Friday, April 13, 2018

Book Review: The Air I Breathe

Title:  The Air I Breathe
Subtitle:  Worship as a Way of Life
Author:  Louie Giglio
Genre:  Christian Non-Fiction
Publisher:  Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  149
My Rating:  3/5

I love Louie Giglio. I love his passion for God, the Bible, the Saviour, the saved, and the unsaved. My review is not about him; it is about his book. Just want to make that separation clear.

This book, while full of truth, is a light read. There is nothing new or meaty being presented, so I'm wondering if his intended audience is the new believer. If that's the case, then his description of the purpose and the pleasure of individual and corporate worship will be helpful. Giglio's premise is that worship is not an activity reserved for Sunday mornings only but an activity that should be a daily, moment-by-moment offering by the Christian that is as natural as breathing. He states:

"Worship is our response, both individual and corporate, to God -- for who He is! for what He has done! -- expressed in and by the things we say and the way we live."

I do agree with that definition. The eight chapters of this book expand on the why, the when, and the how of worship and are followed by a section of questions for group discussion. In my opinion, much of the content of the eight chapters is repetitive, as if Giglio took a sermon topic and delivered it eight times. That said, I think the encouragement he offers to all Christians, whether old-timers or newbies, is wonderful -- that worship of our worthy God should be a joy and should be expressed what we say and what we do, 24/7, both as individuals and as the body of Christ.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Book Review: The Last Girl

Title:  The Last Girl
Subtitle:  My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State
Author:  Nadia Murad
Genre:  Memoir
Publisher:  Tim Duggan Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  306
My Rating:  5/5

Talk about a painful book to read. No amount of foreknowledge gleaned from a variety of news reports over the last half decade had the ability to prepare me for the raw, intimate, heartbreaking details of this young woman's ordeal at the hands of ISIS. That she has the bravery to tell the world of the brutal atrocities she and her family and neighbors endured (and are still enduring) is astonishing to me. I'm not sure I could muster up such courage. But I applaud her for doing so, as what she has to share is important and necessary for us to hear if we ever hope to defeat terrorism in all parts of the world.

Murad was 21 years old when her home town of Kocho, Iraq, was invaded and taken over by ISIS forces in 2014. Her life was turned upside down by the evil that killed, the evil that kidnapped, the evil that raped, the evil that pillaged and destroyed all she held dear. Can you imagine? Can you even imagine? She helps us to imagine, for she lived through the nightmare and escaped to freedom, but that freedom did not restore what was lost. With the help of other survivors and activists, Murad has been able to slowly rebuild her life and come forward with a message we all must respond to about the horrors of genocide and human trafficking.

In her first public address at a United Nations forum on minority issues in 2015, Murad shared that she "was only one of hundreds of thousands of Yazidi victims. (Her) community was scattered, living as refugees inside and outside of Iraq, and Kocho was still occupied by ISIS. There was so much the world needed to hear about what was happening to Yazidis." Her desire is to "keep (her) culture and religion alive and to bring ISIS to justice for their crimes" even though with every retelling of her personal story she says she relives the terror inflicted on her and others. Her story "told honestly and matter-of-factly is the best weapon (she) has against terrorism" and "more than anything else, (she) wants to be the last girl in the world with a story like (hers)."

Disclaimer:  I received this book from in exchange for a fair and honest review

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Title:  As Kingfishers Catch Fire
Subtitle:  A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God
Author:  Eugene H. Peterson
Genre:  Christian Devotional
Publisher:  WaterBrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  372
My Rating:  4/5

The stunning watercolor cover of a man deep in thought captures so well what is laid out for us in the pages of this unusual devotional book. Eugene Peterson -- professor, theologian, pastor, author -- found himself struggling to bridge "the chasm that had developed between the way (he) was preaching from the pulpit and (his) deepest convictions on what it meant to be a pastor."

And so he compiled this never-before-published collection of some of his sermons (49, to be exact) into seven distinct themes that I can only describe as coming from the mind of an philosopher, the heart of a saint, and the soul of a human. Peterson's style of writing about the meaning of specific scriptures and how it relates to our lives is both insightful and poetic, and because I seem to view much of the Bible and the human experience with a similar lens, I fell in love with this book from page one.

