Nothing to Fear – A Book Review

If I had read Nothing to Fear by Barry C Black about fifteen or twenty years ago I would have liked it quite a bit more than I did.  I simply have read too many amazing books since then, and this one just couldn’t compete.  It’s a simple book about a hundred different topics.  While there is nothing particularly remarkable about this book, it is well-written and easy to read and understand.  I did not, however, enjoy this book at this time.  I couldn’t figure out what the purpose of the book was.  The title is “Nothing to Fear”, but this didn’t feel like a book about fear.  It felt like a huge brain dump of everything Mr. Black feels or thinks about God, faith and prayer.  It’s very wide in scope, which can sometimes be a good thing.  In this case, however, it felt confusing and it was difficult for me to get engaged.

Structurally the book is laid out like a series of sermons including chapter headings such as “Prepare to Be Sent” or “Thrive in a Predatory World”.  Each chapter includes several of what Mr. Black calls “fearless principles” and each chapter ends with a “purposeful prayer”.  At the end of the book there is a discussion guide.

There’s nothing wrong with this book from my perspective.  I didn’t read anything that I didn’t agree with.  I simply didn’t read anything that made me want to say “YES!” or that made me want to share the information with anyone else.  I like to read books that make me think, help me with something I struggle with, grow my faith, help me to understand someone else’s perspective, or grow my understanding of a particular topic.  This book didn’t do any of that for me.

I can see how this book could be a great resource for new pastors looking for sermon material.  It could also be a great resource for newer Christians who want to know some of the basic ideas or beliefs of the Christian faith (although I would also say that this has a very significant Baptist slant in terms of theology).

Overall, it’s well-written but very basic.  I wish Mr. Black had chosen one main theme to write about rather than trying to cover everything all in one book.  This wasn’t my favorite book I’ve read, but definitely wasn’t the worst either – kind of middle of the road for me.

kim

Tyndale Blog Network

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Walking on Water – A Book Review

Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle was such a thought-provoking and encouraging read for me.  Not only is it beautifully written, it’s also very philosophical.  This book made me think about things I have never contemplated before.  The intersectionality between faith and art is the main theme of Walking on Water, and that concept contains so much more than I expected it to.  Thoughts on vulnerability, love, creativity, prayer, writing, holiness, truth, worthiness, faithfulness, and much more fill the pages of this book.  It raises as many questions as it answers and leaves the reader in a state of wonder, which I absolutely loved.

Madeleine L’Engle has a very mature and thoughtful writing style that is quite refreshing.  Nothing about this book is light hearted, it’s thick with deep thoughts and beautiful insights.  Because the subject matter is more philosophical and heavy, it took me quite a while to finish it.  I had to chew on much of it before I could move on to the next page or chapter.  Often I rush through books like this one so that I can move on to the next book, but this one was so good I just couldn’t.  I wanted to give it the time and attention it deserved.

I very highly recommend this book.  If you are an artist of any sort, you’ll especially appreciate it.

 

Some of my favorite Quotables from Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle:

“When I am constantly running there is no time for being.  When there is no time for being there is no time for for listening.” (p3)

“God is always calling on us to do the impossible.  It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during his life here on earth is something we should be able to do, too.” (p9)

“We live by revelation, as Christians, as artists, which means that we must be careful never to get set into rigid molds.  The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions,” (p23)

“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” (p42)

“We write, we make music, we draw pictures, because we are listening for meaning, feeling for healing.” (p47)

“I have to try, but  do not have to succeed.  Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success.  It has to do with love.” (p52)

“we are meant to be real and to see and recognize the real.  We are all more than we know, and that wondrous reality, that wholeness, holiness, is there for all of us, not the qualified only.” (p56)

“we can be humble only when we know that we are God’s children, of infinite value, and eternally loved.” (p60)

“despite the fear and unfaithfulness of his followers, Jesus’ love never faltered, for it was not dependent on the merit and virtue and the qualifications of those he loved.” (p60-61)

“In the act of creativity, the artist lets go the self-control which he normally clings to and is open to riding the wind.” (p66)

“All of life is story, story unravelling and revealing meaning.” (p95)

