Book Review | Brave Enough

Brave Enough
by Nicole Unice

In Brave Enough, Nicole Unice tells us a little secret: “We’re all a little scared.” Being afraid, though, doesn’t mean you can’t live with courage.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be brave.  She writes, “Courage is the will to move past fear and get out of our own way, to become the women God has made us to be.”  Being Brave-Enough isn’t about climbing mountains or skydiving; it’s about living in obedience to God even when that makes you shake in your sneakers.Brave Enough

Nicole has such a fresh, get-real style to her writing, and I love it.  She’s never putting on a facade and she doesn’t hold back from confessing some of her own struggles (like setting limits and boundaries on her schedule).  As a Christian counselor, her emphasis is often on the counseling, psychological, emotional aspects of our life–why do we do what we do and how can we submit that to Christ?  I tend to prefer more Bible-study focus and less Christian-counseling-focus in the books I read, but that isn’t true for everyone, and Nicole Unice’s insights and expertise really shine and will be an encouragement and help to lots of women.

This book includes nine chapters, each focusing on an area where we can be brave in our Christian walk, such as “Brave-Enough Women Love Grace, Brave-Enough Women Give Grace, Brave-Enough Women Know Their Limits” and more.  She includes action points that she calls “Our Daily Brave” at the end of each chapter, as well as a prayer.

Both in her book, She’s Got Issues, and in this book, Brave Enough, Nicole Unice gets real about anger in a way that I haven’t really seen in most other books for Christian women.  I also liked her discussion of ‘fake grace’ in this book, when she talks about how women deal with failure sometimes by making excuses or concessions instead of just resting in the lavish grace of Christ. She challenges the reader by saying, “When we manufacture weak, fake grace, we end up being weak, fake people.”

Ultimately, Nicole is really writing about how we can bravely engage in sanctification and how God transforms us to be more like Christ every single day.  We sometimes get caught up and terrified of ‘big changes’ and huge spiritual moments, and “it might be easier to think of the ways we can save the world than ways we can change our daily life….Bravely facing the hard places in our heart and desiring to receive and give real grace takes grit” (87).  This book is about being Brave Enough to let God work in our heart and our lives every single day without holding back.

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 Miracle in the Middle

The Miracle in the Middle
by Charlotte Gambill

Waiting. No one is a big fan of waiting, and we talk a great deal in Christian circles about how difficult it is to wait on God.  In her book, The Miracle in the Middle, Charlotte Gambill writes about this season of waiting as being “in the middle.”  You’ve moved beyond the excitement of an initial calling or hearing from God, but you haven’t reached the season of harvest and blessing.  You’re stuck in the middle, just trying to keep moving forward without giving up.miracle-in-the-middle

Over the eleven chapters in this book, Gambill encourages the reader to drop anchor (cling to hope), listen for God’s voice in the void, be prepared to handle the strain, re-check priorities, maintain the vision and more.  I found that it took me a while to really get into the book, but at about halfway, I started underlining and turning down the corners of pages.  For some reason, the second half of the book made more of an impact on me, so it’s a book that is worth the full read—don’t put it down after the first few chapters.

Each chapter ends with a few Action Points and Prayer Points, which work well for an individual who wants to apply the lessons, but wouldn’t really serve as content for a small group or book club discussion.

By the end of the book, Gambill encourages the reader not just to survive seasons of waiting or push through to the end, but how to actually discover the joy and the miracle in the middle.

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

It’s Good to Be Queen | Book Review

It’s Good to be Queen
by Liz Curtis Higgs

Liz Curtis Higgs is one of my favorite Bible teachers and I’m once again in love with one of her books, It’s Good to be Queen.  In this new book, she studies the Queen of Sheba and her visit to King Solomon in 1 Kings 10.  It’s such a brief portion of Scripture and yet she unpacks it line by line in her unique way, making it compelling and full of rich wisdom and Biblical truth.itsgoodtobequeen

She includes 10 chapters, each with a unique lesson the Queen of Sheba teaches us through her example:  It’s Good to be Bold, Open, Humbled, Honest, etc.  The book also includes discussion questions and a study guide for use by book clubs and small groups.   One of the fun touches she adds to the book are occasional quotes from other queens such as Queen Elizabeth.

I love Liz’s easy-to-read style, her well-researched points and her witty humor.  I wasn’t, however, particularly a fan of the intense quoting from her social media followers.  I’ll be frank, I get why quoting from social media followers works for an author.  Fans feel like they are connecting and feel excited to be quoted in the book and you get the material you need.  However, I could have read her Facebook post comments to see what everyone on Facebook had to say.  When I read the book, I’d like something a little more.

