Book Review: The Help

Welllllllll, I just wrote a lengthy book review on The Help. And it got erased. I thought auto-save helped with that…..

I just can’t write it all again.

Here’s my synopsis:

  • Fantastic book, great writing. Compelling, impactful, stirring.
  • Don’t read it if you have life to do. I couldn’t put it down. Kept it open on the counter so I could read a sentence as I walked by. Shame, shame!
  • Can’t believe that actually happened and in my parents lifetime. Can’t believe it still happens today in people’s private views toward black people and other races.
  • There are anti-Christian views and language used in this book. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, just be aware. It makes it authentic and raw and real and is probably necessary. Probably less than a PG-13 movie.
  • The Gospel is the only thing that can truly change hearts. Activism, social justice, civil rights, education. All of these things help make progress, but none of them will do the work of eradicating hate in hearts. The Gospel is our solution. More on that in my next Book Review (which will hopefully be a real review): Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian.

Rating: A. Highly recommended! 

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Length: 464 Pages
Genre: Fiction

Book Review: Bringing the Gospel Home

The best book on evangelism I have read to date.

Randy Newman is witty and funny and completely not dry, which makes this book easy to read and really enjoyable.

He takes a different approach. He talks about many different tactics, but the overarching theme is that evangelism to your family or close friends can take time and when faced with conversation topics that clearly point to the BIble, don’t give cheesy, annoying Christian answers. Ask more questions, listen to them talk. See where they are at. Ask if they are interested in talking about spiritual things with you further. Don’t jump in and just offer your two cents on the matter. Don’t do a drive by evangelism where you get in, get out and get on with your life and the conversation. Be calm, be slow, be passionate, be patient, be loving.

There is only one remotely negative thing I can say about this book, and it’s almost not worth mentioning because it may be due to the author’s personality. It truly is the only thing holding this A back from an A+. The book is filled with stories. And he really inserts a story right in the middle of a paragraph without any warning. It illustrates his point perfectly, but there is just no introduction to it at all. No, “let me give you an example.” He just goes right into it, over and over again. Granted, he would be giving intros and segues every third paragraph because there are so many real-life examples in this book. But I felt like I got whiplash a little bit from his change of direction without any prep. The thoughts in this book don’t necessarily build upon one another. You could rearrange most of the book and it would still be readable because it seems to be a lot of scattered thoughts and helpful advice, but not necessarily with continuity. I don’t mind this at all; it’s actually kind of refreshing. But it was different.

The book is straight to the point. In a lot of books, I end up skimming because there is a lot of filler. Almost like they are trying to meet a word count. But I felt that this book said everything it needed to say and everything that was written in it needed to be there.

It was so helpful in my perspective on Evangelism. I will be taking much of his advice to heart and putting it to use. Not to robotically “share my faith” but to be better used by God with unbelievers and further the Kingdom, for His fame. If you share this heart, pick up this book.

It is still available for free in PDF from Desiring God.

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members and Others Who Know You Well
Author: Randy Newman
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Spiritual Life/Evangelism

Book Review: Living Organized

I think this may be one of those books that gets really high reviews and really low reviews, depending on the situation of the person who reads it.

I bought this book after missing a friend’s wedding because I thought it was the next day. The book was on my book list, so obviously I recognized that I was in need of some general help in the area of organization. But after missing the wedding, I literally logged on to Amazon and clicked ‘purchase’ right then and there.

Well, it disappointed. But like I said, maybe it depends upon the personality or level of need in the person doing the reading. I know how to be organized and I know how to clean. I don’t have a problem with not knowing my decorating style and my husband is great in this area and does not contribute to the messiness. These are situations and problems she emphasizes in this book and then offers advice on how to deal with them. Since I don’t have those particular problems, the book was not as beneficial to me as it maybe would be to some.

But it was well worth the $9.99 to find out what my problem really is.

Inability to make a decision
So many things in my house accumulate because I just don’t know what to do with it at the time. Better to do nothing than make the wrong decision, right? Yeah, that’s not working so well for me.

Mess-maker
I have kids and stay home with them. Meaning that I make and clean up 3 meals a day. And I homeschool, which sort of adds constant mess all throughout the day, if I’m not careful.

Procrastination 
It can wait until later when I really need to do it.

Avoidance of frustration
Leaving things undone because I don’t want to deal with the frustration of it right now… only to deal with the frustration of it later. Frustration never just goes away.

Desire for instant gratification
“I’m so hungry; I want to eat the sandwich now! I’ll put the mustard away after I’m done.” Gets me a cluttered kitchen and house in no time.

The very most helpful part of the book for me, took up one whole page. Just one.

