Review of “Swipe Right” by Levi Lusko

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Let me be honest.  I was hesitant to read this book for a couple reasons.  First of all, 2017 has made me a graphic design snob and I kind of felt like the tattoo inspired cover felt a little 2009.  Don’t act like you don’t judge a book by its cover.  We all do.

But on a much deeper level, I was afraid of reading this book because of its subject matter- love, sex, and dating.  Being a single girl and working in student ministry, I am constantly exposed to questions and very poor answers surrounding these topics.  Answers that reinforce gender stereotyping, answers that minimize,  answers that cover up, answers that don’t address enough, answers that are falling short in a culture that keeps asking more and more questions or simply assumes the Bible has nothing to offer.

In steps Levi Lusko.

I grew up on the tail end of the True Love Waits revolution and I read it all- Lady in Waiting, Captivating, Wild at Heart, Every Young Woman’s Battles, Soul Virgins, even I Kissed Dating Goodbye, so needless to say my expectations were low.

Lusko walked a tight line between cultural relevance and Biblical applications seamlessly with iconic imagery, metaphors, and word plays.

Employing the phrase “Swipe Right” from Tinder, a common dating app, Lusko displayed much deeper issues beneath dating culture without straying away from tackling difficult questions.  He described Biblical characters like Moses and Eve “swiping right” by choosing what they wanted to do in the moment, rather than what was right or eternally better for them.  Each of these characters faced consequences for their actions, but their stories do not simply end in shame and consequences, rather grace and redemption similar to our own.

At the risk of some cheesy word pictures, Swipe Right is a great read with incredible insights on dating culture that can greatly resource students, young adults, or anyone who interacts with anyone who is dating or facing temptation.

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Review of Love Lives Here by Maria Goff

love lives here

I read Love Does a couple years ago and very quickly fell in love with Bob’s writing style.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover Maria employs the same style, sharing a story and example and tying it to a deeply profound truth that resonates deeper than you realize in the moment.

Since reading Love Does, I’ve found myself telling the stories Bob shared in lessons I teach and conversations I have.  I have already found myself doing the same with Maria’s stories and examples of Love Lives Here.

I think the best way to explain Maria’s focus of “Finding what you need in a world telling you what you want” is in a metaphor she uses.  Bob is known for bringing balloons to events all over the world.  He is a big, audacious, whimsical personality that I was shocked to find also works as an attorney.  Maria shared that whenever they go places Bob brings balloons and she brings string.  Maria does not similarly share of huge, crazy adventures.  Instead, she shares of loving her neighbors, friends, and family really well.  Maria talks about crafting a home where everyone who enters senses and feels the home and safety she has found in Christ.

“His plan from the beginning of time was that love wouldn’t be traded among the noises in our lives; it would be understood in the places of peace.  Sometimes when we’re asking Him for an answer, He sends a friend.”

Over the first few pages I found myself writing hearts all over the margins, underlining, and writing the phrase “DON’T SKIP THIS” before the foreword and introduction.

“Faith doesn’t eliminate fears in my life; it lets me know I had someone I could bring them to.”

Maria also offers great insight into walking into your own story and scars in order to truly love people well.

“What I’m learning is that the good news of our faith isn’t found in avoiding the pain, but in living through the loss, walking through the ashes, and stacking back up what we know could burn down again.”


“Preparing soil that someone can grow in is hard work, but it’s not all the work.  Preparing your own soil is where the most important tilling is done.”

As I read this book, I quickly began making a list of person after person to give this book to that I love in my life.  So if you’re reading this, go ahead and click here to purchase Love Lives Here.

Review of “Looking for Lovely” by Annie F. Downs

First of all, it feels weird to tell you anything other than that I read this book in like two days, because that is my typical fashion for a book by Annie; but as many of you know, the last month of my life took many twists and turns that not only prevented me from reading, but seemed to create the space in my heart to so desperately need every single word Annie wrote in this book.

I was a little scared to begin this book right after losing my Dad very suddenly.  Nothing felt “lovely”.  Absolutely nothing.  But I’m ever so thankful I did, because in these pages I didn’t find statements about how I should focus on God being good or knowing that He works all things together for good or any of these things that feel so hard to believe right now; instead, I found Annie’s very really and raw journey which so perfectly met me where I was.


Let me take a few steps back here and disclaim to you that I absolutely love Annie.  I have met her a few times at conferences in Nashville and attended her sessions and I honestly have to remind myself that we aren’t friends that hang out and talk on a regular basis, because to read her books is to truly feel like you know her.  And seeing her talk in person is exactly the same as how she writes and I love that.

