Reviews

Book Review: How to Be a Perfect Christian

Read on to learn more about the NEW book from The Babylon BeeHow to Be a Perfect Christian.

Read on to learn more about the NEW book from The Babylon Bee--How to Be a Perfect Christian.

A description of the book from the publisher:

With a biting, satirical style reminiscent of The OnionHow to Be a Perfect Christian takes a humorous look at the quirks of cultural Christianity while subtly challenging the reader to search for more than a cultural faith.

Written in the trademark style of The Babylon Bee, this book humorously satirizes cultural Christianity while peppering in subtle challenges to the reader. Through humor and sarcasm (and a handy meter to rank your “holiness” as you progress through the book), readers will be called to find a more biblical understanding of the Christian faith, all while poking fun at the quirks of the modern, American Christian community.

As usual, my five point review:

  • Alright, let’s make sure we have this straight: THIS BOOK IS SATIRE. So, don’t get all cray cray on me thinking we can really be “perfect Christians.” You and I know that isn’t exactly true (or possible). But now that we’re clear… this book is hilarious–it is a must read if you enjoy The Babylon Bee. I have to admit I picked up this book for my husband. He LOVES The Babylon Bee, and I love watching him chuckle while reading their amusing articles. Ben and I don’t exactly have the same sense of humor, but I can appreciate some good sarcasm and satire every now and again, so I like some of The Babylon Bee’s stuff too.
  • How to Be a Perfect Christian is such a clever book but you have to read with a critical thinking mindset… and also realize that they are trying to make a subtle point about our faith practices through humor and satire. Each chapter analyzes a different aspect of American Christianity and pokes fun at everything in the modern church, from how Christians do devotions (i.e. social media images of your Bible and coffee) to worship (choosing the holiest place to sit) to spiritual growth practices (of all types). Prepare to be slightly offended, and maybe a little convicted too.
  • On the vein of being “slightly offended,” there’s lots in this book that could offend. So just be aware of that. I highly doubt that they’re intentionally trying to offend (or maybe that’s the point? I don’t know!). I think most of that is harmless, but depending on your views about language there could be some offending points. Also (and this is just a note), they are sort of casual when talking about Jesus, calling him “our homeboy” and mentioning things about “breathing down Jesus’ neck” in relation to holiness. I would have to reread and consider this more, but considering who we believe Jesus is (God), this is potentially a little too much. Yes, it’s satire, but it may go too far at times. Maybe that’s just me though. I’ve seen similar things on their site in the past. The last chapter shares the gospel much in the same way… so again, your appreciation of this book may vary based on your ability to separate satire and truth.
  • One great thing about this book is its ability to make you question your motives as you practice faith. Are you doing something because it’s Biblical or because it “feels” holy? This book, though funny, has the potential to be so much more… to challenge Christians to consider why they believe or do things, and not just do whatever the modern church tells them to.
  • Overall, I recommend this book. You’ll laugh and cringe, and hopefully come away with a better understanding of you as a Christian as well as how the world perceives you. Maybe you’ll also make changes in your life as a result, or at least examine your motives. As for audience, it would be enjoyed by high school-aged students on up. It could be a great gift to a college grad as they embark into the “real world” and learn how to be a Christian outside of a protective bubble of childhood and the college campus. If you regularly read The Babylon Bee, you may recognize some content or themes, but there is a lot of new material too.

Interested in this book? It releases on May 1, 2018 but for now you can read an excerpt here

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Blogging for Books for the chance to read this great book!

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Reviews

Book Review: What We See in the Stars

If you like mythology, science, or history, this book is for you!

If you like mythology, science, or history, this book is for you!
description of the book from the publisher:

A richly illustrated guide to the myths, histories, and science of the celestial bodies of our solar system, with stories and information about constellations, planets, comets, the northern lights, and more. 

Combining art, mythology, and science, What We See in the Stars gives readers a tour of the night sky through more than 100 magical pieces of original art, all accompanied by text that weaves related legends and lore with scientific facts.

This beautifully packaged book covers the night sky’s most brilliant features–such as the constellations, the moon, the bright stars, and the visible planets–as well as less familiar celestial phenomena like the outer planets, nebulae, and deep space. Adults seeking to recapture the magic of youthful stargazing, younger readers interested in learning about natural history and outer space, and those who appreciate beautiful, hand-painted art will all delight in this charming book.

As usual, my five point review:

  • I requested this book to review because my husband loves mythology and science, and I thought it would be fun to look at together… and equally enjoyable for him to be able to take to use in his classroom at school. He teaches eighth grade science, and this book is just perfect! When you open it up, it’s immediately obvious that it’s a very high quality book. The artwork is gorgeous, the paper is thick, and it just feels nice in your hands, almost like a gift book.
  • The book is well organized, with chapters dedicated to various constellations, the Milky Way, the moon, the sun, the planets, asteroids, and deep space. The organization makes sense, especially for science-focused readers. It is so comprehensive, yet very manageable.
  • I appreciated the layout of the book–a good mix of text and (beautiful) images. The author, Kelsey Oseid, seamlessly integrated history, science, and mythology in an approachable fashion. Sometimes discussions of mythology can seem outdated with science and present-day knowledge, but it did not appear that way in this book which was awesome.
  • Oseid’s writing and content was approachable for a variety of ages and knowledge levels. Reading this book made me reminisce about Star Lab in my fourth grade classroom–the first time science was really interesting to me. I think this book would be great for kids interested in any of the subjects mentioned in this book (mythology, science, and history), especially if they want to learn more about another field. Younger kids may need help understanding some of the words and concepts, but it’s accessible for middle school and up.
  • Whether you’re looking for an actually interesting coffee table book that your guests will want to flip through, a gift for a young scientist, a book to use alongside homeschool curriculum, or just an accessible book about the stars (and so much more), give this book a shot! I know you’ll like it too.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Blogging for Books for the chance to read this book!

Tired? Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith can relate. Read on to learn more about Sacred Rest.
Reviews

Book Review: Sacred Rest

Tired? Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith can relate. Read on to learn more about Sacred Rest.

Tired? Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith can relate. Read on to learn more about Sacred Rest.

description of the book from the publisher:

Staying busy is easy. Staying well rested- there’s a challenge.

How can you keep your energy, happiness, creativity, and relationships fresh and thriving in the midst of never-ending family demands, career pressures, and the stress of everyday life? In Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, a board-certified internal medicine doctor, reveals why rest can no longer remain optional.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shares seven types of rest she has found lacking in the lives of those she encounters in her clinical practice and research-physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social, creative-and why a deficiency in any one of these types of rest can have unfavorable effects on your health, happiness, relationships, creativity, and productivity. Sacred Rest combines the science of rest, the spirituality of rest, the gifts of rest, and the resulting fruit of rest. It shows rest as something sacred, valuable, and worthy of our respect.

By combining scientific research with personal stories, spiritual insight, and practical next steps, Sacred Rest gives the weary permission to embrace rest, set boundaries, and seek sanctuary without any guilt, shame, or fear. Learn more about the author and the book.

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As usual, my five point review:

  • This book is so practical in our day and age. We are all busy, and in need of rest in so many ways. The author, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, is no different. She set out to write this book as a way for her to address the need for rest in her own life, both from a perspective worthy of her Christian faith as well as her medical background (read: lots of research went into this book!).
  • The author divided rest into seven categories: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, sensory, and creative. Though I’ve never thought of rest as needing to be some of those categories (sensory, for example), it makes perfect sense. The wide variety of categories do not really overlap, as I feared they would. As I was reading this book, that lack of overlap allowed me to zero in on areas in my life where I would appreciate (or need) more margin and more rest. That is so helpful!
  • Since this book aims to target the busy, the burned out, and the frenzied among us, the chapters are short, sweet, and concise. The majority of chapters contain practical advice on how to reset and rest so you can “recover your life, renew your energy, and restore your sanity.” This is very compelling! Though I read this book from cover to cover for the purposes of this review, the author encourages savoring the chapters to get the most out of them. Additionally, she gives an option of starting the book partway in (which I thought was very interesting!) so that the desperate can get practical tips, now.
  • There were two issues I must address with this book. The first is the lack of Christian content. Depending on your side of the coin, you may appreciate this (or you may not). There is some scripture in this book and you can definitely tell the author is a woman of faith. There wasn’t as much of a spiritual basis for the author’s beliefs and arguments for why we should rest. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and maybe my perspective would be different if I savored the book rather than read it straight through. This leads to my second point to address: part of the book, like most self-care/self-help/psychology based books, definitely had a me me me feel to it… a selfish feel. Maybe that was hard for me to read because, like most women, I want to take care of others, particularly my family. I didn’t get a good sense of the author’s why for rest besides just a healthy self. I think I was looking for something more here… I may not be articulating it well, and perhaps that isn’t even the point of the book. It’s just something I want to mention.
  • All in all, this is a good book. The practical tips for rest are great. Nothing earth shattering, but breaking it down by areas is a unique approach. Additionally, there is a quiz in the book to help us self-diagnose where we need to pursue rest. Though the Christian content is lacking and may not align entirely with my beliefs, there are parts that I still appreciate.

