Ivan Figueroa-Otero’s Spirituality 103: The Forgiveness Code is the third installment in a succession of self-help books that focus on spirituality, mindfulness, and self-understanding. This installment more specifically deals with the power of forgiveness. The reader is encouraged to connect with his or her inner ‘Warrior of Light’, meaning that in order to confront the negativity around us we must look into ourselves and examine the negativity that we harbor internally. Figueroa-Otero employs the use of Buddhism and Chinese-Tao concepts to help the reader get on a path towards connecting with him or herself and to understand that forgiveness is necessary for progress and growth.
One thing that I found helpful about the novel was the glossary that was included in the beginning. It gave the author’s expanded definition for various specific terms that was used throughout the book, such as ‘Warrior of Light’, ‘Warrior of Shadows’, and so on. Figueroa-Otero also provides homework questions at the end of chapters to help the reader review and fully understand the concepts discussed in each chapter. I found this helpful as it allowed me to exercise my understanding what I just read.
Another helpful aspect to the novel is that the reader does not necessarily need to read the first two installments in order to comprehend and fully practice the message and lesson that the author communicates. Figueroa-Otero does an excellent job in the introduction at summarizing what the readers have learned from the first two books and how that might be applied to this book.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I’m all about a good self-help book, and it’s refreshing to see one written on the power of forgiveness. However, the prose was so dense with poetic and figurative language that I would have to reread some sections to understand what was said. Along with amble use of metaphors I felt that I sometimes had to apply my own meaning rather than being told what things meant.
This would be a great book to read for anyone who finds themselves bitter or harboring hateful feelings towards others. I love the lesson presented within the book and you can really feel the authors passion for the subject matter. And in the end, with a self help, what you’re really looking for is an author that cares. And I think I found that in this book.
Pages: 154 | ASIN: B0764DYJHS
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Liberating Inner Eve: A Reflective Journey for Women, is the brainchild of author Bozena Zawisz, counselor and Christian. Zawisz tackles the many perspectives Christians have had on the story of Eve over the years. She balances her examination of Eve by dissecting Eve’s famed weaknesses while shining a light on her strengths. Zawisz peppers the reading with opportunities for readers to journal, work out thoughts, and respond to introspective questions based on the reading. The author’s work as a counselor is evident throughout the book as she consistently provides helpful hints for women regarding regular reflections and ways to be mindful and find an inner peace.
Zawisz has a soothing way with words. Her writing, geared toward women who are questioning their own situations and facing obstacles within their lives, is a much-needed calm amidst the storm of everyday life. I felt a warmth and genuine concern from Zawisz as I read her descriptions of her own parenting and the way in which women tend to take blame upon themselves. The author’s empathy is clear and appreciated.
Christian readers will welcome Zawisz’s thoughts on women like Saint Faustina. The author’s admiration for Faustina is obvious as she shares the story of her perseverance and strength. In the face of opposition, and with a limited educational background, Faustina leans on her faith to succeed. She is just one of the women offered by Zawisz as a positive example.
I especially appreciated the numerous Bible verses and quotes presented by the author. My grandmother was a devout Christian, and Zawisz’s faith reminds me of her daily devotions. There is a definite peace that comes from reading the author’s favorite verses and the ways in which they have impacted her life. Among the many quotes she includes, readers will find inspiration and support during the most difficult of times.
I was rather taken with the beautiful poetry included in each chapter. Zawisz’s poetry is as eloquent as her narrative is comforting. She closes out each of her chapters with a unique bit of verse based on the topic at hand.
One of the most striking aspects of Liberating Inner Eve is the examination of the story of Adam and Eve. I found this to be most interesting. As a child, I was raised to believe the two were real people who started humanity down a path of sin away from righteousness. I had never been introduced to the many interpretations of the creation story. The notion that Adam and Eve might not have been real but a mere representation of humankind’s evolution was new to me. However, Zawisz emphasizes that the depiction of Eve as being, in many ways, inferior to Adam is woven into almost version of the story.
Zawisz’s work is for any woman seeking a book designed exclusively to uplift, empower, and encourage self-reflection. I would recommend this book to any Christian reader or any woman looking to explore Eve’s story and better understand her own struggles.
