Tuesday, July 23, 2019

If You’re Not Writing After Reading This Book, Reach for the Remote

Everybody Has a Book Inside of Them:
How To Bring It Out


Author: Ann Marie Sabath
Publisher: Career Press, Newburyport, MA, 2019

Ann Marie Sabath is smart. Period. Full stop. I’ll tell you why later.  But first, let me tell you about her 10thbook, Everybody Has a Book Inside of Them: How To Bring It Out.
In writing this book, Sabath practices what she preaches.  It’s jam-packed with advice on just about every topic, issue, and question she could come up with to help her readers find their topic and start to write.
That means covering things like the right writing age, how long it will take, the best catalysts to motivate you, fighting excuses not to write, and a “sounding board advisory group”. She covers what to wear when writing, where to write, when to write, knowing your readers, etc.
Sabath shares her way of doing things, openly admits there are other ways, and utilizes the words of other successful authors to share alternatives.
Central to her book is what she calls your “Writing Voice”.  You have to find it and listen to it. She gives us some detailed advice on what to do and what not to do with your manuscript, and whether or not you should consider a ‘pen name’ – pointing out the pros and cons.
My review can’t do the book justice in terms of what it covers.  It’s loaded as evidenced by a section entitled“Answers to Questions You May Not Have Thought to Ask”. She also provides her readers with a substantial list of recommended reading and very helpful resources.
The book is a great start for anyone who wants to write.  For me, it was full of surprises as well as a great relief.  I’ll let you read the book and try to figure out what the relief was – chances are it will be a relief for you too.
I started out by telling you Ann Marie Sabath is smart. I promised to tell you why I thought so. Sabath has the ability to identify a topic she excels in (after all, this is her 10thbook) and one for which there is a great market (I mean has anyone who can read and write not thought about writing a book sometime?) and given readers what they need to know in a way that both informs and entertains.
Her goal is to help you write. She can only ‘mentor’ you – she can’t move the pen or click the keyboard.  You’ll have to do that. But you’ll find it much easier if you take heed to what she has to share.
That’s where her ‘smartness’ comes in.  Smart authors just share their experiences and knowledge. And they succeed – with fame, with fortune.  Sabath is there. This book has valuable information – but it does not “make you write”.  You’ll have to write that one. 

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n  Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, July 23, 2019, www.accordconsulting.com

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Scholarly Look At How Religions Attract, Operate, Compete, and How They Interact With The Economy

The Wealth of Religions: The Political Economy of Believing and Belonging 

Authors: Rachel M. McClarey and Robert J. Barro
Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2019

I have read many research books over my life but this one was different. It covered a topic I never thought could be, or should I say, ‘should’ be, analyzed from an economics perspective. And yet these two authors/researchers, both from Harvard University -- Rachel McClarey, lecturer at the Department of Economics, and Robert Barro, the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics, did just that. Together they provided this reader a “wealth of knowledge” on how religion, including my own, interacts with the economy, attracts adherents, operates, and even competes with other religions.
McClarey and Barro present their data factually (making great effort not to let their own faiths or lack thereof bias them in their work). Their writing style is quite comprehensible to non-academics as well as suitable for those in the field.
The book explains how religion is indeed a ‘market’ that operates like any other market does in a given economy. It defines what the researchers consider as evidence of ‘religiousness’ and then takes the various aspects of the definition and describes the relationship of each to economic growth (and decline).
Having been born in a country with a ‘state religion’, I personally found the section of the book on that topic most informative and interesting. The history and modern-day accounts of state religion(s) are well described.
The authors also address how religion impacts terrorist organizations as well as describing the crowd power of ‘religious clubs’. In particular, there’s an excellent detailed study of Tibetan Buddhism.
The section on competition among religions focuses primarily on the Catholic Church’s reaction to what would be considered the raiding of their people by Protestant groups. The research shows that the Catholic Church seems to react by increasing the number of beatifications and canonizations of individuals on route to being declared ‘saints’ when this competition is most prevelant. An interesting piece of work on its own.
The book is full of economic theory and facts, drawing extensively on the work of many others, but especially Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nationsand Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
What makes individuals join a religious group, and stay in the group, or leave it is well-explained and very insightful. The theory and research findings both ring true for this reader who has been observing such activity for decades. The impact of the economy on these actions seems strange to accept, but at the same time very difficult to deny.
McClarey and Barro make some basic and most interesting statements throughout the book. One example is, “declining religiosity is not the same as rejecting religion”.  Another is, “…there is something about Harvard – presumably along with similar top universities – that tends to attract nonreligious people.”  There are many more.
The book helped me understand why I can’t expect “moderate Muslims” to stand up to the proponents of “Islamic terrorism” – something I thought should be happening. The authors helped me see, in their chapter on Islam and Economic Growth, why Muslims will never ‘war’ with other Muslims.  That same chapter goes on to give some amazing explanations as to why Islam is today “intellectually rigid, having declared itself perfect without any need of reassessment.”  Fascinating reading.
I recommend the book highly – both for its professional and scholarly treatment of the material, but also as a “must read” for those who have anything to do with religion, or religious organizations – not only their own, but the religion of those they interact with. Definitely useful to ministers, pastors, priests, rabbis, imans, members of religious organization boards, and the ordinary Joe who sits in the pew or kneels on a prayer bench, or rug for that matter.


