Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture


   Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture

* I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley to review
An amazing book that I sailed right through chomping on every bit of morsel. I applaud the author and the subject of the book. There are so many wonderful points that resounded deeply within me and reading this book I was constantly thinking about it every chance I got. The author explores living in a modern world in which not all are Christians and yet we Christians have an attitude and self-righteousness that often doesn't reach or respect these people.

Daniel of the Bible is used and expounded upon as a jump off point to illustrate and explore how did he, Daniel, live in such a perverse and ungodly world. He then proceeds to explore faith, bad things that happen to the believer to how we interact and often miss the mark in truly respecting the people around us. Modern day Christianity often seeks to prod, guilt or shout their beliefs and attitudes to the general populace who might not believe and do what we think they should be believing or doing. My least favorite subject, politics was mentioned and explored with such an unique insight and approach in which he discusses how Christian often get into thinking that we are to change the world and the political climate. He mentions that the Apostle Paul encouraged the church to respect and honor the emperor Nero who happened to be in power at the time. Nero was one of the most perverse and insane emperors ever in the history of the Roman Empire.

I constantly highlighted and bookmarked throughout the book that I might as well highlighted it all because the book is one of the best on the subject. This quote is one of my favorites in the book:

" Frankly, it's here that many of us can miss the boat. The more Babylon-like our culture becomes, the more our resentment builds, resulting in bitterness, slander, rumormongering, and harsh critiques that no one would characterize as a kind and gentle rebuke. Many excuse their words by pointing to Jesus's harsh rebukes of the Pharisees and other religious leaders of His day. But they miss the point. Jesus didn't rail on the sinners of His day. He pursued them. It was the religious hypocrites who were attempting to keep the sinners at bay that he blasted.

I have thought of purchasing a several copies of this book to hand out to my family. I am blessed by having quite a few Believers in my family but the belief that we as Christians have to take a political and often harsh attitude towards non-believers often alarms me. I also believe that every Christian and church would benefit from reading this wonderful and highly eye-opening book.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter

25172219     Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter

To be honest I was hoping more in this biography as I am very interested in people especially in the arts, but this one was filled too much with facts and dates. Grace Hartigan, the person never seemed to be fleshed out enough for me and I was a bit bored throughout the book. I am an artist and I did appreciate the snippets of Grace's point of view and her approach to art but it was far and few between. On the positive, I enjoyed reading about Abstract Expressionism and the mention of several of the greats such as Jackson Pollock and De Kooning kept my interest.

I did find a mistake in the facts when the author referred to Walter Keene when she attributed the wide-wide waif paintings to him when in actuality the paintings were his wife, Margaret's paintings. He was plagiarizing her paintings and claimed them as his work. In the book, his name and the true facts about these paintings were inaccurate.

Ultimately I appreciate the research and the writing itself though I always need more beyond facts and details. Though I did get a sense of what the life of an artist during the 50's was like and over-all the book was worth the read.

Friday, May 22, 2015

24020962   by Brenda Vicars
                     Published December 2nd 2014 by Red Adept Publishing            

 *I received a copy from the author in return for a honest review.

When I review books I do not delve into writing a synopsis of the book, I prefer to highlight how the book has affected my emotions and intellect. I often look for more details in what I read in other reviews but I am not one to add more than what others have outlined.

I was excited and looking forward to reading this book because Polarity's mother who had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). There are several people in my family who has (one is deceased) the disorder and I grew up being totally affected and immersed by it. What I didn't expect was such an unique view and understanding of the disorder in this book. There were several times I found myself relating immediately to the dialogue or circumstance remembering what it was like having to deal with someone with this difficult mental illness.

The storyline and events kept me on the edge of my seat and wondering what was going to happen next. I appreciated the feeling of reality to the various characters and their stories and I think the book has a lot to offer the reader, in particular young people. To me the author is very savvy in the understanding of peer pressure, bullying and the difficulties of school life.

