Friday, September 23, 2011

‘A Lancaster County Christmas’ by Suzanne Woods Fisher – Book Review

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What a joy it is to read another book by Suzanne Woods Fisher! The latest to add to my list is ‘A Lancaster County Christmas.’

Here is the synopsis of this book:

Mattie Riehl was hoping to give her husband, Sol, the Christmas gift they had both longed for – news that a baby was on the way. But as usual, she is disappointed. The holidays bring an acute awareness to Mattie that her dream of a big Amish family isn’t likely to become a reality. Will those empty chairs at the table ever be filled?
Then a winter storm raging outside blows an impatient young woman and her husband into the Riehl home on Christmas Eve – and into a much slower pace of life.
Both couples are about to find out if they can weather the storm – and if miracles still happen at Christmastime.

Here is the biography of this author:

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, and The Search - the bestselling Lancaster County Secrets series. Her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He eventually became publisher of Christianity Today magazine. Her interest in living a simple, faith-filled life began with her Dunkard cousins.
Suzanne is also the author of Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World, and Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life, both finalists for the ECPA Book of the Year award. She is the host of Amish Wisdom, a weekly radio program on She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay area. When Suzanne isn’t writing or bragging to her friends about her new first grandbaby, she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne’s way of thinking…you just can’t take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in its mouth.

I love the fact that this book featured a character from one of Suzanne’s previous novels from the ‘Lancaster County Secrets’ series, ‘The Choice,’ Solomon Riehl! I often am felt wanting to know ‘the rest of the story’ – and this time, I was able to visit Solomon again. It was wonderful!

Another thing that I love about this book is the fact that I was so envious of the English woman, Jaime Fitzpatrick, being able to spend time with an Amish family. I have had a fascination with the Plain People since I was a child. I always have admired their faith and their dedication to family and friends. It would be a dream to spend time with them! So it was amazing to get an inside glimpse into their lives through the eyes of an outsider.

As usual, Suzanne’s story is full of interesting side plots. One of the most interesting to me was that involving Mattie’s cousin, Zach, who was contemplating leaving the Amish church in search of the intrigue of the outside world. It was fascinating to get inside his mind to see the reasoning behind his thought process on that major life change.

Suzanne shares the Gospel in all of her work, and this book is no exception. Here she glorifies God through an exchange between Mattie and Jaime. Here is Mattie’s perspective:

“I believe God reveals his loving nature in all kinds of wondrous ways. Every single day. From sunrises and sunsets, to the families he’s given to us to share this life, to---”…. “to birds and animals. To the greatest miracle of all – the birth of the Christ child, a holy God entering into his creation to redeem it. God’s perfect love is all around us, Jaime. But if you shut your eyes to all the light he has given to you, you can’t see the evidence of his love.” (p. 155)

Ultimately, both couples were enriched by meeting the other. They learned important truths from each other. Their meeting was definitely a divine appointment. Those are always wonderful when they happen!

I have had the joy and pleasure of reading several books by Suzanne - Book One in the Lancaster County Secrets’ series, ‘The Choice’ (you can read my review here), Book Two, ‘The Waiting’ (you can read my review here), Book Three, ‘The Search’ (you can read my review here), ‘Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life’ (you can read that review here) and ‘Amish Values for Your Family: What We Can Learn From the Simple Life' (you can read my blog post here). Not surprising, I loved this book! Suzanne is such a talented writer, and so creative! I believe Suzanne’s writing is a gift from God, and it is awesome that she uses that gift for His glory.

As has been the case in the past, I look forward to her next book, ‘The Keeper,' the first book in her Stoney Ridge Seasons series; it will be released in January, 2012. Thank you, Revell, for bringing more SWF books to us!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I am happy to be participating in the blog tour for this book through the LitFuse Group along with these other bloggers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

‘Young Love’ by Mat Kearney – CD Review

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In the almost two years that I have been reviewing on my blog, this is the first time I have reviewed a CD. I was given the opportunity to review ‘Young Love’ by Mat Kearney. I have several friends who are fans of his, although I was not familiar with his music. Since I trust my friends’ judgment, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

Here is Mat’s biography, as taken from Wikipedia:

Mathew Kearney (pronounced /ˈkɑrni/; born December 1, 1978) is an American musician born in Eugene, Oregon, now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Kearney has received critical acclaim and widespread recognition for his Columbia Records debut, Nothing Left to Lose. So far, he has a total of four top 20 hits on the Adult Top 40 Chart.
Mat was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon with his two brothers. In high school, Mat devoted much of his time to painting, graffiti, soccer, poetry, and music, though he was not playing music at the time. His favorite artists growing up ranged from A Tribe Called Quest to Bob Dylan.
He attended California State University, Chico in Chico, California where he majored in literature and played soccer until his junior year. It was also at this time when Mat picked up a guitar for the first time. Using a roommate's guitar, he tried covering other songs. Realizing he was not too good at it, he began writing his own. Though things were going well for Kearney at school, Chico caught up to him. At a school known for its partying, Mat fit right in. In an interview, Mat said, "I guess I lived it up and did what everyone said you should do in college. I discovered the depth of depravity, the bleakness of that lifestyle. It just wasn’t working. I finally started understanding there must be more to life." Mat continued, "God found me when I was at my lowest point. That was the first time in my life when I really felt like I understood who Jesus was- it was more than knowing about Him, I felt like He met me in that time and place."
As stated in that section, Mat is a Christian. However, he is not classified as a  Christian singer/songwriter. Often, that classification can be restrictive to the artist in terms of whether or not people will be accepting and willing to listen. So Mat has the advantage of being able to share his faith with those who may never hear the Good News.

Here is an interview with Mat as he discusses making music:

Seems like a really cool guy!

I really love Mat’s voice! It is rich and full, and passionate. And his lyrics are Many CDs are released when there are only a few worthwhile tracks. I found all of them to be incredible! My favorite one is ‘Sooner or Later.’ Here is a live version of that catchy tune!:

This is Mat’s third release; the other two are ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ and ‘City of Black & White.’ From what I have learned, this CD is in keeping with those two releases. As much as I enjoyed this one, I plan on getting my hands on those two also!

You can order this CD here.

This CD was released by Universal Republic and provided by One2One Network for review purposes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

‘Mirror Ball: Living Boldly and Shining Brightly for the Glory of God’ by Matt Redman – Book Review

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One of my favorite Christian singer/songwriters is Matt Redman. I had the pleasure of reading his wife, Beth’s, book ‘God Knows My Name: Never Forgotten, Forever Loved’ last year (you can read my review here). So when I was presented the opportunity to read his latest book, ‘Mirror Ball,’ I knew I wanted to take advantage!

Here is the synopsis of this book:

Passion is more than a song or a feeling. It’s a story of guts and glory, perseverance and purpose. For anyone who follows Jesus, passion is a way of life. But how do we live out this grand calling?
In Mirror Ball, worship leader and songwriter Matt Redman reminds us it’s never too late to live a big life. We are wide-eyed worshippers, stunned by a glorious God and living life with high expectations of all we can become in Him.
When the wonder of God really takes hold on the inside, a life of worship explodes out in every possible direction. Mirror Ball is a call to get a great big view of Jesus and then live as boldly and brightly as we can for His honor.
You may never be the same….

Here is the biography of this author:

Matt Redman is married to Beth and they have five children: Maisey, Noah, Rocco, Jackson, and Levi. Based in Brighton, England, they are part of St. Peter’s, a new church planted out of Holy Trinity Brompton in London. They are excited about the challenge of working in a city that is currently one of the most unchurched in the UK. Previously they were a part of Passion City Church in Atlanta with pastors Louie and Shelley Giglio, and they continue to work alongside the Passion movement.
Matt has been leading worship full-time since the age of twenty, and this journey has taken him to countries such as South Africa, Japan, India, Australia, Germany, Uganda, Croatia, and the Czech Republic.
His early compositions include such songs as “The Heart of Worship,” “Better is One Day,” and “Once Again.” More recent songs have included “Blessed Be Your Name” and “You Never Let Go,” both written with his wife, Beth, to encourage Christians to worship God through the storms of life. As Matt explained, “’Blessed Be Your Name’ is a declaration of something that we’ve both found to be true in the tough seasons of life – that to worship God and trust Him no matter what is always the best path to take. The song ‘You Never Let Go’ takes up the same theme – it starts off with some thoughts from Psalm 23 and reminds us that no matter what we come across in life, there is a God who is in control, closer than we could ever know, and holding us.” Most recently, Matt has written songs such as “You Alone Can Rescue” with regular cowriter Jonas Myrin and “Our God” with Myrin, Chris Tomlin, and Jesse Reeves.  
Matt is also the author of several books, which all center around the theme of worship. The Unquenchable Worshipper unpacks what a healthy heart of worship might look like and how that translates into the lives we lead. Facedown explores how we can paint a big picture of God through both our songs and actions. The third book, Blessed Be Your Name, coauthored with Beth, is an encouragement to trust in the sovereignty and goodness of God, even when doing so seems costly. Matt has also compiled two other books – The Heart of Worship Files and Inside-Out Worship – both of which contain practical worship-leading advice from many experienced leaders from around the globe.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing one of Matt’s powerful songs, here is one of my favorites, ‘Nothing But the Blood:’

