Monday, May 6, 2013

Something to Always Remember and Come Back To

“Why pray?”

Brueggemann’s response:
“We pray because our life comes from God and we yield it back in prayer. Prayer is a great antidote to the illusion that we are self-made.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Sacred Meal

The Sacred Meal is a part of the 8 book “The Ancient Practices Series” from Thomas Nelson. It is also now the third one I have read in this series, and I must say that I enjoyed this more than the others(Fasting by Douglas Leblanc and The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister). This is clearly a touchy subject but the approach of this series is not to push for the right answers or argue for the proper interpretation.

In The Sacred Meal, Nora Gallagher gives us a balance of the history of the Eucharist(writing herself from an Episcopalian perspective, although not limited to that)as well as some personal experiences she had in different settings. The poignancy of celebrating it in a soup kitchen is remarkable and is very telling as relates to the idea of getting our fill from Christ.

This book was a quick read and would definitely be recommended for anyone looking for some different examples of celebrating Communion outside of what you're used to.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Sacred Meal as a part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Liturgical Year

The Liturgical Year is a part of the 8 book “The Ancient Practices Series” from Thomas Nelson. It is also now the second one I have read in this series, and I must say that I enjoyed this a good bit more than the other(Fasting by Douglas Leblanc). I believe this may mainly be due to the topics, however. This one definitely lends more towards Chittister's style of writing from what I've heard quoted before(this was actually the first book of hers that I've read, though).

In The Liturgical Year, Chittister takes us through a year in the church calendar. Through this time we get different reflections of these periods as well as some history on the origin of these celebrations. I would have wished for more of the latter, but am still very appreciative of her different reflections on these times.

Joan Chittister is a Benedictine nun and prolific author, so it really is a treat to get her thoughts on these times for both of these reasons. Life in the monastery has a very different approach to time than the rest of the world, so these special days within the Christian calendar have a poignancy that most of us often miss. Our days often do not change that much on these days of remembrance, yet after reading through this it definitely seems as if it should. Our lives are often so involved that we fail to really slow down and ponder our remarkable history and the moments that are worth remembering. I'm not sure what my next steps will be in response to this, but I will certainly attempt to be more intentional in trying to understand and orient myself to the year.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life as a part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Same Kind of Different as Me By Ron Hall and Denver Moore

I read the Same Kind of Different as Me a while ago but am just now reviewing it. It is the story of an art dealer with a zealous wife that had her life dramatically altered by helping out with the homeless through their church. Along the way, he meets Denver who was a former slave but was now a runaway after various issues he encountered earlier in life. Ron's wife Deborah was the one to really initiate the beginning of the family's relationship with Denver and it ended up being one where they were able to bless each other in different ways. Eventually, Deborah gets extremely sick and ends up dying yet the relationship with Ron and Denver goes on.

In general, the book tended to carry with it a fairly sappy tone that was fairly hard to shake throughout reading it which was unfortunate because this truly was an incredible story of two polar opposites(seemingly in every way) forming an incredible friendship. I think part of this stems from it being responsive to the death of Deborah because she is made out to be a little too perfect, which is understandable given the relationship they each had with her, but it detracts from the title(and hence, purpose) of the book. I think the biggest thing to take from this was that we have the ability to learn so much from our interactions with people of all different kinds. Our shared humanity with others is enough to not simply write them off or assume who/what they are but to fully seek to reach out to others. This is a crucial takeaway from this book that hopefully encourages many people to look into strangers eyes and look beyond their exterior.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Coffeehouse Theology

The second book, also from, was Coffeehouse Theology by Ed Cyzewski. I have to say that I enjoyed this considerably more than The Colors of God and it was a very different book as well. While the title for the book seems silly and the explanation for it was somewhat nonsensical, there are some good ideas in this that I truly believe are crucial in interacting with the Bible.

The two main things I took from here which were exciting to potentially get in the hands of a population outside the scholarly world:
1. Being aware of all that you bring into reading the Bible. How does your context shape the way you interpret it?
2. Based on how you come at the Bible, how does that correspond(or not generally!) with the original recipients of the Bible in its various forms.

I believe being conscious of both of these is extremely radical and crucial if we hope to truly study the Bible. The other facet to this, which is part of the first, is how much the church or other community you have that has "helped" you interact with the Bible previously affects you. I think if we can be this honest with God in how we face it we can approach it with much more humility than is often done. The texts were not meant to be plucked out individually in shaping some topic, but we are to try and find the currents and rhythms throughout that give us an idea of the nature of God and God's interaction with us all.

With that said, I believe Cyzewski did get many things right, however there was still some exegesis throughout that was not given as much attention as you'd hope. Additionally, if I remember correctly the name of a leading scholar was butchered in this as well which is an extremely unfortunate error. I believe this can be an important gateway for many and I do truly hope it is able to take this shape in people's lives.

The Colors of God

I have several books as of late that are a bit overdue as my life has been in a massive state of transition lately. With that said, I am actually reviewing a couple months after having read it so while my reactions won't be quite as immediate there are undoubtedly parts that linger from them.

The first book is one written by several key members of a Canadian church. It is called The Colors of God which is based on several colors that make up the core values of what the church is about. Additionally, this book is mainly written as a conversation which supposedly was done in a hotel room if I remember correctly(although it sounds like serious preparation had to of been made before doing this if that was truly the case!).

