Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus by Leonard Sweet

Review: I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus
Leonard Sweet
2012
Thomas Nelson

Sweet has produced what I consider to be his best work lately. Apparently, I am not alone in my opinion as the book has numerous recommendations preceding the title page. To add anything more than what has already been said seems unnecessary, but since my name is not one of the recognized group I will try to add something from the bottom tier of readers.

Sweet once again is coming against the business model method of church leadership. Yes, even the word leadership is a problem, but Sweet has a difficult time avoiding its use. He is correct though in opposing the mentality of professional churchmen and business practices that have driven the marketing of Christianity of late; however he is not opposed to “plundering the Egyptians” for items or techniques that might be useful. His repeated admonishment to the leaders of Christianity does help refocus on Who is actually supposed to be leading and who is to follow that lead is important.

I did find the early part of the book more difficult to follow than the latter parts and found myself urging him to get on with what he had to say. I got his point about leadership holding itself above the followers and the followers exalting those leaders. So onward to what needs to happen to correct that dichotomy.

Sweet still loves to play with words, but he keeps that to a minimum in this book, happily. Much more readable in my opinion that way. The interactive sections were challenging and interesting at the same time.

I do recommend this book, but be ready to work a bit harder on this than what other books of this sort generally require. I appreciate that challenge.

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson Publishing for review via BookSneeze.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: A Woman’s Guide to Fasting by Lisa E. Nelson

Review: A Woman’s Guide to Fasting
Lisa E. Nelson
Bethany House Publishers
2011

I have read a couple of other guides to fasting, but this one is the best. At least, I think so. Lisa Nelson covers all the bases in this short work. Most important, is the repeated admonition that fasting is not a means to get something from God but that it has much to do with humility before God. That is worth taking the time to read this book in itself. The how-to part is necessary, but the why-to even more so.

Nelson’s style is so relaxed and readable. Her encouragement and personal insights make me want to reconsider the idea of fasting. Yes, I had tried it a couple of times and failed miserably. She offers several approaches to fasting as to length of a fast and timing, like, don’t try to fast over the holidays, unless you are specifically called to do so. I like this lady! She’s also very honest about some of the effects that fasting can have on the body. Good to know stuff even if it does rock your sensibilities a little. Happily, she includes fasts that are not food fasts. Some of those include electronic media fasts. Some of us could really use some help there. What makes it for women? Not much in the facts of fasting, but the tone and examples are more feminine than some men could tolerate.

The only part I did not like and it is true of any of the books I’ve read on the subject is the mandatory medical disclaimers offered. I know you have to include that sort of thing in this day and age, but in the end it dumbs down the whole idea. Whatever became of common sense?

I do recommend this book highly; so if you are considering a fast please take the time to read this one first.

This book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishing for review.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: Going Deep: Becoming a Person of Influence by Gordon MacDonald

Review: Going Deep: Becoming a Person of Influence
Gordon MacDonald
Thomas Nelson
2011

A quiet, well told account of the shift to depth from program by MacDonald. I really think the book would be better suited for a pastoral audience than a general readership. Having said that, I do not mean that the general reader will not benefit from this book. For them, this book is so illustrative of a pastor’s heart and his challenge to follow God’s leading in his life and how it affects the congregation’s lives. Want to help your pastor? Read this book.

For the pastoral ministry group, this book shows how one pastor worked through a challenge put before him. The account is fictionalized, but still contains so much wisdom. Younger leaders need to have a mentor like this author portrays in this book. And the best part is that it so readable. Loved the presentation MacDonald chose for this. His characters are believable as well.

The down side is that there needs to be a sequel to show how the group fared as they “graduated” from their training. Getting the training is the easy part, I’ve found. So, the reader is left hanging as to whether the members did in fact continue the deepening experience. The impression is left is that all is well and there are already several more people desiring to be part of the next group. We can hope it is that clean in the nonfiction world.

Overall, I recommend this book. I do think the publishers have not done the author any favors with the way the book is presented through the cover or the blurb on the back cover. Please do not let that deter you. The book is engaging and worth the read.

This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson, through BookSneeze, for review.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling

Review: A Heart for Freedom
Chai Ling
Tyndale House Publishers
2011

Powerful. Inspiring. Humbling. I was not expecting what this book delivered. It’s Chai Ling’s story to be sure, but it awakens so much more within the reader that I fear this review will fail to cover it adequately. I initially requested this book for review to discover the rest of the story of Tiananmen Square. The visual that is on the cover of that one student in front of the tank is all that most of us will know or remember of that time.

Her ability to tell this story is described as “gripping” by one endorsement and that is so true. The underlying story that comes to life through this book totally captivated me. I found it hard to put down. The hard parts are there too. They can make you cry for her and her countrymen. It is a well written work and a testimony to perseverance and courage.

Her story of freedom is more than Tiananmen Square; it’s the story of women everywhere and especially those who do not live in societies that recognize their personhood and worth. That sadly includes many in this country, too. It’s also the story of God working through history and tragedy to bring everyone into his family. Chai Ling’s growth throughout the book is sheer inspiration to me. Her acceptance of Jesus does not come quickly or easily for her. I applaud her willingness to share her life with its successes and failures with us on so honest a way.

