The Rumley Family

Loving Jesus, Loving Life

Tag: book review (page 2 of 3)

Book Review: Lost & Found by Sarah Jakes

Jakes
Bishop TD Jakes is the pastor of a mega-church in Texas, comprised of 30,000 people in multiple campuses. I’ll be honest; I’ve heard his name before but am really not familiar with his ministry.

So when I chose to review this book, it was because I love to hear testimony of God’s redeeming grace in others’ lives. It was NOT because I’m a superfan of the Jakes family. I really didn’t know anything about them before I read this book.

Sarah Jakes is the daughter of this well-known pastor. Once the church boomed during her childhood, she grew up in the “fishbowl” known as a pastor’s family. She was under the spotlight.

I have to say that it was brave of her to write this book, chronicling her many, many poor decisions. It would be hard to admit (let alone let the entire world read) your stupid mistakes.

But can I just stop right there and say it was one of the most depressing Christian books I’ve ever read?

Here’s a very quick synopsis:
She was pregnant at age 13, gave birth to a little boy at 14, finished high school early at age 16, went on to college. Met a boy at college who was not good for her, but she wouldn’t let that relationship go even though it was obviously unhealthy (he was unfaithful from the beginning)…Ended up living with him. He became a pro football player after college. They married. They had kids. He was unfaithful. A lot. She apparently cussed him out, a lot (though no cussing was present in the book). They got divorced. The end.

See what I mean? The subtitle of the book is “Finding HOPE in the Detours of Life.” But the only “hope” she seems to present is divorce.

At the very end of the book, she divorces him, and is now living for the Lord, working at her parents’ church. Because she couldn’t make godly decisions while married to her husband?

I’m not going to pretend that I know what it’s like to live with an unfaithful spouse. Thankfully, Luke is a loyal, faithful man. And for that I am SO THANKFUL.

But I want to put this out there…God IS BIG ENOUGH to redeem even the greatest of disasters. I’m not saying it would be easy, or that separation wouldn’t be necessary, but I believe God IS POWERFUL ENOUGH to work through even the toughest of marital problems.

Our God is a God of reconciliation and redemption. Those things are beautiful. And they are not present in this memoir.

I’m a HUGE advocate of the sanctity of marriage, in a culture where the “vows” people take are just words they say until they decide not to believe them anymore.

On the contrary, I took vows before God, family, and friends…and I intend to keep those promises until death separates Luke and me.

And I think that’s why, after I turned the last page on this book, I was so very sad for Sarah Jakes. Because while she did challenge the world to be transparent about their struggles, she never did challenge the world to be HOLY in the midst of their struggles. And that, dear friends, is a waste of a book.

Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of review. All opinions are mine, and I was not compensated monetarily for the review.

I Like Giving: Review and Giveaway

A number of factors have recently worked together to really challenge me in the way I’m using my God-given gifts. First of all, we’re reading/discussing Francis Chan’s book The Forgotten God in our small group, and I was challenged by this part of chapter 4: “And like our Savior, who poured out His life and blood so we have reason to rejoice, we were made to lay down our lives and give until it hurts. We are most alive when we are loving and actively giving of ourselves because we were made to do these things. It is when we live like this that the Spirit of God moves and acts in and through us in ways that on our own we are not capable of.”

After realizing that I really could be doing more for Christ’s kingdom, but wondering what more I should be doing, I took a spiritual gifts assessment. Follow the link. All you have to do is answer a series of questions, and it will score you auto-magically and tell you your top three spiritual gifts.

Spiritual Gifts Lacey

(Ignore my many open tabs in that screenshot. It’s a perpetual problem for me!)

So, my top three: Giving, Administration, and Faith.

The fun part? You should see Luke’s results….

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Before marriage, I often prayed that if I married, my husband and I would be more effective for Christ’s kingdom together than we were separately. In matching our spiritual gifts so closely, God answered that prayer! We can work together for Christ’s kingdom, using our gifts in unity. That’s so exciting to me.

So, our top gift is Giving (which I would call Generosity).

It’s interesting to look at our history in the area of giving. We began our marriage in lots of school debt, piled on some credit card and vehicle debt, and a big mortgage…and felt stuck. More was going out than coming in every month. But thanks to some really wise counsel, and education through Crown Financial Ministries and Financial Peace University…along with lots and lots of prayer and seeing God work wonders…we paid off our $70,000-ish of debt (all but the mortgage) in about three years.

