Deconstructing Your Faith without Losing Yourself

Promotional graphic for a book review. The image features the title 'Book Review' in white cursive script on a dark blue background. A highlighted quote in white and orange reads, 'Deconstruction is an essential season of moving away from toxic, man-made religion and moving toward the wild, sacred, and holy Creator of all things.' - Angela J. Herrington. Beside the quote is the cover of the book 'Deconstructing Your Faith without Losing Yourself,' depicting a figure in a yellow coat looking towards a range of stylized mountains under a gradient sky from teal to yellow. Below the quote is the reviewer's attribution: 'LauraZielke.com @thezwomann' with a stylized signature 'LZ' in white.

Are you wrestling with questions about your faith that seem too daunting to voice? ‘Deconstructing Your Faith without Losing Yourself’ by Angela J. Herrington offers a profound exploration into the heart of faith deconstruction, a process that may already be unfolding in your life. This review delves deep into the transformative power of questioning long-held beliefs, showcasing how such inquiries can lead to a more authentic and fulfilling spiritual path. Through personal reflections and critical insights, we invite you to see that questioning is not only permissible but essential for growth. If your faith feels more like a series of unanswered questions, let this review reassure you that you’re not alone in your search for truth. Discover how embracing your doubts can illuminate the way to a faith that truly aligns with who you are and who you aspire to be.

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“All Things Lovely” by Johnson

Book Review: All Things Lovely by Jenn Johnson

This book less about pretty things (although it’s jam-packed with them) and more about cultivating a close relationship with God so you can listen and hear His voice. AND it’s not written from the perspective of someone who’s achieved perfection. It’s written by a woman who is transparent about her own struggles (past, present, and future) and her utter reliance on the Holy Spirit’s direction in her life.

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Discover Your Spiritual Gifts

Discover Your Spiritual Gifts

“Each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7

The apostle Paul was one of the most gifted evangelists of the early church. He planted churches from Nabataea (modern-day Petra) to Rome traveling thousands and thousands of miles to share the good news. But he did more than that. Paul stayed in touch with his converts for years and provided them with encouragement and spiritual direction—some of which have been preserved to this day.

In many of his letters sent to the churches he planted in Asia Minor and/or the people he trained to lead them, Paul mentions “spiritual gifts.” Paul offers a few lists of the gifts, but none of the lists are identical. That said, there are a few characteristics they each bear in common: they are given by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of unity and edification of the church.

Spiritual Gifts Image

Today in the twenty-first century, Christians are still encouraged to discover and develop their gifts for the same purpose: unity and edification of the church. The resources on this page will help you discover your own spiritual gifts. This is only an overview, but it’s solid.

Step 1: Download the Answer Sheet

Spiritual Gifts Answer Sheet

I created an answer sheet to supplement the resources already available for this Spiritual Gift Assessment. It should be used in conjunction with the video linked below. Be sure to download the free Leader’s Guide which includes an overview of spiritual gifts as well as brief definitions of the eleven categories explored in this assessment.

Step 2: Take the Assessment

Take this first.

Step 3: Download the Guide

The FREE Leader’s Guide will provide basic information about spiritual gifts as well as basic definitions of each gift. I created the following PowerPoint to be able to share the definitions visually with my class.

Step 4: Differentiate

After taking a group through the spiritual gifts assessment, our discussion turned to whether or not spiritual gifts were actually a thing. Is a spiritual gift something a person is born with? Or is it received at baptism? Or some other time? Is it a one-time experience, or can a person receive more than one gift? At the same time or later?

Since Scripture doesn’t exactly explain the how or when spiritual gifts are given, the answer to these questions must be extrapolated from biblical passages that mention them. There are three main passages that include lists of gifts, and no two lists are the same.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 makes it clear that the gifts are given by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 12:4-8 uses the metaphor of one body “in Christ” and explains the gifts are given according to God’s grace.

Ephesians 4:11-12 states that the gifts were given by the one who ascended (a.k.a. Jesus Christ).

Based on these passages, it is clear that there are gifts are given to those saved by grace for the purpose of unity and edification within the church. In other words, yes, spiritual gifts are legit. They are bestowed by the Holy Spirit at and/or after conversion.

Hospitality

Aren’t Gifts the Same as Talents?

If you’re wondering whether or not gifts are the same as talents, you’re not alone. People have been asking this question for years. The answer is no, they are not the same. Talents are innate, possibly even inherited. Spiritual gifts come post-conversion as well as later when God equips a person for a specific task.

Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace skillfully lays out four distinctives in his excellent article, The Difference between Natural Talents and Spiritual Gifts. I’ve included these in the PowerPoint (below).

What to Do with Your Spiritual Gifts

So, now that we’ve established that spiritual gifts are legit, that they are different from natural talents, and that they are given for the unity and edifcation of the church, we need to talk about what to do with them.

Once again we will turn to the Scriptures for illumination. Gleaning what we can from a variety of passages, we can confidently act according to the following examples.

1. Develop Your Gift

Once you’ve identified your spiritual gift, it’s time to develop it. In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul instructs his protegé Timothy not to neglect his gift, and in 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul reminds him to “fan it into flame.” ??? Clearly, Paul believes that gifts are given to be used: Developed.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NIV)

Sometimes gifts are given in “seed” form, and other times, gifts build off of one’s natural talents. Whatever the case, spiritual gifts are to be developed by using them. So practice, practice, practice!

Be brave and inquire about using your gift in your local church. If your church won’t allow you to use your gift or if there are “territorial issues” that make it impossible to serve well, then pray about your next steps. You need to decide if you should stay there and look for opportunities elsewhere it to use it; if you should push harder for the opportunity; or if you should seek out another church where you would be allowed to develop your gift.

Spiritual Gifts - Shadow Conversation

What if they say no?

Keep in mind that being denied the opportunity to use your gift is not a sign that it’s not your gift. (Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.) Sometimes churches focus more on tradition than what Scripture clearly teaches. And sometimes there are other people already serving in that capacity who prefer to be in control of everything. Or maybe there are hidden biases at play that make you feel unwanted in that environment.

Seek the Lord’s guidance. He gave you at least spiritual gift for His purposes, and He will open another door somewhere your gifts can be used and be appreciated.

2. Desire the “Greater” Gifts

I almost didn’t include this part, because we’re so familiar with the biblical principle of considering others better than ourselves; however, Paul clearly states that those in Corinth should “eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31). The purpose of desiring “greater” gifts has nothing to do with the individual and everything to do with building up the church.

Jon Bloom, co-founder of DesiringGod.org, rightly concludes that “we are to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 as a means to pursue the love Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13.” He explores what it means to “desire” the gifts and how to partner with God in pursuing them in his article “Why We Must Earnestly Desire Spiritual Gifts.”

?For an even deeper dive into the “what” and “when” of spiritual gifts, I encourage you to listen to the After Class Podcsast (episode 2.24): Eagerly Desire the “Greater” Gifts? The podcast is hosted by three Bible and theology professors who teach at Great Lakes Christian College: Samuel C. Long, Ronald D. Peters, John C. Nugent.

Supplementary Resources

PowerPoint Presentation
This presentation includes definitions, discussion questions, and a brief review of the differences between natural talents and spiritual gifts.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. 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.”

Photo Credits:
Giving Bread photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash
Replanting Small Plants photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash
Shadow Conversation photo by Jonathan Sharp on Unsplash
Young Band Playing photo by Andy Lee on Unsplash

“Simple Joys” by Payne

I knew Simple Joys was going to be a good read when I laughed out loud while reading the INTRODUCTION! ? The stories are genuinely hilarious and thought-provoking.

In her first book Laugh It Up! Candace Payne offered us a peek at the woman behind the mask: the Chewbacca mask. The woman who belly laughed for three minutes straight on a now-viral Facebook Live video with such contagious joy that the world laughed with her not at her. She shared the story behind her viral video and how she grew into a woman who was not only comfortable in her own skin but also undeterred by what others thought about her.

In her new book, Simple Joys: Discovering Wonder in the Everyday , the author shares even more events from her life to demonstrate how each of us can mine for joy in our own everyday experiences. From “taco sweats” and taffeta to an icy driveway and hot coffee, this gifted author will have you laughing out loud one moment and deeply reflecting on complex situations in your own life the next.

Oh, the Places She Went!

Candace is a masterful storyteller who recounts her experiences with such vivid detail, it makes you feel like you were right there with her at the roadside café in Zambia squirting ketchup onto her fries or sitting next to her in the back seat of the car as her father walked out of the house with his hot cup of coffee on a freezing cold morning.

Don’t be fooled. Simple Joys is not a book that you read, put down, and forget about. It’s one that makes you chuckle, wince, roll your eyes, examine your own life, and mine for nuggets of joy even in difficult times.

The most underrated tool we have at our disposal to shift an atmosphere of anxiety to one of joy is to speak out the good times.” page 63.

Simple Joys will help you discover wonder in the ordinary events your everyday life through fun stories, poignant reflection, and questions to spur introspection.

Chapter titles:

  • Prologue: There’s Joy in Them Hills!
  • The Year I Spent with My Head in the Clouds
  • Trash-bag Choir Dresses and the College Crush
  • The Waterbed Where I Said, “Amen”
  • The House on the Hill, the Coffee that Would Spill, and the Stories Shared Around the Table
  • The Day Inadequacy Tried to Squash My Joy
  • Run for Cover
  • Selfies with the Last White Rhinos in Zambia
  • Take the Good, Toss the Bad
  • Epilogue: Prospecting for a Heart of Gold

At the conclusion of each chapter, Candace poses one related, thought-provoking question to the reader and provides ample space for the reader to jot down their own thoughts. There are also a few blank pages at the end of the book for additional notes.

Book Review: Simple Joys by Candace Payne
Pictured above: End of chapter with question and space to journal.

Simple Joys Is Small, but Mighty!

This small, but mighty 176-page book measures only 5-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ x 0.9″ and is the perfect little gift book—but I’d totally buy this for myself, too! (Actually, I did.)

Book Review: Simple Joys by Candace Payne

Each chapter features at least one inspirational quote digitally illustrated by the author (see photo above). I’m hoping they make them into a calendar or coloring book, because they are totally cute!

Book Review: Simple Joys by Candace Payne
Simple Joys is small and mighty!

The cover is a smooth hardback with smyth-sewn and perfect-bound pages. The inside pages are printed in full-color on a heavy, matte paper stock which is perfect for highlighting, note-making, drawing, and journaling.

Over Too Soon!

MacaroonsThe book ended too soon for me. It left me wanting more. So, I sincerely hope that Candace is already working on her next book. While I wait, I will read Simple Joys again. And probably again. 

I highly recommend it. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

By the way, I had the opportunity to participate in a live video chat with the author immediately prior to release, and when she revealed the book cover she said, “Well, it’s supposed to be watercolor dots, but they remind me of macaroons…and I love macaroons! So, that’s a simple joy!”

Yes. Exactly. 

Simple. Joys. All you have to do is search for them, and you will find them.


Photo credit:  of macaroons by @holly_anewlookat on Unsplash.

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. I also decided to purchase the book because I really enjoyed it. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”

Book Review: “The Dream of You” by Jo Saxton

Book Review: The Dream of You by Jo Saxton

"What was the dream you had of yourself from the very beginning? Before life interrupted, before anyone told youwho you were allowed to be?" — Jo Saxton, The Dream of You

IsisWhen I was a little girl, I wanted to be Isis. From time to time (usually after watching the “Shazam! Isis Power Hour” on Saturday mornings), I would suddenly strike a pose, speak the magical phrase, “Oh, Mighty Isis!” and transform myself—mentally, at least—into a superhero goddess ready to use all my powers to fight against evil!

I loved everything about this nerdy female archaeologist with huge glasses and a secret superhero identity. (I’ve included a video at the bottom of this review for your entertainment.)

Who did you want to be? Do you remember? If so, feel free to share it in the comments below. I’d love to know!

Headshot of Jo Saxton, a Nigerian-Londoner with short natural hair and a beautiful smile.
Jo Saxton

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite authors, Jo Saxton. As a little girl growing up in London, author and speaker Jo Saxton had a dream: She wanted to be Wonder Woman. And I mean, she WANTED to BE Wonder Woman—red boots and all!

In case you are unfamiliar with this wonder of a woman, Jo is a Nigerian Londoner who currently resides in Minneapolis with her husband and two daughters.

Her book, The Dream of You: Let Go of Broken Identities and Live the Life You Were Made For, traces Jo’s lifelong transition from childhood dreamer to adult achiever.

The Dream (and Struggle) of You

What I find so striking is the similarity between Jo’s struggles and my own—even though we are SO different!!! For example:

  • OppositesWe have completely different cultural backgrounds (immigrant vs. born citizen);
  • We were raised on two different continents (she in the UK; me in the US);
  • We have different personality types (she’s an ENTJ; I’m an INTJ);
  • We have different enneagrams (she’s an 8, and I’m a 1);
  • We have opposite body types (probably because she doesn’t like chocolate and I do!)

