On the Book Table and the Kindle

Good Monday afternoon! It has been a while since I published this column on Monday but it is going to be a busy week here in NE Indiana where I reside so I thought a Monday post would be a great way to start the week!

On Saturday night, I posted the following picture on Instagram and another book lover liked it. When I clicked on their bio, the words “book horder” appared in the bio. I loved it. I am definitely one of those…


This is my Kindle, literally on ice at Silver Beach in St Joseph, Michigan where my family and I spent an afternoon trying to stay cool in the waters of Lake Michigan while we got sunburned.


It was so hot (I know, I know, “How hot was it, Jim?) that I put my cell phone and my Kindle in a large re-sealable plastic Baggie and put it in the cooler! I could not read for more than 20 minutes as the heat was heavy and I soon was back in the water staying cool (and getting some sunburn).

Both survived the cooling environment though my wallet and my keys were very cold!

The Kindle is full these days and the book table is quiet and since my last post, I have reviewed some wonderful fiction that you can read elsewhere on the blog.

I hope to write to two reviews that will appear this week. They are:

Rick Campbell’s Ice Station Nautlius (St Martins, 2016)


and Michael J Buckley’s SJ What Do You Seek?: The Questions of Jesus as Challenge and Promise (William B Eerdmans, 2016)


Look for them later this week…

As for what is still on the Kindle…


Dennis W Johnson’s Democracy for Hire: A History of American Political Consulting (TBP 2016 Oxford University Press, USA)

I am two-thirds through this book. Wow! What an insightful and educational book this is. It is a re-education in political science for me.


Leslie Winfield Williams’ Emblem of Faith Untouched: A Short Life of Thomas Cranmer (TBP 2016 Eerdmans)

This is a short biography of the first Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and helped Henry VIII break with the Pope thus creating the English Protestant Revolution. I read one of Leslie’s books nearly two decades ago, Seduction of the Lesser Gods (Word, 1997) and still have a copy of my email correspondence with her about writing that I have kept in that book.


Simon Yarrow’s The Saints: A Short History (TPB 2016 Oxford University Press, USA) A primer on how people have been sainted by the Roman Catholic Church. Looking forward to reading this.


C Christopher Smith’s Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish (IVP Books 2016) I have heard many good comments about this book. When I had the chance to request it via NetGalley, I took it and was thrilled when I was approved to read it!


Otis Moss III’s Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul Word: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair (2015 Westminister John Knox Press) The title caught my attention because it rings true today.


James D Hornfischer’s The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific 1944-1945 (TBP 2016 Bantam) A history of the Mariana’s campaign by the US Navy in World War 2 by a veteran writer.

All of these wonderful books are through NetGalley (www.netgalley.com) which links publishers and readers. Thanks to the publishers for their approval to read these books.

See you behind the page!

My Review of Dan Mayland’s Death of a Spy

23535097When Mark Sava, former CIA agent, hears that his former boss, and a current employee of his firm is dead in a Georgian hotel room,  he also finds a painting with a recognizable face of a woman he once loved. The mystery surrounding  Larry Bowlan’s death drives Sava to determine why he died and why that painting was in the room. Thus begins another adventure in the life of Mark Sava, a former CIA agent, now married to his former partner and a father, who encounters enemies of old and the power players of today’s central Asia that borders the modern Middle East.

As with the other Mark Sava series novels I have read and reviewed The Colonel’s Mistake  The Leveling and Spy For Hire  Death of a Spy (Kindle Edition, 2014) is another fast-paced and heart stopping book that features lots of action and some familiar characters such as Sava’s Azeri contact Orkhan Gambar, his associate John Decker, and his wife Daria.

As the plot unfolds, Sava discovers a secret base along the Azerbaijan and Armenian border that is creating regional and, by its location, international tensions as well. As he races into the fray, he does so with the thought of his wife and child in his mind as well as a woman that had tried to forget.

I loved this novel for its location, its characters, and the fast-moving thriller plot. Another great Mayland novel.

I gave Death of a Spy a five star rating on Goodreads

Note: I bought the Kindle version of this book and chose to write a review of it.

My Review of Dorothy Love’s Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray


“A bird doesn’t live in the nest where it was born, but in the sky in which it flies.”

