Monday, January 17, 2011

Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

In Captivating, John and Stasi Eldredge reveal that Eve (woman) was the culmination of God’s marvelous creation. They express the great love and appreciation that God has for each individual woman and speak of the important roles that only women can fulfill. John and Stasi reassure women that they don’t have to compete with or act like men. God has a specific purpose and plan in creating women, and He loves them just the way they are. Women can relax and enjoy their femininity and quit striving to be someone they are not. Most importantly, the Eldredges encourage women to sit at Christ’s feet and to let Christ woo them—to feel His love and to be complete in that love, as they listen and learn of His purpose for their lives.

I am so thankful that this is not another book for women written by some woman who has obviously not served in the trenches. Stasi is very real and admits to some of her own failings as a woman. This is not another book that will make women feel guilty if they are not Martha Stewart, Mother Teresa, and Marilyn Monroe wrapped into one.

I highly recommend this book with my only reservation being their unbiblical view of spiritual warfare and their failure to mention baptism as God’s plan for putting us into Christ.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

In Outlive Your Life, Max Lucado encourages Christians to make an impact—an impact of compassion—that will outlast their lifetimes. Just as Christ used ordinary men like Peter, Andrew, and James during His earthly ministry, He continues to use ordinary men and women today. God is waiting to use us if we will only open ourselves up to His will. Lucado addresses important issues related to serving others, including “Calling Mr. Pot Roast” (God’s use of ordinary people), “Don’t Forget the Bread” (sharing Christ while sharing compassion), “Remember Who Holds You” (giving God the credit), “Blast a Few Walls” (overcoming what we see on the outside), “That’s Jesus Playing That Fiddle” (the biblical reason for giving), and many others.

To be honest, this call to compassion is nothing new. Christians talk about giving all of the time. “Support this ministry. Support that ministry. Support our ministry.” I realize that God calls us to give of our means, but sometimes it seems as if we are being pressured into giving. Sometimes we may give because it makes us feel good or because we will feel like we are bad Christians if we do not give. If that is our reason for giving, if we feel pressured to give to others, we have missed the point. God blesses a giving heart, not a pocketbook emptied by homeless people we see on the street corner. I wish Max Lucado’s book had addressed this topic more thoroughly. One of the Bible’s most important verses on giving is 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” If an individual is barely able to pay his bills and is not in a position where he can give “not grudgingly, or of necessity,” he should work to improve his financial position so that he can give cheerfully. [For this, I recommend The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.] Regardless of our financial position, every one of us has something that we can give; however, the most joyful giving will occur when we can give without being afraid we just donated our grocery money. Outlive Your Life includes many good points, but I recommend reading Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris instead. Rather than being devoted entirely to the topic of giving, Do Hard Things (along with Alex and Brett Harris’s second book, Start Here) encourages Christians to excel wherever God has placed them, whether that involves raising money to dig wells in Africa, running a political campaign, or giving honor to parents. [Reviewer’s note: Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations is intended for teenagers but is a great read for adults as well.] If you choose to read Outlive Your Life, let it be a call to love and compassion, not a mandate to give.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

The female companion to Wild at Heart, Captivating “unveils the mystery of a woman’s soul.” According to the authors, not even women are as tame as we once thought. Instead, women have an inner desire to be involved in an adventure, something that will test their strength as women. Captivating is a revolutionary book on Christian femininity. Rather than focusing on the almost infamous example of a good Christian woman found in Proverbs 31, this book focuses on the godliness and courage of women like Rahab and Tamar. The basic message is that women are deeper than clothes, makeup, and a seemingly submissive spirit. Woman’s soul is a treasure chest filled with wealth to be discovered and enjoyed.

Similar to Wild at Heart, Captivating contains an important, but rather depressing, section on “her wound.” Although this section was not particularly uplifting, I endured it because I considered it useful for my own growth. The rest of the book, however, was much more enjoyable. I believe the most important concept taught in the book is that neither Christian women nor any other woman should expect men to give them the love and affirmation they need. This affirmation can come only from God. Although this book contains a lot of great material, I did not enjoy it quite as much as I enjoyed Wild at Heart, partly just because the transition between the two authors was slightly distracting at times. Despite this minor drawback, I recommend this book to women of any age but especially to young girls 16+. [Reviewer’s note: Since I am not and have never been a man, I am not qualified to say whether men would appreciate this book.]

