Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Review: "Parenting the Wholehearted Child" by Jeannie Cunnion

"Parenting the Wholehearted Child" by Jeannie Cunnion focuses on releasing our own expectations of parenting and allowing God's grace to captivate our and our children's hearts. By allowing ourselves to surrender to the beauty of the grace of God, it will ultimately trickle down to our children.

The book is divided into four sections. Part 1 deals with grace:  what it means, how it looks in our lives, and what it means to allow God's grace to rule in our our hearts as parents. Part 2 focuses on introducing our children to friendship with Jesus, as well as giving tools to help encourage that friendship. Part 3 includes chapters addressing different character traits and how to cultivate those in your children's lives. Part 4 shares how to lead with unconditional love as we instruct our children in obedience.

Overall, this was a book that sums up what Christian parents should desire for our kids:  a living, vibrant faith in Christ and a life that reflects Christ-like character. She offered many practical applications, as well as Scriptures and personal stories, to get her point across. This is a book that resonates with me and it's one that I need to read again and again. This would be a fabulous book for a small group to go through together, as well as for an individual to go through slowly to really digests all the great points Cunnion addresses.

"Until we accept God's wild, unrestricted love and absolute acceptance of us, we will struggle in vain to let it flow through us to our kids. But when his grace begins to transform our hearts, it also begins to transform our parenting. It's not about what we do. It's about what his grace does through us when we surrender to his wholehearted acceptance of us" (p. 48-49).

(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.)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Review: "Notes From a Blue Bike" by Tsh Oxenreider

As a fan of Tsh Oxenreider's blog at TheArtOfSimple.net, I was eager to pick up her latest book, "Notes from a Blue Bike:  The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World". Her writing style is engaging and easy to read. Part memoir, part manifesto of living a simpler life, Oxenreider skillfully shares personal stories that highlight her family's journey to living a counter-cultural lifestyle.


I loved the stories that she shared. Motivating and thought-provoking, I found myself drawn in by her passion for the subject. Having lived overseas, Oxenreider brings a unique perspective to the table that many people have never experienced or may never get to experience. Drawing heavily on their life in Turkey, she illustrates how their life there was a springboard to living life with more intention upon their return to the United States.

Divided into seven main sections, Oxenreider shares how her family makes conscious choices to live more intentionally and simply in areas like food, work, and entertainment. They make travel as a family a priority to give their children a better worldview and as part of lifelong learning. It was easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm with which she writes. I left each section contemplating how I can incorporate some of these ideas into my own family life.

Oxenereider is quick to reiterate that each family needs to evaluate and make decisions based on what is best for your particular family, your particular season:  "We're each given freedom to choose our decisions, and that responsibility is the very definition of living with intention, after all:  making daily choices so that your life lines up with your passions and values. It should all make sense in your head" (p. 214).

This book is a great jumping off point for people to put some thought into what your goals are, how you want to live, what your priorities are, and how you want to raise your kids. It is never easy to live counter-culturally, particularly in a culture like the U.S. But with a bit of thought and some creativity, it is possible to make even small changes.

While Oxenreider writes out of her life as a mom of young kids, this book is not geared specifically for moms of young kids. There is a lot of great information in there for people of all ages, men or women, regardless of life stage. I would highly recommend this book!

(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.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Review: "A Godward Heart" by John Piper

A Godward Heart"A Godward Heart" by John Piper is a collection of 50 brief meditations, each designed to take the reader deeper in their relationship with God. The book is meant to be savored slowly, pondered, wrestled with. You may not agree with everything that Piper presents in this book, but allow yourself to be challenged. Think deeply about what you believe and why.

The meditations include reflections on particular Scripture passages, marriage and parenting, certain doctrinal positions, and thoughts about current culture. There isn't a particular pattern or order the meditations follow, which gives it a slight feel of disjointedness. But, taken one bite at a time, there will be plenty to mull over!

Some of my favorite meditations include "The Morning I Heard the Voice of God", "What's the Place of Confrontation in Marriage?", "What Love Does and Does Not Do", and "Why Require Unregenerate Children to Act Like They're Good?".

Piper generally puts out wonderful devotional material and this one is no exception. I definitely recommend this book for anyone who desires to think critically and be challenged in their spiritual growth as a Christian.

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

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Review: "The Dancing Master" by Julie Klassen

The Dancing Master"The Dancing Master" by Julie Klassen introduces the reader to Alec Valcourt, a London dancing and fencing master who was forced to relocate with his mother and sister to the village of Beaworthy after a scandal forces them to leave London. Shortly upon relocating, the family learns that dancing has been forbidden, an unwritten law for the last twenty years. As Alec attempts to find his way in a new profession while his heart lies with dancing and fencing, he encounters the Midwinter family, the leading family in the village. Lady Amelia Midwinter appears stoic and aloof, but harbors family secrets. Her daughter, Julia, is an unabashed flirt, reckless, and headstrong, yet longing to find the affection and love that she's been missing from her own family.

While much of the story is told from Alec's point of view, there is a good deal told from Julia's, as well as a small amount from Lady Midwinter's. At times it was a little hard to follow because Lady Midwinter's memories and Julia's daydreams were interjected without any real transition.

