Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Your Beautiful Heart by Lauren Scruggs

Fashion journalist Lauren Scruggs knows how it feels to search for beauty. She grew up knowing of God’s love, but never fully understood what that love meant, or how it extended to the deepest parts of her soul—until a horrible accident that resulted in the loss of both her left eye and hand. In her darkest hours, everything Lauren believed was tested. Yet it was there that God showed her where real beauty comes from: the unfailing love of the Creator. God’s love is what truly makes us lovely.

Lauren Scruggs has faced a lot of major changes in her life in recent years, and is very open about her struggle to overcome these challenges. Her refreshing honesty about the pain and hardships, both physical and mental, setbacks and triumphs make this a great book, especially for teens and young women who may struggle with self-image. Your Beautiful Heart: 31 Reflections on Love, Faith, Friendship, and Becoming a Girl who Shines, co-written by Lisa Velthouse, divided into 6 different parts:
  1. Your Seeking Heart
  2. Your Changed Heart
  3. Your Obedient Heart
  4. Your Heart For Others
  5. Your Distinctive Heart
  6. Your Heart Looking Forward
There are a total of 31 small chapters that touch on a variety of topics ranging from body image, self worth, peer pressure, inner beauty and more. There are also discussion questions at the end of chapter for self-examination or to use as part of a Discussion Group. Some of the stories told are ones she has shared in the past, but with an added hindsight of what she learned. The stories of how her faith in God kept her strong and guided her are inspiring and should be very influential for others.
Lauren continues to be an inspiration to others and I am happy to see her continued growth. I first heard of her when a friend in Dallas texted me that his friend Lauren had been in a bad accident and could I please pray for her. I have many times since that message. If you are unfamiliar with her story, I suggest you check out her book, Still Lolo.

Lauren & Jason Kennedy
Photo Credit: Lindsey Brittain and Kat Harris
Lauren, founder & editor of LOLO Magazine, works as a fashion journalist.She recently wed E! Network correspondent, Jason Kennedy. Lauren is also involved with a yearly retreat with surfer Bethany Hamilton to encourage girls who have lost a limb.

Beautifully Flawed Retreat

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of the Tyndale Blog Network. 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: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

More by Tammie Head

More: From Messes to Miracles by Tammie Head is her story of how God performed the miraculous in her own life in spite of the mess. Her childhood was filled with neglect and abuse, leading to an "escape" at the age of 15 to sex industry. Life as a stripper and a marriage than ended in divorce at 18. Drugs and alcohol helped her to cope with the mess that was her life, but Tammie felt that there had to be more. She felt that God was calling her to hive her life to Him, but did not know how to do that.

Her boyfriend's mom was the catalyst to helping her see that she could be so much more than what she had settled for, but the birth of her first daughter is what led to a serious search for God. She found Him and was baptized, but spent a couple of years as a rule-follower and doing the right stuff that Christians are supposed to do.

Then she had an encounter with God.

Tammie learned there was more to a relationship with God than being a good church girl. God wants you to love Him and to spend time with Him to gain heart knowledge rather than just head knowledge. She also learned that He did not want her to keep silent about her past. Her "mess" brought a message of the miraculous works God will do when we abandon all parts of our lives to Him.

Her honesty about her fears, failures, and faults gives fresh hope to those who feel they have made too many mistakes for God to accept them. The heartbreak she endured as a child, including decisions she made as a teen, are proof that there is a new life to be found despite your circumstances. And that those experiences can be used to encourage others and to glorify God.

At approximately 150 pages, this is a fairly quick read. I did find some of it to be as bit repetitive, but liked the book overall. I would definitely recommend it to others, especially those who believe their past, or current life, makes them unacceptable to God.

I received a free copy of this book from Icon Media Group in exchange for a fair and honest review. They are also providing a copy for one of my readers at no cost to myself or the blog reader. Winner will be determined by a random drawing of those who commented on blog.
Drawing to be held, Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 3pm CDT.

 Tammie Head Q & A
1. What do you want readers to learn from reading your book?

People everywhere are looking for something more. Churched and nonchurched alike. They're in the grocery store aisle behind you, in the nail chair beside you, singing praise songs in front of you, and perhaps in the mirror staring back at you. People feel messy; plagued by looming feelings of ineffectiveness, indifference, depression, and purposelessness. However, all of us were made for more than surviving. Old stale religion never satisfies. Neither do the solutions the world has to offer. What all of us need is an encounter with God that reveals truth and sets our hearts ablaze. I have seen this in my own life as well as in countless lives around me.

