What women need to hear about beauty: Review of Enough Already by Barbara Roose

Enough-Already-252x378I will be the first to admit that I don’t really care for books about beauty or modesty or self-image. But this new book by Barbara Roose grabbed me with its title, Enough Already, a clever play-on-words that says to me “stop the beauty madness!” and “you don’t have to do anything else to be beautiful; you already are.” (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my review.)

And Roose delivers on those two statements with candid and compassionate truth about our “ugly struggle with beauty.”

Roose is honest about her own struggles with beauty and what she sees as her own imperfections. I immediately connected with her writing voice and think she’d be a fun person to know. When talking about beauty and image struggles, I need someone who has been there and gets it. And she does. She writes:

One of the reasons I share my stories is to give you permission to drag your stories and your beauty narratives out into the open so that you can stop struggling alone. (p. 27) BRoose-292

Even the women we think are the most beautiful have a beauty narrative that defines their self-image. I’m a fan of sharing those stories and working through them together, instead of seeing beauty as a competition. Roose devotes a chapter to relationships with other women at various levels, from friends to mentors, and gives guidelines for how those relationships can develop.

One of the most valuable parts of the book for me was the acronym C.A.R.E.S.–clothing, appetite, rest, exercise and smile. None of these areas felt like impossible goals. I could see in each area something I could do to take better care of myself. One of the things I love about the book is that it doesn’t separate the physical from the emotional or spiritual. Roose does not focus only on inner beauty and ignore outward care of our bodies. Hers is a holistic approach, and that’s why her book stands out for me.

Enough Already contains questions for personal reflection and group discussion at the end of each chapter, and all of them are thought-provoking. Check this one out if you’ve had enough of the beauty battles waging in your mind or in the media!

And read on for a giveaway opportunity! There’s still a few more days to enter!

Learn how to recognize your own outer and inner beauty as defined by God, not the media or others, in Barbara Roose‘s new book, Enough Already. What would it take for you to believe you are enough already? Most women know God loves them, but might he love them more if they finally lost that last ten pounds, or got their hair to lay right, or finally found a pair of jeans that looked good and let them breathe? Well, maybe God doesn’t care about jeans, but women do, and all the talk about inner beauty hasn’t kept all of us from staring into a mirror and taking an inventory that never quite measures up.

Barbara is celebrating the release with a giveaway! One reader will receive a cash card and writing supplies for her own inner-beauty weekend getaway!

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One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A $100 cash card for your own inner-beauty weekend getaway
  • A notepad/pencil set for your inner-beauty quiet time
  • A copy of Enough Already

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 12th. Winner will be announced April 13th on Barbara’s blog.

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{NOT ON FACEBOOK? ENTER HERE.} 

A double dose of encouragement: The Art of Work by Jeff Goins and Do Over by Jon Acuff

I realize that any kind of post on April 1 is in danger of being taken as a joke, but trust me when I say, my reviews of these two books are NO JOKE! Just suspend your April Fools’ Day self for a few moments and read about these two books that unintentionally collaborate to create a whole new idea of work and purpose.

I will admit that with both of these books, The Art of Work by Jeff Goins and Do Over by Jon Acuff, I did not have myself in mind at first because I work at home as a mom and more casually as a writer. But the messages of both felt pertinent to this stage of life for our family. I am not one bit sorry I ordered either of these books. (I received an advance electronic copy of both for pre-ordering, so I’m not even required to review these books, but I want you to know all about them!)

Some background: I often feel bad about being in my 30s and not having a stable career or years of “tenure” built up at a company. The most I can boast is 7 years at the same newspaper, which felt like a lifetime, sometimes. I grew up thinking that you gave your life to a corporation or an organization, and if you didn’t find that out right after college, you were doomed to fail at life. (Okay, maybe there’s a little drama there.)

That’s no longer the narrative of the working world. And both of these books contain messages that are right and good for the times we live in.

art of workSo, first up: The Art of Work.

Rarely do I breeze through a non-fiction book, especially one that’s more business-minded. But that’s what I love about Jeff Goins’ writing. It’s creative, inspiring and encouraging, and not once while reading The Art of Work did I find myself bored or the writing dull.