n  Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, June 19, 2019, www.accordconsulting.com

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Young Lincoln of New Salem:A Historical Novel, Wonderfully Heavy on Fact

Young Lincoln of New Salem: Abraham Lincoln’s spiritual journey during his time at New Salem and beyond


Author: Sam Rawlins
Publisher: Yorkshire Publishing, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 2019

A Historical Novel, Wonderfully Heavy on Fact
Full disclosure: I love America and Abraham Lincoln. I have always thought of Lincoln as a man of faith, a regular reader of the Bible, and one who had a personal relationship with the Creator. However, I was lacking two pieces of the puzzle that portrayed the full life of the 16thPresident of the United States.  First, I had no idea about his childhood experiences.  Second, I had no idea of how it was he became such a spiritual person.  Sam Rawlins’ book provided me those two pieces.
The author’s research is extensive, spanning three years of focusing on 121 different sources available to him.  From these, he paints for us a powerful image of what life was like for ‘young Lincoln’ and those who knew him best.
The story starts off with his arrival in New Salem where he catches a glimpse of the young woman who becomes the love of his life while she lived and the angel that guided him after she died. From there, through Lincoln’s memory, we are allowed to share his childhood, living with a man who had no right to be called a ‘father’ as he treated his son like a slave, or perhaps worse.
There are several themes throughout the book that Rawlins uses to drive home some key ideas about Lincoln: his devotion to Ann Rutledge; his honesty; his commitment to his friends; his losses; and his desire to do God’s will.
Lincoln became the man he ultimately was after he faced and conquered his past growing up under a drunken tyrant. He had to deal with his enemies slowly turning each one of them into a valued friend that stood by him to the very end.
Rawlins gives us a very intimate look into life for American settlers in the early 1830s. It wasn’t pretty in many respects.  Only the strong and the faithful could handle it. Lincoln seemed a natural for it.
He had to learn to accept opportunities to lead others in very difficult circumstances, when he felt he didn’t deserve them. He cared and attended to the needs of weaker or ill neighbors during the ‘Winter of the Deep Snow’ which hit the community hard. And then he enlisted in the great War against Chief Blackhawk who had had enough of the maltreatment that his people were receiving from white Americans. Through that he saw death and war like he had never imagined it before.  Many were lost including young men close to him. He hated war. And this experience served to mold his character into what was needed for him to later end slavery in the United States.
Another theme that Rawlins drives home is Abe’s thirst for knowledge. He devoured whatever book he could get his hands on. And soon, a dream emerged that was supported not only by his true love, but also some of the older, wiser men who came to see him as a young man of promise or a true brother, and also one who came to see him as his own ‘son’. Young Lincoln, who could hardly read or write his name when he arrived in New Salem, now wanted to become a lawyer someday.  And what a journey that was.
But as fate would have it, the loss of his mother as a young child, the loss of his sister, the loss of his friends in battle, was soon to be followed by the loss of his beloved. Could fate have served him a more bitter pill? Abe now had to fight extreme depression, no appetite, and a desire to end it all. But God had other plans for young Lincoln, and the friends He had arranged for Abe to have, helped him survive.
Resolving to do all he had promised his love before she died, Abraham Lincoln put his life together with the help of others and embarked on the necessary steps to accomplish their joint dream. How all of this came about makes this historically based account an incredible read.
Eventually, Lincoln becomes a famous attorney and through an unfortunate event ends up marrying someone who could never be what he had lost in losing his fiancée many years earlier. You’ll have to read about that for yourselves. Suffice it to say that his legal partner, William (Billy) Herndon wrote a book entitled, “Lincoln and Ann Rutledge and the Pioneers of New Salem” which positively exposes Abe’s true and only love for Ann, to the unending opposition of his wife, Mary Todd and her family. 
Rawlins uses real names of people and places as well as their accounts of what actually took place from other historical sources. The skill with which he does this, is alone worth the ‘price of admission’ to his book.  At the back of the volume, Sam Rawlins shares how the book came about, his sources, his appreciation of those that remained true to their word in writing about Abraham Lincoln as they knew him, and what today’s readers could actually experience themselves by visiting the actual sites that provide the setting for the book.
Personally, this is a book I wish many would read. It helps us understand Abraham Lincoln who was born just ten years after George Washington died (210 years ago). It helps us grasp how his life experiences made him who he was and enabled him to achieve what he did. It makes us reflect on what may be missing in the lives of our modern leaders – and perhaps our own.  It certainly made me more aware of the difference God can make in the lives of people and their life’s accomplishments for the good of others. Even ordinary folks like you, and me, and a mistreated young man, who felt he would be better off dead, named Abraham Lincoln.
Highly recommended for those who love history, those who enjoy a great romance story, and those who want to be challenged about how to live a productive life for God and for others. I intend to take it with me when I visit Springfield, Illinois, and Lincoln’s New Salem Historic State Park in Menard County, Illinois.


