Monday, September 28, 2015

A Wedding at the Orange Blossom Inn (Amish Brides of Pinecraft book #3) by Shelley Shepard Gray

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Litfuse Publicity Group book blogger campaign. 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.”  

About the book: 

A Wedding at the Orange Blossom Inn (Avon Inspire, September 2015)

A wedding brings together two young widowed parents . . . and gives them a second chance at love.

Emma Keim was heartbroken when her husband, Sanford, passed away, leaving her to raise three young daughters alone. Though several years have passed, her relatives have made it no secret that they expect Emma to remain a widow, mourning Sanford indefinitely. But when she meets Jay Hilty—a handsome widower with three young sons of his own—Emma is delighted to have a new friend who understands her struggles. Still, she is dismayed that her family is so opposed to their friendship—and the idea of it ever becoming anything more. She honors her husband’s memory every day, but is she destined to be alone forever?

Emma’s gentleness with Jay’s boys stirs something in his heart that’s been quiet for far too long. But when his oldest son becomes engaged to a local woman, suddenly Jay, Emma, and their children are swept up in wedding preparations. Witnessing his son’s joy, Jay wonders if it’s time for him to move forward, too, and find happiness again.

Once again, love has come to Pinecraft. But can these two parties of four become a happy, healthy family of eight?

About the author:

Shelley Shepard Gray is a two-time New York Times bestseller, a two-time USA Today bestseller, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time Holt Medallion winner. She lives in Southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail.

Find Shelley online: 

Dynamic Uno Here:   The Promise of Palm Grove (book #1) and The Proposal at Siesta Key (book #2) introduce us to the small village of Pinecraft, located in Sarasota, Florida.  (Yes, it's a real place and I absolutely love visiting there!)

Frankie is such a crazy, silly, and frustrating dog and this time was no different.  He decided to escape from Emma's back yard and steal a pizza from the Hilty family as they stayed at the Orange Blossom Inn.  When Emma, finally caught up to Frankie and realized what he'd done, she offered to buy them another pizza.

From that moment on, Emma and Jay (the father of the Hilty clan), began a friendship that had several of the Amish folks staring their way.  (After all, both were widowers and Emma's relatives thought she should remain in mourning for her husband even though he passed away several years ago.)

Despite the stares and the comments, Emma and Jay continue with their friendship and help one another with their daily struggles, as  they start to realize their attraction for one another.

Is it too late to learn to love again?  Will their families be able to join as one?  And who is getting married at the Orange Blossom Inn?  You'll have to read the book to find out!

The Amish Brides of Pinecraft series has been one of my favorites because it combines the simplicity of Amish life in Florida, and adds a touch of romance and whimsy.

 I think I've always idealized the Amish because from the outside there seems to be an order for everything and a peacefulness about their lives.  However, after reading this third installment of the series, I've begun to realize that the Amish have struggles and strife in their own lives as well--it's just not plastered on the front of every tabloid or Facebook posting as we do in the English culture.  The more I read about the Amish, the more I have grown to love their ways, or at least the ways of the characters in these books.  :)  I can't wait for book #4, A Christmas Bride in Pinecraft!

Let me know what you think and Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays
All text and photo for Teaser Tuesdays belongs to MizB of A Daily Rhythm, with the exception of quotations and links I have provided to the book(s) I am reading.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
 BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My Teasers:
"Frankie was on the loose.  Again"

~p.1, A Wedding at the Orange Blossom Inn by Shelley Shepard Gray

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Israel's Mission: Becoming a Kingdom of Priests in a Prodigal World DVD with Ray Vander Laan

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Litfuse Publicity Group book blogger campaign. 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.”  

About the DVD: 

Israel’s Mission | That the World May Know® DVD Volume 13 (Focus on the Family, July 2015)
What’s your mission?
God gave the assignment to His people thousands of years ago: to bring “lost sheep” back into the love and safety of His kingdom. He said to become a “Kingdom of Priests,” and put God on display to show the world what He is like. It’s still our task today. In this thirteenth volume of the That the World May Know ® film series, you’ll glimpse the urgency and rewards of welcoming the strangers and prodigals the Lord longs to embrace. Discover the mission that can give your life – and the lives of those around you – greater meaning than you ever imagined.
Join renowned teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan as he guides you through the lands of the Bible. In each lesson, Vander Laan illuminates the historical, geographical, and cultural context of the sacred Scriptures. Filmed on location in the Middle East and elsewhere, the That the World May Know ® film series will transform your understanding of God and challenge you to be a true follower of Jesus.
Designed for use with That the World May Know ®: Israel’s Mission Discovery Guide.
Filmed on location at these biblically significant sites in Israel and Jordan:
—Back to the Father’s House – Negev Desert
—Show Them the Way – Timnah
—Prodigal Sons and Daughters – Qatzrin
—Return from the Far Off Country – Jerash
—Welcome Home – Qatzrin

About the author: 
Ray Vander Laan is the founder of That the World May Know Ministries and creator of the Faith Lessons video series with Focus on the Family. An ordained minister, he holds the chair of biblical cultural studies as a religion instructor at Holland Christian Schools in Holland, Michigan. He and his wife, Esther, have four children and fifteen grandchildren.