The Art of Work will change your idea of calling and propel you toward embracing your purpose. Goins’ principles and observations are so simple they should be obvious but I found myself renewed and challenged by his way of thinking. Thoughts like calling being a journey and not a one-time event and how a life lived in multiple arenas is not chaotic but a portfolio. I will refer back to this book often to practice the principles and listen to my life.

If you’re not sure your life has a plan, or you’re following a plan and now find yourself lost, or you’re facing a career transition, this is a book that needs to be in your hands, not just on your shelf. Goins lays out an easy-to-follow guide that can be tailored to whatever your life entails. It’s not a how-to book in that it will give you a list of steps to follow to find your calling. It’s an invitation to listen and act based on what is already a part of your life.

I’d give this book more stars if I could! (I gave it five on Goodreads!)

Second: Do Overdo over

You guys. Jon Acuff. I have read his blogs but not any of his books, and for that I am now sorry. Acuff is funny and this book is full of his quirky humor. But it’s also practical and encouraging. Somehow (magic?) he presents useful and challenging tools for whatever job situation you might be facing without sugarcoating how hard it is to make changes. I laughed. I agreed. I groaned.

And I got excited.

Because Acuff’s book is motivating and enabling. If you walk away from his book without feeling powerful about work and career, it’s not his fault. It’s yours. I am convinced I can pursue my dreams using skills, relationships, character and hustle. And because I was reading an electronic copy, I look forward to going back over the exercises when the hard copy arrives after the book releases next week.

Acuff speaks from personal experience and tells the good and the bad in a humble and honest voice. We can learn from his mistakes and set ourselves up for a career we love.

An enthusiastic five stars for this one, too.

I have no idea if these two authors were aware of each other’s books releasing relatively close to one another, but their messages are complementary. You certainly don’t have to read both books or read them together, but if you’re feeling stuck or lost or overwhelmed by your work, I’d recommend taking a look at both of these books and letting them help you walk through the next steps.

This might be the first time in my life I read two back-to-back business-type books in a matter of days.

Messes can become miracles: Review of More by Tammie Head

WhMORE coveratever the mess, God can work a miracle.

Author and Bible teacher Tammie Head knows firsthand because that’s what happened to her. She tells a bit of her story and encourages others to believe in God’s goodness and power to heal in her book MORE: From Messes to Miracles. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

It’s a passionate plea to not let your past or present circumstances keep you from the life God intends. More is encouraging and strengthening for anyone wondering if the life they have is all there is.

And the book is full of inspiring word art. I think my favorite one is this:

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It’s hard to read this book and not catch Tammie’s joy and enthusiasm for Jesus. If you’re in the middle of a mess, let Tammie’s words lead you to more.

Read on for a Q&A with the author to find our her heart for this message. head, tammie

1. What do you want readers to learn from reading your book?

People everywhere are looking for something more. Churched and nonchurched alike. They’re in the grocery store aisle behind you, in the nail chair beside you, singing praise songs in front of you, and perhaps in the mirror staring back at you. People feel messy; plagued by looming feelings of ineffectiveness, indifference, depression, and purposelessness. However, all of us were made for more than surviving. Old stale religion never satisfies. Neither do the solutions the world has to offer. What all of us need is an encounter with God that reveals truth and sets our hearts ablaze. I have seen this in my own life as well as in countless lives around me.

2. Your life was a bit of a mess before you came to know Christ. How has He used your story to advance His kingdom?

I have watched God use my story repeatedly as a tenderizing agent for hardened hearts toward God. People cannot believe what God has done for me. In turn, I have also been privileged to lead many people to Christ, to the One who changed me. People are glad to know God loves and pursues even the messiest of people.

3. What encouragement do you have for men and women who feel like their lives are too messy for God to use?

If God can use me, He can use anyone! But even more profound than “He can” is this: He wants to! God specializes in taking the most broken of lives and turning them around for His glory. The Bible is full of broken men and women who, after encountering the Lord, were used dramatically by God and for His kingdom.

