Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Review: "The Ministry of Ordinary Places" by Shannan Martin

The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God's Goodness Around YouWhat a beautiful book! In "The Ministry of Ordinary Places", Shannan Martin shares candidly the story of how her family put down roots in a neighborhood she never imagined living in and seeing Jesus in the midst of it all. Life changed unexpectedly for her family when God called them from the rural to the urban. Plunked down in the middle of a city where they knew no one, they set out to truly bloom where they were planted, getting to know their neighbors and investing in the local low-income school and dying church. While it's a story of how God has used their family, it's more a story of how God has changed them in the midst of it all. By allowing their vision for life to be shaped by God, they have seen how He has worked in their own lives as they have opened themselves up to be changed and challenged by it all.

I fell in love with this book from the very beginning. Martin writes in a warm, winsome way that draws the reader in right away. The book is divided into four sections. I personally resonated with the second section in particular, which focused on hospitality. So often, we hide behind excuses instead of opening our homes for a meal or a simple chat with a neighbor. Martin reminds us that the hospitality is the point--not the state of our homes or the quality of the meal. Hospitality can be offered by inviting someone over for take-out or by meeting up a local playground. I was challenged to think how I can start opening my home to make room for people at my table.

What a gift this book is. Wise words for a challenging, polarizing time in our society. Simple acts of neighborliness, investing deeply where you are planted, and entering into the lives of others even in the midst of our own brokenness can have more impact than we can ever imagine.

"As Christ-followers, we are called to be long-haul neighbors committed to authenticity and willing to take some risks. Our vocation is to invest deeply in the lives of those around us, devoted to one another, physically close to each other as we breathe the same air and walk the same blocks. Our purpose is not so mysterious after all. We get to love and be loved deeply right where we're planted, by whomever happens to be near. We will inevitably encounter brokenness we cannot fix, solve, or understand, and we'll feel as small, uncertain, and outpaced as we have ever felt. But we'll find our very lives in this calling, to be among people as Jesus was, and it will change everything." (p. xviii)

(I’ve received this complimentary book through the BookLook program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Review: "The Struggle is Real" by Nicole Unice

The Struggle Is Real: Getting Better at Life, Stronger in Faith, and Free from the Stuff Keeping You StuckLife is full of challenges and struggles, even suffering at times. That's the nature of life in our sinful, broken world full of sinful, broken people. In her new book, "The Struggle is Real", Nicole Unice helps people dig below the surface to identify what is really going on when faced with our struggles, and then points the reader directly to Jesus. Sharing personal stories coupled with plenty of biblical wisdom, there is something for everyone in this book.

The first part of the book focuses on what lies below the struggles in life, what really lurks in our minds that causes us to fall prey to lies and false stories about ourselves. The second part of the book drives the reader to focus on rewriting the story by finding freedom and grace in Jesus. Each chapter closes with questions for reflection to help the reader truly process what they have been reading. As an added bonus, there are six companion Bible study videos that can be accessed on RightNow media for extra teachings in a group setting or in your own personal devotional time.

The second part of the book was my favorite. As someone who really struggles with thoughts and thought patterns, I found Chapter 9, "The New Language", to be quite helpful. This book would be perfect for any small group to go through, or just to use on your own. I appreciate her thoughts and approach in dealing with the general issue of struggles, something each one of us can identify with.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Quick Lit, October Edition

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for this month's quick lit, where I share short and sweet reviews of a few books I've read in the past month (or so). You can also find me over at Goodreads if you are interested in other books I've read or reviewed.

Parnassus on Wheels"Parnassus on Wheels" by Christopher Morley. I had never heard of this book until I read "Book Girl" by Sarah Clarkson (see review below). When I picked it up, I had no idea what a treat I was in for. Set in 1917October in New England, a wagon named Parnassus shows up in the farmyard of Helen McGill and her brother, Andrew. Upon discovering it is a bookshop on wheels and the proprietor is seeking her author brother to purchase the wagon, she decides to purchase it herself and have an adventure. A charming novella that I fell in love with from the beginning.

Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life"Book Girl" by Sarah Clarkson. This is a lovely book about books. Clarkson shares her heart so poignantly about her love of books and the way the written word has helped shape her life. She include many book lists containing her favorites from different seasons and spanning multiple genres. I found myself concluding a chapter and immediately adding several books to my TBR list. A true treasure that I will return to time and again!

