Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Road to Freedom by Johnny Baker

This book focuses on Celebrate Recovery, its mission, purpose, and method. It encourages the reader to come to grips with “hurts, hang-ups and habits” by absorbing ten Life Lessons, which are distinct from the Eight Recovery Principles, with or without participation in Celebrate Recovery. The author balances the biblical justification for each life lesson with an exhortation to take to heart and apply each. The writing is clear, albeit sometimes repetitive from chapter to chapter, The author seems to believe that Celebrate Recovery is for everyone, as he says we are in pain, coming out of pain, or about to enter pain. I am not convinced that is true, but I would say that if this rings true, then Celebrate Recovery may be of great help. This book could have used closer proofreading. On page 103, in the last line it says, “down the garbage shoot [rather than “chute”] she goes.” There are a number of instances on pages 105 and 106 where “cannot” is written as “can not”. On page 174, one of the headings says, “Serving is Manditory.” I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

NIV - The Woman's Study Bible

This hardback, full-color version Bible has many special features. The Bible itself is in one easy-to-read font, and all footnotes and commentary are in another smaller font, making them easy to distinguish. Each of the 66 books is prefaced by an introduction explaining the title, naming the author, and discussing date, background, themes and outlines. Commentaries and charts are liberally placed throughout, with short biographies of women indicated by a blue header and descriptions of topics headed by a maroon stripe. Unique charts, such as “The Breastplate of the High Priest” in Genesis, “Musical Instruments of the Old Testament” in Psalms, “Women and Jesus” in John, and “My Identity in Christ” in Colossians, and “The Significance of Numbers in Scripture” and “Beatitudes in the Book of Revelation”, provide helpful, new perspectives. The viewpoint espoused in this edition is conservative and traditional. My careful reading of the commentary on 1 Timothy 2 drew me to conclude the commentators for this edition do not support females in the role of pastor, and the footnotes in Romans 1 and commentary at Leviticus 18 describe homosexuality as “deviant behavior,” “sinful lifestyle,” and “aberrant behavior”. The one jarring note I found throughout this edition is the inclusion of quotations in boxes by various women in the biblical text, the style of which in most books is used to highlight a particularly important point from that page. It was distasteful to me, and I think they should have either been omitted or placed in a separate section. This edition is attractive, informative and well constructed. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Embraced - Lysa TerKeurst

Subtitled “100 Devotions to Know God is Holding You Close”, this book had some excellent devotionals. Among my favorites were ones which listed key thoughts, such as one on humility, which made the points that God is our provider, providing what we need but not always what we want, and providing what protects our hearts. Her devotionals seemed aimed at someone getting used to a walk with God rather than at those who have matured in their faith. At times she belabored points, and at times her self-consciousness (such as the devotional where she was envious of the shape and size of another woman’s legs) was more than I could take. But I am not a young woman, so a young woman’s perspective and concerns are no longer mine. The author writes in a clear, straightforward way. After recently reading some writings of other young women, I found TerKeurst’s style refreshing. She said what she meant and meant what she said without using phrasing that sounded self-impressed. I like the fact that I think her writing will stand the test of time. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Way of Abundance - Ann Voskamp

