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

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* 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

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* 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.