Book Reviews, Nonfiction

How to Fix a Broken Record by Amena Brown | Book Review

“God’s story is about grace, adventure, peace, risk, courage, and trust, and that story is the best page-turner of them all.”

Your soul holds a massive record collection: melodies, rhythms, and bass lines. Memories that ask you to dance and memories that haunt you in a minor key. Lies that become soundtracks to your days while truths play too softly to be heard.

Spoken word poet Amena Brown’s broken records played messages about how she wasn’t worthy to be loved. How to Fix a Broken Record chronicles her journey of healing as she’s allowed the music of God’s love to replace the scratchy taunts of her past. From bad dates to marriage lessons at Waffle House, from learning to love her hair to learning to love an unexpected season of life, from discovering the power of saying no and the freedom to say yes, Amena offers keep-it-real stories your soul can relate to.

The hurtful words of others and the failures of your past often determine what record you play the most in your mind. Those painful repetitions can become loud at the most inopportune time, keeping you from speaking up, pursuing your dreams, and growing closer to God.
Recognize the negative messages that play on repeat every day in your mind. Learn how to replace them with the truth that you are a beloved child of God. And discover how to laugh along the way as you find new joy in the beautiful music of your life.

If my memory is correct (which you never know these days), I first heard Amena Brown speak a few years back at IF:Gathering in Austin. Among many things, she’s a spoken word artist and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from her at the conference.

Fast forward a few years and I’m so excited that she’s released another book and, that I get to share it with y’all! Sharing bits of her life, Brown reminds readers of important truths we can hold on to as believers. She’s honest, vulnerable and reading it felt like we were having coffee (tea for me) and chatting about all the things. There were several quotes that grabbed me on a variety of topics, but I’ll share this one.

“God understands the power of no. He is not a constant Yes God. Sometimes when God says no, it will hurt. It will sting. I will beg God to explain. Sometimes He never gives an explanation. In other moments, time will be the greatest explainer of all. Sometimes we ask God for things and He says no because He knows we can’t handle what we’re asking for. Because He knows what we’re asking for isn’t His best for us. Because it isn’t time. Because it isn’t good. Because God always knows better than we do.”

Truth! If you enjoy non fiction, make sure you add this to your pile!

What’s a recent memoir you really enjoyed?

(Thank you to Zondervan for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

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Book Reviews, Nonfiction

The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional by Sandra Byrd | Book Review

Why is it pretty much November? It was about 37 seconds ago that we were ringing in 2017. I need to know scientifically how this year went by so fast :). Outside of my time rushing woes, this time of year, I like to start thinking about reading plans and devos for 2018. If y’all are like me and thinking for yourself or Christmas gifts, I definitely recommend this latest devo from Sandra Byrd!

When was the last time you took a break to experience God’s love? To experience something is to live it, to encounter it, to understand it, to explore with our hearts, minds, and souls as well as with the five physical senses and our God-given spiritual ones. Every action we do with and for God, every good day and bad day, we walk hand-in-hand with God, experiencing Him.

Experiencing God’s love takes time. Love unfurls its blossoms in our lives when we concentrate all of our senses on the small gifts we pass by every day. Time slows, and we finally get to hear God’s beautiful background hum to our lives.

The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional helps you intentionally carve out those moments in your day to savor God and His love for you.

After going through several of the devotionals, I decided to start using it now, instead of waiting until Jan 1. Byrd’s devotional style and stories are relatable and her writing style engaging. Not only that, but I was truly encouraged by the truths she shared and the verses highlighted stuck with me throughout the day. Definitely what my hope is with any devotional!

If you’re looking for something daily to draw you closer to Jesus, I highly recommend this one!

(Thank you to Tyndale for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews

The Church of Small Things by Melanie Shankle | Book Review

(ICYMI: I switched blogs! I combined my blogs for this new writing and blogging chapter. You can find out all the details here).

What can I say y’all? I’m a big fan of Melanie Shankle. I mean, we both love Jesus, books, tacos and have a soft spot for Texas. That’s a bond Internet. Her blog and her podcast (with Boo Mama) are some of my favorite things. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried (emphasis on the laughing). Seriously, the podcast cracks me up (I mean, her love of Teddy’s Organic Rosehip Seed Oil convinced me to purchase my first non cooking oil ever in my life). But that’s what I love about story – God uses everyone’s story to impact others.

Her latest, The Church of Small Things, is seriously for anyone!

