Tag Archives: Christian nonfiction

A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

Deep and Wide {Book Review – A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker}

A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith by Brandon Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

As a host and guest judge for HGTV and DIY Network (My Big Family Renovation, Brother v.s. Brother, Tiny House Arrest), Brandon Hatmaker understands what it takes to rehab a home. But after twenty-plus years of working with the local church (and as husband to bestselling author Jen Hatmaker), he has an even greater understanding of what it takes to rehab an everyday faith. In A Mile Wide, he helps readers see more clearly how the gospel works in us and eventually through us to transform an anemic spiritual life into a deeper, fuller, and more effective faith.

Offering fresh perspective on eight essentials of Christianity—the gospel, identity, scripture, discipleship, kingdom, mission, community, and justice—Hatmaker provides biblical insight and practical applications that tap into the richer life Christ promised his people, individually and as a community. God wants more than simply to save us; he’s also determined to transform us, restore us, and use us to reveal the coming of his kingdom right here, right now.

My thoughts:

It took me a long time to read this book. And I think I needed to take it slow.

I have so many notes and parts marked to go back and read and consider and discuss. And also? To do something about.

One of the author’s main intentions in this book is that our faith is to be lived out daily and in all areas of our lives. Not just within the church family. Not just within our town. Not just in monetary donations abroad. But in all aspects.

I marked over 50 quotes (my norm might be 10-12). I have pondered what’s in this book, shared it with others, and more.

The author approaches this material with a straightforward yet conversational tone. He uses anecdotes from own experiences as a pastor, a father, a community member, and more to show his own lessons learned (without ever being condescending or judgmental). He also uses biblical stories to exemplify gospel in action, especially focusing on how Jesus was and is the prime example of mercy translated into action (p. 164), with closer looks at a few select verses.

Written mainly to those who are already believers, the book is split into two main sections (“The Gospel in Us” and “The Gospel Through Us”) and nine chapters that expand on the previous discussion. Each chapter ends with discussion questions that would be best used with a partner or group, as this book definitely warrants discussion and implementation.

I highly recommend reading this book after reading Love Does by Bob Goff (my review of that amazing book here) for a fantastic look at loving and faith through action (with the foundation on why and mercy and love received from God) and in our daily lives. I also recommend it for any leaders within faith communities, as many discussions are on mobilizing folks in genuine and welcoming ways.

What’s one of your favorite books that affecting how you live your faith daily?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook bloggers program. All opinions expressed are my own, and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood by Sarah Humphrey (Abingdon Press, 2016)

A Coloring Devotional (Book Review – 40 Days to Joyful Motherhood)

It seems much of what I’m reading and reviewing lately has to do with living the creative life and self-care to take care of what God’s given us to subsequently be able to pour out to others.

This book continues the trend.

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood by Sarah Humphrey (Abingdon Press, 2016)

40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood: Devotions and Coloring Book to Nourish Mom by Sarah Humphrey (Abingdon Press, 2016)

From the publisher:

Nourishment for a mother’s soul through 40 days of devotion and . . . doodling!

Wouldn’t it be marvelous if mothering came with a concrete set of instructions—an easy recipe we could follow? Instead, motherhood challenges women to find their faith, their true selves, and their family through daily doses of trial and error. It is a brilliant and healing time of life that is full of joy, pain, and beauty with a small side of crisis (and humor). What mothers do not know, they learn. And through this lifelong process of learning, they nurture and care for the most precious gifts on earth: children. In a modern society where moms often have a full and busy plate, these 10 minute daily devotions focus on six key topics of motherhood:

-Self-acceptance
-Self-care
-Reconciling with grief, hope and expectations
-Generosity
-Presence
-Forgiveness

In addition to the devotions, these beautiful pages are adorned with handmade illustrations to help you refresh from long days or even occasional sleepless nights. So, grab your colors and a little quiet time for yourself while doodling at the kitchen table. You will be grateful you did!

My Thoughts:

I love the concept of a doodling/coloring book combined with a devotional for moms. This book meets my expectations in some ways. Each devotion begins with a Scripture, followed by a 2-5 paragraph anecdote or reflection, and then wrapped up with a short prayer. The devotions sit on one side of the page, and the doodle to color waits on the opposite side. A two-page reflection offers breaks between every five devotions plus doodles that continue a topic (like identity in motherhood, self-care, peace, etc.) throughout the week.

The devotions are short enough for a 5-10 minute study period, which is very approachable for busy moms. The doodles are varied and fun to color alone or with your children. Some doodles incorporate Scripture related to that day’s devotion, some a repeating design, and some leave room for your own doodling or hand-lettering.

The devotions encourage reflection, yet never go deep, which left me sometimes wanting more depth. Self-care is a repetitive topic, which is important and needs repeated renewal, but also limited the scope of the devotions. I found many of the devotions to be much better suited for brand-new moms or moms of very young kids, so much so that I feel this particular book might better serve its readers by being marketed as towards new moms. That said, I particularly enjoyed the devotions in the seventh week that also featured memorizing Psalm 23 over the course of the week.

