Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book C: Fabookulous December 19, 2011

The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel

Book description:

‘The more I looked, the more I found Christian Atheists everywhere.’ Former Christian Atheist Craig Groeschel knows his subject all too well. After over a decade of successful ministry, he had to make a painful self admission: although he believed in God, he was leading his church like God didn’t exist. To Christians and non-Christians alike, to the churched and the unchurched, the journey leading up to Groeschel’s admission and the journey that follows—from his family and his upbringing to the lackluster and even diametrically opposed expressions of faith he encountered—will look and sound like the story of their own lives. Now the founding and senior pastor of the multicampus, pace-setting LiveChurch.tv, Groeschel personal journey toward a more authentic God-honoring life is more relevant than ever. Christians and Christian Atheists everywhere will be nodding their heads as they are challenged to take their own honest moment and ask the question: am I putting my whole faith in God but still living as if everything was up to me?
 
A phenomenal read–I agree with a quote on the cover–this book is a classic in the making! The Christian Atheist will challenge you to wake up and LIVE like you actually believe in God. Some of the chapter highlights include “Believing in God but Still Worrying All the Time”, “Believing in God but You Can’t Get Over Your Past”, “Believing God but Seeking Happiness at Any Cost”, etc…Stop going to church for the formality of it and explore a rich relationship with God! We allow ourselves to grow so numb and so used to “our way” that we never REALLY change our lives. Live every part of your life as a follower of Christ, Sunday-Saturday. This book will wake you up, challenge you with some (hard) truths (at times). For me personally, this one just earned a spot on my top 5 list of all time! (And considering I read 52 books in 2010, that’s an exclusive list to be on….just sayin) 😉

 
5/5 stars
Fabookulous
 

Book P: Fabookulous May 15, 2011

The Power of a Whisper
(Hearing God. Having the Guts to Respond.)
by Bill Hybels

Book description:

The greatest buzz of the Christ-following life comes from hearing directly from God–sensing his guidance to lean into some situations and steer clear of others, to speak a word one moment and fall silent the next, to adopt bold new practices and ditch the self-destructive habits that only do us harm. By his own declaration, if Bill Hybels could wave a wand over the entire world, he would wish for each person alive today to have this type of personal, meaningful and frequent encounter with the living God. “God’s wish is to speak into the situations faced by every individual, every family, every church, every school, every business, every government, every media outlet, every organization and every organism imaginable,” he says, “and to train their steps according to his good and perfect will.”

If you crave full-throttle faith, the kind of divinely directed life that God alone can provide, then this book is for you. God still speaks relevant words to his followers, and most likely a grand adventure with your name on it is on your heavenly Father’s lips. Tune your ear toward heaven, and he will direct your steps, accompany your path and celebrate your faithfulness one day.

I picked this book up because the title resonated with me during this season of my life. I felt God whispering to me in a particular way and thought this book would help define that for me. It wasn’t what I expected.


Reminiscent of the God Winks by SQuire Rushnell books (yes, the Q is supposed to be capitalized), The Power of a Whisper shares numerous stories and examples of how God “steered” someone in the right direction. To more effectively and accurately know if you are hearing from God, Hybels gives 5 “tests” to line your whisper up with. And the more in tune you are with the Bible, the more familiar you will be with hearing God’s voice when he speaks to you. The idea of a Godwink is that there are no such things as coincidence– rather opportunities God uses to assure you that you are on the right path. When things seem to line up just right, or a series of events works out just as they should or were meant to be, God is winking at you to encourage you on the path you are on. Hybels is basically making the same point, calling them whispers. Whispers of love, direction, and guidance, if you will.

Though it wasn’t what I expected, it is still a good book that offers guidance and tools for those seeking them. Hybels uses very descriptive language and after a while it sort of seemed like filler to me. (Just this reader’s opinion) In my own life, whispers from God have come up in more way than one lately and after reading this book I’ve found the real-life experiences are richer than any guide can show you. Just open your ears and listen.

