Thursday, September 15, 2016

Starting Over

Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets by Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson is the definitive manual for Christians looking to redeem their lives after regrets and mistakes, big and small. They identify what they call the Sorry Cycle and then show us how to get out of it. Starting Over is divided into four sections: Starting Over, Starting Today; Breaking Out Of The Sorry Cycle; Redeeming Your Deepest Regrets; and Starting Over Every Day. The book description reads:

"I wish I had loved more.
I wish I had been smarter about money.
I wish I had thought about God more.

We all have regrets about the past. Many of them come from our attempts to fulfill unmet longings. Dave and Jon Ferguson call this back and forth between longing and regret the Sorry Cycle and they want to help us escape it.
In Starting Over, Dave and Jon show us how to recognize specific regrets and then release them to God as we learn to see our regrets as opportunities to start over. Finally, we can see God redeem our regrets as he takes the worst things in our lives and uses them for a greater good.

Your regrets don t need to keep you from the joy God has for your life. As you apply the recognize-release-redeem process to your financial, relational, and personal regrets, you will find new freedom in living out your God-given dreams.
Fall in Love with Your Regrets
It sounds impossible. How can we learn to love our mistakes? Instead, we go over and over them in our mind. Could they ever bring us or anyone else good?

Drawing from scientific research and biblical truths, Jon and Dave Ferguson give us tools to redeem our mistakes in five key areas: relationships, health, purpose, finances, and spirituality. Along the way, they teach us lifelong skills for getting unstuck when regret threatens to trap us again. We also learn how to help others escape the Sorry Cycle and experience the Starting Over Loop.
It is possible to learn to love our regrets because through them we see God at work. We see that our weakness does not limit what God can do. Whatever regret is trapping you in the Sorry Cycle, God is big enough to redeem it. What could you do with a life beyond regret?""

I loved this book. Like many people, I have regrets in my life and can often get stuck in the cycle of thinking my life is ruined, I can never move past this, my mistake was too big to get over, etc. This book showed me not only that it's never too late to undo a mistake, turn around, and start over, and gave me a specific action plan to turn around. It also includes a worksheet to help you work through the process. I highly recommend this book to any Christian who needs a fresh start or is stuck in a cycle of regret.

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

5 Minutes with Jesus: A Fresh Infusion of Joy

I was excited to read the latest devotional book in Sheila Walsh's (with Sherri Gragg) 5 Minutes with Jesus collection. This latest edition is 5 Minutes with Jesus: A Fresh Infusion of Joy. I felt like this was the perfect book for me to read right now, because I am in serious need of some extra joy! This book is a small, beautifully designed and illustrated hardcover. The book includes a brief introduction and 50 5-minute devotions. Each devotion includes a story and application, a quote to distill the message of the day's devotion, and a "Five Minutes in the Word" section with a selection of Scriptures to read that apply to that day's thought. The book description reads:

"Could you use a joy infusion?

When was the last time you had a spontaneous laugh because your heart was absolutely overwhelmed with joy?

Whether you’re facing mundane routines or painful hardships, joy often feels out of reach. But those who know Jesus can live joyfully, no matter what—it’s a gift that can only come from God. Jesus engulfs His followers with great love so that He may fill them with His joy.

Bestselling author Sheila Walsh invites you to discover daily joy. Through funny and inspiring stories, powerful takeaways, and encouraging scriptures, Sheila shows that joy sometimes comes from gratitude, God’s beautiful creation, grace, or simply delighting in God’s goodness and love. And it always comes from spending time in Jesus’ presence. He brings life, restoration, and . . . joy!

The 5 Minutes with Jesus series is the perfect way to start your day with a joyful heart."

I'm really enjoying reading 5 Minutes with Jesus: A Fresh Infusion of Joy. The writing is so engaging, fresh, and encouraging. I feel uplifted after reading each selection and ready to start my day praising the Lord instead of complaining or feeling grumpy. I love the five minute format. As a super busy mom of four, I don't have a ton of time to focus at one time, especially in the mornings. Each devotion is easy to digest and read in five minutes while still being practical, deep, and thoughtful - definitely no fluff here! I recommend this devotional book to every Christian woman looking for an uplifting read.

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Outlaw Christian

I was attracted to Jacqueline A. Bussie's new book, Outlaw Christian: Finding Authentic Faith by Breaking the "Rules" first of all due to the super cool cover. I'm always a sucker for an attractive, bold cover. Once I read the description, I knew I'd want to read it for sure:

"Jacqueline Bussie knows that too many Christians live according to unspoken “laws” that govern the Christian life: #1: Never get angry at God; #2: Never doubt; #3: Never question; #4: Never tell your real story; #5: Always speak in clich├ęs about evil and suffering; and #6: Always believe hope comes easy for those who truly love God.

