Friday, May 28, 2010

book giveaway #8 winner!

Sorry about the delay on getting this posted ... The winner of Life, In Spite of Me is Wendy (comment #5)! Wendy, I'll be contacting you for your address so I can get this shipped out to you next week.

"the last christian" by david gregory

In 2088 AD, Abby Caldwell emerges from the Papua New Guinea jungle where she was raised as the daughter of missionaries after her entire tribe dies of a mysterious illness. She moves in with her cousin Lauren, a US congresswoman, and soon discovers that Christianity has all but disappeared in America. Abby quickly decides two things: 1) She needs to spread the Gospel in America, and 2) she needs to learn more about her grandfather Ray's death and the cryptic message he sent just days before he died. With the help of Sabin, Lauren's "life partner," and Creighton, a history professor, Abby delves into the mystery while trying to preach the Gospel--and finds herself hunted by a dangerous man.

I really enjoyed The Last Christian ... probably because it was largely science fiction! The America Abby returns to is one where people spend large amounts of time in virtual reality, where cars drive themselves, where disease is nearly eradicated, and where even brain transplants are becoming available. One of the aspects I enjoyed most was the challenge Abby faced when presenting the gospel to people who have no concept of sin or of their need for a Savior. While Gregory's world is fictional, many things he describes could very well be in our future ... and with this book, he challenges us to take another look and the Gospel and reexamine our own beliefs.

As for the plot, while I enjoyed it, I felt that parts were lacking. The "resolution" was fairly unaffecting, and I wasn't emotionally involved with the characters. Still, this was an engaging read that I would recommend. You can purchase it or read an excerpt here.

Should you read it? Yes, unless you can't stand science fiction.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

book club

I've always liked the idea of book clubs, but I've never been in one. Until now. My sisters, a friend, and I decided to start a book club this summer. We're still a bit fuzzy on the particulars, but we met at Tommy's Family Restaurant for supper yesterday to choose our first book. The winner? Forgotten God by Francis Chan. I'm very excited to read this book--I've had it for several months but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Since Val, Jamie, and Blendy don't have the book yet, we're meeting for our first discussion in two weeks. I'm looking forward to it!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

excellent questions!

I promise, the Lost posts will stop someday. Probably very soon. But for now, here's a great video about the unanswered questions of Lost.

Monday, May 24, 2010

the end

Well, friends, Lost is over. So many questions were left unresolved, but at this point, less than a day after viewing the finale, I find that I don't care so much about the questions because the finale was so emotionally satisfying. (If you watch Lost but for some insane reason haven't watched the finale yet, you might want to stop reading now. And then go to and watch the finale!)

The show went full circle, beginning with Jack's eye snapping open in the jungle and ending with Jack's eye closing in the jungle. (Yes, my sister did fairly accurately predict the last image.) Over the next few days, just about every Lost fan with a blog will be writing about the finale, and I want to get my two cents worth in, as well.

What worked:
  • Watching the characters "wake up" and remember their island lives in the Sideways world. Sawyer and Juliet's meeting was the best for me ... and they paid off Juliet's dying words to Sawyer in the season premiere. I also loved that Charlie and Claire got to be together again.
  • Hurley's grin when he saw Charlie (who, ironically, didn't actually "wake up" until he touched Claire, even though he set the chain in motion by "waking up" Desmond), followed closely by Jin's expression when he saw Sawyer.
  • Kate and Jack professing their love for each other and their final kiss. 
  • The Smoke Monster/NotLocke's comment to Jack about being the chosen one, which perfectly reflected what I thought last week when Jack volunteered to take Jacob's place: "I expected to be more surprised. You're kind of the obvious choice, don't you think?" That made the Hurley twist at the end even sweeter. 
  • Hurley invites Ben to help him take care of the island. And then Ben apologizes to Locke for killing him. Ah, Ben ... you really did become a good guy, didn't you?
What didn't work:
  • Titanic? Seriously??? I hated Titanic thirteen years ago, and I hate it today. (I'm actually okay with what the Sideways world ended up being ... I think ... but when I made the Titanic connection, I just about lost it. Just ask Blendy!)
  • Shannon is Sayid's true love? I don't buy that for an instant.
  • Where were Michael and Walt?
All in all, great show, satisfying finale. At least that's what I think today ...

