Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Surrender and Love Go Hand-In-Hand

February 24, 2013 1 comment

How do surrender and love work together?

We often hear the word love used in many different contexts. “I love hamburgers!” “I love the color blue!” “I love my family!”  “I love my church!” What is the true definition of love and how does surrender come into play with this definition? Upon the recommendation of a friend/mentor, I read the book Surrender to Love by David G. Benner. When I started this book, I honestly didn’t know what to expect as I had never heard of the author.

The book is a trilogy of sorts (the second book being The Gift of Being Yourself and the third book being Desiring God’s Will). In Surrender to Love, Benner discusses the concept of Godly love and how the ultimate surrender (the death of Jesus Christ, God’s only son) provides this love for us. We have a tendency to believe that God loves us based on our merits…if we do well then God loves us more…if we don’t do well morally then God doesn’t love us as much. This concept has caused many a people to fear God in an unhealthy way. God loves us regardless of what we do. He may be disappointed in us, but that doesn’t mean He loves us any less.

I walked away from reading this book with a better sense of what true love means and that you must have some sort of surrender in order to have that true love, or it isn’t really true love. This book was an easy read and I had no problem understanding the terminology and illustrations the author used. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the concept of love and/or surrender.

Here are a few takeaways that I had from the book:

  • “Love is God’s character, not simply an emotion.”
  • “The Christian God doesn’t turn away from sinners in disgust but moves toward us, bringing us His redemptive presence.”
  • “The story of Jesus is the story of love personified.”
  • “Most of us who call ourselves Christians do so on the basis of belief more than experience.” – A. W. Tozer
  • “God isn’t simply the projection of our own image on the cosmos.”
  • “He (God) created us and knows us intimately…He knows how we respond to anything that threatens our need for control.”

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The Sanctuary – A Tale of Mercy

January 2, 2013 1 comment
The Sanctuary by Ted Dekker

The Sanctuary – another great read by Ted Dekker!

I’ve often heard it said that mercy is not getting what one truly deserves. Ted Dekker’s latest book The Sanctuary is a prime example of this concept. Renee Gilmore kills two men and Danny Hansen, a former priest, confesses to the murders so Renee will not have to go to prison. The characters of Renee and Danny originally appeared in Dekker’s 2011 novel The Priest’s Graveyard. In this new book, Danny is sent to an experimental prison where he experiences first hand how punishment can be used to attempt to break a man.

Another one of the prisoners has been falsely accused of rape (the girl’s parents don’t like that fact that their daughter is dating him, so they make up a story claiming he raped her). Something happens to this prisoner while in the prison and he is unjustly given a punishment. Danny willingly takes on the punishment for this innocent young man. A primary point in the story is that Danny has taken a vow of non-violence, but the warden and those in the prison keep trying to break him so he will give in to the violence of his past.

While Danny is in prison, Renee receives a phone call and several notes from a mysterious and sadistic individual telling her that she must do as he says or Danny will die. There are a couple surprise twists toward the end of the book that really made it an exciting book. I highly recommend this read for anyone who likes adrenaline-filled books that keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Consider yourself warned – I couldn’t put this book down…I read it within a few days (on average it can take me up to a month or so to read a book).

If you are looking for other Ted Dekker books to read, check out The Paradise Trilogy (Showdown, Saint, and Sinner), Forbidden, Chosen, or Thr3e (the first Ted Dekker book that I personally read) .

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One Step Closer – U2 and God

November 7, 2012 Leave a comment
One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters To Those Seeking God

One Step Closer is a MUST read for any fan of the band U2!

If you know me well at all, you know that U2 is my all time favorite band. I had the amazing opportunity to see them live the last time they came to Atlanta and it was well worth the price of admission. The fact that they sang one of my favorite songs, 40, made my experience “even better than the real thing” (sorry, I promise no more U2 song title puns). One of my life-long friends got me a book for Christmas several years ago and I just finally got around to reading it. One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters To Those Seeking God by Christian Scharen takes the reader through twelve different topics regarding Christianity and shows how different songs in the U2 music catalog fit within these topics.

