Category Archives: Non-Fiction

“The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel

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20121230-204126.jpgI began this book in December 2010. My intention was to read it for a small group I was co-leading at the time. However, the focus of the group changed shortly after I began reading, and I ended up put the book back on the shelf after three chapters.

Fast forward two years. I had been eyeing this book occasionally for the past few months, and found that now was the time to finish. Once I picked it up again, it was actually easier to get into. Yes, Mr. Strobel’s writing style is very direct and full of factual information, which does not necessarily mean easy reading. But once you set that style in your mind, it’s very interesting to delve into the wealth of information he has garnered from his studies and the scholars he interviews for each chapter of this book.

I have been a Christian for many years, but I liked reading through the information in this book nonetheless. It is a good reminder in some areas and a revelation in others about the truth of the power that God embodied in Jesus, and really, the power He wants to embody in us as well. I recommend taking the time to read it.

Finally the Bride by Cheryl McKay

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Finally The Bride: Finding Hope While WaitingFinally The Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting by Cheryl McKay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw this book recommended on a blog discussion I read several weeks ago. It was among several women approaching their 30s who have a desire for marriage but no past or current relationship prospects to speak of (yes, I am one of them). It piqued my interest, considering I’ve seen so few books geared toward single women that reached beyond “what you need to do if you want a man.”

There is something so comforting about this book. It’s just so raw and real. Cheryl McKay writes to single women, as a single woman. She doesn’t sugarcoat her desire or her frustration; instead she bares all, including journal entries she wrote to God and the responses she received back, in the midst of providing important points and lessons to us on waiting and building our relationship with God.

At times her journaled frustrations and cries to God may seem to be repetitive, or in conflict with the points she’s trying to make about trusting God. But she’s human, and she doesn’t pretend that her attitude in her journal entries is always right. I actually found it comforting to see that she had to remind herself of the points that she would later write to others in similar situations. She wants to let her readers know that they are not alone in the circumstances they face, and I can appreciate that.

I was insipred to read from a spirit-filled single Christian woman who could really relate to where I am relationally, and I love reading what McKay has to say about the relationship we need to develop with God. I appreaciate the honesty of her story, and the stories she includes of those who came before her.

If you’re single, this book will inspire you. If you’re waiting, on anything, this book will encourage you as well. It truly is a book about finding hope in the waiting, regardless of what you’re waiting on.

“Grace for the Good Girl” by Emily P. Freeman

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Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman is a look at a struggle that Christian women sometimes don’t recognize, or refuse to acknowledge. It’s that struggle to make sure that we’re always doing the right thing. Whether borne out of a need to atone for the sins of the past, or fear of not being good enough for the future, or simply the constraints of a life always lived in the mindset, many Christian women expend so much effort trying to maintain their Good Girl status. Emily takes a hard look at what that status resembles, and its underlying struggle. She then takes us beyond the Good Girl framework, into what it really means to be free to trust God with details of a Christian life.

This book is such a wonderful book. It’s relief-inspiring, really. It was eye-opening to recognize struggles I’ve faced, to see the root cause of those issues, and to learn truth that can free me from the vicious cycle of trying and failing to be good all the time. Basically, it all boils down to this: Stop trying so hard and trust God with your rest! The rest of your world, the rest of your life, the rest you need right now. You can’t get it, truly get it, unless you trust God, truly trust Him. And you can’t trust Him when you’re just trying so hard to look the part of someone who trusts Him.

Lay down your good girl tools and all the toil the bring, and rest.

The War of Art

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In The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles author Steven Pressfield gives apt descriptions of the general blocks most people face in discovering and performing their creative pursuits, and discussing what it takes to overcome those difficulties and truly achieve the goals to which people aspire.

I really liked this book. The description of the mental and emotional aspects of being creative are truly like a war. I also liked the personification of Resistance; it helps to identify it as something that can actually be dealt with and confronted, instead of a vague notion that is always just beyond grasping.

Logically, I understand the whole “mark of a professional” concept that Mr. Pressfield has. However, that must be my own Resistance factor, because I found it sometimes to be a little daunting in that I struggle to write on any regular basis. At times I felt as though, according to this concept, I could never truly be a writer because I am never consistent with it.

Other than that one fly in the ointment, this book is very calming and encouraging, even in the sometimes off-beat way Mr. Pressfield instructs us to face the problem of Resistance. Once I manage to combine my two issues and face Resistance consistently, I’m sure I will start to see some positive results in my own War of Art.

