Category: Book Reviews

Books I’ve read, my personal thoughts as well as the most sections that jumped out to me.

Book Review: The Enneagram Collection

Book Review: The Enneagram Collection

Book Reviews

Ah the Enneagram! The new (but not new at all) personality test. The thing is, the Enneagram is much more than a fun personality quiz.

As Ian Cron explains, The Enneagram is an ancient personality type system with an uncanny accuracy in describing how God has wired human beings both positively and negatively. By challenging us to explore who we are, the Enneagram helps us recognize and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior and to become our most authentic selves. Bravely exploring how God has created us requires much more work than many realize.

Identifying our number, wing, or subtype is just the beginning of our Enneagram journey. There are many books out there that will present a broad overview of the Enneagram, there aren’t many books that help you go deeper into learning about your specific type. That’s what sets The Enneagram Collection by Beth McCord apart.

“The real power of the Enneagram comes when we surrender to the Holy Spirit, and depend solely on Him to do the transforming work inside us and the people we love. When we press on toward growth, it allows us to walk with the Spirit and trust him in new and dynamic ways moment by moment, day by day.”

Beth McCord

Each of these journals is divided into 21 entries that include further education about the Enneagram, specific information about your type with the context of that subject, and reflection questions. The journal entries are designed to help you dig deeper into how you view yourself, God, and the world.

There isn’t a specific pace you need to go abide by, and for some numbers you will likely find that some entries take a few days to dissect as you reflect on the questions. What I found interesting is the charts are very number specific. As I did a side by side comparison of charts about strengths, weaknesses, and worldview it was clear that each book is written to the number. If you get the 8 you will read a book for Type 8s.

I learned a lot of information from these books I haven’t found anywhere else. If you’re looking to learn more about your number this is a great next step in your Enneagram journey.

One caution though. It’s easy to mistype yourself and these books are specifically written to one type. Spend time on the page listening to each audio clip. And if you’re still having trouble nailing down your type reach out to a coach. Megan Hall, founder of Dauntless Grace Ministries is a great one I can personally recommend!

Book Review: 40 Days of Decrease

Book Review: 40 Days of Decrease

Book Reviews

This year for Lent I committed to read through Alicia Britt Chole’s devotional 40 Days of Decrease.

Here’s a little about the author: Alicia holds a doctorate in leadership and spiritual formation from George Fox Seminary and serves as the founding director and lead mentor of Leadership Investment Intensives (www.leadershipii.com), a nonprofit devoted to providing customized soul-care for leaders in business and ministry.

In 40 Days of Decrease, she poses different questions designed to encourage daily pondering rather than guiding the reader to focus on one single sacrifice. Traditionally people give up something like sugar, TV or social media for Lent, however Chole’s approach is to bring the reader through the days leading up the Jesus’ Crucifixion in John while at the same time offering a history of the Church practice of Lent through the centuries. She asks:

What if you fasted regret? What if your friends fasted comparison? What if your generation fasted escapism? What if your community fasted spectatorship? Such heart-fasts could trigger a spiritual revolution! 

From 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole

As with many things in church history the practice of Lent has gone through several evolutions. Chole doesn’t comment on what is “right or wrong” she simply presents different traditions. Each day includes a reflection of the Bible verses, historical information about Lent, a challenge to fast something, and a reading in John that begins the next day’s reflection.

Lenten Fasts

Lent began in February this year and obviously this book was written years before we experienced a global pandemic, however, each day I found myself in awe as present-day news and Chole’s reflections around the days leading up to Jesus’ Crucifixion called for similar considerations.

Chole encouraged daily fasts that created space for reflection in the following areas:

  • Loving your neighbor
  • Isolation
  • Selfishness
  • Truth from fiction
  • Poor leadership
  • Identify crisis
  • Stewardship
  • Reflecting on how we would spend our last days if we could choose
  • Dancing in the dark days to display trust
  • Reality vs. Hypocrisy
  • Obedience
  • Restricted freedom

Throughout the 40 days of Lent, I was continually reminded there is nothing is new under the sun just like it says in Ecclesiastes. I found this oddly comforting, even if it was also a bit gut-wrenching some days. Ultimately, the reminder that Jesus understands our anguish, fear, and hope that God will intercede and change our circumstances was comforting. The fact that Jesus followed through even when his circumstances didn’t change, especially after he spent sp much time loving the disciples and reminding them to love their neighbor was a timely reminder of Jesus’s compassionate love for us even though it was incredibly painful for him.