We are basically opposite, and yet our struggles were/are very much the same. How is this possible?

On her quest to explore the different things that held her back or kept her from moving forward in her own life, Jo dug deep and discovered that the root causes of her brokenness, although personal, were not unique to her. They were, in fact, quite common to the human experience—especially that of women.

And like any good Bible teacher, she found biblical examples for each struggle!

The Struggle Is Real

Weaving the story of her own life’s journey together with that of Joseph, Esther, David, Naomi, Hagar, Ezekiel, and others, the author reveals thread-by-thread that God is present with us through our most difficult experiences, and how they add color, dimension, and texture to our character.

Jo Saxton Live Video ChatOver the past few months, I’ve been privileged to interact with Jo as she discussed her book and her thoughts behind the various stories she shares in it. Reflecting on the first few chapters, she said,

There are times when we have an earthquake in our souls, habits, the way we live. We don’t simply rise up and get over it…but we also don’t want to be defined by it the rest of our lives.”

The Dream of You was never intended to be  a survival manual. It’s about wholeness and redemption and purpose.

The first part of the book not only prompts us to reflect on what (or whom) we’ve allowed to define us but also challenges us to re-imagine what life could be like moving forward: Mended. WHOLE.

It's Powerful

Jo explains the profound impact negative and destructive comments and experiences have on us—minimizing nothing. These experiences simply underscore the reason she wrote the book: to remind us that there is wholeness to be found in relationship with a redeeming God.

When the grit and guts of your broken identity meet the grace and goodness of God, it will reveal you, but He will transform you. You’re in Him now, with all His resources available to you. You have access to His power, mercy, and grace.” (p. 21, emphasis mine)

Each chapter in the The Dream of You begins with a short, heartfelt letter from the author to the reader. In it she offers words of encouragement while setting the stage for the theme of that particular section.

Jo expounds on each theme by sharing a formative experience from her own life as well as a similar story from the Bible, and you don’t have to be familiar with the Bible to benefit from this! Jo has provided quick summaries and backstories of each character so the reader will not be lost in the explanation.

Then, without the use of a Venn Diagram, the author focuses her attention on the intersection of the stories, exposing the root of the issue. She culls out transformative biblical truths and challenges the reader to face the facts in her (or his) own life. She concludes the chapter with suggested action steps geared towards fostering personal growth and spiritual maturity.

Book Flow & Themes

The chapter titles, though creative, are pretty vague if you haven’t read the book yet; therefore, I complied a list of themes (noted in parentheses) followed by one or more of my favorite quotes from that chapter to provide a more helpful overview of the text:

  • Introduction (Dreams)
    “What was the dream you had of yourself from the very beginning? Before life interrupted, before anyone told you who you were allowed to be?” (p. 3)
    .
  • Chapter 1: Don’t Call Me “Pleasant” (Insecurity)
    “Insecurities, if left unaddressed, can grow from momentary emotions to a definitive worldview that determines how we feel, think, and act. Insecurity becomes our identity.” (p. 12)
    .
  • Chapter 2: What’s in a Name? (Compromise/Hiding)
    “Throughout biblical history, God transformed people…God changed the names of people and in doing so changed their stories.” (p. 35)
    .
  • Chapter 3: The Talk (Perfectionism)
    “Many of us know what it feels like to hide our identities in order to survive. We do what it takes to fit into our family, our workplace, our friendship group. We spend our energy trying to fit into our context, into society, into what is demanded of us according to someone else’s terms.” (p. 44)
    .
    “God wants to redeem it all. Rather than your being transformed into a broken identity by the pressures of your world, He wants to transform you to recover who you fully are. Are you ready to be led toward redemptive wholeness, even when you might still fear for your survival?” (p. 56)
    .
  • Chapter 4: The Day I Lost My Voice (Bullying)
    “At times, women apologize for who they are. They minimize their abilities as if they’re expecting someone to tell them they’re arrogant for having talent, ability, and dreams. Some women, particularly those who reach high levels of influence in their field, are plagued by what is known as Imposter Syndrome, or the impostor experience.” (p. 66)
    .
    “When our voice has been taken, we redirect our lives toward ‘more acceptable’ interests. We excuse the damage caused by having been silenced…we make ourselves small.” (p. 68)
    .
  • Chapter 5: God’s Child (Redemption)
    “If we are going to embrace our full identity, know our name, and live out our vocation as we speak with our true voice, if we are going to embrace who we are and what we’re living for, we need to know whose we are.” (p. 82)
    .
    “The things that once defined you don’t have to shape you forever. He [God] transforms your entire life.” (p. 88)

