Shift Your Thinking For a Deeper Faith

What if by making small adjustments in how you think, speak and act, you could make larger strides in growing as a Christian? That’s the basic concept behind the new book, Shift Your Thinking For a Deeper Faith by Dean Del Sesto. It supposedly contains 99 ways to strengthen your relationship with God, others and yourself.

Quite frankly, I’m a bit torn by this book. The format means each potential change is addressed by reading a couple of quick pages. Each topic contains scripture, the authors thoughts, suggestions and a deeper thinking question. The list of topics is thorough and covers a lot of areas that can cause Christians issues. At least it would if such a list existed. Instead the reader is forced to read sequentially instead of having the ability to easily find segments they may need at the moment.

In some cases, the author provides a somewhat unique and helpful perspective. Most of the time the entries are more of a reminder of what we should already know (which granted most of us need from time to time.) A couple of entries were a bit concerning to me. I’m not comfortable with the idea that “God doesn’t answer every prayer” – when a more accurate description is that He sometimes tells us “No” or “Wait”.

I was really uncomfortable with the concept of Christianity as a “brand” and a “personal brand” – as if somehow it doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do as long as we call ourselves Christian. It may not have been the author’s intent, but in a world where God’s absolute truths are viewed as more and more irrelevant, this entry seems to feed into the problem rather than stopping it.

In general, this book could be helpful to many Christians to help them be a bit more intentional about how they live their lives every day. Just be sure to double check every thing by scripture – this is one case where there are a few things that just don’t seem to fit.

This book was provided to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Where Do You Belong?

One of the more difficult things about Christian parenting – especially done the way calls us to do it – is that you are parenting on the edge of the bell curve. You are not only making parenting choices different from more secular parents around you, but you may be making choices radically different from other Christian parents you know, too.

It can become easy to feel like you don’t belong any where. This sense can be heightened if your family moves, changes congregations or has other factors that make you different from the “average” family.

Yet God created the church in part, because He knows his people need a supportive community around them. What do you do though, when it seems impossible to find those people to support and encourage you?

Back Roads to Belonging by Kristen Strong attempts to help readers find “your place and your people”. The book is divided into three main segments – wandering, finding and inviting. Within each there are several chapters devoted to different topics.

This book feels more gentle than many Christian self help type books. Although there are suggestions she makes to help you along the way, they are so subtly introduced, you don’t feel as if you’ve been given another to-do list to accomplish. Strong is empathetic without letting readers wallow too long in their loneliness.

Her suggestions are good advice and she does a great job of weaving scripture and Bible stories throughout the book. Her advice may not be terribly different than any other Christian book written on a similar topic, but there is something about her writing style that is soothing regardless of what she is suggesting. Somehow she can make a reader feel that she will indeed one day find her place and her people. Perhaps that is the greatest gift this book gives – the gift of restoring hope to those who feel lonely and isolated.

This book was given to me in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Are Your Kids Wonderful?

Parenting is such a delicate balance. Not enough encouragement and constant criticism and your kids can develop poor self-esteem. Over do the praise and never correct your kids? Then their self-esteem is too high – just as bad for your kids (although in different ways.)

So where’s the proper balance for your kids to develop a healthy self image? As with most of the big questions in life, God has the answer. The balance is in seeing themselves as God sees them – so beloved that He sent His son to die on the cross for their sins – yet realizing their sin and need for that grace from God.

A new book (published as supplemental material for the new movie Overcomer) Wonderful, The Truth About Who I Am by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (with Amy Parker) is written to help elementary aged children tackle the ideas they have about themselves.

The book doesn’t address the movie, so I honestly can’t say whether or not it ties in well. It’s broken into ten chapters, each of which has several short entries of about two pages. That’s probably about right to encourage a child to read the book in smaller doses and take time to reflect before moving on to the next section.

Unfortunately, they don’t suggest that, so I’m not sure how many children will actually take time for reflection. Most young people need to spend more time in reflection, so it would have been great for this book to give them that gift by walking them through how to do that. They do have a couple of little areas with suggestions for kids to draw something specific from the chapter. In theory, this could be reflection, but I would imagine quite a few older elementary children will skip the drawing.

