BOOK REVIEW: The Trail, A Tale about discovering God’s Will, by Ed Underwood

When life gets chaotic, it is common to look for guidance, direction, planning.  Sometimes we just want an easy sign to follow.

The Trail is an allegorical telling of our search for God’s will.  Matt & Brenda are struggling with a decision: should they take the job and move to Pasadena?  What does God want them to do?  They seek direction from Sam, an old firefighter/pastor during a weekend retreat in the mountains.  Through the walk, the hike, the struggle to follow the trail and directions, more than simple events unfold.  Sam wastes no time explaining his 8 principles of knowing God’s will to the couple, but everyone gains knowledge in the end.

I found the fresh outlay of the eight principles in story format worked well.  Although the story was pedantic at times, it drew me from point to point as the characters hiked and talked, and echoed the technique Jesus had of teaching thru parables, or stories.  (Matthew 13:34)  I liked the character of Sam, the rugged and straight-shooting firefighter-turned-preacher, for his clear mind, tender heart, and encouraging spirit.  He felt believable to me, especially when he revealed his own shortcomings and struggles.  The couple seemed perfect at first, Matt an edgy accountant, out for facts, details, speed and accuracy.  His struggles would be internal, and tension mounts when they conflict with his wife, Brenda, his tender-hearted helpmeet.  I thought the resolution of their conflict a bit forced, (especially the urging of Sam for Brenda to offer quick forgiveness to Matt for a major indiscretion), but the continued reminders to seek God’s truth in His Word were refreshing.  In the end, whether a big decision, such as forgiveness, or the smaller matter of which job offer to take, framing the question in these principles will help with perspective, and Godly choices.

The book is written by Ed Underwood, a self-stated radical follower of Jesus, and pastor for Church of the Open Door.  Underwood states that you must be in God’s general will (established principles any Jesus-follower can glean from the Scriptures for what we are to be doing), before searching for further personal guidance.  He does not clarify these principles, which could confuse a new believer.  He simply describes being in God’s general will as intimacy with God, a daily effort.  Though Underwood does not get technical,  or theological, he does outlay a lot of Scripture to back up his principles.   Sam seems to be a fount of Biblical references, and requires the couple read verses linked to each point.  I think the message is written to those who need a fresh look on an old question: What does God want me to do?  The answer Underwood gives is held in a story that will keep you pondering long after you finish these pages.

 

I am required to note that I was given a copy of this book in return for my unbiased review for Tyndale House Publishers., as part of the Tyndale Blog Network.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Mentor Leader, by Tony Dungy

In my second review of a Tony Dungy book, The Mentor Leader, takes a focused approach to the valuable attributes of a mentor leader.  Looking at eight different sides of this unique approach to leadership, Tony makes the case for a very humble style of leadership, while citing stories from various heroes of the football arena.  Most of the stories are found here, so the application takes some stretching for women, mothers or anyone not involved or interested in football.  Yet I did find it an interesting read, with valuable points to share.  The very servant-esque element of his approach is probably what I related to most, and the stories were a bonus.  For example, “If you do it right, as a mentor leader you may make it all but impossible for other people to give you credit.”  Amazing.  He even argues that character (off the field especially) matters, in contributing to your personal, leadership and team’s success.  Refreshing.

Each chapter is concluded with several thought-provoking questions, or action points to make the learning process functional.

I would recommend this book to a very-sports-oriented team player, and aspiring leader to bring Tony’s perspective home.

This review was completed with a library copy, for the Tyndale Summer Reading Program, which you can join also!

RESOURCES:

Tony Dungy website

bio

podcast

blog

BOOK REVIEW: God Loves Broken People, (and those who pretend they’re not), by Sheila Walsh

Sheila Walsh, who needs little introduction, begins this engaging book with the statement: “If I could write one book in my lifetime, I would ask God to make it this one, the very book you hold in your hands.”   The book is not only available, it is written with the best in her.  She writes real encouragement for life’s trials, in embracing the love He offers us in and through them.

Offering healing from life’s very real hurts, her stories span from the 2 Theresa’s: Mother Theresa and Theresa of Avelioux, Bonhoeffer, and other assorted saints and Biblical figures – some expected, some surprising in their offerings, as well as stories from her friends.  The mingling of story and Scripture brings refreshing glimpses of hope into old tales, making them applicable and comforting.  Her recurring themes of love, forgiveness, hope and grace resound.

An example from chapter 6: “What can I know for sure?  Three rock-solid truths to keep you standing, whatever happens,” she offers first, Nothing surprises God, second, therefore, you can trust Him in your pain, and thirdly, Nothing separates you from God’s love.

I appreciated her breezy, yet truthful style; the fact the study guide is at the back, not interrupting my read with boxed questions, and her vulnerability in sharing her own personal story thru this book.  Thank you, Sheila, for writing your book of a lifetime.  It seems God took you at your word.

Resources for further study:

Sheila Walsh, bio

other works

blog

My thanks to Booksneeze, for allowing me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.  It was a pleasure, as always to review new content: and you can join too!  Click the Booksneeze button on your right…

Book Review: Put Your Dream to the Test, by John C. Maxwell

In his 52nd book, the tenth of which I now have in my own home, John C. Maxwell brings the esoteric dream into living, breathing color.  Coming from the simple perspective that most of us have a dream, yet lack the tools to turn its greyness into the black-and-white of reality, he proposes ten leading questions to help us get there.  My version of this book also included its companion volume: My Dream Map, a 50-page workbook for personalizing, journaling, and living your vision.

As with any Maxwell book, the challenge comes early: Put your dream to the test.  Spiced with powerful quotes, energizing stories of common-name successes, he draws you through the 10 questions to uncover the gritty realities of a dream you may only have held to yourself.  From the beginning of the book, he encourages sharing with three people you are close to, for both evaluation and encouragement of this pursuit.  Whether you can only tackle small portions of this book, or are working through the entire thing with your goal clearly in mind, or even simply need inspiration to allow yourself to dream, Maxwell has provided it.  Consistently, he also points solidly towards Jesus as the author of our dreams, and the enabler of them to be accomplished.

I found his engaging style to be an easy read, perfect for myself, or a gift – Father’s Day?  I highly recommend it.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review, as part of the Booksneeze review blogger group.  You can join also!  Just click on the button at your right.