Monday, December 19, 2016

Missionary Book: Give Me This Mountain

Helen Roseveare (1925-2016) was a missionary doctor who served the Lord in the Belgian Congo. Give Me This Mountain is her story.  It is not easy to read because of the persecutions that she faced, but her desire to give glory to God despite the difficulties should be an encouragement to all. I encourage you to read this book.

Justin Taylor, from the Gospel Coalition, has written a short summary of her story here, including several quotes from her.

And if you don't read the book, at least watch the following videos (not something you will hear from me often!).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: Everyday Detox

Everyday Detox: 100 Easy Recipes to Remove Toxins, Promote Gut Health, and Lose Weight Naturally by [Gilmore, Megan]
This book was a little out of my comfort zone as I'm a very simple cook. However, I was pleasantly surprised. There were several recipes where I thought - hey, I can do this! There were also recipes with ingredients that I wasn't familiar with, but they seemed easily accessible.

I was also pleased with the amount of information presented in this book. It is more than just a cookbook!

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

I have always found Julie Klassen to be a delightful author. Her books are well-written stories set in the Regency period, thoroughly researched, always with a touch of romance and mystery. 

And so, based on the author's previous books, I was excited to read and review The Innkeeper of Ivy Hills. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the book and finished only out of duty.

From the publisher:
The lifeblood of the Wiltshire village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. But when the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant owner. Jane has no notion of how to run a business. However, with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must find a way to bring new life to the inn. 
Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to find her place in the world. As she and Jane work together, they form a measure of trust, and Thora's wounded heart begins to heal. When she encounters two men from her past, she sees them--and her future--in a different light.
With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane employs innovative methods to turn the inn around, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place. Will her efforts be enough to save The Bell? And will Thora embrace the possibility of a second chance at love?
The characters in the book were flat and unlikeable. Jane was apathetic, Thora was critical, and Rachel was indecisive. Unfortunately, there were no redeeming qualities to these characters that made me want to forgive their shortcomings and cheer for them.  

There were many characters and storylines introduced. It took me at least a third of the book to sort everyone out and determine which characters were even important.  And many storylines were started, but not finished. This book is the first in a new series, and I'm assuming that many characters will be fleshed out and storylines continued in upcoming books. The storylines which were finished in this book- if Jane would save the Bell and if Thora would have a second chance at love - were anticlimactic.

I still appreciate Julie Klassen's writing style, but in this novel the characters and storyline failed to deliver.

I received this book free from the publisher via NetGallery in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women

Recently, my church went through a series on pastoral counseling from Master's Seminary that is available for free on YouTube. It is essentially biblical counseling taught to pastors, but applicable to everyone. It was wonderful, and although at times it was a little dense with information, I highly recommend it.

When I saw The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women by John D. Street Jr. and Janie Street available for review, I was excited because it fit in exactly with what I had just learned!

First, what is biblical counseling? Or, what is the goal? According to the book,
"In short, it is to help a counselee live a life of obedience and faith, and thus to be more Christlike (John 6:35-40). This is accomplished by living out the implications of the gospel in the midst of your problems, seeking to bring all of your life under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. The goal is not simply a short-sighted attempt to get a woman out of her problems, even though, when a person follows Christ's admonitions, her problems will often eventually be resolved."
(Lest you balk a the end of the last sentence, it does go on to say, "However, some problems will not go away, even after you have faithfully obeyed Christ." You'll have to buy the book to read the rest.)

This book is not a handbook filled with charts and lists of Bible verses. That's not to say that the information isn't there, but it is in story form.  Each chapter details the story of a woman and the sin with which she is struggling. It works through the entire process, often starting at a point before she realizes that she needs help. It is essentially a case study on various issues that incorporates biblical counseling principles and applications. It addresses the most common features of each issue but is not meant to be comprehensive.  

The chapters included are:
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Appearance
  • Bitterness
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Chemical Abuse
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorder: Anorexia
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Marital Unfaithfulness: Adultery
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Panic Attacks
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Transgenderism
  • Victim of Abuse

Now, I like charts. A lot. And I felt a little deflated when I realized they weren't there. But, I realized, the benefit of this approach is that I need to read and assimilate the material instead of just referencing it. In other words, in order to use it, I need to own it. I can't take a shortcut and flip to a chart. Need a verse on anxiety? Tsk, the chapter, study the verses and context - no shortcuts!

