Tag Archives: book review

Book Review and Deal: Conscience by Andrew D. Naselli and JD Crowley

9781433550744Naselli, Andrew David, and J.D. Crowley. Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who DifferWheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016.

This book has literally been life-changing for our family. Bryan and I have been fortunate to hear many of these principles either from JD or Andy or our pastor, Danny Brooks. JD presented some of this material at a missions conference a few years ago. My parents, sister and brother-in-law, and Bryan and I had the privilege of attending this conference together. My parents have been faithful followers of Jesus for nearly their whole lives, but the principles they heard that weekend were a brand new way of thinking–a liberating way of thinking!

A couple of years later, this book came out, and my parents read it together. Then they bought 20+ copies and gave them to their small group friends and to their kids (us) to work through with our spouses. Bryan and I read through this book together over our vacation this past month. We took time to talk through the various chapters, applying them to various situations we’ve come across recently. I went to school with one of the authors, Andy, and have had the privilege of getting to know JD over the past few years. This past fall, I got to hear JD and Andy co-teach the principles outlined in this book at a missions conference in Minneapolis, and it was a boost to my heart and mind.

Reading through the book, my biggest take-away was gratitude that a vital resource like this finally exists for the Church at large! It deals with tough topics and gives a practical and theological way to work through various issues of conscience. If you’re expecting exact answers on what to believe, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it walks you through every New Testament passage that mentions the conscience and helps you ask the hard questions to calibrate your conscience to the Word of God.

And it’s currently on sale! The electronic version is available on Amazon for only $2.99 for a short time. I encourage you to purchase a copy and dig into God’s Word as you calibrate your conscience (and learn how to love others whose consciences differ from your own).

May God show you His power and true, biblical freedom as you grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, calibrating your consciences to His Word. It’s not easy…but it’s so worth it!

 

 

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Book Review: Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist

419sdwuncul-_sx321_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 256 pages.

Shauna Niequist continues to be one of my favorite authors. I found so many parallels in her Bittersweet story to our own story, that by chapter two, I was in tears. Thankfully, that was the “change” part of the book, and the “grace” part was still to come.

This book was raw, relatable, and beautifully crafted. The chapters are short and easy to read on the run–which is perfect as a mom to a very active toddler! I’d read a chapter or two before bed or between tasks during nap time, and it was a retreat in itself. Be ready to do some soul-searching and “self-processing” when you pick up this book–and maybe have a box of tissues nearby.

Her book Bread & Wine is still my favorite, but this was a good companion book. It didn’t get too deep or offer Scripture references for thought, but it was full of wit and insight into the practical side of dealing with emotions during seasons of change and disappointment, while leaning hard on Jesus. It very much felt like diary entries over a season of time that Shauna graciously allowed us permission to read.

My favorite quote is actually found on the back cover: “I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.”

Book Review: The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman

9781433543838(Furman, Gloria. The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 156 pages.)

The Pastor’s Wife is a quick read and is summed up in its own introduction on page 20: “In case you don’t have time to read the rest of this book I’ll just put my cards on the table–I think wives of ministers need encouragement and refreshment in the Lord, and we find that hope and help in the gospel. This idea isn’t new or scandalous, but with all things clamoring for our attention I think we (I!) could use an opportunity to recalibrate our perspective and set our gaze on eternal things. After all, why would we want to wade around in shallow puddles of man-made ideals when there is the incomprehensible ocean of the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge for us to dive into (Eph. 3:18-19)?”

While this book is called The Pastor’s Wife, with a few tweaks, it could apply to any believing wife (or woman, for that matter). But as it stands, it should still be read by all women (and maybe men too) because it shows at the very least how to pray for and encourage your pastor’s wife in her God-given role.

The Pastor’s Wife is saturated with Scripture and Gospel realities–every section pointing our hearts to repent from our sin and run to Jesus! Over and over, our need for the grace of the Gospel is revealed–not just for salvation but in every moment of every day. In fact, every page exudes Gospel grace. We all need “encouragement and refreshment in the Lord” (20), and this book continually points us back to the reality of our Redeemer and exhorts us to renew our minds in His glorious Gospel.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“‘The Plan’ … was my functional idol, and I couldn’t fathom what life would be like if the plan failed” (44).