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Litfuse for the chance to read this book!

Reviews

Book Review: Refresh

Today I am reviewing Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona & David Murray.

Today I am reviewing Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona & David Murray.

description of the book from the publisher:

Life can be overwhelming. Sometimes it feels as if everything and everyone demands all of our time, our resources, our energy, and our very lives. Writing to women in the midst of this busy, do-it-all culture, husband-and-wife team Shona and David Murray offer practical tips for living at a more sustainable pace and avoiding exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. Sharing personal stories of their own struggles with overwhelming demands, they give counsel on everything from sleep to social media, relationships to recreation, and exercise to eating. This book encourages women to cultivate a healthy approach to life motivated and moderated by Christ’s transforming grace.

As usual, my five point review:

The premise of Refresh focuses on evaluating our lives through various lenses such as rest, relaxation, reduction, etc. Each of the ten chapters begins with the letter R and is called a “station” at the Refresh Gym. If you read the introduction, you’ll note that Refresh is a feminized adaption (by Shona, presumably) of of a book that David Murray wrote for men, Reset. I found the gym analogy a bit cheesy and did wonder how many women that imagery would appeal to. That aside, I would recommend the book. It began with Shona’s story, detailing her journey towards burn out. The trajectory introduced by the book argues that most (Christian) women are somewhere on this spectrum: stressed –> anxious –> overwhelmed –> burned out –> sad –> depressed –> suicidal (p. 24). I would agree with that notion; I think in our culture it is tough to not fit into one of those categories. I wasn’t clear if that trajectory was research based or not, because I would perhaps organize the spectrum differently, but for the sake of this review: I don’t think it matters.

Though I did not find the majority of this book to be “new” information, what I did wholeheartedly appreciate was the balance between psychological/medical research, self-help tips and tricks, and Gospel truth throughout this book. This was particularly poignant in discussions of physical and mental health, areas that the church doesn’t often address.

The Bible … guides us to care for both the body and the soul. The apostle Paul presents his theology of the body in 1 Corinthians 6:9–20. He starts by admitting that the human body has been damaged by sin (vv. 9–10). However, that doesn’t mean we just forget the body. No, Paul says Christ’s redemption is not just for the soul but also for the body. It’s a full-body and a full-soul salvation. “The body is . . . for the Lord,” insists Paul, “and the Lord for the body” (v. 13). He made it, saved it, and maintains an eternal interest in it. (p. 68)

One of the aspects of the book that I did not like was the approach to relaxation. There was great conversation about the Sabbath, but otherwise the application of annual vacations and daily personal times was a bit too privileged, specific, and (in my opinion) did not give room for factors such as family preferences, finances, and circumstances that do not allow for this. For instance, staycations were not encouraged because “being home” and “not doing anything” was not restful enough. I love vacations and I love personal time, but I know many people who logistically and financially cannot make things like that work, so the chapter seemed a bit exclusionary.

The number one thing I appreciated about this book was the recurring theme about vocation and work. This is so rare in Christian books written for women! Again, there was some privileged discussion here–a “choice” to work (not reality for all women, I know). Priorities in the workplace, balancing family and ministry and personal faith and work, and also accepting imperfection are all addressed at length. Other chapters addressed friendship, family matters, raising children in the faith, and our own personal relationships with God.

In general, I found Refresh to be thought provoking and helpful, a good analysis of how we can deal with life in our busy culture in a healthy, Christ-centered manner. The book closed with some thoughts for living the grace-paced life. So encouraging!

