Small Church Essentials by Karl Vaters

Small Church Essentials: Field-Tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregation of Under 250 by Karl Vaters is written in a conversational manner. I found it interesting, intelligent, and engaging.

Our family attended a small church for eleven years, and we are currently attending another small church. Karl Vaters makes some wonderful suggestions — suggestions that make sense — that may have helped our previous small church survive (No, it hasn’t completely died, but it had seriously shrunk by the time we left several months ago).

Karl Vaters is the pastor of a small church, and has been for 25 years (and counting). He explains why not every church can be a “big” church, but that’s not a bad thing. He also explains and offers suggestions for helping a small church to be a healthy church. He does an excellent job of explaining how small churches are different from big churches, which is why it doesn’t really work to run a small church the same way big churches are run. He does all of this without saying anything negative about or putting down big churches. His desire, for this book, is to help the pastors of small churches to see how their small church can be a healthy church, and how they don’t have to feel incompetent or like a failure because they aren’t making their small church into a big church.

Do you know there are more small churches than there are big churches? It’s just that the big churches are the hot topics in our current society. However, not everyone wants to be part of a big church either, which is another reason that pastors in small churches should not feel badly about not being big. Pastors need to focus on the health of their church, not the size of their church. A healthy church will naturally grow, but it may never grow to “big church” status, and that’s okay.

I am not a pastor, but I am part of a church of under 250 people, and Karl Vaters’ suggestions for creating a healthy small church make sense and are biblical. He uses several examples of Jesus ministering. Yes, you may think, “but Jesus ministered to huge crowds”, and yes, he did, but his main focus was on small groups like his twelve disciples.

If you’re a pastor of a small church who feels frustrated, stressed, and like you’re failing, or if you’re a pastor of a small church who just wants to get an idea as to how healthy your church is, I encourage you to read this book. I also encourage those of you who are part of a small church body to read this book, because it’s not the pastor’s job alone to keep the church healthy, and you may find some ways you can serve your church and your pastor by reading this book.

Summoned by Verity Moore

Summoned is the debut novel of Verity Moore. It is a YA Fantasy novel. The Prologue caught my attention and drew me in. However, as I read the first chapter, I felt the pace seemed slow and my interest waned. Not one to give up on a book too quickly, I continued to read and was thankful that chapter two was much more interesting, and from chapter two to the end I was hooked.

Summoned had lots of adventure, danger, and excitement to keep me turning pages. I really enjoyed the male main character, Kyam and his dog. For me, these were my reasons to keep reading.  As a dog owner and lover, I love the almost human qualities attributed to the dog, Castoff, in this story. I also admired Kyam’s loyalty, faithfulness, and determination, even in the face of disappointment and rejection.

Cierra, the main female character, seems to have to learn her lessons the hard way. She is stubborn and independent and often self-centered.  The contrast between her character and Kyam’s make for some humorous and interesting scenes.

I was disturbed with one scene where Verity Moore mentions a flock of birds, then tells how the birds fly, and she calls the birds “emu”. Emu are a real bird, native to Australia, and they do not fly.

When the book ended quite abruptly, I was disappointed. I don’t know why the book ended so quickly and abruptly. It is considerably short for a Fantasy novel, coming in at a mere 153 pages. Most Fantasy novels I have read are more than double that page count.

Another disappointment came in the back of Summoned where a page lists Pursued and Besieged as the two other books in this trilogy and says they are all available on Amazon. However, neither Pursued nor Besieged is yet available.

Although Summoned wasn’t what I expected, I did enjoy it and look forward to reading the next book in the trilogy, and I hope the wait isn’t too long.

The Light Unbound by C.S. Wachter

The Light Unbound (The Seven Words Book 4) by [Wachter, C. S.]

The Light Unbound is the 4th and final book of C.S.Wachter’s The Seven Words series. It is YA/Adult Fantasy.

Prince Rayne again falls prey to the evil Sigmund and in his frustration turns his back on the One and what he was called to do. Then he meets a child-like ancient, named Mite, who helps Rayne find anonymity in the Camp of the Forgotten.

In the meantime, his friends try to figure out why Prince Rayne is behaving in ways that are totally contradictory to his true character. Lexi struggles most as she wants to believe in Rayne, but something just doesn’t seem right.

There is also a black cloud approaching across the Cameron Sea, and mind-altering shadows threatening all Ochen. And when members of the Interplanetary Council die from a mysterious illness, the young prince declares himself Imperial Emperor of all Ochen, leaving all of his friends confused and questioning—is this really Rayne, or could it be someone, some-thing else?

This installment of The Seven Words series does not disappoint. It is just as good as the first three and kept me turning pages in anticipation of Rayne’s friends finding out the truth, and also cheering Rayne on to turn back to his faith.

The characters, both old and new, help to move the story along. Some create conflict and tension while others add a bit of humor to the intense story line.

By the end of this book, C.S.Wachter does a great job of making clear connections between all four books and resolving all of the conflicts from all of the story lines. The ending is very satisfying, and many of the characters will live on in my mind for a long time to come. This has become and will remain one of my favorite fantasy series, and if you enjoy good fantasy reads, I highly recommend them.


