Fake Or Follower: Refusing to Settle for a Shallow Faith


I was asked to be a part of the Canadian Launch Team for this book, Fake or Follower, by Andi Andrew.  The description of the book sounded like exactly what’s been on my heart for my own walk with Jesus in the last little while.  Discipleship.  My church has been placing a pretty big focus on it as well — how do we walk with Jesus?  And so it’s been settling into some long-ignored places, and I like it.  Naturally then, when the chance to help get this book off its feet came into my inbox, I jumped at it.

There was a lot that I really liked about this book.  And I think it’s safe to say that anything I didn’t like was a reaction to my being deeply convicted about the words that Andi Andrew laid out on the pages.

Through this book you’ll walk through thoughts on being consumer Christians, on church hopping, on living as part of the culture around us in a way that no one would recognize that we’re different except for the occasional Sunday morning appearance inside a church.  You’ll read about community — how essential it is to a healthy Christian life, what that looks like, and what it doesn’t.  Learn and dig into where your identity is based.  Do you reflect Jesus?  This section was very challenging for me.

We love because we were loved first.  And love is more than a feeling.  I’m sure we’ve all heard this before, but it sunk in for me in a bit of a different way this time around.  What I really liked about this chapter though was the reminder that love raises the standard by which we live our lives.  Being loved doesn’t mean I have license to sin because I have grace.  This is by far the biggest argument against grace I hear from people struggling to wrap their heads and hearts and minds around the grace and goodness of God and Jesus.  “But doesn’t that mean you can just do what you want?”  No, because I’m loved in a way that makes that makes me not want to go back to what I’ve been saved from.  Andi Andrew has just given me words for an age-old question.

I was both challenged and encouraged by this book, often at exactly the same time.  Andrew uses humour and straight to the punch truth to get her point across in a way that I could really appreciate.  I highly recommend this book.  I also recommend that you take the time to dig into the reflection questions at the end of each chapter.  I’m often of the mindset that I want to “finish the book as quickly as I can,” usually because I’m pushing a review deadline, but you’ll learn about yourself as you dig into the questions.

I’m glad to know who Andi Andrew is now, and I’m thrilled to have been a part of this launch team.  The book came out October 2nd, so you can now buy it in lots of places that books are sold!  My preference is, of course, Amazon, but check your favourite book retailer to get your own copy.

 

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Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

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I Will Not Fear


Fear has been a topic that’s been following me around lately.

We’ve done sermons on it at church.
I’ve read a book about it (Fierce Faith by Alli Worthington ~ fantastic book!).
I’ve had conversations with friends about it because lately it seems my life is a wee bit characterized by it.

I was given the opportunity to read and review a book called “I Will Not Fear” ~ A book written by a lady named Melba Patillo Beals.  She was one of the nine African American students chosen to integrate into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.  I can’t imagine what life would have been like — to have felt so unwanted, so other, so less than… and such fear!  I have studied American history, and I am aware of the records of what it was like in the 50s and 60s, leading to the Civil Rights movement.  I’ve read of the Klan, of the death threats….. but what I hadn’t read, until now, was someone’s first hand account.

This book will grab you and make you hold on tight.  The story this woman tells of how she was a “first” at so many things in her life — trying to integrate into a society that thought segregation was the only way to live, going to university, going to grad school, being a single mom, getting jobs where she felt “other” not only because of her skin colour but also because of her gender — it’ll grip you.

I know I’ve experienced a great deal of fear in my life, but as I read this I realized I’ve really had very little to actually be afraid of.  That’s not the point of the book, however, because Melba offers the wisdom she learned from her Grandmother throughout, and with every story of some sort of atrocious experience that would surely knock my foundation down at the knees, she tells of how she trusted God, trusted Jesus, and lived as though the protection of God were real (and it is)!