I do recommend this book highly and encourage you to find a copy, read it, and share it with others. There’s so much here, it cannot help to speak to a wide range of people, men included.

There will also be available a discussion guide for those that participate in book club discussion groups or for personal use.

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. by Skye Jethani

Insightful, Illuminating and readable are the words that I think best describe this book. Jethani has focused on five tiny words---under, over, from, for, and with---to illustrate the different ways most of us relate to God. Brilliant idea, I think.

The writing is clear, thoughtful, and even touching from time to time. He does not leaving you hanging with no recommendations for change and does go on in an appendix to give the reader a few ideas that he found helpful. Nothing new there; we know what needs to happen, but a reminder certainly isn’t out of order.

You will find yourself identifying people you know, stages that you may have gone through, or even find yourself in the midst of now. This book explains one of the major reasons for burn-out and disillusionment among Christians.

I liked the inclusion of Loyola’s examen and the brief explanation of that practice. Made much more sense and is doable in Jethani’s version.

There is also a study guide for private or group study. Good questions there.

The negatives? The chapter from must have hit a bit too close to home maybe, but the tone changes and I found myself getting angry at the author. Or it might just be me. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

I do recommend this book. Read it. Don’t put down for later, like I did. You will regret that when you do finally pick it up to read.

This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson from the BookSneeze site for my review.

Review: What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission. by Kevin DeYoung and Gregory D. Gilbert


DeYoung and Gilbert have authored a thoughtful look at the mission of the church. The first task they undertook was to sort through the different ideas and definitions of mission. They do arrive at what seems a reasonable definition, which means I generally agree with it. Much of the book is devoted to developing their theme that mission and ministries can be distinctly different, even to the place of losing sight of one another altogether.

Another point they make later is that the church, a Christian, and a bunch of Christians do not necessarily have the same focus, mission, or ministry. That is a very important point and I think needs to revisited and expanded. The confusion that these authors see about the mission of the church is based in that area, I think.

But, as well written as this book is, the crowning glory for it is the epilogue, a fictitious conversation between a young church starter and a mature pastor. If for no other reason than this epilogue, this book needs to be on the required reading list for pastors and church starters/planters.

There’s isn’t too much to say on the down side about this work. I do feel that one thing that will hurt this book is the title. It will be one of several on the shelf with the word mission in the title.

That said, I do want to say this book is definitely worth the read. It is thought provoking, and well written. It helped me sort through some areas related to mission versus ministry.

This book was provided by Crossway via netGalley for review.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of Our World by Bradley R.E. Wright, PhD

Review: Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of Our World.
Bradley R.E. Wright, PhD
Bethany House Publishers
2011

What a nice change of pace! Looking at the upside of major trends like finances, education, crime, marriage, environment and other big topics that are in constant conversation lately it seems. His approach to the material could not have been handled any better from a layman’s point of view. Wright’s area of expertise is sociology and he teaches at the university level. A textbook this is not. And I for one am very glad. So, when you flip through the book, don’t let the graphs scare you. His explanations are user friendly. The graphs are self explanatory and make nice summations of the discussion.

I was surprised by some of the results of his work, in that they did show positive trends. I was just sure what I had seen and heard elsewhere was more the case. Worldwide educational levels were one such area. The trend is upward. And that is the key to this author’s interpretation. Trends.

He looks at a bigger picture than most of us are generally exposed to in the material we use to form our opinions. From that perspective things do look different. Given the nature of our society the long haul gets little attention. We want fixes yesterday or sooner. Some of his data shows how that mindset can even make a problem worse. In some of the other conclusions he makes Wright shows what might be seen as problem today is not seen that way over a longer period of time and some of that is not necessarily good news.

There wasn’t much not to like here. The ending of the book was possibly its weakest point, but trying to tie all the threads of a work like this together does get messy. His final paragraph will make you crazy unless you have really given his work in the book some real thought.

Upside is definitely worth the read. There’s a list of references for those that like to fact check and for those that would like to read further.
This book was provided to me by Bethany House Publishers in return for my review.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Review: 40 Days Without Food: Divine Goodness to a Starving Soul by Russ Masterson

In the author’s words, “I attempt to tell an honest story about faith, purpose, and love.” I think he has succeeded in his attempt. I found this book to be engaging and honest. This is not a how to fast manual. It is not hype about how wonderful the experience was for him. It is his story and he puts it all out there about the struggles he encountered during those 40 days. It is a road to discovery for him and most of the discoveries were painful. So why continue? Because he knows that he is growing personally and in his relationships through the process.

His diary style approach to the 40 days is interspersed with flashbacks that reveal some of his historical markers and how they generally are centered on a meal. Food and the table gatherings figure largely for the author and make the fasting more difficult for him in some ways. The struggles he chronicles here touched some of my own, too. What he learned and wrote helped me see some issues in a different light. One example is the link between ability and worth many of us have forged. Does he overcome that bad link instantly? No, but he does realize that recognition of its existence is vital.

