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: ♥♥♥♥♥

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: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Summary


Do you ever find yourself craving simple living? Do you push yourself to do more, do it better, or do it ALL? Shauna Niequist shares her life experience of trying to do it all. It left her physically sick, spiritually dry, and wondering if this was really the best life God had to offer. If you’ve ever been in such a place, Present Over Perfect might help you find another way to live.

Present Over Perfect

Review


I read this right after I quit my job, so I couldn’t identify as readily to the busy life vs. simple living messages of the book. Those might speak to me better in another season. But I did identify with the pieces where she talked about her identity. When your identity and value are tied up in a job you just left/lost or in a pattern of living that says, “I can do it all!,” you can be left wondering who you really are.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Read this book if:

  • you feel worn thin from doing all the things you think you’re supposed to be doing
  • you need encouragement to find your best self
  • you need help saying no to good things you are not called to do
  • you are wondering where God is and what He thinks of your struggle to live a busy, perfect life.

 

Escape Claws

REVIEW: Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

Summary


Are you living as though you are endlessly loved by the Creator of the Universe? Because you are endlessly loved. Let this book help you live in that truth today.

Uninvited - Learning to Live Loved

Review


This book was a perfect fit for me. When it released, I was in the middle of several significant life changes. The call to live loved was just what I needed to hear. I underlined many, many passages, wrote about them, shared them on social media and with friends. I think this book lends itself perfectly for use in a book group or weekly Bible study. The author starts with a life issue/skill – like responding to rejection – and backs up her approach with scriptures and Bible stories. There are messages in this book that I will carry with me for years to come, and I am so grateful that I read it at just the right time!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