Psalms Alive! (review)

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Psalms Alive!Psalms Alive! by David Kitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Psalms Alive! author, pastor, and dramatist David Kitz takes us on a journey through thirteen selected psalms. In the Preface Kitz explains why he wrote the book:

“For the past number of years I have been bringing the Psalms to life for audiences through the medium of live drama. Here now in book form, from a dramatist’s perspective I provide a glimpse into the prayers and praise of the psalmists” 18.

Each of the book’s 26 chapters begins with the quoted scripture passage under discussion. This is followed by Kitz expanding on it in a variety of ways that include personal stories, explanations of biblical customs and settings, devotional inspiration, and challenges to apply the scripture’s advice to life. Each chapter ends with a “Bringing Life to the Psalms” section consisting of three to four discussion and personal application questions.

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Bible art journal on Psalm 19:14 using a quote from Psalms Alive! (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Kitz’s writing is lively, picturesque, and wise. He expands liberally on the ideas presented in the Bible passage. He doesn’t leaves us in the theoretical clouds though, but makes sure his conclusions connect to everyday living. My book is full of underlined sections. Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

From the Preface: “When we handle the Word of God, we are handling life. When we take hold of the Word of God, it takes hold of us” – 17.

From a chapter on Psalm 19: “Your heavenly Father does not need a stethoscope to check on the condition of your heart; he needs only to listen to the words coming out of your mouth” – 43.

From a chapter on Psalm 103: “Relationship is always the wellspring of all revelation. It is while we are in God’s presence that we discover the mind of Christ” – 149.

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Bible art journal detail (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

I used this book, along with others in an online creative Bible study and found much inspiration in it for Bible art journaling. It has deepened and broadened my appreciation of the psalms discussed. It would make an excellent textbook (along with the Bible, of course) for men’s or women’s Bible studies.

I received this book as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review and participating in the study.

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When You Lose Someone You Love (review)

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When You Lose Someone You LoveWhen You Lose Someone You Love by Joanne Fink

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Author and artist Joanne Fink’s husband Andy died suddenly at only 53 years of age. After 29 years of marriage, Joanne was devastated by his death. A few weeks after he died she began journaling and drawing her thoughts. When You Lose Someone You Love is the result of those cathartic writings and sketches.

This pocket-sized book (it’s 4×6, the dimensions of a photo, and ¼ inch thick) would fit in a small handbag. The pages alternate between artistically whimsical black and white line drawings and easily readable text utilizing a variety of casual craft-type fonts.

Here are some of my favorite pages (I can’t quote page numbers because there aren’t any):

“When you lose someone you love everything seems disjointed.
TIME seems to move at a different pace for you than for everyone else.”

“When you lose someone you love, you can be OK for hours or even days at a time and then totally lose it for No reason at all.”

“When you lose someone you love, you begin your life journey anew.”

Did I say the drawings were black and white. Well, that’s not entirely true for toward the book’s end color begins to make an appearance on the pages (a wonderful metaphor for what’s happening in the bereaved one’s heart and life) … just a bit at first with a little more color added on each succeeding page until the last full-color pages.

This book would make a perfect gift for a new widow, widower, or person who has just said goodbye to a parent, child, sibling or close friend. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen another publication quite like it. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful way to share sympathy and caring.

I received this book as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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It Happened in Moscow (review)

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It-Happened-in-Moscow0001It Happened in Moscow: A Memoir of Discovery by Maureen Klassen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It Happened In Moscow begins with a surprise phone call to Herb and Maureen Klassen’s Moscow apartment in 1993. That call opened a Pandora’s box of secrets.

Herb’s parents (C.F. and Mary Klassen) had immigrated from Russia to Canada in 1928 in the nick of time, just before the doors to exit Stalin’s Communist Russia slammed shut. Though Mary’s children knew that she was a divorcée at the time she married C.F., she rarely spoke of her early life and never mentioned her 10-year first marriage. Even Harold (her son by that marriage) only found out about his birth father at his 16th birthday when C.F. and Mary sat him down to reveal the truth. Both C.F. and Mary had since died, so many questions about Mary remained unanswered.

Now the female voice on the other end of that phone call claimed she was Harold’s younger sister Erika.

If this was indeed so, could Erika hold answers to the mystery of Mary’s first marriage? Did she know what had happened to Mary’s first husband (and Harold’s father)? Could she shed light on how an entire generation of Russian Mennonites had fared during that period in Russia?