Some of the paragraphs in this book actually seem like strung together quotations, one after the other:  “Sandra says……  Kelly writes…….Laurie admits……Brittany tells us…..”   It made the writing feel more stilted than I’ve noticed in any of her books where she relied more on her own voice.  I wouldn’t even have minded an occasional comment like, “So and so wrote me….” or “This person said….” or even “hundreds of women on my Facebook page identified with this,” but four or five paragraphs in a row of nothing more than quotes from her followers grew tiresome at times.

I’m still a huge fan of Liz Curtis Higgs and I still enjoyed this book, but I wish social media wasn’t allowed to invade  an author’s style and actual book content so heavily.  What I really wanted to read were Liz’s stories, her research, her thoughts, her heart and the Holy Spirit at work through her, not a compilation of comments from her Facebook fans.

With that said, as a Bible teacher, Liz remains one of my favorites and I could skim right over what I didn’t like in order to fully enjoy everything that is wonderful about her as an author.  She brings such rich insights to the text.  I love how she examines a verse or even one particular word in several different translations.  Even if you’ve read a story a hundred times, she can bring fresh perspective, just as she does in this book, It’s Good to be Queen.

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 | Unafraid

Unafraid
by Susie Davis

In 1978, Susie Davis witnessed a shooting in her classroom.  A fellow student walked in that day and killed her teacher.  Since that time, she knew God, but didn’t trust Him, living with debilitating fear as a young woman, and then as a wife and mom. Unafraid is her personal story of how she learned to trust God in an unsafe world.Unafraid

 

Susie’s story is unique, of course.  Not all of us have endured such a shock to our systems as children, and yet so many of us lived trapped by fear.  We are terrorized to make a wrong decisions.  We hover over our children, thinking their safety depends on us.  Whatever the reason, many of us can relate to Susie’s struggle with fear and how to trust God even when life seems out of control.

This is her personal story and journey to trusting God.  It’s not a theological treatise on fear or a 12-step process of overcoming fear.  It’s not a to-do list or a how-to manual. With that said, it’s a beautiful book.  She discusses honesty and transparency, relationships, and links unforgiveness and fear in a way that I hadn’t considered before.  Throughout the book, she weaves this gentle metaphor of trees, always using a tree to illustrate the condition of her heart at different points in her life.

The book also includes a section in the back for discussion questions and a study guide, making it well-suited for individual study, a book club or a small group.

Ultimately, Susie’s message is about growing in our faith.  As she says, ‘We must grow big in faith, not fear.’  Her own testimony is one that she’s eager to share, how a grown, married woman who couldn’t stay in her house alone overnight because of crippling fear learned to live in faith and with peace.

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 |Your Sacred Yes

Your Sacred Yes: Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion & Joy
by Susie Larson

It’s so easy to feel obligated and guilted into saying ‘yes’ to every request for our time and attention, but Susie Larson writes in her sacredyesbook, Your Sacred Yes, about how to discern man-made obligations from God-given invitations.  The book focuses on matching God’s pace for our lives, not rushing, not hurrying, not packing our days too full, and yet staying as busy and fruitful as God plans.  It’s not about leading a life that isn’t busy—it’s about doing only what God tells you to do.

She shares openly from her own ministry experience and personal story.  The book is divided into sections called The Sloppy Yes, the Shackled Yes, and the Sacred Yes—a reminder that sometimes we say ‘yes’ without thinking, sometimes we say ‘yes’ because we feel we have to, and sometimes we say ‘yes’ because we really are responding to God’s call.  I liked her discussion of peer pressure and captivity to people-pleasing especially.  Each chapter also includes personal reflection questions, a wise word, group discussion starters, and a faith declaration, making it accessible for individual or group use.

So many authors are currently tackling similar themes for overworked, overstressed, overextended women to help them set boundaries, protect their time, learn to say ‘no,’ honor the Sabbath and build margin into their life and schedule.  Susie Larson does a fine job of tackling this same subject and I liked her ‘voice.’  It sounded genuine and ‘real.’

I do feel, though, that other books on this topic have had more of an impact on my life, and I can’t say I walked away with a new or fresh perspective after reading Your Sacred Yes.  I also feel like others have given me more practical applications and ideas of how to put these lessons into action.  However, for encouragement and the reminder that saying ‘yes’ to everything means not giving God your best, this book is a good read.

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 | Keep Your Love On

Keep Your Love On
by Danny Silk

In Keep Your Love On, Danny Silk focuses on some of the conflicts and pitfalls in relationships that drain us emotionally and leave us KYLOready to abandon loving others.  He draws on wisdom and advice from other sources such as love languages (from The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman) and boundaries (from Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend), but it is helpful to have all of the info in one place.

His focus is often on marriage, although he does emphasize the circles of influence/relationships we have and who belongs in each.  We all should have God at the center, then our spouse, our kids, other family and close friendships, etc.  It’s easy to get that mixed up and find ourselves giving ‘outsiders’ more access to us than our closest family.

