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READ: Review, Because You Care by Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk

“How is he?” I find myself asking when I see my friend. Her husband suffers from dementia, and although both are aging, she has become the gentle caregiver for her often-childlike spouse. “Lord, give her the strength to meet his needs today.” I pray these words often for my mother, now my father’s caregiver. Diabetes and three cancer diagnoses have changed him from an active, robust man to one whose narrow world revolves around doctor’s appointments and treatments. When I opened Because You Care: Spiritual Encouragement for Caregivers by Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk (Harvest House, 2012), I expected to find a gentle, peaceful read—and I did. Beautiful photographs add to the book’s overall aura of calm. But I also found something unexpected: conviction. As Cec, Twila, and selected others shared thoughts about their own caregiving experiences, I reflected on the growing number of caregivers I know. The journeys described in this brief (48-page) volume challenged me to become more sensitive not only to those who require long-term care, but to the heart-breaking responsibilities of their caregivers. How much should I do for him? How will she know I truly care? What will the future hold? The authors’ honest reflections on these and other questions provide empathy and inspiration to caregivers and those who love them. The prayers, summary statements, and practical suggestions presented in a brief, easy-to-manage format make this book a perfect companion for caregivers’ busy lives.   Thank you, Cec and Twila, for this thoughtful, transparent work. Next time I see a caregiver, I’ll ask, “How are you?” before I ask about anyone else. I’ll focus my prayers as much on the needs of the caregiver as on the one who receives care. And I hope to display more sensitivity to the delicate balance of the caregiving life. I plan to give a copy of Because You Care to my mother, but I’ll donate my review copy to someone who leaves a comment below. Tell us a bit about yourself as a caregiver or another caregiver you know. I’ll choose one reader at random to receive my review copy which you may share with your favorite caregiver. US addresses only, please, and include your email address or link to it in your comment.  Find a local Christian bookstore Find this book on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at Christian Book Distributors (FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free from the publisher. I was not required to post a review or a positive...

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READ: I MUST DECREASE by Janice Hanna Thompson (Author Interview)

ANNOUNCING New e-book release by comedic author, Janice Hanna Thompson: I Must Decrease: Biblical Inspiration and Encouragement for Dieters Janice, can you tell us a little about your non-fiction e-book book, I MUST DECREASE? Sure! As a comedic author, I usually write light-hearted stories. I’m known as the funny girl. I get the giggles and chuckle my way through most situations. Not everything is funny, however. When it came to my weight, however, I had very little to laugh about. Most of my readers didn’t realize the health crisis I was facing as a result of the added pounds. I needed to get things under control, so I started counting calories and watching what I ate. Out of that came my non-fiction book, I MUST DECREASE (which released in paperback in 2005). The book is set up in a daily devotional format and it meant to bring humor (as well as dieting tips) to Christians who need/want to lose weight. Why did you choose the title I MUST DECREASE? The title came as a result of a prayer time at church. I’d gone up for prayer and the gentleman praying for me used the scripture (John 3:30) as he prayed for me: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” For whatever reason, it got me tickled. I’d never thought about that particular scripture having anything to do with dieting before, but it suddenly felt right. Can you tell us about the layout of the book? Each day’s devotion offers the following: ·         Ticklers: A humorous quote or “thought for the day” to tickle your funny bone. ·         Tidbits: A “Did You Know?” area offering tidbits of information from multiple sources. ·         Traps: Common misconceptions and/or food “traps” we often fall into ·         Tricks: “Tricks of the trade” to help you stick with your plan ·         Treats: Clever snack and food ideas for the healthy eater ·         Testimonies: Personal testimonies of others who’ve faced the weight loss challenge and won (including some prominent personalities) ·         Treasures: Daily scripture reference ·         Tips: Devotional for the day, based on the daily scripture above ·         Turning Your Focus: A variety of ways you can reach out to others ·         Today’s Food Choices: A reminder to write down your daily food choices ·         Thoughts on Paper: Encouragement to keep a daily journal entry Why did you choose the humorous approach? Being overweight is nothing to laugh at, but most people who want to lose weight are tired of the serious, “Thou shalt not” approach. Many are ready for a lighthearted look at weight loss–“a practical devotional approach that offers scriptural advice in a way that encourages and never condemns. I decided to share light-hearted...

