Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Blog Tour: Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders (Review)

Heal your relationship with food.

Eating disorders and disordered eating ravage and consume too many lives.  In this powerful book for individuals suffering from eating disorders—as well as those wanting to help—Dr. Gregory Jantz comes alongside his readers with a well-tested and successful approach that addresses the emotional, relational, physical, and spiritual dimensions of healing from an eating disorder.

Topics include:
  • Five often-overlooked nutritional keys to recovery
  • How to let go of anger, fear, and guilt
   • Tools for creating a binge-free life
   • How not to be a victim of others
   • The role of emotional and verbal abuse in eating disorders
   • Seven keys to creating healthy relationships

This completely updated and revised edition contains new material on nutritional leading-edge interventions, spiritual abuse, and healing strategies for compulsive behaviors.

If food has not found its proper place as nutrition in your life, discover the answers in Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders. Because you can do more than just survive--you can really live.

Contains thought provoking questions and activities to guide readers through progressive healing steps.

What I Thought
I picked up this book, because well, I work with teenage girls who often deal with food issues.

The book is easy to read and contains several personal stories designed to help illustrate the message that there is hope, help and healing for people dealing with disordered eating (anorexia, bulimia and more.)

Less of a self-help book, it instead is a book which is more of an overview and resource for someone wanting to get out of the pit of food addiction.

Help and hope. I feel very comfortable passing this book along to a student, or parent for that matter, impacted by food issues.

About The Author

Gregory Jantz, Ph.D., is a popular speaker, author, host of daily radio call-in program, and founder and executive director of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc., a leading mental health and chemical dependency treatment facility in the Seattle area.

Dr. Jantz’s “whole person” approach to mental health addresses the emotional, physical, intellectual, relational, and spiritual dimensions of human beings. He has authored seven books, including Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders and Losing Weight Permanently: Secrets of the 2% Who Succeed.

Online Resources
Read an online excerpt here.
Download the first chapter here.
Buy it at Amazon.com here
Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Destination: NWA

Destination: NWA is over. The mission experience for older elementary and middle school students is finished, and it was a success.

Four days, three nights, five work projects. It proves a simple point - you are never too young to serve God.

Students helped serve a community meal, held a canned food scavenger hunt for a food pantry, helped in the food pantry, and also helped move the furniture and toys back into a re-furbished church nursery.

All in all, 30 students and a plethora of adults took part in the trip - representing four churches within the Northwest (AR) District of the United Methodist Church.

Hopefully, a few students had a chance to "Break Out" of their comfort zones and learn how to serve God in new ways, within their local communities.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Destination: NWA (or how I'm spending my spring break)

Meet the Destination: NWA Team

For the next few days I'm "missioning" with a group of older elementary and middle school students (along with three really great high school helpers). We'll be helping at a community meal, having a canned food scavenger hunt for a local food pantry, working in the food pantry and helping do a project or two at the jurisdictional conference retreat center.

I love the fact that these kids are willing to give up part of their spring break to do something for someone else.

I also love the fact that their parents trust us enough to send their older elementary (and middle school) students on four day - three night mission trip.

Here's some close ups of the students (and adults) on this week's trip.
 Team Bella Vista (First UMC Bella Vista)

 Team Springdale (First UMC - Springdale)

 Team Siloam Springs (First UMC - Siloam Springs)

Team Elm Springs (Elm Springs UMC)
I'll write more later. But for now, if you are reading this, please pray for the team. We've got a few kiddos on allergy meds (season turning kind of things) and a few others who are feeling a bit run-down. 

In all today went great- a team building extravaganza!

The "work" begins bright and early tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Blog Tour: Love Amid The Ashes (Review & Interview)

Is it possible for two people find love in the midst of heartache, loss and well, ashes?

That is the question posed by Mesu Andrews in her debut novel, Love Amid The Ashes, a story that brings the Bible to life as it explores the story of Job in a new and unique way - including placing it within the timeline of Jacob, Easu and Jospeh.

"In the myriad historical biblical novels I read – both Christian and secular – I never encountered the story of Job’s life," Andrews said. "I wondered why. Was it simply too depressing or was there simply not enough historical data to create a well-informed story?

