Sunday, September 8, 2013

Book Review: A Plain Disappearance

The book A Plain Disappearance by Amanda Flower is the third in the series The Appleseed Creek Mysteries. This was my first exposure to the author and the series. Despite not being familiar with the characters and their histories, I was able to follow along and enjoy the mystery.

The story is about a young woman, Chloe Humphreys, who lives in an Amish community in Ohio, though she is not Amish. Her life is further entwined in the Amish culture because she is dating a young man who left the Amish faith prior to his baptism. This allows him to continue living and working in association with his family.

A young girl is murdered in this quiet community, and Chloe finds herself in the middle, assisting the police chief in solving it. Apparently she has come to the aid of the police in both of the previous books. The interplay between the characters seems to have developed over the course of the series, so as I read, I found myself wondering about what had happened in the previous books. This doesn't detract too much from the story, although I do think I would have enjoyed the story more had I read the first two books.

The crime is solved in the very last few pages, which feeds the reader's desire for a good whodunit intrigue. The characters are relatable, and the writer's style is enjoyable and makes the reading experience pleasant. I plan to pick up the first two novels in the series, and then look forward to what happens next in Appleseed Creek!

I received this book for the purpose of this review. I was not required to write a favorable review.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Packing Light - a Book Review

Packing Light, by Allison Vesterfelt

We all have baggage. Some baggage is heavier than others. But no matter what kind of life we've lived, when Christ makes us born again, He takes that baggage and replaces it with His own - His gospel. We're new creations. The old man has passed away, and all things are new.

So why is it then, that we keep trying to stuff more into our suitcase? We try to pick up some of the old stuff and cram it in, and we pick up all kinds of useless junk along that way that just has to be included on the journey. If we're really messed up, we keep our suitcase, and then buy a back pack, overnight bag, and footlocker just so we have more room for the stuff that we don't need! And then we're so concerned with carrying all that stuff, and shuffling it around, and trying to find the appropriate stuff to pull out for any situation, that we lose sight of ourselves! We become junk store merchants! This is not the life to which we're call in Christ. We're called to let go, follow Him and fully trust Him to meet every need.

Allison Vesterfelt has written a thought-provoking memoir of her journey to this understanding. Stepping outside of her comfort zone, she embarks on a 50-state adventure with a friend. They must pack light, since they'll be on the road for 6 months, driving across the country and back. As they travel, they accumulate more stuff, they purge, they acquire. They are constantly re-evaluating what is necessary and what can be discarded. Allison comes to realize that in holding tightly to the unnecessary, she was letting go of the person God created her to become.

Packing Light is a great read - there's adventure, fun and loss. And intentionally or not, Packing Light is packed full of the good news. In talking about making decisions for her life, she writes, "Everything was going to be okay. I knew it. He (God) loved me, He loved me, He loved me. That was all that mattered." (p. 95) She talks about unrealized expectations in a way that reminded me of Jesus' twelve disciples - they were expecting a triumphant, conquering Messiah, but instead they had one who was killed on a cross. She writes about rules and how we think obeying the rules will keep us from disappointment and heartache, but they don't. Just like keeping the Law of Scripture, which cannot save us. We either neglect the rules and reap the consequences, or we become obsessed with them and shift our focus off the beauty and glory of God and shine the spotlight on ourselves and our efforts.

In my opinion, her most profound words appear on pages 130-131. I won't quote it entirely (you'll just have to read the book yourself!). But I will close with my favorite sentence: "When we become who God meant us to be all along, we leave a wake of His presence behind us." Isn't that what the Christian life is all about? We live our lives in such a way that the world might see Christ in us, the hope of glory. Buy the book, read it, and pass it on to someone else who needs to learn to fill their suitcase with the gospel, and let all the rest take care of itself.

I received this book from the author for the purpose of this review, although I was not required to write a favorable review. I just couldn't help it!