Saturday, October 14, 2017

Off the Shelf

A few notes on the books we've been reading recently.

When God Doesn't Fix It by Laura Story

When I asked for recommendations on what I should read next, immediately two of the Home Joys readers answered with When God Doesn't Fix It by Laura Story. One even offered to send me the book.

Laura was a newlywed with dreams for the future when her husband was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. Complications from brain surgery left her husband with permanent loss to his memory and vision.

I found When God Doesn't Fix It like a cup of cold water on a summer day. Laura doesn't deny the difficulties when faced with a problem that can't be "fixed."  She is honest about the stress both to her relationship with God and their marriage. But she shares so much truth on how God meets us in the dark places and how God can be glorified by our surrender to Him. Laura reminded me that even when I hate the story of pain and suffering I'm experiencing - this same story can be my greatest offering to God.

I had to push through the last few chapters. I guess I just wasn't all that interested in Laura's career as a worship leader and recording artist, but the first half of the book made it highly worthwhile and highly recommend it - even if you husband doesn't have a brain tumor. We all face dark places where we need reminded that God is still there.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A friend recommended When Breath Becomes Air saying that she thought I'd enjoy the book but wasn't sure now was the right time for me to read it because its topic was death. I reserved it from my library and it sat by my bed for a few weeks. But once I started reading, I inhaled the book in a few days.

When Breath Becomes Air is a beautifully written book by a brain surgeon who in his last year of residency found he had lung cancer. So, yes, it is a book about death - but not nearly as morbid as it sounds.

I thoroughly enjoyed the insight into brain surgery and the life-and-death decisions that a doctor must make. Kalanithi examines death, first from the perspective of literature, then as a doctor, and finally as a terminally-ill patient. In many ways his perspective on death echos Ed's. Kalanithi realized that all of us will face death, and even though he was only in his thirties, he decided he wouldn't waste the time he had by fretting over the time he had lost.

The prose and insight in When Breath Becomes Air is lovely, but there is some glaring holes in my opinion. Kalanithi briefly acknowledges God, but he writes from a secular perspective. There is no mention of an after-life or the power of God and prayer when faced with death. For this reason, while I loved the book and was glad I read it, ultimately it wasn't as soul-strengthening as the first book I mentioned.

Following Jesus in Everyday Life by Gary Miller

Have you ever looked for a book that could challenge your whole family to follow Christ in practical areas of life? Our family is reading through Following Jesus in Everyday Life. Written for developing countries, this is a manual designed to teach Biblical business principles along with practical aspects a godly life. With Scriptures, questions, and stories - this manual has been perfect to begin family discussions on a variety of topics. I highly recommend it.

Following Jesus in Everyday Life is available from TGS International.

Another book on the same vein is Create for Work by Bob Schultz which Ed read to the children last winter. Schultz shares stories from his years as a carpenter to show the joy in working for God. Even though it is written for boys - my girls benefited from it also.

Loyalty test

Loyalty Test by Romaine Stauffer

Most of us grew up celebrating George Washington the hero of the Revolutionary War. But what if you were a Christian living in the colonies who believed that God commanded you to honor the king, pay your taxes, and to kill no one?

Loyalty Test tells this unfamiliar side of history through the story of Christian Burkholder, a Mennonite minister living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the mid-1700's. The huge number of footnotes show that Romaine spent a many hours in research before writing this story. I often roll my eyes when reading historical fiction because the fiction is more evident than the history, but this book is an exception.

Our family thoroughly enjoyed Loyalty Test and, in our turbulent political scene today, I think it is a valuable book for anyone to read. We all need to decide whether our loyalty is to God or to a political system.

If you like Loyalty Test, you might want to read the story of how Christian came to America in Hidden Treasure. Both book available from CLP.
Tell me the stories of jesus

Tell Me the Stories of Jesus by Caleb Crider

As a family grows, sometimes things fall through the cracks. That is how I felt this winter when I realized my three-year-old didn't know even the most basic Bible stories. Somehow I had not read as much to her as the other children.

But then we bought Tell Me the Stories of Jesus and it became her favorite book. Soon she was asking me questions such as "Why don't we go visit Jesus? He loves little children." This hard-cover, full-color book is filled with stories from Jesus' life told on an easy-to-understand level. It will definitely be a well-loved book in our family for many years. Available from CLP.

What books are your family enjoying?

(This post contains affiliate links.)


  1. Had I been on the ball, I would have recommended αΊ„hen Breath Becomes Air. I grieved with you at the departure from faith that he seemed to have been raised with. I read it as I was going through the treatment for breast cancer spread to my lungs. I enjoyed his journey through medical school and residency and the way he processed being faced with his mortality at such a young age. I too wondered what tense to speak in. For example, I WAS an in-home caregiver, Released Time coordinator, etc. AM I still? WILL I ever BE again? One thing I concluded was that I WAS a child of God and follower of Jesus. I AM still and always WILL BE. Cancer changes many things , but it can´t change that!! Barb

  2. We're listening to Lemons by Melissa Savage. It's a story about a 10yo (or 11yo) girl whose mother has passed away. It does have some sad moments, but so far I've been able to blink away the tears and keep driving. It's a story about Big Foot, too....and we need to keep listening to find out if Big Foot is real or not. ;)

  3. You might also like to read Between Heaven and Healing Accepting God's Will for Danielle: A Mother's Journey by Melanie Boulis

  4. Thanks for these reviews, Gina. I hadn't heard of the books before so will keep a look out for them in our local library.

  5. Thank you for your recommendations! I just saw Loyalty Test in the mailer from CLP, and plan to get it when I order school books next. I'm planning to start going through American history with the children sometime next year, and Hidden Riches and Loyalty Test are on my list. Your review makes me excited to read it! We just read another book about Mennonites in Pennsylvania during the Revolution, which was the first I had ever seen from that perspective, and it made me think about what it would have been like. Unfortunately, the author doesn't seem to have done her research very well, as there were a lot of things that didn't seem authentic in the story. Good story, but not accurate, in our opinion, in the details, anyway. She probably got the major things right.

  6. I would recommend Death by Living by N.D. Wilson, A Small Cup of Light by Ben Palpant and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

  7. These all sound like excellent books. Currently I'm reading The Plain Choice by Sherry Gore. I had heard about it a lot and when I happened to see it at the library last week, I picked it up. We recently read Ten P's in a Pod, we found it to be very inspiring.

  8. A book we were given, though the author advised us to wait to read it, "Doctor, what if it were your Mother" written by Dr. Victor Vogel
    I do not know if it is quite right for your situation but possibly. We read a little about the book and felt such a confirmation that God had chosen Marlita's Dr. Dr Vogel cared about Marlita and our family and served us well, God led and we still follow Him especially through this valley.
    May God's continued grace be your portion.

  9. Another good read along this line is Off Script by Cary Schmidt. The back of the book jacket reads: "Discover ten decisions that will transform your perspective in the midst of your trial." We just heard Cary Schmidt at a couples' retreat this past weekend.

    Even though you and Ed have a wonderful perspective on your trial, I think you would enjoy this book and find encouragement through reading it.


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