Review | Quitter

Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job by Jon Acuff

Summary (from Goodreads)

Have you ever felt caught between the tension of a day job and a dream job? That gap between what you have to do and what you’d love to do?

I have.

At first I thought I was the only one who felt that way, but then I started to talk to people and realized we’re becoming the “I’m, but” generation. When we talk about what we do for a living we inevitably say, “I’m a teacher, but I want to be an artist.” “I’m a CPA, but I’d love to start my own business.”

“I’m a _____, but I want to be a ______.”

All too often, we hear that dreaming big means you quit your day job, sell everything you own, and move to Guam. But what if there were a different way?

What if you could blow up your dream without blowing up your life?

What if you could go for broke without going broke?

What if you could start today?

What if you already have everything you need to begin?

From figuring out what your dream is to quitting in a way that exponentially increases your chance of success, Quitter is full of inspiring stories and actionable advice. This book is based on 12 years of cubicle living and my true story of cultivating a dream job that changed my life and the world in the process.

It’s time to close the gap between your day job and your dream job.

It’s time to be a Quitter.

Review | 3 stars

While this was a fun, easy read with tons of useful information, the audience is a bit too narrow for my taste. Acuff writes for the dreamer who has a day job, the person who aspires to a more non-traditional job or career path than the typical nine to five. I would not consider this a book to help a person switch daytime careers (e.g., accountant to school teacher) although it still is encouraging to read about how others have succeeded personally and professionally (since they are so intertwined, honestly). I liked the tone and style. A couple notes from the text below:

Always start with your passion, and start practicing to get yourself comfortable or more adept at what it is you’re passionate about BEFORE you lay out a full plan to reach your goals. Your passion is the fuel to get through the tough times. A plan can’t do that on its own.

5 questions to ask at your turning point (“hinge”):
1. Do I love doing this enough to do it for free?
2. When I do this does time feel different?
3. Do I enjoy doing this regardless of the opinions of other people?
4. If I pursue this and only MY life changes, is that enough?
5. Is this the first time I’ve loved this or is this part of a bigger pattern in my life?

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Review | Lead Small

Lead Small by Reggie Joiner & Tom Shefchunas

Summary (from Goodreads)

Five big ideas every small group leader needs to know.

Summary (from Amazon)

If you’re a small group leader, you believe in the power of community. You know that every stage and phase of life needs a unique kind of influence.

But what exactly do you do? What exactly is your job?

It’s possible that you may feel lost at times, like your role falls somewhere between a parent and a friend, a coach and a teacher. Remember, you aren’t supposed to be any of those things. You are a little of all of those things.

Small groups come in many sizes.
Those who wear diapers.
Those who watch Disney.
Those who are learning to drive.
Those who are picking a college.

Lead Small clarifies the responsibility of the small group leader for those who work with children and teenagers. it establishes five common threads so that those who choose to lead in any size church can work off the same blueprint.

When you lead small…
you realize that what you do for a few has more potential than what you do for many.

When you lead small…
you choose to invest in the lives of a few to encourage authentic faith.

With personal insight and practical advice, Reggie Joiner and Tom Shefchunas will show you how to do something small for a big impact.

Review | 5 stars

Reggie Joiner’s guidebook on leading small groups from elementary school through college comes chock full of insight into how to communicate with students and invest in their lives. Lead Small isn’t just about giving you the practical tips to do things well (if that isn’t reason enough to read it!) – it gives you the reasons why those recommended steps and actions work to help you continue to create ideas as a Small Group Leader (“SGL”). Reggie and Shef also offer their personal examples from their leading small groups and being in them, providing valuable perspective and refreshing realism to their suggestions.

The book’s structure is easy to navigate and shows how each piece works in relation to the others. The main topics:

  • Be Present
  • Create a Safe Space
  • Partner with Parents (a favorite section of mine)
  • Make It Personal
  • Move Them Out (arguably the most important piece)

Other topics discussed include: Connect Their Faith to a Community, Clarify Their Faith as They Grow, Nurture an Everyday Faith, Inspire Their Faith by Your Example, and Engage Their Faith in a Bigger Story.

Lead Small contains lots of prompts throughout the book to guide you in taking action instead of merely reading. While I typically never do journal entry responses when called for (just being honest here), I liked the questions and considered them before moving through the rest of the book.

I will definitely keep this short read on hand as a field guide in the future.

A thing to remember: This book is not the only way to having a strong small group. Some of the tips may not be applicable, especially if you are not coming in as the single SGL a student will interact with. Lead Small is spelling out the ideal situation where one SGL leads the same group through whole stages of their groupies’ lives.