Of course, the end of the book has what I consider to be the obligatory warning label about fasting. It is not for everyone. Point noted and the legal department can relax.

On the negative side, his composite character of Mac doesn’t always work well for him. There are times that he seems too theological in his conversations for a common sense sort of guy. Some editing could take care of that in no time though. I think this writer can mature in his abilities and become a valued addition to the ranks of Christian writers.

This book is worth your time to read and especially so if you want a real perspective into a lengthy fasting period. I recommend it to you.

This book was provided by Tyndale Publishers via netGalley.com in exchange for this review.

Review: Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running On Empty? by Alister McGrath

Alister McGrath has put words to my questions about what he calls the “New Atheism.” McGrath sees New Atheism as a form of anti-theism, “…an intense anger against religion, which is held to poison everything.” (16). Ah, now we are on the same page with McGrath.

Throughout this book he examines the work of the leading proponents of the New Atheism and one by one is able to show the inconsistencies of their arguments. The best thing is even though some of the points he makes have to do with the proper formation of logical arguments he writes so that those of us who are not schooled in that area can still understand him. That is why I like this book so much. It is clear and yet leaves very little unsaid. It isn’t long either and can be read in an afternoon, and McGrath has engaged several of the New Atheism leaders in conversation. One other tidbit about McGrath, he holds an advanced degree in one of the hard sciences. He is not just taking shots from some scholarly vantage point.

The little nit I have with this book is some of the asides he makes are not in keeping with his reputation and give the other guys something to complain about. Yes, the New Atheism does the same thing and some of its followers are downright rude, but for McGrath to engage in some of his more erudite asides isn’t necessary for this work. Have to say some of them were right on target, though. In my opinion.

So, if you had that feeling that something wasn’t quite right when you read Dawkins or Hitchens or the others, but could not quite get a handle on what that was, this book is for you.

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson through Booksneeze in exchange for this review.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: Seeing the Unseen: Cultivate a Faith That Unveils the Hidden Presence of God by T.W. Hunt

It is so good to see Dr. Hunt back in the saddle again. His work is among some of the best, if not the best out there in the area of prayer. Seeing the Unseen is no exception. His candor and his knowledge of prayer show forth in this short book like a beacon in the night. He shares with his readers his years of experience in prayer without all the fluff that accompanies other books I’ve read on the subject. He makes it clear that the occasional prayer meeting will not suffice if you seriously want to see the unseen, grow in faith, and know God better than you do at this moment. He also doesn’t promise instant prayer warrior status either. He makes it clear that growth is a process, that takes time, and that it takes practice. But he also makes it clear that the end result is well worth the effort.

So what didn’t I like about this book? Not much really. I could have done without some of the introductory stuff, but it was interesting. Slows down the rapid consumption of what he has to say which is necessary if you are really interested in prayer. But who had ever heard of entelechy before he mentioned it? Wonder where he ran across it? I do think a return to "seeing the unseen" more frequently would have good. I lost sight of that about midway through the book even though all the discussion continues to be related to that theme.

Read through this book slowly. Think about what is said and then pray. This is a deep, yet very simply stated, book. I recommend it highly.

This book was provided to me by Navpress for review.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Garden, Class, and other Time Eaters

Must be time for another non-review entry.  Good intentions to visit more often just aren't enough.  It's all I've got, though.  Yes, that was a very lame excuse.  It'll have to do.

So what have I been doing that takes up all my time?  Recently, I've been pushing to get a course done before the end of the month.  Tons of reading and three papers later I'm almost there.  Need the final and a "reflection paper" now.  Close, very close to reaching the finish line.  I think I'm beginning to get the hang of how to do these independent study courses.  Beginning, I say.  They are much more work than the online versions.  By about two papers at least and several progress reports.  Believe it or not I am enjoying this.  Learning a few things along the way too.  Start another course first part of July, but it's an online one.  Need the rest from this one.

Got a jury summons.  Suppose to be some sort of privilege, but it ends up being more like voter intimidation since that's where they get the names.  Or so I've been told.  Anyway, unless something amazing happens, looks like I might have to show up.  Been downloading some reading material onto my Kindle just in case.  Problem with that is I keep reading it.  Been on a Shakespeare jag lately.  Why?  I have no idea, except they are good reads.  Taming of the Shrew is the latest one.  Since they're classics, a basic version is either free or a dollar.  Can't beat that.  

I also hear that they don't feed you while you're down there so I guess I'll have to find some food too as the time gets closer.  Glad I've got that backpack.  Should give the security folks a some fit or some sort.

We've had some interesting weather lately.  Mid June and I had to drag out the blanket again.  Needed a sweatshirt yesterday and today it got into the 80's.  Feels like it's going to cool off overnight, but I doubt into the 40's again.  Had a summer like this four years ago.  Coolish, rainy, but it didn't alternate with the 80's or 90's every few days.  

