Book Review | Unreasonable Hope

Unreasonable Hope: Finding Faith in the God Who Brings Purpose to Your Pain
by Chad Veach

In Unreasonable Hope, Chad Veach shares his own family’s personal story of choosing hope and continually looking forward to God’s goodness despite tough circumstances.  When he and his wife learned that their precious first-born daughter had lissencephaly (or “smooth brain”) and would not develop mentally beyond about 3 months, they had to find ways to continue to hope in God. unreasonable-hope

Much of the book reads like a memoir as he shares about the pregnancy, birth, diagnosis and continual care of their daughter Georgie.  As he tells his story, he reminds the reader to build a community, to refuse bitterness, to remember what God has already done, to share testimony of God’s goodness, and to pray with faith.  He manages to walk that very difficult balance-beam of believing God can do anything and knowing that sometimes He chooses not to heal or perform a miracle.

Veach divides the book up into four parts:  The Struggle, The Remedy, The Rest, The Better, and each of these sections includes a final chapter that focuses on the practical.  He tells his story and offers encouragement for a few chapters and then he gives you several points on what these lessons might look like when lived out in your own circumstances and your own life. I loved that he did this because it helped the book move beyond just “someone else’s story” and nudged the reader into application and personal growth.

At the end of the book, he reminds us that 1 Corinthians 13 says, “And now abides faith, hope, and love…”  We talk a lot about faith.  We focus a lot on love.  But sometimes we forget the necessity of hope, and yet hope is what  helps us rest in God’s love, trust Him for the future, and not give up when things go horribly wrong.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | A Woman of Strength and Purpose

A Woman of Strength and Purpose
by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias

Cynthia Tobias is well-known for her speaking and writing about learning styles, as well as parenting/teaching strong-willed children.  Her latest book, A Woman of Strength and Purpose, is written for those she calls “Strong Willed Women” or (SWW).  She includes a checklist in the book to see how you rate on the strong-will scale, but in general, she’s writing to women who are filled with passion and determination, who “meet the world head-on, undeterred by those who say something can’t be done.”woman of strength

Her book is a quick and easy read and focuses on tips for transforming a strong will into a passionate pursuit of Christ’s purposes.  She writes about living all out for God, relinquishing self-sufficiency, controlling our tongues, and leading with integrity.   Tobias also shares chapters on marriage and parenting to apply the lessons to relationships in the home.  The book concludes with discussion questions that could be used by individuals or small groups who want to dig deeper and more personally into the book content.

One of the issues Tobias writes about is how many strong-willed women have felt trapped by stereotypes and condescending restrictions, especially within ministry and the church.  They often don’t know of other strong-willed women who can mentor them or set an example for them.  Throughout the book, Tobias helps meet that need by providing profiles of real strong-willed Women and their journeys with Christ.  She also includes a chapter on mentoring a new generation of women who will follow God with abandon, with passion, and with determination.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

 

 

Book Review | Find Your Brave

Find Your Brave
by Holly Wagner

Holly Wagner has experienced shaky times, including a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994 that caused devastation in her community.  She writes, “Figurative earthquakes can rock our lives with chaos and fear. And the aftershocks can feel just as devastating.”  In her book, Find Your Brave, Holly talks about how to find courage during the shaky times, the dark seasons, and the difficult circumstances in life.find your brave

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book for me were her insights on the apostle Paul’s journey to Rome in Acts 27 as he traveled in a  storm-tossed vessel that ship-wrecked of the coast of Malta.  Each chapter covers a brief portion of Paul’s trip and experiences and then offers wisdom for our own journeys, such as using support lines to brace ourselves, knowing what to throw overboard, and setting our sights on hope.  While I’ve read this biblical account quite a few times, this was the first time I’d read a close study on this portion of Scripture and how we could apply it.

Holly also does something uniquely powerful; she includes a chapter on what happens when you’ve caused your own storm.  We tend to think about and talk about the storms of life as circumstances that happen to us.  But she’s right: there are times we cause our own storms just as the sailors did in Acts 27 by ignoring Paul’s advice about when to travel.  And yet, there is grace and redemption.  Even when our own poor choices or lack of discipline causes our troubles, God can restore and heal and bring beauty.

