Book Review: The Heist

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The Heist: How Grace Robs Us Of Our Shame by Chris Durso (author bio here) is a brand new release.  Since grace has been a huge factor of my spiritual growth lately, I looked forward to reading it.

Unfortunately, I was left rather disappointed.

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The book was so full of anecdotes and illustrations that I frequently lost sight of the main points he was trying to make.  In addition, he frequently added artistic flair to Bible passages and came to applications that best case are not accepted by mainstream Christianity, and worst case are actually adding to Scripture’s words.  As a writer, I am all for trying to get into the reality of Scripture by imagining myself in the story, but it can be taken too far.

While the author did reference hell, there were also several points where I was wondering if he was alluding to a belief in universalism.

His main analogy was that of a heist…how Jesus stole our guilt, shame, and sin, paid our price, and now can receive all the glory that He deserves.  The author was so committed to this analogy, and referred to it so frequently, that it often felt as if he was trying to force his points to fit the analogy, rather than using the analogy to occasionally amplify a point.

While overall I had mostly critiques, there were definitely some parts that were encouraging and my heart needed to hear.  I appreciated the quote on page 132, “God isn’t waiting for you to finish pushing yourself before He restores you.”

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

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From Mother to Mother – Miscarriage Book

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A few months ago I came across some books by Emily Long.  I purchased her book You are Not Alone: Love Letters From Loss Mom to Loss Mom and I have read through several portions.

Emily compiled letters written by moms who have had miscarriages.  It is beautiful and heart-felt.  Emily also has a book of letters from and to Dads, a book of her own journey through loss, and a journal to go through while processing loss.

I was browsing her web site and discovered that she was writing a second book of letters from and to mothers who have had losses. I wrote a letter to submit and found out last month that my letter was accepted for final publication.

The new book, From Mother to Mother, will be published on September 12 of this year!

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It will be a compilation of letters from woman who have lost children in early pregnancy, late pregnancy, or after birth.  I am excited to be a part of this and I hope that God will use our story to bring comfort to others and showcase His love.

Book Review: High as the Heavens

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It has been a while since I was this invested in a book!  I have stated before that I am a hard sell when it comes to fiction, but I must say this one definitely surpassed my expectations.

High as the Heavens, by Kate Breslin, is WWII historical fiction.  It follows the story of Evelyn Marche, a Red Cross nurse in Germany-occupied Brussels.  However, she also is an Allied spy.  With that comes missions, dangers, encrypted messages, etc.

I felt like I could barely put the book down.  It truly kept me on the edge of my seat.  While most books feel predictable and I can see the plot twists coming a mile away, this book kept surprising me.  I don’t think I accurately predicted any of the twists.  (Ok, I’ll give myself credit…I got one twist half right. 😉 )

The other thing I appreciated is how the author didn’t make the main character just a sweet, nice, perfect little main character.  Eve had some very troubling things in her background that she had to work through.  It was very sobering but it kept the book real.

My only complaint is that the last several chapters as the author wrapped everything up did seem to fly by too quickly.  After being so invested for so long, it would have been nice to have more of a wrap-up.

However, all in all, I loved this book and I will definitely be recommending it to others!

Note: I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this review.

Book List – April through June

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These months have not been so great as far as reading!  April was awesome, since our library had a adult reading program that I participated in.  But May and June slowed down drastically.  I am currently in the middle of four books and about to start another, however, so hopefully I can pick up the pace again in July. 🙂

-April-

Is the Bible Good for Women? by Wendy Alsup

Feelings Buried Alive Never Die by Karol K. Truman

The Shoe Box by Francine Rivers

The Red Geranium by Janette Oke

The Journal of C.J. Jackson: A Dust Bowl Migrant by William Durbin

Unashamed by Francine Rivers

Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted by Ron Citlau

Unspoken by Francine Rivers

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

-May-

Talking with God by Adam Weber

Black by Ted Dekker

June

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Book Review: Talking with God

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Talking with God is an easy-to-read book about prayer.  Written by Adam Weber (author bio here), it is comprised of short chapters and chatty, colloquial language.  While that might make it difficult for some readers to get through it, that does not lessen the meaning or message.

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The first half of the book discusses how to talk with God and acknowledges that most likely all people, laymen and pastors alike, have struggled with prayer at some point or even for a lengthy period of time.  Couched in that framework of “we’re all in this together,” the first few chapters discuss praying as to a friend, honest conversation with God, trusting in God’s love, etc.

Those chapters were very basic and I was tempted to dismiss them.  But then I remembered the importance of those truths, and I kept reading.  And I’m glad I did.  The second half of the book went into how to pray during various life situations.  For example, the author discussed how to pray when you face storms, when you’re discouraged, when you’re exhausted, when you want to be used by God, etc.

In those chapters, I found some nuggets that I really needed to hear.  Again, it was written simply, but sometimes I think simple is better.  There were no fancy words, no deep theological treatises.  Just simple unvarnished truth.

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

 

Book Review: Hope For the Same-Sex Attracted

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Over the past few years, I have realized more and more how poorly the church addresses the issue of homosexuality and same sex attraction.  I have known that for a while, but it has only been in the past few months where I have finally decided to do more reading and honest looking at the issue.

I feel strongly that the church needs to A) be more educated on the topic, B) have true love, grace, and humility on the topic, and C) have more outreach and ministry toward Christians and non-Christians alike who have same-sex attraction.

Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted by Ron Citlau was published just this year and was a valuable resource to me.  The author has personally dealt with same-sex attraction and approaches the issue with the love and gentleness necessary.