Not only do I feel like I know her, I identify with her on an almost creepy amount of things- Gilmore Girls, loud laugh, having way too many friends and loving them deep, struggling with body image, a propensity to listen to “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel over and over again and cry, and the list goes on, trust me.  I will share that I found the very first way I differ with Annie in this book, she is a morning person.  But I chose to work through that and fight for our author-reader friendship, so enough about me.  Let’s talk about this beautiful book.

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I love Annie’s style of communication.  She starts with a story that either provokes me to be like, “Girl, I feel you.”  Or has me laughing so hard tears are streaming down my face and then all of a sudden she has connected it to this truth that has me looking around to see who is staring at me because I know that is just for me.

Looking for Lovely kind of kicked me in the gut in ways that I needed it over and over again.  Annie shared about walking into the brokenness in her own life and oh how I desperately needed someone to stop saying life was beautiful and truly talk about the hard parts.

“If you want to be full of hope, you have to suffer a bit.”

She shared about overcoming the lies and broken pieces of her life and how the Lord so intimately met her there.  This journey is hard and heartbreaking.  Both from experience and from walking girls through it, I know that you feel alone, broken, and like giving up, and I love that Annie illuminated both how real and how trying of a journey this is but most importantly how fruitful and life giving it is.  (Also, I love how she addressed just how helpful going to counseling can be, as it can be a scary and stigmatized step for many.)

“I started to turn toward the whispered lies and look them in the face, giving my soul a voice to stand up for the truth.”

But amidst this hard and trying journey of a broken world full of pain and heartache, Annie emphasizes that there are beautiful little reminders of hope.  She speaks about the small things that remind her life is good like sushi and friends, and I can attest to these little sprinkles of grace in dark times, like a friend who brings Starbucks to the hospital and just massages your back and doesn’t say a word, a best friend that brings you a birthday present the day your Dad dies in the hospital, or coworkers that throw you a birthday party a week late so you could still be celebrated.  (Can I get on my soap box here for just a second and scream to you to never separate yourself from the body of Christ.  Can I just tell you from the depths of my soul how desperately you need them when you are in these dark places?)

I was listening to a sermon last night as a I was driving into Atlanta, because sometimes I need room to be myself and cry in response to sermons.  John Piper talked about how Jesus taught us to rejoice.  This wasn’t a rejoicing that was naïve or oblivious to pain and hurt, but this was a rejoicing with tears streaming down his face in pain and fear to the point of death, but He “rejoiced in the hope of the glory of God”.  Similarly, Paul is in chains, in prison in a deep hole, truly suffering and writes to the Church how he rejoices for them.

And as I have been so thankful and so blessed amidst feeling so much pain I actually feel it in my chest, God has taught me so much about this.  We rejoice that somehow, someday this will all make sense, but right now it doesn’t and it hurts and God invites us to feel that and invite Him into it.

And I think Annie emphasizes this so well that when we walk into our rainy days and lonely nights and painful thoughts, we somehow walk into allowing hope and love to abound in us in deeper ways that we ever thought possible. 

“If you aren’t experiencing pain, you aren’t experiencing beauty.  Darkness makes us appreciate the beauty of light.  If you aren’t allowing yourself to feel the hurt, sadness, loneliness, and disappointment this fallen world has to offer, you probably aren’t feeling the fullness of the joy and beauty the redeemed moments have to offer.”


To sum all of this up, I loved this book and amidst reading it bought 3 copies for other people.  You can meet my friend Annie by clicking the photo of the book above.

What were your favorite quotes from Looking for Lovely?

Review of Cherish: Cultivating Relationships with Parents, Friends, Guys, And More

cherishCherish: Cultivating Relationships with Parents, Friends, Guys, And More by Vicki Courtney

In case you don’t read any further, let me go ahead and say that if you work with  or are raising girls, specifically teenage girls, this is a book to have on your shelf.

The week before this book made it to me, I was approached by a mom on how to handle a situation with a girl she knew that was sending inappropriate photos to a boy.  After our conversation, she asked if there was any good resource to share and I was at a loss.

What book is even up to date enough, I thought, to be able to talk about the expectation girls feel to send photos, better yet all of the other pressures they face?

And the very night I received this book I was planning to talk to my girls about relationships with parents, but again was at a loss as to what a good resource would be to be able to share with them.

Needless to say, Cherish met me exactly where I needed it to, and if you work with girls, I’m sure it can meet you in the same way.  Also, if you are a middle school or high school girl, go ahead and click that picture above and press purchase.


 

Cherish reads a good bit like Seventeen Magazine to me.  It’s full of quizzes, “5 Ways to Know if…”, and other fun articles.  Within the topics of Parents, Friends, Guys, and God, Vicki provides a variety of short little articles and snippets that are quick to read, insightful, and hit on a wide variety of topics all geared toward about a 7-9th grade reading level.


