Sacred Slow

REVIEW: The Sacred Slow by Alicia Britt Chole

“A holy departure from fast faith.” That is the sub-title for The Sacred Slow, new from Thomas Nelson Publishers.

“Fast faith” is defined on page 4 as “a restless spirituality that often craves what is new and what is next in the recycled hope that the latest ‘it’ can satisfy an ache that can only be described as timeless.” The material is broken into 12 sections, and the content within each can be completed in a week. Readers who really want to embrace the “sacred slow” could work through one experience a week, stretching the content through one full year, really digging deeply into each experience.

Every experience has a reading and a “guided response.” The reader can decide to complete a guided response that is internal (thought-based) or external (an exercise or action step to complete). Obviously, you can also do both, especially if you are working through one per week. The author suggests just choosing one based on your time and opportunities. Exercises sometimes build on what was completed on an earlier step. For example, the first several exercises walk the reader through the completion of a “Life Scroll,” a worksheet included in the book.

The book includes a facilitator’s guide, a blank Life Scroll, and some personal inventory pages. The exercises are intended to be done prayerfully, listening for God’s input throughout the process. If you walk through these steps in your own mind and power, you will miss the point.

This would make a great study for an individual or for a group. I love the idea of one exercise per week to really take the material in slowly and dig deeply into what God would say to you through each one. With a new year almost here, this would be an fantastic resource to add to your quiet time in 2018.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers and the folks at Handlebar for a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Moment to Breathe

BONUS REVIEW: A Moment to Breathe by The (in)courage Community

(In)courage is a website that offers encouragement for women of faith. They have daily devotional posts, a shop for mugs and stationery and such from Dayspring, book clubs, and other opportunities for connection.

A Moment to Breathe is the latest book from the folks at (in)courage. It includes 365 daily devotions written by a variety of (in)courage contributors. Each devotional includes a scripture reference, the devotional, and an encouraging thought about taking a moment to breathe and reflect. A Moment to Breathe releases today. And I enjoyed it so much, I am posting this bonus review today – when I usually just talk about books for kids on Tuesdays – because I don’t want to wait to get the word out about this book.

Before publication, (in)courage made the first ten devotionals available to the public to sample the pieces in the book. I loved what I read in the sampler, and I was fortunate to be chosen for the Launch Team. I received a copy of the full book for review purposes and found it full of excellent encouragement and opportunities for growth.

When I first read the sampler, I tried to pin down a “favorite” from the first ten. But my favorite changed regularly; there were so many good pieces in just that small taste of the larger book. When I received the book, I was determined to jump around, sampling entries from all over the book. I was pleased to see the quality was consistent from start to finish. In fact, I could apply every entry I chose to something going on in my life.

I have bought bunches of devotionals in my life, and they usually end up on a shelf within 30 days. I get out of the habit of reading it, and it starts to gather dust. That won’t be the case with this one. This is the kind of devotional that I will use. I have been dog-earring pages and underlining passages and posting pictures since I started reading it. I look forward to digging in, seeing what each day has in store for me, and journaling or praying about what I read.

This book would make an excellent gift – for yourself and your spiritual life or for a friend or family member. I highly recommend it.

Thanks to the folks at (in)courage for the review copy and the opportunity to be part of the Launch Team and an early reader of this meaningful devotional.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Al Franken Giant of the Senate

REVIEW: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

Summary


Al Franken is currently a Democratic US Senator for Minnesota. He’s well known for his comedic work, including many years on Saturday Night Live.

This book chronicles Franken’s life from childhood to the present. The book references the 2017 Inauguration and some of the Senate hearings for President Trump’s cabinet, so the book is quite current considering how long books take to publish. Included in the book are family stories, campaign stories, information on political procedures, and criticisms of politicians who lie to achieve their goals. Throughout, Franken focuses on the privilege of serving Americans – and specifically the folks in Minnesota – in the US Senate.

Review


I’ve known of Al Franken since his SNL days, specifically his character, Stuart Smalley. But more recently he caught my attention during the confirmation hearings for Education Secretary DeVos. Because of that, I was curious about this book. My intention was to get it from the library and skim it. I ended up reading it word for word, and then buying a copy for my family to read.

I consider myself an Independent when it comes to politics. There are pieces of liberal and conservative agendas that appeal to me. If I was more conservative politically, I might not have enjoyed this as much. But I appreciate Franken’s emphasis on truth, humor and service in politics. I might not agree with all of his statements or his politics, but I learned a bunch from reading this. And I laughed often.

Be prepared to be offended, especially if you are a conservative and you read this. Even liberal voters may disagree at times. There’s some language, although many times he chooses to censor himself with a milder term like “nincompoopery” with a “USS” notation that he cleaned things up since he’s a senator. The footnotes are particularly enjoyable (although in my e-book version they were all collected at the end of the book which was obnoxious to navigate.).

