Saturday, March 25, 2017

My Life to Live by Agnes Nixon

Completed just a couple of days before she died in September 2016 at age 93, Agnes Nixon’s autobiography is a fascinating narrative about her relationships and her work. It is, of course, well written, as she was a master storyteller. Famous for being the creator and head writer of soap operas that aired for more than 40 years, the author herself has an intriguing life history. Her autobiography encapsulates a couple of eras that have now come to an end, including a childhood in post-Depression America, and young adulthood during World War II, and an adulthood that spanned the second half of the 20th century. Her parents had a great influence on her, both for good and for ill, shaping her aspirations. She was burdened with the feeling of having to prove herself long after that should have been a non-issue. Agnes Nixon used her unique platform to tell stories that demonstrate how much people influence and are influenced by those closest to them. If you are curious about serial storytelling from the time of 1940s radio through the television soap-opera era, or about how a person’s background might lead them into such a field, you will enjoy this book. It is highly readable and engaging, and you will come away with an admiration for a determined yet gracious woman who made her way through a family and in a world which were not particularly welcoming but which both came to value her for who she was and what she offered, on her terms. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask) - Eric Metaxas

Addressing some of the most common questions and concerns about God, His existence, Jesus, the Bible, creation, supernatural beings, hell, heaven and prayer, the author does a masterful job of giving logical, easily understood answers, using a question-and-answer format. Metaxas’ sometimes takes a light tone, which helps the book’s readability. He also has a brilliant way of using analogies. My favorite was in answer to the question about whether people are not inherently good: ”. . .it’s as if we’re cut flowers. Wemight look great, but we are dying. We’ve been cut off from the Source. . . . Without God, we have no life, no goodness that lasts. We were meant to live forever, but until God reattaches us to him--until we choose to allow him to do that--we have no eternal life.” Each chapter starts with a pertinent story or poem and ends with a paragraph or so emphasizing the importance of the chapter’s topic. This book takes a fresh, engaging look at some old questions. You will not be sorry you read it. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Finding God’s Blessings in Brokenness - Charles F. Stanley

Although small and short, this book delves deeply into the topic of brokenness--its purposes, the process, and the promise in it. The book is about 150 pages, and a good fraction of those are photos of nature scenes (which I frankly found distracting at times). The purpose of brokenness is said to be so that God can bring forth something new in us. Our resistance to it stems from our self-sufficiency, abilities, and trust in our self and resources. Spiritual maturity is God’s ultimate goal for us. Of particular benefit were the sections on the areas in our character God targets: strengths and weaknesses; attitudes, habits, and relationships; and desires; and God’s tools: our enemies, family, and circumstances, in order to call us to salvation, sanctification and service, and form in the Christian the character of Christ, as described in Gal. 5:22,23 as the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The author lists the “five great blessings from brokenness”: the blessing of understanding God better, understanding ourselves better, increased compassion for others, greater zest for life, and an increased awareness of God’s presence. This book was almost exclusively an excellent objective, third-person examination of the biblical subject; only once did I read a subjective, first-person paragraph by the author. That could be good or bad, depending on what the reader wants. I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.