One of my favourite parts of the book, and what I found most encouraging, were the little nuggets of summary that she included at the end of each chapter.  My story may not resemble that of Melba Patillo Beals’ in any way.  I’ll never know what it’s like to live her story.  But I do know what it’s like to live mine, and fear has no place here either.  I can take just as much encouragement from her words, and from how she did not bow to fear, as anyone else can.

“… no matter what threatening evidence appears to be true, we need not fear because God is always beside us.” (p. 165)

“As complex and dangerous as a predicament may be, God is as close as our skin.  Although peril feels like forever, God is here now.  He will guide us through the jungle of fear, if we only listen and obey.” (p. 189)

I highly recommend this book.  It’s not long, only 200 pages, so it’s a short read.  And it’s written in a way that leaves you wanting to hear more of Melba’s story, to know that it comes to a happy ending just like we always wish.  Melba Patillo Beals is a remarkable woman of faith, and we would all do well to stand in the face of adversity and fear like she did and declare “not today.”

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Where We Belong


Oh my stars, this book.  This beautiful, wonderful book.  Historical fiction is my jam to begin with, so I knew I was going to like this book.  But I didn’t know I was going to adore and devour this book.

Where We Belong is the story of two sisters, Rebecca and Flora Hawes, who do not fit the mold of the 1890s Victorian era society they were born into in Chicago.  They’re well-read, they’re intelligent, and they’re adventurous; and they’re determined to find what God’s purpose for their lives might be.

The story, crafted wonderfully by Lynn Austin, details so much of the adventure, in pieces woven expertly together.  Just when you feel like you need more information in order to understand what’s about to happen, Austin goes back and delivers exactly the information you need to continue.  The story criss-crosses through the lives of the sisters, plus their butler, Soren, and their ladies’ maid, Kate, as the crew travels across the Sinai Desert to find a rumoured ancient biblical manuscript.

I can’t give you more information than that, but I can tell you that at times I was so enthralled by this book that I couldn’t imagine having done anything but read.  It’s a good thing it’s Christmas break, because I spent the majority of my last 3 days (including being up WAY too late last night finishing) reading it.  I related so deeply to the characters, especially to Rebecca, that I couldn’t stop.  If I’m being honest, I have a bit of a book hangover now that it’s finished and I blasted through 470 pages so quickly.  I’ve taken a break for most of today, though I may start the next adventure tonight.  Time will tell.

There wasn’t a lot of romance, though there was an element of that woven throughout the characters’ stories… but I appreciated the lack of romance in this one.  I really wanted the adventure and the history, and I sure got both.

This is my first Lynn Austin book, but if the rest of her historical fiction is as delightful as this was, I’ll certainly be back.

I was even more surprised and delighted to find that the story, while truly a work of fiction, is based on the lives of two real-life sisters.  I won’t give you any more detail than that, because to do so would give away important plot points, and I know you don’t want me to do that.  But I promise, when you get to the end of the book, you’ll want to read the very last page at the back that gives you the details of the real-life sisters that Lynn Austin based her work of fiction around.

“Join two incomparable sisters on adventures that span the decades and cross the globe.”

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

(re)union ~ by Bruxy Cavey


Because I am a book fiend, and because I have a source that hooks me up with books already, I was overjoyed to discover that I had the chance to receive an Advance Reader Copy of Bruxy Cavey’s latest book, (re)union — The good news of Jesus for seekers, saints, and sinners.  I’ve read Bruxy’s other book, The End of Religion, and I loved it, but this takes everything to a whole new level.

I go to the church that Bruxy is the teaching pastor at, The Meeting House, so I can assure you that this book reads very authentically like he’s just speaking to you.  He’s so passionate about spreading the Gospel, and about making sure it’s clearly understood, and that certainly comes across in this book.  Bruxy succeeds at epic levels in making the Gospel clear.  I’ve grown up in the church.  I’ve grown up in this denomination.  But it’s never been laid out more clearly to me than in this book, and it’ll be one I read again (which doesn’t happen often).