Pages: 173 | ASIN: B074HB5Q8Z
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Angels: The Discovery, by Starr Lee Bryant, is the touching and sometimes harrowing tale of one boy’s ascent to Heaven. As young Fraser awakens in an unfamiliar and empty room, he struggles to remember how he arrived there and why he feels simultaneously at peace and full of an unexplained energy. Fraser becomes acquainted with several other young people in the same boat. Soon enough, he and the others are oriented to their surroundings, briefed on the details of their arrival in Heaven, and allowed to choose jobs within the kingdom–except Fraser. Even amidst the serenity, Fraser finds himself fighting to understand his true place and purpose among the other angels.
I was immediately struck by Bryant’s depiction of Fraser’s first moments in Heaven. He is overwhelmed but, at the same time, curious and calm. His surroundings are described in the most vivid and tangible details. The reader shares the main character’s peaceful and comforting sensation as he/she enters the first chapter. Bryant spends a great deal of time illustrating the pristine and comfortable quarters to which Fraser is oriented by Gabrielle, his assigned guide.
Bryant uses her cast of characters to emphasize two major aspects of Heaven. She has created Fraser in order to show readers the freedom from pain and suffering found in Heaven and to underscore the fact that those who make it to Heaven are, indeed, believers of God (The Big Guy). I was moved by the flashbacks Fraser experiences with increasing intensity and clarity. As he begins to learn more about the way he reached Heaven, he sees scenes from his life on Earth in a new way–a way he never would have been capable of as a mortal. Each of Bryant’s characters contributes to the plot in a unique way. I am quite partial to Ms. Jamerson, Fraser’s orientation instructor. She’s unflappable and more than willing to provide detailed explanations to Heaven’s newest residents.
One of the most unique aspects of Bryant’s depiction of Heaven centers on the angels’ relationships with their loved ones. The grieving process is very much an earthly sensitivity. Fraser learns quickly that, though he still loves the family he left behind, his feelings toward them will be much less sad, and the expected pining for their companionship and closeness is a not an emotion with which he will battle.
As beautiful and as perfect as Heaven and the angels are drawn in Bryant’s work, her narrative regarding the dark angels is breathtakingly disturbing. The author draws chills from the reader with Fraser’s first encounter with the dark angel hovering above his family. Bryant goes on to describe amazing scenes in which the dark angels seem to be silently dominating life on Earth.
Angels: The Discovery, by Starr Lee Bryant, deserves every one of the 5 stars I am giving it. Bryant provides a thought-provoking account of life after a hero’s death for believers in Christ. I found Fraser’s “choice” of job as both fitting for him and a wonderful tie-in to his concern for his family’s welfare after his death. In addition, Bryant leaves the door wide open for a stirring sequel featuring young Fraser.
Pages: 206 | ASIN: B0788PXZY9
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In The Book of Self a Thesis on Energy and How it Interrelates you touch upon many things, but one thing that stood out for me is the idea of sound and color being a language. How did you come across this idea?
How I came across the idea and came to embrace it, was through ruminating over life along with the functionality of that, which comprises life. All sacred texts or teachings speak of or allude to universe being created by command such as: “let there be light.” And what scientists refer to as,”the big bang.” Light, colors, and sound are entirely based on vibration. The vibration is the language that gives command to universe. All that there is and will be moves in respect to vibration forming what we refer to as creation.
The Book of Self: A Thesis on Energy and How It Interrelates urges on the importance of following one’s intuition. Why do you think this is important today?
Intuition is more than a phenomenon. It is divine communication, which I liken to the wireless anatomy of the mind; giving expression to “follow your first mind.” More importantly intuition is never wrong. And when intuition is not followed the consequences never fail to evoke regret or to be adverse. Intuition must be followed today to save life as we know it and to get it to be what it should be. Intuition must be followed for individual peace on a personal level; so the individual can live with themselves and for peace to reach a collective global level. We must remember the outside is only a reflection of the inside.
I think you illustrate how to properly treat life as the gift it is. What is one common misconception you think most people have about life?
Number one misconception is that life is hard. Life itself is not against anyone. Life becomes hard, when we go against nature.
The Book of Self A Thesis on Energy and How it Interrelates, is all about revealing man’s full potential and power, as well as, enhancing one’s relationship with self, and the planet. This can only be accomplished through an understanding of energy. The word self, when it is used entails all of life seen or unseen. So, in The Book of Self A Thesis on Energy and How it Interrelates the oneness of life is asserted. The higher mysteries of life are made simple and plain.
