Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

Have you ever wondered what the backstory of some minor Bible characters was?  Mesu Andrews wondered about Queen Hephzibah.  She did some research of other historical writings and the Bible and wrote Isaiah’s Daughter.

The Story

Hephzibah is a semi obscure character.  She is found only twice in the Bible, in 2 Kings and in Isaiah.  However her life was important as she was wife to one King of Judah, Hezekiah, and mother to another, Manasseh.  In the author’s words on her website (www.mesuandrews.com), Hezekiah was the most righteous king while Manasseh was the most wicked king.

The story opens with young Hephzibah, known as Ishma, who is an orphan being taken to work in the household of the prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah is a teacher who among others teaches the young princes, including Hezekiah.  Ishma is mute from seeing her parents murdered, and Hezekiah struggles from seeing his older brother sacrificed to a pagan god.  Isaiah quickly realizes that the pair could learn to depend on each other and begins to bring Ishma to class.

As the pair grows their friendship grows into love.  They begin to depend on each other.  Isaiah watches the relationship grow and realizes that as a servant girl, Ishma could never marry the prince.  He formally adopts her and changes her name to Hephzibah.  Hephzibah calls Hezekiah, Hezi and he nicknames her Zibah.

Hezekiah is named co regent with his father, King Ahaz (a king who has led Judah into the worship of pagan gods).  He is sent to rebuild all the temples that have been destroyed.  While he doesn’t follow the beliefs of his father, he agrees to rebuild things and stay away until his father dies.

Meanwhile, King Ahaz beats his wife, the mother of Hezi, who prefers to follow Yahweh to the pagan gods.  He also tries to take advantage of Zibah.  Hezi hears of this and returns home to defend these women he cares for.   Ahaz scorns Hezi and says he must stay away or give up his right to the crown.

Ahaz dies and Hezi returns.  He becomes king and marries Zibah.  The pair change the way of the country.  The temples that Ahaz ordered rebuilt are destroyed and Yahweh is brought back to the forefront of the belief of the country.

Zibah and those she loves face many trials in their quest to bring Judah back to faith.  They all remain strong following Yahweh’s laws and teachings.  Eventually after many years and miscarriages she is blessed with a son.  Life seems happy for the time being.

Storytelling and Characterization

The story is told through three viewpoints.  We have Hezekiah, Hephzibah and Isaiah taking turns telling this story.  Each lends their viewpoint to the story.

Hezekiah as the second son never expected to lead the country of Judah.  However, he is forced to watch his older brother sent to be sacrificed to the pagan gods to bring back peace to Judah.  When he is telling the story, we get a glimpse into the life of this devout man of God.  Not only does he want the best for Judah, he leads with a love that comes from God.  He shows himself to be very faithful and devout even in the face of harlots and other painted women that are brought to him.  His leadership brings Judah back to Yahweh and restores the great nation.

Hepzibah/Ishma has had an interesting life.  She begins as a desolate orphan and rises to be the queen of Judah.  She is a loving woman who gains the trust of subjects and animals alike.  Her insights into what is happening around her bring the story through.  It is great to hear her voice as well as the voices of these two great Biblical men.

Isaiah is a prophet of the Lord.  He brings his prophecies in to the king and also has the responsibility of teaching the young royals about not only faith but the nation of Judah.  He appears to be a bit of an eccentric at times, but we always know that his faith is true and he is definitely receiving messages from the Lord.

My thoughts

I loved this book.  Hephzibah has long been one of those Biblical women that I wondered about.  What was it in her past that gave her the strength to face the things that she faced?  Her story shows that no matter what life throws at us, God will get us through everything with his strength.  This book will be published in January of 2018 and will be available at all booksellers.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.  The opinions expressed in this review are mine alone.

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Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors

21751894_10208151006093031_997510143614021315_nKatie Davis Majors seemed to be the perfect college bound high school senior when a spring mission trip took her to Uganda.  She discovered the need for someone to care for the young people of the country.  Upon returning home she informed her family she would be moving to Uganda after graduation for a year of mission work.  That year has turned into 10.  Katie’s shares her experiences in the new book, Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful (Multnomah, 2017) which is the follow up to her New York Times bestselling book, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption (Multnomah, 2011).

The Book

Katie shares her struggles with the pain she sees others experiencing.  She questions why God would let the things happen to those she cares about.  God begins to speak to Katie in many ways and she sees His goodness reigns no matter what else is happening.

Katie is the mother to 14 and the caretaker to a whole village.  She shares her stories of caring not only for her adopted daughters but for friends and their families.  She writes of the pain of loosing friends and the joy of watching others grow in their faith.  Through it all we see Katie and her girls grow as well.