One of the features that the book contains to help you own the information are questions for discussion. Here are a couple of samples from the chapter on anxiety:

  1. Many people make excuses for ongoing sin, saying that some sins cannot be overcome, that they are just a part of who we are. Read Philippians 4:4-9 and 2 Timothy 6:16-17. Write down the reasons why these excuses cannot be true.
  2. What aspects of God's character are under attack when we fail to put off sinful anxiety?
As you can see, these questions will be very helpful in helping you understand the material.

I highly recommend this book for every woman. Not only will this help prepare you to biblically counsel a friend, but it will also give you compassion and understanding for those that struggle with sins that you don't. 

Disclaimer: I received this ebook free from the publisher.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Help! My Friend Is Reading a Dangerous Book

There are a lot of spiritually dangerous books. Generally, they are the current best-sellers. In this video, Noel Piper and Gloria Furman offer some great advice when your friend is reading one.
Help! My Friend Is Reading a Dangerous Book from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Quote: Difficulties

"God shields us from most of the things we fear, but when He chooses not to shield us, He unfailingly allots grace in the measure needed.  It is for us to choose to receive or refuse it. Our joy or our misery will depend on that choice."

Secure in the Everlasting Arms  -     By: Elisabeth Elliot
"When we try to meet difficulties prematurely we have neither the light nor the strength for them yet. 'As thy days so shall thy strength be' was Moses' blessing for Asher - in other words, your strength will equal your days."

Elisabeth Elliot


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What I'm Reading

Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ
by Andrew Naselli and J.D. Crowley

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions
by Gregory Koukl

Core Christianity
By Michaela Horton

Glimpses of Grace
by Gloria Furman

Be Still, My Soul
edited by Nancy Guthrie

Being There
by David Furman

By G.K. Chesterton

And several fiction books on my kindle. :-)

Why so many books at one time?
I'm a proponent of reading non-fiction books slowly in order to absorb and contemplate. I only read a chapter, sometimes only a section, at a time. And I carve out time to just think about it. 


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: Answering Jihad


Consider the following headlines from March 22, 2016...
ISIS Claims Responsility for Brussels Attack
ISIS Attacks US Firebase in Iraq
ISIS: 75 Attacks. 20 Countries, 1,280 killed
And here is a list of the attacks in the past 30 days.  

Terrifying.  Terrifying and maddening.   Innocent people, often women and children, brutally murdered under the flag of Islam. And, oh my, people are mad.

As Christians, how are we to respond? Do we really understand what is going on? Do we even care to understand? Or are we content to feed our anger with Facebook posts and rating-driven news reports? 

Nabeel Quereshi, in Answering Jihad, says, "There is too much confusion, too much misdirected anger, too much misinformation, too little balance and too little grace to remain silent any longer." And he doesn't remain silent. Instead, he provides a better way forward. 

Answering Jihad is very readable.  It is separated into three parts: The Origins of Jihad, Jihad Today and Jihad in Judeo-Christian Context. The chapters within these sections are short (5-10 pages long) and are in a question/answer format. At 173 pages, you could easily finish this book in a weekend.

Here is a list of the questions that he tackles:
Part 1:  Origins of Jihad
What is Islam?
Is Islam “a Religion of Peace”?
What is Jihad?
Is Jihad in the Quran and the Life of Muhammed?
What is Sharia?
Was Islam Spread by the Sword?

Part 2: Jihad Today
What is Radical Islam?
Does Islam need a Reformation?
Who are Al-Qaida, ISIS, and Boko Haram?
Who are the True Muslims- Violent or Peaceful Muslims?
Why are Muslims being radicalized?
Are Muslims trying to take over the West with Sharia?

Part 3: Jihad in Judeo-Christian Context
Do Muslims and Christians worship the Same God?
Why do some Christians call God “Allah”?
How does Jihad compare with Old Testament Warfare?
What does Jesus teach about Violence?
How does Jihad compare with the Crusades?
What does Jesus have to do with Jihad?

Nabeel Quereshi asks and answers the hard questions.  But he's not writing in isolation from the kingdom of acadamia.  As a former Muslim, he writes, "Islam was my identity, my culture, my worldview, my pride, even my raison d'etre. For me, Islam was more than just a religion; it was my entire way of life." As a Christian, he seeks the truth.  But as a man with Muslim friends and family, he seeks love and grace. 

This book is written with a tone of grace and respect. And the author exhorts Christians to respond to Muslims with the same tone of grace and respect. This can be done without compromising the truth. But we must be willing to seek the truth, which won't be found in soundbites from Fox News.

I encourage you to read this book.  You will find it very beneficial to your understanding of the events of today.

