Saturday, June 19, 2010

music to shave by

Herein lies my review of A Guy's Guide to Life: How to Become a Man in 224 Pages or Less by this guy...forget his name...Jason Boyett. This book isn't bad, for what it is. In fact, it gives a bunch of really good advice and pointers for younger (or immature) guys that other books, which are way too worried about sex and eternal punishment for looking at girls below the neck, leave out.

Seriously, sometimes it's good to not be so serious. When I was a teen, reading these kinds of books were usually unpleasantly sober experiences. They spoke too much of lust and too little about how to relate to other people and do important things like tying a necktie.

When this book did talk about sex, it was engaging and not condescending. Really one of a kind.

This book is NOT, absolutely NOT a serious book about theological implications of needing a zipper in ones pants. It's a friendly, unassuming and edifying look at how to survive. Give it a try.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jesus Manifesto

This book is fantastic.

Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Let's face it, Christianity in the U.S. is pathetic right now. It's pathetic because the real Christ is nowhere to be found. Church is depressing.

We make idols out of beliefs and morals and principles and teachings. We try to imitate Christ instead of following Christ. We intertwine Christianity and politics. We have strategies to get people into the building. We offer them frills and entertainment to stay. We have CEOs and business models. We are against time theft.

Our gospel is false gospel.

Sweet and Viola get this. The message of this book is that Jesus has been completely abandoned by those who claim his name. They get this message right. The main thrust of their argument is found, I believe, in this quote:

"Today, many Christians are inviting God into their stories. But God is inviting us into His. And that story is Jesus Christ."

Christ is the focal point. When the idols are torn down, we will be back to being the body of Christ, living and moving in him.

This book is a good start.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

are you catholic or something?

I'll say up front that I rate this one 4 out of 5.

Ken Wilson's new work, Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer is one of those works that is needed most by the people who feel they need it least. Growing up in a mainstream conservative evangelical SBC situation, I was taught, at least by example, that usually prayer should start with "Dear Heavenly Father" and end with "In Jesus name, Amen." That was the long and short of it. Occasionally I would hear someone talking about listening more than speaking when you pray, but I still got the feeling it needed to be in between that specific prelude and postlude set.

There is a place for doggedly persistent verbal prayer, I'm sure. But it's more than that. The title will put off many by its use of the word "mystically," but if that bothers you, cover it up with some tape or something. You need this book.

I remember well the lowest point of my life. I had been doing all the things I thought were right. I was doing the quiet time thing for five to seven minutes and I found myself praying a lot. But I still fell into a deep depression and, though it wasn't a direct result of the prayer I was doing, I began to feel a miring sense of frustration with prayer. The cliche that my prayers were "bouncing off the ceiling" became all too real.

I needed what Wilson talks about. Prayer is an instinct, not a chore.

His most helpful point was possibly the most basic. He says that "learning to sit quietly alone in a room makes a big difference in your praying."

What an important statement. I am convinced that most of us go through life without ever really finding ourselves in the moment. We're not really there. We're driving to work, we're running errands before our feet ever hit the ground in the morning. To experience real, powerful prayer, we need to be in the present moment where we can genuinely meet God.

I don't wish to defend Wilson at every point, but there is much valuable guidance one can take from this book. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

embracing last night's late show

Just need to let you know one thing. I'm a guy. But I care about issues that face all of humanity and I appreciate gaining from the perspective of a female voice speaking to these issues.

This is a good book for women (or really anyone) who has reached a place in their lives when they need to reassess where they're going and what they're doing. While most books of this nature are written by homemakers to other homemakers, many of whom have no life outside their husband and children, this book is written to anyone at this place in their lives.

I like that this is not some woman who ignored herself and her calling as a human being for twenty-plus years to watch her children grow up. (Not that every homemaker does - I know many who have had vital, connected lives while doing a fantastic job with their families.) This is a woman who has lived with drive and purpose, but enters a time of transition.