    .
  • Chapter 6: Known and Loved (Vulnerability)
    “You are fully known. He has seen it all and He knows it all. And still you are deeply, deeply loved.” (p. 108)
    .
  • Chapter 7: Slay Your Giants (Courage)
    “It seems that when God redeems a person’s identity and leads her to her purpose, there’s a backdrop of battle and vulnerability.” (p. 112)
    .
    “You will battle the giants that stand in your way, but when you do, don’t even try to fight in someone else’s armor.” (p. 122)
    .
  • Chapter 8: The Wander Years (Refinement)
    “Even with abundant examples in Scripture, when the wilderness experience makes up part of our faith journey, we may not always understand when and why it’s happening.” (p. 132)
    .
    “Wandering in the wilderness exposed the truth that in order to be fully free, the Israelites didn’t just need to get out of Egypt. They needed to get Egypt out of them.” (pp. 136-137)

    .
  • Chapter 9: In the Valley (Doubt and Discouragement)
    “Had I been wrong when I felt called…Or worse, was it just some fantasy idea that I’d decided was a divine calling? Who did I think I was?” (p. 153)
    .
    “We feel too crushed to feel known and loved; we are convinced we have nothing left to offer as a voice or purpose…We’re at the end of ourselves; we are forced to face what life has done to us. It’s tempting to mute our pain rather than face it.” (p. 155)

    .
  • Chapter 10: Breaking up with Perfection (Authenticity)
    “Survival is not the same as being whole.” (p. 168)
    .
    “Are you ready to confront your brokenness, rather than keep hiding it underneath greater efforts to prove yourself to others?” (p. 170)
    .
  • Chapter 11: The Song in My Heart (Community)
    “You’ll need people who see you and know you, people unafraid to remind you of the fullness of who you are. They won’t be threatened by you because they are the kind of women who celebrate who you are. You need people who want to hear your voice and don’t mind how loud it gets. People who get excited about your dreams and your unfolding purpose.” (p. 173)
    .
    “God provides people to help us. Sometimes they’re further along in the journey, and they’ve seen more…They’ll celebrate resurrection of your name over the things that have falsely renamed you, and they’ll keep encouraging you.” (p. 185)

    .
  • Chapter 12: Practices (Disciplines)
    “We don’t adopt practices to prove ourselves or to perform for God’s approval. We already are seen, known, and loved. Instead, the practices make room in our overscheduled lives for God to meet with us. We find that by making time for God’s engagement with us, we are changed, transformed, redeemed.” (p. 192)
    .
  • Chapter 13: Pick up Your Keys (Stepping into Your Purpose)
    “A healthy identity opens our life to abundant purpose…There is less of me—of my self-absorption and self-protection—and there is more room for others. There’s less energy spent striving, proving, and more room for dreaming.” (p. 210)
    .
  • Epilogue (Action)
    “Let’s not allow a sense of inadequacy to tell us we’re not ready or not enough for the task.” (p. 219)
    .
    “Maybe we’ll remember to be tender and nonjudgmental as we remember our own stories.” (p. 220) 

It’s EASY for me to recommend The Dream of You because it is well-written, organized, funny, engaging, well-researched, insightful, empowering, and theologically accurate.

But what I would like to add is this: On every level, the teachings contained herein resonated with me. Jo’s journey mirrors my own—not on the outside, but on the inside. 

And I can testify that what Jo offers you in this book is the same thing I would offer you in my own book: Truth. God is faithful and ready to redeem the years the locusts have eaten (cf. Joel 2:25-27). He can take what was meant for evil and flip it for good. In fact, He does it all the time.

Are You Ready?

The question is, are you ready to recover the The Dream of You? If so, then you have found the right resource with which to start your journey. I highly recommend this to women of all ages, but especially those who have been waiting on God for what feels like a very long time.

🎧 Jo has also recorded an audio version which you will LOVE, if you’re into audio books. 

With no further ado, meet my childhood superhero: Isis.

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. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”