Book Review: Seven Women and the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas

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What is the hallmark of a great life? Eric Metaxas contends there are specific qualities that set apart certain people, people who have conquered great odds to accomplish the unthinkable. He sets out to highlight the lives of seven extraordinary women, all who saw themselves as average, everyday people…

Joan of Arc: pure, brave and singular in her faith and obedience to God.

Susanna Wesley had a theological knowledge that fueled a disciplined life.

Hannah More’s culture was influenced by art and she sought to use her gifts in God’s service.

Saint Maria modeled the Christian life outside the four walls of the church.

Corrie ten Boom had a foundation of faith that began way before Nazi occupation turned her home inside out.

Rosa Parks was persistent in seeking rights for blacks in an age of terrible discrimination.

Mother Teresa saw the poor as God’s wonderful people.

I loved the narrative of this book. The author wove a story of faith, hardship, ingenuity and humility. It was a joy to read the chronicles of these who struggled with faith and its application to daily lives. It painted them in a light that showed they were real people with real difficulties. They were not sugar-coated, but weaknesses were laid bare. Why is that important? Because it helped me to relate to their lives, and to understand the power of faith in God to change the course of history.

Eric Metaxas also wrote Seven Men and the Secret to Their Greatness and states both sexes suffer when the uniqueness of each is denied. 7 Women challenged me to be fully me, and to stop the comparison game that robs my sphere of the gifts given by God to impact change in the world.

A great Christmas gift for both male and female readers on your list!

Sally

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Living with Dad’s Dementia

The light bulb has gone out in Dad’s eyes. Last week we carried on a conversation and played Rook. Tonight, he responds “yeah” and can’t seem to figure out the different colors in Uno.

We were at this place five years ago. The doctors said he would have plateaus where he would level out. But Dad completely returned. He not only balanced out but was dreaming about getting a job again.

A few days ago, we said goodbye to my brother-in-law. Did the funeral trigger memories of Mom’s death? Has he retreated to the recesses of his mind to keep from the pain of Larry’s death?

At first the Uno game was cute. But he got stuck there and wouldn’t even rise from the table without me taking his elbow. Now I feel my own panic rise like bile in the back of my throat.

What is it about pain that shuts down the brain? Here I am, needing You again, Lord. The very breath I breathe needs Your infusion of hope and mountain-moving faith. Help me to take one step at a time, as we navigate these muddy waters with Dad.

Mom gave me a book by Anne Graham Lotz called “Why?” It has become my go-to resource when life throws another curve ball. Anne says, “The kind of trust God wants us to have cannot be learned in comfort and ease. Mary and Martha could not learn it immediately or quickly. It required time. And patience. And suffering. And the pressure of desperation.” (p. 55)

Are you desperate for God to intervene in your life? Reach out to Him to hold your hand and to walk the dusty road with you. And whatever you do, don’t give up. He promised He would go with you, no matter what.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” –Isaiah 43:2 NIV

Sally


Escape to the Beach!

Warm breezes. Water slapping the reef. Sailboat bobbing. Stress level dropping.

Seagulls soaring. Water shimmering. Pebbles beneath my feet.

Barcelona reef

Surely this isn’t just around the corner, in western New York? It sounds like a southern paradise! But no, it’s a western New York oasis, by the name of Barcelona Beach. Hubby & I went to a charming B & B there, Barcelona Lakeside Bed & Breakfast.

Barcelona sign

I love the old charm of the house, with little nooks of cozy seating. All of the views turn your attention toward the waters of Lake Erie and its mesmerizing lull. I could imagine an old sea captain living there, right across from the harbor.

Barcelona window

We did a lot of walking… to the beach, to sit on benches on the pier, and to wander around the lighthouse. Coming back to the Inn was like returning home. There, we were greeted with warm cookies, and took a turn in the hammock, and the swing. I just could not get over the breathtaking view!

Barcelona lighthouse

Innkeepers Rodger and Lesley Hazen were friendly hosts and very knowledgeable about the area. Their stories added appeal to the entire experience. In fact, I’m interested in the winter B & B activities, just to experience the sleigh ride and hot cocoa!

