Book Review

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Nigozi Adichie is the author of Purple Hibiscus, Half of the Yellow Sun, and a collection of short stories called The Thing Around Your Neck.  Here is a link to her website:


While Chimamanda spoke she wore the most vividly colored wrapped scarf of orange and red.  I kept thinking of the blazing sun and how her spirit reflected that.

She grew up in Nigeria in a Pentecostal, prosperity-driven church.  There was a definitive divide between have and have-nots.

In telling about her past she shared the following, which I think is enough to think upon for a lifetime, that she distrusts excessiveness because it crowds out happiness and hope.

Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience

Ann Voskamp is the author of New York Times bestselling book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. She is the wife of a farmer, a prolific speaker and blogger, and Mom to six.

Here is a link to her blog A Holy Experience:

Here are some of her words from the stage. She writes in poetic prose and she speaks in the same manner. Her words are healing.

  • Much of the Old Testament is in poetry, it is a voice of encounter with God
  • We blur moments into an unholy smear
  • Our Generation hungers for focus
  • We need to slow down long enough to see what others are missing
  • In our rushing we break our own lives
  • Every moment can be a cathedral of glory
  • Do something that terrifies you each day
  • Stretch relentlessly into unknown territory
  • Suffering gives sight

Just Amen, I think.

Bethany Pierce author of Feeling for Bones

Bethany Pierce is the author of Feeling for Bones and Amy Inspired. She is also an accomplished artist.

Here is a link to her website:

Bethany presented a lecture called Inspirational Fiction and the Promiscuous Reader.  She spoke from a very vulnerable spot in her heart.  As a young person, she herself struggled with anorexia like the main character of Feeling for Bones.

  • We need to think about as artists what we AVOID and why
  • If we take out all ‘evil’ we are left with nothing to contrast the LIGHT of our hope.
  • If we buff the World clean is that an accurate representation of what is going on in our world today?
  • If we are open something outside of us is breathed in.

She spoke of three famous authors L’Engle, Buecher, and C.S. Lewis who all spoke of characters in their writing who kept ‘showing up’, characters who they didn’t expect and were not necessary ‘cookie cut-outs’.

She challenged that if God brings these beautiful images they can be trusted to bring hope.

A controlled environment is one way to paint light and another way is to head out into the World.

What do you think?

Shane Claiborne the Irresistible Revolution

I was very excited to hear Shane Claiborne speak.  I love his book The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical.


Shane founded the Simple Way, a new Monastic community in Philadelphia.  His desire to bring the hope of Jesus to others has taken him on adventures all around the World.  He speaks with a southern accent. He is funny and absolutely relatable. Everywhere I went, I witnessed him engaging others in conversation, walking with large group of people, and sharing his kind heart.

Here are two stories he shared about his time in Calcutta with Mother Teresa.

  1. Mother Teresa’s mission received boxes of shoes.  She always took the very worst pair of shoes for herself.  Over time her feet became terribly deformed because of this.  He shared this as a call for us to love up our neighbors, fully.
  2. This I find to be a striking story.  One of his fellow volunteers shared with him that she was a lesbian and was struggling (like we all struggle).  Shane suggested she talk to Mother Teresa. He asked her about that conversation afterward. She said that Mother Teresa did not say much, just listened. (Each morning at 5am everyone gathered for morning prayers.) Then, the woman said, Mother Teresa asked me if I would read the scripture at morning prayers tomorrow morning. Poignant.

When you read Shane’s book you will find that his vision came out of the ruins of a Cathedral, quite literally.  Another example of how HOPE can find its way through RUIN.

Here is a link to the Simple Way and Shane Claiborne

Amy Julia Becker Rethinking Perfection

Amy Julia Becker wrote the book A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny.


Amy Julia spoke at the Festival of Faith and Writing on the topic Rethinking Perfection.

I was deeply touched by her words of wisdom and faith.  She is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and mother to three children.  She has written extensively on the topics of disability, family, and culture.

Here are some of the notes I took during her session.  I find them to be very thought-provoking and so very true.

  • She spoke about how our notion of ‘perfection’ is unattainable and distances us from one another.
  • When her daughter Penny was born with Downs Syndrome her family no longer had to pretend to be perfect as a family and she felt this to be incredibly freeing.
  • Penny brought them closer to the family they were meant to be.
  • The blessings of the Beatitudes belong to the IMPERFECT
  • Our LIMITATIONS move us out of ourselves to NEED GOD and to NEED OTHERS

Perfect comes from the Greek word TELOS ~ meaning that for which you were intended for.

Jesus on the cross made perfect has to do with BECOMING a full, whole version of ourselves.

