enemy, not people or circumstances. While he is not in control of this world and what happens, he can wage war on our hearts and minds. He can convince us that we have a right to be grumpy and no reason to be joyful. He can feed us nagging lies to keep us discouraged, angry, unforgiving, or without hope.

Who Do You Say That I AM?: A Fresh Encounter for a Deeper Faith

Who Do You Say That I AM?

by Becky Harling

Who Do You Say That I AM?Welcome to Who Do You Say That I AM?, an eight week Bible study by Becky Harling. I knew this was a study I wanted to experience as soon as I read the title. Jesus’ question to His disciples “Who do you say that I am?” has always made me pause. He was giving them an opportunity to think through what they knew about Him and make a declaration of faith. This Bible study gives us a chance to do the same thing. It examines what Jesus said about Himself in eight I AM statements, all recorded by His disciple John in the New Testament of the Bible.

Harling has a comfortable style of writing as she sets up her lessons (5/week) in a way that encourages the reader to delve into Scriptures looking for meaning based on the original Hebrew words. She guides the reader in the process so it is a facet of the study: it is not overwhelming or overly pedantic. The reader is always encouraged to apply the truths to her own life. There are practical tips as well, such as compiling an emergency Scripture kit for the tough times. She also emphasizes praise songs and prayer in each lesson. Each lesson is put in a cultural context including a Bible story or a recounting of personal experiences in contemporary settings.

Who Do You Say That I AM? will get you involved in really examining what Jesus says about Himself. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus yet, this could be the book that helps you understand the claims of the Bible (God’s Word) and make a decision. If you are already a follower of Jesus, this book is a great way to learn more about Him and turn your focus on Him moment by moment as you make your way through each day.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Moody Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian

Notes: Bible study

Publication:  February 6, 2018—Moody Publishing

Memorable Lines:

In a culture that devalued women, Jesus makes His first I AM statement to a woman! While religious systems often devalue women, Jesus honors women.

The two best weapons I know for fighting Satan when he tries to throw guilt and shame at you are: Praise and Scripture.

Human love, wonderful as it is, will at some level disappoint us and let us down. It is only Christ’s perfect, infinite, complete love that comes with the promise of satisfaction.

As I began to be intentional about worshipping Jesus Christ every morning, the Holy Spirit began to radically change my life. Fear turned to courage, worry turned to calm, and doubt turned to faith. I now believe that becoming intentional in the realm of praise is essential for every believer.

Lies Women Believe–and the Truth that Sets them Free

Lies Women Believe

by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Lies Women BelieveLies Women Believe is a hard hitting book that encourages women to overcome problems in their lives by following Biblical principles rather than the lies of Satan as broadcast through the untrue words of others, whether family, friends, the media (both news and social), books, and movies. The author, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, has written chapters on various problem issues for women such as parenting, sexuality, and marriage. After explaining how sin began with lies that Satan told Eve in the garden of Eden, Wolgemuth starts each chapter with an imagined journal entry depicting Eve’s life experiences and the consequences of sin as it applies to that chapter’s topic. She then discusses the topic in depth including lots of Scripture to support her stance and many related examples from  friends and from women who have attended her conference sessions. She ties up each chapter with the lies Satan tells about the topic and counters each lie with God’s truth and supporting Scripture references.

One of the chapters I think is excellent is “Lies Women Believe About Children.” In it Wolgemuth discusses the “Mommy Wars” where mothers engage in the comparison game considering themselves failures or better than other mothers. She clarifies that there are many choices that parents make that are simply that—choices. There is no Scriptural basis for the decision. She writes that parents need to pray about the choice as each family is different. An example would be schooling—homeschool, private, or public? Mothers should not look down on others based on their choices in areas like that.

As a reviewer I read this book over the course of several days, and I must admit to being overwhelmed about three-fourths of the way through. The book is Scripturally based, well written, and has great organization. The problem is that as I read each section, I found myself second-guessing past decisions and choices that I feel sure were made with God’s leadership. I suspect this kind of condemnation and doubt is not what Wolgemuth intended. I think God wants us to step out in confidence based on trust in Him. I do not think the unease in my heart is God moving in my life, but Satan using a good book to sow seeds of doubt. I understand the importance of thinking and praying about our choices in the light of God’s Word and because of this book I will be more aware in the future of the way Satan uses lies and half-truths to change our thinking.

I found the last part of Lies Women Believe to be especially helpful; so if you are having a hard time with some of the issues, I suggest you keep reading. The chapter “Lies About Circumstances” addresses this all encompassing part of life, which we all go through in various ways, in a very practical manner. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was reading about condemnation and perfection, but about how real women survive real circumstances with the help of a very real God. I also found the last two chapters “Countering Lies with the Truth” and “The Truth that Sets us Free” to be very practical and an offering of hope for the future.