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Fervent

REVIEW: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer

Summary


Author, Bible teacher, and star of the movie War Room, Schirer puts together a book of prayer strategies. She focuses on ten ways Satan attacks believers to keep them from being effective for God. For example, believers may struggle to understand who they are in Christ (Identity) or to embrace forgiveness and live free (Your Past). Shirer outlines each area with personal examples and scriptures. Readers are encouraged to apply each one to their lives and then to write out prayers and scriptures to address them. The book includes tear out index-type cards to record scriptures and prayers.

Review


This was a great prayer resource! I really connected strongly to several of the chapters. This also encouraged me to spend time in my Bible, noting passages that applied to what I was reading.

I did this online with a handful of friends. We tackled two strategies each week. For me, that was a good pace when one of the two chapters didn’t click. At others times, though, a month would not have been long enough to dig into certain strategies.

Personally, I needed the accountability of a group to keep moving forward and not get stuck on one strategy. I am horrible about finishing non-fiction books. If there’s no story to draw me all the way to the end, I can get easily pulled off track. Because I finished the book, I have a starting place for each topic and a plan for digging deeper on the ones that are really key for me right now.

I enjoyed the writing style. It’s direct but relational. Like hearing from a true friend with your best interests at heart. She offers Bible verses to get you started and examples from her own life. She’s not an expert, dictating how you respond, but a friend a little farther along on the same journey.

This is a book I will revisit and keep working through.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

For the Love

REVIEW: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

Summary


A series of essays for Christian women. Some are designed to get readers to think about their lives and consider making changes – finding balance, dealing with difficult people, and taking a look at how we do short term missions.

Some essays are about accepting and embracing the life you have.  That includes the rowdiness of your family, the changes that come from getting older, and the quirks in your personality.

Some essays are just for laughs – like Thank You Notes à la Jimmy Fallon.

There’s something for everyone in this collection of thoughts on Christian living. The central message is be who you are and love who you are. Good words for all of us.

Review


I am a huge Jen Hatmaker fan. I enjoy her honesty, transparency and self-deprecating humor. If you enjoy her on social media, she has much the same tone in her essays.

I’ve read this twice, once on my own and once for a discussion group with a few friends. The book works for both purposes. Early on with the group I tried to come up with discussion questions. It worked just as well, though, to ask what stood out to the other readers. We let the conversation go from there.

As with any author, Hatmaker’s personal biases drive the essays. She’s big on relationships, loves cooking for her family, and has strong opinions on how Christians should engage in the world. I might not agree with her on everything – especially the cooking parts – but I had plenty to think about and plenty to chuckle at as I read this.

Her new book, Of Mess and Moxie, will release later this summer.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

My Heart

REVIEW: My Heart by Julie Manning

Summary


Julie Manning tells her story of discovering a serious heart problem when she was delivering her second child. That discovery changed how she viewed her life and how she related to God.

The book includes journal entries, Julie’s prayers at various points in her journey as well as letters to her boys with her hopes and dreams for their lives and their relationships with Jesus. Through life’s hills and valleys, Julie shares how her thinking and her faith have changed and evolved. How trusting God with her life – literally – has helped her trust God in new ways in other parts of her journey.

 

Review


This is an inspiring story!! I was challenged from page one to the end by how the author thinks about God, where she finds her identity and peace in the midst of struggle, and how she prays for her boys.

This is a terrific book for those who love memoirs and spiritual growth stories. It’s inspiring like the Steven Curtis Chapman memoir was. But if you are looking for a book that will challenge you to grow and mature in your faith or in your prayer life or in your identity in Christ, this would be an amazing book for that as well.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Between Heaven and the Real World

REVIEW: Between Heaven & the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman

Summary


 

An autobiographical look at Christian music’s superstar, Steven Curtis Chapman. The book covers Chapman’s childhood, the start and growth of his music career, his marriage and family, and of course the tragic death of his daughter, Maria.

Review


This was outstanding! I started listening to Chapman’s music around the launch of his second album. It was fun to read about all the things that went on behind the scenes with his songs and tours as I attended many of those tours and own many of those songs.

This feels like a very honest book. Chapman is up front about hard moments in his upbringing and his marriage. He works at being transparent about his struggles – personally, professionally and spiritually.

Anyone reading this book who is familiar with the Chapman’s story knows that the book is moving toward the tragic death of their daughter, Maria, in 2008. And the story is as painful as you can imagine. But again, that honesty and transparency is on display. Steven shares the struggle to keep moving forward after their loss, their questions for God, and their pain.

