Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson

When it comes to sci-fi, the kinds of novels I enjoy most present a believable future.  Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars fits the bill.  First published in 1993, Red Mars is still timely, perhaps even more so today.  Red Mars begins after some of the first human expeditions to Mars, starting with the first group of permanent colonists, a multi-national group of 100 scientists.  The novel is epic in scope, tracing the history of Mars for several decades.

On the plus side, Robinson's literary feat in Red Mars is admirable.  The details he provides and weaves into the story, from the small-scale technical details of interplanetary travel and the logistics of Mars colonization, to the large-scale early stages of terraforming and tracing Martian geography, reveal a stunning background and commitment to realism.  I think current technology would make most of what he writes in the early part of the book, regarding travel to Mars and the first stages of colonization, completely doable.  And the latter stages, using robotic tools and nanotechnology, is surely not that far-fetched.  There were times that I thought he made things seems a little too easy, but it is fiction after all.

On the negative side, the novel dragged on for me.  It's less than 600 pages, but sometimes it felt like twice that.  The decades-long time span and the lack of a narrative thread made me lose interest.  I started this book with the intention of reading the whole trilogy (He followed Red Mars with Green Mars and Blue Mars.), but I'm not sure I could last through the next two.  I am curious about the continued terraforming process, and about what sort of political relationship develops between Mars and Earth.  But there are too many other books I want to read. . . .

Robinson builds a believable future for mankind on Mars.  I could see at least the beginnings of his vision being realized in my lifetime.  He anticipates scientific, technological, sociological, psychological, logistical, and political problems and ramifications of the colonization and exploration of Mars.  In most cases, the descriptions and solutions are eminently believable.  In that sense, this is great sci-fi.  But in the broader sense, I found Red Mars to be long and dull. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Vessel, by Taylor Stevens

In Taylor Stevens 2013 novel The Doll, Stevens's super-heroine Vanessa Michael Munroe helps take down a human trafficking ring--that is, after she is captured by it.  The problem is, she's not satisfied.  One of the ring leaders is still out there.  In the 2014 novella The Vessel, Munroe meticulously plots--and exacts--her revenge.

The Vessel is a stand-alone story, with enough back-story to give some context for first-time readers of Stevens's books.  But it is best enjoyed in the context of the series, especially as a follow-up to The Doll.  Munroe is smart and stealthy, chameleon-like in her ability to blend in and sneak around.  Whether staying the background to gather intel, or slipping back into the background after amassing a large body count, she leaves no trace. 

Despite her vicious, murderous, revengeful streak, I root for Munroe because she is driven by compassion and justice.  Like any good action hero, she is driven by a selfless pursuit to make wrongs right, seeking no recognition or gain for herself.  If you read The Doll and ended up a little disappointed that Munroe was not able to get all the bad guys, pick up The Vessel.  The bad guys get what's coming.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Big Mushy Happy Lump, by Sarah Andersen

Sarah Anderson captures the mind of the millennial, female introvert in another amusing, laugh-out-loud collection Big Mushy Happy Lump: A "Sarah's Scribbles" Collection.  Covering many of the same themes as her first collection, Adulthood is a Myth, Andersen covers social awkwardness, millennial angst, periods, ill-fitting women's clothing, relationships (romantic and otherwise), and other perils of modern life.

Her content is very female-oriented, millennial-focused, and introvert-directed, but as a male, extroverted Gen-Xer, I could relate.  (Well, except for the period bits.)  Really, whatever your age or gender, check her out.  Comedy gold.

Lots of her comics are online:
But you should still buy her books.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga, by Pamela Newkirk

It's hard to imagine that a mere century ago a human was on display at the Bronx Zoo in the primate house.  Let that sink in.  A young African man named Ota Benga was brought from the Congo to the zoo.  In a cage.  With monkeys.  I know about racism.  I know about people who view people from other races as less than human.  But this shocked me.  Pamela Newkirk tells Ota Benga's story in Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga

Newkirk focuses the story on Ota Benga's life, but sheds light on the larger picture of trade with Africa, King Leopold's terrible colonial policies in the Congo, and the state of race relations in the U.S. in the early 20th century.  She conveys the sense in which Ota Benga was a unwitting pawn in the lives of the traders and scientists who directed his fate for many years.  I loved the fact that he asserted his independence from time to time, escaping from his enclosure, chasing zoo patrons, and even letting loose with his bow and arrow.  Unfortunately, for many years his fate was controlled by his keepers, even in post-slavery U.S.

While black clergy and others in New York immediately recognized the injustice of keeping Ota Benga in a zoo enclosure, many, including the throngs who came out to gawk at him, did not.  He later spent some time in an orphanage, with children half his age, then moved to Virginia, where he worked in the tobacco industry and gained some education.  Despairing that he would not be able to return home to Africa, he took his own life.

I did not enjoy Newkirk's non-chronological narrative.  Maybe I'm too easily confused.  Other than that, Spectacle provides a nice picture of an ugly period of our nation's past.  There are plenty of kind souls, black and white, who play a positive role in Ota Benga's story.  The real culprit is the feeling, all too pervasive a century ago, that some humans are less human than others. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Survival Guide for Kids in Special Education (and Their Parents), by Wendy L. Moss and Denise M. Campbell

The world of special education can be mysterious and strange for the uninitiated.  If you're lucky, you will have an experienced guide to lead the way.  For special ed newbies, a good place to start is Wendy Moss and Denise Campbell's The Survival Guide for Kids in Special Education (and Their Parents): Understanding What Special Ed Is and How It Can Help You.  This is the latest in Free Spirit Publishing's series of "survival guides."  Previous titles include survival guides for kids with physical disabilities, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, behavioral challenges, and others.

The fact that they have previously published these other titles explains what nagged me as a shortcoming of The Survival Guide for Kids in Special Education.  The above listed characteristics, which are commonly thought of as special ed qualifiers, are not addressed in this book.  This book is primarily written for kids with learning disabilities who, as a result, get help in special ed.

