Friday, July 23, 2021

Books I Read in July (But Did Not Enjoy)

 When I look at my reading stack for July, I feel like I was more of a mechanical reader who was reading books simply because they are "supposed" to be read and not so much because I was enjoying them. I read them on the recommendation of others and my dislike of them is in no way meant to disparage the other readers. Everyone likes what they like in literature and I just didn't like these books for one reason or another. Are we all clear on that point? If you love these books, don't take unnecessary offense. :)


First up, I read The Enchanted April. I wanted to like this because people I really like, really liked this book! Apparently Lucy Maud Montgomery read and enjoyed this read which was originally published in 1922. That bit of info was the tipping point in my deciding to read it for myself because anything that Montgomery read . . . ! 

This book follows the trails of four women: Lottie Wilkins, Rose Arbuthnot, Mrs. Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester. Each woman is looking for some sort of escape from her life in England and when a castle is offered up for rent during the month of April on the Italian coast, the women pitch in and spring for it. Their hope is for a break from the monotony of duty, essentially. They each have ways in which they are simply tired of "being good" and want a vacation from life's constant demands upon them. A vacation in a castle in Italy seems just the ticket. (Honestly? It's hard to blame them, eh?) They go to Italy and stay in the castle, and the overriding theme is that the castle atmosphere is full of the magic necessary to bring all things in life to rights, mending broken hearts and opening closed ones.

On the one hand, I liked the idea of a month long vacation in a castle. That idea is enormously tempting. To be able to travel to unfamiliar places and escape the norm can be a truly beautiful and blessed thing which I cannot deny! I found Elizabeth Von Arnim's writing style to be quite pleasant and engaging. I thought she had a few really clever lines and a way with words which I cannot complain about in the slightest. Then too, the way the story was written rubbed me a bit wrong in that here you had four discontented female (two of whom were married) who were sneaking away from husbands and family strictly because they were "tired of being good all of the time." In that way, this book reads as a precursor to Eat, Pray, Love -- a book I think has had disastrous effects on married women everywhere.

Interesting to note, if you'll circle with me back to Montgomery for a moment, is that The Blue Castle was published in 1926. I think the character of Valancy would have gotten along rather famously with the women at the Italian castle. I would venture a guess that this book had its influence not only in Montgomery's book writings but also in her personal thought life and journals as she battled with her own demons of discontent.

All in all, I can't say that I wholly disliked The Enchanted April. However, I can see things about it that I definitely do not like and that rub me the wrong way. I see where the message of escaping "doing good" leads and that makes me ever so cautious about The Enchanted April on the whole. 

My two-cents!


Secondly I read Summer, by Edith Wharton. This is my second Wharton to read, the first being Ethan Frome. I didn't care for Frome but I know plenty of people who 'love a good Wharton' so I had no qualms about giving her another go. Summer seemed appropriately themed (it being July and all) and I thought I would choose this selection for my next in-town book club selection. It's my turn to choose the book and lead the discussion and so I dutifully pulled out my copy well in advance, read it, felt desperately depressed, and changed my reading selection for the month. (No problem because one other lady in the group also read it in advance was equally depressed by it. Kindred Spirits are we!)

This book tells the story of Charity Royall who was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Royall in name only, but not legally. Mrs. Royall passes away and Charity is the lone woman in the house in this coming-of-age story where she has to deal with both the inappropriate attentions of Mr. Royall and also with the inappropriate attentions of one Lucias Harney. (Anyone with a name like Lucias Harney . . . .

I believe the intelligent response to this read is to say: "Charity learns what true love and sacrifice really look like." But all I can say is: "Charity was immature and unlikeable from start to finish and there wasn't a man in the book to admire. Read it and weep." It felt bitter from beginning to end and I was infinitely relieved to be done with it.

I had a few other Wharton's on my shelf yet to be read (The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence) but I came to the conclusion that I've had about as much fun with Wharton as I think I can bear. Her writing style was similar enough in the two stories that I did read, that I doubt I'll find much enjoyment in the others. Being a good reader though, I did research The Age of Innocence online before deciding too hastily against it. I read a synopsis or two and watched movie trailers on YouTube (heh....) and decided that, no, I really don't want to read anymore Wharton! 

My four cents!


