Tag Archives: christian non fiction

Another great read: Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F Downs

“I believe in the me God made and in the me God can make.”

Annie beautifully weaves together a collection of little stories from her life and the lives of others along with stories from the Bible in Let’s All Be Brave to encourage and embolden us readers to do the same: be brave. This book felt like a big warm hug — some books with a call to action can leave you feeling sweaty and nervous — but for me, it felt like Annie was reaching out of the pages, putting her arm around me, and saying “just be brave” in what I imagine is a sweet southern accent along with a comforting smile and slightly mischievous eyes.

You’ll feel like you’re catching up with a lifelong friend as you make your way through the pages of her book. Everything comes back to the main concept: be brave. I love this thought she shares — it is a great call to action, source of comfort, and pseudo-life mission: “You are one of a kind, made on purpose, deeply loved, and called to be courageous.” Young or old, I think all women will love this book!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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“When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity”

Oh. Man. I have been a huge Jen Hatmaker fan for almost a year now – as long as I have known of her. If you want to look into the life of a woman who is genuine, hilarious, and truly wrecked for the kingdom of God in the best way ever, I highly suggest that you check our her blog, her books, her speaking engagements, the show HGTV just did about her family’s move into a new home and the renovations that followed, or just follow her on Facebook. Her love for our Savior is contagious.

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See? Practically besties 🙂

I saw a Facebook post last month that she was re-releasing her book Interrupted from a few years ago, but with revised and expanded content, and wanted to offer 250 bloggers a chance to be sent an early release copy to share about with their readers. So thank YOU my lovely readers for the chance to tell you a little about this book! And I got to enjoy some quiet time on a plane ride to Boston this morning to finally dig into my notes and write!

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First of all, I think this book is for everyone: men and women, believers and non-believers, young and old. Everyone. In our busy and fast-paced world it is so easy to become a creature of habits, put our heads down, and just get through life numbing yourself to anything that disrupts your focus. How often do you lift your head up and think: “what if I’m missing the point?” or “is this all there is?”. It’s also so easy to feel discouraged in our time and feel like God has never been more absent in society than He is now. (But this isn’t true.)

Second – this book is best described as a conversation. I probably didn’t read it as quickly as I was supposed to, but honestly I loved reading and then having a time to pause and reflect and dig into my heart and get into prayer before hours or days later I’d pick it back up and continue.

During this few weeks of reading, I FINALLY took something that had been on my heart for a long while and turned it into action: connecting with and sharing what I hope and pray is a meaningful gesture with the homeless people I see daily who are begging on street corners and at major intersections that I drive by every day. I would avert my eyes at traffic lights in hopes to not FEEL anything that made me uncomfortable. I sat in tears for a good while after I felt these words jump off the page and squeeze my judgemental heart until I wanted to burst:

We are not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can’t withhold social relief because we’re not convinced it will be perfectly managed…we are only qualified to administer mercy, not judgement.

So I set off on a trip to Target and bought supplies to make what I now refer to as “blessings bags” — bags filled with things to make a poor and homeless person just a little more comfortable and a note of loving encouragement and prayer. I keep them in my car and hand them out at traffic lights like a lunatic when I am at an intersection where someone is begging. I am still thinking and praying and knowing that this will continue to evolve, but I feel like it is hopefully a helpful start. And I have already been so humbled by my few interactions in the last week that have involved brief but beautiful conversations with the recipient.

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Being ignorant in our intervention is just as unhelpful as detaching ourselves because we want to assume that the oppressed people of our world are thankless, reckless, and irresponsible. Maybe there are some who are, but when we stand at the gates of a Heaven we will face an account of our lives – what we did and what we didn’t do. Dig into Matthew 25 here, but the main idea of what matters and what doesn’t is our care for the oppressed. I remember being annoyed by the WWJD bracelet fad as a kid. But there really couldn’t be a better question to ask ourselves constantly. What would Jesus do? Because whatever the answer is in any situation, do that. And then do more of that.

I practically want to recreate most of the book for you right now because there is just so much to talk about and think about. But instead I’ll share one more concept that I really identified with: the concept of Communion as a call to action in our lives, not just a ritual process at church. Jen explains it in great detail from a theological standpoint that amazed me and I had never heard explained this way. When Jesus shared the bread and the cup with his disciples, it was a symbolic ritual, but also “a new prototype of discipleship. ‘Continuously make MY sacrifice real by doing this very thing.’ Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Become a living offering, denying yourself for the salvation and restoration of humanity…we don’t simply remember the meal; we become the meal.” If we are to feed His sheep, we need to be broken to feed others.

Boom. Brain explosion, yes?