I also liked his discussion of boundaries and how to talk through conflict, including refusing to engage in a discussion when someone isn’t speaking to you with respect.  That’s one boundary I’ve had to hold onto recently and I suspect it is becoming even more necessary in our era of technology and communication when people shoot off nasty emails and post hurtful blog comments or Facebook replies in seconds.

He’s pretty quick and to the point in every chapter.  I probably would have preferred more examples and explanations.  Sometimes I felt like I could say to him, ‘Well, I can see how that would work in this situation, but what about…..” but he didn’t anticipate that or cover more possibilities.  He talked about some of his own marital challenges in the first ten years with his wife and how they overcame, and I found myself thinking—so, how did you overcome?  I also would have liked more and, in some cases, better biblical examples and support for his points.  I read somewhere that there are videos and other accompanying materials for “KYLO” and maybe that’s what I’m missing.

With that said, this book could be especially useful for those dealing with difficult relationships, maybe in marriage or even ministry.  We often need the reminder of why we set boundaries and how to stick to them.  I think his overall goal was to help the reader learn to value and pursue the connection with others even when you disagree with them while establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.

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

If I Plug My Ears | Book Review

Jessie Clemence brings her witty, laugh-out-loud funny, and totally frank voice to the topic of obeying God in her new book, If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me To Dojessie-clemence.  She shares personally from her own family’s adventures in obedience and especially about her own journey into writing.  Each chapter is also followed by personal stories from other bloggers and ‘regular people’ who were called to do things as varied as move across country to giving away a watch.  I loved the wide swing, the variety she gives, so it’s clear that following God may mean moving overseas and serving as a missionary, but it doesn’t have to mean that.  It might mean walking up to a stranger in the grocery store and giving them $20 because God told you to do it.

While there are lots of books about the theoretical whys and wherefores of obedience, Jessie delves into the practical issues in a way I haven’t really read before.  She gets into the nitty gritty of finances and how to tell your ‘Nana’ and other family members the crazy thing God told you to do.  Also included is a one page questionnaire to help you figure out “Is This the Call of God or Have I Gone Mad?”  With lots of Scripture and lots of personal relevance, the book can be an encouragement and challenge to prepare your heart and life for God’s call.  The study questions she includes at the end of each chapter would be great for book club discussions or simply personal application.

By the end of the book, I felt like Jessie’s chief accomplishment was giving courage to her reader.  She writes, “You and God can do this together. You really can.”  She also reminds us that “nothing we do for God is insignificant.”  What a great reminder when you feel a little lost, a little confused, a little weary, a little impatient, and a lot overwhelmed.  God calls us to follow Him, but He goes with us, so we needn’t be afraid.

Book Review: Be The Message Devotional

Be the Message Devotional: A 30-day Adventure in Changing the World Around You
by Kerry and Chris Shook

Most devotionals follow a fairly standard, tried-and-true format and most focus on the intimacy of your one-on-one relationship with God.  Kerry and Chris Shook’s new 30-day devotional, Be the Message, helps readers make the transition from personal faith to faith-applied.  This follows through with their theme in the book, Be The Message, about how the gospel is not so much about what we say, but about how we live.

Each day’s reading is short and to-the-point.  The daily reading includes sections called:  Open Yourself to a dynamic encounter with God, Open God’s Word to hear God’s message, Open Your Mind to understand God’s message here and now, Open Your Heart to the divine whisper, Open Your Life to God’s transforming power, Open Your Arms to a world that needs to receive God’s incarnate message through you.

Most of the lessons about the Scripture are fairly standard, inspirational, but not particularly surprising, eye-opening or fresh.  However, this devotional would be great for someone who wants to learn about loving others, serving others, and living out the Gospel through service, compassion, and practical acts of mercy.  This is what sets this devotional apart.

lay-p3940165

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.”

Motivate Your Child | Book Review

Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told
by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN

In their book, Motivate Your Child, Turansky and Miller know just how to get the attention of any parent.  They give scenarios we can all relate to, like trying to rush our kids out the door in the morning and being tired of saying the same things every day, “put your shoes on….brush your hair…..don’t hit your sister.” Or dealing with kids perpetually fighting in the back of the minivan. Many parenting approaches offer more of a method or formula to address problem behaviors.  This book focuses instead on parenting the heart of your child, which relies more on prayerful discernment and customizing your parenting to match your child.

I likened a lot of their advice to parenting with the end in mind.  I don’t need to just address the current behavior of picking on a little sister.  I’ve been learning to say to my daughter, “I know you want to be kind.  What does that look like?  What do we need to do to fix this?”  Consequences match the behavior and the child and the ultimate end of Christ working in her heart and transforming her life.