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The LGBTQ Meditation Journal offers contemplative spiritual adventures to enhance confidence and tranquility. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Your question necessitates a brief history of the Meditation Journal genesis.
Mary Sheldon originated The Meditation Journal concept, back in the mid-1990s. By the end of that decade, three highly successful books of guided meditations had been published, namely, The Meditation Journal, Meditations for the Twenty-first Century, and Meditations on Relationships.
Our first three volumes flew out of Costco and Target stores nationwide, as well as traditional bookstores. We were surprised by their immediate success. For a while, we considered a fourth volume, Meditations for Teenagers, but for various reasons, the book never happened.
Five years ago, Christopher signed on with Laura Baumbach’s MLR Press, a publisher of primarily LGBTQ fiction, and he has subsequently written three novels and four short stories for the Press.
Ever since becoming an MLR Press author, I have thought about an LGBTQ Meditation Journal. In the summer of 2016, at Mary Sheldon’s housewarming party, I asked my non-LGBTQ co-author, if she would write it with me. She said, “Yes!” and soon thereafter, I pitched the book to Laura Baumbach. The publisher greenlighted the project and then blessed us with her amazing Executive Editor, Kris Jacen, as our editor.
When trying to improve any area of our lives, Mary Sheldon and I turn to the real and eternal, namely the spiritual, rather than to the erroneous and temporal, to wit, the material. So, for the both of us, it is organic to improve all of the conditions of our lives with the metaphysical discipline of meditation.
So, it follows that it was important for us to help others help themselves by using the same spiritual approach that we use effectively in our own lives.
But even though the LGBTQ Community was our focus, we were determined to write guided meditation adventures that could benefit everyone, LGBTQ, or not.
I felt that there was a focus on self-love and acceptance in this book. What were some themes you tried to capture while writing?
Yes, self-acceptance and self-love are essentials for healthy, successful living. We both believe that everything made by the Creator originated spiritually and perfectly. And so, Christopher and I ask readers to employ a spiritual perspective when using our meditation adventures. We ask everyone to think of themselves as the perfect, spiritually-created, externalized ideas of the Creator’s making, and not as the flawed material beings reflected in the mirror. Our point of view reflects Divine Science rather than Earth’s limited material sciences.
And, regardless of the current conditions in their lives, we want everyone to know they have value and worth; quite simply, they matter.
After reading this book I felt that my open-mindedness of the world was reinforced. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
We hope readers will open their minds and hearts, and come to an understanding that self-acceptance, love, peace, pride, and dignity are essential. And we want them to know that if these qualities are now in short supply, our guided meditation adventures are one excellent method of enhancing them.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Christopher and I would like to write The Children’s Meditation Journal.
Of course, winning a contract for such a book is largely contingent on the current book being successful.
Right now, Christopher is in edits with the second volume in his series of Minnow Saint James Metaphysical Adventures novels. It is named The Coming of Beth, and it will be MLR Press published in the first half of next year.
For the fourth in their highly successful series of guided meditations books, Christopher Stone and Mary Sheldon focus upon the LGBTQ Community, offering a month’s worth of contemplative spiritual adventures to enhance confidence and tranquility while inspiring self-acceptance, love, peace, pride, and dignity. Edited by Kris Jacen, the book explains the process of focused attention known as meditation and it offers a simple relaxation technique to induce a meditative state of mind.
Editor’s Note for eBook readers: For those that do look at page counts between print and ebook files, there is a big discrepancy between the print and ebook editions of this journal in PDF format. Don’t worry, you are not missing any content. The difference is that the print version of the book contains space to note several months observations for each meditation.
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Ballad of Demise is the third and final installment of the End of Knighthood series by Joshua Landeros. Set in the far future, we continue following Will Marconi, the renegade cyborg super soldier, who is aiming to launch an assault the same night as the International Summit. Chancellor Venloran, emboldened by his victory against the resistance fighters, moves into the final phase of his scheme. The International Summit will draw leaders from all over the world to New York City, and he will be able to achieve peace through the dominance of his design. It is up to Will, Alex, Bri, Gabriella, and others to stop the Chancellor and his deadly minions.