“to be given a name is an act of intimacy as powerful as any act of love.” (p102)

“It seems that more than ever the compulsion today is to identify, to reduce someone to what is on the label.  To identify is to control, to limit.  To love is to call by name and so open the wide gates of creativity.” (p102-103)

“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” (p113)

“We need the prayers of words, yes; the words are the path to contemplation; but the deepest communion with God is beyond words, on the other side of silence.” (p119)

“In a day when we are taught to look for easy solutions, it is not always easy to hold on to that most difficult one of all, love.” (p144)

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from BloggingforBooks.com for the purposes of this review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own

 

kim

No More Faking Fine – A Book Review

Many of us wonder while in difficult circumstances or trying times what the purpose is – as in, why we are experiencing what we are experiencing.  I can imagine that Esther Fleece wondered that many, many times.  I’m not certain that we ever get a full understanding of the why of our circumstances.  I’m not even certain that there always is a why.

In No More Faking Fine, Esther Fleece tells her story.  She is both a skilled writer and an emotional storyteller.  My story has very little similarity to hers, but my feelings throughout my journey echo hers in so many ways.  The desires to be known and loved are universal feelings.  The pain of betrayal, abandonment and abuse are also universal.  This book deals with all of those things in such a tender and wise way.

The title of the book led me to assume that this was a book about authenticity, and it sort of is.  But mostly it’s about lament.  Now, I should admit that before this book I knew very little about lament.  I couldn’t have defined it and I would never have said that lament was a part of my life (or even that it should be).  After reading No More Faking Fine, I am convinced that lament is possibly the most important thing I never knew I needed.

No More Faking Fine is broken into 11 chapters separated into three parts: Faking Fine, A New Way to Pray and To Sing Again.  Each chapter begins with a short scripture verse and ends with a beautiful prayer filled with more scripture references.

This book unearthed things that I had buried deep inside myself and caused me to want to deal with them for the first time in a very long time.  The themes of forgiveness, healing, and repentance are heavily covered in this book.  In fact, if there could be only one thing I take away from this book it will be the idea that forgiveness is not possible without lament.  This one concept may change my life – I pray that it does. Here are my favorite quotes from the section on forgiveness:

“I am convinced we cannot forgive offenses without first lamenting those offenses appropriately.  We need the grace of God, the example of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us look favorably upon a person who has wronged us.  And we first need to lament the wrong that has been done to us.” (p160)

“Unprocessed, unforgiven hurt means we still carry it around with us.  It means it still drags us down.  But forgiveness is our invitation to process the pain so we can be authentically freed from it.  Forgiveness is a process of releasing our laments to God.  It is feeling the weight of what this person did to cause you harm, taking this offense directly to God, and telling Him exactly how it made you feel.  We have to lament it, not forget it, in order to move forward.” (p162)

I cannot say why things happen the way they do, why bad things happen, or why people hurt people, but I can say for certain that God can and will use our circumstances to bring hope to others.  He can use our stories to love people, to teach them about His character, and to lead them towards healing and wholeness.  Esther Fleece is bravely doing  exactly that with this book.  I pray that it travels well – into the hearts and lives of those who need it most and that it brings with it the healing power of Jesus over the wounds of those who are hurting.  There are very few books that I believe carry with them the power to mend broken hearts and lives – this is one of them.

Some of my favorite QUOTABLES from No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece:

  • I should note that it took a full 20 minutes to narrow down this list.  There are so many quotables in this book that many of them could spawn new books (and I sincerely hope that they do)!

“For so much of my life, I thought sucking it up and faking away the pain showed true strength.  But real strength is identifying a wound and asking God to enter it.” (p35)

“God’s grace meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be.” (p39)

“It’s okay to not be okay.  God will never ask you to suck it up.” (p41)

“Nothing can prevent our laments from reaching God’s ears.  Even if everyone in the world ignores our cries and minimizes our pain, God hears us.  Neither our offenders nor injustice, nor even death, can silence our lamenting cries to God.” (p71)

“Falsehood does not become truth just because we have believed it for a long time.” (p94)

“My relationship with God isn’t dependent on my performance.” (p101)