2. Your life was a bit of a mess before you came to know Christ. How has He used your story to advance His kingdom?

I have watched God use my story repeatedly as a tenderizing agent for
hardened hearts toward God. People cannot believe what God has done
for me. In turn, I have also been privileged to lead many people to Christ, to the One who changed me. People are glad to know God loves and pursues even the messiest of people.

3. What encouragement do you have for men and women who feel like
their lives are too messy for God to use?

If God can use me, He can use anyone! But even more profound than "He can" is this: He wants to! God specializes in taking the most broken of lives and turning them around for His glory. The Bible is full of broken men and women who, after encountering the Lord, were used dramatically by God and for His kingdom.

4. What encouragement do you have for men and women who are
yearning to have more in their lives?

The more we're longing for, at the end of the day, is God. More of His
presence. More of His love. More of His power. And so on!What I want
men and women to know is God wants "so much more" of us than we
could ever want "so much more" Him. The deal is, we must risk making
more room for God. The key is sitting with Him, soaking Him in, allowing Him to minister to us on a deep level and, lastly, deeply surrendering our lives to Him day-by-day.

5. What are some resources for readers who are ready to take the next
step and start living for more?

I have written a Bible study called Duty or Delight: Knowing Where You
Stand with God. I think that would be a great resource for digging deeper into more of a relationship with God.

6. Where can readers connect with you online?

Readers can connect with me at several social media sites.
Twitter: @tammiehead
Instagram: @tammiehead
Facebook: Tammie Head
My website and blog: tammiehead.com

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Life, by John: The 7 Shades of Christian Film

Life, by John: The 7 Shades of Christian Film: Christian film is a very small subgenre of a very large industry, in spite of over seventy years of fighting for an equal seat at the table....
(click on link to continue reading at original source.)

The article above is a ReBlog from the Life, by John blog of filmmaker, John Moore. I thought he did well in summing up the different subgenres of film, and that he did it without putting any of them down. I get frustrated when people don't seem to realize that Christian Film is not just one type of film. And, as with secular movies, they range from excellent to horrible with a whole lot in the middle. I can watch a film with a friend and we have totally different reactions. What one friend loves, I may loathe and vice-versa. Filmmakers, strive for excellence (
And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. ~ Colossians 3:17), but remember that there is room for all types of films. 

John Robert Moore on IMDb

Follow @thepaladinian on Twitter
Ace Wonder: Message From a Dead Man
The Widow's Might

PS: And, of course, I loved what he said about Andy Librizzi and I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment of Beyond the Farthest Star! :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

10 Steps To Your F.I.T.: Faith Inspired Transformation

One of the most photographed fitness models in America is speaking out about the one thing that took her from overweight in her 30s to the cover of the top fitness magazines in her 40s, and the answer may surprise many: it was her faith in God.

Dolan Leto is now passionate about helping other women experience their own faith-inspired transformations that affect their physical, mental and spiritual wellness. To do so, she wrote the book 10 Steps to your F.I.T: Faith Inspired Transformation. This book guides women through every aspect of living a whole, healthy life, from diet and exercise to forming healthy thought processes about your body, and finding your true identity in Christ. Dolan Leto encourages readers to stop focusing on societal pressures to fit a certain standard and begin focusing on understanding what God says about faith, fitness and self worth. (publisher)

My Review: Kim Dolan Leto is a fitness expert, speaker, and author who chose to make some changes in life to lose weight and become more healthy. She has an approach that incorporates both healthy food decisions and spending time with God to create a balance that nourishes the body and the spirit. The book is divided into 10 different chapters, each with great ideas and strategies to transform your lifestyle and eating patterns, as well as inspirational Scripture and lessons to be learned and encouraged with as you progress. There were suggestions, especially for an early morning "Power Hour" that really resonated with me. I'm not in the habit yet, but I confess that my days do seem to go much better when I heed these suggestions.

Questions at the end of the chapters help one to put it all into perspective, and made me think that keeping a journal of progress, and even setbacks, would be a great way to see my progress and to pinpoint areas that need a bit more work. Her common sense approach, combined with practical advice and spiritual inclusion truly do make this approach to finding a healthy body, mind, and spirit doable, no matter where your starting point is.

