Saturday, May 16, 2020

CSB Life Essentials Interactive Study Bible

What a fun concept!  An interactive Study Bible as close as your phone. CSB Life Essentials Study Bible is billed as a "Virtual Seminary in Your Bible."  That absolutely intrigued me.

I was not all that familiar with the CSB version of the Bible, so once I received my copy, I spent a fair amount of time reading the introductory material.  The goals for this translation were to provide an accurate translation in contemporary English.  One thing I truly appreciated was the discussion of the traditional approaches to translation. 
There is formal, or literal, equivalence, where the goal is to preserve the structure of the original language as much as possible, also known as word-for-word translation.  This can be rather awkward.

There is also dynamic, or functional equivalence, where the idea is to translate the meaning of the text, also known as thought-for-thought translation.  This is much more readable.

The CSB, like most translations, is a mix of the above opposite approaches.  Using what they call Optimal Equivalence, they aim to do a word-for-word translation when the result makes sense, but to use thought-by-thought translation when a literal translation is confusing to modern readers.

I found the CSB to be easy to read, and when comparing to other versions I use, I did find that I like it.  But the uniqueness of this Study Bible is in the technology.

In this photo, you can see a QR code (the little boxy thing in the lower left of the grey box on the left page, or the one on the screen of my phone).  Going in to take a photo of that code will result in a little link popping up on the screen.  Follow that link to a free video, where Dr. Gene Getz expounds on one of the 1500 essential life principles in about ten minutes.

That's 250 hours of in-depth video teaching, as close as the camera on your phone (or tablet).

The video shown here, from Psalm 68, is based on "The Day of the Lord" and the idea that we can rejoice when the wicked are defeated, but we are not to rejoice over eternal condemnation for those who reject Jesus.

The reflection and response section asks this: "Why is it sometimes difficult to pray for those who are blatantly opposed to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and who mercilessly persecute Christians?"

I find Dr. Getz to be easy to listen to, and the length of each principle video is great as I can usually find the ten or so minutes to watch a video.

As you can see in the photo on the right, the video looks a bit like a sermon or a lecture.  Bible text is added to the screen when Dr. Getz is quoting it, as is the reflection and response question.

In other words, the video is pretty straight-forward, not flashy.

Dr. Getz has been preaching and teaching for years, and it is evident when listening to the videos that he has experience.  He was involved in a church plant in 1972 of Fellowship Bible Church.  Watch this to learn more about him, and about this Bible.

The video ends with suggestions for other related principles.

There is an app (that I really have not played with yet) that will keep track of which videos you have watched, so if you do start somewhere and just keep going on to something related somewhere else (like jumping from Psalms to Philippians), you can use the app to start a new trail with a principle you have not seen yet.

I really do love this Bible.  Even if you are between churches, without a pastor, or homebound, you can bring an experienced teacher and pastor into your home easily.

Would you like to win a copy?  I spent too much time with this Bible myself, so I am doing a flash giveaway.  I'll be drawing a winner at midnight Mountain time, May 17. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer:  I received this Bible and one for a giveaway, in exchange for my review.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Experimenting with Bacon

Last year, I decided that all three of my 4-H kids were going to be doing the Food and Nutrition 101 project together.  I wanted to work through the materials, as I figured it would be good for them.  And I just wanted them all on the same page.  Far easier for me.

It was wonderful.  The only downside was that they were all working from the same set of recipes.

The basic requirements for the project are to:
  • Make 2-3 recipes from each section of the project manual, so 10-15 recipes each.
  • Do a couple of experiments or activities from the manual (which they did together).
  • Do community service related to their project (baking cookies for a bake sale, baking cookies to give out in Thanksgiving baskets).
  • Give a demonstration relating to your project.
  • Make something to exhibit at County Fair.  For 101, that had to be either cookies, bar cookies, or no-bake cookies.  For 201, that is muffins, scones, or quick bread.
One of the experiments for Food and Nutrition 201 is to make bacon three different ways and do a family taste test.  I bought bacon, so we'd be sure to have enough of the SAME stuff, at one point when there was actually meat available in the grocery store.

The kids cut each piece into thirds, and then made one piece for each of us a) in the oven, b) on the stove, and c) in the microwave.  Since our microwave died a couple days after all the COVID shutdowns, we had to wait to do this activity until we got a replacement.

The only way they have ever made bacon is by frying it on the stove. 

Trina putting bacon onto the stone to go into the oven
I used to microwave bacon, but have never made it in the oven, except when wrapped around chicken, veggies, or a jalapeno.

Richard putting bacon on a tray to microwave it.
I wish we had thought to get a photo once they were all cooked.  The kids grabbed paper plates, labeled the edges with A, B and C, and placed the bacon on the plates for each family member.