That said, the book gives some great tools and tips and coping mechanisms for those kids who get special ed help.  The authors talk about the importance of keeping a positive attitude about getting help.  "Having a positive attitude doesn't fix everything.  But it DOES make learning easier."  They offer strategies for talking about special ed with kids who are not in special ed, with an aim toward removing the stigma that it has in many kids' minds.  They recommend the ADS strategy.  "Act casual, cool, and confident. . . . Do what you need to do. . . . Say something that is quick, informative, and comfortable for you if anyone asks you questions or teases you."

The authors offer reassurance for kids who are sure what to think of the special ed process.  All those tests they take are "not trying to find out if you are stupid. . . . The tests are meant to help the specialists figure out what kinds of mistakes you make and why."  Kids should know that "having a learning disability does not mean that you can't learn.  It means that you learn differently from other kids."  Moss and Campbell want kids in special ed to know that they are not less than other kids, not stupid, just different.

For kids in special with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, or behavioral disabilities, some of the other books in the Survival Guide series would probably be more appropriate.  This book is best suited for kids who don't fit obvious special ed categories but who receive special ed services because of the more hidden issues.  Most kids won't want to read this book, but it can be used as a guide by counselors, special ed teachers, or parents to guide their student's understanding.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

People of the Second Chance, by Mike Foster

Have you ever been discouraged?  Feel like you've messed up beyond redemption?  So has Mike Foster.  But he has good news for you--for all of us.  In People of the Second Chance, Foster wants us to know that God is on our side.  He is the God of second chances, and his opinion is the one that matters.

It's easy to start thinking you're worthless, but as Forster writes, "In spite of my deepest flaws and even beyond my own beliefs about myself, I am God's beloved." (1)  Many Christians allow themselves to imagine that they are too far gone for God.  But "if you think God feels disappointment when he looks at you, then you don't know God very well."  (99)  I have certainly found myself there. 

Even when it feels like you've blown it, the game isn't over.  "Never is like a period. It ends the sentence. It closes discussion. But not yet its like a comma. The sentence continues. The process is not complete. You are never a never. You are a not yet in process. You are a story that has yet to be finished." (73) 

Part of the process is giving yourself away in love.  Building up others is a great way not to let yourself get down.  "Use your words to affirm people.  Not just who they are but also who they can become. . . . Be rich in love. Be rich and words of affirmation." (88)  Foster promotes "Prodigal Parties."  Just as the Prodigal Son was welcomed back into his family, so should we welcome people with celebration, whether they are long-lost family members, released prisoners, or someone who has wandered from fellowship.

Mike Foster is the founder and "Chief Chance Officer" of People of the Second Chance (secondchance.org).  People of the Second Chance is full of encouraging stories and words of encouragement for Christians.  Maybe there are Christians out there who never experience the kinds of discouragement that Foster talks about.  But I suspect all of us need reminders of the value and worth that God has placed on our lives.

Thanks to Blogging for Books and the publisher for the complimentary review copy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Abandoned Faith, by Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez

Focus on the Family has long been know as a great source of parenting resources.  In a new Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home examines trends among the young adult demographic and encourages parents in connecting with their millennial children.
FOTF/Tyndale House book, Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez offer help for parents of adult children who have wandered from their faith. 

In a sense, Abandoned Faith is a "horse out of the barn" book.  In spite of the authors' encouraging words to the contrary, I could see some parents reading this with regret and despair, wishing they had some something differently.  But it's not too late.  Just as parents' examples influence young children, so can they continue to do so: "When parents strive to model a pattern of Christianity to their millennial children, those children are far more likely to follow in their parents' footsteps. . . . There is nothing more compelling and persuasive than a parent living out his or her faith with great boldness and conviction."  (xiv)

The flip side, and what may discourage parents, is the obvious link between their own failures and their children's loss of faith.  McFarland and Jimenez put it in sociological terms: "Prior to the mass exodus of millennials from the church, there was a mass exodus of fathers leaving their families.  Before millennials stopped attending church, their fathers had already stopped making church a priority.  Before the doubts took hold of millennials, fear and doubt were already embedded in their parents' lives." (35)  If Mom and Dad aren't going to church, they should not be surprised when Junior opts out as well.  What they want to see is faith that makes a difference in their parents' lives, actions and attitudes, reflecting their stated beliefs.  "The compelling proof millennials truly seek is found in an authentic life." (60)

One way that even committed parents can drive their children away is to try too hard and be too controlling.  Some parents "think that by enabling their kids, they are doing them a favor. . . . Millennials raised by enabling parents are far more likely to rebel, abandon church, and hang with the wrong crowd." (17)  We want to smooth the road for our kids, and sometimes try to do too much. 
McFarland and Jimenez's advice for the fixer-upper parent is to repeat this mantra: "When I interfere, my child will not persevere." (195)

Abandoned Faith won't give distraught parents a magic bullet.  I don't want to minimize the amount of research and sound guidance they offer, but the best takeaway from the book is simply to love much, be patient, and model grace.  Jimenez gives an acrostic for "what every member of the family needs."  L.O.V.E.  Laugh.  Open.  Value.  Encourage.  If a house is full of laughter, if relationships are honest and open, if children feel valued, and if parents abound in encouragement for their children our homes will be much better places.

It's hard not to read a book like this without regret.  I'm about to send my oldest son to college, and can think of many ways I've failed him and opportunities missed.  I would imagine every parent has similar feelings, whether sending their child to preschool, college, or anywhere in between.  Abandoned Faith is descriptive, but also encouraging for those of us who have regrets.  It offers good news and encouragement for moving forward.  Love your kids more.  Value and cherish them.  Pray for them--this especially.  I was moved and challenged.

Thanks to the Tyndale Blog Network for the complimentary review copy!

This is my 1000th Reading Glutton review!  Thanks for reading!

