Book Review – Give them Grace

April 4, 2013

A review of Give them Grace: Dazzling your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson by my wife Tracy Mickle.

Give Them GraceIn Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter, Jessica Thompson, help parents understand the role of grace in their lives and the lives of their children. The authors challenge parents to consider whether their parenting is grace-oriented, or merely moralistic. Moralistic parenting can be accomplished by any well-meaning parents, but are we as Christians really raising our children in a grace-filled, Christian environment? These are important questions, particularly in light of the rapid departure of many young adults from church.

To this end, the book is very helpful and insightful, however, when it comes to practical application, it gets a little hard to translate. The authors give examples of conversations parents should have with their children when they are in the process of disciplining. These examples are all well and good, but one cannot help but wonder how realistic they are. Do real children really respond the way they do in this book? Granted, my children are still quite small, so perhaps some of this is beyond my current situation, but sometimes it seems a bit idealistic and not practical for most peoples’ daily lives.

My favorite section of the book was the chapters that spoke grace to a parent’s heart. It is so easy to take ourselves much to seriously when it comes to parenting our children. We want to do it perfectly so they turn out perfectly. The authors gently remind us that we cannot ruin our children. We do our best, and the rest is up to God. This is truly freeing, and definitely worth the price of the book.

October, November, December winners

January 2, 2011

Okay, I’m terribly far behind on my blog giveaway for a Crossway book a year. So, without further adieu, the winners of the October, November, and December books!

October’s book was Entrusted with the Gospel edited by D. A. Carson. The winner is: Brian Kooshian!

November’s book was History and Fallacies by Carl Trueman. The winner is: Bob Hayton!

December’s book was For the Fame of His Name edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor. The winner is: Rollayln Ruis

Everyone, e-mail me your mailing addresses at allen [dot] mickle [dot] jr [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks to everyone participating in the contest!

Free Copy of Carol Cornish’s “The Undistracted Widow”

October 23, 2010

As followup to the blog interview I conducted with Carol Cornish about her new book, The Undistracted Widow, I want to offer a free copy of it to my readers. All you have to do is leave a comment about how this book will better help you serve widows as an individual Christian, how it will help you serve widows in your ministry, or if you are a widow, how you will use it in your own life to be “undistracted” and take what you learn to minister to other widows. And then from those entries I will randomly pick a winner! Easy enough. This is probably the best book I have read for widows out there. You’ll want to get yourself a copy today!

Carol Cornish on her New Book “The Undistracted Widow”

October 5, 2010

I have known Carol Cornish for as long as I have known my wife. Carol was a member of the church in which my wife was also a member. I met my wife, and all of her friends (including Carol) as I grew to know and court my wife. We also had the privilege of meeting a few times with Carol as we progressed along in our courtship and preparation for marriage, as Carol is a trained Biblical counselor. She is gifted at getting to the heart of matters and bringing the Scriptures to bear on your life. So, when I heard she was writing a book, I knew I wanted to read it, no matter what it was upon. Because it was on a topic so personal to her and because of her skill in counseling, I knew I would want this book for my own. I was not disappointed. Carol’s new book, The Undistracted Widow: Living For God After Losing Your Husband from Crossway, is both an excellent resource for widows and for the churches that should seek to care for them. Carol was gracious enough to take some time to answer some questions I had for her about the book.

1) It is clear from your book that losing one’s husband is a terrible thing. What made you decide to write about it?

I decided to write about the loss of a husband because:

  • I could not find written materials that were biblically sound and extensive in addressing this particular loss;
  • I began to realize that what I wrote for myself and collected from other sources was making a huge positive impact on my ability to adjust to being a widow;
  • I found that in my interactions with other widows and with widowers that they were helped by the things that God was teaching me;
  • I observed that even grieving Christians often seemed to lack focus and were confused about what to do now that their spouse was gone; they were languishing in their circumstances or running away from their sorrowful feelings rather than going to God with them;
  • I sensed a need for instruction for churches and families on how to help widows.

2) How are churches doing in ministering to widows? Where are they lacking?

My impression of how churches are doing in ministering to widows is that help is adequately provided around the time of the death, but that ongoing ministry could be improved.  In fact, ongoing ministry to older people in general needs improvement.  Churches seem focused, like our culture, on youth.  Ministry to older people is a low priority if a priority at all.  While it is common to hear a lot about the church’s obligation to nuclear families or to orphans, how many times do you hear about concern for widows that leads to intentional ministry to them?  Somehow we’ve overlooked the clear and consistent message in the Scriptures that God has deep concern not only for orphans and other vulnerable persons among us but certainly also for widows.  I sometimes get the sense that because a fair number of widows and other older people live in retirement communities and because many have pensions and government support that the church assumes all of their needs are being met.  But that is a misguided assumption.

3) In what ways did your church best help you as you grieved? What could they have done better?

My church best helped me in a number of significant ways:

  • prayer – congregational prayer for us on Sunday mornings, with my husband and me in our home, in small group meetings – consistent, fervent prayer from the leadership of my church and from people in the congregation
  • consistent contact – email, phone calls, cards, visits – we knew we were not alone in the struggle against cancer and failing health
  • meals – and other offers of practical help; our assistant pastor even loaned us a dehumidifier to dry out a wet basement
  • the support of other widows after my husband’s death – they were  my beacon in the darkness showing me how to go on
  • the funeral service at the church and the reception after the graveside service – I felt so surrounded by the strength and love of my brothers and sisters in Christ

I honestly cannot think of anything they could have done better.  They were a model of how to do it right.

4) As individual Christians how can we best minister to widows? How should the church specifically minister to widows?

The best way to help a widow is to get to know her well and to minister the one another’s of the New Testament to her.  Include her as part of your family.  Don’t assume anything – check it out with her.  Will she be alone on holidays?  Ask her.  Does she need help around the house?  Take your rake or shovel over to her home and help her with maintenance tasks that overwhelm her.

A church in our area has a sign-up sheet in the lobby for anyone who needs help with grass, leaves, and snow.  The youth ministry then provides the elbow grease for helping with these tasks.  What a powerful and practical way to show the love of Christ!  What a powerful witness to neighbors and communities!

Those in church leadership who are responsible for the care of members need to respectfully and sensitively ask if she needs financial help.  Find out if and how family members are in contact with her and if they are caring for her.  If they seem to be neglectful, explore with them what they think their role is in caring for her.

If she resides in a nursing home or retirement community, she is still the church’s responsibility.  Be sure to visit on a regular basis and find out how she is being cared for.  Ask her questions about the care and services provided.  Make sure the staff knows that you look in on her on a consistent and frequent basis.

Any faithful widow left truly alone is the church’s responsibility. The church must be her advocate so that she is not abused and neglected.

5) As a trained biblical counselor, what can you advise us to say to those who are grieving around us?

All of us have suffered in some way – large or small.  Think carefully about what has been said to you that has been encouraging, comforting, and helpful.  If you can’t think of anything to say, at the least say “I’m sorry” because you are sorry – sorry that the person is suffering this loss.  If it’s true, tell them that you’ve been thinking about them and are praying for them.  If appropriate, tell the person you care about them and give a gentle hug.  Do not tell them you know how they feel – you don’t know.  Do not relate to them a story about a loss you have suffered. Do not use Scripture verses as platitudes.

Give a concrete invitation and follow up – “Can you join us for dinner on Saturday?”  Do not nervously say that you’ll have the person for dinner/get together and then not follow through.  Saying nothing would be better than raising false hopes of an invitation. Be genuine, be self-forgetful and let your words bless the grieving.  In my book, I have a small chart of things to say and not to say.

6) I have heard it said that the church should financially support women in the church with no husbands, specifically those with children, so they do not have to work outside of the home. What do you think about this? Is it the church’s responsibility to financially support our single women with children?

While this is an important question, it is not something I have extensively studied.  Therefore, I would defer to those who have – like John MacArthur and Grace Community Church.

7) What other resources would you recommend on the subject of widows and grieving?

Elisabeth Elliot, who was widowed twice, has some valuable written materials on grief especially her booklet entitled Facing the Death of Someone You Love.  Patti McCarthy Broderick wrote a book that is very helpful especially for younger widows entitled He Said, “Press.”  A book recently released is God’s Care For the Widow by Austin Walker.  Walker is a pastor in the UK and his book comes from the perspective of a pastor ministering to widows.  I like his theological understanding of the issues in widowhood, however, for a recently widowed woman the book may come across as somewhat academic.

My book has an extensive suggested reading list in which many helpful books and articles on grieving may be found.

8) You cite a number of different hymns throughout history. How did Christian hymnody help you through the grieving over the death of your husband? How can it help others grieving?

