“The Fold” by Peter Clines

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I have not read many science fiction books and I am not sure why. I was looking for something different to read and this came across my radar. This is the first book by this author I have read, but not the first book he has written by any means. I was anticipating a space or time travel story. I am not opposed to those, but this was a welcomed change of pace. He combined some form of travel into these areas, but the bulk of the story was in a realistic setting.

It is hard to talk about this book and not to give the story line away. The vast majority of the book was easy to follow and you kind of knew what was going to happen. However, the author ramped the story up more than I thought he would. It made a huge leap. In some ways it was too much of a gap, but that is the nature of science fiction. I felt the ending could have been a little stronger. I am having this feeling about several books I am reading lately. There is a lot of time building up to the climax and then it seems the ending is kind of an after thought or not quite sure how to end the story.

Over all this was an easy read and a great way to distract myself. I would read another book by the author. I do feel like I need to say that the book had one sex scene and some cuss words. I mention this for the parents who are reviewing for their teenagers who like Sci-Fi. Not that the publisher is targeting teenagers by any means, but I know several teenagers who like to read this type of literature.

 

This book was provided free for me to review by Blogging For Books.

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“The Porcelain Thief” by Hun Hsu

book1This is a different book than I normally review, but I was intrigued by the description. I am glad I was given a chance to read the book. I loved the book and the story behind it. Not only did I get an interesting story line but I learned about the history and culture of China as well.

Hsu begins to try and discover his roots based off of family history and a story of a buried treasure. Who does not like stories of buried treasure? Hsu tells of his struggles of being an American Born Chinese. He had struggles both here in America and China as well. He tells an intriguing tale of his families journey through the different wars and their struggle to maintain their heritage. There were times when some of the history became a bit tedious and was hard to follow for me. I enjoyed learning about the history and culture, but it was hard to track all of the names and families. He starts off reluctantly  learning about his family, but eventually begins to understand them and why they became the people they were.

His style of writing made the book easy to read. I think he could have shortened some of the book without changing the story and the outcome. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story and wants to learn more about the culture of China.

This book was provided to me by Blogging For Books for review.

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1,000 Books In 10 Years

When I wrote a few weeks ago about the Kindle reader I bought and a little of why I bought it. A few people asked me about my reading goals. I have been hesitate in sharing something like that, because everyone is different in why they read and it is a personal goal.

I need to share on the front end that I read a lot for work. I have friends who only read for work and only one genre. Sometimes they make comments about how you should only read for work, but then they are into sports and other things. For me reading is also how I relax and have fun. I love escaping into the other worlds of books. Reading 100 books a year does not make me superior to someone who does not. This is a goal that is just for me.

This is how and why I set the goal of reading 1,000 books in 10 years. When I started this year off I began like I always do in setting some goals for work, but I also like to set some for myself. The personal goals are things I want to enjoy or make an improvement in. There are people who read over 200 books a year so this is not a world record by any means, but it would be a huge stretch for me. I can honestly say this has been one of my favorite goals this year.

imagesI am four months into it and I am ahead of schedule. I know I need to read about 8 books a month on average. However, some months are more and some are less. There will be short books and long books and so you have to bank on the fact that at the end of the year it will all balance out. The first month I was nervous and read very fast making sure I had met my goal. I eventually developed a rhythm and slowed down. What good was reading that many books if you did not comprehend or retain any of what you read?

For fun I read fiction, classics, poetry, and books about writing. In my work I needed to work on a balance. I tend to find a topic and read only about one thing. So for me I read books related to my specific job, discipleship, prayer, leadership, and devotional books. This gives me the balance I am looking for and if I want to improve in a certain area I try to limit it to 6 books at a time. You could balance the list for most any job.

For me the reasons for this goal is to become a better minister. I am not quite ready to just rollover and relax. Reading is one of the main ways I can keep up and move forward. There are certain areas of my life that I want to improve in and reading gives me a way to do that. Conversations with others is easier and I am able to participate more. One of my goals is to become a better writer and you cannot become a better writer without being a huge reader. The two go hand in hand. I have also found that reading, like most things in life, the more you do it the more proficient you become. I read everywhere. Five minutes waiting for someone to arrive at a lunch meeting, and situations like waiting at the doctor’s office. There are short periods of time that I try to take advantage of.

I realize this goal is not for everyone. I am at a place in my life where I can do this. If I had small children at home and other obligations it would be hard to do. I feel like this level of reading with my years of experience in life will be a great combination.