Ballad of Demise is an explosive and satisfying conclusion to the End of Knighthood trilogy. Landeros has been getting better and better with every installment. Expanding the borders of military science fiction, Ballad of Demise incorporates elements of horror through war and the suspense of a thriller. All of this adds up to a book that does its best to defeat the conventions of the genre and archetypal narrative structure.
While confining this book to virtually 48 hours and flashbacks, one would think this is a bold move from a relatively new author, but Landeros manages to pull this off with skill. The pace is snappy and engrossing for the reader. The internal struggle of Will and even Venloran shape the tone and theme of the work, which keeps asking if the ends justify the means. Even for the proposed hero, Will finds himself questioning if everything is acceptable for him to have his vengeance.
If there are any issues in this book at all, it would be that Landeros tries hard to stretch out these two days. Some of the action seems forced, and in other places, the dialogue slows the pacing but never enough for the reader to notice for too long. These are minimal problems and ones that take nothing away from the story itself.
For a trilogy, this series sets a high mark for the rest of Landeros career. In other ways, readers will be sad to see this cast of characters go but maybe they will return in future stories? Either way, this book is memorable and a fantastic sound off for Will Marconi. One can hope that such a world does not arise in the future, but these books seem to be asking, what if?
Pages: 161 | ASIN: B076BW7YLJ
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There are different beliefs when it comes to religion, but when discussing all things spiritual, just know these two are completely different. In that, we all can relate to the familiarity of metaphysical or spiritual events, which allows us to be more open-minded in all aspects of life. In The LGBTQ Meditation Journal, authors Christopher Stone and Mary Sheldon are allowing their readers an experience on a higher level than what can be “perceived by the five physical senses”. By doing these meditation exercises, or any kind of meditation session will indeed be the start of a foundation of the eternal peace both Christopher and Mary stated as our birthright. It starts off by explaining self-acceptance, as that is the first step to moving forward in progress to loving yourself. The most challenging thing that can be conquered is self-love and that way no one else can attempt to rob you of your value.
I, myself am not of the LGBTQ community, but reading this enabled me to continue being my open-minded self, having a better understanding of how those within the community must feel, which invoked such empathy towards them. Unfortunately, the world we’re living in many people aren’t open-minded or empathetic to others and that upsets my very being. Even though the entirety of this book said many things that are relatable, there was one thing that stood out the most to me. What stood out was “self-love never includes arrogance, conceit, narcissism, smugness, and vanity”, which will bring clarity to everyone who tends to think otherwise. We are all people who need to learn to love ourselves more, in doing so I hope the world can turn around for the better.
I learned so much from reading this book, it allowed me to use my empathy and truly understand how individuals within the LGBTQ community feel living in this world. I already view them as another individual living life and don’t want to be viewed as anyone less. It’s not meant to bash anyone, but to enlighten others in hopes that they will change their perspective and treat everyone, especially LGBTQ people with respect as they would want for others to treat them. The spiritual aspect of this book doesn’t label us, it encourages us to not see the next person as another species, but as another human with feelings. I truly enjoyed reading this book and it will be an eye-opener to closed-minded individuals or those wanting to learn more on how to accept it. I highly recommend this book for everyone, there’s a lot one can learn.
Pages: 91 | ASIN: B075K69CKR
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The Prophet and The Witch by James W. George is a historical fiction book, continuing on from the first book, My Father’s Kingdom. The year is 1675, and four years have passed since readers joined popular characters such as Brewster and Linto in New England. The signs of war have been steadily brewing since, with so many individuals struggling to hold the peace. Inevitably, all efforts have proved futile, and the battle now begins between the English and the Indians. This is one of the most gruesome wars many will be privy to, but one which numerous people are determined to end, preventing further bloodshed and restoring peace to both sides.
The Prophet and The Witch is divided into three parts, covering the summer of 1675 to the summer of 1676. Within each section, the chapters are short and focused on some wonderfully developed individual characters as they contend with the implications of this war.
I was genuinely shocked at the obvious association between war and religion in this account. A huge proportion of the story focuses on the beliefs of the men fighting, highlighting how their personal religious understandings act as an explanation of why war is a necessity. The English see things, such as the turbulent weather, as the wrath of God’s displeasure, but then condemn what they see as mere pagan superstitions of the Indian tribes. However, if they were to reflect, they would soon see more similarities than differences in that both sides look for signs, albeit just of a different type!
