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Book Review: I Am Redeemed

This post was #sponsoredbyfaithwords. I was not required to give a positive review, so my review is my honest take on the book I Am Redeemed: Learning to Live in Grace by Mike Weaver.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity from Faithwords to read this book for free! I’ve enjoyed the other books that they’ve recommended to me as well, such as Pull it Off by Julianna Zobrist, Get Weird by CJ CasciottaYou Are Enough by Mandy HaleBeyond Blessed: God’s Perfect Plan for No Financial Stress by Robert MorrisDead Sea Rising by Jerry B. Jenkins, and the God Made Me series by Hannah C. Hall.

“…Story is the language of the human heart. That’s why movies and other kinds of media have such an impact on us. They can climb over or around or under some of the walls we put up so that we can receive a message” (186).

Mike Weaver of Big Daddy Weave, in collaboration with Jim Scherer, shares his story of discovering redemption in Christ.The first song I’ve ever heard from Big Daddy Weave was the song “The Only Name (Yours Will Be),” which goes, “When I wake up in the land of glory/ with the saints, I will tell my story/ there will be one name that I’ll proclaim.” Throughout every page of this book, I see that this song is true for Weaver’s life. All I can see is Jesus written in every word.

Although the book is about the story behind the song “I Am Redeemed,” Weaver includes the story of how he became interested in music in the first place and how the band started, along with his struggles and insecurities and the trials that his family has faced. You’re going to have to read the story yourself, but it is a story that has resonated with me and has inspired me on my own journey.

Truthfully, I could not put the book down until the last page. When I told my husband I had finished the book, he said, “Wow, that was fast!” I know! That night, I was falling asleep reading it. I would have rather found out what happened next than have gone to bed!

I was already a fan of Big Daddy Weave, but now, I feel connected to the band in a whole new way. How God speaks to Mike is similar to how He speaks to me: in pictures and in conversation. So when he talks about his conversations with God, I can totally imagine and understand what that looks like.

Unexpectedly, Mike’s story about his weight loss journey resonated the most with me. Believe it or not, that was my takeaway from this book. For the past couple of years, I’ve struggled with weight loss, more than I ever have before. I’ve been taking care of myself since January, and seeing tremendous results, but ever since reaching my goal weight, I haven’t been eating as well as I should have. Mike’s journey reminds me to celebrate the process and keep going! Since finishing the book, I have decided to detox from sugar and dairy products for this week, and I’m trying out a new workout program.

In addition to that interesting piece of inspiration, I also enjoyed all the people that are sprinkled within the book. If I Am Redeemed was a movie, we’d have cameos from Toby Mac, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, Caedmon’s Call, Zach Williams, Kari Jobe, and many more. He talks about them as if they were just ordinary people (as in, not famous) when he first met them. We all start at the beginning, and it was so cool to see how God used all of these people in Mike’s life to grow him and his faith.

I Am Redeemed: Learning to Live in Grace seems to have been written in a style that anyone can understand, but I think Christian readers would get more out of it. The book was a good message, that it’s not enough to know about Jesus. We have to have a relationship with Him, and surrender our whole lives to Him. That is how He truly redeems us.

“When I think about painful memories,” Weaver writes, “it no longer hurts to talk about them because they are not the same memories. The Lord changed each memory by showing me where He was in it. He showed me a new and right reality of what hat been there all along. I was just seeing it for the first time” (197).

You can order your own copy of I Am Redeemed here on the FaithWords website. Let me know what you think of it!


Picture taken from the FaithWords website

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Books

A Review of the Dystopian Novels in My Bookshelf

The novel I’m writing has taken an interesting turn. I went to ReNEW again this year, and I met with a literary agent, who read the first six pages of my book and gave me feedback. My takeaway from meeting with him was that my writing style is great, but that my book lacked direction. He asked me what genre it was, and honestly, I had no idea. It was sort of contemporary fiction, but there was a king involved, so was it fantasy?

When I got home from the retreat, I thought more about the direction of my novel. Experts suggest that to improve your writing, you should read. I acquired a free trial of Kindle Unlimited and decided to read whatever Amazon suggested to me.

The #1 book on my Kindle Unlimited suggestion list was A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. After reading it, I wondered why Amazon thought I was twisted enough to enjoy this story! Professors and the like have advertised this book to me as a Christian society gone wrong. However, it was not a Christian book at all. Atwood’s society uses the Bible to manipulate people, but I do not believe the government is Christian. They are so far removed from God that Offred doesn’t even know how to pray! Although it was not my favorite story, this tale encouraged me to explore the idea of what it would be like for God to actually be in this story. In a dystopian society, God is often removed, so is it possible for a dystopian society to exist if God is in control and He is going to redeem us before all of that happens?

While on Goodreads, I searched “Christian dystopian” to find an answer to my question. There’s not much of it out there, but after doing some research and asking my bookworm friends, there definitely is a hunger for it. One book from that genre was Counted Worthy by Leah E. Good. I was able to see the opposite of what I struggled with: The story was captivating in and of itself, but she does silly things like explain her jokes and include a preachy character (preachy characters are the ultimate downfall of Christian fiction). Reading this book confirmed that this genre would be a challenge, but it would be fun and appropriate for me to write.

After reading A Handmaid’s Tale and Counted Worthy, I realized that the only book that I enjoyed reading in high school was 1984 by George Orwell. I still had my copy from when I had read it in high school. Through this book, I thought again about what would happen if Winston was a Christian. I’m actually exploring the scene in Room 101 for my main character, who is a Christian and has just been charged by God to stand up for the truth no matter what. Would she still stand if they tortured her with her worst fear or her deepest grief? 1984 also taught me that a dystopia looks different for every generation. For the people who would have read 1984, which was written during World War II, a dystopian society looked a lot like socialism. For the people who would have read A Handmaid’s Tale, which was written in the 1980s, a dystopian society looked like women losing the rights they just fought for in the Feminist movement of the 1960s. What type of dystopian society would scare the masses today?

An obvious dystopian fiction series that I would read next was The Hunger Games. I learned a lot from this series about the structure that I’m supposed to use in the dystopian fiction genre, and how to craft a society that is purely evil but thinks everything is okay. I love how The Hunger Games ends, but the rest of the books sort of fall apart. Even though I didn’t enjoy the other two books in the series, I learned not to cut corners when writing dystopian fiction. You have to have a strong plot, and you have to carry it through until the end. You have to write what makes sense given the situation. Spoiler alert: They do not need to have a happy ending, and as a matter of fact, most of the time, they don’t.

I’m currently reading a novel that I consider Christian dystopian but is actually more SciFi because it involves human cyborgs and nanotechnology. I cannot wait to write about it next week! But until then, please send me recommendations so that I can continue to improve my craft. On my “to-read” list is the Divergent series, Brave New WorldAnimal Farm, and the Left Behind series.

Do you enjoy dystopian fiction? Why or why not? What is your favorite dystopian novel and why?


Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

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Books

Beyond Blessed: Give Your Budget a Heart Check

This post was #sponsoredbyfaithwords. I was not required to give a positive review, so my review is my honest take on the book Beyond Blessed: God’s Perfect Plan for No Financial Stress by Robert Morris.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity from Faithwords to read this book for free! I’ve enjoyed the other books that they’ve recommended to me as well, such as Pull it Off by Julianna Zobrist, Get Weird by CJ Casciotta, and You Are Enough by Mandy Hale.

Out of all the books I could have picked to review, I picked this one because it included a foreword from Dave Ramsey. My husband and I have followed Dave Ramsey’s financial advice since about a month before we got married. Because of his teaching, we’re debt free, and we’re making excellent progress saving for a down payment for our future house. Any book recommended by Dave Ramsey is a book for me!

Since I got the book before it was released, Dave Ramsey’s foreword wasn’t in it. However, I did enjoy reading the introduction from Robert Morris, founding senior pastor of Gateway Church in Dallas-Forth Worth. Beyond Blessed is a follow-up to Pastor Morris’ book The Blessed Life. Honestly, it was so refreshing to read a book from a megachurch pastor who didn’t preach the prosperity gospel. I’ve seen so many pastors pray over their wallets and ask for a donation to make their big church even bigger. Instead, Pastor Morris writes about his journey from humble beginnings to a church of over 39,000 active members.

God certainly has blessed Pastor Morris with an ability to teach us about our finances while also reminding us of our identity in Christ. He starts each chapter off with a word-picture, a parable, to introduce the topic. In each chapter, he debunks the myths of what the world says and what we’ve even been taught in church about money. While we all strive to be rich, he writes, “The rich are more likely to be on antidepressants or antianxiety medications than average working-class folks. Millionaires and billionaires commit suicide with shocking regularity” (15).

Pastor Morris spends the beginning of the book laying down the foundation of what it means to steward God’s money well. God owns everything, but He has entrusted His people with resources to be a part of His Kingdom. “Your little enterprise is an important part of a much larger conglomerate” (79). God has given us all responsibility over the resources, people, time, and energy with which He has blessed us. With this mindset, there is no comparison and no ownership.

While Dave Ramsey talks more about the financial aspect of money than the spiritual (although his teaching is biblical), Pastor Morris’ book truly digs deep into what the Bible says about how we should take care of our money. Using charismatic language that I personally agree with, he even discusses the demonic spirits that try to entice us to worship money rather than God. His teaching opened my eyes to what the Scriptures say about money, and how my perspective on money needs to change.

My favorite quote of the book, and a good summary of the book, is how Pastor Morris explains the gospel: “You see, contrary to what many would have us believe, the gospel is not a poverty gospel. Nor is it, as some preachers and teachers would have us think, a prosperity gospel. No, the good news of life in Jesus Christ is a provision gospel” (63). Praise God that He gives us enough. We don’t have to be rich or poor; we just have to have enough.

I recommend this book to anyone who has even a dollar to his/her name. Although I’ve written notes in it, I’m giving it to my husband so that we can talk about it and do a heart check about our finances. Beyond Blessed will be available on January 8, 2019. You can pre-order the book and also be entered to win a free copy here.

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Books

All the Feels of “Redeeming Love”

*WARNING: If you have PTSD due to sexual abuse, this post may be difficult for you to read. Proceed with caution.

If, for some reason, your emotions have been on the fritz, try reading Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It’s not like I have any trouble tapping into my emotions, but after reading this book, I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to feel every single emotion that the human heart could fathom.

Although this book was published in 1997, several people recommended this book to me because they know I’m writing Christian fiction. Each one of them told me it was a “good” book. Good? You all tricked me! It was exceptionally wonderful and altogether awful wrapped in five-hundred pages of an emotional roller coaster. But yeah, I guess you can describe that as “good.”

Some people did warn me that it was heavy, and I thank you for that. I just about lost my cookies on page 185.

Redeeming Love tells the story of Sarah, who was later named Angel when she was sold into prostitution at the age of eight. She finds herself in California during the California Gold Rush about ten years later, as the highest-prized prostitute in the Pair-a-Dice brothel. Through her experience dealing with customers and horrible bosses, she learns that she has no worth except what she could give to men, and that men want nothing from her except for her body. All that would change when Michael Hosea walks into her life and makes her his wife.

Without spoiling too much, the book is an example of the book of Hosea from the Bible. In that story, Hosea marries a prostitute as a means to show the people of Israel God’s love for them. When I look at Redeeming Love in that light, my heart breaks. It forces me to examine my own sin and pride, and remember how many times I have run from God and how many times I probably will still run from Him. I couldn’t help but think while reading this book that my heart is not any softer than Angel’s is.

The key in this book is the relentless love of Michael, who seeks in every moment to demonstrate God’s love to his wife. Even when she runs away, even when she commits the worst sins against him and exposes her past sins to him, he does not give up. When it is difficult for him, he turns to God and begs Him for help. His example of redeeming love helps to heal her soul. It is also obvious that God’s love is compelling him to love her, so that Angel could see the love of God and put her faith in Him.

Whenever I read a book, I like to think of my overall takeaway. So far, in the last month, two books from decades ago have made their way into my lap. Why am I reading A Handmaid’s Tale when it was written in the ’80s? Why am I reading Redeeming Love when it was written in the late ’90s? Well, I truly believe that God is challenging me to look at how much we have (or haven’t) progressed. In the ’80s, some people believed that they were one step away from a dystopia. Do we still feel that way, and if so, what can we do to change that?

Redeeming Love reminds me not to give up on those I love, even when they push me away, even when they do everything imaginable to make me angry. It also reminds me to continue to support and pray for ministries that are rescuing men, women, and children from prostitution around the world. I believe we have come a long way to show women their true worth, but I also believe that we have a long way to go. May God reveal His redeeming love to us, and help us to share that love with those around us. Amen.