I     L O V E: 

  • This book hits on a wide variety of topics.
    Specifically within the context of families, Pam Gibbs provides some great insights on and advice for living in a family with non-believing parents, growing up in a blended family, an unsafe home environment, etc.  I love seeing a resource that approaches families with some intersectionality.
  • The boys chapter isn’t all about your husband.
    Few things bother me more than a resource emphasizing the value of purity that solely focus on the effect your present purity will have on your future husband.  Instead, Cherish talks about the risk of STDs along with the very present ramifications of sexual impurity, while taking a beautifully redemptive approach to such a difficult issue.
  • It’s up to date.
    Let me tell you as a small group leader to 16 year olds, if your book talks about life and doesn’t talk about Instagram, it truly hasn’t talked about anything.
  • It shares some hard truths about friends.
    I think teenage girl-hood is such an important time to recognize and practice what healthy friendships are.  Articles included touch on some hard truths of friendship- even when it’s time to let go of one.
  • It takes on the uncharted territory of teenage hormones.
    From mood swings to shame and everything in between, articles included touch on putting words to the craziness of a teenage girl’s brain hormone wise and even how to interact with parents about it!

 

I     D O N ‘ T     L O V E:

  • QR codes.
    Some videos can be found  online as a supplemental resource to Cherish, but they are linked through QR codes in the book.  I personally hate QR codes, because I never have enough memory on my phone to download a QR scanning app.

Review of “Steadfast Love” by Lauren Chandler

Let me sum this book review up in one word and get right to the point: YES.

Like, I mean buy it right now without second guessing anything in the world.

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(Click book to purchase in a new window.)

And if you follow me on Twitter, you know fully well that I have thoroughly enjoyed this book because I have stopped to tweet quotes in just about every chapter.

I have talked previously about not loving books that are in a different color font because I have terrible eyes and kind of hate wearing glasses.   So I’m not sure if it’s the book or the fact that I got new glasses, but I kind of loved that this book was written in blue.  It gave it a little dash of uniqueness.

As for the book itself, to be very honest I have struggled a little recently with books written by very influential Christian women because a majority of them do teach so much good about the Lord and His Word, but they are primarily focused on being a wife and a mom.  Neither of which roles I find myself in.  So when a book goes on and on about picking up that next sacred piece of laundry behind your kids, I tend to close it.  And Lauren began in the first chapter talking about her kids and her family and I felt my defense mechanism start to flare up, but then in the very next paragraph she was using words I had to Google to know the meaning of and by the next page was diving deeply into Biblical Truth that was so transformative.

“Maybe there’s a part of you that feels neglected by the Lord.  If He would just come through with this one thing, you’d know He loves you.  What if receiving that one thing would tighten your grip on the idol instead of stirring your heart toward the Lord?”

So Lauren continues throughout Steadfast Love to talk about the “false anchors” we are so inclined to find our security in and how the Lord’s steadfast love is so faithful to step in for us when those inadequate anchors, and inadequate gods really fall short.  I’ve been learning so much about this idea of how we all have needs (and it is completely okay and normal to have needs) but the issue is how and with whom/what we meet them with.

Lauren weaves so many passages of Scripture and pieces of her story into explaining this principle so well that God is the very best thing for us.

“We think we know what we want, what we need.  We think that what we have planned will squeeze the greatest amount of joy from our lives.  But the Lord knows what’s best.  He is what’s best.  So that storm that seems so inconvenient, so intrusive, so destructive might very well be the Lord establishing something longer lasting, more fulfilling than what your heart could conceive.”

And I was so touched by her authenticity every step of the way of struggling with vulnerability in community as a wife to a renowned pastor (Matt Chandler), with doubting her purpose or avenues to fulfill it, with a husband walking through cancer, and with many miscarriages.

So my list of people to purchase this book for:

  • People going through a hard time
  • People struggling with addiction
  • People who have just gone through a hard break up
  • Men
  • Women
  • People who are breathing

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will probably start back at the beginning tomorrow.


Have you read Steadfast Love?  What are your thoughts?

Do you have some favorite books/blogs that touch on the same topics?

Review of Audacious by Beth Moore

I feel like this idea of living “audaciously” or being brave is really popular amongst Christian women right now. I’m not sure why exactly. Why for such a time as this are we choosing to be brave? But I have found myself in circles and Bible studies and reading blogs all surrounding the same topic, being brave.

I wasn’t sure which angle Audacious was going to take along those lines. If you visit my “RESOURCES” page, you will very quickly discover that I am extremely biased when it comes to Beth Moore. I love listening to her, have fallen in love with so many of her Bible Studies, and look up to her in so many ways (namely- holding to her southern roots 😉).