3.5/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book #51: Fabookulous December 30, 2010

Finding God in Unexpected Places by Philip Yancey

Book description:

An Atlanta slum. A pod of whales off the coast of Alaska. The prisons of Peru and Chile. The plays of Shakespeare. A health club in Chicago. For those with eyes to see, traces of God can be found in the most unexpected places. Yet many Christians have not only missed seeing God, they’ve overlooked opportunities to make him visible to those most in need of hope.

In this enlightening book author Philip Yancey serves as an insightful tour guide for those willing to look beyond the obvious, pointing out glimpses of the eternal where few might think to look. Whether finding God among the newspaper headlines, within the church, or on the job, Yancey delves deeply into the commonplace and surfaces with rich spiritual insight.

Finding God in Unexpected Places takes readers from Ground Zero to the Horn of Africa, and each stop along the way reveals footprints of God, touches of his truth and grace that prompt readers to search deeper within their own lives for glimpses of transcendence.

I started branching into audiobooks late this year as a way to ensure I’d meet our goal of 52 by December 31st. Exploring the world of audiobooks has been a challenge for me. When it’s a fiction book it seems I’m picky about the narrator’s voice. After trying to start a couple fiction books, I’d stop listening not even an hour in– one narrator talked like everything was a question and I knew I couldn’t do that for 8 hours of listening! But what I have found is that nonfiction books are easier for me to listen to (maybe it’s that I like my own imagination to run wild with a fiction book.) Either way, Christian nonfiction just feels like listening to a long sermon, so I can handle those better.

And I think audiobooks might be the answer to Philip Yancey! I’ve read a couple of Yancey’s other books (What’s So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew) in the past yet it always seems to take me a while to get through them. Not because they aren’t good, rather the opposite. They are so good and have so much information packed into them that I want to read slower to absorb it all. I think listening to Finding God in Unexpected Places gave me the best of both worlds: another Yancey book on my “Read” shelf and it wasn’t as challenging to get through since it felt like a long sermon.

I appreciate Yancey’s journalism, world travels, experiences, and his drive to teach the message of the gospel. This book is such an eye-opener and will really make you think. Taking you all over the world and to different jobs and locations, Yancey will travel with you while opening your eyes to where God is (hint: everywhere.) But for me the most powerful chapter is the one on South American prisons and the love of Christ found there. The excitement among 60 convicts gathered together for a gospel message and worship is obvious when you read/listen to this book! You will definitely be surprised at the faith of those around the world. Despite their circumstances and the clear path before them, there are people in this world with far less, yet drastically more faith. We can miss seeing this in action as we don’t get the opportunities or abilities to travel and explore both nationally and internationally. Yancey even addresses this at one part talking about how easy it is for Christians to just “send money” for a need, rather than to go there themselves. Granted, not everyone CAN just GO, but many can yet choose to send a check instead. Shouldn’t giving be sacrificial and if so, what’s more of a sacrifice? Giving of your money or of yourselves?

I started listening to Finding God in Unexpected Places while I was reading Radical by David Platt and I think the two went hand in hand so perfectly! Giving the reader a world vision that can be missed as we focus on our day to day experiences, both of these book are well worth your time! Originally published in the 80s, Yancey printed a revised edition after the attacks of September 11. Our world had changed so much and chapters were added to include the terrorist attacks and to discuss God’s presence during times of trial and tribulation.

Parts of this book felt like a history lesson which, while dry at times, is valuable towards the moral of the story. Like I said, Yancey’s books are PACKED with information so you’ll need time to digest! All in all, this was fabulous and I think in the future if I find another Yancey book that strikes my fancy, I’ll get it in audio!