She encouraged us to be a GRACIOUS LISTENING SPACE to those who consider prenatal testing and that struggle with bringing life forth that might embody imperfection.

Finally, she challenges the church to NORMALIZE BROKENESS.

Her session was one of my very favorites.

Here is a link to her website which also links you to her blog Thin Places.

Book Review: Simpler Living Compassionate Life

Kris and I have read this book multiple times with every passing year.  Simpler Living Compassionate Life includes  twenty-two excellent essays from authors like Henri Nouwen, Fredrick Buechner, and Juliet Schor.

Their words inspire readers to walk an alternative path to the always busy American lifestyle.

Just a few of the topics:

  • Time as Sacred
  • How Much is Enough?
  • Impact of our Everyday Food Choices
  • Simplicity
  • Community
  • Seeing the Sacred in the Ordinary

Many challenging questions are posed in the study guide for individuals and groups in the back of the book.

A helpful appendix is also included for further study.

Author Lorie Newman and her book A Cup of Cold Water in His Name

Meet Lorie Newman, author of the book A Cup of Cold Water in His Name: 60 Ways to Care for the Needy.  Lorie possesses a heart for the Lord in all she does.  She uses her gifts as a writer, speaker, orphan advocate, and as a homeschooling Mom of seven.

In her book she encourages and mobilizes others to serve.

She writes that no one is invisible to God and offers a wealth of resources.  In A Cup of Cold Water in His Name she provides compelling statistics, inspiring quotes, and real-life stories of people serving in real ways that make a difference.  The book provides ideas to serve that anyone could implement into their daily life.  She highlights the resources needed to get involved, including a practical appendix.  Finally, she shares prayers at the conclusion of each section to commit our offerings of care to God.

I love that this book is a practical resource for people at any stage of life.  Her words inspire.  I am thankful to her for empowering others to rise up and extend a hand of care.

1. What compelled you to write A Cup of Cold Water in His Name?

In our world where there are so many needy people, the statistics can be overwhelming- 1.1 billion people lack access to potable water, 925 million people are chronically malnourished, 145 million orphans, 19 million people in American are considered the “working poor.”  With such great needs, many of us as Christians have to wonder if helping just one needy person really matters.  But God rarely calls us as individuals to care for masses of humanity.  Instead He teaches the importance of helping just one.  Matthew 25:40 is clear- “Whatever you have done to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.”

Helping just one really does matter.

I wanted to write a book that would show the infinite worth of helping just one needy person.  I pray the Lord meets people in the pages of this book and many, many lives are inspired to step outside their own little world and help the needy- whether that’s across the street, across the church pew, or across the ocean.

Ranging from easy to high-level commitment, the 60 creative ideas and projects I give in my book are broken down into the five areas of need that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 25- feeding the hungry, inviting the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and ministering to the prisoner.  I give everything the reader needs- websites, resources, and ministry contacts- to inspire people to become the hands and feet of Jesus to the needy.

2. I loved in the book when you wrote, so many times, God-inspired dreams die at the “just dreaming” phase.  How would you encourage readers to rise up and carry their dreams into completion?

So many of us have been there, and some people may be there right now- a God-inspired dream that will help the needy may be stirring in your heart.  But for many of us that dream just simmers and may even die before it even gets off the ground.

It may be that from our perspective we lack the needed resources, time, or money to carry through with that dream.  But all the while, from God’s perspective we have everything we need in Him to carry out our dream that usually begins as a “tickle” in the back of our spirit.

If you have a God-inspired dream, pray.  And I mean, precious friend, pray like the resources to bring your dream into manifestation are within reach- because they are!  You are praying to the Living God who gave you that dream and is able to provide for it every step of the way!  Thank Him in advance for making your dream a reality and get started when you have enough to take the first step.  He will provide as you go for the rest!  Besides, if you had all the resources right now, where would the faith be in that?  Trust Him!  He is able!

3. How has your own heart been challenged through writing this book?

As I wrote this book and relived all the real-life stories I included of how ordinary Christians in every age and stage of life have helped the needy, (single parents working two jobs, homemakers with little ones, busy college students, retired people, business persons with demanding schedules), I have been challenged and reminded in my own life, that the place God has put each of us- our church, our neighborhood, our workplace, our school, our ball team, our civic club- serve as our personal mission field.  And in every place God has us; there are needy and hurting people- people who need a touch from the Lord.  And how does God touch those hurting people in our lives?  Through us, His children.

We are mere vessels for the love of Christ to flow onto a needy world- one hurting person at a time.

4. As a mother of seven what advice can you offer to women who want to serve but feel overwhelmed with the daily responsibilities of life?