What I love most about this book, apart from it being so abundantly clear, is how warm and inviting the call to follow Jesus is from start to finish.  But even while laying out theology, at times fairly heavy theology, Bruxy makes it feel like he’s having a casual conversation that is very easy to understand.  It’s light, it’s funny — It felt like having coffee with Bruxy.  I’ve never done that, so I can’t 100% compare it, but it was a very easy read despite how much it made me think.  My walk with Jesus, even though it’s been a 28ish year walk already, has deepened after reading this book.

I found an almost eerie personal connection while I was reading.  There’s a part in the book that talks about Jesus understanding whatever we’ll go through on this earth, because He came to earth to be human, to be one of us, even though he was also God.  There’s empathy there that I don’t see being possible to claim in any other worldview or religion.  As I was reading, you know how sometimes your eyes dart across to the next page and you’re disappointed because your eyes have skipped chunks?  Well, this book came into my life at a time when I desperately needed it.  If you know me, you get it.  If you don’t, well, you’ll have to trust me, cuz that’s a post for another time.  But I digress.  When Bruxy’s explaining that Jesus empathizes with us, He gets us, and He knows what we’re going through, because He’s experienced it here on earth, he starts to illustrate his point with a story about a woman named Laura.  He says as he’s explaining the story, “You know, Laura, I get you.”  Now, I know that Bruxy was writing, and that he was writing about a different woman named Laura, but I wept.  That Jesus gets me was one of those theological things that I knew, but I didn’t know it.  It hadn’t sunk in past head knowledge and made it to heart knowledge.  (I regret that the English language doesn’t have two different words for knowing, like French does — I wrote a post on that earlier, check it out here — When English Fails ( … or why I got baptized twice)).

In short, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  Whether you’re seeking and wonder if Jesus might be the answer, whether you think He’s the answer but you’re not sure you’re good enough, or whether you’ve been walking the road with Jesus for years… or any scenario in between — this book will find you where you’re at and show you the Good News of Jesus in a way that is both concise and informative, and easy to understand, but also innately relational and personal, even though it was written for an audience of many.

Pick up your copy on Amazon, at Chapters, at other bookstores (I’m sure), or, come find us at a Meeting House site, where since it’s just been released, we’ll likely have copies.  We’d love to have you check us out.

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Book has been provided courtesy of Menno Media and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Wreck My Life


What a ride this book was.

I selected it from a list of possible titles for the month because the synopsis looked like I’d be able to relate on a few levels to the author, Mo Isom.  I’m thinking specifically of the terrible car accident she experienced, but I figured if I could relate to even one part of someone’s story on a deep level, it would be a good autobiography to read.

What I did not expect was how this book would wreck me.  Mo Isom described that car accident in such detail that I put the book down and didn’t pick it back up for almost two weeks.

Her struggle with her quest for control of her life and using food to get there, though to a much deeper extent than mine, resonated hard with me, and I put the book down again.

To be perfectly honest, I nearly didn’t finish the book.  It was such a roller coaster of emotions for me, in a way that no book has ever wrung me before, that I just didn’t want to deal with it.  It felt too overwhelming.

But I persevered, and I’m glad that I did.  The tagline to the title of the book is ‘Journeying from Broken to Bold,’ and so I should have known that the latter half of the book would be full of encouragement for how turning toward God and letting Him have control, letting him work in and through her circumstances would bring about an outcome positive enough to write about.  The back cover explains “Mo reminds us that the brokenness is actually the very place God meets us the most, and the place where we can find Jesus like never before.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever struggled behind closed doors with anything, whether you can relate to her circumstances specifically or not.  It’s worth the read right to the very last page, as I found the last chapters so deeply encouraging.

I find that I’m filled with empathy for Mo’s story, and yet I’m so glad that she’s been able to find the good so that she could share that with so many people in ways she’d never have seen coming while she was planning her own life.