A good hymn is solid theology poetically expressed and set to beautiful music.  In all of the major crises of my Christian life, the thing that kept my mind sane and stable was singing to myself these wonderful hymns.  In a crisis, it is hard for me to recite to myself chunks of Scripture.  But if I sing to myself, the tune carries me along and the words come more easily.  The truths those words express guide and comfort me.  So, in auto accidents, in hospital emergency rooms, in doctors’ offices, and in the room my husband died here at home, I have sung these wonderful songs to myself or out loud.  I receive immense comfort in this way.  I suggest memorizing hymns just as we memorize Scripture.  One way to do this is to take a hymn and sing it everyday (all the verses in the hymnal) for a month.  After thirty days of singing the hymn daily, it will be planted in your mind and hopefully accessed easily in your memory when you are under duress.

9) You cite a number of historical writers throughout your book. Was there a writer who spoke most clearly to what you were facing? Who was the most helpful writer of the past for you?

Puritan pastors were wonderful physicians of the soul.  They knew the Scriptures well, they knew God – especially in a warm and personal way, most of them had experienced significant suffering, and they knew the needs of their people because they visited them regularly in their homes.  And they wrote down what they learned about how to minister the grace and love of God to others.  So, we have this wonderful body of literature to instruct us about life’s crises, for example, Thomas Watson’s The Art of Divine Contentment and All Things For Good, Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, John Owens’ Communion With God, John Flavel’s Facing Grief, Thomas Vincent’s True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ, and so on.

In addition, though they are not strictly considered among the Puritans, I have been profoundly influenced in my thinking and helped in my grieving by the writings of Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Angell James, Arthur Pink, and P. B. Power.

10) Now that this book is done, do you have plans to do any more writing or speaking on this topic or on other practical theological topics?

Yes, I am writing for a magazine in the UK and doing blog and radio interviews for the book. I will be continuing to speak at women’s events on various topics on which I have written.  I have some ideas for new writing projects and am praying over them and waiting for the Lord’s leading.

Crossway Give-away Reviews – 6 Months In

September 27, 2010

I’ve given away a number of Crossway books so far here on the blog. I want to post some brief thoughts on the books given away during the first six months.

January – Adrian Warnock, Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything

I reviewed this book more in depth here but I just wanted to share some key thoughts. The resurrection does change everything. We tend to focus a lot more on the crucifixion and all that happened there and tend not to think through all the implications for the Christian life in the resurrection. Adrian Warnock helpfully plumbs the Scriptures and its teaching on the resurrection and all that it means for the life of the Christian. For the Christian, it should mean great joy. Go ahead, meditate on the resurrection for awhile. You’ll be glad you did! It is the basis upon which you have new life in Christ!

February – D. A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus

This helpful little book from a master scholar-theologian with a pastor’s heart is just what the church needs today. So many of our issues that we focus upon are secondary if not tertiary in nature. All too often we forget to focus on the primary things. And nothing is more primary than the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our whole faith resides in it. And the real scandalous nature of it all is so profound that what it means for the life of the believer is just as profound. God became man to die for you and rose again to give you new life. Is there any better news than that?

March – Mark Driscoll and Gary Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe

You’ve got to give the big guy from Seattle some credit. He gets people to read books on important subjects that would never have read them on their own. The unlikely combination of Driscoll and Breshears though helpfully guides people into reading and understanding theology. Theology was never meant to be solely the realm of scholars but of the people in the pew as well. Driscoll’s popular style buttressed by Breshears’ acumen are a helpful combination. Driscoll sometimes paints things a little too “vividly” should we say, but overall, it is a helpful volume.

April – Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage

The one reality is, marriage isn’t easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Paul Tripp though does an excellent job of presenting the potential issues and redemptive solutions for marriage. Anything by Tripp and his fellow CCEF fellows should be ready by all, especially those in the ministry. The key help in this volume is that Tripp acknowledges from the outset that marriages that do not completely rest on Christ are doomed to fail. Two sinners joined together are bound to create problems! The solutions for a transformed marriage as resting in the redemptive work of Christ is refreshing.

May – Tullian Tchividjian, Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels

Taking the book of Jonah as the basis for this work (the substance of preaching through Jonah), Tchividian does a masterful job of showing the great grace that is available through Jesus Christ for the rebellious. All of us, like Jonah, rebel and run from the master. Grace is available to us and to others from Him who is always gracious. Be challenged and encouraged through this good word!

