Before We Forget edited by Nathan Millican & Jonathon Woodyard–Book Review

This book is a series of brief essays written by pastors about the challenges of shepherding a congregation.  One of the editors calls it “an exercise in the discipline of confession.”  Remembrance is also highlighted as a key spiritual practice.

“We want to remind ourselves of God’s work in our lives as He has conformed us into the image of Jesus and molded us into (hopefully) more faithful followers and more careful and helpful shepherds.”

Topics discussed include:

  • Insecurity
  • Pride
  • Taking the Pastorate for granted
  • Character
  • Sexual purity
  • Patience
  • Reconciliation
  • Suffering

Each theme has one chapter written by a young pastor, and one by an older pastor.  If you are not in ministry yourself, you should still read this book for a better understanding of the problems pastors encounter. The ministry is not easy;  it requires the ability to properly order priorities, persevere in the face of difficult circumstances and lead others while also acknowledging your own sins and shortcomings.

 

The topics covered are relevant to all church leaders, and in fact every Christian.  I especially liked the chapters on patience and reconciliation (which probably needs I need to work on these things!)

VERDICT:  5 Stars.  Very interesting and readable.

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/before-we-forget-P005815461

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

 

 

 

The Great Farmapalooza by Jill Roman Lord — Book Review

What’s a farmapalooza?  Well, according to author Jill Roman Lord, it is a host of animals making a joyful noise unto the Lord!  This sturdy 8″x8″ board book is filled with colorful illustrations depicting common farm animals, along with the sounds they make.  There are 11 flaps which toddlers will love to open in order to discover the animal hidden inside.  Each animal is grateful to God for both what they have and what they are.

This book will certainly appeal to young children,  and can be easily used by parents as a tool to teach the names of animals, the sounds they make, and the concept of thanking God for everyday blessings.

My only concern is the size and weight of the book.  Some children will find it a bit heavy and unwieldly.  It will probably be best used sitting on the parents lap with some help turning pages.

VERDICT:  4 STARS.  Nothing unusual, but attractive and fun.

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/the-great-farmapalooza-P005824877

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

For other books for children see these posts:

Great and Small Prayers for Babies — Book Review

GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

The Silent Noisy Night by Jill Roman Lord — Book Review

The Quiet Crazy Easter Day by Jill Roman Lord–Book Review

 

 

When God Says Wait by Elizabeth Laing Thompson–Book Review

When we pray there are times we quickly get a clear “yes” or “no.” THE THING we are asking for appears, or the door definitely closes.  Yes, THE GUY proposed — or no,  THE JOB went to another candidate.  However, sometimes the answer is murky:  the desired thing doesn’t happen right away, but there’s still a possibility for the future.  That puts us in a “waiting” mode.

Ms. Thompson uses biblical stories to illustrate different kinds of waiting and how they might be handled. You’ll get a closer look at the lives of Miriam, Naomi, Ruth, Sarah, Hannah, Jacob, David and more. Along the way, you’ll hear Elizabeth’s own story which includes her “babywait” and her wait to become a published author.  Waiting usually isn’t pleasant (at least not for us anxious types) but during these times we can learn to trust God and grow in Christian maturity.  As the author points out, there are only two things we can control about waiting:  how we wait and who we become along the way.  We can also wait with others because guess what?  Everyone is waiting for something!

Each chapter closes with some “waiting room” activities which include journal and prayer prompts and suggested Bible reading for further study.

I did have pretty big theological issues with some Ms. Thompson’s interpretation of Biblical events.  For example, I don’t believe that God changes His mind.  God is omniscient — he knows what we’ll say and what He’ll do already.  Although God may “seem” to change His mind (and yes, you can point to Scriptural examples), He is doing this to make a point or teach us something.

In spite of this, I found the book to be an easy, thoughtful and helpful read.  It would be a good choice to read and discuss with a small group of friends.  If you’re seeking CLARITY (our monthly theme) you might check it out.