There are so many inspiring stories in the book of how ordinary women with busy schedules and daily responsibilities found creative ways to help the needy and many of them even included their children in doing so!  Women will find lots of real-life stories and creative ideas in the book to inspire them.

I would encourage women to pray and ask the Lord to open their eyes to the needs that may be right around them.  Helping the needy isn’t always about the person holding a cardboard sign or the orphan across the world.  Sometimes the needy are sitting beside you on the pew at church or living right across the street.

When you pray and ask the Lord to reveal ways you can help the needy in your everyday life, you will begin to see people through His eyes.

You can read more about Lorie at her website

Thank you so much to Lorie for taking the time to speak to about proximity.  Thank you to her awesome publicist Anne Bronkema for providing the connection. 

Book Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

One of my favorite books is called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by: Donald Miller.

Donald Miller also wrote Blue like Jazz which will be released as a movie in April of 2012.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is about what Miller learned while editing his life.  The book came out of the process of editing Blue like Jazz into a screenplay.

It calls us all to LIVE A BETTER STORY

A story is based on what people think is important so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important. ~ Donald Miller

It made me wonder if the reasons our lives seems so muddled is because we keep walking into scenes in which we, along with the people around us, have no clear idea what we want. ~Donald Miller

His book inspires us to be intentional and deliberate about our lives, to put care into living the best life that we can.

I struggle with being very uptight.  I might dream about being center floor in a city club with leather pants dancing away, but I actually am the one you will find wedged into the corner of any social place with as many blockades and escape routes possible.  I exhaust the hours of night wondering about what would have happened if I hadn’t held back, what might have been had I not been so fearful I couldn’t even think intentional thoughts. Every new possibility meets the screeching brakes of my mind.

From my own journal October 8, 2007

I gulp air and sink again. The disparity of what I am and what I want to be continues to grow.

I cling to this verse, quite tightly, that I might move forward.

Ephesians 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Have you read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years?  What did you think?

Book Review: The Hole in our Gospel

What does God expect of us?

A group of my close girlfriends read the book The Hole in Our Gospel, their church had committed to reading through this book together.  They passed the book onto me.  I finished it and immediately wanted to start at the beginning and read it again!

I encourage you to put this book on your reading list and share it with someone else.

The Hole in Our Gospel is by Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision since June 1998.  Stearns was a CEO of Lenox, Inc., an upscale tableware and gift company when his life drastically changed.  He tells the remarkable story of God’s call on his life to join the work of World Vision.  The story you are suspecting does not reside in the pages of this book, Stearns repeatedly said no to taking on this position. God’s plan for him was unrelenting, months later he found himself in the jungles of Uganda in the midst of three brothers, orphaned by the AIDS crisis.

The book continues to follow Stearns life story, his travels, the people and places he has encountered, the difficulties the world faces, and a persistent, uncomfortable call for Christians to confront the hole in our gospel.


If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.  Proverbs 21:13

Richard Stearns writes, The American Dream often promotes this view of it [money] :  I worked hard, I earned it, and it’s mine to do with as I please. The view suggests that we are “entitled” to any income that comes to us because we worked for it.  (pg. 204)

I think deep down we KNOW that we are not entitled to anything, everything we receive as a gift from God is ENTRUSTED to us.


How different our standard is from Christ’s. We ask how much a man gives. He asks how much he keeps.  ~Andrew Murray.


If your income is 25,000 per year, you are wealthier than approximately 90% of the World’s population.

What about 50,000 per year? You are wealthier than approximately 99% of the World.


Christianity is not about being comfortable, doing easy things, and avoiding pain.

  • A study guide is available at the back of the book posing discussion questions, opportunities to take action, and prayer.
  • Visit for more resources.

Book Review: The Warmth of Other Suns

Pulitzer Prize winner author Isabel Wilkerson writes the story of America’s Great Migration in The Warmth of Other Suns.  Isabel Wilkerson was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in the history of American journalism.

This book is a striking account of the events that took place in the not-so-distant past.

The story weaves historical accounts, secondary stories, and facts into lyrical non-fiction.  As a storyteller, Wilkerson provides engaging narrative that makes this an exciting read despite its depth.  The true stories of the three main characters Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster are captivating.

The great migration took place from 1915-1970.  The south stood under Jim Crow laws of separate but equal.  The expansive Warmth of other Suns, tells the story of the six million people that left all they knew for a new life in the North. Their stories will capture you heart.

This is our history. 

Knowledge of history has the power to change the present and the future.

I was leaving the South

To fling myself into the unknown….

I was taking a part of the South

To transplant on alien soil,                                    

To see if it could grow differently,

If it could drink of new and cool rains,

Bend in strange winds,

Respond to the warmth of other suns

And, perhaps, to bloom.

-Richard Wright