Book Review: Faithful Finance

Finance is not one of my strong points. I’m an unorganized creative type who has long been confused and intimidated by the rest of the world’s ability to understand things like investing and insurance and all things dealing with money.

I was looking for a book that would keep things simple and practical so when the offer to review this one came across my email I immediately responded. I must say that this is the first finance book I’ve ever actually finished reading, and not just because I had to.

Stroud is straightforward and practical in her advice which I appreciate. The tips that she gives seem within reach even for someone like me.
And it isn’t just a book about money. She always draws it back to faith and staying focused on what really matters in life. I love how she makes a point to say that having money is not sinful, and it is actually a way of being able to be used by God to bless others.

I wish Stroud could be my personal finance expert to turn to in real life. I’m looking forward to implementing some of the strategies she gives and finally finding some peace with my bank account.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Handlebar. The above is my honest review.

Book Review: The Remarkable Ordinary and A Crazy Holy Grace

For those like me who may be unfamiliar with the name Frederick Buechner, he is a Presbyterian minister and apparently a prolific writer with over 30 books. I agreed to read and review his books simply found myself intrigued by the titles of his latest releases: A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory and The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life.

A CRAZY, HOLY GRACE
It is no secret and you will quickly learn that at a young age Buechner’s father took his own life, and it is clear in A Crazy, Holy Grace that grappling with pain, memory, and grace are not foreign to his experience. The book is a short read of 137 pages divided into three sections: Pain and God’s Crazy, Holy Grace; The Magic of Memory; and Reflections on Secrets, Grace, and How God Speaks.

“But when it comes to putting broken lives back together–when it comes, in religious terms, to the saving of souls– the human best tends to be at odds with the holy best.” (p 41)

There were several moments throughout the book that I marked to come back to and ponder more. Buechner is very vulnerable in sharing the pain and memories of his life, and speaks of how the pain we encounter in life, because we will encounter pain, can actually be a treasure if we allow the crazy, holy grace of God to draw us closer. As hard as that is to understand and accept, I completely agree with him in this and love the concept he presents of stewarding our pain.

His writing tends to go toward the poetic language, which is beautiful, and real, and raw, but I think I approached the book with a different expectation. Maybe because I’m not in a season of being touched deeply by loss and pain, I had a hard time getting through this little book. I tracked with Buechner in the beginning, got lost somewhere in the memories, and caught back up in reflections. Nevertheless, I think he makes some points worth considering.

THE REMARKABLE ORDINARY
“Jesus is crowned again and again in the hearts of people who believe in him amidst confession and tears and great laughter.” George Arthur Buttrick

Another small work and quick read, The Remarkable Ordinary focuses on calling the reader to pay attention to your life that is happening right now. Jesus can be found in the laughter and the tears and the mundane daily tasks if we will just pay attention.

“It’s so easy to look and see what we pass through in this world, but we don’t. If you’re like me, you see so little. You see what you expect to see rather than what’s there.” (p.25)

This book, like the former, is based on a series of unpublished lectures and is in three parts: Stop, Look, and Listen for God; Listening for God in the Stories We Tell; Telling the Truth.

The first part of the book is, I would say, more practical and theological. Buechner points out the connection between art and religion is closer than many see, and how art frames life.

The latter part of the book is more of Buechner’s personal stories. While some of them overlap from A Crazy, Holy Grace, it is presented in a fresh way, and for some reason I followed them a little easier in this retelling.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Remarkable Ordinary.

The very last line of the book is my favorite of all. So if you firmly believe in not knowing how a book ends, don’t read the next paragraph, but it’s just too good to not share.

Joy is “knowing that even though you see only  through a glass darkly, even though lots of things happen–wars and peacemaking, hunger and homelessness–joy is knowing, even for a moment, that underneath everything are the everlasting arms.”

Book Review: Ordering Your Private World

“I believe that one of the great battlegrounds of our age is the private world of the individual.”
– Gordon MacDonald

 

Currently I’m having a lot of trouble walking. What started as a burning ache last week has become a real pain in both feet. On the outside you wouldn’t know anything is wrong, but something has happened internally and they cannot bear the weight they were created to.

I’ve been meaning to write this review for a few weeks, but life has been pretty chaotic inwardly and outwardly. Just as my feet need to be strengthened and supported and rested to heal, I am painfully aware the same is true for my inner self.

Our world is all about looks and productivity. We work endless hours and then come home to hours spent on technology. We don’t sleep well, and we certainly don’t rest well. In the Christian sphere, we also tend to fall into the false belief that those who are the busiest and most active are the most spiritual, but then we wonder why our leaders fall into great sin, turn away, or burn out.

