Grace Behind Bars by Bo and Gari Mitchell

An Unexpected Path to True Freedom

Starting a church, rapid-fire decisions, stretched too thin. This describes Bo Mitchell before 1992. A 10 minute discussion and decision with a "trusted banker" to do a loan for two friends who had helped out with the church plant landed Bo on the FBI list and earned him a prison sentence.The loan seemed innocent enough, he did it, paid it back and moved on. It took seven years for the law to catch up and when it did, Bo was honest and forthright. He made the initial contact with the FBI, he showed integrity in his dealings and he landed in prison. Bo took full responsibility for his actions, even though he had been entirely innocent in the whole scandal.

And, I believe, by taking responsibility for his actions and assuming the blame and bearing the guilt and the hurt to his family, is what changed Bo's life. He determined to use his prison experience to his benefit. He used that time to seek God, to pray, to change his life. Now his t…

A Stolen Heart by Amanda Cabot

Cimarron Creek Trilogy

Aww!!  This was one of those novels, mostly romance with a bit of mystery tossed in to keep you wondering. Lydia shows up in Cimarron Creek only to find out her fiancee has disappeared and left behind a pregnant wife. Other mysterious things keep happening and she and her friend, the sheriff brainstorm about it. Eventually, of course, they fall in love and solve the mysteries. That's the short version

There were a couple of life lessons that I thought of when I finished the book. I'm not sure if I can remember both of them now, but the main was this thing of jealousy. As it turns out, the sheriff's first cousin and good friend was behind all the mysterious crimes that kept happening, the worst resulting in the death of their aunt. Why? Because he was jealous. All his life, his older brother was praised as the best around and he didn't feel he got his deserved credit. Then his cousin becomes sheriff when he wanted to be and so he goes out to prov…

A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison

This has got to rank as one of the better fiction books I've read in awhile. I know I say that a lot, but this one was a bit different from the norm.

It was fiction, yes, but the theme of the story has some basis in truth, probably more truth than you or I want to even recognize. It's the fictional story behind how our clothes are made, the crowded conditions that can and do result in factories burning and people dying inside from fire or outside from jumping out of windows, the forced labor that some workers endure, and also the rape that can happen as well. While Presto, the main corporation in the story, is purely fictional, the question is raised, do you know where our clothes, our toys, our electronics, etc. come from? Are you okay with having your things made by people who are forced to work in crowded environments for little pay and who can suffer abuse at the hands of supervisors and managers?

This was a thought-provoking book that makes me stop and consider free trad…

Redeeming Grace by Jill Eileen Smith

Ruth's Story

I often shy away from Biblical fiction. I'm not sure why, except I think I often wonder if it really happened like that. To make a story, so much has to be added to the Biblical account and I think I can start questioning if there is any element of truth in it. I guess, like I said, I'm not sure why I steer away from it.

However, I read Jill's story of Ruth and I loved her writing. She is a very interesting author and has a very good way of bringing the story alive and, at the same time, making sure the parts that are in the Bible are true to account.

She brought out things about Ruth that I had never thought of. With Ruth being so willing and determined to go with Naomi back to Bethlehem, could there have been a piece of Ruth that was dissatisfied with the gods of Moab, with what would have waited for her back there? Was Orpah more willing to go embrace the culture and the gods and accept whatever awaited her.

Jill brings Boaz out as a recent widower, wh…

When God Made you by Matthew Paul Turner

Illustrated by David Catrow

This is a children's book, for ages 3 to 8. It's a nice hardcover medium-sized book I would say that talks about being special to God. How he planned your culture, your head shape, your toes and your nose. It talks about how you were made in God's image and God loves to see you being you. It talks about God dreaming about you, which I find a little unusual. I have never really thought of God dreaming, but the book is written in rhyme, so sometimes you have to ad lib a bit to make it work, I guess?

For the most part, I would say the writing is playful and charming as the book's description says. Like I said, I'm not sure about God dreaming part, which is mentioned a couple times, but overall I think the moral of the story is that God made you exactly as you are, so go out and live like that.

The illustrations are described as vivid and fantastical. I guess that is one way to put it. I try not to be critical of books, especially illustrat…

Rescue My by Susan May Warren

I'm back again with another fiction book review. This one definitely rates higher on my radar than some of the last ones.  If you like grizzly bear attacks with good endings, an incredible car accident where everyone walks out alive, a bit of romance, and some good truths about God, and not necessarily in that order of importance, you might enjoy this book.

I like Susan's writings. She can mix intrigue and drama and still bring out God's work very nicely I think. This book had a lot to do with accepting God's grace and His rescuing power in our lives. Once we see that we need rescued, we need to step back and let Him work it out. We need to let go of anger and guilt and work to forgive ourselves and then those around us who we are sure have wronged us or betrayed us. That's putting it all in my words.

Another interesting thing from the book is on perspective: "See, when we're stuck in our everyday troubles, we can get focused on them, and that's all w…

The Newcomer by Suzanne Woods Fisher

So why did I pick an Amish novel? I have a pretty firm stance against reading them, or I thought I did, until in the weakness of the moment, I requested this one.

And how to describe the book? I guess I will give my viewpoint in two different ways. As far as writing, Suzanne did a fine job. The story was interesting and while it hopped around a lot from person to person, she was good at keeping things flowing, so you could always follow along. In some ways, I like when books do that so you can keep up with what is going on in everyone's life without the waiting and wondering.

The setting is the 1730's, Amish coming over from Germany to settle the New World. I don't know how pioneer people lived at all back then, so that part I'm not going to critique. I imagine life to be immeasurably hard and fraught with trials both with claiming land and taming land.

On the second side of it, it just didn't seem very accurate to the Amish lifestyle I am familiar with. For one, …