Girl at the End of the World - Book Review

Girl At the End of the Word: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future.  I knew the very second that my eyes previewed the title of this book, I had to read it.  But I was almost scared to read it.  How close to home would it hit? Is fundamentalism something to be ‘escaped’ from?

My family had a hard time finding a church when moved outside the Bible belt.  We ended up joining a fundamentalist church because of the people’s love for each other and their sense of community, something I desperately longed for having left behind precious friendships in Texas.  They embraced me even though my beliefs in the peripheral doctrines were different. 

After joining, it felt like the pastor placed extra emphasis on these doctrines in his sermons and initiated special Bible study series’ on doctrines where my beliefs differed, seemingly on purpose, as if to show me the error of my ways.  It wasn’t a cult, but my husband and I still joke about having to learn the secret handshake and chant to enter into their assembly.   When we left, I felt a sense of freedom, but I still miss many of the people I had grown to love, and I value the impact some of them had in the lives of my children for the three years we were there. 

But Elizabeth Esther’s experience was fundamentalism to the extreme.  Fundamentalism in itself isn't a cult.  A cult is about methods and behavior more than it is about beliefs.  It is "the emotional seizing of people's trust, thoughts, and choices that identifies a cult."  She shows how any group can cross the line into cultish-ness and how difficult it may be to recognize while right in the middle of it.  She tells her story of growing up in the spiritual zeal of the Assembly, living in fear of the calculated spanking, surviving public high school under her parents' rigid rules of conduct, and eventually leaving the Assembly and healing from the emotional trauma it caused in her life.  But most beautiful of all was how she found her way to the freedom and grace we have in Christ Jesus.

Her memoir reads like a novel, and from the moment I read the first words, I was hooked all the way to the end.  The ending was a little surprising, but this book completely touched my soul and opened my eyes to pinpoint just exactly how much I hate it when Christians misrepresent the Bible and use it for power.       

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 I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.


Moment Maker: You Can Live Your Life or It Will Live You - Book Review

Life is made up of moments.  Some are anticipated, others take us by surprise.  Some just happen, others we can make happen.  Moments are fleeting, but we can make them meaningful.   Moments can have a huge impact.

A car broken down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere on a family vacation…unplanned, frustrating, but what would you do with it?  While waiting for the tow truck, Carlos Whittaker turned the situation into a memory-making moment that might otherwise have been missed.  That’s the kind of life I want to live – extracting the good from the things life throws at me.

Then there are moments we can create that are worth celebrating, making into big moments that will bless others and feels their true worth because you stopped what you were doing and made life all about them. 

Carlos Whittaker is a musician, worship leader, and communicator who has lived his life creating moments and guiding people into moments with God.  In his book, Moment Maker: You Can Live Your Life or It Will Live You, he describes the moment-making life and the moments that made him who he is.  The book is divided into three parts: creating moments, receiving moments, and rescuing moments.  With his personal experiences intertwined, he describes how to handle these kinds of moments to squeeze the fullest impact from them.  He also has a few tips from his experiences of what not to do as well as how to salvage a moment that gets really messed up.

Carlos Whittaker has a special gift of storytelling along with humility to share his mistakes, and humor to make us laugh about them as we relate.  This book is both entertaining and inspiring.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan/BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

The Deeper Life - Book Review

“Choose your foundation carefully. Your identity, purpose, values, priorities, goals, time, and ultimate legacy will all stand or fall on this foundation,” introduces Daniel Henderson, in his new book The Deeper Life.  He sets out to show how to implement a view of God into every aspect of your life. 

In the first half of the book, each chapter addresses an aspect of our longings: Who is God, who am I, why am I here, what really matters, what shall I do, how shall I do it, when shall I do it, and how will I finish.  “A Deeper Life Story” at the end of each chapter is a story told by another person about how the principles (the principles of Daniel Henderson) changed their lives.

In the second half of the book, “Discovery Exercises” are designed to take the theological truth that you know and to daily experience it with God. The written exercises encourage the reader to think and practice biblical truths into each of the aspects of our longings.  In the appendices, he includes some interesting material that I want to use in my prayer time, like lists of who Jesus is, attributes of God, Old Testament names of God, titles and names of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit, and who I am in Christ.

My favorite chapter was on biblical time management in When Shall I Do It? The author took a different direction that seemed contradictory to his previous chapters, and I was delighted.  Biblical time management isn’t about squeezing as much as you can out of every minute or controlling your calendar.  It is walking in the Spirit with dependence on Him, and being open to “moments”.  Necessary errands can become encounters with eternity if we maximize our moments instead of trying to manage our minutes.

This book would be more appropriately named The Christian Life.  It’s not about living a deeper Christian life like I thought when I picked the title.  The book tends to be theoretical with an attempt to be practical, and the author seems to come across exalting himself with some name-dropping to give himself credibility.  But as I overlook that, the author reminds me that it is good to live intentionally, to set goals, and to live in the moment rather than managing my minutes.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

The Snow Skiing Accident and the Questions that Follow

Emily, two days after back surgery after skiing accident
A month ago, my 17-year-old daughter was injured in a snow skiing accident at my son's birthday party.  With multiple fractures in her backbone and a shattered vertebrae with fragments pressed against her spinal cord, the doctors were amazed that she was not paralyzed.  It's a long road to recovery, but surgery went well, and she is walking again.  

