“The Way of the Heart”, Henri Nouwen

coverSolitude, silence and prayer.

I purchased this book having spent a number of months seeking to do more of all 3. For too long I’ve thought communing with God was a reflection of how many experiences I have of Him, whatever form they may take. However, I no longer seek the experiences OF Him rather to experience Him.

Nouwen’s reflections of the “Desert Fathers” ( who lived in the Egyptian desert during the 4th and 5th centuries) lifestyle are a wonderful summary of how we can experience more of Him.

At times it was a challenging read as I couldn’t immediately grasp some of the concepts presented, however, sometimes we need to allow ourselves to soak in new ideas so they can in-fill us over time. However, these few words are a great summary of the essence of the book:
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“66 Love Letters”, Dr Larry Crabb

0849946409.jpgI’ve always considered the Bible to be a love story. This book helps elucidate the essence of God’s love for us in each of the 66 letters of the Bible.

I loved it.

I took on a challenge to read the entire Bible during Lent just passed. Crabb’s book had been sitting on my shelf for a year or so untouched. It kinda jumped out at me as I dived into the Bible reading challenge.

As I moved quickly through the Word, what became very clear to me was God’s absolute love for us. He is madly in love with His creation, and will do anything to have us choose Him. This culminated in Jesus living, dying on the Cross and being resurrected. So working through Crabb’s love letters was a perfect fit for where my mind was at.

Certainly this is not a commentary nor concordance but doesn’t try to be that. There is definitely room for 66 Love Letters to sit alongside commentaries and such like to provide a different insight into the Word.

Not everyone is going to get it and may find it a poor cousin to more literal interpretations.

I don’t profess to know the Bible well. What this marvellous book has left me with is an insatiable thirst to know the heart of God and to better understand His love story. As Crabb says in his introduction: “We try to reach the heart of God without listening to the Word of God.” God’s revealed His heart to us, in 66 love letters.

I’m not sure how’d this book would go if you weren’t reading through the Bible simultaneously. It took Crabb 3.5 years to write it so he obviously spent a lot of time both studying the Word, other references and seeking God’s wisdom on each book. I particularly enjoyed how Crabb used other influential authors like CS Lewis to add additional insights.

The epilogue at the end will be a useful quick reference guide as it summarises each of the 66 letters into one paragraph.

Highly recommended.

My Review of “Iscariot” by Tosca Lee

Iscariot Cover FinalI was lost for words when I finished this beautifully written novel. And I’m still struggling to find the best words to describe the power of this story.

But the incredible thing about this story is it’s part biographical, part fiction and I’m left wondering how much of it was fiction.

Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, the one that Luke described “Satan entered” moments before he committed his betrayal. The gospels never tell us exactly what the discussion between Judas and the Chief Priests amounted to, but Ms Lee, having completed extensive research, provides an insight. And boy, was I shocked. I can’t say any more without revealing too much, so will leave it there.

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“The Hole in our Holiness”, Kevin DeYoung

9781433533341This is the second book I’ve read recently on holiness. The other being John Eldredge’s new one: “The Utter Relief of Holiness”

Both come from the same precepts: why did Jesus come to save us? and why isn’t holiness talked about more in Christian circles? Both are excellent and should both be read. The two authors have their own unique styles that make each book compelling reading.

DeYoung is a pastor so has a very biblically-based message. However, it is also extremely practical and instilled in me a firm desire to seek after God’s presence.

I mentioned the topic of holiness to a good Christian friend the other day who suggested I not be raising it with too many others as people are simply not ready to hear it. This saddened me. Surely, holiness is a key part of the Gospel message? But one aspect that we have perhaps de-emphasised in modern society.

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“Trinity: Military War Dog (A Breed Apart #1)”, Ronie Kendig

Trinity-cover_FINALThis was a thoroughly engaging story with believable characters, thrilling action, and a budding romance.

Two aspects grabbed me the most. Firstly, Ronie’s ability to describe the goings on of military conflict. I’m not usually one for reading stories about such, however, Ronie is able to transpose the reader into the battle, the conflict. We feel the tension, the urgency of instantaneous decision-making, hear the sharpness of the violence of explosions and guns firing, even smell the grittiness of landscape. This is a very special gift.

