God’s love

book review: Adventures Under the Mango Tree

Adventures Under the Mango TreeTitle: Adventures Under the Mango Tree: A Story of Hope in War-Torn Sudan

Author: Lillian Ann Klepp

Publisher: Creative Enterprises Studio

Complimentary Copy Provided by: The Barnabas Agency

Rating: B

Publisher’s Bio:

Hearing the tremendous needs of orphans in Sudan, an ordinary women in Wisconsin prayed, “Lord, what can I do?” His answer was life altering!

Adventures Under the Mango Tree is Lillian’s journal of touching stories with heartwarming photographs of the precious orphans they help, the dedicated people who love them, and the often life-threatening struggles they face together.

My Thoughts:

So, I have a confession to make. This blog review is way past due—as in embarrassingly past due. As in so past due I’ve received two review reminders! Life has been a bit crazy here with a job search and move coming up very soon. My apologies to the ever patient staff at The B&B Media Group.

Adventures Under the Mango Tree offers an overview of the author’s relocation from the midwest United States to rural Africa. Author Lillian Ann Klepp, affectionately referred to as “Mama Lilly”, provides a glimpse into the challenges of moving half-way around the world to engage in orphan care. I am always amazed and inspired by people who learn of a need and respond with action, becoming part of the solution and change-makers in the process. In the case of Dennis and Lillian Klepp, they sold everything, left their jobs, family, friends, and comfortable lifestyle in the States to start a ministry in one of the most volatile climates in Africa: southern Sudan. Since 2001, the Klepp’s have opened two orphanages, a school, and a hospital, serving more than 500 children and thousands of families through their ministry Harvesters Reaching the Nations.

I was most impacted by the strong Christian faith of Lillian and Dennis. Adventures Under the Mango Tree is a beautiful example of the myriad of ways God calls people to action and responds to needs in prayer. The Klepp’s have endured sickness, critical health conditions, funding shortages, invasions by rebel militia and so much more, but through it all God heals, restores, and continues to provide and expand the work.

As inspired as I am, I must admit I was left wanting a bit more. Adventures Under the mango Tree is a recounting of the author’s journey, outlined in short, chronological segments, which makes for a super-quick read that offers a general overview of experiences. A bit more depth would have been helpful for setting the socio-political context in Sudan, offering a bit more on the challenging cultural dynamics, and I wanted to know more about the children in terms of their personalities, interests, hardships, and agency impact.

Harvesters Reaching the Nations is a wonderful organization, impacting the lives of hundreds of children and thousands of families in Sudan, Africa. Visit their website to learn more about how you can support their critically important work.


About the Author:

Adventures - Lillian KleppLillian Klepp, fondly called “Mama Lilly,” cofounded Harvesters Reaching the Nations in 2001—a nonprofit, nondenominational, Christ-centered ministry to orphans in what is now South Sudan. She and her husband, Dennis, with more than 100 local employees care for nearly 200 orphans, educate more than 500 school children, provide hospital care for thousands of women and children, and help hundreds more through their local church. To find out more visit Harvesters Reaching the Nations:  http://hrtn.org/


book review: Dancing with Fireflies

Dancing With Fireflies Title: Dancing With Fireflies
Author: Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Complimentary Copy Provided via: NetGalley
Rating: B+

Publisher’s Review:
Jade returns home to Chapel Springs after years of protecting her fragile heart. Then along comes Daniel, making her long to dance again.

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.

The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.

As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt.” Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

My Thoughts:
Have you ever experienced a series of crushing events that knocked the wind right out of you? Have you ever felt so lost that navigating back to “true north” meant digging your way through underbrush and thorns?

This is the place we find Jade McKinley.
dreams shattered
body violated

After a violent assault renders Jade traumatized and pregnant, she reluctantly returns to the one safe place to regain her bearings: home. What is gained is so much more than the love and support of family, but a lifeline in the most unexpected form of a childhood friend.

In Dancing with Fireflies, Denise Hunter weaves a tender story of the power of friendship to restore a wounded heart and the reawakening of self that occurs when layers of doubt, fear, and recovery are worked through with unconditional support.

We find in Jade McKinley the story of what it means to be jarred so far from normal that it takes the support of selfless friendship to dismantle the cement walls erected around a traumatized heart. The journey to healing requires Jade to face her fears and work through them; learning to trust and love again is the only way to reconnect with self, friends, and God.

We find in Daniel Dawson, a kind, gentle, patient, and loyal friend who knows just what to say to build confidence, how much space to give to allow for processing, and the right balance of compassion coupled with firmness to bring Jade’s fears to Light. In Daniel’s character we see an excellent example of committed gentleness that beautifully mirrors the desire of God to heal wounds and restore hearts to wholeness.

Author’s Bio.
Denise HunterDenise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 20 books, including “Barefoot Summer” and “The Convenient Groom”. She has won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist.

In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

When Denise isn’t writing she’s busy raising three heroes-in-the making with her husband.
You can learn more about Denise through her website www.DeniseHunterBooks.com or by visiting her FaceBook page at https://www.facebook.com/authordenisehunter


(I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

book review & author interview: The Gospel Centered Woman

The Gospel Centered WomanTitle: The Gospel Centered Woman

Author: Wendy Alsup

Complimentary Copy Provided by: Litfuse Publicity Group

Rating: A

To tell the truth, I’m still working my way through Ms. Alsup’s wonderful gem of a book, The Gospel Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel. There are books I tend to skim through, pulling what I need as I go along. And then there are books, like this one, that require a little more attention; every chapter really packs a wallop. The term, “breakin’ it down” comes to mind, for in every chapter Ms. Alsup is bustin’ out the root-of-such-and-such-word here, or the meaning behind so-and-so-word there. It’s quite exciting, educational and trans-formative. When insight such as this comes along, I don’t want to push through or rush the material. Nope, I want to take my time and let it percolate around in my brain as I interact with it, process it, pick at it, and absorb it.

So, what I can affirm is that Wendy Alsup has a passion for dialoguing about the definition, implication and applications of Biblical Womanhood. Wendy Alsup has a way of teaching the deeper meaning of a text in such a way that produce meaningful applications to faith, life, and relationships. And, as a result of working my way through Wendy Alsup’s book, I am encouraged, challenged, and inspired.

But, don’t just take it from me. Wendy Alsup joins us today to share some of her passion with you. Enjoy!

Please welcome author Wendy Alsup! You may find more about Ms. Alsup at www.theologyforwomen.org

Author Wendy Alsup

Q: There are a couple of terms we heard thrown around a lot, but we may not understand what either really means. What exactly is practical theology? What is Biblical womanhood?

In college, I was intrigued by math I could use—applied mathematics.  I hated irrelevant math–math that didn’t seem to have any practical value except for proving the logical prowess of the math professor teaching it.  My personal intolerance for irrelevant things bled over into theology.  The theological words I heard seminary students using were way out of my range, and the topics they debated seemed irrelevant to where I was in life.  But surely, theology, which means basically the study of God, has to have some relevance to my daily life, right?  So I now use the term practical theology.  It’s theology in its most basic sense, the study of God, and it is most definitely relevant.  If He is before all things and by Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17), then knowing Him, His loves, and His work intensely affects my daily life.

Biblical womanhood means different things to different people, often depending on what circles of Christianity they frequent.  When I use the term, I mean what the Bible teaches about women and the instructions it gives to women.  I use the Bible itself to let me know which passages are ones that God wants us to use to build a vision of Biblical womanhood. Not every passage that mentions women is to be emulated or obeyed. That seems intuitive to me, but apparently that’s not clear to all people who use the term Biblical womanhood.

Q: What is your new book The Gospel-Centered Woman about?

The Gospel-Centered Woman is simply about understanding Biblical womanhood through the lens of the gospel.  The good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection changes everything according to Scripture, and that includes how women view themselves and understand the Bible’s instructions to them.

Q: What makes theology different for women vs. men?

The theology itself isn’t different, but the way we approach it sometimes is.  Women tend toward warmer, more relational presentations (that’s a generalization, I know).  I realized at some point that, at least in my circles, the results of that desire for warm, relational interactions with other believing women was what I call pink-fluffy-bunny Bible studies.  The women I knew longed for something deeper and resonated with my pursuit of deep Biblical truth in a warm, relational way.  I’m still on that journey and have appreciated the encouragement from many other women on similar journeys.  The deepest things of the character of God minister to me in exactly those places in my heart.

Q: Why did you choose to write about this topic?

I’m not sure if I chose it, or it chose me.  I think the latter.  Biblical Womanhood has been a hot topic in Christian discussion for some time.  I’ve read many books espousing different views on what God wants women to do, especially in the home and church.  I’ve always felt there was a big hole in how the topic was presented.  In many books, women were encouraged to be like Ruth or the Proverbs 31 woman.  But what about Christ?  Romans 8 says we were predestined to be conformed to His image.  Doesn’t that mean women too?  Does He not have something to offer women on the topic of womanhood?

Then Rachel Held Evans published A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and the topic took off in the blogosphere.  I felt her book didn’t address Biblical womanhood at all, at least as I understand the phrase, because she didn’t use the Bible’s own guidelines for what parts of Scripture are and are not prescriptive for the average woman today longing to live as the Bible instructs.  I couldn’t hold back from that point, and after publishing bits and pieces of my thoughts on my blog, reader after reader encouraged me to publish the thoughts altogether.  I’m not addressing Rachel’s book or others by either egalitarians or complementarians per se.  My book is not against any of them, but I do hope to offer a third way to understand the Bible’s instructions to women.  It’s not new.  Actually, it’s ancient.  But at some point, we got off course in how we discussed these things in the Church, in my opinion.  This is my meager attempt to reroute the discussion.

Q: Let’s get practical, what are some ways you share that women can be gospel-centered?

Wow.  That’s a tough question to answer shortly.  The phrase “some ways” contradicts the term “gospel-centered,” at least in the way I use it.  Instead, think of an entirely different paradigm.  The gospel is a BIG word, encompassing the fullness of all Christ ushered in through His life, death, and resurrection.  And understanding it is the pursuit of a lifetime.  When I am centered in it, it is the environment in which I spend my life.  Like any new environment, I need to learn its distinguishing features.  I focus in the book on how this environment gives us an entirely different lens through which to view our creation as women as strong helpers in the image of God. When we understanding the fullness of the way Scripture speaks of the good news of Jesus Christ, we can then, in the moment of struggle or pain, wrestle with God over how that good news makes a difference in that very struggle.

Q: From the world’s perspective, what does the “perfect Christian woman” look like? Is that ideal really Biblical?

In some circles, she may the home-schooling, breast-feeding, stay-at-home mom.  In others, she may be the woman volunteering 24/7 in a homeless shelter or some other type of full-time ministry.  There are a variety of stereotypes, depending on your cultural base.  Many Christians lift up the Proverbs 31 woman as the prototype for good, Christian women.  If you look at the whole of Scripture, there are a lot of different women in very different circumstances that shed positive light on Biblical womanhood.  Abigail, Ruth, and Esther.  Priscilla, Phoebe, and Lydia.  Some had husbands, some did not.  Some had kids, some did not. Each had very different stories and responsibilities in life.  But perfection (which means maturity when the Bible uses the term) in Scripture for both men and women is Jesus.  He is the author and finisher of our faith.  We were created, male and female, as image bearers of God, and we all, male and female, are being conformed back to the image of Christ. 

Thank you, Ms. Alsup, for sharing a bit of your heart and passion on the subjects of practical theology, biblical womanhood, and the life affirming grace found in Jesus.

Find out more about Wendy Alsup and The Gospel-Centered Woman at www.theologyforwomen.org. Readers can keep up with Alsup via the Practical Theology for Women Facebook page and follow her on Twitter (@WendyAlsup).

(I received a complimentary copy of this book via Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review.)