We had the option for the Beach Package, and were blessed with a sunny day. A wagon was packed with sandwiches, fresh fruit, beach chairs, umbrella and towels. And we set out for our excursion. The water stretched out before us, and for a time, we had our own private cove.

Barcelona wagon 11889490_10206380524724794_8531468029041647933_n

After awhile, we wandered back to the Inn. Rodger started a fire in the fire pit, where other lodgers were catching up after the events of their day.

Barcelona fire pit

The B & B is a short jaunt from Westfield and Dunkirk, both offering shops and restaurants. (Map) Saturday morning we enjoyed a sampling of country fare, as Westfield had a Farmers’ Market downtown, with artists also displaying their crafts.

Our room was dressed out in a nautical theme, making the beach experience even more tangible. When others checked out of the front two rooms, we peeked into large suites facing the pier. Comfortably decorated with daily fresh towels and Lake Erie at your doorstep, who would ever want to go home?

Thank you, Rodger and Lesley for the scrumptious breakfasts on the back patio and the warm welcome in your home. We left refreshed!

Sally

Barcelona harbor



Book Review: Squeezing Good Out of Bad

Squeezing Good out of Bad

Ever have a sour day? James N. Watkins wrote the book on it! With his characteristic pun-filled humor, Jim Watkins has somehow managed to put a lemony twist on the serious side of life and called it, Squeezing Good Out of Bad.

Jim is an author and speaker, with over 2,000 articles published. His editorial work and lecturing have opened many doors, but his biggest qualifier for writing this book? “He’s felt the squeeze of cancer, unemployment, family crises, and chronic nose hair.”

The book promises to squeeze good out of those life-puckering problems and delivers with seasoned advice, the benefits of laughter and great perspective (“Is this truly a hand grenade or is it more in the category of a hangnail?”). I love the reminders (“We don’t need to take responsibility for the things that we had no control over.”) and action steps for working through topics of forgiveness, suffering and learning to let God have complete control.

“Squeezing Good Out of Bad” is an important addition to my library, because Jim has added so many seeds of truth. It is a reference book on those days when nothing is going right, and provides insight into the issue of pain. He says Romans 8:28-29 offers a clue: the Lord works all things for good, so that Jesus may be revealed in us.

Make time for this book and receive a dose of inspiration. It includes quotes from Flannery O’Connor, G.K. Chesterton, Cecil Murphy, Henri Nouwen, Philip Yancey, Brother Lawrence, Saint John of the Cross, Watchman Nee, Brennan Manning, and many more. It highlights the servanthood of Francine Rivers and recommends works of other authors. It is not some fluff piece of work, but one with depth and courage.

Need a recipe for those lemons? You’ve come to the right place!

Sally


Book Review: 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage by Kim Kimberling, PhD

7 secrets

What does it take to build a good marriage? Take that answer and multiply it by 7… 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage. The author, Kim Kimberling has over 30 years of experience counseling couples in distress. But he advocates in a climate of bad statistics to fight for marriage, against all odds. Dr. Kimberling draws from research, counseling and study, but he also references his own marriage and lessons learned from the difficulties of life. He says, “Take the risk. God meant for marriage to be awesome.”

What does it look like to fight for an awesome marriage? Kimberling tackles issues of selfishness, apathy and money. But he does so in a conversational tone that makes you feel like you’ve just met a friend for a cup of coffee. He uses examples to explain the concepts and brings challenges and practical exercises for spouses to work through together. The action steps are clear and easy to understand, but not necessarily easy to follow. And that is the hard work of fighting for your marriage.

The book, 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage broaches an important topic. With families falling apart, do we really want to add another divorce? Society says, “Maybe I didn’t marry the right person?”

Kimberling says, “Fight for your marriage and see what God will do.”