4/5 stars

Fabookulous

Status update: Halfway through my 52nd book (wow!!!!!) and I have until 11:59pm tomorrow (New Year’s Eve) to finish! 😉 Look for my review sometime tomorrow and then we’ll have our joint interview posted revealing details of our challenge for 2011! We hope to see you in the new year 🙂

 

Book #49: Fabookulous December 22, 2010

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

Book description:

WHAT IS JESUS WORTH TO YOU?

It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, what their new lifestyle would actually look like. They would, he said, leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily…

BUT WHO DO YOU KNOW WHO LIVES LIKE THAT? DO YOU?

In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple–then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a “successful” suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus.

Finally, he urges you to join in The Radical Experiment –a one-year journey in authentic discipleship that will transform how you live in a world that desperately needs the Good News Jesus came to bring.

Where to begin? This book was fantastic from start to finish! Highly recommended by my mom who just read it, I soaked up Radical the minute I read the first word. A pastor of what is known today as a “mega church”, Platt unapologetically, yet tenderly, points out what is wrong with today’s Christianity and reminds us what biblical Christianity actually looks like. Platt paints pictures that will make you think.

This is not to say this is true of every church in America (nor every mega church in America), but think about it. We put on hundreds of dollars worth of clothes, hop into our thousands of dollars worth of cars, drive to our million dollar church buildings, sit in our comfortable seats while we are entertained by bands, musicians, dancers, speakers, and guests, then turn around to return to our homes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now picture this. Men, women, children, young and old, traveling by foot for miles and miles, sometimes even taking a whole day to arrive to the “secret church.” Upon arrival, cramming into a small room, lit by a single light hanging from the ceiling, and squeezing into a circle among 60 or more gathered, and all straining to see the single Bible sitting in the room. Discussion continues for up to eight hours a sitting before making the trek home, only to return shortly after to start all over.

I appreciate Platt’s world travels and understanding of Christianity in other countries and areas. And I appreciate him pointing out how much we take it for granted in this country that we can not only OWN Bibles but that we can read them and study them individually or in groups without feeling ashamed or fearful. (Not to say that’s true in every circumstance, rather generally speaking.)

The purpose of Radical is not to make Christians feel guilty, but rather to remind them of biblical Christianity. To remind them that Jesus called us to leave our possessions, belongings, sometimes even our families to follow Him. And Platt beckons the reader to remember it is all about God, not all about us. We’ve made things so comfortable and convenient to our own lives (what church works for us, what messages mean the most for our lives, what we like about the pastor, what programs work with our schedule) and doesn’t this enable us to be selfish? And that’s not what Christianity is about at all, yet it’s the confused message we’ve believed for so long.

Radical will challenge the reader (and Christian) to consider their brothers and sisters in distant parts of the world. Then you’ll be challenged to consider a year long “renovation”, if you will. Divided into five categories, Platt introduces a way to put into practice over the course of a year what you’ve just read:

  1. Pray for the entire world;
  2. read through the entire Word;
  3. sacrifice your money for a specific purpose;
  4. spend your time in another context;
  5. commit your life to a multiplying community.

As he expounds upon each of these suggestions, the reader will be grateful for the opportunity and guidance toward life application. This book can be read by individuals or done as a small group study and I know you’ll enjoy it either way!

5/5 stars

Fabookulous

Coming into the finish line! Halfway through an audio book and only 2 more to read! Reviews to come. Thanks for your support this year!

 

Book #46: Fabookulous December 3, 2010

Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

Book description:

Bestselling author Robin Jones Gunn brings readers a poignant Christmas novella about a woman, desperate for a place to belong, who finds herself in London a few days before Christmas, looking for the father she never knew.

In FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS, Miranda Carson’s search for her father takes a turn she never expected when she finds herself in London with only a few feeble clues to who he might be. Unexpectedly welcomed into a family that doesn’t recognize her, and whom she’s quickly coming to love, she faces a terrible decision. Should she reveal her true identity and destroy their idyllic image of her father? Or should she carry the truth home with her to San Francisco and remain alone in this world? Whatever choice she makes during this London Christmas will forever change the future for both herself and the family she can’t bear to leave. Robin Jones Gunn brilliantly combines lyrical writing and unforgettable characters to craft a story of longing and belonging that will stay with readers long after they close the pages of this book.

If you’re looking for a Christmas story for this time of year, look no further. I didn’t look further than my mom’s bookshelf where this little gem was hiding. As I mentioned before, my mom loves a good Christmas story and some can still be found around her home. In my efforts to continue with shorter books to reach this year’s 52-book challenge, Finding Father Christmas struck my fancy immediately. 🙂

Finding Father Christmas is an excellent blend of cozy, warm, comforting, and inviting. Set in England, this is a story of Miranda Carson’s search for her father with just a few clues left to her. When she stumbles upon the Tea Cosy in England, she can’t expect the turn her fate will take. The characters are inviting and hospitable and welcome Miranda with open arms from the start of the story. For readers who can’t relate to Miranda’s sense of longing and search for a parent she never knew, your curiosity will pique and you will be interested to see how she handles herself. Going off of just a few clues she has, she longs to find her father or at least to hear of him. What she doesn’t expect is, well… guess you’ll have to read it to find out 🙂

This story is told at that perfect pace that keeps the readers engaged while not dragging on too long. While Miranda’s personality leaves some to be desired, the true stars that shine in this novella are the characters with whom she encounters and the family they have. This would be a wonderful Christmas movie, if it’s not already…? Robin Jones Gunn does a fantastic job with this story that will just warm your heart during a cold time of the year. And I’m looking forward to reading more of Gunn’s novels; I’ll probably start with the sequel, Engaging Father Christmas.

I encourage you to check this one out and get yourself in that Christmas spirit of love, hospitality, and joy. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

4/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book #45: Fabookulous November 26, 2010

The Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll

Book description:

“Bound and shackled by legalists’ lists of do’s and don’ts, intimidated and immobilized by others’ demands and expectations, far too many in God’s family merely exist in the tight radius of bondage, dictated by those who have appointed themselves our judge and jury.”-Chuck Swindoll [from the Introduction]

The Grace Awakening calls all Christians to wake up and reject living in such legalistic, performance-oriented bondage. The God of the universe has given us an amazing, revolutionary gift of grace and freedom. This freedom and grace set us apart from every other “religion” on the face of the earth.

In this best-selling classic, Charles Swindoll urges you not to miss living a grace-filled life. Freedom and joy-not lists and demands and duties-await all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

With his characteristic style and gentle authority, Swindoll disarms the counter-attack of all those who would not preach grace-filled living and who would claim that focusing on grace would fill our churches with wild, undisciplined people with no godliness in evidence. Yes, Swindoll says, teaching and preaching grace is risky. Some may push the limits and misuse their freedom. But grace is the message of the gospel…the good news of salvation. As Christians, we sing about God’s amazing grace. We understand that we are saved by grace. Let’s learn to live by grace! Discover how in The Grace Awakening.

While Christian non-fiction tends to be my favorite genre, an audiobook of that genre feels like a very long sermon. Which is okay, but just needs to be taken in a little at a time. Which is why I took almost a week to get through this audiobook. I love Charles Swindoll’s books and have been making my way through his Great Lives series. This is the first book of his I’ve read (er, listened to) out of that series; he certainly has a lot to offer in the way of Biblical teaching!

Swindoll shares some valuable insights regarding grace and our ability to abuse it or misuse it. While it is offered freely to us, we tend to abuse that privilege and view it as a right or as permission to keep doing what we want. But what I appreciated most from this book is the discussion on legalism in Christianity. So many Christians follow a list of rules or regulations and then stand in judgment of others who do not do the same. (This isn’t even necessarily restricted to Christians) I love a good discussion on legalism in the Christian faith because among the many denominations, folks really do get caught up in the rules of it all. Swindoll gently reminds us (in a nutshell) to do as we see fit and allow others the same freedom. Isn’t it all about freedom anyway? Why do we put ourselves in a box most of the time and limit our ability? Ah yes–because rules are restrictive.

