Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Giveaway!

As part of a blog tour introducing this new book, I have been presented with a copy to give away!  If you would like a chance to receive As One Devil To Another by Richard Platt, simply post a comment below.  I will randomly choose a winner one week from today :)

Many Christians have heard of the book The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis.  The book is composed of a collection of fictional letters sent from a senior devil to a devil in-training, instructing him in the art of deception.  While the concept intrigued me, I have never been able to read through the whole book because of the scholarly language and writing style.  So when I saw As One Devil to Another was the same type of book, yet written to a modern audience, I wanted to check it out...

The story is a collection of letters from senior devil Slashreap to his nephew and trainee, Scardagger.  The letters are meant to teach the aspiring devil how to keep humans from joining with and living for The Adversary (God).  The trainee is given a female college student as a "client" who he is to keep within their grasp.  This case study is intertwined with basic education from the devil's worldview.  Is Scardagger successful in his task?  You will have to read to find out!

This type of writing is a creative way of highlighting the spiritual dangers and failures of our society today.  The author makes a point of saying that all of God's creation is inherently good, but it can also be twisted for evil purposes.  Things like technology, media, art, literature, beauty, sex...all can be used for either good or evil.  Are we aware of how we are being influenced by the world?  One letter states that most humans would not like a society designed by the Adversary "because it would exist to help them grow, not simply for their amusement and distraction."  There are some great insights shared about the purpose of suffering and the power of prayer.

While I liked much of the content, I found the writing language to be very similar to C.S. Lewis, which for me was the downfall.  I'm not sure if the point is to make the senior devil come across as well-educated, but the way the letters are composed are very scholarly and sometimes confusing to an everyday gal like myself.  I had to depend on context clues to understand what was being said at times because I certainly was not going to continually look up words in the dictionary.  I would have enjoyed the book much more if it were written in a more common language.

Overall, Richard Platt uses an interesting format to convey some thought provoking (sometimes even convicting) ideas.  One tidbit I will share that hit home with me was the devil's technique of distraction.  His advice is: "You should never allow the client to attend to the moment she is in.  You must be forever in the moment, but you must forever push her thoughts elsewhere.  Get her thinking of work when she is at play, and of recreation when she should be at work...If you can render this habit of mind chronic, it will be particularly helpful to you when she is on her knees in prayer...with a little repetition you can have her thinking of her dinner when she ought to be attending to the Adversary".  (Yep, I can relate to that one, how about you?)

If you would like a chance to win a free copy of this book, remember to leave a comment below!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Redemption by Bryan Clay

While I have not been an avid watcher of the Olympic Games, sometimes an athlete will catch my attention.  Now after reading about the journey of gold medalist Bryan Clay, I am looking forward to watching him compete in August 2012 in the decathlon with hopes of winning a third medal.  Bryan hopes to use his success to share about the faithfulness of God is his life and to give hope to others whose start in life does not seem to pave the way for success.  This book is the story of two journeys in his life: the journey of an athlete to the Olympics, and his journey of faith.

I knew nothing about the decathlon until picking up this book, but now have a greater appreciation for the event and what the athletes have to go through to succeed.  The sport is physically demanding, but also requires a lot of mental focus.  I like that Bryan openly shares his successes and failures both on a physical and emotional level.  He learned from past mistakes and learned to turn to God for his strength when he felt like giving up.  Sometimes the details were a little more than I needed, but I think a track athlete or fan will appreciate them.

Another thing I liked about this book was the way Bryan used his sport and his faith to fuel each other.  He was able to set his priorities and apply lessons from his physical training to his spiritual training.  His comparatively small size and troubled youth made him an unlikely champion, but he overcame, and he gives glory to the One who made it possible.

This is a great book to read before the Olympics!  Enjoy!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The End of Birthday Season

Isaac just had his 7th birthday this past weekend.  Normally we just have the boys pick one friend and we go do something fun like Chuck E Cheese.  But this year he decided to have friends over, which meant I had to plan something for 17 kids!  Two things saved me: my wonderful husband who was willing to get involved on party day, and keeping the party to 2 hours long!  I was hoping for a beautiful spring day like we've been having, but it turned out rather chilly which meant more indoor activities.  I ran across a website (located here) which allows you to create and print your own bingo cards for free!  That came in handy.  I made ones that spelled ROCKY across the top to stick with our theme.  While the party was a success, I think I'll still try to guide him in another direction in the future.  (By the way, those are not my creative cake-decorating skills...the credit must go to Kym Stake).  Isaac asked for boxing gloves for his birthday, so we now have frequent sparring matches in our living room...and occasional tears :(

We also got our family pics taken this weekend.  I of course went intending to purchase the $9.99 package, sitting fee included.  But we made the mistake of letting the photographer take bunches of pictures, which she then showed to us.  And our kids are so darn cute that we had to buy a larger package so we could get the digital picture cd of all the pictures.  Good-bye $$$.  We won't be going there often...but I'm glad we did.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How We Love Our Kids by Milan & Kay Yerkovich

The majority of this book is centered around 5 Love Styles that the Yerkovich's have identified.  They first wrote a book entitled How We Love that introduced these Love Styles and applied them to marriage.  This book shows how they can be applied to parenting.  The 5 Love Styles of Parenting are the Avoider, the Pleaser, the Vacillator, the Controller, and the Victim.  Each Love Style is explained, provides a self-assessment, shows how these traits might present themselves when dealing with different age groups of children, and has goals for growth.  There is also a section with parenting tips for those who find their children developing with these traits as well.

I discovered a website for these books which allows the user to take a Love Styles Quiz online, found here.  I got around 50% in the first 3 styles, and less in the others. Basically that means that I could identify with some traits in a few styles, but there wasn't one style that "defined" me.  Unfortunately, not fitting into a category made the content in this book not very relevant to me.  There were bits of wisdom here and there, but I think this book would be much more beneficial to someone who scores high in one style.

The last section of the book dealt with 7 gifts that we can give our children: insight, comfort, power, frustration, confession, laughter, and God.  I liked what the authors had to say in the last chapter. "What God does for us is what love looks like in action.  This is our perfect model for our job as parents.  As we grow out of our love styles, out of our injuries, and toward the ideal secure love style, our love will become a clearer picture of God's.  And by the time our kids leave home, relating to God will feel a lot like relating to Mom and Dad.  In our humble opinion, that's the greatest gift parents could give their kids."

I like the importance that this book places on us as parents to fix our own dysfunctions as a means of helping our kids fix theirs (or even to prevent our kids from getting them in the first place!)  Whether we fit into a "Love Style" or not, it's always good to be striving to become the best we can be for the benefit of our kids.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Press in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spirit Rising by Jim Cymbala

Jim Cymbala writes that "the Holy Spirit is God's agent on earth, yet he is the least understood, least preached about, and least discussed member of the Trinity."  Wouldn't you agree?  This is a great resource for learning about who the Holy Spirit is, what he does, and what we can expect when our lives are surrendered to him.  It took me longer to read this book than most because it isn't full of fluff that I'm tempted to skim over.  Instead it kept my mind at attention and my hand busy underlining!  The teaching is intermixed with testimonies from some of the members of the Brooklyn Tabernacle that demonstrate how the Spirit can move. 

If we want to be filled with more love and joy, to overcome fear, to have a deeper understanding of God's Word, to desire holiness, and to have a more powerful prayer life - we need the Holy Spirit.  Often when we discover our failings we simply decide to try harder.  But Jim Cymbala writes that "without Holy Spirit power, we'll never have enough of what we need to become the people God wants us to be."  This book has inspired me not to try harder to change on my own, but to develop a more sensitive spirit so I can hear and respond to his prompting.

The final chapter talks about when Israel lost God's blessing and presence, and didn't seem to care.  The author writes "Could that be happening today?  Hymns and praise choruses are sung; a sound doctrinal sermon is preached; our church services are timed and orchestrated perfectly.  Too often, however, there is little of the presence of God that produces awe, conviction of sin, overflowing joy, and life-transforming ministry.  We can easily settle for "church" instead of God.  And every succeeding generation shaped in that mold makes it harder for anyone to dare ask, "Where is the Lord?" "

We need to be seeking the Lord and evaluating the temperature of our own spiritual lives.  This book is a great tool to get started!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

He Chose the Nails by Max Lucado

These past 15 days (leading up to Good Friday), I decided to read a chapter of this book a day as a devotional to help me focus on the cross and what Jesus has done for me.  Max Lucado does an excellent job blending the truth from Scripture with stories and analogies that help the reader understand God's love and plan for redemption.  Each chapter in this book focuses on one aspect of the crucifixion/resurrection.  Since this section of Scripture is commonly known it can be easy to read through without slowing down to focus on elements such as the soldier's spit, or the crown of thorns, or the blood and the water.  This book can help us to slow down and think about our Savior and why he chose the nails...for us.  There is also a study guide included with discussion questions.

In Chapter 7, Max writes a beautiful allegory about a father and daughter that demonstrates God's heart toward us.  I had read this story before in a tract entitled "He Did This Just For You" (which was taken from this book).  It touches me every time I read it.

If you like books with short chapters that are easy to relate to and contain biblical truth, this is a great one.  In addition to the serious subject matter, Max's humor also shows through in his storytelling.  It's nice to get a few good laughs every now and then too :)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.