Latest Posts

Book Review ~ Test Of Faith: Surviving My Daughter’s Life Sentence By Bonnie S. Hirst

About the Book


Bonnie S. Hirst is a woman of faith who has always believed that everything in life works out for the best. So, when her daughter, Lacey, is accused of a terrible crime, although Bonnie is devastated, she is also convinced that God will protect her family from harm. He always has, after all. But when her prayers are not answered and Lacey is sentenced to life in prison, Bonnie questions every aspect of her existence: her beliefs, her role as a mother, and the purpose behind the events that are tearing her family apart.
As Bonnie and her family navigate the complicated labyrinth of the legal system, she struggles with the duality of presenting a façade of being okay on the outside and screaming for air on the inside. Finally, she is guided to ask for help—a concept previously foreign to her—and is rewarded with a bubble of friends who surround her and her family with love. Poignant, hopeful, and ultimately uplifting, Test of Faith is the story of one mother’s spiritual journey of awareness—and her discovery that even when your life seems to have radically veered off course, there are always blessings to be found, if you can just keep your heart open enough to receive them.

Category

Religious/Christian/Non-fiction

Genre

Memoir/Justice

Rating

4 Stars

Review


A heartwrenching and provocative story that steers the heart down a path where a reader is sure to come out on the other side of the story deeply affected after much contemplation.

Hirst tells the true story of the difficulties her family faced during a murder trial that eventually left her daughter convicted with a life sentence. Disillusioned by the consequence of misplaced trust in the system and in certain people—some close, others, acquaintances—Hirst and her family, including her daughter, learn to look up to God, develop a personal relationship with Him, and draw from His grace daily, despite unfair hardship and accusations. In the end, Hirst makes a case for absolute trust in God no matter the outcome—a trust that can only be born through the fires of trials that test and mature the kind of faith that says “yes” to God’s will, even when one doesn’t understand the unfairness that may follow.

It is commendable how Hirst’s memoir reads like a mystery fiction, so much so that one might stop often to check the genre just to make sure it isn’t.

An honest and gripping story of pain, loss, trust, and hope.

Note: Contains some cussing in isolated scenes as well as non-Christian spiritual indulgence, which altogether do not amount to 2% of the written words.

*Though I offer this review to the public, it is my opinion and simply that. Much appreciation to JKS Communications and the author, Bonnie S. Hirst, for a free copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

About The Author


Bonnie S. Hirst is the author of Test of Faith: Surviving My Daughter’s Life Sentence (She Writes Press, Sept. 24, 2019). She loves feel-good movies and stories with happy endings. After a 35-year hiatus from writing during which time she was busy being a mom and grandma, she is enjoying connecting with other writers. When life tries to shorten her stride, she prays, cries, talks with her guardian angels, reads self-help books, and writes. She can often be found kayaking on a calm mountain lake. For more, visit her personal website.

Album Review ~ God So Good By Life.Church Worship

Category

Religious/Christian

Genre

Contemporary Worship/Praise

Release Date

September 20, 2019.

Rating

4 Stars

Review


Life.Church Worship stirs up a celebration with this brilliant, yet spiritually uplifting release. The instrumentals at various moments turned out to be pleasantly surprising in a classicly unique way, so that the music altogether is filled with God’s glory and inspires praise, joy, and enjoyment.

The heart of God So Good celebrates God as the center of our life and that He is the ONLY One worthy to be praised and worshipped. God So Good showcases the ultimate vision/mission of Life.Church and its worship team—the principle by which they’ve come to be known—that life and truly living begins with God.

*Though I offer this review to the public, it is my opinion and simply that. Much appreciation to DREAM GM, Lance Brown and DREAM Label Group/DREAM Worship for a free album copy in exchange for an honest opinion. 

About Life.Church Worship


Life.Church Worship is a collective of worship pastors from Life.Church, a multi-site church meeting at 33 physical locations in 10 states and globally at Church Online. As an extension of the church’s mission to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ, Life.Church Worship is passionate about creating music that inspires listeners to pursue a relationship with Jesus.

