Openness Unhindered – review

4 Comments

Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with ChristOpenness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first came across Openness Unhindered’s author Rosaria Butterfield on a video where she told her story of coming to Christ out of a lesbian lifestyle. I loved the fact that my favorite book, the Bible, was instrumental in her conversion. Openness Unhindered testifies to how she has continued to engage with it at a deep and thoughtful level.

In the book, the second one she has authored about her faith since she left her old life around 1999, she alludes briefly to her conversion story. Then she goes on to talk about how she has wrestled with her past and come to a place of equilibrium as a home school mother and pastor’s wife. Passages like the following tug at the heart:

“I am and always will be Rahab—a woman with a past. So, what does a person like me do with such a past? I have not forgotten. Body memories know my name. Details intrude into my world unpredictably, like when I am kneading the communion bread or homsechooling my children. I take each ancient token to the cross, for prayer, for more repentance, for thanksgiving that God is always right about matters of sin and repentance” – Kindle Location (KL) 631.

She stresses the importance of her new identity in Christ and of repentance. Even the title of the chapter on repentance testifies to how foundational it is to her: “Repentance: The Threshold to God and the Answer to Shame, Temptation and Sin.”

In chapters titled “Sexual Orientation—Freud’s Nineteenth Century Mistake” and “Self-representation—What Does it Mean to be Gay?” she unpacks the history of the gay rights movement and explains how “gay” has become a term of identity. In fact, she argues, gay doesn’t even belong, as an adjective, together with Christian. She says:

Gay is a word that carries stigma because of God’s moral prohibitions against homosexuality. … Because the Bible is clear on the point that homosexual practice is a sin, and because gay is a synonym for the implied desire for or practice of homosexuality, the stigma of this term is an act of God’s love, because God uses it to convict his children of their brokenness” –KL 2111.

Another powerful chapter is the one on Christian community. Here Butterfield describes how their family’s hospitality toward neighbors and church members became a closely woven safety net for all involved.

This was a great read! Though I did find the theological chapters a bit of a slog (Butterfield was a university professor in her former life and in plumbing these challenging topics comes across somewhat professorial), for the most part I enjoyed the book and learned a lot. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“When we are owned by God, we are ruined for the world. And this marring of us for the world is one of the birthmarks of conversion” – KL 595.

“Temptation comes in many forms, but it is always personal, uncannily tailor-made for our individual moral weakness, and it takes aim at God’s character, seeking to ransack our faith” – KL 1343.

“Desires for things God has forbidden are a reflection of how sin has distorted me, not how God has made me” – Sam Allbery quoted on KL 2320.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is trying to understand where homosexual practice fits within the Christian life and the church. Openness Unhindered is a part of my own Kindle collection.

View all my reviews

My Life’s Journey (review)

Leave a comment

My Life's JourneyMy Life’s Journey by Janet Kataaha Museveni My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I told you Janet Museveni was the first lady of an African nation, could you name which one? Until last week, me neither. But now that I have met this talented woman in the pages of her memoir, I know that Uganda is blessed to have her as its first lady, wife of President Yoweri Museveni.

She is currently also serving as MP for Ruhaana County and Minster of State for Karamoja. This mother of four, grandmother of twelve has had a challenging life. In My Life’s Journey she tells her story beginning with her early years in rural Uganda.

After a year of college in Wales she returns to a country that is falling into chaos under the terror of Idi Amin. When some of her family members oppose him, they become a hunted lot. During her years in African exile (spent in Tanzania and other countries) she meets her husband. When she asks him what his occupation is, he says, “Fighting Idi Amin.” It turns out that fighting for Africa’s political well-being becomes the passion of his life.

Amin is eventually routed but since Yoweri Museveni is a rival of returned President Obote, the family is soon on the run again with Janet and her four children spending years exiled in Sweden before Yoweri becomes president and the family is reunited in a Uganda that is in shambles after years of civil war.

To add to the inspiration of Janet Museveni’s story as a tale of political overcoming is its spiritual aspect. After she decides to put her faith in Christ as Saviour her life takes on a different cast. She speaks openly about her practice of starting each day with prayer and Bible reading and how her faith influences the way she raises her children.

