Friday, March 27, 2015

The Early Church Fathers: Not Just for Catholics

John Michael Talbot is Catholic, but his work on the early followers of Christ (what we in the modern age might liken to "early adopters" of new technology) is a gift to all Christians, whatever their denomination.  Perhaps because of his musical background and his current life in an intentional Christian community, Talbot seamlessly speaks about doctrine and worship, praise and prayer, as if they all fit into one coherent whole--which they do!

I dog-eared several pages in my book.  One includes this statement: "If we prefer anything to Christ, we have already made it into a god."  The early Church Fathers lived their lives in such a way--preferring Christ to everything, even their own lives.  His stories of the early church and the lessons to be learned from their practices is inspiring and instructional.

I received a free review copy of The Ancient Path through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest assessment.  I recommend it to pastors, worship leaders, and Bible teachers as well as anyone who enjoys history.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Irish Legend Comes to Life

The Black Swans is available in paperback or Kindle format.

What if the old Irish stories were history, not merely legend?  The Black Swans are a Celtic band of three brothers and a sister.  Nola, Hugh, Finn, and Conn travel with their manager, Owen.  They live on the road, playing traditional music every night--but only at night.  They get a break from the road when they book a summer-long gig at a pub in a small town in Maine, a place where many descendants of Irish immigrants live.

When Conn, youngest and most introverted in the band, meets Taisie, a clerk in the town's knitting shop, life starts to change for everyone.   This is a delightful, page-turning story.  I recommend it for lovers of knitting, legends, music, or anything Irish!  This is a fresh look at the legend of the Children of Lir.

Author N.W. Moors plans to continue with more Tales of the Antrim Cycle to come.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Giveaway: Easter Stories

Easter is the pivotal story of the Christian faith.  No wonder it has inspired great writers throughout the centuries.  This collection of read-aloud stories includes tales from Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis, Lew Wallace, and many others.  This collection is good for families, libraries, and teachers of literature.  Pastors and Sunday School teachers may also find it a useful source of fresh illustrations for Easter lessons. 

One story I read for the first time was The Student by Anton Chekhov.  Seeing Easter from the perspective of poor Russian peasants and a student was enlightening and inspiring.

I received a free review copy of Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season for my honest assessment. 

 You can receive your own copy if you are the winner of my drawing.  To enter, just comment below before March 30.  I'll contact you for shipping information if you are the winner.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dog-Lover's Fiction: Free Book Drawing!

I am pleased to introduce the Texas K-9 Unit Series.  If you love dogs and appreciate working dogs, these romance novels are just the ticket.  Suspense, complicated relationships, and dogs make for interesting fiction in the hands of veteran authors.  Books 1-3 of the series include:

  1. Tracking Justice by Shirlee McCoy (my favorite book because I love bloodhounds)
  2. Detection Mission by Margaret Daley
  3. Guard Duty by Sharon Dunn.
Here's a coupon for $1 off any LoveInspired book, including Shirlee McCoy's newest, Protecion Detail. 

Check out the Facebook Page for more on the LoveInspired books.

 Leave a comment below by Friday, March 20 and get a free entry for a drawing to win a paperback copy of Protecion Detail.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Friday, March 13, 2015

Blindsided by God: A Book Review

Peter Chin offers a deeply personal story of suffering.  His story is the story of many other Christians as well.  Blindsided by God is a story of keeping the faith when everything around you would cause a rational person to simply give up.

God told the Chins to start a church in Washington, D.C.  Their home was vandalized before they even got home from the closing.  Items were stolen from them regularly.  Then Carol got rare, triple-negative breast cancer.  Then they learned Carol was pregnant.  Heard enough?  But there’s more…

Chin honestly addresses the questions he, a pastor, asked God.  He shares his failures as well as his moments of deep spiritual insight.  This book is for anyone who wonders about the pain and struggles God allows us to experience.

I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House.

Free Book! Learn about Gospel for Asia

You can own your own copy of this story of tragedy and the power of the gospel to overcome.  Get your free copy of No Longer a Slumdog to learn about hope for children who live in abject poverty.  Jesus Christ offers hope where their Hindu tradition offers nothing but scorn--for these children are the victims of the caste system that locks certain groups of people in permanent poverty while exalting others through no merit of their own.