Dorothy Love’s Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray (Thomas Nelson, 2016) tells the story of  two women, one white and one black,  before, during, and after the American Civil War who develop a friendship which at times transcends the racial divide between whites and blacks and the social divide between slave and free and other times are constrained by them.

Based on historical research, Love brings to light a 50 year friendship between Mary Anna Custis Lee, the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington and the life of Robert E Lee and Selina Norris Gray, a slave who is taught by Lee and then entrusted with the Arlington estate when Lee is forced to flee due to invading Northern Army.

While Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray is an excellent piece of historical fiction, it is also a powerful story of a friendship of two women who chose to be friends, though the differences between the two main characters were large. Love’s portrait of both women as well their friendship is honest, warm, and in this reviewer’s opinion, realistic. Attention to historical detail is outstanding. But what makes this novel alluring and a must read is the lesson of friendship that thrives in spite of barriers, political, social, and racial. A lesson I think that we need to experience again today.

A wonderful work, I gave Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray four-stars on Goodreads

Note: I received a review copy of this book from Smith Publicity in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

My Review of Sarah Sundin’s Anchor in the Storm

27066853Sarah Sundin’s historical romance novel, set in the beginning days and months of the Second World War, is a well written and fast-paced novel that has so many great elements such as

  • numerous sub-plots which interact quite well with the main plot
  • credible characterization in which faith plays an important role in character development
  • wonderful descriptions of both civilian and naval life of those days
  • and a great blend of both historical, romance and thriller fiction

The main characters are a pharmacist  Lillian Avery and a young naval officer Arch Vandenburg.  As their romance unfolds, they become aware of a drug ring which is putting men of Vandenburg’s ship at risk as well as their own lives as they seek to discover the leaders and bring them to justice. They also become aware of their own inner woundedness which causes them to strike out at each other as they seek to learn to how trust and which puts them in greater jeopardy as the plot unfolds.

I really liked this novel for the characters, the place that a personal faith plays, the plot, and the accuracy and color of the historical setting.

I rated Anchor in the Storm 5 stars on Goodreads.

Note: I received a galley copy of Anchor in the Storm from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

My One Word: The Disconcertedness of Simplify

It has been interesting that this word, simplify

has become disconcerting,

it has upset my soul

But that’s a good thing, right?

I am learning that to simplify is to

…leave the highway of busyness and journey on the road of necessary clarity

… requiring me to turn off the societal noises that make me want to do all sorts of

grandstanding that will attract attention with me shouting “Hear me!”

and force me to take off the “headphones” that pipe in the noise and start to listen

first to the silence, that is a needed, much needed, corrective to the noise…

… and then to listen to and for The Voice in the wilderness in which I find myself (and its seems like a wilderness off the big noisy highway) which says to me…

What are you doing here?

and so somewhat like Elijah I must acknowledge the intensity of my passionate pursuit and commitments which causes life to become complex as I try to keep all the balls in the air but instead

simply listen for that still, small, hope-filled voice…

as I hear all the hot air leaving my soul,  my ego

and I seek to humbly, very humbly became


It feels like I am being left behind…

that is disconcerting

but oh how blessed it is!


On the book table and the Kindle

Good Thursday afternoon!

While my youngest has graduated from High School and my oldest is home between his sophomore and junior year of college working at in a wonderful internship this month is still filled with graduation celebrations and a few other things.

Like reading…

I was going to spend the summer editing a novel that I began last June during JuNoWriMo (June Novel Writing Month) and finished in November during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

I will probably continue to work on the novel…

but the books call “Read us!”

And so I now have 9 books on either the book table or the Kindle.

And with my youngest’s graduation party this week, I am publishing this post today rather than on Sunday or Monday as I normally do as I do not have time to write a more complete description.


On the Kindle are the following books as they are listed on my NetGalley Shelf (yes a screen shot)


And on the Book Table:


Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray is via the wonderful folks at Smith Publicity who I have had the privilege of working with for several years.










Weekday Meditation: Hey Graduate! Climb, Walk, Run… and…Wait

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31


There are four words in this verse that you seniors, as well as all of us, need to hear and remember this morning because they four periods or seasons of life, which will be interminably long (or so it seems), and in other ways will act like a rapid succession of scene changes as in a play or a musical.


The first word to notice is mount up.