A couple other quotes from the book that are worth preserving:

"Perhaps the one leadership trait that will cause a young leader to stand out from others is the ability to endure. . . . When we choose to keep going when others will not, we stand out from the crowd and truly become the leaders whom others look to for influence." (139)

"With the average teenager spending the equivalent of a full-time job each day on media, a person can quickly move from online gamer to an online entrepreneur, online college student, or digital missionary, changing lives and growing in the ability to provide for his own needs and help others." (181)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow

I have enjoyed many of Cory Doctorow's novels.  He is entertaining, insightful, and sometimes nothing short of prophetic. Because I have been such a big fan of his, I wish I had not read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.  This was his first novel, so I have to give him a bit of a break. But if you have not read Doctorow before, please don't start with this one.

Down and Out is set in Disney World. It's a future Disney world in which the rides are run by collective groups, some members of which carry on a multi-generational presence on the ride. The group that runs the Hall of Presidents is making drastic changes and is attempting to spread their influence to the Haunted Mansion.  There is more to the story than that, such as a murder mystery and plenty of discussion about regenerative bodies and memory back ups. But neither the characters nor the story as a whole grabbed me. This book was a bit of a chore to get through. 

Doctorow has done enough great work in his other novels as well as in his nonfiction writing that I will not throw him out completely. He is without question a brilliant writer.  But In my opinion, Down and Out should be at the bottom of the list of his works. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Little Kids and Their Big Dogs, by Andy Seliverstoff

Andy Seliverstoff is well known as a dog show photographer in Russia and throughout Europe.  But once he started taking pictures of little kids and their big dogs he saw the "endless joy and mutual confidence between the children and the animals."  His first collection of these pictures, Little Kids and Their Big Dogs conveys this message loud and clear: "Love for dogs and children make people kinder."  Just try looking at these pictures and not break out in a big grin.

The first thing you notice about this book is how huge these dogs are!  I rarely see dogs this big.  (Of course, I don't spend my time at dog shows like Mr. Seliverstoff does.)  And the kids are so cute and little.  The contrast between the two, as you would guess from the title, is striking.  But on a deeper level is the way Seliverstoff has captured the relationship between the kids and the dogs.  It's evident each enjoys and adores the other.

I will resist the temptation to run out and find a giant dog to bring home.  I'm sorry, but as wonderful as they look in the picture I know they will eat copious amounts of dog food and leave enormous deposits on my lawn.  Hopefully these cute kids are also learning to care for and clean up after their large friends.

Dog lovers and kid lovers will enjoy every page of this beautifully photographed book.

Dogs playing in the snow is one of Seliverstoff's favorite themes.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rebuilding the Foundations, by John Brueggemann and Walter Brueggemann

Walter Brueggemann has long been known as a leading Old Testament scholar.  His son John Brueggemann is a rising scholar in the field of sociology. Together they have written Rebuilding the Foundations: Social Relationships in Ancient Scripture and Contemporary Culture.  In a call and response style, the Brueggemanns discuss the decline of the moral tradition of the United States. They write, "The problems of our time are not simply the result of some elemental evil force, but rather reflect a complicated historical moment in which the structural arrangements and cultural circumstances have been aligned to disastrous effects."  

The Brueggemanns base their book on Jonathan Haidt's moral foundation theory. Haidt identified six moral foundations: care versus harm, fairness versus cheating, liberty versus oppression, loyalty versus betrayal, authority versus subversion, and sanctity versus degradation.  

Each chapter includes John's reflections from a sociological perspective and Walter's biblical analysis of some Old Testament passages. (Forgive my familiarity using their first names; I'm just trying to be efficient.)  I enjoyed the way they linked their perspectives.  For example, they talk about the reality of poverty in the United States, while describing the prophetic tradition as equating "knowledge of God with care for the poor and needy."  They talk about the inequality of wealth, and compare the current situation to King Solomon whose "enterprise is the process of making some rich at the expense of many others."

Unsurprisingly, the Brueggemanns' perspective is decidedly on the left.  Their left-leaning perspective only bothered me a few times, like when their anti-market perspective shined through ("Market fundamentalism provides the foundation. Profit is the goal.") or when the unnecessarily and rudely called President Trump "the great defiler."  (Don't get me wrong. I am not opposed to criticism or mocking of politicians.  But in this book it seemed out of place.)

The bigger problem with their liberal perspective came when they tried to bring biblical ideals into a real-world scenario.  They make an argument against the commodification of food, emphasizing "the abundance of food assured by the Creator" and the "triangle of the God who gives, the producer-distributor-consumer who enjoys food, and the neighbor with whom the abundance is shared."  That is a compelling perspective, but it completely ignores the necessity of price signals, supply and demand, and consumer choice.  Parts of their work illustrate the dangers and shortcomings that are inevitable when a sociologist and an Old Testament scholar venture into the world economics and policy.

The strongest parts of Rebuilding the Foundations are Walter's forays into Old Testament passages. Overall, the book isn't particularly insightful or inspiring, and their perspective on society is rather bleak: "Everyone can see that our current sociopolitical, economic culture is on its way to a death in which humanness shrivels."  This book must have been a joy for the father son team to write; that interaction and interplay of their ideas makes it worth reading.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai

Elan Mastai's debut novel All Our Wrong Todays is a delight to read.  It is thoughtful, speculative, reflective science-fiction.  Mastai wanders down plenty of scientific-sounding rabbit trails, enough to make it sound like sci-fi, but not so much that it gets in the way of a great time-travel story.

The story begins in 2016, but not our 2016.  In this alternative timeline, the world's most famous scientist invented the Goettreider engine, which produces limitless energy spurred seemingly unlimited technological progress.  Tom Barren's father, a protege of the more famous Goettreider, is about to become famous himself, as the inventor of time travel.  Tom, the disappointment of the family, the slacker son who has not distinguished himself in any way, screws up the timeline of history by sneaking into his father's lab and traveling back in time to the moment the Goettreider engine is first activated.

When Tom returns to 2016 after his brief foray in the past, he finds himself in our 2016, in a future that has no Goettreider engine and missing all the technological and sociological advances it made possible.  He's the same guy, only with memories from both timelines.  Somehow he has to figure out who he really is.  Plus, he has to convince his family and his girlfriend, who is the same but different in this new timeline, that he's not absolutely crazy.

