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  • THE ART OF WORK: A LIFE WELL LIVED

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews

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    Have you noticed there has been a recent influx of “find your calling/passion” sort of books?  Fortunately, I have also found that Jeff Goins is a brilliant voice in the middle of such a crowded field of authors.  Goins’ work came into my life several years back through a little ebook he wrote called “You are a writer, so start acting like one.”  I am happy to say that Goins does not disappoint in his recent book “The Art of Work.”

    Goins attempts to provide a pathway for those seeking what they are meant to do.  For those searching for their calling, he breaks down our trajectory to these major topics:

    Finding our passion through listening to your life_140_245_Book.1544.cover

    Connecting with a teacher through apprenticeships

    Practicing with purpose

    Making intentional decisions through

    Failing well

    Mastering a trade

    What I found refreshing toward the end of his work, was how he summed up his message.  For Goins, art is not the main thing.  Borrowing from Stephen King, life is not a support system for art.  Art comes secondary, art comes through the experience of life.  Our life, in a sense, becomes the magnum opus, and no amount of success is worth losing the ones we love.

    As you continue on your adventure of life, I would recommend that you consider picking up “The Art of Work.”  It is more than the typical “go find your passion” sort of book, instead it is filled with gracious wisdom and encouragement.  Find your passion, of course, but don’t let it consume you.  Live life and realize that your work will never be done.  Ultimately in Jesus, our life’s story will be woven into the tapestry of God’s Kingdom and our work will not be in vain.

    _____

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  • MY TOP BOOKS OF 2014

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    In the spirit of reflective 2014 posts on the borders of 2015, I wanted to submit to you, dear reader, a list of books that I found to be quite excellent.  Here are my top reads of the past year:

     

    The Price of Privilege

    Working with youth in a prep school setting has raised a lot of questions in my mind within the ministry context. Fortunately, this work has been a tremendous eye opener. Written by a therapist in Marin County (where I live), the Price of Privilege explores adolescents in the privileged community.

     

    A Game of Thrones

    This was by and large my favorite fiction book I read this year. GoT is an incredibly deep novel full of character development, intrigue, and intricate details (down to the family tree). Not for the faint of heart, this book series is a pretty lengthy one.

     

    Called

    I was challenged and encouraged in Mark Labberton’s (Fuller Seminary’s new president, which makes him even more cooler) work. In his book, Labberton reminds followers of Jesus to live boldly within their calling. This is not just about our vocation, but instead it goes much deeper into the core of our identity.

     

    More Than Enough

    One of my mentors (from afar, of course) Dave Ramsey reminds his readers that life can be found outside of the credit driven buy more and save less. He calls his readers back to common sense and discovering that a life lived within our means is a good step to discovering more than enough.

     

    The War of Art

    For the creative types, this book is a must read. Creating art can be difficult, it can be a fight. But it’s a fight worth having. A Short but gut punching read by Steven Pressfield.

     

    The Adam Quest

    It seems as if the question surrounding God and the relationship of faith with science will always be in the forefront of those wrestling with Christianity. The Adam Quest seeks and succeeds to draw out key scientists who believe that science and faith go together like a shirt and tie. Drawing on the interviews with young earth creationists, intelligent design proponents, and evolutionary creationists, Stafford allows the scientists to speak for themselves and let the reader decide. (My review of the book can be found here)

     

    Knowing God

    Many people have called J.I. Packer’s classic as a formative reading for their own faith journey. I would add this work up there with my own journey too. Packer succeeds in this engaging overview of the Christian faith, expounding on the major beliefs that run throughout it. Packer’s wisdom and clarity is certainly on display.

     

    Unbroken

    This book is incredibly engrossing and reads like a novel. Based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, this is a story set in WWII that centers on the themes of survival, forgiveness, and hope. The message of forgiveness and peace is a remarkable find in this excellent biography.

    For my complete reading list, visit me on Goodreads!

    What books helped shape you this past year?

  • UNCOVERING GOD’S RHYTHM OF GRACE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews

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    More.

    It seems as if the fast paced society we dwell in craves more.  More of our time, talent, and treasure.  Kerri Weems stands in the gap and boldly proclaims that we don’t have to buy into the demands of more.  Instead, we need to step into God’s gift of Rhythms of Grace.

