devotion, Reviews

soul shaping by stephen w. smith (david c. cook)

I’m a big proponent of group studies. The accountability, support and perspective that comes from sharing ideas and learning together often have long-term benefits. The couples my husband and I studied with once a month, some 15 years ag,o are our closest friends today; their children and ours were bonded for life as well. But this long lasting bond doesn’t just magical result from every group study. The glue that brings all members of the group together is the common passion or yearning and the product that feeds the emotion and need. When the subject matter resonates with everyone, you have a winner. Soul Shaping is that kind of book

For a group searching for ways to begin a renewed, active life in the hands of Jesus, this is the perfect study guide. Each lesson is portioned into sections, varied and targeted for different learning styles. The lessons taught are then reinforced through a exercises in one or more spiritual discipline. A lot of white space and a good choice of font and layout make the book very user and pen-friendly.

If you or your church is looking for a new set of Bible studies, this is it.

(I received this book free from David C. Cook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)


gotta have it by Gregory Jantz (David C. Cook)

The title (the subtitle and the cover art too, for that matter) led me to believe the book was an expose´on the evils of materialism. Well aware of these evils and having never been tempted to keep up with the Jones, I set out to read the book for no other reason but an obligation to review it (I won it on a David C Cook Facebook competitions–which I highly recommend for its fun factor and simplicity).

But by page 5 I realized that my first impressions were wrong (Step up your packaging game, David C Cook!). The book is about bringing balance and perspective into your life by taking control of excesses in your life that give you a false sense of security and comfort. The book is more about moderation than frugality, more about being a steward than living a life of bare minimums.

Jantz begins with the first step towards getting rid of your Gotta Have It’s: Distinguish your wants from your needs. While it was a very elementary and obvious start, I was pleased that he did not get overly repetitious or insult my intelligence. When he says the obvious, it’s merely a to set me on familiar ground–sort of a launch pad–before sending me on a journey of exploring and understanding my deeply-rooted thoughts and feelings that control my choices.

By page 40, I was hoping the book would help me conquer my primary want for chocolate and my secondary want for all things sweet. But the next page came along and set straight my tongue-in-cheek thought: Referring to the role of electronics in our life, Jantz says, “Electronics can fall into two camps–gadgets that help you stay connected and gadgets that help you disconnect.” Of course, what he says about electronics is applicable to all the different components of our life. Throughout the book, he brought me back, again and again, to question stuff in my life and see if it connects me to or disconnects me from God and my responsibility as His steward on this earth.

Spread throughout the book are sections called Planting Seeds that tactfully helped me identify the excesses in my life . I was impressed with both Jantz and David C. Cook at the lengths to which they have gone to ensure these sections are non-threatening. First the title, Planting Seeds. How could you possibly be offended  by or get defensive  over it! Then, the font. An unobtrusive san serif, it stands apart from the rest of the book as if to say, “You don’t have to do this exercise if you feel uncomfortable.” And, finally, the language and directives of these sections are very low-key and more contemplative than finger-pointing in nature.

The entire book is a very comfortable environment, conducive to reflection and self-questioning. You never feel like Jantz is holding your feet to the fire till you ‘fes up and give it up. He is not about giving you a guilt trip. What he says is that there nothing wrong with my frivolous collection of antiques or my love for chocolate, but when “our wants, our preferences, our choices, our excessities supersede and obscure our true needs” (p 65).

(I received this book free from David C. Cook. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Personal Ramblings

my christmas wish

On Facebook today, David C. Cook posted, “Tell us what your “gotta have it gift” was when you were a child.” And it got me thinking. And I remembered so vividly. And I said:

My father. When I was about three, the church sponsored my dad for studies in the US. It was back when sponsorship did not include expenses to take one’s family. So my mom and I remained in India with my grandparents in a little village by the Arabian Sea with no modern conveniences. Except for a letter about every two weeks, we had no contact with him for over three years. Every Christmas–and every other special day–I only wished to see my daddy.