During those three years, we experienced the generosity of brothers and sisters in Christ. The phrase “Jehovah Jireh,” which means “the God who provides,” became a much-used phrase in the Rumley house.

One example that sticks in my mind was one fall when Caleb was maybe three years old. He was our first boy, and I realized that we had very few (if any) long sleeve shirts for him to wear as the weather here in Michigan got colder. I knew we had a $0 clothing budget, and though I liked to shop thrift/garage sales, I was stressed about providing warm clothes for him.

I didn’t ask anyone about it. I prayed, and I waited.

And lo and behold, a woman named Liz showed up at church that next Sunday with a bag of clothes for Caleb. Can you guess what was in there? Of course. Long-sleeved shirts. I will never forget the way that God provided for us through the generosity of His people.

It was hard to be in debt, with no extra room in the budget. We wanted to give more financially, but we were stuck. (“The borrower is slave to the lender,” you know. -Prov. 22:7) So, while we gave our time and love, and our tithe out of each paycheck, it was our time of life to be the receivers of people’s generosity.

Now that we’re FREE from debt (Praise God!!!!), we love to give. We love being free to give – time, energy, love, and finances.

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So I was excited when I came across this newly released book, I Like Giving by Brad Formsma. The author generously provided a copy for me to review, PLUS three copies to give away to my sweet readers! How fitting!

My review?

The book was a very easy read, because it’s comprised primarily of many different real-life stories of generosity. I don’t know about you, but I always find anecdotes easy to read, and easy to learn from as well.

The stories were challenging and motivating. I felt stirred to become more generous, and to look for unique opportunities to give. It’s always heartwarming to read stories of the way that generosity has changed lives.

However. There was one major hangup for me. While the author seems to be a Christian, this is most certainly NOT a theology of giving. There are no Scripture references to back up his points. There are brief references to faith, but nothing really overt.

I’m not saying that this book on giving necessarily needs to have the plan of salvation spelled out.

But I AM saying that the whole entire REASON for generosity is that “while we were still sinners” Christ did the most generous thing ever for us, his enemies. He DIED for us. It’s astonishing. The One who owns EVERYTHING actually GAVE UP everything and took on our sins so that we wouldn’t have to pay the price.

Yeesh, how can you miss that in a book about generosity?

One other thing: While I definitely believe that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7), and we should give out of hearts of generosity, sometimes we give out of obedience and love for the body of Christ. Maybe I don’t always get an emotional jolt from writing our tithe check (ok, ok, we actually send it electronically from our bank, but stay with me), but I do it because I love Christ and His church.

Another reviewer said, “It would be great if everyone regularly gave stuff away at random on a regular basis. But giving systematically, with deliberation, planning, discernment, and direction can and should be a part of our giving as well.” I agree wholeheartedly!

Now, friends, it’s YOUR turn to read this book! Three lucky readers will get this book shipped / carried / driven to their door! Use the quick and easy Google form to enter below, and be sure to share it with your friends as well…Good luck!

Hey, and while you’re waiting around for the results of the giveaway (ending 5/14 at 11:59pm EST), tell me your favorite story of generosity in the comments!

Book Review: Wildwood Creek by Lisa Wingate

Honestly? I don’t much like reviewing fiction, because as much as I enjoy reading it, there isn’t a whole lot of innovative-ness out there when it comes to Christian plot lines.

However.

The short synopsis of this book caught my eye, so here we are.

Wildwood Creek

The book flashes between two time periods: the late 1800’s and present day. In the earlier time, our main character is a young girl named Bonnie Rose whose parents and brother were killed by Native Americans when they moved West. She and her young sister were taken captive by the Comanche, held there as slaves, and abused. When Bonnie Rose gives birth to a little girl, the girl is taken from her, and she never sees her again.

Bonnie Rose and Maggie May escape and make a way for themselves, until Bonnie signs a contract with a shady Mr. Delevan to be a school teacher at a place called Wildwood. Strange things happen at Wildwood, increasingly alarming, until Bonnie and Maggie May are forced (once again) to make an escape. The entire population of that town seems to have disappeared.

