Tag Archives: Christian nonfiction

Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller (Zondervan, 2016)

Book Review – Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller

Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller (Zondervan, 2016)

About the Book (from the publisher):

Swimming with Faith: The Missy Franklin Story by Natalie Davis Miller (Zondervan/Zonderkidz, 2016)

Missy Franklin is one of the most talented swimmers in the world. She is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and currently holds the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and American records in both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke. She was Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year and the American Swimmer of the Year in 2012. This story tells of her rise in fame and humbleness in the sport.

My Thoughts:

My kids and I enjoy watching the Olympics and marveling at what our bodies can do with training, dedication, and respect for what God gifted us. With the Summer Olympics coming up, this seemed like an opportune time to read about one of the US’s Olympics athletes, swimmer Missy Franklin.

You can read this book to learn much more, obviously, but Missy grew to love swimming from a young age and began swimming competitively at age 5. With natural aptitude shining early on, a desire to improve, and extremely supportive parents, she competed in her first Olympics in 2012 at age 17. She’ll be returning to the 2016 Olympics this year.

Geared towards perhaps around third grade reading level and up, this book presents information about Missy’s childhood and training in a fact-focused way. The book offers highlights of her swimming career, side notes about how her faith spurs her journey, and excerpts via other media interviews of quotes from Missy, her parents, and coaches. The matter-of-fact approach and short chapters make this a quick read, but the organization of the chapters can be a bit cumbersome at times. The first chapter overviews her whole story and the second chapter then overviews her process of getting into swimming, but in doing so, we jump back and forth chronologically, which can be a bit confusing to read. Beginning in the third chapter, readers find the timeline flows more naturally. Several statements and sentiments are repeated across chapters unnecessarily (particularly a fixation on Missy holding off on receiving prize and endorsement money for years to remain ‘amateur’ status to be able to compete on high school and college swim teams). While these oft-repeated facts are important to Missy’s story and understanding her character, but I feel it’s a bit of a disservice to readers to repeat them so frequently from chapter to chapter (and sometimes even within chapters). The information about her faith is brief, but can still be inspiring for readers exploring trust and their own faith.

The book reads more like a series of articles, which some readers may enjoy, others may not. Certainly, Missy’s story of dedication, perseverance, eagerness to help others, and learning to trust God’s timing will encourage many young readers pursuing their own dreams with God-given talents.

In this year’s Olympics, from what I found, Missy will be competing in the 200m backstroke, 200m freestyle, and the 4x200m freestyle relay. We’ll be watching out for her! She also keeps a fairly active Twitter account to follow along some of her swimming journeys.

Which athletes inspire your families?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers 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.

Coming Clean by Seth Haines (Zondervan, 2015)

Asking the Hard Questions (Book Review – Coming Clean by Seth Haines)

Coming Clean by Seth Haines (Zondervan, 2015)

About the book (from the publisher):

Coming Clean by Seth Haines (Zondervan, 2015)

“I suppose we’re all drunk on something.”

Seth Haines was in the hospital with his wife, planning funeral songs for their not-yet two-year-old, when he made a very conscious decision: this was the last day he wanted to feel. That evening, he asked his sister to smuggle in a bottle of gin, and gave in to addiction.

But whether or not you’ve ever had a drop to drink in your life, we’re all looking for ways to stop the pain. Like Seth, we’re all seeking balms for the anxiety of what sometimes seems to be an absent, unresponsive God—whether it’s through people-pleasing, shopping, the internet, food, career highs, or even good works and elite theology. We attempt to anesthetize our anxiety through addiction—any old addiction. But it often leaves us feeling even more empty than before.

In Coming Clean, Seth Haines writes a raw account of his first 90 days of sobriety, illuminating how to face the pain we’d rather avoid, and even more importantly, how an abiding God meets us in that pain. Seth shows us that true wholeness is found in facing our pain and anxieties with the tenacity and tenderness of Jesus, and only through Christ’s passion can we truly come clean.

My thoughts:

This is a book about addiction, but not just substance addiction, which makes it accessible for nearly any reader.

This is a book you need to sit down with and read slowly.

This is a book that will ask many of those hard questions you’ve likely had yourself and perhaps have felt scared to ask or like a fraud to ask (which is discussed quite often in this book).

This is not a book that should be thought of as a strictly teaching book because that would be an unhelpful way to view it.

It’s a memoir in many ways, and a journal even more–a reflective, real look into one man’s experience with dealing with pain and leaning into God. And if you remember it as that, it becomes a very powerful book.

“[This book is] about whatever thing you use to cover the pain … whatever you hold out like an armor to protect yourself instead of allowing yourself and your broken heart to be fully seen and fully tended by God.” – from the foreward

You will not agree with everything in this book, but I don’t think that’s the purpose of this book either. Read it as a look at the author’s story and a chance to hear questions you might be scared to ask and consider together what might come from asking when seeking sincere faith? Read it with open eyes to learn and opportunity to grow.

Readers follow the author through a reflection of his first ninety days of sobriety, written in journal-style entries. As you read, you see the change in his desperation to cover his pain with alcohol to learning to face what’s underneath that cover head on and lean into God to heal (not his own faulty solutions or practices of avoidance).

“And here is my precarious position: instead of facing pain with faith in the Christ who promises rest, I have learned to avoid it all by way of substitution. I’ve traded the abiding rest of Christ … for the temporary rest of liquor.” – p. 64

I don’t personally have experience with physical addiction, but, as we read the author’s story, we see that one can be addicted to so much more than that — judgment, perfectionism, theology in a box, man-placed structures and definitions, knowledge. And one or more of these (or others), I feel we all have some sort of experience with.

