Posts Tagged ‘books’

A Book Review: More Ready Than You Realize by Brian McLaren

September 25, 2009

I found this book while buying text books for my fall classes.  It was on the shelf for another class that after seeing the “text books,” I wish I could take.  Brian McLaren is one of my favorite authors not because I agree with everything that he says, but mostly because he has a lot of really great ideas and I feel as though I have become a better follower of Christ from conversing with Brian through his books.  Brian’s ideas are very challenging.  But I have found them challenging in a productive way.  There has been fruit as a result of the challenges he has issued to me as a reader of his books both in what he says and more importantly how he says it.

In Brian’s book More Ready Than You Realize, Brian invites readers into a dialogue that takes place between him and woman named April he meets at a book signing.  Though the words exchanged at the book signing were few, April read Brian’s book in one night and e-mailed him shortly after meeting him.  What starts as a short conversation turns into a spiritual friendship.  As Brian sees it, “engaging in spiritual friendship will not only help others become Christians, it will help us become better Christians, who love God more than ever…because our concept of God is expanding, deepinging, and growing more glorious through conversation with our seeking friends” (p.58).  If that’s not shocking, he goes on to say, “In essence, the Christians are “converted” first in authentic spiritual friendships” (p.58).

More Ready That You Realize is a breath of fresh air in the aftermath of televangelists and cookie-cutter salvation prayers in that he offers an authentic view of how people can come together and learn from each other and how in that, both those who have met Christ and those who aren’t sure if they want to, are more ready than they realize.  While Brian does not offer a simple system to “do things the right way,” if you have questions like…

How do I share my faith in Christ without being a Bible beater?

Do people really want to hear about Jesus anyway?

What if I don’t feel confident enough in my faith to tell people about it?

How am I supposed to know how to answer questions people ask me about Jesus, God, and the Bible?!?

This book will contribute to your faith journey in ways that are beneficial for you personally, as well as those you encounter on the way.

For more information about Brian and his books and speaking ministry, visit

(McLaren, Brian D. More Ready Than You Realize. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006.)


A Book Review: With Open Hands by Henri J.M. Nouwen

January 9, 2009

Untitled Blue

Photo by: Untitled Blue

With Open Hands is a book by Henri Nouwen on prayer.  It is not quite like any other book I have read before.  It is a small book, but it is packed with such wonderfully crafted words of wisdom that it spoke to the deep places in my spirit.  Though the cover bears Nouwen’s name as the author, it was written from “many hours of intimate and prayerful conversation” with 25 theology students Nouwen invited to discuss their understanding of prayer.  Throughout the book are quotes from the meetings they had.  It was nice becuase it was very obvious throughout the book that it was a community effort and it would not have been as meaningful to me without them.

The book starts off with an introduction that is subtitled “With Clenched Fists.”  It’s a play on the title see, and it really spoke to me.  I don’t want to say more than that because I don’t want to ruin the way Nouwen presents it for anyone that would choose to read it.  It really challenged me.  But not in a “save the world” kind of way which is par for the course with me.  Rather in a somewhat subdued but deep seated upheaval of the way I view not just prayer, but God myself, and the people around me.

Other things I appreciated about this book are the fact that there was a lot of white space on the pages.  It gave me room to think somehow.  It’s amazing to me how our physical environments effect the way we respond to the world.  Sure, different people respond differently, and some probably tolerate things better than others, but I think it’s safe to say the physical space we live in effects us more than we know.  So for me, when I enter into a book, it becomes the physical space where I live.  The room on the pages made it easier to receive what was on the pages.  Each chapter also ends with a  “Question for Meditation.”  Sometimes these types of things can annoy me as they seem canned and shallow.  But I liked it in this book.

I think this is a book that anyone could benefit from and I highy recommend it.  I am actually going to read it again and for me that’s a big deal.  I hope you check it out the next time you are at a book store!


January 6, 2009

I was actually able to get up early this morning.  WhenI started my current job in September of 2007 I was able to do that for about 3, maybe 4, months.  It was great while it lasted.  It makes my days go much smoother when I have time alone in the morning.  It is much nicer to ease into the day instead of starting off with deadlines and details.  When things in life started getting a lot crazier, and the excitement of the newness of the job, seminary, and my call into ministry dissipated it became harder and harder to get up in the morning.  I have never been late to work, but I have definitely cut it close quite a few times.  It helps that work is 5 minutes away from my apartment! 

So today I woke up before th alarm went off and felt rested and glad to start a new day.  I didn’t quite realize the alarm was about to go off until it did because I put my alarm across the room to help me get up earlier.  That did NOT work, but it did make it impossible for me to read the clock at night (since I don’t sleep with my glasses on) which has made me less conscious of the time when I wake up in the middle of the night. 

I am reading a book by Henri Nouwen titled Life of the Beloved right now and I am enjoying it.  I just finished another book by himas well.  I really like his perspective.  He has good things to say but it’s writtenin such a way that it’s not overwhelming at 6am. 