Ultimately, my hope was that focusing on this devotional over the Lenten days would be another layer of perspective on my OneWord for 2020 which is Pursue. Most days I spent time reflecting on the challenge Chole posed. No challenge was easy enough to resolve in a 24-hour period. In fact, my guess is many would take a lifetime to master.

Our Responses Matter

In the last few days of the devotional Chole shifts to remind the reader that the disciples spent time mourning the loss of a dream. Their teacher and friend died before their eyes and with it so did the future they thought they were planning together.

Chole points out that even though we may be drawn to numb ourselves in seasons of mourning and grief spiritual formation calls us to a different response. God pursues our hearts and asks us to trust him even when we’re facing an unknown future.

1 Peter 1:3-9 The Passion Translation says:

“Celebrate with praises the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has shown us his extravagant mercy. For his fountain of mercy has given us a new life—we are reborn to experience a living, energetic hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We are reborn into a perfect inheritance that can never perish, never be defiled, and never diminish. It is promised and preserved forever in the heavenly realm for you! Through our faith, the mighty power of God constantly guards us until our full salvation is ready to be revealed in the last time. May the thought of this cause you to jump for joy, even though lately you’ve had to put up with the grief of many trials. But these only reveal the sterling core of your faith, which is far more valuable than gold that perishes, for even gold is refined by fire. Your authentic faith will result in even more praise, glory, and honor when Jesus the Anointed One is revealed. You love him passionately although you did not see him, but through believing in him you are saturated with an ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory. For you are reaping the harvest of your faith—the full salvation promised you—your souls’ victory!”

For me, what stood out about 40 Days of Decrease was how Jesus pursued relationships with the disciples up until the last moments he was with them. He modeled for them how to care for each other and when he was gone they instinctively gathered back together to support each other. Jesus knew Judas would hand him to his enemies and he knew Peter would betray him three times before he hung on the cross. He knew his mother would need someone to lean on and John would take the job seriously. He knew his friends intimately, and he knows us intimately too because he pursues relationships with us as well.

I’m thankful for the opportunities to pause and reflect over the past 40 days and while this is a study that focus on Lent I encourage you consider carving out time to go through this devotional anytime you’re looking to reflect on your relationship with Jesus and flesh out ways you may need to purge your opinions for God’s because the more we reflect Christ the more peace we’ll find within ourselves. I know because I’m currently living through a global pandemic and most days I describe myself as grateful.

Book Review: The Path Between Us

Book Review: The Path Between Us

Book Reviews

The Path Between Us An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships is Suzanne Stabile’s independently written book following The Road Back to You, which she co-wrote with Ian Cron.

The distinguishing difference is that The Road Back to You is described as a basic primer that introduces you to each of the 9 basic Personalities while The Path Between Us goes more in-depth into how the numbers interact with each other.

What I found most valuable in each of the chapters was the breakdown of these sections:

  • Stabile highlights how each number responds in relationship to each other number
  • Stabile identifies how each number responds in stress and security
  • Stabile identifies each number’s limitations in relationship
  • Stabile identifies how we benefit from relationship with each number
  • In the last two sections, Stabile writes directly to each number and those in relationship with that number with simple prompts:
    • Relationships FOR a number
    • You can
    • But you can’t
    • You’ll need to accept
  • Relationships WITH a number features bulleted points to help someone who is learning how to interact with a certain number better speak their language. For example, “Encourage Sixes to trust themselves more and to take more (measured) risks.” “Point out all the good things they bring to a relationship.”

Relationships are challenging and if there is anything the past three to four years have taught us it’s that we can sit in the same room, listen to the same thing and comprehend completely different points. The enneagram is an excellent tool to help you understand how those you love, work with and interact with see the world.

Most importantly, the enneagram and The Path Between Us is an excellent tool to help you learn how to self-reflect and soften some of those rougher edges that others may not respond to all that well.

Stabile does an excellent job of sharing stories that are relatable even when she’s highlighting some of the stress responses. Her insights into the slight distinctions in numbers is very helpful if you are still trying to figure out your number or wing.

If you are someone who thrives on routine there are many numbers that you will identify with, but for very different reasons. These distinctions are important to note for yourself and as you strive to understand others.

For example: “Nines can easily fall into a routine and stay there without giving much, if any, thought to what might go wrong. Fives like routine because it helps them manage their limited amount of energy. Sixes not only like routines, they find safety in them. But what about numbers who don’t want life to be so predictable? For some numbers, freedom is as necessary to them as security is to Sixes.”