This book is mostly made up with the background of how their church came to be and what the central tenets are that they value in a church. Sounds like a recipe for success and truly a gift for a faithful member of their congregation as well? Unfortunately, however, much of it seems to fall short in ending up with much substance or much that they truly get behind. As is becoming more and more customary of writers today, they are quick to say how much they are not like most evangelical churches and how all are welcome regardless of what they've done, etc. With the latter, while that should sound like something fantastic, it seems that based on their response to sin(lackadaisical at best) that there need not be much of a repenting or turning away from sin. Not only a turning away from sin but a turning towards God. No, they seem quick to offer unhelpful grace at the expense of much and it ended up leaving somewhat of a foul taste in my mouth. I never would have thought a couple of years ago that I would be the one representing the side against excess grace and more focus on sin(although contextualizing that would take much longer than this post) but I believe there is a somewhat clear line of what is appropriate and when it is not. Kids that do not have any sort of discipline in their life don't turn out for the better because of it. It is either in spite of it or not at all.

I truly did want to like this book. I am as open to innovation in the church as much as anyone, however when it is done while substance is foregone then it brings up many different questions. Additionally, all that said, I do believe they can and probably do serve an important niche in the community they're in and believe God is able to work through them and connect with folks that otherwise would have nothing to do with church. Unfortunately this is a book review and the content combined with several typos made for a somewhat frustrating read.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Different Sort of Kingdom

"When I was in Jerusalem I went, as one does, to the garden of Gethsemane; and among the thoughts which struck me very forcibly in that spot was this. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus could have taken two options very different from the one that he did. He could have summoned the twelve legions of angels, literally or (perhaps) metaphorically: if he'd wanted to spring a surprise attack, there would have been hundreds, maybe thousands, who would have rallied to him. All the Jameses and Johns that were crowding Jerusalem for Passover would have produced swords and daggers from under their cloaks, and they might well have got away with it. They might have established a new regime, a Jewish state free from the Romans, no longer ruled by the jumped-up pseudo-aristocrats who held office as chief priests.
But what would that regime have stood for? Loving your enemies? Praying for your persecutors? Not a chance. It would have been yet one more government that started with high ideals and achieved power by compromising them. Whoever's kingdom that would have been, it wouldn't have been the kingdom of God. Not, at any rate, the God who desired to bless all nations through Israel.
Jesus' first option, then, was to lead the revolt. The other option was the quietest one, the option of retreat. He could have left Gethsemane, taken his disciples up and over the Mount of Olives, through Bethany, and down all the way to the Jordan. King David did it in a single night a thousand years before, fleeing from Absalom. He could have been well away from trouble; they could have set up a community in the wilderness, saying the Lord's Prayer three times a day, and waiting for God to do something. Perfectly safe; apparently pure, probably useless.
...Everyone knew that the Messiah should be the triumphant warrior king. Everyone, that is, except Jesus; because he had grasped, or rather been grasped by, a secret-a secret that the Jameses and Johns of the world, the Adolf Hitlers of this world, never ever glimpse in their dreams: the secret that there is a different sort of power, a different sort of Messiah, a different sort of King."
-Following Jesus by N.T. Wright

This is a remarkable quote, and speaks largely for itself(on many levels more than I'll ever be able to expound), but I have a couple of thoughts as I read this minutes ago.

Fight or flight. These are the first responses that take place when faced with stress. These are the natural impulses and they are littered throughout the histories of each country all over the world. For some there are moments where fighting has meant a new era of power and progress and shame for those that have fled. As pointed out in the quote above, a new era was being initiated that could only be foretold by the true prophets(although it clearly did not stick with most people at that time).

While this was definitely not a new concept for me as I read this, I still find it very profound and refreshing to hear this from a more theological perspective rather than simply a liberal perspective. This is very common among more liberal circles and is something that seems to have been run into the ground and allowed for different liberties to be taken. While our modern understanding of this may perceive that Jesus' life was little more of preaching social justice and pacifism by all, we are reminded by theologians that these are the ethos of God's kingdom being brought forth and initiated(as well as handed of) by Jesus. While Jesus healed, silently responded to his attackers, and spoke of the kingdom belonging to the "leasts," he did all with the relationship to God at the forefront. His life should not be reduced to one of social action or teaching people how they can escape this Earth to move onto the next. His was a life that bore much fruit and prospered as a result. It was connected to the source, and was planted on the most fertile ground.

We've come to "make sense" of much of Jesus' life and turn it into something easily attainable for all. What's harder to understand is that His response to those that crucified Him did not make logical sense then and only makes sense now on the other side. The only way to assert complete authority over those with the power is to take on their most absolute punishment and overcome it. In doing so, the Messiah has made fools of the powers that thought they would have the final say. This is the message we carry forward in trying to understand the World as it is today. It is easy to be discouraged and feel that God's pull on the World is "just not what it used to be," but as this is continually put before me I seek to understand that the same God who made everything and declared it good is in control and is over the evil principalities and powers. I so often have no problem seeing God as the Alpha, but I must put faith that God will also be the Omega when everything is said and done.

Thanks be to God!