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Monday, no secondhand faith…

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A Black Cat Book Review

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Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook

Brothers Ryan and Josh Shook were raised in the Church, sons of a preacher.  All they knew was their family’s Christian faith.  Somewhere in their teens they began to question the authenticity of their personal beliefs.  Did they really believe or were they simply worshipping  God with their parents faith, a secondhand faith?

What followed was a time of searching, doubting, drifting, and lots of questions.  They tell some stories about themselves duringfirsthand the time they were sort of wandering in the wilderness that are open and honest.  They  realized they were not going to be satisfied with anything but firsthand faith.  Not just the faith of their father but faith they owned, firsthand faith.

The book is written primarily for teens and young adults that are Christian but questioning the validity of their beliefs and the basis of their faith.  The book asks the questions young people, and many older folks, are asking themselves and gives insight on how to find the answers.  With personal reflection and comments from other young people the brothers don’t  answer the questions directly.  They do point the reader in the direction of the answers with “Think about It” and “Might Try This” sections of the book.

This is a good book for anyone looking for faith that is not just a mask but one that is real from the inside out.   Personally, I liked chapter 5, “Trashing the Checklist” and chapter 6, “Question Everything” the best.  The Shook brothers make what may seem to some  like radical suggestions.  But if read to the end none of it is really radical but it is really solid.  The key is to not stop reading; you must read the whole to understand the parts.

I think this would be a good book for a teen group study.  It is written in an easy conversational style that will lead to discussion.  It has good honest feedback from young people who looked for answers to their questions and doubts and found what they needed.  Overall a book worth reading.

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This book was sent to me by WaterBrook Multnomah, as a gift, for participating 
in an online survey before the book was published.

Tuesday, the language of blessing…

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Black Cat Book Review

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The Language of Blessing by Joseph Cavanaugh III

In his book, The Language of Blessing, Joseph Cavanaugh III wants us to know that everyone in this world is one of a kind.  He wants us to know who we are and what gifts and talents we have been given.  And he wants us to know that each person is meant to bless others with these gifts and talents; this is the language of blessing.  He says, “I want to convince you that what you offer is so rare that it has never been given before and it will never be given again.”

With many personal stories, Cavanaugh, shares the sadness of not being affirmed as a child andlanguage how it affected how he viewed life and how he lived.  These are stories many have lived in one form or another.  Childhood is where we learn what we have to offer and when we are not blessed with affirmation we often think who and what we are is of little value. “After all, you cannot give to others what you have not received yourself”. With application activities after each chapter questions are asked to help us see the error in some of our thinking and given encouragement to use the lessons taught in the chapter to begin seeing and using our God-given gifts. 

George Barna writes in the forward, “Joe will also introduce you to some self-assessment inventories, which will enable you to invest yourself more heavily in using your strengths rather than inefficiently striving to overcome your weaknesses.”  This approach is what was most new and surprising to me…and most welcome.   

Once we know what we have within ourselves, and the importance of sharing who we are and what we have to offer, we can begin to use the language of blessing to affirm others.  As the author writes, “To deny your God-given gifts, talents, and intelligences is to deny His workmanship in your life.” 

This is an easy book to read, not a scholarly tome, on how we come to think of ourselves as we do, right or wrong.  And how to accent the positive and build on it and how to recognize the negative and erase it.  Well worth reading.

This book was sent to me by Tyndale House Publishers without charge in exchange for this review.

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Friday, I liked it, I really liked it…

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A Black Cat Book Review

The End by Mark Hitchcock

With his overview of the end times, Mark Hitchcock has taken a difficult, often confusing, and always controversial subject and written about it in a refreshingly simple way.  That is not to say his book is simplistic, but that it takes complex prophecy and presents it in a way that is easier to understand than what most authors write. 

The End is written to be understood not only by scholars and intellectuals but also by the layperson who does not have a seminary or university background.  In a conversational way, with many scripture references and citing many scholars and experts of eschatology, past and present, Hitchcock brings light to prophecy that often seems unknowable.  He gives the different views and chronology of the Rapture, the Millennium, and the Tribulation;  what they are, what they mean, and how they will unfold.  He gives the strength and weaknesses of all the views and tells the reader his thoughts and opinions and why he believes as he does.

Where many authors tend to sensationalize the prophecies of the end times Hitchcock writes thoughtfully and carefully about things found in scripture that are not easily understood.  He takes what can be dark and frightening and brings it from a science-fiction-like genre to non-fiction  reality.

This is a book for Christian believers and for those who are not Christian in their beliefs.  For believers it is insightful and encouraging.  For unbelievers, perhaps, it will help make the unbelievable believable.  Anyone who reads The End will find it well written and thought-provoking.

This book was sent to me, without charge, by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. in exchange for this review.

Friday, Ruth has a story to tell…

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A Black Cat Book Review

The Girl’s Still Got It by Liz Curtis Higgs

This well researched verse by verse study of the book of Ruth is a refreshing new look at the story.  The story is well-known and often quoted and because it is so familiar we may think there is nothing new we can learn from it.  In her down to earth style Higgs takes this ancient story and with insight and vision  gives today’s reader not only a look at life then but gives her a contemporary understanding of it.