“We don’t take up the axe to chop down our idols so that our Father will love us. No, we reject our idols because we are our Father’s beloved daughters. … You know that a ministry opportunity is greater to you than Jesus if, when it is taken, hindered, or altered, you feel rattled, wrecked, preoccupied, anxious, insecure, insignificant, ignored, angry, sad, betrayed, or distraught. …when we design our lives around idols, we are setting up our own little kingdoms in which we insist that we are sovereign” (45).

“Sister, if the Lord is your shepherd, he will not leave you wanting. He provides abundantly for your needs and cares for you in seasons that are frightening. Of all the things we need on this earth, he provides it all, and he restores our soul. There is no shadow in any valley so dark that his Word does not illumine. Sister, you’re being followed. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever’ (Ps. 23:6). Held in our Shepherd’s unflinching grip, we are safely his at all times and in every circumstance. Your constancy is Christ. And at the end of all things created, in the most beautiful paradox of the ages, the Lamb is shown to be the Shepherd, ‘and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ (Rev. 7:17)” (54).

My favorite chapter was the final chapter about God being glorified in our weaknesses. Without spoiling the end too much, I found this chapter refreshing. So much emphasis is placed on finding and utilizing our strengths–for the Kingdom, for business, in marriage, etc. But God’s ways are not our ways and He chooses to use the foolishness of man to show forth His immense wisdom (Isaiah 55:8; I Cor. 1:27-31). Life and ministry is not about me or my strengths, but about the strength of Jesus to redeem us from our sin into His righteousness, and to use our weaknesses to show forth His surpassing glory (II Cor. 3:3-10). Amen and amen!

Book Review: Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow

Set in Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Revolutionary War, Celia Garth is a historical fiction novel about a young seamstress learning to make her own way in the new world. Through love and loss, grief and joy, and even a little intrigue, follow Celia through the streets and coasts of the low country. Even though this book is a little over 400 pages, it’s masterfully written and hard to put down!

Charleston is one of my favorite cities in the world, so I could see the steeples and cobblestones, hear the bells and horse hoofs, and smell the salt air as I read this novel. Definitely worth the read! And, please, someone make a movie out of this amazing classic!

Book Review: Word-Filled Women’s Ministry

51wwy59ejal-_sx322_bo1204203200_(Furman, Gloria, and Kathleen B. Nielson, Eds. Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 272 pages.)

My number one resolution for this year is to be a Word-filled woman, so it was only natural to pick Word-Filled Women’s Ministry as my first book to read in 2017. And I was not disappointed. On page 205, the editors describe Word-filled women as “women who clearly understand and pass on the Scriptures through both life and teaching.”

This book is different than many, as it’s a compilation of several authors, edited by Gloria Furman & Kathleen B. Nielson. Gloria and Kathleen add their own chapters too, of course, as they both have unique perspectives on and experience with women’s ministry in the local church. Here’s an overview of the parts, chapters and authors:

Part 1: The Heart of Women’s Ministry

  • 1: The Word at the Center: Hearing God Speak (Kathleen Nielson)
  • 2: The Word on Women: Enjoying Distinction (Claire Smith)
  • 3: The Word Passed On: Training New Leaders (Carrie Sandom)

Part 2: Contexts for Women’s Ministry

  • 4: The Local Church: Finding Where We Fit (Cindy Cochrum)
  • 5: The World around Us: Practicing Evangelism (Gloria Furman)
  • 6: The Ends of the Earth: Thinking Global (Keri Folmar)

Part 3: Issues in Women’s Ministry

  • 7: Older and Younger: Taking Titus Seriously (Susan Hunt and Kristie Anyabwile)
  • 8: Sexual Wholeness: Affirming Truth with Compassion (Ellen Mary Dykas)
  • 9: Gifts and Giftedness: Finding the Place to Serve (Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman)

Part 4: The End of Women’s Ministry

  • 10: Ultimate Goals: Heading for That Day (Nancy Guthrie)

I especially appreciated that the forward and several endorsements were written by men. It’s invaluable for men, especially pastors, to recognize the value and unique giftedness that women have among other women and as part of the Church at large. Women and men are equally gifted with being image bearers of God, and we all have the responsibility and privilege to study the Scriptures and share a personal relationship with Christ.

