Tag Archives: identity

Review: The Traitor’s Pawn, by Lisa Harris

The Traitor's Pawn, by Lisa Harris | #romanticsuspense #Christianfiction

The Traitor’s Pawn, by Lisa Harris (Revell, 2020)

Shootings, abduction, traitors, and national security risks in Corpus Christi, Texas. The danger in The Traitor’s Pawn starts almost immediately and doesn’t let up.

Somehow the abduction of Detective Bree Grayson is linked with FBI agent Jack Shannon’s investigation. The crisis reunites these two former best friends, and as they work together they discover romantic feelings that have lain dormant since college. Bree finds herself again dealing with her father’s abandonment, pain she thought she’d left behind.

The stakes in this novel are high, but the characters’ introspection allows readers chances to breathe. Along with the romance thread, there’s a theme of anger and forgiveness as Bree processes her lack of relationship with her father.

One thing I found a little disappointing was the resolution of the conflict with a particular antagonist. This person will remain nameless, to avoid spoilers, but was introduced as a worthy villain in a way that had me expecting far more involvement in the final crisis.

Overall, though, The Traitor’s Pawn is an enjoyable romantic suspense with a strong thread of faith.

Favourite line:

My father always told me that God is about the long game. That he’s more interested in who you become, even if the actual process is difficult. [Jack speaking about his own father, Kindle location 2933]

Visit lisaharriswrites.com to learn about author Lisa Harris and her books and ministry.

[Review copy provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. My opinions are my own.]

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Review: Standoff, by Patricia Bradley

Standoff, by Patricia Bradley

Standoff, by Patricia Bradley (Revell, 2020)

Drug trafficking. Secrets. Murder. And romance. Standoff delivers all this and more.

Brooke Danvers is excited to follow her father John’s career path as a law enforcement ranger, but before she can be sworn in, John is found dead. Suddenly her childhood crush Luke Fereday is back on the scene, staying next door to her at his grandmother’s house. Luke can’t tell her that he’s working undercover to infiltrate the local drug ring—or that he blames himself for not being there to provide backup for John.

When the official verdict on John’s death is suicide, Brooke and Luke band together to prove it wrong and find the killer. Luke, meanwhile, is walking a dangerous line with the leader of the drug ring.

Luke’s grandmother, Daisy, has been a mentor to Brooke for years. I like her gentle support when Brooke is struggling with her father’s death:

“You may never get that answer,” she said softly. “But it’s okay to ask God why.” [Kindle location 1210]

As well as grief, suspense, romance, and faith, the novel also touches on identity and trust. And while readers know who some of the drug villains are, the identity of John’s murderer is a mystery for which there are a number of suspects.

I always enjoy Patricia Bradley’s novels. The suspense is strong but not overpowering and the characters’ relationships and their faith make them feel like real people.

The town of Natchez, Mississippi, and the 444-mile-long Natchez Trace Parkway are real places. The official US National Park site says the Parkway “roughly follows the ‘Old Natchez Trace,’ a historic travel corridor.” And “parkway” doesn’t just mean “highway”—the road goes through park land where people can bicycle, camp, etc.

The setting is a key part of the novel, and it’s well-rendered without that annoying travel-brochure feel that some authors give to real-life settings in their fiction. Still I wish I’d looked it up online first to have a better understanding. I think the word “trace” threw me off, because I’d never heard it applied to a road before.

Standoff is book 1 in Patricia Bradley’s new Natchez Park Rangers series. For more about the author and her books, visit ptbradley.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. My opinions are my own.]

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Review: Fiercehearted, by Holley Gerth

Fiercehearted, by Holley Gerth

Fiercehearted, by Holley Gerth (Revell, 2017)

I have so many lines in this book highlighted! Some because they’re comforting, encouraging, or challenging, and others because the word pictures are beautiful.

A few favourite lines:

In the introduction, Holley Gerth writes that she wants the book to help women

…feel less alone and more comfortable in our God-sewn skin and a little surer that we are a force to be reckoned with in this world. [Kindle location 189]

It’s in these moments that we carry wonder and fear like twins. [Kindle location 2080]

We’re all just clay on the wheel, which is another way of saying we are dust being sculpted into glory. [Kindle location 2214]

I found author Holley Gerth through Ellen Graf-Martin’s Change Makers Podcast, and have been appreciating her email newsletters and posts ever since. When I saw the digital version of her book, Fiercehearted, discounted recently, I snapped it up.

With short, conversational chapters transparently reflecting the author’s life experiences, Fiercehearted touches on topics common to many women: conflict avoidance, identity, self-worth, insecurity, success, perfectionism, expectations, failure, work, depression, friendship, and more.

Highly recommended for Christian women, and especially for those who appreciate the writing of Emily P. Freeman, Carolyn Watts (Hearing the Heartbeat), and Ann Voskamp.

For more about Holley Gerth and her ministry, visit holleygerth.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: Silent Shadows, by Natalie Walters

Silent Shadows, by Natalie Walters (Revell, 2020)

A single mother hiding from a gang. Her young son. And a military intelligence officer discharged with an unexplained movement disorder that causes seizure-like muscle contractions.

Pecca Gallegos loves her job as a nurse at the Home for Heroes. Her son, Maceo, is unhappy at school. And Captain Colton Crawford, her newest patient, may be what they both need—if he can see beyond his limitations.

Maceo has a prosthetic leg and what seems like an impossible dream to play football. Helping him may be what Colten needs to help himself.

My personal preference is for an understated romantic thread, so I found Pecca and Colton’s swoony thoughts about one another a little much in the first half. That said, their first true date was definitely an “aww” moment.

And there’s a lot to like in this story. I appreciated the clean suspense and the frank wrestling with the tension between faith and painful circumstances. I also enjoyed the camaraderie among the “D-Wing” patients. Team dynamics, belonging, and purpose play an important part in the book, along with faith and second chances.

Favourite lines:

You look at yourself as less than. Is that the message you want your life to reflect? [Kindle location 3755]

“…Allow yourself to believe that even though this isn’t how you planned your life, it doesn’t mean it’s not exactly where you need to be.” [Kindle location 3761]

Silent Shadows is book 3 in the Harbored Secrets romantic suspense series. I haven’t read the previous books, but had no trouble settling into this one. Books 1 and 2 are set in the same town of Walton, Georgia, but feature different characters.

Natalie Walters’s author bio says that she “comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past.” For more about the author and her books, visit nataliewalterswriter.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

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Review: The Dream of You, by Jo Saxton

The Dream of You, by Jo SaxtonThe Dream of You, by Jo Saxton (WaterBrook, 2018)

This book’s subtitle invites women to “let go of broken identities and live the life you were made for” – and if that calls to something inside you, you’ll find practical insights that make it worth the time to read and reflect.

The Dream of You is more than a collection of verses telling women how God sees us, although it does include Scripture. It’s more than a list of self-help steps to empower us. Part memoir, plus examples from present-day and Bible times, it’s an honest, sometimes unsettling, look at the damage done by circumstances and people – and it tracks author Jo Saxton’s personal fight to reclaim her identity as the woman God made her to be, for the purpose He intended.

A Nigerian raised in England and now living in the United States, Jo Saxton has something to say to all of us about the need – and the possibility – of rediscovering our true identities in a world that wants to define and limit us. Reading her story and those of others in the book showed me how sheltered I’ve been. Still, I found key points to sit with and apply.

The title could imply a self-indulgent book, warm and fuzzy. Don’t expect that. Instead, this is a valuable tool that can make a significant difference. It presents truth and hope, and each chapter has simple questions to ponder and act on. If you skim them on a first read, go back and dig into them on a second read. Don’t miss what God wants to say to you.

The book begins with a look at God. Knowing who He is – and thus whose we are – is foundational. In turning from what life has made us believe, we need to know the truth to turn to.

Then it addresses some of the things we may need to turn from. More than other books I’ve seen, it’s very direct about this being a process. A sometimes difficult process, with wilderness times when we expect an easy victory. Because the wilderness times are teaching times that God will use for our ultimate growth.

I love how it illustrates the ongoing battle to wield the truth of God’s Word against the lies we’ve internalized. Again, we look for a one-swing cut, but if the chains are solid-forged and wrapped in layers, it will take time to make them fall. Jo Saxton shows us how to do that.

Another strength of the book is that it doesn’t end with free, happy women basking in fulfilling lives like Disney princesses. It ends with the call to take the stories we’ve lived – and the Good News about Jesus giving us our true identity –to share with the people around us. Like the original disciples, we’re on mission for the rest of our lives.

For more about speaker and author Jo Saxton and her ministry, visit josaxton.com. For more about The Dream of You, including the book trailer and sample first chapter, visit josaxton.com/the-dream-of-you.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: A Million Little Ways, by Emily P. Freeman

A Million Little Ways, by Emily P. FreemanA Million Little Ways, by Emily P. Freeman (Revell, 2013)

At first glance, you might think a book subtitled “Uncover the art you were made to live” was only for the painters, writers, sculptors etc. But it’s for anyone who wants their life to reveal God in “a million little ways.”

It’s about being close to Him, trusting that He is enough when we aren’t (and accepting that we really aren’t enough no matter how badly we want to be). It’s about discovering those things that give us joy and please Him (not running off to satisfy selfishness, but learning to recognize and embrace the gifts He’s given us to use in our lives).

This is a book about identity, calling us image-bearers of the God who created us and who calls us to reveal Him in our lives. What we do is to flow from who we are in Him.

Our gifts may be what’s traditionally labelled art, but they may also be preparing a meal, faithfully keeping a home, parenting our children. Waiting tables or fixing teeth. Part of the way we “live our art” is by being present in the moment instead of mentally jumping ahead to the next thing.

With honesty and transparency, the author shares from personal experience as she’s learning to apply these truths. As well as our identity and calling in Christ, she addresses topics like self-focus, fear of critics, and the anxiety of trying to manage future outcomes.

My copy of A Million Little Ways has plenty of page markers highlighting personally-relevant lines, and as always I’ve been blessed by the author’s message.

Emily P. Freeman’s website describes her ministry as “creating space for your soul to breathe so you can walk in step with your calling.” She offers a free 7-day ebook, 7 Little Ways to Live Art, and has an audiobook of daily devotions as well as other print books, plus a blog and podcast. For more about the author, visit http://emilypfreeman.com/.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Good Friday

Crucifixion was shameful, degrading, and cruel beyond measure. It made a spectacle of the victim’s suffering and death.

The Lord Jesus endured this for us – by choice, a willing victim in our place, bearing what we could not in order to win the ultimate victory.

The New International Version* describes “…Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

At the Last Supper, John says that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God” (John 13:3. NIV*).

Jesus knew Who He was. And Whose He was. He could do what He did because He knew that none of the pain, none of the shame – none of it changed His identity.

As sons and daughters of our Father, our identity in Christ is equally secure and unaffected by shame, pain, fear, etc. Those things are very real, and they may distract us from remembering our true identity, but they don’t change the truth of who we are. Whose we are.

This takes the teeth out of fear for the future, and it changes how we look at yesterday, today, and tomorrow. No matter how much it hurts, no matter what happens… even if we lose our lives in this world (and everybody dies)… as the Apostle Paul wrote, “… I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV*)

Nothing can separate us from the strong love of Jesus. Nothing can take away all we are in Him.

We’re more than the temporal bodies we inhabit. If we’re alive in Christ, we’re spiritual beings who’ve been given eternal life. Treasured and beloved by the Creator of all.

God the Father invites us into His Word to discover who He says we are. The New Testament tells us who we are “in Christ.” Typing those words as a search at Biblegateway.com or another Bible site provides plenty to think about.

Then we have the choice: will we believe our Maker’s opinion of us, or stick with our own? Knowing how often I’m wrong about things, I choose to believe God. May we grow and keep grounded in the truth of who we are in God our heavenly Father.

Let Third Day’s song, “Carry My Cross,” help us remember.

 

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Review: Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman

Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. FreemanGrace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman (Revell, 2011)

This is a book for all the women whose honest desire to be good sets up impossible expectations and leads to hiding behind facades and fearing to be found out. Anxiety grows, and we struggle in our own strength instead of learning to rely on God. Hence the subtitle: “Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life.”

The author says, “Somewhere along the way, I got the message that salvation is by faith alone but anything after that is faith plus my hard work and sweet disposition” (page 13). Many of us fall into that trap, and Grace for the Good Girl can help us reset.

One of my favourite lines is about giving ourselves “permission to sit down on the inside and live like I have a God who knows what He’s doing” (page 65).

The book is in three sections: the hiding (in which we find out how we’re not alone in this after all), the finding, and the freedom of being found. It ends with a small group leader’s guide for an eight-week study.

Emily P. Freeman writes with transparency and candour about her own struggles, and shares the stories of other “recovering good girls.” The book is easy to read and encouraging. It points us back to relying on the character and grace of God, and to learning to live by faith instead of by feeling. It addresses core issues like anxiety, identity, emotions, and self-reliance, and while you likely won’t recognize yourself on every page, don’t be surprised to relate to at least a few of the stories.

The “try-hard life” is exhausting. Grace for the Good Girl points to freedom. Emily P. Freeman has also written A Million Little Ways and Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. For more about the author and her ministry, visit emilypfreeman.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Guest Post: My Identity is Broken

My Identity is Broken

By Jessica Everingham

Insignificance. Failure.

Few words chill me like those two. I hate them even more than doing my taxes.

Why?

I’ll tell you, though I know this story won’t put me in the best light.

I’ve always enjoyed that there was something a little different about me. In school, it was simply that I was bright and everything came easily. After school, it was my job as a journalist. Everyone thought that was interesting.

Now I’m a boarding school mistress and aspiring author. The school doesn’t pay very well, but I love the kids and it allows me time to write. Besides, very few people work in boarding schools or write books—and I do both. I like that. I’m also still a volunteer journalist and spent the past weekend working on the media team at the Easterfest music festival. People paid attention to the media lanyard around my neck. It was cool.

But this week I’m having to face a fact: my part-time job and ‘unpaid career’ aren’t making any money. And since I’ve had no luck getting back into paid journalism, I need to go do something boring like flip burgers or answer phones. Anything that pays.

I don’t like the thought of having a boring job. But what I really hate is the possibility that if I never get my novels published, the boring job could be my whole career. I could be a completely normal, nothing-unusual-about-her, regular old person.

[Insert gagging here.]

It’s a sobering thought, but so is the fact that my identity is way more wrapped up in my work than I realized.

I only posted about God and identity a few months ago on my own blog. It was actually the first post I wrote that started attracting views. It kick-started my blogging journey. Yet here I am four months later, realizing that without an ‘interesting’ job my sense of identity is shattered.

I also know, deep down in myself, that my writing career probably isn’t going to move very far forward until I sort this thing out. I can feel God prodding, showing me where I need to change. And I know that if I get the ‘success’ I crave tomorrow, it could easily destroy me.

If I had overnight success, my identity would only become further intertwined with my career. I would become proud. I would also dread the day when my book sales dropped and I moved from the ‘successful’ category to ‘has-been’. That fear would motivate me to put writing ahead of relationships and even God. And on the day when my fear came true, it would sink me into the depths of despair.

That’s not a future I want.

I already know that God wants my identity to be in Him. Why else would He say,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”? (Mk 12:30 NIV, emphasis mine).

He wants all of me. And if I was as focused on God as what that verse says, I wouldn’t be so worried about my own sense of identity.

If that verse isn’t enough, here’s another:

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 10:39 NIV)

Would I be happy to lose myself, if God asked? Could I walk away from my computer and writing career?

With my current mindset, that would be pretty difficult. Since I don’t like the thought of being dependent on a job for my sense of self-worth, I think it’s time to change.

Which is all well and good, but…how?

Well, Jesus tells us that ‘apart from Me you can do nothing’. (John 15:5 NIV) So Step One is asking God for His continued help. And while I’m at it, I’ll ask Him to keep pointing out these areas where I need to change.

Step Two will be keeping the above verses in my mind. I need to spot those wrong thoughts when they come and use the Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) to stab, slice and dice them away. It might take a while, but we’ll get there.

It almost seems silly for me to let go of my drive to succeed. After all, ‘success’ is our holy grail. The people we most admire are the ones who have success in their families, businesses, ministries and general life.

But in the long run, I know this is going to be freeing. I’m still going to work hard. But if things don’t pan out, I will know my life is still significant, because it’s been spent in relationship with God. I won’t be weighed down by my fear of failure or my dread of insignificance. I’ll have the courage to just be God’s follower—nothing more, nothing less.

And that is both the most humble position and highest honor in the world.

*

Jessica Everingham

Photography by Kali Brumpton

Jessica Everingham is a journalist, blogger, boarding school mistress and aspiring author. She is 22 and lives in sunny Queensland, Australia. She loves connecting with people via her blog, Consumed By Him, Facebook, and Twitter (@JessEveringham). Come say hi!