Friday, January 29, 2016

Rediscovering Discipleship (Review)

This review is for the book "Rediscovering Discipleship" by Robby Gallaty. For the past 18 months or more, discipleship has really been on my heart. It seems like I think about it all the time and I just really have this excitement and passion to do discipleship in our church, or small groups, or meet with our youth group members. There are a few reasons why I have held back on this, and they probably are not going to be something I lay out in the middle of a book review... That being said, I was right on Gallaty's wavelength throughout this book. Discipleship has become lost in the quest for evangelism. Numbers of baptisms in the church, numbers of visitors, numbers of new members, or prayers being said, or lives being recommitted. Those things are great, don't get me wrong, but what about the AFTER of all of that? Are people being discipled? If not, what is it all for? I was making notes and folding down pages all over this book. Gallaty has a great style of writing that makes it more like a conversation. Very easy to read and it was hard to put down. I would love to read more of his stuff, but until I do I can HIGHLY recommend this book, particularly if your church does not have any discipleship programs put into place.

Thank you to Cross Focused Review for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Mermaid Moon (Review)

This review is for the book "Mermaid Moon" by Colleen Coble. I have really enjoyed every Colleen Coble book that I have read in the past. This is the second book in the Sunset Cove series, but I wasn't able to read the first one and I could certainly follow along easily with this one.

In this book, Mallory Davis has stayed away from her home for fifteen years, but when her father dies suddenly, she goes home to figure out some things. She believes her father was murdered, and gets an old friend, Kevin, to help her investigate. Unfortunately, Kevin and Mallory have an awkward relationship because they were childhood sweethearts that didn't have a great ending to their time together. Pretty soon, Mallory is entangled in a situation where she is receiving death threats, as well as those around her. Finally they are able to solve the mystery surrounding her entire family.

This was a great story of suspense with a little romance thrown in there. Like I said, I love Coble's writing style, so I can basically recommend anything she has written.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Evangelicals Adrift (Review)

This review is for the book "Evangelicals Adrift" by Matthew Ferris. Ferris holds to the idea that evangelicals have a tendency to pick and choose what helps to advance the gospel, while sacramentalists choose to hold traditions and other writings to the same standard as scripture. What Ferris has found is that in recent years evangelicals are actually converting to sacramentalism by way of Orthodoxy or Catholicism. I actually had no idea this was a trend. The entire first portion of this book seemed somewhat like a different language to me because it was very detailed in regards to Catholic principles and traditions, and I have no experience with anything related to Catholicism. In fact, I had almost given up on understanding the book at all, but then I came to the section on sacraments - namely, baptism, the Eucharist, and confession. This section was incredibly intriguing and sincerely made me think. I think Ferris does a great job of writing this book by using scripture and not so much his own opinion. His whole point is that we need to get back to reading the Bible and using that for our ultimate authority, which I completely agree with. The only problem I had with this book is some of the scripture references were off. There were a couple of times that a scripture was written - just the reference - and when I tried to look it up I could not find it. One author that Ferris referenced stated that Paul wrote in the scriptures "else would your children be unholy" (p. 161) yet I searched and searched and could not find any translation of the Bible that had any such statement. At one point, Ferris references 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, and then in the next paragraph the verses 16 and 17 are referenced. I immediately turned to 1 Corinthians 11:16-17 and it did not match up. I did a little digging and it turned out that the verses 16 and 17 that were being referenced were in 1 Corinthians 10. These are minor editing issues and do not affect the book as a whole, in my opinion. I think this is a great book to make you think. Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Thoughts on Baptism

I have been reading this book which goes really in depth in the study of evangelicalism and sacramentalism. Apparently in recent years, some Evangelicals have made the transition to Catholicism or Orthodoxy. The author goes through many differences between Evangelicals and Catholicism in particular, such as praying to Mary, confessing to a person rather than God, and using text other than scripture as the word of God. When the author started talking about baptism, I got very interested. We have some friends who believe in infant baptism, some friends who believe you must be baptized to be saved, some friends who believe if they are baptized, their whole family is saved, and some that believe you do not need to be baptized to be saved, but you do it as an outward sign of your repentance and commitment to God (I personally believe in the last option). What follows is from the author, Matthew Ferris. Whatever your viewpoint, I think this is a good topic to discuss and think about. I think you should look over scripture for yourself and decide what you believe. I enjoy a good debate and I also enjoy hearing why others believe differently from me, so this interests me, and my intent is not to offend anyone in this discussion. (Please forgive any mis-types as I typed this in quite a hurry and don't have time to re-read it at the moment.)