“The Chocolate Diaries” by Karen Scalf Linamen

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“Karen Linamen dishes up a satisfying blend of moxie and mocha, sharing stories from dozens of women who reveal savvy strategies for embracing a sweeter life – even while traveling rocky roads. If you’re hungry for more joy, reasons to laugh again, ideas to help you heal, and reliable hope leading to a sweeter future, this journey will leave you satisfied.”

The title is what grabbed my attention – being a lover of chocolate and all. I thought the chocolate recipes at the end of each chapter were definitely inspiring. The book was an overall good read though I had it in my mind it would be a little more uplifting than it was. All of the stories were encouraging but I just felt the mood was a little less positive than I would have liked. The story that stood out to me the most was about Karen’s friend who made a habit of paying for the people behind her in the drive-thru line. I’ve done this a few times and have made it a goal of doing it more this year and the feeling is absolutely amazing! Just wondering what’s running through the other person’s mind? It’s a rare thing to have a complete stranger pay for your food. I liked how short each chapter was (about ten pages), making it easy to read a few chapters in a sitting.

I received a copy of this book from Waterbrook Press for my honest review.

Review: The Runner’s Devotional

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The Runner's Devotional: Inspiration and Motivation for Life's Journey . . . On and Off the RoadThe Runner’s Devotional: Inspiration and Motivation for Life’s Journey . . . On and Off the Road by Dana Niesluchowski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Runner’s Devotion is a great weekly devotional for runners. Each devotion is broken up into seven section and includes journal space and a running log. There are sections focusing on The Runner, The Race, and The Result, and also questions to draw your attention to key points.

But this devotional is more than just a book on the physical aspects of running. Each devotion offers a tie-in from physical to spiritual exercise. The goal of each week is to encourage you in your physical race and in your spiritual race.

With 52 weekly entries, plus training schedules for everything from a 5k to a marathon, this is a great book for many runners. I don’t know that it’s so great for more casual runners (of which I am one). However, I’ve warmed to the idea of reading it before my Saturday run — it helps me focus on what I can do before I run, instead of what I can’t do.

One other thing I really like is that each of the training schedules (with the exception of the marathon schedule) includes Sunday as a rest day. Those are the first schedules I’ve seen that have that option, and they were a pleasant surprise.

If you run, or are starting to run, this is a good way of keeping on track, spirit, soul, and body.

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I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Beautiful Outlaw: The Most Human Face of All

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Sometimes we forget just how insane God’s love toward us is. Or maybe we don’t forget; maybe we just don’t want to deal with the brain-exploding truth that we’d have to deal with if we thought about it. Jesus is fully God. And he is fully man.

It’s so easy to think of him as one extreme or the other. Jesus is God: obviously. He’s so great and wonderful, out there in the distant space, being God. It’s easy to imagine him being perfect, never lashing out in sin or in pride or in fear. Of course he didn’t; He’s God.

Or — Jesus is man. Warm fuzzies all around. Hey, he was a man, just a really great guy. He bled and died; sure. That’s the point of the story we focus on, right? He died, so he must have been human. Not so much now, we think — ’cause nobody come back human.

But that’s just thing. As John Eldredge illustrates in his book Beautiful Outlaw, Jesus is God. And he is Man. That makes everything he did, is doing, and will do, so amazing.  He physically got tired. He had emotions, and he had to deal with them. He had friends, and some were better friends to him than others. He got incensed about things, and did something about it. He came face to face with situations he didn’t want to deal with — especially the situation of the cross — where he said, “I don’t want to do this.” So when he says, “there’s not anything you could face that I haven’t dealt with,” he’s not joking, or talking in some lofty God-above-it-all way. He’s really been there.

Beautiful Outlaw goes into detail about the personality of Jesus. John’s goal is for us to see him as he really is, so we know him, and so we can love him. You can’t love what you don’t know. You may think you know — I certainly get in that habit. But when was the last time you stopped and seriously thought about who Jesus is? Not just what he did, or expansive worship terms to describe him, but who he really is? When we think of and talk about Jesus, the words that come up usually don’t not include human. But are we not missing an essential part of who he is if we skip that part? And then we wonder we feel so incomplete ourselves; we were created in the image of someone, and we keep ignoring the part of him that most closely links him with us. How do we define a relationship with someone without the integral facet of that relationship?

No more, says John. now we can who we were meant to be; human, without all the trappings and bondage that sin wraps around us. Jesus was (and still is) humanity untouched by sin. When we realize that we can have the hope, through him, of being our best humanity untouched by sin as well..

Check out reviews of other chapters in the book below:

You can also check out the book’s website, and the Free Downloadable Participants’ Guide.

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I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.