Book Review: Authentic Living

Have you ever wanted, no, needed something, but you just couldn’t put your finger on it until you received it? It’s like there was an emptiness or a longing in your soul, but you couldn’t explain it until the moment you could.

That just happened to me.

Intrigued by the title, I requested a review copy of a brand-new daily devotional by Richard Exley entitled Authentic Living: 365 Devotions for Deliberate Faith. It was the word “authentic” that caught my eye.Though “authenticity” is a popular buzzword these days, it’s also a word which has been foundational to my own personal transformation over the past few years.

The intentional practice of authenticity is the exact opposite of my default setting. Brené Brown, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, defines authenticity as follows:

Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.

One might assume the Christian life is automatically an authentic life, but that would be incorrect. There is a huge difference between being adopted as a child of God (salvation) and actually embracing the fact that God created you for His pleasure. And His pleasure is that you live authentically.

The fact is, as a pastor’s daughter and the oldest of four children in my family, authenticity wasn’t really an option. I was raised both to be an “example” to my younger siblings (and, really, every other child in the church), and a “people pleaser” to everyone else. I lived as perfect a life as I possibly could trying to set an impeccable example for everyone—doing the best I could possibly do in school, on my job, as a wife, as a mom. Over the years, my sense of self became so distorted that I forgot who I was on the inside. I was saved, yet lost.

The wonderful news is that God never gave up on me! He continued working His plan for my life, redeeming every situation (the good, the bad, and the ugly) to transform me into the strong, compassionate, authentic woman He created me to be. Thank you, LORD!

Over the past few years, I’ve worked very hard to stop all the people pleasing and embrace authenticity as a lifestyle. It’s not been easy, and it’s not been pain-free. All of my closest relationships have experienced major shifts, and yet, somehow, they are better. Better because they are real. Authentic. Not based on my being someone they want me to be, but rather my being my true self—who I am at the core. I have boundaries now, and I can say “no” without guilt or shame.

So, when I picked up Richard Exley’s new book Authentic Living: 365 Devotions for Deliberate Faith, I was hopeful his words would inspire me to continue my quest for authenticity and not shove me back into some dinky, depressing people-pleasing pillbox. I was not disappointed!

Authentic LivingThis book is, well, how can I say it?

This book is EXACTLY what I need in my life right now as I launch into 2017.

And the best part? It’s NOT “fluff-n-stuff” for my mind; it’s steak and potatoes (or, if that’s offensive to you, imagine tofu)—comfort food for my soul. Yum!

Lately, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in Christian writing: the words are inspirational, but they are like cotton candy: spun sweetness, devoid of any nutritional value. Unfortunately, when I read that stuff, I want to puke.

Popular, romanticized Christianity—based more on myths and traditions than facts and archaeology—does not cut it anymore. Truth seekers like me are starving for solid sustenance. We cry out, “Don’t dumb it down! Make me think! Be my private trainer, and give my brain a workout! Make it hurt, and then ask me to read 10 more pages!” Yes, Friend, that is what we need!!! Books that make us think deeply about spiritual things and then adjust our lives accordingly. We are not sheeple!

I’m happy to say that Richard Exley has heard our cries and answered us with a rare treasure that can be read again and again, year after year. In his introduction, Exley clearly sets for this purpose for this book:

“The goal of Authentic Living is to provide daily devotions that renew the mind even as they transform the way we live. The spiritual life is lived in tension between the intellectual and the practical. The intellectual dimension of the spiritual life focuses on understanding the core tenets of the Christian faith…The practical dimension of the spiritual life focuses on living out those core beliefs in our daily life. Authentic Living addresses both dimensions and will help you become the person God has called you to be.”

Wow. That is a huge goal, and I have to say that Exley delivers what he promises! The devotions are concise and poignant. Deep and practical. Each day’s reading features Exley’s words, the Word, and a brief prayer asking for God’s help becoming who He has called us to be.

My husband, son, and I will be sharing this book. Reading it every day as part of a spiritual discipline of meditation and spiritual growth, and a reminder to choose authenticity over people pleasing every. single. time.

I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Authentic Living: 365 Devotionals for Deliberate Faith by Richard Exley

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”