Swindoll is a mature and seasoned Christian who offers wonderful insight and wisdom. I will probably want to read the rest of his books rather than listen to them and save my audiobook experiences for fiction. But I think I got enough take away from this one to make it worth it anyway!

4/5 stars

Fabookulous

 

Book #31: Fabookulous September 9, 2010

Really Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs

Book description:
“If you’ve already read
Bad Girls of the Bible, welcome back. If this is our first chance to sit across the page from one another, welcome home. Trust me, it’s a safe place to be- a place of grace, not judgment. A place where God is in charge and we’re not. (Whew!)

“You’ll meet eight women here whose names you may not recognize, but whose sordid stories felt uncomfortably familiar to this Former Bad Girl. Athaliah’s ruthless climb up the corporate ladder cut close to the bone. Ditto for the tawdry tale of David and Bathsheba- my, didn’t her Good Girl status go down the drain in a hurry? Ah, but it didn’t stay there. That’s the good news, sisters. Really good, in fact.

“Whether they were Bad and Proud of It, Bad for a Good Reason, Bad but Not Condemned, or found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time under a Bad Moon Rising, the lives of these Really Bad Girls of the Bible all demonstrate one thing: God’s sovereignty. Honey, we’re talking ‘Thy will be done.’ Period. The unstoppable power of God to press forth with his mighty plan for mankind, not working around our sinful choices but through them. Imagine that.

“Although we’re all less than perfect, the girls and I are more than ready when you are!”

~Liz Curtis Higgs

The sequel to Bad Girls of the Bible, Really Bad Girls of the Bible, delves even deeper into the lives of less than perfect women of the Bible and lessons we can learn from them. I found this one to be more interesting in the sense that the women found in this edition are lesser known. Though Bathsheba and Tamar are more familiar stories, it was nice to study other women with small roles (the medium at Endor, Athaliah, Jael, Herodias, and the Bleeding Woman and the Adulteress.)

After reading the accounts of these women, the reader will (and should) walk away with a deeper sense of God’s grace! In our human nature we compare sins and weigh which seem better or worse. In fact it is all equal. Which is even more shocking to see that a woman who bled for 12 years (though not actually BAD but seen that way by her society as such), a woman who requested the head of John the Baptist as reward per her mothers’ suggestion (Herodias), a woman who committed adultery with the king while her husband was fighting in the war (Bathsheba), a woman caught in adultery and brought before the massive crowds and shamed publicly, a woman who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her so she would conceive (Tamar), a woman who ordered the murder of her family members in her shameful, power seeking attempts (Athaliah), and a woman who committed murder in her tent (Jael) are all on the same playing field. Not one is worse than the other. The point of these women’s mistakes is not to be like or unlike them, rather to see how powerful God is and how willing He is to use us all for His greater good, rather than our own. I liked this sequel better than the first one and I feel Liz Curtis Higgs’ observations and insights were more profound and thought-provoking this time around.

Higgs is not shy about her own past mistakes and sins and it’s surprising to read a Christian themed book in which the author is so candid about her own regrets. I appreciate the honesty and feel that makes the author more relatable and allows the reader to open up more. Nobody is perfect (and we should never think otherwise) but it’s unusual to not feel preached to with Christian themed books. That’s probably the beauty of studying Bad Girls rather than Good Girls. We all know what we SHOULD do and SHOULDN’T do. But do we know we are still of value and use to God even after we’ve messed up, whether it be intentionally or not?

This series has been eye opening and intriguing. It’s no surprise to me that I’m going to read Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible next. If you’re looking for a humbling, encouraging, and insightful book (or series of books), I recommend the Bad Girls of the Bible series to you! Higgs will not disappoint you!

5/5 stars

Happy Reading,
Fabookulous