I really like Kimberling’s approach to writing. He doesn’t gloss over issues but validates the need to learn good communication skills that will show compassion, authenticity and empathy to your spouse. Even the best marriages can find room to improve the connection that creates intimacy in the daily responsibilities of work, family and commitments. I’m adding this book to my gift list, for newlyweds and marriage veterans, alike. When the secrets are applied, they will change the landscape of marriage!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sally

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Justified by Varina Denman

Justified

Justified by Varina Denman

Reviewed by Sally Ferguson

Radiant Lit Blog Tours

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: David C. Cook

Release Date: June 1, 2015

“In a small Texas town ruled by gossip, Fawn Blaylock believes others are justified in condemning her untimely pregnancy. Stifled by guilt, she yearns for the grace she has never been willing to bestow on others. Hope stirs when the local football coach offers gentle strength to help Fawn reawaken her heart and redeem her past.”

Justified begins with an unplanned pregnancy and the sting of judgmental attitudes. It exposes religious posturing that ignores compassionate responses. Through the power of a well-told story, Fawn expresses self-loathing as she works through her need for a man to provide for her, verses a man who will treat her with respect. Her thought processes lead us through the hormonal stages of pregnancy, the roller coaster of a low self-esteem and the dilemma of a victim mentality.

Do you know someone who feels she can never be forgiven for her actions? Give her the gift of a story that shows the power of grace.

Fawn finds important answers in her quest for peace and Denman takes the reader on an action-packed journey to find, in the end, God was big enough to handle life’s problems, after all.

Excellent job, handling matters of the heart!

“Varina Denman is a native Texan who spent her high school years in a small Texas town. Now she lives near Fort Worth with her husband and her five mostly-grown children.

Justified is available for purchase here from Amazon.com.

Note: I received this book as part of the Justified blog tour from Radiant Lit. I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes. Review copy provided by the publisher for Radiant Lit Blog Tours.”

Sally


Bible Study Expo

Check out the Bible Study Expo on Thursday, August 20, featuring 12 authors:

– Liz Curtis Higgs with “It’s Good to be Queen”

– Pam Farrel with “7 Simples Skills for Every Woman”

– Sara Hagerty with “Every Bitter Thing”

– Kimberly Sowell with “The Thin Red Line Series”

– Danette Crawford with “Total Turnaround”

– Sheryl Pellatiro with “Fearless Faith”

– Stephanie Olson with “Jesus is Passing By”

– Mindy Ferguson with “Moses”

– Jessie Seneca with “Joseph”

– Kathy Howard with “Embraced by Holiness”

– Carey Scott with “Untangled”

– Marnie Swedberg with “Flow Through Vessel”

The Expo is 100% free and online, catch it while it happens, or come back to dig in later. I have found this exercise to be very helpful in picking out resources for our study groups, as well as for networking.

How about you? Are you looking for your next study for Fall?

Sally


Five Days in Skye Blog Tour

Five Days in Skye

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

Reviewed by Sally Ferguson

Radiant Lit Blog Tours

Genre: Romance

Publisher: David C. Cook

Date: July 9, 2015

“Hospitality consultant Andrea Sullivan has one last chance to snag a high-profile client or she’ll have to kiss her dreams of promotion good-bye. When she’s sent to meet Scottish celebrity chef James MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, she just wants to finish her work as efficiently as possible. Yet her client is not the opportunistic womanizer he portrays himself to be, and her attraction to him soon dredges up memories she’d rather leave buried. For James, renovating the family hotel is a fulfillment of his late father’s dreams. When his hired consultant turns out to be beautiful, intelligent, and completely unimpressed by his public persona, he makes it his mission to win her over. He just never expects to fall under her spell.

“Soon, both Andrea and James must face the reality that God may have a far different purpose for their lives—and that five days in Skye will forever change their outlook on life and love.”

Carla Laureano is really good at building multi-layered characters. Her story-telling is subtle and gives the reader a realistic grasp of who people are underneath the surface. Andrea and James have both been exposed to faith in their lives, but walked away. Who can’t relate to that? We’ve all had a crisis of faith, and that has either made us bitter toward God, or helped us to embrace Him.

The story arc takes you into their struggles, Andrea with her climb on the corporate ladder and James with his efforts to build his image. They ask genuine questions about life and in turn learn to surrender their own brokenness to the only One who can make them whole.