I have a few books I would like to do book reviews for on here so we will see.  Here are some of the books I would like to include:

  • The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne
  • Tribal Church by Carol Howard Merritt
  • The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight (in progress)
  • With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen
  • Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen (in progress)
  • Here and Now by Henri Nouwen
  • The Kruetzer Sonata and Other Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy (in progress) 
  • A compilation of short stories by Flannery O’Connor
  • Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell (in progress)
  • A Time to Embrace by William Stacy Johnson (in progress)

I am sure there are a couple of others around that I have started but am working through (or have recently finished) but that’s good for now.  I’ve been reading Nouwen in the mornings and the short stories in the evenings.  The other books are more challenging mentally and theologically, not to mention the fact that some of them would make me want to jump out of bed and save the world in my PJs, so they are reserved for more reasonable times of the day.  Or maybe that would be better said “times of the day when I am more reasonable.”  : )

Well, I think that list will be more helpful for me as I try to write about each of them but maybe for a few of you one or two of them on there will be something to look forward to!

A Book Review: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

October 8, 2008

I ordered this book because a few peoplehad either referenced it or quoted it in your blogs lately.  I didn’t read any reviews or excerpts other than the quotes in the blogs.  And I have not previously read anything by Anne Lamott though I have heard good things from various people about her writing.  I started reading this book on a rather pensive afternoon while I was still at work.  In my line of work this does not fall into my job description (couldn’t claim continuing education or anything nice like that) but I figured I had a broken toe and I was doing something worth while to be there to answer the phone if it rang.  So I read.  And I was immediately sucked in.  I have read many books in my life.  I have loved to read for as long as I can remember.  Sometimes it is to escape reality.  More often it is to come to grips with it.  I didn’t really have any expectations when I started reading Bird by Bird, but I was more than pleasantly surprised.

I can honestly say I have never read a book that I felt was speaking directly to me.  You know what I’m talking about.  Sort of like when you are sitting in church and the pastor says something and they happen to be looking directly at you when they say something very poignant?  I identified with this book like I have with no other book.  Sure there have been other books that have moved me and challenged my and encouraged me and enlightened me as I sought understanding of myself and understanding of God and understanding of the world in which we live.  But reading the introduction to this book made me feel one with the universe.

Intense?  Yes.  Slightly melodramatic?  Possibly.  But I really identified with what she wrote.  It’s amazing really.  I have written my whole life.  I kept a diary as a kid and wrote awful things that I didn’t want anyone to read but hoped they would.  I have written update letters to friends and family thinking they were short notes only to find out from a friend who printed one out that it was three pages long.  And I have always loved words.  My friend Heather exclaims in joy every once in a while when I take a word like crap and turn it into crapily (i.e., I slept crapily last night.)  I told her tonight, “Words are our playground!”  I told her that because I know she agrees.  We are of one mind in this.  All of this and yet I was so wrapped up in the procurement of perfection and so drunk with my addiction to approval that I never allowed myself to interact with the irreverent. 

But a life that’s perfect isn’t worth living becuase perfection is a lie.  Life is reverent in it’s irreverence.  Life is beautiful in it’s imperfection.

Reading Anne’s book has helped me see that I think I’m finally okay with that.  And so now I can write.  Now I can write because can finally stop telling lies and write what is true.

The Shack: A book review

July 26, 2008
I bought The Shack, by William Young, on Wednesday and finished it 3 days later.  For me that’s usually an indication that the book is very, very good.  If you are not open to the possibility that your perception of God and the world we live in might be…well, really wrong or at best very distorted, you will probably not like this book.  If you realize or at least have a sneaking suspision that when Paul said “we see through a mirror dimly” it was a severe understatement, you will enjoy The Shack immensely.  To start off with, I would recommend not reading the intro before you start the book.  I read it after I finished the book and I am so glad I did.  It just has too much info in it and it would have made me think too rationally about the story as it unfolds.  It is my humble opinion that you will get more out of the book by waiting to read the intro.  That said, I do recommend that you read it!  There’s some important info in there!
So a little about the plotline, Mack, the protagonist of the story, takes his children on a camping trip.  Unfortunately, just before they are about to leave, the youngest child, a little girl named Missy, is abducted.  Due to a clue left at the last place Missy was, it is probably that Missy is about to be brutally murdered.  The rest of the story deals with the aftermath of this and is a journey through one mans pain and confusion over the evil of this world.  His ideas about God, the way God interacts with humanity, and the way we should go about living this thing called life are explored, challenged, and restored.

I got a lot out of this book.  I think it is just what I needed in this moment in my life.  While my story does not contain anything as horrifying as the abduction of a child, there are a few ways in which Mack’s story is my own.  And I daresay that there are ways in which Mack’s story is our story.  It is well worth the read and it is doubtful that you will regret it.

Photo by: Natalie Maynor