Got a garden going this year.  Didn't do one last year.  This year we have our own tiller which is really nice.  It's new so it's much easier to handle.  So we got the ground ready, put in the plants and now we watch it grow.  Used a bunch of fertilizer this time around and some other additives and it seems to be helping. Weeds look much healthier.  :)  A month or so will tell the tale for sure.  Bunch of squash, tomatoes, eggplant, peas, beans and corn.  Pretty basic stuff, but that's what we've had the best luck with here.  The ground is not ideal.  Oh yeah, we've got peppers in a pot on the deck.  See how that works out.  The peppers just did not do well in the garden, so this year is an experiment with the alternate plan.  

That's about it for how I have spent my time recently.  The usual comments on the news I may forgo (doesn't look right spelling wise) this time around.  Don't want to get crazy and go off on a rant about anything. Been staying pretty calm lately and like it that way better.  Besides, if you want a rant just tune in to any news talk show and get an ear full from them.  

I have to mention that the Bible I got from Tyndale has been very helpful to me.  The combination of a liturgical devotional (I guess that's the proper name for it) with daily readings adds focus and keeps me from grazing all over the place.  Just thought I'd throw that in there for an update and a "plug" for the Mosaic Bible.  A good idea.  

Been toying with the idea of starting some sort of journal that's more about recording God stuff than what I've been doing.  Notice I said "toying".  Some of the ones I've tried before didn't work out at all and got abandoned quickly.  Maybe give this more thought and see what happens.  Like, why didn't the others work, what do I think would be an improvement.?  Yada, yada.  


Well now I have definitely gone beyond my usual limit.  Must be time to stop.  Until next time...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review: We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional thoughts on Heaven by Randy Alcorn

Randy Alcorn uses edited excerpts of Spurgeon’s sermons about heaven in this devotional and adds some of his own content. They make wonderful compliment to Spurgeon. For those who are not familiar with the life and preaching of Charles Spurgeon, Alcorn introduces him throughout this 50 day devotional. The introduction carries a short biography of his life and work, and then Alcorn weaves other fascinating bits of information into his content. But…this isn’t a book to glorify Spurgeon or Alcorn. Its theme is God and the Heaven that He inhabits and shares with His children.

The first few readings are situated in the place where the focus on heaven is the most pronounced, after the death of someone near and dear to us. Sadness gives way to joy as the reader progresses through these opening days. And it continues that way throughout the rest of the book. Alcorn’s comments and illustrations help reinforce the encouragement or exhortation that Spurgeon provides. There are a few entries, however, that do focus on the fate of those that refuse to heed the Word. While those are few, they do serve as a reminder and a cause to express gratitude for the grace that is available to us.

As Alcorn aptly says in his first comment, “We should not romanticize death.” Spurgeon certainly did not and was well acquainted with sorrow himself as the reader will discover in the readings. This devotional is probably one of the most helpful collections of writings about the topic as I have encountered. I recommend it without reservation.

This book was provided by Tyndale in exchange for my review.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi

I downloaded this book for review, but didn’t get to it right away. What a sad mistake. This probably the freshest Christian writing I have read in a long time. Bravo for the author! It inspires, reveals a lost history and lets the reader inside some of the Eastern religions in a way I had not seen before. There’s an impressive group of recommendations for this book but I generally don’t pay much attention to them. For some reason I did this time and it isn’t the usual list that congratulate each other’s work. He has drawn praise from a wide range of readers.

I literally anticipated reading the next page and chapter. A rare thing for me. Reading about something that some in the West have taken for granted or dismissed from the perspective of a people that did not have such a book was humbling, indicting, and awesome. It had been a long time since I have experienced such uplifting work. Read this book! is all I can say.

This book was provided for me for review from BookSneeze, Thomas Nelson.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competenciew of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks

An endorsement from Chelsea Cain on the back cover of this book says, “This book will make you smarter about the craft. Period.” I totally agree with that opinion. This is a book that covers ground I not seen in other books about how to write the novel you know you can. Maybe the other books I’d read had this information, but he explains it in a way I can understand more clearly. I discovered why one of my forays into such an endeavor was minimally successful and the other attempts much less so. There is much to commend this book to the DIY group of novelists out there.

His repeated, and I mean repeated insistence, that all the core competencies must work together is so important I cannot omit it. Seems reasonable, but in the pages that surround all that insisting I found that even some of the foundational ones were weak or missing in my attempts. How about yours? Please read this book. Go the extra mile or so up front and see if he’s telling you the truth. He does cover “pantsing” too, but believes that all the rewrites essentially are doing what he recommends as the upfront work.

The biggest nit I have to pick with this book is that the reader will need a machete to chop through some of his introductory work. I found myself asking when he was going to get to the point, especially in the first chapter or so. Maybe he subscribes to the “tell them, tell them again and then tell them one more time” school. I don’t know, but I did find the repetition that preceded the point frustrating. But, persist because the teaching points and illustrations he uses are worth the slog through his jungle.

I’d recommend this book to nearly anyone who is an aspiring novelist and maybe even playwright since some of the principles or core competencies come from that literary form. Read it and see.

