Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review for "Raised Right" by Alisa Harris

Religion and politics are two hot-button topics in any circle. Combine a book on the two, and you are bound to raise some eyebrows and perhaps spark outrage. Alisa Harris has boldly taken on these spheres of thought in "Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics," and the result is a thoughtful, honest presentation.

The book follows Harris' own story and personal journey. Raised in a conservative, Christian, Republican household which embraced activism, Harris grew up believing certain dogmas about how politics should line up with faith. She gives us a humorous look at some of her childhood experiences trying to bring about moral reform and justice through fighting political issues and campaigning for candidates. As she grew and went away to college, her certainty about how a Christian should believe politically was challenged, forcing her to examine those long-held dogmas and see if they did indeed hold up when scrutinized through scripture. Harris found that her political zeal had become stronger than her faith, and that truly following Jesus did not look a prescribed way, certainly not the way any political party's candidates could bring about. She emerges, perhaps a little disillusioned by the whole political scene, but more open-minded and compassionate in her approach to people. She realizes that faith in Jesus compels her to make moral choices that cannot be pigeonholed into political sides on issues.

The book was a quick read, witty and fun at times. Harris writes in a fresh, honest style, and is not afraid to laugh at herself or show her own faults. I am not active in political pursuits myself so this was a glimpse into a foreign world in a sense to me. The story was told well so I could understand her world even though I could not personally identify with it. I found the book raised more questions than gave answers, which is likely the point. At the end, Harris seemed more sure of what she did NOT believe than what she does. It seemed she was still searching, and that even the new questions and candidates she explored did not answer the longing in her heart. The chapter that talked about Barack Obama was the least effective in my opinion, and dates the book in time, which is unfortunate. The rest of the book could be timeless and applicable for generations. 3 out of 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy of the book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for purposes of review, and am not required to give a favorable opinion.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review for "Surprised By Oxford" by Carolyn Weber

An absolute pleasure to read! This is the story and personal commentary of Carolyn Weber's own journey to faith while in her first year at Oxford. It is full of insights into her struggle with issues of faith, lacking a father, feminism, academia, and relationships. Strange to say, but this work of non-fiction is a beautifully written love story. The story of how her heart was won over by a gracious God, and also by deeply caring friends. What made this book exceptional to me was how intelligently it was written. Carolyn writes with stark honesty that is sometimes humorous and other times bluntly challenging. There is none of the cynicism or criticism that I have found with other authors that write with such honesty. The academic traditions and culture of Oxford form a beautiful background for the story. Quotes from literature and poetry are richly sprinkled throughout, adding a literary feel. It was refreshing to read such well-crafted, intelligent prose telling a most worthwhile story. The book read more like a novel than a work of non-fiction. I found myself caught up in the story, unable to put it down. Carolyn made me feel like I was there, experiencing it all with her, one of her friends. My husband is not an avid reader, but I noticed he has picked up the book and is likewise devouring it! Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates academia, literature, intelligence, and is open to ideas of faith. 5 stars out of 5

I received this book on a complimentary basis from BookSneeze (Thomas Nelson Publishers) for purposes of review, and I am not required to give a positive evaluation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review for "Secure Daughters; Confident Sons" by Glenn T. Stanton

The topic of masculinity and femininity is not always politically correct nor easy to address tactfully. Glenn T. Stanton has done a masterful job in his book Secure Daughters, Confident Sons. Stanton offers relevant insights on how being male or female makes a difference in how we develop as human beings. The aspects of masculinity and femininity are highlighted without being stereotypical or narrow. Each person is a unique blend of characteristics, and will demonstrate more or less of certain aspects of their gender. The book is especially geared toward parents in order to help them understand their child's development and nurture their children into healthy manhood and womanhood. It is written from a Christian perspective and includes Biblical principles without being preachy.

I found the book to be easy and enjoyable to read, with real-life examples and stories, and practical steps to helping boys and girls develop confidently. The principles are easy to understand, yet not cliche in making blanket statements about all males and females. It is a launching pad for thoughtful parenting. There were several concepts that I put into practice right away, and saw immediate results. This book is giving me many ideas to discuss with my husband and helping me understand my young son better. I highly recommend it for any parent.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Review for "Sabbath" by Dan Allender

Sensual. Feasting. Glorious. Playful. These are not words I would have associated with "sabbath." But after reading Dan Allender's "Sabbath," my eyes have been opened to new possibilities. Allender writes with joy about this topic and entreats readers to delve into depths of joy and renewal that go well beyond the typical concepts of discipline and rest. We are encouraged to look at the Sabbath with new eyes, to discover God's original intent for this day, and creatively live out its bounty in our own lives.

