Tag Archives: Word Alive Press

Review: Promises You Can Count On, by Natalie Gidney

Promises You Can Count On, by Natalie Gidney (Word Alive Press, 2009)

Bible promise books, complete with a helpful index, are great resources, and every Christian’s bookshelf should have one. But you only need one.

That’s why Promises You Can Count On takes a different approach. Natalie Gidney focuses on ten essential promises, including peace, salvation, grace and joy, and invites readers to “claim them and watch and see what He can do.” (p. 6)

This slender book is ideal for new believers or for those considering faith in Jesus Christ. It’s also a good refresher for more seasoned Christians. Each chapter draws on a number of Scriptures to explore one of God’s promises. With an easy conversational style, Natalie looks at what this promise can mean in our lives, and she offers candid examples of what it’s meant in her own.

Naturally, salvation is one of the early topics. It may surprise some readers, then, to see forgiveness rounding out the number ten spot as the final chapter. But as Natalie explains, forgiveness is something that’s required of us as well as something we need from God. That can be a hard truth to hear, and I think she’s wise to build up to it.

In some ways, forgiving others—or ourselves—isn’t possible until we’re sure we can trust God’s promises. So it makes sense to immerse ourselves in them first and grow our faith.

Promises You Can Count On was a finalist in the Relationships category of The Word Guild’s 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Awards (for books published in 2009).

Canadian author and speaker Natalie Gidney blogs at Promises for All. You can watch her interview on 100 Huntley Street: part 1 and part 2.

[book source: my personal library]

2010 Canadian Christian Writing Awards

The Word Guild’s 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Awards were presented on June 16 in Mississauga, Ontario, recognizing work published in 2009. For a complete list, see The Word Guild Awards site.

The awards cover articles, blog entries, reviews, short fiction… and books. Some of these books I’ve reviewed, and others are on my ‘to read’ list. If you’re looking for some good reading this summer, you might check these out:

Apologetics: Red Letter Revolution: If We Did Revolution Jesus’ Way by Colin McCartney (Castle Quay Books)

Biblical Studies: Jesus, the Final Days by Craig Evans (Augsburg Fortress Canada)

Children: Terrific Tuesday by Wendy van Leeuwen (Gumboot Books)

Christian Living: Beyond the Clutter: Discovering Personal Authenticity by David Wiens (Word Alive Press)

Christian Living Award of Merit: Master Mind: Thinking Like God by Dwight J. Olney (Word Alive Press)

Culture: Ninety-Nine Windows: Reflections of a Reporter from Arabia to Africa and Other Roads Less Travelled by Thomas Froese (Essence Publishing)

Culture Award of Merit: The Tender Heart of a Beast by Michael “Bull” Roberts (Trimatrix Management Consulting Inc.)

General Readership: The Tender Heart of a Beast by Michael “Bull” Roberts (Trimatrix Management Consulting Inc.)

General Readership Award of Merit: The Little Ones by M.D. Meyer (Word Alive Press)

Independently Published Fiction: The Lathe of God—A Quest For Noah’s Ark by Angus L. Franklin (iUniverse Inc.)

Independently Published Fiction Award of Merit: The Little Ones by M.D. Meyer (Word Alive Press)

Independently Published Non-fiction: In the Arms of my Beloved – A Journey through Breast Cancer by Sandra Crawford (independently published)

Independently Published Non-fiction Award of Merit: The Bishop or the King: How the Anglican Church of Canada Has Failed to Defend Its King by Ron Corcoran (Essence Publishing)

Instructional: The Leadership Edge: Seven Keys to Dynamic Christian Leadership for Women by Eileen Stewart-Rhude (Castle Quay Books)

Instructional Award of Merit: Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You by Bonnie Grove (Beacon Hill Press)

Leadership/Theoretical: Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation by James K.A. Smith (Baker Publishing Group)

Leadership/Theoretical Award of Merit: 1 and 2 Peter: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible by Douglas Harink (Brazos Press)

Life Stories: In the Eye of Deception by Nikki Rosen (McMaster University: Innovative Press)

Life Stories Award of Merit: The Bishop or the King: How the Anglican Church of Canada Has Failed to Defend Its King by Ron Corcoron (Essence Publishing)

Relationship: Majesty in Motion: Creating an Encouragement Culture in All Your Relationships by Stewart Brown (Word Alive Press)

Special: One Goal: A Praise and Prayer Journal by Gerry Organ (Word Alive Press)

Novel—Young Adult: If Only You Knew by Mags Storey (Kregel Publishing)

Novel—Contemporary: Talking to the Dead: A Novel by Bonnie Grove (David C. Cook)

Novel—Futuristic/Fantasy: After the Flood by Shane Joseph (Hidden Book Press)

Novel—Mystery/Suspense: Captives of Minara by Eric E. Wright (Word Alive Press)

Novel—Romance: If Only You Knew by Mags Storey (Kregel Publishing)

Novel—Romance Award of Merit: Shadows on the River by Linda Hall (Harlequin/Steeple Hill)

Review: Mud in Your Eye, by Gord Penner

Mud in Your Eye, by Gord Penner (Word Alive Press, 2009)

The subtitle of Mud in Your Eye explains its meaning: “he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud.”