When she feels that God would have her enter politics, her faith is tested as she comes against the expectation that she will campaign using traditional means of bribery and buying votes with gifts and alcohol. She resists but wins her seat anyway.

Her motherly heart, listening ear, habit of close observation, and administrative common sense has made her a successful leader with numerous completed roads, schools, and hospitals on her list of accomplishments. In her time as leader she has asked God many questions including why Africa is so often at the bottom of the world’s nations. The answer she has arrived at contains wisdom that leaders of all nations—mine included—would do well to heed:

“This scripture (referring to Acts 17:26,28) simply put says that ‘the fault is not in our stars’ so to speak; God created all people from ‘one blood,’ which means there is no one inherently inferior to another. He also determined where people should live on the earth with a purpose …. This scripture tells me that it is impossible to find an identity and national consciousness apart from God. A nation that will stand and last for generations is one that has been built on the Chief Cornerstone” – My Life’s Journey, p. 278.

If you are interested in Africa and enjoy memoir, you’ll love My Life’s Journey. Thank you to my brother and sister-in-law, who gave me a copy after discovering this book during a recent trip to Uganda to visit their missionary son and his family. View all my reviews

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain (review)

Leave a comment

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman's Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of HaitiMiracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman’s Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti by Megan Boudreaux

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After a few mission trips to Haiti, 24-year-old Megan Boudreaux was happily settled in her marketing job for a hospital in Louisiana. Then she began having unsettling dreams. Always they featured the tamarind tree that sat on top of Bellevue Mountain near Gressier, Haiti.

Several months later, with these dreams continuing, Megan began to wonder if there was a message in them. She mentioned them to her boss and his response: “If you think God is calling you to Haiti, you absolutely need to go,” set her on a path she had never imagined or designed for herself.

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain is the story of Megan’s move to Haiti and takes us from 2011 and the humble beginnings of a feeding program, to the present Respire Haiti—a school, medical clinic, café, and various community and sports outreaches that have touched the lives of hundreds. She has also started her own family by adopting several youngsters and in January 2013 she married Josh Anderson. A section of photographs brings the characters and events in this book to life.

Boudreaux’s is an amazing tale of danger (in which she does things like report a corrupt orphanage operation and confront voodoo priests), miracles (she begins speaking the language with no history of learning it), compassion (she tirelessly advocates for Haitian children, especially the restaveks—child slaves), and hard hard work.

Megan’s story impressed on me the importance and power of prayer and the incredible things that God can do through people who are implicitly obedient to Him. This is a faith-building story, full of compassion and hope. I’d highly recommend it to readers of all ages.

I received Miracle on Voodoo Mountain as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

View all my reviews

Ex-Muslim (review)

3 Comments

Ex-Muslim: How One Daring Prayer to Jesus Changed a Life ForeverEx-Muslim: How One Daring Prayer to Jesus Changed a Life Forever by Naeem Fazal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ex-Muslim: How One Daring Prayer to Jesus Changed a Life Forever is the memoir of Naeem Fazal (with co-writer Kitti Murray). In it Fazal tells the story of how he, an ethnic Pakistani from Kuwait, came to America as a devout Muslim intent on meeting beautiful blondes. Then one day, during a frightening encounter with evil, he met Jesus. Ex-Muslim also tells how his siblings converted to Christianity, how he met and wooed his wife Ashley, and how they planted Mosaic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Fazal tells his story in first person. The writing style is casual. It’s almost as if he’s sitting across the table talking to you using everyday lingo and putting in asides. The sense of ego that comes across in places did irritate me a bit, though he does his share of admitting to and apologizing for episodes of immaturity and a tendency toward cockiness, especially in evidence during his younger days.

Besides telling his story he also explores, in some of the more lecture-type parts of the book, principles of how God works in general. Fazal finds lessons in the incidents of his own life and uses them as springboards to instruct others. His experience of coming to the States from the Middle East also gives us a refreshing look at western culture through an outsider’s eyes. These things work together to make for interesting and relatable teaching.