I am of a generation that was taught to write in keeping with certain rules, where a sentence such as “So my grandma Ruth, she told me . . .” would come back with “, she” crossed out in red. Words such as “realest” and “realer” were unacceptable as replacements for “most real” or “more real,” if they were acceptable at all, because how can “real” have degrees? It is or it isn’t. And one did not invent words such as “givenness”, especially when meanings are not supplied but need to be inferred. Writing was to be clear and unambiguous, or it was not good writing. While Voskamp’s more recent writings are much improved over the tortuous One Thousand Gifts, the same thread of intensity over everyday things and events continues. This paragraph on page 29 is typical: “I put the porcelain pitcher on the barn board shelf by the farm table. All of us in a heart-breaking world, we are the fellowship of the broken like that painting of Jesus over the table. Over all of us is the image of the wounded God, the God who breaks open and bleeds with us.” This paragraph appears on page 162, in a chapter on doing for others: “And there’s an answer that lives cruciform, broken and given like bread, a broken way forward through brokenness, that gives grace forward, that gives forward, that chooses to make its life about being a gift, that moves dreams and hopes and abundant wholeness forward.” If this kind of repetitious, pseudo-philosophical, pseudo-wise, pseudo-authentic writing is your thing, then you will love this book, but be warned that it plows over the same tired theme repeatedly, making the point that giving and living by grace are essential. Many chapters bear titles such as Decisive Givenness, Vulnerable Givenness, Breaking Brokenness, Sacrificial Givenness, Held Brokenness, Living Givenness, Yielding into Givenness, Unashamed Brokenness, Sacrificial Givenness, Grieving Brokenness, Zacchaeus Brokenness, Crisis Givenness, “If Only” Brokenness, Koinonia Brokenness, Patient Brokenness, and Esther Givenness, as if adjectives and nouns were laid out in two lists and then joined willy-nilly. The writing seemed to me to follow that same randomness, matching events in the author’s life with some overblown application. The chapter about locking her keys in a vehicle and waiting for a spare key to be delivered (p. 194) is described as a near-crisis with “Patient Brokenness” as the lesson: “Passion has much less to do with elation and much more to do with patience. Passion embraces suffering because there’s no other way to embrace love. Love isn’t about feeling good about others; love is ultimately being willing to suffer for others.” So if locking your keys in your vehicle qualifies in your life as suffering (by contrast, previous generations would have considered this a mere inconvenience and a consequence of carelessness), this is the book for you. If, on the other hand, you prefer a straightforward writer who says what she means and means what she says, with events shrunk down to scale and points made succinctly, then look elsewhere. Because her writing is so popular, I gave Voskamp’s work another shot, in hopes it had calmed down from that self-impressed silliness of her earlier work. Never again: I'm not afraid to say it: The Emperor has no clothes. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I Can Only Imagine - Bart Millard

The back story of the famous song is written by the lead singer/songwriter of MercyMe. It begins as a story of early trauma, abuse and neglect, resulting in a wounded, damaged adolescent. Bart Millard’s father, an intimidating, severe figure in Bart’s life for many years, was diagnosed with cancer, which wrought a spiritual transformation that was life changing for both of them. A relationship characterized by pride and fear softened into one of repentance, honesty and openness. Bart says his father went from being a monster to being his example in all things. Bart’s father died in Bart’s senior year of high school, but by then, a firm foundation had been constructed for Bart which would guide him all his life. Bart tells the story of the formation of MercyMe, a band that self-promoted for many years, ministering mostly through youth worship events, including conferences and camps. Living on a shoestring, the band worked together to cover all the bases necessary to keep itself going. This is a fascinating story of the group’s slow success, living on the edges of contemporary Christian music. Bart’s paternal grandmother, a great influence in Bart’s life, was the inspiration for both the band’s name (“Mercy me!” she once said. “Get a real job!”) and the famous song. After Bart’s father died, she said, “Bart, I can only imagine what Bub must be seeing right now.” Her words percolated in Bart for many years before he wrote, in 10 minutes in the middle of the night, the words to the now-famous song. The tale of how the song wove itself into the band’s history and gradually skyrocketed to fame, taking the band along with it, is a fairly simple story, part of the great charm of this very readable book, told simply and engagingly. A bonus is the sweet story of Bart and his wife, Shannon, who knew at 13 that she would marry Bart. The reader senses the great blessing these two have been to each other and how Shannon’s family helped preserve Bart through his traumatic childhood. Everyone will enjoy this book, although two groups of people may struggle emotionally with the first third of the book: those who have not been exposed to childhood trauma and those who have. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Finish First - Scott Hamilton

This is the first book by this author that I have read. I found it enjoyable and challenging. The author combines his own life story with the lessons he has learned about perseverance, and it makes for a personalized aim that encourages the reader to find their own challenges, and to pursue and persist. This would be a good resource for anyone who feels stuck, as it talks about such things as the great value of failure, of editing others' criticisms, and of the importance of habits. While the book had some good points, I found it repetitious; it would have made a fine magazine article but was overly long as a book. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Shaken by Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow wrote this book to both tell his football story and to encourage readers when life goes awry. I found Tim’s story interesting and gained an understanding about how unstable the life of a professional athlete can be. Tim talks about how to assure and reassure yourself as well as how to move forward when disappointed. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Tim Tebow. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.