Praying with Paul by D. A. Carson


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The apostle Paul often spoke of prayer. In the openings of his letters, Paul told his readers how he prayed for them, and asked for prayers in return. Paul’s focus on prayer should draw our attention.

D. A. Carson lays out several prayers from Paul’s letters. He breaks them down to reveal what Paul is praying for and why. He reveals, most importantly, that the prayers of Paul are God-centered.

This book turned out to be a lot more theologically rich than I was expecting, but after reading it I can see why. Carson really gets into the bones of Paul’s prayers. There’s nothing superficial here.

There were moments when I got a little confused, and had to re-read a passage, but it’s worth it. I did a lot of underlining in this book.

1) Is it understandable = 4
2) Presentation of Information = 4.5
3) Quality of Writing = 4.5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 4

Average score of 4.25 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

2019 Reading List


I mentioned in my OneWord post that I would be focusing more on non-fiction Christian books in the new year, and I wanted to share some of the books I plan to read.

Her-Story is a devotional. Each day of the year, you learn about a woman from the Bible or Christian history who had a love for Jesus. I’ll be reading this throughout the year.

This is something I’ve wanted to study for a while now, and 2019 is the year. I had to think about how to do this. I wanted to break it up either by one question or chapter per week, but at 107 questions, in 64 chapters, that won’t be possible to complete in a year. So, I’ll be doing two chapters a week, which will give me some wiggle room if anything comes up that I can’t do two in one week.

The rest are books I’ve had on my shelf; some for years, some for just a couple months. Some classics, some modern. Here are the covers:

Have you read any of these? Do you have one waiting on your shelf? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin


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Published in 1539, the second edition of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion contained a new chapter: On the life of a Christian Man. It has since been published many times in various languages as part of the entirety of the Institutes, as well as separate books, such as this one.

In this new English translation, editors Aaron Clay Denlinger and Burk Parsons strive to not just give us the message of Calvin, but to stay true to his words and tone.

Calvin lays out what the Scripture says about the life of a Christian regarding success and suffering. How are we to respond to success? How do we respond to suffering, be it illness, poverty, or persecution? How does our response portray our relationship with God?

This book is an encouragement of truth. Where most churches today convey Godly success as prosperity in every area of life, this little book reminds us of what the Bible says. Simply, the Christian life involves strife. That strife should drive us to God.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

Outlining Your Novel by K. M. Weiland


 

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Outlining can seem like a daunting task. Especially to someone who has never used one when writing fiction. Memories of high school term papers come to mind, with mandatory outlines, complete with roman numerals, letters, and numbers.

K. M. Weiland sets out to erase that picture and give a more accurate presentation of what a novel outline looks like. In this book you’ll learn how to flesh out ideas, characters, and settings, all before writing a word of your first draft.

I discovered K. M. Weiland about six years ago when I stumbled upon her Wordplayer’s Manifesto. When I seriously began thinking of writing a novel I found her again and I’ve followed her online ever since. She is adamant about helping writers, and it shows in this book.

Coupled with the workbook, this is a great resource for outlining. The workbook especially takes you piece by piece and asks specific questions you can answer about your characters, plot, etc. It’s a great guide. I say guide, simply because I found that, at least for the purposes of the novel I’m working on, the order of her outlining doesn’t quite work for me. So, I’m doing it a bit differently, but those questions will work in any order.

With examples from Weiland’s own work, insight from authors who use outlines, and checklists to guide you through, you’ll see the benefits of outlining in no time.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Not Yet Married by Marshall Segal


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The world has a lot to say about dating and relationships. It has a lot to say about people who are single and whether or not marriage is even necessary in the times we live in. But what does the single life, and dating, look like for a Christian?

As a single woman in my 30’s, I was hesitant to read this one, but decided to give it a shot. Most Christian books I’ve read regarding singleness, especially those written by married people, gear the message so heavily toward marriage and having children that they left me feeling lonely, and burdened by my singleness. That is not the case with this one.

Segal spends the first part of the book speaking of singleness. He tackles that loneliness mentioned above in an honest and upfront way. We crave affection and want to be known. Marriage and relationships can give us that, so we tend to long for them, but as Christians the best and most intimate relationship we can have is with Jesus. Segal takes the time to explain that sometimes our singleness is God-given, for a purpose. There may be things God wants us to do for Him that are better suited for someone who doesn’t yet have a spouse or children to take care of.

The rest of the book is centered around dating with the intention of marriage. What does that mean for a Christian? How do we date in a way that looks different from the world? It’s not just setting physical boundaries (though that is important), but it’s about keeping Jesus first in the relationship. The Bible says we should love God first and foremost. That means even above our spouse.

What I love most about this book is that Segal is careful to gear the message equally toward men and woman. While much of what he presents is generic, he reminds us that men and women have different roles and needs in a relationship, both spiritually and emotionally. He also guides the single toward a healthy, God-centered marriage without alienating the single who aren’t actively seeking marriage, even us “older” singles. In fact, he includes them.

If you’re single, whether you want to be or not, I highly recommend this book to put your singleness in the right perspective.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5.

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received an electronic copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.

