Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present

Holy is the Day

I was first introduced to Carolyn Weber through her first book, a spiritual memoir entitled Surprised by Oxford. This book chronicled Weber’s surprising conversion to Christianity while a student at Oxford. I loved this book so much…and I don’t particularly care for spiritual memoirs. I tend to find many of them  self-indulgent and whiny.

But not Carolyn Weber.

Weber has a gift with words. She paints beautiful images on the page. I fell in love with her writing and became a bit envious of what I assumed her life was like. The author is a beautiful blonde, attended Oxford, found romance and became a college professor and a published author.

Then I read Holy is the Day and find I have quite a bit in common with Ms. Weber. She’s a wife and mother. She works outside the home. She has broken relationships in her life she aches to heal. Rough patches and bad things happen. Terrifying events occur. I created a fantasy version of Carolyn Weber that “Holy is the Day” proved false. Carolyn Weber has struggles and painful moments like the rest of us. She shows the reader it is hard to find God in the mundane moments and in the dire situations.

Weber writes with an achingly beautiful voice as she recounts being willing to ask (and accept) help, learning how beautiful authentic community is and finding the presence of God in a hospital delivery room when her life and the life of one of her unborn twins was at stake; and experiencing God while being surrounded by cranky children and mountains of laundry.

“Holy is the Day” will be available in October. I whole-heartedly recommend this book as well as “Surprised by Oxford”. As my friend over at Bookwi.se expresses, this author is not necessarily well-known. She doesn’t appear to have a large popularity, she does not pack arenas at speaking events, but I dare say that she has a talent for words that few people possess.

Giveaway!-Hey God, I’ve Got Some Guy Named Jonah in My Stomach and I Think I’m Gonna Throw Up!

If your child has been to church more than a couple of times, he has probably heard the story of Jonah and the Whale.

jonah giveaway 2

Author, Troy Schmidt, turns this tale around and gives us the whale’s point of view in his book”Hey God, I’ve Got Some Guy Named Jonah in My Stomach and I Think I’m Gonna Throw Up!”   My six-year-old son is a new reader and wanted to contribute his thoughts to this review.

“It’s funny!”

Thanks, Ben. Short and to the point.

I adore stories when the old tried and true stories when told in a new way and this book does not disappoint. “Hey God!” stays true to the Bible story, incorporates humor for the kids, has colorful illustrations and a “Parent Connection” feature inside the book to help parents take the story further.

Jonah giveaway

Thanks to FlyBy Promotions, I am pleased to be able to give a copy of “Hey God!” away to a reader. To enter, do the following:

1. “Like” me on Facebook. I’m needy and need the validation.

2. Leave a comment below stating which book you loved when you were a kid.

A winner will be selected on Friday, April 26th.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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: The Grace Effect; How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief

Now that various ongoing projects at home have wrapped up, I’m attacking my book pile (paper and virtual) with a relish. At the top of the pile was The Grace Effect by Larry Alex Taunton.

I have no idea how I came into position of this book. I’m sure I found someone who was offering for free.  I can’t say no to free books.

The Grace Effect is a multi-purpose book. On the surface, it tells the story of the Taunton family’s adoption of their daughter, Sasha, from the Ukraine. That in of itself is a compelling story but the author also gives the reader a very readable history lesson in the history of Russia and the Ukraine, socialism, his interesting conversations and relationship with deceased author and journalist, Christopher Hitchens. The main take away from Taunton’s book is how society cultivates its own demise when it rejects the ultimate source of grace.

Taunton has written an excellent book. I devoured this in two days. His descriptions of Orphanage #17, where Sasha lived, echoes the stories my in-laws told when they returned from mission trips to Russian orphanages. I have no doubt that Taunton’s descriptions are accurate and without embellishment.

I plan to reread this book again mainly to absorb what he calls “common grace”.  This book is too good to keep to myself so I’m giving my copy away. If you’d like to win, just leave a common on this post. I’ll draw a name at random on Wednesday, June 6.

With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God (Book Review)

Fifteen hundred years ago, a emperor of Rome constructed a tomb for his sister which is now known as Galla Placidia.  It’s a small building designed in the shape of a cross with a vaulted ceiling covered with mosaics of stars in a dark night sky.  The focal point of the ceiling is a depiction of Jesus surrounded by sheep in paradise.

Located in Italy, visitors will be disappointed when the enter the tomb. What little windows exist are quite small and the tiny light that does enter the room is usually blocked by throngs of tourists.  In this setting, there’s not much to see.  If you’re impatient and leave early, you can miss something quite wonderful.