But God has taught me that, no, the grace-paced life is not only his will but more honoring to him. For me, to pace myself means less of my efforts and more of God’s grace. I have had to learn to fight hard against unbiblical, false guilt and personal expectations. I have learned to look up to God before looking across to people and ask: “What does God want me to do right now?” The key is to grasp that pacing ourselves is biblical, whereas living the fast, frantic life is not. It takes faith to believe that and to follow through with it. To live it is in fact a dying to self—a dying to our self-will, our self-sufficiency, and our self image. Have you understood frantic living versus grace-paced living in that way before? (p. 173-174)

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Crossway Blog Review Program for the chance to read this great book!

Give your Christmas a makeover with this practical approach to help your family learn what it means to truly celebrate their Savior. Learn more in my review of Total Christmas Makeover.
Reviews

Book Review: Total Christmas Makeover

Give your Christmas a makeover with this practical approach to help your family learn what it means to truly celebrate their Savior. Learn more in my review of Total Christmas Makeover.
Give your Christmas a makeover with this practical approach to help your family learn what it means to truly celebrate their Savior. Learn more in my review of Total Christmas Makeover.
description of the book from the publisher:
In the bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to get swept up in all of the things to do. But it’s important to pause and remember that our priority should be to spend time celebrating Christ’s birth and not forget to invite Jesus to his own party.
Christmas is far more than a celebration of an event from long ago or a modern holiday centered around shopping. Mindfully take time to listen to how God continues to speak through the Christmas story as the Gospel narratives centered around the birth of Jesus provide encouragement and revelation concerning the love of God and his wisdom for us today.
In Total Christmas Makeover, author and Bible teacher Melissa Spoelstra provides a practical approach for you and your family to turn your attention toward God’s grace day-by-day as you prepare for Christmas. This 31-day devotional presents key scriptures, ideas to implement with each reading, and questions for reflection to guide you in rediscovering rituals, relationship, and rest to connect you more deeply with Christ this holiday season.
As usual, my five point review:
  • Devotionals can be really hit or miss–they can be too serious, too fluffy, too focused on a particular audience, or so many other “toos.” There are several times of the year where devotionals can be really helpful, in my opinion. Without going into too much detail about the church calendar, I believe that God has given us times of the year to refocus on Him. Christmas is one of those times! Melissa Spoelstra’s devotional is a great way to not just get “into the holiday spirit” but also keep Christ part of your celebration.
  • The book is divided into three sections: rituals, relationship, and rest, with ten days of devotionals that relate to each theme. These themes are extracted from the author’s study of Biblical celebrations (Passover, festivals, Day of Atonement, etc.). She explains, “these were times of remembrance to help focus on God’s character and historical moments of His faithfulness” (p. 2). That’s not how we celebrate holidays, is it? But that’s how we should… how I would like to.
  • Each devotion begins with scripture, printed right in the book to make it easy to read. The devotion itself is about two pages long and has a short prayer. The next two pages include reflection questions and practical application points. Though much of the “devotion” portion itself is directed towards women, the scripture, reflection questions, and application points could definitely be used in a family setting to encourage your family to seek after Christ during the Christmas season.
  • As with all devotionals or “Christian” books, good ones make you think. While I haven’t read every devotion yet (I wanted to save some for December!!), the ones I did read have caused me to consider what our family’s holiday celebration will look like as our son grows up. Of course we still want to be part of our family of origins’ celebrations but we also want to make our own rituals in Nashville… with our church, our neighbors, our friends, and as our own family. Balancing that is hard, and I don’t have any answers except to say that things will come naturally in time. I hope. 🙂
  • All in all, Total Christmas Makeover is a great devotional for the upcoming holiday season. It is short and sweet, but thoughtful and practical. Best of all, it is Christ-centered. I hope you will find a copy to read with me this Christmas season!
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About the author:
Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women’s conference speaker, Bible teacher, and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping women of all ages to seek Christ and know Him more intimately through serious Bible study. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible Theology and enjoys teaching God’s Word to diverse groups and churches within the body of Christ. She is the author of the “First Corinthians: Living Love When We Disagree,” “Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness,” and “Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World Bible” studies and “Total Family Makeover: 8 Steps to Making Disciples at Home” book. She lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her pastor husband and four kids.
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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse. However, I was not required to write a positive review and received no compensation. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks for the chance to read this great book!