This book was provided to me for review by BookSneeze in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quince, Hill Country, Tacos, and Tin Roof

Wow!  It's May already.  Not sure how that happened, but the calendar says it's so.  Part of last month was a vacation and a nice one too.  The quince, as they called it for short, came off without any major glitches and the honoree was sooo pretty in her fancy dress.  It was definitely her evening to shine.  And shine she did.  A little girl, no more.  She has officially joined the ranks of young lady.  I guess in the old days this was a signal for the suitors to line up for their evaluation as possible marriage material.  Not so nowadays, but the custom remains anyway.  

Had some time in the Hill Country after the party and some relaxation was just what the doctor ordered, in a manner of speaking.  There was no doctor or any order from one, but the time was nice.  Didn't know why the skies were so hazy, but discovered later that range fires were burning all over the state.  They didn't get much news coverage, but after a million or so acres a few sites picked up on it. Yes, there are pictures of all that and I may go find one to post in a few, but for now words will have to do. 

That pretty much covered the vacation.  Oh, exception massive quantities of Mexican food.  I'd forgotten how good it was.  Puff tacos, flautas, real salsa verde, breakfast tacos, and that sticky caramel-pecan candy!!  Just doesn't get much better.  And amazingly, I gained not one pound or even ten.  I guess I should also mention the guacamole bean burger here too.  It's not officially Mexican food but it's still a real treat for the little taste buds. And since I'm on food---the absolute best grilled ribs, chicken and sausages were prepared by Nick.  He's the master of the grill and we were treated to some of his cooking.  Yummy!

Oh, another couple of things about the vacation---while we were at the cabin it rained.  So what?  Well, it was the very first time I had ever heard rain on a tin roof.  People had talked about it with such fondness I just knew I had missed one of life's simple pleasures.  It is very nice.  What I remember of it.  It's also very soothing, relaxing.  I slept through most of the experience it seems.  I'd recommend it and would love to get another chance at hearing it again.

As you may have guessed by now I thoroughly enjoyed this vacation.  I found the place I belong and want to return soon.  No, I will not divulge the location of the cabin.  The Hill Country is all you need to know.  


Well, it's been a while since that vacation and the routine has settled about me again.  The course work has resumed, slowly.  Got the final report from the previous course and did well there.  That also was the catalyst to get started again with the current course.  Other than that it's just been the usual stuff for me.


I received the gift Bible from Tyndale about a week or so ago.  It's one called the Mosaic Bible.  After using it for a while now I've got to say I wish I'd found it sooner.  It combines an NLT translation with some devotional material that follows the Church calendar.  The devotional section is separate, which I like much better than having it intermixed with the biblical texts.  There's also some color plates for folks that enjoy art as a tool for meditation.  Sometimes I do. The back has a short Hebrew and Greek dictionary with some very good instructions about doing a word study for yourself.  Of course, a concordance and maps are there as well.
Sounds big and bulky, but it isn't.  The size and weight, which can be a problem for some folks, is just right, I think.  I like enough to include this link for anyone who is interested. 
http://www.holybiblemosaic.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=2


Just highlight and click.  The link worked for me from here so hopefully it will do so for you.


The sun is going down now and it's nearly time to think about dinner.  Or not.  I am in the process of reading another book for review here.  It's a little meatier than some I've done so it may be another couple of days before I can get that posted.  We'll see.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: Jolt! Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing

Now that was a pretty wild ride---I mean read. It’s written in the style of several of the business books I’ve seen lately. Fast paced, high energy, and packed with all sorts of stuff. I liked it. If you are looking for some overall theme it is probably something along the lines of a wakeup call in your life, or at least five distinct areas of it.

Cooke is a media guy and understands how to connect. In fact in one of his microbursts he states that he starts with knowing who he’s talking to before he starts his communication. Now that sounds pretty sensible, but it doesn’t happen in some circles as often as it could. He’s got all the right words and hooks you right from the start. That isn’t to say that he does not deliver substance. He definitely does, repeatedly in this book. My advice is to give it a decent first read and go back to some of the areas that need attention now. Oh, I think he mentioned that too.

Each Jolt! is neatly packaged and nearly independent of the others around it. Nearly, but the one that follows generally leads you into the next step. Even though this is a high energy read, taking the time to examine the parts that most pertain to you is necessary if you intend to excel. Stop and really consider what he has written.

Like I said I liked this book. Finding a negative is not easy. Maybe the title? There are other items with that name out there in the market place, most of which have lots of caffeine. Or was that the idea?

I’d like to read a little more from this author. I think you will too.

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson for my review on Booksneeze.

Review: Love Written in Stone: Finding God’s Grace in the Boundaries He Sets Philip Carson, MD

Dr. Philip Carson MD has written a book that most of us need to read now, and review regularly. He reminds us in several ways that the grace of God found in His expectations upon us is not restrictive but provides the freedom we desire and the healing in body and spirit that is lacking for many of us today. Divided into four different sections he addresses relationships not only with others, but with God as well. Topics like forgiveness, love, commitment and even sex (It’s important and too often an avoided topic.) are discussed. Later in the last two sections, he focuses on health issues and finally the environment. Sounds like a lot and it is, but the author is able to focus in each area with enough depth to be helpful without wearying the reader. Illustrations carry the weight and are well chosen for the point they convey.