The book’s back cover warns, “If you don’t see yourself the way God sees you, then you will more than likely see yourself the way you think others see you.” Hmm, there’s a whole lot of truth to that.

In talking about Jesus’ encounter with the blind man and the mud (John 9:1-41), Gord Penner asks, “Are you willing to have mud smeared on your eyes? Do you trust Jesus enough – do you want to see badly enough – that you’re willing to let Jesus have his way in your life, no matter how it looks?” (page 5)

Each chapter of Mud in Your Eye is 3-4 pages long, good for a quiet, reflective pause in your day. What I appreciate most about them is the focus on Scripture and on how it applies to our lives – and the challenge to truly believe it. The word of God has power, and we need to hear – and sometimes speak – what it says.

Canadian author Gord Penner is also a motivational speaker and life coach. His name was new to me, but I’m glad I found his book.

Book source: my personal library

Review: Blooming, by Marian den Boer

Blooming, by Marian den Boer (Word Alive Press, 2009)

Blooming, subtitled “This Pilgrim’s Progress,” is a collection of short, slice-of-life vignettes from the den Boer household. Many were originally published as articles in The Christian Courier. Each one ends with a Scripture and the author’s thoughts as she looks back on the incident.

Marian den Boer writes with a friendly, engaging style, as if she’s sharing these events with a good friend. She’s not afraid to admit when she fails, and she has a keen eye for the humour in a situation. It’s interesting to read the lessons she draws from her life, and although our own experiences will often be different, the lessons still apply.

Marian sums the book up best herself:

The stories… reveal the day-to-day experiences of my sometimes frazzled self as I mothered six children over a period of approximately 15 years. The Holy Spirit subtly, yet dramatically, convicted and convinced me in the nitty gritty of everyday family life… I lived Christianity from my head. As the years progressed God patiently changed me into someone who attempts to live Christianity from the heart as led by His Spirit. (pp. xii, xiii)

Although each chapter is short, I kept turning pages for “just one more.” Watch for Blooming when the short-list comes out for this year’s Canadian Christian Writing Awards.

For more about Canadian author Marian den Boer, visit her blog, Blooming: This Pilgrim’s Progress (and Regress). You can read the introduction to Blooming here, and sample chapters here and here.

Review copy purchased by reviewer (at Miracles Christian Store).

Review: Because We Prayed, by Mary Haskett

Because We Prayed, by Mary Haskett

Because We Prayed: Ten Considerations for Effective Prayer, by Mary Haskett (Word Alive Press, 2009)

Our troubles don’t end when we become Christians. They may even get worse. But belonging to Jesus means we’re not alone. We can pray to a living and powerful God who loves us.

In Because We Prayed, Mary Haskett looks at ten considerations for effective prayer: faith, forgiveness, not judging, the Holy Spirit, the Enemy, spiritual warfare, hope, evidence, the value of prayer, and victory in Jesus. In her own gentle style she shares key truths learned through Scripture and personal experience.

Because We Prayed is a small book, easy to read yet offering solid teaching. I took a chapter at a time so I could digest it before moving on. Each chapter finishes with three application questions for personal reflection or group discussion, and with a prayer.

This isn’t a theology text, but it’s theologically sound. It’s meant for the average reader. New Christians, seasoned pastors, and everyone in between in a variety of denominations can benefit from these brief readings. Prayer is a work to which all Christians are called. It can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate. It’s our duty—and our privilege. If it’s boring, we’re doing it wrong. And prayer works.

Let Mary Haskett challenge and encourage you to deepen your prayer relationship with God. You won’t be sorry.

Mary is the author of two non-fiction books: Reverend Mother’s Daughter and Because We Prayed. Reverend Mother’s Daughter received the Bronze IPPY Award in the 2008 International Literary Competition and was a finalist in the Life Stories category, The Word Guild of Canada National Award, 2008. You can find her online at her website and her blog. It’s been my pleasure to work and pray with Mary in The Word Guild prayer team, and I truly appreciate her gracious spirit and her sincere faith.

Review: West Nile Diary, by Kathleen Gibson

West Nile Diary, by Kathleen Gibson

West Nile Diary: One Couple’s Triumph Over a Deadly Disease by Kathleen Gibson (BPS Books, 2009)

Bugs are an unwelcome but expected part of a picnic. The mosquito that bit Rick Gibson in August 2007 gave something back: West Nile neurological disease.

West Nile Diary is the story of Rick and Kathleen Gibson’s battle to recover from what Kathleen calls “the pirates of West Nile.” Like a pirate attack, the disease hit without warning, plundered their lives and left them facing a difficult and uncertain future.

Kathleen tells their story through journal entries, emails and her newspaper column, “Sunny Side Up.” It’s a frank, personal account that left me not only cheering for the Gibsons but feeling like I now know Kathleen much better than our passing acquaintance would suggest.

