Monday, November 27, 2017

In the Middle of the Mess by Sheila Walsh

Sheila Walsh has written many books, but none as honest as this one. In it, she admits to a lifelong struggle with suicidal ideation which likely took root after her father committed suicide when she was five. This book aims to help those who struggle with debilitating emotional issues by applying the truth that salvation is not just positional or future but is for today, with power to reach the depths of our pain. Sheila encourages the reader to talk about what is secret, buried, and walled in. In doing so, freedom can come by letting go, telling oneself the truth, and allowing oneself to be fully known and loved. The author encourages the reader to talk aloud to God about whatever is held privately, to break the habit of suffering in silence. Then one should use great discernment to find other women, “safe-place sisters” who will offer support and encouragement through the turmoil and pain. I recommend this book to any Christians who struggle with lifelong emotional challenges, especially those related to family. It is well written, with a balance between Scripture and the practical. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Satisfied Soul - John Piper

This is the second book of meditations I have read by this author, who has an outstanding reputation as a Scripture expositor. I probably should read one of his topical books, such as Desiring God,which might have been more academic and less personal. The Satisfied Soul, 120 Daily Meditations, covers the gamut with regard to topics, so much so that reading it straight through in order to review it was, at times, a jarring experience. Some of the better meditations are straight out of Scripture and aim to encourage, such as Why God Tells His Children That He Delights in Them, Thoughts on the Book of Life and Union with Christ, and Thoughts on the Nature of Sanctification, to name a few. However, John Piper, I would say, is sometimes very culture resistant, such as when he rails against television (he has not had one in his home in 34 years). While he makes a valid point that people have had access to this form of mass entertainment for only about 2 percent of human history, it’s too late to go back now, as most people lack the reason and incentive to completely boycott this medium. His last meditation, A Prayer for Our Church, asks that God build people who “don’t care if they own a house. . . don’t need recent styles. . . don’t expect that life should be comfortable and easy, who don’t feed their minds on TV each night. . . who don’t whine or use body language to get pity. . . .” Not many are left out in this more-than-odd list, and I am not convinced that these are anything but personal preferences. I got the distinct impression that Piper is an intense man, sometimes reflected in his writing, which can become convoluted, such as this quote from page 66: “But when I ask, when did God become 100 percent for us? I mean more than, when did it become 100 percent certain that God would save us? I mean, when did it happen that God was for us and only for us? That is, when did it happen that the only disposition of God toward us was mercy? Or, when did God become for us so fully that there was not any wrath or curse or condemnation on us, but only mercy?” That could and should have been edited down to one or, at most, two questions. This hard-driving style of writing caused me to feel browbeaten, not a good feeling for a reader, but I wondered it if was the intended result. If you love John Piper’s writing, you probably will be mentally and emotionally prepared to read this book. If you do not, or if you do not know, bypass this book or start with another of his writings. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

This updated classic remains the gold standard on the topic, as it is thorough, well written, and easy to read. It balances solid teaching with biblical principles and includes spot-on examples. To top it off, it is written in a style that “hits home”. Among its topics are boundary definitions, problems, and myths. An outstanding chapter covers the ten laws of boundaries. A whole section covers boundary conflicts with family, friends, spouse, children, work, the digital age, yourself and God. An excellent chapter is “How to Measure Success with Boundaries”, a checklist of 11 steps to gauge your own health with regard to boundaries. The book’s first and last chapters give examples of people living first without and then with boundaries. Cloud and Townsend, in their masterful job of delineating clearly the large and small issues surrounding boundaries, include many nuggets of truth that give new perspectives to old issues, such as this one about the different between punishment and discipline, found on page 174: “Punishment looks back. It focuses on making payment for wrongs done in the past. Christ’s suffering was payment, for example, for our sin. Discipline, however, looks forward. The lessons we learn from discipline help us not to make the same mistakes again: ‘God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness’ (Heb. 12:10).” There is much to be learned and gained from reading or re-reading this wonderful work. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Four Tendencies - Gretchen Rubin

The author’s analysis of people finds that they tend toward one of four groups in their approaches to expectations, both outer and inner: the Upholder meets both outer and inner expectations; the Questioner resists outer expectations and meets inner expectations; the Obliger meets outer expectations and resists inner expectations, and the Rebel resists both outer and inner expectations. I love analyses that break people into four main groups, being most familiar with approaches regarding temperament. Rubin’s grid is, in my opinion, a stroke of genius. This well-written book applies Rubin’s understanding to coworkers, spouses, children, and health providers, helping each of those groups understand and accommodate the various groups and subgroups (e.g., Questioner-Upholders, Rebel-Obligers, etc.) Rubin’s grid is easy to grasp and helpful to understand, both with regard to oneself and others. I think everyone would profit from reading this book, and I highly recommend it. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Jesus Always - Sarah Young

This book of 365 devotionals is “written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to you,” and it is written in Jesus’ voice--first person--rather than third person as we are used to reading. I found this unnerving and not something with which I became more comfortable the more I read. At times, I had a hard time imagining some of these words coming out of Jesus’ mouth on any occasion, such as (from July 17), “I am infinitely more brilliant than the greatest genius imaginable.” That just isn’t the Jesus I know, and it exemplifies what I found distasteful about the writing: there were often what I consider to be overstatements, as God doesn’t talk that way about Himself. He is gentleman enough to allow us to come to those conclusions, such as when He asked Job the “where were you?” questions that made Job face his limitations without being bashed on the head with God’s immensity. Many of the devotionals seemed repetitive, aimed at themes of comfort, trust, and righteousness, and the tone of the book is reassuring and encouraging; almost never does it exhort or correct. The author includes three or four verses with each devotional, but often they are quite unrelated and can feel jarring in their juxtaposition. Perhaps if listening to Jesus’ voice is a new skill, this book might be helpful, but to one who has listened to Jesus for many decades, I actually found it limiting as the readings often felt stilted. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tokyo Street Style - Zoé de las Cases

This third coloring book featuring fashion sketches, botanical drawings and Toyko scenes is absolutely charming, with enough variety among the three categories to keep things interesting. The artist, as usual, does not include full faces in her drawings, so the focus is on fashion. It has been my impression that Japanese young women like girlish fashion, sometimes bordering on the juvenile, and this is reflected in this book where clothes and accessories often feature kittens. Some of the clothing includes traditional Japanese touches, such as kimonos and obi belts. Everything is drawn with an emphasis on whimsy. The paper is heavy, and the bright pink cover features drawings in a bright yellow. The yellow ribbon bookmark can help you keep your place, and the pink elastic band originating on the back cover can hold the book shut, protecting the heavy, but not hard, cover. I love the work of Zoé de las Cases and hope she will continue to feature major cities and their fashion. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Truth Doesn’t Have a Side by Dr. Bennet Omalu

Having seen Concussion and having seen and read League of Denial, I was eager to read Bennet Omalu’s personal account of discovering Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and the price the National Football League made him pay. For the most part, his account did not disappoint, although a time or two, there were a few too many personal details. If you don’t know about CTE, this book is a good starting place, as it starts at the beginning, with Omalu’s biography, providing the basis of understanding why he was exactly the right, or wrong, scientist, depending on your viewpoint. His background also explains why he had an open mind, which he thinks is a large part of the reason he was the one to discover CTE. The one aspect of Omalu’s life not covered by other sources is his walk with God. His own book gives a clear narration of his belief that God led him each step of the way, at times providing miracles that allowed Omalu to remain in America and do his work. This was particularly refreshing to read. Omalu’s story is not yet finished, and it will be interesting to follow his career to see what impact his research will have on saving people from CTE. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.