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    book giveaway #8!

    This is the last book giveaway for a while, as WaterBrook Multnomah is retooling their Blogging for Books program. The book I'm giving away is ... drum roll, please ... Life, In Spite of Me! That's right, I'm giving away a book I've already reviewed--because I forgot to post this earlier this week! So, check out my review, and if you're interested, get your comments in by Tuesday, May 25.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    "life, in spite of me" by kristen jane anderson

    When Kristen Anderson was seventeen, she attempted suicide by lying down on the train tracks near her home. Miraculously, she survived, but she lost both of her legs. Life, In Spite of Me is her story.

    Anderson traces the events and emotions that brought her to the point where she felt suicide was her best option. But the main focus of the book is her life after the suicide attempt. She is honest about the struggles she has faced, but the book overflows with the peace and joy she has found in Christ.

    I really enjoyed this book. It's a very easy read, and though anyone could enjoy it, I think it would be especially good for teen girls. I know I would have benefited from reading a story like Anderson's when I was a teen. Though I never struggled with depression myself, I had friends who did, and I think learning about someone else's struggles would have helped me understand theirs. Anderson understands the pressures that surround teens in high school, and after some chapters, she writes letters directly to those who face depression, heartache, or suicidal thoughts.

    Should you read it? Yes, especially if you've been depressed or you know someone who has.

    Below is a video of Anderson telling her story:

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    book giveaway #7 winner!

    Congrats, Kate! You win Indivisible. It'll be waiting for you when you come back from across the pond!

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    "indivisible" by kristen heitzmann

    Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann is a character-driven mystery. Piper, a young woman who just moved to Redford, Colorado, finds two dead raccoons on her running path and alerts the police chief, Jonah Westfall. When Jonah discovers the raccoons were sewn together while still alive, he brings in the town’s new veterinarian, Liz, for help. Soon other animals are found in a similar state to the raccoons, and Jonah worries the killer may target humans next. Meanwhile, he contemplates beginning a relationship with Liz, since Tia, the woman Jonah loves, seemingly wants nothing to do with him.

    And that’s pretty much all I can say without giving away major plot points! Heitzmann chose to dole out information sparingly, slowly revealing the characters' motivations and back stories, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. (I’m not saying this is bad, though—I’d much rather be a little confused than figure out the mystery right away!) Heitzmann crafted a mystery that kept me guessing throughout, and her characters are fleshed out and relatable. Those factors together made this book intensely enjoyable. I’d only read one or two of her books in the past, but this book made me want to read more of her work. This was easily one of the best fiction books I've read recently. (You can read the first two chapters here to get a taste.)

    Should you read it? Yes, if you like mystery/suspense. (Just be warned that it gets a bit gruesome. It’s not at all graphic, but if you have a vivid imagination, you’ll have no trouble picturing the mutilated animals.)

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    dear damon & carlton,

    (Note to all you non Lost-obsessed readers: 1. Damon and Carlton are Lost's producers/masterminds. 2. I promise I won't write about Lost too often. But for now, just humor me ... I'm sure I'll soon post something you're more interested in. Speaking of, be sure to enter the most recent book giveaway! 3. If you subscribe via Google Reader, I apologize for the unfinished post--though you might not ever see this apology since you already got the first version--I accidentally hit ctrl+p instead of ctrl+i, and it posted before I was ready!)

    After watching the recent carnage on Lost, I have four words for you: Jack better not die.

    As Lost wraps up (only 3 1/2 hours to go), I knew that some beloved characters would die. Sayid's death didn't surprise me at all, and I was pleased to see him snap out of his "funk" in order to save several other characters. If Lapidus is truly dead (and I don't see how he could survive the hatch door to the face which knocked him out in a waterlogged and sinking sub), his death didn't have much of a punch, sandwiched as it was between the deaths of three main characters. I couldn't believe Sun & Jin died as they did, especially just one episode after finally being reunited. Their deaths made me realize that no one is safe ... except, hopefully, Jack.

    In the past few days, I've been considering the deaths that are sure to come. While I love many of the characters, I've come to the conclusion that there's only one death I won't be able to stomach: Jack's. Kate? I could do without her--especially if she isn't going to end up with Jack. Claire? She's hardly been part of the show for so long that I don't care so much about her anymore. Miles? He's hilarious, but I've never been completely invested in him. Sawyer? I love Sawyer ... and his death would make me sad. But if I had to choose between Sawyer and Jack I'd choose Jack in a heartbeat. Desmond, Penny, and little Charlie? They are a wonderful little family, and I'm glad they got their "happily," even though they might not get the "ever after." Again, their deaths would be tragic, but not a deal breaker (though perhaps Desmond's "special" nature will keep him from dying???). Ben? I used to scream for his death--literally. He seemed so evil. But now he's had a bit of redemption, and I'd like for him to live. Something tells me he won't make it to the final scene, though, and I'm okay with that. And Hurley? Losing Hurley would smart ... but again, I'd choose Jack over Hurley.

    Bottom line: If Lost ends as my sister suggested tonight, with a shot of Jack's open, dead eye to mirror the pilot's first shot of Jack's eye opening in the jungle, I'm going to be very upset. (Though I must admit, I do like the idea of the series ending with a shot of Jack's eye, as long as he isn't dead!)

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    book giveaway #7

    The next book giveaway is Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann. I was up until the wee hours of the morning finishing this one--not because I was on a deadline but because it was so good! It's a mystery featuring great characters and pretty prose. I know some of you are Heitzmann fans, so get your comments in! The giveaway closes this Friday.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    book giveaway #6 winner!

    With the help of the random number generator at, I've selected the winner of Radical: Future Dwight!  No, the winner isn't Rainn Wilson or John Krasinski; in this case, it's the pseudonym of my little sister Val. So, Future Dwight, I'll give you your book when you join me for the antepenultimate episode of Lost tomorrow night.

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    "radical" by david platt

    I almost didn't read Radical. When I got the invitation to review it, I let the email sit in my inbox for a couple days. I'd rather read and review fiction. Fiction is easy to read. I knew that Radical would be hard. I knew that it would challenge me.

    I'm so thankful I sent a "yes" response. I was right--Radical wasn't easy to read. It did challenge me. And I think that ultimately it will change me.

    Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt is a book that I believe every Christian should read. I read with a pen close by, and I may well have underlined more in this book than in any other I've read. Everything Platt has to say is thought provoking and at times cringe inducing. There's no way to cover everything, so I'll just hit on a few points that struck me:
    • Platt challenges our Americanized view of Jesus, a Jesus who we think wouldn't really ask us to give up our jobs, our families, or our possessions, saying, "We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with ... But do you and I realize what we are doing at this point? We are molding Jesus into our image" (p. 13).
    • Platt completely blew out of the water my main objection to foreign missions: I'm not called. WRONG! The Great Commission isn't a suggestion. It's a command. That doesn't mean that I have to pack up and move to Timbuktu, but it does mean that I'm supposed to share the gospel ... and not just in my own backyard (though that's a great place to start)!
    • In chapter seven, Platt very logically lays out why we need to share the gospel, going beyond the command itself. I've heard people question why God would send someone who has never heard about Jesus to Hell, and using Romans as a basis for his arguments, Platt basically shoots their protestations down. Taking that question to the extreme, Platt says that if that were true, then evangelism would be stupid. He gives the example of a foreign exchange student who arrives in America never having heard of God or Jesus. If not having heard of God would give a person a free pass to Heaven, then it would be logical to tell that student that "If anyone tries to tell you about Jesus, just put your hands on your ears, start yelling very loudly, and run away!" (p. 149). Ridiculous! As someone who teaches international students, some of whom have never heard of Jesus prior to arriving on our doorstep, I can't imagine doing that! 
    • Platt also tackles the question of finding God's will for our lives. This is something I've struggled with many times, but Platt says that's the wrong question to be asking. Rather, in the grand scheme of things, we know what God wants us to do: go share the gospel. So instead, we should ask ourselves if we're willing to obey God's will.
    • At the end of the book, Platt introduces "The Radical Experiment." This is a challenge to the reader--something to commit to for one year. Platt asks the reader to do five things: Pray for the entire world; read through the entire Word; sacrifice money for a specific purpose, spend time in another context, and commit to a multiplying community. I intend to take the challenge, and I hope you will, too. More information on the experiment can be found here.
    Along with Radical, I also received The Radical Question, a small booklet adapted from Radical. It's an excellent introduction to Platt's ideas, and I think that had I read it first, I would have been even more excited to read Radical. The best part about it is it's free! You can request your free copy here.