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

God’s Not Dead 2 ~ a Review


I was recently given the opportunity to watch and review God’s Not Dead 2.  In preparation for watching it, I decided to watch God’s Not Dead, because I hadn’t seen it yet.  If you haven’t seen the first, and you’re deciding whether you’d like to see God’s Not Dead 2 anyway, I encourage you that there isn’t anything in the first that you couldn’t glean from reading the IMDB synopsis that is necessary to the plot of the second.

God’s Not Dead 2 focuses on the same issue — people being asked to deny the existence of God — only this time it’s a high school history teacher whose answer to a question about Jesus lands her in trouble with her school board, and ultimately the ACLU.

Repeat characters include Martin, Reverend Dave, Reverend Jude, Amy, and The Newsboys have all come back for this sequel, and I have to say that I absolutely LOVE Martin.  I’m so glad the writers worked him back in.  Further, I haven’t seen Melissa Joan Hart (Grace) in anything since Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and while I thoroughly enjoyed that when it was running, I’m pleased to say she’s grown up a lot and she was an excellent choice for this role.  Another excellent choice was Jesse Metcalfe as Tom.  He plays a lawyer who, while not a believer, will NOT give up on his fight to make sure Grace keeps her right to believe in Jesus.

The movie rang a little close to home for me, as a public elementary school teacher.  I’m reminded often (in my own thoughts) of the need to be careful and not be proselytizing, but just like in this film, there’s a line.  I’m careful not to cross it, but this film made me wonder if I shouldn’t be as careful?  That’s something I need to think through on my own, for sure.

I recommend the movie.  It will give you food for thought, as it did for me.

Here are some quotes I found pretty powerful — but you’ll have to watch the movie for context and to understand them 😉

“The thing about atheism is it doesn’t take away the pain; it just takes away the hope.”

“If we stand by and do nothing, the pressure that we feel today will be persecution tomorrow.”

“You of all people should realize, when you’re going through something really hard, the teacher is always quiet during the test.”

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Miracles From Heaven


Recently I was provided the opportunity to review the movie Miracles from Heaven.  It’s a movie I’d wanted to see in theatres but haven’t gotten the chance, so to be provided the opportunity on the sole condition that I tell you, the people who diligently read what I write, what I think — I’m down with that.  Thank you Graf-Martin Communications and Sony for this chance!

It’s a heartfelt movie, based on a true story, that tackles some hard issues of faith, belief in God even in the hard times (and what hard times they were!), and miracles.  Not everyone believes in miracles.  Sometimes I have a hard time deciding whether I do or not… deeply, and truly… I mean, I have to on some level because I know that they happen.  But like in this movie, there’ve been many times I’ve prayed for one, and nothing has come of it.  There have also been times I’ve witnessed prayers go up for miracles, and they’re delivered, so I have to believe that they still occur even in this day and age.

Miracles from Heaven was an emotional ride, and it was very well done by all of the actors involved.  I don’t know about the faith of any of the members of the cast, though I have to believe that they would be impacted by portraying such a powerful and moving story, especially since it’s true.

I found that the movie was tastefully done — none of it seemed to me like it was sensationalized for Blockbuster value, which is always something I’m a bit leery of when something is “based on a true story.”  The fact that they used the real Annabelle Beam as a consultant to make sure the story was told properly really speaks to that — the writers, directors, producers — they all wanted to make sure this story was told well, not just that it sold tickets.

It was a beautiful story about faith, hope, and belief in the saving power of Jesus Christ.  I believe that the events of the movie really happened, and that Annabelle Beam really was cured from her disease miraculously.

But as Annabelle herself says in the movie “They may not all believe me, but they’ll come around when they come around.”

I think my favourite part (other than the couple of Third Day appearances — love their new songs!!) was how raw and real Jennifer Garner portrayed the struggle of a mother watching her baby girl suffer, and not even feeling like she could pray any more… not feeling like anything she was doing was working.  That, contrasted by Annabelle’s faith, was a beautiful reminder that God stays with us — right with us — even when we have a hard time seeing it through our pain and struggles.