For more about this book, its author, and to read more reviews, please visit the Litfuse page for this book.

sample page of doodle coloring devotional

What are your favorite ways to relax in the Word?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book via Litfuse. This is an honest review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Life Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart

Living a Creative Life {Book Review – Life Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart)

Life Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart

About the book (from the publisher):

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart (Kregel Publications, 2016)

What was God thinking when He created you creative and then gave you children?

Creative moms often feel as though they must lay their passions down. But God had something special in mind for the creative woman during this intense season of mothering.
In this Pinterest age of handcrafted children’s parties, Instagram photos of beautifully decorated homes, and blogs filled with poetry and prose, it is clear that we are in the midst of a brand new artistic renaissance. Not one born in Italian cathedrals or Harlem jazz clubs, but rather in kitchens, nurseries, and living rooms around the world. Mothers, working in the cracks and crevices of each hectic day, are adorning the world with their gifts, and they’re showing all of us the beauty of this Life Creative.

In this book, you’ll learn:
—Why the world needs your art
—How this Life Creative begins at home
—When art can turn a profit
—Your part in this modern day Renaissance

Life Creative paints the stories of moms, just like you, who are fitting their inspired lives into the everyday, ordinary places of motherhood. Women like home decorator Melissa Michaels and jewelry designer Lisa Leonard, author Angie Smith, recording artist Ellie Holcomb, and many more.

My thoughts:

This book begins with a solid case supporting how God is the first Creator, and He created each of us to create in unique ways, too. The authors continually reiterate that every mother is a creative in her own God-given way, be it writing, crafting, baking, leading, etc. Each chapter contains personal anecdotes as well as stories of other mom creatives, and the chapters progress from acknowledging our creative nature to balancing momhood and creative work and even to what happens if that gift eventually supports your family financially. The authors are very conversational in tone and ready to affirm and encourage every reader.

I enjoyed most of what I read, though I actually found myself not fully agreeing with some of the statements and sentiments the authors share. For example, many of the ideas and suggestions seem to suggest that the mother reading will have a disposable income (to be able to drop kids off at daycare, for example) or time when kids are in public school. This, of course, isn’t the case for all families, so this may feel alienating for some readers. (But the authors do share many examples and often say it’ll look different for different moms.)

Another example, on page 32, they say: “And I’m not saying I don’t want them. I simply want me, too.” And (I think) I see what they’re saying here. We are all our individual selves before we become moms. But, I think I view it a touch differently. The change also becomes part of me. I will never not be a mom now, no matter what the future holds. And “mom” (along with “wife”) are my most favorite titles. I can’t separate being a mom from any of the rest of me now. I am Mom. But I am also a creative. I am also a writer. I am also a wonderer. These things are all as much a part of me as before. So “me” is still here while I am “Mom” because they aren’t exclusive of each other. But, just as I can’t ignore the Mom part, I also can’t ignore the creative part. It’s all part of who I am. I don’t want to separate any of those parts (though that doesn’t mean I don’t need a break from one or another part at times!); I want to grow into these parts together more fully. This does mean life looks different than pre-kids and will continue to look different as we all grow. (And I totally agree with the messy part!)

This said, every time I found a statement I possibly disagreed with, I had these kinds of reflective questions and conversations in my head. And, to me, that’s a sign of time well spent. This book allowed me to reflect on me and what that means as I try to live my life as God created me.

This book weaves creative life with living for God, a creative Himself. The stories shared about other creative moms (many whom are well-known in the Christian blogging world) are certainly inspiring. The tone of this book is graceful and welcoming. I imagine it will encourage and inspire most of its readers, as the subtitle suggests.

What encourages you as a mom to embrace your creative traits?

For more about this book and its authors, please visit the Litfuse page on this book. And enter the giveaway via clicking here or the image below! (Giveaway open through October 27th.)

Speake1

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book via Litfuse. This is an honest review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Everything is Possible by Jen Bricker with Sheryl Berk (Baker Books, 2016)

Book Review – Everything is Possible by Jen Bricker {plus giveaway!}

Everything is Possible by Jen Bricker with Sheryl Berk (Baker Books, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

Everything is Possible: Finding the Faith and Courage to Follow Your Dreams by Jen Bricker with Sheryl Berk (Baker Books, 2016)

Jen Bricker was born without legs. Shocked and uncertain they could care for her, her biological parents gave her up for adoption. In her loving adoptive home, there was just one simple rule: “Never say ‘can’t.'” And pretty soon, there was nothing this small but mighty powerhouse set her sights on that she couldn’t conquer: roller-skating, volleyball, power tumbling, and spinning from silk ribbons thirty feet in the air.

Everything Is Possible is her incredible story–a story of God working out his plan for her life from before day one. Readers follow Jen from the challenges of growing up different to holding captive audiences numbering in the tens of thousands. Everything Is Possible shows readers what they can accomplish when they remove the words coincidence and limitation from their vocabulary. Filled with heart and spirit, as well as Jen’s wit, wisdom, and no-holds-barred honesty, this inspiring true story points the way to purpose and joy. Foreword by Nick Vujicic.

