Book Reviews (Non-fiction)

Nature as Spiritual Practice, by Steven Chase
NCLA Review “The whole universe is God’s tongue speaking,” says Steven Chase in the opening chapter of this book, which aims to help the reader develop a deeper reverence for and companionship with nature, and generate a greater commitment to creation care. Chase offers “practices” to assist the reader in getting closer to nature and to develop contemplation and spiritual disciplines; the Field Guide, meant to be taken outdoors, contains a larger number of fully detailed practices. Still, this is devotion, not science; when Chase makes the statement “Still pulsing through the lifeblood of this human/creation connection are common genes—common genes whose function seems to be the nurturing of mindful attention, wonder, and shared longings to return to their Creator,” it is spirituality speaking, not biology. That being said, this is a unique book with a valuable point of view and a well-laid-out guide to achieving greater connection with God through nature.

Erasing Hell, by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle
The subtitle of this book says it all, “what God said about eternity, and the things we’ve made up.” Wow. The authors tackle head on the debate about the existence of hell and eternal punishment. It is a well written, necessary and compassionate book on an issue we cannot afford to be wrong about, the eternal destiny of believers and nonbelievers. Questions about heaven and hell are just too important to leave to our feelings and what we think. Too much is at stake! First it raises the questions we all face as we ponder eternity. Does everyone go to heaven? Could a loving God send people to hell? Forever? Can I believe in a God who will do this? With scripture the reader is reminded of His sovereignty, and the character of God. What He says, and what He loves. It reviews what Jesus taught about heaven and hell and honestly, made me squirm a little. I was intrigued, and felt challenged to really analyze where my beliefs on this issue come from. After all, what God says is what really matters. Becky Audette

Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus

by John Eldredge
The author of Wild at Heart has written another book which is superb, my favorite of late, and it forces us to take a look at the real Jesus, not the one often distorted by church and religion. Eldredge retells many of the famous Jesus stories but with new insights, angles and perceptions. He challenges us to clear away the religious fog and take off the church glasses that have distorted our perception of the real, living, courageous, playful, direct and generous Jesus. If you are looking for a more authentic and real relationship with God, this book is the real deal.
Rollie Johnson

Devil’s Ink: Blog from the Basement Office by Jeffrey Pugh
Read a riff on what the devil himself might write if he were so inclined, the book is an entertaining and thought-provoking commentary on the nature of evil and the weaknesses of humankind. Comparisons with C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters are inevitable, but Pugh’s devil is far more cynical and considerable less “charming” than Screwtape. That is not to say that the book is not often amusing, but the humor frequently takes a biting turn (as one would expect, considering its ostensible author.) Written in many short segments of at most a page or two, and not meant to be read in one sitting, but to be absorbed over a period of a few weeks, the book covers a wide variety of topics, any one of which could elicit a very interesting discussion if it were to be studied as a small group effort. No topic is forbidden with discussions ranging from politics, war, patriotism and freedom to fantasy worlds, including a certain well-known amusement park.

Called to Serve by Tony Moneti
This truly amazing and inspirational book is a must read for everyone, whether they have ever been a part of the military or not. The Monettis relate the lessons they have learned in over twenty years of military life. These lessons are chronicled through the marital trials and challenges that the authors share of their personal experiences. The book is divided into five parts dealing with fear, transition, loneliness and grief, avoiding destructive behavior and communication. Each chapter begins with a Bible verse and ends with practical resources for the reader. Their personal stories include practical advice, prayers, and thought-provoking questions that demonstrate how God will give you the strength to face life’s challenges. This very practical and useful book lends itself well to individual reading or as the basis for a group study.

Faith of the First Ladies by MacGregor, Jerry and Marie Prys 2006
Perusing the shelves at the Fireside Library, looking for a quick but interesting read, I found Faith of the First Ladies. MacGregor looks at 30 presidential wives, giving a brief biographical sketch and then explores the strong convictions of these women of faith.

Each First Lady has a faith story and how her faith impacts her role as the First Lady. The book tells about which churches they attended and how frequently. I was surprised by how strong their faith was, especially for some of the earlier women and the part faith played in their lives while in the White House. Review by PJ Randklev.

