Monday, May 27, 2013

A Review: "A Dream So Big" by Steve Peifer

"A Dream So Big:  Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger" by Steve Peifer (with Gregg Lewis) is a moving look at how one family's journey through grief led them across the world to Kenya, Africa and how God has used them mightily in that nation.

Steve and Nancy Peifer were not planning on having a third child, but God had other plans for them. Their son, Stephen, was born with Trisomy 13 and died eight days later. As they grieved for their son, they began to feel a need for a change of scenery to escape the all-consuming grief. They met with friends who had worked as teachers at Rift Valley Academy, a boarding school for missionary kids in Kijabe, Kenya. Though that meeting, they found out that there was a need for dorm parents. They signed up through African Inland Mission for a one-year stint, packed up their belongings and their two older sons, and headed for Africa. One year turned into over 14 years.

Over the course of their work there, they have each served in various capacities in the boarding school. Steve had occasionally helped with relief missions delivering food to the families of school kids in nearby villages. But it was entering a classroom and seeing an entire room of kids lying in the dirt because they hadn't eaten in days and were too weak to sit up that caused an eventual shift in Steve's focus and ministry in Kenya.

After soliciting donations, he launched a feeding program through area schools that would provide a hot lunch to students. After these programs began, enrollment increased. As Steve continued to ponder how to help the Kenyan people pull out of the dire poverty and hunger that they lived in, he decided to open computer centers to train students in technology in the hopes that they would be better equipped for the future. The programs have continued to expand and now include Kenyan leadership. Steve continues to work for Rift Valley Academy as their guidance counselor.

This is an amazing book that brings to light such a serious subject that most Westerners would probably prefer to sweep under the rug. The issue of hunger is foreign to most of us in America, but a life-or-death reality that occurs daily in so many other parts of the world. I felt caught up in their journey and found myself cheering them on as they opened their first two feeding programs, as they expanded to include more schools, as they opened their first computer center. It's a fantastic example of how God can use ordinary people for His glory, how God can turn grief into something incredibly beautiful. I highly recommend this book. Be prepared to have your perspective on life altered!

If you are interested in more information about Steve's ministry with the feeding programs and computer centers, please visit their website at

(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.)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Review: "Bread and Wine" by Shauna Niequist

"Bread and Wine:  A Love Letter to Life Around the Table" by Shauna Niequist is a collection of essays about life, food, hospitality, and experiencing those sacred moments that can only be found around a table. The book includes not only recipes to try, but there are discussion questions at the end for a book club or a cooking club. She also includes tips for hosting a dinner party, as well as ideas for easy weeknight meals that can be thrown together quickly.

I appreciated Niequist's heart that celebrates the union of food and the hearts of people, creating a unique fellowship around a table. Faith themes run strong through this book, especially as she dives into how gathering around a shared meal creates a special sense of community. "And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day--no matter where we are, who we are, what we've done" (p. 252).

She shares candidly about her life, her insecurities, her fears when her newborn son was ill, her struggles with having children. Her writing style and vulnerability with sharing make this book an all-around winner. I started by slowly digesting two or three essays at a time, but that quickly sped up to devouring the entire book; it's really just that good.

"The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a word that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel. If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health" (p. 258).

(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.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Review: "Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist" by Amanda Jenkins

Amanda Jenkins, author of “Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist:  Learning to Be Free” blew me away. I knew it was a book I was going to thoroughly enjoy when she referenced my favorite movie, “Bridget Jones’s Diary” in the fourth paragraph of the introduction. She absolutely kept me coming back for more with this book!

In each of the 12 chapters, she takes a look at different areas, such as vanity, parenthood, and her testimony, where perfectionism has a stranglehold.  Displaying a great amount of vulnerability, she shares her struggles openly and candidly. Various Scripture passages are carefully woven throughout each chapter to help the reader engage with the God who can help us overcome our perfectionist tendencies.

Amanda’s writing style and the subject matter left me feeling like I’d known her for years. I loved reading this book and hope to go through it with a small group to really dig deep into this subject matter. Whether a perfectionist or not, there are some great truths to be gleaned from this book. I would highly recommend this book for all women. There is a section at the back containing study questions and application points for each chapter, which makes it perfect for small groups, book clubs, or even individual study.

“Because, of course, the only way to experience life the way God intends is to choose Him day by day, moment by moment. To resist the urge to cling to my appearance, my money, my plans, my pride, and my dreams—and instead to fix my eyes on Jesus. To rest in God’s love, knowing I’m saved because of His grace and not because I’m perfect or even good. To pray for faith and courage enough to dive into the kind of life He wants for me.” (p. 158)

Jenkins expresses her hope for this book in the first question of Tyndale's Author Q&A:  

That my transparency would get readers one step closer to freedom from their own impossible goals; that it would open their eyes to the strangleholds we sometimes don’t even see, but shape the way we think and spend our time; that it would get us laughing at the stuff we hide; that when brought into the open, things like vanity, materialism and desire for recognition would lose their power/hold on our minds and hearts.

If you are interested in checking out the first chapter, please visit this link. You will not be disappointed!

(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.)

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

"The Lifegiving Parent" by Clay and Sally Clarkson completes the "Lifegiving" trilogy that also includes "The Lifeg...