I received this book from the publisher for this review.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Hiding in the Light {Blogging for Books review}

From the publisher:

Rifqa Bary grew up in a devout Muslim home, obediently following her parents’ orders to practice the rituals of Islam. But God was calling her to freedom and love. He was calling her to true faith. He was calling her to give up everything.

Leaving Islam for Christianity cost her more than she imagined but gave more than she could have dreamed.

Hiding in the Light is the story of Rifqa’s remarkable spiritual journey from Islam to Christianity. It is also the untold story of how she ran from her father’s threats to find refuge with strangers in Florida, only to face a controversial court case that reached national headlines. Most of all, it is the story of a young girl who made life-changing sacrifices to follow Jesus—and who inspires us to do the same.

UPS dropped off this book shortly before supper last night.  I had finished it by bedtime.  I couldn't put it down.  It is an absolutely riveting, but heartrending story of a young Muslim girl in an abusive family who, because of her faith in Christ and fear of retribution, runs away.  This throws her life into chaos.  Legal battles and foster homes ensue.  It also throws her into a firestorm of media coverage.  And media coverage is anything but forgiving.  A Google search on Rifqa will verify that. 

I was fortunate to have missed the media sensation and came to this book with no preconceptions of the story.  And I would encourage you to read this book and take it at face value.  Read with discernment, yes.  But just because her experiences don't fit into how you see the world, do not label it as false. In my world, truth trumps honor.  But in the lives of many Muslims honor reigns supreme.  Honor trumps truth.  And when this happens, a culture is created that is difficult for westernized Americans to understand.  Reading this book gives us a vicarious look into this culture.

I would highly recommend that you read this book.  Highly.  However, I would offer two caveats.

First, don't let this become the lens through which you view all American Muslim families.  In the words of Nabeel Quereshi, "Islam is not monolithic."  All Muslim families are not abusive and repressive as was Rifqa's.  Quereshi's book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, is testimony of that.  His family was the antithesis of Rifqa's.

Second, her conversion story was murky.  Analytical and cerebral does not describe her conversion. Emotional and experiential does.  Salvation in Christ comes through repenting of the sins that separate you from a Holy God and acknowledging him as Lord and Savior in your life.  (For a clear presentation of the gospel, go here.)  As I read her conversion, I thought, "does she know who Jesus really is?" and "does she see herself as a sinner?" Did I miss it?  Perhaps I read too fast.  But even so, if your goal is to show what Christ has done in your life the gospel should be presented with such clarity that even a speed reader won't miss it.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, May 18, 2015

What Color is Your Parachute? for Teens {Blogging for Books Review}

From the Publisher
This updated career guide for teens draws on the principles of What Color Is Your Parachute? to help high school and college students zero in on their favorite skills and find their perfect major or career.
No idea what you want to be? No worries! This fun, rewarding guide draws on the time-tested principles of the career classic What Color Is Your Parachute? to help you discover your passions, skills, and potential college majors and dream jobs.

Why now? Because when you identify your interests and passions early, you can make informed decisions on what additional schooling (and tuition debt) makes sense for your chosen field.

With fresh updates on the specific challenges of today’s job-market, this new edition features activities and advice on information interviewing, social media, internships, and more. Most importantly, it’s packed with big-picture advice that will set you up to land the job that’s perfect for who you are—and who you want to be.

Layout of the Book

What Color is Your Parachute? for teens is divided into three sections:

Part One/Discover Your Dream Job: And Plot to Get It - This section is where all of the work is! Through various exercises students will complete their "parachute" which will detail their skills, preferred work environment and goals.
Part Two/On The Way to Your Future: Help if You Don't Know Where to Go - Information on making the most of high school and higher education. Well-balanced approach to making the decision to go or not to go to college. Also includes section on goal setting and social media.
Part Three/Land Your Dream Job: Create Your Ideal Life...and More - How to search and interview for a job.

What I Thought

There are several things that I like about this book. First, the writing and tone of the book is not dumbed down for the current teen culture. I despise books with language modeled after social media posting. However, this book is written in a very straightforward, businesslike manner. It could be read ten years from now and while the content would be outdated, the language would not be. Second, the book is very practical. It contains sample thank you notes, how to conduct an information interview and great advice on job interviews.

However, there is always something I don't like. This time it was not the content of the book but the layout. The exercises are in boxes with shading that is much too dark. While these exercises are meant to be done on another piece of paper the dark shading would preclude you from making notes in the book. The parachute, a diagram that you need to complete, needs to be photocopied and enlarged. Not very user-friendly. This could easily be remedied by having a free download of the diagram on their website.

Overall, I view this as a good resource for high school students.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.