Genius of Generosity Book: Lessons from a Secret Pact Between Two Friends

Genius of Generosity Book: Lessons from a Secret Pact Between Two FriendsGenius of Generosity Book: Lessons from a Secret Pact Between Two Friends by Chip Ingram
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chip Ingram describes learning about generosity as a young pastor. An elder in his church, who was a prosperous executive, fed money into an account and asked Ingram to give the money away to people who needed it most. One of them had resources and the other had contacts with needy people. The secret pact began. They met quarterly to discuss results and replenish the fund for the next quarter.

From this experience, Ingram learned the meaning of being a steward of someone else’s money. His task was to give away money that belonged to someone else. In reality, we are each stewards of God’s money and He is willing to keep funding our account if we will give it away.

By couching his message in his experience as a pastor giving away someone else’s money, his teaching points were believable, real, and desirable.

Supported by scripture, the lessons the author learned about generosity come across naturally and not heavy-handed (as giving messages often come across). Moreover, he explains how giving isn’t just something we have to do; it’s the smart thing to do, hence the book title, The Genius of Generosity.

View all my reviews


BeScrooged: Imagining a Full Life of Generosity

BeScrooged: Imagining a Full Life of GenerosityBeScrooged: Imagining a Full Life of Generosity by Gordon MacDonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part storybook, part devotional, and part Christian teaching, this book is a fast-paced, enjoyable read with a serious message. BeScrooged follows the transformation of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. At each stage in Scrooge’s development, the authors provide Christian teaching on the subject of “full-life generosity” and devotional readings focusing on specific people in the Bible who exemplified either stinginess or generosity (or the struggle in between).

According to the authors, we each need to reach our personal crisis that brings about life transformation, a point at which we have been BeScrooged. Just as Scrooge had a drastic and total transformation of his outlook on life, we each need to experience a similar moment that forever changes our hearts and lives.

Full-life generosity is not just about money; it’s about having a generous spirit. Full-life generosity gives a kind word, a helping hand, and all sorts of generosity. This type of transformation can only come from within.

The authors describe a ladder of generosity where readers can evaluate where they might be in their current level of generosity. But they did admit that we all tend to move up and down the ladder at different times in life. Still, they suggested that periodic appraisal was a worthwhile way to check our hearts.

I enjoyed reading the devotionals most of all. Each one focused on a different person in the Bible and I thought some of the points drawn from these examples brought about several fresh insights for me.

View all my reviews

Fresh Hope by Brad Hoefs

Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis by Brad Hoefs (@bradhoefs)

When I was first diagnosed with a mental illness (bipolar disorder), I had an all or nothing approach that included Option A: a devastated life with mental illness, or Option B: complete and perfect healing by God. That was the only way I could think about it. And, in fact, I believe the church taught me to think about it in those terms. As I worked through the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of mental illness, I came to realize there was a better choice. I could accept mental illness and overcome it through diligence on my part and faith in God’s part until I reached a point of recovery, which is not the same as healing. Recovery means living with it, but overcoming it with God’s help.

That’s what I liked most about Brad Hoefs’ book, Fresh Hope. He emphasized recovery as the goal and that goal gives us hope and motivation. We can take steps, sometimes baby steps, towards living with a mental illness. We can do more than cope with our condition; we can have hope to overcome it and live a life of victory and fulfillment. In other words, mental illness doesn’t have to hold us back from the life we wanted. Sure, some things will change, such as taking medication, but that doesn’t mean we can’t thrive in spite of our mental health condition. We are overcomers in Christ.

I was also pleased to find this wasn’t a “rah-rah” cheerleading approach that sees only rosy-colored outcomes. Because of Brad Hoefs’ own struggle with bipolar disorder, he knows the depths of despair and the difficult days of learning to take every thought captive to bring it to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Recovery is hard work. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we fall down. But taking back your life requires work and God will help you along the way. This is an opportunity to build a relationship with God like never before so lean into Him and don’t give up on your life just because of a mental illness diagnosis. God gives us hope.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


Tweetable Quotes from Fresh Hope:


Fresh Hope

Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis (A Wellness Workbook for Fresh Hope)

Brad Hoefs with Dr. Michael Egger


296 pages


Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson

Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson (@aresimpson)

During Amy Simpson’s youth, her mother developed schizophrenia. She knows firsthand the traumas and difficulties of families with mental illness. That’s why she writes with such passion and compassion for others who struggle with mental health problems. In particular, she points out the many ways the church has failed people with mental health issues.

In her book, Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission, Simpson addresses the practical and theological issues that feed misunderstanding about mental illness in church communities. But she doesn’t leave her message at “do better,” she goes on to share the success stories of churches who intentionally reach out to people through mental health ministries. She describes specific actions the church or individuals can take to help people who experience a mental health crisis. And she offers her vision for the future, in which the church becomes a safe place for broken people.

Troubled Minds should be mandatory reading for every seminary student and pastor. It is a much-needed book in today’s church. Amy Simpson offers the wisdom that comes from experience to shed light on the darkness within the church.

Here is a quote from Troubled Minds:

As we’re busy enthusiastically delivering meals to suffering people, we are largely ignoring the afflictions of 25 percent of our population. That’s about equal to the total percentage of people diagnosed with cancer each year, those living with heart disease, those infected with HIV and AIDS and those afflicted with diabetes—combined. No wonder several people I talked with called mental illness the “no casserole illness.” In contrast to the care we provide for others, we have very little patience with those whose diseases happen to attack their minds. And many people suffer in silence.

Amy Simpson, Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

Troubled Minds

Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

Amy Simpson (@aresimpson)


225 pages



Write Mind: 299 Things Writers Should Never Say To Themselves (And What They Should Say Instead)

Write Mind: 299 Things Writers Should Never Say To Themselves

I don’t often publish book reviews of general writing books, but here’s one I read last year so I included the review I posted on Goodreads. It’s not a Christian book by any means, but writing books don’t have to be religious. 🙂

This particular book helps discouraged writers reframe their negative thoughts into positive ones. This helps change momentum, optimism, and ultimately results. I should print the 299 thoughts on toilet paper so I could read them every day! (But the author might not like me saying that!)


Write Mind: 299 Things Writers Should Never Say To Themselves (And What They Should Say Instead)Write Mind: 299 Things Writers Should Never Say To Themselves by Eric Maisel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the title sounds, Write Mind a list of negative things writers say to themselves and the positive statements to replace the negative ones. Eric Maisel’s concepts had resonated with me before so I thought this would be helpful and I was right. It helped me feel better about moving forward. I may have to read it periodically to help correct my thinking and it’s a quick, easy read (one hour). It was funny, too.

View all my reviews


Bipolar Happens

Bipolar Happens by Julie Fast (@JulieBipolar)

Julie Fast’s book, Bipolar Happens: 35 Tips and Tricks to Manage Bipolar Disorder, is a quick read, but a thought-provoking one. She covers 35 problems people with bipolar face and describes not only her debilitating problems but her own tried and proven coping strategies.

She covers everything from the fear of going to public events to bipolar spending sprees and more. For each problem area, she frequently offers a list of possible solutions. I had to pause to consider which problems I experience and which types of solutions could work for me.

On one level there’s nothing earth shattering here. On another level, this small eBook does address a variety of concerns for people with bipolar disorder (and those who love them).

One of the things I liked about her writing was her quirky and memorable analogies:

The past is not a frog for you to dissect. Life is not a biology class. Depression wants you to rip apart your life and examine every minute detail of what you have done wrong, what you said wrong and what you didn’t do—what you should have done—what you might have done, ad nauseam. That poor frog of your past. There must not be much of it left.

Julie Fast, Bipolar Happens: 35 Tips and Tricks to Manage Bipolar Disorder


This inexpensive and short eBook is worth a quick read. You never know which tidbits might really help you or someone you know.