I found much to like and take away from this book. Describing his encounter with Jesus, Fazal writes:

“Jesus’ first words to me were not, ‘Whew! You’re safe now with me.’ No, he said, ‘I am Jesus Christ, your Lord. Your life is not your own’ ” Kindle Location 859.

When speaking of ministry to people of other cultures and faiths, especially Muslims, He says:

“Incarnational living, living among people and relating to them intimately, is of far more value than anything an evangelism or apologetics course can teach us. I’m not suggesting we don’t learn to understand our Muslim neighbors and friends and coworkers, but I am saying that it is our relationships that matter most. If people don’t see the teachings of Jesus lived out in us, they won’t want to listen to a word we have to say about him” K. L. 1814.

After seeing his coffee shop barista at Target and not recognizing her because she was out of context, he sensed Jesus asking him:

“Naeem, do you know what I look like out of context? You recognize me in the places you create for me, like worship services and Christian conferences but do you see me anywhere else?” KL 2503.

I would recommend Ex-Muslim to anyone who enjoys memoirs, especially stories of God at work in people’s lives. As well, it would be a valuable resource to those reaching out to Muslims with the gospel, to church planters, and to young people in or considering going into ministry.

I received Ex-Muslim from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, as a gift for the purpose of writing a review.

View all my reviews

Appointment in Jerusalem (review)

3 Comments

Appointment In JerusalemAppointment In Jerusalem by Lydia Prince

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In December of 1926 Lydia Christensen was a successful 36-year-old Domestic Arts teacher in the city of Korsor Denmark. However, just before Christmas when her longtime friend and colleague Soren asked her to marry him, she couldn’t answer “yes.” She was fond of him alright. But was the settled life in Denmark “it”? Somehow she wanted more.

Back in Korsor after spending Christmas her family in Bonderslev, she decided to spend her vacation reading. Ignoring the literary choices on her bookshelf, she pulled out the Bible. She began to read in Matthew and soon found herself transfixed as the book came alive to her.

When she got to the beatitudes she read Jesus’ words: “Ask and it shall be given you.” Could she ask about the unnamed longing she had been feeling? How did one do that? Should she kneel” Pray aloud? Then:

“And now in the familiar room, with the sound of the clock ticking in my ears, something took place for which my whole background and education left me totally unprepared. … No longer was I looking into the back of the chair. In its place a Person was standing over me. A long white garment covered the Person’s feet. Slowly I raised my eyes upward. Above my head I saw two arms outstretched in the attitude of one bestowing a blessing. … Involuntarily a word rose to my lips: ‘Jesus!’ But even as I uttered it, He was gone” – Kindle Location 450.

Everything changed for Lydia after that. She began to study her Bible seriously and spend lots of time in prayer. She asked for believer’s baptism—a scandalous thing to do in Denmark’s staunch Lutheran culture. She attended meetings with the suspect Pentecostals. And she had more visions.

Appointment in Jerusalem is the account of the several years in Lydia’s life when she went from a secure job as a Danish teacher to doing whatever she sensed God was telling her to do in Jerusalem. There she had a remarkable ministry, especially to abandoned girls, many of whom she adopted.

She later met and married Derek Prince, author and Bible teacher. He wrote Lydia’s story with her input. Written in creative non-fiction style this fascinating biography is sure to encourage and challenge readers of any age. Its clear message of love for Jerusalem and the Jewish people is a welcome one in these days Middle East conflict.

(I read the Kindle edition of this book, which is part of my own collection.)

View all my reviews

She Does Not Fear the Snow (review)

Leave a comment

She Does Not Fear the SnowShe Does Not Fear the Snow by Bobbie Ann Cole

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bobbie Cole and her friend Terry were both on a quest to find new purpose and meaning when they toured Israel together in the spring of 2007. Bobbie wasn’t expecting anything from her visit to the King of Kings Church in Jerusalem. She was there simply because Terry really wanted to go and had cheerfully gone with her to her place of worship—a Jerusalem synagogue.