I highly recommend the movie, though I warn you — grab the Kleenex!

There’s nothing to fear except, well, everything.


I’ve got a confession to make.  I’ve stared at this blank “new post” screen probably 8 times in the last week.  I sit and I stare at it.  I might write the first paragraph of this post, and then I chicken out and I delete it.  We’ll see where I get today.

I’ve come to the conclusion recently that I am a great big chicken.  In life.  In pretty much everything that I do… I’m just scared.  I’ve been feeling restless and uneasy and it all boils down to this:  I’m terrified of my life.  Maybe not terrified.  Maybe that’s extreme.  I’m generally apprehensive of my life.  That’s better.

I digress.

I know I haven’t been given a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).  I get that this does not come from God, and that I should be fighting this with everything in me (partnered WITH God).  But I don’t seem to be able to bring myself to do it.

Know what I’m scared of?

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Everything.  Well, and…. Change.

You see…. things keep changing.  But I want them to stay the same.

My friends get engaged, they get pregnant, they get married, they go back to school, they get into serious relationships, they get new jobs, they move away, we never talk anymore…. these things just happen.

I got a new job.  Now I have to face my fear of driving in the winter because some of the schools I have to go to are 75-80 km away from my house.  Each direction.  And right on Lake Erie.  That means snow storms!  And that means fear.  And I don’t like it.

I’m afraid to follow wholeheartedly after God because I’m afraid of what He might ask me to do.  I just spent an entire summer at Camp where I was supposed to learn and grow, and instead I stayed the same.  I sat in my comfort zone and wouldn’t let myself leave it because… well… it’s scary.

And now I have this new job, and I’ve left my work friends, and I feel a touch like I’m in over my head.  And I don’t know how to process that because in 2014-2015 I was comfortable.  And now I’m not.

I’m afraid to try to play the guitar because what if it’s too hard?  Even though I learned to play the violin as an adult… my skills combined with God’s faithfulness in the past has proven that I legit have nothing to be afraid of, and that fear isn’t worth the effort or the hassle… yet here I am.

I’m afraid to try dating because… well that’s a whole other world of crazy right there.  Every time I do it I seem to end up with nothing but ridiculous stories that would make me more of a successful author than a successful wife.

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Dorothy Thompson Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live
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Karen Salmansohn When your faith is stronger than your fears, you can make your dream happen
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If you read this blog and you know me personally, please don’t feel like you need to call me and say “I read your blog.”  I am working through this.  But if you know me personally, you also know that I write better than I think or talk (which I don’t understand but whatever), and that this is how I process.  I am processing.  I don’t need to talk about it, because I’m doing the equivalent of that right now.

Fun Fact:  I’m also afraid to hit publish because this feels like a big confession right now… that I’m scared of everything… but it feels kind of like if I don’t hit publish and put it out there for the world to see and comment on (all 18 of you who actually read my posts…) then I’m going to have to pay someone for a therapy session where I sit and fumble my way through explaining this less articulately, when I could have just spat it out in writing on the interwebz and achieved the same result.  (longest sentence ever, man alive… maybe I’m not even a good writer…)

Ok…. time to hit publish save draft and go have a shower.  Cuz…. I might as well mull on this some more.

You’re Loved No Matter What


I just finished reading You’re Loved No Matter What by Holley Gerth.  I knew I’d enjoy this book.  I’ve read one of her other books and have yet another sitting in my massive pile of books to be read.  I’ve also been following along with her blog for quite some time.  Coffee for your heart, anyone?

For me, this book couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’ve been struggling with feeling the weight of needing to be perfect for a long time, in many areas, and it was so refreshing to receive a release — not just from people saying ‘you put too much pressure on yourself’ — but from Jesus through Scripture as well.