With no warning, spotlights near the ceiling are turned on if someone deposits a coin into the metal box on the wall.  The lights are illuminate the mosaics for a few brief moments before they go out. There’s really no time for your eyes to take it all in before you find yourself in darkness again.  When the lights go on again, you can grab another glimpse of something you didn’t see before.

It’s with this analogy of the Christian faith that Skye Jethani, author of The Divine Commodity, opens with in his latest release With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God.

The author likens the experience of entering Galla Placidia to how many Christians enter the faith…with great expectations but once inside, many are disappointed.  Many leave without experiencing a life WITH God.

Jethani states that Christians tend to relate to God in one of four ways:

  • Life FROM God: Consumerism or the “prosperity gospel”. God is a divine vending machine.
  • Life OVER God: God created the world and humankind but now He has no bearing on one’s daily existence.
  • Life FOR God: Wanting your life to be of significance and to control the outcome by achieving great things for God’s kingdom.
  • Life UNDER God: Trying to control God by obedience.

The majority of With goes into great detail explaining what is wrong about relating to God in these avenues.  I agree with his points, but I do not agree with how Jethani gets there. Some of the non-complimentary verbiage he uses, I know I’ve heard from well-known pastors and in a well-known church I used to attend. Some of these sections smacked of church bashing which left a bad taste in my mouth and made me a little less likely to listen to Jethani’s point.

With that observation aside, Jethani has written a good book.  The last 20% of his book is really helpful in pointing the reader in the direction of a life WITH God and providing a list of resources and disciplines to help the reader get started on his journey.  He has a lot of great points, it just takes him a little too long to get there.

I received With from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Sneeze review program in exchange for a book review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review and Giveaway: The Resignation of Eve (What if Adam’s Rib is No Longer Willing to be the Church’s Backbone?)

In the recent flurry of blog posts and statements from well-known pastors about a woman’s place in the Church, comes the latest release by author, Jim Henderson, “The Resignation of Eve: What if Adam’s Rib is no Longer Willing to be the Church’s Backbone?

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers as park of the book’s blog tour. Given that the role of women in the church is such a hot button issue now, I thought it would be timely to read and post a review. What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to write a review on an issue that I’ve had personal experience with and haven’t been able to come to terms with yet.

Lynne Hybels (who writes the book’s foreword) cites the following statistics: Between 1991 and 2011,

  • There has been a 20% decrease in the percentage of adult women attending church services during any given week.
  • 29% drop in the number of adult women attending Sunday school classes
  • 31% drop in the number of women who volunteer at church during the course of a week
  • Bottom line: more than one-third of all women no longer are connected to a church

Henderson commissioned The Barna Group to conduct a nationwide survey (results are cited throughout the book) to determine what was going on and interviewed countless women on the issue of gender roles within the Church and determined that there are three faces of resignation of women:

  1. Resigned To: Women who are in this category either came to terms with the fact that they will not be allowed to fully use the gifts and abilities they have within the Church or feel perfectly fine with that reality.
  2. Resigned From: These women were capable of leading, teaching, guiding, shaping, and forming spiritual community within their Church but were denied the opportunity to do so. They either resigned from their church or even more tragically, walked away from their faith.
  3. Re-Signed: These women knew the risks and limitations they were up against. They didn’t quit or accept things the way they were. They make waves and stay engaged.

Henderson tells the stories of 15 women who wear one of the above faces of resignation. Some of these stories will either anger you, encourage you or make you weep.  All of them will make you think.

It’s a well-written, well researched book and I’m pleased that Tyndale has reserved a copy for me to give away on this blog.  To enter to win a copy of The Resignation of Eve, leave a comment in this post by mentioning something you’ve read that’s challenged you in a personal way. I’ll announce a winner on February 20th. I will mail the winner a gift certificate from Tyndale that can be redeemed at your local Christian bookstore. The gift certificate is only valid for The Resignation of Eve.

Download a free chapter from The Resignation of Eve here.

Jim Henderson’s Facebook page is located here.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review. 

UPDATE: To read another view on this book, please click here

66 Love Letters-Book Review

66 Love Letters-A Conversation With God That Invites You Into His Story by Dr.Larry Crabb

“The Bible is a love story that begins with a divorce. Everything from the third chapter of Genesis through the end of Revelation is the story of a betrayed lover wooing us back into His arms so we can enjoy the love of family forever.”