The almost electric current of love she experienced during the singing caught her entirely off-guard. Later, when several of the photos Terry took of the service turned out to capture not the congregation, stage, band, and overhead screen she had focused on, but a series of golden images resembling wings and flames, both women were puzzled and awed. Had there been angels in that service? Was God answering their prayers?

How God searched her out, planted her in a new home, and fulfilled deep desires she hadn’t even articulated is the moving story Bobbie Cole tells in her spiritual memoir She Does Not Fear the Snow. In it we meet a cast of characters as colorful as those in any novel. And we watch the unfolding of two love stories (one human, one divine) even as we see her grow as a Christian and navigate around the objections her family and friends put up to keep her from remarrying.

I loved this book and had a hard time putting it down! Cole’s writing was a highlight for me. The heart she puts into her vivid descriptions and detailed narratives made me feel like I was living the events: seeing the mysterious Iranian rug for the first time; peeking over her shoulder at emails as she and Butch began writing; feeling the resistance of her adult children to even meeting the man she was falling in love with; struggling with her as she tried to forgive, love, be gentle, patient.

I like how the chapters are divided into numbered mini-sections, each of which is a vignette or story on its own. There are lots of good places to stop if you don’t have long to read. And by employing these mini-stores she does a masterful job of showing what’s happening (vs. telling) leaving readers to draw their own conclusions about people and circumstances.

The message that comes through is of a God who sees, cares, and communicates His love in ways that many of us may not even recognize as divine communication. Anyone open to giving Him a try would be encouraged and inspired by Cole’s story.

Cole has made available several free resources to accompany the book. From her website download:

  • Encounters With Jesus blog where you can read more of Bobbie’s stories and the testimonies of others.

I received She Does Not Fear the Snow as a free gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

View all my reviews

Pilgrimage (review)

8 Comments

Pilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus WalkedPilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked by Lynn Austin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A series of losses, disappointments, and unpleasant surprises have pummeled Lynn Austin. She is feeling bruised, spiritually dry, and, in plain words, depressed. And so she has high hopes for an opportunity to travel around Israel for two weeks:

“Spiritual renewal is what I long for … as I begin this pilgrimage. I want to see the bigger picture of His plan and learn to accept His will in all things. I want to revitalize my prayer life. … Maybe I’ll be able to let go of my own will and face the changes in my life with joy and faith” – Pilgrimage, Kindle Location 97.

Pilgrimage is Lynn Austin’s account of that two-week trip. But it is much more than a travelogue. For in it she gives the historical background of each stop. She reviews for us the Bible events that happened in each location. She explains Bible customs from her knowledge enriched by research for the many biblical fiction novels she’s written. And she probes those Bible events and characters for insights and lessons she can take back with her into everyday life.

Some things I really liked about this book were the lyrical descriptions of modern sites in Israel as seen through Austin’s eyes, the review of what happened at each location, and the explanations of interesting customs that add richness and depth to an understanding of the Bible. And I gained an appreciation of the humanity of this author (whose novels I’ve enjoyed) as she shared openly about her life.

One aspect of the book that disappointed me, though, was the way Austin explained her situation and feelings in the first chapter and then, throughout most of her travels, she merely named the feelings she was grappling with (anxiety, discouragement, impatience, worry, etc) without relating them to specific incidents or triggers. It seemed like a type of “telling’ versus “showing” and didn’t have the impact one would expect that kind of memoir-writing to have. Perhaps a more engaging way of relating these personal incidents would have been to leave that list out of Chapter One and tell about these events in bits and pieces throughout her travels. As it was, I had to keep reminding myself why she was feeling so negative—Oh right, that list from Chapter One. When she did include stories of her life that her travels brought to mind, my interest immediately picked up.

Pilgrimage would make a wonderful read-along guide for people touring Israel. Many locations are chapter titles and of course digital copies of the book are searchable so no worries if your itinerary differs from hers, just search the location you wish to read about: Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Joppa, Caesarea etc.

For anyone who loves Israel or hopes to tour the Holy Land, Pilgrimage is a good historical and devotional resource.

I received my copy of Pilgrimage as a gift from Bethany House (via NetGalley) for the purpose of writing a review.

View all my reviews