Monday, November 16, 2015

The Wedding Chapel

Taylor smiled. "Guess that's it for now." Then she heard it - the whoosh-thump. The sounds of a heart's chambers. She tossed Coach a visual. Their gazes met and she knew. He'd heard it too.
"Do you think buildings have a soul, Taylor?" He jutted out his square chin where a soft dusting of white whiskers caught the light.
"A soul?" she said, raising her gaze to the ceiling. "I reckon not. Only humans have souls. But I suppose an old building just might have a heart." She tossed it out there waiting for him to respond, to confess he head it too.
He nodded and turned for the door. "You ready? I'll lock her up."
In the yard, Taylor bid Coach a good day and climbed behind the wheel of the Lincoln.
Coach could not, must not sell this place. Because Taylor innately understood any change of hands would end a dream that somehow still yearned to live. And the key of that dream was buried in the heart of one sweet old coach.

Book: The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck, Zondervan, 2015

Genre: Romance
Target Audience: Women 19+
Subjects: Faith, Hope, Love
Summary: Do dreams ever really die? Two couples, two generations, both dreaming of love. Neither is sure they have found it or ever will find it. Jack and Taylor married six months ago. What were they thinking? Neither one knows much about love or marriage. Jack was a foster care kid, shifted from home to home. Taylor’s sister just got a divorce. The inability to hang on to a marriage seems to run in her family. Yet they married, but maybe not wisely. “Coach” Jimmy Westbrook built a monument to love sixty years ago. It was a beautiful wedding chapel for the woman he wanted to make his bride. The war came and a deceiver successfully tore them apart. Now the time has come to consider letting the dream die once and for all. He’s old and someone wants to pay him good money to buy his property. Maybe he should just be done with it once and for all. But in that chapel beats a steady heartbeat, reminding all who hear that maybe dreams don’t have to die. Maybe Someone is great enough to restore and heal what has been broken. Maybe love really can come, even to those who aren’t sure they believe.
Notes: The Wedding Chapel is a bit of a change for author, Rachel Hauck. It’s not as light-hearted as her previous books. This one almost seems depressing in the beginning as she paints a vivid picture of how hopeless all of the characters are. Every single one of the four main characters has nearly given up all hope of finding real, lasting love. They are also letting their faith in God fall by the wayside as well, not sure how much to believe in that love. But slowly, bit by bit she brings hints of hope into the character’s lives, ending with the characters finding faith and hope and believing in love again. My favorite scene is when one of Jack’s foster father’s explains just how loved Jack truly is and was – both by his foster parents and his Heavenly Father. It’s a moment of the truth being revealed and the way the author uses the foster father to reveal the truth is beautifully done. I highly recommend this story, especially for anyone who was struggled with doubting that real, genuine love can come to them, or even exists at all.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Corinthians 13:13  - Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Berenstain Bears Get Saved

Berenstain Bears Get Saved!
Since 1962 children have grown up reading books about a family of bears, particularly two cubs that get into mischief. Children learn lessons right along with the bears. But that was all. It stopped at teaching good morals.
That has changed though. Zonderkidz is now publishing Berenstain Bears books that actually teach Scriptural values! Titles such as “The Berenstain Bears Go To Sunday School” or “The Berenstain Bears And The Golden Rule” are now what you can expect from the series!

Here are summaries of some of their new books. As always, thanks to the publisher for providing me with free review copies in exchange for my honest opinion! I appreciate it!

Here are a few new Berenstain Bears books for your enjoyment! The best part about these is the abundance of Scripture used in them! Good morals are nice, but so much better is when it has a strong foundation, a reason for those morals!

Summer is winding down and school time is fast approaching. Brother, Sister and Honey are all very unsure how to feel about it. There are some nerves influencing their excitement. Honey will be going for the first time and is worried about missing her parents. Brother is worried about math. Sister is worried about history. Their parents open the Bible and teach them that they can always rely on God and turn to Him in prayer, asking for strength and guidance. They recite Psalm 34:4 to the cubs. When the cubs come home with homework that worries them, Papa leads the family in praying for strength and help. At the end, their parents open the Bible again and teach them Philippians 4:13. The book also has Proverbs 1:5 printed on the copyright page.

Firefighters, police, drivers, plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, watchmakers, engineers, scientists, singer, astronaut, environmentalist, farmer – there are so many possible careers to choose from! Brother and Sister Bear walk all over town observing the different jobs being done and discuss what they might pursue when they grow up. They note that their parents have taught them that everyone has a God given special talent to do a job and help others. When they look at the job of farmer they refer to it as using “God’s good land”. They do lack an element of seeking God’s will – it is put in terms of “the choice is up to you”. There isn’t an turning to God to seek what He wants for them. It’s just a quick overview at lots of different possible jobs to give kids a start on dreaming of their future. The book has Matthew 5:16 printed on the title page.

Clubs are great fun! Cub Club goes on picnics, plays sports, participates in the arts, and puts up holiday decorations. They also seek to help others though. Preacher Brown, the leader of the club says “it is a good thing to help those in need” and quotes Proverbs 14:31 to them. They get a chance to go way out of their way to help someone in need when a flood hits part of Bear Country. They trek out with the adults to help rescue those trapped by the flood and put down sandbags to try to divert the water. Then they go back to the chapel where Preacher Brown tells the story of Noah and the cubs spot a reminder of the story in the sky when the rain is done. Preacher Brown also gives credit to God for keeping them safe and sound and gives credit to the cub club for helping with the flood. The book has 1 Thessalonians 5:15 printed on the title page.