    Weems argues that we pace ourselves to the wrong rhythm, the rhythm of more and “mammon.”  The true pacesetter ought to be God and the Shalom he offers.  Shalom, as defined by Weems, is peace and wholeness that comes from walking in the rhythms of God, full of rest and grace.  Shalom does not come from productivity, it’s experiencing more of God’s peace in the midst of all the things we have to do.

    After making her case for Shalom, Sabbath, and Grace, Weems pivots to practical applications of combating pace stealers by guiding her readers to embrace saying yes to their needs (which are really God’s means for sustaining his creation).

    Rhythms of Grace is very approachable and easy to digest.  I especially enjoyed her study questions given in the back of each chapter.  With that being said, this book is clearly geared toward women.  There weren’t too many examples geared toward males, so I would recommend this to my female friends for an engaging devotional read to challenge the underlining cultural narrative or more.

    Photo Credit: jacqueline-w via Compfight cc

  • “LET ME PRAY ABOUT THAT”

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews

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    “Let me pray about that”

    Have you ever said those words to someone?  Have you ever said those words and either forget to pray about what you committed to pray about (No, I have never done that…)?  What about committing to pray for the decision because you actually did not want to commit to volunteering for X or contributing to Y or going to Z.

    Yeah, me neither.   WP

    Odds are, if you have ever been in the Christian context for some time you have used those words as a call to pause.  A call to pause and consider the will of God and the next step of action.  Praying for a lightening bolt to strike and mark the way.  Little do we know that God wants us to stop praying and start doing.

    At least that’s what Greg Darley’s “Waster Prayer” is challenging us to consider.

    Darley is quite clear from the beginning.  This is not a book on salvation, for salvation is a gift from God and can never be earned by us.  This is a book on discipleship and following Jesus our Messiah.  Obedience to Jesus and building for the Kingdom of God necessitates that we stop praying and start doing.

    Praying without ceasing is a very important point to Darley’s argument.  Our lives need to be cultivated in such a way that we are constantly communicating with God and creating a real relationship with him.  We become more focused on our relationship with him instead of fixating on a transaction.

    A powerful argument Darley uses is the stories found in the Bible.  There are so many individuals both within the OT and NT that acted when God called them.  They did not pause to pray for a week, instead they were obedient to God’s call.  They jumped, even when it was scary.  But they jumped out of already having a real relationship with God.

    Sometimes we need the nudge from God and remain faithful to his leading, even when it seems unclear.  Even when it seems risky, sometimes God’s call is one for an adventure that will lead us down precarious situations only to end up right where he wants us to be.  Stop procrastinating by praying.

    Prayer without action is wasted.

    ——

    Photo Credit: Ian Sane via Compfight cc

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  • WHY YOU SHOULD NOT TAKE THE BIBLE LITERALLY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    bless my sponge bath

    “You don’t take the Bible literally!”

    Have you ever heard that phrase?  Perhaps you have been told this.

    I’ve found that nothing is quite as damning as being questioned on whether you take the Bible literally by someone within the evangelical circle.  So to start the new year right, I’m going to make a shocking plead here: Don’t take the Bible literally.  Take the Bible seriously instead.

    Like everything we read (inspired by God or otherwise), it is important to understand what we are reading.  As I’m certain many have heard or discovered, the Bible is a collection of books.  Within the pages of the Bible you will find histories, prophecies, poetry, and letters.  And if we are going to understand what was penned years ago, then we are going to have to understand the genres.

    Reading the poetry of Solomon in Song of Songs takes one method of interpretation (hint: the sampling of fruit in Song of Songs probably doesn’t mean literal fruit) while a letter by Peter takes another.  Revelation is a form of apocalyptic literature that was not meant to be taken literally, the beast rising from the sea with ten horns and seven heads with diadems and blasphemous names on them is there to convey a point and is not a crazy looking lizard (unless you interpret it to be a start to a Godzilla movie).

    Here’s a good resolution to embrace, quit taking the Bible literally, take it seriously.  Handle it with care and allow it to speak into your life (through the work of Holy Spirit).  I look to Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to rightly teach God’s Word to others, to be a caretaker/steward of it (I Timothy 1:3-7).  After all, there were people even in their day that spoke confidently about things they did not understand (I Timothy 1:7).  These bad teachers Paul referred to did not take God’s Word seriously, they chose to take God’s Word and twist it.