Is my ordinary, everyday life actually significant? Is it okay to be fulfilled by the simple acts of raising kids, working in an office, and cooking chicken for dinner?

It’s been said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.” The pressure of that can be staggering as we spend our days looking for that big thing that promises to take our breath away. Meanwhile, we lose sight of the small significance of fully living with every breath we take.

Melanie Shankle, New York Times bestselling author and writer at The Big Mama Blog tackles these questions head on in her fourth book, Church of the Small Things. Easygoing and relatable, she speaks directly to the heart of women of all ages who are longing to find significance and meaning in the normal, sometimes mundane world of driving carpool to soccer practice, attending class on their college campus, cooking meals for their family, or taking care of a sick loved one.

The million little pieces that make a life aren’t necessarily glamorous or far-reaching. But God uses some of the smallest, most ordinary acts of faithfulness—and sometimes they look a whole lot like packing lunch.

Through humorous stories told in her signature style, full of Frito pie, best friends, the love of her Me-Ma and Pa-Pa, the unexpected grace that comes when we quit trying to measure up, and a little of the best TV has to offer, Melanie helps women embrace what it means to live a simple, yet incredibly meaningful life and how to find all the beauty and laughter that lies right beneath the surface of every moment.

“But true success and prosperity comes when you are right where God wants you to be, doing what He has called you to do.”

Shankle has such a talent of drawing you in as a reader. Even if it’s a topic you don’t think you need – I’m telling y’all, she’s able to keep you interested (Example #234: I loved her books on marriage and motherhood). The overarching theme of Shankle’s latest is much needed. This idea of “church of the small things” is a beautiful reminder that God’s beauty, grace and love aren’t only found in the big moments and things in life. They are in the little pieces – whether those pieces cause you to cry from laughter or cry from hurt. The little pieces seem so simple, yet, all come together to create something beautiful.

I think you’ll be inspired and hopeful in your own story after reading more of Shankle’s story, so if you’re looking for a perfect Fall read (or a gift for someone), be sure to consider Church of the Small Things.

Also, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien are quoted, so yep.

Have you had a chance to read any of Melanie’s books? 

(Thank you to Zondervan for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson | Book Review

Bringing up issues remotely related to politics is always a tricky situation. It’s hard. It isn’t easy. But, my call to be the light is far more powerful than the fear of anything else.

Because I believe story is powerful and if we aren’t willing to talk about these stories, especially as believers, we are missing out on being leaders and light to the world.

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Benjamin Franklin

So with that, I present a book I will recommend to anyone and everyone. You know those books that light, stir or blast full flames onto an already existing fire? This is one such book. I’ll warn you, a lot of this book doesn’t leave you with warm fuzzy feelings, but instead lots of anger at injustice. (And if you read it and it doesn’t, then that’s another conversation for us to have)

But.

This is a story too important not to tell, to read and to pass along because there is good and hope in this world.

“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument.” Reinhold Niebuhr

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

The story itself will captive your attention, with Stevenson deftly weaving history, the case and other important stories. The story of Walter McMillian feels like a novel, that it couldn’t possibly have happened how it did, but this story was true and you’ll be inspired by the work and hope that comes from Stevenson. There’s a lot of work to be done, but stories like this encourage to keep moving forward and fighting the good fight.

When blatant corruption exists, mentally ill aren’t given treatment (and instead jailed), when states can legally try 13 year olds as adults and give them life in prison without parole (example, by 2010, “Florida had sentenced more than a hundred children to life imprisonment without parole for non-homicide offenses, several of whom were thirteen years old at the time of the crime. All of the youngest condemned children – thirteen or fourteen years of ago – were black and Latino. Florida had the largest population in the world of children condemned to die in prison for non-homicides.”), there is something desperately and morally wrong.

“Our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis of our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.” Thomas Merton

Here’s a few more quotes:

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

“My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.”

“The true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”

“It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent – strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering.”

“We have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent.”

And in case you’re wondering if I’m exaggerating at how important/excellent this book is, here’s a quick list of the awards won:

  • #1 New York Times Bestseller
  • Named one of the Best Books of the Year by: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, Esquire, Time
  • Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction
  • Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction
  • Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award
  • Finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize
  • Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize
  • An American Library Association Notable Book

Also, if you’re interested in checking out more, here’s the link to the Equal Justice Initiative.

What’s a recent book (either nonfiction or fiction) that had a dramatic impact on you?

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads