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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cure for the Common Life Review

Publisher's Description:

"Sweet spot." Golfers understand the term. So do tennis players. Ever swung a baseball bat or paddled a Ping-Pong ball? If so, you know the oh-so-nice feel of the sweet spot. Life in the sweet spot rolls like the downhill side of a downwind bike ride. But you don't have to swing a bat or a club to know this. What engineers give sports equipment, God gave you.A zone, a region, a life precinct in which you were made to dwell. He tailored the curves of your life to fit an empty space in his jigsaw puzzle. And life makes sweet sense when you find your spot.

But if you're like 87 percent of workers, you haven't found it. You don't find meaning in your work--or you're one of the 80 percent who don't believe their talents are used. What can you do? You're suffering from the common life, and you desperately need a cure.

Best-selling author Max Lucado has found it. In Cure for the Common Life he offers practical tools for exploring and identifying your own uniqueness, motivation to put your strengths to work, and the perfect prescription for finding and living in your sweet spot for the rest of your life.

My Review:
 I don't have a "job".  At least not one that comes with a paycheck with my name on it every week or so or that I need to commute to, so I wasn't so sure about how I would relate to this book.  But I am a Max Lucado fan, and when this one became available even my hubby wanted me to review it.  (Translation:  He wanted me to read it so I could give him the highlights, the high points, etc)   

The first thing that really hit me was Max Lucado's statement, "You cannot be anything you want to be.  But You can be everything God wants you to be." (emphasis mine)  This so goes against everything my generation and the current generation was taught.  I grew up being told that I could be anything I wanted as long as I worked at it.  After reading this book I realize that while I may be able to accomplish a lot of different things, I can't really be anything other than God intended for me to be.  When I step outside of His will then I am effectively living a fake life. 

Lucado reinforces this by saying that, "success is not defined by position or pay scale but by this: doing the most what you do the best."  I may not make a salary, you may make millions, but if you aren't doing what you do the best (which is probably what God created you to do) then you aren't really successful.  It is like you missed the mark.  Think of it this way, maybe you were created to be a superbounce ball.  You were made to bounce high up in the air.  However, you can also roll because you are a ball.  If you spend your whole life rolling, which is something you can do, you may be successful.  You will never fulfill your purpose though if you don't bounce, if you don't do what you do best.  You won't really be successful.  Get it?

Lucado warns us though to not "so focus on what you love to do that you neglect what needs to be done" and that every day we should do something we don't want to do.  Why? Because one of our biggest purposes is to be a servant.  Christ was.  He washed feet, he walked with the unwanted, he dined with the unloved, and he died for the criminals.  We are called to be like Him. 

We were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God.  Each of us was made in a unique way to demonstrate a unique quality.  Lucado discusses many of the general aspects of that life, the one that is uncommon.  At the end of the book is a self-evaluation to help you find your own "sweet spot" the place where your life, your strengths, and God's glory overlap.  Every one has one. 

I really enjoyed this book.  I appreciate the direction that it led me in and that it didn't spell it all out.  Lucado recognized that everyones cure is different and he simply points us in the right direction and reminds us that ultimately it is about using what God gave us to show His glory to the world so that others will recognize and turn to Him.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review only.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's Not About Me Review

It's Not About Me: Rescue From the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy

Publisher's Description:
Pop culture and psychobabble tell us to make ourselves the center of the universe in order to be happy. Churches have communicated the false idea that God exists to give us all that we selfishly want. In this book, Max Lucado reminds us that it's not about us, it's all about God. It is through this shift in thinking that we can truly live an unburdened, happy life.

My Review:
 Seriously, if you have a Kindle or an E-reader, definitely buy this book!  Amazon has It's Not About Me: Rescue From the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy for a low price of $2.99 which this book is well worth!

Max begins with the reminder that at one time we thought that everything revolved around us, the sun, the moon, the stars.  We were the center of it all.  Until Copernicus came along and proved otherwise.  It is time for us to realize that while we may all agree that the solar system doesn't revolve around us, neither does God, or the world or just about anything else.  This life we have is NOT about us, it is about reflecting the glory of God.

The book is broken into two sections, God-Pondering, in which we are shown why the center is and should be God in sections such as Holy Different, His Unchanging Hand, and God's Great Love.  Max helps us to recognize (or to remember) just how awesome God is and just how little we really are.  It was in this section that I really fell in love with this book.   For those of you who have been around a while please recall my review of David Platt's book Radical (you can read it here if you don't remember).  I really had issue with the way Platt addresses the concept of God being the center of everything.  For me, he made it sound as if God were a spoiled brat  that wanted it to be all about him.  Yet here is Lucado discussing the same concept.  This time though, I get it.  Lucado uses the analogy of God as being the captain of a lifeboat after a major accident in the dark.  You don't want the captain slinking along quietly and no one really knows where he is or where to get help.  You want him to be LOUD.  Those who do get rescued know what it was to be in the water and fearful so when they get on board the boat they start being LOUD too so that others can find the saver, the lifeboat captain.  The mission isn't about them, they can't save anyone, it is about the captain.  Same message (the captain/God is at the center and is the important one) just different ways of explaining it.  Personally, Lucado's rings true for me.