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READ: Review, The Husband Project by Kathi Lipp

(To win this book and two more that will help you start 2012 off right, check out the New Year’s Prize Pack information below my review.) At our home, we’ve had an extended holiday celebration. Our final set of visiting family leaves this morning. I’m sad to see them go but excited to get back to the normal-and-necessary routines of school and writing work—and blogging, too. Most of the books I review here at Read. Write. Pray are new or not-yet-released. But I want to start this New Year with a review of a book that released on January 1—three years ago. I missed it back then but am grateful to have read it now. The other day, I bought a special dessert for my husband. Because I love to bake, I don’t normally buy desserts. But our family was celebrating a special event in my husband’s life, and I decided to purchase a rare treat as a way of honoring him.  The surprise was not the purchase, however. The surprise came in my husband’s unexpected gratitude. He thanked me several times—not for the dessert itself (although he loved it), but for taking time to celebrate him. His gratitude blessed me. And his surprise made me realize how often I take him for granted. Routine is (for the most part) easy, or it wouldn’t become routine. But a large part of marital joy comes in little packages: the surprise desserts, the private celebrations, the picked-you-up-a-movie and more. And sometimes we need a reminder. In The Husband Project: 21 Days of Loving Your Man–On Purpose and With a Plan, popular speaker and author Kathi Lipp gives readers that reminder: three weeks’ worth of practical tips and thoughtful encouragement wrapped in wisdom and tied with a bright bow of humor. She shares with engaging candor about her own marital bliss and blunders, preparing the way for readers to examine their own. The book’s user-friendly format makes a great match for busy wives whose marriage relationship could use a refresher. The Husband Project moves from foundational principles (including a helpful section on adapting the projects to whatever unique situations readers may face) to day-by-day project instructions to a planning/overview sheet and glossary. The projects themselves range from the simple (praising your husband in front of other people) to the more involved (planning a B & B experience at home). No, the author doesn’t suggest you wrap yourself in Saran and meet your husband at the door (although if it works for the two of you, I’m sure she’d approve). Instead, she sets forth a challenge to allow God to change your marriage by changing you. She also encourages you not to go it alone but...

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READ: Review, Called to Serve by Lt. Col. Tony Monetti & Penny Monetti

Military families hold a special place in my heart. As a child, my husband attended 27 different schools before his dad retired from the Marine Corps. He says this helped him learn how to make friends quickly, important skills for a future pastor and teacher. But I can’t help but think about the little boy who went to three different schools in second grade alone. I can’t help but contemplate the struggles of his mother, home with three children—one with severe learning disabilities—while her husband served in Vietnam. My appreciation for military families only increased after we spent almost seven years serving a church close to the Camp Pendleton (California) military base. I loved having Marines in our church. We considered these military members our own extended family, hosting them for holiday meals and doing our best to serve their unique needs. My heart broke for some of the young couples who were barely equipped to deal with marriage, much less the stresses of the military life. That’s why I’m so thankful Tony and Penny Monetti have penned Called to Serve: Encouragement, Support, and Inspiration for Military Families, a small but thoughtful book designed for their fellow warriors. No academic tome, this power-packed guide disarms the reader with transparent stories of the authors’ own struggles. You name it, they’ve encountered it in their twenty-plus years of military life: deployment, problem pregnancy, TDYs (Temporary Duty Assignments), depression, marital struggles, and more. Each of the thirty-one brief (three to four pages) chapters covers one of the concerns either the authors or a military acquaintance has faced. The dual authorship give readers the blessing of both military and military spouse perspectives. I loved the way each chapter opened with a well-chosen Scripture and ended with questions that personalized the content. But what I especially loved were the resources mentioned throughout the book and compiled at its close. These include organizations and websites specific to the many issues the authors address.   Although the Monettis are an Air Force couple, they take care to make their book accessible to any branch of the military. I recommend it for active duty, reserve, or retired members of our Armed Forces as well as pastors, churches, and others who want a better understanding of the stresses these families of sacrifice encounter. I salute the Monettis as I thank them for a wonderful contribution to the arsenal every military family needs. If you know a military family, I encourage you to share this book as your special gift. And if you are a military family, it makes a great stocking stuffer for you or your spouse. I intend to share my review copy with my new friend Charlsie, whom I met on one of...