I had a couple of questions about how do you afford 100 books, and the church must give you a great book allowance. The church allows me $200 a year for books which I appreciate, but that will not cover this level of reading. So here is how I am doing it so far. I review books for different book companies and they give me a free book for the review, I download free ebooks from different websites for my e-reader. I also use the library both in person and online. I buy books at goodwill and other used sites. By the way if I am in your office and you have a book setting on your shelf I will probably ask to borrow it as well.

People ask me “what if you do not meet your goal?” Honestly that is not the point. So what if I only read 900 books in 10 years or it takes me and extra 6 months to read the 1,000. The goal is secondary. It is the process and who you become from reading that is the real goal.

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“The Ancient Path” by John Michael Talbot

talbot bookLet me start off by saying I have always been a huge fan of John Michael Talbot’s music and have loved his other books. He had an impact on my life when I was in college and seminary. His music is incredibly worshipful.

Therefore, I really wanted to like this book. I had a certain mindset of how this book would be like from his previous writings, This was different. What made his other books work for me was the sharing of his life and some of this thought. This book was heavy into his theology and just a little of his life. Most people are usually drawn to him and want to know more of his story. This book had some of that, but not enough for me. I think the average person will become lost in his discussion of the Early Father’s writings and theology.

You can tell he is a “thinker” and does not take his relationship with God lightly, and I appreciate that. There are parts that make you stop and rethink some things in your own life. I always like it when an author has that kind of impact. Overall this book was an interesting read, but it helps to have some knowledge of theology. I am not sure the average person looking to remember John Michael Talbot will read all of the book. I think they will skip to the parts of his actual life and make this a quick read.

This book was given to me by logo

for a review

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The Art of Receiving

This past week I had a friend who gave me a vintage Esterbrook fountain pen. I have a deep love for fountain pens, both old and new. What made the gift even more special is that he had painstakingly restored it himself. I knew how much time and effort he had put in. The pen had a beautiful blue luster when he had finished with it. Blue is my favorite color and especially on fountain pens. I offered to pay him for the pen, but he quickly refused. It was a gift. To treat it any differently would have offended him.

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I learned something about myself. My personality coupled with my calling as a Minister is to serve. I am happiest when I am doing something for others. However, I learned that I struggle when someone does something for me. I am not complaining, but I am usually not on the receiving end of gifts. I realized that I have a hard time with this. It is a lot easier for me to give someone a gift or do something for someone than to receive. I always feel like I should somehow compensate them. There is a real art to receiving a gift and being grateful. I need to work on that.  I think we all feel this way at times.

This got me to thinking about salvation. We have a hard time receiving God’s gift as well. I see people all of the time trying to do things so they can deserve their salvation. They are constantly truing to win God’s love by doing things they think He wants them to do. The greater the value of the gift the more we want to try and compensate for it. Our salvation is a gift. There is nothing we can do that would ever be enough to compensate for what Jesus did for us on the cross. When my friend gave me the pen; I had to stop trying to pay him back and just receive the gift. It is the same with our salvation. I have to let go and receive the gift.

Every time I use this pen I will think of my friend and how special it was to get a gift like this. What reminds you of the free gift of salvation that God gave you? There are markers in my spiritual life and the ordnance of the Lord’s Supper is one of them. It is a great time for remembering.  How closely related is learning to receive a gift connected to salvation?

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Learning To Trust The Artist

Living in the Memphis, Tn area I enjoy going to the Dixon Art Museum. During the summer months they have “Food Truck Fridays” and nothing is better! My favorite section in the museum is the area where they display the Impressionist paintings. By definition Impressionist art is a style in which the artist captures the image of an object as someone would see it if they just caught a glimpse of it. They paint the pictures with a lot of color and most of their pictures are outdoor scenes. Their pictures are very bright and vibrant. The artists like to capture their images without detail but with bold colors. They use short, fat strokes.  What does this really mean? For me, I love the fact that when I am close to the painting it is fuzzy and unclear, but the further back I move the clearer the painting gets and you can almost see the waves in the water move. It is magical to me. I do not know how they accomplish their art.

monetI was thinking the other day about life. Some times we are in seasons when everything seems blurry. I can see the basic shape and some color, but the true beauty of the picture is not there. Life happens to us, people disappoint us, and we hear the word cancer. Another stroke of the brush on our canvas. I sat today with a lady whose sister is on hospice; another stroke of the brush. We look for clarity, but we cannot find it. All we can see are the blobs of paint. Nothing makes sense. There are usually some bright colors mixed in during these times, but we have a hard time focusing on them. A splash of color comes by an unexpected lunch with a friend, warmth of family, and people praying for us that we do not even know.