We went to a follow-up appointment yesterday with the spinal surgeon, and Emily was wearing her "turtle shell" (back brace) and using her walker.  A 43-year-old man in a wheelchair approached her and tentatively started a conversation, commenting on her turtle shell and the fact that she was able to walk.  He said he was in a snow mobile accident when he was 17, shattering one of his vertebrae (T-12), leaving him paralyzed.  He wanted to remind her what a blessing it was that she was walking, and to also tell her to persevere, not give up, that she was beautiful and still had her whole life ahead of her.  He said life was good, even though he was paralyzed, that he was married and had children and works as a photographer.

When we left, Emily told me to carry her walker, she didn't need it, and she limped along back to the parking garage without it, one of the most beautiful sights ever! I would gladly have carried it everywhere and built up the strength in my arms as she rebuilt the strength in her legs. 

Up to this point, I had observed that Emily never asked "why".  She knew all along that God allowed it to happen and would use it for good in her life, whether she was paralyzed or not.  She trusted Him; she was not angry.  Her questions have been "what" - what is God going to do with this in her life?  But the "what" questions lead back to "why", and now the "why" questions begin.  

She asks "why am I NOT paralyzed?"  Her T-12 was fractured, not shattered.  It was amazing she could still walk.  Why does the man in the wheel chair live in it the rest of his life while her T-12 heals and she walks again? 

I don't know the answer, but I am thankful that she is walking, that life will return to 'normal' eventually, and I am looking forward to seeing how God is going to use this in her life.

How to Get Four Generations Working Together - Book Reivew

I’m a Gen-Xer (born between 1965-1981), my supervisor is a Millennial (born after 1981), and my co-workers span three generations (and at the edge of a fourth) at opposite ends.  While I had considered the varying personality types to appreciate our differences, I had not thought much about our differences in terms of age/generation.    It is now common to have multiple generations in the work place (and in the church) working side by side and finding areas where they get stuck in getting along and understanding each other. 

Haydn Shaw’s book Sticking Points: How to Get Four Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart breaks it all down and then provides the solutions.  In the first part of the book, he explains why each generation is the way they are from what they have experienced in their lifetime.  In the second part of the book, he shows how we can look for ways to leverage strengths instead of getting stuck in the differences. 

At the end of each chapter in the second part of the book, Shaw provides a bullet-point summary of what each generation thinks and why on topics such as decision-making, dress code, communication, meetings, feedback, training, respect, work ethic, etc.  Browsing through these summary points with co-workers in the break room was entertaining and enlightening! The best part of the book is that it does not knock or elevate any single generation, but shows the good in them all. 

This book is not only enlightening, but also provides solutions. I highly recommend this book for both leaders and for people who work on teams with multiple age groups, whether in the marketplace, volunteering, or even family gatherings.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Tell Me a Story - Book Review

People throughout history have loved stories.  Even today, our technologically-savvy current consumes books and movies voraciously.  We are not only entertained by them; they strike something in our soul, evoke emotion, and express our joys and fears.  God speaks to us in stories in the Bible, stories that are woven together in one big Story.  And we each have our own story that links up with His.

Story is who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.  As Christ followers, we are given the calling to be story tellers, witnesses of the big Story.  In the book Tell Me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) through Narrative, Scott McClellan shows how we are part of God’s great story and challenges us to think about what story we are going to tell.  He helps us to look at the elements of our own story and compels us to be faithful in sharing it as part of God’s great story.  We are not called to change the world, but rather, to be witnesses and to tell the story in whatever time and place we find ourselves.

I read this book while a new chapter in my own personal life story was being developed. The timing was impeccable – it helped me to make sense of the apparent chaos and to sort through how I would tell this chapter of my story as part of God’s story with wisdom, faith, and discernment. 

This short and easy-to-read book gives perspective and challenges the reader to live and witness intentionally with purpose.  I highly recommend this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Press in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review - A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You

I was blessed to have a copy of John Piper’s book A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You in my purse during an unexpected 12-day stay at the hospital when my daughter was in a snow skiing accident.  The book is divided into 50 short chapters of a theological truth for meditation.  I am certain that God planned for me to have this book and to read chapter #26 “Putting my Daughter to Bed After the Bridge Collapsed: What Do Tragedies Like This Mean for Us”.  The truths that John Piper reminded me of in this book helped us to sleep peacefully in the middle of our lives being turned upside down.

I’m not sure if it was just the environment under which I read this book, but it was not an easy read.  The book truly has some gems, while other chapters, especially toward the end, were familiar themes I had read in his other books that did not seem to fit the theme of this book.  This book is a great summary of all that John Piper’s writing, preaching, and ministry revolves around.  If you have read all his books, you might find this one redundant.  If you have never read any of his books, this one is a great place to start.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing in exchange for my honest review.