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n  Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, April 13, 2019, www.accordconsulting.com

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

“Oh, If You Would Only Believe Me”

The Keeper of My Heart:
The Key To Knowing Who You Truly Are



Author: Ashley Wichlenski
Publisher: Freedom International Publishing, Gibsonton, FL, 2018

This is not an ordinary book. It is a work of art in many ways.  It is visually beautiful. It is beautifully written.  It is extremely and solidly scriptural in its message.  It is a much-needed message for millions of people today, especially women, of all ages.

Today's young female teenagers need to know how worthy they truly are in order to combat the "fake news" they are given about themselves from Hollywood, fashion magazines, music celebrities, and those who seek to be gods themselves and failing miserably.  They need this. And because this has been going on way too long, many of those that need this lesson today may be well in their senior years and have lived a hard and solitary life.  They need this.
The book consists of fourteen eternal truths about each reader. Each truth is based on either Old Testament or New Testament scripture and is presented as a letter written by God to His child – the reader of the book.
As a man, with a wife, two daughters, and three grand-daughters, I marveled at the wisdom of this young author – a wife, a mother, and a business woman – who herself “discovered that her value is not in what she has done or hasn’t done, or even in how the world sees her”.  Ashley found her true value in how her Maker sees her.
This book is for the girl or woman that doesn’t see herself as beautiful. It’s for those who consider themselves unloved. It’s for those who feel they have screwed up so badly, they can never be forgiven by anyone, let alone God.  The book speaks to those that see themselves as unworthy of anyone paying them any attention. It’s for those that see themselves as weak in every sense of the word. It’s for those that always feel they are picked last for anything in life. It’s for those enslaved by others or by their thoughts and fears. It’s for those that don’t feel safe and for those that are living without joy. And finally, it’s for those that are afraid of tomorrow and death.
Wichlenski does an incredible job of reaching out to her readers without being overbearing or imposing her beliefs. But her message is a compelling one. Primarily because of her Source.
The book also has room, after each letter, for the reader to reflect and to consider and write her own reactions to what the author is saying or more importantly to what ‘The Keeper of the Reader’s Heart’ is saying to the reader through the author.   Finally, for the reader that relates well to the message, the book includes a link to a most resourceful and encouraging website by which the reader can continue to grow in her new found understanding of how God, her heart’s true Keeper, sees her.
Highly recommended for women of all ages, especially teenagers. The book makes a great gift for any woman that any man really loves.  This book has the potential to change someone's life.

Unfortunately this book isn't on Amazon because the author had to publish it herself and the percentage that Amazon takes made that prohibitive and would not allow her enough funds to translate it into Spanish or write a boys' book.  The book can be purchased from her website: www.thekeeperofmyheart.com

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·     Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, March 23, 2019, www.accordconsulting.com

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Continuing with the Cleanliness Rules God Gives the Israelites.

More Creatures to Stay Away From
Leviticus 11:29-38
29 ‘Now these are to you the unclean among the swarming things which swarm on the earth: the mole, and the mouse, and the great lizard in its kinds, 30 and the gecko, and the crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand reptile, and the chameleon. 31 These are to you the unclean among all the swarming things; whoever touches them when they are dead becomes unclean until evening. 32 Also anything on which one of them may fall when they are dead becomes unclean, including any wooden article, or clothing, or a skin, or a sack—any article of which use is made—it shall be put in the water and be unclean until evening, then it becomes clean. 33 As for any earthenware vessel into which one of them may fall, whatever is in it becomes unclean and you shall break the vessel. 34 Any of the food which may be eaten, on which water comes, shall become unclean, and any liquid which may be drunk in every vessel shall become unclean.35 Everything, moreover, on which part of their carcass may fall becomes unclean; an oven or a stove shall be smashed; they are unclean and shall continue as unclean to you. 36 Nevertheless a spring or a cistern collecting water shall be clean, though the one who touches their carcass shall be unclean. 37 If a part of their carcass falls on any seed for sowing which is to be sown, it is clean.38 Though if water is put on the seed and a part of their carcass falls on it, it is unclean to you.