Matt is very passionate about taking action in our faith. He explains that that is also what Jesus expected:

After the events of the cross and resurrection, Jesus meets with Peter, and the lessons in love continue. Following the disciple’s failure to acknowledge Jesus on the day of His death, the risen Savior has a question for Him: “Do you truly love me?” (John 21:15).
He goes on to ask the same question two more times. And then after each time Peter answers, “You know that I love you,” Jesus urges him, “Feed my sheep” (vv. 15-17). There are many themes and ideas implied in His words here, but one of them surely is a call to action. For we can tell Christ we love Him again and again and again – we can whisper it, shout it, or sing it. But in the end, only a life of devotion will breathe meaning into these words. Jesus tells Peter how he can put his spoken declarations of love into action – “Feed my sheep.” And from that moment on we witness Peter doing just that – faithfully ministering to the people of God as his act of worship. He completes the integrity of his spoken responses with an obedient and consistent life. (p. 36)

This book came to me at a low period in my faith. It contains really valuable truths, including this reminder of God’s grandness:

If we live our lives with low expectations in God, we will rob ourselves of a fulfilled life and massively dilute the honor that is due Him. If instead we can step into the realm of faith, we will bring pleasure to the heart of God and enjoy the wonder of adventuring in His purposes. When God has spoken to us, we can be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not yet see. (p. 57)

Here is another important reminder:

In a world where all others may falter or fail, Jesus remains constant. When we are inconsistent, still He remains utterly dependable and steadfast. Life is ever fragile and changeable, but He alone stands solid and secure. Our God is unshakeable, unchanging, unwavering, unfading, unfaltering, unswerving, and unending. He announces His faithfulness and is never found to be lacking. He is the spotless and unfailing King of glory. He is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. He illuminates situations. He beautifies lives. He exposes and expels darkness. He brightens the path of those who seek Him. Whenever He radiates His glory, nothing stays the same. For now and all eternity, our God is everything He says He is. (pp. 72-73)

Only a person who truly knows the Lord would be able to write a passage like that!

I love this convicting paragraph:

If you meet a Christian whose story is dull, reserved, and devoid of action, then there’s something seriously wrong. God designed us to be fascinated with life, never bored with it. We are called to take great delight in looking outwardly and not simply living inwardly. We are to be characterized by hope and joy, not dragged down by cynicism and apathy. The kingdom life should flow with surprises and mark us with freedom and adventure. (p. 89)

Here is one more amazing revelation:

There is more going on around us than we could ever realize. God is at work. He is not distant, dormant, or docile. He never sleeps and never grows tired or weary. He is the powerful, promise-keeping and change-breathing God. The doors He opens no one can close, and the doors He closes cannot be opened. His words never return to him empty. He is always at work in you and all around you. The one who wove together the intricacies of this universe gets up close and personal and cares about the details of your situation. He is powerful and present; He is interested and involved. We must not exist merely on a diet of what we see reported on TV, what Internet blogs say, or what local conversations tell us. We must look up and see His bigger picture. (p. 99)

Often in this fallen world, we need a reminder that God is always near. We also need to remember that our actions here have an impact on eternity:

We soon begin to see that our everyday moments can count for something eternally. We walk this earth with one eye on the horizon – aware of all that’s going on around us in this world and in our individual situations – but knowing that God is working out His everlasting purposes. We will not become spiritual mystics unable to connect those heavenly scenes with our earthly existences – actually, quite the opposite. We will get a grip on the greatest reality of all, seeing destiny at work in the daily, and the eternal injected into the everyday. We will then walk in the knowledge that the sovereign One is unveiling His marvelous plans all around us and that even one act of compassion, one gospel-centered conversation, or one prayer of intercession could have eternal consequences in the life of someone we meet. In faith we start to believe that the salvation, hope, healing, and rescue of Jesus can break into the lives of our friends, families, or colleagues at any moment. (p. 103)    

This book is a quick read – but it’s rich, as are his songs. The book includes a Discussion Guide at the end. The Discussion Guide is explained this way:

This guide uses each chapter of Mirror Ball and many of Matt’s songs – including some of the very newest songs from his album, 10,000 Reasons – as a launching pad into honest discussion of the ideas, challenges, and biblical themes raised. If you’re going through this guide with a group, your spouse, or a friend, try to remain open, honest, and compassionate in your discussion, and if you feel comfortable, pray through each session before your begin. (p. 109)

I really appreciate Matt’s heart for the Lord, and how he shares it with all of us!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by David C. Cook and provided by the B & B Media Group for review purposes.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Winner of 'Train Your Brain, Transform Your Mind' Is.....