Another Year Gone. A New Year Ahead.


2017 wasn’t all I wanted it to be, but it had its moments. I read some great books, learned a lot about writing, took a big step on my writing journey, and drew closer to God. Now we’re all reflecting on the time that has passed, and looking to the time ahead to make changes and grow.

Great Books from 2017

I didn’t meet my reading goal this year, but I still read a good bit. These are the books I loved.

Fiction (Christian):
Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund
A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd
The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Fiction (Secular):
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo
11/22/63 by Stephen King

Non-Fiction (Christian):
The Legacy of Luther by R.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols
A Time for Confidence by Stephen J. Nichols
The Truth of the Cross by R. C. Sproul
The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

What Jesus Demands of the World by John Piper (review coming soon)

Non-Fiction (Secular):
The Inkblots by Damion Searls

On Writing:
The Dance of Character and Plot by DiAnn Mills

Moving Forward in 2018

In the new year, I will focus on two things:

  1. God
  2. Writing

My focus on God will require the time and dedication of personal Bible reading and Bible study, theological study, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines.

My focus on writing (which includes both my novel and this blog) will require the time and dedication of writing (getting myself in a chair and making it happen, though I am outlining first), planning, research, studying the craft, and reading.

I’ve laid out my long-term and some short-term goals to start me on the right path. I know some things will change as I find the routine that works for me, but the important thing is that I have taken the first steps.

I hope you’ll join me on my journey in 2018!

What are your goals and hopes for the new year? Let me know in the comments.

 

Header photo byMorgan Sessions

The Dance of Character and Plot by DiAnn Mills


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There’s a long-standing argument over which type of story is better: plot-driven or character-driven. The truth is, that either without the other will leave a story flat. The best stories weave character and plot together like a dance that allows them both to shine.

In this book, DiAnn Mills explains how to do that with chapters on characterization, point of view, setting, dialogue, pacing, and more.

I read this book with my novel in mind, and I’ve taken a lot away from it. I’ve dumped things, changed point of view, considered my subplots and minor characters, and so much more. DiAnn Mills knows her craft, and she is eager to share.

While I did discover an editing issue – ironically, it was in the section on editing – it doesn’t take away from the benefits of this book. There is so much information, along with exercises, questionnaires, tips, and suggested reading. You are bound to get something out of it, no matter where you are in your writing journey.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn


Alcorn-TreasurePrincipleEveryone wants money. Money is how we purchase things. It’s why we have jobs… to get money to pay the bills and one day, hopefully, we won’t have to work anymore.

What does God say about money? This is where people get defensive. If God demands we part with our money, does he want us to be poor?

When it comes to God, money is a touchy subject for a lot of people. This is probably because what the Bible says about money and giving is often misinterpreted or misunderstood. One of the most misquoted scriptures is 1 Timothy 6:10. Often quoted as “Money is the root of all evil,” what the passage actually says is, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”

Money itself is not evil. God doesn’t want us not to have it, but he does command us to spend it in certain ways. It’s not a matter of whether or not you want money. The real question is this: Do you want money more than you want God?

In The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn explains what the Bible says about money and giving. He shows what joyful, Biblical giving looks like and what we get out of it by discussing six key points:

  1. God owns everything. I’m his money manager.
  2. My heart always goes where I put God’s money.
  3. Heaven and the future New Earth, not this fallen one, is my home.
  4. I should live not for the dot (this short, present life), but for the line (eternity).
  5. Giving is the only antidote to materialism.
  6. God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.

The book is short, but Alcorn does a great job of presenting the material. You will come away with a new, or better, understanding of what it means to give as a Christian.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Between the Lines by Jessica Page Morrell


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Writing is a craft. It requires the use of many tools in such a way that they almost go unnoticed by the reader. In this book, Morrell explains these tools and gives examples of how they’ve been used in other stories.

Topics such as backstory, subplots, tension, flashbacks, and more are covered in this resource.

The great thing about this book is that it makes a handy reference tool. Each topic has its own chapter, which is clearly titled as what is being discussed. You don’t have to read this book from cover to cover to benefit from it.

What I found a little distracting at times was the number of examples used. Examples are great learning tools, but I sometimes skipped over them after one or two were given.

All-in-all, this is a great resource, and I would recommend it.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 4
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 4

Average score of 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond


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We live in a time when people seem to be generally discontent; Impatient, moody, complaining and jealous. Though we have moments of happiness, we’ve lost what it means to be truly content. The good news is that we can learn this, as the Apostle Paul says.

Erik Raymond lays out what true contentment is and why it is found only in God. He then explains, through scripture and personal stories, how he can go about learning to be content in God.

Every self-proclaiming Christian should read this book. The Gospel message is at its core: we deserve Hell, but God sent His son Jesus to redeem us and bring us back to Him. This is where our contentment lies. Raymond lays it out in such a way that anyone with a heart willing to be changed will feel the need for it.

This isn’t the name-it-and-claim-it gospel. It’s not health and wealth. It’s loving God and being content in Him, whether you have everything or nothing at all. It’s Biblical truth, and much needed.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received an electronic copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.