I will honestly say that at first I was scared I wouldn’t like this book. I had high expectations for a Beth Moore book and wasn’t so sure at first. My first problem is that my copy was written in green font and I have terrible vision. But second, I felt like this was just an explanation of what a audacious life looks like and why it’s important. And in my brokenness and emptiness and inability to have time to do laundry, better yet change the world, I was ready to close this book. But it was Beth, so I kept going and I’m so thankful I did.

I love Beth’s power when she writes. I love the beauty in very strong statements made about God. I literally drew 19 hearts in the margin of my copy.

“Freedom is telling God what we desperately want. Trust is asking Him to change our want if gaining it would poison us.”

And as I was beginning to fall in love with the message on these pages, I tweeted Beth about this book review to come and she responded with these ever so anointed words:

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Just Jesus.

So once I got past the clutter of being tired of hearing about bravery when I felt like I had none to give, I reached my favorite part of the book. Beth dives into our unmet needs and our hurts that keep us from living an audacious life and how they must be sat down at the feet of Jesus. I loved the way she worded these scars that “dull the glorious inside of every one of us,” as she beautifully elaborated on some of her own scars.

Here. Here in this chapter I could get on board. I didn’t feel like this bravery was something I needed to muster up anymore, but this audacity was found in letting Jesus love me extravagantly and claiming the power that is mine as His daughter.

So I’ve summarized this book into one sentence:
We cannot audaciously live and love until we’ve accepted the audacious life that has given us audacious love.

And in the last few chapters, Beth reached the most beautiful point of all- Jesus is our adventure to be enjoyed. And I’m so thankful I kept reading to close the back cover in love with Jesus all over again.

So purchase Audacious. I would recommend trying to purchase it on Audible and listen. That way you hear the power in Beth’s voice you shouldn’t miss out on and there’s no font color to worry about.

Don’t give up. Don’t stop reading until you reach that back cover completely in love with Jesus all over again.

To all of the women being challenged to be brave feeling like you have little to offer- I pray you catch the vision that the bravery we are called to is not necessarily social change, ending world hunger, etc. though it very well may be. The bravery we are called to is loving someone who has hurt us, choosing not to talk about that person who crossed us, saying yes to being that Sunday school teacher, classroom mom, or small group leader, talking to that person sitting alone at lunch or at church, loving or choosing to believe tomorrow will be better. These acts of bravery, though not creating a Netflix documentary, are all the same impactful and important.

We are all seeking a grand adventure but sometimes it just means saying yes to what’s in front of us.

Live audaciously. Love audaciously. But first, receive audacious love and life even in your most tender of wounds.

 

 

Review of “Anchored” by Kayla Aimee

So I know the golden rule of reading books is to “not judge a book by its cover”. But can we talk about how cute this book is?  I loved everything about the design of this book, especially the font choices!

Anchored

As for the content, I loved diving (This is the last nautical pun I will use here, promise.) into her story about her journey with her very premature daughter, Scarlette through countless nights in the NICU and beyond.  I was able to really step foot into her journey as I am mentored by a mom with a very similar story.  As I read about the difficulties of eye surgery and the extended hours of skin to skin contact, I remembered praying my friend Jessica and her baby Noelle through the same journey.

“Because sometimes community isn’t a grand gesture.  Sometimes community is the simple act of filling an empty seat.” -Kayla Aimee, Anchored, page 91

Kayla’s subtitle is “finding hope in the unexpected”.  I was drawn to this title first of all, because my friend Jessica recently shared about her journey with Noelle and titled it “the blessed whatever” about choosing joy in whatever circumstances life hands you.  And secondly because, I’ve been learning and praying a good deal recently about the role of expectations and what we do with the space between what we expected and what God provides.  This space where so much doubt and anger and frustration is created.  I went into this book looking for an exposition on the answers that Kayla found in this sanctifying journey.  Instead, I simply found her story.

But how profound a story is.

“We leave our mark on this world no matter how small our stories seem.” -Kayla Aimee, Anchored, page 89

And I think that this is something we miss in our world of TED talks and blogs and BuzzFeed articles.  We have unlimited media and messages coming our way and too few stories.  I closed the back cover of Anchored with less underlined sentences of tweetable quotes than any nonfiction I’ve picked up in a long time (except for textbooks for class, that is).  Instead, I closed the back cover of this book refreshed by the rawness of Kayla’s story.  I drove back to school from Thanksgiving break today with space for God to be able to make connections from Kayla’s story to my own.

Kayla’s story is beautiful and I pray Scarlette grows up to be half as funny, beautiful, and brave as her mama.