Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: Craveable


Artie Davis has done the impossible: he has made me not only want to read a devotional book, but he's written a devotional book I actually...enjoy.

Far too often, Christian authors will write a devotional book that falls into one of two camps: the dry, theologically heavy-handed "just pray this and everything will be okay" daily kind, or the pithy, thematic, surface-level theology, feel-good kind. The former makes for what many people perceive our faith to look and act like while the latter is what sells at kiosks in airports or endcaps in bookstores and makes for the "perfect" Mothers Day gift. To find a devotional book that balances being bold without being judgmental, that speaks the truth in love, that engages the reader and challenges them beyond a brief "takeaway" for the day, and that reads more like a conversation with the author than a seminar given by a marketer is nearly impossible.

Until now.

Craveable reads more like a love letter from someone who wants to help fellow believers grow and be challenged in their faith than anything else. I've had the pleasure of hearing Artie speak before, and I can hear the genuine passion he brings to the stage in the words printed in this book. This is a man - a pastor, a husband, a father - who is drawing from his years of experiences, both good and bad, in order to guide others into a deeper love and passion with their God. And "guide" is the keep phrase here: rather than telling the reader what to do, Artie invites the reader into the journey. There is no "for Problem X try Solution Y" formula present in the book. The author understands that true spiritual growth comes through personal experience, not mimicry.

The only aspect of the book that I didn't like was when Artie suggested the reader stop and take the book as a 40 day journey, reading a chapter a day, which annoyed me because I wanted to just keep reading it. I understand now that had I just plowed through it, as was my natural inclination, I would have missed out on so much of both what he was saying and what I was to gain from the book.

Because the book is so honest and truthful, in both requiring self-reflection and in the stories Artie shares, it's the type of Christian devotional book which might scare many readers. ...which is a shame, because this is the exact type of book so many believers need to read. Neither the book nor the author come across as preachy or self-important. The tone of the book is personal, and isn't "catchy" or doomed to be outdated by the time you finish reading this review.

It's a style of book that many of us have been hungry for. So, you know, the title just makes it that much more witty.

These principles and more can be found in Artie's new book called Craveable: The Irresistible Jesus in Me, releasing February 5, 2013. Find out more at Craveable.com and on twitter @CraveableChurch

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an advance copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. 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,Parti 255.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: Cross Roads

I wanted to like this book. I really did.

The Shack is one of my favorite modern Christian novels. It's wildly original. It tells an amazing story of redemption and healing. And it's just out there enough to drive the most conservative readers nuts with its depictions of the Trinity.

Conversely, Cross Roads is derivative of the plot and ideas in The Shack. Protagonist father who lost a child? Check. Carries a lot of anger towards God about it? Check. The character development, what little there is of it, is both shallow and far too fast-paced. Granted, I've never had the disembodied essence of another person locked in my body, but I'm fairly certain that not only would I not accept it as quickly as these characters did but also were anyone to tell me they had a separate entity trapped in them, I'd be wildly skeptical.

Instead of spending time - and pages - with descriptions of medical terminology and characters ultimately inessential to the plot (Jack), going into greater details over how the protagonist went from self-centered to kind, faith-centered, and introspective would have been welcome. It honestly felt like many of the characters changed personalities and motivations so quickly that I thought I'd missed several pages of material.

To be honest, the only reason I read through to the end of the book was because I was hoping against hope that it might improve. The ending, which was blindingly obvious about 2/3 of the way through the book, felt rushed, and more than a little cheesy. Cross Roads is the kind of novel that were it adapted to film, it would undoubtedly be a direct-to-DVD release starring Kirk Cameron.

WM Paul Young, who proved himself a capable and talented author with The Shack, completely missed the opportunity to prove he is more than a one-style writer with Cross Roads. Had I not read The Shack first, perhaps I'd look at this with kinder eyes. As it stands, I'd recommend that people who want to get a feeling for the style of the author should stick with his first work and avoid this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. 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.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

One Word 2013: NOW

"In a minute, buddy..."

"Can we do that later?"

"No."

I've noticed as of late that for whatever reason, I like to delay things. Put them off. To be fair, I've probably done this for a lot longer than I'm aware of. It's only been recently that I've become acutely aware of the frequency with which it happens.

Comparatively simple things like going to the dentist, getting a babysitter for a few hours so Ashley so we can go eat dinner together, or asking Kai to wait for me to play with him while I fold laundry often get put to the side because they're something that butts into what I'm doing at the time. Or they seem like a bit of a hassle. Or they're something that can clearly be taken care of later. They're easy to delay.

I am an advocate of taking "me time" every so often, but putting things off until tomorrow or later on a regular basis can easily translate to putting them off...period.

That's why for what has become obvious to me, my word/motto/theme for this year? 

Now.

That phone call (not text, mind you) to that friend I've been meaning to make?

That book proposal that's been sitting dormant for so long?

That wellness visit to the doctor that needs to happen?

That whole needing to pray thing?

That kid who's going to be too old to want to play with me far sooner than I want him to be?

I need to start engaging with these things. Now.

Please note that this is a word of action for me, and not what I would ask of God. I'm the one who needs to be stirred out of some kind of stupor. I can (and have) prayed for something to happen "Now, please," yet somehow He knows the perfect time. And more often than not, it tends to be in a completely different time zone of my life than what I would like.

...which is something I need to be okay with. He's asking me to do something now, not vice-versa.

And there is a world of difference between rushing in where angels fear to tread and simply doing something. Wisdom and discernment need to rule in taking care of something care of now. For example, I can choose to not spend time getting dinner easy one night so that Kai and I can have more time together. If that means Ashley and I have to order pizza, so be it. Playing with him now and cooking chicken later doesn't necessarily mean that a Butterfly Effect of chaos will enter our lives.

So.

Now I'm going to go get some coffee and then play Candy Land with my kid.

What is your One Word for this new year? Check out this link for what others have chosen.