I am thankful for voices like Gordon MacDonald pointing us toward wholeness. Ordering Your Private World is easy to read  and is filled with practicality to help you and me bring our inner lives into right alignment to support our outer lives. Don’t be fooled though. It will take commitment and making hard choices.

As an added aide to following through with the practical points of the book, there is a study guide included to help the reader think more personally. The guide could be used for just the reader or to help lead a small group study if you are so inclined.

This is a book that I’m adding to my shelf to keep, and I am looking forward to implementing some of the author’s suggestions. There’s no reason for us to wait until our entire world collapses around us to realize that we need to make changes. We don’t have to be part of the status quo. MacDonald has a lot of wisdom to offer on seeking God first practically so we can be fit to do what He calls us to do publicly. Let’s start living life from the inside out as we were created to, not just for our health, but also for those we are called to serve.


I received a complimentary copy of this book through Handlebar in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Awakening of HK Derryberry

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by stories based on true events and lives. The events and experiences that real people face and overcome never ceases to amaze me. So when I was offered the opportunity to read The Awakening of HK Derryberry, I just couldn’t pass it up. This is the inspirational account of how one man, Jim Bradford, befriended a young boy with Cerebral Palsy and blindness, HK Derryberry.

The story begins with coffee, which I personally believe most good things in life do.It is quick, easy, inspirational read, and a beautiful reminder not to discount or fear someone because of what we define as a disability.

One of my favorite conversations in the book was this:

“Mr. Bradford, what are you doing?”

“I’m trying to find my handicap placard.”

“I didn’t know you were handicapped!”

“I’m not, knucklehead; you are.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot.” (208)

HK Derryberry is a remarkable human being who clearly overcomes seemingly impossible odds, and has touched many lives. What the world sees as a disability may truly be his greatest gift.

For Jim Bradford, I think this story shows how powerful our choices are. What brought the two together was initially because he deviated from his routine one morning. But not just that, he could have pitied or even felt compassion for the HK and his situation, but gone no further; instead, he acted and gave of himself and his time.

While the book probably isn’t one I will ever read again, I’m happy to have met HK and Jim in its pages, and I think most of us could learn a thing or two from both HK and Jim.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book through Handlebar in exchange for my honest review.

The Search to be Accepted

When do we get to the age where our identity becomes tangled up in our to do list and our self worth is defined by the amount of items crossed off our paper lists?

When do the thoughtful doodles of our childish fingers lose to the lie that we are not creative or artistic or have time for such nonsense?

At what point do we decide that safety and mediocrity is better than facing failure and our fears hold us back from pursuing anything greater than status quo?

Why does acceptance from others become more important than simply being who we were created to be?

I remember the day I became aware that maybe my artwork wasn’t good enough. I was in kindergarten and we were drawing houses. My teacher pointed out that I had drawn my curtains all wrong and should try to make them more like my friend Kelly’s drawing.

A few years later I had a teacher that insisted that you could only color side to side (the same way you write) and that any scribbling or going out of the lines was completely wrong. It didn’t matter if it was easier to color vertically to get into that awkward corner, it HAD to be side to side. To this day I will automatically correct myself if I start to color in a different direction! What can I say, she was a really frightening lady.

I did what they wanted because I thought I’d be accepted and that seemed more important than being myself.

It is twenty-something years later and I still do the same thing.

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My work is based strongly in communication and relationships. The irony is that people scare the life out of me. My stomach does nervous flips when approaching a stranger to engage them in conversation. Crowds overwhelm me. And more often than not, I would simply prefer to be alone than face the anxiety of bumbling stupidly through smalltalk.

Why? Because too often I forget that we are all simply people, some of us saved by grace and others searching to be. We each have our strengths and weaknesses, our struggles and victories. We glance side to side in comparison and fear instead of listening to the words of our Creator who declares each of us to be “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

My worth and your worth isn’t found in how many checkmarks we can put onto a scribbled list of expectations, it is found only in Christ (“accepted in the Beloved” Ephesians 1:6).Â

Being unique makes us feel weak and vulnerable unless we are seeing through the eyes of the Father. Without that lens we resort to comparison and bow to intimidation. Without His perspective we cannot see the beauty, only the failure.

He has created you and I with purpose. He offers life abundant and grace that covers a multitude of sins. Isn’t acceptance from the Creator of Heaven and earth more than enough? Therein lies the freedom to be who we uniquely are.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10