Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BookSneeze Book Review: Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent

Todd Burpo is pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan, a wrestling coach, a volunteer fireman, and he operates a garage door company with his wife, Sonja, who is also a children’s minister, busy pastor’s wife, and mom. Colton, now an active 11-year-old, has an older sister Cassie and a younger brother Colby. The family lives in Imperial, Nebraska.

Lynn Vincent is the New York Times best-selling writer of Same Kind of Different as Me and Going Rogue: An American Life. The author or co-author of nine books, Vincent is a senior writer for WORLD magazine and a lecturer in writing at the King’s College in New York City. She lives in San Diego, California.

Before I review this book I wanted to make mention that I am not obligated to give any book I read a favorable review.  However, I have had the blessing to be reading (and reviewing) excellent books lately.  So I haven't come across any which I haven't enjoyed as of yet and this book is no exception.

Several months ago, two different people I know told me that I should read this book.  Needless to say, I went and purchased the book, but never actually got around to reading it until last week.  Reason being, I was a bit skeptical.  But lately, I have been pondering heaven a lot and so finally decided to read this book. 
This book was simply written as it was a quick read.  It is the kind of book that once you get into it, you don't want to put it down.  I don't think there has ever been a book written about heaven like this one.  It is so believable, authentic and real.  As I said, I started reading this book with a lot of skeptism, but slowly, my skeptism changed to awe. 
Heaven is for Real is narrated and co-authored by Todd Burpo on behalf of his son Colton.  I must make mention of the other author, Lynn Vincent.  I really enjoyed her writing style and am now interested in reading her book called Same Kind of Different Me
This book is about a boy named Colton who is the son of a simple country pastor in Imperial, Nebraska.  While on a family vacation, Colton who was four, suddenly gets ill. They took him to see a doctor because he was in pain and vomitting so much.  But the doctor who saw Colton determined that it was just a stomach virus, however, it wound up being much worse, a burst appendix. 
Colton wasn't getting any better, so they had to admit him to the hospital.  However, while he was in the hospital a few days, he was getting worse.  So Mr. Burpo decided to sign Colton out of the hospital and take him to another hospital.  It was in this
other hospital that they finally discovered that he had a burst appendix and they had to do emergency surgery on him.  Colton was in such bad shape at this point, that the doctors didn't think he would make it.
I really empathized with Mr. Burpo and his wife Sonja in their suffering as it's not easy to watch your child suffer, much less, dying. I related to Mr. Burpo's raging against God, afraid that he would lose his only son.  But thankfully, Colton survives the surgery and shows signficant improvement.  It was a miracle and from this point forward, things really start to get interesting.   
When Colton was released from the hospital and home, he begins to innocently mention what he saw while he was in heaven.  Needless to say, his parents were really taken aback.  At first, they both had difficulty believing that their four year old son was in heaven.  The doctors didn't mention that he died and came back to life on the operating table.  But as time went on and Colton continued to mention things about heaven that he couldn't have possibly known.  So they both started to believe him and began asking him specific questions.

At this point, you don't even want put the book down.  Colton's experiences are so real and tangible that they leave you feeling hopeful.  Not only that, everything he describes about heaven seems to align with the bible.  There is just no way a four year old could have known anything about heaven unless he was really there.  I guarantee that after you read this book, you will believe "Heaven is for Real" too.
I conclude by mentioning one of my favorite parts, when Colton is describing what Jesus looked like to his father. He says, "And his eyes ... oh, Dad, his eyes were so pretty!"  I just loved that! I can't wait to see into the eyes of Jesus one day.
I can't recommend this book enough, it was just amazing.  It will definitely bless you!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Waterbrook Multnomah Book Review: Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory

David Gregory is the coauthor of two nonfiction books and a frequent conference speaker.  After a ten-year business career, he returned to school to study religion and communications, earning two master's degrees.  David lives in Texas, where he works for a nonprofit organization.


Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory was such a treat.  I never read a book so quickly in my life, I just couldn't put it down. 

The premise of this book is that Nick Cominsky receives an anonymous dinner invitation. The invitation reads, "You are invited to dinner with Jesus of Nazareth at Milano's Restaurant."  Nick believes he is being set up by his co-workers and figures he has nothing to lose by going. 

When Nick arrives to the restaurant, he is escorted to the table where Jesus sitting and Jesus introduces himself.  At this point, Nick is looking around for his co-workers to see if they're hiding.  But as time elapses, Nick couldn't help being intrigued by the conversation.

I honestly felt like I was eavesdropping on their conversation.  Not to mention, wishing all the while I could savor what they were eating.

I related with the character Nick; from his work schedule, to his doubts and questions.  I found myself laughing at his questions because they were so eerily similar to mine. 

Think about it, imagine if you received a dinner invitation from Jesus?  What would you do?  Quite honestly, I think I would have been just as cynical as Nick was. 

Especially by the way Jesus was depicted; he was dressed in a business suit.  At some point Jesus even mentions he didn't like neckties.  I chuckled when I read this, "God doesn't like neckties.  Note that for future reference."

Even though this book was a simple quick read, it is very meaningful and makes you think.  I also enjoyed reading the refreshing twist on the Gospel.

I actually cried at the end of this book.  I really didn't want that dinner to end, nor did I want Jesus to leave.

I recommend this book to everyone, but especially those who have a lot of questions or are plagued with doubts.