My thoughts

As I was reading this book, I was struck many times by the fact that I have often asked the same questions I was hearing Katie ask.  No I don’t live in Africa.  Yes I have all the creature comforts one would expect an American to have.  Still I often wondered why God lets us suffer and seems to leave us alone with our own struggles.  As I read this book and heard my questions I realized that God is always there no matter what is going on.  We don’t always feel His presence but He is there using all our experiences.

I think this book should be read by everyone who is a Christian or those who are just questioning Christianity.  This is such a time in our world that many of us are questioning where is God.  It is nice to be reminded by one such as Katie that God is there in everything and still has control.  One of my favorite quotes from the book appears below in a meme created by another reviewer.

daring to hope

I received this book early as an opportunity to read it and provide my honest opinions.  All opinions in this review are my own.

Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson

Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson

Whisper

God spoke to Moses, Mary and many others throughout the Bible.  He is still speaking to people today.  We just have to learn how to listen.  Mark Batterson’s new book, Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God, talks of the many ways God speaks every day.

In our busy world of today it is sometimes difficult to hear God talking.  He doesn’t always use flash like a burning bush or talking donkey but he is still speaking.  He wants to share His love for us and guide us through our days with his voice we just need to learn to listen.

Mark Batterson explores the multiple ways that speaks.  Mr. Batterson says that God has seven love languages that He uses:  Scripture, desires, doors, dreams, people, promptings and pain.  Some of these languages may not seem to be pleasurable but hearing the voice of God through them can lead to the blessings untold.  God wants us to know that no matter what He loves us.  As Mr. Batterson says in the book “God doesn’t love us because of who we are, God loves us because of who He is.”

About the author

Mark Batterson holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent’s University.  He has had a variety of jobs leading to his current position of lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC.  He is also the author of more than a dozen books which have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list.

My thoughts about the book

Disclosure, I received an advance reading copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest opinions.  The opinions in this review are mine.

This book was a read that took some time because of the amount of information that Mr. Batterson shares.  I wanted to make sure I absorbed all the information that he had to share.

Of the seven ways that are described in the book I have experienced some.  Most Christians can say they have heard God speak through the scriptures.  This is the number one way that God speaks to us.  I have also experienced Him speaking through other people, through dreams and through subtle prompting often through other people or through dreams.

I have many favorite passages in the book (I filled it with highlighting) but something I found profound was this passage:

We don’t just listen with our ears.

We listen with our eyes, with our hearts,

That’s how we discern promptings, people and pain.

We don’t just read Scriptures.

We read desires and doors and dreams.

I was a believer of God speaking to his followers.  After reading this book I am even more of a believer.  I am paying more attention to His many voices trying to discern the message he has for me.

This book will be released on October 24th.  It is available for pre order from retailers.  With your order you can receive some awesome gifts simply by following this link and submitting a copy of your receipt.

I recommend this book to all people who want to know more about how God speaks and learn how to discern the messages he speaks.

Convicted by Jameel McGee & Andrew Collins

Convicted by Jameel McGee & Andrew Collins

A young black man and a crooked white cop cross paths.  This encounter could have ended in many ways, but the ending for these two men was a deepening of their faith and an unlikely friendship.  This is the true story told in Convicted by Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins with Mark Tabb.  This nonfiction text will release on September 19, 2017 and will come in all forms including ebook.  I received an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest review.  I would rate this book 5 stars.

Synopsis

Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins’ lives intersected the first time on February 8, 2006.  Jameel had ridden with a friend of his cousin to get milk for the son he was finally going to get to see.  Andrew had received a call from an informant about drugs being sold.  Jameel was arrested on the spot as the dealer even though he was coming out of the store and had no knowledge of the drugs.

Through Jameel’s recollections we learn that he was arrested at 15 for being in a stolen car.  He worked hard after that to keep his nose clean.  He was working on paying off so he was carrying around large amounts of money which also pointed to the fact that he was a dealer.  Jameel maintained his innocence throughout the trial and his time in jail.  He was the model prisoner who spent his time reading his Bible and staying out of trouble.

Through Andrew’s recollections we learn that he discovered quickly how easy it was to frame people for drug crimes.  He would keep the drugs he confiscated in a duffel bag and use them as evidence when he wanted to prove he was right in arresting someone.  He would also keep any money he found on the people he arrested.  The night he encountered Jameel, he knew he had the wrong person but he was already on the slippery slope of lying so falisifed the arrest report to Jameel being the one he wanted to arrest.  He was caught after found to be lying in a future report, found to have all the drugs and sent to prison as well.

Jameel was released after Andrew’s arrest and thus set up the opportunity for the collision course that would change both these men’s lives forever.

My thoughts

I found this book to be an easy read.  I especially like that the authors took turns telling the story.  This gives the reader an opportunity to see events through the eyes of both men.

