Category: Books

Bees! Ladybugs!

That’s what Aly says when she wanted to watch the second movie in this 3-disc set of Hermie & Friends. In this collection, the movies cover the topics of prayer, good behavior, and getting along with others. Hermie and Friends feature really likable characters, and are created around topics that kids think about or deal with on a regular basis. If parents engage their kids in a short discussion during or after the movies, I think it really helps the engagement of the topic. These movies are written in a way that young kids can understand (i.e. the behavior one is about obeying rules, not thinking through good rules and bad rules). For young kids (I would say ages 2-6), these would be great movies to have on tap for opening discussion on these topics.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Investing in Younger Women

The last book on my “To Review” Docket was Becoming a Woman of Influence by Carol Kent. This book is put out by NavPress, which is always a really reliable publishing company. I tend to enjoy the quality of books they put out.

Becoming a Woman of Influence is about encouraging the reader to invest in the lives of younger women. Kent outlined some key points in how to make a lasting impact on others. Much of the book was a review for me, but for someone who has never taken a younger woman under her wing, this would be an excellent book to read. There is no hokey-ness to this book- only real examples from real people about what it looks like to mentor someone. I especially liked her chapter on Storytelling, which emphasized that we often learn best through hearing others’ stories. Sometimes mentoring can focus on information transfer, but often the power of stories is underestimated.

Anyway, an easy, refreshing read that had solid content. If you’ve been mentoring others, you probably don’t need to read this book, but if you would like to encourage another woman to invest her life in others (and you know she hasn’t), this could be a good gift!

After reading this, I’m curious… in your experience, what are some of the characteristics of women who have invested in you?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

My Thoughts on Radical

Multnomah Publishing recently put out the book Radical by David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. My friend Ashley was reading this book when she came to visit and she was enjoying it, so I decided to pick it up as well.

I must say that I did like this book. I think Platt had important things to say, and he did so in a way that many will enjoy reading. He seems authentic, down-to-earth and passionate about living a life obedient to Scripture. Platt challenges his reader to live in radical abandonment to Christ. He calls American Christians on their consumerism/materialism idolatry issues, and challenges us to live more simply so that we can love God and others (who live in poverty) better.

I have read other books like this, and heard other sermons about this, so most of the things in this book were not new for me. I mean, a lot of what he said is what Scripture says. But, maybe for those who need to be specifically challenged, this is a good book.

BUT, there is one insight that I gleaned that has made me think…and it’s related to the idea of the American Dream. Anyone who knows me knows that although I may desire some sort of the American Dream at times, I am pretty vigilent to guard myself from the temptation to be lured in. Plus, I have a husband who probably is rarely tempted to buy into the American Dream, which helps me out too :). But, Platt brought up a really good point about the American Dream that I have definitely folded into my life. He says on page 46, “The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability.” He goes on to say that we here in America prize what people can do when they just work hard, believe in themselves and trust in themselves. Did your parents ever tell you growing up that you can do whatever you want? I agree with him that we have mistakenly adopted this mentality as maybe even biblical. However, throughout Scripture we are given example after example of people who were unable to do something, but God helped them do something because he loves to display His power. It leads to the question- are we dependent on ourselves or desperate for God? I think most in America (definitely myself included) need some desperation for God. So, for me, this point was a real impactful one, and something that I’ve been talking and praying and thinking about over these past couple weeks.

One beef I have with Platt is his understanding and expectation of overseas missions. I have been overseas doing missions- and in several different contexts- so I obviously agree that God does call people to go and go they must if called. BUT, Platt tells many stories of how he went overseas and taught pastors about the Bible. My question is- should we be teaching Western Christianity to non-Western nations and people? Why should I go and teach a bunch of pastors in China about the Bible. They have Bibles, they know how to read, they know how to think, and they see God working in their context. I don’t think we have to go and teach them. I think we need to have exchanges of ideas and information. Sure, they could benefit from our thoughts, but also could benefit from their thoughts. I felt like he (and not just him, but others do this too) sees our role as a little too vital to their faith development. However, like I said before, we need to help meet physical needs (however we choose to do that) and we need to go. Sometimes we need to go for our exposure and growth, sometimes we need to go for others’ exposure and growth. And we won’t really know until we go. The reality is we can’t just throw money at them and the churches and say “go do ministry”, because we are a church, one body, and we are created to be in relationship with one another. Sometimes we need to go (and to welcome those who come) because we need to build and foster those relationships. One question he was asked was – “Should I really spend $3500 to go to a country in Africa for a couple weeks when I could just give them the money?” Yes, you should. Because the kingdom of God doesn’t come through money. It comes through relationships. I think we sometimes think that money is what makes the world go round. We need money, or the church needs money, or we need more stuff to do cooler ministry. But the reality is, we don’t need that. We need the Spirit. We need to be desperate for the Spirit in our lives and in the lives of the church body. I need to be desperate for the Spirit to work in and through me and my faith community.

[I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]

Asante’s New Bible

For days now, Asante has asked me when his new Bible would be coming in the mail. And today…it came! The Beginning Reader’s Bible from Thomas Nelson Publishers is awesome! We enjoyed reading it during Aly’s naptime today, as well as using it in our before-bedtime devotions. This Bible is certainly closer to a grown-up Bible than our beloved Beginner’s Bible from Zondervan. Both Aly and Asante received this Bible from Parkade Baptist Church when we had them dedicated, and it has been so perfect for their attention spans and comprehension. But, Asante (age 3) was definitely ready for this next step.

The illustrations in this Bible are really engaging, descriptive, and interesting! While there are not as many stories in this Bible (sad day, they only have 13 of the OT and 13 of the NT, plus some extra prayers, charts, etc.), each story gives a lot more details and is even written in verse form. Also, one really odd thing about this Bible is that there are no page numbers (but includes a table of contents with page numbers..hmmm). So, that is kind of annoying but of course Asante doesn’t care. He’s more than happy to flip through the pages until he sees a story he wants read to him.

