I have been given the opportunity to do some reviews on some books from a few different publishers. Some of them do not quite fit into the focus I have for Living Infuzion, but obviously have some good information. Here are some of my perspectives on some pretty good books! Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Heaven Is for Real – The Movie

I was given the opportunity to screen this movie in advance of release a few weeks ago, and I am grateful.  I didn’t really know what to expect, and to be honest, I really get skeptical with stories like this.  I’ve heard a bunch of these experiential “Heaven” stories over the years growing up in the church.  So the key, I think, is that you have to come at them from a biblical perspective.  What does the Bible say about heaven, and how does it say you get there?  (Of course, there are any number of other stories of people that died and claimed to have gone to hell and then were brought back to life.)  When you use the Bible as the standard for the measure of Heaven, and look at how it says to get there, and then you look at the stories of people that are telling their story of what they saw on the operating table or during whatever experience.  I’ve read a few wild stories and when they contradict (usually) claims of Jesus, I just disregard the story--just fiction.

In this story, a minister’s family struggles financially in a small church.  Pastor Todd Burpo does odd fix-it jobs to supplement his income.  He is an active community leader, a fire fighter, and loves softball, like any red-blooded American.  Life and struggles and sports injuries happen and through it, the family remains strong.  Their four year old boy (Colton) falls ill with a high fever, and acute appendicitis.  He is rushed to the hospital.  Sonja, the pastor’s wife, calls all the people she knows to ask them to pray for her son.  Todd goes to the chapel at the hospital and has a pretty honest time with God.  He has endured the financial hardships, the injury suffered on the ball diamond, and now he is angry at God, thinking God would take his son from him.

On the operating table, Colton has a vision (The film is clear that he never died on the table, it is a vision) of going to heaven, of seeing angels, of sitting on Jesus’ lap and talking to him.  As the story unfolds, Colton describes things that he could not have seen.  He was on the operating table.  Of course, Todd takes some of this as wild imagination of a child.  Pastor Burpo chooses to be skeptical, and he goes to see a psychologist to ask questions of her.  He wants to find some way to explain away all of his son’s experiences with reason and logic.  He disregards the possibility that his son did have a vision, or that heaven could be real… as he would preach every Sunday.  But how could his son describe his mother crying on the phone as she called people to pray?  I suppose it’s not too far-fetched for a child that has been to hospitals with his dad, to imagine his mother asking people to pray for him as he is sick.  How could he know about his father yelling at God though?

Colton describes other things to his family as well.  He meets people in heaven, and is able to confirm details that others wouldn’t know, and at the very least they are things that Colton didn’t know.  
As Todd comes to grips with the possibility of his son having a vision of heaven, he begins to share the ideas in church, and rather than embrace the hope of heaven that Christians should, there is more opposition from them to the point of wanting to have him removed as their pastor.  Opposition comes from the community in the form of ridicule, and even from Todd’s wife in the form of her needing him to worry about life here, on earth, in the now.

As I watched, I thought “Nothing makes someone question what they really believe like actually coming face to face with it”, and I think that is what this film is about at its base.  It’s encouragement to the Christian.  It is evidence to the skeptic.  It is a feel-good movie of comfort to all that have lost someone.  

This is the weak point that I found for the film.  There is no clear message of how someone can get to heaven.  We are in the lives of a Christian family, but not once do we find out how someone can get to heaven in the film.  I imagine that is to reach a wider audience for the film.

It is a great story, and it does make me want to dig deeper into what happened.  For the purposes of this blog post, I have not consulted many other sources for perspective, just what I saw in the film, and how that sat with me.  I intend to read the book, and look into some of the other perspectives in more detail.  I have seen, as usually goes on in the Church, that there is a lot of back and forth arguing over the validity of this film’s story.  In the end of it all, the film brings people to the point of discussion about what they believe in the afterlife.  Christians especially should come to a bit of comfort resting in their faith of being face to face with their saviour.  

What do you think?

Movie Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/heavenisforreal/

Book Site: http://heavenisforreal.net/

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Love Comes Calling - Siri Mitchell

"A girl with the best of intentions. A heart set on Hollywood. An empty pocketbook.  That's all it takes for Ellis Eton to find herself working as a telephone operator for a look-alike friend. For Ellis, this job will provide not only acting practice but the funds to get her a start in the movies. She's tired of always being a disappointment to her traditional Boston family, and though she can't deny the way he makes her head spin, she knows she's not good enough for Griffin Phillips, either. It's simple: avoid Griff's attentions, work, and get paid. But in typical Ellis fashion, her simple plan spirals out of control when she overhears a menacing phone call...with her very own Griff as the target.  With an endearing heroine as her lead, Siri Mitchell takes readers on a madcap tale of love and discovering one's true desires!" (Publisher's Description)

I really enjoyed this book.  Ellis is a girl who tries so hard to do the best she can and live up to the expectations put on her by her family, but struggles woth being scatter-brained.  I found the idea of how someone with ADHD would have been viewed in the 20s very intriguing.  I enjoiyed how the book was written through Ellis' eyes, so we can see how she tries so hard to do what's expected of her but to no fault of her own she can't.  I loved learning more about the prohibition and the hello girls.  Another wonderful book by Siri Mitchell!!

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.  Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group"

In The Shadow Of Jezebel - Mesu Andrews

"In a kingdom controlled by cruel and manipulative women, one princess will discover the power of truth and love. Trained as a priestess in the temple of Baal, Princess Jehosheba strives to please the demanding Queen Athaliah, daughter of Jezebel. But when a mysterious letter from the dead prophet Elijah predicts doom for the royal household, Jehosheba realizes that the dark arts she practices reach far beyond the realm of earthly governments. Forced to marry Yahweh's high priest in order to further Athaliah and Jezebel's power plays, Jehosheba enters the unfamiliar world of Yahweh's Temple. Can her new husband show her the truth and love she craves? And can Jehosheba overcome her fear and save the family--and the nation--she loves?  With deft skill, Mesu Andrews brings the Old Testament to life, revealing a fascinating story of the power of unconditional love." (Publisher's Description)
Another wonderfully woven biblical tale written by Ms. Andrews.  The heroine, Jehosheba is due to become the next high priestess of Baal until a plan concocted by her mother and her grandmother Jezebel sees her married to the High Priest of the Jewish Temple.  Having been used all her life by an unloving mother and a demanding false god, she struggles to believe in the loving Yahweh and her new husband Jehoiada.  At 432 pages, this book is full of rich biblically history.  I highly recommend this book to people who like biblical fiction. It is well researched and full of wonderful tidbits and pictures.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.   Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

Shadows Of The Past - Patricia Bradley

"While she's stalking the truth . . . someone is stalking her. Psychology professor and criminal profiler Taylor Martin prides herself on being able to solve any crime, except the one she wants most desperately to solve--the disappearance of her father twenty years ago. When she finally has a lead on his whereabouts, Taylor returns home to Logan Point, Mississippi, to investigate. But as she works to uncover the truth, someone else will do almost anything to keep her from it. Nick Sinclair pens mystery novels for a living, but the biggest mystery to him is how he can ever get over the death of his wife--a tragedy he believes he could have prevented. Now that his estranged brother is the only family he has left, Nick sets out to find him. But when he crosses paths with Taylor, all he seems to find is trouble.  Join the chase as Taylor and Nick search the murky shadows of the past for the keys to unlocking the present--and moving into a future they never imagined." (Publisher's Description)

I am always excited to try a new author and Ms. Bradley did not disappoint.  Shadows of the Past is the first book in her Logan Point series.  Taylor and Nick both carry a lot of family baggage in their lives.  Taylor's father disappeared and Nick is still dealing with the death of his wife and the strained relationship with his brother.  When their paths cross, both are very guarded and suspicious of the others motives but must learn to work together to figure solve who is stalking Taylor. This book is filled with twists and turns and totally surprised me with the answers to the disappearance of Taylor's dad.  I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next in the series!!!

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

No One To Trust - Lynette Eason

"She doesn't know who she's running from--and the man she loves may be someone else entirely.  Summer Abernathy wakes up one morning to find her husband missing, three men in her home intent on finding him, and the life she's been living based on a lie. Which Kyle Abernathy did she marry? The computer programmer she met in line at the bank? Or the one who was apparently using that image as a cover?  The search for her husband--and answers--takes Summer ever deeper into a world of organized crime where people are used one moment and discarded the next. And with her deepest relationship of trust already shattered, Summer doesn't know who to believe. " (Publisher's Description)

Yet another wonderful, suspenseful read by Ms. Eason!  This book was really hard to put down. One more page turned into one more chapter, then one more chapter.  The roller-coaster that Summer is put in is fraught with danger and intrigue.   Not knowing who to trust, Summer has to put her trust in God and learn to forgive the man who she thought she married in order to survive. This is book one in the Hidden Identities series and I cannot wait for the second. 

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.

All Things Hidden - Tracie Peterson & Kimberley Woodhouse

"Gwyn Hillerman loves being a nurse at her father's clinic on the beautiful Alaskan frontier. But family life has been rough ever since her mother left them, disdaining the uncivilized country and taking Gwyn's younger sister with her.  In Chicago, Dr. Jeremiah Vaughan finds his life suddenly turned upside down when his medical license is stripped away after an affluent patient dies. In a snowball effect, his fiance breaks their engagement. In an attempt to bury the past, Jeremiah accepts Dr. Hillerman's invitation to join his growing practice in the isolated Alaska Territory.  Gwyn and Jeremiah soon recognize a growing attraction to each other. But when rumors of Jeremiah's past begin to surface, they'll need more than love to face the threat of an uncertain future." (Publisher's description)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from it's opening words right to the end.  It had many twists and turns that I didn't even expect.  I loved reading about the colonization of Alaska.  The beautiful scenery was so well written that I could picture it all in my head.  Gywn is such a strong young woman ahead of her time.  Her love for Alaska and it's people and her dedication to nursing flow out from the pages.  Jeremiah's struggles with being abandoned and hiding a secret that threatens his the very thing he loves, practicing medicine.  There were points in the book that I was greatly surprised by, and moments where I needed my box of Kleenex! I cannot wait to see what these two great authors have for us next!!!

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group".