Thoughts on the Passage
Verses 29 to 31 continue listing swarming things that God considers unclean – the mole, the mouse, lizards, geckos, crocodiles, sand-reptiles, and chameleons. (Robert Jamieson also translates one of these as a snail.) If someone touches a dead one of these creatures, he/she is deemed to be unclean until evening.  Please note that “swarming” here is also translated “creeping”. While we associate swarming with bees, for example, the reference here is to creatures that creep on the ground.
Verse 32 tells us that if a dead one of these creatures falls on something (wooden article, clothing, skin, or sack – or anything that has a use), it needs to be put into water, and it is deemed unclean until evening.
But if one of these creatures (presumably dead, but could also mean dead or alive) falls into an earthen vessel or jar, the vessel is deemed unclean forever and it is to be broken into pieces. (vs. 33)
Verse 34 is interesting in that it says any food that becomes wet, becomes unclean; any liquid to be drunk that has some water fall on it becomes unclean (I’ll leave it to others to explain this one especially in light of verse 36).
Anything that comes into contact with even part of the carcass of one of these unclean creatures becomes unclean (including stoves) and it needs to be smashed.
However, it is okay for a spring or cistern to collect water – it is clean.  Finally, if a part of the carcass falls on any seed meant for future sowing, it remains clean – but if it is already sown and water falls on it, it becomes unclean.    Wow. Let’s look more closely at these verses.
David Guzik says, “From a hygienic standpoint, these laws were very important. They required, for example, that if a rodent crawled inside a bowl, the bowl had to be broken. Therefore, any disease the rodent carried (such as bubonic plague) could not be passed on to the one who would use the bowl.” He adds, “These laws also promoted a general state of cleanliness inside the Hebrew home. This certainly promoted the health and the welfare of the family.” God has His reasons for all that He prescribes for us under certain conditions of the times.
Robert Jamieson has an interesting perspective on these sudden states of uncleanliness as he writes:
“These regulations must have often caused annoyance by suddenly requiring the exclusion of people from society, as well as the ordinances of religion. Nevertheless, they were extremely useful and salutary, especially as enforcing attention to cleanliness. This is a matter of essential importance in the East, where venomous reptiles often creep into houses and are found lurking in boxes, vessels, or holes in the wall; and the carcass of one of them, or a dead mouse, mole, lizard, or other unclean animal, might be inadvertently touched by the hand, or fall on clothes, skin, bottles, or any article of common domestic use. By connecting, therefore, the touch of such creatures with ceremonial defilement, which required immediately to be removed, an effectual means was taken to prevent the bad effects of venom and all unclean or noxious matter.

Jamieson seems to be attributing the need to many of these regulations to the living conditions in the East. 
Lastly, we consider some of the thoughts of commentator Matthew Henry.  He ties the forbidding of creeping things to God’s view of the serpent in Genesis 3:15 when He relegates the serpent to a curse of spending his time on his belly, and thus creating enmity between the serpent and man.  This law here in Leviticus simply preserves that state. Henry writes, “Dust is the meat of the creeping things, and therefore, they are not fit to be man’s meat.”
The Israelites were being taught to carefully avoid everything that was a pollutant. Clearly, many advocates of the Green movement today would approve.  And these rules applied not only in the temple but in every Jewish home.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Linking Being Unclean, the 1350 Plague, & the #MeToo movement

The Carcasses of Unclean Animals
Leviticus 11:24.28
24 ‘By these, moreover, you will be made unclean: whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening, 25 and whoever picks up any of their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. 26 Concerning all the animals which divide the hoof but do not make a split hoof, or which do not chew cud, they are unclean to you: whoever touches them becomes unclean.27 Also whatever walks on its paws, among all the creatures that walk on all fours, are unclean to you; whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening, 28 and the one who picks up their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening; they are unclean to you.

