By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Category: Non-fiction Review

What I’m Reading: Holy in the Moment

Have you ever thought about the process of panning for gold? You dredge up boxes of sediment from the bottom of a creek or river, allow the water and smallest particles to be sifted back into the river, and painstakingly search through what’s left behind in hopes of finding a little nugget of gold. It seems like a lot of work for very little payoff especially as prospectors flocked to places known for their gold deposits in order to strip them bare of anything of value. I imagine more hopes and dreams were shattered than came to realization during those days, but not even risk of failure stopped them from coming in droves with dreams of glistening gold driving them on. Every man wanted to find his fortune.

Solomon understood that inner prodding of man to find their fortunes, and he shared with all of us the map he used to find a more lasting treasure than any prospector ever found. In Proverbs 3:13-15 he describes the worth of godly wisdom by saying, “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. She is more previous than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.” Five short chapters later, in Proverbs 8:19, he reminds us, “My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold, And my revenue than choice silver.”

Godly wisdom comes from hearing the Holy Spirit speak and applying what He has to say in our lives. We gain it first and foremost through God’s word. But God has given us pastors and teachers in our local churches, ministers of music, and speakers and teachers on national stages to supplement our search for godly wisdom. Believers helping each other grow in faith has been God’s plan for the church since the beginning. The treasure of godly wisdom isn’t something we should hoard. We should be sharing these spiritual nuggets of gold with others.

Ginger Harrington accomplishes that goal with humor, sensitivity, and transparency in Holy in the Moment. Ginger shows us through her own experiences how holiness belongs in everyday life. While the details of her story may vary from ours, Ginger shows us the heart of her story that we can all relate to. With plenty of scripture and practical helps, she shows us how being intentional in our daily choices allows us to live in holiness every day and brings the joy of an abundant life into ours.

Broken into three sections, Ginger begins our journey to holiness with knowing God instead of knowing about God. Through the gift of a personal, growing relationship with God we learn to love Him in practical ways every day. The desire to love Him more leads us down the path of understanding spiritual truth and learning to listen to God. These truths applied lead to loving obedience and the final section of Holy in the Moment.  Ginger brings the idea of holy living into our relationships. From home to friendships to work, she discusses how we can choose to live holiness in each arena of our lives and find joy that reaches beyond our circumstances.

Dealing with a subject as rich as holiness, one might expect a heavy, hard to read book. Holy in the Moment is nothing like that. Easy to follow and completely relatable, I found myself looking at things from perspectives I hadn’t considered before. Readers can keep the message at arm’s length. The truths can simply be added to the list of things the reader knows. But with equal parts encouragement and challenge, Ginger has made it easy embrace the application of the heart of the message and watching it at work in our lives. Holy in the Moment leaves us excited to see what our lives will look like when we make daily choices to live holiness in each of our moments.

Full of Character Author Interview with Misty Phillip

I had the pleasure of meeting today’s guest at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May. I got to know her through some shared workshops, and I enjoy following her posts on social media. I hope we have the opportunity to get together again at next year’s conference.

This being my first non-fiction author interview, I tweaked my questions a bit. I hope this interview gives you a little peek into Misty’s heart for God and the ministry He’s blessed her with.

1. As a non-fiction writer, you are the character readers want to know. Tell us a little about yourself.
First and foremost, I am passionately in love with Jesus! I have an amazing husband Peter, who is my best friend. We have three sons who have grown up way too fast! I am so thankful I left my corporate career from a Fortune 2 company to raise and homeschool my boys. Next year is our final year to homeschool after twenty years! 
When my eldest son started college, I began praying about what I would do once we finished homeschooling. After the painful loss of a child and a bicycle accident that  broke both of my arms I felt God calling me to write and speak. I surrendered to that call in 2016 and started a blog, and began writing and speaking. Which led to a podcast called BY HIS GRACE that launched on January 1, 2019, and a Bible Study entitled The Struggle is Real: But So is God launched in May 2019.
2. Everyone writes for someone. Can you describe the person you write for and why it’s important to you to write for them?
Knowing your audience is so important, and it took me a little bit of time to hone in on this. What I have discovered is I write for the person who has experienced difficult trials and is weary. Women that need encouragement and to be reminded that God has good for them and that He is with them in the battle. After many difficult years of back to back traumatic events, I began to feel discouraged, but I knew Jesus came that I would have abundant life. I started pouring over the scriptures, and the WORD OF GOD became my lifeline for hope. I don’t want anyone to feel discouraged and alone. I want them to know that through Jesus, anything is possible and that He is trustworthy.  
3. Can you think of a fictional character from books you’ve read that has impacted you more than any others?
Christianna deeply impacted me from Kay Arthur’s book, With an Everlasting Love. Christianna has to choose between living for today and trusting in the promise of enduring love. As a young person, I lived for myself and looked for anything but God to satisfy the longings in my heart that only He could fill, but God so rich in mercy in grace loves us with an everlasting love. 
4.Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?
The Samaritan women at the well was a mess, but once she receives the living water from Jesus, her life is radically transformed. She immediately goes to everyone about her encounter. Jesus knew her sin, and he knows our sins too. Yet, He chooses to use flawed, sinful individuals to share his love with the world. No one is beyond His saving, and He will use us despite our past mistakes, and that gives me hope.
5.If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?
I love this question, and I would like to answer by saying something like a beautiful brunette like Julia Roberts, but the truth is our outward beauty is fading. Only the things that are done for Christ will last, so I would want someone to play me that was passionately in love with Jesus! Because when people see me, I want them to know a woman who has been radically changed by the love of Jesus. 