This was an engrossing and moving read. If you loved his wife’s book, Choosing to See, I highly recommend this. This fills in some of Steven’s part of the journey, and it gives more current information about how the family is doing as they continue to miss Maria, and yet choose to keep trusting God day by day.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

Summary


Do you ever feel like a mouse, running on a wheel, constantly moving but actually going no where? Do you ever feel like your life is an empty bottle of salad dressing or empty gallon of milk when you have a week to go until pay day? You’re trying to shake or squeeze out every last bit of energy or time or effort because it is all you have and you don’t know where you can scrounge up any more?

Maybe, rather than striving to do it all or being the go-to person or taking care of everyone else, God would rather we just “abide.” Maybe while we are running and pushing and climbing, Jesus is waiting nearby with everything we need, already there.

Jennie Allen, founder of If: Ministries shares her heart and her experience in discovering that Jesus is enough – all we ever need. She encourages readers to shift their thinking, recognizing that some of the stress and striving is less about God and more about themselves. She wants readers to live free of the things that weigh people down.

Review


This book has been the perfect fit for me in this season of life! I was underlining and highlighting and writing in the margins from cover to cover. As soon as I finished, I wanted to start all over again. I wanted to pull out all the key parts, Bible verses and activities and then spend time with them, little by little to apply them to my life in a way that would make an impact.

The author uses great metaphors to make her points. She uses several passages from the gospel of John, but tells them from the perspective of someone IN the story, adding some stirring details to the Biblical narrative. Jennie offers exercises to help readers take action on what they read. She stresses the extravagant love and abundance of God. She highlights God’s “streams of enoughness” like streams of connection, rest, risk and hope.

I can’t recommend this highly enough. There is going to be a Bible study book to go with this called Proven that will release in April. I did an online Facebook discussion with the author over three weeks which was great. I’m sure you can go to her page and watch the videos again. But I think going through each chapter, week by week with a small group, would be an even better way to really dig into the material!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Self to Lose, Self to Find by Marilyn Vancil

Summary


Like the book The Road Back to You that I reviewed here, this book is about the personality system, the Enneagram.

In this book, the author explores in detail the idea of an Authentic Self vs. an Adapted Self. The Authentic Self is the person God created you to be. The Adapted Self is who you have become over time as you have made choices and reacted to circumstances in ways designed to protect yourself.

The Enneagram then, shows you both sides of your type – the ways your type reflects who God made you to be as well as the ways it has been twisted in misguided ways.

The book includes this introductory material, descriptions of the nine types, descriptions of variations and nuances in the types, and a system to help readers recognize Adapted behaviors and reactions in order to get in touch with Authentic patterns instead.

Review


I really enjoyed the tone of this book. It’s not as funny as I found parts of The Road Back to You to be. But it’s easy to understand.

The metaphor the author uses for the Adapted and Authentic selves is well-described. This information really clicked for me. I enjoyed the type descriptions, too – different enough from The Road Back to You to be an enhancement. I am glad I read both.

I liked the author’s OWN UP system of recognizing and releasing Adapted behavior. The Road Back to You work book has a system that serves a similar purpose, but I liked this one better. The author used a personal example and her journal entries of her process to explain it. Those descriptions were helpful to me imagining how to apply the system in my life.

This is a great second resource for me as I try to learn more about the Enneagram

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Summary


A fascinating look at racial identity development. Looks at a multitude of races – Black, White, Asian, Native American, Hispanic and Biracial identity.  There’s also discussion of the racial identity of Black children adopted by White parents. Examines the need for same race peer groups and mentors as well as looking at race at each age and developmental stage. This is a thorough examination of racial identity formation.

 

Review


The title of this book first caught my attention several years ago. As an elementary school teacher, I noticed this phenomenon with our older students but not usually the younger ones, and I did wonder what that was about. I wish I had read this book at the time because it would have enlightened me and changed my attitude about my observations.

This was fascinating and challenging reading. I loved the psychological aspect of this discussion of race. I had set a goal to read a book about race this year. This one was a perfect fit for me with the psychological pieces and the educational angle.

I think this is a great resource for a lot of people – teachers, school administrators, parents, professionals who work with kids, and anyone interested in improved relationships between people of different races.

The developmental pieces – how kids process race as preschoolers versus adolescents – are fascinating. And the book challenges the idea that it’s best to not mention race to kids so they won’t notice it. They already notice it! Our silence doesn’t help them process their observations in a healthy, and accepting way.

This book challenged me. It challenged my assumptions. I read things and felt myself start to get defensive. I was reading things slowly enough, though, that I noticed it and could stop and check myself and look at what preconceived notions were being challenged. This is not a book to be read quickly if you are reading it to learn and to grow in your own racial identity and in your understanding of the racial identity development of others. It’s also a very dense book. I don’t know that you could read it quickly and get much out of it. This is a book to be studied rather that a quick cover-to-cover kind of read.

I highly recommend this. This would be a terrific resource for teachers to read and discuss together. It would also be a great summer read for teachers doing professional development. There’s an extensive resource list and notes in the back matter that offer more information and other resources to investigate.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