Life.Church Worship released its first album, Fully Devoted, in early 2016. Released for the church’s 20th anniversary, the songs in the full-length, live album captured the heart of the church, its mission, and its values. The album marked the group’s first appearances on Billboard’s Top Christian Albums and Top Heatseekers charts.

Life.Church Worship’s new EP, Death of Death, released in May 2019. The group will release a new album, God So Good, in September 2019. To learn more about Life.Church Worship, follow @lcworship on Instagram.

Book Review ~ Reforesting Faith: What Trees Teach Us About the Nature of God and His Love for Us By Matthew Sleeth, MD

About the Book


What Do Trees Reveal About God, Faith, and the Future of Everything? More Than You Ever Imagined.

Join Dr. Matthew Sleeth as he explores the Bible’s trail of trees and reveals the wonders of life, death, and rebirth. You’ll be amazed at how science is just beginning to catch up to the truths described in Scripture thousands of years ago. Once you discover the hidden language of trees, your walk through the woods—and through Scripture—will never be same.
Fifteen years ago, Matthew Sleeth was an atheist who believed that science and logic held the answers to everything. But when tragedy struck, he opened the Bible for the first time and was surprised to find that God chose to tell the story of creation, sin, and redemption through a trail of trees.
In this groundbreaking walk through Scripture, Dr. Sleeth convincingly makes the case for why trees are essential to every Christian’s understanding of God. There’s a tree on the first page of Genesis and on the last page of Revelation. The Bible refers to itself as a tree of life (Proverbs 3:18). All major biblical characters have trees associated with them.
This is no accident. When you subtract trees from Scripture, we miss lessons of faith necessary for growth. So follow God’s trail of trees to discover new power and truth for life.

Category

Religious/Christian/Non-fiction/Inspirational

Genre

Christian Living/Nature/Trees

Rating

5 Stars

Review


In Reforesting Faith, Dr. Matthew Sleeth points out the trail of trees placed there by God Himself to record the events of Scripture that mark creation’s history in a way that forever resounds His truth and glory. The omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent character of God is uniquely and beautifully displayed to anyone with the heart to see and listen to the stories that the trees are telling. We see that God not only dearly loves them (even telling us that flowers are better dressed than Solomon was ever attired in ALL his glory!), but is ABSOLUTELY intentional about planting them along the way to create a trail that displays His love and Truth. It is IMPOSSIBLE to pay attention to trees and the rest of nature—God’s first book before written Scripture—and not receive revelation of who God is, as well as insight into many mysteries that ordinarily confound the human mind. They evangelize and preach the gospel in a most exquisite way.

Follow the trail of trees, and you’re sure to find new or renewed faith in God!

*Though this review is offered to the public, it is the opinion of the editor and simply that. Appreciation to Waterbrook Multnomah for a free copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

About the Author


Matthew Sleeth, MD, is the executive director of Blessed Earth. Recognized by Newsweek as one of America’s most influential evangelical leaders, he has spoken about the biblical call to be good stewards of the earth at more than one thousand churches, campuses, and events, including Washington National Cathedral. The former atheist and chief of hospital medical staff is the acclaimed author of Serving God, Saving the Planet and the introduction to The Green Bible. He and his wife, Nancy, reside in Lexington, Kentucky.

Author Scoop ~ Interview With Bonnie S. Hirst

I am glad to introduce to you author, Bonnie S. Hirst, the woman who bravely faced the trauma of watching her daughter go to prison with a life sentence, and still found a reason to love God back for seeing her through her toughest season. Faced with raising her daughter’s kids, this and many other blessings, set Bonnie on a path to healing so much that she wrote her testimony, sharing it in her new book, Test of Faith: Surviving My Daughter’s Life Sentence, releasing September 24th. For Bonnie’s story and journey, take a look below.