I’d like to thank Misty for showing us a little bit of her world today. My interviews are conducted through email and reading Misty’s answers made me wish I was interviewing by phone! There were so many times I wanted to make comments or ask for further information. Her Bible study is definitely being added to my TBR list.

If you enjoyed this interview and would like to know more about Misty, head over to her website at MistyPhillip.com. You’ll find links to her podcast, blog, and Instagram. Plus, you can learn more about her Bible study, The Struggle is Real but So is God.

What I’m Reading

middle-ages-1434434__480Though I usually focus on fiction, I do enjoy the occasional Christian non-fiction book. Today’s review falls into that category. A quick disclaimer. I haven’t finished the book. I’m about half-way through it. I was going to rush through, but I want to be able to take to heart the message of the book. So, instead, you’re getting a “what I’m reading” review instead of “what I read”. I hope you’re okay with that. It won’t happen often.

What is this book that has me wanting to take my time to internalize its message? Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants by Louie Giglio. I picked it up from a local bookstore because I’ve always enjoyed watching his messages, but I’ve never read anything he’s written. I’m about half-way through the book, and I’m finding I enjoy his writing style as much as his speaking style.

Giglio uses the story of David and Goliath as the base for his message, but he starts with an unique twist to one’s understanding of the take-away of the familiar Biblical story. It doesn’t negate the way we tend to look at it, but it offers an enhancement to it that I had never considered.

Building from this new perspective, Giglio tackles the giants we face in our lives. Fear, anger, rejection, comfort, and addiction are all given time as giants in our lives keeping us immobilized like the Israelites before Goliath.

Giglio gives insight into how each giant can manifest itself in our lives, where the giant comes from, and the weapons we have in our arsenal to defeat it. Of course, the giant is, according to Giglio already defeated through no effort of our own. But a defeated giant can still be a deadly giant. And that is what we fight against.

With real life examples, scriptural examples, and down-to-earth language, Louie Giglio presents readers with the reality of spiritual battles in our physical lives and an understanding of the tools we can use in the fight. Giglio writes in a way that leaves the reader encouraged to join in the battle and finally see their giants fall.

 

What I'm Reading

middle-ages-1434434__480Though I usually focus on fiction, I do enjoy the occasional Christian non-fiction book. Today’s review falls into that category. A quick disclaimer. I haven’t finished the book. I’m about half-way through it. I was going to rush through, but I want to be able to take to heart the message of the book. So, instead, you’re getting a “what I’m reading” review instead of “what I read”. I hope you’re okay with that. It won’t happen often.
What is this book that has me wanting to take my time to internalize its message? Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants by Louie Giglio. I picked it up from a local bookstore because I’ve always enjoyed watching his messages, but I’ve never read anything he’s written. I’m about half-way through the book, and I’m finding I enjoy his writing style as much as his speaking style.
Giglio uses the story of David and Goliath as the base for his message, but he starts with an unique twist to one’s understanding of the take-away of the familiar Biblical story. It doesn’t negate the way we tend to look at it, but it offers an enhancement to it that I had never considered.
Building from this new perspective, Giglio tackles the giants we face in our lives. Fear, anger, rejection, comfort, and addiction are all given time as giants in our lives keeping us immobilized like the Israelites before Goliath.
Giglio gives insight into how each giant can manifest itself in our lives, where the giant comes from, and the weapons we have in our arsenal to defeat it. Of course, the giant is, according to Giglio already defeated through no effort of our own. But a defeated giant can still be a deadly giant. And that is what we fight against.
With real life examples, scriptural examples, and down-to-earth language, Louie Giglio presents readers with the reality of spiritual battles in our physical lives and an understanding of the tools we can use in the fight. Giglio writes in a way that leaves the reader encouraged to join in the battle and finally see their giants fall.
 