Excerpt from the book "Evangelicals Adrift" by Matthew Ferris.

In sacramentalist understanding, one enters the Church and is granted forgiveness of sins through the sacrament of baptism. The evangelical usually holds to a believer's baptism, or credo-baptism. One must profess faith in Christ to be a candidate for baptism. baptism presents a physical picture of the spiritual reality of death, burial, and resurrection with Jesus. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." Romans 6:3-4. The picture of one going under the water accurately depicts death and the grace - our dying with Christ. 

Thomas Schreiner notes, "It is striking that there is no sustained discussion of baptism in any of the epistles, presumably because the NT authors were writing to those who were already believers to whom the significance of baptism was explained upon their conversion. When Paul does refer to baptism, he assumes that all believers are baptized. Hence, we cannot deduce from the infrequent references to baptism that baptism was unimportant." The concept of an unbaptized Christian is simply foreign to the New Testament. The extent to which evangelicals have failed to call attention to the importance of baptism as something obedient Christians should do demonstrates their failure.

Within sacramentalism, the importance of baptism is stressed, albeit at times to an outsized proportion. Sacramentalism practices infant baptism as both an entrance rite into the new covenant with God and as that which cleanses from sin. Indeed, in this view one cannot be saved apart from baptism. "Through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 342). The sacramental view ascribes profound accomplishments to baptism: regeneration itself, and cleansing the baptized one from the stain of sin.

How did the sacramental church move away from believers' baptism in favor of infant baptism? In the New Testament, we meet with no certain evidence of infant baptism. In the book of Acts, where we find various instances of baptism, it is always upon belief. After Peter's Pentecost sermon, "So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." Acts 2:41. The Ethiopian eunuch, hearing Philip expound the gospel says, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?  And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts 8:36-37). 

In Acts 10, Peter had been called to the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who was a God-fearer, or a Gentile who attached himself to the Mosaic Law. After his gospel preaching, all who heard believed, causing Peter to ask, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days." Acts 10:47-48. Baptism obviously followed belief in both of these cases.

The Philippian jailer's conversion is sometimes cited as evidence of infant baptism, or of household baptism, but this can only be by inference: "And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family." Acts 16:33. Were there small children or infants in the family? It is conjecture to assume this, as nothing is stated in the text. In short, nothing in the New Testament demonstrates any evidence of infant baptism. Rather, baptism upon profession of faith is instead seen again and again.

New Testament scholar James D.G. Dunn comments, "It is one of the standing ironies of the diversity of Christian theology and practice that the chief means of accomplishing regeneration for so many centuries has had so little foothold in the New Testament, and has not clearly been encompassed even within the wide-ranging diversity of first-century Christian practice. For it has to be recognized that infant baptism can find no real support in the theology of baptism which any New Testament writer can be shown to espouse."

Tertullian favors a delay in baptism: "The delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children." He goes on to indicate that it is better if those who come for baptism can themselves understand what they are entering into: "Let them 'come', then, while they are growing up; let them 'come' while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come, let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ." Tertullian indicates an age of accountability, implying that it is better if people attain an age when they are themselves able to understand the faith.

The Augustinian concept of original sin dovetails with that of baptismal regeneration. If the stain of original sin is removed through baptism, as the Catechism notes, then it is evident why sacramentalism assigns such prominence to baptism. Stated differently, if baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, then its importance becomes clear. A catena of scriptural references can be cited to show that salvation is conditioned upon faith in Jesus, rather than on an external act done on their behalf without their knowledge or consent, but evangelicals should know these. For an evangelical, moving to sacramentalism requires the paradigm shift in the basis of authority to accept the hierarchical church's redefinition of what baptism is, and what it imparts.

Does the New Testament teach that baptism is a requirement of salvation? Peter's plea to his hearers at Pentecost ends with the appeal, "And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38). This passage is often cited as proof of the necessity of baptism. But Peter's insistence on repentance carries the implication of faith with it. To repent is to change one's mind, and the change of mind Peter pleads for is to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Here baptism is in no way separated from faith, but accompanies it.

The other passage often brought forth is in 1 Peter 3:21 - Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ... Concerning this, Schreiner observes, "Peter immediately qualifies the statement that baptism saves. It does not save mechanically or externally as if there are magical properties in the water. Peter comments that the mere removal of dirt from the body does not bring salvation, demonstrating that the water itself does not save. Baptism is only saving if there is an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The one receiving baptism also appeals to God for a good conscience, which means that he asks God to cleanse him of his sins on the basis of Christ's death and resurrection."