I'll address what I have read in other reviews and experienced in my own reading of the book. There are sections of the storyline that seemed contrived and perhaps a bit "too good to be true". But bear with me, I feel that it is a catalyst or serves a purpose to bringing about the message of the story. I am an artist and I might "contrive" a portion of the painting to highlight an idea or feeling. In reality, perhaps the lighting isn't that bright or yellow, but it will evoke emotion or the sense of being loved or happy. I feel good writing is an art form and I don't expect a book to be totally realistic and flawless. I will over-look certain elements if I know that it was a vehicle to a means to an end. I think in these so-called flaws, the humanity and personality of an author comes through and I want to sense the author in the book I am reading.

The message of the book is profound and very important to young people dealing with many issues including racial prejudice. I found myself (sadly but true) initially looking forward to taking a stance and attitude against the Borderline mother because of my own experience with BPD. This book help uncover my own prejudice against people who suffer from this mental disorder which in turn has helped me to grow and re-evaluate my point of view. When a book touches my emotions and specifically helps re-align my thinking or attitude, I think that is writing to be valued and applauded.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

                                                Published April 14th 2015 by Waterfall Press

* I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley to review.
An Empty Cup started out to be promising and I liked the observation and depiction of Amish life but towards the latter part of the story I think my interest waned a bit. The story seemed to me not to have a clear focus. I understood that part of that focus was Rosanna's difficulty with saying no and allowing herself to be pulled in all directions by family and community. Though it just seemed to be not quite clear enough or either two-dimensional and not quite fleshed out enough for me. I was relieved that Rosanna finally learned that you can't give when you have nothing in your cup to give but darn I felt wrung out through the process.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard

20820619The Hardest Peace:
                                                                Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard
                                    Published October 1st 2014 by David C. Cook

* I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley to review.

I have experienced the pain and grief of losing a parent to cancer and I am leery of reading books about people dealing with cancer, either it is maudlin or emotionally removed from the storyline. I applaud the author in her handling such a sensitive subject with a deep understanding and maturity in dealing with an illness as serious as cancer. The honesty and transparency was much appreciated and the spiritually insight really blessed me.

The author's emphasis and understanding that each of us has a personal story that the Lord has given us, rather it being one of pain or hardship is not to be feared but rather embraced and received in grace. We don't need to control our hardships or avoid the pain but trust the Lord and accept this particular story that is a part of the Lord's design. Avoiding pain is ultimately not the thing we strive to do in our Christian lives.

This quote resounded within me:

"What is the chief end of man?" The answer, the beautiful answer every heart needs to hear: "To glorify God and enjoy Him FOREVER." That forever being this side of heaven and the next. Longevity is not the answer, but it is my soft heart's desire. But to give glory forever-yes, yes. That is my longevity in this place and in the next."

After reading this book I felt encouraged and enlightened to a different way of viewing pain, illness and hardship. I strive to read books that have changed my spiritual outlook for the better and this is one of those books.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

25006484     by

* I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley to review.

I am a mom with daughters in their 20's and 30's and I imagined that it would be correct to say that I am in a position to read this book and relate very well to it. The author is a younger mother with toddlers and still I assumed that I could relate. Initially I did but I did not relate to how she presented her book. I could not grasp her analogy of "supermom" and relating it to the flesh that we all struggle with. Albeit "supermom" in this case represented sin, which I know is "the flesh". I felt that there was too much focus on sin, fleshliness, being unspiritual, selfishness but especially on sin. After a while I felt like I was being eaten alive by a literary shrike. A shrike is a bird that picks at its' prey until they die. I know I am being dramatic but there seemed to be little let up with all the self castigation. And suffice to say, I could have easily fallen into a self castigation party myself but I have done enough of that in my youth and not so distant past.

