I stumbled upon Kendall Vanderslice's We Will Feast: Rethinking Dinner, Worship, and the Community of God through twitter recently, which proves that good things do happen on social media. ;) Released in May of this year, We Will Feast explores the practice of eating together as an act of Christian worship while featuring church communities, often referred to as "Table Churches", that are a part of the dinner-church movement.
I found this book enlightening, fascinating, and enriching. It has opened my eyes to a new way to experience worship. I am a member of a small, country Baptist church that puts on Fellowship meals regularly for the congregation (guests are also very welcome), but we've never combined worship AND sharing a meal. It has always been worship first, then share a meal together after. Don't get me wrong, I love my church, I love our services, and I love engaging in fellowship during the meal. I just found the act of worshiping WHILE eating super intriguing.
In We Will Feast Vanderslice explains, "The narrative arc of the gospel — from creation and its fall, to Christ's death and resurrection, to the building anticipation of a restored earth—is grounded in the act of eating. Meals end in death and meals offer new life." She continues to explore worship through meals, using biblical examples, the greatest one being Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus often used meals and the act of sharing food with people as a way to reach them, to teach them, and to worship with them.
Most of us have read the Bible, so we know that Jesus did this, but reading this in Vanderslice's words and the way she presents the information, it hit me differently this time. It stuck with me. I've never thought about sharing meals in this way before. The author features roughly 10 groups/churches, their backstories, and how their methods of worshiping using food. I love the intentionality of these groups and churches to create an atmosphere of community, fellowship, and belonging over a meal. They bring together people of different races, economic status, orientations, and creeds, who most likely wouldn't have become friends had it not been for the sharing of these special meals.
I found that chapters one, two, five, six, and ten really spoke to me and enriched me in one way or another. If you flip through my copy of the book, you'll find underlines, stars, and notes in those chapters, but make no mistake, the whole book is a treasure. We Will Feast is the first book I've read this year that truly moved me and opened my mind in a profound way. No doubt it'll make my end of the year list!
All to say, I'd highly recommend this book. I'll definitely be buying copies to give out as gifts this year. ;)
I give it a 9/10.
Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through The Prayers of Jane Austen was released October 2nd of this year and found its way to me soon after. This is a wonderful devotional centered around three beautiful prayers that Jane Austen wrote.
For those who might have lived under a rock, Jane Austen is the beloved author of classics including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. I first fell in love with Austen's work through Emma, which is still among my all time favorite books. When I saw a devotional that was based on Austen's prayers, I HAD to get it.
Praying with Jane is absolutely delightful and enlightening. The devotional is divided into three parts, each focusing on one of the three prayers. Each day within each part is devoted to a section of the prayer, usually a few lines per day. Each part opens with the full prayer, so that the reader can first read it as a whole. Then each day features a section of that prayer, along with a devotional that focusses on the theme of that particular section, what it means, and how we can use it in our own lives, all while relating it to Jane's life and works. Each day also features an Invitation to Pray, which helps the reader get in the right mind set to pray the theme for the day, and then Let Us Pray, which gives you a prayer to pray, letting you plug in what you need.
Overall, it is a beautiful, enchanting devotional that encourages prayer and helps the reader grow in their prayer life. I absolutely enjoyed working my way through it and will definitely use this devotional again. I would highly recommend it.
I give it 8/10.
In Remember God, Annie F. Downs questions whether God is truly, deeply, always kind. We know He is all powerful, we know He is loving, we know He is good, but is God always kind?
Faced with hard situations and dreams that just aren't coming true while others seem to be soaring high, is enough to make anyone wonder why that is. What makes them successful and achieving their dreams, while others who work hard and believe their whole lives never see their dreams and goals come to fruition? Is God really the kind God we think He is? How can He be? How can He watch us struggle and hurt, without doing anything about it (to our view)?
Annie addresses this through her own story, in a very real and honest way. I commend Annie for the ending of this book. I'm sure she was tempted to just sugarcoat things, wrap the ending up in a nice little red bow, all neat and tidy, but instead she was honest. Life is rarely neat and tidy, and for those who are bewildered and confused, hurting and struggling, we needed to see that. We needed to know that it's not just us that are questioning and struggling. We also needed the message this book carries, God is kind. God is with us and for us. No matter what. Even in the dark times, the hard times, and the broken hearts and unfulfilled dreams.
I personally needed this book. I didn't realize I needed it, but after listening to an advanced audiobook copy, I was hit with a sudden realization about my own life. It was eye-opening and enlightening, and a true gift from God. Thank you Annie, for the book, for sharing your honest story, and for being willing to be vulnerable with the world.
I would highly recommend this book, which releases the first of October.
I give it an 8/10.
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey was a book that was recommended to me by a friend. I found this book interesting, enjoyable, and encouraging. At a time when I find myself questioning my place within the church and discouraged by the way women are often treated by leaders and followers in the church, this book acts as a bit of a balm to the wounded soul.
The word “feminist” gets a bad rep these days. Too much of a stigma is attached to the word these days. Heck, I had a few people question me when they saw the title of the book I was reading, saying “What are you reading? Looks like trash to me.” I’d like to plead this book’s case, please don’t disregard it based on the title. This is a good book, one that’s definitely worth the read. In Jesus Feminist, Bessey offers a freedom call for all who want to realize their gifts and potential in the kingdom of God. Bessey uses a thoughtful review of biblical teaching and church practices to share how following Jesus made a feminist out of her.
Many people like to refer to a few verses, taken out of context, written by Paul to make their case against women having any sort of leadership role in the church. Some go as far as to suggest that we should be completely silent in the church….. Yes, it’s 2018 and people still believe that. But as Bessey points out, Jesus spoke to women directly, instead of through their male-headship standards and contrary to the order of the day. She uses superb examples of Jesus engaging, interacting, and working through/with women. The Samaritan woman at the well, Mary Magdalene being the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection, and Mary and Martha being a select few. Bessey backs up her claims with biblical and sound theological evidence.
I very much enjoyed reading Jesus Feminist and found it incredibly encouraging. This book encouraged me to press on and stand my ground. I would recommend this to all Christian women. It’s a good read.
I give it a 7/10.
Liz Austin. Bibliophile. Writer. Book hoarder. I would rather be reading....