Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: Answering Jihad

9780310531432

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.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Author Interview: Amanda Hage (and giveaway!)

I'm always excited to find (and share) new authors.  But, I'm especially excited about this one!  Not only is she the daughter of a dear friend, but she is also a local Minnesota homeschool graduate.

Amanda Hage, author of Lily: A Legacy of Faith, is a talented young writer of wholesome Christian novels with biblical values and worldviews. The much anticipated second and third books in the Lily series, Lily: A Legacy of Hope and Lily: A Legacy of Love, have recently been released and are available on www.thornberg.com and www.amazon.com. If you are looking for adventure-filled historical novels for your children, read on! Amanda agreed to share a little about herself and her writing.


Amanda, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am the fourth of eight children and have been blessed to grow up living in a God-fearing home. All my years of formal schooling, I was home-educated by my parents. When I graduated from high school in 2013, I expected to just study medicine and photography. But God’s expectations were different. The things I thought would be at the center of my time and life have turned out to be on the periphery. While I am still trying to absorb a nursing textbook and find time for my eye to catch God’s creation through a camera lens, novel writing has become my major work until the Lord sees fit to change things. On the side, I have six piano students and teach flute to my younger sister. I also have the privilege to periodically play at nursing homes with a local flute choir. When I am not working on a story, twisting tales and conniving conflicts and characters, or doing my Bible and nursing studies, I enjoy meandering through the park behind our house, chumming around with my siblings and doing various projects from cooking to drawing to knitting.

How did homeschooling prepare you to write a book?

It gave me one on one tutoring with my mom and dad and allowed me to freely invest time in what interests God gave me. My parents did not squelch my dreamer’s imagination. They encouraged the silly, short stories I would write when I was a little kindergartner. I remember my mom buying blank books for me to fill with my pictures and tales. I was a writer from the very first. The biggest and most important thing, though, was that my parents invested themselves into teaching me. They did not let me get my disobedient, lazy way.

I could not stand English. I did not like it. At all. Shocking, right? Especially, when I completed a trilogy of historical fiction about a month before my high school graduation. I remember plowing through all my English lessons for the week in one day, just so I could get it done and not have to think about it for another seven days. I did it because mom and dad would not let me get away with not doing it. But I could not even squeak by with just barely getting it done. I had to do it right, know it and understand it. Writing stories was still fun. I never minded that. But grammar was a chore. I dreaded it. I was lazy. Gradually, the Lord changed my heart. He gave me the love of learning that my parents have. At the time my mom was teaching me how to put words and sentences together to form paragraphs that would hold a reader’s interest and be very informational, my dad unwittingly gave me a love for words and what they can communicate. Reading this interview, you might have noticed I tend toward a flowery turn of phrase. Thank my dad.

When I had enough of a grammar foundation, Mom got the Institute for Excellence in Writing curriculum for me to do when I was in junior high. She tailored it to fit me. Then writing for me took flight. It was still structured writing—and that was really hard for me. I did not like being forced to work in a grammatical framework. I still don’t. But at least with that curriculum my imagination and creativity had a little room to move around and work. Habitually, with rare exception through all thirteen years of school, I was done with all of my lessons by lunch. My afternoons were free. I had time. One day, a few months before I turned fourteen, I was bored. Groping for something to keep me occupied and not idle, I sat down in my room and decided to write a story—just for fun—a long term project that I could putter away on as I wanted to. That was the start of the Lily Wellington’s story and what I thought would be only one book. Five and a half years later, it was three and friends were pleading for the publication I had never considered.

Who is your target audience for the Lily series?

Originally, I intended it to be for girls age twelve and up—roughly how old I had been when I started writing. But I laugh because God has greatly expanded that range. I have been told repeatedly by the few ‘guinea pig’ families I tested it out on that the series is a wonderful family read aloud and that even their teenage sons loved reading it.

What messages or values do you hope to communicate to them?

God is the beginning of life and the end of it. He is absolutely sovereign in everything . Life is livable because of the Everlasting God. Without Christ and His salvation, a God-pleasing life is impossible. His Word, the Bible, holds all the answers, whether we like them or not, and it is the absolute standard for our lives. We must trust and do what He says. God is the definition of right and righteous.

Can you share a little about your future writing projects?

In the editing process, I have a western and its sequel waiting and begging to get to the printing press. Hard on the heels of that, I have two other novels begging to be put down in writing and a few more ideas after that. After those, who knows? I never expected to go on writing after the Lily books were done. Even after this western I thought that was it—I guess I should learn my lesson.

And lastly, since this is a book blog, please share some books or authors that you would recommend.

I have read the majority of Janette Oke’s novels and every one of them I have found to be engaging and edifying, which is something I especially expect of a novel labeled with Christ’s name. Unfortunately, I have been more often disappointed than not. A novel in the Christian genre that is not missing nor mediocre in godly edification is a diamond in the rough.  Daughters of the Faith is a biographical series by Wendy Lawton. She’s written the girlhood trials of many unsung heroines of the faith, who quietly and faithfully followed God.  Lois Walfrid Johnson has written a few series for young teenagers. My personal favorite and I think her best is the Viking Quest series. It is great for both girls and boys alike.  Patricia St. John, the author of the beloved Treasures of the Snow, also wrote several other wonderful stories:  Rainbow Garden, Star of Light, The Tanglewoods’ Secret, and The Secret at Pheasant Cottage.  Arleta Richardson’s Grandma’s Attic series and Orphan Train books are wonderful stories for all ages.



Thank you, Amanda, for sharing a little about yourself!

And now.....a giveaway!  Amanda has graciously donated a copy of her first book.  Please enter the contest below and share it with your friends!  The winner will be chosen on Monday, April 27.  


Edit:  Two entries per person.  One for leaving a comment and one for sharing the giveaway with a friend.

a Rafflecopter giveaway