Book Review: “Pulling Back the Shades” by Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery

pulling back the shades

Pulling Back the Shades is written by Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery and is a somewhat indirect response to the popularity of the book series Fifty Shades of Grey, and the subsequent explosion of that genre of literature.

When originally contacted to review this book I was very hesitant to agree to read it, as I was sure this was just going to be an under researched, angry, ultraconservative Christian’s response to secular culture, but thankfully I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Dannah Gresh is the founder of Pure Freedom and bestselling author of And the Bride Wore White and What Are You Waiting For?

Dr. Juli Slattery is a clinical psychologist, cofounder of Authentic Intimacy and coauthor of Passion Pursuit.

Right from the start the authors are very open that Gresh has chosen not to read the Fifty Shades of Grey series out of personal conviction, but Dr. Slattery has. Both authors are very open about their own lives and struggles and also incorporate numerous stories of others.

The main focus of the book is the connection between a woman’s spirituality and her sexuality, and how erotica seeks to exploit women based on their natural longings. Although the book is targeted towards women, as a man I found it fascinating to learn how similar pornography aimed at men and erotic books aimed at women are. They are simply different vehicles designed to do the same thing, with the same devastating results. Both of these avenues of escape are a perversion of God’s intended purpose for our sexuality and desire for human and spiritual connection.

“The end result of living in fantasy is disillusionment, dissatisfaction, and ungratefulness in reality. If you desperately desire to have a fulfilling love life, to be alive and satisfied, erotica will not get you there” (p. 37).

“Erotica…is aimed at awakening your physical sexual desire without any connection to emotional, relational, or spiritual reality” (p. 46).

The authors speak very candidly and this is not an ultraconservative discussion on sex. Throughout the book they address numerous questions about sex for both single and married women, and some issues addressed include: pornography, bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism. The shared stories of women who became consumed with fantasy and erotica are both sobering and heartbreaking.

I would highly recommend this book to women, especially if you are in the habit of reading erotica. It does a great job addressing a cultural issue through the eyes of scripture and really seeks to care for women both spiritually and sexually. The book offers hope for those who feel entrapped in fantasy and/or are experiencing unfulfilling sex lives, and even has an added discussion guide at the back for book study groups.

* I received this book through Icon Media Group for my honest review.

Book Review: “The Passion Principles” by Shannon Ethridge

The Passion Principles

The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage is written by Shannon Ethridge, the author of the best selling Every Woman’s Battle series.

The Passion Principles is a very comprehensive discussion on sex in the context of marriage from a Christian worldview. The book is organized into 40 different questions covering various aspects of sex within a marriage: the spiritual, the mental, the emotional, and the physical. All questions are addressed to help give wisdom and guidance to both the husband and the wife. To bring some balance to the male/female perspective, Ethridge shares thoughts from her husband throughout the book.

I especially appreciated the author’s heart to see individuals and couples find wholeness and healing from past sexual hurts, trauma, and misinformation. She approaches painful subjects like abuse, extramarital affairs, and divorce with compassion, grace, and truth. To illustrate and educate the principles outlined in the book, she uses emails and stories from those she has counseled in the past and her own personal journey.

Ethridge is not shy on the subject of sex and those who would consider themselves to be more conservative, may find this book a little too open and honest. She is very transparent about her own past and struggles both before and after she got married, but in my opinion she isn’t unnecessarily explicit for the most part. Although scripture is used throughout the book, I wouldn’t call this a definitive theological treatment on the subject of sex.

Overall I would say that this is a great and practical resource for both those in premarital counseling and those who are already married, regardless of whether or not you are struggling with intimacy in your marriage.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Book Review: “Fields of Gold” by Andy Stanley

fields of gold

Fields of Gold by Andy Stanley is a small book, but it’s a great book on learning to view “our” financial resources as being God’s and an opportunity to invest in what He is doing in our world.

The book is based on an illustration of a farmer seeding fields of wheat. One of the main themes running through the book is that the reason we often don’t allow God to be in control of our finances is not because we are greedy, but rather because we are afraid. We’re afraid of not having enough if something ever happened. We’re afraid to allow God to be the supplier of our needs and so we depend on ourselves to be our own provider. Unfortunately this fear leads us to not experiencing the blessings of God personally, and we even miss out on being used by God to be a blessing to others.