Five Days in Skye is a good read and, for a visual learner like me, provides picturesque backdrop in the beautiful countryside of Scotland. It’s not area I ever thought I would be drawn to, but now, after seeing it through James and Andrea’s eyes, would love to visit. Well done, Carla Laureano!

Carla Laureano is the author of the RITA® award-winning romance Five Days in Skye as well as London Tides and the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Seare (as C. E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.”

Sally

Five Days in Skye is available for purchase through Amazon.com.

Note: I received this book as part of the Five Days in Skye blog tour from Radiant Lit. I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Review copy provided by the publisher.


The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

The Art of Work

The mystical world of “calling” is tackled expertly by Jeff Goins in his book, The Art of Work. He unpacks what it means to find a fulfilling vocation, and the steps needed to get there. This book is actually less about a “job,” and more about a life well lived.

Goins says there are seven common characteristics to a calling: awareness, apprenticeship, practice, discovery, profession, mastery and legacy. These characteristics overlap to form a lifetime process, and when followed, will bring clarity to one’s work.

I love the perspective this process provides. In an “instant society” where we expect graduates to move directly to their dream job, the author brings reassurance for those of us who feel we’ve never arrived. He says a vocation is “not something you try; it’s someone you become.”

The book’s resource list is extensive. Citing stories of ordinary people who took leaps into their calling, Goins paints a portrait of the commitment it takes to go against the mainstream workforce. You find friendship in failure, that proven learning ground for change. And you’re reminded that pursuing your calling is supposed to be difficult.

One of the biggest takeaways for me, is connection to the idea of a portfolio. When life is seen as a collection of experiences that contribute to a whole, they become a collaboration, or portfolio, moving toward an extraordinary life. Doesn’t that take the pressure off of finding one “perfect” job, and instead, steer one toward learning tools from each place we’ve been?

No matter what stage of life you’re in, you need this book. It will empower you to leave the legacy you’ve always wanted!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sally

I review for BookLook Bloggers


London Tides Blog Tour

London Tides pic

London Tides by Carla Laureano

Reviewed by Sally Ferguson

Radiant Lit Blog Tours

Genre: Romance

Publisher: David C. Cook

Date: June 8, 2015

“Irish photojournalist Grace Brennan travels the world’s war zones documenting the helpless and forgotten. After the death of her friend and colleague, Grace is shaken.

“She returns to London hoping to rekindle the spark with the only man she ever loved—Scottish businessman Ian MacDonald. But he gave up his championship rowing career and dreams of Olympic gold years ago for Grace … only for her to choose career over him. Will life’s tides bring them back together … or tear them apart for good this time?

Carla Laureano is the author of the RITA® award-winning romance Five Days in Skye as well as London Tides and the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Seare (as C. E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.”

The Dedication Page immediately grabbed my attention: “To all my sisters who feel unseen and insignificant – You are loved. Your stories matter.”

Who hasn’t felt insignificant at some point? Laureano writes a sensitive story about the choices that change the scope of a person’s life, and how those decisions affect those around her. She tackles difficult topics of grief, career and PTSD.

The publisher, David C. Cook’s Mission Statement is: “To equip the Church with Christ-centered resources for making and teaching disciples who obediently transform today’s generations.”

Their website calls “London Tides a fresh, socially aware novel.”

Actually, London Tides is edgy, with alcohol and steamy relationships. Grace Brennan, the main character, works in a man’s world. She doesn’t seem aware of God’s preservation of her life, until a few references are made at the end of the book about receiving second chances. It’s not the type of book I expected from a Christian publisher, but in the end, find Laureano to be a compelling author. She carries the story with ease, bringing in surprises to keep the reader engaged. She displays a thorough knowledge of the change needed in charitable organizations, in order to make a difference in the world. She certainly brings awareness to the plight of many, woven in the artful form of story.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It is a raw look at life, with pain, confusion and beauty.

Sally

London Tides is available for purchase from Amazon.com

Note: I received this book as part of the London Tides blog tour from Radiant Lit. I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Review copy provided by the publisher.


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