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

Right along with the women’s liberation movement and the masculinization of women came the demasculinization of men. Few people (including me until I read this book) realize what society has been doing to men. It has been trying to tame men and to make them . . . well . . . more like women. Wild at Heart encourages men to discover who they were designed to be—not tame, but wild.

Although I did not agree with everything John Eldredge said in Wild at Heart, I did find most of the book fascinating. It really opened my eyes to what men are, or were intended to be, like. I would not recommend this book to anyone looking for some light reading because it is rather intense. Much of the book is devoted to the important, but rather depressing, topic of “his wound.” This section of the book deals with the debilitating wounds that have been inflicted upon men, usually by their fathers. I do not think this is a book just for guys, although I do think every guy should read it and have already recommended it to a few. As a young girl, I believe girls and women can benefit from Wild at Heart as well. I would recommend Wild at Heart to guys and gals who are 16+.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson, Illustrated by Bonnie Leick

The King’s Christmas List tells of a little girl named Emma and her dog, Shu-Shu, who are invited to a royal Christmas celebration—the king’s birthday party! After Emma and Shu-Shu receive the royal invitation to the party, they encounter a problem: What can they take to give the king as a birthday present? Emma and her dog finally decide to take the cake Emma had baked and are soon off to the party in the King’s royal carriage. On the way, however, these royal partygoers meet some travelers who will test their spirit of generosity and change the way they view Christmas. 

For me, this book was a pleasant surprise. I half expected it to point out self-righteously that, since Christmas is “Christ’s birthday,” we should be giving gifts to Him instead of to each other. In fact, it did point that out, although it managed to avoid sounding self-righteous. I was surprised, however, when the book went on to show us how we can give gifts to Christ. As it says in Matthew 25:37-40, we give gifts to Christ when we serve others. Obviously, this book has a Christian message, which is not likely to be appreciated by people who want to “de-Christianize” Christmas. For Christians, however, this book would make an excellent tool for teaching children the biblical reason for giving. Both the story and the illustrations have a slightly whimsical, fairy tale-ish feel to them. For instance, Shu-Shu is a talking dog. I would recommend this book to parents of 4-8 year olds.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expresses are my own.

Where Hearts Are Free, by Golden Keyes Parsons

The third novel in the series "A Darkness to Light" resulted from inspiration found in the author's genealogy. That background was intriguing, as well as its setting in the 1600s. Bridget Barrington fell in love with her family's indentured servant, Philippe Clavell. As soon as she reached marriageable age, her parents arranged for her to meet and marry a rake named Edward Moorehead. Only then did Bridget inform them of her longtime love for Philippe. Prospects were very bleak, in view of the fact that his term of indenture did not end for a few weeks yet. The evening after Bridget told Philippe of her love for him, Mr. Barrington ended the term of his service in exchange for his never again contacting his daughter. Philippe Clavell returned to his family in the Schuylkill Valley. He did not even open the one letter he received from Bridget. Meanwhile, his younger brother Charles remained behind and helped to rescue Bridget just in time.

Even though the main characters were Christian, Where Hearts Are Free contains multiple accounts of violent actions committed by others. The descriptions given were entirely unnecessary to the storyline and ruined an otherwise harmless book. For this reason, I would not recommend Where Hearts Are Free or any other book by Golden Keyes Parsons to careful, Christian readers.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Outlive Your Life, by Max Lucado

The message that "you were made to make a difference" is one of utmost importance in today's culture. Christians must recognize the opportunities that come to ordinary people and act upon them. Max Lucado presents a passionate appeal for action through his modern interpretations of Biblical stories and the lives of Christian workers.

Outlive Your Life presents suggestions for living better lives everyday, but it does not seem to live up to its title. Real-life stories are not backed up with practical suggestions and action plans for the Christian who wants to know how to make a difference. Even though Lucado mentioned several opportunities related to his own interests, he did not make it clear how others should seek for opportunities related to their interests. Young adults reading this book are left with the plaguing question, "How can I make a difference without previous experience or extensive funds?" The book is written in language that appeals to an inexperienced audience, but it does not give them the solutions necessary to make a difference. Outlive Your Life would appeal to a wider group of Christian adults if it addressed such questions or were written in a higher style. I would recommend this book to young adults who tend to miss opportunities for doing good for those closest to them every day.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.