Shattered

dark-3061610_960_720I was involved with our high school theater productions for my three years of high school. I had (non-serious) dreams of one day being an actress. Of course, it might have helped if I was ever actually in a play. But I wasn’t. I got the courage to try out for one, the last one possible, my senior year. I didn’t make it. No, my experience was with sets and lighting. My friends and I built, painted, and lit up the stage for the actors. Once I even put together a vase.

This production involved a vase shattering as it hit the floor. We couldn’t take the chance that it would fail to break. So, I got to take the vase home, break it, and glue it back together again. It’s easier said than done. It has to break in big chunks that can be adhered together again. If the pieces are too small, it’s nearly impossible to get the vase put back together in a way that doesn’t look compromised. Even being as careful as I was, I’m not sure I would’ve trusted it to hold water.

Often that’s what happens when things are broken. They can be put back together again, but they may not work exactly like they were first intended. They’ve changed. Sometimes, it’s for the better. Other times, not so much. It really depends on who’s doing the fixing and what kind of shape the thing was in before it was damaged to the point of needing repaired.

The same can be said for people. There are things that come along and threaten to break us. Sometimes they do break us, at least for a time. They throw water on the picture we’ve painted for our lives leaving our carefully chosen colors to run down the canvas. Our masterpiece is destroyed. These experiences are different for each person. The loss of a dream, a job, a family member or a person’s health could be the devastating blow. Disappointment, hurt, or betrayal could be what it takes to push you to the breaking point. What devastates me might seem like a cake walk for you. What seems hard for you might be easy for me. It doesn’t matter if others might be able to handle it better. What matters is that we’re in pain. We’ve found ourselves in the middle of a mess that we have no idea what to do with.

These times are the focus of Sheila Walsh’s book, In the Middle of the Mess: Strength or This Beautiful, Broken life. And what Sheila has to offer believers is desperately needed, freedom to be transparent. Starting with her own story, her own failures, her own hurts, and honesty about how these things affected her life and still do, Sheila invites the reader to be honest about their own issues. Her ability to share so openly about things she knows can bring judgement in some Christian circles is inspiring. It allows the readers to see she believes the message whole-heartedly. That alone is enough to bring hope. Everyone wants to feel they are not alone.

But it doesn’t end there. Sheila weaves scripture and practical lessons on how to deal with life’s devastations into each chapter. She challenges readers to honestly evaluate themselves each step of the way. And she does it in a way that makes you feel safe doing so.

While taking a faith-based perspective and encouraging practices that are fueled by belief in God and the scriptures, Sheila doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the need to take other practical steps to help deal with the aftermath of the circumstances that threaten to destroy our lives as we knew them. It’s this binding together of faith with the practical and illustrating with real life examples that make her lessons powerful.

For those who have not ever experienced the proverbial “dark night of the soul”, Sheila’s book is one to read. She has taken concepts that are hard to understand when they’ve not been experienced and makes them relatable. With greater understanding comes more empathy and love. Judgement is lessened, and hearts can find the One who can heal as His followers pour out His love on those in pain. Hope is given, not necessarily for a change in circumstances, though Sheila does acknowledge our God is the One who can make that happen, but that we can know peace and joy and love even in our circumstances. This book points us to His answer for our own hurts and to help others as they search for healing in their hurts.  And God is the One who can put back together the broken in ways that make them stronger than they ever were to begin with.

Christmas According to John

“They’re going to be just a few months apart. They’ll always have a best friend to play with.” I don’t want to burst the perfectly planned little bubble of expectant parents when they say this. So, I smile and nod and remember the days when those words came out of my own mouth.

My two oldest boys are fifteen months apart. As very young children, they did play well together. They did almost everything together, watched the same shows, and liked the same toys. Then, they started to grow up. Their beliefs of how they should interact with the world around them began to diverge. My oldest became very order and rule oriented. His brother is a little more of a free spirit. One is studious, the other athletic. Both are creative, but in very different ways. As their personalities developed, the comradery they had known as children was strained under the weight of their differences. Now entering adulthood, but still at home, their differences cause more friction than their similarities allow for friendship. (Though I have hope for the future. My own brothers are very different, but they found their common ground since they stopped living under the same roof!)