It was interesting to see the results.  Basically, we all were torn between the stove and oven, and pretty much all thought the microwave-cooked bacon was a distant 3rd place.  What we liked about the bacon from the oven was that it was pretty flat instead of all curled up.  But we preferred the taste of the bacon that they fried.

We finished the day off by having BLTs, and made that bacon in the oven so it would work in the sandwiches better.

Next taste test?  Rice.  We're supposed to compare cooked on the stove to cooked in the oven, but I'm going to add the rice cooker to the mix.

I just love 4-H!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

4-H Cake Decorating Fun!

We were excited to go to a cake decorating workshop for 4-H this week.  Icing on the Cake in Colorado Springs was a wonderful host!  Check out a couple of their gorgeous cakes!

I love this one so very much.  Yellow roses mean a lot to me.

That's what my dad always bought my mom.

And of course, amethyst is my birthstone.

So this one is cool as well.

Anyway, the point of this is to show off my two 4-Hers decorating cakes.  Yes, Richard went too, even though he is not in a cake decorating project.  He and Trina are both doing food and nutrition, and food preservation.  So working with food is still good for him.

Getting some instruction from the owner on holding the bag

Trina practicing, and not holding the bag "right"

Richard getting started on his cake

She had to fill all the white space

A group shot of all the kids

What a fun day!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

My twins-for-a-night

The kids have been going to Youth Group, which meets at the same time as AWANA happens for the younger kids.  The theme this past weekend was Twin Night. 

These two, who are 23 months apart, have always been asked if they are twins.  Not so much lately, but it used to happen all the time.  They decided all on their own to do a twin thing tonight.  I was told I could take photos, but I couldn't post them until after the night was over.

Unbeknownst to me, they also put together a little song-and-dance routine.  I heard it was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Cross to Kill: A Giveaway

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a really fun book, A Cross to KillI Read with Audra is doing a blog tour, and Audra told me I could post about the giveaway.  It ends today, so hurry!

The review focused on the book.  This post will focus on the author, Andrew Huff.
Andrew Huff spent 10 years in local church ministry as a youth pastor and creative arts pastor before pursuing God’s calling into creative storytelling and media production as the Product Director at Igniter Media, a church media company (

He is a two-time finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest for unpublished authors (2014 & 2017) and also won the Best Screenplay award at the 2015 48 Hour Film Festival in Richmond, VA.

Huff holds a Bachelor of Science in Religion degree from Liberty University and a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary. He resides in Plano, TX with his beautiful wife, Jae, and their two boys.

One aspect I noticed in the book was how the characters in the church all ring very true.  Andrew addressed this in a Q&A:
Q: Writers usually write what they know. Is there any of you in John Cross?
A: If there was, I wouldn’t be allowed to tell you. Just kidding! The more exciting aspects of John’s story are nothing like mine, and I only wish I had half of his intuition and skill. It is true, however, that writers usually write what they know, and I’m no exception. The part of me in John Cross is less the man and more the day-to-day experience in local church ministry.

When I wrote A Cross to Kill, I was on staff with a Southern Baptist church in Central Virginia, though a much larger church than Rural Grove. So much of what John experiences with the church and its members is based on real experiences that I drew from during my time on a church staff as well as from growing up as a preacher’s kid in rural Tennessee churches. The congregants we get to know are not based on individuals as much as an amalgamation of wonderful people I had the opportunity to get to know through the years.
Another point I found interesting was part of Andrew's answer to the question about struggles the main character has that readers can relate to.
A: Another faith struggle that I know many readers can identify with is the difficulty of accepting God’s forgiveness for not only the sins we’ve committed in the past, but the sins we will commit in the future. John struggles to believe God could forgive him for what he did while in the employ of the CIA, and that affects his ability to pass forgiveness on to others. This is something I, myself, have also found difficult. It’s not hard to believe God might forgive a single mistake here and there, but after failing again and again and again, it’s easy to expect a limit to God’s forgiveness. That’s when we can become trapped in the erroneous belief that faith is not enough, and we must work to retain God’s favor.
I am really looking forward to reading more in this series! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 18, 2019

Christian Heroes Then & Now

Heroes Then & Now Book Review Series
Christian Heroes Then & Now series came to my attention nearly two decades ago when I attended a homeschool conference.  YWAM Publishing had a phenomenal deal on the Gladys Aylward title, and though my kids were nowhere near old enough for these books, I wanted to see what this was all about.

I was hooked from that first book.  It wasn't long before I was sharing the books with my children.  George Müller was their first introduction to this amazing series, and that is still one of my very favorite titles.

I don't yet own everything, but I have a pretty good collection of both their paperbacks and audiobooks.  Some of it is pictured below.

Benge Books has recently started a website of their own, and they now have a social media presence as well, such as their Facebook page.  As part of this site launch, they are giving away three sets of five books, and reviews are posting all this month.

