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.)

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...