Wracked with guilt about potentially having eliminated billions of people who were never born as a result of his tinkering with history, he contemplates trying to fix it.  But as he tries to explain to Goettreider, "time travel is very bad at fixing mistakes.  What it's very good at is creating even worse mistakes."  In this sense, All Our Wrong Todays engages many of the same questions countless movies and books about time travel have raised.  But Mastai does it oh so well!

One of the real-life ideas (in our timeline, and, apparently in the other timeline as well) that Mastai introduces is French philosopher Paul Virilio's idea concept of the integral accident.  As Tom/Mastai describes it, it's "the idea that every time you introduce a new technology, you also introduce the accident of that technology, so you have a responsibility to anticipate not just the good it can do but also the bad it can wreak, not just the glory but also the ruin."  The invention of train travel is also the invention of derailment, for example.

Tom/Mastai has written not a novel, but a memoir.  "And the best thing about a memoir is it doesn't even need to make sense."  But in an entertaining and thoughtful way, All Our Wrong Todays makes perfect sense, and, whether a novel or a memoir, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading it.

Thanks to NetGalley for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Team Rodent, Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen is undoubtedly one of the funniest novelists in recent memory.  In his hilarious novels, he revisits some recurring themes, including contempt for the many tourists who flood Florida and the out-of-control development of the state and the resulting demise of the native flora and fauna.  The stories and characters he writes are memorable, making his curmudgeonly anti-tourist, anti-development tolerable and amusing.

In Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World, a collection of essays criticizing all things Disney, that curmudgeonly side takes over, leaving none of the charm and engaging story telling of Hiaasen's novels.  I don't know if Hiaasen genuinely hates Disney, but it sure sounds like it.  He lets his bitterness blind him to anything positive that he might have said.

Hiaasen objects to the political and economic control Disney wields in Florida.  From the start, when they secretly started buying up land, they managed to keep their intentions quiet so that property values would not increase too quickly.  To Hiaasen, this unconscionably cheated landowners out of a fair price for their land.  Then Disney established their own municipality in order to have more control and autonomy in the area around the park.  Maybe Disney has more overreach than other large corporations, and maybe they have abused their autonomy, but on balance, it sure seems like Disney has been a boon for Orlando and the surrounding area.

I think it's strange when Hiaasen complains about Disney being too nice.  For instance, he bemoans the loss of X-rated entertainment venues in Times Square.  He writes, "Peep Land [a porn shop] is important precisely because it's so irredeemable and because it cannot be transformed into anything but what it is. . . . Standing in Disney's path, Peep Land remains a gummy little cell of resistance.  And resistance is called for."  What kind of person celebrates the existence of Peep Land and criticizes the existence of a Disney store?

Similarly, he criticizes Disney's cleansing of Castaway Cay, their cruise line's private island.  Before Disney bought it, it was used by drug runners to fly in drugs from South America to be smuggled into the U.S.  Their reimaging of the island is "a small illustration of how Team Rodent untarnishes reality, acquiring and recasting to its own designs."  Somehow in Hiaasen's universe it's a bad thing for a company to transform an island into a playground where tourists can have a fun and safe vacation.

Team Rodent is certainly funny at times with Hiaasen's trademark humor.  But his hatred of Disney clouds his reporting so deeply that I have a hard time respecting his criticism.  I will still eagerly snap up Hiaasen's novels, but this anti-Disney screed is too much.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose

My son is graduating from high school in a few weeks and plans to head to Lynchburg, Virginia this fall to attend the largest Christian university in the world.  To familiarize myself with Liberty University I picked up Kevin Roose's insider's view of a semester at Liberty, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University.  Roose tells of his experiences attending Liberty in the spring of 2007.  His account is honest and insightful, humorous and perhaps a bit troubling.

As a sophomore at Brown University, Roose noticed many of his friends signing up for semesters abroad, seeking opportunities to learn about other cultures.  He realized that one dominant culture in the U.S. was largely unknown to him, so he transferred to Liberty to get to know evangelicals in their native environment.  He hit up against the strict lifestyle rules at Liberty, having to put on hold the more typical college lifestyle habits he practiced at Brown.

Of course one of the biggest areas of interest is male-female relations.  Liberty students are barely allowed to touch, much less kiss or hook up.  Not that there aren't opportunities and temptations. . . . He observes that Liberty has some beautiful girls:
The first five girls who pass me are stunningly beautiful, and then the next five, and then the five after that.  They just keep parading by--a phalanx of fit, well-groomed, pearl-wearing girls, all of whom would be right at home in a J. Crew catalog. . . . It's sort of cruel, if you think about it.  Here these pious Christian guys are, trying to stave off lust at a college where thousands of world-class women stroll the halls.  It'd be like going to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory with a wired jaw.
And it's not as if students aren't looking to meet a mate.  By his description, the "ring by spring" culture is stronger there than many universities.  By his account, every girl there, and most of the guys want to find a spouse before they graduate.  Some guys struggle.  When one said he wanted to fellowship with some girls after an event, Roose concluded that "'fellowship' is Christian speak for 'hit on unsuccessfully.'"

He criticizes the Liberty culture of denying premarital sex, condemning pornography, and discouraging masturbation.  Roose feels "frustration with a religious system that gives issue of personal sexuality higher spiritual priority than helping the poor or living a life of service."  Perhaps he's right; sexual sin is, in most Christian circles, treated as more consequential than other sins.  There are accountability groups for Christians who confess their sexual struggles, but not for Christians who confess their failures to act generously toward the poor.  But I'll take Liberty over the common hook up culture found on most college campuses.

Although Roose conformed to the expected Liberty lifestyle for the most part, he still remained convinced that Liberty's conservative perspectives on social issues are wrong and perhaps evil.  He relishes those moments when his friends showed signs of breaking out of the Liberty mold.  When his friends confide in him questions about bisexuality, or about Jesus being the only way to heaven, their hints of doubt or struggle encourage him.  "It is nice to see that once in a while, amidst the hard-line dogmatism of a Liberty education, human decency still shines through the cracks."  This attitude really bothered me, as he implied that it's simply indecent to believe that bisexuality is morally wrong or that Christianity has exclusive claims to salvation.  Unsurprisingly, he would maintain that the only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth and that the only moral wrong is the belief that there are absolute moral wrongs.