"On the first day of my research in a university library, I picked up a commentary and discovered two things: 1) Job was thought by some to be Esau’s great-grandson, and 2) Job’s wife mentioned in Job 3 may not have been the same wife mentioned at the end of his suffering.

"Well, at that moment, I was hooked! I didn’t care how depressing Job’s suffering was because we all know God blesses him in the end! My real passion for the story came when I realized the women around Job were just as important to God as Job."

Though the novel, which opens with the introduction of Dianh, Isaac's granddaughter - Jacob's daughter, agreeing to adhere to Isaac's dying wish, that she will marry into the family of Job - thus bringing God's blessing to the line of Esau through potential offspring.

The storyline weaves together not only Job's struggles, but also introduces readers to Dianah's possible heartache and pain carried with her from her young life.

Through it all, Andrews said she learned many lessons from her main characters - including patience.

"So many times in the story, I wanted to rush Dinah through an emotion or rush Job through his illness, and my critique partners would have to slow the scene progression down," Andrews said. "It was very telling about how I tend to rush my own emotions or my own health issues, impatiently tapping my toe, waiting for God to 'hurry up!'

"Just as a teacher learns far more in preparation than his/her students learn from the lesson, I think a writer probably learns more from her characters than the readers do!"

Andrews said she typically writes her novels to be light on fiction and heavy on Biblical facts.

"I have such a passion for God’s Word. It is the air I breathe," Andrews explained. "I get a real charge out of finding fun, seemingly insignificant little verses and weaving them into an intriguing plot twist. I use my chronological Bible to discover what characters live in the same era and try to pull them all into the story!

"The Bible world was a small world, and though they didn’t have planes, trains and automobiles, they had strong family ties that linked them. So, for my novels, it’s not just the Bible and fiction. It’s the Bible (inerrant truth without deviating), adding in historical data (from ancient texts and rabbinic tradition), joined by fiction (good ol’ homespun imagination)."

In all, Andrews hopes her readers learn several things from her novel.

"I hope...they realize suffering isn’t God’s way of pounding people. It’s His way of turning the enemy’s evil plan to good – shaping us and revealing Himself," Andrews said. "Though Job asks 'why' time and time again, God never reveals the cosmic reason for Job’s afflictions.

"He reveals only Job’s frailty in the shadow of a loving, almighty God. Job doesn’t respond with groveling and terror (as one might expect in the presence of such a display of God’s power), but Job shows wonder and obedience. I suppose that’s what I hope for from readers – wonder and obedience as they see God in a new way."

A Look Ahead
Andrews is in the process of editing and marketing her second novel, Love's Sacred Song, the story of King Solomon’s early years and the love of a shepherd girl that shaped his character and his nation. It is set for a March 2012 release.

She has also started research on four additional biblical novels.

"I love to find famous (or infamous) male figures and then search and dig for interesting information about the women in their lives," Andrews said. "Stay tuned to discover which shadowy characters are revealed in the next four Old Testament tales!"

What I Thought

For a debut novel, Mesu Andrews has "hit a home run" with her portrayal of Dinah and Job.

Through strong Biblical research and solid writing, Andrews has created a novel that is not only enjoyable to read, but will also challenge you to study the Bible more and more. 

I'll be honest, it made me read the novel alongside my Bible, to try to determine which aspects were fiction and which were true.

I find her placement of Job within the chronology of Jacob, Esau and Joseph, helps give the story a new twist. Exploring Dinah possible role in the story was well, unexpected.

On a scale of one to five,with five as the highest, I definitely give it a solid for, if not four and half. I honestly couldn't put this novel down. It's made me think of the story of Job in new ways - and given me new images to describe Job's sufferings with others.

This novel is challenging and enjoyable. It's definitely a book you'll want to read more than once.

More About The Book
An epic story of love and forgiveness, suffering and restoration

When her beloved grandfather Isaac dies, Dinah must follow his final command: travel to Job's household to marry his son. After Job's world comes crashing down, Dinah finds herself drawn to this great man brought low. What will she risk to fight for his survival?

Mesu Andrews weaves an emotional and stirring account of Job and Dinah. Love Amid the Ashes breathes life, romance, and passion into the classic biblical story of suffering and steadfast faith.

More About The Author
Mesu Andrews is an active speaker who has devoted herself to passionate and intense study of Scripture.