Living according to these rules is killing real Christian life; Outlaw Christian proposes a rebellious, life-giving, authentic alternative. Through captivating stories and with disarming honesty, Bussie gives concrete, practical strategies to help readers cultivate hope, seek joy, practice accompaniment, compost their pain, and rediscover the spiritual practice of lament. Tackling difficult questions without political divisiveness, Bussie speaks to both progressive and conservative Christians in ways that unite rather than divide. And in doing so, she provides a new way to handle the most difficult and troubling questions of life in a broken world that God will never abandon."

Jacqueline explores these six laws in six chapters: Tired of Dishonesty? Become an Outlaw Christian; Angry at the Almighty? Tell God the Truth; Doubting Your Faith? Learn to Lament; Sick of Hearing "God Has a Plan"? Surprise! God Is Too; Scared to Tell Your Real Story? Compost Your Pain; and Longing for Hope? Seven Ways to Find it. I think there's something for every Christian in this book - don't be scared off by the "Outlaw Christian" title. Jacqueline defines "outlaw Christian" as: a new, life-giving faith for those who ache for a more authentic relationship with God and other people by no longer having to hide their doubt, anger, grief, scars, or questions; an honest, outside-the-law faith for those seeking a hope that really speaks to the world's hurt. She writes in an extremely easy-to-read style. I felt like I was sitting down with a friend when I picked up this book. I especially enjoyed the "God has a plan" chapter and the "Scared to Tell Your Real Story" chapter. I do believe that God has a plan for every life - however, bad things happen to everyone and using tired cliches such as this really aren't helpful to Christians going through serious, life-changing trials. As for the "Scared to Tell Your Real Story", it's easy feel this way when you feel like you're surrounded by people who grew up in a Christian home, got saved and baptized when they were five years old, and never committed any "major" sins. But this book reminded me that everyone carries secrets, whether it's secrets about their past, secrets about trials they've gone through, secrets about family members, and more. This book gives us an important reminded that the most important thing in the Christian life is to be honest - with God, ourselves, and other Christians. I highly recommend this book to every Christian.

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

With All Due Respect

I was really interested in reading With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship With Your Teens & Tweens by Nina Roesner and Debbie Hitchcock because I have a just-turned 14 year old who has always been a difficult child and is now a difficult teenager. I have tried many different tactics, but I hadn't tried this one yet. The concept intrigued me and I liked the way it was broken up into a 40 day challenge. I love it when there's a clear cut plan laid out that I can follow step by step, broken down into specific actions. The book description reads:

"With All Due Respect is a handbook for parents navigating the difficulties of the tween and teen years. Roesner and Hitchcock help parents identify what successful relationships look like and give easy-to-follow lessons in enforcing rules, communicating lovingly, resetting relationships, overcoming fears and exhaustion, and handling rebellion. Each day features a story every mom can relate to, down-to-earth questions to think about, and a prayer to launch an action plan. As a result, the reader gains new skills and perspective, greater strength, and an ability to live out faith daily as never before. With All Due Respect is for all parents seeking not only to connect more deeply with and positively impact their teens and tweens, but also to grow more deeply in faith through the process."

One of my pet peeves about parenting books is that they're often written by people who haven't had a truly challenging child before, or who still just have babies. When I picked this book up, I wondered if the authors had ever dealt with a very difficult teenager, or if they had kids who already behaved great! I was super reassured to read the intro from Debbie. She has a LOT of experience with a difficult teenager - so much, in fact, that she had to put her in residential treatment in order to heal the family and get the child the help they needed. As soon as I read that, I was immediately reassured that this was going to be a powerful and impactful book. Each of the 40 chapters includes a Scripture passage, the dare, illustrations and stories, practical advice, "The Bottom Line" summing up the point of the chapter, a "What About You?" section with questions for journaling or reflection, and closes with a prayer to pray to help you with that day's dare. This is truly a wonderful and very needed book. I am starting the dare today, and hoping that in 40 days I will see a big change. I highly, highly recommend this to every parent with a teenager. I haven't yet read The Respect Dare (for women with regards to their marriage relationship), but I'll definitely be picking that up ASAP now that I've read With All Due Respect.

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

Friday, August 19, 2016

You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone: Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids by Dena Yohe is a much-needed book in this day and age. So many teenagers are self-harming, engaging in destructive behaviors, being bullied, and more. This book is unique in that it is written not as a how-to guide to fix your child, but as a book from one hurting parent to another, commiserating, sharing coping strategies, resources, and most importantly the knowledge that you are not alone in this struggle. The book description reads:

"“I can’t tell you how to keep your child from making mistakes. But I can equip you with facts, tools, and resources. I can show you that you can survive this nightmare. I can encourage you that one day—somehow—you can thrive again.”
—Dena Yohe, You Are Not Alone

You would go to the ends of the earth for your child. So, if your teenager or young adult is in the midst of crisis due to self-injury, mental illness, depression, bullying, or destructive choices, you probably feel broken, powerless, and isolated.

Dena Yohe wants you to know you are not alone. You are not a bad parent. And you are going to be okay.

