Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me {a book review}

I’m fascinated by other people’s lives. {Maybe because I get tired of my own and want a little variety sometimes.} That’s the beauty of memoirs. They are a window into people’s homes, hearts, and souls. I find something in common to make a personal connection on one page and then on the next page I am reminded of how many different experiences people can have and how so radically different life can be for any two people based on the where, when, and who. Ian Cron’s memoir, Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me, is one such window into the world of a young boy who grew up longing for a healthy relationship with his earthly father and stumbled into building a relationship with his Heavenly Father. It’s tragic, hilarious, transparent, and inspiring.

I was initially drawn into what life would look like having a father who worked for the CIA. Cron is a masterful storyteller, and at times it seemed I was watching a Hollywood movie. People can’t make stuff like this up, but this was real life for Cron. As his story unfolded, however, I was more drawn into what life looked like for Cron as the wandering son of an alcoholic father, longing for the stability and security of a father’s love.

I am always fascinated by how God uses many different circumstances and people to draw people to Himself. My favorite part of Cron’s memoir was hearing him recall his first impressions of going to a Young Life meeting {not favorable}, and then the relationship with his Young Life leader that sparked and fueled his love for God. It was a reminder that the best way to lead people to Jesus is simply to love and care for them. This is especially powerful for children from broken families.

Reading Cron’s story is something like watching episodes of The Wonder Years–just add spies and lots more booze. It’s comedy, drama, tragedy, and redemption. It’s a hopeful reminder of a God who pursues people and makes all things new. It’s a story you’re not soon to forget.

Note-I’m reviewing this book for BookSneeze. They send me a book; I read it and sneeze out a review. It’s contagious!

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glimpses of grace

grace

Sometimes we are spiritually blind. And other times we are just near-sighted, far-sighted, or simply needing clearer lenses to view what God is doing and who God is.

Glimpses of Grace is for all these times.

I was initially drawn to this book because I could connect with the author’s question of how to live out the gospel when life just feels very ordinary and mundane. Throughout the book author Gloria Furman asks many questions, but her most important ones are, “What does the gospel have to do with our lives in the home?” and “How does this grace change the way we live?” These are questions I wrestle with daily.

She starts by spelling out what the gospel is and isn’t and builds for her readers a theologically solid foundation of the gospel. Then, she continues to flesh out what this gospel looks like in the life of a woman in her home as she cares for people and goes about the very ordinary tasks of living such as dealing with endless amounts of laundry, whining children, and a busy family schedule. Each chapter lays out scenarios of how to live out these truths of the gospel as we care for others, build a home, walk through painful times, work to build friendships, or even just struggle to be content.

I love her writing. She captured me with titles like “Don’t Smurf the Gospel,” “The Bread of Life and Bagels for Breakfast,” and “Does Contentment in Christ Come with a Nap?” Her words are witty, wise, and wonderful. While many times I nodded my head because I’ve heard this before, many other times I nodded because I need so desperately to hear it again and again and preach this gospel truth to my heart.

If you need more than a glimpse of grace–if you need a shower of grace, and a true cheerleader in the faith, then you need to read this book.

the boy and the ocean-a review

Summer is around the corner and I can almost taste it. The salty ocean air, lazy days at the pool, barbeque on the grill, and vacation. May is a lot of things, but best of all, it’s the anticipation of summer.

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to find books for my children that go along with the theme of our trips. When we visited the mountains several years ago before living in Colorado, we stocked up on “mountain” material. My favorite was reading Hinds Feet On High Places, the children’s version, in between hikes, bike rides, and breathing in the mountain air and fresh evergreens. Somehow it just made this book come alive.

But our favorite place in all the world to vacation is at the ocean. There’s nothing like a week of sand, water, biking, eating, and resting. Recently I discovered a book that I wish I would have had years ago when my boys we younger. It’s all about the ocean, the mountains, the beauty of creation, and God’s amazing, never-ending, always-forever and with-us love.

The Boy and the Ocean, by Max Lucado, tells a simple, sweet story of a young boy as he plays in the ocean, explores the mountains, and gazes at the beauty of the nighttime sky. His parents gently remind him how creation teaches us of the love of God. He learns to discover and imagine and wonder at his big, big God and His big, big love.

Summertime is a time of wonder. If you are taking a trip to the ocean or mountains this summer, or even just camping out in your backyard while gazing at the endless sky, consider reading this charming story that will point your family to the depths and heights of God’s love for you in Jesus.

Note: I’m reviewing for Crossway. I love this book. It makes me miss the ocean even more.