My thoughts:

This book will encourage its readers. As a mother of a child with multiple special needs, I was particularly interested in reading it.

Each chapter includes the author describing something about herself or recalling an aspect of her life or an obstacle she overcome. Within each chapter, she features a brief note from someone important in her life who offers another perspective on Jen’s personality. The chapters wrap up with a summary of the message the author hopes to convey to the reader.

The writing is simple, which makes it a fast, easy read. Quite a few cliches make appearances (like “cool as a cucumber” or “Energizer bunny”) and, though this is a memoir, the writing tone sometimes seems a touch too self-praising, particularly in the early chapters. But, I think the intention is more to let Jen’s energy and positive outlook bust through each page rather than be bragging. This book isn’t meant to offer deep theological truths, but instead to share a story that might boost others.

“…the little choices we make–the small, the mundane, the minuscule ones–make the big ones possible.” – p. 170

Her story shines of courage and perseverance, and she attests to the power positive attitude and growing faith has in everyone’s life, especially in the special needs world.

Book Giveaway!

I have one copy of Everything is Possible to give away to one of you! Fill out the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of Jen Bricker’s book. (US residents only; sorry!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms of giveaway: This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end at the end of the day (Eastern) October 2, 2016. All entrants must be 18 years old or older. Enter through the Rafflecopter widget above. Incomplete entries will be deleted. Once a winner is selected, I will contact them via email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, I will select another winner.

What is one of your favorite verses to lean on during struggles?

Want to try new books each month? Check out Book of the Month club:

Book of the Month

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family! For Book of the Month, if you click my referral link and join, I receive a small bonus.

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

Book Review – Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup

Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul by Ruth Soukup (Zondervan, 2016)

STUFF. It’s everywhere. Lurking in corners and closets, spilling onto counters and coffee tables, creating havoc everywhere we look. And it’s not just the physical clutter that weighs us down. Oh no, it is the stress of overbooked schedules, and the weight of life that sometimes feels oppressive and totally out of whack.

New York Times bestselling author Ruth Soukup feels your pain–she has been there too. Through personal stories, Biblical truth, and practical action plans, she will inspire and empower each of us to finally declutter not just our home, but our mind and soul as well. Unstuffed is real, honest, and gets right down to the question we are all facing–how can we take back our lives from the stuff that is weighing us down?

In this book, together we will:
• Create a comprehensive vision for our homes, and make instant changes to improve its overall function.
• Discover that more closet space is not the solution, and instead learn how to set strict limits for the stuff we bring in.
• Overcome the frustration of dealing with our kids’ influx of stuff and implement practical solutions for keeping the chaos at bay.
• Recognize the pitfalls of an overstuffed schedule BEFORE it gets out of hand, and instead learn to combat the culture of busy that keeps us running from one thing to the next.
• Finally conquer that mountain of paperwork that threatens to tumble down around us at any moment.
• Let go of the guilt that gets attached to gifts and instead learn to separate our loved ones from their stuff.
• Begin to cultivate our real friendships while eliminating the toxic relationships that weigh us down.

My thoughts:

The author blends practical with inspirational in a fairly well-rounded (for the intended audience) book in Unstuffed.

When picking up this book, it’s important to realize from the start that the book will not focus solely on decluttering physical possessions. Thankfully, the subtitle conveys this right away: “Decluttering your home, mind, and soul.” The book is organized into three main sections (Home, Mind, and Soul), with three chapters in each section tackling different components, like living areas, storage, kids, schedule, paperwork, gifts, and soul aspects of living (friends, wellness, and spiritual). The author uses both personal anecdotes along with practical step-by-step lists to offer what she’s learned and researched about decluttering our lives – physically and mentally. She incorporates a few faith-based statements throughout, but especially focuses on spiritual ‘decluttering’ and focus in the very last chapter.

A few aspects to consider: This book will be most helpful to its intended audience, which is first world, middle class with an overabundance of material stuff and crowded schedules. If outside of that group, this book will either be not useful, or possibly frustrating. However, considered within the intended audience, she begins with the physical stuff because many readers feel like that can help them gain some sanity if they’re in a position many middle class Americans are with too much all around.

The practical tips begin right away (on page 17), and her ideas will likely help much of her intended audience. If readers have researched decluttering techniques at all, many of her tips will have been heard or read before, but can still serve as good reminders. Perhaps more helpful is how she includes examples of applying those tips before or after each such numbered list of tips. The second section of the book is perhaps more useful because it deals with the why of decluttering (and why we get so cluttered in the first place), which allows readers to reflect and look at ways to change (and ways to accept grace). I particularly appreciated her thoughts on balance.

"We want to believe we can create balance. But balance comes from rest." - Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup

There is also a DVD study available to accompany this book, as well as an app and website with access to many of the resources discussed in the book.

What books or articles have helped you refocus on what matters?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.