GrowingForChrist

Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

I Am Hutterite: The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman’s Journey to reclaim Her Heritage by Mary-Ann Kirkby



Book description from the Book Sneeze website:

A fascinating journey into the heart and culture of a reclusive religious community.

I Am Hutterite takes readers into the hidden heart of the little-known Hutterite colony where author Mary-Ann Kirkby spent her childhood. When she was ten, her parents packed up their seven children and a handful of possessions and left the colony to start a new life. Overnight they were thrust into a world they didn’t understand, a world that did not understand them.

With great humor, Kirkby describes how she adapted to popular culture, and with raw honesty she describes her family’s deep sense of loss for their community. More than a history lesson, I Am Hutterite is a powerful tale of retracing steps and understanding how our beginnings often define us.

My Opinion:

I was impressed with this book, since I am into studying the Anabaptist faith and cultures this book caught my eye when I requested to review it. The author, Mary-Ann Kirkby was raised Hutterite, which is a segment of the Anabaptists like Amish, Mennonite, etc however they live communal life, sharing all they have.

Mary-Ann made you feel as if you were sharing her journey of her life in Canada as part of a Hutterite colony as well as living apart from them. The hardships both in colony life and regular society is felt in her words, I could feel the taunts from school mates and the feelings of her first love. She realizes that the world was not as safe outside the colony but her parents along with her siblings made a safe haven at home.

Gripping from the first page Mary-Ann Kirkby weaves a fascinating story, all of it true, of life in a communal setting which provided for the needs of all including safety and a way to worship God. If you’d like to know more about the Hutterities then this book will give a great glimpse into this seemingly secret way of life and religion – however as you read you’ll also see how friendly these people can be, but also see how human they are and that even they have bad days.

**I received this book through Book Sneeze in exchange for my honest review. To see my full disclosure see the above tab.

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FIRST tour: "Scars and Stilettos: The Transformation of an Exotic Dancer" by Harmony Dust


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

Harmony Dust

and the book:

Scars and Stilettos : The Transformation of an Exotic Dancer

Monarch (December 18, 2009)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, of Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Harmony Dust founded and leads Treasures, a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles that helps women in the sex industry to make healthy life choices. She and her husband John have a young daughter.

Visit the author’s FaceBook.
Visit the author’s MySpace.
Visit the author’s YouTube.
Visit the author’s ministry.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: Monarch (December 18, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825463092
ISBN-13: 978-0825463099

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The haze of dusk was a soft blanket over my green Honda Civic as I drove the familiar route to the Los Angeles Airport. How many times had I taken this freeway? This exit? On autopilot, I changed lanes smoothly and rounded the bend towards Century Boulevard. I was going in the same direction I had always gone, but I might as well have been in a parallel universe to the one I lived in six years before.

I glanced at the clock in my car: 5:45 pm… Always early.

My husband’s plane wouldn’t land for another 15 minutes. I decided to wait in the Taco Bell parking lot down the street.

I missed him. For the first year of our marriage I went on tour with him. We traveled from city to city in dusty rental cars, eating lunch at truck stops and fast-food chains. I sold his Pigeon John T-shirts and CDs at the product table, while he rocked the stage for a steadily growing fan base of nerds and ex-nerds, hip-hop heads and youth groups. I was happy to do so. It was a lifestyle that appealed to the bohemian Venice girl in me.

‘I want your dreams to come true, too,’ he said to me on the night of our honeymoon.

My dreams. What were my dreams? Driving through Nebraskan corn fields and the dim streets of Baltimore on our way to shows, I found myself pondering this question. One moment I was exploring the possibilities; the next I was filling out an application to join the program for the Master’s in Social Welfare at the University of California at Los Angeles. My new role as a full-time graduate-school student meant leaving behind the life on the road with my husband.

He had only been gone for a few days, but I couldn’t wait to kiss his handsome, caramel face.

Driving down Century, I saw the sign in the distance. The words ‘Live Live Nude Nudes’ hung in muted, orange and red 1970s-style lettering. You’d think with all the razzle-dazzle strip clubs popping up everywhere, this one would wither and die and go back to being something more functional, as it was when it was a bowling alley. But it’s still there. And so are the girls.

I wondered about my old co-workers. Had they moved on to other clubs, or other lives, or were they still there?

I remembered that life: the suffocating feeling of being trapped, with no end in sight; wanting the money, needing it, but wishing there were some other legal way to get it. The constant pressure to smile, and pretend you want nothing more than to fulfill every wish and fantasy of a stranger, when all you really want to do is lie around your apartment in sweat pants, watching mafia movies like Goodfellas and Casino – imagining you could live some other life.

I remembered, and all I could do was pray: that the women behind those very walls, feeling as I once did, would have a real and true encounter with the loving, gracious, God of freedom and wonder that I have come to know. That they would discover the beauty that lies within them that is more precious than the rarest gem. That they would realize that the dreams of their youth and the passions of their hearts are important, and within reach.

The driver in front of me gently pressed his brakes, snapping me out of the trance I was in. I glanced in my rear view mirror, and saw that I had passed the Taco Bell parking lot I was planning to pull in to. Instead, I parked in a lot directly across the street from the club, turned my car off, and sat staring. There are girls in there right now, I thought.

What are you going to do? A voice whispered to my heart. What could I do? I felt as though I was outside a prison that had once held me captive. I was free, while there were still women feeling trapped inside. There was a stand-off: I was still, waiting for something to happen. For the other guy, for some other person, to come up with something: a solution; an idea; anything.

What are you going to do? What can I do? It’s not like I can waltz up there and tell the bouncer I want to talk to the girls. Even if he did let me in, what on earth would I say?

What do you want to say?

I glanced to my left and discovered a stack of postcards from a recent women’s conference I had attended. The woman pictured was facing away from the camera, looking confidently ahead. Her back was draped with strands of pearls. Tattooed across the warm brown skin of her shoulder blades were the words, ‘Her value… far above rubies and pearls.’

That is what I wanted to say. That is exactly what I wanted the women in that club to hear. Hands shaking, I grabbed the stack of postcards and began writing on the back of each one:

‘I was just driving by and wanted to tell you that you are loved…’

What else?

‘If you are ever interested in going to church, I know of a great one: http://www.oasisla.org.

You are welcome there!

Love, Harmony

PS: I used to work here too.’

When I first started dancing, even if I wanted to go to church, it would never have occurred to me that a church would have me. Still sitting in the car, my legs were heavy and stiff as I held the postcards in my hands. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Would people think I was crazy for going back there?

I called my mother-in-law. If I am insane, she’ll tell me so, I thought. Her voice was deep and soothing like a mama bear; her words steady and careful, as she encouraged and prayed with me. It was settled; I wasn’t crazy.

I approached the parking lot and there, scattered between orange cones, were the dancers’ cars. ‘My’ spot was among them. Each night, when the security saw my car pulling into the lot, he removed the orange cone and motioned me into the space nearest the dancers’ entrance. Someone else was parked there now. As I approached the first car, a large man wearing a dark blue security jacket stepped out of the porn shop adjoining the club. Security: I hadn’t thought of that. I wasn’t sure he would let me go through with it.

The words Go in confidence radiated from within me. Before the security guard could even open his mouth, I briskly approached him and stuck out my hand.

‘Hi. My name is Harmony. I used to work here. I just wanted to leave these little notes for the girls.’ I whipped out the postcards and presented them to him. He looked at them and back at me. Tilting his head, he seemed caught off guard by the whole thing.

‘All right; go ahead,’ he said, as he waved me along and went back into the porn shop.

Quickly, before he changed his mind, I placed each postcard on the windshields of the dancers’ cars. I wondered what they would think when they found the postcards at the end of the night. What would I have thought?

As I headed to the airport terminal to pick up my husband, I imagined myself walking to my car after a long night of work: feet aching, head throbbing from six hours of pounding music. How would I feel if I entered the buzzing silence of my car and saw that little postcard sitting beneath my windshield wiper?

‘You are loved… You are welcome here.’ Aren’t those the  words I had always longed to hear? That is all I ever wanted… to be loved and welcomed. Isn’t that what we all want?

When I pulled up to the airport terminal, I saw my husband standing there, leaning on his luggage. Always dapper, his vintage-looking Kangol hat was tipped slightly to one side. I hopped out of the car and threw my arms around him, nuzzling my face into his warm neck.

‘Missed you.’

‘Missed you, too.’

We got in the car and headed home.

‘John, you are never going to believe what I just did…’

I recounted the story, and he listened encouragingly.

‘That’s cool, babe. That’s really cool,’ he said, while affectionately squeezing my fingers one by one.

‘Yeah. I mean the whole thing has me thinking… maybe I can do that every time I come to pick you up at the airport. Or every time I pass by a strip club. Do you think other girls would want to do this too? This could be the start of something,’ I rattled on.

We had no idea that within a year a group of volunteers would be going to over 150 strip clubs annually. That we would be walking alongside women, encouraging them to live the healthy, flourishing lives they were created to live. That within two years we would be an official non-profit organization. That four years later we would be training other outreach groups throughout the nation.

The idea I had that night sitting in the parking lot has expanded and become more than I ever dreamed possible. No matter how much it has grown and changed, the message is still the same…

‘You are loved. You are welcome here.’ In our churches, in our lives.

This very message was first breathed like oxygen into my heart during a time when I needed it most in my own life. My passion to share it was born out of my own broken past. This is my story.

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Christian Encounters Series: John Bunyan by Kevin Belmonte


Book Description from the Book Sneeze site:

Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience.

John Bunyan’s world was a turbulent age of regicide, civil war, and revolution. Against this backdrop emerged a man whose matchless literary gifts were burnished amidst suffering and who profoundly influenced western culture. This Christian Encounters biography presents the life story you’ve never heard—how, amidst the crucible of repeated imprisonments, civil war, and violent persecution, John Bunyan crafted The Pilgrim’s Progress, a testament unlike any other to the triumph of the human spirit.

My Opinion:

As a Christian and homeschooling parent I’m always on the look out for books that are safe for my children to read and that show great Christian character and morals. I’m glad that Thomas Nelson has put these book on the market in the form of the new series, Christian Encounters, as they are perfect for an adult or a child to read about upstanding Christians from the past but that can still be learned from today.

The book is short, 170 pages and that includes the end notes, acknowledgements, about the author and epilogue and while some may find this disappointing I thought it a great size for a short look into John Bunyan’s life. Although there are 21 chapters and we get to glimpse into the life of the man who gave us Pilgrim’s Progress . His exact date of birth is not known but he was in 1628 on November 30th and spent time in prison, a wonderful timeline in the back of the book gives more details and when they happened.

I enjoyed this book and will be using it in our school so that my children can learn about Christians who lived their faith and can be a good role model. The book is purse size and can easily travel for reading aloud times in the car while stopped at trains or in the doctor’s office. I think this is a great addition to any family’s library that wants good Christian books that focus on the person’s faith and devotion to God.

I was given a copy of this through Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze book review program.

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Christian Encounters Series: Jane Austen by Peter Leithart



Book description from Thomas Nelson’s website:

Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience.

Some may know Jane Austen simply as the English novelist whose books are required reading in high school and college. Perhaps it wasn’t until the BBC’s extremely successful TV miniseries of Pride and Prejudice or Emma Thompson’s film Sense and Sensibility that many became entranced. Now younger readers are flocking to Austen with a unique twist in the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance, by Seth Grahame-Smith. In this Christian Encounters biography, fans of Jane Austen will discover the Christian faith that was in the weft and weave of her character and how it influenced her writing and her life.

My Opinion:

Whether you are an avid Jane fan or just want to know more about her then this book from the Christian Encounters series is a must read. As soon as I received the book I began reading it and it’s a quick read and a fascinating one at that! I have never read Jane Austen before, I take that back I read one page of one book that I can’t remember now which it was but I just couldn’t find myself engaged by the book. I’m not sure if because it’d been so hyped up or that that the amount of characters were hard to keep straight, whatever the reason I’m not ready to tackle some Jane Austen novels.

For a history buff, this book really provides a historical background on Miss Austen (that’s right she never married although she did have her share of suitors). This history isn’t overwhelming and actually takes on a fun aspect when put in the context surrounding Jane Austen. The author has done a wonderful job on giving readers the real Jane, not some Hollywood starlet – for instance she was a Preacher’s Kid and was a Christian all her life. We’re also introduced to many family and friends which got an ugly portrayal in a movie (I’ve never seen it but I know the truth now), this aspect makes Jane feel real and not some untouchable author, as authors seems to be nowadays.

I cannot stress enough this book is well worth reading. If you’re looking for something for you child to read as an autobiography/biography (yes it’s listed as both) or just for a relaxing read on history or your favorite author this is definitely the way to go. A fast read as well as ‘exposing’ Jane Austen’s Christian heritage will make for an inspirational and knowledgeable read. Especially good for a family read aloud – which if you’re a homeschooler, like me, this is an added bonus in the literature department.

**This book was provided to me through Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program in exchange for my honest review, no other compensation was given.**

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First Things First by Kurt and Brenda Warner w/ Jennifer Schuchmann


First Things First written by Kurt and Brenda Warner with Jennifer Schuchmann is much more than a biography or autobiography about a famous wanting to seek more fame for themselves. The book is published by Tyndale and can be purchased through the Tyndale Publishing site.

I will admit it I am not a football and I am usually the one you’ll find complaining because I believe they make too much money for what they do, considering there are people who work hard everyday and struggle to survive everyday. I had never heard of the Warner’s (I can hear some big gasps), but I am sorry I hadn’t heard of them and not because of his pro-football player status, but because of all they have done with all that money. Finding out that Brenda was a single mom and divorced at age 25, living on welfare and working to put herself through nursing school and provide for her children, surprised me. Kurt is a family man and one that you don’t normally hear about playing pro-ball.

The book is down to earth and one where you can see that the entire family truly strives to live for Christ. The ministries that they have set up are worked with their hands – they don’t just throw money at it, they actually get dirty. For Thanksgiving the family serves the homeless and downtrodden by serving them, even their youngest help in some way. In St. Louis they buy caskets for children who pass away because the Warner’s believe that parents shouldn’t have to buy a casket for a dead child. Okay so they do have a nanny (it doesn’t seem like she lives in), a cleaning lady (the children still have to do chores and pick up after themselves – one rule is if the cleaning lady can’t see their oldest daughter’s floor she isn’t to clean that room!). Really though they are normal people who want to avoid the appearance of evil and do right by God.

The other thing that really hit home is the fact that their son who was dropped as a baby and as a result is handicapped. It’s amazing how she fought for her son, when the doctor’s were ready to give up and she still continues to fight for him with Kurt by her side. I guess this affected me because having worked in the field and my husband working in it as well, we see families who toss aside or abuse the handicapped family members and it’s heart wrenching to watch. They have a ministry for that too as well as joining efforts with other foundations they enable families to take a week vacation to Disney World in Florida.

The book talks about their rules for the family which makes their family run smoothly. Communication is very important but then again with nine people in the house, communication is important. When out to eat the children have to be able to tell the color of the waitress’ or waiters’ eyes, this enables the children to look into someones eyes and show respect for an often thankless job. The rules help to make the children get along and learn how to deal with the real world along with making a house functional and peaceful.

First Things First also talks some about Brenda’s past and her first marriage and what happened to her son before she met Kurt. They do discuss their sex life, which too me was a bit too personal and I could have lived without knowing about it. The book is great though, it goes into the struggle of people asking for autographs during their family time, discussing purity with their daughter, and other happenings in a family. Overall, a very well written book that shows how one family struggling with fame also adds in being a regular family and living for Christ.

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