Thursday, April 30, 2015

Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy

This month I had the opportunity to explore Donald Miller’s latest offering Scary Close.
 Donald Miller is a name that came up time and again throughout my college years, acting as a polarizing force through his works such as Blue Like Jazz. However, even among all this buzz, this was my first actual exposure to his work.

On a whole, I can understand the appeal of Miller’s work.

His writing style is familiar, comfortable. His book reads as a conversation between friends over a coffee. This style seemed especially appropriate given Miller’s focus on intimacy and relationships. It almost felt as though the style itself was another forum through which Miller was attempting to explore and express his feelings on the subject matter.

That said, after reading the book, I am still not entirely sure of Miller’s point.

On one hand, readers are introduced to a meandering journey of Miller’s relationship and intimacy issues ending in the author’s marriage to Betsy. On the other, Miller seems intent on trying to explain life lessons about intimacy as related to this journey.

While there were high points where Miller conveys important work (I particularly enjoyed the chapter with him ending a lecture by jumping in a lake), I almost felt like the point of Miller’s work was buried under the emotional connection he worked to form with the reader through the biographical narrative. In my case, the “so what” of the book got lost between personal growth retreats and fixing up broken down locations for the long awaited wedding.

Although I love the stated topic and have read avidly on the subject before, I couldn't shake the feeling the Scary Close was not written with someone of my gender (female) or life stage (young mom) in mind. I did get the distinct impression this would have been a much discussed book had it been around during my college years.

Overall, I give this book 3 out of stars mainly because I can see its potential given the right audience.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Blessings For the Morning by Susie Larson.

With life swirling messily around  a toddler, a pregnancy, and a big move it can become all too easy to get lost in the chaos of it all.
Big things just seem to make way for more big things, large tasks just seem to get more complex. Our to-do lists seems to have little elves that magically lengthen it while we sleep.

In the middle of all this mess, I try (and admittedly often fail) to remember baby steps.
When our son took his first steps it was, obviously, a huge milestone. Yet, looking back, I think, as adults, we often forget how much those first steps cost.

To take baby steps requires venturing into the unknown, coordinating things that have never worked in that manner before, to learn and master skills previously unknown while looking on at others who have already made that step.
Looking back baby steps are building blocks - simple, foundational. In the middle of our chaos baby steps can be a looming possibility.

Throughout our craziness I was grateful to be asked to review Susie Larson's newer devotional Blessings for the Morning.

Right out of the box I knew Susie had put together something exceedingly helpful for those, like me, in a busy stage of life.
Blessings offers a sturdy, smaller size perfect for storing by bedsides, by favourite chairs, or in purses where it can be easily accessed in the morning. There is even a ribbon bookmark to help the more distracted (like me) find my place the next day!

The material itself is beautifully presented with photo-based backgrounds that, I find, consistently draw me in, often before I even begin reading the daily text.This has had the unexpected benefit of helping me distance myself mentally from the busyness in our home, something I have struggled with for years when trying to find quiet times.

The reading itself is simple.
Larson presents a verse, a theme, and a series of promises, ideas, and challenges with which readers can direct their focus for their day. Keeping in mind the busyness of her target audience, these readings can be done quickly or used as an introduction to a longer time of prayer and reading depending on the needs and schedule of the reader.
Either way, lack of time is certainly not a reasonable excuse for skipping out with the user-friendly method Larson has compiled.

I do understand that some may be seeking a morning devotional with more depth and substance for Biblical learning. That is not Larson's endeavor with this book and those who wish to use this material for sole academic studying will be sorely disappointed. In all honesty, when I first started exploring Blessings the first thing that came to mind was - baby steps.

Blessings can help readers in times of life where quiet time is a challenge due to any number of circumstances re-enter into a daily space with their Creator. These easy to access daily meditations can serve as a way to wet the appetite as readers re-learn what it means to spend time daily doing devotionals- baby steps.

All in all I am impressed with Larson's book and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review the opinions are my own.