Review of Charles Stanley's Book THE GIFT OF HEAVEN

 by Sally Matheny

“We cannot fathom heaven. We cannot begin to even imagine its beauty. Instead, God traces the outlines of it for us. He provides a blueprint through His Word.”                - Charles F. Stanley

GIFT OF HEAVEN by Charles Stanley
We are all curious about heaven as we try to grapple with the magnificent idea of living forever.

Dr. Charles Stanley addresses some of our questions in his book, THE GIFT OF HEAVEN.

This 7” x 7” hardback book is published by Thomas Nelson. The 160 high-gloss pages are full of colorful photos of God’s creation—seashores, mountains, flowers, rocks, sunrises, and sunsets. Most of the page layouts contain regular text on one side and on the opposite page is a key point to ponder.

To me, this book is a cross between a gift book and a devotion book. I guess I’ll call it a meaty gift book! It begins with a mention about “the wages of sin is death,” but the primary focus of this book is the second part of Romans 6:23, “. . . but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There are ten “chapters.” Each one varies in length but all end with a page of scripture verses. The scriptures come from various translations: ESV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, and TLB.


Communicate and Persevere: An Interview with Martin and Joanna Pistorius

by Sally Matheny

Martin and Joanna Pistorius
(Photo courtesy of M. Pistorius)

How wonderful would it be to have a story so powerful the world asked for it in over twenty-five languages? 

In June 2015, I posted a review of an amazing book, Ghost Boy, written by Martin Pistorius. The following October, I conducted an interview with Martin’s wife, Joanna. Since then, Martin and Joanna have been living out their testimonies of love, hope, and faith.

Martin is featured in multiple venues including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, USA Today, on the Today Show, and on Fox News. I don’t think it’s just the fact that Ghost Boy is a New York Times bestseller. Martin and Joanna have something special that people want to hear more about.

Before we catch up with them, let me refresh your memory on Martin's story.

Last family photo before Martin's illness
(Photo courtesy of M. Pistorius)

At age 12, he lost his voice due to a mysterious illness. Within eighteen months he became a mute quadriplegic. The doctors compared Martin’s mind to that of an infant’s and stated he would die within two years.

He did not die. He became "invisible."  

For four years, Martin was in a waking coma state in an unresponsive shell, unseeing and unknowing of his surroundings. 

Then, around age sixteen, his mind slowly woke up. But, his body did not.

Martin Pistorius
(photo courtesy of M. Pistorius)

For ten years, his mind was completely aware—aware that he was trapped inside an unresponsive body and unable to communicate with others. Martin wasn't paralyzed, but no matter how hard he tried, he had no control of his spastic muscles, his curled fingers, or the voice that disappeared with his childhood. Without communication, he remained unheard.

Then all that changed when a therapist noticed a glint of understanding in Martin’s face. By 2001, even though his voice never returned, Martin learned to communicate again via use of a computer.

Several years later, Martin, a native of South Africa, fell in love with a social worker in England. He and Joanna were married in 2009. In 2010, Martin started his own business as a web designer. 

When Thomas Nelson published Ghost Boy in 2013, its message of perseverance and hope began circulating the world. It’s still going strong, as are Martin and Joanna, who kindly agreed to another interview.

First of all, congratulations on the celebration of your eighth wedding anniversary!  Several blog readers are newlyweds. Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with them?

Mr. and Mrs. Martin Pistorius
(courtesy of M. Pistorius)
“Thank you. 
As it is stated in Genesis 2:24 begin your new life as a married couple by not only physically leaving your parents, but emotionally. Establish boundaries, cling to and depend on each other. It’s important to take the time to become one with each other.

Focus on each other – if your focus is how to serve, support and love your partner then you are more likely to meet each other’s needs. 

Continue to do the little things you did for each other when you first met. It’s also important to make time for each other, even if that is simply to sit in each other’s arms and watch a movie.  

Always be honest and open with each other – you should be able to tell each other anything.”

That’s great advice! Taking time to focus on one another makes a huge difference.
Speaking of making a difference--most writers long to write a book that will influence the world. I know Ghost Boy changed my perspective.

Martin, you’re such a humble man, so I want to ask Joanna this next question. Joanna, I’m sure you’ve heard how Martin’s book has influenced people’s lives. Is there one story that stands out in your mind you’d be willing to share with us?

“Martin received a message from a mother that thanked him for Ghost Boy. Her daughter had been in a vegetative state for over 20 years. Having seen Martin on TV she got the audiobook of Ghost Boy. After her daughter had listened to Martin’s book, her daughter started making attempts to communicate. Through a lot of hard work, and plenty of support, her daughter is now communicating. The transformation has been truly remarkable! “

That is amazing! What a blessing it is to hear stories like that. Communication is so important. Not long ago, I listened to Martin’s TED talk online. He shared a powerful thought about communication.

"Communication is what makes us human, enabling us to connect on the deepest level with those around us. True communication increases understanding and creates a more caring and compassionate world."