(See earlier review further down page)

Sister is fine with listening to gossip about others in school until the day she overhears her friends gossiping about her! Suddenly gossip doesn’t make her feel “special” or “in the know”. Her understanding actually starts at home when one of her parents makes a comment about someone and the other parent points out that it’s gossip. Her Mama explains what gossip is and quotes Proverbs 16:28. She chooses to ignore the stirrings of guilt and not think about it until she hears she friends gossiping about her. Sister confronts her friends by randomly shouting rude things about them to others around and finally all the friends agree to stop gossiping. Cousin Fred quotes James 3:6. The book has Proverbs 26:20 printed on the title page.

Brother and Sister are quite talented. There is a whole list of things they can do. The result of their talent is that they each feel super proud of themselves and are always trying to out-do the other one. Their bragging about their talents and skills and achievements gets out of control. Their parents attempt to get them to stop. Papa Bear quotes 1 Corinthians 13:4. The cubs don’t listen though until the day their grandpa catches them having a bragging contest about imagining designs in the clouds. He points out just how foolish their argument is and how out of control their bragging has become. He quotes Proverbs 13:10 to them. This time the cubs finally get it and make an effort to stop bragging. The book has James 3:5 printed on the title page.

 The Berenstain Bears' Easter Sunday

This book tells the story of the cubs family as they go through their day one year at Easter. It focuses a lot of the "why" things are done. Why are festive clothes worn? Why does the church tell Bible stories? Why do people celebrate Easter with eggs? And is it ok to use jelly beans to celebrate Easter? While in church the book states that the preacher tells the story of Easter, sort of listing the events and the pictures below show four scenes of the four events listed. It doesn't go into any detail at all in the story. It just makes reference to it and the importance it has to the cubs. Papa's prayer at dinner also references it as He thanks the Lord for "the greatest love of all that came to us on that first Easter Sunday, long ago". The discussion questions and activities are very good. One of the questions is "What does it mean to say that Jesus has risen from the dead?". And the activity children are encouraged to do is making paper dolls to tell the story of Easter.

This board book is ideal for the littlest ones. It tells stories of creation, Noah, David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Jesus’ birth, the Good Samaritan, the Triumphal Entry and then Jesus resurrection followed by a page on the Great Commission.

Annoying, dirty, unkempt neighbors. The kind no one wants around. Especially Mama Bear. She takes pride in how nice their home and neighborhood are and the Bogg brothers are a disgrace. But when the Bear family is in trouble, it’s not the mayor or the rich neighbor who help, it’s the Bogg brothers. So The Berenstain Bears experience the idea of the Good Samaritan for themselves. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

A school play puts the girl from the cool kids gang starring with a boy from what would be considered the geeks. Trouble starts brewing and erupts first on the playground, and then finally in the midst of the play itself. Romeo and Juliet becomes real as the two sides erupt in battle against one another. When the mediator steps up to make peace in both situations, Scripture is quoted to tell others how to behave. The standard for behavior is taken straight from Scripture. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

It’s fall and the leaves are changing colors, pumpkins are growing and the land is beautiful. The bear family is thankful for all the beauty. To celebrate they attend the Harvest Festival at a local farm. Most of the book is focused on simple enjoyment of the activities of the festival and the beauty of the land. One section though shows Brother Bear saying that “mother nature is putting on a good show for us” and Mother Bear saying that “mother nature works for someone a bit higher up.” And Papa Bear tells them that harvest time is about more than enjoying the season, it is also a time to give thanks to God. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

Freddy Factual has a telescope and he shares it with Brother and Sister Bear. Seeing items from space is super exciting for the cubs. But when Sister Bear makes a comment about God, Freddy questions it. That leaves Brother and Sister Bear with some questions of their own. A talk with Preacher Brown, where they learn about Daniel and faith clears up some things for them. They aren’t sure of everything, but they find comfort in the assurance that they can have faith in God, even when questions arise. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

There are multiple reasons the cubs know that God loves them. Their parents assure them of it, they hear it in church, the Bible tells them, and they see evidence of it in the world around them. The question is whether or not God loves everyone. They get the chance to ask the question when a cub their age with special needs comes to visit them. He isn’t able to comprehend the same things others his age can. He acts more like the age of their toddler sister. Their mom explains that God loves everyone and has made them all unique. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

Brother and Sister Bear want to hear a story and their dad tells them the story of the very first Christmas. With bears playing the characters in the illustrations, the story takes children through the story of the first Christmas – from the angel’s appearance to Mary to Mary and Joseph leaving Egypt to head to Nazareth where Jesus grew up. On the inside of the back cover is family activities and discussion guides.

The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking with an Adult (Berenstain Bears/Living Lights)

Cooking with children can be a great delight! Kids enjoy spending time in the kitchen learning how to cook with their parents. This is a cookbook of 40 recipes kids can learn to make with the help of adults. It begins with one page of a story and ends with one Bible verse. 

Thank you to Zonderkidz for providing me with a free review copy of these books in exchange for my honest opinion. I am very grateful!