Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger–Book Review

This is a book about loss and healing; forgiveness and acceptance; faith and pain. It’s the story of one summer in the life of a young teenage boy named Frank– a summer when several people die violent deaths, one of them his older sister, Ariel. This death shatters the family and the community in which they live. The mystery of who is responsible slowly unravels until Frank and his younger brother Jake discover the truth. Secrets are revealed and painful growth results.

Ordinary Grace: A Novel

Central to the story is Frank’s father, a Methodist minister, whose calm faith holds his family together as they navigate the process of grief. Even in the worst moments of despair, Frank and his family encounter small, “ordinary” miracles that lead them to God’s grace. Through the love of family and friends, God’s truth expressed in a sermon, the simple act of giving thanks, they begin to release their hurt and anger and continue living.

Well written and realistic, this book will likely become a favorite. It’s an easy read, but one that will make you grapple with important issues of the faith.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. I recommend it.

For more book reviews of fiction see:

Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane–Book Review

white picket fences by Susan Meissner–Book Review

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton–Book Review

Because I Love You by Max Lucado–Book Review

When Jesus taught people, he often used parables, or stories to reveal important truths. He used images and situation that would be familiar to his listeners — things like sheep and shepherds, for example. In this short book for children, Max Lucado uses the same technique.

Because I Love You

A kind man named Shaddai loves the children who live in his village. He knows each one intimately and enjoys being with them, singing and telling them stories. He wants to keep them nearby and protect them and so he builds a wall that will keep them safe from the dangers in the surrounding forest. Naturally, there is one very curious little boy who finds a hole in the wall and ventures outside even after Shaddai’s warning, that he will get lost and have trouble finding his way back. This is indeed what happens. When Shaddai hears Paladin’s cries for help, he leaves his work to go and search for him.

The book simply tells the story of Shaddai and Paladin but it could be used by parents or teachers to explain God’s love in a way youngsters will relate to and understand. It provides a jumping off point for a discussion of why we should obey God’s rules, and how He still loves us and seeks us out to save us even when we fail to listen to Him. The illustrations by Mitchell Heinze are realistic and attractive. It would be best suited to young elementary age children, and is definitely a book to read out loud and discuss. Children won’t get the deeper meaning without assistance.

VERDICT: 5 STARS

For more books for children see:

The Great Farmapalooza by Jill Roman Lord — Book Review

What’s So Wonderful About Webster? by Stephen and Alex Kendrick–Book Review

Flashlight Night by Elisabeth Hasselbeck–Book Review

Every Which Way to Pray by Joyce Meyer–Book Review

The animals at the Everyday Zoo want to be closer to God and that means prayer! But what is the right way to pray? Harley the hippo has a book on prayer with lots of rules — kneel, speak softly, and use special “holy” words, for example. However, as he talks to the other animals he learns that you can pray:

*Anywhere

*In a loud voice, or without words at all

*Kneeling or standing, walking or even upside down!

*For a long time or with just one word — like HELP!

The important thing is to stay in touch with God, and to pray from your heart.

Every Which Way to Pray (Everyday Zoo) by [Joyce Meyer, Mary Sullivan]

The bright illustrations by Mary Sullivan, would make this a great book to read out loud to a Sunday School group, or with your youngster at home. Children will be able to understand and relate to the message that prayer is not difficult and can become an everyday activity. It’s probably best suited for children age 4-7.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. I recommend it.

For more books for children see:

Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You — Book Review

GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

When I Hold You by Ashley Huffstutler–Book Review

The Book of Wanderings by Kimberly Meyer–Book Review

In this memoir author Kimberly Meyer and her daughter go on a pilgrimage, following in the footsteps of Felix Fabri, a medieval Dominican Friar. They travel from Venice to the Mediterranean, through Greece and Cyprus, reaching Israel and crossing the Sinai Desert and finally arriving in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt. In each location Ms. Meyer juxtaposes notes from Fabri’s trip with her own impressions, as well as some ancient and modern history of the regions. Read carefully and you will learn a lot!