The message of Jesus is a powerful antidote to to sin and despair.  Imagine being treated like a dog for years, only to learn that the Creator God sent His Son to save you!  K.P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia wrote this book so we could all join him in offering life and hope to suffering people.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Few Thoughts on Math Education

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Are you afraid to let your child struggle in school? Perhaps you could learn a lesson from Japanese math teachers. Your child's future success may well depend upon your willingness to allow them to experience struggle, failure, and recovery. In a school setting, it is better for children to learn to deal with frustration in small doses in the early grades; then in college they will be equipped to deal with more difficult design problems, ethical issues, and other challenges.

Japanese and American Math Classes

Stigler and Hiebert (1999) studied mathematics classes in the United States, Germany, and Japan. Among their findings was an observation that U.S. teachers were quick to give students procedures and to have them spend class time practicing the procedures on many similar problems. Japanese teachers, however, gave students a problem at the beginning of class, let them work in groups to try to solve the problem, and used the rest of the class time to discuss the solutions the students discovered as they struggled with the problem. During the struggle, the teacher circulated among the groups of students, offering encouragement and occasional helpful comments. Japanese teachers believe students need "...time to explore and invent, to make mistakes, to reflect..." (Stigler & Hiebert, 1999, p. 91) while U.S. teachers seem to see frustration as a sign the teacher is failing the students.

Americans are often reluctant to let their children struggle-academically, financially, or socially. The struggle, however, is where the real learning takes place. Real life consists of problems to be solved, usually outside a classroom setting. How will American students cope without a teacher or parent to rescue them? Why not let children struggle, fail, and overcome while they are young and have the support of caring adults? The Japanese approach seems kinder in the long run. While American students memorize procedures and believe they have understanding of mathematics, the Japanese students develop their understanding by exercising their higher thinking skills.

Failure: Part of a Successful Life 

John Eliot, in his studies of high achievers in various fields, found that those who perform exceptionally do not let failure stop them. In fact, he states, "If you've never been discouraged in your're not a very big dreamer" (2004, p.240). Teach children not to fear problems, but to welcome the opportunity to struggle and to come up with solutions. Adults can offer guidance and encouragement instead of just giving procedures and canned solutions.

Eliot, J. (2004). Overachievement, New York: Penguin Group.
Stigler, J. & Hiebert, J. (1999). The teaching gap. New York: The Free Press.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Reading List: Academic Gifts

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The parents and teachers of gifted children are often in need of information about how these special students learn and how to help them reach their fullest potential. These resources are a good introduction to the unique characteristics and needs of gifted children, including the profoundly gifted.

Davidson, J. & Davidson, B. (2004). Genius denied: How to stop wasting our brightest young minds.New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 
The authors, founders of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, write in a conversational style and avoid education school jargon. Jan and Bob Davidson have worked with many gifted children and are familiar with the problems parents and students face when seeking an appropriately challenging school environment. This book does a good job of explaining how gifted children push their parents with their thirst for mastery of new material. Parents who have been accused of being pushy will be relieved to find that somebody understands their situation. The Davidsons do not merely criticize schools; they devote an entire chapter to "School Solutions'" with examples of programs that meet the needs of gifted students.

Herrnstein, R. & Murray, C. (1994). The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life. New York: Free Press. 

The paperback version of The Bell Curve is over 800 pages. Although written by scholars, the writing is accessible to any educated reader; regression analysis and other technical notes are in appendices for those who want to study them. The authors were criticized for some of their conclusions, but they had the courage to ask difficult questions about intelligence and social behavior. Most of the critics focused on chapters 13 and 14, which examined aggregate ethnic differences in IQ, while failing to recognize chapters 17 through 22 which addressed how people of different cognitive abilities can and should live harmoniously together.

Winner, E. (1996). Gifted children: Myths and realities. New York: Basic Books. 

Ellen Winner focuses on nine common myths about gifted children, answering myths with facts and gripping stories of profoundly gifted children. Parents or teachers of profoundly gifted children will find in this book stories of people like them and how they worked with their special children. They will also find ammunition to answer those who hold to the myths about which Winner writes.