There’s very little to say on the negative side, in my opinion. What did concern me is that the folks that could benefit the most from this book will probably be the last to pick it up. The title itself could be a problem for those injured by the legalism found in some quarters. So, until they begin to see their problem having a spiritual component, or until someone encourages them to read a chapter that is near and dear to their heart the impact this book could have will be dampened. Once a person does pick it up, the author’s gentle presentation will take over from that point, along with the Spirit’s nudge.

Overall, this would be a nice addition to your library and a good book to lend out to others to read.

This book was provided to me by Bethany House for review.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April!!

Decided to start this month with a post.  Amazing!  The only thing if I don't do it now it'll be a month before I get around to it again.  It's April and snowing.  At least it's not supposed to be the major event like it had been originally forecast.  Or maybe this is the way Nature plans on an April Fool's joke.  Have to wait and see.  

On a different note...got a notification that I'd won a Mosaic Bible from Tyndale.    Entered a contest on their site for bloggers and won.  Yea!!  Looks like a good version too.  Could've have been better timing for me since I'd been looking for a new one for a while.  It has some devotional items included that are right where I am right now spiritually.  Looking forward to claiming it.   Thank you, Tyndale!

Speaking of spiritual things, I think there's a shift in my perspective in progress.  I've noticed it for a while and thought it was just the results of reading different material, but I now believe it's something else.  I keep finding myself moving toward a less conservative view (not fundamentalist but conservative BTW), but more toward a liturgical worship form at the same time.  Is that emergent?  Don't think so. Or maybe it is?  What it is, I think, is growth into freedom to be and do who I am and not get defined by someone else.  About time, don't you think?  Only thing is that the definers aren't too happy about that turn of events.  Makes it a bit more difficult to be sure, but we'll see how this works out as time goes along.  

Getting ready to take off for Texas pretty soon, and I, for one, will be glad to leave this place for a while and get some sun on my bones.  Weather looks pretty good so far--high 80's and sun.  Sounds so good!  The plan is a short visit with the kids and then some time in the Hill Country.  That is going to be good.  I really miss that part of the world, but before that there's a quinceaneros (the real reason for the trip) to attend first though, and I still don't have anything new to wear.  Plan on taking the same outfit that I wore the last time.  Quick, easy and packs well.  I'm not the star of the show anyway, so it really doesn't matter that much.  Just show up and play the long lost gramma part.  

Haven't written any reviews lately.  You may have noticed that.  Some of the reason is that there hasn't been any books in my category until just recently.  Waiting for a couple to arrive in the mail now.  Probably won't get to them until after my vacation since they haven't arrived yet.  Looking forward to reading them. 

I have been reading for my course work, though.  Just finished a first read of the main text, a tome, as some might call it.  A monstrous 900 pages!  Now I have to figure out some way to interact with it so that some retention of the content might happen.  The author does have some exercises to try related to exegesis and that might be my tool.  Meanwhile I need to get together two book reports and a paper, too.  Looks doable.  Hope so anyway because another online starts in July.  Enjoy the work on this in any event.  

Well, it's still snowing but not accumulating and that's the happy ending to this post. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Japan, Libya, and Who Knows What Else?

Boy!  Things are happening.  The world can change quickly some times.  Other times it seems to drag on and on.  The quickly part is Japan, of course.  First a major earthquake.  That was bad enough but the tsumani afterward was worse yet.  The numbers of displaced persons is staggering.  Last I heard it was well over 400,000.  The town I live in isn't anywhere as large.  The devastation was shocking.  The media reports here whined about a few boats getting bashed around in a marina.  What is the matter with them?!!  Thousands of people died in a moment and they act as if a boat matters more. 

The rebuilding cannot start for a large area until the nuclear plants are safe again and an alternate source of power has been established.  That has got to a major ordeal.  Hopefully, they will relocate some of the nuclear generation to another area when they begin to recover.  Have to wonder what sort of long term planning that entails.

Could you imagine that happening here?  I'm not sure the population would be as calm as the Japanese have been this far.  Look at all the finger pointing and blame around a cleanup after a hurricane or an oil spill.  Not helpful in any respect.  Just foments hostility and divisiveness.  Pretty scary to think about really.

Then there's the latest "engagement" with yet another Arab nation.  Not sure what I think of that.  The relief came very, very late if the idea was to support the rebellion.  Meanwhile the current leader consolidated and pushed back.  Beginning to think there might be a concerted effort to drain the West's reserves in these actions.  A weakened bunch of nations that are tired of engaging in this sort of stuff would be easy turf to "convert".  Not sure at all that this isn't another front in that war.  Europe was getting a bit hostile to all the political pluralism and reacting against it.  Yeah, it's probably not some grand conspiracy, but it's sure would not beyond the machinations of a very patient group of people.