Lastly, I read The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith. (It has since been renamed, simply, Philomena but I am including the original title and cover art for purposes of this review.)  I have even less nice things to say about this book. I picked it up because I had watched the movie Philomena starting Judi Dench and was intrigued by it. I wanted to learn more about Philomena herself and a good thick book on the subject looked just the ticket. However, I am afraid to say that the movie is better than the book! (And most Goodreads reviewers would agree with me! Look it up!)

Philomena Lee was born and raised in Ireland. In 1952, when she was an unwed teenager, she gave birth to a baby boy who, through a series of events, was adopted by a couple in America. The baby boy was renamed Michael Hess and if you Google his name you'll find out why this book became important. 

I am an adoptive mother myself and I was very interested in reading Philomena to know and understand the mother better. What would a birth mother feel like, having her child taken from her? How would she live her life, knowing she had a son who was living on the other side of the world from her? Somewhat understandably, author Martin Sixsmith focused his attentions on the life of Michael Hess. Philomena was more of an after thought in the writing. That was disappointing, but it was made infuriating because Sixsmith spent 90% of the book discussing Hess's sexual orientation, preferences and encounters, burying any other topic available to him. 

I skated and skimmed my way through the book trying to avoid the salaciousness and get back to Philomena who, sadly, only re-entered the scene at the end of the book! Furthermore, if you check out any article about this read online, and make a study of the Goodreads reviews, you'll see that the people who interviewed for this book decry the absurdity of Sixsmith's writing. Sixsmith downright fabricated parts of Hess's life, making up conversations and scenarios, and seemed to want to dive more into the topic of Hess's homosexuality than his status as, oh, say, a basic human being with an interesting backstory. 

There is an incredibly interesting history of adoption between Ireland and American that absolutely can and should be explored. It was absolutely not researched or dealt with by Sixsmith in any productive or educational way. This book is an exploitive, explosive, fabricated obsession with sex, rather than dutifully told fact. 

If you would like to explore the topic of International adoptions - as specifically relates between Ireland and the U.S. - please do not read this book. If you want to get to know Philomena and her story, watch the movie and then watch Youtube clips of interviews she personally gave. Get to know her as a person. Get to know Michael as a person! But as the people who knew him suggest he is not really to be found within  the pages of this book -- don't bother with it!

My six cents! 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Incident at Badamya, by Dorothy Gilman


July has been a somewhat miserable reading month for me and not because I didn't make significant headway in my TBR stack! Rather, I didn't really care for very much of what I read. I'll probably hit up the books I disliked in one post to save time, but I thought I'd take a second to note one book that I did very much enjoy.

Have you read Dorothy Gilman before? Born in New Jersey, Gilman began writing children's stories under the name of Dorothy Gilman Butters. She dropped the name Butters after her divorce and began writing solely under her maiden name. On the heels of Agatha Christie, Gilman offered up the character of Emily Pollifax, a sixty year old woman who doubled as a member of the local garden club as well as a spy for the CIA. Mrs. Pollifax is the character that Gilman is most well known for, however she did write several other novels, including Incident at Badamya.

Incident at Badamya tells the story of sixteen-year-old Gen, daughter of an American missionary who has been raised in Burma. Due to a series of hardships, her father commits suicide in 1950, leaving his young daughter with a charge to find her own way back to America and to her aunt for guardianship. Gen leaves the village, where she had lived with her father, to hike along the river where she had observed a steamer ship. The ship had passed by the village on the day of her father's suicide and she hoped to secure passage onboard. The 1950's in post-independent Burma saw a lot of upheaval and civil unrest and Gen's journey isn't all that she had hoped. She ends up being captured and held with a group of Europeans, who had been onboard said steamer, for ransom.  

This book is part mystery but mostly suspense. Gilman's style of story telling is engaging and intelligent. It's clear that she has a good handle on world events as well as different world religions and philosophy which makes this an intriguing story to read. Gilman traveled extensively in her adult life and that set the stage for her Mrs. Pollifax series, but also aided her in crafting other tales such as this one. Gilman really is a joy and a pleasure to read. 

If you've not yet read Gilman, I'd recommend you start with Pollifax first as I think you'll like her best. But if you do have a chance to read any other of Gilman's works, I would also recommend you take the opportunity. I don't believe you would regret it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Gerald and Elizabeth, by D.E. Stevenson

I now have a long term bookish relationship with D.E. Stevenson. I hunt for her books when traveling in the UK, I scout them down online, and I browse for them in antique shops and thrift stores everywhere. I pick up each one that I find - not a single one has been left behind! I love D.E. Stevenson and so I was delighted when traveling to find this copy at a thrift store. What a find!