It Happened in Moscow is memoir—the unfolding of a fascinating family discovery through Maureen Klassen’s eyes. In 1993 Maureen and Herb Klassen were working for Mennonite organizations in Moscow and were fluent in Russian and German. These things made them the perfect recipients for the information that Erika had gleaned in her search for family. Via Erika, the family learned the fate of Jacob (Mary’s first husband) and thousands of Mennonites who were hindered from or chose not to immigrate from Soviet Russia.

Maureen Klassen’s charitable depiction of the two main players in this tale (Mary and Erika) make this an uplifting and pleasurable story to read. Historically, the way it shines a light on years of religious repression under the Communists makes it an integral piece of the Mennonite puzzle. It is also a testimony to God’s faithfulness through generations.

If you’re interested in Mennonite history or even just enjoy a well-crafted memoir with lots of human interest delivered in cultural detail with historical accuracy, you’ll love this book.

(My sister-in-law who, with my brother, lived for a time in Mary’s “glasshouse” in Clearbrook B.C., lent me this book.)

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Faithful Paper Crafting (review)

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81E9c5Z2eWLFaithful Paper Crafting: Notecards, Gift Tags, Scrapbook Papers & More To Share The Blessing by Robin Pickens

With this colorful book you will have numerous crafted projects at your fingertips. There are dozens of full-color and black-and-white (suitable for coloring) cards (fifty large, eighteen mini), six full-color bookmarks, sixteen gift tags, two full-page illustrations suitable for framing, sixteen full pages of colorful double-sided papers along with two envelope templates (put these latter two together to make beautiful envelopes for all those cards, or use the papers in other ways suggested by the book’s introduction).

Messages on the cards are generic enough to be useful for many occasions (e.g.”Imagine,” and “You are my sunshine”) and faith-friendly (e.g.”Rejoice in the Lord,” “Pray,” “Let all you do be done in Love” etc.). As well, the large cards have Bible verses printed on the inside page with room for a personal message.

Detailed directions for how to assemble an envelope, finish a bookmark, and make a fridge magnet are found in the beginning of the book. All the cards, bookmarks, and tags are perforated for easy and tidy tear-out.

What a fun collection! I love the heavy, good quality paper on which the projects are printed, and the vibrant colors. I also like how some of the card backs incorporate the designs of the papers, making it possible to send cards in matching envelopes if you decide to make your own.

In addition to using the items as ready-mades, I’m hoping to get design ideas for Bible journaling from them, and maybe even add some pieces to my Bible as tip-ins.

I received Faithful Paper Crafting as a gift from the publisher, Design Originals (an imprint of Fox Chapel Publishing), for the purpose of writing a review.

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The Parables of Jesus Coloring Book (review)

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Parables-CBThe Parables of Jesus Coloring Book Devotional by Laura James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Parables of Jesus is a coloring book and devotional in one. Each of its 46 readings focuses on one of Jesus’ parables. The coloring picture that follows relates to the reading.

The devotional readings begin with the parable or part of it quoted from the Bible. The entry lists, as well, other places in the gospels where Jesus tells the same story.

The devotional readings include a variety of things such as explanations of the first-century customs behind the word pictures in Jesus’ story, how the people in Jesus’ day might have understood the parable, and a practical application from Jesus’ picturesque stories to our twenty-first century lives.

Devotions end sometimes with a prayer, sometimes with a question to answer, and sometimes with a challenge of how to apply the parable to life. Devotional pages are framed on one corner with a leafy border—also to color.

The pictures that follow each devotional illustrate the parable. There are lots of scenes with people as well as objects. The style of the people in the pictures reminded me of figures found in Egyptian art. The “About the Author” section of the book’s listing identify the style: “… reminiscent of Ethiopian Christian Art.”

Each devotion and coloring picture is printed on the right-hand (odd-numbered) side of the page with the opposite side blank—except for when the devotion needs more than one page, and it completes overleaf. The book is printed on heavy white paper, suitable for a variety of coloring media.

The book concludes with two lined pages for notes.

I found the devotions drew me in and helped me to know how to better relate to and apply these familiar but sometimes mysterious stories.

The format with its left-side pages of white space made the book feel uncluttered and peaceful. Users could write their own thoughts and responses to the devotions in the space or leave it blank.