Yes, the world is not the same place it was a couple of weeks ago.  In another way of thinking though, it's exactly the same place.  Wars, rumors of war, earthquake, famine, disease...sounding normal for some and apocalyptic for others.  Take your pick.  

Another change has occurred.  Spring is about to officially begin.  Of course, that means there's snow in the forecast, lest you get too happy dancing around and chanting to the whomever, but the crocus are blooming here, the robins have returned, and the raptors are soaring over head now. Trees have begun to bud and the maples in the warmer spots have early leaves.  The winter is nearly over and none to soon for me.  Glad to see it go.

How's my education coming along, you ask?  Fine.  Completed hermeneutics and on to the next course.  Haven't gotten any reports from paper or final, but the course is done no matter what.  Sure, I'd like a nice pretty A, but pass is the name of the game.  Started a survey of the New Testament that has turned out to be better than I'd anticipated.  A bunch of the material is not new but the approach is, so I'm enjoying it so far.  


Did I mention I put some of the texts for the new course on Kindle?  I do like Kindle to read from.  Doesn't burn out the eyes like a computer screen or the sun on a white page.  Download is nearly instant and a real temptation for me.  Acquiring a new book is a simple key stroke and poof! another $10-$20 spent.  That's about my biggest complaint against it.  I like that you can hi-lite and note the texts almost as easily as paper.  Guess I'm an ebook junkie now.  We all have our vices. 






  

Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: Deeper into the Word, Keri Wyatt Kent

Review: Deeper into the Word: Reflections on 100 Words from the New Testament.
Keri Wyatt Kent
Bethany House
2011

Deeper into the Word is a compilation of word studies, but is definitely not a lifeless dictionary. In fact, once I picked it up I found myself grazing through several entries at a time. So don’t ignore this little gem. It could be used for private study or as an aid in lesson preparation for those that teach. She includes endnotes for her references. Most of works she cites are not beyond the most modest budget, and several of them can be accessed online. A list of some of those sites is included near the end of the book.

For those that lean toward the more studious side she also includes the Greek derivation for the words studied. That helps us English only types see some additional shades of meanings that just aren’t as obvious in English or highlights the differences more vividly. Her entry for “friend” is an example of the latter.

Don’t skip the introduction the author provides for this book. She's got some very important points covered there. She says that this book is meant to be used with the Bible and uses an illustration of using the book like a shovel to help you dig deeper into the Word. It’s a tool to help you. She also suggests three ways that she sees the book can be used, a point of departure for your own study, an example of how to do your own word study, or a devotional study giving thought and reflection to a word, maybe over several days.

This book was provided by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, for this review.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Time to Check In

It has been a very long time since I've done anything besides reviews here.  Decided to rectify that with a little rambling now.  Why haven't I come around?  Not sure really.  Winter mostly, I think.  It's still officially winter but the days are longer now by about an hour and a half.  That helps.  

Other excuses---been working on the courses I'm taking.  Just finishing up one now and deciding on the next one.  This one was hermeneutics and my first try at an online class.  Not sure if it was a good experience or not.  Don't feel like I learned very much, but time will tell.  Liking the subjects so far and that's the main point as far as I am concerned.  Had an epiphany just lately that these classes are the substitutes for being able to explore the physical world.  That has been curtailed drastically and the world of learning is accessible all the time.  Thought that was a significant discovery.  Takes the guilt away.  What guilt?  The money and not having some "worthy" or "lofty" goal to advance the kingdom stuff primarily.  That kills the joy, but no longer.

Not sure to make of all the mess in the Middle East right now.  Maybe the economic downturn has shone a light on some latent desires and got them going.  I'm sure all the end times gurus have another angle on it, but that's a bit too far out for me.  I do have a sense that it's part of some larger event but no more than that.  

Waiting for spring now that it's almost March.  Weather's acting like the March I remember from years ago.  Cold and raw.  Looking at the garden spot and wondering if we should put one in this year.  We waited to long last year and didn't get one started.  Missed the produce especially the tomatoes and squash.  See what happens when it gets to be closer to the time to do it.  

Speaking of spring, haven't seen the groundhog yet.  Probably that's good for the gray cat that has been living in the top of the burrow.  I doubt that groundhogs are good roommates.  And the cat would undoubtedly think the babies were snacks.  Noticed that the birds are beginning to pair up now too.  Nothing serious, but definitely the early signs of courtship. 

The Tigger cat got nailed by something a while back.  No, not squished, but wounded.  He'd gotten out and I forgot about him for a while.  When he came in he looked fine but within a few days a giant lump formed on his back.  It went down and we thought things were fine.  Wrong, a few days after that I noticed a wet spot on his back and when I checked it out it erupted.  He'd gotten an abscess or something and it was gross.  The good part is that now he's healing, but it is a nasty wound and will take some time.  Poor kitty. 
Of course, poor kitty is making the most of all the attention and loving it.

Well, that's about all there is right now.  And I do need to read a couple of books for reviews.  So, hopefully, I will get back a little sooner the next time.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review: While the World Watched

Review: While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement
Carolyn Maul McKinstry with Denise George
Tyndale House Publishers
2011
Poignant. Essential reading, for the young and the not so young. This is her story, but it is much more than that. I too came of age during that time, but had no idea anything like was happening in my country; a country I had been taught believed all men are created equal. This only happened in some far off dictator led place. Here, no. I remember seeing the news reports of the events that she mentions but I did not understand their importance at the time. In my part of the country only the Vietnam War mattered. We were preventing the spread of communism. How ironic. Stop one form of oppression while ignoring our own. We are more aware now, right? Not too sure if that’s true.
McKinstry reveals her heart as well as her history in this book. She does so gently and honestly. There’s no venting of anger or wallowing in pity. She speaks of her difficulty in coping with some of the events most frankly. As she said several times in the book, her community just did not talk about such things and she was left to process her emotions alone. The story of her grandmother’s final days was so touching. All I can say is “Thank you, Mrs. McKinstry, for this gift.” Included in this book are the texts of several speeches or letters from the period, a timeline of her life, and pictures of the author and others mostly from her youth.
Please read this book to see the human side, good and bad, of this nearly forgotten time in our history. There is too much at risk, even now, to lose this piece of our history. This is a story of hope and perseverance. I recommend it highly.
Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Review: While the World Watched

Review: While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement
Carolyn Maul McKinstry with Denise George
Tyndale House Publishers
2011
Poignant. Essential reading, for the young and the not so young. This is her story, but it is much more than that. I too came of age during that time, but had no idea anything like was happening in my country; a country I had been taught believed all men are created equal. This only happened in some far off dictator led place. Here, no. I remember seeing the news reports of the events that she mentions but I did not understand their importance at the time. In my part of the country only the Vietnam War mattered. We were preventing the spread of communism. How ironic. Stop one form of oppression while ignoring our own. We are more aware now, right? Not too sure if that’s true.
McKinstry reveals her heart as well as her history in this book. She does so gently and honestly. There’s no venting of anger or wallowing in pity. She speaks of her difficulty in coping with some of the events most frankly. As she said several times in the book, her community just did not talk about such things and she was left to process her emotions alone. The story of her grandmother’s final days was so touching. All I can say is “Thank you, Mrs. McKinstry, for this gift.” Included in this book are the texts of several speeches or letters from the period, a timeline of her life, and pictures of the author and others mostly from her youth.
Please read this book to see the human side, good and bad, of this nearly forgotten time in our history. There is too much at risk, even now, to lose this piece of our history. This is a story of hope and perseverance. I recommend it highly.
Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: Fasting: The Ancient Practices Series Scot McKnight

Review:
Fasting: The Ancient Practices Series
Scot McKnight
Tomas Nelson
2009

Fasting from The Ancient Practices Series is another of the books that seeks to encourage the reader to consider a practice that most religious orders practiced regularly in the past. Fasting is one that has all but been forgotten in most Christian circles. The reasons for that are varied according to McKnight but primarily because of loss of the notion that the body and soul is an integrated unit.
He opens with a discussion of body image, one that focuses on the link between the body and the spirit and develops the theme from there. One development from that is the reason an individual fasts at all. It is not as he points out repeatedly to obtain some favor from God. It is he thinks an expression that comes from a significant or as he calls it “grievous” (xviii) sacred moment. His definition works but it will take the reader a while to understand what he means by it.
The book overall is gently written and well thought out. It certainly helped me get a better understanding of fasting. As some have noted the opening is slow. I found myself counting how many different ways he could say the same thing on one page early on in the book. Keep going it does get better and is worth your effort.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Review: Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices Brian D. McLaren

Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices
Brian D. McLaren
Thomas Nelson
2008

As stated in the forward written by Phyllis Tickle, this book is the first in The Ancient Practice Series. I had read some of McLaren’s work in the past so I was anxious to see what he had written here. His writings are engaging and persuasive, and this book is not different in those respects. What I did find interesting was a more settled, studied tone. He seems to have matured in some aspects.
The ancient practices are the spiritual disciples that have been around for centuries but largely ignored in some regions of Christianity. This book constitutes a brief overview of the practices and some anecdotal tales of his attempts at translating them from the monasteries to general laity. Keeps the reading friendlier I think.
His writings will rock your boat. You will not agree with some of what he says. You will see some areas that are in need of attention as well. While I tend toward the contemplative his push toward more people and planet oriented areas do make for good balance. Don’t dismiss either side totally is pretty much his final resting place as far as this book is concerned.
The only problem I had with his work and it may be my particular problem is the matter of fact inclusion of all monotheistic religions under one roof. Yes, it would be fantastic if everyone loved each other, but because of some major issues that separate them it is not the way of things. This sort of thing is what keeps him just outside of acceptance by many who read him. I am beginning to believe that he intends that though as another means of pushing against the norm.
His spiritual exercises at the end of each chapter are great for individual or group use. They should stimulate some good conversations. There are also some discussion starters at the end of the book and his endnotes list several resources for those that are looking for more.
Overall I recommend this book as a means to challenge an individual or a group that is sensing the need to more.
This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson for review on the BookSneeze site.