Grace Transforming: A Review

Years ago I attended a smaller liberal arts Christian college where I attended chapel services each day. While I grew spiritually there, I honestly remember very few chapel talks. Had I heard the chapel messages given by Wheaton College President Phil Ryken to his student body adapted in this short book titled Grace Transforming, I can almost guarantee that I would not have forgotten them.

This book is brief, to the point, biblically solid, easy to understand, and entirely practical. Ryken explores grace as the heart of the gospel, the high cost of grace, and the depths of what it means to be justified and sanctified. He reminds readers of the power of grace and God’s unlimited supply of grace. He persuades that grace is precious and infinitely kind because the Gospel is endlessly gracious. Ryken backs up each chapter with scripture and then ends with practical application and soul searching questions. He does not preach about grace in an abstract, heady way, but applies the truths of grace personally so that it is truly life changing.

If you read one book this year about grace, this is it. Set your heart free and grow in the Gospel of grace; read Grace Transforming by Phil Ryken.

Note: I am reviewing for Crossway. I love this book.

The Barber Who Wanted To Pray


This is the perfect time of the year to introduce our little ones to great reformers in history. Recently, I discovered a sweet story based on the life of Martin Luther. The Barber Who Wanted To Pray by R.C. Sproul is a delightful fictional story that is based on the true story about an ordinary barber and one extraordinary man in history.

One night a young girl asks her father how to pray, and he tells her a story of a time when the great reformer, Martin Luther, gets his hair cut and strikes up an interesting conversation with his barber. The barber also asks advice how to pray, and Martin Luther shares a simple model for prayer that changes the barber’s life.

I love how people of all ages–especially children–can relate to Martin Luther doing something as ordinary as getting his hair cut. Sproul’s book is also a helpful tool to teach our children the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. More importantly, it’s a wonderful lesson on heartfelt prayer. When we don’t know what or how to pray, Luther’s lesson of using a model to personalize our prayers can help us grow in our relationship with God.

The illustrations are delightful; people of all ages will be captured by this sweet story and the simple lesson of this great man in history.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this awesome book from Crossway for my honest review, and I honestly love it! Add it to your book list–it’s a keeper!

Welcome to the Story


Welcome to the Story by Stephen J. Nichols is the perfect title for this introduction to reading the Bible. Nichols offers an invitation to all to learn how to read, love, and live God’s Word in a deeper, more meaningful way. Yet he makes it so simple and refreshingly understandable for someone who is reading the Bible for the first time or for someone like me who has read bits and pieces here and there over many years but is finally beginning to understand how it all fits together.

Nichols puts the pieces of the puzzle together by explaining the biblical framework of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. He weaves personal narratives and makes interesting references to history and contemporary culture so that each chapter even reads like a story. He helps the reader to understand how the individual stories in the Bible with unique characters and plots work together to tell one Grand Story of what God has been doing from the beginning of time until the end of time. Better yet, he points to how God is not only the author but the main character throughout the Bible and how to understand where we fit into this true Story.

My favorite parts were near the end of the book. He suggests how we can see ourselves in the diverse characters throughout scripture. He highlights how God is the main character and His glory is paramount. Throughout the book he also promotes the value of reading the Bible in community. He offers helpful questions to ask yourself while you are reading any passage of scripture. Finally, he focuses on loving and living the truth of God in such a winsome way that you leave really wanting to start digging into scripture out of a genuine love for God and not out of guilt or duty.

This book is perfect for new believers. It is perfect for teenagers and young adults. And it is a perfect refresher course for any Christian who wants to learn how to simply articulate a Christian worldview and gain a better understanding of the big picture of scripture.

Disclaimer: Crossway provided me a free copy of this delightful book in return for my honest opinion. I love this book because it helps me love God’s word more. Plus, it fits with my blog theme!

Give Them Grace



Wow.

I’m discovering what I think could be my new all-time favorite parenting book.

(I’m seriously thinking about throwing all the others away.)

And I’m so wishing that I would have read this 11 years ago.

You’ll hear more about it as I digest it all.

For now, here’s something to chew on…

“Everything that isn’t gospel is law. Let us say it again: everything that isn’t gospel is law. Every way we try to make our kids good that isn’t rooted in the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding, Pharisee-producing law. We won’t get the results we want from the law. We’ll get either shallow self-righteousness or blazing rebellion or both (frequently from the same kid in the same day!). We’ll get moralistic kids who are cold and hypocritical and who look down on others (and could easily become Mormons), or you’ll get teens who are rebellious and self-indulgent and who can’t wait to get out of the house. We have to remember that in the life of our unregenerate children, the law is given for one reason only: to crush their self confidence and drive them to Christ.” (pg. 36, Give them Grace, by Fitzpatrick and Thompson)

The title especially drew me in. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus.

Love that word–dAZzLiNg!

More to come…