4. What encouragement do you have for men and women who are yearning to have more in their lives?

The more we’re longing for, at the end of the day, is God. More of His presence. More of His love. More of His power. And so on! What I want men and women to know is God wants “so much more” of us than we could ever want “so much more” Him. The deal is, we must risk making more room for God. The key is sitting with Him, soaking Him in, allowing Him to minister to us on a deep level and, lastly, deeply surrendering our lives to Him day-by-day.

5. What are some resources for readers who are ready to take the next step and start living for more?

I have written a Bible study called Duty or Delight: Knowing Where You Stand with God. I think that would be a great resource for digging deeper into more of a relationship with God.

6. Where can readers connect with you online?

Readers can connect with me at several social media sites. Twitter: @tammiehead Instagram: @tammiehead Facebook: Tammie Head My website and blog: tammiehead.com

Help for making nutritious food for families: Review of Supermarket Healthy cookbook

I became a fan of Melissa D’Arabian years ago when she was a contestant on Next Food Network Star, and though I never got a chance to catch her show, I appreciated her food philosophy: healthy, affordable meals for a family. (D’Arabian has four kids!)

supermarketHer new cookbook, Supermarket Healthy, is a handy resource for families who want to make the most of their grocery budget without resorting to the nutritionally lacking pre-packaged meals that are often cheaper but not necessarily better. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the cookbook from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my review.)

D’Arabian offers practical tips for both the shopping and cooking phases of preparing a meal, and those tips are scattered throughout the recipes. I remember her offering these sorts of shortcut tips and tricks on the show, too. One of my favorites from the book is to always add the liquid first in the blender when making a smoothie because it creates a vortex. Previously, I would add the chunkiest ingredient, thinking it needed to be closest to the blades.

And let’s talk about the recipes. While some are a bit out of reach (and maybe more do-able in an area like California, where D’Arabian lives, because of more access to fresh produce year-round), I’ve already found some new favorites.

I’m not much of a smoothie person when it comes to breakfast but the Caffeinated Coffee-Oat Smoothie was a delicious and satisfying start to my day. I wasn’t sure it would fill me up for a morning, but it did! Super easy to make (as long as the blender is clean!) and filling. With a little do-ahead prep (cooked oatmeal), it’s pretty much a snap.

For breakfast, I also tried to Healthy Breakfast Benedict, a twist on one of my favorite breakfast dishes, eggs Benedict. This one uses spinach and a basil-cream sauce. I think this one could have been better because I didn’t properly execute the poached eggs. I usually fry my eggs, so my poaching skills are a little rusty.

Tuna Noodle Bowls was probably my favorite of the ones I’ve made so far. Our family is a big fan of tuna noodle casserole, especially on dreary winter days. It’s a comfort food that warms you from the inside out. The recipe we typically use is heavy and full of processed cheese and canned soups. So, I was eager to try D’Arabian’s take, which uses reduced-fat cream cheese, a leek and fresh lemon juice, among other ingredients. It’s a refreshing twist on the comfort food I love. Still comforting but with flavorful bursts of citrus that lighten it up. Like sunshine breaking through on a cloudy day.

I notice this trend in D’Arabian’s recipes: fresh ingredients full of flavor. And that’s part of what excites me about her recipes. I look forward to using even more of them as we move into spring and start to see more fresh produce at the farmer’s market and in the stores.

Other recipes I tried were the Poached Chicken Puttanesca, which used an olives, capers and tomatoes sauce, and Spicy Honey-Mustard Chicken, which was a last-minute dinner idea one night not long after I got the book. Both were satisfying dinners the family enjoyed.

I’ve yet to try any of the snacks, soups or desserts, but this cookbook will continue to be in my rotation for meal planning. I also hope to make more use of the pantry list at the beginning of the book so that some of these recipes are more accessible on short notice.

Overall, another winning cookbook from the Food Network folks.

You can read an excerpt here.

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Melissa d’Arabian was a corporate finance executive before becoming the host of Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners and Cooking Channel’s Drop 5 Lbs with Good Housekeeping. She also developed the FoodNetwork.com seriesThe Picky Eaters Project, serves as lead judge on Guy’s Grocery Games, and is the author of the New York Times bestselling cookbook Ten Dollar Dinners. Melissa has an MBA from Georgetown University, and lives with her husband and their four daughters in San Diego.