So many young women in the Church are desperate for older women to mentor them–single women, hurting women, young moms, women new to being empty nesters, and the list goes on. We all need to have two levels of accountability: looking to the more mature generations and speaking truth into the younger generation. But so many in the mature generations were never trained to mentor other women, so they feel inadequate or ill-equipped. And so many in the younger generation are tired of asking women to mentor them and feeling rejected when the answer comes back, “I just don’t think I have time right now,” or “You don’t want me to mentor you; why don’t you ask someone else.”

Word-Filled Women’s Ministry challenges each of us to not only pick up our Bibles and read them, but to apply the truths to our lives and then share those truths with those in our sphere of influence–and if we don’t think we have a sphere of influence, it challenges us to find a sphere of influence in our local church and community. It’s about time! And I give a hearty “Amen” to this!

If we are truly filled with the Word, it will naturally spill out of our lives as we move through our homes and classrooms and churches and grocery stores and…well, you get the idea. It’s not just about learning the Word, or even teaching the next generation, but there’s also an exhortation to teach the next generation HOW to teach their next generation! And we need to be willing to give them opportunities to practice this.

This book has lots of perspectives and voices and practical examples of how this can be done. Most importantly, it encourages us to cling to the grace and truth of the Gospel as fresh and vital to every moment of every day, and to use the gifts and abilities God has gifted us with for His glory and to point those around us to His great redemption story!

 

Book Review: Humble Roots – How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by Hannah Anderson

Anderson, Hannah. Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul. Chicago: Moody P, 2016. 513mja5ds-l-_sx326_bo1204203200_

I was privileged to be a part of the Humble Roots Launch Team this year, which means I got a free copy (and some other goodies to share) in exchange for writing a review. I finally got a chance to read this on a trip I took this fall…and I couldn’t put it down! I read nearly half on the flight to my destination, read every free second I had on the trip, and finished it on the flight home. It was the perfect length!

Maybe it’s the fact that God moved our family to the country this year, or that I had just planted my first garden at the new house, or that He’s been working on my own humility and being grounded in the Word this past year already, but this book was probably the best book I’ve read all year (and I’ve read quite a few).

Hannah uses horticulture analogies, Scripture, and relevant quotes from historic and current authors to weave together a beautiful manuscript of God’s grace in bringing her to a walk of humility as a wife of a pastor in rural Virginia and a young mom. I loved it! Every chapter is filled with beautifully descriptive analogies of food and wine, farming and horticulture–wonderful gifts of our good, good Father!

I found myself relating to Hannah, and feeling like she was sitting next to me, telling me her story (instead of me just reading it). And the message resonated with me–the message that it’s not about me, but it’s All about Him who called me to His marvelous light and is laying the groundwork, preparing the way, and tilling the soil of my soul.

I underlined quote after quote and copied the quotes out onto pages and pages in my journal, and it’s hard to narrow down my favorite parts, because there are so many! But I’ll try to share a few:

“Failure at small things…reminds us of how helpless we are in this great, wide world. When little things spiral out of control, they remind us that even they were never within our control in the first place. … Jesus understood this…when He called the people of Galilee to leave their anxiety–when He calls us to do the same–He does so in context of mundane, very ordinary concerns” (26).

“Left to itself, a field will quickly become overgrown with weeds, the soil will settle and harden, and changes in weather will make it rocky. Hardly a hospitable environment for tender roots and sprouts” (33). “Jesus isn’t calling us to shoulder an extra burden; He is calling us to exchange a heavy burden for a lighter one” (35).

“When we believe that with enough effort, enough organization, or enough commitment, we can fix things that are broken, we set ourselves in God’s place. And when we do, we reap stress, restlessness, and anxiety. Instead of submitting to His yoke, we break it and run wild, trampling the very ground we are meant to cultivate” (42).

“When we are consumed with God’s glory, we forget to worry about our own. When our eyes are fixed on Him as the source of all goodness and truth and beauty, we accept that we are not. When we are enamoured by His worth and majesty, we can stop being so enamoured with ourselves. And fascinatingly, when we seek God’s glory, we’ll be able to appreciate it in the people around us. Instead of seeing them as threats to our own glory, we will see them as beautiful reflections of His” (76).

“Ultimately, by silencing the cacophony of emotion,  humility frees you to hear God’s call and leads you to a place of both rest and flourishing” (110).

“Because ‘God is greater than your heart’ [qtd. I John 3.20], you can trust Him to care for you when your heart breaks through disappointment or suffering. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to rejoice with you in times of joy and success. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to correct and lead you through doubt and fear. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ He can handle  the depth of your emotions. He is not afraid of them, and as you bring them back to Him, you shouldn’t be afraid of them either. In this sense, humility does not shut down your inner life; humility redeems it” (114).