Dena has been where you are. In You Are Not Alone, she speaks from experience as she offers healthy ways to maintain your other relationships, suggestions for responding to friends who don’t understand, and ideas for keeping up your emotional and spiritual well-being when your world feels as if it’s crashing down.

It is possible to find purpose in your pain, joy beyond your fear, and hope for every tomorrow.

Includes prayers, exercises, websites, and other helpful resources."

I don't have a child currently in this situation, but I do have a teenager who doesn't always make the best choices, and who I have some concerns about. I am a young mom and most of my friends my age have children who are much younger than mine and don't have teenagers yet. I often feel alone in my concerns of having a teenager showing some signs of rebellion and moms who haven't experienced having a teenager just have no idea what it's like and tend to have very unrealistic expectations of what it will be like and how they will handle it. So I was very excited to read this new book by Dena Yohe. I felt like someone finally understood what it's like to be the parent of a teenager who has some issues (and really, don't they all?). This is a small book, under 200 pages, and a very easy read. I sat down and read it in an afternoon because I just couldn't put it down. Dena writes in a knowledgeable, yet down to earth tone that reads like you're chatting with a good friend over a cup of coffee. I was encouraged by this book, and most of all, felt validated and most importantly, understood. Dena also includes many resources, prayers, and Scriptures to turn to. I highly recommend this book to any parent of a teenager, even if they're not necessarily in a specific crisis yet. I can't say enough good things about You Are Not Alone!

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Different Kind Of Happiness

The subject of happiness is a really hot topic in Christian circles right now. I've recently read several Christian books on happiness and they each bring a different perspective to biblical happiness. I was really intrigued by the description I read for A Different Kind Of Happiness: Discovering The Joy That Comes From Sacrificial Love by Dr. Larry Crabb and couldn't wait to read it. The description, which reads:

"How to Love When You Don't Feel Like Loving

Everywhere we look, we see evidence that love is in short supply. Terrorists and political corruption, school shootings and troubled marriages, impatient online sniping and character assassination--all point to the fact that we do not know how to love one another as Jesus commanded and modeled. We put our own interests and happiness first, despite the fact that the greatest happiness comes through sacrificial love.

In this book, Dr. Larry Crabb shows readers how to understand the deep and perfect love we are shown by our Creator and Redeemer, and how to pour that love into other people. This love is about more than being nice and serving others. It's about relating to others in such a way that they feel heard, seen, and valued. This love sacrifices and suffers and keeps loving, even when doing so is costly. This kind of love, says Crabb, is the kind worth fighting for in all of our relationships, and A Different Kind of Happiness shows how to make it a reality."

hits on many major contemporary issues: terrorists, politics, school shootings, divorce, cyberbullying - it touches on all the current hot button topics. However, I felt like the description was a bit misleading. The (lengthy) introduction was really promising. I was very interesting and Dr. Crabb's introduction to the book was very engaging and promising. However, I felt like after the first few chapters the book kind of fell apart. I was expecting more of a concisely written how-to/self-help book. Rather, A Different Kind Of Happiness was more of a contemplative book, asking lots of questions and leaving you with much to ponder. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, just not exactly what I was expecting. I had an extremely difficult time getting through this book and I couldn't put my finger on exactly why. I think it was because it was so densely written. Often, I had to go back and read a page or paragraph several times in order to digest it. I usually read books very quickly, but this was a different kind of book. I recommend this book for every Christian who is looking to deeply ponder happiness and joy from the Christian viewpoint.

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

Jesus Talked To Me Today

Jesus Talked to me Today: True Stories of Children's Encounters with Angels, Miracles, and God is a compilation of 41 short (2-4 page) stories. Based on the title, I was expecting the stories to be more by children, but they were all written by adults recalling memories they had from childhood or when they were teenagers, or stories related to them by other children. Some of the stories were very unclear as to who the story happened to or how the author knew about it, so that was a bit confusing. The book is written in a Chicken Soup For The Soul style, so if you like that series you will probably enjoy this book. The book description reads:

"A Heartwarming Story Collection of Children's Encounters with God, Angels, and Miracles

Children have a special place in Jesus' heart. He said they are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and their angels continually see the face of God. Perhaps that's why children seem to be more receptive to supernatural experiences than adults.

This new collection reveals how God works in the lives of these precious little ones. It contains the touching true stories of children who have heard Jesus speak, encountered angels, and experienced miracles. We could all use more childlike faith, and these stories "from the mouths of babes" will encourage readers to be open to hear from the Lord in a fresh, sweet, and pure way."

While this book wasn't quite what I expected, it was a cute little book. I enjoyed most of the stories. The stories are short and easy to digest, so it was easy to pick the book up and read one or two stories and then put it back down and save it for later. This book might be a good resource for pastors, Sunday School teachers, and other people in the ministry to use as illustrations and examples in sermons and lessons. Some of the stories were a bit dubious, but others were quite touching. I recommend this book especially to people who enjoy the Chicken Soup For The Soul series and ministry leaders.

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