Generally, I appreciated the author's candor. There were times, though, where the author rambled on in an anecdotal kind of way a bit too long. For me, this got in the way a bit. I'm pretty sure the book could lose about 20% of its content and be just as good, but I expect this aspect of the book would resonate more with some people that it does with me.

Some of these stories are a bit strange and disconnected from many people's lives, though. Like the one where she talks about her friend, Sandra, who is wealthy enough to fly to Paris to pick out a year's wardrobe. The author tries to relate it to the discussion, which was a good one about idols, but the comparison between this woman and the general population does not hold true.

Thank you for allowing a male perspective in this conversation. This is not the greatest book, but it is worth reading for anyone who is at life's "halftime."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Falwell is dead

After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery by R. Emmett Tyrrell is, at least, an interesting book.

Politically, I think this book has some insights into the recent blows dealt the conservatives', a term which Tyrrell largely uses to mean Republicans. The writing is gripping, lucid prose that certainly held my interest. Tyrrell has a very quotable way of writing, detailing the ins and outs of a movement that, from the pens of inferior writers, would be parching. From this respect, the book gets high marks from me.

My issue is that I tend to see politics from more of a theological perspective. For a number of reasons, I have distanced myself from identifying myself as a Republican, so this book didn't really ring true for me. I guess I'm less concerned about the intricacies of a movement that, though I often agree with them politically, has not largely helped the cause of Christ's Kingdom. Therefore, in the end, I just didn't connect with this book. I think for most people who see politics through more Christocentric glasses, this book will not resonate.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

journey, not beliefs

I'm not saying that I agree with everything Charles Foster says in The Sacred Journey, but that's not important.

This work, like the others in "The Ancient Practices Series," is extremely important for us today. It's important because the Church in our country has turned into a bastion of pragmatism, with ministries based solely on the felt needs of individuals, both Christian and non.

I really appreciate, but am saddened by Foster's argument that the word "christian" should be replaced because of its extremely negative connotations (judgmental, anti-gay). You can be sure we've lost our way when our identity is a predominantly negative one (we are not this, we are not that, we are against these, etc).

We've also come to the conclusion that faith is based on beliefs. As long as we believe the right things, we'll be okay. Beliefs are important, but it doesn't stop there. My marriage isn't based on beliefs. Of course there are some prerequisite beliefs; I have to believe my wife is a woman, that she loves me and would be a good mate. But if it stopped there, would I be married? No, I'd be a creepy guy who stared a lot.

Faith is the same way. Beliefs are prerequisite, but not everything. Relationship is the real basis - a relationship that gives birth to a long journey.

We need to get back to that. We need to recover the mindset that we are on a journey of faith, not standing still and firm. There's so much we need to let go of, to hold with an open hand.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Voice

I appreciate this book very much and I think many with negative reviews miss the point. The point is not to contribute a standard, classic translation of Scripture. Pairing the conversational text with commentary helps the reader to understand the Bible as being God's story; a narrative of God's work in human history.

As someone who grew up in a spiritually abusive tradition, it's a breath of fresh air. This and coming generations of Christians are not like those previous. We did not grow up with the full force of Christianity as a ceremonial religion in this country. We don't put up with the judgmental crap and irresponsible Biblical scholarship that's been spewed from pulpits for generations. We speak in different ways a lot of times.

Just read it for what it is. Don't get so worried about . Let God's voice speak.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

White Bore King

I am not a history buff, but I do enjoy reading biographies from time to time.

I don't know where to begin with this one.

It is entirely readable, but completely forgettable. It was an easy read, but at the same time, I couldn't make myself pick it up. Alfred is a completely legitimate figure to study, but you wouldn't understand it from this book.

I know I'm not being clear, but, to be honest, I'm not entirely clear what the purpose and point of this book is to begin with, other than possibly to offer a simplistic and remedial account of history. There are bits and pieces that are interesting, but are squelched by prose that marches along at a turtle pace.

I want to like this book. Really. Mostly because I want to like every book I read in some way. So I looked for a reason. Ultimately, I found none.