What Do Coffee and Control Have in Common?

by Sally Matheny

Coffee and Quiet Time Go Well Together
What do coffee and control have in common? It begins at Paige Snedeker's blog, "The Paige Project" where I'm guest blogging this week. I hope you'll go pop in and say hello to Paige, check out all the cool things she has to offer, and comment on the blog post, "Are We Packing In Too Much?"

Do you ever feel overwhelmed? I've felt that way before. Too many times. On Paige's blog, I share a true story about being overwhelmed, losing control, and learning a lesson the hard way.

Also, I'm hosting a giveaway on Paige's blog. Everyone who leaves a comment at the end of the blog post, on Paige's website, will have their name entered into a drawing.

The prize? A five-ounce bag of freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee from Paxville Coffee and a Women of Faith devotion book, Giving God Your Future. Woo hoo! Sounds like a great way to start your morning.

Paige and I appreciate you hopping over to Paige's website and checking it out. 😊

CONGRATULATIONS, Shannon White! Paige randomly selected your name as the winner of the freshly roasted coffee and devotion book. I'll be in touch about the delivery.

A big thanks to all of you who visited Paige's website. Be sure to visit often to read more of Paige's encouraging words.


College Student: Be a Game-Changer & Beat the Need for “Adulting”

by Sally Matheny

College Student: Be a Game-Changer
When my children were preschoolers, they “beat” me in every game. I made sure they buzzed in answers before me, scored the most points, and reached the finish line first.

Why? Because I did not want them to be upset if they failed to win.

The same took place in other areas. Batches of backward letters were praised, rather, than reshaped. Misspoken words adored instead of corrected. Scored baskets enticed wild cheers at their first basketball games. We did not dare mention the refs overlooking some serious walking infractions.

Why? Because I, like many others, wanted my child to feel successful.

Eventually, we enforced playing games with integrity.  Corrections began to flow into all areas of my kids’ lives. Sometimes they did get upset. Angry outbursts, tears, and “I quit” attitudes emerged.

For the sake of peace, I almost wanted to slip back into letting them be right, even if they were wrong. Almost.

Which brings me to today’s topic. Have you heard of "adulting"? 


Book Review and Giveaway of HOPE GIRL by Wendy Dunham

by Sally Matheny

HOPE GIRL Book Review & Giveaway
Do you remember what it was like to be twelve years old? It’s not the easiest stage in life. Often times, tweens long for their lives to be different, be better.

The main character of Hope Girl, River Starling, zeroes in on several things she’d like to change.
It’s taken most of her life to find her biological parents, now River's number one goal is to reunite with them and become a family again. But it’s not going to be easy. Her mother has amnesia and her father is about to marry someone else!

River longs to talk with her best friend, but he’s gone. Just when she thinks things can’t get worse, she discovers she’s going to have to wear a back brace for a curved spine.  And her grandmother, the one who raised her, has moved to an assisted living facility.

River experiences one trial after another. Although usually persistent in nature, she begins to lose hope of her lifelong dream coming true.

Through a series of surprising events, her family and a new friend help River learn about forgiveness, acceptance, and courage.   

How does River find peace when she realizes  God’s plan is different than hers? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

I liked this Christian, paperback book published by Harvest House. Hope Girl, written by Wendy Dunham, is the sequel to her first book, My Name is River. You can read a review of it here.

Set in 1983, both stories are told from twelve-year-old River’s point of view, which delicately teeters between humorous and dramatically desperate.

The author did an excellent job pulling in characteristics you don’t often read about in middle-grade novels. In My Name is River there’s a boy with a paralyzed arm due to complications at birth. In Hope Girl, one of River’s friends, Carlos, deals with stares at his severe scarring from a fire. And River learns to cope with wearing a back brace to correct a curved spine.

I did not find the word handicapped in this book. While the author shares the difficult realities for these characters, she also conveys their strength, courage, and hope as they face life challenges. 

One reason Wendy Dunham expresses these challenges so exquisitely is because of her own life experiences. She serves children with special needs as a registered therapist. Plus, Dunham knows the discomfort of wearing a back brace because, like River, she also had to wear one.

Do you know a tweener who is longing for things to be different in her life? Perhaps struggling with physical appearance, family issues, or something that's out of their control?Why not surprise her with this book?

Here's your chance to win a copy of Hope Girl.? All you have to do is hop over to Wendy’s facebook author page. Let me know in the comments below after you visit her page, and I’ll put your name in the drawing.  A winner will be randomly selected on Saturday, August 12. 

If you don't win, Harvest House is hosting a 99-cent special on the e-book, Hope Girl, just through the month of August, over at Amazon.

CONGRATULATIONS TO SHANNON DILLARD of N.C.! You won! I'll be in touch with you about the delivery of your book. :) Thanks to all of you who participated. Stay tuned. There'll be another giveaway in a few weeks.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free in return for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255