As a future Liberty parent who wants my son to receive a quality education that will prepare him for a career, I was interested in Roose's assessment of Liberty's intellectual environment.  Roose writes,
For more than 30 years, Liberty's operating mode has been primarily dogmatic.  Here knowledge is passed down from professor to people, variations and worldview are systematically stripped away, and faith is explained and reinforced, never questioned. . . . [Liberty is] a place where academic rigor is sacrificed on the altar of uninterrupted piety, where the skills of exploration, deconstruction, and doubt--all of which should be present at an institution that bills itself as a liberal arts college--are systematically silenced in favor of presenting a clear, unambiguous political and spiritual agenda. . . . Until anti-intellectual attitudes . . . are dealt with, I'm afraid Liberty will continue to wallow in academic mediocrity.
I will be interested to hear from my son and his classmates and professors whether they believe this to be true.  Roose was there ten years ago and observed a broadening of the academic and intellectual atmosphere even in his short period of observation.  Part of me shrinks from Roose's statements, but then part of me realizes that once again, Roose comes from a perspective that believes there are no absolute truths.  Roose and others like him have difficulty acknowledging that a belief in absolute truth does not preclude intellectual curiosity, questioning, and research.

Even though he was incognito, pretending to be an evangelical for the purposes of his research, Roose did experience some spiritual growth while on campus.  Participating in dorm prayer groups, convocation, and singing in the church choir impacted his attitudes.  I liked his observations on prayer.  Once Roose began to pray regularly for specific people, "all my problems snap[ped] into perspective."  Compared to what many other people are going through, "nothing in my life seems all that pressing." Also, "the compassion I dig up during those thirty minutes sometimes carries over to the rest of my day."  Not bad for someone who doesn't believe in prayer.

A friend who recently graduated from Liberty said she liked the book and felt like Roose's portrayal was on target.  Liberty seems to be a school heading in the right direction, constantly improving their academic rigor, updating their facilities, and attracting more qualified students.  There are fewer and fewer universities in the United States that don't actively demean and marginalize orthodox Christianity and conservative political views.  As a Christian, and as a parent, I can get behind a university committed to producing "Champions for Christ."

Monday, February 13, 2017

Do All Lives Matter? by Wayne Gordon and John Perkins

When two of my long-time heroes write another book together, I sit up and take notice.  Wayne Gordon has been a pastor for many years in Chicago's Lawndale neighborhood.  My visit to Lawndale Community Church transformed my perspective on what a church should be.  His story, an educated white man choosing to live and minster in a poor, urban, mostly black neighborhood challenged my sense of place.  John Perkins, a civil rights pioneer, has continued to be a prophetic voice for reconciliation in the church and in America.

Perkins and Gordon, co-founders the Christian Community Development Association, have written a challenging new book, Do All Lives Matter? The Issues We Can No Longer Ignore and the Solutions We All Long For.  In answer to the titular question, they answer Yes, all lives matter.  But they stand firmly in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement because for much of history society has demonstrated that black lives don't matterTo say all lives matter "subtly suggests that black people are treated the same as everyone else."  They write: "All lives can't matter until black lives matter."

Both Perkins and Gordon have seen up close and personal the mistreatment of blacks by police and by white people.  Perkins's own brother was killed by police.  Gordon points out that "in the same period of just a few days that spanned the killing of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five Dallas police officers, 114 people were shot in Chicago.  Eleven of them died."  Only the most heartless among us fail to feel sympathy for those whose lives are touched by violence, black or white.

Perkins and Gordon succinctly tell the story of racism in America, making the case that the repercussions of slavery and Jim Crow continue much more than we want to acknowledge.  The innate assumption that white people are intellectually and socially superior may be spoken aloud only infrequently, but it shows up constantly and subconsciously in our interactions.  In this racial-cultural milieu, they favorably endorse the Black Lives Matter movement.  They lament that "only 13 percent of evangelicals support the Black Lives Matter movement, even though many of its foundational principles are faithful to Scripture and many of its leaders and participants are Christians."

Given the rhetoric and practices of the BLM movement, why are they surprised?  When chants about killing cops are heard at their marches, and when the Dallas police assassin says he supports BLM, the scriptural principles and Christian participants are drowned out.  Blocking traffic and disrupting other people's lives make BLM leaders (and Gordon's church) feel good about having a voice, but such actions are inconsiderate, bad public relations, and fuel the distaste of people who are neutral or disinclined to support BLM.  I was surprised that Gordon and Perkins had little, if anything, negative to say about BLM.  

Their overall point is on target.  Yes, all lives matter.  The Bible makes "abundantly clear, . . . all human beings are equal in the sight of God."  But, as Richard Mouw writes in the afterward, "Yes, it is certainly true that all lives matter to God.  But there are times when we need to focus on specific lives because those lives have for too long been denied the right to flourish."  That is a sentiment I can get behind.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Arthur and the Golden Rope, by Joe Todd-Stanton

Take a trip into the long-ago past of Norse mythology with the adventurous Brownstone family.  Joe Todd-Stanton's Arthur and the Golden Rope tells the story of young Arthur, the first Brownstone adventurer.  He loved to explore the forest around his Icelandic hometown.  One day, while he was out in the forest, the giant wolf Fenrir attacked his town and put out the great fire that kept the town warm and livable.  To save the town, someone had to travel to Thor and entreat him to give them fire.  All other candidates had been injured in Fenrir's attack, so the task fell to Arthur.  With his uncanny wit and some unusual tools, he subdues Fenrir and, as reward, Thor relights the fire in Arthur's village.

