Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I Will Not Fear

I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire *****
by Melba Pattillo Beals
Overview: At 15 yrs. old, Melba was one of the nine African American students chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. From then on, her life has been one battle after another in a time when being black and a woman is two strikes against you. She ends up achieving many great things including a doctorate, a comfortable living, fame, her own business, adopting two boys and yet troubles continue to plague her. Through her story, though, she never loses sight of God's hand in her life. And she is always asking Him what He has next for her. 

Positive elements: A powerful story! My eyes were opened to so many new things in reading this book. For example, I never thought about how hard it was to find a house to rent as an African American. It didn't matter that she was on TV and successful, she was still black and most people didn't want to be neighbors with her. And I was reminded that tough times can be blessings for our kids. Their faith becomes their own as they have to struggle through things. 

Negative elements: Each chapter ended with a moral or lesson taken from the chapter. I don't like being told what I should take away from reading a book. A good book speaks for itself. 

The book also had some disturbing themes. Later in her life, some sexual predators go after her young boys. Her house is also broken into repeatedly, and one time a man comes after her and her kids with a knife. They have to fend him off. The book isn't graphic, but those are some truly scary things to go through.

Conclusion: I can't imagine going through all the struggles that Melba faced over her lifetime. This book is truly what the subtitle says it is..."a story of a lifetime of building faith under fire."  Melba wasn't a perfect person, nor are any of us, but she was brave and a fighter. An inspiring story.

A side note, I thought this would be more about her time in Little Rock as part of integration. But I learned that years ago she wrote a different book, I Will Not Fear, about that time. This book is mainly focused on the years that followed that time.

I would recommend this book to adults.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

This I Know

This I Know: Trusting Your Unknown Future to a Known God *****
by Laura Dingman

Overview: Laura Dingman wrote this Bible study to explore how we can trust God with the unknowns in our future because He knows all. She says, "This I Know helps us learn more about the God who has made Himself known in the printed pages of His Word. When we know and experience God, our unknown future doesn't look so daunting."

The book is broken down into daily readings and questions for five study times a week for a duration of six weeks. The beginning of each week has a page with a quote and an introduction to the week's theme. There is also a memory verse for each week. 

Each daily study has a different method of study including "Listen, Linger, Learn, Live," S.O.A.P (Scripture, Observations, Application, Prayer), imagining yourself in the setting of the scripture, and more. Each day's study ends with a prayer and a journal prompt.

Positive elements: The diversity of the Bible study methods make the study interesting and new each day. The book is beautifully laid out.

Negative elements: Some of the questions were hard to understand and figure out, especially for newer believers.

Conclusion: I am going through this study with another woman. I enjoy getting to talk with her about what we're learning. It isn't as deep or though-provoking as some other studies I've done from Moody Publishers, and sometimes the scriptures feel like they are all over the place. But I know that God always uses His word to teach us. And who of us can say we don't need God to teach us to worry less about the future? :) 

I haven't finishes this study yet. So, this is my perspective so far.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Dreaming with God

Dreaming with God *****
by Sarah Beth Marr

Overview: How do we as Christians pursue our dreams and yet stay submissive to God's will for our lives? Do we push ahead and make things happen or sit by and wait for God to move? Sarah Beth Marr explores these common questions that Christian women struggle with. Each chapter ends with a list of scriptures and great questions for personal reflection or a book study.

Positive elements: I grew up in ballet so I loved all the comparisons between life and ballet. I also felt the book was written with a very honest and humble voice. I think I would love Sarah if I ever had a chance of meeting her.

Negative elements: The back of the book has a collection of verses that she has tied to different things in ballet. I love many of the verses she chose, but I couldn't always see how they applied to what she was talking about. I'm always wary of people picking out verses of the Bible and then misapplying them. However, it was a fun, light-hearted section, so I don't think any misapplication was intended. Also, some of the book seemed a bit wordy. I think the writing could have been tightened up a bit.

Conclusion: I really enjoyed this book! I loved hearing about her journey as a professional ballet dancer and then a mom of three boys. I loved her perspective on "dreaming with God." I found the book very encouraging. 