The second section is entitled God-Promoting.  Seven sections are devoted to how we get LOUD for God to help others find him.  Lucado covers how we promote him in our bodies, our actions etc.  Again Lucado makes some wonderful analogies that really help the reader to see and understand.

It doesn't end with just the book though.  At the end is a wonderful chapter by chapter study guide to help you go deeper, to help you examine and reflect.

While it is no secret that I am a fan of Max Lucado books, I am one for a reason.  He has a God given talent for breaking down concepts and putting them in terms we can understand.  He uses scripture to back up what he writes, and always points back to God. 

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Seraph Seal Review

Publisher's Description:
An epic tale of good and evil based on the four horsemen of the Apocalypse found in Revelation.

Using the four horsemen of the Apocalypse to symbolize the four Gospels, four transcendentals, and four forces of the universe (air, water, earth, and fire), Sweet and Wagner weave a fast-paced, end-times tale of good vs. evil and the promise of a new dawn for humanity.

Set in 2048, when planet Earth is suffering from the damaging effects of years of misuse and abuse, cultural history professor Paul Binder receives a mysterious letter that leads him to examine a lost 2nd-century Diatessaron manuscript. Ancient prophecies, cryptic letters, and strange events set him on a course to uncover the missing clues that could lead humanity into a new age. Layered with forgotten symbolism from the ancient, Jewish, and Christian traditions, the novel is a type of engaged fiction in which the main character's lost journal serves as a guide to the reader in interpreting clues and understanding the novel's conclusion.

My Review:
Let me begin with I really wanted to like this book.  As a matter of fact, it was scheduled to be available for review months ago and I had been greatly disappointed when they pushed the publishing date back.  I actually stayed up late one night so that I would be able to request the book at 12:00 am when it became available to ensure that I would get to review it.  It has taken me almost a month to get through this book (which is VERY unusual for me) and I have to say, I really didn't like it.  I enjoy apocalyptic novels, especially those that are Christian in nature.  I find it interesting to see how others think it is all going to fall apart.  I feel like the authors really fell short in this respect.  Had it been published by a non-Christian publisher I may not feel as let down as I do.

First, I read the Kindle version of the book, so I can speak in percentage read rather than pages.  The first 60 % of the book was disjointed and slow.  The pace picked up at the end and parts of it began to come together, but some characters never really seemed to fit.  For example Oksanna.  This character was supposed to be one of the instrumental characters without which the good side would have had no chance.  However, as far as the plot goes, she was totally useless.  At one point she looked like she was going to be instrumental in the ending only to discover that nope, didn't happen.

It isn't just characters either.  The author's bring in a civil war aspect that adds nothing to the story, isn't interesting and just aggravated me as a reader.  I wanted to find out what was happening in the main story.  Didn't really care in the grand scheme of "the world as we know it is falling apart" that in one country a civil war broke out.  And some aspects are just never explained.  Why is the USA referred to as USAmerica throughout?

Then there is the premise.  In the end times there are 8 people, all born at exactly the same time, that will determine the fate of the world.  Two people represent each of the four elements -air, wind, water, and fire.  The good side must assemble one of each element and so must the bad side.  Only each person has no idea that they are instrumental in anything with the exception of Serafino, president of USAmerica and lead badguy.  No idea really how his family seemed to know he was instrumental or how he came across his information.

Little of the storyline is Biblical.  References are thrown is, such as when the authors compare the wheels in Ezekiel 1:16 to a helicopter (didn't really get that), and the obvious reference to the four horsemen.  The earthquakes are there and some of the natural disasters, but the reader really isn't made aware that these are from God, rather they are the effects of an exploding sun.

I was very disappointed in the way the authors seem to want to tie many end time theories and religions together.  They insinuate that each has part of it right but that no one has it all right.  That isn't what my Bible tells me.  Jesus is mentioned in passing as the embodiment of love, but not as the path to a relationship with God.  There is one good conversation in which two of the good guys are discussing the fact that God made a pact or covenant with humanity and we keep letting him down over and over.  "God keeps on trying. Even when it looks like we've managed to destroy everything possible, to lose all our faith, to not even remember how to recognize God anymore, God remembers us. And finds ways to give us new chances."  While I agree with that wholeheartedly, the authors never take it any farther.  It is as if we have no responsibility in return.  For that matter, those that were "saved" seem to have only come to God because the world was falling apart around them, not even because the believed in God, but as if they had no where else to go so we'll try this and hope it works.

All in all, I didn't enjoy reading this and I can't recommend it.  Sorry guys, this one was a flop for me!

This was a free review copy I received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.