Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: My Own Worst Enemy

I recently finished My Own Worst Enemy:  How to stop holding yourself back by Janet Davis.  This book explores many facets of the Christian woman's story.  How life, marriage, decisions, career, family, and talents get segmented, bottled up, and often left unattended.  Women have emotions and stories that should be shared.  Davis is very clear on her intentions to lift women up and receive the power from God to do things they have only imagined.  She indicates that the church and society has downplayed the woman's role and influence in the family structure, work place, and church. 

I loved the way Davis structured her book.  It made it easy to read, relatable, and easy to find sections again for places that I wanted to reread.  Each chapter of the book starts with a specific woman's story, followed by a portion of scripture (primarily a woman in the Bible), ending with the conclusion of the woman's story and some takeaway points.  This structure worked very well.  . 

I was distracted with the feminist undertones of the book.  Davis presents a lot of her personal story and journey.  It came across very selfish.  I cannot imagine choosing a church based on my sole position on how I worship without taking my family into consideration.  There was such a tone of what I call the 'gospel of self'.  Worshipping and living in a way that suits MY needs, MY desires, and seeking out ways for MY fullfilled life.  This book was all about self, and how we as women need to elevate ourselves for the sake of ourselves.  I agree that women have more to offer than sometimes given credit for, but I also believe that women were given a certain position within the societal, church, and family structure that directs them to focus on being the 'helpmate' not the shaker and mover of their families. We should find fullfillment in what Christ has done, where God has placed us, and reaching for the life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6) which is being fulfilled by Him alone, not by anything I can or ever will do.  I feel Davis also made too many assumptions in her interpretations of the bible stories.  She was trying too hard to dig meanings out of words that I feel were out of context.

I was particularly drawn to some great one liners and segments in the book that really spoke to my situation, without the feminist undertones:

"Ironically, we are worried and bothered as we constantly prepare to live the life we never quite get around to actually living....God does not relate to us as objects to be fixed.  We are children who can both love and be loved....we are gifted and talented women to be taught, received from, cherished, partnered with, pursued, comforted, and enjoyed." p. 65

When we see God act in our moments of faith stretching, we sometimes translate "our insufficiency in unimportance." p. 117

"The obedient life is less about our skill at guessing the right place to put our feet at each moment and more about knowing who we are made to be and offering ourselves to God without reservation, wherever our feet happen to land." p. 232

This book presents very interesting points of discussion, but is too dangerous for faith seekers.  I would only put this into the hands of women who have the maturity to put it up to the test of scripture.  It is too self absorbed and self seeking glory than it is about living a life that Christ has asked us to live.  

As a Bethany House Publisher's reviewer, I was given a copy of this book for an honest review.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

DVD Review: Three Hearts

Three Hearts is a documentary from Samaritan's Purse:  Children's Heart Project.  As a family we have done Operation Christmas Child thru Samaritan's Purse by filling shoe boxes that have been mailed around the world.  I had not idea that this was also an arm of their ministry.  The basic concept of Children's Heart Project is to find children around the world with severe heart conditions, that while repairable, are at risk for sudden death if they do not receive surgery or treatment that cannot be done in their home country.  Three hearts follows three Mongolian children (Two teenage boys and a toddler girl) as they make the journey from Mongolia two San Antonio where Children's Heart project has found a willing (and eager!) pediatric cardilogist who has taken on their case and will treat them.  This DVD follows their journey and how their hearts are healed physically and also spiritually.  It is amazing the transformation the group and their American hosts go through.
Highlights of the DVD:  I dare you to not at least tear up, if not shed tears peridoically throughout this film.  I don't know of anything much more heart wrenching than a mother handing over her baby to scrub clad surgeons, aware that this could be the last time she holds her baby.  I dare you to not shed a couple tears of joy as you see the spiritual transformation in these families.  I loved how the DVD highlighted cases that didn't work out as hoped- as hard as it was to hear.  The hearts of those involved were evident and I felt compelled to find out more about how I can help this ministry.  I like how it isn't focused on a person, a hero, or even the organization but the healing power of generosity and grace through the stories of these children and their families.  It was relatable and challenging.

Lowlights of the DVD:  I had a bad taste in my mouth after the DVD was set up to be this great spiritual journey for Cissie Graham (granddaughter to Billy Graham) and how she was going to present us with this great story when out of the blue she drops out because her husband gets drafted by the NFL.  I am a great advocate for marriages and putting your husband 2nd to only just seemed so nonsensical that someone would put being with their husband while at training camp over brining three desparately sick children out of the desert and into the promised land.  If they had simply started out with Cissie's bio and presented it in more of a " I (Cissie) am excited about my internship and brining these three kids over from Mongolia...but I'm going to need some help!  I've enlisted...).  That angle would have prepared me better for the focus of the video and not left me a little unsettled.

Overall this was a great DVD, but I would not purchase it for personal use.  I could see renting it, but probably not.  It would be a great church, small group, or sunday school resource especially during a stewardship or global missions theme. 

*I was given a copy of this DVD for review by BookSneeze / Thomas Nelson, but all opinions are my own.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Review: The Captive Heart

I was absolutely thrilled when I had the opportunity to read and review the sequel to Dale Cramer's Paradise Valley which you can read about here.  I loved the first novel and was anxious to hear how Caleb Bender and his family were doing in the new Amish settlement in Paradise Valley, Mexico.  The Captive Heart exceeded my expectations and left me longing for (hopefully) the next book in the series. 

We left the Bender family in the previous novel where a couple families from the old settlement in Ohio had finally come to Paradise Valley.  Joy filled the air with the birth of babies and the arrival of a love thought lost.  The Captive Heart begins shortly thereafter as the new families begin to adapt to the new surroundings in Mexico, settle their homesteads, and new relationships bloom between Caleb's daughters and the new arrivals.  Rachel is forever in love with Jake who is proving himself to be a man of his word, a man of passion, and forever in love with Rachel as well.  Miriam is torn between the love of her family- therefore the potential marriage to Micah- and the love in her heart for Domingo.  Domingo has a heart for the Bender family, but respectful stands back in his pursuit of Miriam because of the 'fences' that surround their potential courtship and marriage.  Just when you think you are reading a sweet romance novel in the peaceful Mexican countryside, the bandits return to the area and begin to bring havoc and chaos and despair to the growing Amish settlement. 

Disease, hardship, death, and an unlikely hero bring this story to dramatic points.  I am not one to get emotional over a book, but I had myself teary eyed as the book climaxed into an event I would have never imagined.  Then in brilliant stroke of writing, Cramer takes what you thought was the climax to a bridge to a new climax and hopefully another book in the series.

The storytelling in this book I believe surpassed the previous novel.  The story lines were unique, but yet in the popular and familiar Amish concepts.  I loved the intrigue and drama of this novel that only whispered the underlying cultural and religious tones of the Amish.  It even begs a great debate over the line of rules and grace, love and legalism, tradition and family.  An excellent novel and I eagerly await the next installment! 

Thank you Bethany House for giving me this book to review.  I was not compensated other than a free copy of this book for the review.  All thoughts and critiques are my own.