The book also includes a collection of scriptures to speak over your situation and a few discussion questions for personal reflection or mall groups at the back.  Every Christian will encounter storms in life, but these lessons from Acts can equip us for the future or help us right now in the tempests we face.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

 

Book Review | Unashamed

Unashamed
by Christine Caine

The first time I heard Christine Caine speak, I was stunned by this powerhouse of a preacher, and her voice in her new book, Unashamed, is just as powerful as ever.  This book tells her very personal journey of overcoming the prison of shame that could have held her back both in relationships and ministry.unashamed

When most people talk about overcoming shame, they focus on the shame of what we’ve done and maybe a little on shame of what’s been done to us.  Christine Caine’s story goes even beyond that. She does talk about overcoming the shame of being a sexual abuse victim as a child.  But she also talks about the shame of growing up in the marginalized Greek community in Australia, about finding out as an adult that she’d been adopted (info her adoptive parents kept secret because of their own shame over fertility issues), and she talks a great deal about overcoming the shame of being “different” as a woman.  She’s a leader, that’s for sure.  But growing up and even within the Christian community as an adult, she was taught that she had to be “less than” because she was a woman.  She shouldn’t lead or be too smart or too capable.  She just needed to get a man and have kids.  So when she talks about shame, it includes feeling shame over who we are and how God has made us!

With any Christine Caine book, she writes as she speaks.  It’s easy to read.  It packs a lot of punch. It’s not intense and in depth Bible study, but it’s challenging and inspiring and can bring a lot of freedom.  In Unashamed, she talks about choosing not to be a victim, finding freedom in the mercy of Jesus, controlling your thought life, and forgiving even when it’s so very hard to forgive.  Ultimately, her message returns to the freedom Christ gives us.  She says, “God is not only more powerful than anything you’ve done but also stronger than anything ever done to you…God is bigger than your mistakes, your inadequacies, your past, and your limitations.”

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | Seasons of Waiting

Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams are Delayed
by Betsy Childs Howard

Waiting is one thing most Christians have experienced before, and something most of us complain about.  Waiting stretches us.  It tests faith and reveals character.  It shows whether we deep-down trust God or not.  And, it’s usually uncomfortable. I’ve been through my own long waits for provision and fulfilled promises before, so I was excited to read Seasons of Waiting by Betsy Childs Howard.  seasonsofwaiting

Overall, I felt her outlook on waiting offered a new, big-picture perspective.  She argues that what we wait for in the here-and-now illustrates how all of creation longed for a Savior and how we are all still longing for the return of Christ.  This made me realize how my own waiting means far more than just character-building or faith-growing in my own life.  I wait with creation. I wait with all humanity.  It helps me to pray in a new way and tap into a greater longing for God Himself rather than just whatever I’ve been seeking.

After an initial introduction to the greater context of waiting, Howard then offers a series of chapters on specific things many people wait a long time for:  Marriage, Children, Healing, a Home. This section of the book was, to me, okay.  I felt disappointed in the content because those aren’t really how I’m finding myself waiting.  It appears that this book was launched after an article the author wrote for The Gospel Coalition on being, at that time, a single Christian woman.  But when she transferred that to book form, it felt too audience-specific.  Howard does make attempts to broaden the audience in each chapter, reminding us that those waiting for a human husband represent the bride waiting for the return of Christ.  This was mildly helpful, but still left me wanting more.

At only 98 pages, this book ended up far shorter than I expected and didn’t really delve into the greater spiritual lessons on waiting that I wanted.  I didn’t need to read about specific waiting scenarios.  I wanted to follow the journey of those who waited in Scripture.  I wanted to know what to do in the waiting, how to pray in the waiting, how to serve others in the waiting, how to be content in the waiting, and the like.   To me, the book could have replaced the middle content with much deeper lessons on a subject we all need to learn more about since we’ve all been in a season of waiting before (or are in a season like that now). Of course, for others who are waiting for marriage, or children, etc., this book may feel particularly relevant and helpful.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

 

Book Review | The Fruitful Wife

The Fruitful Wife: Cultivating a Love Only God can Produce
by Hayley DiMarco

In her book, The Fruitful Wife, Hayley Dimarco does something unique in her study of the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5; she applies the “fruit” to marriage.  What would a fruitful wife and a fruit-filled marriage look like? After an introduction to the concept of fruitfulness, she studies one theme per chapter (love, joy, peace, etc.).  I’ve read quite a few books on the fruit of the spirit and quite a few marriage books, but never one that looked at these two ideas together, so I was intrigued by the topic and the way she handled it.fruitful wife

I read the book on a Kindle, so I can’t speak to the problems other readers had with the text color being difficult to read.  On the Kindle at least, the book design seemed lovely from the great cover to the teal-colored, well-designed title pages at the start of each chapter.