The topics are addressing various aspects of how a child may see him or herself and how God sees them. The Writing is straightforward without being condescending. The principles appear to be biblical – at least on the level the average child would read them.

Graphically, the book will look like an easy read to a child who flips through it. The type is a little larger, without appearing babyish. There are scattered illustrations and a few factoids spread throughout.

This book is a great introduction to a child who has never been taught how God sees them and wants them to see themselves. It’s also a good reminder for kids who may be struggling a bit. I wouldn’t say it’s at the level of a classic, but it’s good enough to be worth the read for most elementary students.

This is book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Building a Family That Lasts

In spite of all the differences between families, almost all of them struggle to some extent with the same basic issues. Probably because at the end of the day, families are people and the same issues that happened in the Bible still happen today.

I’m always interested in learning about new resources attempting to help strengthen families – especially if they point them to God in the process. So, I was interested when offered the chance to review the new book The DIY Guide to Building a Family That Lasts by Gary Chapman and Shannon Warden.

Chapman you probably know from the “Love Languages” books he has authored over the years. Warden is a counselor who co-authored this new parenting book. Trying to take advantage of the interest many have in DIY shows and projects, the authors have formatted the information to resemble a how-to manual for a physical home make-over.

Unfortunately, that was the biggest problem I had with the book. The format I’m sure seemed like a great idea at the time – each chapter is broken into several areas – home improvement goal, home improvement tool, drawing up the plans, do it yourself, all in budget, sweat equity, big reveal and talk it over. The result however was more distracting than helpful. I’m not a big fan of DIY shows (too many flashbacks to re-doing older homes I’ve purchased), so I kept wondering things like what do they mean by “all in budget” or “do it yourself”.

Honestly, I wish they had just scrapped the entire cuteness factor, because the information in the book was good. Or at least I think it was. I kept getting distracted by all the cuteness noise of the layout. A little of the information is repetitive if you have read one of the love languages books, but it contains a lot more new information than Chapman’s books generally seem to have in them.

The twelve topics covered by the chapters are foundational types of concepts in a home. From forgiveness to compromise and connection, they cover most of the primary ones that create the foundation of a strong home. Although the underlying principles are Christian in nature, there really aren’t any mentions of God by name or scriptures quoted. (Unless I missed it.) It’s unfortunate, because for a home to be truly “well built” God needs to be the foundation. Eliminating Him in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience ultimately robs those who aren’t Christians of the very information they need to build that stronger home.

In the end, this book is just fine – especially if you enjoy the DIY theme. I just wish it had spent less time trying to be catchy and more time introducing families to the help God can provide in their homes.

This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Can Everybody Win in Family Conflicts?

Let’s be honest, conflict can ruin the best of days. When a home is in constant conflict everyone is miserable – even the kids who may not be directly involved in the fighting. So what can parents do to handle conflicts in productive ways that strengthen their family instead of ripping it apart?

Gary Chapman is best known as the author of the Love Languages books. Everybody Wins steps away from the love languages a bit and takes a look at conflict. While the book sounds as if it is written to handle any conflicts, it actually focuses on disagreements between husbands and wives. While that makes sense for many reasons, I honestly believe the principles would apply to any conflict between two people who truly care about each other and their relationship.

This book is an easy read and extremely practical. I won’t say it is easy, because if doing the things he suggests were that easy, we would all be doing them already. The book is small (literally) and has only seven chapters. The first two are more general, while the remaining five address a particular step towards conflict resolution.

To say the advice is common sense is to deny the power it could provide many couples of resolving those marital fights that happen over and over – sometimes for decades. Chapman encourages the reader to reframe how they see themselves, their spouse and the conflict itself in more productive ways.

If both people in the marriage work this book (which includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter), there would be happier marriages all around. The key is to remember that great marriages aren’t an accident. They take work on the parts of both spouses.

If you haven’t read this book and you ever feel like your conflicts aren’t resolved in the best of ways, this is the book you need to read. Changing bad habits may be more difficult than reading the book, but in the end it could make life a lot better.

This book was provided to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.