Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: Jesus Manifesto

Jesus Manifesto
Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ
Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
Thomas Nelson 2010

A manifesto? Yikes! Some of us may remember a few other manifestos from the past and the idea of another one doesn’t sound very friendly at all. So right from the start I’ve got a problem. But, the title did get my attention, so the authors and publishers succeeded in their effort. Then the vast array of praise within in the first few pages makes me wonder why bother with a review. I discovered that there is a website connected to the book as well that may shock or offend some who dare to visit it. Check it out for yourself sometime. Now all the pieces are in place for a really scathing review, as some might say.

That’s not to be the case though. Not scathing, at least. The basic idea of returning to Jesus in His fullness is a great idea. Sweet and Viola make the point that somewhere the church has become sidetracked is right on target. “Youniverse” is one term that they used to describe where some live these days. How else do you get the me generation and their offspring to notice?

There are some really good quotes within this book. Sweet’s researchers, and I suppose those of Viola since I have not read any of his work before, do a great work in locating them in the vast amount of material available in media land. They make you want to search out the end notes to mark some of them for further attention. That’s one of the reasons I like to read Sweet. Another is his ability to cause me to stop and think about what he has just presented. His word play though can get annoying and he manages to go there frequently in this book.

My advice for readers is to start about half way through this book. Otherwise they’ll put it down and not return. The back half is worth the read and where I finally began to like this book. From chapter seven forward would make a great work on its own. T

What about those opening chapters? How anyone could take such a magnificent topic and make it so tedious to read is mind boggling especially in light of the last few chapters. It felt like trying to connect the dots or reading Pascal’s Pensees like a novel. Sorry, I couldn’t follow the thoughts better, might be me not truly understanding where they were coming from or trying to go with the discussion.

This book was provided by Nelson Publishing’s BookSneeze in return for a review.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Books, Bucks, and Giraffes

Just put up another review. The last couple of books have been amazing I think. Edifying, challenging, disturbing. All at once it seems. I would really like to be able to discuss the last two with someone else, but right now I know of no one that would be interested. Alas.

Meant to write something here before the last review but that didn't happen. So after will do. Do you suppose that oil leak in the Gulf is quasi-controlled now? Not seeing much from the media on the net about it. In fact one of the sites I saw had already moved on to conjecture about whether California is due for the "big one" soon. Sort of like, what became of Haiti in the news? Guess there's no news merit after a couple of weeks.

Just remembered, tomorrow is primary day here. The weather is supposed to be rainy too. Don't know who that favors. Be interesting to see how the incumbents from either party do. I'm saving my final wrath for November. Can't vote in the other party primary and they have the currently sitting senator. With the summer recess coming it's going to get interesting especially for the Senate.

Speaking of interesting. How's this for a thought. China supposedly holds the mortgage for the world now and it looks like it's got a worthless piece of paper. How does that giant, enormous amount of money get paid? If they turn off the cash their markets dry up. If they continue they join the rest of the world in the crisis eventually. Looks pretty dire for the emerging economies. Guess everyone will have to suck it up and move on declaring some piece of paper valuable and fit for use as a trading medium. Weird.

Just added giraffes to the title. No reason, just didn't want more alliteration. We don't have any in this area at all. Maybe the zoo a couple hours from here? What we do have are invisible turkey. They have been nesting for a while, but generally a couple will wander through the yard. Not lately. Guess everyone is sticking close to home trying to stay warm. The cold snap we had lately supposedly did that to them. I don't know for sure, but they aren't moving now. The chicks should be about small chicken size by now. If you've not seen a turkey chick, they are the poster child for a face only a mother could love. Down covered ugly with a beak.

How do you end this sort of conglomeration of topics? Add one more and just leave. Seems right. I've got an orchid that has finished blooming and a short set of instructions what to do with it now. One stalk finished earlier and I did what the instructions said do and you know that nothing happened? Now that the other stalks are done, do I try to keep it going or not? Have to consider it's fate later. The drier awaits now.

Review: A Hole in Our Gospel

The Hole in Our Gospel
Richard Stearns
Thomas Nelson

Disturbing is the best word I know of for this book. There are already hundreds of reviews for this book in its hardbound version and now the soft cover release invites more. The paperback added color photos and a study guide to the text. So for my money that is a plus.

Why did I decide to call the book disturbing? I could have called it challenging just as easily but challenging is easier to dismiss. Disturbing gets into your soul and is much harder to root out. If that’s what you want to do after you read this book. Mr. Stearns tells his story to the reader while motivating that person to consider what action the reader could take to join in the world wide efforts of World Vision or another similar organization.

For those that believe there’s more to Christianity than staring at the back of someone’s head for an hour on Sunday morning this is a great place to start a quest for whatever that something more might be. Only the most callous could resist or disagree. Mr. Stearns balances the social justice aspects and the love of God well throughout this book. That is no easy task since our propensity is to jump into a good deed and do it without considering more than getting it done and looking good ourselves, leaving the recipient as a spectator in the end. That is the other disturbing thing about this book---the possibility of the reader doing just that with it. Consider your actions carefully or more harm than good may come of them.

