The Sacred Slow by Alicia Britt Chole

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From the book:

THIS BOOK MAY READ YOU

Ours is a hurried age, in which speed is deified and waiting is demonized. Ours is a cluttered age, in which noise is the norm and images constantly clamor for our attention. And in our hurried, cluttered age, faster has become synonymous with better, and experience has become a substitute for intimacy.

Welcome to The Sacred Slow: A Holy Departure from Fast Faith. Formatted as fifty-two experiences in unhurried honesty with God, The Sacred Slow reminds readers on every page that God never wanted to use them; He always wanted to love them. The tone is personal, practical, and penetrating. The fruit is sustainable (as opposed to event-based) nearness with God.

Experienced devotionally or in small groups, each chapter features a short but thought-provoking reading and two options for application: a thought focus or a heart exercise. The content is the overflow of Dr. Alicia Britt Chole’s thirty-plus years as a spiritual mentor to leaders and learners.


My review:

I’ve been thinking about thankfulness a lot in the past few weeks. ‘Tis the season, after all. I’m thankful for so many things great and small: for family, for friends, for a beautiful place to live, for those of you who (for some strange reason 🙂 ) have chosen to follow my blog and read my reviews…thank you! For the past few months, I’ve been nursing my mom back to health after complicated back surgery, drug mix-ups in the hospital, and useless physical rehab stays; it has been uber-stressful, to say the least! But all of that has made me so thankful for God placing me where I am, so that I can be here to help her.

In the midst of all that has gone on lately, I find myself thankful for one more thing: The Sacred Slow by Alicia Britt Chole. This “Holy Departure from Fast Faith” has been such a blessing: a heart-searching, mind-focusing, stress-releasing exercise in slowing down and paying attention to God, that I have been savoring.

And that is exactly what this book is meant to do: it “invites you to willfully live in Him moment by moment by faith” (p. 9). It helps to remind you that you experience God not just in those big, exciting moments in that big, exciting church service or revival meeting, but in the quiet, peaceful moments curled up in your bed, simply talking to Him or reflecting on the path He has led you down. He is always there; you need to slow down and feel for Him, look for Him, listen for Him.

It’s so easy to be distracted in this world we live in. Dr. Chole’s book is an invitation to step away from all of that and reclaim the devotion, the peace, the quiet yet powerful love that God offers us every moment of every day. I am so grateful that I have this book on my desk, to remind me to take some time with Him. And I look forward to growing my faith throughout the “fifty-two experiences in unhurried honesty with God” that it provides. I definitely recommend you pick up your own copy today!

Many thanks to Handlebar Media for the copy of this amazing book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

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Two Books by Frederick Buechner

 

Today, I present a double-header set of reviews: two inspiring books by Frederick Buechner. Both are quick reads, but pack quite a punch. First up, A Crazy, Holy Grace.

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From the Book:

When pain is real, why is God silent?

Frederick Buechner has grappled with the nature of pain, grief, and grace ever since his father committed suicide when Buechner was a young boy. In this essential collection of essays, including one never before published, Frederick Buechner finds that the God who might seem so silent is ever near. He writes about what it means to be a steward of our pain and about this grace from God that seems arbitrary and yet draws us to his care. And he tells about the magic of memory and how it can heal old wounds with memories of past goodness and graces from God.

Buechner’s best writings on pain and loss, covering such topics as the power of secrets, loss of a loved one, letting go, and resurrection from the ruins, reveal that pain and sorrow can be a treasure—an amazing grace.

Buechner says that loss will come to all of us, but he writes that we are not alone. Crazy and unreal as it may sometimes seem, God’s holy, healing grace is always present and available if we are quiet enough to receive it.


My Review:

A Crazy, Holy Grace is a book I normally probably would not have picked up. I’m a fiction reader—that’s where I find my book joy. I mean, it’s a collection of essays. I used to be an English teacher. I’ve read more than my share of essays, and I have a serious dislike of them! Yet, I was inexplicably drawn to this book. And I must admit, it touched my heart.

The section where Buechner talks about being a steward of your pain–of sharing your pain with others, in order to help them get through their pain–struck me, how we should not talk about our pain, but talk out of it. What a simple, but profound idea—an idea that can completely change our relationships. An idea I intend to put into practice.

And there is so much more in this small volume! Definitely worth the read.



And now, The Remarkable Ordinary…

buechner 1From the Book:

You may not be able to see it—your life may seem boringly predictable and your work insignificant, until you look at your life as Frederick Buechner does.

