Chasing Your Dreams (In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson)

battersonNot all great preachers are great writers. Mark Batterson is one of the few who are. Like my favorites, Max Lucado and Charles Swindoll, Batterson has the cadence of a poet and the wisdom of a pastor.

This book includes profound thoughts that are beautifully crafted. Here are a few:

God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. A sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ.

We’re inspired by people who face their fears and chase their dreams. What we fail to realize is that they are no different from us.

In the beginning, the Sprit of God was hovering over the chaos. And nothing has changed. God is still hovering over chaos.

Your ability to help others heal is limited to where you’ve been wounded

The premise of this book is that you can experience success and blessings when you boldly chase after dreams that come from God—be it those revealed in the faintest of whispers in your subconscious or those packaged in calls heard loud and clear. The book then goes on to prove this premise by shuffling examples and practical lessons, beginning with Benaiah.

And because I’m a sucker for nobodies who surface as heroes, I love that Benaiah and his lion-chasing bravado on a snowy day is the foundation of this book (despite reviews—like this one—that question the heroic details of the story). For me a story doesn’t  have to be accurate in order to inspire and motivate me. The storyteller and preacher in Batterson were successful in making me assess missed opportunities, while recalibrating my life lenses with a vow to make the rest of my life on earth more accountable to my Creator God.

In spite of the much needed motivation I received from this book, I did find that everything from the illustration of Benaiah to the contemporary examples to the practical tips could have been sandwiched into a much shorter book. The repetition of some content and fillers had me speed reading through much of the book. Other than this shortcoming, I really like this book and have passed it on for someone else to benefit from its encouragement.

For more information about the book from Waterbrook Multnomah, go here. To learn more about Mark Batterson and his ministry, go here.

And for the record, I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

i am his, by rita j platt (navpress)

For every woman out there who has missed out on experiencing the wondrous bond that exists only between a father and a daughter, this book is especially for you. For those out there who have been disappointed in relationships, be it with spouse, sibling, parent, child or friend, this book is for you too.

A day-by-day study over a period of 8 weeks, this book encourages the reader to get real–to face fear, anger, pain and disappointment and reach out to our Father God who can fill the emptiness of life on earth. This is a study of the character of God from the perspective of his created being. It is an exposition of  the original plan of Eden for a perfect relationship between God and man. It is also the story of Platt’s personal journey of letting go of emotional baggage and leaning on trust in God.

Through her story and that of others, Platt draws the reader to reflect of God’s Word and promises as solutions to the brokenness of life.

Definitely a good study guide.

(I received this book free from NavPress. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

soul shaping by stephen w. smith (david c. cook)

I’m a big proponent of group studies. The accountability, support and perspective that comes from sharing ideas and learning together often have long-term benefits. The couples my husband and I studied with once a month, some 15 years ag,o are our closest friends today; their children and ours were bonded for life as well. But this long lasting bond doesn’t just magical result from every group study. The glue that brings all members of the group together is the common passion or yearning and the product that feeds the emotion and need. When the subject matter resonates with everyone, you have a winner. Soul Shaping is that kind of book

For a group searching for ways to begin a renewed, active life in the hands of Jesus, this is the perfect study guide. Each lesson is portioned into sections, varied and targeted for different learning styles. The lessons taught are then reinforced through a exercises in one or more spiritual discipline. A lot of white space and a good choice of font and layout make the book very user and pen-friendly.

If you or your church is looking for a new set of Bible studies, this is it.

(I received this book free from David C. Cook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

love food & live well, by chantel hobbs (waterbrook)

This book on losing weight and feeling fit is based on what the author calls the 80/20 rule–be disciplined and conscientious about what you eat 80 percent of the time and treat yourself to whatever you want the remaining 20 percent of the time.

I like the idea and I like the fact that the message comes from someone who herself lost some hundred pounds or more. Full of practical suggestions and gentle admonishment, the book makes losing weight seem doable.

My only criticism of the book is that everything that had to be said could have been said in half the number of pages. In many places, it seems to drag on and on, going somewhat off the topic.

Other than that, it’s a good book. Unlike a lot of quacky diet books on there, this one makes sense.

(I received this book free from Waterbrook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

the reason why by mark mittelberg (tyndale)

My spirituality was rote in many ways until I was almost 30 and began to question why I believed what I believed. With my discovery came a determination to encourage my children to question the faith they were reared into and discover with clarity their personal manifesto. My son’s manifesto and its evolution over 10 years, beginning at age 14, reflects his spiritual growth. Somehow, putting down in writing your reasons why you believe what you do has more of an impact that just knowing about it in your head. When it’s tangible and portable, your beliefs are more apt to be passed on and shared to bring meaning to someone else.

The Reason Why is that kind of book. It is a rewrite of one man’s manifesto written about a hundred years ago. Passed on, it has been used by and inspired millions. There’s nothing revolutionary or revelational about  the content. It’s simply one man’s reasons why he believes in the Bible as God’s inspired Word, why he believes in Jesus and His forgives, why he believes he is called to be a Christian. Yet, in its simplicity, you can see his sincerity, his faith, his conviction.

Mittelberg does a great job is editing the original manuscript for clarity and relevance. His use of modern-day examples and quotes from writers such as C. S. Lewis is well-balanced and appropriate.

This is the book no matter who you are–For the seasoned Christian, it is a refreshing affirmation of faith; For the curious wondering what Christianity is all about, it’s the perfect primer; For the casual reader, it reads like the autobiography of a man on a journey of self discovery.

My son’s manifesto has impacted his immediate circle over the years. I’ve used it as an outline for a Bible curriculum; a friend used in for a series of Bible studies for youth; others have read and been encouraged to reexamine their spirituality. A manifesto is meant to do just that–to bring purpose and meaning to your choices. And this book does just that–Laidlaw’s reasons why cause the reader to find purpose and meaning.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

bad girls of the bible (waterbrook)

I must be the atypical woman. The back cover tells me that ten million readers already love Liz Curtis Higgs’s writing, yet I don’t. The very things that others seems to like about her style is what I don’t–her “blend of contemporary fiction with biblical commentary” and her “unique brand of ‘girlfriend theology’.”

I did like her biblical commentary and the section at the end of each chapter called “What Lessons Can We Learn from So and So.” What I didn’t like was the long fiction narrative that I had to wade through to get to the shores of biblical understanding. The story of Eve as told in Genesis is plenty good enough for me. I don’t need it spun any more. I don’t need Eve to be Evelyn from Savannah and the Devil to be Devin. I don’t need God reduced to a human stage and theatrics to understand Him better.

This fictionalization takes up about 1/3 of every chapter before Higgs gets to the biblical commentary which I enjoyed for the most part.  Again, I could have done without the over-humanizing of God. For instance of page 23 she says of creation, “First, though, God tried pets,” implying that God’s initial plan was for animals to be Adam’s intimate companion and that Eve was Plan B. To me this says that God was not God enough, not omniscient enough, to understand Adam, his own created being. Something about suppositions like this throughout the book doesn’t sit well with me.

Like I haven’t said enough already, here’s another–I didn’t care too much for the cutesies tucked into Higgs’ commentary either. For example, in her introduction of Genesis 2:21 ( So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the placed with flesh), she says ” Say, two favorite movie titles in one verse: While You Were Sleeping and Adam’s Rib!” I can see how this may be a humorous ice breaker in a live presentation, but I don’t think it’s worthy of the cost of print.

Along the lines of trying to be cute, there’s also the last section of each chapter called, “Good Girl Thoughts Worth Considering.” I’m not sure if that’s good girl thoughts or good girl thoughts. Or both maybe?

But like I said at the very beginning, perhaps it’s just me. If Higgs is making a difference to a million+ women, she’s got to be doing something right. And maybe I’m just not girly enough for it.

(I received this book free from Waterbrook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

live like you mean it by t j addington (navpress)

The cover very clearly tells you the book contains “the 10 crucial questions that will help you clarify your purpose, live intentionally and make the most of the rest of your life.” The foreword also underscores the merits of learning and understanding through questions–“It is in wrestling with questions, and not giving the answers, that we grow and change.” And with these expectations from the book, I set out on a Socratic journey of self discovery with the aid of Addington.

Every chapter focuses on one question and its answer, and ends with a few more reflective questions that can be used in group discussions. I liked that the questions are relevant and applicable to Christian growth and lifestyle. I also liked that Addington directs the reader to the Bible for answers. For example, the reader is pointed to Ephesians 2:10 to find the answer to the question “Why am I here?”

I would have liked Addington to take the questioning approach farther and use a more purer form of Socratic strategy. Questions are not as effective when they are followed by the answer and illustrative examples. Lessons are better understood and remembered when the questions arouse interest and curiosity while leading the learner to discover the answer and relish the gain of new, fresh insights. I felt the book did not meet the expectation set forth in the foreword.

Yet, despise that one small prejudice I have about the book’s teaching strategy, I feel the substance of the book and the logic of Addington’s treatment of the topic are worth the attention of any Christian committed to a lifestyle focused on God’s calling.

Click here for details about Live Like You Mean It.

(I received this book free from NavPress. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)