Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: Strategic Relocation for Homesteading and Survival

My Strategic Relocation Story by Jason Schmidt 

strategic_relocation_cover-640x360Currently, my family and I live in the suburbs just west of Portland, OR. Due to my day job of being in the tech industry, it was a good location to start out at. With more flexibility to work from home, rising property taxes, crazy regulations, national uncertainty and wanting to get back to God and nature, we are looking to relocate to a country setting. My goal is to make this move just once. We have young children, and I don’t want to be hopping around trying to find the “right” place to live. So I’m doing research. I came across this book, Strategic Relocation by Joel Skousen from one of Wranglerstar’s videos. Then I met Joel and attended his presentation at the Portland Sustainable Preparedness Expo. He has deep insight about where to relocate in order to survive and thrive.

I purchased the book, and will share with you why I think this is an excellent resource for relocating, or even knowing where to escape if you can’t relocate.

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Book Review: Heaven is for Real, A little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

Editors Note: Family films that are also faith based can be hard to come by so, given the phenomenal success of the film Heaven is for Real, we present a Salem author’s thoughtful review of the book that inspired the film.

Something was different about this simple book entitled Heaven is for Real, A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo (and with Lynn Vincent).

I have to admit, though, that my wife actually picked this book up first. I glanced at it, returned it to its Costco display table, only to retrieve the title again a moment later. Something piqued my interest after reading just a paragraph, or so. For one thing, it’s written in an unusually simple, unvarnished style that is quickly engaging. It’s not a book you’re likely to read for literary value, but, that said, it’s much better written than a lot in the “pop” spiritual market–The Shack, for example. In fact, as someone who was raised in the Nazarene denomination before our family of four (as well as my in-laws) crossed the Tiber to the Catholic Church, it reminds me a little of the missionary books that were distributed at church when I was growing up: a very simple, decidedly unselfconscious style.

So, I can’t disappoint my readers with a long summarization of the story (because I don’t want to), but I will say that the young boy recounts an out of body experience following a close call on the operating table due to his appendix breaking open. Colton Burpo shares his experience later with his astonished parents, and the book really focuses on the parents’ processing and questioning of their son over the years to come. The details that Colton conveys are startling and perhaps hard for an adult to accept. For instance, his insistence of everyone, except Jesus, having angelic wings in heaven was particularly troubling because it seemed to imply that we become angels–which I don’t believe is true.

Still, the angel issue is similar to other details in that I suggest that we’re seeing the images of heaven through the lens of a child’s mind. If we accept the account as true, which I do by and large, then we need to recognize that heaven would have probably looked different to an adult on a similar journey. This is how this child processed the information, which begins to make other small details less troublesome–to me, anyway.

The most startling passage of the book may be when Colton asks his mother if his sister died in his mother’s tummy. The innocent question reveals that Colton met his unborn sister (of whom his parents had never spoken with him) on his celestial visit: deeply encouraging news for his family. I was also deeply impressed by the way the little boy describes the nature of time in heaven. It’s been something of an area of interest to me for years, and I think the boy unknowingly described that “eternal present” remarkably well.

I’ve read many reviews of this title, and it’s interesting how varied the perspectives are. Atheist writer Susan Jacoby penned a particularly weak attack of the book in her own online review. It really didn’t offer any original or persuasive insights, but just blasted the book as appealing to the “immature American mind.” Since I think it takes more faith to be an atheist than a believer in a higher power, though, I wasn’t impressed.

Some evangelical reviews, such as the one written by Tim Challies, seem really torn as to how to respond to the book. In the end, it’s as if this rather unfriendly reviewer is telling God, that “no, you can’t do this.” It’s us dictating to the Creator what He may or may not do with regards to His creation; I wasn’t persuaded by his arguments opposing the book. Much closer to the mark, I think, are the more thoughtful reviews–like the one written by Scott Lencke.

I think it’s important to approach all accounts of miracles with a healthy degree of skepticism, but this account rings true for me. (Of course, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, God turns water to wine each year in the vineyard, and we fail to recognize this kind of natural wonder for the miracle that it truly is.) As an example of personal revelation, we’re, of course, not bound to believe, but we do need to realize that God may do whatever He wishes when it comes to His creation. He’s not bound by natural laws. I would concur with some of the comments by reviewers such as Tim Challies in that we should be careful of our faith being affected too much by sensational accounts–even the true ones. Our faith should lie deeper and stronger than our passing feelings.

Lastly, some have argued that Colton’s experience contradicts their interpretation of the book of Revelation. I would suggest that Revelation contains multiple levels of meanings–for many generations of believers. A particularly strong commentary on this book is Revelation, A Divine Message of Hope by Father Bruce Vawter.

In short, I found this book to be a heartwarming account of a child’s journey to God and back again. As I wrote some years ago in “Mysterious Tools,” the heart of God definitely holds a special place for children. We should all strive for more of a child-like faith in our own spiritual journey.

Karl Erickson has called Salem home since 1996. He lives on the south side with his wife, two children, and an ever-growing Newfoundland puppy named Chester. While he’s been state employee for nearly two decades, he identifies himself primarily in the role of a author and essayist. He’s the writer of two lighthearted children’s books: Toupee Mice and Tristan’s Travels. Both are published by Rafka Press. His wife, Kimberly Erickson is their wonderful illustrator. He also recently completed his first mystery novel (for older audiences), The Blood Cries Out. The latter tale is set primarily between Seattle and Friday Harbor.

Book Review: Let’s Get Back to Basics

Originally posted at 3:16 Country | May 1, 2014

Book Review: Back to Basics 3rd Edition

A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills

Every once in awhile I come across a book that I feel should be in every home. Today that book is Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition, by Abigail R. Gehring. This is the third edition of this book which originally came out in 1981. There is a movement of late to go back to the old ways, get in touch with God and nature. People are realizing that the American dream is more like a nightmare. They yearn for the simple life. This book will take you there, and you are guaranteed to learn many skills.

Quote from the book:

Back to Basics is a book about the simple life. It is about old-fashioned ways of doing things, and old fashioned craftmanship, and old-fashioned food, and old-fashioned fun. It is also about independence – the kind of down-home self-reliance that our grandparents and great grandparents took for granted, but that we moderns often think has vanished forever.

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