Saturday, October 31, 2015

Review of "Our Man In Charleston"


I've been reviewing books for a couple of years now, and for the majority of books I've reviewed, they've all been a specific genre. I was getting a little tired of reading similar things back to back, so I decided to branch out a little. I really enjoy studying and reading about history, so when I saw that 'Our Man In Charleston' was available, it was a no brainer. Christopher Dickey has done a masterful job (in my honest opinion) shedding light on some behind the scenes diplomatic missions that the British consul, Robert Bunch, participated in prior to and during the American Civil War. While there were times when the book seemed a little slow (it was probably due to the time of day I was reading whenever I felt this way), those times were few and far between. For a history book, I feel like Dickey does a great job writing to keep attention and convey information without putting the reader asleep or sacrificing content for entertainment.

For someone who really enjoys studying war-history, I don't recall ever learning about British Consul Robert Bunch. I easily recognized many of the other names of people who Bunch interacted with, and many of the other 'incidents' that happened in that period of history. It was really cool to read and see how Bunch's life and work tied in with the greater events that were taking place during that time. I don't know for sure if it was Dickey's writing style, the content of which he wrote, or both, but I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat in many of the chapters feeling nervous and anxious as Bunch worked tirelessly and secretly to try to subvert the formation and recognition of this new 'country' (the Confederacy). Robert Bunch had to live craftily and cleverly, appearing to be a 'friend' of the south, when in reality he hated it. The biggest reason Bunch had such distain for the south was because of their treatment of people of color (usage as slaves) and their desire to reopen the Middle Passage (Mid-Atlantic Slave Trade Route). I have developed a great appreciation for the life and work of Consul Bunch in light of everything that he endured and put up with all with the hopes of eventually leading to the end of slavery in the United States, and eventually the world!

I HIGHLY recommend this book if you have any interest in history, especially the American Civil War period. Christopher Dickey was very detailed in his presentation of events involving Bunch and how they played a part in the greater events that were going on during that time. He also does a great job of utilizing sources such as actual journal and letter entries from Bunch and his superiors from both sides of the Atlantic.

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pictures From A Recent Service Project

Here's some pictures for you all of one of our recent outreach events!!



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review of "Messy Grace"

Wow! What a book! I first heard a little about Caleb's story from the North American Christian Convention this year in Cincinnati, after my wife attended his workshop. I jumped on the opportunity to read an advance copy and review his book when I saw it on the blogging for books page because of what I had heard. Caleb Katenbach has quite a story and history to share. It's also the kind of story that (I believe) qualifies him to write a much needed, qualified addition to the ongoing conversation both outside and within the church regarding the issue of homosexuality. The fact that Caleb grew up with both mom and dad identifying as homosexual, gives him the foundation of compassion and understanding that many in the church today lack when it comes to interacting with members of LGBT community.

Within his book, Caleb shares many stories from his childhood and even some from more recent years in his life. As you read each story you can feel the tension, anxiety, humor, and sadness that Caleb himself felt during these life events, bringing you closer to wearing his shoes. Unlike many of the books I've read on the subject matter (with a few exceptions), Caleb pleads for Christians to drop the 'Us vs. Them' way of thinking because it's causing more harm and good. I felt myself feeling a great deal of sympathy for his homosexual friend whose family refused to even touch him, and instead just sat across the room and read Bible verses at him when he was lying in a hospital dying from AIDS. At the same time I felt a sense of embarrassment because that right there captures a shocking majority of people's response/reactions to the LGBT community. Caleb's big push is to understand that as Christians, we are to be Jesus' hands and feet, His ambassadors to the broken, confused, and hurting in this world, and sometimes.... sometimes we have to get messy. There are many times where Caleb reminds the reader that there is a chance you might not agree with his conclusions and convictions. However while they might have their own convictions, Caleb challenges everyone to take a step back and honestly reevaluate whether those beliefs are true. (His chapter on 'No Compromise' was one of my favorites to think through and see how he tested his former beliefs against the contextual and historical backgrounds of the whole Bible.) Overall this is a VERY easy read. Caleb's writing style makes it seem like he's sitting next to you telling you stories and having a conversation with you. I HIGHLY recommend this book to be on the reading list of every Christian (since the LGBT community isn't going anywhere and we need to elevate the conversation between the two communities from 'us-vs-them' to being love and grace-filled).

Grace certainly isn't nice and neat. It's messy! Caleb does a masterful job at contributing a worthwhile voice that is loving and compassionate, while as the same time not compromising the truth to a conversation that so many people are engaged in, yet have forgotten the whole mission of reconciliation. Just as there were times when Jesus was criticized by the 'religious' because He wanted to show grace to someone who desperately needed it, we have to master the approach of loving others without sacrificing conviction. We have to master the approach of messy grace.