I received this book at no cost to myself from Shelton Interactive in exchange for a fair and honest review.

GIVEAWAY!! Shelton Interactive is offering a copy of 10 Steps To Your F.I.T.: Faith Inspired Transformation to one of my readers. Leave a comment no later than 11:59pm CDT on Thursday, March 26, 2015 to be entered.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rasmus and the Vagabond

After running away from an orphanage, nine-year-old Rasmus finds the world a cold and unfriendly place until he befriends an extraordinary tramp called Paradise Oscar. Together they meet more adventure than they ever imagined, solve a mystery, and catch the culprits. Rasmus dreams of finding a family and a home someday. But when he does, will he be able to part with his new friend and life on the road? 

My Review: How did I miss this one when I was growing up? I remember loving Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books, but can't remember if I read others by her. So, it was due to those memories that I agreed to review Rasmus and the Vagabond. No doubt this is a piece of classic children's literature and I am so happy I can now say I read it.

The characters are intriguing and the story captured me immediately. There are elements of suspense, comedy, hope, heartbreak, and adventure to keep readers of any age enthralled and to ignite the imagination. There are also great character traits displayed, along with the innocent mischief any child is apt to get into. This was a satisfying read from beginning to end and one that needs to stay in print for future generations.

I was provided with a free copy from Handlebar Marketing in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

Born a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father's failed assassination attempt upon the king. Bold and uniquely skilled, she is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village--a group that becomes known as "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest." Merry finds her charge more difficult as their growing notoriety brings increasing trouble their way.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, he's forced to reexamine everything he's known. (back cover) 

My Review: Dauntless has a strong female heroine as the main character and is a good role model for girls as she takes on responsibilities, puts the needs of others above herself, and overcomes adversity. Since I usually enjoy historical fiction I did have high hopes, but I am not the intended audience for this series. I had not realized that the book was youth fiction, so I did attempt to readjust my thinking as I read. Every now and then when I would get exasperated, I would remind myself that I would have found some of the scenes much more romantic when I was a teen. I was torn between there being a high level of maturity in some areas, and getting frustrated and losing interest in other parts of the book. I did enjoy the faith aspects, and the part it played in decisions made, especially as these children had to break laws to survive. Also, although Merry and Timothy were the main characters, I found Allen to be the most interesting and would have preferred more of his story. Dauntless is the first book in the series Valiant Hearts and does show promise of being a good series for teenagers. For me, the book was 3 stars, but I would probably have put it at 4 stars if I was the appropriate age.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing, in exchange for an unbiased review.

Monday, March 9, 2015

No Longer a Slumdog by K.P. Yohannan

No Longer A Slumdog: Bringing Hope to Children in Crisis, is written by Gospel For Asia founder K.P. Yohannan. While many people are aware of the poverty that is widespread throughout India, it is hard to even imagine just how full of despair many of the citizens are. Despite being officially illegal, the caste system is alive and thriving. Your socio-economic level is determined and birth and there is no changing it. Within the pages of this book, Yohannan gives a voice to the voiceless with both tales of unmitigated horror, but also with the hope than can be found.

Hopelessness seems predominant through many of the stories shared, yet the stories of hope through lives transformed through the Bridge of Hope Centers sponsored by Gospel For Asia. The stories of abject poverty, human trafficking, illiteracy, and early deaths are heartbreaking and seem insurmountable, yet Yohannnan also presents happy endings that are triumphant and show you ways that can make a profound difference. Ignoring the problems will not make them go away and it is true that the numbers of those trapped in this vicious cycle are overwhelming, but he presents solutions that you may contribute to help alleviate. You may not be able to save all, but perhaps you may help save one child.

Dr. K.P. Yohannan, founder and international director for Gospel of Asia, has authored more than 200 books. He is on the board of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), and his Road to Reality radio program airs on more than 900 stations worldwide.

I received a copy of this book from Gospel For Asia in conjunction with FlyBy Promotions. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Life With a Capital L by Matt Heard

Life with a capital L by Matt Heard is a book that recommends
we take Jesus at His Word when He said in John 10:10, "I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance." If you are looking for prosperity gospel, 'Name It and Claim It', positive affirmation or any of the other popular messages being handed out in today's Americanized gospel, the is NOT the book you are want. Nor is a book for those who piously gather in a 'holy huddle', afraid to become involved with the culture around them and more condemning than loving when others do not fall within the boundaries. Refreshingly, the message of this book is to embrace the life you have now and take the time to enjoy it.