What stood out as most appealing to me in this book were the personal stories of how the author and his own family and friends have lived out Sabbath. How enticing! It creates a longing within me to experience a similar richness in my own life. Sabbath will not be "fallen into" accidentally, but must be lived intentionally. However, that does not mean drudgery. It is an invitation to make a place for peace, abundance, joy, silence, rest, renewal, restoration, grace, feasting, and even justice. This presentation of Sabbath was not pushy or condemning, as I find is often the case with this topic. There is grace here, a whisper of a life yet untasted and untouched. I hope to savor some of its richness myself.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Review for "Radical Together" by David Platt

After reading and being thoroughly challenged by Radical, I had high expectations for Radical Together. David Platt delivered everything I had hoped for in this followup book! Radical Together explores what happens when whole communities of faith "get radical" together. Platt uses stories from his own church and from readers of Radical to illustrate and inspire. When the people of God get serious about following Jesus and living lives of surrender and sacrifice for the gospel, resources are released and harnessed for global ministry! The poor are reached, orphans are cared for, hungry are fed, new people groups hear about Jesus for the first time, ministry becomes de-centralized and grass roots, and the Kingdom of God spreads!

I appreciate that David Platt writes persuasively yet humbly. He clearly states that he is not lifting his own church's experience up as a model for everyone to follow, nor does he have answers for how specific churches should follow God's call. Instead, he presents probing questions and facts that are important for communities of believes to wrestle with. He is not afraid to question the status quo. Both tradition and innovation are challenged. He strips the church of its trappings down to the core of what God has called her to be: and that is to be the messenger of His gospel. I am now even more motivated to recruit others to get "radical together" and live God's adventure!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers, and am not required to give a postitive review. 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review for "Desiring God,Revised Edition" by John Piper

I was glad to have the opportunity to review a "new" version of a classic Christian book! I had heard references to John Piper's "Desiring God" before, but never read the book, so this was my first experience with any edition of the book. Some of the statistics had obviously been updated, but other than that I could not tell where the updates had taken place, they were integrated seamlessly into the text. It was a fresh, relevant read. The basis for the book is Piper's discovery that the Christian life is not meant to be drudgery, but joyful pursuit of happiness in God. What a refreshing message for anyone caught in legalism or simply striving to please God and gain His approval! Piper exhorts the reader with personal illustrations and many scriptural supports to realize that seeking happiness is not a selfish motive, but a very necessary motive to the Christian life. The reason is that our ultimate happiness can only come from God - we were made in His image and designed for relationship with Him - so pursuing happiness in Him is the highest calling one can follow.

In case the reader wonders if Piper is ignoring the Biblcal passages on suffering and sacrifice, these are all addressed in the book. Yes, they are a part of life but do not preclude our seeking the deepest joy possible in God. I especially appreciated the chapters on prayer and missions and felt personally challenged. I did dislike the fact that some of the book read like a defense against Piper's critics. I am always a proponent of making your case by presenting it positively and attractively, not defensively. Still, it was a worthwhile read, and deserves to be classified as the "classic" it is. The revised edition should keep it fresh and hopefully introduce the book to a new audience.

4 out of 5 stars. I received this book free for purposes of review from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group, and am not required to give a positive review.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review for "The Final Summit" by Andy Andrews

I should mention that I have not read the previous "David Ponder" novel, so this was my first introduction to both the author and the main character. In "The Final Summit", David Ponder is escorted by the archangel Gabriel to a summit of "Travelers" (important characters from world history) with the challenge of saving humanity from destruction by God. To do this, they must correctly answer the question, "What does humanity need to do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?" This question and the debate over the answer comprise the main portion of the book. Various characters from history, such as Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, and several others both well and lesser known, offer their unique perspective on the question and its answer. The narrative becomes a mix of history lesson and philosophical discussion, which is actually presented in a colorful and interesting manner.

This was a light read and I enjoyed it, yet not one that I will likely revisit. I enjoyed the history lesson and seeing the characters brought to life. Since it was my first exposuree toi David Ponder, the recap at the beginning of the book of his prior experience (in a prior book) was helpful. Even so, I felt it was too long and bogged down the interest of the plot. The question posed by the author is audacious to say the least, especially when he claims his characters find "the" answer. The intellectual debate over ideas is interesting, but not what I expected from a book billed as "action adventure." I was disappointed with the triteness of the final "correct" answer (I will not spoil it for future readers!) Still, I believe the author somewhat succeeded in creating an interesting look at history and philosophy set in a fictional setting, although not with exceptional quality. 3 out of 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from BookSneeze, part of Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review for "Couples Who Pray" by Squire Rushnell and Louise DuArt

"Couples Who Pray", written by husband-and-wife team Squire Rushnell and Louise DuArt, is a fresh look at the benefits of prayer to a marriage. The authors use their case study of couples who took a 40 day challenge to pray with each other as encouragement for others to do the same. Couples who engage in prayer together will receive wonderful benefits in their marriage, including increased communication, better lovemaking, greater satisfaction with the marriage, intimacy, longevity in the relationship, and weathering the storms of life. The book is full of personal stories of several couples to illustrate the author's claims.