Miranda ~ Hello and welcome, Bonnie! Glad to have you on TBAP today. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Bonnie: I am a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, and friend. All of those relationships nurture me. I enjoy being outside, especially near water. I can sit for hours on our deck overlooking a small lake and watch hummingbirds flit between my feeders, or watch a squirrel scurry up the tree. One of my favorite pastimes is paddling my teal blue kayak on our calm lake. I often take pen and paper to write as I float aimlessly, surrounded by God’s paintbrush of nature.

Miranda ~ What led you to having a personal relationship with Jesus? Is there a particular redemption story?

Bonnie: My relationship with Jesus began my sixth-grade summer while attending church camp. I can still see the luminosity of the campfire as the dancing light outlined my camp friends. Swaying together as if one body, we sang, “Kumbaya, My Lord.” In translation it means, “Come by here.” On the last verse, I stretched my arms wide toward heaven, opened my heart, and invited God to enter my life. Warmth enveloped me. Unconditional love. From that moment forward, I knew He was with me. I knew I could rely on Him to answer my prayers.

Miranda ~ You’ve faced quite a tragedy. When your daughter first went to prison, in view of what you knew of God, how did you handle it?

Bonnie: I was in disbelief. How could the God I loved and trusted have ignored my prayers? I dove into the pity pit at home and then as reality set in…my daughter was in a maximum-security prison 300 miles away…I sank into depression. I continued to pray, but only half-heartedly. My belief system was shattered. Did I really think He would answer any of my prayers now since He had let both me and my daughter down? Six months after she went to prison, her two pre-teen children came to live with my husband and me. They were the saving grace that pulled me back to at least trying to function again. God had answered my pleas for help in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

Miranda ~ As time passed, can you say you found purpose in your pain?

Bonnie: That’s an interesting question. I had always believed that everything in life turns out for the best. During the time of my daughter’s arrest, bail time, and trial, I wasn’t able to see much good in anything. My ordered world had fallen apart and I was crushed. I now believe God continued to guide my steps even during that time. He guided me to ask our friends for help. Something I would never have done before my daughter’s arrest. Our friends sat with us during many pre-trial appearances and joined us on the wooden benches during the two-week criminal trial. They gave us their unquestionable love and support. God blessed us with a support system that helped us navigate those difficult times. We continue to enjoy the friendships we solidified during that time. By asking for help and accepting their love and support it became the largest blessing that came out of our ordeal.

Miranda ~ In retrospect, do you believe you could have done anything differently?

Bonnie: Hindsight is always better than when you are in the midst of trauma. If I had a replay, I’d hope I’d realize sooner how dire our daughter’s situation was. We should have lawyered up at the first contact with the detectives. Would that have made a difference? I don’t know. What I do know is that my heart tells me I possibly failed her as a mother in her early years. I should have verbally shared my love of God with her instead of being an armchair believer.

Miranda ~ In your new book, Test of Faith: Surviving My Daughter’s Life Sentence, due to be released this September, you chronicle a lot of events/experiences on a vulnerable level. What do you hope your readers will walk away with after reading Test of Faith?

Bonnie: My hope would be that readers will see that God guides our lives. Even when something terrible happens, it is our choice of how we will react/respond/heal from that trauma. Most times we can’t change what has happened, but we can choose to see God’s guidance along the way. It took me a while before I could acknowledge any blessings. I was fortunate to be surrounded with God’s nature. Just the act of appreciating a dew kissed flower, or a rainbow arching across the sky, helped me begin to heal. By changing the way I looked at things, my sorrow lessened. My daughter is still in prison. She has been incarcerated for ten years now, but I can still communicate with her. She has accepted Christ into her life and that blesses me tremendously.

Miranda ~ What would you say is your hope today?

Bonnie: My hope would be that we will win an appeal for her and it will allow her a shortened prison sentence. I also hope that my book will guide readers to ask for help when they are experiencing trauma. Shared burdens and prayers can be a lifeline. Acknowledge your innate power, and with God’s help, rise above what has happened. Intentionally seek out blessings in the midst of the chaos.