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WRITE: Interview, Janet Perez Eckles (Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God’s Fiesta)

AUTHOR BIO: As a young girl, Janet Perez Eckles packed dreams and expectations when she left Bolivia to come to America. She found not only wonder and beauty in her new life, but also the challenge to overcome trials—physical blindness, marital infidelity, financial devastation, the loss of her son and the acquittal of the man responsible. But rather than despair, Christ’s love ushered victory for each battle, giving her wisdom to overcome adversity, rekindling her zeal for life and ushering peace for each moment. These victories sparked her mission to inspire and encourage others. As a bilingual Spanish inspirational speaker, she ignites in her audiences the same passion to triumph, to find purpose in life and achieve professional and personal success. Janet earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Southeast Missouri State University. After graduation, she met Gene, her husband of 35 years. They live in Orlando, FL where they enjoy their sons, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.Janet serves as a women’s Sunday school teacher and a ministry leader at South Orlando Baptist Church. Janet, what prompted you to write this book?  That dear woman who anguishes about life, its burdens, deep heartache and needs someone to point her to Christ and show her the other side of adversity. You share a great deal from your personal journey in the pages of Simply Salsa. How did you develop this type of transparency? Years of hearing my audience’s feedback such as: “After what you shared, I’ll look at my problems differently from now on.”  The more I pour my soul on the pages, the more their heart is stirred to seek victory in Christ. You are one of many authors and speakers who also has a “day job.” Can you tell us a little about that? I serve as an Spanish interpreter. I’m on the phone interpreting between judge and defendant, between doctor and mom in labor, between bank and home owner. Each require a high level of skill, concentration and memory skills. All blessings  to me because for 20 years :I’ve been  performing this work. Unable to take notes, I retain lots of information in my memory–a testimony to God’s provision. I believe your physical blindness has helped bring you to a place of greater spiritual vision. Do you agree? How would you say God has “worked all things together for good” through your lack of physical sight? When my physical eyesight ended, God’s grace gave me insight to see the best of life. When I could see, I focused on the  things around me, now I focus on things above—trust me, the view has more depth and beauty. I can now appreciate what the eyes don’t see. If you could...

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READ: Review, Simply Salsa by Janet Perez Eckles

Picture yourself seated in a comfortable chair, talking and laughing with a friend. Her smile embraces you like a warm hug. Her openness encourages you to share your heart. And her words of wisdom challenge you to walk more closely with the God who loves you so much. A luscious Latin melody plays in the background, adding both sweetness and spice to a golden afternoon. This experience mirrors the joy of reading Janet Perez Eckle’s new book Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God’s Fiesta. The book takes a refreshing look at the Christ-life—with a uniquely Latina flair. Authenticity drives this project, whose author shares her wisdom through real-life stories with a sprinkling of Spanish (translations provided). The choices and challenges Eckles has faced include everything from life in a new land and language at the vulnerable age of twelve to the crushing loss of an adult son to the heartbreaking news of her own impending blindness. Reader-focused questions and challenges enhance the book’s conversational feel.  Gentle humor combines with transparency to allow readers to learn and laugh, no finger-pointing or lectures in sight. I received an advance reader copy of Eckles’ August 9 release but was not required to post a positive review. The author has found her sweet spot in this expression of her journey and its application to each reader’s walk with Christ. Thanks for sharing your heart and this book with us, chica. Dios te bendiga! When you order her book TODAY August 9, Janet is offering more than $100 worth of bonus gifts and a chance to win some amazing prices. Go here to find out more!Also. Janet is physically blind, I believe she sees more than most people. Do you know someone with a handicap whose life reveals similar strengths? Leave a comment below for the opportunity to win a copy of Simply Salsa. I’ll post the winner after I return from teaching at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference next week!I’ve missed my blog family while serving on the mission field in Ecuador and Panama this summer and would love to hear your thoughts. Please watch for a READ interview with Janet, coming this...

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