Monday, October 8, 2012

Review for "When Bad Christians Happen to Good People" by Dave Burchett

The title draws you in, doesn't it? Who hasn't been hurt by someone claiming to be a Christian? In this revised edition, Dave Burchett adds chapters that reveal God has continued to work at healing his own wounded heart. I had not read the 2002 version, and am glad I started with the 2011 version. The best chapters were the last, and the latest. The byline of the title is "Where We Have Failed Each Other and How to Reverse the Damage." I would argue that most of the book is spent on the "where we have failed each other" category. It is not hard to catalog a list of dumb, obnoxious, ignorant, and hurtful things Christians have done to each other and non-Christians. Burchett seems to vent a lot of his own pent-up steam in writing these chapters. While admitting frequently that he realizes now that he used to be one of the very people he rails against, Burchett still comes across as angry, cocky, and condescending. Still, he writes with honesty about the problems of legalism, moralism, and generally being "insider-minded" about our faith, and I am sure many readers have found catharsis in reading someone else's rantings about the things that also bother them. I had hoped the book would contain more information about "how to reverse the damage" - more about forgiveness, grace, healing for those who are hurt. The last couple of chapters detail Burchett's own journey in discovering grace, after publishing the original version of the book. The chapters are the most honest and most helpful, in my opinion. The book does contain some food for thought and good ideas for ways sincere Christians can be genuine in sharing their faith and avoid being obnoxious or even hurtful. I received a complimentary copy of the book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for purposes of review, and am not required to give a positive opinion. 3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review for "The River" by Michael Neale

After reading some great reviews of this book I was eager to begin. However, I finished with disappointment. It was a nice story, but it didn't touch me. It was entertaining and easy to read but was predictable and lacked profundity. It is what it is - a novel for mass consumption with a clean and appealing story. The story relates the experiences of young Gabriel Clarke, who must overcome his fears which stem from a tragic incident as a young child. Leaving "the River," which was the scene of the incident, Gabe's life takees a 90 degree turn as he moves to Kansas and lives out his childhood struggling to gain his confidence and get past his fears. Through a summer camp kind of experience, Gabe returns to "the River," meets a girl (of course), faces his fears, and hears the call to a life of more scope and confidence. It is a story of forgiveness as well as overcoming fear. I found the characters one-dimensional, with the exception of Gabe himself. They served their purpose in the plot, that is all. They were a little "too good to be believed" - the attractive girl who picked the shy boy and brought him out of his shell, putting up with all his behavior; the older mentor who happens to also be a great cook, play Gabe's favorite game, know Gabe's family, never get angry, appears at just the right times. There were several elements of the story that I thought were never fully developed: the mysterious stranger who sold marbles, the red-tailed hawk, the marble he bought and kept losing. The most disappointing aspect of the book was that I felt the end was rushed and the most significant conflict was fully solved within the span of a few hours. After taking the whole book to describe Gabe's complex and deep issues, this ending felt unrealistic and trite. Still, all in all, it was not a bad read - just not great literature. Enjoy it for what it is. I received this book on a complimentary basis for purposes of review from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of the BookSneeze program.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Review for "Running For My Life" by Lopez Lemong

Lopez Lemong has had to endure things no human should ever have to face, let alone as an innocent child. This is his story, from his time as a Lost Boy in the civil war of Sudan to U.S. Olympic athlete. Far from the angry, bitter life one would expect of someone who faced such horrific circumstances, Lopez's life is one of gratitude, hope, and perseverance. He tells his story matter-of-factly as he remembers it, and even the retelling of it is full of Lopez's optimism and faith. As a reader, I felt myself journey with him. My heart broke for him. Sometimes I laughed with him. I felt it a profound privilege to partake in this small way in his remarkable life. I came away with a deeper appreciation for my own country, the USA, and how God has blessed my life. I also was inspired by Lopez's perseverance and desire to give back and help others. This is the kind of story that, while exposing man at his worst, also rekindles hope in man redeemed by God and at his best. I read it in two sittings, it was so captivating and an easy read. 5 out of 5 stars. I received this book on a complimentary basis from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of the BookSneeze program for purposes of review. I am not required to give a favorable rating.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review for "Dug Down Deep" by Joshua HarrisT

Theology. Orthodoxy. Doctrine. These words conjure up images of stale, stuffy books and academic study. But Joshua Harris, in "Dug Down Deep," speaks with passion and life about these topics which lift us out of superficiality. The Christian life is a rich and deep journey, one that confronts us with the need to think intellectually about what we believe about God and His Word if we are to grow past spiritual infancy. Harris writes from his own personal testimony, the journey of moving past being a self-proclaimed "apathetic church-kid" to a passionate student of God's word. He treats lofty concepts such as salvation, justification, sanctification, incarnation, redemption, and the work of the Holy Spirit in a very readable, accessible way. Coming to understand the richness of what these words mean to a Christian is not just for a Bible scholar, but for every follower of Jesus. The more we know and understand God, the more we love Him. And the way we think about Him is of utmost importance. "Dug Down Deep" is a great read for someone who is serious about growing in their faith. 4 out of 5 stars. I received a complimentary copy from Waterbrook Multnomah Press for purposes of review and am not required to give a favorable review.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review of "The Grace Effect" by Larry Alex Taunton