Holley crafts the words of the book into a beautiful breath of fresh air that I know my heart needed.  I don’t need to strive for perfection.  It’s not what Jesus intends for me.  It’s not what anyone should expect of me.  I can go for excellence, and yet rest in the perfect Grace of God when my pursuit of excellence falls short and I don’t make it.  Trust me, I don’t make it a lot.

Holley gave excellent, practical, real-life examples of people who’ve gone through this very thing.  She talks about gratitude as the antidote to perfectionism.  When you can be thankful for what you have, why would you need to strive for what you can’t get?  She mentions Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts app.  I had it a while ago; I downloaded it shortly after reading (and loving!) One Thousand Gifts.  I started recording my way to 1000, trying to be grateful, but wound up feeling guilty because I was being grateful for the same things over and over again….. So I deleted the app.  I couldn’t even get gratitude right!  Talk about perfectionism.  When you can’t actually be grateful because you’ve imposed your own rules on how to be just that…. whoa.

So this book has given me the fresh perspective I need to give an ‘attitude of gratitude’ (as cheesy as that phrase really is…) another shot.  If gratitude is the antidote to perfectionism, and releasing my need to be perfect because I can’t be will let me breathe, sleep, and function better as a human being….. I feel like I have nothing to lose.I highly recommend this book, and in fact have already farmed my copy out.  If you’re tired of the try-hard “I can’t do this” “too much pressure” kind of life, relax and have a heart to heart with Holley Gerth.  She really does wiggle her way right into the places my heart needs to relax the most.

Worry Less So You Can Live More


I just finished another book (reviewing for the Nuts About Books program put out by Graf-Hill Communications).  It’s called “Worry Less So You Can Live More.”

image source: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/worry-less-so-you-can-live-more/351991
image source: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/worry-less-so-you-can-live-more/351991

I’ll be honest, when I said I’d read the book I expected it to be just like every other book on worry I’ve ever read.  I’m a worrier myself, so this is not the first Christian self-help book on worry I’ve cracked open. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was not a word-for-word reiteration of what scriptures say about worry, but was instead a beautiful journey with author Jane Rubietta through what it looks like to live a life of worry, and what the alternative of living life leaning into God can look like.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a word-for-word exposé on what God has to say through Scripture about worry, but I was glad to find that this book was more than that. It’s a beautifully written anecdotal toolbox for how to replace worry with things like hope, praise, anticipation, and joy ~ because worry is the antithesis and thief to all of those things.  Jane Rubietta has a wonderful writing style which kept me engaged all the way through.

If I had to choose a favourite chapter (without spoiling anything), it would definitely be the one on fireflies.  And I’ll let you read the rest for yourself. Each chapter was accompanied by deep, thought-provoking questions which made me reflect deeply on some of my own worry-filled and worrisome tendencies, but what I appreciated the most about each chapter were the quotes, votums, and benedictions that Rubietta put at the end.  Quotes, both from Scripture and elsewhere, served to reinforce everything Rubietta had said in the chapter, and served as a clear reminder that if sometimes you feel that you’re the only one who struggles with this ~ you’re not.  Votums were like a prayer prayed right from my heart, even though I’ve never met the author.  Benedictions were like an answer to those prayers, each of which hit me with strength.

I finished the book feeling like I knew Jane Rubietta personally ~ like I could run into her in a coffee shop, give her a great big hug, and sit down and talk to her for hours over a latte.  Her writing was so deeply personal that it really connected me to the text and what she was saying.  This author is not someone who has perfected the art of living worry-free and is then preaching at the reader from a high horse of having it all figured out.  Instead, she crafted beautiful pieces of wonderful imagery woven together to show that we’re all in this together.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with worrying and perfectionism like I do.  It’s a good read, it’s a fairly quick read, and if I’m right about this book ~ I think it’s a read that will stick with you in the weeks to come.