I loved the concept and the idea of studying the fruit of the spirit in the particular context of marriage.  Marriage draws out so much about the core of who we are.  You can fake goodness or gentleness or kindness or exhibit those characteristics in your own strength or as your natural personality, but when you’re in the nitty gritty of a close relationship and you see the faults of your husband and he sees all your mess, too, well that’s when it gets real.  You can’t pretend anything.  Any situation that by definition relies on selflessness (marriage, parenting, caregiving), can bring out the worst in us, but ultimately build into us the beauty of Christ as we let the Holy Spirit be at work.

I think DiMarco did a great job of emphasizing that point also.  Nonbelievers can be good or gentle or loving.  But it’s not Spirit-fruit.  In the context of relationships, we might think we’ll definitely show love in marriage during our engagement because we’re so “in love,” but of course true, Spirit-fruit is so much more than that.  The true test of whether we’re displaying the fruit of the spirit comes when there’s conflict or when it’s hard.  That’s when we’re relying on the Spirit to do the work rather than ourselves.

I liked her honesty and vulnerability, especially when sharing about the early days of her marriage, and I thought she did a good job of discussing each fruit, giving its biblical definition, examples from Scripture, and personal stories.  I liked some of her definitions of the fruit also, like emphasizing how gentleness doesn’t mean being a doormat and goodness is really “imitating Christ.”  Her chapter on joy was particularly well done.

With all that said about the positive aspects of the book,  I did wonder at some of her personal examples in the book.  She talks about marrying late in life and being set in her ways.  So she describes honeymoon tantrums, breaking plates as anger therapy, not saying “please and thank you” to her husband and more.  The hope, of course, is that if she started out that way in marriage and grew into fruitfulness, than anyone can!  Most of the examples, however, seemed to describe what she got wrong and boy was it wrong!!  It would have been helpful to see what the spiritual fruit looks like in action, not just hear about a marriage that is lacking in gentleness or patience and the like.

I also (like other reviewers) am not sure she fully intended to suggest that many mental disorders  (“obsessive compulsive disorder, hypochondria, or other social phobias”) were simply a lack of patience or trust in God.  I do think, like many other issues and disorders, there are spiritual and physical components.  But she didn’t clarify that and for some people that could be hurtful or even dangerous.

I believe with most marriage books you should “read and glean.”  No book you read may be 100% helpful for your own marriage and you might not agree with every single thing an author writes, but you can still glean.  This is a book worth gleaning from.  DiMarco offers a unique look at spiritual fruit in marriage and also shares powerful insights about the Galatians 5 fruit of the spirit.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review: The Blessing of Humility

The Blessing of Humility
Jerry Bridges

Years ago, I read Respectable Sins, the first book I’d ever read by Jerry Bridges.  At the time, I remember feeling a bit undone—in the best way.  Without being preachy or combative, condemning or judgmental, he managed to stir up a heart of repentance and draw his readers to the heart of the gospel.  He does the same in his book, The Blessing of Humility.  Chapter after chapter, Bridges reminded me of my dependence on Christ both to save me and to transform me in this Christian life.blessing of humility

Bridges walks through the Beatitudes in this book and ties each one back to the unifying theme of humility.  He caught my attention right from the introduction, saying, “The character trait of humility is the second-most frequently taught trait in the New Testament, second only to love.  At one time I counted fifty instances of love taught, either by precept or example, in the New Testament; I counted forty instances of humility.”  This study on humility seems especially relevant to me in our look-at-me culture of selfies and Facebook statuses, Twitter feeds and more.  It seems like we are always vying for attention.