In this study we learn that there is more to love than good feelings; there is sacrifice, loss, hard work, determination, obedience,  trust, and a lot of humility.  We learn about how Ruth’s love for Naomi takes Naomi from bitterness to gratitude and hope.  We learn about selflessness and the need to not only  hold on but to let go.  Boaz teaches us about patience, respect, and prudence.

Two things that I especially liked about this book were the  word studies and the use of many bible translations.  By delving deeper into the Hebrew words the text became clearer and gave better comprehension to the meaning.  Using many bible translations helps in the understanding of the significance and intent of the verses.  These two tools certainly gave me a clearer picture of the story and its lessons.

At the end of each chapter there is a short comment by a  “Ruth In Real Life”.  They are interesting and give  perspective about the chapter  from women today.  There are Discussion Questions and a  Study Guide included.  Both are thought provoking.

And not to be missed at the very back of the book...

Righteous Ruth Rap. 

I received this book free of charge from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for this review.

Sunday, Named By God, a review…

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A Black Cat Book Review

 

Named by God by  Kasey Van Norman

Like all of us Kasey Van Norman has a past.  Like most of us, there were good times and bad times; times she was on the right path and times when she lost her way.  Unlike a lot of us she has overcome her past, lives in the present, and looks forward to the future.

Of her past, Van Norman writes openly and honestly and doesn’t feel sorry for herself.  She has faced her short-comings and failures, asked for forgiveness, and has forgiven.  She encourages us to do the same by looking at who we were and why, to learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others in our lives, and to see God in all of it.  See how He was there with us and what He was doing for us, through us, and often in spite of us, to accomplish His plan.

She then brings us into the present.  And once again, like all of us she has her ups and downs and like most of us she questions the why of things.  But unlike many of us she does not question God’s love for her or His grace in her life.   And she tells us how she has come to this understanding.

She writes, “In order to be transformed, we must come to the realization that it is not enough to simply believe in God; we must believe God.”  and  “In order to take another step in transforming our present, we must presently believe in God’s ultimate plan for our lives.”

In the redeemed believer the future is assured and Van Norman tells us to be filled with the Word, know our gifts, and use them in service to others.  She writes that we are not to give the future just an occasional thought but to embrace it.  Because of  what  our future holds she wants us to know that how we live is important not only for our own lives but for the lives of others.

Named By God is engagingly written with personal stories and experiences with no excuses for when she went off the path on her own.  She uses scripture to reference and explain what she is saying.  Van Norman did not overcome her past to live in the present and embrace the future by herself and she knows it.  She gives God the glory!

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This book was sent to me by Tyndale House Publishers at no cost to me in exchange for this review.

Saturday, Raised Right book review…

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A Black Cat Book Review

Raised Right by Alisa Harris

As a child of evangelicals, homeschooled, and taught the conservative-Republican Christian way of thinking, Harris was on the front-lines of political activism before she could talk.  As a baby she was in her parents arms on the picket lines of protest against injustice and the moral decline of America.  As a teenager she was passionate about her faith and just as passionate about politics.  Never questioning what she was taught.

While in college, in her words, “And then I burned out”  she tired of confrontation and the compulsion to argue with anyone who held views different from hers.  After college, as a journalist, Harris found that some questions do not have easy answers and that discussion is more than snappy campaign slogans.  She began to understand that “We can make political the things that are political and make spiritual the things that are spiritual.  Sin and pain are spiritual–we treat them in a spiritual way…But when injustice, robbery, and inequity are not just individual but institutional, it’s time to take a political stand”.

Harris has moved from her parents political beliefs but remains with them in her spiritual foundation.  From them she learned to care about, and for, others and to love not just with words but with actions.  This is what she is trying to live and hopes to pass on to the next generation.

Whatever your political leanings Alisa Harris’ journey that she shares in Raised Right will give you some understanding of this generation of concerned and politically active young Christians.  You will learn a bit about where they come from, how they got to where they are, and what they hope for the future.

This book was sent to me free of charge in exchange for this review by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers.

Saturday, beauty that matters…

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A Black cat Book Review

Fierce Beauty by Kim Meeder

In her book of true stories Kim Meeder tells women the truth about beauty, what it is and what it is not.  She writes of the beauty she sees in the women and girls around her and in her own life.

“You were not created to be a princess of entitlement but a warrior, fighting to bring love and hope to the world.”

It becomes clear through the stories that the world’s quest for beauty is insatiable, there is never enough, it will never be satisfied.  This beauty imprisons women making their world small and confining.  It cannot endure, it can only fade.

Just as clearly true beauty is revealed in the lives of imperfect women who have chosen the joy found in the freedom of the warrior over the prison of the princess.  This beauty does endure, it is eternal.

“God is calling women to be beautiful, not just the way our world portrays.  God’s desire is that we choose to lay down our princess crown of entitlement, pick up His sword of encouragement, and start fighting for those around us who are losing their battle for hope.”

Meeder writes captivatingly and deceptively simple.  In her book you can find easy surface lessons or dig deeper and discover wisdom rarely found in a book with beauty in the title.  From beginning to end the heart of Kim Meeder is exposed.  She encourages and inspires.

There is an honesty and transparency here that gives the reader much to ponder.

I received this book free of charge by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

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