“trusting His presence will require faith even in those times when we feel His absence.” (p125)

“Even in the waiting, God is powerfully present, and that can be our source of deep, unshakable joy.” (p141)

“Some of us may be experiencing God’s favor in a palace, while others experience it in a prison.  So let’s practice grace toward each other.  We must be very careful to avoid wrongly attaching someone’s circumstances to the character of their heart or to God’s treatment of them.” (p150)

“When we minimize pain, we also minimize forgiveness.  And when we minimize forgiveness, we minimize healing transformation.” (p165)

“When we fake fine, we run the risk of faking forgiveness – and in doing so, we cut ourselves off from real healing.” (p166)

“Time does not heal all wounds, but time is a gracious gift that allows for wrestling with the pain.  And not one of us made int he image of God is meant to wrestle with our pain alone.” (p171)

 

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

kim

Falling Free – A Book Review

“The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.” – Mother Teresa

I loved this book more than I expected to.  I’m always wary when I pick up a book from an unknown author.  I appreciate excellent writing and, because I read so many books, I have pretty high expectations from writers.  Falling Free by Shannan Martin is absolutely excellent.  Her writing style is polished yet easy to read, funny yet emotional, down to earth yet highly informative; I am truly impressed.  Over and over again, while reading Falling Free, I found myself connecting with a story that is nothing like my own and feeling such a kinship to the author that it truly surprised me.

Falling free is a story about a life turned upside down and inside out.  It’s a story of changed opinions, new understandings and surprising relationships that grew into family.  My story is quite different from Ms. Martin’s, however there were so many of her feelings throughout her journey that echoed my own.  I found myself in her words.  The story is well written and compelling, but the true gold in this book is the lessons she learned along the way and so beautifully shares with her readers – lessons of love, compassion, worship, empathy, grief, fear and so very much more.  Every page of this book contains wisdom that can apply to any life, any journey.

Shannan’s words have stayed with me – they affected me deeply and I sincerely pray that they will continue to stay with me and work on me so that I, like Shannan, will continue to journey towards looking and loving more like Jesus.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Some of my favorite Quotables from Falling Free by Shannan Martin (this was SO hard to narrow down – there are TONS of quotables in this book!):

“We stand in worship services and sing our hearts out about things like faith and trusting God in deep waters.  We say God is all we need, but what we really mean is, ‘All we need is God, our family, the promise of safety, and money.’  … We sing like we meant it while we pray to God we’ll never find out if we really do.” (p 4-5)

“We can mend our broken places into a blanket that covers all of us and call it a family.” (p 39)

“Family was meant to live on a loop, a hazy beginning with no end in sight, the pulsing bass line that God’s kingdom on earth is alive.  Right here.” (p 44)

“There’s a difference between being too scared to do hard things and doing hard things scared.” (p 82)

“Here’s a reality check: we take up precious little square footage in the scope of God’s great kingdom.  Of all the facets of our faith, this might be one of the more difficult to grasp.  It’s also one of the most central.” (p 89)

“Jesus way of humility doesn’t align with our self-made gospel of achievement, and we’re willing to sell our souls at the corner of trying to have both.” (p 89)

“That he came to be with us when he could have kept his post at the right hand of God should send us running breathless into every busted-up city, every barred-up shack, every cave, every cell, every pain-drenched street corner we can find in order to bring the good news.” (p 91)

“God invites us to stare long and hard at our shared ruin, knowing we’ll walk away kindred.” (p 120)

“We can either masquerade as capable earners or fall needy into the arms of a Savior who makes us free.  There is no space within our souls to do both.” (p 183)

“God didn’t structure this world as a badly bent system of Haves and Have Nots.  I was never meant to save a soul, and no one was purposed as a project.  We were meant to be comrades, mutually passing around whatever we have to offer.” (p 199)

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

kim

The Bad Habits of Jesus – A Book Review

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To be entirely honest I’m a bit flummoxed by this book.  The Bad Habits of Jesus by Leonard Sweet is not the book I’d hoped for and was so much worse than I imagined it could be.  I struggled all the way through this one.  From the ADHD style of writing to the obsession with alliteration, I had a difficult time figuring out what the book was actually supposed to be about.  I admit that the title grabbed my attention and I wondered where Sweet would go with it, but I was truly disappointed with the book.

