Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book Review 'Finding God in the Ruins'

 In "Finding God in the Ruins", Matt Bays does something profound; he takes "packaged" Christianity, kicks it off its axis, lets it roll, and once it lands declares, "THIS is how we need to view it." He leaves it messy. He leaves the pain. He leaves it raw. Rather than buff it all out by touting a few verses and saying we should now be whole and healed, he makes sure we know God is present within the pain. God isn't (or has never) turned away and avoided the moments that are the most dark. He is there. And Bays continues to drive this point home with examples from his life as well as the lives of others. A key point Bays makes in seeing how God redeems pain is when he explains the need for us to all be authentic; sharing our pain, our trauma, and allowing others to see the road we walked to find our way to God is a very powerful testimony.

I did enjoy this book for all its truth and authenticity, but I'm holding back from declaring it "amazing" for a very specific reason--as much as God is discussed within the book, the name of Jesus Christ and having a personal relationship with him is absent. If someone is not a Christian and completely gravitates & connects to this book (which is extremely likely given the welcoming & accepting writing style), the person will have learned much about God and yet not so much about coming to the Father THROUGH Christ. I know many people who consider themselves Christians, believe in God, and even pray...and yet they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. And not seeing His name throughout the pages, nor a clear recognition of the Holy Spirit's role in the redemptive process bothers me a bit. Overall, this is a wonderful work, but I do feel those areas could have been more clearly established rather than implied.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.*

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I Want it All by Gwen Smith {Great resource for Christian Women}

I Want it All by Gwen Smith is a wonderful book for the Christian woman who feels like something is 'missing' from her life; the career she never had, the home she wishes was hers, the 'what-ifs' that come from having regrets about decisions made in the past, and the feeling that each day holds the same mundane tasks. We Christian women know in our heads that Christ alone can complete us, redeem us, and is the source of our purpose, yet Smith moves beyond "head knowledge" and delves much deeper in discussing what it looks like--feels like--to excitedly embrace all that God has for us!

I love how authentic Smith is, and that may be my favorite part of the book. She makes it clear (in a very humble way) that she is just like us. She shares what many would consider a "deep, dark" secret from her past that allows the reader to trust her and believe her when she discusses how "Grace heals and restores" (p 42). Smith also does something that is critical in growing a deeper faith--she shares scripture! Often! And she presses in about the importance of prayer. Smith continually backs up what she says with Biblical truths. I have many sentences highlighted and page corners turned down in my book. But one of my favorite sections is displayed on page 176:

I struggle to see how a perfect God can look past my brokenness. I know in my heart that He loves me, but I sometimes struggle to accept that he likes me, because sometimes I don't even like myself.
     These doubts and insecurities cause me to question my value and my ability to make a difference. They cause me to feel insignificant. Invisible and ineffective.
     Yet I know the Bible says the opposite And because of this, I'm reminded to, instead, tether my value to truths like these:
     *I was created in the image of God.
     *I am sealed with the Holy Spirit.
     *Jesus loved me so much that He endured a horrific death so I could be saved.

These truths matter. And because they matter, they confirm to me that I matter. And they confirm you matter, too.

After giving great encouragement like the quote above, Smith then presses deeper into the emotions we have when we struggle with these truths. And that substance is the reason I recommend I Want it All.

*I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review."

You can find more information and purchase a copy of I Want it All  by Gwen Smith here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Book Review of 'And It Was Beautiful' by Kara Tippetts

And It Was Beautiful is a compilation of blog posts written by Kara Tippetts (as shared on her Mundane Faithfulness Blog), yet they flow seamlessly and create a wonderful book. It is both a testimony of her faith in trusting God through all circumstances and a phenomenal posthumous tribute to Kara.

'Celebrating life in the midst of the long goodbye'~the tagline for the book title~sums up Kara's story. Kara shares her heart, her heartache, and her journey as a wife, mother, sister and friend. In the book, Kara shares her breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, treatment, recovery, remission, recurrence and a terminal diagnosis. Kara reveals both raw emotion and confidence in her Savior's plan for her life.

I can't imagine what Kara's journey was like, but that is one reason I wanted to read her book. Because to grow my own faith, I can learn from the testimony of others. And Kara's testimony is one of the most powerful I have ever witnessed.

*I received a complimentary copy per my honest review."

You can purchase a copy here.