Check Out More About This Book:

-"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Saturday, July 25, 2015

"The Question That Never Goes Away" Review

The Question That Never Goes AwayThe Question That Never Goes Away by Philip Yancey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book in two days (it's decently short, easy to read, and sitting in the hospital with you son frees up a lot of time to do some reading). I've always been enamored with Philip Yancey's writings. I found this book as a bargain book at Lifeway, and since the subject is something that (especially in this day of age) is HEAVILY prevalent in our world I decided it was worth my time to check it out. This book is essentially Yancey's sequel to a book he wrote decades ago called "Where Is God When It Hurts?" If you approach this book in search of an answer to the question "WHY?!?!", then you'll probably be disappointed. Yancey, in my own personal opinion, does a masterful job of looking beyond answering the questions of "why?" to helping us focus on the fact that there is a God who enters the pain, suffering, and problems that we face along with us. Yancey uses stories and accounts from the incidents and his visits to the affected areas of tsunami stricken Japan, war-ravaged Sarajevo, and grief-stricken Newtown, Connecticut. I HIGHLY recommend this book to every Christian, even if you aren't going through a hard time of suffering currently. At the very least, this book will serve as a catalyst in the lives of Christian to reignite the compassion that God desires of us to show for everyone around us in our everyday lives.

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"Winning the Battle Within" Review

Winning the Battle WithinWinning the Battle Within by Neil T. Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book because I was hoping to find a good book that I could use as a go-to if I ever needed to hand a guy a book to read and process while struggling with lust and other sexually-centered struggles. While Anderson and I would disagree about a few things that he shared in this book, overall I think this is the resource I was looking for. Neil Anderson is a counselor/psychologist who has written many books, including the two popular books "Bondage Breaker" and "Victory Over the Darkness." Both of those books have come HIGHLY recommended to me by respected friends, so I hope to get to them soon enough. I found 'Winning the Battle Within' on a clearance table at a local bookstore so I consider it a steal! In addition to help with lust and other sexually-centered struggles, Anderson includes A LOT of other helps for people who are wrestling with other things (such as anger, unforgiveness, pride, etc.), and even includes a step-by-step 'program' that the reader can go through either with a small group of people or alone. I know every person is different and certain methods work for some while not working for others, but if you know someone who has been wrestling with something, especially sexually-centered issues, I highly recommend you pass this title along to them because it could help them by equipping them with the tools, encouragement, and motivation they need to finally find victory over a certain area of their life.

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"Living the Gospel in the Grey" Review

Living the Gospel in the Grey: The Art of Coming AlongsideLiving the Gospel in the Grey: The Art of Coming Alongside by Rob Schrumpf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book based on recommendation from a fellow campus minister. I'm not one for long reviews of books, but I will say that this is one of my favorite books that I've read in the field of evangelism. Being written by another fellow campus minister, there are many applicable stories and takeaways fore campus ministry. There's probably not going to be anything truly revolutionary for many within this book, yet Rob does a decent job of taking things we should know and putting them into practical and applicable ways that anyone can use as motivation and a guide to improve, not in 'evangelism' (as we think of it today), but in coming alongside of people and engaging them in the midst of their life. The book itself is written in a super easy to read way and not super long. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a fresh approach with basic principles.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review of "Our One Great Act of Fidelity"

First let me start off by saying that I'm not Catholic. Yet ever since my studies in undergrad and graduate school, I've always found a freshness when approaching books and writings from people of different 'flavors' than myself. While I find myself disagreeing on some points (sometimes that some turns to many), I can usually bet on finding at least a few tidbits that really spoke to me and provided a freshness to my theology and thoughts. That being said when I saw that this book was available to read for a review, I jumped at the chance. Anytime there's a book on the eucharist (or communion), it's going to peak my interest. First let me start with what I liked. This book is decently short. It doesn't take long to read (even though I spent about a month's time reading it because of the start and stop of life), having only 135 pages. I really enjoyed many of the ideas that Mr. Rolheiser presented in this book, to challenge his readers to deepen their understanding about the eucharist. One of my favorites was the idea that the eucharist should and must lead those who partake in it to service. Rolheiser brings our attention to the picture painted in the Gospel of John at the Last Supper where unlike the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John tells of Jesus washing His disciples' feet rather than issuing any kind of words of institution. I really like the thought that as we meditate together in celebration of communion and what Jesus has done on the cross, we allow the greatest act of service inspire, renew, and move us to serve others as we go on with our week. In regards to what I didn't really care for, I felt that Rolheiser tended to ramble at times (or at the very least, I felt myself losing my spot and getting lost rather easily because I felt he was either repeating multiple times what he had already said or was saying something that was very 'lofty' (when I say 'lofty' I refer to something that's a little hard to follow through the writing on a page, not necessarily something that's overly 'smart'.) Overall I would say that this book gives a nice break from typical books I've read on the eucharist and speaks more hypothetical, mystic, and faith based. It provides a fresh look at something that Christians from all over celebrate. I recommend this book for those who like to think on a more theoretical thought process or maybe for those who might be interested in taking a chance to read something other than a 'textbook' on theology and church practices. "I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."