The topics covered include: Singing Scripture, Psalms as Thanksgiving and Lament, Wisdom as Desire and Illusion, Prophecy as Judgment and Hope, Parables as Offense and Mercy, Apocalypse as Ecstasy and Healing, Singing the Cross, Faith (Not Sight), Hope (Not Possession), Love (Not Power), Now (Not Yet), and Singing the Truth. I learned so much about my favorite band as well as what motivates them to do what they do. They are not in it for the fame and fortune – they feel God has given them a platform to share via their music. Some categorize the band as “too Christian” while others label them as “not Christian enough” but the author likens the band’s songs to modern parables.

Here are just a few of my favorite quotes and take aways from the book:

  • “We don’t get what we deserve; we get what God offers. As Bono put it in a recent interview, ‘It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.'”
  • “If we thought it was all about us, it would <expletive> us up. Something happens, but it is not something we make happen. It only happens when God walks through the room.” – Larry Mullen, Jr. (drummer for U2)
  • “Great music, like great lives, moves us to see with more clarity.”
  • “The band has always had the feeling – not unlike Flannery O’Connor in her writing – that revelation will come if they wait and pay attention.”
  • “These relationships – to friends, family, and community – speak to a conscious effort to overcome the vertigo of being rock stars so that they can find ways to be normal people.”
  • “They (the band) decided very early on that they would transgress the rule that rock bands don’t sing about religion and politics.”
  • “It’s absolutely clear what’s on God’s mind. You just have to read Scripture. Those who read Scripture and don’t come away with God’s preferential concern for the poor are just blind given that there are 2,103 verses of Scripture about the poor.”  Bono (lead singer of U2)
  • “To make a difference, one must be different.”

I left this book with a better understanding of U2 and the thought process behind their lyrics. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves U2 or is just interested in seeing how other believers in the world are making a difference.

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Mockingjay – A Little Disappointing

August 29, 2012 2 comments

For me, Mockingjay was the weakest of the books.

In reading a trilogy of books, the last book is typically either really great or just dreadfully horrible. With Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (books one and two being The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (respectively)), I was somewhere in the middle. It wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, but then again it wasn’t the best either. In all honesty, I loved the book up until the final three or four chapters…that’s when I started pulling out the “Really Suzanne Collins?!” (see Seth Meyers on SNL).

In book three of the saga, we find that half of the remaining participants in the last Hunger Games have been kidnapped by the Capital while Plutarch Heavensbee has helped save Katniss and the other half. We find out that Peeta is one of the tributes that was kidnapped by the Capital and he has been brainwashed into thinking that Katniss is the enemy. Katniss has been named the “Mockingjay” of the fight as a result of her rebellious ways toward the Capital and they want to dispose of her (by way of Peeta or any other means necessary). The rebellion has started and it is an all out war – innocent people dying everywhere. Since she is the Mockingjay, they don’t want the enemy to have easy access to Katniss, so they put her on a team that basically shoots videos about what is going on around them and they use these videos to interrupt the Capitol’s television feeds. Katniss requests the privilege of killing President Snow, so she and several others make their way to the President’s mansion. Unbeknownst to them, the Capitol has sent out soldiers looking for them in an attempt to kill them, thus ending the rebellion.

For me, this is where things hit a rough spot. I really did not like the way the author handled Katniss’ opportunity to kill President Snow (I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I won’t tell you what happens). I know that engaging books are supposed to have plot twists to keep the reader interested, but to me this was just plain stupid. The very end to me (again, I won’t tell you what happens) felt to “wrap things up with a pretty bow” for me. It was like Mrs. Collins just said “Yeah, I’m done with this series. Let’s get this over with.” and to me the last three or four chapters show this. Don’t get me wrong, I love the entire series but this was the weakest of the three books for me.

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Spark Takes A Much Needed Risk

August 14, 2012 Leave a comment
Spark by Jason Jaggard

Spark is a great read!

WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group sent me a complimentary copy of this book for my review.

I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church and we would frequently sing the hymn Pass It On – “It only takes a spark to get a fire going…” Little did I know the concept of “spark” would take on a whole new meaning in my later years. In his new book Spark, author Jason Jaggard defines a spark as “…a choice. A small risk. It’s a flash of light that brightens the everyday routine of your life. It’s a decision to move from inaction to action.” A spark is finding something that would make you, someone else, or the world as a whole a better place and actually doing that thing.

Jaggard’s organization Spark Good encourages people to form Spark Groups (a group of about 8-10 individuals who meet for five weeks encouraging each other to take a small risk each week) with their friends and family. The book talks about why we need to take risks and tells the stories of several individuals (including Jaggard himself) who took risks and how they bettered themselves and others as a result. It is definitely an easy read and I got a wealth of information from it. Here are a few takeaways that impacted me:

  • “Sometimes doing one imperfect but beautiful thing can lead you to more beautiful things later on if you are listening for God. Contrast that with doing nothing. Most of the time doing nothing leads to more nothing.”
  • “Sometimes God calls us to wait until He speaks. Other times He is waiting for us to act. And other times still, He won’t speak UNTIL we act. It’s in the acting that we hear Him speak. It’s when we move that we begin to see God more clearly.”
  • “When God moves and you stand still, God becomes blurry. Oftentimes the only way to see God clearly is to move along with Him.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with finding the next step to take in their life (after being unemployed, dealing with tragedy, or if you feel like you are in a rut). My only problem (and this is very minor) is the style of Jaggard’s writing – he writes a sentence or two then puts a space, then he’ll write another sentence then put another space, then write two more sentences and put a space…it’s not your “traditional” writing style and that kind of annoyed me. One of my friends described it as “writing down his thoughts.” This may or may not be a distraction for the reader (it was a distraction for me because I myself am a writer) but other than that it was a great read.

You can read the first chapter of Spark online. Watch the video for the book trailer below.

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Catching Fire Definitely Sparked My Attention

Catching Fire

Katniss Everdeen is the “girl on fire.”

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, picks up right where The Hunger Games left off with Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark as they take part in the Victor Tour of the Districts. While on the tour, Katniss discovers what appears to be an uprising in some of the districts and unbeknownst to her she is the cause of this rebellion. When she and Peeta eventually make it back home to District 12 they find that the Peacekeepers have taken over and have basically stripped everyone of their freedom and have threatened or even killed numerous citizens. Katniss feels horrible that all of this was caused by her actions so she makes a plan to escape while she is in the woods one day.

Through her trip in the woods, Katniss meets two runaway girls from District 8 who tell her of a secret District 13 that is a peaceful place where they hope their troubles will end. When she gets back from the woods, she discovers that the “Quarter Quell” (a special event that occurs every 25 years) takes place for the Hunger Games this year. Each “Quarter Quell” has a unique twist to it (ex. the year Haymitch Abernathy won they had twice as many participants) and this year is no different – the participants are selected from the surviving victors of past Hunger Games. Since Katniss is the only female surviving victor from District 12 she is forced to participate and Haymitch is selected as the male tribute, but Peeta volunteers in his place.

Peeta throws additional plot twists in the mix at the interview process with television host Caesar Flickerman (I won’t spoil the surprises). During the games Katniss and Peeta form an alliance with several previous victors including pretty boy, Finnick Odair and sarcastic cynic, Johanna Mason. Wiress, an older former victor helps the group discover something about the playing field they are able to use to their advantage. Another major plot twists happens at the end so their is never a dull moment from the first page to the end.

I really enjoyed Catching Fire as much as The Hunger Games. The movie version of the first book was a little disappointing, but here’s hoping that the sequel will be worth the wait – November 22, 2013 can’t get here soon enough!

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Don’t Quit Your Day Job…Yet!


Quit the right way!

In many circles, Jon Acuff is considered a rock star – he has his own blog, has written three books (including Gazelles, Baby Steps And 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt and Stuff Christians Like) and he speaks to millions of people a year. With all these accolades, one of the main titles Acuff talks about frequently is that of “serial quitter” (having had eight jobs in eight years). Quitter, tells the story of how Acuff went from working a job he could barely tolerate to finding and starting his dream job. With a self-deprecating sense of humor, the author tells of how he learned that you cannot truly quit your day job with out a great deal of preparation.

Some great takeaways I found in this book are:

  • Some times you need your day job to fund your dream job.
  • Test your dream job to see if it truly works before you quit your day job.
  • Find a support network who believes in your and your dream job.
  • Create an “opportunity filter” that shows what you would be willing to do or not do in order to achieve your dream job (ex. only travel only 2 weekends out of the month, no back to back trips, etc.)

Quitter is an easy read that I really enjoyed and I would highly recommend to anyone who is not happy at their current job. As someone who is currently unemployed, I also got a lot out of the book. One of my favorite quotes from the book was “Find your passion. Practice it. Then plan it.” – a lot of people think they have to plan everything first and then take action. More often than not, when you practice your passion the plan will appear in the process.

Photo Credit: By Better World Books

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