As a reader, it is difficult to pick a side of this battle. The English Christians rely on the word of God, trusting they are doing his work in ridding a blasphemous tribe who butcher innocent civilians. Yet, to the Indians, the English and their own actions are similarly threatening! The reader never fully feels they can condemn either side, for each are doing what they see as their duty to survive. The question of religion therefore lingers throughout the book, quietly encouraging you to question whether man or God is responsible for this creation of war…
Israel Brewster and Linto are firm favourites throughout the story. Their portrayal is refreshing and their actions commendable, in an otherwise fraught and harrowing period. These two are both the savours of the story for me personally as they question man’s motives and speak out when they feel an injustice is occurring.
For those who haven’t read the first book, there is an extensive summary at the beginning of book two, instantly bringing readers up-to-date with the action so far. You never feel like you are at a disadvantage because of this.
The Prophet and The Witch is expertly written and instantly engaging from the first few pages. An exceptionally drawn historical fiction account. I was captivated by this very well-structured book, and would recommend as one of the more intellectual of reads.
Pages: 375 | ASIN: B0755QL6CR
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The story, I Will Always Love You, with its rhyming words and loving, non-descript characters appeals to the child in all of us. We should not be fooled by our aging bodies and experienced years; there still is a young and innocent version our former selves tucked away somewhere deep inside of us all. As you read the story, you are encouraged to allow your imagination to expand. Open your heart to the gentle reminders and hints that are around us each day.
What if? Why not? Give it a try. Give it some thought.
The intention of this book is to bring peace and comfort to those of us who have lost someone we dearly love. Whether it’s hope or a sense of ‘knowing’, the thought that our loved ones are somewhere happy, free and possibly around us can bring a sense of joy that lifts us to a higher place that feels good.
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In Vengeance is Mine Sam is determined to become the man he believes he was meant to be and fights for a life that leaves death and violence behind. How did you identify those things that were core to Sam’s belief and how did you set him on a path to find them?
Sam was raised like many young men, believing if he worked hard, did the right thing and believed good things would happen to him. Through the course his life took into combat and the resulting blood shed all those things were lost to him. Sam is a mix of several men I was lucky enough to meet while working as an alcohol rehabilitation counselor in the military. Many of the problems the men faced could be traced back to the horrors of war, which they were not prepared to face.
I felt that this novel took a more personal look at Sam’s character? Did you always have Sam’s character mapped out? Was there any surprises in his character development in this third book?
Originally, there was too be only one book. It was not until I got into the first book that I began to know Sam and the other characters as well. What I started as a typical western, more or less, became the story of a man finding his way back to himself, then reestablishing contact with others, and lastly making peace with his creator. It felt, at times, that Sam was telling me the story and I was to record it for him. Some people will read the story and say, “Sam and Laura got married, I knew it all along. But the real story is Sam finds his way to be worthy of marriage.
What is your writing process like? How do you set about creating such in depth characters?
I write as if I was on a land navigation course. I have a starting point, a few way points that I have to find and the ending point. To help me I have a map in my head that helps keep me on track and a mental compass that keeps me in the right direction. I allow the characters to tell the story as best I can. My characters are the backbone of my story. When asked what genre I write, my answer is I write people stories. I write and rewrite until the character becomes as real to me as my neighbor.
Is this the last book in Sam and Laura’s story? Or will there be more?
Several of the Sam and Laura fans continue to ask me to continue the series. For the couple, the story is complete, but there are several stories yet to be told with other characters. Johanna, Sam’s sister is a story rich in history and character. Hack Baskins and the other Texas cowboys, as well as G.W. Lincoln. I have other projects but I would like to round out the Sam and Laura universe.
“The hawk was created in the image of a hawk. That means he must use violence every day of his life if he wants to eat and live another day. He can never wake up one morning and say to himself, “I no longer wish to eat mice and snakes; I want to eat seeds and nuts like the cardinal. No, he cannot do this and why? Because he was created in the image of a hawk.”
“I don’t see…”
“Sam, I know your father taught you this, but you have forgotten. The hawk was created in the image of a hawk. What image were you created in?”
Sam whispered, “God, I was created in the image of God.”
The Amish elder smiled, “Yes, you were created in the image of God and as such you were granted the ability to choose. You can choose to do right or wrong, good or bad, be peaceful or violent. You can even choose to eat mice and snakes if you like.”
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