The story is cute, and steeped in Norse mythology.  But the whimsical, colorful illustrations make the book worth picking up.  I enjoyed Arthur's adventure, and would look forward to see more stories about the adventurous Brownstones.
Thor explains to Arthur how to subdue Fenrir.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Counter Culture, by David Platt

In 2015, David Platt published Counter Culture, a call for Christians not to conform to the world's views on a variety of issues, but to let their actions conform to the attitudes and teaching of Jesus and the Bible.  In this 2017 revised and updated version, Counter Culture: Following Christ in an Anti-Christian Age, he revisits much of the same content while adding relevant insights about current trends. At the time he was first writing the book, "the Supreme Court was about to consider arguments concerning same-sex marriage, and transgender sexuality was rarely even discussed.  Two short years later, so-called same-sex marriage has become law across the country, and the federal government now threatens to withhold children's education money from states who do not allow men who wish they were women to use public bathrooms alongside young girls."

As you can perceive from this selection, Platt is an unabashed conservative who holds to traditional Christian morality.  But Counter Culture is more than a simple "what conservatives believe" pamphlet. As Platt delves into the scriptural foundation for each of the stances he takes in the book, he gives a very personal spin. On each issue he tells how he has struggled to follow Christ's example. Further, he helps the reader by ending each chapter with steps to pray--suggestions for prayer time, to participate--ways the reader can be involved, and to proclaim--scriptures to mediate on regarding the issue of the chapter.

Overall, Platt maintains a very positive tone. He offers the hope of the gospel for those involved in sexual sin, for those struggling with materialism or poverty, for those in slavery. The weight of the issues he discusses began to feel very heavy, and our response, inadequate. But as he reminds us, "God alone is able to bear these global burdens." In his grace, he allows us to participate in his work.

His new chapter, which covers the current refugee crisis, seemed especially weighty.  Platt makes it personal, narrating the tale of families fleeing from war-ravaged Syria.  As we try to imagine what it would be like to live in their shoes, we can't help but wonder what we might do.  While Platt's presentation is particularly effective, it also reveals a weakness of his approach.  He's right that we need to pray, and that refugees are especially in need of the saving knowledge of Jesus.  And of course the material needs are tremendous.  The problem is transitioning to the public policy realm.  Given the need, does the United States have an obligation to assist 60 million refugees?  To welcome them into our country?  What if the expense is more than we can bear?  And is there any logistical possibility of resettling all those in need?  I'm not sure Platt has a great answer.

Even when he might fall short on policy recommendations, throughout Counter Culture, Platt never fails to keep the focus on Christ and the hope we have in him. We all have sinned, and are guilty of following culture on some or all of the issues he addresses. As we live to counter culture, we live to follow Christ. And as we do so, we recognize that the point is not to transform culture by focusing on these issues, but "by giving our lives to gospel proclamation--to telling others the good news of all God has done in Christ and calling them to follow him."

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Day of the Donald, by Andrew Shaffer

Andrew Shaffer has a word of warning for the U.S.: look out for Trump.  Shaffer published Day of the Donald: Trump Trumps America well before the election.  Perhaps he meant this over-the-top satirical novel to scare people away from the prospects of a Trump presidency.  The result is a sometimes funny send up of all the Trump haters' worst fears.

Shaffer does have some good lines.  After Trump's win, "six late-night talk show hosts joined hands in a prayer circle and gave thanks for the bounty that they were about to receive."  On immigration, Trump says, "Anybody is welcome in America--they just have to change to a religion that doesn't want to blow us up.  I don't think that's too much to ask."  Sounds reasonable to me!

There is actually a story herein.  Jimmie Bernwood, a tabloid reporter, has been tapped by Trump to be his ghost writer.  In his new role he is dropped into the inner circle of the White House, with complete security clearance.  He quickly learns that the last person in this role disappeared--wait, was he murdered?!  Not only that, but he was the guy Jimmie caught in flagrante with his then-girlfriend.

Jimmie secretly digs into the murder and finds himself in the middle of a White House mystery, with international intrigue, secret dealings, and unfaithful staffers.  The unlikely absurdity of the story and scenarios give Day of the Donald a dream-like, or maybe nightmarish, tone.  Not to give too much away, but, surprise surprise, Trump's opposition comes from establishment politicians.  One of them wails to Jimmie, "It's time for the lifelong politicians to take our country back.  We're tired of getting bossed around by these Washington outsiders and their small-government underreaches.  Our country should be governed the way the founders intended--by a small handful of political dynasties."  I can imagine that sentiment among certain factions of our government, if not spoken out loud then certainly thought!

Shaffer has some funny bits but the overall effect is not terribly appealing.  I couldn't help comparing Shaffer to Christopher Buckley, whose political satires are at once hilarious and insightful.  Shaffer makes a good effort, but falls short.  Day of the Donald is too silly, too unrealistic, and too anti-Trump to be truly great satire. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is Justice Possible?, by J. Paul Nyquist

Is justice possible?  That is the question J. Paul Nyquist, president of Moody Global Ministries, asks in his new book, Is Justice Possible?: The Elusive Pursuit of What is Right.  Nyquist, writing as a theologian, is not writing about social justice, as theologians tend to do, but about "justice we see in the courts: legal justice."   Nyquist discusses what justice is, why it is elusive, and what Christians should do in a world where justice will never be perfect.

The most compelling parts of Is Justice Possible are the stories Nyquist tells about times when justice was not served.  Truly we live in a fallen world, and our efforts to do justice, no matter how noble or righteous, will fall short from time to time.  Whether from imperfect knowledge, implicit bias, or evil intent, many men and women have been convicted of crimes they did not commit.  Despite the imperfection of the system, "God still expects justice to be served through our government, leaders, and judges."  God provides the measure of justice, for "without a righteous standard of measurement, we can believe certain actions are straight when they are crooked."

We can look forward to perfect justice, but not until the final judgment.  "We can and do make mistakes in our rendering of justice today.  We lack knowledge, are plagued by sin, and have implicit bias.  We do our best, but we make mistakes.  No mistakes will be made on that day.  Every judgement will be perfect and right."

