Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Gift of Heaven - Charles F. Stanley

While this book is just over 150 pages, the text itself probably comprises fewer than 40 pages, due to the fact that almost every page has a nature photo against which text is superimposed, and half of the pages consist of a short quote, usually taken from the text on the opposite page. This is the second Stanley book I’ve read with this much photography, which I found detracts from rather than enhances the writing. The text itself consists of basic biblical teaching about heaven--what it is, who will be there and how to get there. It covers the bases adequately but is by no means a scholarly work. One might consider this an introductory look at the topic. It would be a nice gift for someone if one wanted to open a conversation about heaven; it does not aim to answer deep questions. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn This revised and updated edition of the 2000 classic was well worth the reread. An important chapter--“Was Jesus Really Talking About Financial Giving”--has been added. Alcorn’s writing is clear, concise and persuasive. He builds on what he calls Treasure Principle Keys: “God owns everything. I’m his money manager; My heart always goes where I put God’s money; Heaven and the future New Earth, not this fallen one, is my home; I should live not for the dot but for the line; Giving is the only antidote to materialism; and God prospers me not to raise my standard of living but to raise my standard of giving.” Alcorn’s writing supports these principles nicely with Scripture. I found nothing to argue with, and much to be persuaded by, in this small book. Because its teachings are so diametrically opposed to the prevailing culture, it may take several readings for everything Alcorn mentions to truly sink in. I recommend this book highly to all, as it clearly teaches what the Bible says about money, a subject Jesus mentioned more often than He mentioned heaven and hell combined. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

At long last, someone has written a book about a truth I realized many years ago: one cannot be more spiritually mature than one is emotionally mature because our emotionally stuck places become our spiritually stuck places. Scazzero does a fine job describing the process by which we get stuck, and while he proposes processes to help us become unstuck, some of his proposals were too general. For example, the author outlined the effects of his childhood, which led him to overfunction, overperform, have cultural expectations for marriage and family, resolve conflict poorly, and not let himself feel. But in the crucial chapter about enlarging your soul through grief and loss, Scazzero often talked about what not to do but not what to do, saying that grief is often dealt with by being practical, freezing in time, becoming addicted, and denying and minimizing wounds. He advocated “dropping our defensive shields” and turning toward pain, with common defenses by paying attention, waiting in the confusing in-between, embracing the gift of limits and “climbing the ladder of honesty”, all of which strike me as being more cerebral than emotional. The author encouraged a couple of habits to help the reader become more aware of God’s presence, including keeping “the daily office” and the Sabbath. New skills proposed to overcome emotional immaturity include embracing conflict, speaking and listening well, and clarifying expectations. While I think this book provides a good start toward emotional maturity, I would not recommend it wholeheartedly because it was lacking, both in methods to work with oneself--by learning to recognize and admit truth--and others. It is vital to associate with emotionally mature adults in order to become one, and this was not emphasized. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Know Who You Are by Tim Tebow

Aimed at the homeschooled, this 36-chapter book is divided into four parts titled, “Who Are You?”, “Don’t Sweat It; God’s Got It”, “Others Matter”, and “Live Bigger”. Each chapter starts with a key verse, is less than three pages long, is followed by a journaling question, and ends with a quotation. The writing is clear and concise, and I imagine it to be very appealing to a young person. Tim’s aim is to help homeschoolers come into and sustain a vibrant relationship with God and others. His very well-written book would be helpful to anyone with that goal. The book contains enough personal examples to make it interesting but not so many that the book becomes about Tim. I thought it was written in a way that made the topics easy to relate to. Tim talks about how to come into relationship with God through Jesus Christ and the assurance of God’s love and plan. He then delves into matters of character, including keeping your word, overcoming fear and failure. choosing wisely, being an honest and courageous friend, and being purposeful. I would recommend this book to any young person, not just the homeschooled, as it would help the serious reader consider all aspects of their life. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Of Cats and Men by Sam Kalda

Subtitled “Profiles of History’s Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen,” this heavily illustrated book profiles 30 men whose lives and, in many cases, work were heavily influenced by their love of cats. Each of the 30 is featured with a biography of several paragraphs, many of which are followed by a full-page quotation and illustration, resulting in a book of fewer than 100 pages. The illustrator is also the author, and the book is more illustration than prose. Neither the artwork nor the biographical sketches were to my taste, as the art was modern and the prose exceptionally brief. Unless you are a fan of Sam Kalda’s artwork, this would not be a book for you. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

This Life I Live by Rory Feek

Just so you know, I had never heard of Rory Feek or his wife Joey. Rory is a country writer/singer who came from an unstable childhood involving multiple moves, with a father who was in and out of his life, and a mother who struggled to raise him and his siblings. This led to Rory’s own unstable adulthood--until Joey came along, bringing with her a firm belief in God, rooted in the Bible. Since Rory was in his late 30s when he met Joey, he had a lot of life experiences behind him. Rory came into relationship with God (although he is not specific about how that happened) a few years before meeting Joey. He wished and was ready for something different, weary of a history of his own making. Joey brought a new kind of relationship and a new life to Rory. Life wasn’t perfect, but it became healthy. Rory and Joey had a love that transcends everything. They built a stable home and life by facing themselves, down to the core, and changing the parts of themselves that didn’t work well. For 14 years, they contributed their best to their marriage, and it paid good dividends as they faced Joey’s terminal illness. This is a biography worth reading. It is filled with hope. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

This narration of Hillary Clinton’s loss, written by two authors sympathetic to her, provides the very long division, from before the start to the end of the presidential campaign, of an insider’s close look at the minutiae that contributed to that “tragic” outcome. (That word “tragic” provides the lens through which the authors look, as there are those who would say it was “fortuitous”.) This 400+-page tome hammers home the points that Hillary’s campaign staff was both tone deaf and overly focused on analytics, to the exclusion of providing necessary resources on the ground in state after state, and, perhaps the biggest flaw, Hillary Clinton failed to clearly articulate her vision for her presidency. Couple those factors with the mistake of having the wrong staff members making major strategic decisions and the outside forces working against Hillary (Russia, the FBI, Congress and the Benghazi and e-mail server issues), and you have the formula which, according to the authors, brought Hillary down. The elephant in the room, though, was Hillary herself. Her personality, character, judgment and history worked against her. After 24 years on the national stage, Hillary was a known quantity. No voter needed to be confused about who they thought she is, as she has an entrenched reputation for being cold, aloof and secretive; for being less than honest; for being slow as molasses to face up and ‘fess up when caught; and for choosing the wrong side to defend when faced with evidence of being married to a sexual predator. Yet Hillary Clinton thought she could play the American public against itself, certain that it would never choose her bombastic, egotistical, impulsive, unpredictable, lewd and crude opponent over measured, prepared and qualified her. Clearly this was a no-brainer. But it wasn’t. In the end, the slow drip of 24 years of watching this very careful candidate led enough voters to cause the electoral college to turn away from her and risk it all on a more unknown quantity. The inexorable pull against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election seems inevitable, according to Shattered. It lays out the downhill course step by step. If you are interested in every last detail about what should be Hillary Clinton’s last race, you want to read this book. If that would be too much information, then take a pass. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.