I am very aware that we as Christians should do quite a bit of sin awareness work but this book and approach was over the top and I wonder if some poor mother would sink into a depth of depression after reading this book. I do believe that I might be too harsh but I think as Christians it could be an easy downward spiral of concentrating on our flesh and sin too much. It in itself can also be a sin, a idol of sorts. I am so glad that we leave it at the cross each and every day. To be fair there were snippets of good moments in this book but not enough for me to carry over into my review. Thank the Lord for grace and His gentle care in how He pinpoints our failures, shortcomings and sin. I love how He shows this to us and how we can come to Him for renewal and forgiveness. There is a sweetness in the process, I end up feeling loved and not condemned. I would have liked to read more of that in this book. I think having a fair and balanced approach that is both Biblical and spiritually logical is key to a very serious issue.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Travelogue of the Interior: Finding Your Voice and God's Heart in the Psalms

25238172     by

* I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley to review.

A Travelogue of the Interior was all that I had hoped for and then some. Not an amazing start to my review but straight forward if I say so myself. From what I gathered from the synopsis this book was something I knew I would glean rich and insightful spiritual gems, I was not disappointed. The author outlines the book in such a way that you are taken along for the ride in her journey but she welcomes the reader to join her in her adventure in the book of Psalms. Right from the start she invites the reader "to read a psalm a day, unpack it and the write a poem in response". An invitation to join her adventure down the river of Psalms and hopefully discover yourself along the way.

There are several chapters that explores subjects such as lament, sin, prayer and thirsting after God, among others. I mention these because they spoke to me the most. Oh, and one more which explores gender and how especially women struggle with how we(and the world)view women. I constantly highlighted many sections and even added a few of my own notes.

This quote really resounded within me, a section referring to being a parent:
"I let them go because it is good for them, and it is good for me. I let them go because that is, after all, part of what parenting is, a daily, sometimes gut wrenching decision to entrust our children to God and teach them that they belong not to us but to God. To instruct them and then give them opportunities to discover on their own that God uniquely made them to reflect God's image in the world, that they are capable of following God wherever He leads."

There were parts of the book that I related to only because I have journaled and spent the time doing the spiritual digging. I love reading books that reaffirm the journey that I often wonder if others have walked or experienced. When I do come up to similarities like my own I am both encouraged and spurred onto higher heights. I know that many people will grasp the spiritual truths and prompts while reading this book, I most certainly did.

There was a moment, well, perhaps more than a moment that I almost abandoned the book. I had my spiritual feet shook a bit and I had to reassess to continue or not. I like being honest in my reviews and life and I cannot pass this up. The author has a scientific approach to creation and mentions with much obscurity and refers to "evolution" in one of her chapters. I about did an internal flip and my heart and mind starting reacting and I was having a battle with her using "that" word. After all, we all know that you don't say bomb on a plane and I couldn't help thinking of that analogy when I saw the word evolution in a Christian book no less! I promptly looked her up on the internet and was in a righteous huff while looking up her name and what the Christian community is saying about her. Truthfully I couldn't find anything other than her blog. Suffice to say, she is unclear in the book exactly what she is really trying to say about creation. I don't think she is saying that we weren't created by God and etc but I had to let it go and figure that it isn't up to me to challenge her or to get into a huff and abandon the book. It is well worth the ruffling of the feathers and truthfully I got over it. The love and genuinely of her life and walk with the Lord clearly comes through her writing and right now in my life, that is enough.

My last thoughts is if we are to avoid any ideas or personal theories out there that are different from ours; we as Christians might as well stay home, never turn on our tv or turn on our computers. There are all kinds of people and certainly Christian brothers or sisters that might have an opinion or belief that differs from our own. I realized after my initial reaction and letting it go and carrying on with the book, I learned many spiritual truths in my doing so. I love when a book challenges you and then you see the Word or the Lord in a fresh and new way. That is how I felt by the time I finished the book. I plan to buy a Psalms journal and do exactly what the author did and invite the Lord along for the ride.