Part of my Benge shelf
I knew I wanted to write a review.  The only hard part was choosing which book to use.  We're studying Twentieth Century History this year, but that doesn't help a lot as there are still so many options.  Richard Wurmbrand: Love Your Enemies won.  His life covers most of the 20th century, and his is a story we really are not familiar with.

I knew the basics.  Richard Wurmbrand lived in Eastern Europe where he was a pastor.  After World War II, his country came under Soviet influence.  He spent years imprisoned for his faith, and he was tortured while a prisoner.  Eventually, he was released and was able to come to the US.  He spoke out in the Vietnam War era about the way Christians were being treated in communist countries.  He founded Voice of the Martyrs, which expanded to address the persecuted church everywhere.

I knew there was more to the story, and I obviously was missing some details, like just which Eastern Bloc country he was from.  Like all of the Benge Books, there is so much in the way of life lessons.  Janet and Geoff Benge always write these biographies in a way that makes it natural to have fabulous "what would you do?" conversations.  Richard and his wife, Sabina, had many opportunities to love their enemies, as the subtitle suggests.  They see all people as people, not as Nazis, communists, or enemies. 

My kids are now on the older side, so many consider the Christian Heroes Then & Now to be too juvenile for high school students.  I disagree.  The thing is, my kids are doing a full history program already, and while it is coming from a Christian perspective, there is so much going on in the world that the text can only spend a bit of time on missionaries like Eric Liddell. 

The Heroes books allow us to supplement with well-researched and well-written biographies that are a great length.  They don't take longer than maybe two weeks to read, or a couple trips to town when we listen to the audiobook. 

The twentieth century can be a rather depressing time period to study.  Armenian genocide, two world wars, the holocaust, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and on and on.  A Benge biography helps to lighten the mood, even when it is covering topics like torture.  There is enough detail that you know he is being hurt, but not so much that the book is depressing.

Like all Benge biographies I have read, the story jumps into some exciting, tense moment in the person's life.  For Wurmbrand, he is being put into leg irons as the story opens, with no idea where he is being taken.  He ends up in a train car, wondering if he is heading off to his death.  You jump back to his childhood as a non-practicing Jew in Romania and you follow along as he grows up, becomes a Christian, continues life... and eventually ends up replaying that same scene that the book opened with.  Then you find out what happens from there.

Janet and Geoff Benge do such a great job with cliff-hanger chapter endings that even when you are familiar with the overall story of the person, you can't wait to find out what happens next.  My kids (now in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades) enjoy these biographies, and I appreciate that we have the opportunity to talk about the lives of so many real people, people who are true heroes.

This giveaway is available now through December 5.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Cross to Kill {a Kregel Publishing review}

I've recently had the opportunity to take on some book reviews again.  I get to kick this off with a hard to put down title by Andrew Huff.  I truly enjoyed reading A Cross to Kill: A Shepherd Suspense Novel, and I look forward to the rest of the trilogy.

The publisher described the book this way:
A gripping debut thriller pits a man of God against terrorists—and his own deadly past 
John Cross is a small-town pastor, bent on leading his flock to follow God's calling. He's not the sort of man one would expect to have a checkered past.

But the truth is that the man behind the pulpit preaching to his sheep was once a wolfan assassin for the CIA. When John decided to follow Christ, he put that work behind him, determined to pay penance for all the lives he took. He vowed never to kill again.

Now someone wants the peaceful pastor to pay for his sins with his own life. And when a terrorist out for revenge walks into the church, John's secrets are laid bare. Confronted with his past, he must face his demons and discover whether a man can truly change. Can he keep his voweven when the people he loves are in mortal danger? Will his congregation and the brave woman he's learning to care for be caught in the cross fire? In the end, his death may be the only sacrifice he has left to offer.

Andrew Huff's thrilling debut is not only a riveting story of suspense, it's also a deep exploration of the moral quandaries that face those who choose to follow the Prince of Peace in a violent world

What did I think?

I had a hard time putting it down.  You start off right in the thick of things, inside the head of a reporter who is about to be executed by terrorists.  The first sentence is, "Millions of people would witness the murder of Christine Lewis, and not one of them could do anything to stop it."

This is a suspense novel, and only the first chapter, so I don't think it is too much of a spoiler to tell you that this execution does not go as planned.  John Cross shows up in chapter one in an attempt to save her, but that rescue does not go as planned either.

That makes for a pretty good synopsis of this book:  plans are made, and plans don't work out like anyone expected.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

It isn't quite non-stop twists and turns.  Cross returns to the small church he pastors, and there is a breather where you get to meet some delightful characters that remind me so much of church people I've known over the years, particularly at smaller churches.

I would not have guessed that this was the first novel for Andrew Huff.  And I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through Kregel Blog Tours.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.