Another thing to remember: This book is all about the action of ministry and is not a theology book. It is also meant primarily for the North American church and American culture.

Review | Radical

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

Summary (from Goodreads)

WHAT IS JESUS WORTH TO YOU?

It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, what their new lifestyle would actually look like. They would, he said, leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily…

BUT WHO DO YOU KNOW WHO LIVES LIKE THAT? DO YOU?

In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple–then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a “successful” suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus.

Finally, he urges you to join in The Radical Experiment — a one-year journey in authentic discipleship that will transform how you live in a world that desperately needs the Good News Jesus came to bring.

Review | 3.5 stars

Radical is a challenging book that points out the flaws in the American dream and opens an important discussion on how the church should look as the body of Christ. Written in a convicting manner, Platt corrects using tough truths grounded in Biblical principles. I appreciate that he does not put up exact boundaries on how to live the Christian life, but instead encourages people to seek out ways to be involved in the local and international community of believers using whatever means necessary (e.g., finances, time, possessions). There is no exact science to living out faith (though some of Platt’s writing is quite formulaic), except that it is a calling to make Jesus known among all people. Platt gives lots of practical suggestions, sometimes compelling the reader to follow through on them. I did not appreciate that so much, but I see his angle.

There are a few proof-texty, misinterpreted scriptural sound bites, certainly, but the theme throughout the book is evident – idolatry of possessions, money, comfort, image, etc. should be cast aside to fully seek Jesus and live out a Gospel-centered life where we put others before self and point all people to him.

Radical is very focused on how we can work out our faith, going and making disciples. Let this part of my review serve as a reminder that you do need to take care of yourself, following Jesus’ example of resting and abiding in God’s presence. Don’t allow legalism a foothold, thinking that if you are not doing these things to make Jesus known, you are not really a Christian. Every person is vital to the church community and serves a different role. Not everyone is called to go out like Paul or Barnabas. That is still no excuse for not stepping out in faith in some way to bring Jesus to people.

Overall, 3.5 stars. There’s good, and there’s not-so-good. In the world of take it or leave it, I’d still take this one to keep on my shelf.

Review | The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts

by Gary Chapman

Summary (from Goodreads)

Simple ideas, lasting love

Falling in love is easy. Staying in love—that’s the challenge! How can you keep your relationship fresh and growing amid the demands, conflicts, and just plain boredom of everyday life?

In the #1 New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages, you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide. Whether your relationship is flourishing or failing, Dr. Gary Chapman’s proven approach to showing and receiving love will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner—starting today.

The 5 Love Languages is as practical as it is insightful. Updated to reflect the complexities of relationships today, this new edition reveals intrinsic truths and applies relevant, actionable wisdom in ways that work.

Review | 2 stars

The short of it: While I appreciate the 5 love languages quiz, I could have gone entirely without reading the book. It provides no additional insight beyond what’s provided in the quiz results.

Gary Chapman takes a haughty tone in recounting story after story of how his advice fixed marriages. I agree that sacrificial love has an important place in long-term, committed relationships and marriages; we cannot merely rely on the feeling of emotional love in every moment of our romantic partnerships. However, I do not care but for so many of the countless stories and recommendations. Many of the recommendations Chapman gives at the end of the chapters focused on the individual love languages are cold, calculating, and impersonal, leaving a sour taste at the conclusion of the book.

I would seriously recommend skipping the book and sticking with the 5 Love Languages quiz as a stand-alone.

Review | Unashamed

Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny

by Christine Caine

Summary (from Goodreads)

Shame can take on many forms. It hides in the shadows of the most successful, confident and high-achieving woman who struggles with balancing her work and children, as well as in the heart of the broken, abused and downtrodden woman who has been told that she will never amount to anything. Shame hides in plain sight and can hold us back in ways we do not realize. But Christine Caine wants readers to know something: we can all be free.

“I know. I’ve been there,” writes Christine. “I was schooled in shame. It has been my constant companion from my very earliest memories. I see shame everywhere I look in the world, including in the church. It creeps from heart to heart, growing in shadowy places, feeding on itself so that those struggling with it are too shamed to seek help from shame itself.”

In Unashamed, Christine reveals the often-hidden consequences of shame—in her own life and the lives of so many Christian women—and invites you to join her in moving from a shame-filled to a shame-free life.