If you've not yet read a D.E. Stevenson, I would recommend that you get to it! When people ask me what her books are most like, I commonly compare them to the Mitford or Miss Read series. They are very calm, usually have a happy ending, they contain solid characters and provide a good chuckle or two. These are very pleasant, light and engaging reads and I love them.

I dove into Gerald and Elizabeth immediately upon purchase. This book tells the story of a brother and sister duo. Gerald has hit rock bottom and as a trail or two going on in his life, whereas his sister Elizabeth has met with great success. The two aren't a perfect match but they love each other dearly and this book tells the story of how they help each other along, navigating heartbreak and clearing up mysteries. It is a fun, distracting read just as I expected that it would be. 

Gerald and Elizabeth, I noted when reading, felt different than some of Stevenson's other books. As usual, when I'm reading a book I don't stop to research anything about it until I am done so that I can focus on the story exclusively. An impression that I had when reading was that the times in which Stevenson were writing had changed to some extent. Her characters spoke of looser morals than in previous books (nothing torrid happens in the story at all, but characters are referenced). Airplane travel had entered into the picture and the gap between Scotland and England didn't seem quite so far as it had before - when her characters had to travel by train. There were just little notables which told me something was different about this particular book.

Sure enough, upon the conclusion of my reading, I went to research it. D.E. Stevenson wrote prolifically from 1932 to 1970. From the years 1952 to 1969 she wrote one novel a year! Gerald and Elizabeth was published in 1969 and is largely touted to be her final work which explains why her characters are a bit more lax and travel more accessible. Having read much of what she wrote in the earlier half of her career, it was fascinating to read a book that came towards the end of it. 

One thing that remains extremely unclear to me is how D.E. Stevenson concluded her life. In 1970 a sequel to Gerald and Elizabeth was published called The House of the Deer. While many websites list Gerald and Elizabeth as her last work, it would be more accurate to say that this was her last mini series. Apparently a collection of works were also published posthumously which I am now eager to get my hands on!

D.E. Stevenson passed away in 1973 at the age of 81 years of age. I'd like to think she spent her final years just relaxing and enjoying life. She certainly had produced an epic amount of work in her lifetime and fun work at that! I love this picture of her, taken when she was older. She looks like a friendly soul that I would like to have had the chance to talk to. Since I can't do that, I will go on enjoying her works, appreciating more now how she evolved as a writer over time.

Who is an author that you just love to read over and over again? Is there an author that you just cannot get enough of? Care to share? If you're looking for a new writer to love and you haven't read Stevenson yet, well, I'll push her forward as an option. Again.


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A Place to Hang the Moon, by Kate Albus


A Place to Hang the Moon is Kate Albus's debut album and worth every bit of your reading time. It won't last long enough for you -- that's how good it is. I had this book recommended to me by a trusted #Bookstagram friend (@bookworm_baggins) and she did not steer me wrong. I trust I'll not steer you wrong either.

This book is set in England during the early stages of World War II as children were just being sent to billets outside of London. Siblings William, Edmund and Anna find themselves in an usual situation in that their grandmother has just passed away and there are no other relatives for them to be sent to live with. It's not exactly the most stable situation in England, so what will their solicitor choose to do with them? Dare they use the systems in place to evacuate children in order to find them a forever family? Certainly it's a bit of a different approach, but will it work? That's what we find out in A Place to Hang the Moon.

Kate Albus's writing style is clever and calm. Although this is obviously a high tense situation that the children find themselves in, it has a Narnia flavor about it. The kids are capable of seeing the adventure and understanding what is at stake for them. Yes, they meet with challenges but you are confident of their ability to overcome. The characters are believable and appealing enough to wish you could know them in real life. There isn't anything I disliked about this story.

I was delighted at the conclusion of the read to discover in the Acknowledgements that Albus herself is a fan of Narnia (hence Edmund) further cementing the friendship I feel towards her. You all know of my long fascination with both Narnia and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Put this piece of Middle Grade fiction high up on my list of Top Books Carrie Recommends. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't like it. If someone said that they weren't a fan, assume the fault is theirs and not the book's. Albus has done beautifully and I will look forward to reading anything else she writes in the future.  