Toward the beginning of the book, Ron discusses the issue of identity and how nothing, not our attraction, urges, or gender, identify us.  Our identity is in Jesus as His children.  Sexual identity is not the same thing as sexual desire.

The book is divided into three parts.  The first is about obstacles, the second is about gifts, and the third is his final thoughts.  It is clear throughout the book that the author truly is seeking a way for the same-sex attracted to flourish and have a abundant life as Jesus describes.  At the same time, he is firmly committed to the authority of God’s word and recognizes that there are specific ways that believers need to live, whether in a homosexual or heterosexual relationship.

Pros: I appreciated how the author never set up homosexuality as the worst sin ever as so many Christians and churches seem to do.  In fact, in several places, he mentioned how his points were not limited to same-sex attraction and relationships, but they were applicable in opposite sex attraction and relationships as well.  Secondly, I appreciated how in the gifts section, Ron talked about the gift of singleness for the same-sex attracted and also the gift of opposite-sex marriage for the same-sex attracted.  I appreciated how he put both out as legitimate biblical options, as well as specific ways to know if you are called to one or the other.   Finally, I appreciated how Ron repeatedly called the church to have ministries, healing spaces, and vulnerability.  Whether the issue is same-sex attraction or some other issue, the church needs to be open and vulnerable.  That is where true growth can occur and community can thrive.

Cons: There were one or two instances where it seemed like the “rules” Ron was putting forth were not necessarily Biblical.  One thing that I am not sure what I think about is how multiple times he mentioned that a person dealing with same-sex attraction must be in a close, godly, mentoring relationship with someone of the same sex.  I will be honest and say that I mostly don’t know what I’m talking about as, again, I am only recently starting to learn more about all that encompasses this issue.  But it seems a little inconsistent.  Women are told all the time not to counsel or mentor with men because of the potential for stumbling.  Then again, I’m not sure how I feel on that as a hard and fast rule either, but that is a nuanced issue for another time.

In the conclusion, Ron talks about how throughout it all, he hopes that the reader’s takeaway is that there is hope.  He recognizes how easy it is to feel hopeless, like there are no paths, or at least no good paths, to take. But there is hope.  And you can tell on just about every page that the author is truly on the reader’s side and wanting to bring hope through Jesus.

The front cover says, “Biblical direction for friends, family members, and those struggling with homosexuality.”  I do recommend it for anyone in those categories!

Note: I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this review.

 

Book Review: Is the Bible Good for Women?

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Over the past year or so, I have been searching the Bible for better understanding on issues of gender and women’s roles.  This book, Is the Bible Good for Women? by Wendy Alsup is one of the latest books on the scene.  Just released last month, it is a small book but in my opinion a helpful contribution to the discussion.

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Overall, I greatly appreciated the author’s humility and graciousness.  She approached a hot-button issue in a calm, helpful way.  While she is fully convinced of her opinion, she started off by talking about the need to come to this issue with a heart willing to seek and learn.  Personally, I felt she spent half the book setting up an introduction, although I do see why she chose to do.

Wendy starts off by pointing out the scarlet thread that is all throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testament.  The scarlet thread that points to Jesus’ and His atoning work.  She then moves into the goodness of God for women from the beginning of time at creation.  I love the phrase she used a few times, “Personhood preceded womanhood.”  Describing the creation of humans, she reiterates how both men and women are equally created in the image of God.  Both genders are image bearers. (She also includes a great section debunking the myth that is in the church, purposefully and subconsciously, that marriage is the ultimate goal of a woman.)

Moving forward a few chapters, the author starts to get into specific “problem passages” related to the gender discussion.  Her refrain is “let the Bible interpret the Bible.”  In a few instances, she detailed several different interpretations before ending with her personal belief, which I appreciated.  I learned some interpretations I had not heard before.

While I did not agree with all of her conclusions, the book was thought-provoking.  You do leave the book seeing that yes indeed, the Bible is good for women.  I did have a couple critiques, however.

In a few instances, I do believe the author unfairly represented the other side of the gender discussion. She made reference to how the other side is merely proof-texting and coming to the discussion looking for verses that support their already made up minds.  This does not do justice to the discussion.  While there are indeed people like that, there are also scores of people, men and women alike, who are coming humbly to the topic, searching the Scriptures with prayerful hearts, and still arriving at different conclusions.

Secondly, I found it interesting that even while the author said it is best to be careful taking outside historical context into consideration (she posits that the best historical context is that which is found in the Bible….letting the Bible interpret the Bible) and she said that people on the other side are quick to play the historical context card…she herself pulled from extra-biblical historical context in some of her arguments.  Personally, I think that there can be great benefit in learning about historical context, even if some of that context comes from outside the Bible.

The final critique is actually more of just a point of confusion.  There were several instances where the author referenced certain things but didn’t go into detail on how she arrived at that conclusion.  One such instance was when she referenced Junias. There is much debate as to whether Junias was in fact Junias (a woman) or Junia (a man).  Most translations, including the translation the author uses, render it Junia.  Rather than using Junias as an example of a woman in the Bible, I wish the author had gotten into that a bit more and explained how she came to that conclusion, especially since that is a conclusion different from the translation she uses.

Overall, I appreciated the book.  Again, I probably would have taken her points a bit farther, but at the end I do agree with the conclusion: yes, the Bible is good for women.  “Is God then a feminist?…If feminism in its purest sense is the quest for justice and equal rights for women, then, yes, God was the first feminist.  God created woman in His image and bestowed on her equal dignity with man….By a woman’s mere existence, God has bestowed on her dignity and privileges that transcend race, economic status, and physical ability.”  – page 191

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