In Part 1 of the book, they focus on moral development in children and spend a great deal of time talking about the conscience (as distinct from the Holy Spirit, whose role they also discuss in parenting Christian kids).  In a no-conscience approach to parenting, you have to be your child’s conscience with bribes and consequences as your main tools.  But our goal as parents is to foster independence, so the book focuses on teaching a child about integrity, honor, compassion, selflessness, responsibility—the root issues—and complementing that with consequences as needed.

In Part 2, they discuss spiritual development of children where they cover important topics such as salvation in young children and how to ‘go solo’ as a single parent or perhaps the only Christian parent in a home.  Their advice for moms especially who aren’t sure how much of a leadership role to take in family devotions is some of the best I’ve ever read.  They also talk a lot about how to disciple your children at home (and not just rely on the church to do it for you) and how any family can find a way to establish family nights and devotions/Scripture.

The book seemed like a perfect fit for me as I parent mostly elementary-age children, and I think it addresses issues well for tweens and teens also.  However, the truth is that in the very early ages of parenting, mostly we really are just addressing behaviors.  I need my child to obey my ‘no’ and that doesn’t normally require a great deal of conversation, questioning, or deep psychological work.  Most of the techniques and suggestions they give seem more appropriate for kids 3 or 4 and older.

I liked the emphasis on parenting the heart of the child and I specifically leaned in anytime they talked about teaching siblings to love one another and show kindness to each other.  That’s a need in my home!  The truth is that this parenting model will take work and a great deal of discernment.  It means making decisions for each individual child in each individual issue.  It requires deeply knowing the heart of your child, especially your child’s weaknesses and propensity to sin so that you can come alongside God and address the needs there.  It means using Scripture, not as a club to beat children into submission, but as a motivator and teacher of right and wrong.  For parents of teens, it means using more of a coaching-style in parenting—asking questions, allowing some independence in safe ways and removing the freedom of independence as necessary.  At any age, they suggest asking questions instead of telling your child what needs to happen or what needs to be done, such as “What are you missing?  Do you see anything that needs to be picked up?  How can you treat others the way the Bible tells you to treat them?”

This is not just time-outs and stickers and that’s what I love about it!  I don’t want good, moral kids.  I don’t want behavioral automatons.  I don’t want kids who never make mistakes.  I want kids who love Jesus and are thankful for His grace and are passionate for His Word.  Christian parenting should be such a blessed responsibility and high calling and ultimately we rely on the Holy Spirit to help us as parents know how to draw our kids to Christ.  I can see this being a parenting book I re-read in the future, gleaning tips for the moment and then coming back for more ideas as the needs change in my family.

Book-Motivate-Your-Child

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.”

Book Review: Divine Applause

Divine Applause: Secrets and Rewards of Walking with an Invisible God
by Jeff Anderson

In his new book, Divine Applause, Jeff Anderson asks, “How can we have a relationship with a God we can’t see?” It’s a fair question.  We know God sees us. We know He loves everyone.  But it can sometimes feel impersonal, like a blank stare from a cold deity on a lofty throne.  So, how can we connect with God?

With storytelling and a relaxed, conversational style, Jeff suggests that even though God loves everyone, there are people in Scripture who we are told had God’s favor.  What drew God’s attention to them?  What made them stand out in His eyes?  He suggests a couple of answers, including their giving, their risk-taking, the fact that they sought God with boldness, and even that they kept secrets with God (and didn’t blab about their every quiet time experience on Facebook).

Any book that steps into this territory performs a balancing act.  God is gracious.  We do not earn His love.  He loves each of us passionately.  Jeff Anderson doesn’t negate any of that.  I think there are readers who will balk at the idea of “favor” and yet surely a story like Cain and Abel teaches us that our right hearts and right offerings garner His attention and our mixed motives and lack of devotion receive discipline.  There’s a tension here that this book tries to keep in balance:  Works don’t earn us salvation.  But they are a way we express our faith, and faith is ultimately what gets God’s attention. Taken to the extreme, almost any book on this topic could end up theologically askew, but that doesn’t make this book itself problematic.

Jeff brings a unique perspective in his writing.  Because he is hearing impaired, he has a fresh way of describing how to listen and hear God and how we need to be active participants in that process.  He also has a background in finance, so a good part of the book emphasizes giving generously and in faith.  Another of his passions is fasting, so he spends another section of the book talking about fasting as a spiritual discipline.

The book certainly doesn’t offer step-by-step actions you can take for God to delight in you.  It’s more of his own faith memoir with tips and spiritual lessons along the way.  So, it wouldn’t make, for instance, for a good Bible study.  It is a generally enjoyable and sometimes fresh look at growing in God’s presence.

divineapplause

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.”