    Should you read it? Without a doubt!

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

    Sunday, May 2, 2010

    he wants me to pray, to give, and to go

    That song, which we used to sing at my church during missions conferences (I've tried to find it online to no avail), has been running through my head recently. I'm not sure about the "go" part yet, but let me tell you about a couple "pray" and "give" opportunities that have been in my heart recently.

    One Girl
    One Girl is a prayer initiative of Tiny Hands International, a humanitarian organization. Their mission statement reads: Tiny Hands is a Christian non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the church in the developing world to help the poor overcome poverty and become lights of the world.  We are committed to finding the greatest injustices in the world, and working towards relieving them however possible.  We are particularly called to orphans, street children, and the victims of the sex-trafficking industry. We want to find those who are already doing the work, who are called and faithful, and help them do it in greater ways and with more efficiency. We do it all in obedience to, and for the glory of Jesus Christ. 

    One Girl focuses on the 10,000 girls who are trafficked from Nepal to brothels in India each year. One Girl asks people like you and me to "spiritually adopt" one of these girls. For $10, they'll send you a bracelet that was made by one of the girls that has been rescued from sexual trafficking, and the bracelet serves as a reminder to pray. Of course, you can commit to pray without buying a bracelet, but I've found that my bracelet continually brings these girls back to my mind. The bracelet also gives me an opening to talk to people about trafficking; whenever someone comments on my bracelet, I tell him or her why I wear it.

    A coworker first told me about One Girl last fall, and a local Christian radio station spotlighted the ministry during April. More than 1100 people signed up to pray!
    Pray for Kate
    Kate McRae is a little girl who is battling brain cancer. I first heard of her through Stuff Christians Like. I read SCL every day, but normally I get it through Google Reader and don't actually go to the website. One day, though, I went to the site, and I saw the "Pray for Kate" banner at the top. Curious, I clicked on the link ... and I "met" an amazing little girl and her family.

    Kate is currently undergoing proton radiation treatments in Houston. Though I read the Caring Bridge journal that Kate's mom Holly updates, I can't even begin to fathom what this family is going through. All I can do is pray ... and ask you to also pray.     

    Saturday, May 1, 2010

    book giveaway #6 ... and a free gift for everyone!

    The next book I'm giving away is Radical by David Platt. I'm about halfway through it right now, and it is so challenging and convicting. Platt's purpose is to show how the American "brand" of Christianity isn't true Christianity at all, but rather an extension of the American Dream. He then challenges Christians to live out an authentic faith. I'm reading with a pen close by, and I've marked up the book with underlining, questions, and notes.

    Read the first chapter here, and then leave a comment by Friday, May 7, if you'd like to win a copy.

    Also, everyone can get a free copy of "The Radical Question," a short booklet adapted from Radical (while supplies last). You don't even have to pay for shipping! Click here to get yours. Learn more at

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”