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We have a winner of the interesting book entitled 'Train Your Brain, Transform Your Mind: Conquer Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in 60 Days, Without Ritalin' by Nicky Vanvalkenburgh. That blessed person is....


Congratulations, Shana! I will be in touch shortly!

For those of you who would like to read this innovative book, you can order it here.

Thanks for coming by my blog; please come back soon!

Friday, September 16, 2011

‘Blue Skies Tomorrow’ by Sarah Sundin – Book Review

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I have been blogging and reviewing long enough now (about a year and a half) that I have had the pleasure of reading entire book series. Such is the case with the Wings of Glory series by the lovely Sarah Sundin. The last book in the series is ‘Blue Skies Tomorrow.’

Here is the synopsis of this book:

In a time of peril, can they find the courage to confront their fears and embrace a love that lasts?
When her husband becomes a casualty of war in the Pacific, Helen Carlisle throws herself into volunteering for the war effort to conceal her feelings. But keeping up appearances as the grieving widow of a hometown hero is taking its toll. Soon something is going to give.
Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit. His stateside job training B-17 pilots allow him the luxury of a personal life – and a conventional excuse to ignore her deepest fear. When the beautiful Helen catches his eye and captures his heart, he is determined to win her hand.
But when Ray and Helen are called upon to step out in faith and put their reputations and their lives on the line, can they meet the challenges that face them? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?
Filled with drama, daring, and all the romance of the WWII era, Blue Skies Tomorrow is the captivating final book in the popular Wings of Glory series.

Here is the biography of this author:

Sarah Sundin is the author of A Distant Melody and A Memory Between Us. She lives in northern California with her husband, three children, a cat, and a yellow lab prone to eating pens and manuscripts. She works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. Her grand-uncle flew with the U.S. Eighth Air Force in England. Please visit her online at,, or

I’ve had the pleasure to read the other books in this series (you can read my review of ‘A Distant Melodyhere and ‘A Memory Between Ushere. According to Sarah’s website, “I’m currently editing In Every letter, the first book in the Wings of the Nightingale series.” So glad to hear that this talented author – and wonderful lady – has another series on its way!

As with the other books in the series, this book is superb! Sarah has such a talent for writing; it shines through on every page.

Here is one example of a fine piece of writing; her word picture is vivid:

She shifted two-year-old Jay-Jay higher on her hip and inhaled the Delta breeze, flowing fresh from the San Francisco Bay into the Sacramento River Delta, rain-scrubbed and scented by new grass on the hills. (p. 9)

Mrs. Sundin always does a fine job in bringing Jesus into her stories. Here’s an example of the main character Helen’s outreach to the Lord:

        “Lord, help me, I can’t bear it.”
A whisper. The softest whisper in her ear. He knew. Jesus knew what she had endured. He’d endured it too. He was beaten and scarred. He understood.
For the first time, she yielded to his comfort. Jesus didn’t take away her tear, he received them. He didn’t take away the memories, he shared them. He didn’t take away the hurts, he felt them. Somehow, with the Lord, she could bear it. (pp. 142-143)

Sarah’s books in this series bring history to life. She has done a lot of research on life during World War II, on both sides of the pond (in the United States and in Europe). One can learn a lot about the history of our country, and what those in the ‘Greatest Generation’ endured.

The ending was very sweet! I was happy to spend some time with the courageous and amazing Novak brothers, and the lovely women in their lives! And I thank the lovely Mrs. Sundin for sharing these stories with us.

You can order this book here.

This book is published by Revell Publishers and was provided by them for review purposes.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

We Have a Winner of 'A Scarlet Cord of Hope'!

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The Random Number Generator has chosen a winner for 'A Scarlet Cord of Hope' by Sheryl Griffin. That blessed person is....


Congratulations, Rebecca! I will be emailing you to get your mailing address.

Thanks so much to Sheryl for providing this copy and allowing this giveaway to happen!

For those of you who did not win, thanks for entering! This book is really worthwhile, and you can order it here.

There will be more giveaways to come; please stay tuned and come back often!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Guest Article - Nicky VanValkenburgh + Book Giveaway

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Today, I want to share with you some information on an alternative treatment to ADHD and introduce you to Nicky VanValkenburgh, author of ‘Train Your Brain, Transform Your Life: Conquer ADHD in 60 Days, Without Ritalin.’ I am an advocate of any treatment that does not involve pharmaceuticals, which are so overprescribed in this country. I thank Ms. VanValkenburgh for sharing this interesting therapy with us.