One man’s story of growing up in church: Review of Churched by Matthew Paul Turner

churchedMatthew Paul Turner is known for his humorous takes on Christian culture, so before I tell you anything else about this book, keep that in mind. In Churched, Turner tells the story of his childhood in a fundamental Independent Baptist church, including stories of getting a “Baptist” haircut, door-to-door evangelism, and “the bad part” of the movie Ben-Hur. (Disclaimer: I recieved a free copy of the book from Waterbrook Multnomah through the Blogging For Books program in exchange for my review.)

I found the stories comical and wondered if they were a bit exaggerated through Turner’s lens of humor. But knowing that his writing is based in humor, I didn’t take everything at 100 percent face value. Nor do I think that’s necessarily the point.

Turner’s stories of fundamentalism through a child’s eyes needs humor in the telling because some of his experiences are so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh. Still, it’s not all laughs. Turner wrestles with some serious themes like hell and death and salvation. Churched doesn’t tell the entire story of Turner’s spiritual life but chronicles his rocky relationship with church. I appreciated the concluding chapter that gives us an idea of what church is like for him now as an adult.

Churched is an interesting (and short) read. Fans of Turner’s blog will enjoy his stories, as will anyone who grew up in a similar environment and has now left it. I don’t know if it’s a book I would recommend to everyone but it is a good illustration of how church can be hard, even for someone who was raised in it.

You can read Chapter One here to see if it’s for you, and if you don’t already, you can follow Matthew Paul Turner on Twitter.

How ordinary obedience changed the world: Review of 50 Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha

50women-545x817I never liked history until I started learning about people instead of just dates and events. Stories are powerful teaching tools for me, and Michelle DeRusha’s book, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know, is a valuable resource for families, churches, and individuals who want to inspire their spiritual journeys. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from Baker Publishing in exchange for my review.)

I did not grow up in the church, so stories of faith that some may have known since middle childhood and the teen years are still new to me. DeRusha’s book chronicles women who lived from the 11th Century to the 21st Century and paints a picture of the spiritual experiences that shaped them. With many of the women, DeRusha’s short biographies were a catalyst to find out more information, especially writers like Dorothy Sayers and Flannery O’Connor, names I know but have never read.

50 Women contains familiar names like Corrie ten Boom and Mother Teresa and less familiar ones like Hildegard of Bingen, a German nun, and Phoebe Palmer, founder of New York City’s Five Points Mission. How a person even chooses 50 stories for a project like this is a feat I can applaud. I’ve never had so much fun learning history.

It’s a daunting book, not because the stories are dull but because they are rich. I found that if I read too many stories in a row, I became overwhelmed, both by the amount of information and the challenge to my own life. A glut of inspiring stories is dangerous to a comfortable life.

And yet, so many of the women lived ordinary lives that reflected an extraordinary obedience. Many of the stories were connected through time, as women influenced each other’s journeys. And all of them have application for women today.

I could see this book as a homeschool resource or maybe even a Sunday School resource. I think it also could be read devotionally. Each story is short and could be used weekly to encourage an individual’s spiritual walk.

I have great respect for the author of this book. The amount of information she must have had to condense into a few pages for each woman’s life!

Don’t be intimidated by a book of this size and quality. Let it enrich your spiritual life.

Refreshing thoughts on outreach: Review of How to Pick Up a Stripper by Todd and Erin Stevens

stripperRequesting a book with a title like this, How to Pick Up a Stripper, is a bit risky. First, your first-grader will try to read the title out loud and you’ll worry that she’ll ask what a “stripper” is and you’ll have to start an uncomfortable conversation. Second, you won’t want to read it in public lest someone get the wrong idea. And third, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find the content is way more practical than the gimmicky title might suggest. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the Booklook Bloggers program in exchange for my review.)

Though Todd Stevens’ wife, Erin, did start a ministry to show kindness to women working in a nearby strip club, the book is less about that particular effort and more about how showing kindness can go a long way in reaching people with the good news of Jesus.

Todd Stevens is the pastor of Nashville’s Friendship Community Church, a group of people who are committed to giving more to their community than they take and showing people God’s love on a daily basis, without strings attached. Their efforts include hosting an Easter Egg hunt for the city, and a separate one a week earlier for parents of special needs children that is just as fun and amazing as the other one; buying lunch for the person behind them in line; catering a meal for the employees of a strip club; and stopping to help stranded motorists. They’ve created a church culture that seeks ways to help people outside of the church walls, for no other reason than to show God’s love. Often those acts of kindness lead people to the church, but it’s not the goal.

It’s such a refreshing approach to outreach, and I found myself, while reading the book, becoming more aware of needs around me. Particularly convicting was Stevens’ commentary on the parable of the Good Samaritan. These words were so convicting, I had to tweet them, mostly so I’d remember it for myself later.

I think that’s my biggest takeaway from this book. That if I’m busy and overcommitted and in a hurry to get from one place to the next, I’ll miss chances to show people kindness in the name of God. And I’m beginning to believe that unless people see more radical acts of kindness from Christians, they won’t listen to any of our words proclaiming good news.

How to Pick Up a Stripper is not a guidebook  with steps to follow about how to start a particular outreach. Instead, it’s a book full of compelling stories about how kindness has changed people’s lives. Add it to your list of must-read books about evangelism. And be ready for questions and strange looks if you take the book out in public.

But maybe that’s the first step in doing something out of the ordinary.

A book I wish no one had to write: Review of Rare Bird by Anna Whiston-Donaldson

rare birdRare Bird is the kind of book I usually try to avoid. Books are an escape for me, and stories of tragedy are ones I don’t often want to consider because they’re just too hard to read.

How incredibly selfish of me. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program.)

While I wish no one ever needed to read this kind of book much less write it, I’m so grateful that Anna Whiston-Donaldson poured out her grief journey on the pages of this book. Losing her son Jack at 12 years old in a freak neighborhood accident–unthinkable. I related to her thoughts about doing enough right things to keep her family safe and feeling like a failure when it wasn’t enough. Whiston-Donaldson is real and raw about the stages of grief, about unexpected losses of friendship after a tragedy, and how hard it can be to go on. And yet, her story is inspiring. It does not gloss over the reality of pain and suffering, but it doesn’t leave it as hopeless either.

This book made me cry real tears for a boy I never knew. I laughed at family stories so vivid I felt like I was there. And I felt the edges of terror creep into my soul as the depths of grief sought to overtake this family. A couple of times I even uttered, “no way,” at the visions, dreams and messages she received about Jack after his death. (I am not one to quickly believe in messages from beyond, but I also haven’t experienced that kind of loss yet, so what do I know?)

Rare Bird is a beautiful story. And a terrible one. And I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book quite like it. You don’t have to have experienced loss to read this book but if you have had a loss like hers, it’s a must read. Whiston-Donaldson’s words are tender and poetic at the same time they’re jarring and harsh. It’s a glimpse into grief that few of us see firsthand.

A word of caution to those sensitive to language: Whiston-Donaldson uses words that some people might find offensive. But in the context of grief and loss, they are entirely appropriate.

An unforgettable memoir about an unimaginable tragedy and an incomprehensible faith that sustains.

This book should come with a warning: Review of The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

Rarely do I advise people to NOT read a book. I’m a believer in reading, whatever your preferred genre, however long it takes you. But for this book, The Sacred Year by  Michael Yankoski, I feel compelled to caution you before you begin reading. It’s one of those dangerous books that will force you to ask hard questions about your life and will make you responsible for your decisions. If you’re not prepared to consider a different way of living, then don’t even think about reading this book. TSY-cover-small

That said, The Sacred Year is one of my favorite reads so far this year. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my review.)

Yankoski, who gained fame as the author of Under the Overpass, recounts his search for meaning and purpose in his faith. As a sought-after Christian speaker, Yankoski comes to a point of seeing himself as a person spread too thin with very little depth. He commits to exploring spiritual practices that act counter-culturally to the way he currently lives.

He focuses on practices like solitude, simplicity, confession, pilgrimage, gratitude and justice. There are 18 in all, and his experiences are as challenging as they are fascinating. This is not a book to rush through or read carelessly, and while it can be overwhelming to consider the kind of life Yankoski presents, he encourages readers to consider one or two of the practices for starters and begin living a life of more depth.

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I’ve enjoyed Yankoski’s writing in the past. He is an honest and captivating storyteller who doesn’t paint perfect pictures of his journey but acknowledges the hard parts and the failings. My copy of the book is already well-worn and dog-eared from the many places his words hit home. An entire section on creativity has become an agent for change in my writing life.

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Despite my earlier warning, there’s nothing to fear about this book. It hits at the heart of a longing I think many are feeling about living a life of faith, purpose and meaning. Not an easy book to read but a necessary one. Definitely among my top books for the year.

Since my words feel inadequate, check out this video for the book to help you decide if it’s for you. Then read on for more information about the author and the launch of this book.

Michael Yankoski is a writer, aspiring theologian, and urban homesteader who dreams of becoming a competent woodworker, musician, and sailor. He received his MA in theological studies at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, is a (novitate) Oblate of St. Benedict, and has authored four books. Michael grew up in Colorado, feels at home on the Pacific Coast, and currently resides in Indiana, where he and his wife are pursuing PhDs at the University of Notre Dame. Michael2-small

Yankoski became jaded and disillusioned with his life as a Christian motivational speaker, feeling as though he was another act in the “Christian Carnival.” Religion started to become a façade instead of a deep, nourished, lived experience of faith. He knew he needed to stop talking about his faith and begin living and practicing it. In a sort of desperation, Michael dedicated the next year to engaging various spiritual practices, and The Sacred Year is a firsthand account of the downs and ups, the failures and successes of an honest search for answers to the human yearning for life, love, and God.

It’s time to stop talking about your faith and begin living and experiencing it.

Join Michael and #EmbraceTheSacred—seek out God at work in the mundane and attend to what God is doing in your life. Share those moments on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and make sure to use the tag #EmbraceTheSacred.

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As a thank-you for ordering The Sacred Year, Michael is giving away a free ebook! Email your proof of purchase of The Sacred Year to TheSacredYear@gmail.com, and you will receive A Straightforward Guide to Three Essential Spiritual Practices ebook for FREE! Learn more here.

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No ordinary memoir: Review of Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey

Generally, when I read a book, I want it make me feel better. To escape or offer a solution to a problem. But lately, the books I’ve been reading haven’t lived up to that need.

They haven’t made me feel better but they have made me feel.

tables in wildernessAnd that’s where I am with Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost and Found Again by Preston Yancey. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through the Booklook Bloggers program.)

I love Yancey’s writing. His blog is one that I read whenever he posts something new. And it’s always challenging, often poetic, and downright refreshing. The book is all of that, too, in its own way. I will admit to stumbling a little in the beginning because Yancey’s writing is different than most. It’s good, just not easy. As he talks about his spiritual journey from a know-it-all Southern Baptist entering college to a questioning Anglican on the other side of college, the stories and observations roll out, sometimes chronologically, sometimes not. The first time I read Annie Dillard and Anne Lamott, I felt this sort of disconnectedness in the flow but realized as I was reading that it was all connected and related after all. This book has a similar feel.

But it’s a journey worth taking, and I found myself silently screaming “yes” to passages that reflected my own journey.

I’m telling you to notice, because at a certain point I stopped. At a certain point, I stopped  noticing that God was moving all around me, and I believe it was this lack of attention on my part, this willingness to treat common the awe of the Almighty, that would eventually arrive me to a place where God withdrew. (39)

For me, reading this book was like drinking a glass of wine. On first taste, I am startled by the taste and I almost forget that I like it. Then I drink a little more and taste the flavors buried in the glass. And by the time I finish a glass, I am satisfied by the experience and not at all sorry.

Tables in the Wilderness is a book for pilgrims and seekers, for those who don’t have faith figured out, who wonder if anyone else feels the same way. For those who question the tradition in which they were raised, who have more questions than answers. It’s one man’s spiritual journey but it contains valuable truths for those of us on our own journeys. You might not like everything he has to say, but his story is worth the telling.