Miranda ~ What advice would you offer someone going through something similar as you have?

Bonnie: Continue to pray and believe that God has a plan. We aren’t privy to His plan and your life may not look like what you had envisioned. Try to acknowledge one tiny blessing in your daily life and see if it will begin to help you heal.

Tbis or That (The Fun Qs!)

Coffee, Tea or Mocha? Coffee and Mocha

Dresses or Pants? Pants definitely. I don’t own a dress.

Boots or Heels? Flip flops, tennis shoes, and loafers

Breakfast or Dinner? Breakfast

Music or Movies? Music, I love Celtic songs

Juice or Smoothie? Juice

Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate, especially dark chocolate

About the Author


Bonnie S. Hirst is the author of Test of Faith: Surviving My Daughter’s Life Sentence (She Writes Press, Sept. 24, 2019). She loves feel-good movies and stories with happy endings. After a 35-year hiatus from writing during which time she was busy being a mom and grandma, she is enjoying connecting with other writers. When life tries to shorten her stride, she prays, cries, talks with her guardian angels, reads self-help books, and writes. She can often be found kayaking on a calm mountain lake. For more, visit her personal website.

Book Review ~ The King’s Mercy By Lori Benton

About the Book


For readers of Sara Donati and Diana Gabaldon, this epic historical romance tells of fateful love between an indentured Scotsman and a daughter of the 18th century colonial south.

When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king’s mercy–exile to the Colony of North Carolina–he’s indentured to Englishman Edmund Carey as a blacksmith. Against his will Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey’s slaves–and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey. A mistress with a servant’s heart, Joanna is expected to wed her father’s overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys. When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, itinerate preacher and friend of the Careys, now a prisoner of the Cherokees. Haunted by his abandoning of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he’s faced with the choice that’s long hounded him: continue down his rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex’s very life.

Category

Religious/Christian/Adult Fiction

Genre

Historical Romance

Rating

4 Stars

Review


In an adventurous tale Scripture-inspired by the Book of Philemon, Benton spins a heart-throbbing story of love, indenture, slavery, and malicious shrewdness that keeps a reader at the edge of their seat. The page-turning suspense is remarkably paced with such skillful excellence that, the intent to entertainment is well balanced with the objective to spiritually inspire/motivate. With thoughfully plotted stories like The King’s Mercy, it’s no surprise that Benton’s work gets the recognition that it does.

The King’s Mercy is a story of second chances, new beginnings and forgiveness where trust has been broken. A lovely book to close the summer with.

*Though I offer this review to the public, it is my opinion and simply that. Much appreciation to Waterbrook Multnomah for a free copy in exchange for an honest opinion. 

About the Author


Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she expertly brings to life the colonial and early federal periods of American history. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards; The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn; Christy finalist The Wood’s Edge; A Flight of Arrows; and Christy finalist Many Sparrows. She lives in Oregon.

Movie/DVD Review ~ Unplanned By Soli Deo Gloria

Category

Religious/Christian/Inspirational

Genre

Drama/Politics/Moral Living

DVD Release Date

August 21, 2019.

Rating

5 Stars

Review


Unplanned tells the true story of Abby Johnson, a young woman who climbs her way to the top in Planned Parenthood, one of the biggest organizations—from being a volunteer in her college days to a director of one of their clinics. Brainwashed to believe that her job reduced the number of abortions in the statistics, Abby dives passionately into her work, until one day she witnesses something during a procedure that leads her to believe that unborn children aren’t just “tissue that cannot support themselves outside the womb,” but that they really have life from the start. It’s a whole new journey for Abby, as she’s been responsible for over 22,000 abortions.