One really important point the author makes is that poverty is more than the lack of food, water, shelter, health, protection and a myriad of other ills. It is the toll those ills take on the spirit of the person himself. Powerlessness, hopelessness, helplessness is the larger issue that must be addressed simultaneously with all the physical lack the person experiences. Holistic care, however, requires more of us. Do we have the desire to give that much?

Read this for yourself and decide for yourself. Do you have a hole in the gospel you profess to believe?

Thomas Nelson Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my written review.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Anatomy of the Soul

Anatomy of the Soul
Curt Thompson. M.D.
Salt River, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

This is the most helpful,insightful book I’ve read in a long time. There’s advice, guidance, explanations and examples to illustrate discussion offered by the author. Best of all, for me anyway, it explains some of what I had suspected about how things work all along. Dr. Thompson links human anatomy and physiology to the spiritual part of our being throughout the text. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. And God uses His creation of the physical body in amazing ways. The author does a great job showing God’s wisdom found in research and the discoveries that science has made recently in neuroscience. Whether science wants to or not, it is describing the wonders of creation.

Read this book. The text will require thought, evaluation, and time to go through. The author’s writing style is quite readable and he covers the material well. While this isn’t a how to or self help book, there are several examples of exercises he recommends to his patients. Most are very simple, but do achieve their goal if they are practiced as prescribed.

If you work with people (who doesn’t?) this book should help you immensely. What makes us tick and why is good to know especially in stressful situations. If you are in the midst of raising children or caring for them, there is some helpful discussion about their way of processing life at different ages. Wish I’d known some of that when mine were younger. I’m sure they would say the same.

The final chapters tie it all together and in a way that makes so much sense you want to cheer. Maybe one of these days the author will develop that material into a longer work. It deserves the attention.

The only thing I didn’t like is that it felt like the first chapter or so kept repeating the same thing, almost as if he was trying to get his footing before he started in earnest. Or maybe I’m just impatient. That could be too.

I’d recommend this book and intend to reread it to glean more from it before I loan it out to friends. A book that merits another read these days is rare. Take advantage of this one.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my written review.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Buntings and Books

Time to blog says the calendar. So OK let's blog. What about? Oil spills? Court nominees? Euro problems? Weather?

The last one is the easiest to go with it looks like. Cold and windy again. What is this about? Not more than a week ago it looked like summer. Even needed fans to cool the place. Well, the fans are off now. Nature has provided some pre-cooled forced air for a few days now, complete with humidity adjustments ie rain. Keeps the ground cold and the urge to garden at bay. Protection for those of us who aren't in the best physical condition.

The weather has the birds on the feeder more often and that included a new one in the area. We've decided to call it an indigo bunting. Matches the picture in the book so that's got to be who he is. Pretty little guy, all decked out in his breeding plumage. Haven't seen those colors since the last peacock came around. Just read that cowbirds like to use them to raise their chicks. Yet another reason to dislike cowbirds. But the little bunting is pretty and the females look like any one of several in that family group. May have seen her and not known it.

The other topics I mentioned before will have to wait. Not in the mood for that today. Let the talking heads do their thing with them. Right now, I'm watching the shadows play on the window. Restful and visually stimulating. Breathe deeply, exhale now. Like this.

Another thing I like is a book I just finished earlier today. I'll post a review later but that book is probably the best I've read for a while. Nice to challenge the little brain cells a bit. It was a learning experience, too. Except for the Greek study, learning new stuff is rare anymore. Not because there isn't anything new, I just am not where it's happening anymore. (Big sad sigh)

Oh and speaking of books...I checked a sight that I read for early in the year to see the finalists in my reading category and discovered none of the ones I thought were so great were in the running. Haven't missed that far in a long time. My tastes in fiction writing must have changed. The ones chosen I thought were all well padded to give them the length needed for novel. Oh well. May be time to move on to another genre for a while.

Moving on. Yeah, that's what I ought to do about now. Other big events in my life will have to wait until later for mention. Still too fresh to talk about without getting over wrought. Try them later maybe.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Review: Plan B

Plan B
Pete Wilson
Thomas Nelson

Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would? is the full title of this work and gives you a big hint at the way the author approaches the topic. We do have certain expectations of God that He doesn’t meet either on time or in our preferred manner.

This work is an easy read and it eventually gets into the heart of the issue. The first couple of chapters lay a foundation that Pete Wilson will continue to build on, so persevere through them. Yes, I am saying the first chapters were enough to put off many readers. And yes, I am saying that if you stay with it the work does improve and enough for me to say that there is merit to what he says.

Another author started his book with where this one ends up, and in many ways Plan B might reach where the other didn’t by walking the reader to the point when the “It’s all about God, not you.” moment arrives it’s received more easily.

This author’s candid admission that he did not have all the answers was refreshing in that it is the real answer to his title question. He does offer advice and examples from his life, friends and Biblical characters to help us find our way through the Plan B times though. His tone is authentic and friendly.

In the end the book offers more comfort than advice and, for me, that is what some of the other books like this lack. I’d recommend this book to anyone working in the Plan B or further on in the alphabet times of life.

This was book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson in return for a review, positive or otherwise, on their BookSneeze site.