Harnessing her deep understanding and love for God's Word, Andrews brings the biblical world alive for her readers in this debut novel. She lives in Washington.

"I  have lots of free resources and info posted on my website: www.MesuAndrews.com. Folks can download discussion questions and a Bible study on Love Amid the Ashes and sign up for my weekly e-devotionals. Or they can just drop by and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!"

Online Resources
A Bible Study for Love Amid The Ashes
An online excerpt of Love Amid The Ashes
An online reading guide for Love Amid The Ashes
Find Love Amid The Ashes @ Amazon.com

About Revell, The Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blog Tour: The Mountains Bow Down (Review)

Everything's going to work out. Time away always makes things better . . ..

That's what FBI Special Agent Raleigh Harmon believes as she boards a cruise to Alaska. A land of mountains and gems and minerals, The Last Frontier is a dream destination for this forensic geologist who's hoping to leave behind a hectic work schedule and an engagement drained of romance.

But when a passenger goes missing and winds up dead, Raleigh's vacation suddenly gets lost at sea. The ship's security chief tries to rule the death a suicide, but Raleigh's forensics background points to a much darker conclusion: Somewhere onboard, a ruthless murderer walks free.

Engulfed by one of her toughest cases yet, Raleigh requests assistance from the FBI and receives her nemesis-perpetual ladies man Special Agent Jack Stephanson. As the cruise ship sails through the Inside Passage, Raleigh has five days to solve a high-profile murder, provide consultation for a movie filming onboard, and figure out her increasingly complicated feelings for Jack-who might not be such a jerk after all.

And that's only her work life. Family offers even more challenges. Joined on the cruise by her mother and aunt, Raleigh watches helplessly as disturbing rifts splinter her family.

Like the scenery that surrounds the cruise ship, Raleigh discovers a situation so steep and so complex that even the mountains might bow down.

What I Thought
This is the second book I've read featuring Raleigh Harmon, Sibella Giorello's main character. In my previous review, I mentioned that Harmon, well, was a bit hard to get to know. She is, a very gritty character.

But, I think like a good wine, either she (the character) is "aging" well, as the series progresses, or I'm just enjoying watching her solve crimes and continue to grow in her faith.

This novel, set on an Alaskan cruise, was a good read. Intense at times, it held my attention to the very end. I was even surprised a time or two by the plot twists. It also made me want to go on a cruise - to explore some of the Alaskan scenery described so vividly by Giorello.

I also like the author's introduction (or re-introduction) of Jack Stephanson, another special agent assigned to solve the murder. I think (in my personal opinion) he's a match better for Harmon than her southern fiance.

If you like The Women's Murder Club by James Patterson, I truly believe you'll find this series a good read. It's enjoyable to find a murder-suspense novel without the "junk" of gratuitous language and horror.

On a scale of one to five, with five the highest, I give this book a strong "four". It's well written, with strong characters and plot development. This series is definitely growing on me and I am really looking forward to the next book, The Stars Shine On, set for a March 2012 release.

About The Author
Sibella Giorello grew up in Alaska and majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College. After riding a motorcycle across the country, she worked as a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize.

She now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons. Find out more about Giorello and her other books at her website. www.sibellagiorello.com

Online Resources
Buy The Mountains Bow Down at Amazon.com
See other books by Sibella Giorello on Amazon
Read my review of The Clouds Roll Away (Another Raleigh Harmon Novel) here.
Follow the Litfuse Group Blog Tour Here!
Check out the other books in the Raleigh Harmon series here!

Discover Raleigh Harmon
Start the series fresh with this great deal! Pick up a copy of Book 1 for your Kindle or Nook for only $2.99!

The Stones Roll Away is the critically acclaimed award winner that kicked off the Raleigh Harmon series.

Find The Stones Cry Out at Amazon
Find The Stones Cry Out at Barnes & Noble

It's A Contest
Sibella Giorello is celebrating the release of The Mountains Bow Down with a blog tour, a Cruise prize pack worth more than $500 and a Facebook Party! Don't miss a minute of the fun.