I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life"I'd Rather Be Reading" by Anne Bogel. What is there to say about this book? This collection of essays is a beautiful love letter for book lovers everywhere. I fell in love with it from the very first page and thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing. My hands-down favorite chapter was entitled "Bookworm Problems". I found myself nodding along to the majority she described! If you love books, this is a perfect little book to read, read again and again, and gift to other book lovers in your life.

Dreamland Burning"Dreamland Burning" by Jennifer Latham. I have been trying to branch out in my reading a bit this year, reading books in a genre I wouldn't normally read or focusing on issues I haven't really thought of before. I picked up this young adult novel based on a recommendation (I can't remember where), and it did not disappoint. It's a novelization of true events that happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the early 20th century. Latham shares the modern-day story of teen Rowan Chase who is seeking answers to a skeleton that was found buried on her parents' property. Teen William Tillman is living in 1921 Tulsa and shares what life was like in a racially charged city. A gripping story about a piece of American history I had never heard of before.

Imperfect Courage: Live a Life of Purpose by Leaving Comfort and Going Scared"Imperfect Courage" by Jessica Honnegger. I am a big fan of fair-trade jewelry company Noonday Collection and was thrilled when the founder released her first book. She shares the story of how Noonday came to be, the heart behind her business, the joys and struggles along the way. She shares about her adoption journey and her desire to see people step out of their comfort zones and make an impact in the world around them. Challenging, thoughtful, and absolutely lovely.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A Review: "Kingdom Citizen" by Tony Evans

Kingdom Citizen: Your Role in Rebuilding a Broken NationThis slim volume packs a powerful punch! Tony Evans brings hope the various crises facing our nation in this book, "Kingdom Citizen". With only five chapters (plus appendices), this book is a fairly quick read. Without being partisan, Evans uses solid Biblical truth to invite believers to a course of action to truly become a citizen of Christ's Kingdom here on earth.

I loved reading his reflections from the book of Nehemiah. He describes how the community in Nehemiah's day was broken, full of discord, and all kinds of bad things. But God raised up one man, Nehemiah, to bring about a change in his community and nation--all by submitting himself to God and utilizing the tools set before him to create a lasting impact.

With another election season looming in our nation, political pundits preying on fear and "doom and gloom" scenarios, and the news filled with everything but the good, it's easy to feel like there is no reason to have hope. But Evans argues poignantly that there is a reason for hope. That hope lies in believers fully submitting to God and stepping out in faith, the church moving beyond her walls and seeking to impact her communities, and true disciples being made. I believe this book is a must-read for any Christian, particularly in this stage of our nation's history.

(I’ve received this complimentary book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading Lately

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for this month's quick lit, where I share short and sweet reviews of a few books I've read in the past month (or so). You can also find me over at Goodreads if you are interested in other books I've read or reviewed.

Art of Neighboring"Art of Neighboring" by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. This book looks at what it would be like to take Jesus's command to "love thy neighbor" seriously. Chock full of practical ideas on how to engage with your neighbors, this book is an excellent resource for anyone who is looking to engage with their neighbors and neighborhood on a deeper level. The authors share many personal stories of how they have lived this out and how it has transformed their communities. There is a discussion guide at the end of the book that would be perfect for small groups or just personal reflection.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
"Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Grann. I confess, this is one of my favorite reads of the year thus far. I was absolutely blown away by the history in this book that I had never heard before. Absolutely gripping, I read it in three days. During the 1920s, the people of the Osage Indian Nation were the richest per capita in the world due to huge oil reserves on their land. Then they mysteriously began to die under strange circumstances. Anyone who began to investigate the murders also began to be murdered. The newly created FBI took up the case and began to expose a truly horrific plot to systematically get rid of the Osage and claim the land (and money).

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder "Prairie Fires" by Caroline Fraser. Laura Ingalls Wilder is such a staple of American literature and, spending most of my life in Minnesota, her stories helped shape my childhood. I was eager to read this new biography to glean more insights into her life. The first portion of the book builds on her "Little House" series and shares in-depth accounts of life for the Ingalls family during those years. The latter portion of the book highlights Laura's later years and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. It was an eye-opening book that illuminated the challenges that faced Laura and her family throughout her life. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Review: "The Lifegiving Parent" by Clay and Sally Clarkson

The Lifegiving Parent: Giving Your Child a Life Worth Living for Christ"The Lifegiving Parent" by Clay and Sally Clarkson completes the "Lifegiving" trilogy that also includes "The Lifegiving Home" and "The Lifegiving Table" by Sally Clarkson. This particular addition focuses on parenting and can easily be read together by spouses, as opposed to others that Sally writes that are specifically geared for women.