Enter our present day heroine, Allie, who is following in the footsteps of her late father by pursuing a career in film (despite the protests of her mother). She gets a summer job as an assistant at the production about an old community that was shrouded in mystery…You guessed it – Wildwood.

As Allie conducts research for the film, she delves deeper into the mystery that is Wildwood…er, her nerdy next-door neighbor actually does most of the research.

But as the summer rolls on, creepy things start happening on set…And the mystery just has to be solved, doesn’t it?!

——

It was a captivating book, very intriguing. The twists and turns of the plot were interesting, and not too scary and/or unbelievable. I read this book from cover-to-cover, and was satisfied with the ending.

I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Christian historical fiction.

Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers, but was not monetarily compensated or required to give a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: 10 Great Dates

dates cover
It’s always a good thing to ask your spouse specific questions in a posture of humility and love. It’s a good thing to work on building up your relationship. It’s a good thing to spend time together, building into one another and learning how to make the other person feel loved.

Luke and I have always been passionate about striving to have a healthy marriage, and encouraging others to work toward that end as well. Ten years ago, we vowed to love and serve one another, with God as the head of our household, and sometimes it’s a lot of work. But let me tell you, a decade down the road, every ounce of effort has been worth it. We will never look back and regret time spent to strengthen the bonds between us.

And that’s why I chose to review this book. Because I’m always on the lookout for fun, creative ways to build up our relationship. So, let me tell you what I found…

When I began reading 10 Great Dates: Connecting Faith, Love, and Marriage by Peter & Heather Larson and David & Claudia Arp, I had a hard time connecting to the authors. Honestly? I have read other marriage books, and none of this stuff was really new to me.

It also made a big difference that Luke and I are extremely compatible in the spiritual category of life. In fact, in our pre-marriage counseling, that’s the one category where we were 100% compatible. And that makes a HUGE (let me repeat….HUUUUUUUUGE) difference in our marriage.

I would definitely tell someone who is hoping to get married that it’s important to enjoy the other person, to have fun together, to laugh together…But the BIGGEST advice I’d give is to be sure that their spiritual views are very similar to, or the same as, yours. Our spiritual views shape our entire worldview, and that determines how we make decisions (big and small) in life. I’m telling you, this is HUGE.

So, back on track…The authors didn’t have quite the same experience and spent the beginning of the book talking about how they had trouble connecting spiritually as couples. Honestly? As much as I enjoy reading other couples’ relationship anecdotes, I felt like maybe this book was a waste of time. Not because we’re even close to perfect, but for once, this is an area where we’re doing okay. We haven’t always done things the right way, but over the years we have made it a habit to pray together daily, to read the Bible together daily, and to be very involved with our local church body. Those things have made a huge impact on our spiritual intimacy.

I think that if I had gotten this book out of the library, I might have just stopped reading at the introduction and taken it back. After all, if the section where the authors are trying to sell the book to me isn’t working, why bother? But really, the book did end up having some good, quality relationship advice / probing questions to help a developing relationship. So, whether you’ve been married 1 month, a year, or a decade, it might be worth a looksee.

The book has 10 chapters, and each chapter is formatted the same way:
-It begins with the bulk of the lesson, including relationship stories and the main point of the chapter. This is the part where you’ll really take away what you want to learn. I liked this section, but it was a little confusing having two couples narrate, since they went back and forth with their experiences.
-Then comes a section about preparing for your date, including a chapter summary (which Luke thought was helpful, since [let’s be honest here] he wouldn’t be inclined to read the whole chapter himself).
-Last in the chapter is a Post-Date Spiritual Discovery section, where you can spend about 15 minutes doing a couple’s devotional with your spouse, related to what you read in the chapter and discussed on your date.
-One of the most important parts of each chapter is actually located in the back of the book: two copies of a tear-out page with questions for each spouse to answer individually, then bring to your date and discuss.

Some sample questions:
-Describe the religious atmosphere in your home growing up.
-What has been your experience reading the Bible?
-What major storms have you faced in your life and marriage?

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So, in leiu of going on 10 dates with Luke before posting this review, I took the book to Mexico for our 10-year anniversary celebration. We spent some time looking through it and answering questions together. Not exactly the way the authors intended, but it gave us an idea of the book’s effect.