One Grand Prize winner will receive:
  • A $500 gift certificate toward the cruise of their choice from Vacations To Go.
  • The entire set of the Raleigh Harmon series.
To enter click one of the icons below. Then tell your friends. And enter soon - the giveaway ends on 4/1! The winner will be announced at Sibella’s Raleigh Harmon Book Club Party on FB April 5th, 2011! Don’t miss the fun – prizes, books and gab!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

About the Facebook Party: Join Giorello and fans of the Raleigh Harmon series at 5 p.m. PST (that's 6 p.m. MST, 7 p.m. CST & 8 p.m. EST) Tuesday, April 5, for a Facebook Book Club Party.

Giorello will give away some fun prizes, test your trivia skills and host a book chat about the Raleigh Harmon books. Have questions you'd like to chat about - leave them on the Event page.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Litfuse Publicity Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hoppy Spring!

 Happy First Day of Spring!

Celebrate. Go outside, enjoy the fresh air.

Today, I'm grateful for yellow flowers 
and fat robins chasing birds.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blog Tour: Bathsheba (Review & Interview)

Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba.

Three women with one thing in common – a marriage relationship with King David during his rise to power and reign.

For the past three years, author Jill Eileen Smith has released a series of novels examining the lives of these three women.

Her latest release, Bathsheba, tackles both the good and the bad aspects surrounding David’s adulterous yet loving relationship with his third “main” wife, Bathsheba.

Smith said her series grew out of her research.

“I started out studying David’ s life and wanted to know how and why he did the things he did,” she said. “The study evolved from wanting to understand him to trying to imagine what life was like for the women he married.”

Smith said she was struck with three questions as she looked at the lives of these women: Did David love them? Did the women love him? And, finally,  how did they handle life in a royal harem?

“I learned that human nature does not change,” Smith said. “Though time and culture separates us, women in any age still feel deeply and care about similar things.

“We are not so very different. I can’ t think of anything that truly surprised or shocked me.”

During her research, Smith not only learned things about David and Bathsheba, but also Uriah.

“Uriah’s military code of conduct would have influenced his comments to the king and his refusal to go home to his wife,” Smith explained.

She also learned things about Bathsheba.

“I think her relationship with David grew over time,” she explained. “She had a lot of grieving to do over  Uriah’ s death and the death of her newborn son before she could even consider any kind of a relationship with David.”

Each of the stories focus on one particular wife, and how she interacted with David.

“The Bible doesn’t tell us which wife might have been David’s favorite – or if he even had a favorite,” Smith said. “My fictionalized version of each wife’s story is supposition in that respect, but I do believe David and Bathsheba grew to love each other over time.

“They had five sons together, which was more than David had with any other wife – at least that is recorded in Scripture. He wouldn’t’ t have spent that much time with her if there was nothing between them—not with so many other women to please.”

Smith said she learned quite a bit, researching and writing The Wives of King David series.

“With each story I tend to experience the emotions of my characters,” Smith said. “A trial they went through will often be something I experience—not the same circumstances, but something that would trigger similar emotions.

“In those moments, I tend to have an epiphany that tells ‘me this is probably how Bathsheba felt when…’ and so on.”

Smith said she hopes readers will see her empathy with the characters as they read the novels.

“I always aim to explore the characters’ motives and feelings so that I can try to convey that through the story to my readers,” Smith continued. “All three of these women suffered a great deal in their lifetimes, but of the three, Bathsheba’ s story probably evokes the most feeling in me.

“I’m really not sure why. Maybe because she is the one listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ and hers is the greatest story of grace.”

A Closer Look At Biblical Fiction
Smith said she likes to combine Biblical facts with fiction for several reasons.

“I [like] to explore how and why things might have happened as they did. To bring the story to life for the modern reader,” Smith said. “Hopefully, to inspire readers to want to go back and read what really happened in the Bible and discover God’ s truth for themselves.”

While The Wives of King David series contains a thread of romance, Smith said she simply focuses on the lives of the people involved in the stories.

“When I write Biblical fiction, I study the people of the Bible and try to convey the truth of who they were or at least who they might have been,” Smith said. “The Bible itself is a love story from beginning to end. If you can see it as a whole, you see God’s heart in His great love for mankind, in sending Yeshua, Jesus, the Messiah to restore the love that was lost between us and Him and to bring us back into a relationship with Him.”

A Look Ahead
Smith has started working on a new series – The Wives of the Patriarchs. The first novel, Sarai, releases in mid-Winter, 2012.