He Has Made Me Glad” by Ben Patterson
Scripture characterizes joy as what you experience when you are grateful for the grace that’s been given you. Joy is not only described in the Bible, but prescribed. And, the Christian life is about gratitude and joy. Still, there’s plenty going on in the world and in our own lives to make joy seem impractical, gratitude unnecessary and grace perplexing. We, who have been given every reason to be joyful, can nevertheless be joyless. How can we begin to live in the truth that our God has made us to be glad?
Pastor, teacher, college chaplain and author, Ben Patterson submits his compelling case for joy. He sets up a thirst for joy and then walks you through the satisfaction of responding to God in a way that engenders joy. His stories, quotes and thoughtful reflections show how disciplines such as churchgoing and tithing can be hilariously fulfilling when lived out of gratitude for God’s gracious gifts. Once we start to think about all that God has done for us, our thoughts turn inevitably to gratitude and ultimately to gladness. And that is only appropriate, for He has made us to be glad. Becky Audette, Fireside Co-Librarian

Get Out of That Pit by Beth Moore
Ever been in a pit? Are you in one now? Is someone you love living in one? “Don’t think for one second God has forgotten,” says Beth Moore. And she should know. A former pit-dweller herself; she had to be delivered from a ton of accumulated dirt and grime that left her very wounded with little hope of wholeness. What she learned about how to become a FORMER pit dweller, she has shared in this very personal book; lessons for all of us about the healing to be found in Jesus and only Him. This author and teacher, who has opened the riches of Scripture to millions, longs for everyone to experience the deliverance to true freedom in Christ. It’s a story of hope, a gift of healing and utter deliverance - time to move on and out of the pit!
Becky Audette

Crazy Love Review by Rollie Johnson
Recently our Wednesday Night Men’s Book Study took on reading “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. I had been pondering what book to read next and after three Godly coincidences of people recommending this book, I finally got the hint. It is an excellent read, but be forewarned; this is not for the spectator, back seat, closet Christian who simply wants to read about faith, but doesn’t want to put it into movement, action and practice. This is a very tough and challenging book to those who embrace and find comfort in status quo Christianity. Be prepared to get your boat “rocked” and do some long hard thinking about your life and faith!

Life with God
There are many reasons people choose to read the Bible. It might be for religious instruction, for historical knowledge, a quick reference for an answer to a pressing problem, or maybe just to say “I read the Bible.” While all are legitimate and worthy, Foster shows us a new way to enter the Bible - for spiritual transformation, instead of transforming the text to meet our needs, allowing the Bible to transform us. Foster repeatedly uses a phrase of God asking, “I am with you, will you be with me?” The Bible is continually calling out to us, but do we hear, or do we even try to listen. Foster is an enlightened guide that leads us through God’s teachings with a listening heart.

This book has become a personal treasure and one that I constantly refer to over and over again. I could not give it any higher recommendation to those who are looking to grow and deepen their faith. Rich Burns

3:16 The Numbers of Hope by Max Lucado
To me, the verse John 3:16 is the core of my Christian faith. This is the jewel, a declaration that starts with God and ends with life; a prescription for treatment of the human condition from the Great Physician. If you repeat this verse over and over, putting the accent on different words or phrases it gives it a slightly different angle, it shines with different sparkles:

For GOD so loved the world...

For God so LOVED the world...

For God so loved the WORLD...

This is just what the author does, leading us through this wonderful 26-word parade, pointing out wonders we’ve perhaps overlooked. Enjoy the parade!
Becky Audette

The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal by Charles Swindoll
One thing is certain; Charles Swindoll has a passion for the church. In this book he discusses the challenges, struggles and priorities of the church in the 21st century and the renewal that we all need to be part of as the body of believers. He is emphatic about an awakening to a high and holy purpose in a lost world by refocusing our ministries. Groundwork is laid by drawing a comparison of the first-century church through the book of Acts and the church today. He builds on the characteristics needed for a contagious ministry by looking at Paul’s letters to Timothy. From that he demonstrates four characteristics of a contagious church and lists the essentials of teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. We are cautioned to not forget the church of Ephesus, a church that did many things right, but forgot their first love, Jesus Christ. Many good points are raised in the book that are good to ponder, discern their application and be challenged by them. How will we grow collectively if we don’t stretch individually? Becky Audette

So Long, Insecurity: You've Been a Bad Friend to Us by Beth Moore
NCLA Review - Beth Moore is a favorite author of many Christian women and this book is a good introduction for those who haven’t read her work. She frankly chronicles her own battles with insecurity, adding other women’s stories—and even surveyed men for a perspective on their insecurities and how they notice lack of self-confidence in women. She closely examines numerous reasons women feel they don’t measure up, then suggests ways to replace insecurity with dignity. Even women who don’t struggle with this problem can find insights here to address their own occasional uncertainties and to refrain from inadvertent trespass on another’s fragile self-esteem. Moore’s writing style is sister-to-sister, but her solid research and Biblical foundation give an authority to her words. This book is highly recommend it for church libraries, classes and individuals and is available for checkout.

***some reviews have been taken from the National Church Library Association - NCLA