"The Grace Effect" by Larry Alex Taunton was not what I expected, but an enjoyable read. It was more intellectual, socio-political, and apologetic than I expected. It is the story of the Taunton family's experience in adopting a young girl, Sasha, from Ukraine. The story provides the backdrop for the author's main point, that the effect of Christianity on a society and nation is one of permeating grace. Much time is spent describing the utter degradation and dehumanization of the Ukrainian government and the way their society views its poor, namely orphans. Taunton explains the withering effect that atheistic government has had on Eastern European nations and how that effect is still felt today. All in all, the contrast between how government and societal organizations are run in Ukraine versus the United States is harsh and convincing. Rather than leaving the reader discouraged, however, the redeeming thread of Sasha's adoption and overwhelming joy permeates the book. It is the love of God, the grace of Christianity, that saves Sasha through the Taunton family, and that keeps a nation in large scale. Any reader interested in foreign adoption, apologetics, or how Christianity has affected nations in history and currently would enjoy this book. I was provided a copy of this book free of charge by BookSneeze, Thomas Nelson Publishers for purposes of review, and am not required to give a positive review.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review for "Surprised By Laughter" by Terry Lindvall, Ph.D

This book was indeed a surprise to me. From the title, I expected a light and comic work, something easy to read that would make me laugh. This was anything but. The 454 pages of text were more of a scholarly treatise, well thought-out and well written but ponderous at times. Somehow, dissecting the humor in C.S. Lewis' works in 32 chapters seemed to produce the opposite effect, rendering what was light, joyful, playful, happy into something heavy.
The book is organized according to different types of humor or topics of joy found in Lewis' works, such as "Joy and Suffering," "Food and Drink," "The Fun in Nature," or "Wit and Wordplay." I did enjoy the thorough research of the author and the plentiful quotes from not only Lewis but several of his contemporaries (Chesterton, Tolkien, for example). There are many nuggets to ponder, memorable quotes, life lessons shared - but it is not light or funny reading. I am not put off by a meaty read, but this was a bit much. Appreciate it as a wonderful reference and scholarly commentary on C.S. Lewis. Two stars out of five, mainly for the misleading title and synopsis.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze for purposes of review, and am not required to give a positive opinion.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review for "Love and War" by John and Stasi Eldredge

Marriage is fabulously hard - states John and Stasi Eldredge as the beginning point for their book, "Love and War." The book is a window into the struggles they have experienced in their own marriage, and the lessons they've learned as well as the triumphs they've enjoyed. Each participates in writing and shares from their experiences, providing a balance between male and female perspectives that is unique from many marriage books.

As one would expect from John Eldredge, he drops the small story of a man and woman into the grander Love Story of God. When problems and struggles are looked at from this viewpoint, the couple has a better chance of seeing that they are on the same team and that their struggles are not with each other, but of a spiritual dimension against a spiritual Enemy. It is this shift in viewpoint that I found most intriguing and helpful about the book. There are also many practical suggestions and stories from the Eldredges' own lives. Topics covered include learning to understand underlying spiritual and emotional motivations for behaviors, companionship, how to handle disagreements, sex, living life as an adventure together.

A very good book for understanding the spiritual side of the marriage relationship and how to delve deeper in our relationship with each other and God. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. I have received this book on a complimentary basis from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for purposes of review, and am not required to give a favorable opinion.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review for "The Love and Respect Experience" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

"The Love and Respect Experience" is a devotional that is billed as husband-friendly. There are 52 short chapters of 2-3 pages each, designed to be read daily or weekly. Topics are based on principles from Dr. Eggerichs' book "Love and Respect" and supporting scripture verses are included. Each chapter also concludes with a brief prayer and action step. Discussion questions are given at the end of the book to provide more in-depth processing of each chapter.

Attempts were made to make this book user-friendly for men as well as their wives. The devotionals are an easy read and not long. The book comes in a handsome leather cover. Especially helpful is the introduction, which includes ideas for how to use the book as a couple and make it a worthwhile experience for both husband and wife. I am not convinced that the objective of making this book more appealing to husbands than other devotionals has been reached. The whole book is about relationships, not necessarily the most man-friendly. Also, I found the action steps and discussion questions tended toward the feminine or even silly side. For example, one suggestion is "When disagreements or bumps come along, say, 'One of us is Pink, the other is Blue. How can we stay together in this and blend it into Purple?'" I cannot imagine my husband ever saying this, let alone during a disagreement!

On the positive side, for the couple who is willing to try a devotional time together, or wanting to work on their marriage relationship, this would be a good book. The concepts of Love and Respect, as well as scripture, lend themselves toward many helpful insights. The readings will spur healthy communication between spouses about their relationship with each other and with God.

3 out of 5 stars. I received this book on a complimentary basis from BookSneeze (Thomas Nelson Publishers) and am not required to give a positive review.