Monday, June 21, 2021

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple is not my normal cup of tea. Seriously, if you are familiar with me and with this blog at all, you know I'm really picky and choosey about what pieces of modern fiction I will agree to read. I think as I age, I'm actually becoming (just slightly) less picky and more agreeable to the idea of just sitting down with a book which might not be All That, but which is a bit of fun. That's what I hoped this book would be and that is what it was.

I'm going to give you my regular Conservative Reader Alert straight up so that you know and understand that I didn't miss things. There are curse words scattered throughout the book, definitely more in the second half than the first. (That's to reel you in, see? Turn down those defenses.) There is also the issue of infidelity which I thought was handled in a very flippant manner and which completely and totally ignored the fact that such actions have significant consequences. Not to mention, these actions cause ridiculous amounts of pain. Semple wrote about the topic in a manner which suggested it was not only excusable and understandable, but also no big deal. I took huge issue with her handling of this topic. However, I will say she doesn't become explicit in her writing of the story and for that I remain grateful. Then, too, her writing style for this book is very unique and not altogether to my liking. 

After all of the above, are you asking yourself why I read it? I read it for fun. Just that.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? was published in 2012, is a "National Bestseller", has loads of people and publications supporting it, and was made into a movie starring Cate Blanchett which I am now very curious to see. The book was written as if it would one day be made into a movie, and discerning readers will know exactly what I mean when I say that. Semple's writing style is very casual and goes above and beyond in describing any individual character's emotions and reactions in such a way that suggested to me that it was set up to be a screen play. Sometimes you can read a book and just know what the author was hoping would happen. Perhaps that is an unfair characterization of Semple, but there it is. The book reads like a movie and, for me, that's actually what ended up making it fun. I didn't read this book to think, so much as I read it to be entertained. And it was very, very entertaining.

The story is told through the eyes of Bernadette's fifteen-year-old daughter, Bee. We get to know their family and quirks through a series of e-mails, letters and second-hand accounts that Bee shares.T his is ultimately Bee's book about what happened to her mother. You could think of this story as a bit of a redemption to the likes of Eat, Pray, Love. Mom gets fed up with life. Mom hits some snags she doesn't know how to properly deal with. Mom disappears. But, in this case, mom comes back. (I don't feel like that spoils the book. It's obvious that's what's going to happen. If it didn't, this book was likely to read off as a murder mystery and the cutesy cover is your clue that story does not involve a murder.) The story is set in Seattle and Semple writes amusing descriptions of the city and its occupants. She has a very tongue-in-cheek style of humor and you will find yourself smirking as you read from time to time, especially if you are a reader with Idaho plates on your car.

Would I recommend this book liberally? No. It's not a perennial classic. Certain personalities will love it; others will flat out hate it. Both reactions are valid, I feel, in this case. There are things to be enjoyed and things to raise your eyebrows at.  If you are looking for a fun read and you want to know whether this book is worth your time, well, I don't feel altogether helpful except to tell you that Semple is a playful writer who seems as if she wants to have fun with a fun story. It isn't masterful by any stretch, but if you like a good comedy/drama on the screen, then you are probably of the inclination to like this story on the page as well. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Each Little Bird That Sings, by Deborah Wiles


Look at me go! Two posts in one week. What on earth? I may not write as often as I used to, but I would like to make note of particular books that stood out to me that I've read and think others would be curious to know more about.

I know I've said this before (and I will totally say it again because it was A Very Impacting Thing) but I was once told that I liked books that were rather on the childish side and weren't as worthy of my reading time as I might believe. I disagreed then and I disagree even more heartily now. I'm really glad that when my kids were little I read as many Middle Grade fiction books as I did. Not only did I enjoy them but I poured a lot of time and energy into previewing books and building up a Legacy Library for my family. My kids are now teens and pre-teens. When they come to me and tell me that they finished one read and are looking for another, we can just take a quick little jaunt over to our home library shelves and find another. I've already read (most of) them and have a good idea what is there and am not scrambling for information.

Also, let's be real. I like Middle Grade fiction best and I now happily and very boldly embrace that fact. Don't let anyone tell you that the genre you like to read isn't worth your time. (Unless it's the Twilight Series or 50 Shades and then we need to have a serious sit down.)

I like Middle Grade Fiction but I don't care for much of what is being published these days. Picking up titles published anytime after the year 2010, I feel, is moderately risky business for the more conservative reader. I haven't spent a lot of time previewing new releases in recent years. That explained, I was out thrifting and I came across this title Each Little Bird That Sings, by Deborah Wiles for about the fifteenth time and took that as a sign that I should buy it and check it out (which I proceeded to do). 