In her passionate and candid style, Christine leads you into God’s Word where you will see for yourself how to believe that God is bigger than your mistakes, your inadequacies, your past, and your limitations. He is not only more powerful than anything you’ve done but also stronger than anything ever done to you. You can deal with your yesterday today, so that you can move on to what God has in store for you tomorrow—a powerful purpose and destiny he wants you to fulfill.

Join the journey. Lay ahold of the power of Jesus Christ today and step into the future—his future for you—a beautiful, full, life-giving future, where you can even become a shame-lifter to others. Live unashamed!

Review | 3 stars

While I enjoyed Caine’s book on shame, it didn’t present anything groundbreaking. I always appreciate the stories Caine captures in her books, and Unashamed delivers! Caine specifically focuses on how women are highly susceptible to feeling shame, and how we can learn from the Bible on how to combat it. Here are some of the points that stood out to me most.

Shame…

  • is fear of unworthiness
  • causes us to throw away the good gifts we have received
  • teaches us to hide ourselves like Adam and Eve hid in the Garden
  • stifles potential
  • lies to you
  • is not in our original design as those made in God’s image
  • is not the same as guilt; guilt is knowing an action is bad, while shame is incorrectly feeling that YOU are bad
  • makes us make excuses and blame others
  • loves silence and grows in secret
  • needs the mercy of Jesus

Jesus ministered to, was ministered by, and ministered with women. In fact, the good news that he was risen was FIRST given to women!

We need to seek out our wilderness to get to our promised land. God uses fear of the wilderness to grow us because it requires us to trust him. God’s goal is not to change our circumstances but to change us. There’s a difference between taking the slave out of slavery, and taking the slavery out of the slave. God uses the wilderness to take the slavery out of the slave!

Review | Holy Hustle

Holy Hustle: Embracing a Work-Hard, Rest-Well Life

by Crystal Stine

Summary (from Goodreads)

Work without Shame,
Rest without Guilt

Balance. It’s what we long for in our lives as we hear shouts of “Work harder!” in one ear, and whispers to “rest more” in the other. What if God’s plan for us isn’t just one way or the other?

Enter the holy hustle.

Crystal Stine followed the path to success as she climbed the corporate ladder. Now she explores “hustle” in a new light as a self-employed, work-from-home mom. She invites you to join her in experiencing…

renewed peace as you focus on serving, not striving
reawakened potential as you ditch comparison and embrace community
redefined purpose as you seek the roles God has for you

You were created to work with enthusiasm for the right reasons—and you were also made with a need to rest. Discover the place where these two sides meet in a happy, holy hustle.

Review | 4.5 stars

Stine’s engaging writing held my full attention for this refreshingly short and to-the-point book emphasizing the importance of harmony between rest and work. Holy Hustle gives great perspective on how we need to avoid laziness and cling to rest while also avoiding striving in favor of hustling. Drawing from multiple stories from the Old and New Testaments and much of the teaching of Jesus himself, Stine marries practical advice for balancing rest and work with the theology behind it. She includes many self-evaluations, writing prompts, and Bible reading assignments to guide the reader in their own discovery of what their personal rest and work will look like – Stine recognizes that each person rests and works in a unique way!

While Stine makes many key observations throughout the book, the most prominent is this: work is good, and rest is holy. Work is a mission field meant to bring glory to God! And we must use rest to be refilled, not as an excuse to be lazy.

Two of my favorite quotes:

Holy hustle means understanding the part of the work we’re responsible for.

We don’t need to do it all. We just need to do all of what God is giving us in this season.

I would highly recommend pairing with the 10-day YouVersion app devotional, or using the devotional as a follow-up to what you learn from the book.

Review | Grace is Greater

Grace Is Greater: God’s Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story

by Kyle Idleman

Summary (from Goodreads)

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” Over the centuries much ink has been spilled on the subject of grace. Yet perhaps nothing is as hard to explain as God’s grace. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair. It can’t possibly cover over what I’ve done. The best way–perhaps the only real way–to understand it is to experience it. But too often in our churches we’re not getting grace across and grace is not experienced.

Bestselling author and pastor Kyle Idleman wants everyone to experience the grace of God. Through the powerful medium of story, Grace Is Greater leads readers past their hang-ups toward an understanding of grace that is bigger than our mistakes, our failures, our desire for revenge, and our seemingly impossible situations. No sin is so great, no bitterness so deep that God’s grace cannot transform the heart and rewrite the story.

Review | 4 stars

Short read with real, relatable stories and good scriptural references. A great reminder of the grace given to us and HOW we can pass that to others. Well-written and practical.