Friday, May 27, 2016

The Daniel Prayer

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, has written a definitive book on prayer and revival - The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven And Changes Nations. I think most Christians today would agree that America is in great, great need of prayer and revival. But while that is a desperate need, this book is also a call for revival in our own personal prayer lives. I've been feeling a lack of power, fire, and zeal in my prayer life lately, so I was eager to read this book for a refresher on passionate prayer. The book description reads:

"Many people today find that their prayers don’t “work.” And like a broken cell phone, DVD player, or TV remote, they throw prayer out as unnecessary “clutter” in their busy lives. Anne Graham Lotz has found that while prayer does work, sometimes the “pray-ers” don’t. So she has turned to the prophet Daniel for help.

The Daniel Prayer is born deep within your soul, erupts through your heart, and pours out on your lips, words created by and infused with the Spirit of God quivering with spiritual electricity. It’s really not an everyday type of prayer. It’s a prayer birthed under pressure. Heartache. Grief. Desperation. It can be triggered by a sudden revelation of hope. An answer to prayer, a promise freshly received, a miracle that lies just over the horizon…

Join Anne in a thrilling discovery of prayer that really works.

This book will help readers pray effectively for their nation, for their families, and for themselves. She will answer such questions as:

Does God only hear the prayers of good people?
How do I know the God to whom I pray will listen?
How do I know God cares about my prayer?
How do I know God will answer my prayer?
Why should I pray?
Does it matter where I am when I pray?
Are words in prayer all that matter, or does my attitude affect prayer?
What difference does my prayer make?
The book also includes some of her original prayers that demonstrate the principles taught in The Daniel Prayer."

This is the first book I've ever read by Anne Graham Lotz (surprisingly, because I read a TON of books and I like Billy Graham), but I wasn't disappointed. Anne has a way of communicating truths that is compelling, fresh, and easy to read. There are also lined pages in the back for writing down your own prayers, which is a nice touch. I believe that a lack of focus on passionate, powerful prayer is one of the main problems or ills with the church today. Like Anne communicates in this book, we have the power of the Almighty Father at our fingertips, but we have to tap into it to receive the blessings and answers to our prayers. I enjoyed the theme of the life of Daniel. He's the perfect example of a trusting, faithful prayer life and Anne does a great job bringing him to life and culling important principles from his story. I highly recommend this book to any Christian looking to seriously pray - for themselves, for others, for our nation - and I hope this book brings on the beginning of a new prayer revolution.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Sleep Revolution

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time is Arianna Huffington's latest book. In it, she tackles a subject that I'm extremely interested in: sleep. The importance of it, why we're not getting enough of it, and how we can fix it. I've become very interested in the subject of sleep lately because I am trying to radically restructure my sleep schedule and make proper sleep a major priority in my life. I've noticed a big sleep deficit in my life over the past few years, and I'm trying to get it under control and fix my sleep patterns. So I knew I'd want to read this book right away as soon as I saw it. The book description reads:

"We are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis, writes Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post. And this has profound consequences – on our health, our job performance, our relationships and our happiness. What is needed, she boldly asserts, is nothing short of a sleep revolution. Only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives.

In her bestseller Thrive, Arianna wrote about our need to redefine success through well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. Her discussion of the importance of sleep as a gateway to this more fulfilling way of living struck such a powerful chord that she realized the mystery and transformative power of sleep called for a fuller investigation.

The result is a sweeping, scientifically rigorous, and deeply personal exploration of sleep from all angles, from the history of sleep, to the role of dreams in our lives, to the consequences of sleep deprivation, and the new golden age of sleep science that is revealing the vital role sleep plays in our every waking moment and every aspect of our health – from weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease to cancer and Alzheimer’s.

In The Sleep Revolution, Arianna shows how our cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted compromises our health and our decision-making and undermines our work lives, our personal lives -- and even our sex lives. She explores all the latest science on what exactly is going on while we sleep and dream. She takes on the dangerous sleeping pill industry, and all the ways our addiction to technology disrupts our sleep. She also offers a range of recommendations and tips from leading scientists on how we can get better and more restorative sleep, and harness its incredible power.

In today's fast-paced, always-connected, perpetually-harried and sleep-deprived world, our need for a good night’s sleep is more important – and elusive -- than ever. The Sleep Revolution both sounds the alarm on our worldwide sleep crisis and provides a detailed road map to the great sleep awakening that can help transform our lives, our communities, and our world."

The Sleep Revolution is divided into two parts. Part One: Wake-Up Call is a manifesto about sleep: topics include our current sleep crisis, the sleep industry, the history of sleep, the science behind sleep, sleep disorders, and dreams. Arianna has extensively researched and culled all the best information about sleep and presented it here. It was extremely (and surprisingly) interesting to learn about sleep. I had trouble putting the book down and was able to read it in just an afternoon. Part Two: The Way Forward is an action plan for the sleep revolution. Topics here include mastering sleep, sleeping together, dos and don'ts, napping, jet lag, work, and more. Arianna brings all the research she's found and puts it into practical applications. This is the meat of the book and what will help you change your life. There are also several appendices, including a sleep-quality questionnaire, meditations to help you fall asleep, and information about practical things such as mattresses, pillows, etc. I'm super excited to use the suggestions in this book and take back my sleep and my life. I highly recommend this book to everyone - we need to put emphasis back on our health rather than working ourselves to death.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

With My Eyes Wide Open

I was super excited to read Brian "Head" Welch's new book, With My Eyes Wide Open:Miracles & Mistakes On My Way Back To KoRn. I haven't read his first book, Save Me From Myself, yet, even though it's been on my "TBR" list since it first came out. I'll definitely be buying it and reading it ASAP now after reading With My Eyes Wide Open. This book picks up where his first memoir left off, and details how and why he came back to KoRn and what he's been doing since he left. The book description reads:

"He left KoRn to help himself. He went back to help others. And along the way, he nearly lost everything.

A life-changing spiritual awakening freed Brian “Head” Welch from a stranglehold of drugs and alcohol and prompted him to leave the highly successful nu-metal band KoRn in 2005. What followed was a decade-long trial by fire, from the perils of fathering a teen lost in depression and self-mutilation to the harsh realities of playing solo and surviving the shattering betrayal of a trusted friend. In this intensely inspiring redemption saga, perhaps most inspiring is Brian’s radical decision to rejoin KoRn and reconcile with the tribe of people he once considered family in the metal music scene.

Brian returned to his musical roots with a clear head and a devoted heart. Though his story is wild, hilarious, and deeply poignant, the message is simple: God will love you into the freedom of being yourself, as long as you keep the relationship going and never, ever quit."

I was never a HUGE fan of KoRn, but I did listen to them quite a bit back in the day. Being a teenager in the late 90s, I love 90s music, and KoRn is a huge part of the 90s music scene. Plus, we were born in the same city (Torrance), so that's pretty cool. My husband has always been a huge KoRn fan, though, so I was especially interested to read this book. My husband and I became Christians in our early 20s after living a pretty rough lifestyle in our teens, so I could really relate to the struggles Head's gone through and come out of. I absolutely love the obvious Hand of God's divine grace and mercy on his life. And as a now-32-year-old struggling to deal with a 13 year old son, his transparency and honesty about the struggles he's gone through with his teenage daughter were so helpful for me to read. I got so much from this book and I'm so glad I read it. Head is in a unique position to reach the now-adults who grew up in the 90s listening to his music as well as the young fans he still has today. I appreciate so much that he is reaching out to this audience instead of just turning his back on it all. I highly, highly recommend this book to any Christian - fan of KoRn or not. This book would be especially helpful to those struggling with addictions or who had lived a rough lifestyle before coming to know Christ. This is also a great book to gift to anyone you know who is struggling and doesn't know Christ yet - this book is a wonderful outreach tool as well. Get this book and read it!

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Alliance

After reading The Outcast and The Midwife (two of the best fiction books I've ever read in my life), I've been eagerly awaiting and counting down the days until Jolina Petersheim's third book, The Alliance, was released. This book is a bit of her departure from her first two books. It's the first in a dystopian series. The setup of an EMP is reminiscent of Terri Blackstock's Restoration series, which I love. The cover of The Alliance is beautiful, like all of Petersheim's book covers, but the style of the cover has changed from the first two books. What hasn't changed, though, is Jolina's artful storytelling and her ability to write extremely realistic and non-formulaic Mennonite/Amish stories. The book description reads:

""[An] astute meditation on the intersection between belief systems and the politics of aggression." ~Publishers Weekly

When Leora Ebersole sees the small plane crash in her Old Order Mennonite community, she has no idea it's a foreshadowing of things to come. Soon after the young pilot, Moses Hughes, regains consciousness, they realize his instruments were destroyed by the same power outage that killed the electricity at the community store, where Englischers are stranded with dead cell phones and cars that won't start.

Moses offers a sobering theory, but no one can know how drastically life is about to change. With the only self-sustaining food supply in the region, the Pacifist community is forced to forge an alliance with the handful of stranded Englischers in an effort to protect not only the food but their very lives.

In the weeks that follow, Leora, Moses, and the community will be tested as never before, requiring them to make decisions they never thought possible. Whom will they help and whom will they turn away? When the community receives news of a new threat, everyone must decide how far they're willing to go to protect their beliefs and way of life."

Although I did love this book, I'm bumping it down one star for a simple reason: it took me several chapters to really get into this book. Once I got into it, I really enjoyed and and had trouble putting it down, but it started a little slow for me. I think the reason it started slow for me was the odd characters - I had trouble relating to them. We have Leora, a Mennonite girl who's running her own household after the disappearance of her father and the death of her mother. She has poor vision and wears thick glasses. She cares for her elderly grandmother, who's legally blind; her 16 year old mentally disabled sister; and her 13 year old brother. The other main character is Moses, and Englischer who was piloting a plane over Leora's Amish community when the EMP struck. Jolina's previous books have caught me from the very first sentence and refused to let me go, so I was slightly disappointed that this one took me a few chapters to get into. I also felt like the book, which was 354 pages, was padded out a bit by using a huge font and making a separate page dividing each chapter. However, all of that being said, this is a great book. I appreciated the exciting, original storyline, and I'm looking forward to The Divide, the next book in this series, coming out in Spring 2017 (such a long wait!). I continue to love Jolina's writing and can't wait to see what's coming next for the characters we meet in The Alliance.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Colors of Goodbye

Colors of Goodbye: A Memoir of Holding On, Letting Go, and Reclaiming Joy in the Wake of Loss is September Vaudrey's first book. I've been on a bit of a memoir kick lately in my reading, and I've always enjoyed a gripping true story. I wasn't sure how much I'd be able to relate to this book, considering that I've never lost a child in this way and my kids are much younger than September's. However, it sounded so interesting that I decided to pick it up anyway. When I first picked up this book, I was struck by how absolutely gorgeous it was. The cover is a rough draft of Katie's last painting, and her art, plus lots of photographs, are spread throughout the book. There's a photo section as well as a section explaining and talking about Katie's art pieces that were chosen from this book. There's also a selection of grief and loss books that September especially likes and recommends. The book description reads:

"What happens after the worst happens?
Before May 31, 2008, September Vaudrey’s life was beautiful. But on that day, with one phone call from the ER, her whole world―everything she knew and believed―was shaken to the core. Katie, her 19-year-old artist daughter, had been in a car accident and would not survive. How does a family live in the wake of devastating tragedy? When darkness colors every moment, is it possible to find light? Can God still be good, even after goodbye?

With the depth of C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed and the poignancy of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, Colors of Goodbye offers a moving glimpse into a mother’s heart. Combining literary narrative and raw reflection, September Vaudrey walks through one of life’s worst losses―the death of a child―and slowly becomes open to watching for the unexpected ways God carries her through it. It’s a story of love and tragedy in tandem; a deeply personal memoir from a life forever changed by one empty place. And at its core, Colors of Goodbye calls to the deepest part of our spirits to know that death is not the end . . . and that life can be beautiful still."

This is truly one of the best books I've ever read. Be sure to clear your schedule before you pick it up, because you won't put it down once you start. At times it was difficult for me to read due to how sad it was, and I teared up at various points throughout the book. However, there is so much hope and love and life in this book as well. I loved learning how September, Scott, and all the kids grieved in very different ways, yet learned how to respect each other's styles of grief. There were funny moments in the book too; September never lets the story get too heavy to bear. I loved her openness and honesty even in the difficult areas. Even if you've never suffered a loss such as this, there is so much you can learn from Colors of Goodbye. And speaking of colors, the way the story was broken up into sections by color was amazing. I thought it was not just original, but extremely fitting that the stages of grief were painted different colors. It fit together perfectly with the story and who Katie was. I found myself reluctantly turning the last page because I wasn't ready to stop reading about the Vaudrey family. Highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Longing In Me

The Longing In Me:How Everything You Crave Leads to the Heart of God is Sheila Walsh's latest book. I'd previously read her book Loved Back To Life and enjoyed it, so I was excited to read The Longing In Me. I also felt like the title spoke to me: I often feel an indeterminate longing inside for different things. I can also relate to craving things that don't truly satisfy you. Ultimately, only God can satisfy all of our longings and cravings, and this is what Sheila imparts in this book. It's based on the story and life of King David, and you can purchase a companion study guide for a deeper study. The book description reads:

"Do your desires have you going around in circles? You may be looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places.

You vowed you’d never repeat the same mistakes—yet you find yourself right where you started. What is it that keeps drawing you back into the same old traps? The fact is, your longings are built from the blueprint of your needs: for protection, for love, for God. And those needs aren’t going anywhere.

Sheila speaks candidly about the trials in her life, including the heartache of her first marriage, and intertwines her story with the biblical saga of King David. As both Sheila’s and David’s stories make clear, some cravings are misguided, but they all stem from the same hunger—and they will haunt you until that hunger gets satisfied properly.

If you keep reaching out to the wrong people at the wrong times in your own life, The Longing in Me will help you understand that your cravings are not the problem. It’s where they lead you that makes all the difference."

I love how open and honest Sheila is in all of her writing. I appreciate authors who are transparent and don't hide or sugarcoat their own struggles or the trials they've been through in their lives. I think there's a great benefit to being open and honest about ourselves and our lives, flaws and all. Sheila never takes a holier-than-thou tone, but is gentle and introspective. She guides the reader through profound truths and weaves her story in throughout the book, along with the story of the life of King David. I highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with longing or cravings that are separating you from God. This is a great study to add to your collection.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Night Driving

After reading Addie Zierman's first book, When We Were On Fire, I knew I'd want to read her follow up. Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark is the story of a journey: Addie's physical journey on her road trip, and her spiritual journey finding her way back to faith. While I have some issues with the conclusions she draws in both her first book and this one, no one can deny that Zierman has a magical quality to her writing - once you pick up one of her books, you won't put it down until you're done. It seems like it's almost a trend lately to write edgy memoirs about how horrible it was to grow up in an Evangelical Christian home in the 80s/90s (while I'm rolling my eyes and wishing I was lucky enough to grow up in a Christian home, but I digress), but Addie does write an interesting and insightful story. The book description reads:

"In the emotionally-charged, fire-filled faith in which Addie Zierman grew up, the answer to this question was simple: Because you’ve FELT him.

Now, at age 30, she feels nothing. Just the darkness pressing in. Just the winter cold. Just a buzzing silence where God’s voice used to be.

So she loads her two small children into the minivan one February afternoon and heads south in one last-ditch effort to find the Light.

In her second memoir, Night Driving, Addie Zierman powerfully explores the gap between our sunny, faith fictions and a God who often seems hidden and silent.

Against the backdrop of rushing Interstates, strangers’ hospitality, gas station coffee, and screaming children, Addie stumbles toward a faith that makes room for doubt, disappointment, and darkness…and learns that sometimes you have to run away to find your way home."

First off, I absolutely loved the cover of this book. It's so powerful and perfect for the story. It made me want to pick it up right away. This is a short little book, and I basically read it in one sitting. I love how Addie intersperses spiritual introspection and struggles with the mundane tasks of being a wife and mom and going on a road trip. I could relate to some of what Addie expresses and feels in this book, and I felt like I was almost cheering her on by the end of the book as it drew to a close. I have to admit that I do tend to find her a bit filled with self-pity and that she tends to over exaggerate how "horrible" her circumstances are and how desperate she is to run away, but I feel like she overcomes this a bit by the end. I recommend this to anyone who has struggled with a faith crisis or enjoys reading memoirs.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.