Based on a series of mostly unpublished lectures, Frederick Buechner reveals how to stop, look, and listen to your life. He reflects on how both art and faith teach us to pay attention to the remarkableness right in front of us, to watch for the greatness in the ordinary, to use our imaginations to see the greatness in others, and to love them truly and well.

As you learn to listen to your life and what God is doing in it, you will uncover the plot of your life’s story and the sacred opportunity to connect with the divine in each moment.

Pay attention, says Buechner. Listen to the call of a bird or the rush of the wind, to the people who flow in and out of your life. The ordinary points to the extraordinary God who created and loves all of creation, including you. Pay attention to these things as if your life depends upon it. Because, of course, it does.


My Review:

This book really hit me in the feels. I have flagged so many passages, the book won’t even stay closed anymore. His work is infinitely quotable. Buechner’s writing is easy-to-read, yet so profound and poignant that you can’t help but tear up at the beauty and the simplicity of what he is so eloquently writing about.

Buechner really does make you think about the little, seemingly insignificant (or the huge, ground-shaking) moments of your life and how life-altering or life-affirming each can be. But most importantly, how each moment can draw you closer to God, if you will only open your eyes to His leading. Beautiful!

Both The Remarkable Ordinary and A Crazy, Holy Grace speak of some of the most pivotal moments in Buechner’s life. But each book looks at them through different lenses, showing how those moments can affect us in more than one way, depending on where we are in our own lives and in our own walks with God.

A good book to me is one that can change you, change the way you see the world around you. And that is exactly what these books by Frederick Buechner have done. I’d highly recommend you read them both, with a box of tissues and a highlighter or some page flags in hand. 🙂 I can’t wait to share my copies with friends!

Many thanks to Handlebar Media for the copies of these books for review purposes. I was not required to give positive reviews. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible by Eric J. Bargerhuff, PhD

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We all heard those great stories from the Bible when we were kids; we know all about Cain and Abel, Jonah and the whale, and the Three Wise Men. Okay, so we know the stories, but do we really know what God is trying to tell us through these stories?

Many times, we don’t actually know the full story, because Scripture is often taken out of context, intentionally or not. We also live in a completely different culture than the biblical writers did, so we may not fully comprehend the subtleties of language and cultural contexts that shaped the lessons contained in the Word. Our traditions and societal differences can skew our understanding of the Bible, if we only take the bits and pieces we know and love out of their context.

But thanks to teachers like Eric Bargerhuff, we can be shown and/or reminded of the Truth behind some of the most popular stories in God’s Word. In The Most Misused Stories in the Bible: Surprising Ways Popular Bible Stories are Misunderstood, Bargerhuff does a fantastic job of placing the stories back into their context–biblically, culturally, and historically–to help seekers of the Truth understand the Bible more deeply.

A few years ago, I got Bargerhuff’s The Most Misused Verses in the Bible and really appreciated his expository style and easy-to-read information. His latest is just as good and would be a wonderful tool for pastors, Bible study leaders, and students of the Word alike.

If you want to have a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the Word of God, I suggest you grab a copy of The Most Misused Stories in the Bible. And happy learning!

Many thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own!! 🙂

You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden

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From the cover: “Melissa Ohden is fourteen when she learns that she is the survivor of a botched abortion. In this intimate memoir, she details her search for her biological parents and her own journey from anger and shame to faith and forgiveness.

“This intensely personal story of love and redemption illumines the powerful bond between mother and child that can overcome all odds.”

Melissa Ohden’s story is more than remarkable; it is both heart-wrenching and heart-lifting. Not only knowing that she will be persecuted for both her story and her stand, but also already having experienced that persecution for speaking the truth of her life in the past, she lays her heart boldly on the page. The writing may not be Austen-esque, but that does not in any way detract from the power of her story.

But this is more than just a memoir of Melissa’s survival. It is a model of triumph and forgiveness from which all Christians, all people, can learn. If anyone could have a reason to be bitter and unmerciful, it is a woman who discovered that she was the product of an unsuccessful abortion, believing that she was unwanted before she was even born. Yet, though she does run the gamut of emotions over the years, Melissa finds that there is so much more freedom and joy and strength in forgiveness.

She is an inspiration to all. And this is a book that is not to be missed. I most highly recommend it.

Many thanks to Plough Publishing House and Julie from Handlebar for the chance to read this amazing memoir. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Jesus and the Beanstalk by Lori Stanley Roeleveld

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From the publisher: “Use the hidden gifts in 2 Peter to topple the giant challenges in your life.

“We live in unsettling, challenging times. Everywhere we look, we see giant problems: giant obstacles to sharing faith, giant barriers to peaceful lives, giant strongholds of fear. But what if you knew eight small secrets to unlocking a strength big enough to overcome whatever obstacle life may bring?

