Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory

What comes to mind when you think of a fast? If you’re like me, you think of not eating for a period of time. The Daniel Fast is something different. It is eating as Daniel (of the Holy Bible fame) ate while in exile in Babylon. He was being trained to serve in the royal palace. All the young men chosen were given a daily ration of food and wine from the king’s kitchen. Daniel and his three friends felt this food would defile them (pork? Wine?). In any case, they asked for permission to eat only vegetables and water for a trial period of 10 days. At the end of the time they were evaluated and found to be healthier and better nourished than the other men who had eaten the more rich food. So the vegetable diet continued, supposedly for the duration of the three year training time. Susan Gregory contends that by following a similar eating plan and focusing on your spiritual life and prayer life during a set time, you can become closer to God.

The book is very well laid out. The first few chapters deal with the whole idea of fasting – what it is and isn’t. She talks about why and how to fast in the Daniel manner. A whole chapter is devoted to the background of Daniel and his experience in Babylon. Chapter four focuses on the spiritual aspects of the fast. Chapter five helps you plan and prepare. The rest of the book covers the foods you can and can’t eat, recipes, a 21 day menu plan and 21 day devotional. All in all, everything you need to pull off the fast.

In case the book itself isn't enough, there is also a website with further information and support, a blog, and other resources. I ended up ordering the digital devotional/journal for a nominal price.

In order to fully give an opinion of the Daniel Fast I decided to give it a 10 day try. Here are my observations:

1. I found the devotional and journaling to be most valuable “take away” of the fast.

2. I struggled with Gregory’s assertations that this was such a healthy diet. Coming from a paleo perspective, statements saying that a vegan diet is most healthy go against what I believe.

3. Through the online experience I seemed to see a big emphasis on making good tasting food. To me, this takes away from the point of the fast, which is to be making a sacrifice. To Susan’s credit I did read something of hers that clarified that an emphasis on food was to be avoided.

4. All processed food was to be cut out. Tofu was allowed. I couldn’t see the rationale with that.

5. It was hard to maintain the vegetables only diet while continuing to feed a family. I couldn’t expect them to eat what I wanted to.

6. Almost the first day of the fast I was confronted with communion. The bread and the juice were not on the accepted list. However, I decided that God would not look unfavourably on me for taking communion and went ahead with it.

7. There seemed to be a following that was especially interested in the weight loss factor of the diet. Again, I think that this distracts from the spiritual connection you are hoping to make. (did I lose weight you ask? I refused to check 'cause this wasn't my point)

Bottom line? If you are interested in exploring the spiritual disciplines this might be a good place to start. There is lots of support and the book makes easy reading and is a great guideline to follow. No matter how long you choose to “fast” you will probably end up taking some forward steps in your spiritual life.

I was given this book to review for Tyndale House Publishers.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

Are you tired of the same old Christmas stories year after year? “Miracle and Other Christmas Stories” by Connie Willis breaks out of the mold. Think “The Ghost of Christmas Past” with a twist. Imagine being locked in a store toy department for time eternal. What if Mary and Joseph came looking for Bethlehem in this time period? Murder at Christmas time? The dreaded Christmas newsletter - you’ve never read about aliens at Christmas before. This is Christmas with a science fiction flavour. Short stories that will pique your interest and provide several hours of Christmas fun and enjoyment. Included at the back are 12 recommended reads of the season and 12 recommended videos to watch.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Poke the Box by Seth Godin

Catchy covers. Bite-sized paragraphs. Truth bombs. Seth Godin has a way of making you uncomfortable with the status quo. If you like this kind of uncomfortable because it pushes you to move forward, you’ll keep on reading his material. If you just find him weird, the books will hold no appeal. For myself, I can’t get enough of him. “Poke the Box” challenges us to take initiative wherever we are and start “stuff”. Do it differently; raise your hand; take a chance; what will happen if I (fill in the blank).

The book inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and do something that I was worrying about creating a stir with. So what if it fails? So what if people don’t understand? If more people took the ideas in this book seriously we’d have a rush of action. This isn’t just for big business. It can make an impact on your personal life as well. Go ahead – poke the box. You know you want to.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Besides the Bible by Gibson, Green and Pattison

“Besides the Bible” is an enabler book. Subtitled “100 books that have, should, or will create Christian culture”, each chapter had me putting must read books onto my wish list. In fact, what I wanted to do was pull a “Julie and Julia” and read them all in one year. (2 a week!???) When my pulse stopped racing, good sense kicked in and a life-long goal seemed more rational.

We are, indeed, shaped by what we read (or watch or the people we hang with). So if my goal is become a stronger, more committed Christian, reading the books that strong, committed Christians wrote seems like a no-brainer. Alongside the Bible, this compilation would be a good guide to steering through the congested waters of Christian publishing.

Written by Dan Gibson, Jordan Green and John Pattison, the essays are not bland, boring reviews. These men are passionate about the written word and words written about God and the things of God, in particular.

I’m off to buy this book – a good start to a good year of reading.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis

This was the first ebook read on my new Kobo touch! Yah! I loved the experience. A friend said that reading on a reader makes you faster. I might have to agree with that.

“Lincoln’s Dreams” by Connie Willis was not a hard sell for me. She is one of my favourite authors. A disclaimer for the book, though. I don’t believe in this stuff; I just enjoy reading science fiction. That said - the book was fascinating. If the dead could dream, what would they dream about? Could their dreams affect the living? Direct the living? Can the living direct the dreams of the dead?

What I like most about Willis’s books is all the history you absorb alongside a riveting story. In “Lincoln’s Dreams” Jeff, a researcher looking into small details about the Civil War, meets Annie, who is tormented by bad dreams. Her psychiatrist is convinced that she is having one medical problem after another, but as the story unfolds it becomes clearer to Jeff and Annie that the dreams tell a tale closer to real life, albeit, past life. Interesting facts about the civil war, General Lee and Abraham Lincoln wove their way through this science fiction/love story. Apparently this was Connie Willis’s first book – I’m glad she wrote it and so glad she kept on writing.