The other afternoon I was looking for a quick read so I snatched this one off the shelf and it occupied the next hour and a half of my life. I'm not remotely sorry about it. Now, if you should pick up Every Little Bird That Sings on my recommendation know that you will open it, begin reading, and if you know me at all, you'll begin to wonder what I saw in it. Before you get antsy, hear me out.

This title opens up in the usual modern (2010+) way. The writing style begins as something I consider cheap, flippant, and too "grabby" in an effort to capture the reader's immediate attention. Authors these days have a way of dumbing down their words, appealing to a more base sense of humor which hardly requires anything from the reader. Another way to say that is that the writing style is unrefined. If you yourself also dislike modern novels, you perhaps know what I'm talking about. I almost didn't make it past the third chapter of this read but I decided to give the book a go mostly because I didn't feel like moving off the couch to find another book. What luck my laziness has brought me! In the end, while I didn't find this book to have a brilliance about it, I did find it to be very curious in that the entire subject of this book is death. 

Our protagonist is ten-year-old Comfort Snow who lives with her family at the local gravesite in the local funeral home. Everything in their life revolves around the topic of death. As the story begins we learn how how death is a very normal part of life for Comfort's family. Dead bodies are simply there, but they are not creepy. Comfort is nonplussed over this fact of life until her own elderly relatives die and their family is forced to say goodbye to those they personally love.

Wiles deals with this topic adroitly, using a ten year old to describe how children feel about death and how resilient they can actually be when it comes to this topic. Death is not, by any means, fun. Personally, we've had enough rounds of dealing with death in our family that I'd just as soon not talk about. I don't like death. It hurts. It is a reality of life and also a tender topic. That's what compelled me to go on reading this book. While Wiles' writing style is verging on flippant at the start, she settles down into her story and discusses the topic in a way that young readers can easily understand. Death does hurt. And yet it is a part of each and every beautiful life and nothing that we should ignore or shut out of our conversation and reflection. The story is so heavily focused on death that I found this book to be an interesting tool which others might wish to know about. You might read or discuss with your own kids. It is also a title I feel pretty confident that you would want to understand before you just blindly handed it over to a child to read on their own. Hence my little PSA here. 

Topics to be aware of:

  • Death in general
  • Death of elderly relatives
  • Death of friendship
  • Death of pets

Each Little Bird That Sings didn't turn out to be the light and fluffy read I was expecting. Nor was it flippant. For introducing the topic, or possibly talking through it with your kids, I found it balanced. I do plan to keep a copy on our bookshelves. I think our kids will find it a little on the strange side but it's interesting and compelling as well. I've never read anything quite like it and felt it was worth a mention for you to take with and do what you will.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Compelling Community: Where God's Power Makes a Church Attractive, by Mark Dever & Jamie Dunlop


It's been a hot minute since I've posted any sort of book review. Life sort of went topsy-turvy a few years back but more recently it's been sorting itself out, falling into place, and things are all the better for it. The events of life definitely made blogging take a backseat - and may yet do so - but right now, at this minute, I read a book I want to talk about it! Also, someone commented on an old post which sent a notification to my e-mail today reminding me that I had a book blog that could still be used. So here we are, you and I, together again! Let's have a little book chat, shall we? For old times' sake.

I've had my copy of The Compelling Community for years but no note around these parts that I read it and/or reviewed it previously. I know I read it but it could be that I purposefully didn't make a note of it. Talking about church life can be a rather sensitive thing from time to time. One doesn't want to go around offending willy nilly, and people are always apt to think that you are talking about them online when you probably aren't. That can lead to Trouble which is why I imagine I let the read go without commentary. Let me assure you posthaste that I am not talking about any particular church, church body and/or specific person in writing this book review. I am writing a book review and working my thoughts out. That is all.

First, I'd like to suggest say that every Christian ought to read this book. They should especially take the time to read this post-2020 when the whole world went haywire and community, as we knew the concept, blew up in our faces. It's time to return to community now (if you've not yet done so) and do so with renewed vigor to know how you can contribute to the building up of the body of believers to whom you belong.

A good question one should be asking one's delightful self is: "To what sort of community should I be returning?" One should hastily answer one's self: "I'm returning to a sinful community of which I am a chief sinner. I bring my own sin, making the sin pot bigger." If you were on a high social distancing horse, you should probably get off because staying there isn't beneficial to you or anyone.)