The second, is Trinity, the magnificent Military War Dog (MWD) and the relationship she has with her handler, Heath Daniels. Ronie demonstrates her understanding of dogs, in their almost supernatural ability to “sense” danger and read the minds of their handlers.

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“The Utter Relief of Holiness”, John Eldredge

9781455525713_Outside_Front_Jacket_00000000-90-135-24-jpegI so love John Eldredge’s work. He has a way of capturing the essence of the desire in our hearts. This little book is no exception and in fact I’d suggest it’s one of his best.

He starts out by asking a question that I’ve never asked myself: “What is Christianity supposed to do to a person?” Such an obvious question I chided myself for never asking it of myself. He then points to Scripture to provide the answer. And we’re only at page 7.

A verse that I’ve read repeatedly through my life but never with the association to that question above.

“Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.” (Eph 1:4)

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“Invitation to Solitude and Silence”, Ruth Haley Barton

835454_w185I felt invited to adopt ” Silence” as my word for 2013.

Funnily, enough as I looked around for some wise counsel on the subject, I was led to this beautiful work that has been sitting on my bookshelves for a few months. I can’t recall why I bought it originally, however, now sense some divine purpose in it.

This is a delightful book to read. It is filled with some tremendous Biblical insight regarding Elijah’s journey into the wilderness in 1 Kings 19. This revelation underpins the gentle flow of Ruth Haley Barton’s musings.

In sharing her journey where time with the Lord in solitude and silence has become a common daily practice, Ruth guides the reader with wisdom and practical application. There are many wonderful supporting quotes from the likes of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen.

I’m 25 days into the new year and am thankful for reading this wonderful guide as I dive deep into seeking to better experience God and all He has for me. I expect I’ll be reading it a few more times before the year is up.

Highly recommended.

“Eyes Wide Open”, Ted Dekker

timthumb.phpTwo teenage friends, Austin and Christy, both with “forgotten” childhoods get accidentally lost in a mental hospital. You’d think once they could explain their situation, all would be fine and they’d leave and go on their way.

But this is a Ted Dekker novel.

The hospital authorities re-admit them both as Scott and Alice. So who are they? Are they Austin and Christy or Scott and Alice? Dekker weaves his clever story telling skills in a thrill-of-a-minute ride where even we the reader are unsure of the truth.

The truth? What is it? How can we be certain we know the truth? Why do our perceptions of our reality play such an important part in our understanding of our individual lives? Who can provide the truth, about who we are? about our childhood?

These are great questions which Dekker asks as we the confused reader try to understand what’s going on in the two protagonists lives. Are the doctors and even delightful psychiatrist Nancy really the bad guys?

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“Wonderstruck”, Margaret Feinberg

“God extends endless invitations to encounter Him, yet too often we sleep straight through.”

Well that sure grabbed my attention. God’s wonder surrounds us all day everyday. Wonderstruck is a manual for helping us find that wonder. And in Margaret, we have a mighty fine guide who’s passionate about enabling and teaching us in how to experience God more.

With sound Biblical instruction, some delightful stories that take across the globe via the Scottish highlands, Alaska, and the Colorado mountains, we get to see first hand how God’s wonder is all around us.

Whether it’s in nature, developing new friends, diving deep in prayer or observing the Sabbath, Margaret talks us through her own experience of learning to appreciate all God has already blessed us with. And how much more He has to share, if only we’d open our heart and eyes to receive it.

The book also comes with a Thirty-Day “activity guide” for reflecting on the ideas Margaret addresses to help embed the healthy habit of living with our eyes and hearts wide open.

If you’d like to experience God more, then this easy to read book is a great starting place for your journey to begin.

“Jesus Calling”, Sarah Young

This devotional was so good I didn’t want the year to end. I wish Sarah Young had an ongoing devotional we could continue to enjoy every day.

What was particularly great about this super book was that it taught me how to listen to Jesus. Too often in my prayer life I won’t sit and be silent. Each day’s reading forced you to do this as it’s written in the first hand of Jesus sharing with you.

I was continually amazed how many days the reading spoke directly to the state of my heart, that is, it captured an issue I was grappling with or was unwilling to let go.

If you’re looking for a powerful devotional, buy this and be ready to be transformed.

I’m sure I’ll use it again one year.