Heard drew me into his story with a description of seeing the painting There is Life Everywhere by Nikolai Yaroshenko . The painting is of 5 people on a prisoner train who are observing Life around them, even feeding birds outside the barred window. They are engaging in Life despite their imprisonment. A shadowy figure of their guard, who has his back to what is happening, is a poignant statement of those who hide away. His freedom is shackled mentally, just as the prisoners are physically. Heard almost missed seeing this powerful painting due to his own hurry and the impact it had made him slow down and reflect.

This is not a step-by-step manual, but an embracing of lessons learned and examples of how they were learned. Filled with anecdotal material, it is like sitting down with a friend to reminisce about experiences, many humorous, and the lessons learned. In Part One, he encourages the reader to Reclaim Our Humanity, and in Part Two, Matt explores 10 Experiences of Life with a Capital L.
Well worth the read!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group 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.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado, with Candace Lee and Eric Newman is a Christian fiction book published by ThomasNelson that is delightfully reminiscent of films like It's A Wonderful Life or The Bishop's Wife.

Chelsea Chambers has recently had a very public split from her NFL superstar husband. She and their children return to their hometown in Texas to reopen the coffee shop left to her by her mother. Even with her incredible cupcakes, hard work, and determination, Higher Grounds Caf├ę is having too many set backs. In despair, she prays for a miracle.

An endearingly likeable, albeit clumsy, strangers shows up at her door, eager to help. Not long after, she gets a free trial for a most unusual internet deal. Users can only connect to one website...God.com. Higher Grounds is soon buzzing with new business eager to ask the one question they are allowed, but this creates as many problems as it solves. When Ryan returns, begging for another chance, Chelsea is certain that her world has been turned upside down once again. No matter how hard she tries, disasters keep arriving.

My Review: At first, I wasn't sure. I absolutely love Lucado's nonfiction books and find all of his children's books and DVDs absolutely delightful. This brand of fiction/fantasy was a bit different, but I found myself enjoying it more and more until I finally just relaxed and had fun with the adventure. It was a bit fluffy, so I would prefer a bit more indepth look at the characters in future books of this type, yet I really liked it enough to want to read more. This is a lighthearted book, in spite of touching on some harsh realities, that warms the heart and leaves a smile that grew more as I read. Great book for a couple of free hours or to take with you on vacation.

Read the first 3 chapters!

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review and all  opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, March 2, 2015

Growing a Strong Marriage: Starting Strong

Hendrickson Publishers introduces Starting Strong,  the first in a video Bible study series called "Growing A Strong Marriage". The series, designed to help you strengthen and grow in your marriage. Whether you are in the early days of your marriage or have been married for over 50 years, your relationship is always going to need nourishment and tender loving care to survive and thrive.  

Volume 1, Starting Strong, teaches the importance of a strong Biblical foundation.
Four DVD sessions, ranging from 8 to 20 minutes long, feature touching interviews and personal advice from:
John and Staci Eldredge
Chip and Theresa Ingram
Gordon and Gail MacDonald
Les and Leslie Parrott
Art and Lysa TerKeurst
Gary and Lisa Thomas

Hendrickson Publishers website

My Review: This marriage dvd series is a bit different than others I have gone through, but I like it. I was more familiar with some of the couples featured than others, but loved hearing the stories each shared. It actually seemed they were more part of the group and were opening the way for others to feel more comfortable about sharing. Starting Strong, the 1st volume of the Growing A Strong Marriage series is divided into four sessions:
Session 1 – How We Met
Session 2 – Foundation in Marriage
Session 3 – Identity in Christ
Session 4 – Paths to Christ in Marriage

Using these video clips, along with a wonderful study guide written by Amy McGowan, the facilitator of the group study is able to steer the conversations into ones that help the group get to know one another and for the couples to be able to open up to the group and one another. This is not a serious set of sessions for repairing deep hurts in a marriage, but more like a refreshing time to remember and reflect on how far you've come as a couple and the importance of keeping lines of communication open. I was especially glad to see the subject of satanic attacks on a marriage. That session definitely honed in on the importance of talking it out with your spouse AND to pray together as a couple for your marriage.

  I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.