Find Ray online: 


Dynamic Uno here:  I love Bible studies because they help guide me through God's word and even give me a glimpse at my own thinking and understanding about what I've read and how I've interpreted it.  However, many of the studies just gloss over the context of the passages and I feel like I'm missing a little bit because I've applied the information to the current world and not the historical world.

That the World May Know series of studies help us experience the Bible in historical context.  It shows us where the pertinent places (now archaeological sites) of the Bible are located and illustrates how the people during the Biblical times lived and thought within their cultures.  This helps me picture everything as it took place because the context gives me a better understanding of how everything relates in the Bible instead of just looking at them as a bunch of separate stories.


DVD: When you open the package, a Leader's Guide is tucked into the cover.  It gives the the group leader a basic overview of how to conduct each hour long session with a small group.  (Times are suggestive and other options are given depending upon how the study is to be used.)  The basic session outline is as follows:
1. Opening Thoughts/The Very Words of God/Think About It
2. DVD Teaching (roughly 30 minute segments)
3. DVD Discussion
4. Small Group Bible Discovery and Discussion
5. Faith Lesson
6. Closing 
The DVD segments themselves are pretty neat.  Ray Vander Laan takes a group of people to the historical sites and  gives an illustrative teaching about how the site was used during Biblical times.  He also gives a brief study on the theme for that particular session:
1. Abraham and Sarah and Three Strangers
2. Israel at Sinai: The First Great Commission
3. Jesus Renews the Mission: Seeking the Lost
4. The Lost Son: Ina Far Country
5. The Seeking Father: The Lost Son Returns
At the end of each, there is a take-away for how we can apply the teaching to our own lives.  

The videos are beautifully put together and realistically show how people lived and interacted within their society's cultural norms because they were filmed on location in the Middle East.  As someone who really loves looking at the historical aspects of the Bible and where they fit into our culture's interpretation of history, I thought each video was a great way to actually visualize history as it happened. 

Discovery (Study) Guide Book:  I was a little intimidated when I first opened the study guide book to use with the DVD because it was exactly that--a book.  I'm used to having a lot of "white space" on the pages of the typical Bible studies I do and this one does not have much.  However, as I started to go through the study, I found that I wanted to take notes in my own journal because there is a wealth of information included for each session.  (That, and I write huge so my notes and responses would not fit within the Discovery Guide.)

Within the Discovery (Study) Guide there is an Introduction as to the how the study is laid out and clarification as to what is meant by certain names used throughout. Each Group session is outlined as follows:
1. Background information on the theme or topic for the week
2. Opening Thoughts: The Very Words of God (Bible verses relating to the topic/theme)
3. Think About It (Brief points and questions about what will be taught in DVD)
4. DVD Notes (Brief Outline of topics for the session with a little bit of room for notes)
5. DVD Discussion (Question/s to answer in regards to the DVDs)
5a. Fact File (Archaeological information and facts about the time period and place)
5b. For Greater Understanding (Information about the Biblical people/s in study)
6. Small Group Bible Discovery and Discussion (Points and questions to be used as discussion that relate to the Bible verses brought up in the study)
6a. Point to Ponder (Points related to theme or topic)
6b. Did You Know? (Relevant points that help put everything into both Biblical and Modern context)
7. Faith Lesson (Ways to use what was learned with questions to extend thinking and application)
8. Closing (Memory Verse and closing remarks)
9. Five Daily In-Depth Personal Study Sessions (contains questions, facts, points to ponder, memory verses, and reflections for each day)


Honestly, I was a little overwhelmed at all of the information that was included in the personal study sessions.  My experience has been 15-30 minute chunks of time for studies, but if you want to really learn and grapple with this text you will need a minimum of an hour for all of the session each day.  (Although, I am a slow learner because it takes time for me to process and digest information, so if you pick things up quickly, then you may not need that much time.)

Overall,  I was really impressed with the depth of information provided and the passion with which Ray Vander Laan teaches.  I  am interested in going through the other studies in this series (this is #13) because I think it will give me an even more comprehensive understanding of the Bible and its teachings.

If you want a meatier Bible study to either do on your own or with a group (which I recommend), this is the best series to use!

Let me know what you think and Happy Learning!