Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway - Chasing God by Angie Smith

The kids were fighting with one another over who got to play with the LEGO Iron Man.  For some strange reason, all three boys suddenly had this overwhelming urge to play with that particular mini-figure of Tony Stark’s alter ego at the exact same moment.  Sharing was apparently not an option, so they had resorted to kicking, pushing, and screaming.  After what had already been a tough day, this was the breaking point for me and I started yelling.  I hollered at all of them and my words were not at all coming from a place of love.  When the tears started to erupt and the lower lips popped forward, I stomped off to my room and slammed the door behind me.  Fuming with both anger and regret, I hit my knees by my bed…and prayed.

Prayer has always been a struggle for me and I’ve never really been able to put my finger on exactly why.  In this particular moment, I felt so broken and desperate that I just cried out to God for rescue.   

Help me, I begged.  I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, like I’m doing everything wrong.  How can I claim to know and love you, but still feel so lost?  You once felt so close and now I find myself erupting in anger.  How can I find you, God?  Show me what I have to do to fix this.  Am I even doing anything right?  

Out of clear blue sky, I checked my email one day and found a message asking if I would be willing to read and review Angie Smith’s latest book.  When I say that Chasing God arriving at my door was an answer to prayer, it is not an exaggeration.  Flipping to the back cover, the first words I see written in a flowing script are, “Am I doing this right?”

Before I even opened to the first page, I knew this would be the book that could help me.  The one that would finally answer the questions I had about why I felt like all my striving was in vain.  You can imagine my amusement when I realized that Smith’s book is all about how we need to cease with our striving, reading all the right books, and doing all of the things in an effort to chase after God.  

Well played, Lord.  Well played.

Divided up into sections that address key theological issues such as salvation, prayer, doubt, scripture, and free will, Smith brilliantly weaves her theme throughout the book while simultaneously balancing personal experience and confession with entertaining anecdotes and scholarly references.  Turning each page was like watching an elaborate dance, anticipating what spin or movement would make me catch my breath next.

I underlined sentences like “What I do want to encourage is an approach to your Christian walk that is based more on Scripture than an emotional high or stellar sermon series” and then wrote Is this what I’ve been doing….USING God? in the margin.  Moments of self-realization like that are often uncomfortable, so I love that the author continues with a reassuring tone and an image of her falling in public.  It’s this tone that made this book so special.  It felt like I was reading a letter from a dear friend who, speaking to me from a place of love and concern, to help me identify the issue and discuss her experience with the same struggle.  

While the sections about reading Scripture and prayer were especially helpful to me, the most profound moment came at the end of the book when Smith focuses on Thomas, the notorious doubting disciple.  Our youngest son’s name is Thomas and when Smith elucidates some of details about Thomas and his encounter with the risen Christ, I could feel my heart pounding faster.  I have always been a little annoyed that my son’s name would be associated with being a “Doubting Thomas,” but Smith turns that moniker on its heel and uses the story of Thomas to drive home her message of experiencing the living God rather than chasing after him.  

I loved this book and dog-eared many pages not just for its wisdom, but for its ability to speak to my heart and make me remember long lost days of Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers.  While I fully understand that marking up yet another book about God rather than diving head first into the Word of God is just another (ironic) symptom of my tendency to chase God, I am grateful to Angie Smith for writing the book that has helped me change the way I think about my faith and encouraged me to stop and sit still for once.  She has encouraged me to change the way I approach reading the Bible, how I think about prayer, and how I value my relationship with Jesus.  

Chasing after God is exhausting for Type A crazies like me (and Angie....she admits as much).  I would highly recommend Chasing God to anyone who has ever felt like collapsing to their knees and crying out, Help me Lord.  Am I doing this right?  It’s a fantastic first step toward finding the rest in God that he so desperately wants for those he loves.  

Want to win your own copy of Chasing God?  To enter, just LEAVE A COMMENT below in response to this question - 

What's the last book you read that really HIT you? 
(Or, tell me about a book you've read that was just really, REALLY good.) 

**Don't forget to leave your email in your comment so I can contact you if you win!  Giveaway ends Friday, February 28th!**

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  See below for the "official" drawing of the winner! 

(I was provided a free copy of "Chasing God" to read for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.)  

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