If you want to get to the beating heart of being a lifegiving parent, you'll find it in opening your home to the love of God, the light of God, and the life of God. If you faithfully keep the symbolic door, windows, and vents of your home open, then your house will be full of God's love, light, and life. Lifegiving parenting is all about creating a home for your children that is loving, enlightened, and alive with the presence and life of God. (p. 16).

The book presents eight heartbeats of lifegiving parenting, including guarding your child's heart, renewing your child's mind, and cultivating your child's character. These heartbeats help give Christian parents a way to bring the life of God into the home, as opposed to simply exposing children to Christian activities and media. Clay writes the bulk of each particular chapter. Sally offers her reflections in a little section at the end of each chapter called "Momoirs". Each chapter concludes with some tips on how to practically bring each heartbeat into your own home.

I absolutely love everything the Clarksons write. They draw on years of marriage and parenting experience and manage to make everything incredibly relatable. While not everything they have done is practical to implement in my own home, I find my own wheels turning on how I can make things work in ways that suit my own family. This book is an outstanding treasure to add to anyone's parenting collection. As a bonus, they did a podcast series corresponding to the different heartbeats which was enjoyable to listen as I completed the chapters for some added insights.

(I’ve received this complimentary book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading Lately

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for this month's quick lit, where I share short and sweet reviews of a few books I've read in the past month (or so). You can also find me over at Goodreads if you are interested in other books I've read or reviewed.

If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free "If You Only Knew" by Jamie Ivey. I love, love, love listening to Jamie's podcast, "The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey".  I love her honesty in interviewing her guests and the way she has shared pieces of her story, so I knew this book was one that I had to pick up. It didn't disappoint. She shares her story with the same candidness and openness that comes through on her podcast. Without holding back, she makes her story accessible, even if you haven't experienced what she has. In everything she seeks to point people back to Jesus as the Author and Redeemer of our stories. A lovely book that I highly recommend!

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be"Girl, Wash Your Face" by Rachel Hollis. I initially heard about Rachel on Jen Hatmaker's podcast (I know, I listen to a lot of podcasts!). As she shared the premise of her book, I was captivated and knew it was one I needed to immediately order. Guys, I loved this book. Each chapter focuses on one lie that she (and we) told herself. She walks the reader through her own experience in battling that particular lie and shares how she eventually worked through it. This is a fabulous book that SO MANY women can relate to, and Rachel shares in such a down-to-earth way. One of the best books of the year thus far.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot. This book was a fascinating look at the life, death, and immortality of a young black woman named Henrietta Lacks. Diagnosed in 1951 with an aggressive cervical cancer, her biopsied cells were taken without her knowledge or consent and given to a researcher who was attempting to to grow human cells for scientific research. She died shortly after, but her cells replicated and became known as HeLa. They have been vital in creating the polio vaccine and studying cancer, among other things. However, her family was never told about Henrietta's contribution to science and the world was never told about the woman who faded to obscurity while her cells lived on. This book shares her story, the story of her family, and the scientific progress that has been made as a result of these cells.

The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ's Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children"The Ministry of Motherhood" by Sally Clarkson. Ah, Sally Clarkson is definitely my mentor for motherhood. I love her insights, her encouragement, her stories of parenting. In this book, she shares how moms can disciple their children by reaching their hearts. It's perfect for a devotional time or a small group to go through. There are five sections; each section opens with an imaginative retelling of a gospel story, then follows with several chapters tied to the theme of the section. Each section concludes with questions that can be used for personal reflection or group discussion. A lovely book!

The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids"The Read-Aloud Family" by Sarah Mackenzie. I regularly listen to Sarah's podcast, "The Read-Aloud Revival".  As an avid reader, I love introducing my kids to books in the hopes that they will love reading as well. This offering is a wonderful resource to encourage parents in building a bookish culture in their own homes. The final part of the book includes her carefully curated collection of read-alouds for various age ranges. If you need some inspiration or fresh vision to keep reading to your kids, this book (and podcast) can help!

A Review: "The Ministry of Ordinary Places" by Shannan Martin

What a beautiful book! In "The Ministry of Ordinary Places", Shannan Martin shares candidly the story of how her family put down r...