“But the world is a complicated, nuanced, unpredictable place, and easy answers aren’t sustainable. In fact, the world is so mixed-up and broken, so complicated, that the only one who can lead us through it is God Himself. Instead of seeking certainty, we must teach them [our children] to follow Jesus in the mist of uncertainty” (131).

“It is precisely the fact that our resources do not belong to us–that they have been given to us by our good, kind Master–that frees us to take risks. When everything is gift and when we learn to trust the Giver of those gifts, we learn a kind of humility that makes us fearless and productive” (148).

“Pride, on the other hand, demands to know God’s will before it will act. It balks and haults and refuses to move until success is guaranteed” (159).

“God only reveals the course of our lives one step at a time. God only makes our paths straight before us with each step of faith. God does not offer us a map so much as a promise to guide us on the journey” (160).

I hope you will pick up a copy of Humble Roots and not just read it, but savor every morsel and be refreshed by the truths it contains, as you continue on your own journey of humility and grace, knowing that you are not alone on this journey.

Book Review: Bread & Wine, A Love Letter to Life around the Table with Recipes

511z58htsll-_sx340_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table, with Recipes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Bread & Wine is, by far, one of the best books I’ve read in the last several years! Shauna shares raw, real life stories mixed with a collection of her favorite recipes. I have literally laughed out loud and bawled my eyes out reading this! I feel like the author is sitting across from me, sharing a cup of coffee and opening up the window to her true self, and it feels like we’ve been friends for a lifetime even though I just met her in these pages. It’s as if you’re reading an intimate journal of an everywoman’s soul, and she says, “Come. Sit. Eat.”

In the author’s note on page 10, she writes the following:

“My prayer is that you’ll read these pages first curled up on your couch or in bed or in the bathtub, and then after that you’ll bring it to the kitchen with you, turning corners of pages, breaking the spine, spilling red wine on it, and splashing vinegar across the pages, that it will become battered and stained as you cook and chop and play, music loud and kitchen messy.

“And more than anything, I pray that when you put this book down, you’ll gather the people you love around your table to eat and drink, to tell stories, to be heard and fed and nourished on every level.”

Shauna begins with an explanation of what being a “bread-and-wine person” means: “By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine. Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater–mystery and tradition and symbol. … The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and the earth, the divine and the daily” (p. 11).

I am very much a “food” person. I love to cook, to share meals, to host friends and family and strangers, to talk about food and hospitality and life and God. So this book was perfect. The recipes are simple and offer a wide variety of personalization. I could not put this book down! Not only was it beautifully crafted, it was inspirational to get back to sharing food and faith with friends and family.

She talks about her cooking club, a group of friends that met together frequently, cooked together, did life together, laughed together, cried together, prayed together. Even when life and jobs scattered them across the country, they found ways to come back together, and it always involved food and faith and friendship in some combination.

I love that they would meet for dinner regularly, kids included. After supper, they’d put all the kids down for bed in pack n plays and sleeping bags, or whatever; and then the adults would come back downstairs to share what God was teaching them and pray with one another. Then when they needed to leave, they carried their sleeping children to their cars and took them home, but they stayed long enough for their souls to be fed and not just their bellies. And when there was a death or a new baby, a sick parent or another loss, they would bring food to one another, almost instinctively. This is the way I want to live my life; the way we try to live our lives.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

“Food is a language of care, the thing we do when traditional language fails us, when we don’t know what to say, when there are no words to say. And food is what we offer in celebration–at weddings, at anniversaries, at happy events of every kind. It’s the thing that connects us, that bears our traditions, our sense of home and family, our deepest memories, and on a practical level, our ability to live and breath each day. Food matters.

“At the very beginning, and all through the Bible, all through the stories about God and his people, there are stories about food, about all of life changing with the bite of an apple, about trading an inheritance for a bowl of stew, about waking up to find the land littered with bread, God’s way of caring for his people; about a wedding where water turned to wine, Jesus’ first miracle; about the very first Last Supper, the humble bread and wine becoming, for all time, indelibly linked to the very body of Christ, the center point for thousands of years of tradition and belief. It matters. It mattered then, and it matters now, possibly even more so, because it’s reclaiming some of the things we may have lost along the way” (p. 14).

“When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat. When you eat bread and you drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere–on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach” (p. 17).

“I believe every person should be able to make the simple foods that nourish them, that feel familiar and comforting, that tell the story of who they are. Each one of us should be able to nourish ourselves in the most basic way and to create meals and traditions around the table that tell the story of who we are to the people we care about. And the only way to get there is to start where you are.

“If you don’t cook, begin by inviting people over. Order pizza and serve it with a green salad and a bottled salad dressing. Get comfortable with people in your home, with the meds and the chaos. Focus on making people comfortable, on creating a space protected from the rush and chaos of daily life, a space full of laughter and safety and soul…and little by little, build a sense of muscle of memory, a body of knowledge, a set of patters for how your home and your heart open and expand when the people you love are gathered around your table” (p. 40).

“Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather” (p. 51).

“One of the best part of my childhood was traveling with my dad” (p. 93). “…he taught me that where we are, we eat what they eat, and we eat what they give us, all the time. We taste the place when we eat what our hosts eat. As we traveled, food became a language of understanding, even more so than museums or history lessons” (p. 94). “…I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak…. I want them to know that ‘our way’ isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood–they love to play, to discover, to learn. … I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bit of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious” (p. 98).

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd. …So that’s what we do. We throw open the front door and invite people into our home, despite its size, despite its imperfections. We practice hospitality, creating a soft and safe place for people to connect and rest” (p. 106-7).

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment. Part of that, then, is honoring the way God made our bodies, and feeding them in the ways they need to be fed.

“I do draw a line between food restrictions for health reasons and plain old picky eating. I bend over backward for the first–I make sure to have a meal that includes a filling and beautiful option for people who can’t eat one or another part of the whole meal….

“What I don’t do, though, is knock myself out for picky eaters. Part of eating at someone’s table is learning about the tastes and textures and flavors of their home, and part of eating at someone’s table is understanding that homes are not restaurants and your host is not a short-order cook….

“So this is the dance, it seems to me: to be the kind of host who honors the needs of the people who gather around his or her table, and to be the kind of guest who comes to the table to learn, not to demand” (p. 114-5).

“[Y]ou can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide” (p. 195).

“The church is at its best, in my view, when it is more than a set of ideas and ideals, when it is a working, living, breathing, on-the-ground, in-the-mess force for good in our cities and towns” (p. 208).

“When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they’re different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ” (p.250).

“Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, shed for you. ‘Every time you eat the bread and drink the wine,’ Jesus says, ‘remember me.’ Communion is connection, remembrance. …the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us” (p. 251).

“And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day–no matter where we are, who we are, what we’ve done” (p. 252).

“Most of the time, I eat like someone’s about to steal my plate, like I can’t be bothered to chew or taste or feel, but I’m coming to see that the table is about food, and it’s also about time. It’s about showing up in person, a whole and present person, instead of a fragmented person, phone in one hand and to-do list in the other. Put them down, both of them, twin symbols of the modern age, and pick up a knife and a fork. The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.

“…if you can satiate a person’s hunger, you can get a glimpse of their heart. There’s an intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of the one’s stomach, that is, necessarily, tied to the heart.

“I want you to gobble life up in huge bites, tasting everything, trying every new flavor, remembering every smell and texture like it’s the best thing you’ve ever had. I want you to live with wild and gorgeous abandon, throwing yourself into each day, telling the truth about who you are and who you are not, writing a love song to the world itself and to the God who made every inch of it” (p. 257-8).

See why I couldn’t put it down?! And it comes with recipes at the end of almost every chapter, a 4-week book club discussion guide (along with suggested menu for each book club night), and all kinds of entertaining tips. It’s beautiful and relatable, sharable and practical. Pick up a copy, read it, re-read it, share it, try the recipes, but most importantly, open your home and your table to the people God brings across your path, and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!

Book Review: “The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence” by Stephen Altrogge

Altrogge, Stephen. The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. Illinois: Crossway, 2011. 143 pages.

Review: I picked this book up on sale at WTS Books a couple of months ago. It’s on sale for only about $6, and worth far more than that! The Greener Grass Conspiracy is one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time…and VERY convicting! With 12 short chapters, each ending with thought provoking questions, this book would make a perfect Bible study discussion guide! Altrogge is fresh, relevant, current, insightful–and, most of all, biblically grounded. He quotes from modern theologians and saints of old, and backs each of his points up with Scripture and Gospel Truth. This book was challenging and encouraging, convicting and refreshing, all at the same time.

So, what is the conspiracy? “This grand conspiracy of the world, Satan, and my heart is…[t]o have me always believing that the grass is greener somewhere else, always wishing that things were different, always dreaming of a brighter tomorrow without ever enjoying where God has me today” (pp. 13-14).

Here are a few quotes that stuck out specifically to me:

“Circumstances aren’t to blame. There’s something much more sinister at work. That something is my sinful, discontented heart. …The problem is me. I am my own worst enemy. The raging, covetous, discontented desires come from within. They’re not the product of my circumstances, and the desires won’t be satisfied when circumstances change” (p. 17).

“If you follow Jesus, you will have every spiritual need met. Forgiveness, adoption, spiritual strength, everything. And if we have all our spiritual needs met and are content with what we have, that is great gain” (p. 20).

“We were created for God’s glory. In other words, God put you and me on this planet to bring him glory. I exist to display his worth to the world and to show how great God really is. God is at the center of all things, and we exist for him. Not the other way around. Life is not about my ultimate happiness and self-fulfillment. Does God love me? Yes, absolutely. But he doesn’t exist for me. Everything exists by God and for God. The universe orbits around God.” and “Discontentment happens when I attempt to displace God from his rightful place at the center of the universe” (p. 24).

“Our goal isn’t contentment in and of itself. We’re not after a mystical state of Zen. Our goal is to be content for the glory and honor of God” (p. 25).

“Discontentment is the result of misplaced worship. It’s the result of giving our heart to someone or something that should never have it. When we stake our happiness on anything other than God, we’re going to be miserable. Why? Because we were made to worship God and find all our joy in him. Creation worships God (Ps. 19). The angels worship God (Isa. 6). When we worship something other than God, we’re out of sync with the universe” (p. 37).

“When we complain, we’re loudly saying that the blessings of the gospel aren’t enough. We’re saying that the death of Christ isn’t enough. We’re saying that the eternal fellowship with God, purchased at great cost to God, isn’t enough to satisfy our souls. We’re saying that forgiveness of sins and peace with God is nice, but not that nice. …We’re saying that God himself, who is the very definition of goodness, isn’t good enough. We would like a little something more, if you don’t mind. …Do you see the utter sinfulness of complaining? …God has emptied his pockets for us, and yet we complain.” and “The only way to cut the nerve of complaining is to regularly and actively remember and savor and apply the gospel” (p. 72).

“The only way to satisfy our thirsty souls is to find our satisfaction and strength in Christ” (p. 88).

“If we’re going to escape the Greener Grass Conspiracy, we must keep our eyes fixed on heaven. We can be content now because we know that very soon all of our longings will be satisfied. We can find happiness in the little we have on earth because we know of the riches that await us in heaven. We can contentedly endure suffering now because we know that soon Jesus will wipe away every tear” (p. 138).

Conclusion: Maybe you have a friend who is struggling with discontentment. Maybe you’re struggling with it even now. Maybe you don’t even realize that your responses and reactions are rooted in discontentment. Or maybe your small group is just looking for what book to study next. Regardless, this book is a must read. Pointing to Christ and His Gospel as our soul’s deepest satisfaction, this book will encourage, rebuke, exhort, uplift, and free your spirit into forsaking the misplaced worship of self and worshiping God, while rejoicing in the truth of the glory of Christ alone.

Book Review: French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano is a fabulously simple concept of enjoying quality over quantity in whatever you eat…or do. With over 265 pages of tips, tricks, recipes and hilariously helpful stories, Guiliano shares the secrets of her healthy heritage, while convincing you to drop whatever fad diet you might be most recently deceived by.

Guiliano is a high-power, working woman and best-selling international author, who grew up in France and is at the top of her game as the CEO of an American branch of a French company. She talks about being an exchange student in high school and coming to America, where she picked up much of the typical American high school food fare, along with the pounds to go with it. After returning to France, she worked with a Dr. Meyer (whom she refers to as “Dr. Miracle” throughout the book) to regain her ideal body weight and lead a healthfully satisfying life of enjoying food, fitness, friends and family.

She talks about basic concepts like eating smaller portions of higher quality ingredients, making sure you have a good variety (recommending at least 20-30 different types of food each day, so you get a full gamut of nutrients), not depriving yourself, eating slowly and mindfully, and shopping daily and at local markets as much as possible, so you get the freshest, in season, local ingredients.

She also recommends drinking plenty of water, keeping moving (even if it’s just walking, stairs, and a few light weights), getting proper sleep (not too much, not too little), and adding yogurt to your daily menu. And over and over again she says, “Faites simple,” meaning, “Keep it simple.”

Here are some of my favorite moments from the book:

  • “Consider all the things you consume regularly. Which of them is giving you real pleasure and which are you having to pointless excess? One thing French women know is that the pleasure of most foods is in the first few bites; we rarely have seconds” (p. 31).
  • “Part of living like a French woman, then, will mean searching out and paying a bit more for quality, whether at the open-air market or at least a good grocery shop with market suppliers. …French women live on budgets, too, but they also understand the value of quality over quantity” (p. 77).
  • “Visual variety, color, and presentation are underestimated factors in food pleasure” (p. 119).
  • “French women know any regimen you can’t maintain for long stretches of life is bound to fail you, just as they know that boredom, not food, is the enemy” (p. 206). “For me, walking remains the ultimate time for freedom of thought” (p. 210). “The body spends about 60 calories an hour sleeping; if you swim, you’ll do better at 430 calories; but climbing stairs consumes a stunning 1,100 calories per hour. Vive l’escalier!” (p. 211).
  • “The only purpose of withholding some pleasure is so we can more fully enjoy everything else for having it in proper balance” (p. 224). “Our troubles with weight have as much to do with our attitudes toward eating as they do with what we are ingesting. We are seeing a growing psychosis that I believe actually adds stress to our already stressful way of life. It is fast erasing the simple values of pleasure” (p. 225).
  • Speaking of laughter: “It’s both a physical and psychic pleasure: it is relaxing, stimulating, liberating, and sensual. It’s a pleasant response to emotion that heightens the emotion itself” (p. 228). “Marcel Pagnol believed that God gave laughter to human beings as consolation for being intelligent. I prefer to believe he made us intelligent so we could appreciate a good laugh” (p. 229).
  • “The answer is never ‘dieting’ in the American sense, but rather little alterations made steadily over time. So when we do lose the excess weight, not only does the effort seem painless, the results are much more likely to last. If my fellow Americans could adopt even a fraction of the French attitude about food and life (don’t worry, you don’t have to sign on to the politics, too), managing weight would cease to be a terror, an obsession, and reveal its true nature as part of the art of living” (p. 252).

I highly recommend this book if you are trying to lose weight for the first time…or if you have given up and need this to be the last time you lose weight…or if you just want a few good tips and recipes to spice up your weekly menu repertoire. Fortunately, I took French in high school and still remember un petit peu (since she likes to throw in some of her native phrases), but even if you don’t know French, she translates most of her phrases for you…and then, there’s always Google translate for the ones she doesn’t. A quick read, and a relief to the typical American trying to become healthier. So, pick up this book, adjust your attitude about food, and then adjust your lifestyle and start enjoying the good gifts of fabulous cuisine. Bon Appetit! 

And the Rest of the Summer Reading List…

1-3. Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy, including The Hunger Games (384 pages, 2008), Catching Fire (391 pages, 2009), and Mockingjay (400 pages, 2009). Published by Scholastic Books.

I really enjoyed this trilogy. It took me all of one weekend to read all three books! I loved the blatant social commentary on the global dystopia. (The first movie was actually really good too, in my opinion.)

4. Julia Rothman’s Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Country Life (219 pages. Storey Publishing, 2011).

This book is more of an illustrated guide to life on a farm, with detailed descriptions of parts of a cow, to tractor makes and models, all with beautifully hand drawn artwork. I liked this book so much I bought a copy for my folks to keep on their farm in Tennessee. It’s an excellent resource, especially for hands-on children.

5. Lysa TerKeurst’s Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food (160 pages, published by Zondervan, 2010).

This book is written by the President of the Proverbs 31 Ministries, who publishes the free P31 e-devotionals I get daily. So many people (especially women, it seems) have a hard time finding their comfort in God instead of food. This book is available to help those people change their thinking, and thereby their actions, about what (or Who) to crave first! Easy to read and apply, written by someone who’s “been there, done that.”