Personally Meyer finds herself in a liminal place — her daughters are on the cusp of growing up and leaving home, and she is rediscovering herself as an individual. She says:

“I think what drew me to retrace Fabri’s medieval journey was in part a hope that I might see briefly into that unseen, enchanted realm, like catching a glimpse into the unknowable lives of others from the window of a passing train. I was caught in this earthly pause between two eternities. But if I could know that this pause in which I was watching my own erasure in the growing bodies and shifting faces of my daughters –images of me–was only part of an immortal pattern of reality that did not change, this might allow me to let them go.”

The Book of Wanderings: A Mother-Daughter Pilgrimage

Unfortunately, despite visiting and pondering the significance of many religious sites, Meyer is not a believer, and her travel does not make her into one. Her trip moves her physically, but not spiritually. She tells a Muslim who questions her about her beliefs,

“… I did not know if I believed in God, but I supposed that if God existed, He would be one spirit that pervades all things.”

She also mentions that she does not believe in Jesus as the Son of God, except in the sense that we are all children of God– and God to her seems to be a rather impersonal, universal spirit.

VERDICT: THREE STARS. At the core, this book is a travelogue. It will help you visualize the settings of many Bible stories, but don’t expect to be enlightened spiritually.

Nothing by Natalee Creech –Book Review

In this book, attractively illustrated by Joseph Cowman, children learn about the depth of God’s love. Whether we are traveling in a train, boarding an airplane, flying into outer space, rafting down a raging river or diving under the ocean in a submarine, the love of God follows us. God does not abandon us when we say or do things that we regret. His love is permanent and unending. NOTHING can separate us from God’s Love!

Nothing: Nothing Can Separate You From God’s Love!

Youngsters will love the colorful pictures and winsome rhymes. The words are energetic and seem to bounce off the page! The message is biblical and easy to understand. It brings the verse below to life in a way that young children can grasp. This would make a great addition to any toddler’s library!

“Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” Romans 8:38-39

For more books for children see:

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

The Gift That I Can Give For Little Ones by Kathie Lee Gifford–Book Review

Rediscover Church by Collin Hansen and Jonathan Leeman–Book Review

Rediscover Church

In these days after the COVID crisis drove us to avoid large gatherings, many people fell away from the Sunday morning routine of church attendance; others became accustomed to “doing” church on Zoom or YouTube. In this book, authors Hansen and Leeman, explain why we need to “rediscover church” — why it is important to keep meeting together in person. Regular worship along with others is an essential part of our walk with Jesus.

They begin with this definition of church:

A church is a group of Christians

who assemble as an earthly embassy of Christ’s heavenly kingdom

to proclaim the good news and commands of Christ the king

to affirm one another as his citizens through the ordinances

and to display God’s own holiness and love

through a unified and diverse people

in all the world

following the teaching and example of elders

Each portion of the definition is discussed more thoroughly in the following chapters. At the end of each chapter there are recommended readings for further study.

The teaching is clear and Biblical. You’ll learn why participating in a congregation is essential to spiritual growth toward maturity, and how technology has affected the church in ways that are not always positive.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. I highly recommend it!

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

Rediscover Church: Why the Body of Christ Is Essential | Crossway

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more posts about the church see:

What Is the Church?

Do I help or hurt the Church?

We (the Laity) Are the Church

God is Hope by Amy Parker–Book Review

God Is Hope (God Is Series)

This sturdy board book is intended for toddlers up to age three. The illustrations by Chris Saunders are lovely and include many pictures of familiar animals and birds that youngsters will enjoy identifying. The message that God’s hope is all around us is an important one, and there is a reinforcing Bible verse at the end.

However, I do have some qualms about the book. The size (8″ x 8″) is a bit large for young children to handle easily. In addition the concepts presented are way beyond the understanding of children this age. They think concretely and comparing hope to the sunrise or the onset of Spring will not make sense to them.

My husband, who is a pastor, also pointed out the fact that God is not hope — rather, God gives us hope. Again, a distinction that will be beyond young children.

VERDICT: 2 STARS. Purchase it for the pretty pictures, not the theological content.