We all have seasons like this. I find that when this happens for me I have to go away and spend some extended time in prayer. I have a special place I go to where I can spend the whole day in prayer. I always come away with a better perspective. I can see better, but not perfect. I wish that I could tell you this is where I always start when these seasons come, but I do try to end up there.

I have to trust and rely on the Artist. God is painting my life with His brush strokes and only He is able to see the picture from a distance. He knows how each stroke is going to produce a painting that I could not imagine. Trusting the Artist is not always easy. Like everyone else, I want to see everything perfectly. I want to see the reflections and the waves dancing. However, on this side of heaven we never get to see the final art. We see glimpses, but there will come a day when we get to step back and see the final product. We will look with amazement and say “Wow, I had no idea.” The short fat ugly strokes we see close up will make up a beautiful picture.

I do not know what is going on in your life, but trust the Artist.

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Connection Time

historical_museumMy daughter and I spent part of her Spring Break reconnecting with a couple of relatives and exploring a historic museum. She has done a lot of work in researching our family history and compiling pictures.  When I asked her what she wanted to do for her week off she said she wanted to meet a particular couple in our family and go to the Tippah County Historical Museum.  Not your average Spring Break trip, but then we are not your average family either.

We started the day with our family and had a great time reconnecting, getting pictures, and hearing some stories. We spent the night in Ripley, MS. and then the next day we went to the museum. It was a nice surprise. They had done an excellent job collecting items and setting up displays in the different rooms. My daughter was able to scan some pictures, swap some pictures with the people in the museum, and gather some time lines she needed.

She and I had a great time relaxing and hanging out with just the two of us. Love it when these times happen.

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“Jesus Continued” by J.D. Greear

UnknownThis was the first book I have read by this author. I found his writing style easy to read and I will look for additional books he has written.

Writing a book about the Holy Spirit is not an easy thing to do. Every denomination has there ideas of how the Holy Spirit is supposed to work. There are extremes in all of the view points. I think J.D. Greear provides a balanced and Biblical view of the Holy Spirit and how He works.

He divides the book into three main sections: Part 1 “The Missing Spirit,” Part 2 “Experiencing the Holy Spirit,” and Part 3 “Seeking the Holy Spirit”.  Most books written on this subject are hard to understand and use words that the average person will not know. J. D. Greear does a good job of explaining the basics of the Holy Spirit in a way most people will grasp what he is trying to convey. You may not agree with all of his view points, but I doubt there is any one writer whom everyone will agree with on this subject. I found myself underlining sections several times as I was reading. This is a great book to recommend to friends, people in your bible study class, and people who are wanting to know more about this subject without getting bogged down in a lot of what may be new vocabulary. If you are looking for a book that will give you a basic understanding of the Holy Spirit; then this is a great book for you.

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Why I Moved To An E-reader

imagesIn this day and age you may be wondering why anyone would still buy a dedicated e-reader. I had not given an e-reader much thought until the last couple of months. Let me explain.

This year as I was setting my goals I wanted something different and something that would engage me. I set a goal to read 1,000 books in ten years.  I am fifty-five and this would carry me close to my retirement age. I may write a blog post on the details of this goal and more of the why in the future. Today I want to write about the e-reader.

I love reading a physical book. However, carrying a physical book  with me all of time is not practical. Because of this goal I always want some form of a book with me. You will be surprised how much you can do with 5 minutes. I own a Mac, iPhone 6Plus, and a iPad. So why would I need to add something else to the mix? I soon found out my iPad would not keep up and stay charged. My iPad took what seemed forever to recharge and I did not want to drain my phone. Therefore, I began to look for other options.  After much researching I landed on the Kindle Voyage. Most of the books I get digitally are discounted or free, and they come from Amazon. Therefore, looking at the Kindle made sense.

The Voyage was delivered and I opened the package. It was much smaller than I expected. The actual size of the device was about 6 inches, but the screen size was around 4.5 inches. Since the Voyage was here I decided to put the e-reader through the paces. Here are my thoughts.