So I challenge you as I challenge myself to not strive to be at the top in life, but to find the bottom and pour yourselves into the oppressed people who Jesus would’ve no doubt been right alongside of. And also to strive for great things: great giving and great loving — to not get complacent and comfortable. I think to a person who used to be very close to me who I was so humbled and amazed by the deep and powerful connection in their heart to seeing the needs of others and wanting to go to the corners of the earth to make things better — but fear of the uncomfortable and breaking the cycle of expectations is such a hard barrier to break through for all of us, and this person especially. It breaks my heart. I can’t say I get it right either, but I know that I don’t want to (and really CAN’T) ignore the call anymore. I want to live big and love more boldly than ever before. Are you with me?!
Ask Jesus to interrupt your life so that you are never the same again.

Now the fun part! Where to get your copy. I also want to send someone one. I wanted to do a giveaway with my copy, but it’s well-loved at this point and you deserve a fresh one! So comment below with an answer to one of these:
1) What would you struggle to give up if Jesus wanted to use your life to make a difference in the world?
2) In your community, what would make the Good News seem good again to people watching the church?
3) Do you use the Bible to defend things in your life instead of define it? How so?

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Another great read: Pursuing Justice, by Ken Wystma

I continue to be amazed at how I feel like God is calling my heart to these great books of conviction and true heart changes and growth. It’s like He has been knocking at the door and I’ve been peering through the peephole waiting to open up and let Him in because I know it’s gonna be big. But as I’m sitting here, door open, heart open, I can say that it is exciting to be more present than ever in my faith. Before I opened this book this past weekend, I had ordered an engravable from Stella & Dot with a bible verse that had really been imprinting itself on my heart a lot lately – Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (NKJV). So it really just felt that much more perfectly planned that this book spoke specifically to that verse.

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So this leads me to a little review about this book:

Ken Wystma challenges the reader before you even crack the spine of Pursuing Justice. The back of the book asks: If God designed us to experience true happiness, why do so many of us feel dissatisfied and purposeless? Throughout the book Ken uses his strong knowledge of theology combined with stories from his long history of ministry and travel to share the gospel and the call of God for justice. Whether this is a familiar concept or an entirely new one, you will appreciate his hopeful message and find there is always room to grow and learn. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is a core principle of our calling as believers and constantly referenced in this book: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. I appreciate his approach to pursuing justice: that even though we can’t fix the world, we can certainly change it. There is nothing trendy about justice, it is our duty and pleasure to live (and die) for it. This isn’t a guilt trip book, or even a “how to” with any sort of checklist. Instead, Ken equips you with the knowledge and encouragement to assess how the pursuit of justice is happening in your own life, and how to grow in that pursuit. Prepare yourself for a beautiful and transformative read, and then share it with a friend!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Great reads: Love Skip Jump by Shelene Bryan

This book review opportunity has been blessing me beyond words. (Haha, just realized that was a little bit of a book pun…ha!) but for real you guys, this book and the one I finished up a couple weeks ago have knocked me off my feet and shaken me in big ways. God is finding all these ways to bore into the space in my heart that keeps growing immeasurably larger that is calling me to action, to a desire to get in deep with those in need however He sees fit to lead me. It is this energy and excitement I can’t even explain. I just know that He is putting a very intentional stone ahead of my each step and I can’t wait to keep seeing where it’s taking me. The author of the book put it well when she said “God cares about the journey more than the end result”.

Okay so onto the book! Full disclosure, I read this from start to finish today as God blessed me with a beautiful and quiet summer Sunday afternoon to sit outside and soak in these heart-filled words while really being able to focus and hear Him in the spaces. I also should admit to eating about 12 peanut butter cup Oreos that I bought this morning at Target. Such a good day 🙂

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Love Skip Jump, written by Shelene Bryan is a journey through Shelene’s many adventures that led her to finally step out of her comfortable Christian life and really listen to what God was asking of her. When she started saying yes to the little and the big things, she found God working through her to cause ripples that are truly inspiring. I absolutely loved her honest and candid recounts of her journey and laughed and cried right along with each one. I read the book cover to cover in an afternoon and was right online checking out the website of her charity organization skip1.org (which encourages people to skip some convenience or pleasure, big or small, in their life and donate that money to help fund any number of great works) to try and see how I can jump into action with these folks. This book is one that I will be passing around to my friends to read and will have a lifelong spot on my bookshelf as I look back to her stories and challenges for encouragement and conviction. As Shelene writes “God doesn’t want us to do anything without joy. When it comes to serving God with our gifts, it’s not a ‘have to’, it’s a ‘get to’. We get to say yes and change everything.” Big or small, this book will change you and everyone who reads it for the better.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”