Each chapter focuses (sort of) on a “bad habit” of Jesus, which is really just something Jesus did or didn’t do that was different than the norm.  I was particularly annoyed by the chapter about how Jesus spit.  As I read it I wondered if I was just missing the joke or the angle entirely.  It felt a bit tongue in cheek, but in a way that rode the line between annoying and actually funny.  See, that’s the problem, I’m not sure the author was trying to be funny.  But to spend an entire chapter about how Jesus was always disappearing and how rude that was, but how we should emulate him because he’s Jesus was confusing at best and at the very least felt contrived and pointless.  I kept waiting for some profound truth to be dropped, but sadly, none ever was.  Yes, Jesus wasn’t what they expected.  Yes, Jesus did things differently than the people of the time.  Yes, Jesus had different priorities than the people around him.  Did I need to read an entire book about these three pretty obvious ideas?  Nope.

I’ve read so many books this year that were so far superior in quality of writing that The Bad Habits of Jesus was a severe disappointment for me.  Dr. Sweet wrote in circles, very rarely coming to any sort of point.  You know how preachers like to start every point of their sermon with the same letter (to make it easier to remember maybe)?  Sweet did that throughout the whole book – used multiple words with the same beginning letter.  I assume it is the way he teaches, but I found it really annoying. It felt super cheesy, like this one: “Solitude is not solo time but soul time with God.” (p47)

I very much wanted to like this book.  I believe the intentions were good, but the writing is sub-par and it felt like the author’s purposes could have been captured in a much shorter article, rather than an entire book of random ramblings.  I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this book.

 

Tyndale Blog Network

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

The Great Spiritual Migration – A Book Review

I have been eager to read this book since several months before it came out.  Many of the authors that I love have suggested it and raved about it, so I knew I would need to read it.  However, I’ve had several people warn me about Brian McLaren’s more “radical” views about Christianity and the Bible and have even had a few warn me not to read this book.

Since I’ve never been that good with being told what to do, I requested it gleefully.  And it didn’t disappoint.  Considering so many in my immediate circle seemed so concerned about this author, I was expecting to find some really radical things in this book.  Sadly, I didn’t.  I mean, I was hoping to have something jump out at me that I would have to yell back at the pages, “Woah, McLaren!  That’s crazy talk!”.  Nope.  Nothing like that.  Sad face.

There were, however, so many things I wholeheartedly agreed with.  Such as this nugget of wisdom:

“This nondiscriminatory love, Jesus says, is the true perfection, the true maturity toward which we should aspire: to be perfect as God is perfect is to love without discrimination because that is how God loves.” (p 43)

or this one:

“In story after story and without a single exception, we see that the driving motivation in Jesus’s life is love.” (p 44)

or maybe this one:

“God loves everyone.  No exceptions.” (p 51)

Wait, that last one might be a little radical, I guess.

The book is broken up into three parts: Spiritual Migration (from a system of beliefs to a way of life), Theological Migration (from a violent God of domination to a nonviolent God of liberation), and Missional Migration (from organized religion to organizing religion).  There is also a hefty section of Appendices at the back of the book mostly on the topic of “Just and Generous Christianity”.  Each chapter ends with a page broken into three parts (Contemplation, Conversation – which has discussion questions, and Action).  I absolutely loved the questions – I can imagine a very lively and thoughtful discussion coming from these questions.  Example: One of the questions after Chapter Three reads: “Are we more serious about teaching math than we are about teaching love?” (p 67).  I’d love to have a conversation about that one!

I don’t necessarily agree with every single thought expressed by the author, however, I found his argument passionate, compelling and well-researched.  There are so many topics covered in this book that it took me a bit longer to get through than I intended (I was shooting for a week – it took two), but only because I needed to go back to scripture and read other articles and essays on the topics to get a more well-rounded understanding.  Here’s the thing about this book: it asks a ton of questions and it makes you think.  Why do you believe what you believe?  Why do we talk about beliefs more than we talk about faith?  What can we learn from the life of Jesus about love?  What does it mean to have a broken-open heart?  I hate books that tell me that I have to think or believe a certain way.  I love books that make me think – that make me ask questions and assess things in new and fresh ways.  The Great Spiritual Migration is the latter.