A Book Review: Rose’s Redemption by Donna L.H. Smith

Rose’s Redemption is the new release by Donna L.H. Smith, and the second book of the “Known by Heart” series. The first book was Meghan’s Choice, and you can read my review of that book here.

The story setting is still the old western town of New Boston, where Meghan’s Choice also was set. As a matter of fact, Meghan and the main character, Rose, of Rose’s Redemption, are friends–a friendship that began in the first book.

Rose has had a very difficult life, and in Rose’s Redemption, those difficulties aren’t over. As she tries to change her life for the better and begins to hope that she could have real love, someone from her past comes back to find her.

I enjoyed Rose’s Redemption very much. Though, in Meghan’s Choice, Dr. Scott Allison was not my favorite  character, he redeems himself in Rose’s Redemption, and he plays a big part in the new life Rose tries to make for herself. Meghan and the characters from Meghan’s Choice still played a part in this story as well, so as a reader, I got to know them all better.

The characters in Rose’s Redemption are well-developed and I enjoyed meeting some new characters in New Boston in this installment of the “Known by Heart” series. I really like Rose and rooted for her the whole way through the book.

The story’s conflict was also well written, better than the conflict in Meghan’s Choice. I found the conflict in Rose’s Redemption to be more intense and realistic, and it kept me turning pages.

Donna L.H. Smith also had an interesting way of having some of her character’s experience God that drew them to Him. It was tastefully done and not preachy nor was it overdone. I don’t think someone who prefers not to read Christian novels would be offended or find it overbearing.

Donna L.H. Smith’s writing is stronger in Rose’s Redemption and she did a much better job of developing her characters and making me like them and care about them. She also included some subtle hints as to what may come in the next book, and I look forward to reading it.

If you enjoy stories with an old western setting, intense conflict, and sweet romance, I hope you will read Rose’s Redemption too.

A Talent for Trouble by Jen Turano

A Talent for Trouble (Ladies of Distinction Book #3) by [Turano, Jen]

A Talent for Trouble is the third book in a trilogy known as “Ladies of Distinction” by Jen Turano. However, I have not read the first book. I previously read and did a review of book two A Most Peculiar Circumstance here. Therefore, I can attest to the fact that, though they are part of a trilogy, you can certainly read any of them as stand alones and not feel lost.

A Talent for Trouble is a light-hearted, fun historical romance about Felicia Murdock who is concerned about being single and in her mid twenties. She sets her sights on becoming a minister’s wife and pretends to be something she’s not in hopes of impressing the minister.

When things do not go according to her plan, she decides she’s wasted too much time pretending and is determined to be her true self and embrace a more lively way of life, and in so doing, finds herself in one troubling circumstance after another.

Grayson Sumner, otherwise known as Lord Sefton, soon finds himself attracted to Felicia, but becomes frustrated with her knack for stumbling into trouble. Then his past comes back to complicate his life and places Felicia in danger as well. Grayson is determined to keep Felicia safe as they struggle to extricate themselves from the latest trouble.

Felicia is a fun character and as her relationship with Grayson developed, they made me laugh out loud. Their troubling situations go from mild to quite scary and I found myself cheering for them while sitting on the edge of my seat. This was a very enjoyable read.

Light of the Last by Chuck Black

My son and I finished the “Wars of the Realm”  trilogy just before our Christmas break. Light of the Last is the final book of this trilogy by Chuck Black, and I found it to be just as good as the first two.

Drew has come to his limit. He just wants his normal life back, but there is a higher plan. Those who have been assigned to keep Drew safe have their hands full as Drew is the target of two different powerful forces.

When it becomes apparent that the United States is also a target, Drew and his friends may be the only ones who can save the day.

The things that Drew goes through in this trilogy really kept me turning pages. Chuck Black did an excellent job of weaving parts of history and believable political issues throughout this series, as well as some spiritual truths.

I was so involved in the story and cared so much about the characters that I spoke out in frustration at some of Drew’s choices, and I cried at some of the sad scenes. I loved the characters in this series and I cheered for them through all three books. There was suspense, intrigue, adventure, danger, and a touch of romance in these books, and I highly recommend them. They are on my list of favorites.

In the Shadow of Your Wings by J.P. Robinson

Another great historical story from J.P. Robinson! In the Shadow of Your Wings moves between characters in Germany and Great Britain during war time. Leila Durand is  a German spy with a troubled past who falls in love with Malcom, the son of Thomas Steele, a British icon, whose home she is to infiltrate. She struggles between her love for Germany and her love for an enemy of Germany, and trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes.

Eleanor Thompson is a woman of faith, but her faith is pushed to its very limits when her infant daughter is killed in a German air raid after her husband has gone off to fight in the war. However, Eleanor doesn’t give up on life as she remains hopeful to reunite with her husband when the war is over, but he doesn’t answer any of her letters. As she sees the horrors of war, she begins to lose hope, yet stubbornly clings to her faith.

J.P. Robinson weaves a tale of intrigue and history as these characters’ lives intertwine in unexpected ways. There is also a German family that takes center stage in some chapters. This book shows the heartbreak of war and the struggle for faith. It is my favorite of  Mr. Robinson’s book so far.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction that includes intrigue and suspense.