In  Corinthians 1:17, Paul states, "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." If baptism were an act that imparted new life, why would Paul not seek to baptize infants and children at every opportunity? As he writes later, "I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some." 1 Corinthians 9:22. 

On one side are those who insist, as sacramentalism does, that baptism is efficacious to save, to wash away sin, and to put one into the body of Christ. The fact that an infant cannot himself believe or exercise faith is entirely unimportant in this view. The parents are acting as proxies; their answers render as the infant's answer, their faith as the infant's faith. The practice that came to prevail of baptizing all infants led to a situation where faith is entirely unimportant; on the part of parents, or children, baptism was simply something one did as a member of a society dominated by the hierarchical church.

The deleterious effects of this are evident. It has emptied baptism of any of the meaning assigned to it in the New Testament. The identification with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection is changed to a rite of initiation into the professing family of God. The looming question which sacramentalism must answer is this: If baptism is indeed effective in imparting new life, in washing away sin, in putting one into the church, how is it that so many people who have undergone infant baptism manifest no signs of divine life whatsoever? There are huge numbers of people who are considered part of the Roman Catholic Church or part of the Orthodox Church because they have undergone infant baptism, yet do not participate in the church or cannot be considered members of the church in any realistic way. The only conclusion is that the effectiveness of the sacrament has failed. 

Infant baptism is not limited to sacramentalism. High church Protestantism kept the practice, though its ministers changed the underlying meaning somewhat. Adherents to this draw parallels with circumcision as a rite of initiation into the covenant. Calvin and other magisterial reformers were something in agreement with Catholics on the church as a visible society of the faithful. Infant baptism was the initiation into this christened society. When pressed to explain exactly what the significance of infant baptism is, Protestants who hold to infant baptism equate it with infant dedication. None of these Protestants would insist that it removes sin, or imparts the life of Christ, and so it has a very different meaning from what the sacramental church affirms.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ready to Return (Review)

This review is for the book "Ready to Return" by Ken Ham, with Jeff Kinley and research completed by Britt Beemer. I have always been a huge fan of Ken Ham. Although I have never read any books that he has written, I have seen him lecture many times and I follow his work with Answers in Genesis very closely. I trust what he has to say, so I was ready to read this book. This book is about bringing back the church's lost generation, and I feel very strongly that this is something we "older" Christians must focus on. As a person who has worked with youth in church for close to ten years, I am very passionate about these kids. I feel them falling away after high school. I see them leave and never come back. And I always question what we could have done differently for them. In this book, Ham covers research about faith and the basic foundational concepts of Christianity. It is appalling to me how little people know, or are being taught, or are studying on their own. It is a sad time, to be honest. In this book, Ham discusses some of the questions that people have about the Christian faith, and how to defend the correct answers. He discusses how people are being taught one thing (either from the pulpit, or from news articles, or textbooks, or teachers) and they cannot match it up to the Bible, so they believe the Bible to be trustworthy. If you read this book, a fire will be lit under you to help young Christians. Mentor them and disciple them so that they have that strong foundation that the Bible is 100% true. No errors. We can believe all of it. Help them with the answers so that when they come across questions, they can defend their beliefs. Teach them to ask the tough questions and research them. Equip them. The one and only thing I have to say about this book that is negative is that I felt like there was a lot of redundancy. I would read something and feel as though I had already read it, and it turned out I had - just a few pages back. I don't know if Ham is repeating things so that the reader knows how important it is, or if it was an oversight. I still highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dinosaurs: Marvels of God's Design (Review)

This review is for the book "Dinosaurs: Marvels of God's Design" by Dr. Tim Clarey. I was extremely excited to read this book. I have always been very interested in the history of dinosaurs, although I admit I have not taken the time to really do a lot of in-depth research on the subject. This book is a wealth of knowledge. I mean, if you have been asked a question about dinosaurs and how they line up with scripture, and you ever had to admit that you did not know the answer, this is the book for you. The best thing about this book is the amazing pictures that go along with it. My kids are now begging me to take them to New York to see the Natural Museum of History! The book begins where it should... the beginning! The author discusses creation, the ark, and the flood. He talks about the basics of dinosaurs and explains about the discoveries that have been made in regards to these creatures. There are so many different families of dinosaurs, and he takes the time to go through each one. The book ends by explaining about dinosaur eating habits, behaviors, and their extinction. I will say that the book is not an "easy" read, for kids anyway. My kids (5 and 6) sat with me while I read highlights from each page, but the pictures are what really got them. I mean, let's face it - who doesn't love dinosaurs? This book is a hit from beginning to end. It's going right on my shelf so I can reference it whenever I need to. I highly recommend this book. I think it's important to be able to answer questions about the dinosaurs from a biblical perspective.

Thank you to Cross Focused Reviews for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

L is for Lighthouse Craft

I got this craft idea from No Time for Flash Cards.

Get a blue piece of construction paper and let your child color some waves on there. On the NTFFC blog she had her son put on some stickers that were fish and ocean sea life creatures, but we don't have any of those, so we just have waves.

Cut out a lowercase "l" from a white sheet of paper. Have your child glue it onto the blue sheet. Cut out a red triangle for the roof, and a yellow light shape. Glue them on in the appropriate places. Voila! You have a fancy "l" lighthouse!

Monday, January 11, 2016

M is for Mountain Craft

 I got this craft from one of my favorite blogs - No Time For Flash Cards. It's really simple.

Get a piece of blue construction paper for the background. Get a green piece of construction paper and let your child scribble all over it. Cut out the letter "M" shape and glue it onto the blue piece of paper. Cut out two white clouds and two white snow caps and glue them on in the appropriate places. Voila!

M is for Mountain!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Beyond the Silence (Review)

This review is for the book "Beyond the Silence" by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse. In this book,we begin by reading an argument between Lillian and her grandfather. Lillian wants to travel, while her grandfather is completely against the idea. In fact, he says if she leaves, she can consider herself disowned. While that destroys her, she still knows she wants to strike out on her own. She accepts a nanny position in Angels Camp. Unfortunately, as soon as she arrives, she hears gossip about her new employer... and the fact that basically the entire town thinks he murdered his wife! His son saw what happened but has gone mute. So Woodward Colton (the man) and his son and housekeeper are very reclusive so they don't have to hear threats and jabs from those in town - even though Colton was tried and found innocent. It doesn't take long before things start happening. Attacks on the house and attacks on people make them think that perhaps the person who killed Colton's wife is still hanging around... but why?

This is a story full of emotion, especially when you read the little boy's version of events. The reader knows why he can't speak. It is a story full of suspense, because the reader also knows what the attacker is thinking throughout the story - and who it is.You are just waiting for everyone else to figure it out! And of course it has some romance in it, as Lillian and Colton fall in love. I think this story was great. It kept my attention and I couldn't wait to find out how everything was brought together in the end.

Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A is for Alien Craft

Hunter did a cute "A" craft today, making an alien. I got the idea from one of my favorite blogs. Here is the original post.

I let him pick out a piece of construction paper, and he colored all of it. Then I cut out an "A" shape. Then I cut out two big black eyes and glued them on near the top. Next, I let him pick out two pipe cleaners, and then I poked two small holes in the top of the "A" and looped the pipe cleaners through to make two silly antennae.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

O is for Octopus Craft

Hunter did this really cute "O" craft today, creating an octopus. I got the idea from one of my favorite blogs, and changed it up just a bit. Here is the original post.

First, I got a piece of blue construction paper. I had Hunter color the entire sheet, and then I cut out the "O" shape. Then I cut out four strips of blue paper and four strips of green paper, and had him glue them on as tentacles. Lastly, he glued on two googly eyes, just for fun. Easy peasy!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Jesus' Baptism/Dove Craft

Today we were learning about Jesus' baptism in Bible, and the kids made this really cute dove craft, which of course is the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven at the baptism. It is really easy so I thought I would share it here.

Get each child a piece of construction paper. The craft suggested blue, but we have tons of black paper so that's what I used. Paint each child's hands with white paint and immediately help him press his hands, one at a time, to the construction paper. After the pictures have dried you can color in some eyes and a beak, or use yellow or orange construction paper to make a triangle beak. You can glue on feathers if you like as well. I also wrote the correlating Bible verse at the top of the page with a white colored pencil.

God's Smuggler (Review)

This review is for the book "God's Smuggler" by Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. This is not the first book I have read about Brother Andrew. I absolutely love his stories. If you have not yet read a book about him, you must go pick one up. This book is the real-life story of a man who smuggled Bibles into the most dangerous places in the world. He did it all based on faith. He trusted God for every single penny, vehicle maintenance, education funds, a place to live, courage, and most importantly with his life. The stories of Brother Andrew going into Communist countries and leaving behind a legacy is amazing. And reading about people who literally collapse in tears after receiving a Bible will make you rethink your sense of entitlement about church. I am not even kidding when I say you must read about Brother Andrew. He will exhilarate you and God will amaze you when you read these stories, I promise you.

Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

At Love's Bidding (Review)

This review is for the book "At Love's Bidding" by Regina Jennings. Miranda Wimplegate helps her grandfather run their Boston auction house. One day she realizes they have made a huge mistake and sold a prized portrait which belonged to one of the most powerful families in Boston. The family begins their threats, so Miranda and her grandfather take off in search of the portrait. They find themselves in Missouri, at the smelliest livestock auction house they could ever imagine. Miranda's grandfather bought the auction house without seeing it, so now they are stuck. Even worse, the man who runs the auction house, Wyatt, seems to be completely out of control.

Miranda desperately tries to track down the missing portrait as her grandfather seems to get in more and more trouble. Everyone seems to be in danger, Miranda can't figure out who to trust, and her grandfather is acting confused and violent. They head home, only to have the mystery solved right under their noses.

I enjoyed this book. I will admit the character of the grandfather really aggravated me, but I think the author was trying to show that his character was changing quite a bit from his "normal" personality.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

At Love's Bidding Regina Jennings

Sunday, January 3, 2016

100 Books of 2015

In 2009, I pledged to read 100 books over the course of 2010. Here's my list of 107 books in case you're interested.

I did it again in 2011 (why not?). Here's my list of 109 books.

The tradition continued in 2012 where I read a whopping 144 books! Here is my list from that year.

In 2013 I kept on chugging along, reading 104 books. Here is my list from that year.

In 2014 I hit my best record yet, reading 152 books. Here is my list from last year.

This year, I hit a new personal best, reading a total of 187 books in 2015! Wow. Even I am impressed. Between reviewing books for three publishing companies and buying books like crazy every time I go to a yard sale, I am attempting to move books out of my house. They're under my bed, in my closet, on shelves... they follow me everywhere! On to the list:

  • "Mr Selfie" by Dan Zevin (187)
  • "Little Miss Basic" by Dan Zevin (186)
  • "Forgiven" by Terri Roberts (185)
  • "The Wedding Chapel" by Rachel Hauck (184)
  • "Mermaid Moon" by Colleen Coble (183)
  • "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins (182)
  • "Loving Feelings" by Gail Gaymer Martin (181)
  • "Christian Believer: Knowing God with Heart and Mind (Readings)" by Various (180)
  • "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green (179)
  • "Hart's Harbor" by Deb Kastner (178)
  • "A Desirable Residence" by Madeleine Wickham (177)
  • "Anathema" by Colleen Coble (176)
  • "Whispers in the Reading Room" by Shelley Gray (175)
  • "Little Miss Overshare" by Dan Zevin (174)
  • "The Hamilton Heir" by Valerie Hansen (173)
  • "Like Father Like Son" by Pete Alwinson (172)
  • "Rising Darkness" by Nancy Mehl (171)
  • "A Lost God in a Lost World" by Melvin Tinker (170)
  • "A Thousand Shall Fall" by Andrea Boeshaar (169)
  • "The Martian" by Andy Weir (168)
  • "Fire & Ice" by Mary Connealy (167)
  • "Core Christianity" by Elmer Towns (166)
  • "An Endless Christmas" by Cynthia Ruchti (165)
  • "The Golden Braid" by Melanie Dickerson (164)
  • "The Photograph" by Beverly Lewis (163)
  • "The Five Times I Met Myself" by James Rubart (162)
  • "War for the Waking World" by Wayne Thomas Batson (161)
  • "A Respectable Actress" by Dorothy Love (160)
  • "Martyrs of Malatya" by James Wright (159)
  • "Handle With Care" by Jodi Picoult (158)
  • "A Chameleon, a Boy and a Quest" by J. A. Myhre (157)
  • "Mercy" by Jodi Picoult (156)
  • "The Christian Life: Cross or Glory?" by Steven Hein (155)
  • "Adam" by Ted Dekker (154)
  • "Miracle Drug" by Richard Mabry (153)
  • "Changing Her Heart" by Gail Sattler (152)
  • "Just Show Up" by Kara Tippetts and Jill Buteyn (151)
  • "The Methuselah Project" by Rick Barry (150)
  • "The Splendor of Ordinary Days" by Jeff High (149)
  • "Another Way Home" by Deborah Raney (148)
  • "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan (147)
  • "Pass It On" by Jim Burns (146)
  • "Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl" by Lysa Terkeurst (145)
  • "A Wedding at the Orange Blossom Inn" by Shelley Shepard Gray (144)
  • "Busy Woman's Guide to a Balanced Life" by Today's Christian Woman" (143)
  • "Cocktails for Three" by Madeleine Wickham (142)
  • "Becoming a Titus 2 Woman" by Martha Peace (141)
  • "Out of Control and Loving It!" by Lisa Bevere (140)
  • "A Confident Heart" by Renee Swope (139)
  • "Hearts of Fire" by Voice of the Martyrs (138)
  • "Blessed Vows" by Jillian Hart (137)
  • "Child of Mine" by Bonnie Winn (136)
  • "The Finishing School" by Valerie Woerner (135)
  • "Courageous Faith" by Ed Hindson (134)
  • "Boot Camp" by Jason Hardin (133)
  • "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline (132)
  • "A Bride for Dry Creek" by Janet Tronstad (131)
  • "A Baby for Dry Creek" by Janet Tronstad (130)
  • "Broken Lullaby" by Pamela Tracy (129)
  • "Boys!" by William Beausay II (128)
  • "Glory Days" by Max Lucado (127)
  • "Things I've Said to My Children" by Nathan Ripperger (126)
  • "An Angel for Dry Creek" by Janet Tronstad (125)
  • "Al Capone Does My Shirts" by Gennifer Choldenko (124)
  • "All in the Timing" by Melody Carlson (123)
  • "Amish Values for Your Family" by Suzanne Woods Fisher (122)
  • "3:16 The Numbers of Hope" by Max Lucado (121)
  • "Questions Jesus Asks" by Israel Wayne (120)
  • "A Well-Ordered Church" by Boekestein and Hyde (119)
  • "Your Sacred Yes" by Susie Larson (118)
  • "Gaining by Losing" by J.D. Greear (117)
  • "It's Good to Be Queen" by Liz Curtis Higgs (116)
  • "The Postcard Killers" by James Patterson and Liza Marklund (115)
  • "Private #1 Suspect" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (114)
  • "Through Waters Deep" by Sarah Sundin (113)
  • "Irish Meadows" by Susan Anne Mason (112)
  • "Now & Forever" by Mary Connealy (111)
  • "Guilty Wives" by James Patterson (110)
  • "Encourage Me" by Charles Swindoll (109)
  • "Self-Deliverance" by K.A. Schneider (108)
  • "A Bride At Last" by Melissa Jagears (107)
  • "The Family Man" by Irene Hannon (106)
  • "Counting on a Cowboy" by Debra Clopton (105)
  • "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Beth Vogt (104)
  • "Beyond the Ashes" by Karen Barnett (103)
  • "I Take You" by Eliza Kennedy (102)
  • "The Quick-Start Guide to the Whole Bible" by Dr. Marty and Dr. Seevers (101)
  • "Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor" by Melanie Dobson (100)
  • "Among the Fair Magnolias" by Various Authors (99)
  • "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom (98)
  • "The Upside of Down" by Joseph Stowell (97)
  • "The Serial Killer Whisperer" by Pete Earley (96)
  • "Thriving in Babylon" by Larry Osborne (95)
  • "The Case for Easter" by Lee Strobel (94)
  • "Tattered and Mended" by Cynthia Ruchti (93)
  • "Refining Fire" by Tracie Peterson (92)
  • "7 Family Ministry Essentials" by Michelle Anthony and Megan Marshman (91)
  • "A Friend in Me" by Pamela Havey Lau (90)
  • "Letters from My Father's Murderer" by Laurie Coombs (89)
  • "Two Roads Home" by Deborah Raney (88)
  • "What You Left Behind" by Samantha Hayes (87)
  • "Until You're Mine" by Samantha Hayes (86)
  • "God is in the Small Stuff for the Graduate" by Bruce and Stan (85)
  • "Sweet Blessings" by Jillian Hart (84)
  • "Summer's List" by Anita Higman (83)
  • "A More Christlike God" by Bradley Jersak (82)
  • "Blindsided by God" by Peter Chin (81)
  • "Her Brother's Keeper" by Valerie Hansen (80)
  • "Hutterite Diaries" by Linda Maendel (79)
  • "Hearts Made Whole" by Jody Hedlund (78)
  • "Short Straw" by Stuart Woods (77)
  • "Checklist for Life: The Ultimate Handbook" (76)
  • "Fatal Trauma" by Richard Mabry (75)
  • "As Waters Gone By" by Cynthia Ruchti (74)
  • "They Almost Always Come Home" by Cynthia Ruchti (73)
  • "Touched by Heaven" by Nancy Ravenhill (72)
  • "Bitesize Biographies: Ulrich Zwingli" by William Boekestein (71)
  • "The Proposal at Siesta Key" by Shelley Shepard Gray (70)
  • "Facing the Blitz" by Jeff Kemp (69)
  • "Bel-Air Dead" by Stuart Woods (68)
  • "Who's the New Kid?" by Heidi Bond with Jenna Glatzer (67)
  • "Never Say No" by Mark & Jan Foreman (66)
  • "Confessions of a Murder Suspect" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (65)
  • "Gone For Good" by Harlan Coben (64)
  • "Heart Sisters" by Natalie Chambers Snapp (63)
  • "Unlocked" by Karen Kingsbury (62)
  • "Side by Side" by Jana Kelley (61)
  • "To Win Her Favor" by Tamera Alexander (60)
  • "A Love Like Ours" by Becky Wade (59)
  • "The Prayer of Jabez" by Bruce Wilkinson (58)
  • "When Grace Sings" by Kim Vogel Sawyer (57)
  • "God's Guidance" by Elisabeth Elliot (56)
  • "Lifestyle Worship" by John Garmo (55)
  • "The No More Excuses Diet" by Maria Kang (54)
  • "God, Me, and Sweet Iced Tea" by Rose Chandler Johnson (53)
  • "Enough Already" by Barbara L. Roose (52)
  • "A Sparrow in Terezin" by Kristy Cambron (51)
  • "The Inn at Ocean's Edge" by Colleen Coble (50)
  • "Experience the Impossible" by Bill Johnson (49)
  • "When Mercy Rains" by Kim Vogel Sawyer (48)
  • "How to Listen to God" by Charles Stanley (47)
  • "Victory Through the Lamb" by Mark Wilson (46)
  • "Starting at the Finish Line" by John Wallace (45)
  • "Poisoned Secrets" by Margaret Daley (44)
  • "How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?" by Rachael Carman (43)
  • "How to Talk to a Skeptic" by Donald J. Johnson (42)
  • "Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe" by Max Lucado (41)
  • "Heaven, How I Got Here" by Colin S. Smith (40)
  • "The Cinderella Plan" by Margaret Daley (39)
  • "Tidings of Joy" by Margaret Daley (38)
  • "How to Catch a Prince" by Rachel Hauck (37)
  • "Protecting Her Child" by Debby Giusti (36)
  • "The Promise of Palm Grove" by Shelley Shepard Gray (35)
  • "Halo Found Hope" by Helo Matzelle (34)
  • "Sabotaged" by Dani Pettrey (33)
  • "Speed Trap" by Patricia Davids (32)
  • "Shovel Ready" by Adam Sternbergh (31)
  • "Betting on Hope" by Debra Clopton (30)
  • "God's Super-Apostles" by R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec (29)
  • "Ordinary" by Tony Merida (28)
  • "Salt, Light and Cities on Hills" by Melvin Tinker (27)
  • "Discovering Delight" by Glenda Mathes (26)
  • "The Resurrection in Your Life" by Mike McKinley (25)
  • "Twisted Innocence" by Terri Blackstock (24)
  • "Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family" by Michelle Anthony (23)
  • "Get Your Joy Back" by Laurie Wallin (22)
  • "The World of Jesus" by Dr. William H. Marty (21)
  • "Hearts Afire" by Marta Perry (20)
  • "The Trouble with Lacy Brown" by Debra Clopton (19)
  • "Remember the Lilies" by Liz Tolsma (18)
  • "The Dandelion Field" by Kathryn Springer (17)
  • "Beyond All Dreams" by Elizabeth Camden (16)
  • "Christian Bioethics" by Mitchell and Riley (15)
  • "A Stitch in Time" by Cathy Elliott (14)
  • "Life: Your Life With Christ" by Rebecca Manley Pippert (13)
  • "Can I Trust the Bible?" by R.C. Sproul (12)
  • "Like a Flower in Bloom" by Siri Mitchell (11)
  • "Purity is Possible" by Helen Thorne (10)
  • "Becoming a Stretcher Bearer" by Michael Seater (9)
  • "Furry Logic" by Jane Seabrook (8)
  • "Kisser" by Stuart Woods (7)
  • "Kissing Christmas Goodbye" by M.C. Beaton (6)
  • "At Home in Dry Creek" by Janet Tronstad (5)
  • "Worst Fears Realized" by Stuart Woods (4)
  • "Make Your Day Count: Devotions for Moms" by Lindsay Roberts (3)
  • "Lucid Intervals" by Stuart Woods (2)
  • "When Teens Pray" by Cheri Fuller and Ron Luce (1)
Favorite authors of 2015: Stuart Woods, James Patterson, Madeleine Wickham, Jodi Picoult, Deborah Raney, Samantha Hayes, Colleen Coble (I feel like some of these are always on my "favorite authors" list!

Books that I think the whole world should read: "A Chamelon, A Boy, and A Quest" by J.A. Myhre, "Just Show Up" by Kara Tippetts, "Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross" by Colin Smith

Books that I gushed about: "The Finishing School" by Valerie Woerner, "The Golden Braid" by Melanie Dickerson, "Until You're Mine" by Samantha Hayes, "The Methusaleh Project" by Rick Barry, "What You Left Behind" by Samantha Hayes

Theological books that made me actually think: "A Lost God in a Lost World" by Melvin Tinker, "A Well-Ordered Church" by William Boekestein, "The Resurrection in Your Life" by Mike McKinley, "7 Family Ministry Essentials" by Michelle Anthony, "Thriving in Babylon" by Larry Osborne, "Blindsided by God" by Peter Chin

Books that were recommended to me that I finally got to read: "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins, "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green, "The Martian" by Andy Weir, "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline, "Al Capone Does My Shirts" by Gennifer Choldenko

True stories you need to read: "Forgiven: The Amish School Shooting" by Terri Roberts, "Hutterite Diaries" by Linda Maendal, "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom, "Martyrs of Malatya" by James Wright, "Letters From My Father's Murderer" by Laurie Coombs, "Halo Found Hope" by Helo Matzelle

14 chapter books I got to read with my kids: "Doctor Dolittle", "Valkrist's Flight" by Felicity Brown, "In Grandma's Attic" by Arleta Richardson, "A Pizza the Size of the Sun" by Jack Prelutsky, "A Grain of Rice" by Helena Pittman, "Pippi on the Run" by Astrid Lindgren, "Sprout Street Neighbors" by Anna Alter, "Miss Small is Off the Wall!" by Dan Gutman, "Miss Daisy is Crazy!" by Dan Gutman, "Five True Dog Stories" by Margaret Davidson, "Wayside School is Falling Down" by Louis Sachar, "Sideways Stories from Wayside School" by Louis Sachar, Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger" by Louis Sachar, "Vacation Under the Volcano" by Mary Pope Osborne

I tried to keep tabs on what my 6-year old daughter was reading this year: I have on my list that she read 122 books. Of course those aren't all chapter books, but I know she read at least 28 chapter books that I was able to keep track of. Girl after my own heart!

Any good reads of YOURS this year? I'd love to have the titles and authors of some of your favorite reads so I can look into them! 

Another note: For 2016 I am doing something a little different. I still have a goal of reading 100 books, but I want to read and therefore move at least 50 books out of my house. Right now I can find 160 books that do not fit on a bookshelf and I have never read that are abiding in my house. Mark my words - by the end of 2016 that number will be closer to 100!

Forgiven (Review)

This review is for the book "Forgiven" by Terri Roberts with Jeanette Windle. I am sure that many people remember the day in 2006 when a gunman entered an Amish schoolhouse and shot ten girls, killing five, and then committed suicide. This book is his mother's story. I remember this story from the news and being bewildered at the violence, but also how the Amish rallied around the shooter's family.

In this book, Terri Roberts introduces her family and tells the readers about her son's childhood in order to give a view of his upbringing. Her shock was as big as anyone's when her son walked into that classroom and started giving orders to the teacher and students. She already had faith in God when this happened, but her faith has been strengthened by the Amish in her community that intentionally reached out to her in that time and offered her forgiveness. They mourned together, wept together, and prayed together. Now, many years later, Terri is thankful for the friendships that may not have been there otherwise. It's a really beautiful tale of forgiveness in a situation that could have been a tale of hatred.

Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

The Wedding Chapel (Review)

This review is for the book "The Wedding Chapel" by Rachel Hauck. I think this was a really beautiful, sad, and lovely book. This is the story of Jimmy and Collette, of Taylor and Jack, of Peg and Collette. This book shows how jealousy can ruin lives, how miscommunication can devastate a relationship, and how far deception really can go.

Collette and Peg are sisters who just cannot seem to get along. Peg continues to be driven by her jealousy of Collette and tries to one-up her in every aspect of their lives. Collette and Jimmy are young, but madly in love. For reasons which neither of them understands, their relationship falls apart and they both live their life alone for decades. Taylor is Peg's granddaughter. She marries Jack, who she loved from afar in high school. But Jack comes with a lot of baggage, and neither one is sure they want to work on their marriage.

This book is full of ups and downs, much like real life. It was a really beautiful story that ends with second chances, thankfully.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.