A Procrastinator’s Creed:

  • I will make the bed as soon as it is empty.
  • I will clear the table and do the dishes and clean the kitchen immediately after eating. I will consider cleanup part of the meal.
  • I will put away what I get out and will not say I will be using it again soon.
  • I will handle the mail as soon as I pick it up and will not leave it in a pile to consider later.
  • I will hang up my clothes and put away my shoes as soon as they are off my body.
  • I will remember those three tender little words: “DO IT NOW.”

So that’s my game plan, “DO IT NOW.” Thank you, little average to less-than-average book for your $10 page of gold.

Hard to give a straight review because of the subjectivity involved, but sadly, I have to give it a C.  May be helpful to those in need of professional-level organizational help!

Rating: C. Average

Title: Living Organized: Proven Steps for a Clutter-Free and Beautiful Home
Author: Sandra Felton
Length: 222 pages
Genre: Home

2012 Book List

I know this may seem like I am trying to be an overachiever! Especially since I didn’t even complete my 2011 Book List! My husband said I need to limit myself to 40 so I don’t fail… but…

There are 52 books on this list. I KNOW, okay? But does it matter that I have already started a few and it’s not even 2012 yet?! And if I read one per week (which is do-able), I will finish the reading list by the end of the year. Having 52 books and 52 weeks may make it easier on me to stay on task… I’ll know when I’m behind anyway if I didn’t finish a book that week. Anyway, some of them are small and some are more of a reference type book than a read-from-cover-to-cover book. Some are even coffee table books that you can peruse while you’re waiting for your tea to steep.

So that is my goal and I am intent on reaching my goal. One note: The list is subject to change because almost every day Gospel eBooks comes out with free and inexpensive books for your Kindle or eReader. So I may replace some here and there, depending on what pops up. This year I also plan to do short reviews for all (or nearly all) of the books.

Without further adieu:

PARENTING/FAMILY
Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus Elyse Fitzpatrick
Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches Rachel Jankovic
Bringing Up Boys Dr. James Dobson
Gospel-Centered Family Ed Moll & Tim Chester
Teach Them Diligently: How to Use the Scriptures in Child Training Louis Paul Priolo
The Joy of Family Traditions: A Season-by-Season Companion to 400 Celebrations and Activities Jennifer Trainer Thompson

EDUCATION
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education Leigh Bortins
Life Skills For Kids Christine M. Field

HEALTH
The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food Kaayla T. Daniel
The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability 
Lierre Keith
Good Calories, Bad Calories Gary Taubes
Gut and Psychology Syndrome Natasha Campbell-McBride
Great Cooks and Their Recipes: From Taillavent to Escoffier
Anne Willan

HOME/HOSPITALITY
Living Organized: Proven Steps for a Clutter-Free Home Sandra Felton
No Ordinary Home: The Uncommon Art of Christ-Centered Homemaking Carol Brazo
One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler Tsh Oxenreider
Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome and Wanted Karen Mains

MARRIAGE
Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbands Gary Thomas
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God Tim and Kathy Keller
Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together Mark and Grace Driscoll
What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage Paul David Tripp

BIOGRAPHY
Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther and Calvin (Swans Are Not Silent series- Book 1)
John Piper (Free PDF here) 
The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce (Swans Are Not Silent series- Book 3) (Free PDF here)
Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen and J. Gresham Machen (Swans Are Not Silent series- Book 4) John Piper (Free PDF here)
Portrait of Calvin T.H.L. Parker (Free PDF here)

CLASSIC WORKS
Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers John Owen
Imitation of Christ Thomas A Kempis

MINISTRY
Planting Missional Churches
Ed Stetzer
Breaking the Missional Code: Your Chuch Can Becmome a Missionary in Your Community Ed Stetzer
Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ Elyse Fitzpatrick
Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support Brad House
Vintage Church: Timeless Truth and Timely Methods Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by Church Starts Jim Griffith
What is the Mission of the Church? Kevin DeYoung

SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Cross of Christ John Stott
Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian John Piper
Jesus + Nothing= Everything Tullian Tchividjian
Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends and Others Who Know You Well Randy Newman (Free here from Desiring God)
Disciple: Getting Your Identity from Jesus Bill Clem
The Gospel and Personal Evangelism Mark Dever and C.J. Mahaney
A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World Paul E. Miller
The Soul-Winner: Or How To Lead Sinners to the Saviour Charles H. Spurgeon
A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table Tim Chester
Gospel Wakefulness Jared Wilson
 The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing C.J. Mahaney
A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life J.I. Packer
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Donald S. Whitney
Death by Love: Letters from the Cross Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer John Piper
Holiness of God R.C. Sproul

APOLOGETICS
Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of  the Christian Message Ravi Zacharias
Christianity at the Religious Roundtable: Evangelicalism in Conversation with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam Timothy Tennet
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society Leslie Newbigin

Book Review: Treasuring God in Our Traditions

Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noël Piper is a short, concise, and straight to the point book, just begging to be read by you if you desire to create God and Gospel-centered traditions in your home. Sprinkled with real-life stories from the Piper home, I got a taste of what it looks like to have Jesus be the center of literally every movement in a house.