Stanley does a great job using scripture throughout and reinforcing the truth that all we have, all belongs to Him. We are simply managers of what is His. Near the end of the book he unpacks various forms of giving, including: priority giving (giving to God comes first when we receive our paycheck), percentage giving (determining a percentage to give to God every paycheck), and progressive giving (growing that percentage over your lifetime).

Overall Fields of Gold is an outstanding introduction to the subject of tithes and offering (giving / generosity). This is a great resource for teaching on giving, and would be perfect for those who are new to following Jesus and doing life together with other Christians.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “When you became a Christian, you signed up for a completely different economic system.” (p. 31)
  • “…doesn’t that make it irrational to trust God for your eternal destiny, yet decline His invitation to direct your finances?” (p. 34)
  • “…giving to God’s work is not giving something away. It’s an investment, not a loss. The farmer who sows doesn’t lose seed. He gains a crop.” (p. 51)
  • “When you begin to embrace your role as a steward, you will be able to give from your heart. You’ll see yourself in partnership with God to accomplish eternal purposes…” (p. 83).

Book Review: “Shaq Uncut” by Shaquille O’Neal

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You can’t have a conversation about the most dominant players to ever play the game of basketball without talking about Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq was one of the most exciting players to watch during his career and might be the most charismatic player (on and off the court) to ever play in the NBA.

Shaq Uncut was released shortly after he retired from professional basketball and is a very personal retrospective on his life and career.

The book begins with Shaq describing his humble beginnings and his introduction to the game. One of the things that sticks out throughout the entire book is the relationship between Shaq and his father Philip Harrison. Many times while reading the book, his father comes across as being very abusive both physically and verbally, but to this day you can see the deep love, respect, and gratitude Shaq has towards his father and the impact he has made in his life. Definitely this was and is a very unique, but crucial relationship in Shaq’s life.

One of the major highlights of the book for me, is reading about the “behind the scenes” of the NBA. It’s always fascinating to see the league, teams, players, and coaches you’ve watched your whole life, from an insiders perspective. Learning about Shaq’s growth at LSU and his coming into the NBA, to his high’s and lows with the Orlando Magic was a great look at what shaped the career that would follow.

As expected, reading about his time with the Los Angeles Lakes was full of drama between winning three championships and his relationship with Kobe. I found reading about Shaq’s time with the Miami Heat to be very eye opening. Although he won another ring there, I had no idea about the struggles between he and the legendary coach Pat Riley. Walking through his time with the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Boston Celtics was both a satisfying and a sad journey as you see such a passionate and important player come to the end of his career. By the end of the book you can sense Shaq’s sorrow to say goodbye to the game, especially with not winning another ring, but at the same time you know that he is far from finished living a very full and successful life.

Reading Shaq Uncut is like sitting back and listening to Shaq tell random stories about his life, aspirations, passions, friends, family, and career. For fans of Shaq and the NBA, this is a great book.

Book Review: “I Like Giving” by Brad Formsma

ilikegiving

The book I Like Giving (releasing on Feb. 18/14) is written by Brad Formsma, the creator of ilikegiving.com.

I Like Giving is a very personal and human look at generosity. The book is made up of numerous stories from people who stepped out to participate in various compassionate and creative acts of generosity. What I appreciate about this look at generosity is that it isn’t solely focused on financial generosity. The sky is the limit on how we can be generous and give in powerful ways to those around us. 

Although the book talks at length about the beauty of giving, it doesn’t romanticize it, and instead honestly addresses the challenges that can accompany giving. Sometimes being generous is awkward and sometimes people will reject our generosity, but that shouldn’t stop us from being generous people. Another aspect of giving that the book does a great job at unpacking is being good at receiving. Often times we are great at giving but we are poor at being the recipient of someone else’s generosity. This was a great reminder about allowing others to receive the blessing of giving by being good at receiving.

On top of the great content in the book, it is also a very attractive book and is laid out in a really interesting way.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “When we choose to give, we change, and the people around us change. When we move from awareness to action, miracles happen” (p. 6).
  • “Sometimes we need to give more than other people need to receive” (p. 50).
  • “…my compassion can’t be directed by other people’s decisions” (p. 88).
  • “…the lines between giving and receiving disappear. You might see yourself as a giver in one situation but realize that the blessing you receive from giving is so great that you are really the receiver” (p. 172-173).

I would definitely recommend this book as a practical and inspirational look at generosity.

Check out ilikegiving.com for more information, short films, stories and more. You can also follow this movement on Facebook and on Twitter (@ilikegiving). Click HERE to read the first chapter of this book for free.

Below is a trailer for the book I Like Giving.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: “24/6” by Matthew Sleeth, MD

24:6

24/6: A prescription for a healthier, happier life is written by Matthew Sleeth, MD, and is a look at the subject of sabbath. Dr. Sleeth’s first book is called Serve God, Save the Planet, and he is the founder of the creation care non-profit ‘Blessed Earth’.

Sleeth writes in a very folksy tone and comes across as maybe the nicest guy in the world. 24/6 is a very easy read and accessible to everyone. Sleeth’s storytelling is relevant and engaging, pulling a lot from his background as a doctor, and his heart for God and enjoying Him comes shining through on every page. Sleeth calls his readers to come back to the sabbath to find rest in our crazy fast paced lives, and more importantly to find God.

In my opinion, 24/6 is a good basic primer on the idea of sabbath for someone who maybe has never given the subject much thought. I wouldn’t categorize this book as theological heavy lifting or an in-depth look at the history of sabbath, but again a good modern day primer on the subject.

The book closes with a few great appendices, including: scripture concerning the sabbath, quotes about the sabbath, and various blessings. Also available is a small group study & dvd that is based on the book. I have previewed both the study guide and dvd and they are very well put together and filmed beautifully. 

Overall I would recommend 24/6 as a good entry point for starting a conversation on the subject of sabbath, and the additional study materials are also excellent.

Book Review: “Crash the Chatterbox” by Steven Furtick

Crash

Although he has released two books prior to this one, this is my first time reading a book by author Steven Furtick, who is also the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church, based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Furtick’s newest book Crash the Chatterbox (releasing on Feb. 11, 2014), is about navigating all the different voices that come at us on a daily basis to determine which ones are truth (God’s voice), and which ones are based on lies and half truths that bring only discouragement and disappointment. The “chatterbox” is defined as “…the lies we believe that keep us from accurately and actively hearing God’s voice” (p. 8).

The book is divided into four sections: God Says I Am, God Says He Will, God Says He Has, and God Says I Can.

Each and everyday we need to decide what dialogue we are going to listen to, ruminate on, and respond to. What dialogue we choose to invest ourselves in will shape how we experience life and our relationship with God. I was challenged immediately from the very beginning of the book when Furtick asked a few reflection questions concerning the voices we listen to and the impact it has not only on ourselves, but the very plans God has for us.

  • Q. At this point in your life, what great deeds are in danger of remaining undone because of lies that were planted into your past or fears that are looming in your future?
  • Q. Is there a throb or an ache because of a sense of purpose in your heart that remains unfulfilled? What weeds are growing in the cracks of some of the God-inspired ideas you’ve abandoned?
  • Q. How many contributions that God created you to make for His glory are still wrapped in good intentions because they’ve been neutralized by spiritual hesitation? (p. 10)

Although the “chatterbox” will be a life long reality, it doesn’t have to be a debilitating presence in our lives. Through holding onto God’s truths and promises found in scripture and daily choosing to live a life of gratitude, the “chatterbox” doesn’t have to have a dominating power over us.

Crash the Chatterbox is a very accessible book, easy and engaging to read, and it closes with a discussion guide that could be used for both personal and small group study.

Overall I found Furtick’s newest book to be both encouraging and inspiring. It’s so easy to spend time focused on and discouraged by lies others tells us or even lies we tell ourselves. Crash the Chatterbox was a great reminder to examine what voices I am listening to, ruminating on, and responding to, to refocus on God truths, and to not miss out on the plans God has for my life.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “The voice you believe will determine the future you experience” (p. 17).
  • “…God’s Word cannot adequately sustain you – no matter how prevalent it is around you – until you receive it within you” (p. 101).
  • “…spiritual progress is usually not about something we need to learn. It’s about something we need to remember” (p. 141).

For more information on the author, check out his website at www.stevenfurtick.com or follow him on Twitter @stevenfurtick. For information on Elevation Church and their multiple campuses, you can visit their website at www.elevationchurch.org.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.