VERDICT: FOUR STARS.  It would be 5 except for the theological issues.

For more about this book, go to this post:

Trying to Read God’s Mind

 

Martin Luther: A Life Inspired by Wyatt North — Book Review

This short book is a good place to start if you want to learn about Martin Luther.  I ordered it as a e-book and read it on my kindle in a few hours.  It covers Luther’s entire life, beginning with his family background and birth.  There are sections on Luther’s schooling, his experiences as a monk, his transforming experience in understanding the gospel, his challenge to the religious establishment, subsequent persecution and marriage.  It also includes the spread of his teaching, the contribution of his teaching to society and more.  There are quotes from Luther on different topics, interspersed throughout the text.  Luther’s bluntness and wit makes him come alive to the reader.

The author suggests that Luther may have been bipolar — he certainly had depressive periods (although his situation at times would warrant this) and the prodigiousness of his writing and preaching, could indicate times of mania.  We’ll never know, but it’s an interesting question of ponder.

I especially enjoyed the section of Luther’s marriage.  Luther saw marriage as the best school for building character.  His comments about family life humanize the great reformer.  About his wife, Katherine, he says:

” … I am not infatuated though I cherish my wife and I would not exchange Katie for France or for Venice because God has given her to me and other women have worse faults.”

He describes his baby son, Hans, as “a joyful nuisance” and asks, “Child, what have you done that I should love you so?  You have disturbed the whole household with your bawling.”

In this book, you will get a taste of both the mighty accomplishments of Luther and his daily life as a husband, father and preacher.

VERDICT:  4 STARS.  I have read other biographies of Luther, and didn’t learn much that was new, but this is an well written and informative read.

 

 

Nothing is Wasted by Lore Cottone–Book Review

Lore Cottone’s story is a heartwrenching — the journey of a mother facing the complicated life of a child diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, bipolar disorder and depression. The many problems of her oldest son, Graham, eventually led to addiction and self-harming behavior.  He spent his eighteenth and nineteenth birthdays in jail, and his twentieth birthday in a mental hospital.  At times he was homeless.  Over the years, she and her family struggled to discover how to help Graham.  They tried homeschooling, counseling, medication, mentoring, rehab and more — hoping each time that the final piece of the puzzle would fall into place, solving his problems.

Finally, realizing that Graham and her other sons are grown, Lore discovers that as a Christian, the only way to find peace is to give her children into God’s care, to trust him fully.  As she puts it:

“They were all young men now.  We had done the job of raising them in the faith of our loving God.  Now they needed to make choices.  They needed to own their faith.  I was called to pray but not to worry over their decisions.”

All parents face this dilemma at some point, but how much harder it is when you see your child floundering.  Eventually Graham’s life settles down.  He moves to California and finds a church.  An older man offers to rent him a room in his house and they become friends.  He is accepted as an intern in the church’s ministry school and attends community college.  Finally, he is medication and drug free and functioning well.

Lore describes Graham’s story as a miracle.  Not all stories will end as well.  The lesson to take away is not that God will eventually fix all our problems — it is to trust Him and His purposes, even in the midst of our personal chaos.  His plan cannot be thwarted.  Nothing is wasted.

VERDICT:  3 STARS.  This is a very personal memoir that will appeal to parents facing similar issues.

For another book on special needs parenting, see this post:

eat, sleep, save the World by Jamie Sumner–Book Review

 

Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger –Book Review

This is another book I’ve had for a while, and am just getting around to reading.  As usual Thom Rainer does not disappoint, and not only that, Simple Church has a lot to do with our monthly theme, clarity.  Don’t tell me God doesn’t guide my reading!