“Using allegory and a bit of humor, Jesus and the Beanstalk explores a passage in 2 Peter 1 to uncover eight truths that will help you unleash a larger-than-life faith: Faith, Goodness, Knowledge, Self-control, Perseverance, Godliness, Affection for others, Love.

“In this creative, refreshing perspective on spiritual growth, you will discover an unyielding strength when you tap the power of a God who is stronger than any beanstalk and bigger than your biggest giants.”

Lori Stanley Roeleveld’s latest book, Jesus and the Beanstalk, is a humorous and insightful look at the Christian life, paired with a thought-provoking study of 2 Peter 1. The author doesn’t stand over you and preach in this book; she sits beside you and shares stories, leading you almost unknowingly into deeper understanding of God’s Word.

The study is well-designed, too. She begins with a few chapters of introduction, then gets into the work of the study. There are eight weeks of studies, six days per week. Each week focuses on one of the aspects necessary for a deeper relationship with Christ spoken of in 2 Peter 1, with charming stories and interesting questions to guide your study.

This would be an excellent study to work through with a small group or even on your own. I would definitely recommend you check  it out!

Many thanks to Abingdon Press and NetGalley for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Journey to the Manger: Exploring the Birth of Jesus by Paula Gooder

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In Journey to the Manger, scholar Paula Gooder takes the reader step-by-step through the Biblical narratives of the birth of Jesus. She scrutinizes the sections in each of the three Gospels that talk of our Lord’s coming (Matthew, Luke, and John) in as close to chronological order as possible. Gooder examines individual Hebrew and Greek words and explains how their various translations have an important impact on the birth narratives, as well as taking the recorded history of the time and the historicity of the narratives into account in her inquiry. She also adds in at the end of each section her own reflections and even some poems she composed.

This was an interesting read. I found quite a bit of intriguing information to guide a study of the birth narratives, which is what I believe this book was written for – not to be an end-all, be-all on the Gospel accounts, but an aide for pastors, Bible study groups, and individuals who want to look more deeply at the birth of Jesus.

That said, I definitely don’t think it’s for everyone. For one, it’s an academic text – not something you pick up to have a comfy read on the couch or the beach (or rather a beautiful day in the mountains, if you’re like me). It’s fairly thick with information that you really need to pay close attention to as you read. Also, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to a new Christian or a non-believer, who may be intimidated by or even turned away by the lack of decisiveness at times. Let me explain that: Gooder presents different interpretations of  and information about the various Gospel accounts, occasionally verging on discounting parts of the Bible altogether. I’ll admit, this frustrated me at times, because I was taught and truly believe that God is only constrained by your lack of belief…if you believe He can do it, He can, whether or not it fits with your particular knowledge of the world and its history.

So, I would recommend this book for study, but with the caveat that it not be your ultimate guide – let the Word of God itself be that.

Thanks to Hymns Ancient and Modern and NetGalley for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal

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C. S. Lewis is one of those authors that many people have read (or, at least, have seen the movie) and enjoyed. However, Lewis’s imagination can take a casual reader further, deeper, higher, and brighter than she ever thought she could go. Lewis did this by understanding how to use his own imagination to tap into and develop his readers’ imaginations. Sound confusing? Well, then you should read The Surprising Imagination of C. S. Lewis by Jerry Root and Mark Neal. They lay out, chapter-by-chapter, the types of imagination C. S. Lewis used in his various works and how those different types of imagination work for different purposes.

Jerry Root and Mark Neal have done an exceptional job of examining the works of C. S. Lewis. But don’t think this is going to be a light beach-read kind of book – it is thick with in-depth research and academic insight. It could prove to be a valuable resource for a sincere study of Lewis and his works. And if you happen to be studying a particular piece of Lewis’s work, this book could give you a new awareness of both how Lewis approached the work and what layers of meaning are developed in the piece. Though it doesn’t cover every thing Lewis wrote (I can’t begin to imagine how big that book would have to be!), the scope and breadth of knowledge they show is truly impressive.

I also feel that a writer could certainly benefit from a thorough read through this book, in that the authors explain how Lewis used imagination to plumb the depths of truth in ever more interesting ways – ways an author could incorporate into their own work.

Root and Neal have helped me see Lewis through lenses I didn’t even know existed before reading this book and have given me a new love for my favorite Lewis pieces and a desire to finally pick up those tomes I’ve been putting off…absolutely fascinating!

Many thanks to Abingdon Press and Handlebar for the free copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