She says a few different times in the book, “I have always wanted my children to know as much about God as they were able to grasp at whatever age they were. And I have wanted my life and our family to be a picture of God to others– that we be the body of Christ who presents an image of Christ to the people around us.” This is the framework for the book and the foundation for all family traditions.

The Christmas and Easter chapters are broken up into short little segments that are packed with ideas and helps for centering your Traditions on the only One for whom traditions truly matter.

Admittedly this book will be mostly for women, as many of the ideas in this book are practical things to be planned and executed and many if not most of the ideas revolve around younger children. That is typically the role women take in the home, though I know I am stereotyping here.

Maybe my most favorite and inspiring part of the book, and where the most underlining happened, is in the Appendix at the back of the book. Collaboratively written by both John and Noël, it is a section on why your kids should sit with you in church instead of attending Sunday School and also how to practically make it happen. I love this, as the why of it echoes my husband and my heart on the matter. And it is always so helpful to have the hows; to have help from someone who has been there and seems to have done it well.

Read this book if you desire your Easter and your Christmas to be filled with more of Jesus. Or if you desire your ‘especially’ days and your ‘everydays’ to point straighter and clearer to our True Heirloom.

*You can download and read the PDF version for free here.

Book Review: Humility

Out of all of the books on spiritual qualities I have ever read (discipline, devotion, etc…), I felt that this one gave me the clearest picture of the heart of God as I have ever seen. I was more aware than ever of my pride, yet more encouraged than ever to look to Jesus, Humility embodied.

I especially appreciated the chapters in Part 3 of the book: The Practice of Humility. How to be practically humble. For example, how to wake up and submit yourself immediately to overcoming pride, how to go about your day in humility, how to go to bed humble, look for graces in others instead of criticisms and faults, how to encourage one another.

Convicting was the chapter on responding humbly to trials. The need to be God-centered, not man-centered, self-centered, pleasure-centered, convenience centered or ease centered, is great. To look on God and Him alone in the midst of trials, produces immediate humility. Pride cannot dwell where God dwells.

The overall theme of the book, really, is expressing your need and dependence upon God. Acknowledging His greatness, and our non-greatness. Acknowledging that we are great sinners but he is a greater Savior. There is no possible way for humility to fly out the window and pride to creep in when we are submitted to, focused on and fixed on our Great God.

I really appreciate C.J. Mahaney’s heart, his God-given gift for writing and preaching, and his love for God and for God’s people. It is shown very clearly through his writing in this book.

Verdict: It is a small book, 163 half-pages of text, and highly recommended for your library. I will re-read it every year.

Book Review: Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

I can’t say this enough… I love biographies! Okay, so I will admit: while I’m reading them I don’t LOVE them. They are sometimes filled with boring facts and often too detailed in things that get me lost. It happens every time. But when I get to the end, my faith is so built and encouraged and in this case, I am so inspired to press on in being a Missionary to my town, my friends, my family, my sphere of immediate influence and extended influence.

I was encouraged when I came to the biography of Hudson Taylor. However, I was also troubled by a few things I saw in his life. It is true, he left all- family, country, familiarity- to meet the spiritual needs of Inland China. He was resisted, he was mocked, he wore the chinese garb when no other missionaries were doing so. He lost a daughter, two sons, and a wife (and actually, his second wife died before him, as well.) He himself had serious health issues. He trusted the Lord through it all.

The issues I had were regarding his view toward his family and ministry and the balance of the two. When his daughter was on her death bed, he was sitting beside her and said, “I laid my wife and children with myself on the altar for this service.” To quote Mark Driscoll in his message on Ministry Marriages, “What is that? Idolatry… There was an occasion where a father nearly killed his son on an altar in the BIble. God came and said, ‘No. I’ll send My Son; you don’t need to sacrifice your son.'”

In addition to this, he sent his kids away so that he and his wife could commit themselves to the ministry. He sent his kids AWAY from him. His kids were his ministry! Why did he cast aside a ministry that God provided in exchange for another?

So, you can see why I was greatly disturbed by Taylor’s view and actions toward His own family.This is not our calling. He is not an example to ministry leaders or missionaries of how to reach the people. You don’t reach the people by neglecting your own little people. It is important, before (and while) pastoring a church or leading a mission, to pastor your family and be on mission with your wife and kids.

Hudson Taylor had a calling from God. He obeyed and pursued that calling with passion and singleness of mind and heart. He did neglect his main ministry for a secondary ministry, which is not just unfortunate, but unwise and disobedient to the overall call of God on the life of a husband and father. Nevertheless, we can still draw from his life.

Believer, you have a calling from God. Will you follow Him wherever He leads? Will you be faithful to His call? Good. But do it without irresponsibly sacrificing marriages and children on the altar of service and in idolatry, call it “ministry.”