For more books for children see these posts:

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

The Promises of God Storybook Bible by Jennifer Lyell–Book Review

Great and Small Prayers for Babies — Book Review

Christmas Every Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren–Book Review

Christmas Every Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren (2008-05-03)

If you are looking for an easy, escapist beach read this may be the book for you. Otherwise, pick something else.

++SPOILER ALERT++The plot is completely predictable. Ever since she can remember, Krista Mueller felt unloved by her mother (her father was not in the picture at all). For years, her mother has been cared for in a facility for Alzheimer patients, and Krista has not visited with her. Now, notified that her mother is dying, Krista returns to her home town of Taos, New Mexico, to make peace. She also reunites with her teenage flame, Dane, who is (surprise!) the director of the Alzheimer facility. Old wounds are quickly exposed and healed, the lovers find one another again and the relationship between mother and daughter is restored.

The characters are not well developed and the Christianity portrayed is superficial. Conflicts are resolved too quickly to create much tension. I read it in one day.

The most edifying part of the book was the description of the Alzheimer facility. Here the author had done her research and suggested some interesting alternative therapies, such as the “Christmas room” where residents could hear carols and see Christmas decorations every day and garden paths that led back to the rooms to satisfy their desire to roam without the risk of getting lost.

VERDICT: 2 STARS. Even if you’re looking for an easy read, there are better choices.

For other Christian novels see:

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron–Book Review

white picket fences by Susan Meissner–Book Review

Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane–Book Review

The Opposite of Certainty by Janine Urbaniak Reid– Book Review

Janine Reid is a self-described control freak — at least until her life begins to spiral out of control. Her son, Mason, is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although it is slow growing, he eventually needs surgery, and then months of rehab learning to talk and walk again. Even after his recovery, he continues to have problems with his short term memory. Later Janine requires cancer surgery of her own — a double mastectomy.

The Opposite of Certainty: Fear, Faith, and Life in Between by [Janine Urbaniak Reid, Anne Lamott]

These devastating health issues have an effect on the rest of the family, putting pressure on Janine’s marriage and relationships with her other two children. She slowly learns to let go of her expectation that she can be a perfect wife and mother, or that by being “good” she can guarantee the safety of her family members.

The book is well written and easy to read. Any parent will sympathize with Janine’s feelings and dilemmas. However, for me, at least, her spiritual struggles seem a bit distant. She sometimes refers to God as a “higher power” (probably because she is the child of an alcoholic) and there are few, if any references to Jesus or the Bible. She does speak about the mystery of God’s ways, and our inability to ever completely understand them — instead we must learn to accept and experience grace whenever it is offered. However, it’s more a book about navigating serious health issues than growing spiritually.

VERDICT: 3 STARS. It will resonate with anyone going through difficult health issues.

For other spiritual memoirs see these posts:

Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey–Book Review

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken–Book Review

this beautiful truth by Sarah Clarkson–Book Review

This poignant memoir tells the story of Sarah Clarkson and her battle to counter her mental illness with experiences of light and God. A rare form of OCD causes intrusive, violent images to inhabit her mind, leading to anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Raised in a Christian family, Sarah’s faith begins to unravel — how can she believe in a good God who allows her to suffer in this way?

This Beautiful Truth: How God's Goodness Breaks into Our Darkness

It is beauty of many kinds that leads Sarah back to hope. She wrestles with God in the darkness, but also encounters brief moments of transcending joy — through art, music, literature, nature, the liturgy, the hospitality of others and more. God, with His love created and is present in all of things things.

Sarah is not cured, but she learns to counter her feelings of failure, guilt, shame and doubt with these small moments of knowing and experiencing the presence of God. Instead of feeling broken and inadequate, she feels love and acceptance.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Moving and beautifully written. I especially enjoyed the many literary references!

For more Christian memoirs see:

Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey–Book Review

Memories of a Devil: My Life As a Jesuit in Dachau by Father Chester Fabisiak–Book Review

Nothing is Wasted by Lore Cottone–Book Review