Normally, I really like Klassen's work. Her stories are typically very solid and engaging. But this one was missing that spark, that something special that really drew me in to the story. Maybe it was because this was her first story that was told primarily from the man's point of view. Maybe it was because Julia was simply not a very likeable character. There were many other secondary characters that were more likeable and deserved greater development.

The first half of the book was pretty slow to start and I often found it dragging. The plot picked up in the second half as the story developed further. It still wasn't enough to salvage the book for me. Overall, it was just an okay read. As much as I enjoy Julie Klassen's work, I just can't recommend this particular book. If you are new to her work, start with her earlier ones before diving into this one.

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

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Review: "The Question That Never Goes Away" by Philip Yancey

The sequel to Philip Yancey's best-selling book, "Where Is God When It Hurts", addresses the question of "why" in the midst of suffering. "The Question That Never Goes Away" takes the reader on a journey to three different parts of the world that were stunned by tragedies that befell them. In the span of one year, Yancey visits the scene of the devastating tsunami in Japan, Sarajevo, Bosnia where incredible ethnic cleansing ripped apart a region, and Newton, Connecticut where 26 adults and children were brutally murdered in their elementary school.

While never truly answering the question of "why", Yancey provides a framework for anyone undergoing suffering. He draws the reader back to the fact that no matter what painful circumstance we may be going through, God is with us. He reminds us that until eternity "...no answer to suffering will satisfy, even if we had the capacity to comprehend the answer" (p. 47). He brings balance to living in our present fallen world and remembering that perfection awaits us in heaven, our eternal home. Many of the stories he chooses to share in the light of these tragedies remind us that light does still shine in the midst of overwhelming darkness.

This book is a good read for anyone who is struggling with finding their way through pain or suffering. It may not hold the answers to "why", but it points us to the One who does know "why" and who suffers along with us.

(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, December 12, 2013

A Review: "Pilgrimage" by Lynn Austin

Pilgrimage"I've decided to accept the churning waves as an invitation from God to draw closer to Him, to dig deeper into His Word, to seek Him with all my heart and soul and strength. Most of all, to begin to pray to Him in a better way. Perhaps I will find a compass or a book of sailing instructions, or at least a life preserver. Maybe, just maybe, this pilgrimage to Israel will get me started on that new journey." (p. 14)

Historical fiction author Lynn Austin embarks on her first non-fiction work, "Pilgrimage", where she documents her experiences on a two-week trip to Israel. Austin traveled with a tour group starting in the southern end of Israel and eventually worked their way toward the north. She shares historical information about the places they visited combined with relevant Scripture passages and her own personal insights as to what those things meant to her.

The book gripped me from the start. Austin candidly explained that some recent personal changes resulted in a certain measure of spiritual upheaval. As she entered into this particularly dry season, she was looking for some times of refreshing and seized the opportunity to tour Israel when the chance presented itself. The story of how her journey began was compelling and relatable. The historical information and Scripture passages, combined with her personal insights added wonderful depth to well-known passages and gave a greater context for how to read the Bible. When she explained the Jewish concept of Sabbath and the Passover meal, it made me want to study my Bible more in the context of the Jewish faith in order to glean further insights.

The book included a number of illustrations depicting various landmarks and items around Israel. They added a nice touch to the book itself and helps the reader to have a better picture of some of the things that she is talking about.

I've been a fan of Lynn Austin for a long time and really enjoyed this non-fiction work. She did a spectacular job of really making Israel come alive by weaving together history, Scripture, and her own insights. I highly recommend this book!

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Review: "The Prodigal" by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

"The Prodigal:  A Ragamuffin Story" by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett is Manning's final work. A fictional companion to his previous work, "The Ragamuffin Gospel", this novel is a contemporary retelling to the story of the prodigal son featured in Luke 15. Jack Chisholm is the lead pastor of a megachurch who spectacularly and very publicly falls from grace. With his marriage in shambles, his job gone, and no money left to his name, his estranged father tracks him down and welcomes him back home with open arms. Jack heads home to the small town of Mayfield, Texas, in order to pick up the pieces of his life. What he unexpectedly finds is the love of his father, reconciliation with his family, and the love of God.

The story draws the reader right in from the beginning. The characters are realistic and engaging. Father Frank is based on Manning himself, and there are elements of Manning's teachings shining through in Frank's dialogue. It's a wonderful reminder of how we all are broken, we are all needy, and yet God's love extends to us in the midst of our brokenness. It's a beautiful story with many thought-provoking moments. It left me wanting to sit down with Father Frank myself and learning from his fountain of wisdom!

The beautiful thing about this book is that Jack still had to live with the consequences of his choices, his sin. But he did find redemption and he embraced new calling on his life, one that he wouldn't have found any other way but through his sin. "...in every faithful life, there comes a second call when the first one is no longer sufficient, a call to deeper faith, hope, joy" (p. 170).

The reader's guide at the back of the book is helpful for a small group or book club looking to dive deeper into the message of the book. Highly recommend Manning's final work!

(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.)