If you’re looking for a book to help you understand the enneagram I encourage you to consider The Path Between Us. It’s my favorite one so far.

Book Review: Try Softer

Book Review: Try Softer

Book Reviews

After months of waiting, Try Softer is finally available to purchase and I cannot wait to tell you about this book. I’ll start with fully disclosing that I’ve known Aundi Kolber for several years through a writing group. However, that only lends to my desire to tell you that this is one of the most authentic books I’ve read in recent years I cannot emphasize enough how important Aundi’s Try Softer presentation is one everyone should consider.

In a time when PTSD is an overused catchphrase that people seem to self-diagnose themselves with, Aundi (a licensed therapist) brings clarity to how our past relationships inform how we learn to engage with people. Her tender reminder that difficult experiences don’t have to become trauma is so simple, and yet seems so opposite of what we hear and allow to occur in most situations.

Throughout Try Softer Aundi uses her personal story as well as those of clients to help the reader identify possible similar experiences. When we understand how our past informs our present we can begin the hard work of moving forward and changing the subconscious habits we’ve unintentionally established.

The best part of this book, in my opinion, is that Aundi incorporates her expertise as a therapist. She takes time to explain possible physical responses to situations we may experience. This is so important because for many of us we’ve learned to deal with conflict by NOT dealing with conflict. That is to say, we compartmentalize our responses in certain situations.

Aundi reminds us that God desires us to engage in relationship with him and others with our whole heart and provides the tools to help us to begin the journey to do so.

So, what exactly does it mean to “try softer”? You can learn more about that directly from Aundi here.

Who should read this book: Everyone who hopes to have healthy relationships.

What age is this appropriate for: The language is a bit complex. While Aundi is nothing but respectful, I think that the concepts may be harder for anyone under 16-18 to process well.

Book Review: Why I Still Believe

Book Review: Why I Still Believe

Book Reviews

It’s been a while since I’ve done a full book review here! I’ve been buried in writing which has left little time for reading. However, there are some books that cross over with work and thankfully I’ve got a few that are worth featuring here as well starting with this one!

Why I Still Believe

For those who feel the ever-present tension between the beauty of salvation and the dark side of human nature, Why I Still Believe is a candid and approachable case for believing in God when you really want to walk away. With fresh and thoughtful insights, this spiritual narrative presents relevant answers to haunting questions like:

  • Isn’t there too much pain and suffering to believe?
  • Is it okay to have doubt?
  • What if Jesus’ story is a copy of another story?
  • Is there any evidence for Jesus’ resurrection?
  • Does atheism explain the human experience better than Christianity can?  
  • How can the truth of Christianity matter when the behaviors of Christians are reprehensible?

In Why I Still Believe Mary Jo Sharp shares personal experiences as a new believer with the Church. She shares about the time her clothes were criticized by the pastor’s wife rather than a simple welcome to our church. She also shares about times as a pastor’s wife and the criticism from congregations that came out of preference rather than theology.

Intertwined in these stories Mary Jo shares her faith journey from atheist to an apologist.

I found Mary Jo’s three ways people view doubt and the explanations around each of the views incredibly valuable. She also points out that doubt is a normal part of a maturing faith. That there is a difference between church culture and Biblical theology.

I love this quote: “Trying to put on my church’s cultural expression of faith made me feel like an imposter, like I was wearing someone else’s Jesus-believing clothes. Yet I had no idea how to find a genuinely fitting faith. And so doubt began to creep into my soul.” p. 26

Additionally, Mary Jo continues to remind the reader that we have to be willing to consider our own hypocrisy and flaws as we engage with the Church in order to have a relationship with God. We are all flawed, all capable of more evil than we’re willing to admit. “To think critically on a matter I’ve got to be open to the fact that I might be wrong.” p. 32

As Mary Jo takes the reader through her faith journey and the beginning of how she founded her ministry Confident Christianity she also addresses many of the common discussion points atheists bring up to support their viewpoints.

The picture of humanity is the story is that we are indeed fallen from our original relational status with God. The result is that our knowledge, intellect, desires, and will are affected, and as a result we constantly dehumanize ourselves and others. We are not going to be able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps – or, in the language of today, just “follow our dream, speak our truth, show love not hate” – because individually we continue to be the problem. Yet Christianity also pierces the human propensity to hate ourselves. God made us in his own image, so we are of highest value (Genesis 1:26, 31). p.178-179

Mary Jo Sharp Why I Still Believe

I found this book to be full of wisdom from years of hard experiences coupled with humility. Mary Jo’s timely book reminds us all that we are flawed humans created for relationship with a perfect God and other flawed humans.