The devotional is divided into these seven sections:

He Spoke and It Came to Be (Preaching in the Company of Moses)
All My Springs Are in You (Preaching in the Company of David)
Prepare the Way of the Lord (Preaching in the Company of Isaiah)
On Earth as It Is in Heaven (Preaching in the Company of Solomon)
Yes and Amen and Jesus (Preaching in the Company of Peter)
Christ in You the Hope of Glory (Preaching in the Company of Paul)
In the Beginning Was the Word (Preaching in the Company of John of Patmos)

Within each section are seven sermon transcripts that Peterson originally preached to his congregation at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland, over the course of 29 years. The publisher's editorial team, in its Letter to the Reader, lets us know that this compilation is an effort to allow the rest of us to be "a fly on the wall" as we listen to Peterson "unpack the whole counsel of God." What an inspiring and beautiful privilege.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Book Review: The Hum of Angels

Title:  The Hum of Angels
Author:  Scot McKnight
Genre:  Christian Living
Publisher:  Waterbrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  189
My Rating: 2.5/5

I began reading this book with a bit of trepidation, fully aware of the prevalent and misguided images of angels portrayed in secular and new age philosophy and in artwork as gentle fairy-like beings offering love and happiness or as humans-turned-angels or animals dressed up as angels. I wanted to learn more about angels as revealed in the Bible, to learn more about the truth of what they are and what their work is. The title of this book concerned me because of its vague new age sound -- I think of angels as warriors, not as hummingbirds. However, for the most part, the content between the covers belies the wispy title by providing lots of scriptural references, quotes, and descriptions of Biblical angels and not the counterfeit counterparts so popular today.

I had not heard of the author, so here is information pulled from the book jacket: Scot McKnight is the author of more than 50 books, a popular conference speaker, and a professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Illinois. He maintains a blog, Jesus Creed, which receives three million page views per year.

The book is divided into four parts: In Defense of Angels; God's Loving Presence in Angels; God's Loving Advocacy From Angels; and God's Loving Transformation Through Angels. It also includes an Appendix, After Words, and Notes (references and citations).

According to the author, a Barna study done in 2007 shows that eight out of ten Americans believe angels exist, and an Associated Press study done in 2011 reports that 88% of Christians believe in angels.  This last statistic puzzles me, because the Bible clearly expresses the creation and ministry of angels, leaving no room for doubt about their existence, and the author cites lots of scriptures to that end.

McKnight asserts that angels are as alive and active today as they were between the pages of Genesis 1 and Revelation 22, and his book informs us of their ministry to God and to humanity: worship, service, protection, deliverance, instruction, guidance, forth-telling, comfort, engaging in battle, etc. He uses much scripture and many historical quotes to back up his assertions. The picture he paints for us of angels is definitely not the one I was concerned about in the first paragraph. That said, I did not agree with everything he puts forth about angels, but overall he does an adequate job.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from in exchange for a fair and honest review.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Book Review: 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart

Title:  31 Verses to Write on Your Heart
Author:  Liz Curtis Higgs
Genre:  Devotional/Bible Study
Publisher:  WaterBrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  200
My Rating:  4/5

I have heard of Liz Curtis Higgs through the years but have never read any of her books until now. I was eager to do so, because my impression of her has been that she is a fun-loving, faithful sister in Christ, and I wondered if her writing would match my preconception. And it does.

Higgs is a prolific writer (over 30 titles, including her Bad Girls of the Bible series) as well as a professional speaker and Bible study teacher. You may have enjoyed her on stage during the Women of Faith, Women of Joy, and Extraordinary Women tours in both the United States or abroad. She is a wife, mother, and tabby cat shepherd currently living in Kentucky.

This book is down-to-earth, honest, and uplifting in its approach to scripture study and memorization. It is accurately described as a "daily devotional and a small-group Bible study" on the back cover and is suitable for individual or group use.  The readings are gentle but thought-provoking and are peppered with Higgs' personal experiences that help to bring the truths to life (not to mention tickle your funny bone).