This is not a spiritually deep book! In fact, it is on the light side and relies too heavily on personal stories in my opinion. The biblical foundation is there but the spiritual side of prayer is only dealt with on a surface level. The emphasis seems to be on the wonderful benefits WE get out of prayer as a couple, rather than focusing on God (who is the intent and object of our praying.) However, if you have a spouse who is less spiritually inclined than you are, this book may be perfect for them. It was not a selling point for me that most of the couples cited in the book were celebrities; I would rather have heard from ordinary people like myself. Still, it was not a difficult read and it did inspire me to try praying with my own spouse, so the authors' purpose was accomplished!

I received this book for purposes of review free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers and the BookSneeze blogger program. I am not obligated to give a positive review. 3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review for "Soulprint" by Mark Batterson

In a market where self-help books promise to help you be a better you, this book stands apart! In Soulprint, author Mark Batterson wonderfully articulates the truth that God must be at the center of who we are meant to be. He uses imagery from art to describe the process of becoming the unique "you" that God designed you to be as allowing God to chisel away the roughcut stone from our life and reveal our true selves. People can go through their whole lives deriving their identity from what they do, becoming like others, living up to expectations, self-improvement, or past history. God designed each human in His image but unique to themselves. We will never rest in our unique identity until we stop trying to become someone we are not, and allow God to reveal who we are. Batterson beautifully brings this truth to light through five scenes from David's life.

This book was a delight to read. It brought to life the stories of King David and his writings in a way that made me closely identify with aspects of my own life. Many self-improvement books leave you with big "to-do" list of things that you soon run out of willpower to sustain. This book was a relief, describing many things we can let go of. Yes, there are practical suggestions of things to do on a self-discovery journey. These are helpful tools to help us treasure the memories of our past and redeem the circumstances of our life, past and present, to allow God to shape us into the masterpiece He has in mind. I found this book encouraging, uplifting, insightful, challenging, and releasing. I recommend it highly.
I received a copy of this book for free for review from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Review for "Fasting" by Scot McKnight

Fasting is one of those ancient disciplines that is seldom practiced by many Christians. In his book, "Fasting," Scot McKnight makes his case for the relevance of this discipline in our time. He proposes the definition of fasting as "the natural response of a person to a grevious sacred moment in life." Through this lens he views and explains many biblical and historical examples of fasting. Honest discussion of reasons why one should fast, as well as why one should not, help to dispel myths or misappropriations of this means of grace. In order to understand fasting, McKnight leads the reader to explore the idea of "whole-body spirituality" - a perspective which has been lost in recent generations.

McKnight writes with depth and honesty about a discipline he obviously knows well. For someone who is looking for a biblical discussion about fasting, this book offers many insights. I was disappointed that the book was repetitive and redundant, coming back to the same points chapter after chapter. I also found his treatment of the current mindset somewhat disparaging and negative, which is not really necessary since his presentation of fasting is attractive and positive enough to make the reader interested. There are some good nuggets of truth in there, so it is a worthwhile read for anyone serious about pursuing this discipline.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers (BookSneeze) for purposes of review.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Review for "Radical" by David Platt

"Radical" by David Platt has grabbed my attention like few books have. In it, Platt challenges readers to a deeper faith life in Christ. He does so by exposing how our "American dream" culture has influenced the way we approach church, our relationship to God... everything about our Christianity. Stories of his experiences with believers in other countries illustrate how shallow our experience really is. Platt beautifully retells the story of the gospel and compellingly urges believers to shed their comfort for a life of following Christ. We are not saved for our own comfort, but to bring God glory. And every believer is called to have global perspective on their participation in the kingdom of God.

Reading this book has awakened a deep hunger in my life for God. I am convicted by how little my life depends on the power of God, and how small my view of Christ's mission has been. Platt challenges his readers to a year-long experiment with 5 components. His experiment is practical yet radical. I am taking on the challenge, and I believe that anyone who does will find themselves living out a more authentic and potent faith - and one that reaches across the globe. Thank you, David, for taking the risk of following radically yourself, and being vulnerable enough to share your journey with us!

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