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A year with God is a collection of 365 devotions focusing on the word of God. The devotions are approximately three paragraphs long and are equally balanced by lengthy passages from Old Testament scripture. All of the devotions in this book are based on readings from the Old Testament, but many different translations are featured — including The Message, the Contemporary English Version, and the New King James Version. Devotions are divided thematically by subjects like hope and fear, love and hate, perseverance and quitting, and faith and doubt.

I’m afraid that Nettelhorst’s comments didn’t add much to the Bible passages for me. And the book doesn’t tell us anything about his credentials; nor does it say why only Old Testament selections are featured. I found the book to be a novel devotional format, but I can’t say it’s one that I will keep in my permanent library. Not recommended.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Good Morning, Lord is a collection of 108 short devotions to encourage you to start your day with God. The devotions are approximately two paragraphs long and include two thought questions with space for journaling, a prayer, and a Bible verse. All of the devotions in this book were adapted from several other books by Shelia Walsh.

This book offers just the motivation I need to commit my days to God. The brief devotions offer me just enough to think about and to “chew on” for the rest of the day. Too often for me, morning quiet time becomes overwhelming because of my perfectionistic nature. This book allows me to do one small thing well.

I also think it is beautifully designed and would make a great gift.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Brad Powell has served as senior pastor at NorthRidge church in Michigan since 1990. In Change Your Church for Good, he offers his experience of leading his church through the transition of dying Baptist parish to exploding megachurch as an example for others seeking “a blueprint for change.”

I admit that this book challenged me in many ways. It got me thinking about questions like ‘What is worship?’, ‘Who is it for?’, “What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?’, ‘How does the church reach the lost?’ But, unfortunately, I didn’t find any significant treatment of the answers to these questions in this book.

I found it to be a superficial sales model for a method that does not fit any universal experience of what is real, meaningful, and life-changing about worship. I found it equated worship with evangelism, or even entertainment, which ultimately, are completely different things to me. I found it really didn’t leave much room for what I do find meaningful, for what feeds me, and allows me to reach out to and intercede for a lost and hurting world.

Not recommended. Try ‘Spiritual Formation as if the Church Really Mattered’ instead.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com [http://BookSneeze.com] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

I recently found out that bloggers can get free copies of Thomas Nelson books at BookSneeze in exchange for a review on their blog and one other consumer website. While visiting the site, David Murrow’s The Map : the way of all great men caught my eye, and I decided to review it so I could have a copy for my church library. (If any of you other Souls out there want to jump in, I’d love to have some more free books for the library!) Author’s note on this particular title: I grew up in a family of women, except for my dad; so I must admit, men are a bit of a mystery to me.

This book draws on the structure of the book of Matthew to translate the masculine spiritual life into an actual map. The first half of the book reads as a fictional allegory, and the last half reads more like a traditional self-help title. (I know, all the men are running away now! But wait!...)

Here’s a quote from Murrow himself (p.204):

Do you watch guy movies? If so, you’ve seen the three journeys played out many times on the silver screen. See if this plotline sounds familiar: A cocky young stud decides to confront some evil in his own strength. He’s nearly killed by the bad guys. Suddenly an aged, wrinkled man shows up and gives the villains a whuppin’. The old coot offers to train the immature hothead. The student humbles himself and accepts the training of the master (submission). He develops true physical and mental toughness (strength). Eventually our young hero meets his adversary and, after a back-and-forth battle, defeats him in spectacular fashion, sometimes dying in the process (sacrifice).

I like the way David Murrow tries to do away with the apparent disconnect between traditional masculinity (a la John Wayne and Sylvester Stallone, or even, say, Ralph Macchio) and Christian culture as we know it. I know some men who could stand to read this book; but will the type of man who needs to read it actually pick up a book like this?

I suspect that’s why Murrow opens the book with fictional tale of intrigue and adventure that he later ties together with his theories about the stages of Christian discipleship as they relate to male masculinity. I was not completely comfortable with this vehicle because the librarian in me knew this book was nonfiction, yet I spent the whole first half of the book trying to figure out if any of this was real or not; which for me, was a distraction.

The basic premise of the last half of the book is that the male journey of discipleship takes place in three distinct phases: submission, strength, and sacrifice. And that God requires different things of men during each stage of the journey. I found this comparison quite useful, and I enjoyed thinking about my own journey of faith in this way. Murrow also outlines ways men sometimes go astray in their faith journey and closes by thinking about how men can mentor and be mentored in discipleship.

This book isn’t actually as exciting or sexy as it tries to make itself out to be. It’s a traditional self-help book wrapped in a manly package, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Anything that encourages people towards a growing, authentic faith is OK in my book. My hope is that many men will read this title and become better able to grow closer to God in the process.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~John 10:10

How is couponing like the abundant life? Does couponing reveal the abundant life? Is it good stewardship? Or is it motivated by selfishness and greed? This is something I’ve been ruminating on for quite awhile. So let’s go:

1. You have to believe it before you see it. You have to be prepared to experience it. You have to expect it. It doesn’t just happen; it takes practice. And the more you practice, the better you get at it.

Your eyes become attuned to seeing what’s possible. Before I started couponing, actually researching it and practicing it, I did not believe it was possible to obtain the savings that I now regularly procure. I still don’t always see it. I have to look for it. I have to do my homework. But there is also definitely an element of chance and of being in the right place in the right time.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. ~Rev. 3:20

2. Flexibility is key. It’s about someone else’s timing, not mine. Always be ready.

The savings are not necessarily something I can control. I must always be watchful and ready to receive or to wait.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, ~1 Peter 3:15

3. Periods of lack are part of the cycle. Expect them. Don’t freak out when they come.

This cycle of savings is a cycle. It is not never-ending or static. There are times when there are no savings to be had, times when I happily eat soup or work with what’s in my pantry ’til there’s nothing left.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. ~Phil. 4:11-12

4. It is a function of community. Friends help each other find tips and encouragement. It is something to be taught and passed on.

I would never have figured all of this out on my own. I am indebted to many women who were willing to share what they know.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God ~Titus 2:3-5

What are your thoughts?

I had such a down day yesterday. One of those days when you think, “Surely, I’ve gotten it wrong. I thought things were great, but I missed it; I was wrong…because they suck. And I think I’ll just sit here and lie in a hole kind of day.” But then I dragged myself up and went to Ash Wednesday services, because there was really nothing else I wanted to do. And my daughter drew these pictures.

And I said to myself, “Self, sometimes really important things happen in the face of discouragement. Don’t be distracted.”

Lord, thank you for lifting my eyes to the work You are doing. Amen.

This week’s Sunday school verse: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ~Luke 6:36

(There are lots of opportunities for application when there’s a little brother around.)