There are 31 chapters, each focused on a well-known scripture verse and followed with a heartfelt, personal prayer and tips for memorizing scripture. There is also a study guide section with questions for each chapter that will assist the reader to dig deeper, both privately and in a group setting. A scripture verse reference listing for each chapter rounds out the book.

If you are a new believer in search of a treasure trove of meaningful scripture verses to learn and memorize, this book is a wonderful place to start. If you are an old saint with scripture verses already stored up in your heart, this book is a wonderful way to re-visit some favorites, dig a little deeper, and reignite your passion for memorization.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

'Tis the Season to Be Jolly

I never know when it will hit, but I do remember struggling sometimes as a teenager -- amid the love and light of the Christmas season, I became depressed. How could that be? I had a family and friends and lived in a safe, secure environment without want. I never did figure out what triggered the overwhelming feelings of emptiness and sadness that crept into my heart back then, and I still can't figure it out today.

So.....what is it like to be depressed during the Christmas season? I'm sure it's different for everyone, but for me, it's something like this:

*Depression is staring at the bare tree in the living room and not having the energy to decorate it and not caring if it ever gets done.

*Depression is looking at a stack of beautiful Christmas cards and not having the energy to address and mail them and not caring if they ever go out.

*Depression is holding an Advent calendar in your hands and realizing you're days behind in lifting the flaps and not caring because every day is just another major effort to get out of bed and get dressed.

*Depression is watching the available shopping days fly by and not having the energy to figure out gifts for everyone and hoping they'll graciously accept gift cards this year.

*Depression is listening to Christmas music and weeping because your father is no longer on Earth to celebrate his favorite season and your elderly mother is hours away and alone.

*Depression is not baking any cookies or making any crafts or attending any parties or concerts and being relieved that you don't have to engage.

*Depression is forcing yourself to attend church and to put on a sweet smile even though you usually love worshipping and fellowshipping with your brothers and sisters in Christ and even though your heart is out of tune.

*Depression is wanting to lie down and sleep until it's January 1st when you no longer have to see, smell, or hear all the festivities taking place around you but without you, even if it's your choice.

*Depression is thanking God for your precious little cat because making sure it has food and water and a clean litter box is pretty much your only reason for needing to be alive right now.

Please remember to pray for those who are struggling with depression this Christmas season. In spite of all the love, light, family, and friends, being jolly is just not on the agenda.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review: Dark Matter

Title:  Dark Matter
Author:  Blake Crouch
Genre:  Science Fiction/Thriller
Publisher:  Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Number of Pages:  340
My Rating:  4 out of 5

Ever hear of Wayward Pines? It's that creepy enclave in a shattered post-apocalyptic Earth that kept me glued to my couch every week it aired on television. I loved seasons one and two and sure do hope there's a season three on the horizon. That said, when I tried to read Blake Crouch's books that the show was based upon, I gave up after about 50 pages out of sheer boredom. I felt the writing lacked enough luster for me to keep going with it. I was disappointed.

So when the opportunity arose for me to try another Blake Crouch book -- Dark Matter -- I was intrigued enough by the storyline to lay aside my hesitancy, and I am so glad I gave him another go. This book kept me glued and riveted and questioning and pulling my hair out from the first page to the last. Aside from the author's fondness for the F-bomb (the book would have been just as great without it), Dark Matter will pull you in and hold you in suspense until the very end.

The main character, Jason, is an immediately likable fellow, and his separation from and search for his wife and son will touch your heart. Their are baddies galore who will stop at nothing to keep a reunion from happening, and his journey through, not time, but parallel space is exciting and rife with twists and turns. I appreciate that the science behind the whole parallel universes theory is presented in a way that is not overwhelming and confusing. Crouch did a good job of spreading said explanations throughout the book and in a manner that even a layman could (mostly) understand.

Given the success of the Wayward Pines franchise, I hope Dark Matter is also made into a movie for the big screen. Visually, it would be stunning. And the audience would be on the edge of their seats the entire time.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from for review.