For many, our experiences in the Church have been that as we’ve questioned church culture we’ve been told directly or indirectly questions revealed a lack of faith. In Why I Still Believe Mary Jo affirms that deepening our relationship with Jesus and our faith in our Creator requires study, exploration, and continued learning. Much of that will include asking questions.

What I Read in 2018

What I Read in 2018

What I've Read 2018

This year I embraced audiobooks and discovered our library has amazing opportunities for ebook and audiobook lending. I repeated my goal from 2017 to read 20 books and thankfully, due to audiobooks, I was much closer to meeting that goal than if I’d only read books.

Here’s my 2018 Reading List:

I’ve set a much smaller goal for 2019 mainly because I’ll be focusing more on writing, and you aren’t supposed to read within the same genera as you write. Since I prefer non-fiction this means I’ll be less likely to pick up a book. On the other hand, I’ve had an embroidery project waiting for my attention for six years, and I expect this year to be the one where it’s completed.

Book Review: Just Ask (A Devotional for Coaches’ Wives)

Book Review: Just Ask (A Devotional for Coaches’ Wives)

just ask book review Just Ask by Sarah Roberts is a 21-Day Devotional written by coaches’ wives. Each chapter focuses on a person in the Bible. The wives take turn sharing how a Bible story or person reminds them of a scenario they have experienced.

There is no stone left unturned as each wife writes about their lives. Firings, fear, marriage stress, trust, disappointment and public pressures are all covered. Each entry ends with three reflection questions for personal or group discussion, but more than that, each post reminds us how God was present in each situation in Scripture and in the lives of each wife.

I found this book to be a great tool for small group discussion. There was plenty of time to discuss our personal experiences without feeling rushed. The entries were the length of a blog post and the book is small enough to keep in your purse for reading on the go.

If you are looking for encouragement and perspective from other coaches’ wives consider getting a copy of Just Ask. This would also make a great gift for a newly engaged soon-to-be coach’s wife.

Book Review: Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin

Book Review: Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin

Book Review Lessons From the Sidelines

I finally was able to read Jen Wilkin’s book Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds. This short book is a guide for all people looking to learn more about how to study Scripture but is written specifically to women. The last chapter is specifically written for women who think they are called to lead a Bible study.

Jen does an excellent job of laying out a step by step process for an in-depth approach to studying God’s word. She introduces her process labeled the 5 P’s which are slightly different than Priscilla Shirer’s version.

What I liked most about this book is that it provides step by step guidelines, offers practical application and explains why each step is offered in the order in which Jen presents.

Jen does a great job of distinguishing between devotional times and Bible study as well as speaking and teaching. Along the way she reminds the reader that we will learn something different from scripture when we read it for ourselves first instead of through the filter someone else presents.

Learning how to read the Bible for ourselves may be the most important skill we can develop in order to deepen our relationship with Jesus. This book is a great resource for those wanting to do so.

Book Review: Remember God

Book Review: Remember God

Book Review Lessons From the Sidelines

Annie Downs newest book continues to share the life lessons God is teaching her. Remember God is the most vulnerable book Annie has yet to share. She offers the reader a look into her travels and life,b but more than that, Annie shares the whispers she heard from God.

Annie honestly shares of her wrestlings, her heart wounds and her most challenging life season yet. Depression, fear, frustration, and redemption are all present in Remember God. Through it all Annie continues to draw the reader back to truth. When we look for God he will show up.

We’ve all been there haven’t we? We wonder if our most fervent prayers have not reached high enough or worse, they have and God is ignoring us. While every experience is different it is the reminders from those who have been in our shoes, those who have ached the same ache and now are on the other side that can offer hope we too will reach the other end of the wilderness. Remember God is that reminder.

Learn more about Annie Downs and her newest book here.

Book Review: The President is Missing

Book Review: The President is Missing

Book Reviews

Every once in a while I need a good fiction book and this August The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson hit the mark.

I listened to the Audiobook read by Dennis Quaid and I think it was a great way to take my mind off the football season while I drove and took my morning walks. This action-packed mystery offers a behind the scenes peek into all a President balances within a week.

The story is told mostly from the perspective of widowed President Duncan who is faced with an impossible situation. A computer virus threatens to be released, his blood disease has flared up, and to top it all off he has a leak in the White House.

Every time I expected a typical turn mysteries take this book shifted the story in a new direction. The ending was stunning and satisfying. The political setting stays in the background for most of the story, so regardless of your politics this is a great read.