    It is my hope you consider taking God’s Word seriously and not literally in this year.

    Have you ever been accused of not taking the Bible literally?

    Photo: zev via Compfight

  • 2013, A YEAR FOR THE BOOKS!

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth

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    :: When you re-read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before. You see more in you than there was before ::

    I once heard that not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.  For all those who aspire to lead at some level, reading becomes a necessary tool for personal growth.

    Friends, if you want to grow as a person, I would encourage you to take up the ancient art of reading.  For me, it wasn’t until the sophomore year of college that I became a reader and I highly recommend this pastime!  So without further adieu, here is my unasked for list of the top books I read in 2013:

    Sticky Faith: Practical Ideas to Nurture Long-Term Faith in Teenagers.  Want to hear something frightening?  Half of the kids who grow up in the church will walk away from the faith when they hit college.  This book put out through the Fuller Youth Institute will help start a conversation among parents and churches.

    Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.  Here is a well written story about survival.  This is an incredible story that culminates in redemption and grace.  A must read!

    Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness.  As the title suggests, this is a fine biography that centers in on 7 remarkable men and what made them great.  For my book review on Metaxas’ works, check out this post.

    The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick).  I love Seth Godin.  If you have never been exposed to his work, do yourself a favor and subscribe to his blog.  This little book will encourage and challenge you in any of your projects.

    Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?.  Here is another great book by Seth Godin.

    The Accidental Anglican: The Surprising Appeal of the Liturgical Church.  As some of you might know, I have slowly journeyed towards the liturgical church world and found this book by Todd Hunter to be exceptional.  This is a work that highlights what originally captured me.

    Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.  If Sticky Faith was simultaneously encouraging and discouraging for those who work with youth, Bad Religion works in the same way for the American church.  If you think America is true to the Kingdom of God, then I would encourage you to read Ross Douthat  works in the same way for the American church.  If you think America is true to the Kingdom of God, then I would encourage you to read Ross Douthat’s work.

    The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life.  My reaction after finishing this book: “Why haven’t I read this book yet?!”  Get it and devour it, you’ll thank me later.

    Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World.  Bob Goff is the real life equivalent of the Most Interesting Man.  Dive into a world of whimsy with this wonderful storyteller.

    Steve Jobs.  This biography is as good as everyone raves it is.  A long book but captures the tech industry nicely.

    If you are interested in checking out what I’m reading, take a look at my Goodreads profile.  My other writings can be found here and my reading list can be found here.

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  • HOW WILLIAM WILBERFORCE CHANGED THE WESTERN WORLD, PT 1

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews, Seven Men, Wisdom Wednesday

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    Wilberforce

    The second figure I wanted to highlight from Eric Metaxas book Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness was the great British Member of Parliament William Wilberforce.  In case you are not familiar with this remarkable man (made more widely known through the film Amazing Grace), William grew up in Great Britain in the Late 18th Century.  He was born into a social circle that was powerful yet (like the prevailing culture) was not seriously Christian.  His family was nominally Christian at best.  The upper tiers of society found Christianity unreasonable and embraced a Deistic view of God, with God becoming more of a life force than a personal Creator.

     While young William was exposed to vibrant strain of Christianity called Methodism, his early faith soon became a distant memory.  By age 16, he slid into the accepted social model of parties and a sophisticated lifestyle without the Wesleyan Evangelicalism.  By age 24, he was a popular, wealthy (thanks to an inheritance), and a significant Member of Parliament (MP).

    On a trip to the south of France, Wilberforce shared a carriage ride with an old friend from his youth, Isaac Milner.  Milner was now the Lucasion Professor of Cambridge (once held by Sir Isaac Newton) and a famously engaging man.  His brilliance and life giving nature easily drew Wilberforce into conversation of great depths.  One topic on their trip was about Christians who still held onto the Resurrection as a true event and other beliefs that had fallen out of favor in the social circles of Wilberforce.  Deep, honest conversation took place between the two sharp minded men and William was confronted with claims that he once held as true.  Thanks to that carriage ride, the young MP would embrace the faith of his youth and would set his course to fundamentally reshaping the Western world.