Thoughts on the Passage
Chuck Smith considers all these rules are about God’s people staying clean and washing up. It’s about taking care of ourselves after touching dead carcasses. God, he says, is just teaching us “good hygiene”.
[An aside: And speaking of good hygiene, I am still appalled by how few people take the time to wash their hands after visiting a restroom.  And I’m not talking about those who may not know better, I’m talking about professionals – engineers and others.  I observed the omitting to do so practice for years in large corporate offices where I worked.]
David Guzik goes says that “Unclean animals, when dead, couldn’t just be left in the community to rot; they had to be disposed of. But the people who disposed of the unclean animals had to remedy their uncleanness by washing and a brief (until evening) quarantine.”  The whole point was to prevent disease and the spreading of disease – the kind that Europe experienced in 1350.  Even then, Jewish communities were “largely spared because they followed these hygienic regulations,” says Guzik.
What is sad, is, as Guzik goes on to say, “because they were often largely preserved, they were often accused and punished for being ‘masterminds’ behind the plague.”  (Sounds a lot like the claims of ‘white privilege’ many are accusing whites of these days.)
Taking the matter to some myths about how we treat people who may be “unclean” today, Guzik wants us to note that due to the fact this quarantine was short and required the thorough washing of clothes, it was a “ceremonial uncleanness” and thus did not mean the person was “in a state of sin”.  No sacrifice was required. The impurity just needed to be addressed.
Matthew Henry says those that were ceremoniously unclean were forbidden to go into the tabernacle for a while, or to eat of any of the holy things, or to even converse familiarly with their neighbors.
He draws a parallel between the uncleanness coming to an end at night just like our sin is all addressed by Christ’s death on Calvary that night He shed His blood for us.  Henry goes on to say, “And we must learn, by daily renewing our repentance every night for the sins of the day, to cleanse ourselves from the pollution we contract by them, that we may not lie down in our uncleanness.”
He points out that God allowed the use of animals for service in their daily work (e.g. farming), but once they were dead, they could not eat them – and what must not be eaten, must not be touched. (A reference to Genesis 3:3.)
With all the #MeToo activity going on today, this lesson is an important one for many of us to learn. Sometimes people in our lives are there for us to work together with, either in business, or on a project, or even in a ministry.  But they are not there for us to take advantage of in any way.  Anyone that has not been given to you as your spouse, is simply not to be touched in any way that would make you (or them) unclean. Work with them, help them, encourage them – but do not make them your possessions. Stay clean.

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Bolivar Heights: When Failure Is Not Final




Author: Leighton Kramer
Publisher: Christian Faith Publishing, Inc., Meadville, PA, 2018

A Warning to the Unfallen; An Explanation, Hope, and Purpose for the Fallen 
Leighton Kramer’s book is one of the most complex books I have ever reviewed. I felt at times like a judge on “America’s Got Talent” – one minute I marveled at his perceptions and the next, I was totally frustrated with both the structural and grammatical editing of his book. The human insights are so on target. But it is hard to clearly adjudicate who is really doing the writing on any given page, about whom, when, and where.
There were many times when I felt this (or at least most of this) is indeed Kramer’s own story without him wanting to admit it.  There is no other explanation for some of his thoughts on what a fallen person can think or feel except that he personally had experienced the same thoughts and feelings. If I am wrong, then he truly has a great gift.
There is no doubt the book is a much-needed one. Too many people in the ministry do not finish well, as Kramer tells us. Many failures could have been avoided by God’s servants making better and less rushed decisions. Others, by having accountability partners who speak up in a timely fashion. Still others, by prayers that rise upwards, uttered by saints on bended knee.
Kramer correctly points out that everyone has a weak spot. But when it comes to God’s servants, that weak spot is fervently and constantly being observed by the Enemy, seeking the most opportune time and way to hurt it again, and if possible, to the point of death. Satan certainly knew the main character’s weakness and he knew exactly how to use it to his advantage.
This book is a must-read for anyone who is in the ministry, anyone who loves someone in the ministry, and even anyone who knows or is responsible from a governance perspective, for someone in the ministry.
The author capably demonstrates that the battle is indeed spiritual. The Enemy is indeed real. The consequences are deadly – not only for the individual but for those he/she entangles in his/her downfall.
If you learn nothing else from this book (and there is so much to absorb and adopt), every reader should learn at least two things: First, you are not protected from failure in your Christian life. As Kramer contends, life is a “probation” period. This could happen to you. And second, when you know the weak spot in yourself or in your circumstances is at jeopardy of being attacked – take every step possible to address it as God would have you address it. Kramer in a very powerful way, especially in his last chapter, drives home the mistake that many of us make – trying to address our ‘problem’ without God and outside our public world.
Indirectly, this book is a call to prayer for pastors, for those in our family who lead ministries, and for ourselves – for many of us are called to serve God without going into full-time pastoral or similar work.   Highly recommended.

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·     Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, March 17, 2019, www.accordconsulting.com

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Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.