What Rainer and Geiger describe is not a new church model — it’s about designing a process for discipleship.  That process should be simple, and involves four key steps and words:

  • Design a simple process that has clarity — it should be easy to communicate and for people to understand
  • Place your key programs along the process so that they encourage movement toward the goal of spiritual maturity
  • Align and unite all church ministries around the process
  • Develop focus by eliminating things (even good ones) that fall outside of the process

The authors make the point that many church leaders and members are involved in so many programs that they have little time for real ministry.  The programs often compete with one another, and lack an intentional process for spiritual growth.  Becoming a “simple” church may actually involve eliminating activities that do little to further true growth in discipleship.

There are examples from real churches and quite a bit of statistical jargon and information (the authors admit to being research “nerds”).  I found their arguments logical and compelling.  It is an interesting perspective and one I had never considered.  As a member of a small congregation where many are scrambling to get things done, the idea that less is more is certainly appealing!

The point is made that the process is not necessarily easy.  When congregations have become “complex” it is difficult to eliminate programs because of their history and the attachments people have to them.  It requires prayer and movement that is fast enough, but not too fast.  In other words, handle with prayer!

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  Well worth considering for pastors and leaders.

For more books by Thom Rainer see these posts:

Anatomy of a Revived Church by Thom S. Rainer–Book Review

Scrappy Church – Book Review

Scrappy Church by Thom Rainer–Book Review #2

 

Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson–Book Review

I have read other books by Eugene Peterson and generally really like his style.  I have to admit, however, that I slogged through this one.  It is dense and fairly academic, not a quick or easy read.  You may even want to take notes!

If you do make it through the book, you will probably learn some big words you didn’t know before, such as kerygma (the proclamation of the gospel) and perichoresis (the relationship between the three members of the trinity).  Peterson’s premise is that God is present in all areas of life (I certainly agree).  He structures his discussion around these three:  creation, history and community.  For each section, he parallels a book from the Old Testament with a book from the New Testament, and also discusses a common threat or heresy that often arises around the concepts presented.

Section 1:  Creation

  • Kerygma:  Birth of Jesus
  • Texts that parallel:  Genesis/Gospel of John
  • Threat:  Gnosticism

Section 2:  History

  • Kerygma:  Death of Jesus
  • Texts that parallel:  Exodus/Gospel of Mark
  • Threat:  Moralism

Section 3:  Community

  • Kerygma:  Resurrection of Jesus
  • Texts that parallel:  Deuteronomy/Gospel of Luke & Acts
  • Threat:  Sectarianism

Everything is well thought out and researched.  I found the connections between the Old and New Testaments particularly interesting.  According to Peterson, this is an exploration of “spiritual theology” which he defines as:

“a cultivated disposition to live theology, to live everything that God reveals to us in Scripture and Jesus and then live it in the neighborhood, in our neighborhood.”

There is a section at the end with a list and description of other books that have informed his thinking about spiritual theology.

In short, we often know a lot about God, but fail to live in obedience to the things we know.  He also spends time discussing how often technology removes our everyday life even further from an actual experience of God.  (The book was written in 2005, but this point seems even more relevant today with the coronavirus encouraging more and more use of technology which minimizes our contact with others).

I agree with Peterson’s premises;  I admire his research;  but somehow I still found this book difficult to get through.

If you are interested in purchasing it, I noticed that the kindle book is available from Amazon for only 1.99!

VERDICT:  Content 5 stars, readability 3 stars

For more on Eugene Peterson:

A Quote by Eugene Peterson

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson — Book Review

 

The Edge of Everywhen by A.S. Mackey–Book Review

  • A “verboten” library
  • An inheritance of rare books
  • A magic book that tells a different story to each reader

What bibliophile or avid reader would not be attracted to a book containing these elements?  Aimed at middle-grade readers, even adults will devour it.  It is cleverly narrated by Novus Fabula, the magic book itself!  Thirteen year old Piper and her autistic younger brother Phoenix go to live with their Aunt Beryl after the death of their mother.  Their father has been missing for a year after being kidnapped in a foreign country.