The hope Nyquist offers contrasts sharply with the many examples he gives of justice gone awry.  But he doesn't leave us without hope for justice in this life.  We can vote for elected officials whose platforms reflect biblical justice, we can advocate in defense of underrepresented or marginalized groups, we can acknowledge implicit bias and work against it.  Nyquist's legal and political perspective is insightful and his theological perspective is welcome.  Christians seeking a solid theological treatment of legal justice would be well-served to pick up Nyquist's book.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Impossible Fortress, by Jason Rekulak

Jason Rekulak's first novel, The Impossible Fortress, is the most fun-to-read book I've read in a while.    Sure the premise is ridiculous, and the teenage protagonists make some stupid decisions, but that's because they're fourteen-year-old boys.  Here's the set up.  Billy Martin and his friends will take great risks to catch a glimpse of Vanna White's spread in the new Playboy.  The only place in their small New Jersey town to buy Playboy  is Zelinsky's store.  Billy Martin is tasked with wooing Mary Zelinsky and getting the alarm system code so they can sneak in buy the magazine (they'll leave some money on the counter), and sneak back out undetected.

Such a simple plan, yet so much can go wrong.  Billy, a budding computer game programmer, learns that Mary is a much more accomplished computer programmer than he is.  They end up designing a game together and entering it in a contest for high school kids.  As they work together on the the game, he becomes friends--and perhaps more--with Mary, and is wracked with guilt about their plan to steal/buy the magazines.   Of course the romance is thwarted, the plan is a disaster, friendships are strained, and--well, let's just say there are some terrific, unexpected twists.

Rekulak has written some characters that you can't help but love.  Billy wants to do the right thing, but his passion for programming is much more important than school.  His friends can be jerks, but they are the kind of friends every boy needs.  Mary, a loner who goes to the Catholic girls' school, needs a friend herself, but something about her stops her from getting too close.

One of the "characters" that makes the book is the decade of the '80s.  Set in 1987, The Impossible Fortress will be a nostalgia trip for readers of a certain age.  The music, the TV shows, and especially the video games and the rise of the personal computer will bring back memories.  If only I had not spent so much time playing the games, but actually trying to figure out how they work and creating my own, like Mary and Billy do, I would probably be much better off today.

So, yeah, the premise is ridiculous.  It's almost a little charming, though, that teen boys in the 1980s were that desperate to get a glimpse at a Playboy when today they can access endless pictures in seconds. . . . Progress?  I'm afraid not.  And yeah, the boys make some stupid decisions.  They're smart kids; is that really the best plan they could come up with?  But their lust-crazed irrational exuberance turns this into a great story.  Rekulak is a very entertaining writer.  He made me laugh out loud and got me a little too emotionally involved with the characters (in a good way).  I highly recommend The Impossible Fortress.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Deplorables' Guide to Making America Great Again, by Todd Starnes

Well, I guess I'm a deplorable.  I voted for Trump.  Fox contributor Todd Starnes gives voice to many deplorables in his new book The Deplorables' Guide to Making America Great Again.  While Fox News may be "fair and balanced," The Deplorables' Guide is definitely not balanced, although I would say he's fair.  Starnes covers some of the hot issues from the 2016 presidential election, some of the hot cultural controversies from today's headlines, and a few odds and ends from political and cultural life in the United States.  His perspective and positions are very clear.  No one will be under the illusion that he might be a moderate Republican or a closet Hillary supporter.

Starnes doesn't have patience for the outrage coming from the left, the "perpetually offended snowflakes" who spend their days "waxing poetic about gender fluidity, taking selfies, and debating which lives matter and which lives do not."  The social justice warriors are the legacy of the Obama administration.  Writing as a Christian, Starnes calls on other Christians to stand against the erosion of conservative values in the U.S.  "God's little lambs can no longer go silently where the Left leads us.  Our duty is to be civil--not silent."  The renewal he's calling for starts at home: "Making America great again does not start at the White House.  It starts at your house, and mine."

Many of Starnes's topics and examples concern the marginalization of Christianity from public life.  In schools, school events, and public gatherings even the most benign and non-sectarian expressions of faith are excluded.  A marching band playing an arrangement of a Christian hymn?  Forget it.  Students saying "God bless America."  No way.  A football coach kneeling and silently praying on the field after a game?  Get rid of him.

I had two questions as I read these accounts.  First of all, don't many of these public expressions dilute the Christian witness?  He quoted one principal who said "the children saying 'God bless America' had nothing to do with religion.  'It wasn't taught with any intention of having any type of religious overtones. . . . It was taught to show patriotism.'"  Is Starnes comfortable to reducing God to our national mascot?  To taking religious overtones out of religious expression?  Second, it's one thing when a high school football crowd sings a hymn that the marching band is forbidden to play.  But what if Starnes kids go to public school in Dearborn, Michigan, and the vast majority of the student body is Muslim?  When the food is halal, they pray several times a day, and the dress code for girls requires head coverings?  When Christians are in the majority, he's OK with the majority culture ruling the day.  But he doesn't address the changing demographics in pockets of our diverse nation where Christians are becoming the minority.

Starnes also talks about the way Christians in business and entertainment are having their rights eroded.  Some of the cases are well-known, but worth revisiting.  Who would have imagined that government officials would try to block a business opening because of the founder's religious views? Chick-fil-a has faced that from a number of municipalities and universities around the country.  Or a TV program being cancelled because of the stars' views?  Ask the Benham brothers about their HGTV show.  The goal of progressives is "to silence any speech they disagree with. . . . They are creating a generation of intolerance--a generation that is OK shutting down free speech and purging dissenting viewpoints."

Whether the election of Donald Trump will reverse any of these trends is yet to be seen.  He writes, "we stopped just shy of complete moral meltdown, the crumble of our nations physical (not to mention spiritual) infrastructure."  I join Starnes in his dismay at the moral turn our country has taken.  But I wish his tone was less belligerent.  A Christian's goal should be to influence culture by showing love and leading their neighbors into relationship with Jesus.  I am certain Starnes would not disagree with me on that, but I can see how some would read The Deplorables' Guide and come away thinking that Starnes is in favor of ham-fisted cultural dominance.