 

In conclusion, my “take away” from Lies Women Believe is to be more aware of the many subtle forms of attack by Satan. At the same time I will keep Isaiah 26:3 in remembrance: “ You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Moody Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Christian

Notes: This is a major update and expansion of the original version.

Publication: February 6, 2018—Moody Publishing

Memorable Lines:

What we read or hear may sound right, may feel right, may seem right—but if it’s contrary to the Word of God, it isn’t right.

Like a rock thrown into a pond, the ripples caused by sin go on and on. If only we could see that every single sin is a big deal, that every sin is an act of rebellion and cosmic treason, that every time we choose our way instead of God’s way, we are revolting against the God and King of the universe.

Through His sinless life, His death on Calvary as the sinner’s substitute, and His victorious resurrection, we can be fully forgiven for all our sin, we can be reconciled to the God we have offended, and we can have the power to live holy lives.

Fierce Faith–the making of a battle plan

Fierce Faith

by Alli Worthington

Fierce FaithAlthough we all know how to put on our “Sunday” faces for those who don’t know us intimately, we all have struggles of one kind or another. In her book Fierce Faith, Alli Worthington gets real with Christian women. She gives us a “battle plan against the fear, worry, and anxiety” that want to pull you down. She uses anecdotes to illustrate the kinds of battles that we face and identifies that the attack usually comes from the spiritual realm. She offers Scriptural promises and practical applications and ways of fighting back with a “fierce faith.”

Worthington addresses issues you may not even know you have because you avoid confronting them by strategies such as staying busy, bingeing on a variety of things, or becoming numb. I don’t consider myself a fearful person, but I got zinged a number of times as she addressed fear of betrayal, rejection, and an uncertain future. Some might identify with FOMO (the fear of missing out) which began with Adam and Eve but is put on steroids by social media. Fear of failure and not measuring up are other common forms of attack.

Alli Worthington offers practical help for common problems. She encourages the reader to trust God and explains how to do that. I recommend this book for all Christians regardless of where you are in your faith walk.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Zondervan for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian

Notes: The end of the book has workbook like pages to help the reader develop a person battle plan.

Publication:  January 23, 2018—Zondervan

Memorable Lines:

Fear doesn’t have to stem from some catastrophic event that cripples us. Everyday worries can be as crippling as catastrophes. Fear often stems from small worries and anxiety that build up over time, eventually shutting us down or causing us to explode.

Sometimes the illness or disability isn’t cured, the financial hardships aren’t resolved, the bad news doesn’t change, but when we throw ourselves at Jesus’s feet, he gives us what we need to walk through our difficult seasons and to fight against the storms that darken our skies.

You can choose to believe the truth that Jesus has a purpose for you beyond your failures and allow him to rewrite your story. Our futures are already claimed by God; we don’t have to stay stuck in a cycle of fear and failure. Failure doesn’t have to be your story. He is still writing your story.

Any Dream Will Do–a sweet story of second chances

Any Dream Will Do

by Debbie Macomber

Any Dream Will DoAny Dream Will Do is a story of second chances and redemption. Shay’s background sets her up to feel obligated to sacrifice for her brother Caden to make up for poor choices.  Upon release from a three year stay at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, her path crosses that of Drew, a widowed pastor with two children who is unable to move past the death of his wife. Neither is seeking a relationship and both have issues and problems they need to work through. As people of faith they attempt to do that carefully and using biblical principles as a moral compass.

Echoes of the past reverberate in the lives of Drew and Shay emphasizing that although they may get a second chance at happiness, there are no do-overs in life. The decisions of yesterday do affect the opportunities of today.

I like the characters in the book. Although the reader can see where the storyline is going, the characters are so amiable that you want to keep reading to watch the events play out. Also, the author Debbie Macomber keeps the plot interesting with unexpected complications.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Ballantine) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Christian

Notes: #4 in the New Beginnings Series (a thematic series, not dependent on continuing characters)

Publication:   August 8, 2017— Random House (Ballantine)

Memorable Lines:

One day I hoped to marry a man like him. Not a pastor, but a decent man who wasn’t into drugs or cheating or hitting women. Sounds simple, right? Well, from my experience those men were far and few between, and if I did happen upon one, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d recognize him.

I found the kindness factor among those who lived on the streets humbling. for the most part the homeless never took what they didn’t need. Often if they knew of someone else who was doing without, then they would accept it to hand off for another.