The church has been under attack this past year and no, I'm not talking about politically (but you could argue -- ). Over 30% of church goers (based on the last numbers I was referenced to) left the church to stay home and never came back. On the one hand, you could look at this as good news. The church has had been paired down. Those that remain are looking at each other, sometimes with new eyes, wondering how dangerous the others in the bunch might be. I'm not talking about germ dangers; I'm talking about fellowship dangers. Who formed what opinion during 2020? Who became more vocal, politically? Who became less? Who was more agitated by the demands of the day? Who chilled out? Who stopped working? Whose business took off and why? These and other speculative questions begin to fill the minds of those that remain in the pew and this is why I'd suggest that a serious, focused reading of The Compelling Community is rather essential in this exact moment in time.

In this book, Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop write ignorant of anything that happened in 2020 (the book having been published in 2015). Untainted by political and social events, they focus their attention exclusively on scripture and what defines community within the church (local, but universal). Throughout this read they challenge their reader to consider various scriptural principles to building up the local body, breeding interaction between all members for their good and for the glory of God. They tackle things that get in the way of church fellowship such as:

* Sin

* Demographics

* Marital status

* Shared Vision

* Like-mindedness vs. that One Person We All Know . . . 

* Discontentment

These subjects and more are handled with a firm hand, the authors taking pains to plainly cite what can cause divisions in the church and what pastors and lay people alike can do to foster true community. 

And what IS true community and Christian fellowship? What drives and motivates our choices and decisions as an individual body of believers? What would compel a non-believer to pay attention to a church body - any church body - and to want to belong to what they see? Essentially there is a laying down of one's life and preferences for the good of another, being willing to learn the scriptures and teach them diligently and faithfully with and to one another. The desire of this sort of fellowship ignores the world's boundaries and focuses instead on our commonalities within the faith. With Christ and the cross as our focus, the differences between us disappear and we begin to see each other with spiritual eyes. We love as Christ and forget ourselves. 

I think this quote from the book sums it up as best as possible:

"A church composed of natural friends says little about the power of the gospel. Yet the gospel-revealing community of natural enemies will require sacrifices in every aspect of our life together. Not surprisingly, when Paul in Romans 12:1 speaks those famed words, "present your bodies as a living sacrifice," his attention immediately moves in verse 4 to congregational life. It is very possible to enjoy the idea of attending a diverse church, and yet never lift a finger to love someone who's quite different from you." (p. 81)

They make the point that you can form a club of very likeminded people who all like cars, chess, or even books and their love of that item is what is going to draw them together. There is nothing supernatural in the way two people can relate over a shared love of books (let's go with books) because it's easy for one reader to like another person who themselves likes to read. That comes naturally. What doesn't come naturally is when you blend rich and poor, black and white, male and female, British and American, book reader and illiterate, single and married, into a single group of people who are willing to lay their lives down for one another. What picture comes to mind when you think of a group of people who combine all of the aforementioned "labels" and who come together for the express purpose of  worshipping God in song, teaching and encouraging each other with the scriptures, and who pray boldly for one another? You think of something almost otherworldly, don't you? A supernatural gathering of people who do not look alike, act alike, or even think alike on the surface whose one and only commonality is Jesus Christ? You would pay attention to them, wouldn't you? Would you not wonder how they do it? You might find yourself compelled to lean in with questions and a desire to learn what the Lord is working in and through their gathering.

I could say a lot about The Compelling Community but, in summary, I'll just repeat that I think that at this time in history, when everyone is encouraged to own and love their own label, it's important to read this book. It is a straight forward message that reminds us that our focus as believers to be on God and God alone. Our excitement in gathering shouldn't be to get together on Sunday morning with our best and closest friends. It isn't about that at all! We are gathering not with the intent to change things socially but to fellowship and worship with a shared passion for Christ. That's it. When we look at Him we see what we are not and we also get to catch a glimpse at what we will be. There is excitement in learning to love those who you wouldn't naturally fall into place when when you purpose to love one another as God Himself as loved you. 

I definitely walked away from this book encouraged and refreshed. I feel refocused and renewed. I understand my mission and I'm committed to it by first being committed to Jesus and declaring my need to be obedient to Him. This review barely scratches the surface of the book and/or my reasons for thinking it should be moved to the forefront of discussion between believers in Christ. Sure, we hit a rough patch this past year and lost a few. But the church is by no means destroyed. Are you still in? Then we've work to do.

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