A vast majority of the questions were things we have already discussed, for instance, “Was a belief in God important in your family?” Because Christ is so much the center of our relationship, of course we had already discussed these basics.

However, I will say that it was quality time spent together with this book, lying on the beach in Mexico. Even if we knew most of each other’s answers, it was good to hear each other out and talk about our relationship.

My take-away from the experience was not a huge revelation. Rather, we will keep plugging away, serving Christ together and building up our relationship in every way we can.

Because it is so worth it.

{A note – another reviewer on Amazon said that this should be called “10 Great Discussions,” and I would second that. I was expecting actual date ideas (places to go, things to do), but this book solely focused on the discussion portion of the date. Be forewarned.}

{Disclaimer: Bethany House publishers provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. No positive comments were required. All opinions are my own.}

Book Review: Angels in the Fire

Angels in the Fire

I believe in angels and demons. I believe that there’s a whole realm of spiritual activity that we cannot see, but sometimes feel or sense.

The Bible mentions angels many times (Michael, Gabriel, those present when the world was created, and in the book of Revelation, etc)…They must be fearsome to see, because when they appeared to Joseph and Mary, the first thing they said was, “Do not be afraid.” Not so much like little Valentine’s Day cupids flying around with diapers on. I wonder if the real angels scoff at that imagery.

I’ve read a couple of Frank Peretti books, fictional books about warfare in the spiritual realm. Very intriguing to think about how involved angels and demons might actually be in our everyday lives and decisions, how angels could possibly be spurred on by the prayers of the righteous.

But the difference with this book is that the authors claim many interactions with the spiritual realm to be real.

Part of me is skeptical, and part of me wants their claims to be true. I’m definitely not going to be the one to decide the truth of the many instances they site. But I do believe that God CAN reveal Himself to His children in their times of need, and that maybe He really did?

The book is about a couple, Dann and Tracey Stadler, who experienced a horrific car accident in the late 1980’s. A drunk man was driving the wrong way on a 6-lane divided highway. He hit them head-on, causing their car to catch on fire, with them trapped inside.

A crowd gathered to try to save the young couple, eventally pulling Dann out his window as he was covered in flames. Tracey’s legs were crushed and pinned in the wreckage, and no matter how hard they tried, the bystanders couldn’t seem to free her. Until a glowing man walked out of the woods, enabled the man to pull her free (as if she was light as a feather), told the people, “Take care of Tracey,” and walked back into the woods.

That was the first experience with an angel.

They site other instances, like at the funeral for her cousin and spouse who both died in a car accident, when Tracey looked up and saw an angel enveloping the whole sanctuary of the church with its wings, as if to comfort the mourners. Or when their infant daughter had a very concerning growth on her head, and Dann put his hand over it and prayed, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through his body and hand…the growth (over the course of days) disappeared without medical intervention.

So many miracles that they experienced. I would like them all to be true.

Besides my conservative background, I can’t really find anything that definitively says their experiences can’t be true. In fact, I’m very thankful that throughout the book, Mr. Stadler gives ALL the glory to God, being sure to say that the only reason they were still alive is because of their faith in their Savior Jesus Christ.

Near the end, he says, “In writing this book, it has occurred to me that the overriding theme of our life story is not the troubles and challenges we have faced, or even how we can responded, but God’s abiding love. At every difficult point in our lives, we have felt God’s presence and His love in a special way. When we were too exhausted, scared, or traumatized to carry on, it was God’s love that rescued us and lifted us up to see another day. I can truly say that in every crisis in our lives, God has provided perhaps not always what we wanted, but in every instance exactly what we needed. His love has sustained us again and again. God loves us and reveals Himself to us through Jesus Christ, whom we have accepted as our Savior and Lord – it really is that simple.” (p. 195-6)

To God be the glory!

I would recommend this book, an autobiography about the difficult life of a couple who loves Jesus. It is healthy for us to know of people who spend their lives relying on God’s grace for each moment, because it challenges us to do the same. Even if part of me doubts some of the details, it makes me long for God to be glorified in the spiritual realm. And that’s a pretty good outcome for a book, don’t you think?

I was provided a free copy of Angels in the Fire: The Dramatic True Story of an Impossible Rescue by Bethany House Publishers. All opinions are my very own.

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