Book Review: The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson

Cover image courtesy of Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program

Cover image courtesy of Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program

The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson tells the tale of Beth’s sort of midlife crisis when her husband, Rick, a “Men’s Pastor” locks himself into a shed in their back yard for some serious prayer and a fast from his family with only a few groceries and some serious theological works for company.  To be honest, I chose this book only because I wanted to read fiction and it didn’t have an Amish woman or some other virginal looking young beauty on its cover.  I thought that it might be a bit “touchy feely blech” but instead I was treated to a snappy bit of satire on America’s consumer driven version of Christianity told from none other than the first person viewpoint of the pastor’s wife.  This book actually made me laugh out loud, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by any fiction author since I read Doug Wilson’s Evangellyfish last year.

Beth notes that as her church got bigger “its name was sliced smaller and smaller.  For the past eighteen months, we’ve been The Community”(Loc 1098).  Beth also wonders why The Community is “having trouble raising twenty grand for the Habitat house we’re cosponsoring with our sister church downtown when the parking lot on Sunday mornings is clogged with Mercedes and BMWs and Volvo SUVs, not to mention several Jaguars?” (Loc 232).  The author doesn’t shy away from topics that are usually considered taboo for Christian fiction (unless of course, the character repented of them at least a decade or more ago and says so, in print): drug use, alcoholism, loneliness in marriage and a pregnancy out of wedlock are all here.  The character of Mother Zaccheus nearly steals the show when she issues Beth a slap of grace of sorts in a halfway house.

It’s a great many layered work that’s a breath of fresh air. The only downside, as with any satirical work, is that it will feel dated in the future, given its many references to current social networks and electronic gadgets.  I also found that some of Beth’s “confessions” appearing like so (Confession:) broke up the pace and at times felt a bit jarring.  I look forward to reading more of Ms. Samson’s work in the future and I encourage you to add this book to your “must read” list.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review: Galatians for You by Timothy Keller

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Image courtesy of The Good Book Company

Galatians for You by Timothy Keller is the first in a series of “expository guides” which aim “to be: bible centered, Christ glorifying, relevantly applied and easily readable” (Loc 32).  This title can be used for “reading, feeding or leading” (Loc 32).  I am pleased to report that Galatians for You hits the mark on all counts.

Galatians for You is full of so much information about the impact of the gospel to the Christian’s daily life that it’s hard to narrow down the focus of this review. There are several things that stood out to me: the blazing firepot when God made His covenant with Abraham (Loc 997-1000), the significance of women as heirs (Loc 1145-1159) and Paul’s example of Sarah and Hagar in Galatians 4:21-31 (NKJV) to illustrate the difference in “being related to Abraham: one right way and one wrong way”(Loc 1522).

“Paul says clearly that Hagar and her son, Ishmael, represent the law covenant of Sinai and the earthly city of Jerusalem, which by and large consists of persons who have not accepted Christ.  And these people are “in slavery”(v.25), because they are under law.  Paul is linking several things together: the Sinai covenant of law; the present Jerusalem; Hagar; and all who make the law the means of justification with God and the main principle of life…..By sleeping with Hagar, Abraham was choosing to rely on his own capabilities.  He was opting to “work” and gain his son.  He was acting in faith; but the faith he had was in himself, as his own “savior” (Loc 1558).

“Though the false teachers proudly consider themselves related to Abraham by Sarah and Isaac, Paul says that they are spiritually descended from the slave woman, the Gentile (Hagar), the outcast.  Their heart and approach to God is like Abraham with Hagar, and the fruit in their lives is like Ishmael-just more slavery!  Though racially they are from Sarah, in their soul and heart they are like the people they despise.

They rely on their own ability rather than the supernatural grace of God. The most religious people can be furthest from freedom” (Loc 1558-1570).

That last sentence is chilling and a crucial reminder to be sure that we are looking to the gospel for our freedom, and not anything else!  I highly recommend Galatians for You. It’s an understandable read with an easy to use concordance to identify terms that the reader may not know and also contains an appendix that briefly discusses a “modern” debate about another aspect of Galatians.

A copy of this ebook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: To Walk or Stay by Lara Williams

Image Courtesy of Christian Focus Publishing

Image Courtesy of Christian Focus Publishing

I’ve been through a divorce, so I was immediately interested in reading To Walk or Stay by Lara Williams.  To Walk or Stay chronicles a period of spiritual growth in the author’s life while she and her husband began the process of reconciliation after he committed adultery.  This is not a book that dishes out all the nasty details. As the author states in the introduction:

The ultimate point of this book is to show you how I wrestled before my God in the midst of a devastating valley and to testify to his faithful guidance (Loc 89).

Before I proceed, I’d like to point out that if you’re going through a divorce, in a period of separation or if you’ve been through a divorce in the past, it’s easy to read a book like this and wonder what you “should” have done (or should be doing) differently or to feel guilt over a sin that you’ve already repented and moved away from (see Romans 8:1).  Don’t! There are biblical reasons for divorce and God’s grace is deep. As Mrs. Williams points out in Loc 245 “this book isn’t a prescription”. If you want to read it because you think it will give you a map, A-Z of what to do to fix your marriage, you won’t find that.  You may also think that divorce is something that will never touch your life and you should spend your money elsewhere.

So. Why do I think that you should read this book?

1.  This book is an excellent read for any Christian but especially those who are single, engaged, married or divorced. And it starts off with the acknowledgement that marriage is between two imperfect people.

He takes ownership for what he has done in our marriage to pull us apart.  I take ownership for what I’ve done to pull us apart. And we both believe that God wants us to use our unfolding story of redemption to encourage and empower others. (Loc 96-97)

2.  This book emphasizes trusting God to do the work.

All I can do is testify. I can tell you how I have sought after God through one of the darkest seasons of my life. I can give you tips for your thought life. I can lay out His commands to forgive. And I can share how brilliantly He shows up each and every day through each and every storm.  But ultimately, the victory comes as an outworking of His Spirit. He opens our eyes. He changes our minds. He guides our feet and convicts our hearts. He does the work. (Loc 1651)

3.  This book touches on “how to be a godly wife” without being overly preachy or stuffy.  The author achieves this primarily by humbly admitting the wrong things she’s tried.

I wanted him to change.  I suggested books for him to read and bought different clothes for him to wear.  I tried to coax him with my words in efforts to win his affection-in efforts to control him. (Loc 312)

In this flesh of mine, I tried to control him.  I wanted good things for him mainly because I wanted good things for me.  I wanted to be in control.  I wanted him to stay in my husband-box. (Loc 323)

Overall, this book is a fairly quick read. The book has footnotes for scriptures referenced and there are brief questions at the end of each chapter, which makes it a good pick for anyone who might want to dig a little deeper or to read it with a friend.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, Christian Focus Publishing,  in return for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson

desperate book review cover for blog

Cover Image provided by Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program

I began reading Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson while waiting to find out if Our Boy was autistic. I had a lot on my mind and I found that Desperate was written in an easy to follow format.  Each chapter begins with a short letter from Sarah, to her mentor, Sally, whose letter follows.  Both ladies “flesh out” the material in the rest of the chapter.  The chapters end with a few study questions as well as a QR code and web page address that leads to a short video that features the authors.  The study questions and video content make this a great book to read with a friend or a small group because it doesn’t require the purchase of additional videos or study guides in order to use it for this purpose.

Surprisingly, I found this book to be a great encouragement to me in dealing with mild depression.  Sally provides a short checklist to use whenever one feels a case of “the blues” coming on:

1.    Do I need sleep?  I need to do whatever it takes to restore physically.

2.     Have I been reading my Bible?  Even if it is putting an app on my phone with a voice I can listen to while still in bed in the morning or at night, I need to hear from the God who walks through these valleys with me.

3.     Do I feel alone?  I need to call someone who is a spiritually engaging friend, one who loves God, loves me, and whom I can completely trust.  I will meet that person for coffee or lunch to share my heart and to ask for prayer.

4.     Am I watching my health?  Exercise is a stress reducer and helps happy hormones to develop.  I have developed the habit of walking and hiking.

5.     How can I get help?  Is there someone who can help me clean my home?  Do I have a friend I can ask to keep my kids, so I can have a little time away?

6.     What do I need to invest in the joy factor of my life?  Am I creating spaces of beauty for my own soul-candles, music, fresh flowers and other such life-giving things?  Perhaps it’s as simple as going to a movie with my husband or friend, or buying a new scarf. (Loc 1136-1151)

However, one of the two primary concerns that I had in reading this book is that it doesn’t mention knowing when to seek professional help while dealing with depression.  The authors seem to treat it as just a spiritual case of “the blues” instead of a potentially serious, multifaceted (spiritual/medical/mental) issue. In the paragraph following the checklist, Sally writes:

There are so many different personal issues to consider, but I have found that sometimes when we choose to look away from the mountains of anxiety and stress that have endangered our souls, and instead attend to our souls, we will find that the depression will quickly dissipate. (Loc 1151)

My second concern  is the mention of autism in the Q & A section of the book.  To paraphrase the question, a mother is concerned about her children being clingy and overly shy.  After encouraging the mother to know her children and to help them work to overcome their fears (as she should), Ms. Clarkson writes:

Also, if some of these areas persist through the years, you might look for symptoms like clinical OCD or autism or other issues. (Loc 3163)

As someone who now knows more about autism spectrum disorders than she ever wanted to, it would have been better for the authors to suggest that the parent address their concerns with their pediatrician.

Overall, I find that the advice given is pretty solid (aside from the two items mentioned) with it’s emphasis on seeking out what the Lord wants from us as mothers instead of what we *think* we need to be.  After all:

The kingdom of home is the place of refuge, comfort and inspiration.  It is a rich world where great souls can be formed, and from which men and women of great conviction and dedication can emerge.  It is the place where the models of marriage, love and relationship are emulated and passed on to the next generation.  One of the great losses of this century is the lost imagination for what the home can be if shaped by the creative hand of God’s Spirit. (Loc 437-452)

What a great influence we mothers have on our children!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Welcome!

As you can see, I’m still working on things over here and moving posts over from my old site, leahatha.com.

In the future, I hope to post more book reviews and other things about life in general, so stick with me! (And I’m sorry about all that old stuff clogging up your readers. It will get better! Promise!)

Regards-

Leah

(aka The Barefoot Theologian)

Book Review: Constantly Craving by Marilyn Meberg

Image courtesy of the publisher.

Image courtesy of the publisher.

Note: This review originally appeared on my old site, leahatha.com and was published on December 10, 2012.

When I initially signed up to review Ms. Meberg’s Constantly Craving: How to Make Sense of Always Wanting More, I thought that it was going to focus on food cravings due to its cover. Instead, Constantly Craving focuses on mankind’s desire for MORE in everything: romance, friends, marriage, our schedules, and our quest for happiness. These topics are covered in Ms. Meberg’s humorous and easy to follow writing style.
I was encouraged to see Ms. Meberg affirm the sovereignty of God, as in this passage:

Understanding these truths affirming God’s sovereignty over our purposes lets us stop the magical thinking that sometimes springs up in our heads as we attempt to know his will (Loc 1535-36)

Sadly, Ms. Meberg then contradicts her own statement about the importance of Scripture, quoted here:

 I want always to look to Scripture instead of to signs which may be no more than human assumptions and hopes that add fuel to a fire not meant to be (Loc 1536);

by including a passage from the book Heaven is For Real as well as a personal account of her husband’s vision of heaven. I’m certain Ms. Meberg intends to encourage the reader, but accounts such as these should be held loosely due to the account of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19-31 (NKJV).

Another source of discouragement is a rather scandalous account of the private lives of President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor (around Loc 1902), with no sources cited. Stories such as this have no place in a Christian book! Other (less scandalous) stories are given as examples, also without sources. Constantly Craving also quotes modern philosophers as well as psychologists like Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. Freud. The role of sin in our lives is downplayed a bit; it doesn’t fully come into play until the end of the book, but, since that is the source of humanity’s problem and the aim of the book is to help the reader discover “how to make sense of always wanting more”, it’s to be expected. I found Constantly Craving  to be more of a discouragement than an encouragement, especially during the first half of the book.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson

Note: This review originally appeared on my old site, leahatha.com and was published on October 6, 2012.

Image courtesy of the publisher.

Image courtesy of the publisher.

Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson is an informative read that not only tells us “why” men should love and lead their families but also provides evidence as to how we’ve all been affected by “father hunger” in some form or another.

Mr. Wilson correctly informs us that “theology undergirds everything. How we think of God the Father will drive how we think of all fathers. God the Father provides the ultimate definition of what a father should in fact be like”(189).  After all, “we live in fatherless times”(23).  This is important stuff!  We all have a father in some form or another. We have all been affected.

In a statement that best describes the book, Wilson writes:

“Father Hunger is one of the chief symptoms of our idolatry.  It is the basis for our political follies, our cultural follies, our technological follies, and so on. But the solution is not to schedule numerous family retreats. The solution is to announce, preach, and declare that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of God, and of His Christ” (23).

Father Hunger is a serious book with heavy implications, however, it doesn’t read as such. Mr. Wilson’s writes in a humorous, creative style (think Wodehouse) that keeps the reader from getting too bogged down. In fact, the only aspect of this book that interrupted the flow was a sort of “mini book review” of James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom in chapter ten. I realize that Mr. Wilson was using this as part of his supporting argument but it just seemed sort of choppy.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”