Book Review · Books

Once You Go In

Some memoirs you read and wonder where has this particular author has been all your life. If you have been disenfranchised by the church, dealt with spiritual abuse, or are wanting to find a different church expression then this book might be calling out to you.

Carly takes you into her homeschooled world of Northern California. She’s always felt different, wanting to belong and one day when she discovers Pine Canyon Assemblies Of God Church she thinks she may have found a place to fit in.

This book is Carly’s journey into the world of the charismatic church. Her descriptions of what the services can be like is spot on and the peer pressure to speak in tongues even when you may think the whole idea to be weird is huge. When Carly does finally speak her special language she describes the spiritual high she gets from it and how everything else in life sort of fades away when she’s in that mode.

I recall when I visited a charismatic church and there was pressure to be slain in the spirit. When the piano player timed the music a little too, planned I sensed the whole sham that I felt it was. Were church goers truly under the Holy Spirit’s power, or was it a false spirit? Is having what looks like seizures truly a move of God, or demonic? I left that service with my charismatic interest snuffed out.

This church is Pentecostal and on fire for Jesus which includes speaking in tongues, long prayers and being monitored by the leadership. It’s all in love right? Carly’s parents are believers, but not as intense as this church body is. She longs for approval and to be seen as worthy, to be as spiritual as her youth pastor’s wife, that befriends her.

When something goes terribly wrong on a mission trip Carly tries to chalk it up to her not listening to the rules for the trip. Other things happen where logically she feels the leadership is being overly legalistic. Carly wants so badly to do the right thing that she brushes off her gut reaction.

How do you know when a church is unhealthy, or spiritually abusive? How do you stand up for yourself when your spiritual leaders have you under their spell of sorts (not an actual spell)? Carly deals with these vital topics and more.

I received my complimentary digital copy of Once You Go In by Carly Gelsinger from She Writes Press, care of NetGalley. The views expressed are of my own will and mine. I commend Carly for writing so candidly about her church experience and faith journey. It’s not easy to share such personal moments. Thank you for baring your soul, so others know they aren’t alone in their journeys to find their spiritual home, whether that’s in a church or in a park.

Book Review · Books

The Very Worst Missionary

If you love reading Sarah Bessey, Elizabeth Esther and Nadia Boltz-Weber’s memoirs on their outside the box Christian walks, then you’ll adore Jamie Wright’s memoir: The Very Worst Missionary. If you don’t squirm at the occasional colorful language then you’ll feel right at home reading Jamie’s account of her family’s fore into being Christian missionaries in Costa Rica. Jamie holds back nothing in her candid account of what it’s like to go spread the good news in a country already filled with Catholics.

Jamie is honest in sharing how she came to faith as an adult, having been brought up Jewish and how she met her high school boyfriend who later becomes her husband. Having grown up a PK I don’t know what it’d be like to discover Christianity as an adult with little kids, but I think she describes how easy it is to slip into the stereotypical suburban Christian mom role. The only problem is that Jamie can’t sit quietly and pretend to agree on everything. Jamie talks about what it’s like to move to a foreign country with little kids and the challenges of feeling at home in a new place.

This memoir spoke to me. I’ve gone on short term mission trips as a little kid to Mexico. Jamie brings up so many important points when it comes to the question of if having all the American Christians come swooping in to save and help the poor if it is truly helping, or merely enabling a reason for a country to not have to improve because foreigners will come in to give free aid. The other points she makes are thought provoking. It’s great to help others, but do we really have to travel to foreign countries if we have our own countrymen who are in need?

I received a complimentary digital copy of The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright from NetGalley. The views expressed are my own. This memoir is hilarious. I laughed, snorted, cried, giggled and wanted to shout, “Amen!” in agreement through so much of this book. One of my favorite parts of this memoir is the introduction of Knife. Best black cat name ever. I’m still shocked to hear a believer swear, but I’m not innocent in my use of language either. Sometimes a little flavor drives the point home, not to mention those parts made it even funnier. Needless to say I love snarky humor. Even snarky humor aimed at Evangelicals. I used to be one, but my faith has been somewhat of a chameleon.

Book Review · Books

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

I haven’t read the whole Chronicles Of Narnia series. Yes, it’s a shame since it was one of the earliest series my mom would start to read to me as a little girl. As an adult I had heard bits and pieces about C.S. Lewis and his marriage, but until I read this stunning historical novel about his wife, Joy Davidman I had no idea all it entailed.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis sucked me into Joy’s 1950’s world of New York. She was married to Bill with two little boys. Her and her husband were both writers. Bill was an alcoholic and a cheater. Joy was miserable, but did her best to try and keep the peace at home.

One day Joy has a spiritual conversation of sorts. She decides to write to C.S. Lewis some of her spiritual, Christian questions. She had read one of this books and thought he may be able to provide her some insight. This brings to life a correspondence between them that gets intense. Bill starts to get concerned, but when Joy’s health goes down hill she is told she must get away to rest. Of course Joy decides to go to the UK, to C.S. Lewis, to finally meet the man, the myth, the legend. Will meeting her new friend be all she hopes it to be? Will Joy and C.S. Lewis’ friendship blossom, or will the reality of being in person dampen their connection?

This novel is the best love story I’ve read in a long time. I’m not into romance novels, but this one is sweetly written, magical, suspenseful and leaves you feeling stunned after the last page. If you are a fan of C.S. Lewis and want to read a historical novel that will keep you reading nonstop, and it’s over 400 pages, then I highly recommend this beautiful novel.

I received a complimentary copy of Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan care of TLC Book Tours from Thomas Nelson. The opinions in this review are strictly my own. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this amazing book grab a copy from Amazon and check out more about the author, Patti Callahan. To get a sneak peak of the audio clips of chapters one and two: https://soundcloud.com/harperaudio_us/sets/becoming-mrs-lewis

Book Review · Books

LaLa Lovely

The title was different. LaLa Lovely. What kind of book would this be? Author, Trina McNeilly, compiles a collection of her essays about life and what it looks like to find beauty in life when all you feel you can see is pain. Her essays range from topics on friendship, family, creativity, self care, doubt, faith and more. Each chapter is graced with photos from her life. This book felt like a warm blanket on a chilly night. It keeps you warm, but eventually certain topics become too, hot, so you have to throw the blanket off and be honest with yourself. These essays are poetic, heart wrenching, inspiring and most of all written with love.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Faith Words. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. If you love memoirs, or essays on the above topics you will treasure this beautiful book. Thank you for sharing your heart Trina.

Book Review · Books

Forgiving God

If you have a special needs child this book will be a comfort to you, to know you aren’t alone. Hilary was a newlywed with the surprise of getting pregnant. She was excited for her child and becoming a mother. When she went in for an appointment the doctor had some hard news. Her son would have some health changes. Hilary’s faith was tested to the max coming to terms with her son, Jack’s health. She gives an honest overview of her spiritual struggle, her struggle as a new mom and how to view herself with a disabled child.

This memoir gave me a window into what it would be like from a parental standpoint what it’s like to have to have your child have to live for a time in the NICU. I was on the side of Jack. I didn’t get to go home right away for different health reasons. My parents had to deal with doctors, health scares and scrubbing up before being allowed to enter the NICU area. The hospital is not the world you want your baby to have to live in beyond being delivered.

I received Forgiving God by Hilary Yancey for free from Hachette Book Group Nashville in exchange for my review. This memoir packed an emotional punch. Hilary’s faith survived, but not all parents of special needs kids have their faith intact after the fact. I appreciate that Hilary didn’t sugarcoat her experience.