I loved these two quotes from Sarah Beth Marr: "Surrendering to God's lead means remaining flexible with regard to God's ways and God's timing as He stretches our hearts to trust His lead."

"One aspect of God's rhythm of grace is prayer. Prayer is the rudder to our dreams. As we pray, God directs and guides, keeping us on the course He has created for us."

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Breaking Cover

Breaking Cover: My Secret Life in the CIA and What it Taught me about What's Worth Fighting For *****
by Michele Rigby Assad

Overview: When Michele and her husband Joseph chose a career in the CIA, they never dreamed of all the places God would take them over the years. Michele mostly worked in the hardest places in the Middle East. She faced many trials living in a war zone and being a woman in that setting. This is Michele's story of her years with the CIA, and after leaving that job, the opportunity to help over a hundred refugees flee from Iraq.

Positive elements: The book is well-written and a good length. A few parts of the story slugged along, but for the most part, it was quick moving. Although they saw horrors in the war zones of the Middle East, the book doesn't have anything graphic in it. I appreciated that.

Negative elements: I felt like Michele "tooted her own horn" a bit much in the book. We don't hear much about her husband or other team members. I know some is probably due to secrecy, but I just had the overall feeling that she thinks she is a pretty important person.

Conclusion: The book did a good job of giving a peek into the life of a current woman spy in our country. I enjoyed the stories she told of her experiences. And I always enjoy seeing the wonderful way God works. Her telling of the rescue of all those Iranian Christians was truly amazing!

I would recommend this book.

I received a copy for free in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Your God is too Glorious

Your God is too Glorious *****
by Chad Bird

Overview: This book is a celebration of the work God does in ordinary people's lives each and every day. We live in a society of everyone trying to be a star. In this book, Chad Bird looks at how God uses just normal, flawed characters in the Bible and today to do His greatest work.

Positive elements: I really enjoyed the first chapter of the book about being surrendered to God's working in our lives. 

Negative elements: I couldn't get excited about the rest of this book. It seemed like so many other books I've read. I was also confused about the author's mixing of his life experiences with the Bible stories he was telling. I only skimmed the last three-quarters of the book.

Conclusion: I wanted to like this book because I agree with the premise of the book. I think I had a hard time seeking wisdom from Chad Bird after I realized what a mess his personal life is. I think he was divorced twice? I couldn't quite understand if that was true... I felt like he was writing a book on different men and women in the Bible and then throwing in bits and pieces of his life. So, I was confused and lost some respect for him.

I did love this quote in the first chapter from Larry Hein: "May all your expectations be frustrated, may all your plans be thwarted, may all your desires be withered into nothingness, that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is Father, Son, and Spirit."

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man *****
by H. G. Wells
Overview: A scientist discovers a way to become invisible. What he thinks will give him an amazing advantage turns out to be a great curse. Madness follows in his desperation.

Postitive elements: short, well-written classic with some great action

Negative elements: a few people are murdered but nothing grisly

Conclusion: I enjoyed the creativity of this book and the overall story, but it was a bit dark. I love the classics because even if the story isn't your favorite, you can enjoy reading the book just because of its craftsmanship. I'm going to read H.G.Wells' War of the Worlds next. 

Under a Cloudless Sky

Under a Cloudless Sky *****
by Chris Fabry

Overview: Two girls from opposite sides of the tracks become fast friends in a coal mining town in West Virginia during 1933. Seventy years later, one of these girls returns to that coal mining town and a secret she's kept all these years is exposed.
The chapters switch off between the events of 1933, and the current day events of 2004.

Positive elements: Well-written story of friendship, family, and the power of the truth. A clean story that speaks of God's working in our lives without being preachy.

Negative elements: There is mention of women who were forced into prostitution to feed their families. There is a shooting where men and a girl die. There is a woman murdered. An alcoholic father mistreats his family. None of these negative elements are described in any graphic detail.

Conclusion: I think every Chris Fabry book I read gets better. I haven't read them all, but I have read the last half-dozen. I appreciated that I didn't know what was going to happen until the very end. The story seemed very geniune and not forced. I liked the characters, and I cared about them. The story is a bit bittersweet, but I was glad that the end was happy. I would highly recommend this book.  

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.