Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Saving My Assassin by Virginia Prodan

Wow!  It's not often that I read a true story that truly captivates me from cover to cover.  Often there are parts that are too detailed or contain boring background information...not so with this memoir.  Virginia's story gives us a glimpse into what it was like to live in Communist Romania, when freedom of religion was merely a front.  She not only declared her faith, but as an attorney openly fought for the rights of other Christians, putting the life of her and her family in danger.  This is a truly courageous tale in which the evidence of God's intervention is difficult to deny.

History is not my subject.  I would never read a book on Communism, but I do enjoy learning about history when it comes packaged like this!  Nicolae Ceausescu was the president of Communist Romania from 1965-1989.  It was during this time period that Virginia Prodan was raised to be a good citizen and obey her leader.  However, after becoming a Christian, she realized that God had a purpose for her life - to fight for the truth.  I learned a lot about what life was like in a place where religious freedom didn't exist.  We take this freedom for granted here in America.  Learning about the dangers and injustices of that time help me to appreciate the government and protected rights that we enjoy in this country.

I was also inspired by Virginia's faith.  I doubt if I were in the same situation that I could continue to risk the safety of my children, especially after being abducted, beaten, and threatened.  Through prayer, Virginia learned how to pray for and love her captors.  Once while in custody, she reasoned "they are here by human appointment, but I am here by divine appointment.  Maybe I am here so they may see Christ in me."  We all find ourselves in unpleasant circumstances from time to time, although usually not as dire.  Even so, what if we could all ask ourselves that same question....what if I am here so that others can see Christ in me?  That's a game changer.

I highly recommend this book both as a captivating story to read out by the pool this summer, and as a way to learn a bit of history and more fully appreciate our freedom in America.  Be inspired by how Virginia Prodan saves her assassin and changes the lives of so many.

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

Monday, May 2, 2016

(Un)qualified by Steven Furtick

I'll let you know up front that I'm a fan of Steven Furtick.  He writes and speaks in a way that connects with me.  This book originated from an event in his life in which a well-known preacher called him "unqualified."  As he searched and wrestled with the truth of this claim, the content of this book began to take shape.  What do we do with our weaknesses and struggles...those things that make us unqualified for what we've been called to do?

I will admit that the first third of the book seemed a bit drawn out to me.  Steven introduces the idea about the "third words" that we call ourselves (I am _____).  These first 5 chapters are all basically explaining some errors in the way we think about ourselves.  I found myself thinking "I get it...let's move on..."  If you feel the same way, rest assured that the book does pick up the pace.

The main benefit of this book is that it gives a good dose of perspective in how to view our weaknesses.  We learn from the story of Jacob in the Bible that God can't bless who we pretend to be.  We need to embrace who we are, letting God's strength be seen through our weakness - while at the same time allowing God to grow and change us during the journey.  Steven writes that "often our greatest influence is birthed in our deepest suffering and brokenness."  Being real and authentic is what helps us to connect with others.  Weaknesses also remind us to turn to God and trust him instead of relying solely on ourselves.  If you frequently get discouraged about your apparent lack of growth or qualifications, I encourage you to read this book to reset your thinking.  We are all broken to some degree, but God can still use us just where we are.

In conclusion, Pastor Steven is honest and real about his own brokenness and gives some solid advice and perspective to those who also get discouraged with their own struggles.  I don't think that the book flows as well as some of his previous ones, but it's definitely worth your time to read.

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