In this movie, Abby tells her story to expose the hidden truths that Planned Parenthood doesn’t want the public to know—some, shocking beyond reason, and others, appalling beyond understanding. Abby, eventually, through a tough battle, is able to publicly underscore the fact that Planned Parenthood, indeed, try to maximize abortion numbers for wealth purposes, and not to help women or their health. Her story ends in personal victory, as it opens the door for new friendships and the opportunity to truly help women in crisis.

A truly eye-opening story.

Author Scoop ~ Interview With Freelance Wall Street Journal Journalist, Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy

Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy is a freelance journalist for the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, who grew up with eight siblings in a delightful Victorian house in 60s and 70s. With the release of her new book, a memoir, Many Hands Make Light, Cheryl shows fun family life and many memorable and laughable moments that offer insight to raising kids in today’s world. Cheryl took the time to share bits of her story with TBAP today. Take a look!


Miranda ~ Hello and welcome, Cheryl! Glad to have you on TBAP today. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Cheryl: Miranda, thanks for having me. About myself: My memoir, Many Hands Make Light Work, is the rollicking tale of growing up in our family of nine children in the ‘60s and ‘70s in a Midwest college town, in an old Victorian house in the middle of fraternity row. I’m the sixth of those nine kids. Our dad was an eccentric professor who tried to make extra money by acquiring tumbledown frame houses for us kids to renovate. Mom was an organizational genius disguised as a housewife in Bermuda shorts. Together they forged us nine kids into a tight-knit work crew they dubbed their Baseball Team. Dad, who changed out of suit and tie into carpenter’s overalls, sort of like Clark Kent into Superman, managed us by tossing off infernally cheerful sayings, such as “Details make perfection, but perfection is no detail!” We kids poured concrete, painted houses—and, at odd moments, broke into song, because we sang as we worked, like a Von Trapp family in painters caps. It’s a fun, upbeat, and entertaining book.

Miranda ~ Given your history, you’re quite big on diversity and community. Looking at the world today, what would you say is its biggest problem in this regard and, what do you think can be done to make things better?

Cheryl: I can’t say what the world’s biggest problem is in regard to diversity and community, but I can tell the stories of growing up in a big family that was made bigger because we took in college-student boarders from across the country and around the world. From before I was born until after I went away to college myself, our family welcomed students into our home to live, eat, and study with us. lo Though they came from diverse cultures and religions, our household remained harmonious, because we kids thought everyone who came to live with us would be like our own brothers and sisters. Our college-student boarders felt that and responded in kind. One example is that we had boarders for 27 years, did not lock our doors, and never had any theft. Some of the laugh-out-loud parts in Many Hands Make Light Work: A Memoir involve inadvertent culture clashes.

Miranda ~ Fear is a major factor that contributes to nationalism and prejudice of every kind. From the vantage point of your personal journey, and as a Christian, how have you conquered this fear such that you believe it can be taught to kids while raising them?

Cheryl: It’s not that we conquered fear, it’s more that we didn’t have any to begin with. The students who lived with us came from different cultures and religions, but it never seemed to be a problem. For example, we were a Catholic household, so we said prayers all together before and after every meal. I remember one student who was an atheist and antagonistic about the prayers, though she didn’t have to join in. My parents just kept treating her with their everyday, ordinary kindness. She didn’t warm up during the whole year she lived with us, but much later, my parents got a letter from her that said their example had made a difference in her life, she’d joined a church, and now said prayers herself before meals. Another student, a Muslim, of course could not eat dinner with us during Ramadan, because we always ate at 5:30 pm and the sun was still up. No problem; Mom kept her dinner warm until after sundown. This was the ‘70s, and we didn’t know anything about Islam, but we kids understood that. It wasn’t too different from Lent. It was just another way to learn discipline and self-restraint. So we felt kinship with her that way. On the surface we were different; on a deeper level, we were the same.

Miranda ~ Clearly, people, families and communities can be happy without much, as was the case with your family. Where do you think most people miss it?