The consistent style of the drawings throughout gives this coloring book the appearance of an illustrated picture book. The illustrations would only be enhanced with color added, making it a perfect book to color and give away as an illustrated devotional.

This is a beautiful and inspiring book, designed to provide hours of coloring meditation.

I received The Parables of Jesus Coloring Book Devotional as a gift from Hachette Book Group for the purpose of writing a review.

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Joyful Inspirations (review)

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Joyful Inspirations Coloring Book: With Illustrated Scripture and Quotes to Cheer Your SoulJoyful Inspirations Coloring Book: With Illustrated Scripture and Quotes to Cheer Your Soul by Robin Mead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Joyful Inspirations Coloring Book contains 90 square (8.75 x 8.75-inch) page spreads to color. The book’s heavy white paper is printed on both sides. Many of the pages contain inspirational quotes—most from the Bible and a few from famous people.

Though there is no formal index or table of contents, the book seems to sort itself into five sections:
1] Flowery creations.
2] Scenes with buildings—towns churches and cathedrals.
3] Scenes with children.
4] Creatures—birds, butterflies, fish, insects.
5] Landscapes—with lots of setting/rising suns and a nightscape or two.

The book ends with two pages of information: 1] a list of the artist’s favorite coloring products, 2] ten coloring tips.

The pictures are lighthearted, happy, and indeed inspiring. I noted that the black outlines of objects to color were heavier than in some adult coloring books and many of the objects not as tiny. That, together with the section featuring children, suggests to me this book might be a good choice for children as well as adults.

An adult friend who does a lot of coloring, especially while traveling, mentioned that the stiff binding of this and other adult coloring books was a drawback in that they tend not to lay flat. A coil binding would remedy that.

All in all, this is a beautiful book that promises hours and hours of inspirational coloring fun and relaxation.

I received Joyful Inspirations as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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No Limits (review)

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No Limits: Blow the CAP Off Your CapacityNo Limits: Blow the CAP Off Your Capacity by John C. Maxwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though he’ll be 70 this year, John C. Maxwell is still going strong. No Limits, his latest book, gives readers an understanding of what drives him with lots of how-to on staying productive themselves long after one would expect their batteries to be drained.

The book’s organization is based on Maxwell’s formula for reaching maximum capacity: “If you grow in your awareness, develop your abilities and make the right choices, you can reach your capacity” – p. 2.

The first section of only two chapters, explores awareness. The second seven-chapter block focuses on abilities. Maxwell discusses abilities in many spheres including energy, emotion, thinking, people, and leadership. The last eleven-chapter section focuses on choices. It challenges readers to increase personal capacity and the capacity of the group they’re leading by making the right choices in areas like taking responsibility, being intentional, having a positive attitude, faith, being a good partner, and more.

Though the book targets leaders in the world of work, it also has much to offer individuals who lead in informal ways.

I found this book wide-ranging, positive, encouraging, and wise, though it did leave me wondering where Maxwell gets the seemingly boundless energy he has for work, family, and friends. His recitation of the activities of only one of his days left me tired. How does he manage to live such a full and productive life? I would say by actually living his own advice.

Even as I read it, I realized, this is not me. So, though I personally will not be trying everything in this book, I did find myself underlining passages all over the place and will, in the days ahead, implement more than one of Maxwell’s suggestions to hopefully boost my own capacity and productivity.

Here are a few of my favorite bits:

From Thinking Capacity: “Writing about an idea gives your thinking intellectual weight. It creates clarity in your thinking. Talking about an idea gives it emotional weight. It connects your thinking to your heart – p. 83.

From Creative Capacity: “You will become as creative as the amount of time you set aside for it…. There is a relationship between scheduling a time to be creative and being inspired to create” – p. 129.

From Production Capacity: “Find ways to focus your time and attention and work toward eliminating from your schedule anything that doesn’t have a high return” – p. 145.

From Character Capacity: “Good character uses the same standard in every situation. It something is right, it’s always right. If it’s wrong, it’s always wrong. People with good character are consistent” p. 190.

From Discipline Capacity quoting Steven R. Covey: “Once you have a burning yes inside you about what’s truly important, it’s very easy t say no to the unimportant” – p. 214.

This would be a great book for leaders in any field, as well as young people entering the work force, middle-aged workers who are considering where they’ve been and asking where to now, and healthy, energetic seniors who want to make the most of the years remaining.

I received No Limits as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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