And with help I’d found a way to forgive him, not because he’d asked or because he deserved my forgiveness. I’d done it for my own peace of mind, to unburden the heavy load of resentment, refusing to cart it around any longer. That didn’t mean I was willing to be drawn back into his craziness, however.

30 Days in the Land of the Psalms: a Holy Land Devotional

30 Days in the Land of the Psalms: A Holy Land Devotional

by Charles H. Dyer

30 DaysA devotional is such a personal kind of writing. Readers bring their backgrounds to the process. Then the Holy Spirit uses the author’s words, guiding their thoughts and providing inspiration for understanding and change. As a reviewer, I read 30 Days in the Land of the Psalms: A Holy Land Devotional daily to capture the devotional experience.

The author, Charles H. Dyer, has a lifetime of experiences in the Holy Land, having led many tours as a licensed guide. He also has outstanding academic credentials, and I am sure he knows more about the Bible than I ever will. He excels at analyzing the structure of each psalm. I discovered at the end of my reading that I had noted many more memorable passages than usual. Dyer’s format is to draw the reader into the psalm with a description of the area the psalm would have been written in or about and some historical background. Next he talks about the format of the psalm in terms of the repetition that is so important in Hebrew poetry and why it was written the way it was. Lastly he includes a section, “Walking in Our Land,” which applies the psalm to the reader’s life.

While 30 Days in the Land of the Psalms: A Holy Land Devotional has many good points, it did not offer personal inspiration for me. I have two major criticisms. As someone who has led forty tours in the Holy Land, he could have included more photographs and they could have aligned better with the point he was trying to make. Also, his efforts to make the book sound like a tour fell flat for me. An example is his writing in several chapters as if someone had posed a question, “I am glad you asked that question.”

I found 30 Days in the Land of the Psalms: A Holy Land Devotional to be an acceptable devotional, but not sufficiently interesting to encourage me to purchase other devotionals by this author.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Moody Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Devotional

Publication: May 2, 2017—Moody Publishing

Memorable Lines:

Whether we’re facing life’s struggles or rejoicing in God’s blessings, it seems we can always find a psalm that matches the mood of our spirit. And that’s what make the book of Psalms a songbook for all occasions.

The enemy might be somewhere just outside the city, but God is still seated calmly on His throne in heaven—and nothing takes the God of heaven by surprise.

We can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we’re going to respond. David had enemies, but during those times of trouble he also experienced God’s loyal love. And remembering how God had worked in the past gave him confidence that God would continue to bless the rest of his life. He rested in the presence of God.

Pride (the attitude that I can do it all myself) and impatience (thinking I want it all now) bring us into conflict with God…while humility and a sense of patient trust place us in proper relationship to Him.

False Fire–no milquetoast in sight!

False Fire

by Veronica Heley

False FireThe author of False Fire, Veronica Heley, 83 years old and creator of over 70 books, just made my “go to” mystery writer list. The list is short; it starts and ends with Agatha Christie. At no point in reading False Fire did I want to put it down. There were no artificial hooks to keep me reading—it was the action of the plot. It just kept moving at such a rapid pace, starting with the first chapter, that I was compelled to devour the book.

The writing was well-done, and the characters were interesting. Heley has created a main character in Bea Abbot who is resourceful, observant, and intelligent. She runs the Abbot Agency—for domestics, not detectives. In False Fire, Bea is attending a dinner when a fire breaks out in the home, followed by an explosion and power outages. There is general mayhem and children to be rescued. Later Bea has to sort through the relationships of a very dysfunctional family to try to discover the arsonist. Was the crime, in fact, arson? There are many Britishisms but most are understandable within the context, and all add to the fun of reading a book by a British author.

I am so grateful to have found this prolific author. Although I enjoy the diversity of themes and ideas in cozy mysteries, I appreciate even more a mystery like this one that is hardcore in the sense that the focus is the developing plot. At the same time, there is not a detailed description of violence or sex. The language is always appropriate. While this is in no way a Christian book, the author’s faith is evident as she has her main character pray for help on several occasions. Both the main character and the mystery should be described as “strong”: no evidence of milquetoast in sight!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #11 in the Abbot Agency series, but easily read like a standalone for me

Publication:   April 1, 2017—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

The other girl was a sweetie, but not exactly the Brain of Britain.

Bernice gave alternate mouthfuls to Teddy, who was assuming a careworn appearance. Much loving can do that to you.

The man plunged down the corridor, disappearing into tendrils of smoke which curled about the figure and obscured him from Bea’s view. She stumbled after him, straining her eyes to see through the mist, which thickened and darkened as they advanced.

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