June – Grant Horner, Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Reviewer

Come on admit it. You watch movies like the rest of us. The problem is, most of us watch them without a thought in our heads. Or we expect someone else to spoon feed us what we should see or what we shouldn’t see. The biggest problem with our churches today is people don’t know how to discern and frankly, pastors are helping the problem by not teaching them! Instead of a list of dos and don’ts, lets actually learn how to discern right from wrong. Horner does that with movies. Not satisfied in glib “yes or no’s” he teaches us the principles of discernment so we will have the tools to know what to put before our eyes, and what not to!

July… August… September Winners!

September 9, 2010

Sorry everyone! As you can see I am behind with the 2010 Crossway Book Giveawy here at the blog. Lots of things going on in life and ministry but it’s no excuse to not getting you the best in books from Crossway!

So, without further adieu, here are the winners for July, August, and September.

July’s winner is Austin Hoffman. He wins a copy of D. A. Carson’s Collected Writings on Scripture.

August’s winner is Jason at He wins a copy of Fred Sanders’ The Deep Things of God.

September’s winner is Jenna Kim. She win’s a copy of John Piper’s Think.

Austin, Jason, and Jenna, e-mail me your mailing addresses so I can have Crossway send you copies. Please e-mail me at allen [dot] mickle [dot] jr [at] gmail [dot] com.

Look forward to our October giveaway! For the next month you can look forward to receiving a copy of Entrusted with the Gospel edited by D. A. Carson.

Still not entered in the contest? There’s still time! Enter at the link below!

And June’s Winner is…

June 30, 2010

Ben Terry! Ben wins a copy of Grant Horner’s Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer.

July’s winner will receive a copy of D. A. Carson’s, Collected Writings on Scripture.

Want to get in on the book giveaway action? Just click below!

Winner of Tullian Tchividjian’s Surprised by Grace

June 2, 2010

Congratulations to Dan Brubacher who won a copy of Tullian Tchividjian’s Surprised by Grace. If you would like opportunities to win other Crossway titles this year be sure to sign up for the 2010 Crossway Book Giveaway right here at this blog! The next book to be given away here in June is

Sign up now here!

Blog Tour – Surprised by Grace by Tullian Tchividjian

May 13, 2010

Readers of this blog will know how much I love books. I love collecting, I love reading, and I love learning, especially about the Word of God and the Christian life. I have been given the privilege of being a part of Crossway Books’ May Blog tour of Tullian Tchividjian’s Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels.

Tullian Tchividjian is pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and the author of Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different and Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life’s Most Important Relationship. He also blogs at On Earth as it is in Heaven.

Here’s the press release from Crossway,

Most Christians assume that the gospel is something non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, but after we believe it, we advance to deeper theological waters. In Surprised by Grace, Tullian Tchividjian shows how when God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to move them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. The only antidote to sin is the gospel—and since Christians remain sinners even after they’re converted, the daily preaching of the gospel is essential for all Christians.

For Tchividjian, it was through the story of Jonah that he came face-to-face with the fact that the gospel is not only for non-Christians.

Surprised by Grace is a storied presentation of the gospel from the book of Jonah. It’s a story of sin and grace, of desperation and deliverance. It reveals that while we are great sinners, God is a great Savior. While our sin reaches far, his grace reaches farther. This story shows that God is in the business of relentlessly pursuing rebels—a label that ultimately applies to us all. He comes after us not to angrily strip away our freedom, but to affectionately strip away our slavery so we might become truly free.

This book is for anyone who is tempted, struggles, or continues to battle against sin. “I wrote Surprised by Grace (Crossway, May 2010) because we all need to be,” explains Tchividjian.

Over the next little while I will be reading and reviewing the book and including excerpts from the book for our enjoyment and edification. But here’s the exciting part.


Here’s how you can win. Leave a comment below about how the sovereignty of God helped you make it through a calamitous situation in life. When the world seemed ready to end and everything was blowing up all around you, how was it that knowing that God was sovereign helped you make it through? I’ll randomly pick one of the answers to award a free copy of this book. And stick around as we interact with the book in the near future!

May Contest Winner

May 13, 2010

The winner of the 2010 Crossway Book Giveaway for May is Matt and Ruth Stiles of the blog! You’ve won a copy of Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels by Tullian Tchividjian. From the Crossway website:

“As today’s Christians struggle to grasp the gospel’s true power, Surprised by Grace unfolds a liberating story that helps us come to grips with the shocking extent of God’s compassion..”

June’s winner will receive a copy of  Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Reviewer by Grant Horner

Not yet entered in the contest? You can find out how to enter by clicking on the contest logo below.