Another way we can describe what is being written here is climb or ascend and the word image here, “mount up with wings like eagles” we can easily understand by a photo like this:

Either in person or on TV, we have watched an eagle ascend to great heights. It is a time when they catch the wind and glide and soar. Their perspective is vast. They are on top of the world.

This time of year is a soaring, an ascent for you graduates. Four years ago, you were freshman. You were not at the top looking out over the possibilities of a new season of life as you are today. You were looking look up alright – at the seniors who “stood” over you.

Life has such seasons. We climb, we work, we struggle to get higher up and when we do, we enjoy the moments that have come from the results of our work and our faith. For our faith in Christ has moments when we soar high and God blesses us with a new level of hope, love, and faith that are ours and when the peace of God is strong in us. Maybe we have gone through a time of doubting and we have those times in adulthood when our faith is thin. Or maybe we have struggled to not let a habit or an attitude take root in our lives and we successfully, with the Lord’s help and power, been able to stop. We celebrate in such moments as we thank the Lord for His help and strength.

Then there are also the seasons of running when we are at our best. Life is good. God is good. He is close and He is personal to us. We thrive. We run. And when I think of these moments I think of the line from the Academy Award winning movie Chariots of Fire uttered by British Olympian Eric Liddell who would die in a Japanese concentration camp during World War 2, to his sister Jenny who questioned his running “when I run, I feel His pleasure. ”


Today is a running day. (This does not mean running during graduation, okay?) You have hit a high point in life and there are more high points to come and there will be seasons and times when running is in order.

But there will also be times when walking is the order of the day. We, and by we, I mean your parents, family, and friends, have watched you move from immobility to mobility to trying to keep up with you.


We wanted you to learn to walk and when you did, you took off. But many times, we would carry you in our arms out of amusement parks, or someone’s home because your walking wore you out.


Most of life is walking. A measured pace which defines our days. It does get tiresome and draining. It gets boring.


You will have seasons and times of life when walking is the norm for a while, a long while. It will get frustrating. High School, I think required a lot of walking. So will college. You will still have papers and tests and the semesters will go by slowly at times because you are walking and getting through. God is present in those times when we have to walk, not climb and not run, but walk.

But there is one more word we have to note and it is in the first phrase


But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.


There are going to come seasons and periods of waiting. They are necessary and essential. You cannot soar and climb, you cannot run, and you cannot walk without including the seasons and periods of waiting. These seasons and times of waiting are often the toughest. They often feel like time outs. They are. But not necessarily because we’ve been bad or wrong and need to be disciplined by God. But they are necessary because we need to rest and renew.


They are sometimes tough because we will enter this season, this period of waiting- exhausted – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically and we will want to keep going; have to keep going because our work says we have to, our families says we have to, and our culture will say that we must keep going if we are going to be successful. How are you going to do that?  What stays in your life and what goes? So you have to make a choice about what you are keep going and what you don’t keep going.


But if we don’t wait – if we do not rest, slow down and listen to our bodies, to our hearts, and to the Lord, we are going to be frazzled and stressed and worn out. And then the temptations will come. Satan will tempt us to find rest from many different things that will not truly help us at all.


Only one thing will do – wait for the Lord. Sometimes such waiting will seem like a season of wasted time at other points irritating moments of life that we don’t need. But you will and you do need them. They remind us that while God is unlimited, we are not.


This first statement is the most important because of who we are waiting for – the Lord.


And don’t just wait for the Lord…


Follow the Lord…


Love the Lord…


Serve the Lord…


Share the Lord…


You will not do it perfectly but do it and let the Lord lead you, love you, fill you with the Holy Spirit. Put Christ first, when it is easy and when it is hard. You won’t regret it.


I conclude with these words, I don’t know their origin but I think they illustrate these four words in a simple way.

Live beneath your means. Return everything you borrow. Stop blaming other people. Admit it when you make a mistake. Give clothes not worn to charity. Do something nice and try not to get caught. Listen more; talk less. Everyday take a 30 minute walk. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Be on time. Don’t make excuses. Don’t argue. Get organized. Be kind to kind people. Be kind to unkind people. Let someone cut ahead of you in line. Take time to be alone. Reread your favorite book. Cultivate good manners. Be humble. Realize and accept that life isn’t fair. Know when to keep your mouth shut. Go an entire day without criticizing anyone. Learn from the past. Plan for the future. Live in the present. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.


Thanks be to God and congratulations class of 2016!