This is the first book of Dr. Crabb that I’ve read.  He recounts a sleepless night struggling to hear from God.  Asking questions like, “What do You want me get from Leviticus?”, “Why is it important to study Obadiah?” and “What are You trying to get me to hear in Revelation?”, the idea for this book was born.

I wouldn’t recommend reading this book on it’s own, as each chapter is devoted to each book of the Bible. Reading it straight through, as I tried to do, left me wanting.  However, I do believe this book is a great companion to read along with your Bible.  On a personal note, I usually give books away after I post a review but this one I’m definitely keeping as a study aid. For a free downloadable study guide, http://www.newwayministries.org/66loveletters.php.

I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishing as part of their Book Sneeze Blogging Program in exchange for a book review.  I was not required to give a favorable review.

The Reading Pile

Here’s what I’m reading and what I think so far:

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (obtained through http://www.paperbackswap.com) is the story of a doctor who is forced to deliver his own twins during a snow storm in 1964.  His son is born perfectly healthy, but his daughter is born with Down’s Syndrome.   In order to spare his wife the emotional and mental trauma, he instructs his nurse to take the baby to a local institution and tells his wife that the girl died in childbirth.  The nurse disappears from town to raise the child as her own.

I’m about a fourth of the way through this book.  So far this is a struggle to stay with but I’m going to attribute this feeling to a lack of fiction in my life for several  months.

Turning Controversy into Church Ministry: A Christ-Like Response to Homosexuality by W. P. Campbell.  I received a galley of this book from Zondervan Publishing as part of their blogging book review program.  I’m far from being done with reading this book.  It’s not an easy read and could not get a review posted in the time frame the publisher provided.  I also don’t know if I’ll post a review on line since I have dear friends on both sides of this issue.

I will say that this is the book that I’ve been looking for as a Christian.  For the past couple of years I have looked for resources that could help me understand both sides of this issue.  I don’t know anything about the author (I hope to remedy that) but I do appreciate his writing about this controversial issue without the hate speech.

66 Love Letters by Dr. Larry Crabb

I received this book through Thomas Nelson Publisher’s book review blogging program, “Book Sneeze”      which is a wonderful program.  If you blog and like to read, I can’t emphasize how easy the program is to use  from start to finish and there are a great selection of titles to choose from.

Again, this is another book that I’m not finished with nor will I be in quite some time.  The publisher encourages a book review to be blogged about in a fairly quick amount of time but in this case, the author is encouraging the reader to take a year to STUDY this book along side their Bible.  A bit of a conflict there. 🙂

I look forward to having this book as a study companion.  Dr. Crabb is encouraging all of us to look at the Bible as 66 individual love letters from our Creator.  Each chapter is devoted to one book from the Bible.  I’m hoping to find out what God intends me to glean from Leviticus and 1st and 2nd Chronicles.

Less Clutter, Less Noise by Kem Meyer, the Communications Director at Granger Community Church.  (www.kemmeyer.com)

I bought this book from Amazon after I heard Ms. Meyer at TheNines conference in September.  I’m fascinated with with ways churches can communicated within their congregation and within the community.  Since I’m pretty sure no one is reading my blog, I feel safe in saying I harbor secret aspirations in studying communication and moving into that field one day.  And, you guessed it, I just started reading this book. If you don’t read the book, check out Ms. Meyer’s website http://www.kemmeyer.com. I think you’ll be fascinated with her ideas, much like I am.

I found out about Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belskey through a tweet from the Creative Arts Department at North Point Church in Georgia.  Actually, now that I think about it, several churches have been tweeting about this book and are making it required reading for their Creative Arts and Worship Arts departments.  So….it’s in my pile.

The author is a productivity expert and founder of Behance.  Behance’s mission is to empower and organize the creative world.  The principles that Belsky will be offering in his book are:

Generate ideas in moderation (more is not better)

Act without conviction to keep momentum and rapidly refine ideas

Encourage fighting within your team (what?!?)

Seek competition; it will boost accountability and strengthen your approach

Reduce bulky projects to just three primary elements

If it’s possible to be creative, productive AND organized, I want to know how.  I’ve always thought that those elements didn’t mix.

I found out about The War of Art by Steven Pressfield through Jon Acuff of http://www.stuffchristianslike.net.  I don’t know this is a book that you read through in one setting.  I tend to go to it when the inner critic starts rearing her ugly head.  I go to it when I need it.