“The bottle is not the thing. The addiction is not the thing. The pain in the thing.” – p. 71

While this book doesn’t show you how to heal from your own pain (since we all have pain) in a 10-step fashion (who can do that, anyway?), it will inspire you to look for healing in all the right places instead of the wrong ones, debunk what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to ask when we face our pain, and show hope in and another glimpse at a good and present God.

“God was close in the days when it was okay to rest in my smallness, when I needed no theological answer for every trauma of life. God was close when my will as, by its nature, bent low before an immeasurable mystery.” – p. 146

What book have you read lately that you might not agree with wholly but has made you think more than many others?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers 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.

Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs

Book Review – Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs

Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs

From the publisher:

Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie Downs (B&H Publishing, 2016)

“‘I want you to take every step of your life with excitement for where you are headed. And I want you to feel beautiful and confident as you do.’

But how? When the enemy whispers lies that you are not smart enough, pretty enough, or rich enough? Or you are too dumb, too loud, too quiet, too thin, too fat, too much or not enough? What if you don’t have what it takes to be who you really want to be?

In Looking for Lovely, Annie F. Downs shares personal stories, biblical truth, and examples of how others have courageously walked the path God paved for their lives by remembering all God had done, loving what was right in front of them, and seeing God in the everyday—whether that be nature, friends, or the face they see in the mirror. Intensely personal, yet incredibly powerful, Looking for Lovely will spark transformative conversations and life changing patterns. No matter who we are and what path God has us on, we all need to look for lovely, fight to finish, and find beautiful in our every day!”

My thoughts:

This book is, well, lovely. (I know I’m totally not the first to say that.)

Annie’s voice is easy to relate to and therefore read. This isn’t a teaching book, but rather a conversation, which works very well for the subject matter. It’s a book about perspective, about growing, and about loving.

Some nonfiction writers try to write without sounding like they know it all or are experts (with highest intentions), but some don’t succeed. Annie does. At no point does the reader think Annie is perfect, but instead, Annie reaches through this book to offer you to walk along with her. She’s a storyteller, for sure, which makes each chapter interesting and thoughtful. She’s entertaining, but she’s also genuine and reflective, and readers will pick up on that quickly (if they haven’t already read Annie’s friendly voice before).

This book is set up with three main sections: In the Absence of LovelyIn Search of Lovely, and When I Found Lovely. In the first section, she brings the reader back through anecdotes of her childhood, teen years, and up to the past five years as went through what she calls “the broken crazy” and shows how her eyes finally opened to need to see the lovely through whatever the circumstance — happiness, sadness, chaos, tragedy, joy. In the second section, she offers short storied accounts of moments where she began to see the lovely – and the lovely being moments where she saw God’s hands at work in her life and in others’ lives. Section three talks about that perspective shift I mentioned earlier and that growth that needs to remain constant.

Readers might not necessarily read any brand new information here, but they will read Annie’s stories that only she can tell, and readers will come away from the book with joy and eyes opened a little bit wider to what lovely might look like right in front of them. And isn’t that a main point of sharing stories?

There’s also a new Bible study book to accompany this book for individual study and small groups. And I feel pretty confident that Annie would love for readers to go through this book in a small group together.

What books have you read lately that open your eyes to new moments of lovely and new perspective changes?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Icon Media Group 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.

A review of Let's All Be Brave by Annie Downs (Zondervan, 2014)

What Bravery Can Mean {Book Review – Let’s All Be Brave by Annie Downs}

“If we are each as unique as the Bible says we are, then our calls to courage are equally unique…If I can embrace them and step into them as they come, I can change the world. So can you. We each just have to be brave in our own ways.” – p. 41, Let’s All Be Brave

And with that quote from Annie Downs in her newest book, Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have (Zondervan, 2014), I can’t tell you exactly what bravery means for you. Because bravery might mean something different for you than it does her or him or me. That’s part of what’s awesome about our lives.  A review of Let's All Be Brave by Annie Downs (Zondervan, 2014)

In this book, Annie uses personal experiences and biblical stories to offer this memoir-style encouragement on being brave in this life God gifted to you. She also utilizes repetition of truths in an encouraging and conversational tone. Just like we need to brush our teeth everyday, sometimes we need to hear about bravery and being loved and loving others every day.

Throughout this book, Annie speaks on what bravery is, why bravery needs community, why we (as God’s children) should be brave, and what bravery can do.

With chapters with such oppositional titles like “Say Yes” and “Say No” or “Hold On” and “Let Go,” you might think the author aims to confuse. But Annie is able to explain how bravery is both. Sometimes we need to hold on; sometimes we need to let go. If your brave looks like staying home and serving, that’s still brave. If your brave looks like traveling overseas, that’s still brave.

Annie writes with obvious passion and is “all in” to whatever she’s writes a book on. Her conversational tone and utter honesty proves that investment in sensory-filled sentences like this one on dreams on page 88: “It sounds like work and it feels like vulnerability and it smells of getting in over my head.”

What I love about how Annie writes is how she explains that she is not a perfect example, and that’s even more encouraging. She doesn’t know it all, she hasn’t always made perfect choices, and she’s still trying to figure some things out – and that’s perfect to read about. And inspiring.

I enjoyed the whole book, but the last four chapters really bumped up the awesomeness of this book. And, just like your own journey of mistakes and growth, we needed to read all the stories and thoughts she shares in the first chapters to have those last four chapters be even more beautiful.

Annie’s other books were written primarily for teens, but Let’s All Be Brave is inspiring for any age and worth your reading time.

“The truth is that courage doesn’t have an expiration date.” – p. 155, Let’s All Be Brave

What’s brave to you? How has God led you to be brave on your journey?

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 was not compensated in any other way.

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