(Note: It is not a Christian book, but when you have bipolar disorder, you’ll take help anywhere you can get it.)


Bipolar Happens

35 Tips and Tricks to Manage Bipolar Disorder

Julie Fast (@JulieBipolar)


45 pages



Bigger than Impossible: Keys to Experiencing the Impossible through God

Bigger than Impossible: Keys to Experiencing the Impossible through God

Bigger Than Impossible is a great title. The gist of the book’s message was that we won’t know God is bigger than impossible situations if we never put ourselves in impossible situations. She talked about rebuilding efforts after hurricane Katrina, going to the Philippines as a missionary (she had never even flown before), and her husband’s battle with advanced Parkinson’s disease. These are impossible situations where she has seen God work.

However, the author talked most about her childhood, which seems to have been traumatic for her. She was raised in a strict fundamentalist family, but has since come to know the grace of God. She hasn’t quite broken free of a works mentality, though. For instance, she repeatedly refers to our need to “manifest the required works.” And she has a very negative view of the future.

At the time of this writing, the Kindle version is free.

Book Quotes

“Unbelief comes from not allowing God to be big enough to be Lord in our lives.”

“[Faith] is the information, divine revelation or instruction we receive from God that will allow us to know God’s plan about a certain matter.”


Bigger than Impossible

Keys to Experiencing the Impossible through God

Lydia Chorpening


223 pages



What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Rex M.D. Russell

What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Rex M.D. Russell

Rex Russell’s book, What the Bible Says about Healthy Living, explores what the Bible says about healthy diet and compares it with modern science. The research upholds the wisdom of biblical advice so the author encourages us to heed the dietary laws, not in a legalistic obedience, but as a way to honor our Creator with our bodies.

I was most interested in the extensive section on fasting. Because I’m on medication, I’m not able to go without food so fasting never seemed like an option to me. The author explained four types of fasting: normal fast, absolute fast, partial fast, and rotational fast. The latter two are options that don’t require complete abstinence from food, but focus on abstaining from particular types of food or rotating abstinence from different foods. I learned a lot from his teaching, especially about the health (and mental health) benefits of fasting.

Many of his chapters go into more technical detail than I wanted about scientific names of mono-whatevers and tri-somethings. Perhaps someday I’ll be more educated on these matters, but it was more than I was prepared to take-in right now. So I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I’m sure it’s useful information to those who can grasp the technical details. Even so, I was able to skim these portions and still get helpful information on each topic covered.

Overall, I’d say it’s worth a read, whether or not you like the science parts. I learned several things, and I’m sure you will, too.

Book Quotes

“The mind is a precious thing. Fasting can give the body time to clear itself of toxic products. Eating things designed for food in their purest form could be great for the mind, just as it has been shown to maintain our joints, our weight and our immune system.”

–Rex M.D. Russell, What the Bible Says About Healthy Living

“When asked how much fiber we need, I often give the admittedly earthy answer that we need only to look into our toilets. As insoluble fiber passes through the bowel, it takes fat with it into the stool. Fat floats. So floating stools are a good sign that you have enough fiber.”

–Rex M.D. Russell, What the Bible Says About Healthy Living


What the Bible Says About Healthy Living

Rex M.D. Russell


282 pages




The Names of God by Ken Hemphill

The Names of God by Ken Hemphill

I’m currently delving into the names of God so I picked up this eBook by Ken Hemphill, The Names of God. I’ve never given any thorough study to the Hebrew names of God in the Old Testament so I thought this book would be a good place to start.

I have to admit I had a difficult time concentrating and following this text. Some parts were academic and dry, listing the number of times each word appeared in the Bible. Other parts wandered away from the main points to tell stories or chase the author’s rabbits. For instance, in too many chapters, he gave the message of salvation, which is an honorable goal, but I seriously doubt a non-Christian would be reading a book on the Hebrew names of God. It was things like this that created unnecessary distractions from the main point of each chapter.

Still, the names of God are a worthy study so I’ll include a list of them here for your perusal:

Elohim: Powerful God

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1

Adonai: Lord

But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth.

Genesis 15:2

El Elyon: God Most High

Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.

And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.”

Genesis 14:19-20

El Shaddai: Almighty God

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.

Genesis 17:1

Yahweh: Israel’s Covenant God

God replied to Moses, “I am who i am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.”

Exodus 3:14

Jehovah Jireh: The Lord Provides

Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Genesis 22:14

Jehovah Rophe: The Lord Heals

He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

Exodus 15:26

Jehovah Nissi: The Lord Is My Banner

Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”). 16 He said, “They have raised their fist against the Lord’s throne, so now the Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.”

Exodus 17:15-16

Jehovah Mekadesh: The Lord Who Sanctifies You

I myself will turn against them and cut them off from the community, because they have defiled my sanctuary and brought shame on my holy name by offering their children to Molech.

Leviticus 20:3

Jehovah Shalom: The Lord Is Peace

And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the Lord is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day.

Judges 6:24

Jehovah Tsidkenu: The Lord Is Our Righteousness

And this will be his name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’

In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.

Jeremiah 23:6

Jehovah Rohi: The Lord Is My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

Psalm 23:1

Jehovah Shammah: The Lord Is There

“The distance around the entire city will be 6 miles. And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The Lord Is There.’”

Ezekiel 48:35


Book Quotes

“Once we understand that we can do nothing in ourselves to accomplish God’s will, it will radically transform our prayer lives.”

“Abraham had to come to the end of his own strategies to provide an heir before he could receive God’s promised heir.”

“Shaddai may be derived from the Hebrew word shad, which can be translated as ‘breast.’ In this case, the term Shaddai could signify the one who nourishes or supplies. Thus when it is linked with El, it would mean, ‘the one mighty to nourish’ or ‘the one mighty to supply.’”

“Actually, in this passage in Judges, before Gideon doubts his own suitability to accomplish the deliverance of Israel, he appears to call into question the presence and power of the Lord. Gideon wants to know why Israel is experiencing so many disasters if God is on their side. His thinking is simple. If God is with them, the Midianites should not be pillaging their fields. The people of Israel should not be living like animals in caves. He is correct in thinking that it is incongruous for the people of God to be living in such defeat and abject poverty, but he is wrong to conclude that their situation points to the weakness of God.”

“I find it exciting and challenging to think that God would use the same man who was questioning His provision and presence to be the deliverer through whom He would reveal His supernatural activity.”

“The fundamental idea behind the word shalom is wholeness in one’s relationship with God. Shalom defines a harmony of relationship based upon the completion of a transaction, the giving of satisfaction. . . . Shalom expresses the deepest need and desire of the human heart. In our experience, it means a sense of contentment, a freedom from guilt, and a satisfaction with life itself.”


The Names of God

Ken Hemphill


224 pages




How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson (@FrugalBookPromo)

I found practical suggestions on almost every page of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s book, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. I was already applying her ideas before I even finished the book. This is without question the most helpful book for authors I have ever read.

One quote summarizes her whole approach: “Getting great reviews is about relationships, about sharing your passion with others.” in an age where we want to automate everything, Carolyn demonstrates why a personal touch gets so much better results.

I wish I would have had this resource years ago. Sadly, I’ve wasted a lot of time, energy, and money trying to promote my books (to little or no avail). For the first time in a couple years, I feel enthusiastic because I have a new set of tools to put to use as I build relationships with reviewers.


Book Quotes

“Getting great reviews is about relationships, about sharing your passion with others.” – Carolyn Howard-Johnson, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically

“A free and unbiased review is the nicest thing you can give to an author as a token of appreciation.” – Carolyn Howard-Johnson, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically

“We writers can’t expect others to do for us if we aren’t willing to do the same—at least occasionally—for other writers.” – Carolyn Howard-Johnson, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically


Tweetable Quotes


How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically

The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career

Carolyn Howard-Johnson


340 pages