Not “pau” yet

This morning I really struggled at church. The message was on Psalm 73. The pastor spoke dissected it, nearly line by line, as he gave examples of what that would be like nowadays. The “arrogant” are people with fancy cars and jobs and they have big houses and they’re never sick and nothing bad ever happens to them. He spoke of how we can question God, asking why we should follow him if life is so hard for us and we’re good. Why not just live how we want to and disregard God if, apparently, we’ll be blessed that way?

But, it all gets better because those suckers, those arrogant folks, well, “surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.”(Psalm 73:18 NIV)

And while that’s something that I know does happen and I know is just, the pastor’s next words shocked me. He said, multiple times with every example he gave, “well,we know their end now, don’t we?!”

And I was disgusted. I felt sick that he would rejoice over a death or a downfall, even if it was for the wicked or unjust. Don’t they, whoever they are, as God’s people, deserve grace? Don’t they deserve at least the kindness of prayer for their heart?

I had thought all this while listening to him speak of vague examples. Then he said, “well now, how about Tiger Woods? We know his end now, don’t we?”

And I wanted to stand up and shout that it’s not his end! He’s not dead. He still lives and breathes and feels and hurts. Shouldn’t our action be to pray and encourage and love? We should not be rejoicing in his fall and in his brokenness. If we do, where does that leave us?

In a book I read as a teenager I remember the two main characters talking about their friend who had made some bad choices. One character said it was sad that the friend’s life was over now that she was pregnant as a teenager. The other friend corrected her, saying that she was not finished, she was not “pau” (finished in Hawaiian) yet. Her life was far from over. Until she was dead, there was time to love and pray and encourage.

What should our reaction be to an arrogant person’s downfall? Are we arrogant by calling other people arrogant? ūüôā

Heartbreaking but amazing novel (The First Gardener – Denise Hildreth Jones)

How do you deal with incredible loss? ¬†Denise Hildreth Jones’ latest novel,¬†The First Gardener, is the story of Mack and Gray London, governor of Tennessee. ¬†They question God, life, love, everything as they grieve and live their lives. ¬†They are helped along by their friends and family (a hilarious cast of characters…mainly Eugenia’s buddies) including the gardener for the governor’s mansion, Jeremiah. ¬†Jeremiah’s heart is expressed through flowers and their meanings, something not always well received by Mack.

As I read this novel, I was amazed by the depth of the characters and their pain.  I cried as I was blown away by the hurt and the emotions.  Jones is a beautiful writer, and her portrayal of Mack and Gray as they struggled through the pain that filled their lives.  While reading, I had to stop and just take in the pain and, before I knew it, I found myself praying for Mack.  Then I realized that she was a fictional character.  Oops.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this novel, just like all of Denise Hildreth’s books (especially The Will of Wisteria) and would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good (but hard) story of redemption and love and life.

Thank you, Tyndale, for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest opinion!

Slow start, but an okay novel (Delivery – Diana Prusik)

I struggled to get into Diana Prusik’s debut novel, Delivery. Livi, the main character struggles to vanquish her demons as she works at her family’s small town florist shop. She and her sister, Gretta, don’t always see eye to eye, especially after the latest tragedy that throws Livi for a loop. Her pain is nearly tangible. The characters in this story took me awhile to get into (especially with the confusing timeline of the story…so many flashbacks!), but once I got it all figured out, I mostly enjoyed the story. It was funny, heartbreaking, and entertaining, but it had its verrrry slow moments as well.

There were many loose ends at the novel’s close, and I wished Prusik would have provided some sort of resolution for Livi’s issues with her family. Instead of a clear resolution, I was left with questions about Livi and her husband and Livi’s relationships with others.

All in all, I moderately enjoyed Prusik’s debut novel. Thank you, Tyndale, for providing an electronic copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest opinion.

Engaging, well-written, funny novel (Reinventing Leona – Lynne Gentry)

I’ve read quite a few novels featuring a pastor’s wife as the main character. But what about a novel telling the story of a pastor’s wife…with no pastor? ¬†Enter Reinventing Leona¬†by Lynne Gentry.

Leona is on her own. Her beloved husband has kicked the bucket and she’s a wife, no longer a pastor’s wife. What will become of her as the world continues turning? Her mother and her kids are in conflicts–with her or with God or with others. The evil elder Howard is up to no good as he seeks a new pastor.

Though I felt some of the conflicts were slightly contrived and silly, I really enjoyed Gentry’s debut novel. I was captivated while reading it (went to bed one night way too late because of it), and I really enjoyed the writing style. ¬†I felt like I was a part of Leona overcoming her fears and finding herself as she stood up to her mom, dealt with hard issues, and got herself a job…all the while remaining polite and charming. ¬† Engaging, funny, real; Gentry hit this novel out of the ballpark!

Thank you, Tyndale, for providing an electronic copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest opinion.

Women of Faith Conference 2011: Seattle

When I first heard that I could get FREE books in exchange for writing an honest review, I could hardly believe it…but it was true, and I’ve definitely taken advantage of that. ¬†I love getting to choose the books I want to review, anticipating their arrival in the mail, reading them, and then posting a review. ¬†Some of my favorite books come from Thomas Nelson and I’ve been so thankful that I just keep getting them again and again.

