January 2017 – From the editor’s bookshelf
In the course of my work at AFA, it is imperative that I read as much as possible from the great minds who cover cultural issues in our troubled times. However, because many days are impacted by the tensions and stresses that often accompany the culture war, I find my outside reading gravitating toward inspirational authors such as Joseph Stowell, Randy Alcorn, and Franklin Graham. And to fiction – I love a good novel.
I have reviewed various titles by Stowell and Alcorn, but I’m not sure I’ve ever covered one by Franklin Graham.
Graham’s 2016 title All For Jesus is commendable for its in-depth devotional approach to a number of practical applications for Christian living. Subjects include how God intervenes on our behalf, forgiveness and how to pass it on, keys to worship and obedience, God’s promises, and the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a treasure chest with much wealth – great for the start of a new year.
Another inspiring title comes from an author I didn’t know until a friend recently recommended it – Liberating King: Breaking Free From the Tyranny of Sin by Stephen Miller. The author is a worship leader who shares simple principles he has learned through the years, principles that illustrate how every aspect of life should be an avenue of worship. Worship is both an action and an attitude. When we eat breakfast with the family, as we answer phone calls and emails at work, as we wait on unpleasant customers in the retail store, when we repair automobiles for unhappy drivers – everything about a Christian’s day should be approached as worship. It’s 120 pages, short enough for any of us to tackle, and I promise it will enlighten, challenge, and enhance your walk with the Lord if you begin applying the principles Miller articulates.
And I said novels, didn’t I? I have a couple of great stories to entertain and help you escape whatever stress you’re suffering. Both authors are quite new to Christian fiction, but they both tell a gripping story with the maturity of a seasoned wordsmith.
I reviewed Buck Storm’s The Miracle Man a few months ago, and his new title, Truck Stop Jesus, was released in November. It is the story of up-and-coming actress Paradise Jones who faces the challenges of whether to return to a place of danger because of a “big break” acting opportunity, or to pursue a simpler life that she fears will be her worst (i.e., boring) nightmare.
Storm’s characters are quirky, creative, and likable. He’s also a songwriter, and has honed the craft of telling a story in a few lines of lyrics. But turn him loose with a novel, and he packs it with nuance, intrigue, laughter, engaging details, and fun.
Mark Alan Leslie, author of Chasing the Music, puts his setting in Israel, where black-ops veteran Max Braxton and archaeologist Kat Cardova are in fast-paced pursuit of original scrolls containing the Old Testament songs of David. The villains who pursue them and threaten their lives are determined jihadists.
It turns into a scary continent-jumping thriller. Really, I’ll put this one in the class with John Grisham or other secular novelists touted for producing today’s best fiction.
I highly recommend the work of both Storm and Leslie. Readers can’t go wrong with their intricately woven plots, intriguing characters, and crisp writing styles. And for many readers I know, the absence of vulgarities, profanity, sexual innuendo, and other offensive content is totally refreshing.
To Joey, With Love
At the height of their career, country music husband-wife duo Joey+Rory took a year off to prepare for the birth of their child. On their small farm outside Nashville, Joey and Rory Feek (photo to left) enjoyed an idyllic, peaceful life. All along, Rory believed God would give them a story to tell, so he began capturing their life together on video.
When the day arrived, the midwife was called, and Joey delivered their baby girl Indiana. But something went wrong, and Joey was rushed to the hospital with complications and emergency surgery. They soon learned that Indiana had Down Syndrome. Cancer would soon enter the picture as well.
To Joey, With Love documents more than two years of a deeply moving journey through collisions of joy, sorrow, surrender, hope, and stalwart faith. To Joey, with Love is available on demand and on DVD at tojoeywithlove.com.
Joey Feek’s clear, gripping voice opens Inspired: Songs of Faith and Family with, a tender rendition of “In the Garden.” It’s a gentle foretaste of what’s to follow with simple, tight harmonies she sings with husband Rory as they deliver heartfelt covers of other old hymns and original family-based narratives in song, some of them from personal experience.
Their original lyrics offer creative and apt metaphors, e.g., Rory sings of his father hammering nails as he built a house – and built faith and principles into his family.
The 2013 CD, marked by its country sound and gospel soul, is in the Gaither Gospel Series.
Joey+Rory’s Hymns That Are Important to Us (2016) with rare exception features favorites among old hymns. It’s hard to listen to this husband and wife team without singing along to old tunes such as “The Old Rugged Cross,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and “Jesus Paid it All.” Their CDs are a welcome addition to the library of anyone who appreciates the depth and simplicity of emotion packed in the lines of the hymns of our fathers.
Both CDs are available at tojoeywithlove.com or christianbook.com.
Guy Penrod Live
Guy Penrod Live: Hymns and Worship showcases the iconic voice that exemplifies a timeless style, perhaps called traditional/contemporary. Penrod’s signature vocals simply encourage listeners to praise God with him as he covers favorites of the past including “Victory in Jesus,” “This World is Not My Home,” “’Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” and many more.
But his sound is just as rich and deep delivering the lyrics of more recent hits in Christian music beginning with Bill Gaither’s “Because He Lives,” Darlene
Zschech’s “Shout to the Lord,” and winding up with Matt Redmon’s “You Never Let Go.”
It’s an inspiring collection of hymns and praise songs that will likely evoke some nostalgia, refresh faith, and encourage praise.
Available at retailers and online sites.