The book is non-fiction but it reads like a novel, complete with escalating tension and reversals. It’s done without chapter breaks, each entry two pages at the most, and I stayed awake way too late reading “just one more.”

It’s a story of illness and the struggle to regain independent life, but it’s not a “downer.” Certain sections had me blinking back tears, but others made me laugh. Kathleen’s informal and personal writing style made it feel like she was telling me the story one-on-one.

According to the CBC website, “In Canada, 42 people have died from the virus since 2002.” The same article adds, “In 2008, the Public Health Agency of Canada said the number of human cases totalled 38.” That’s down from 2,401 in 2007 and 6 in the first 37 weeks of 2009. Let’s hope it stays down.

Only one in 50 cases will develop into meningitis or encephalitis like Rick’s. Most readers will be the lucky ones who escape West Nile entirely. But we’ll all experience serious illness—either as the victim, the caregiver, or the supportive friend or loved one.

West Nile Diary lets us walk in the footsteps of one couple’s journey and although our own may be very different there are similarities for which we can prepare.

For all the good medical staff, there will be some clashes. Some good friends will fade out of our lives; others will amaze us with their care. We’ll develop new friendships with fellow travellers. Life will change. We’ll have no guarantee of the future. If we make it through, re-entry to “the real world” will be surprisingly scary, and the caregiver will find it hard to let the healing person become independent.

What made the difference every day for the Gibsons was their relationship with God. Kathleen prayed each day for “strength for today and hope for tomorrow.” God always said “yes” to that prayer. As well as restoring much of Rick’s health, He drew the couple into caring relationships with people they’d never have otherwise met.

Kathleen says, “I’ve learned three things in my journey down the West Nile with Rick and the pirates: God is a lot stronger than I thought he was, I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was, and God can do exquisite things with broken circumstances.” p. iix

To learn more about Canadian author Kathleen Gibson, visit her website. And be sure to check out her “Sunny Side Up” column. Kathleen is also the winner of Word Alive Press’ 2009 non-fiction contest for her book, Practice by Practice: The Art of Everyday Faith. Publication date has not yet been announced, but I hope it’s soon.

In closing, as Kathleen says in West Nile Diary, “PS. Wear repellent.”

Review: Whispers that Delight, non-fiction by Andrew T. Hawkins

Whispers that Delight, by Andrew Hawkins

Whispers That Delight: Building a Listening-Centered Prayer Lifeby Andrew T. Hawkins (Word Alive Press, 2008)

“Does your prayer life seem like a one-way conversation? Do you have difficulty quieting yourself to listen to God?”

These questions from the back cover of Whispers That Delight may evoke quiet “yes” responses from many Christians. Andrew Hawkins knows better than to offer an instant fix. Instead, his PARE approach is a framework within which we can deepen our prayer like. And it can be used whether you have ten minutes or an hour.

It seems paradoxical to suggest the way to more intimate communion with God could come through a structured format, although the Old Testament Israelites wouldn’t have found it so. In Whispers That Delight the format is simply the means to a desirable end, and the author makes it clear that the Holy Spirit’s prompting must take precedence over externally-imposed structure.

The acronym PARE describes Rev. Hawkins’ pattern for prayer, and he reminds us that to pare is to cut or shave away thin layers. As we pare off “the superficial things which occupy our minds,” (p. viii) he promises we’ll discover more of God.

P is for preparation, when we refocus from ourselves to the goodness of God in praise and thanksgiving. This is also where we confess anything that’s inhibiting our communion with God and receive His forgiveness and restoration.

A is attentiveness, with our spirits fixed on God’s presence to hear what He may have to say. One person may “hear” words, another impressions or images, another through reading and meditating on Scripture.

R is our response: to love, to intercede or repent, to act. Rev. Hawkins says, “Although God gives specific guidance and even surprises us with supernatural directives, when we meet him in prayer he primarily empowers us to do what we already know to do.” (p. 95)

E is a fitting end: enjoyment. Instead of rushing off into the day with a “Thanks, God!” we need to take time to linger a few minutes in His presence, just for the experience of being with Him.

Not that we should stop praying then—the concept of prayer without ceasing, practicing His presence, is worth pursuit. But our intimate, one-on-One prayer session has ended for another day.

Whispers That Delight comes with three appendices, one of which I think would serve better at the beginning: “Tips on Reading Whispers That Delight”. Essentially, the tips are “Read with the heart, read small portions at a time, and to go deeper, study the quoted Scriptures.”

Reading in bite-sized chunks is definitely wise. This isn’t at all a hard read, but the subject itself requires careful consideration and prayerful pondering. To breeze through Whispers That Delight would be to “read” the words and miss their effect on our hearts. I’m glad I took it slowly.

Rev. Andrew T. Hawkins is a Canadian author, and pastor to St. Paul’s Congregational Church in Ontario. Whispers That Delight is a book for all denominations and levels of faith, and it received The Word Guild 2009 Writing Award in the Book—Biblical Studies category.