A faith that has not been questioned, tested and wrestled with is a weak faith.  Questioning your beliefs does not make them weaker, but rather stronger.  Reading opposing viewpoints (although I’m not sure the author of this book and I stand that far apart) shouldn’t destroy your faith, but rather challenge it – which should lead to a better understanding of what you actually believe.

SO.  I loved this book.  There are so many things I agreed with: the call to unity rather than uniformity, the call to a radical (there’s that word again) and all-inclusive love, the focus on social justice and many other things.  There were a few things I wasn’t so sure about.  However, overall – I came out of this book encouraged, inspired and challenged and that’s a pretty great way to come out of a book!

Here are some of my favorite Quotables from The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian McLaren:

“..you can learn beliefs in isolation, you can’t learn love apart from a community.” (p 56)

“We hear Jesus say ‘Follow me’ eighty-seven times in the four Gospels.  How many times does he say, Worship me?  Zero.  Name a religion after me?  Zero.  Recite a creed about me?  Zero.  Erect buildings in my honor?  Zero.  That’s not to say these things are wrong, but succeeding at them without actually forming followers of Christ is like climbing a ladder that’s leaning against the wrong building.” (p 65)

“..the less aware Christians are of how dangerous Christianity has been, the more dangerous Christianity will be.” (p 71)

“We need to stop pulling apart and start pulling together, converging and collaborating to build a more just, generous, peaceful, regenerative, and joyful world.” (p 156)

“If enough individuals are full of despair and anger in their hearts, there will be violence in the streets.  If enough individuals are full of greed and fear in their hearts, there will be pollution in the rivers and toxins in the air.  If enough individuals are full of supremacy and privilege in their hearts, there will be racism and oppression in society.  You can’t remove the external social symptoms without treating the corresponding internal personal diseases.” (p 167)

“As we work together for the common good, we are all transformed.” (p 176)

“If we simply start moving in faith, what has been impossible can become possible.” (p 178)

“There is so much right in the church, in the world, in humanity.  There is so much good.  And so much beauty.  When we see it, even a tiny glimmer of how precious it is, our hearts swell in gratitude and awe.” (p 180)

 

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from BloggingforBooks.com for the purposes of this review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own

 

kim

NIV & NKJV Journal the Word Bibles – A Review

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If you know me, you know I LOVE Bible Journaling!  So, I am thrilled to review these two Journal the Word Bibles.  They are both beautiful and have similar styles and covers.  Here are some of the features of each:

First, the NIV Journal the Word Bible

The cover is a dark taupe canvas (with a bit of a blue tint) with leaves in various colors (blue, green, pink, brown).  The spine of the Bible is a beautiful dark blue.  The cover is thick and sturdy.

The margins are about two inches and are lined.  The pages are light cream colored and this is a single column Bible (meaning the text is not in columns on each page, but rather a single, wider column of text).  When you get to the Psalms, this leaves you with tons of space around the words for painting, coloring and journaling.

Now for the NKJV Journal the Word Bible (Large Print)

The cover of this Bible is very similar to the NIV one, however it has a beautiful teal on the spine and corners.  It’s the same canvas as the other, but the colors seem more vibrant and the canvas background under the leaves is more cream colored than the other (which has a definite blue/purple tint).  Because this Bible is Large Print, it’s much thicker than the other and thus quite heavy.  But I LOVE that the words are so large.  It is also single column, so there is plenty of space for journaling – it also has the same two inch, lined margins.  Here’s a comparison of the spines of the Bibles so you can see the difference in size.

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Also, here are pictures of the text inside each Bible so you can see the difference between the regular print (top picture) and large print (bottom picture).

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Both Bibles are beautiful, but I would love to see a Large Print NIV version with the teal colors on the cover.  If you’re interested in Bible Journaling, or know someone who is – either of these Bibles would make a wonderful gift

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.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 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising