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Friday, February 28, 2014

book review: Cloak of the Light

What if...there was a world beyond our vision, a world just fingertips beyond our reach? 

What if...our world wasn’t beyond their influence?

Tragedy and heartache seem to be waiting for Drew Carter at every turn, but college offers Drew a chance to start over—until an accident during a physics experiment leaves him blind and his genius friend, Benjamin Berg, missing.

As his sight miraculously returns, Drew discovers that the accident has heightened his neuron activity, giving him skills and sight beyond the normal man. When he begins to observe fierce invaders that no one else can see, he questions his own sanity, and so do others. But is he insane or do the invaders truly exist?

With help from Sydney Carlyle, a mysterious and elusive girl who offers encouragement through her faith, Drew searches for his missing friend, Ben, who seems to hold the key to unlocking this mystery. As the dark invaders close in, will he find the truth in time?

(Description from Amazon.com)

When I was in my early teens, I was a huge fan of Chuck Black's Kingdom series, so when I saw that he had written a new book, Cloak of the Light, I was thrilled to be able to review it.  After reading through the book at an alarming speed, I was not disappointed!

I loved Chuck Black's new genre.  After his previous series so deeply entrenched in the medieval/fantasy realm, it was very interesting to read his book in the modern day setting.  His story drew me in, deeper than I've been drawn in to a story in a while!  The suspense was well written; the elements of spiritual warfare and science were excellently crafted--drawing one in with just enough information, but not boring the reader with too much.

My only disappointment was with the actual prose and wording of the book. It felt a bit rushed, as though many of the sentences could have been recrafted in future drafts.  I found myself rearranging the sentences as I read, because I would stumble over them in my mind. 

All in all, I loved the book.  I would have finished it in a day, had I the time, but nevertheless found myself looking for every spare moment to get back to the book.  I was more than a little upset when I found that the book ended in a cliff hanger!  And to think I have to wait a whole year?  Ah well, looking forward to Chuck Black's next installment in the Wars of the Realm series!

Note: I also appreciated that the book was not too violent, so I wouldn't hesitate to let one of my younger siblings (12+) read it.

I give Cloak of the Light 4.5 out of 5 stars!

To find out more about the book, check out the links below:

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, February 24, 2014

all i've ever needed

The guitar felt good in her hands.

Adrenaline washed over, pumping through her limbs as she stood on the stage.  She allowed her eyes a momentary scan of the crowd, a sea of faces, bathed in lowlight. Her heart thudded in her ears.

Her left hand's fingers found the strings, pressed them to the fretboard; her right hand ripped down the sound hole.  She stepped up to the mic; belted out that first note.  The rush consumed her.

She was born for this.

What is your dream?  What makes your heart beat faster?  What are you living for?

In the movie Grace Unplugged, Grace Trey longs for a life of music.  Her dad, a famous rock star, now a humble worship pastor tries to dissuade her, trying to convince her of his own emptiness in the industry, but she refuses to listen.  Instead, after a final fight with her dad, Grace runs away, chasing an opportunity in California.

What Grace finds is everything that she ever wanted--fame, fans, fortune.  But just when she reaches her highest point, the opportunity that she's always dreamed of, she realizes her own emptiness.  

She thought she had everything she ever could want, but she realized that she was missing the only thing that she ever needed.

The story of Grace Trey struck a chord in my heart.  

Probably because mine is similar, only not so extreme.  My dad and I sing together, we've led worship together at various events and churches over the years.  The thrill of hearing my voice paired with my dad's or stepping up to a microphone, or just when the music just flows... it makes my heart beat faster.

I was about 13 and I dreamed of becoming a recording artist.  I played my guitar religiously.  Song lyrics oozed out of my brain (though I was never able to finish one... go figure, lol).  I worked my voice--timidly at first, being only 13, but at 14 I grew more confident, and well... loud.  As I'm sure my family and friends will testify.

But I was missing something.  At first, I was driven by my love for music.  My love for the thrill.  My love for my dream.  But it was then that God got a hold of me, shortly after I turned 14.

We had gone through a tough year, God and me.  I won't go into gross detail, but suffice it to say, 13 isn't the easiest age.  I had learned what it meant to be forgiven and loved.  I had rededicated my life to Jesus.  But I hadn't really learned what that all meant...yet.

I still remember, lying there in bed, headphones on, listening to a CD my parents had gotten me for Christmas, Passion Hymns: Ancient and Modern.  The last song came on.

"Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord to Thee.
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise...

Here am I
All of me
Take my life
It's all for Thee..."

As the song went on, listing assets in life--surrendering them all to God.  
And it hit me.  Everything.  He wants everything.
 Because it's about His glory.  Not my dreams.

Maybe He would use my dreams for His glory, but that was up to Him to decide.  
It was mine to give them to Him to do with as He saw fit. 

It was then that I realized that I already had everything that I needed.  His love is enough.  His love is sufficient to fill me with the thrill, the passion, the pulse that drives my heart--and make it beat faster at thoughts of His glory.  With His love, I don't need my dreams to feel fulfilled.  With His love, I don't need the approval of man.  

With His love, I am a princess, daughter of the King of the universe, beloved of the Prince of Peace, Bride of the Lamb, Chosen of God.

Now, my hands strum my guitar, my voice belts out His songs as an overflow of my heart filled with His love.  People have made comments about the smile on my face when I sing.  To this, I take no credit whatsoever--because it's all because of Him.  I can't help but smile when I think about the words that I'm singing.  Words that express His love.

Without His love, my dreams are empty.  With His love, I have all I've ever needed.

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing...But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

~1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

is one eye enough?

Hmmm... What does it mean to have a log in your eye?

I got a little glimpse of what it feels like a couple of weeks ago.  

I woke up and felt something funny in my eye.  I reached to rub it (I know, I know...) and recoiled at my own touch.  My entire eye socket felt bruised.  It felt like it was swelling as I sat there.  I felt like I had been sucker punched in the eye.

I got out of bed and ran to the bathroom to inspect my eye in the mirror.  I was expecting to see something horrifying.  It felt terrible, at least it would be bloodshot or something.  Maybe it would be red and swollen.  But when I looked, it appeared perfectly normal.  What???

I checked closer, compared the two eyes.  Alas, there wasn't anything to speak of.  Maybe a little swelling, but could've been my imagination.

I complained to my mom.  "I feel like someone punched me out." When lamenting to my friend, she laughed, "Maybe someone did."  Ha. Ha.

It was bugging me terribly.  Focusing on things, moving my eyeball to look in different directions, it all hurt.  I held my eye shut with my palm and applied pressure.  It made it feel better. My friend suggested that it was a stye and said that it would help to apply a hot compress.  I took a washcloth doused in hot water and pressed it to my eye.  Such relief!

I went about my business, pathetically pressing a wet washcloth to the side of my face.  And I noticed something.

I never realized how important it was that both of my eyes work together.  Obviously, as I went about my business that day, I was only using one eye.

My perspective and perception was literally off.  I would reach for something and not realize that it was closer or farther away than I had estimated.  Everything looked more dim.  I had to focus harder to read (and I don't wear glasses or contacts). Everything was just generally harder to see.

I kept feeling a weird urge to say that I had a log in my eye.  Because seriously, that's what it felt like.

Then I was thinking...

The scriptures ask why we should take the speck out of our brother's eye when we have a huge log in our own. 

"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."  ~Matthew 7:3-5

The Lord charges us to first remove the log from our own eye, then take the speck out of our brother's eye.  I witnessed first hand what it felt like to be crippled in one eye--I probably would have been barely able to see the speck, much less help someone to remove it!  

My perception would be off, I would have ended up hurting the other person because I could not see clearly enough to properly remove the speck.  In reaching toward their face, I probably would have ended up accidentally jamming their eye with the force, because my estimation was off.

When we have sin in our own lives that needs to be rooted out, it messes up the way that we see.  We may be able to see the specks in other people's eyes, the problems that they need to take care of, but until we have taken care of our own, our perspective is off--we can't see clearly enough to give them the proper care that they need to remove the speck!  We would probably end up hurting them rather than helping them.

I'm not saying that we should ignore the sin of other people, on the contrary!  Out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be ever ready to exhort them in the truth of the Word if they are in error.  However, I believe that we should always be looking to ourselves first and foremost to make sure that we don't have any logs in our eyes before trying to remove specks from others.

And sometimes, the log isn't obvious to everyone else.  It may not be clearly seen, but that doesn't make it any less the hurtful--to ourselves and to others.  

book review: Stranger Things

Her career just beginning to take off, she had felt like she was just beginning to get a hold on life.  But when Serena Diaz is accused of raping one of her high school biology students, her world is turned on its head.

During a walk in the woods to clear her head after the outrageous accusations against her, she unknowingly walks right into the middle of a criminal operation. Her mistake ends up costing the life of a man she's never met--as he steps in the way of a bullet meant for her.

Serena's life will never be the same again.  When she begins to find connections between the man that sacrificed his life for hers, the boy claiming the victim at her hands, and even her boyfriend, she soon discovers a conspiracy much bigger than she ever could imagine.  Can she continue living silently, or will she have the courage to do what is right? What was it that would cause a man that had never known her to take a bullet in the heart for her?

I really enjoyed this book--it was definitely a page turner!  I truly appreciated the fact that it exposed the evils and emotional suffering of human trafficking, while not going into gross graphic detail.  One could truly feel what the character was feeling--even though the text did not come right out and say exactly what was going on.  I appreciated the discretion, while still maintaining true to the blackness of the issue being dealt with.

I wasn't crazy about the fact that God was not really mentioned. However, I do appreciate that this way the book appeals to a larger audience and is not just preaching to the choir.

All in all, it was a great story--page turner; very interesting!  But unfortunately, I wouldn't call the story or the characters themselves very memorable.  It was a great one-time read, but not a favorite that I would want to read over and over.

I give Stranger Things 3 stars.

Find out more about the book HERE!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”