It contains elements of several genres — mystery, gothic, fantasy– blended into an intriguing tale that will keep you wanting to read more.  Each chapter begins with a quote (some are real, some invented, but you’ll like them all).  Characters and their emotions are realistically portrayed.  It weaves the mention of other children’s classics into the plot — Harry Potter, The Narnia Tales, The Little House Series, The Secret Garden and more.  In addition, this is a book that will make you think about life, God and paying attention to the world around you and having compassion for others.

Here’s my favorite quote:

“I would never say that God can’t reach inside the words we read in a book or a song and tell us things we need to hear.”

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  Buy it for the middle schooler on your Christmas list this year.

If you would like to purchase this book go to the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/the-edge-of-everywhen-P005821687

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

For more children’s books, see these posts:

The Society of Extraordinary Raccoon Society on Boasting by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

Who Will Play With Me by Randall Goodgame–Book Review

What’s So Wonderful About Webster? by Stephen and Alex Kendrick–Book Revie

 

What the Bible Says About Purpose by David Ramos–Book Review

I got this short e-book free through BookBub (www.bookbub.com) and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Of course, spiritual gifts and vocation are one of my big interests, but if you are not well versed on these topics, this would be a good place to begin.  It can be  finished in a couple of hours, and it’s chock full of good, biblically sound information about God’s will, God’s plan, and God’s timing as well as your purpose and calling as part of the Christian community and as an individual.

David Ramos lays his information out clearly and concisely.  It is well researched, with referenced Bible verses to support and illustrate his conclusions.  It includes:

  • Old Testament and New Testament verses that explain and clarify purpose
  • A definition of Biblical purpose
  • The difference between God’s will, God’s call and God’s plan
  • Lies and truths you may believe about your calling
  • Examples of good and bad waiting in the Bible
  • Examples of good and bad impatience in the Bible
  • Different types of calling as seen in the Bible

Of course, there is more.  The book also includes a list of more books by the author, a Guide for Growth in Difficult Times, some recommended articles on the web about finding your purpose, and a list of every verse about purpose in the Bible.

I looked up several of the suggested articles on purpose and found them to be engaging and helpful.  I was disappointed that one free resource mentioned for free download (5 Questions That Create Clarity) did not seem to be available any longer.  However, the author has a website with courses (at a charge) for further study.  You can check him out at https://faithspring.teachable.com/.

This would be an excellent book to read and discuss with a small group.

VERDICT: 5 STARS

For another book by David Ramos see these posts:

You’re Part of the Story

Step by Step

 

 

A Mother’s Love from the (in)courage community–Book Review

This is another lovely offering from the (in)courage community, founded by DaySpring, the Christian products subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc..  In brief devotional essays, real moms reflect upon their experiences in parenting.  Some will make you laugh and others will bring tears to your eyes.  Bible verses, pages for journaling and Scriptural meditations are interspersed throughout.  There are attractive illustrations and a ribbon bookmark.

Subtitled, Celebrating Every Kind of Mom, you will find grandmothers, adoptive mothers, and those who have been like mothers all represented.  Sections include:

  • Love That Breaks the Mold
  • Love While Holding them Close
  • Love and Laundry
  • Love While Letting them Fly
  • Love Around the Table

I particularly enjoyed the essay about #Realmomconfessions.  For example, “I not only allowed my toddler to eat crackers off of the floor, I put them there because all the bowls were dirty”!  What mom has not had moments like this? (but been afraid to admit it!)

Although not limited to mothers of young children, this is the group to whom the book will appeal most.  I could imagine a mother answering the journaling questions and passing the book on to her own daughter when she becomes a parent.

VERDICT:  5 Stars.  This would make a nice baby shower or Mother’s Day gift.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/a-mother-s-love-P005819505

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

For other books from the (in)courage community see these posts:

Journey to the Cross from the (in)courage community — Book Review

Women of Courage: a Forty-Day Devotional — Book Review