Lastly, I want to thank Waterbook Multmonah for sending me this free book to review.  I really appreciate the opportunity. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

BookSneeze Book Review: Rumors of God by Darren Whitehead & Jon Tyson

Jon Tyson is the pastor of Trinity Grace Church in New York City.  Originally from Australia, Jon Moved to the United States fourteen years ago with a passion to understand and help work out the future of the Western Church.  He lives, works, and serves in one of the largest cultural and missionary contexts of the world--the global city.  www.trinitygracechurch.com

Darren Whitehead is originally from Australia and has lived in the United States for more than thirteen years.  With a passion for the global church.  Darren joined the staff of one of the most influential churches in North America as a teaching pastor for Willow Creek Community Church.   www.willowcreek.org

There are no words to adequately describe how brilliant this book is, but I will try.  What initially piqued my interest was the description of the book... "Where is the life God promised us?  Life is busy. We live like slaves to our fast-paced, suffocating schedules. But Jesus calls us to a better way.  Another dream--an unimagined future.  Close the gap between what you hear about and what you see."  Thus the book title, "Rumors of God--Experience the kind of faith you've only heard about."

Each chapter defines a rumor; i.e., abundant life, generosity, love, community and justice. Pastors Darren and Jon take you on a journey which will compel you to love and serve others.  I loved every chapter of this book, but what especially stood out for me were the rumors of community and justice.

The rumor of community was about loving beneath the surface.  Pastor Jon states that one of the great challenges we face in moving into community is the incurable need for the approval of others.  This approval drives us to put on a mask or hide behind a profile, but doesn't give others the chance of loving us for our true selves.  In a true biblical community there needs to be intimacy and acceptance through transparency.  He states that by learning to lower our masks, we begin to love one another for who we truly are.

Over a year ago, I was part of a small woman's bible study group which met at every Wednesday at 8:00am.  What started out as just a formal bible study, grew to be something so beautiful and wonderful.  Little by little, our masks came off.  There was no judgment, condemnation or criticism; only love.  We all looked forward to meeting together and share the things that were on our hearts.  Then we began to earnestly pray for one another.  I can truly say that God met us in a special way and started answering our prayers.  We also began functioning as a community; if someone in our group had a need, we would all try and help.  I can truly say I never experienced anything quite like that.  I know that it would not have been possible if we all didn't risk being vulnerable and transparent with one another. 

The rumor of justice was equally provoking.  Pastor Darren states as Christians, we have an obligation and responsibility to answer the clarion call of injustice not just with our cash, but also with our very lives.  Oh my, this just went to the core of my heart.  I have always been passionate about justice.  There is this restlessness in my spirit to want to be proactive and "do something" to solve problems of injustice.  As some of you know, I am passionate about children; hungry children, abused children, abducted children and sex trafficked children.  This chapter on justice brought it all home for me.  I learned that while it is good to be compassionate, compassion without action is fruitless.

What I also learned from this book is that our Christian walk has to mirror Jesus' walk.  Jesus came to love and serve others, we also need to love and serve others too.  This is called love in action.  I am thankful that I've experienced this rumor, and the rumor is true.  I personally know missionaries serving in other countries, loving others unconditionally.  I am grateful to have experienced that first hand.  This verse came to mind while reading this chapter, "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." (James 1:27) 

I highly recommend this book to everyone.  This book will definitely change your life.  I'm not just saying it, I  mean it. 

In conclusion, I want to take this opportunity to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers (BookSneeze) for sending me a free copy of this book to review.  It is by your kindness and generosity that I am being blessed beyond measure.  I am so thankful and appreciative.

Monday, August 1, 2011

WaterBrook Multnomah Book Review: PrayerWalking by Janet Holm McHenry

Janet Holm McHenry is the author of numerous books, including Daily PrayerWalk and PrayerStreaming.  A high-school English, journalism, and creative writing teacher, she is the mother of four adult children.  Janet has been prayerwalking for more than thirteen years and is the leader of her church's prayer ministry.

How many of us have made New Year's resolutions that we didn't keep with regards to eating healthier, losing weight and praying more?  I know I am guilty as charged.  Well, if you are like me, then this book is definitely for you. 

This book can be called an instruction guide on praying and walking.   Janet Holm McHenry really does a superb job in thoroughly describing the benefits of praying and walking in her book. 

She begins with a motivating, "If I Can Do It, You Can Do it."  She describes her personal struggle with depression and her overall health.  She explains that she needed to make a change, by exercising and also spending more time in prayer.  So she decided to incorporate both by ''Prayer Walking".

She then tackles the old adage, "I have no time or there isn't enough time..."  This really stood out for me because I really don't have much time.  But after reading the following excerpt, I realized I had no excuse, "The problem for us Christians is that we often can get so entrenched and busied by many good things--even things done in Christ's name--that these good things actually distract us from the Lord and what he would want us to do."  So true.

Janet Holm McHenry touches on the why, what, when, where and how of prayer walking.  I guarantee you that after you finish reading this book, you will find yourself wanting to find the time to walk and pray.  I can say that as a result of reading this book, I too started to implement what I learned from this book.  I am now praying while walking to and from work in the morning and evening.  I'm realizing it's a great time to pray and intercede for my city and community.

I want to say thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah for sending me a complimentary copy to review.  I am so grateful to have read this book, it is truly a gem!