I grew to like the size of Voyage. It fits easy into one hand and is super thin and light. After a few minutes of using the Voyage I began to enjoy the size.  I found reading on the Voyage easier than on the iPhone due to the fact that the iPhone was long and thin. The Voyage mimics the size of a small paperback which I like. I was also interested in the E-ink. You would think the color on the iPad would be easier, but my eyes seemed to like the black and white experience. The research points out neither is bad for your eyes, but some people will prefer one over the other.

I had  a couple of  unexpected benefits with the e-reader as well. I was able to quickly get lost in the reading of the book. I am not sure why, but it was better. Maybe it was a color issue compared to the E-ink. I also found myself reading more. I do know why this was true for me. All you can do on this device is read. That is it. Nothing else.  With my iPad and or iPhone checking email or looking something up on the internet was too easy. Thirty minutes had passed before I realized I had not been reading. I know this is part discipline and part ADD, but it was a factor.

Are there any drawbacks? I found one this weekend. When I bought my e-reader I opted not to pay the extra $20 to turn off the advertising. Not a big deal. The advertising only shows up as a screen savor and never interfered with the reading. This past Sunday the book Amazon kept pushing was 50 Shades of Gray.  As a Minister I did not want this in my house for my family to see. I always carry my reader to work with me and most people would not realize this was an advertisement and would think I had downloaded the book instead.  I do not use a cover on my Voyage so you can see the screen at all times. It feels better in my hand without the cover. I emailed Amazon and expressed my feelings about the situation and how I could not carry it to work. They responded back in a couple of hours and told me how to go into my settings and remove the book from showing up. They also offered to take away the advertising on my device at their expense. I took them up on their offer. Kudos to Amazon for a quick response and for absorbing the cost to change my device.

Overall I am happy with my Kindle. I still prefer reading a paperback, but the Kindle offers a more pleasant reading experience than my iPad or iPhone. Your milage may vary as the saying goes. I chose the Voyage over the PaperWhite because of the higher resolution. I am not sure you could tell much difference between the two, but there is no way to compare them side by side. The box stores in my area only stock the PaperWhite. I knew I would be reading a lot so I decided to try the Voyage and I am happy with my choice.

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We Are All Torn Between Two Worlds

As I was reading the account leading up to the last Passover Jesus would spend with HIs disciples I noticed two opposite people in His world. The first was Mary the woman who came and worshiped Him, broke the alabaster of perfume and poured it on Him. She was a part of His inner circle and that would have placed her near Him all the time. Her life had been changed. She was a different person and all her heart could do was worship Him. She gave one of her most precious and expensive gifts to Jesus. Nothing was good enough to give Him. She “got it”.

Contrast that in the following verses with Judas who was conspiring to betray Jesus. Here was a man who was in the inner circle of Jesus also.  He saw all of the same and more of the miracles, the healings, and he listened to all of the teachings of Jesus. With all of this advantage over Mary; he did not “get it”. Nothing was more important than the pursuit of money. Greed encompasses more than just money. It affects every area of our life.  His character had not changed. No matter how much time he spent doing religious things he never made a decision to truly follow Jesus. The contrast between the two shows up in worship.

Before we pile on Judas we need to stop and evaluate where we are in life as well. Maybe we have made the decision to follow Jesus, but is it evidenced in our worship? We can attend church multiple times a week, sit in a Bible study, listen to a sermon and still not be right in our relationship with Jesus. We can have the Jesus here and now all around us and still miss out. The key is our daily walk with God. When I am not reading my Bible to hear personally from God and spending time praying and talking with God; then I am missing the important part of the relationship. Where does this show up? In my worship.

imagesRemember the first story? Nothing was enough for Mary to show her love for Jesus. She was not focused on anything other than Him. She gave sacrificially our of love for what had happened in her heart. Judas? Just the opposite. He was focused on everything but Jesus. Every Sunday across America ministers hear all of the trappings of unfocused worship. The music was too loud. I could not hear the music. I was too cold. I was too hot. The preacher went overtime. I don’t like that kind of music. The preacher is too evangelistic. The preacher was boring. You get the picture.

Yes, we all have preferences, but that is all they are, just preferences. A heart that is truly focused is not overly concerned about all of those things. What happens during the week comes out in our worship on Sunday morning. We need to make sure that we do not miss Jesus. There is more to worship than just showing up. There are days when we are torn between the two worlds.

What can you do this week to make sure you are ready for worship?

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