If you’re looking for a kid’s Bible that is thorough, this is not the one for you. BUT, if you want one that has great illustrations and is told in a way that kids will better understand, you may like this one.

I’m curious… what was your favorite Bible story to have read to you as a child? Which one would you definitely include if you were making a children’s Bible?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thinking in Shades of Gray

When I worked in college ministry, one of the most stressful issues that I had to deal with (with students) was the issue of drinking alcohol. The policy for our student leadership on this issue changed each year- at one point, we asked all student leaders to abstain. At another point, we said it was fine, as long as they were 20 miles outside of Columbia and didn’t put it on facebook. And I think there was also awhile when we said it was okay, just to use wise judgment when doing it. Each policy brought it’s own issues of conflict and discussion.

So when I saw that NavPress had the book, Chasing Elephants: Wrestling with the Gray Areas of Life, I was curious to see what author Brent Crowe had to say about how to deal with this gray area. What I liked about this book was how Crowe used the first half of the book discussing what freedom in Christ is and what it is not. After establishing this base, he turns to 5 issues: homosexuality, the cyber world, social drinking, entertainment and humanitarian issues, and walks the reader through some helpful questions when approaching these issues. Crowe does come to some conclusions on these topics, but he is clear to point out that some of his conclusions are not the “right” conclusions. Right for him, but maybe not right for someone else. The role of the Spirit, circumstances, and whether one is a “strong” or “weak” believer in certain areas affects some of the conclusions (but not all of them). I think this is a must read for people who are working with college students and are having trouble communicating how freedom is not license to just do whatever one wants. It’s some good stuff. This is a book that offers a very biblically sound and wise teaching on freedom, responsibility, and discernment.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Exploring the Liturgical Year

Being a student at Asbury has been really enlightening to me in the way of learning about other denominations, particularly Methodism. One thing I have noticed about students at Asbury is their appreciation of the liturgical year.

The liturgial year begins with Advent, moves to Christmastide, then some Ordinary Time, Lent, Eastertide, Pentecost, and then more Ordinary Time. With each season there is a different thing to focus on, and much in the way of spiritual contemplation and formation that goes with it. For some reason this has really resonated with me, so when The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister became an option on booksneeze (Thomas Nelson’s book review program), I jumped at it.

Although the book started out slow and slightly redundant, when Chittister moved into discussing the parts of the Liturgical year, their histories, and the spiritual themes that went along with them, I couldn’t put the book down. I actually learned a lot of new things- things that will hopefully help our family to better start some intentional, life-giving traditions as it relates to holidays (Jake and I were waiting until after this book was read to start discussing/brainstorming on what that could look like). Anyway, Chittister does a good job of succinctly explaining the feasts, and helps the reader to understand that the reason for us celebrating these days and weeks is not to impress anyone or to work at some holiness. Instead, it’s about pressing into the life of Jesus, learning to think as He thinks and live as He lived. There is a beautiful paragraph on page 179 of the book that I want to leave you with:

Liturgical spirituality is about learning to live an ordinary life extraordinarily well. Fidelity to the liturgical life is the cement that keeps us grounded in Jesus, no matter what other elements of life emerge to seduce us as the years go by. It gives us the sense of balance we need to choose between spurious and things sacred. By its very unremitting regularity, it dins the Word of God into our very souls until we can finally hear it. Then, alive in that Word, we find ourselves becoming what we seek. It is fidelity that keeps us on the road when we would most like to simply sit down in the dust and let the world pass us by.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers, I received this book free to review! Thanks so much, TN!

Living in a Post-Christian World

At the Catalyst Conference in October, Gabe Lyons, co-founder of Catalyst and co-author of UnChristian, spoke about the kind of Christians that are making a difference for Christ in the post-Christian culture that we are living in. Most of what he spoke about at the conference is found in his new book, The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith. While UnChristian highlighted the negative perceptions that people have of Christians, The Next Christians features the kind of Christians who are helping people to change their perceptions.

Gabe gives six characteristics of Christians who are restorers. Restorers are focused on bringing about restoration to the world because they believe that not only does the gospel bring good news about life after death, but it offers good news in the here and now. The Gospel provides hope today, as well as tomorrow. He has observed that these types of Christians are:

– provoked, not offended

– creators, not critics

– called, not employed

– grounded, not distracted

– in community, not alone

– countercultural, not “relevant”

I think the most important emphasis that Lyons makes is that “the next Christians are offering a new way forward- a way to act, live, and bring others along with them into the new reality of how things ought to be” (203). When he was discussing this observation, I kept on thinking of Shane Claiborne and his “Another World Is Possible” video series. Instead of focusing on how things are, he encourages us to imagine how things ought to be (as inspired by Scripture). In the same way, Lyons gives examples of people who are living that out.

While this book did not provide new information to me, it did provide encouragement to me to continue to pursue living a life of restoration instead of separation. Lyons did a great job of communicating the need for Christians to care about and live well in a post-Christian world out of a love for Jesus and a deep hope in the gospel message. Many college students and young adults that I interact with do care about social justice issues and caring for those around them, however, all too often it comes out of something besides a deep love for the Gospel message found in Scripture. Lyons says it beautifully:

“The first thing for the Christian is to recover the Gospel- to relearn and fall in love again with that historic, beautiful, redemptive, faithful, demanding, reconciling, all-powerful, restorative, atoning, grace-abounding, soul-quenching, spiritually fulfilling good news of God’s love” (192).

What about the Gospel is most impacting to you right now?

p.s. I received this book, The Next Christians, free from Waterbrook Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program.