Dilley’s well-written memoir tells the story of a young woman who grew up in church and Sunday school, spent time in Africa with her medical missionary parents, and went to a Christian college. There, doubts about God in light of human suffering gradually sapped her faith. Eventually she left the church and lived as an unbeliever—but God drew her back. Dilley writes in a generous way about her childhood and parents, depicting them as earnest but never ridiculous. She also writes honestly about the dark places her doubts led her and the reasons for her return. Both prodigals and their parents will find Dilley’s book worth reading.
Is alcoholism a failing to which Christians are never prone? Kopp thought it was, and that’s one reason she took so long to confront it. As a Christian writer and alcoholic, she had plenty of reasons to hide her excessive drinking, and her inability to stop seemed at odds with her understanding of Christianity. Kopp uses humor to leaven a story with many grim chapters. She describes the tenacious grip alcohol had on her life, the rough road through rehab and relapse, and the humbling path to sobriety. She writes about drunken sex and sober sex and marital difficulties. Ultimately, a renewed understanding of the gospel helped her change—and that makes the book encouraging for anyone struggling with issues that self-help religion can’t fix.
Thebarge was 27 when she received a breast cancer diagnosis leading to a double mastectomy. She had finished a Yale graduate degree as a physician’s assistant and was working on a master’s in journalism at Columbia. Thebarge describes her BC (before cancer) life—strict religious upbringing, professional aspirations, and romantic relationship. Cancer tested her faith and upended her personal life. Once through grueling treatments, she moved to Portland, Ore., where a brief encounter on a bus led to a friendship with a Somali refugee and her children. The memoir weaves between her life BC, during treatments, and in Portland, where the growing relationship with the Somali family gives her new understanding. This memoir combines good writing, dramatic events, and a thoughtful response to them.
Niequist writes in her introduction, “What makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and spirit in this world is creating opportunities for the people I love to rest and connect and be fed at my table.” The book is a series of essays describing particular moments in Niequist’s life—everyday events, celebrations, and times of mourning—and the people and foods that were part of them. It’s a gregarious book: Niequist invites you into her kitchen and the messiness of her life. She describes food as one who loves to eat, and understands that food shouldn’t become more important than the people it feeds. She includes recipes and offers hope that even an indifferent cook can master them.
In God’s Job, Our Job: Knowing the Difference Makes All the Difference (Credo, 2013), Michael Wm. Schick outlines (in 31 short chapters) the “jobs” God does and their corollaries for man. God reigns, we serve. God controls, we surrender. God knows all, we know God. The devotional includes Scripture related to each topic, and application questions.
In The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense out of Life (Moody, 2013), pastor and writer Justin Buzzard looks at the Bible as a five-act play: God, Creation, Rebellion, Rescue, and Home. With a style and vocabulary appropriate to both unbelievers and believers, Buzzard makes clear the Bible’s overall story and shows how each one of us fits within it. The book includes an insightful appendix teaching readers how to listen and understand other people’s stories, and use the five acts to show them a better story for their own lives. —S.O.