Tag Archives: autobiography

Review: Promises You Can Count On, by Natalie Gidney

Promises You Can Count On, by Natalie Gidney (Word Alive Press, 2009)

Bible promise books, complete with a helpful index, are great resources, and every Christian’s bookshelf should have one. But you only need one.

That’s why Promises You Can Count On takes a different approach. Natalie Gidney focuses on ten essential promises, including peace, salvation, grace and joy, and invites readers to “claim them and watch and see what He can do.” (p. 6)

This slender book is ideal for new believers or for those considering faith in Jesus Christ. It’s also a good refresher for more seasoned Christians. Each chapter draws on a number of Scriptures to explore one of God’s promises. With an easy conversational style, Natalie looks at what this promise can mean in our lives, and she offers candid examples of what it’s meant in her own.

Naturally, salvation is one of the early topics. It may surprise some readers, then, to see forgiveness rounding out the number ten spot as the final chapter. But as Natalie explains, forgiveness is something that’s required of us as well as something we need from God. That can be a hard truth to hear, and I think she’s wise to build up to it.

In some ways, forgiving others—or ourselves—isn’t possible until we’re sure we can trust God’s promises. So it makes sense to immerse ourselves in them first and grow our faith.

Promises You Can Count On was a finalist in the Relationships category of The Word Guild’s 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Awards (for books published in 2009).

Canadian author and speaker Natalie Gidney blogs at Promises for All. You can watch her interview on 100 Huntley Street: part 1 and part 2.

[book source: my personal library]

Review: One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully, Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp (Zondervan, 2011)

One Thousand Gifts is a rare book: at once a very personal story of one woman’s journey, and yet it’s everywoman and everyman’s story. It’s a journey we can all join.

Which of us hasn’t struggled with ingratitude? It is, after all, Satan’s oldest lie. It can root so deeply that we don’t even see it anymore.

Listen to how Ann Voskamp describes it, describes the too-familiar wretched state and the haunting questions that lured her out of it:

“If I’m ruthlessly honest, I may have said yes to God, yes to Christianity, but really, I have lived the no. I have. Infected by the Eden mouthful, the retina of my soul develops macular holes of blackness…. One life-loss can infect the whole of a life…. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn’t: holes, lack, deficiency.” (p. 16)

“How do we choose to allow the holes to become seeing-through-to-God places? To more-God places?

“How do I give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy? Self-focus for God-communion.” (p. 22)

For Ann, the answer started with a Greek word, eucharisteo [yoo-khar-is-teh’-o], which means ‘thanksgiving’ and which contains the root words of ‘grace’ and ‘joy’. From reading her Bible, she discovered “Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle” (p. 35). And that’s what God proved in Ann’s own life as she kept her friend’s challenge to list 1,000 blessings—gifts—from God.

She came to this point in her life with more pain than some of us have: the most significant cluster in the form of losing her younger sister as a child. But whether you’ve lost more or less, whether it’s been taken from you or you’ve given it away, you can find healing in these pages.

Read the book slowly, let it encourage your spirit by its message and by the poetry that is Ann Voskamp’s prose. Walk with her as she learns to thank God for the sweet blessings—graces—in her day. Keep walking as she learns to see His grace in the painful moments, to practice what she calls the “hard eucharisteo” by giving thanks even when what He gives doesn’t look like grace to our eyes.

If you like simple, plain language and straightforward sentences, this may not be the book for you. I’ve included some excerpts to give a feel for the flowing language. And be aware that poetic language often uses imagery for a soul’s intimacy with God that strictly-literal thinkers may find difficult.

But if you’re one of the many who choose to read this book, you will be challenged and changed by the example of an ordinary Canadian woman who dares to have a heart like King David’s and to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God in the good and in the bad—not denying the pain, but trusting the Master Designer not to waste it.

This is how Ann describes what she discovered in her list of now well over 1,000 gifts:

“In eucharisteo, I count, count, count, keeping the beat of His song, the love song He can’t stop singing, this long song of longing. That He sings love over me?

“What else can all these gifts mean?” (p. 204)

One Thousand Gifts is a book to read contemplatively, and to keep near to read again. My friends are buying extra copies for their friends rather than lending a copy they might not get back. I can see why. Click here to read an excerpt from One Thousand Gifts. And here’s a link to the book trailer, which is a gift in itself.

Canadian author Ann Voskamp writes a daily encouragement blog at A Holy Experience. She’s also a regular contributor at the DaySpring blog, (in)courage.

Oh… my list? I’m at #33 today. And loving it.

[Review copy source: my personal library]

Review: The Tender Heart of a Beast, by Michael “Bull” Roberts

The Tender Heart of a Beast, by Michael Bull Roberts (Trimatrix Management Consulting Inc., 2009)

Michael “Bull” Roberts experienced overwhelming trauma and abuse as a child and a teen. As an adult, he dealt a lot of pain to those who crossed him. His purpose in this autobiography is neither to portray himself as a victim nor to glorify his successes as a crime lord. It’s to show how a loving God finally brought him to faith.

Michael tells his story in a conversational tone as if over coffee or in an interview. He avoids graphic detail and leaves much unsaid.

The Tender Heart of a Beast is a slim book, under 200 pages. The first half tells Michael’s story. The second is a collection of his unedited articles from Beyond the Walls prison newsletter, offering a window into his heart and to the challenges of a new Christian. There are also a handful of photographs, and it’s easy to see the difference in Michael’s eyes now that he belongs to Jesus.

What’s troubling about the book is that it’s non-fiction. It really happened, and this once-sensitive and fragile young boy endured so much from people who should have valued and nurtured him.

Reading how God drew Michael long before his conversion can encourage us to persevere with the hurting and angry people in our own lives.

The book is also a cry for Christians and churches to reach out to the outcasts—and to welcome a man who still looks dangerous but who is now uniquely equipped to share the Gospel with people who’d never listen to a preacher in a suit:

“How does a smelly, greasy biker or homeless person become a well-dressed, well-groomed example of the love of God? Well that’s easy. It’s up to you to love him, clothe him, mentor him and help him to the cross every time he falls until he becomes the man God has planned for him to become.” (p. 168)

I think I hear Jesus saying the same.

The Tender Heart of a Beast won a 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Award in the Books: General Readership category and an honourable mention in Books: Culture. A dangerous man. A chance at redemption. Heaven's Prey.

Copies are available from the author. For those who just want to hear Michael’s story, DVD copies of his testimony are also available. To order books or DVDs, please use this link to email the author.

Here’s a brief interview with Michael Bull Roberts

[Review copy from my personal library]