The Deplorables' Guide is great reading for conservative Christians who want to commiserate about the decline of culture in America.  Starnes is an entertaining writer, and I found myself laughing with him, cursing with him, and becoming convinced, as he said, to start making America great again in my little slice of the world.  He provides "Marching Orders" at the end of each chapter, ways that you can change your own little world in hopes of make the greater world even greater.  Liberals probably don't want to bother with this book.  You might learn a little about how conservatives think, but mostly it will just make you angry.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Land of Nod, by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Robert Hunter

Way back in 1913 or so, Robert Louis Stevenson captured a child's dream life in the classic poem "The Land of Nod."  In its latest manifestation, the poem provides the text for Robert Hunter's children's book, The Land of Nod.  Hunter's illustrations are colorful, timeless, and appropriately bizarre.  The little boy's adventures, intended or not, reminded my of the boy in Where the Wild Things Are.

The illustrations are interesting enough to make the rehashing of the classic poem worth putting on paper.  Pay a visit to dreamland, the Land of Nod.

Thanks to NetGalley and publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

The Land of Nod

Related Poem Content Details

From breakfast on through all the day 
At home among my friends I stay, 
But every night I go abroad 
Afar into the land of Nod. 

All by myself I have to go, 
With none to tell me what to do — 
All alone beside the streams 
And up the mountain-sides of dreams. 

The strangest things are there for me, 
Both things to eat and things to see, 
And many frightening sights abroad 
Till morning in the land of Nod. 

Try as I like to find the way, 
I never can get back by day, 
Nor can remember plain and clear 
The curious music that I hear. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Shaken, by Tim Tebow

If anyone has a good reason to be disappointed by his treatment in his dream job, it would be Tim Tebow.  While quarterback at Florida, he won a Heisman Trophy and let his team to a national championship.  Drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by Denver, he showed a lot of promise as a rookie.  Despite some success, he was traded, released, signed, released, and cut.  This is part of the story Tebow tells in Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life's Storms.

Most of us fall into discouragement when life gives us disappointments or when our dreams are shattered.  Tebow got to experience what most young football players only dream about, yet when he should have been at the peak of his career, he was pushed out of football.  He could have dwelt on the fact that anti-Christian biases and bigotry kept teams from keeping around, but he didn't.  In Shaken he encourages us to respond not with anger or bitterness, but with hope and trust.  As he likes to say, "God's got this." 

From his earliest days in the spotlight, Tebow has kept his focus on honoring God and serving others.  Throughout Shaken, he tells stories of people he has met and been able to encourage and be inspired by.  Through his foundation and other charity work and public appearances, he has impacted the lives of many sick and disabled individuals, whose stories reminded him and remind us to be thankful in all circumstances and to live to serve.

That's what I took away from Shaken.  Life is full of disappointments, but it's also full of opportunities to serve and bless others.  The way to thrive amid our disappointments is to focus on the needs of others, and to trust God to provide for our needs.  The more we focus on God and others, the less we get stuck dwelling on our own troubles.

I appreciate the example Tebow sets, not only for athletes but for all of us.  College football and the NFL need more players with his character and humility.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Whistler, by John Grisham

John Grisham books are pretty much the definition of the legal thriller..  Every time one of his new books come out, you can count on it being a page turner and a best-seller.  The Whistler is not an exception.  Three months after its release, The Whistler is still at or near the top of the best-seller lists.  Is it a page-turner?  Mildly.

The Whistler features a corrupt judge, Indian casinos, and a little-known and secretive crime organization that has its hand in real estate, clubs, golf courses, hotels, and resorts throughout Florida.  Lacy Stoltz is a lawyer investigating the judge, who has been skimming off the casino with the help of the criminal developer.  Lacy pokes the hive and becomes a target herself.  In cahoots with her new FBI boyfriend, a former lawyer on the run, and a mole--the whistler--familiar with the judge's activities, she tries to bring down the whole enterprise.

This is pretty typical Grisham, but if I had never read any of his books before I'm not sure The Whistler would inspire me to pick up another one.  The money laundering, the corruption, and the whistle blower herself just didn't grab me the way his characters and plot lines usually do.  Of course I had to finish it, because I wanted to see how it would all resolve, but I felt rather indifferent about the resolution.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

41 Will Come, by Chuck Tate

Chuck Tate founded Rock Church in Peoria, Illinois, in hopes of reaching people who were not accustomed to church.  His laid-back, humorous style, which draws from plenty of pop culture references and real-life examples, is abundantly evident in 41 Will Come: Holding On When Life Get Tough--and Standing Strong Until a New Day Dawns.  Noting the significance of the number 40 in the Bible (Noah: rain for 40 days; Moses: 40 years in the desert; Israel: 40 years in the wilderness; Jonah: preached at Ninevah for 40 days; Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days; etc.), Tate encourages us that no matter the trial, "The number 41 represents the dawn of a new day--the hope and promise the if you don't quit . . . your fulfilled vision is right around the corner.  Your 41 will come."

Most of the book is structured around David's experience, facing off against Goliath.  For 40 days, the giant taunted the army of Israel.  On day 41, David has his day, trusting God to help him slay Goliath.  Tate gives seven "keys to help you only on when life gets tough and stand strong until a new day dawns."

  1. Know your enemy.
  2. Embrace your cause.
  3. Smash fear in the mouth.
  4. Shake of doubts and doubters.
  5. Prepare in order to receive a payoff.
  6. Word up!
  7. Attack!

Tate is that kind of preacher and writer who is super encouraging, super positive, and super personal. 41 Will Come is heavy on biblical examples.  Besides the David and Goliath story (from which Tate draws more sermon material than most preachers would ever dream) he spends plenty of time in the New Testament.  However, as strong as Tate was on biblical sources, he was rather light on the gospel and weak in theology.  Now, this is not a theological treatise, of course, but the end result felt more like a self-help style positive thinking kind of book.  This feeling was only bolstered by Tate's quotes from the modern master of that style, Joel Osteen.

Who is 41 Will Come for?  I think it's for Christians who have trusted Jesus for salvation, but have allowed life's challenges and set backs to discourage them.  As Tate has done, as David did, as others whose stories Tate tells have done, Christians can turn to God for help and stand strong in his strength.  If you like your teaching personal, high energy, positive, and encouraging, Tate has the message to pick you up and help you stand.

Thanks to the Tyndale Blog Network for the complimentary review copy!