Who is Smith?
Smith describes herself as a wife, a mom, aspiring Bible scholar, author, amateur historian, cat owner, musician, and above all- a Christian.

Want to find out more about her?  Visit her blog: http://www.jilleileensmith.com or find her on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jill-Eileen-Smith/10924241028?ref=ts

Smith said she loves to hear from her readers. Her e-mail address is: jill @ jilleileensmith.com (just remove the spaces).

What I Thought
Smith puts a lot of time and energy into researching her stories and it truly shows in her stories.

She crafts her Biblical fiction in such away, that I found myself grabbing my Bible and re-reading familiar passages to see where she drew her inspiration.

I will admit, it took me a while to "dig into" the story, for two reasons:
1) I thought I knew enough of the story - that I questioned why I should read a novel about it. I mean, David and Bathsheba are probably one of the "this is how you make bad choices" stories in the Bible. I "thought" I knew the story, kinda like I knew the how the story of the Titanic ends (duh the boat crashes) even before the movie came out.

2) I really didn't like Bathsheba at the beginning of the novel. She's a bit, well, whiny. Smith said she tries to portray the emotions of her character. Well, I believe she succeeded. I felt the emotions of Bathsheba (before her affair with David) and frankly, didn't like them.

However, I kept reading. For that, I was rewarded.

As Paul Harvey put it, Smith tells the "rest of the story" after David and Bathsheba have an affair, and Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, is killed. Pulling from her research and probably her imagination, Smith helps "humanize" David and Bathsheba in a way that will help you see the story with fresh eyes.

It's' a well written, well developed novel. On a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, I definitely give it a four or maybe four and half. It's a book that is going on my "keeper" shelf, and one that I'll probably recommend to a few avid readers in my sphere of influence.

More About Smith
Jill Eileen Smith has more than 20 years of writing experience, and her writing has garnered acclaim in several contests.

Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Smith is the author of the bestselling Michal and Abigail and lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

Find her at her blog: http://www.jilleileensmith.com or on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jill-Eileen-Smith/10924241028?ref=ts

Online Resources
Find Bathsheba on Amazon.com
Read the other books in the series: Michal and Abigail
Download the Bible study guide for Bathsheba here.
Read an excerpt of Bathsheba here. 
Download the Bathsheba Reading Group Guide here.
Read my review of Abigail here.

About Revell, The Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lenten Focus: Prayer

Prayer must be the topic God is trying to get into my brain today.

I woke up praying - usually this is God's way of getting my attention, letting me know there's something in my life I need to either let go, or simply let God deal with it.

Then my beautiful cousin posted a lovely quote from Henri Nouwen on my Facebook wall....little did she know that Nouwen is one of my favorite writers....

"Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule of a Christian or a source of support in time of need, nor is it restricted to Sunday mornings or mealtimes. Praying is living. It is eating and drinking, action and rest, teaching and learning, playing and working." - Henri Nouwen

Prayer is living. I love that thought. It's a living, breathing part of my life - and sometimes, I'll admit, I don't do it enough. Many times my prayers feel like I'm simply standing at the "vending machine" of life, asking for intervention. I know that's not what prayer is in my head, but somehow that message doesn't always seem to travel to the 18 inches to my heart.

I once heard that people who are successful continue to practice their "art" (be it music, sports, drama or another creative outlet) even when they don't feel like it. Maybe prayer is like that. Even when we don't "feel" like it, we should do it, because it keeps our hearts "tuned" to God.


The other prayer reminder came from Facebook as well today, as the findings of a seminary friend. She wrote of discovering a three-minute prayer retreat that's online as part of the Loyola Press offerings. (A ministry of the Jesuits, part of the Catholic faith).

Simple, easy and even self guided - if you want to take longer than three minutes, you can.

The "tag line" for the prayer time is "3 minutes of prayer a day, can give you 24 hours of peace."


You can take today's retreat, or "surf" for a previous retreat - the topic might be just what you need this morning. I found this one, which seemed to resonate with my desire to eliminate things during Lent and fill the empty spaces with God.


A couple of prayer thoughts today, as we enter into the second week of Lent - kind of a spring housekeeping for your soul - as we prepare for Easter.
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