Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Live to Give

"God doesn't need your help. But He definitely wants it."

--About the Book--

We all were born with gifts. But will we let them sit and rot, waste them while chasing pointless things, or will we be brave enough to find out what exactly our gifts are and put them to the test?  When we use our talents by giving them to God, He will in turn use them for miracles.  Just because God can use anything does't mean He won't want to use you.  

In Live to Give, you will learn about what your gift is, how to keep pressing on when things are tough, and how your life can be changed by giving. 

"To truly live...we give" 

--My thoughts--

~One thing I found particularly helpful about Live to Give was that every chapter ended with a set of pertinent "Study Questions." These help the reader to review what the chapter taught them, and apply it to their own lives. I'm looking forward to reading this book more slowly and journaling my answers to these questions! The questions are also so interactive and discussion based that I could see this book being used as a Bible study or small group for pre-teens or teens.

~I completely enjoyed Austin Gutwein's voice throughout the book.  His witty, attention catchy phrasing makes every chapter interesting and attention holding.  Really entertaining personal stories are found in every part of the book, like in chapter 5, when he talks about the time he gave into an infomercial scam.  This humor is used to get his point across, while keeping (especially younger) readers' attentions. More importantly, he aptly presents Bible stories that Christians have heard over and over again in a new light, helping the reader to better understand God's word and how it applies to their lives. 

~Another aspect of Live to Give that makes it interactive and fun is the great list of possible gifts and talents found in chapter 6 (seen in the picture above).  This list is a great start to get you thinking about what specific gifts God has given you!

~Something that really stuck with me was the chapter that talked about getting "fueled up" to go out and serve God.  Gutwein emphasized that prayer and Bible reader are like our bread and water.  The way he explained the connection between these and being able to give our gifts to God for serving others gave new depth to these "everyday exercises" that sometimes, as a Christian, I forget are so very important. 

It inspired me to see someone as young as Austin standing up and sharing his story by publishing a novel! I was extremely impressed by Live to Give, which left me eager to discover, develop, and dedicate my own gifts. 

I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my unbiased review.

Austin's new book Live to Give is about "Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles"! Celebrate with him by entering his "Get and Give" Campaign - you could win a Kindle Fire for yourself AND Litfuse will donate $250 to the charity of your choice!

See what people are saying about Live to Give.

One winner will receive:
  • A Brand New Kindle Fire with Wi-Fi
  • Five copies of Live to Give by Austin Gutwein
  • $250 donated on the winner’s behalf to the charity of their choice
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on the Live to Give Landing Page!

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Monday, August 13, 2012

My identity = the end of me.

It's okay, this is just the end
Don't be afraid, this is where it begins, oh
'Cause everything here had to fall apart
But in the ruins of a broken heart

I found peace like a river to attend my soul
Hope running over when I let go
I found joy that was hidden for all these years
And love overflowing to wash over everything
Here at the end of me

If you are like me, you will probably agree with this statement:

"I am really concerned with making sure people know who I am--leaving an impression of my identity."

Even if we don't admit it, even if we are "shy" we have this underlying desire for people to know who we are and to respect us.

But, if you are like me, you find yourself struggling with defining this very idea: "what is my identity?"

This point in my life is a definite in-between stage. I'm going into my senior year of high school, I'm trying to decide what college to go to, and I'm trying to trust God with my future.

And it really feels like I'm being blown in the wind, because they are so many different voices trying to tell me who I am.

-Commercials that target teenage girls tell me I have to dress to impress, and have all the latest styles in clothing, hair products, mobile devices, makeup, and perfume.

-My family tells me I need to make the right decisions about my future and yet still find time to spend with them before I move out (scary thought).

-The media tells me (as they have for the past, like, 5 years) that I'm crazy to not have a boyfriend and that I need to hurry up and "start living" or "be normal."

And I'm left in a puddle of self-pity and stress, wondering why I ever wanted to "grow up and be like the big kids." Because, now that I see it all up close, it's not as glamourous as I had expected.

Now, this is the point where I'd like to have all the answers. But since this is about where I am right now, the answers aren't going to be so super clear.  I'd like to have a perfect verse or a snazzy quote...but I don't.

Because this is where my struggle ends, and my hope begins.

This is where I trust Him, and His forgiveness, and His love.

This is where I start again.

Review - Giants in the Land: The Way of Things

"There must always be giants in the land..."

-- About the Book --

What would you do if one morning you woke up and the one thing you had relied on your entire life had disappeared? How would you react if everyone around you was falling into hopeless fear? Would you be able to take a stand and believe even when there was nothing visible to trust?

These questions are what Thomas has to answer when he awakens to discover that the giants are gone. The giants have helped his village for generations--farming, building, and clearing.  They have also protected their land and caused the people to live in perfect peace.  

Now, the village is in pandemonium. Who will step up to seek the giants and bring them back? Thomas volunteers, not because he is the bravest person in the village, but simply because he knows it is the right thing. His journey begins an adventure that will teach him the true meaning of courage, faith, and hope.

-- My Thoughts --

~I wasn't sure what to expect from Giants in the Land: The Way of Things by Clark Rich Burbidge. It is classified as juvenile fiction, but I definitely found it to be an interesting, thought provoking read. The symbolism the book drew between the giants and the people in our lives that are our leaders was really interesting and deeper than I was anticipating.  I couldn't help but compare this book to a Ted Dekker novel, and while it did not go into quite as much backstory or spiritual metaphor, I definitely would say it is a meaningful, action-genre book (especially for pre-teens).

~Trying not to give too many spoilers, I'd like to share two amazing quotes from the book: 

"While the way if things is the only path worth taking, it is not an easy one. Other paths may seem easier at first, but...they lead to nothing... selfishness, self indulgence, and useless distraction pretend to be freedom at first."

"All people grow up with giants in their lives on whom they depend...this learning environment is important in every society. But if carried to far, people tend to become overly dependent on their giants." Instead, the story encourages us to discover "the power of hope, which leads to the exercise of faith, which becomes knowledge, inner strength, and wisdom."

~You may be wondering where God is in the story.  Like The Chronicles of Narnia (I did think of The Silver Chair reading this book because of the giants), Giants has a parallel to God, named "Worldmaker." The giants serve this God, and have a received a promise from Him that they will live forever to serve mankind and help them serve Worldmaker (who the people call "by another name" sound like Narnia?).  This reminded me of angels in the Bible as well, so I wonder if this is an intended parallel.

~The illustrations in the book were really fun, cartoon styled images that really set the scene for each chapter!

~In the end, this book left me excited for the next installment in the series (the ending was a great cliffhanger!) and I would readily recommend this book to pre-teens, teens, and adults looking for a wonderful, easy read about becoming who you are meant to be.

I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my unbiased review.