    Originally, William was confused on how to connect his faith with his profession in Parliament.  After tortuously seeking to reconcile his rekindled faith with politics, he visited his old friend, the former slave captain turned pastor, John Newton.  He sought counsel from Newton on this dilemma and the pastor gave him a surprising answer.  Newton encouraged him to stay as a serious Christian within the hostile secular environment of Parliament and promote change there.  Persuaded by Newton, William chose to stay in politics to serve God with his gifts.

    What exactly did William do?  After an epiphany, he wrote in his journal that “God Almighty has set before me two Great Objectives: the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners.”

    Stay tuned for tomorrow’s grand conclusion to the life of William Wilberforce and how his robust faith stopped the slave trade.

    (Catch the rest of the series: William Wilberforce Part 2, Jackie Robinson, and John Paul II)

  • A REVIEW OF ERIC METAXAS’ SEVEN MEN AND THE SECRET OF THEIR GREATNESS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Book Reviews

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    Do you think we'll find the droids? 

    What makes a man?

    There has been a lot of ink spilt over that very question lately within Christian circles.  There have been books, blog posts, and conferences centered on this question.  Eric Metaxas grappled with this same question in his excellent book Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness and comes away with a concise answer- strong, sacrificial love.

    To help demonstrate his points, Metaxas decided to tell stories about great men.  In Seven Men, he highlighted the lives of George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson.  Metaxas’ storytelling skills are on high display in this book and he really could not get any better.  Metaxas has a nice way of weaving together the narrative with life lessons that can be extracted from the situation.  He could inform his readers without becoming too preachy.

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    Metaxas provided a much needed framework over the questions of masculinity within Christian circles.  He advocated the need to identify manliness not with macho men who repair their own cars, but with men who loved sacrificially.  He advocated that true manhood comes from sacrificial love and protecting the weak.  After delineating what manliness looks like, Metaxas then provided seven examples of what this looks like.  Using some familiar and some not so familiar, Metaxas provided a strong description of masculinity steeped in sacrificial love.

    One of the aspects that I particularly enjoyed in his work is that he treated each character with a quality biography while also drawing out worthwhile character traits to admire.  I walked away understanding each figure in his book a little bit better and have even picked up several new personal heroes.  A great read for men and women alike!

    Photo: Kristina Alexanderson via Compfight

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    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
  • HOW JACKIE ROBINSON CONFRONTED INJUSTICE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: History, Seven Men, Wisdom Wednesday

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    Jackie Robinson Smiling

    The first figure I wanted to highlight from Eric Metaxas book Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness is a great baseball player.  Ask any baseball fan who is the greatest player of all time and you are likely to get a variety of opinions.  Names like Ruth, Mantle, Mays, Aaron, and Williams would come out from several different people.  While there were great players with integrity and some with a mixed nature, one man stands out as a phenomenal player and a deep man of character.  This man is none other than the great 42, Jackie Robinson.

    Jackie was born in 1919 in Georgia to a large family.  When his father left the family, his mother Mallie moved her five kids to Pasadena, CA where she sought to bring her children up to value “family, education, optimism, self-discipline, and above all God.”  His childhood was rough, he worked to help support his single mom and siblings, and Jackie encountered racism in his neighborhood early on.  However, his mother taught him a lesson that would help him years down the road.  When Jackie retaliated against a white man’s racial slur by tarring his lawn, Mallie forced Jacked to repair the damages.  Mallie believed that Christians are called to bless those who persecute you, and undoubtedly that would have been tough amid racial injustice.

    Jackie was a gifted athlete and he was phenomenal in nearly every sport he played.  Though he was remarkably talented, his skin color prohibited him from joining white teams.  As could be imagined, racial injustice would bring Jackie’s fierce temper to the surface.  His explosive anger landed him in jail and in conflicts throughout his early life.  He was not a trouble maker though, he simply wouldn’t take the garbage people threw at him.

    A life changing moment occurred when Jackie met a Methodist preacher named Karl Downs.  Karl taught Jackie that explosive anger should not be a Christian’s answer to injustice.  Instead, the answer was to demonstrate heroic type of love modelled after the life of Jesus.  This conversation marked a big turning point, because injustice would be confronted on the playing field.