The Blessing of Humility is quite brief and very to the point.  The text itself is about 95 pages and a discussion guide in the back extends the content out, making it useful for small group discussion.   It would be easy to make a short book like this little more than a lecture on a theological idea.  Bridges doesn’t do that.  He shares his own heart, his own need for redemption, his own mistakes, and he seems to come alongside the readers rather than wagging a disappointed finger in our face and shaming us.  This itself made the book a treasure, making it feel like a discussion with an honored Christian mentor whose passion for God and His Word inspires and challenges you.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

 

 

Book Review | None Like Him

None Like Him: 10 Ways That God is Different Than Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing)
by Jen Wilkin

Jen Wilkin gives an insightful, accessible overview of the attributes of God in her book, None Like Him.  In the book, she discusses how God is:  Infinite, Incomprehensible, Self-Existent, Self-Sufficient, Eternal, Immutable, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Sovereign.  She also reminds us that we aren’t like God and that’s a good thing.   There’s so much freedom when we stop trying to be all-knowing or all-sovereign, and when we allow God to be God and worship Him for who He truly is!none like him

I’ve read other books before that discuss comprehensive theology such as this; Jen’s is my favorite thus far.  She explains things so clearly and it’s so well-written.  It didn’t feel like a chore or a seminary exercise to read this book, and yet the way she draws on Scripture has great depth.   Because there are so many books out there that study the names of God and what they say about His character, Jen’s approach to the character of God stood out as unique.

My only quibble with the book is its brevity.  At just 121 pages long, this is a book you could read in an afternoon sitting.  But you probably shouldn’t.  It’s far best savored, considered and maybe re-read.  Jen includes verses for meditation, questions for reflection, and a prayer at the end of each chapter, which are great for an individual who wants to go deeper or for a small group or Book Club to use for further discussion. I would love, love, love, though, to see this book’s content offered in a workbook-style Bible study for deeper study.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | The Longing in Me

The Longing in Me: How Everything You Crave Leads to the Heart of God
by Sheila Walsh

I’ve read several of Sheila Walsh’s books by now and thought I knew most of her story, but her new book, The Longing in Me, is even more open and honest about where our cravings can take us when we look for fulfillment in the wrong places.  the longing in me

She weaves her own story in with the account of King David in Scripture and covers longings such as:  The longing to be chosen, to be protected, for what used to be, for control, for your rights, etc. Interestingly, she didn’t choose to focus on what we typically consider ‘cravings,’ and extended this list to include some of the eternal longings God Himself placed within us, like “the longing for what would glorify God or the longing to share the grace and mercy we’ve received from God, and the longing for God alone.”

This book would work well for an individual read or for  Book club to discuss.  It does not include a study guide or discussion questions, so small groups would probably want to use the separate study guide instead.

This is one book that I read quickly because it drew me in, but it really deserves a slower re-read to let her points sink in.  I loved that even after reading or hearing lots of lessons on David’s life, I learned some fresh insights. Ultimately, the message Sheila drives home is that of grace:  “He rescued us because He delights in us, not because we got it right and not because we got it wrong.  SImply because He delights in us and invites us to delight in Him.”

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

 

Book Review | Beauty Begins

Beauty Begins
by Chris Shook and Megan Shook Alpha

As a mom with three daughters, I was excited to read Beauty Begins: Making Peace with Your Reflection by the mother/daughter team Chris Shook and Megan Shook Alpha.  Our culture truly is obsessed with beauty and it’s disheartening to see how girls are pressured to live up to impossible standards.  Most women find it hard to be happy and comfortable with what we see in the mirror everyday.  Chris and Megan tell us, “Generations of women have become casualties in this war on self-worth.”beauty begins

This book is a quick and easy read with reminders about what true beauty means in God’s eyes and how beauty is eternal, but pretty is just temporary.  They cover everything from choosing encouraging friends to shifting our focus off of ourselves and onto others.  Megan in particular shares honestly about struggling with depression and how God transforms brokenness into beauty.  They also cover issues like mother/daughter relationships, making wise choices when dating, and how to be a ‘fashion rebel’ by choosing compassion, kindness, forgiveness, love, etc.  Their husbands also write a chapter at the end of the book specifically encouraging husbands and dads to praise the real beauty in their wives/daughters and be their biggest fans.  Overall, the book is practical and uplifting, not an in-depth Bible study or a cultural critique so much as a gentle, sweet reminder that “You are, and always have been, beautiful.”

Each chapter begins with Scripture and quotes and concludes with brief reflection questions and a prayer.  While any woman might enjoy the reminders in this book about true beauty, I think it could be particularly powerful for young women from teens to college age/young adults.  It could also be a great book to read together for a mother and daughter in order to help pass on a legacy of encouragement.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com