This is truly a story of forgiveness and faith that we can all learn from.  Jameel missed out on a large portion of his life because of the actions of another person.  He could have been bitter and hateful, but God placed it on his heart to forgive and move past it.  His example of living forgiveness is one we can all learn from.

When I joined this launch team I wasn’t sure what to expect.  This book however has changed my life.  I have always been one who is quick to want anyone who wrongs me to suffer as well.  I believe that I learned a little bit from the reading of this book about how forgiveness is healing to us rather than the person we need to forgive.  That being said forgiveness is really hard to give.  It is one of those things that our humanness doesn’t want.  But with God’s help we can learn to forgive even those things that seem the most horrible.  As Jameel reminds us we can’t forgive on our own but only with God’s help.

I would recommend this book to everyone.  With the recent events in our nation there is never a better time to learn to forgive than now.  The book left an impression on me and will leave one on anyone who reads it.  Find this book on its release date, read it and share it with your friends.  You won’t be sorry!

Life After by Katie Ganshert

Life After by Katie Ganshert

Have you ever asked why?  Not like a small child asking why, but why disasters happen.  This is a question that the main character, Autumn Manning, asks herself daily in the book Life After by Katie Ganshert.

Autumn was the sole survivor from a train that blew up.  Twenty-two other people were killed but Autumn survived.  She has wondered why for an entire year.  Autumn feels such guilt that she doesn’t even attend the memorial and dedication of the fountain on the year anniversary of the event.

Also thinking about the crash for a whole year is Reese Elliott.  Her mother succumbed in the crash, and Reese had been writing letters to Autumn for the entire year.  Immediately after  the accident, Autumn had been misidentified as Reese’s mother, Vivian.  Paul, Reese’s father, had rushed to the hospital and corrected the mistake.

Reese and Autumn meet when Reese runs away and they decide to make a video to help everyone deal with their grief, and to heal themselves.  The lessons they learn as they interview survivors are not only for them but can help us as well.

Characters and Setting

Autumn Manning is a believable character.  She faces the guilt she feels with grace.  She approaches each victim’s family members with love.  She expects to find them not liking her but finds that through the stories they share she grows in not only her belief in her self but in her faith.  In the end she fits the comparison she makes of herself as not only a phoenix but of Lazarus.

The members of the Elliott family each have their own secrets.  Paul doesn’t realize that Reese knows many things that she knows about her mother.  Reese has tried to protect not only her father but her younger brother as well.  She has tried to change her own memories of her mother to make her better than she was.

The stories the other victim’s family members share show the love that so many of us what in life.  The stories of healing from the crash and of lives lived to the fullest show Autumn and Reese how to love life and should be an example to all of us.

I particularly enjoyed this book being from Illinois.  I recognized many of the scenes in the story.  I have also traveled on the trains and wondered about the stories of the other passengers.  Most of us do just ride the train without carrying on a conversation with each other.

Life After by Katie Ganshert is a book that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.  It is a story that has characters that everyone can relate to.  The stories of survivors, family members and those who lost their lives in the wreck have something to teach all of us.

I received this book from Penguin Random House, Waterbrook in exchange for my unbiased review.

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska

Private Boarding School.  Misfits with computer-like brains.  A girl discovering her own sexuality while helping others find theirs.  Looking for Alaska has all this and so much more.

Miles Halter is tired of not fitting in at his school or home.  He has an obsessive fascination with the last words of people.  He decides to follow in the footsteps of his father, uncle and cousins and attend Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama.  He leaves home to follow this dream.

At the school he first meets his roommate, Chip “The Colonel” Martin, a young man who has skipped several grades in school and can name any country, its location, and capital.  He is at Culber Creek on a scholarship  It quickly becomes obvious that the two are opposites, as The Colonel is a true leader/extrovert who like being out with people while Miles (who The Colonel nicknames Pudge) is shy and would rather be in his room reading biographies.  The two quickly become friends and even allies when it comes to pranks.

Other members of the prank team include, Alaska Young, a sexual young woman who stays away from home because of the ghosts there and Takumi Hikohito, a shy Japanese boy who understands the inner workings of both Alaska and The Colonel.  Alaska quickly senses the attraction that Pudge has for her, but fights it because she has a boyfriend.  She decides to set Pudge up with a Russian student named Lara Buterskaya.  The two experience many firsts together as well as discovering things about themselves.

The kids have to be careful following the rules because of The Eagle.  The Eagle is the dean of students at Culver Creek and lives across the lake from the school.  He  has a soft spot for The Colonel and Alaska and often turns the other direction when they are pulling pranks.

Looking for Alaska by John Green was first published in 2005 by Random House.  It was the winner of the Michael L. Printz award for young adult literature in 2006, as well as appearing on several lists of the best books for young people.  While this is an excellent book, it would be best read by older adolescents or adults due to teenage sexual experiences and drinking described in the book.