    After a great career at UCLA and in the military, Jackie would see the racism he frequently encountered through the lens of his deep religious faith.  This belief would help get through the tumult and prepare him for the worst when he entered professional baseball.

    This is where the executive for the Brooklyn Dodgers Branch Rickey comes into the picture.  Rickey wanted to change the face of the MLB by integrating his team for his devout faith told him that injustice was meant to be fought, even in sports.  His position on the team would provide him the chance to fight racism by recruiting an athlete to break the color barrier

    While the story is too long to cover here in one post, Rickey found Jackie in the Negro Leagues and offered him the chance as a partner to change the moral fabric of America.  Their common, robust faith rooted both men in this monumental undertaking.

    As a result, Jackie was threatened, harassed, abused, and mocked at every turn, yet he turned the other cheek and quietly let his superior athletic ability do the talking.  Both Rickey and Jackie knew that if God was calling them to this task, then God would strengthen Jackie in the endurance through this incredible opportunity.

    In Jackie’s play, he demonstrated to the crowds that black men could indeed compete and excel alongside whites.  Not only was he one of the greats, but his conduct under hostile racial persecution won people to his side.  Jackie and Ricky demonstrated that devout Christian faith is not just reserved for the pews, but is lived out in real life.  Robust faith confronts injustice and leads to reconciliation and peace.

    (Catch the rest of the series: William Wilberforce Part 1, Part 2, and John Paul II)

  • WHAT MAKES A MAN GREAT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Seven Men, Story, Wisdom Wednesday

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    coast of Borneo

    Much ink has been spilled over what makes a man within Christian circles.  I really don’t want to dive into the debate on Biblical Manhood or Womanhood, I’ll leave that to Mark Driscoll, Rachel Held Evans, and many others to robustly argue it out.  Instead,I wanted to take a different approach by using Eric Metaxas excellent book Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness.  In his book, Metaxas highlights (wait for it) seven men to help convey character and encourage the reader to cultivate positive traits that marked these seven.  Out of those seven, I wanted to highlight three figures that stood out prominently to me.  The next three weeks will center on the lives of William Wilberforce, Jackie Robinson, and Pope John Paul II.

    Just to clarify, I am writing as a man (just in case you were wondering) and my appreciation of these highlighted men will come from that perspective.  I also want to mention that these brief biographies will not be marked by hero-worship or overly critical treatment of these men.  I believe we are in critical need of heroes, as imperfect as they might be, to help point us to being rooted in positive character.  There is neither naivety nor cynicism in these posts, instead I wanted to draw some helpful good from these heroes of the faith for both men and women.

    Manhood and Fatherhood

    These posts came about through my own adventure into fatherhood and it made me want to read more about solid men from our past.  In his introduction to the book, Metaxas pointed out that fatherhood is marked by a strong and loving heart demonstrated by sacrificing for those he loves.  It’s choosing to be more than just a boy who can shave, it’s found in a love that is costly.  That’s real manliness.

    Strong men ought to protect the weak, whether it’s a child, other men who need help, or disadvantaged people in need.  Through these principle, he can exhibit the same mind of Jesus, while having all power, courageously chose to serve others, not being a macho “tough guy.”  Interestingly enough, to have courage (rooted in the Latin cor) means to have heart.  It means that the man is strong and does the right thing even when all else points towards not doing it.  Courage is sometimes quite costly! Having heart is like the boyfriend who shielded his girlfriend from an evil man’s gun at a movie theater in Colorado.  Having heart is the father who choose to be present with his family, instead of constantly placing himself in his work at all hours of every weekend.

    With these men, they were courageous by “surrendering themselves to a higher purpose, of giving something away that they might have kept.”  In short, they had heart.

    Wilberforce gave up the comfortable life to stop slavery within the British Empire and the world.  Robinson chose to give up fighting back in order to lead the way for minorities to become integrated in American society.  John Paul II chose to give up his former life to vulnerably lead the Roman Catholic Church for decades.  These and the other four had heart.

    As will be seen this month, these men took their Christian faith seriously and changed the world because of it.

    Photo: Angela Sevin via Compfight