A Natural, Drug-Free Way to Conquer ADHD: Brain Training Using Light and Sound Technology

It looks like something out of a science fiction movie. A pair of "omni-screen" eyeglasses, headphones, and a control box with pre-programmed sessions. How it works is that you put on the gear, cover up with a blanket, and zone out. You wake up 22 minutes later. That’s when you discover something amazing has happened. Now, you have laser-like concentration, focus, better memory, increased organization, and it's easier to get things done during the day. In effect, you have trained your brain using “light and sound” technology. 

The program is a 60-day home-based ALERT "brain training" that promises to help you conquer Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without hyperactivity. It’s used by children and adults, and is a natural alternative to drugs (which are traditionally used to treat ADHD). 

“The ALERT system uses mild flashing lights and synchronized heartbeat sounds. It’s audio-visual and it works to stabilize, fine tune, and normalize brainwaves,” contends Nicky VanValkenburgh, author of “Train Your Brain, Transform Your Life: Conquer ADHD in 60 Days, Without Ritalin.” 

In her book, VanValkenburgh explains that her ALERT brain training system teaches you the Rhythm of Peak Performance, which was discovered by UCLA neuroscientist Dr. Barry Sterman, as far back as 1968. 

“It’s the rhythm of a person who is optimally listening, focusing, remembering, tuning out distractions, and getting things done. It’s the person we all want to be,” she said. V
anValkenburgh explained that the ALERT brain training system works with the principle of “practice makes perfect, and repetition creates mastery.” 

“By using the machine, you’re actually practicing the Rhythm of Peak Performance, until you master it. That is when it becomes an automatic response, and you can do it without the brain training machine."

Although VanValkenburgh wrote the book on this natural remedy for ADHD, her “brain training” system was invented by a school psychologist, Michael Joyce, and an engineer, Dave Siever, who also manufactures the device in Canada for Mind Alive, Inc. VanValkenburgh is a licensed retailer of the brain training system, and sells it online at 

ADHD is a behavioral disorder that affects up to 1 in 20 children in America (according to World Psychiatry, 2003.) Other statistics suggest that 4 out of every 6 adults have ADHD (USA Today, 2011.) The ADHD diagnosis is based on a subjective behavioral and clinical evaluation, and drug treatment is the most common form of treatment. The ADHD treatment market exceeds $4 billion, and ADHD affects over 12 million Americans, with less than 25% are currently diagnosed and treated.

“The problem with ADHD drugs such as Ritalin, Dexedrine and Adderall is that they’re amphetamines and chemically similar to cocaine,” says VanValkenburgh. Her book lists 12 compelling reasons to avoid ADHD drugs, all backed up by references, including government warnings published by the FDA and CDC. 

“The problem with Ritalin is that it covers up the symptoms, much like aspirin masks the pain of a broken leg. If you have a broken leg, you can take aspirin to numb the pain, but it isn’t doing anything to heal your leg,” said VanValkenburgh. "
It’s the same thing with Ritalin; it’s like sitting on a tack. You could take medication for relief, but the best treatment is removing the tack. If you want to get to the root of the problem, once and for all, grab that tack and pull it out!” 

She contends that her brain training program is a way to make permanent and lasting changes in the brain. Plus it’s so easy that “you can do it lying flat on your back, with your eyes closed.”

“It’s been described as the lazy way to get rid of ADHD, but it’s also a brain training method that’s based in neurotherapy, and is supported by a review of scientific literature.”

VanValkenburgh’s book, “Train Your Brain, Transform Your Life: Conquer ADHD In 60 Days, Without Ritalin” was voted “Best Self-Improvement Book of 2011” by the Mom’s Choice Awards and “Best Motivational Book” by the Reader’s Favorite Awards. It is available at online retailers, such as and Barnes &, as well as her website.

Ms. VanValkenburgh has generously offered a copy of her book to one blessed person here on my blog. There are several ways to enter:

1) Comment on this blog, telling me why you think this book would be of help to you. Please leave your email address in this format: sample at gmail dot com.

2) Check out the free downloads at her website and tell me which one you downloaded. Please leave a separate comment to that effect, and leave your email address in the format stated in # 1.

3) Become my friend on Facebook. If you’re already my friend, that counts, also! Please leave a separate comment, with your email address.

4) Tweet the following:

Treat ADHD w/o Drugs! Win ‘Transform Your Brain Transform Your Life’ from @andrealschultz. #giveaway

You can tweet up to once per day during the length of the giveaway period. Please leave separate comments for each tweet.

So there are several ways to enter! The giveaway will end on September 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm ET. The Random Number Generator will choose a winner, and that winner will be announced here on September 17, 2011. The best to all of you!

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