Cheryl: Our parents, who grew up on farms during the Depression, remained deeply frugal. Though we nine grew up during economically blessed times, we absorbed that culture of thrift from them. Our Mom and Dad lived like this: do it yourself whenever you can (house repair, gardening, landscaping, sewing, canning); spend money on what matters, such as education, nutrition, and safety; acquire land and property because you can input your own labor to make it eventually increase in value; and don’t waste resources. For example, we never ate out or stayed in a hotel. There are some funny and affectionate stories within Many Hands Make Light Work: A Memoir about Dad’s extreme frugality.

Miranda ~ In your new book, Many Hands Make Light Work, you show concern on how kids are raised today. What, precisely, do you want your readers to walk away with?

Cheryl: I’m not concerned about how kids are raised today. Lots of different ways of parenting work just fine. I do believe we have something to gain by looking back at how this one family, in this old frame house on a tree-lined street in a Midwest college town in the ‘60s and ‘70s, built a family for the ages. Readers will enjoy the entertaining and upbeat book—one reviewer called it “the most cheerful childhood memoir ever”—while they absorb the example of how our parents did it. And how, specifically, did they do it? First, by a strong partnership with shared goals. Second, by real work for their children to do, which taught useful skills, imbued us with a sense of capability and importance, and kept us away from bad influences; and, finally, consistent social rituals, which in our case were supplied by our religion.

Miranda ~ Apart from your parents who greatly influenced your beliefs and approach to life, who else would you say has inspired/challenged you?

Cheryl: Aside from my parents and siblings who greatly influenced me, I am inspired by a sermon I heard 10 years ago from a Catholic priest, a Jesuit scholar who was the son of illiterate immigrant parents. He illuminated the meaning and purpose of life in two words: serve others.

Miranda ~ You clearly take on a bold outlook on life. What advice would you offer someone who wanted to change their lifestyle and the manner in which they raise kids according to your advice?

Cheryl: Train them, then trust them. The saying “don’t do for your child what he can do for himself” halts our inclination to over-serve youngsters. That works whether it’s a toddler picking up his own toys or a high school senior taking a test to get into college. One of my favorite chapters within Many Hands Make Light Work: A Memoir is about an evening babysitting job I took in 1972 when I was 13. The young couple had a baby who was asleep when I arrived, but they also had an unusual pet: a real, uncaged, adolescent lion. It was the size of a Labrador. That chapter is a favorite because I look back at my 13-year-old self in wonder: though it was a long and terrible night (and a most entertaining chapter now) it did not occur to me to call my parents and have them rescue me.

This or That (The Fun Qs)

Coffee, Tea, or Mocha? Oh, hot chocolate with a dash of coffee.

Dresses or Pants? Summer dresses with sandals; snuggly winter dresses with boots.

Boots or heels? Any cute shoes that are comfortable to walk in. It is possible!

Breakfast or dinner? Both, please. Home-cooked and eaten outdoors on the back patio overlooking the bay.

Music or Movies? Both, enthusiastically!

Juice or smoothie? Hmm… water. Got to save calories somewhere.

Chocolate or vanilla? Ah, homemade vanilla ice cream with ripe fruit on top. Today that was blackberries fresh-picked from our backyard.

About the Author


Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy and her eight siblings grew up with a paintbrush in their hands and a song in their hearts. As soon as they were old enough to wrench a nail out of ancient lumber―so it could be used again―they were put to work renovating old houses in Ames, Iowa. Cheryl’s growing-up years included babysitting for a local family that kept a lion as a pet. A real, adolescent-aged lion. Uncaged. Using a flyswatter to defend herself, she survived the lion, and today is a freelance journalist for The Wall Street Journal as well as the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. The Tribune distributes her articles to newspapers and websites around the country, such as The Seattle Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Baltimore Sun, and Orlando Sentinel. McCarthy holds an MBA from City University in London and a bachelor’s in journalism from Iowa State University. She lives in Bellingham, Washington. For information, visit cherylstritzelmccarthy.com