I am amazed at how unique my sons are. Face it, they share the same DNA. Two apples off the same tree should look and taste the same, right? Often, with people, that isn’t the case. And that is a really good thing. God has a plan for each of my children, and He made them exactly like He wants them to accomplish that purpose. Sure, He has to sand off the rough edges of their personalities, but my oldest is not equipped to fulfill the purpose of the younger brother. Nor is the younger equipped to do what God will call His brother to do. All of my children need to be unique in their personalities and passions because God needs to grow them into the person perfectly suited for the plans He has for them and not anyone else.

It’s good to remember this as we consider our differences with others, but also keep it in mind as we read scripture. Looking for a new Bible study as Christmas approached, I wanted one that deepened my understanding of Jesus. I wanted to revisit the gospels and see the Christmas story with fresh eyes.

I decided on The God Who Cares and Knows You by Kay Arthur. I’ve always enjoyed inductive Bible study, and this one in the gospel of John sounded perfect. The only problem with reading John to get a new outlook on the Christmas story is that John is one of the two gospels without mention of the Christmas story.

All the gospels were written to share the good news of Jesus. Why would John choose not to focus on Jesus coming as a baby in a manger? That’s where the story begins, right? Not exactly. While each of the gospels have the same basic purpose, the men God chose to write them are as different as my sons. They have different backgrounds, personalities, and passions. Things one remembers as important, might not have caught the attention of another.  The people being written to were different as well. They had different needs. So, the focus and information contained in the gospels written to them had to be different too. Tailored by God to meet their specific needs.

John’s sole purpose was to show people that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God. He needed to impress on the recipients the idea that Jesus, born man, was also God from the beginning. So he didn’t start with the manger. He takes us back to creation and establishes Jesus as God the Son before moving through His ministry, death, and resurrection.

Though he doesn’t include the traditional Christmas story, John introduces us to the reality of “God with us” and what that means for us. And because he does this, I can study John and come away with a fresh appreciation for the Christmas story and for our God who loves us enough to write four gospels as unique as the people they are meant to speak to.

By the Book: Read the opening chapter of John. Then, read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke, keeping in mind who the baby in the manger really is.

What I’m Reading: Amazed and Confused

Sometimes I pray and God gives me what I ask for. But I have learned the answer rarely looks the way I think it should. I pray for God to use me in greater ways. His answer? Refine me through some of the hardest things I have ever faced. I didn’t understand it then. I am beginning to now.

God moves me in a new direction. I go, trusting it to be His will since I spent time praying about it and felt it was what He was asking me to do. I go, believing it will be good for my family, ministry, and myself. I find myself in a situation where trust is all I have because the facts aren’t looking good. I don’t understand it, but I am on my way to a place where I can.

Sometimes God’s answers don’t seem to make sense, and the path He takes us down is very different than the one we would have picked for ourselves. Times like these were running through my mind as I picked up Amazed and Confused by Heather Zempel.

Not usually a fan of nonfiction, the title caught my attention immediately. The subtitle drew me in. When God’s Actions Collide with Our Expectations. I had never read any of her books, but I was intrigued. I began reading the Bible study the moment I got home.

While other scripture is used, the main thrust of the study is the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk. Really? I am ashamed to say I had never really studied the book before. I should have. It’s one of those tiny books in the Old Testament that is sandwiched between Nahum and Zephaniah. Through this study, I have definitely learned not to take the small books for granted!

Amazed and Confused is set up in chapters. Each chapter starts with narrative about a section of Habakkuk. The author uses real life illustrations to highlight her points. Each chapter ends with questions to reflect on and journal pages to use if you are so inclined.

As I read it, I was reminded that I am not the only one in history to be confused by God’s answers. I am not the only one to wrestle with the hard questions like why the wicked seem to prosper so much or why God would allow bad things to happen to good people. Habakkuk questioned too, and he was a prophet.

Written simply and honestly, I came away from Amazed and Confused feeling encouraged. Zempel’s commentary gave me new perspective and understanding on themes I’ve heard all my life as a Christian. She didn’t offer easy solutions. And she admitted we may not have all the answers. But, even then, she gave practical ways to handle those times according to scripture. Zempel caused me to stop and think about what’s really going on when I just don’t get what God is doing, and she did it using Habakkuk.

By the Book: Read through Habakkuk. What questions have you hesitated to bring to God? What has kept you from asking Him? Has God ever given you an answer you didn’t understand? Look back at what has transpired since then. Is the reason any clearer today than it was then?

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