So, when I received an email from Thomas Nelson’s program, BookSneeze, asking if I wanted to be a blogger at a Women of Faith event in my area. ¬†Sure! ¬†I have to admit that I have always been hesitant of the big Christian conferences. ¬†I don’t know what about it was off-putting, but I am going to conquer my fear of cheesiness and of crying ladies and all that I have pictured that goes on at these Women of Faith conferences. ¬†More than simply “conquering my fear”, I am actually getting excited about going!

The theme of the conference is “Over the Top” and I’m excited to hear the speakers (Patsy Clairmont especially; I hear she’s hilarious) and to hear Mandisa too (I have a secret love for her fueled by my secret love for K-LOVE). ¬†Mostly, I’m excited to journey there with a buddy (I’m planning to ask my sister in law or my best buddy) and to be encouraged and challenged.

I know the conference isn’t until the end of October, but thanks, Thomas Nelson/BookSneeze and Women of Faith for offering this opportunity! ¬†I’m thankful to get to blog about my time there too! ūüôā

How I love summer!

I am currently enjoying summer. As I slave away all year grading poorly written essays by 12 year olds, I feel entitled to relaxing all I want and doing whatever I want (I do what I want!). So, what do I like to do most during the summer?

READ!

And the best part about this is that I get a lot of free books. It’s a great perk of being a book reviewer. Way to go, publishing companies. I am oh so thankful. With that said, I’ve read a lot recently. I’m getting into the whole e-book thing and have not hated reading a few ARCs on our iPad. Not a bad gig.

Anyway, with all of that said, I have lots of reviews to write. Which means I need to actually do that instead of just writing aimlessly since I can’t sleep.

Maybe tomorrow?

Inspiring read for teenage girls (Praying for your Future Husband – Robin Jones Gunn & Tricia Goyer)

I became a Christian when I was in seventh grade. ¬†I was alone, in my bedroom, reading a book called Summer Promise¬†by Robin Jones Gunn. ¬†I grew in my faith as I read the subsequent books in the Christy Miller series and even prayed for my future husband (he’s awesome, by the way) as Christy did. ¬†With all of that said, I really enjoyed reading Robin Jones Gunn & Tricia Goyer’s Praying for your Future Husband.

It is geared at teenage girls, and they definitely hit their mark.  Through personal storytelling, shared stories from readers, prayers for the reader and her future husband, and insightful questions, the authors guide the reader to see the value in prayer, and especially prayer for their future husband.  Their writing does not talk down to the teenagers; instead, it felt respectful and encouraging.

As always, Robin Jones Gunn does not disappoint!  Thank you, WaterBrook Multnomah, for a great book that I would feel confident giving to a teenage girl seeking guidance.  I received this book for frizzle in exchange for my honest review.

A great read (Jesus, My Father, the CIA, & Me: A Memoir…of Sorts – Ian Morgan Cron)

I am a blog stalker. ¬†I love to read Rachel Held Evans’ blog¬†and when she posted her book lover’s survey¬†I jumped on it fast. ¬†She said she was excited to read Ian Morgan Cron’s Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir…of Sorts¬†and when I saw it later that day on Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze, I was stoked.

This book did not disappoint. ¬†I am a sucker for a good story and I was mesmerized by the story Cron told. ¬†Not only was it a fabulous story, it was well written and engaging. ¬†I appreciated Cron’s writing, but more than that, I appreciated his insight into God, alcoholism, and life.

I laughed aloud, I cried (only once), and I have since thought about Cron, his life, his family, his story.  Thanks, Thomas Nelson, for a great read.  I appreciate that you send me books in exchange for my honest review.

Fast paced, action-packed, YA novel (The Final Hour – Andrew Klavan)

I was excited when contacted by Thomas Nelson to review the final novel in Andrew Klavan’s The Homelanders series, The Final Hour. ¬†Even though these are YA novels, I thoroughly enjoyed both¬†The Long Way Home¬†and The Truth of the Matter, as well as the fourth and final book, The Final Hour.

Charlie West has been through a lot lately…he went to bed one night, and a year later, woke up with no recollection of the previous year. ¬†Terrorists are after him, the cops are after him. ¬†He’s not sure if there’s anyone he can trust. ¬†After remembering more and more, Charlie realizes that there’s a terrorist plot in the works and he is the only one who can stop it.

I am amazed at how Klavan wove this complicated plot throughout his series.  I appreciated how the story evolved and all of the loose ends were tied.  Charlie is a hero, truly, and his decision making process would be a great example for young adults.

My only concern was some of the rhetoric. ¬†As a middle school teacher, I am always in awe of how impressionable teenagers are. ¬†Throughout the novel, Klavan paints his characters with a wide brush. ¬†While I think it’s important to delineate between right and wrong, I think it is just as important to remember that not all stereotypes fit all people. ¬†Yes, I’ll give him the skinhead stereotype, but Klavan’s writing seemed to depict all Muslims as terrorists. ¬†As an adult and a Christian, I think it is dangerous for young adult books to use black and white rhetoric to portray inaccurate stereotypes.

All in all, I did really enjoy the fast paced action thriller that was The Final Hour, and I was thankful for a resolution to the series that had captured my imagination. ¬†Thank you, Thomas Nelson, for this book to review. ¬†These are my honest opinions. ūüôā