:: Book Reviews ::

This is the place where I discuss what the Authors of the books I read discussed with me. I dedicate this page to my friend Harold Howell.
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:: Saturday, November 23, 2002 ::

Summary of the Book "Girl Meets God"
This is one of the best books I've read this year. It's honest and engages us in the journey of an honest pilgrim with God. Lauren Winner is an orthodox Jew, Jesus captivated her and she tells her story:

Some quotes and stuff

- Evangelical friends of mine are always trying to trim the corners and smooth the rough edges of what they call My Witness in order to shove it into a tidy, born-again conversion narrative. They want an exact date, event an hour, and i never know what to tell them. p.7
- So I church-hopped, sometimes visiting as many as three churches on a Single Sunday. I manufactured good reasons never to return to any of them, but the real reason was propably that it was easier to stay anonymous and aloof than to do the hard, intimate work of actually becoming part of a church. p.30
- When I hear Anglicans talk about spiritual formation, I remember the finger paint and the honey and the fasting lessons, and then I am happy that I was fromed at Congregation Beth Israel. p.33
- Jo Bailey Wells has an Advent rule. She doesn't go to Christmas parties held before Christmas. She says Advent is about anticipation, not about celebrating weeks before His birth. p.35
- Sometimes, as in a great novel, you cannot see until you get to the end that God was leaving clues for you all along. p.57
- It struck me as odd that it took an Orthodox Jew to ask questions about the authority of the Creed. 'That church', i fumed to a friend later that night, 'should be embarrased that so many Christians are running from Christ." p.61
- Jane Vonnegut Yarmolinsky wrote, 'The whole concept of God taking on human shape, and all the liturgy and ritual around that, had simply never made any sense to me. That was because, I realized one wondeful day, it was so simple. For people with bodies, important things like love have to be embodied. That's all. God had to be embodied, or else people with bodies would never in a trillion years understand about love'. p.74
- I remember this is what drew me to Judaism, in the first place, these words, turning them over like marbles in my hand, living inside these texts like clothes. p.88

She tells the story of Ash Wednesday and how their church made a cross on everyones foreheads and how she witnessed through the day. Very cool.

- But the cross also stimulates other people's questions. It provides an unmistakable opportunity - even obligation - to witness. p.122
- "To read, when one does so of one's own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one's life or of one's orientation toward it" p.128
- Prayer is profitable because it makes us the familiars with God - Aquinas. p.135
- Anglicans, and other Catholic churches - that is, the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox - read the Bible like Orthodox Jews. Anglicans look at Scripture through the scrim of the church fathers, they balance the Bible with the weight of centuries of church teaching and tradition. This sets Catholic churches apart from Protestants, who place less emphasis on, vest less authority in, tradition. p.138
- The other familiar thing, when I first walked into an Episcopal church, was the prayer book, the habit of fixed-hour prayer, the understanding that you were saying more or less that same liturgy as Anglicans around the world, that you would say the same prayers every morning, every evening, over and over and over, till you knew them by heart, and long after that, till they were rote and boring, comfortable as your best friend's kitchen and familiar as flapjacks. p.138
- When I am unable to pray, the prayer book gives me the words. Liturgical prayers, Edith Stein once wrote, "support the spirit and prescribe it to a fixed path" p.142
- I say confession because the church teaches that we should, and I say it because, when I don't, I feel over full - not in a good, cup-ovberflowing way, but in a sticky, sweaty, eaten-too-much way. p.214
- My life is like a disciple's nap in Gethsemane: I have promised, over and over, to be vigilant for the things of God, to be awake to Him, but I seem to spend much of my life sleeping. p.229

:: Thomas 11:00 AM [+] ::
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:: Tuesday, November 12, 2002 ::

Summary of the Book "The connecting church"

- America is the loneliest nation on earth
- The small group as it is lived out and practiced now does not work :
1. People are too busy
2. To much activities for children
3. The group did not develop deep relationships and stayed strangers.
- The first barrier to connecting is the problem of individualism.
- Most small groups are just opportunities for people to provide occasions for individuals to focus on themselves in the presence of others.p.46
- The author states that a group needs a common purpose to break the bonds of individualism, and lists 5 characteristics of community around a purpose:
a) Authority V there is structures of authority, the author states that in most groups we dont have accountability, we only have disclosure without the challenge!
b) Common Creed
c) Traditions
d) Standards
e) Common Mission

On page 68 he states the following: This community must have in place respected authority V individuals who are biblically literate and who can serve as exemplary spiritual mentors, This gathering must have a common creed that succinctly lays out the beliefs, practices and virtues that the members of the community agree to follow, to encourage in each other, and to which they all are held accountable. They must resurrect old, or create new, Christian traditions that assist in cementing the history and purpose of the Christian faith for the next generation. And, if the community is to be effective long-term, there must be standards that are considered normal behavior for all followers of Christ.

In my estimate we desperately need the above and it could be a great framework for a spiritual formation structure!

He then lists the following:

Ancient Christian Beliefs

h Trinity (Theology Proper, Christology, Pneumatology): The belief that the God of the Bible is the only true God V Father, Son and Holy Spirit (see 2 Corinthians 12:13-14)
h Salvation by Grace (Soteriology): the belief that a person comes into a right relationship with God and is saved by his grace through faith in Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2:8-9)
h Authority of the Bible (Bibliology): the belief that the Bible is the word of God and has the right to command our beliefs and actions (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
h Personal God (Transcendence, Immanence, Providence): the belief that god is involved in and cares about our daily lives (see Psalm 121)
h Identity in Christ (aspect of Sanctification): the belief that a person is significant because of his or her position as a child of God ( see John 1:12-13)
h Church (Ecclesiology): the belief that the church is Gods primary way to accomplish his purposes on earth today. (see Ephesians 4:15-16)
h Humanity (Anthropology): the belief that all people are loved by God and need Jesus Christ as their Savior (see John 3:16)
h Compassion (aspect of Ecclesiology): the belief that God calls Christians to show compassion to those in need (see Psalm 82:3-4)
h Eternity (Eschatology): the belief that there is a heaven and a hell and that Jesus will return to judge the earth and to establish his eternal kingdom (see John 14:1-4)
h Stewardship (aspect of Soteriology) the belief that everything a person owns belongs to God (see 1 Timothy 6:17-19)


Ancient Christian Practices

h Worship: worshiping God for who he is and what he has done for us (see Psalm 95:1-7)
h Prayer: praying to God to know him, to lay our requests before him, and to find direction for our daily life. (see Psalm 66:16-20)
h Bible Study: reading the Bible to know God, to hold to the truth, and to find direction for our daily life (see Hebrews 4:12)
h Single-Mindedness: focusing on God and his priorities for our life (see Matthew 6:33)
h Biblical Community: fellowshipping with other Christians to fulfill Gods purposes in our life, in others lives, and in the world (see Acts 2:42-47)
h Spiritual Gifts: using the gifts god has given us to fulfill Gods purposes (see 1 Corinthians 12:1-31)
h Giving Away our Time: giving away our time to fulfill Gods purposes (see Colossians 3:17)
h Giving Away our Money: giving away our money to fulfill Gods purposes (see 2 Corinthians 8:7)
h Giving Away our Faith: giving away our faith to fulfill Gods purposes (see Ephesians 6:19-20)
h Giving Away our Life: giving away our life to fulfill Gods purposes (see Romans 12:1-2)

Ancient Christian Virtues

h Joy: having inner contentment and purpose in spite of our circumstances (see John 15:11)
h Peace: being free from anxiety because things are right between God and me, and between me and others (see Philippians 4:6-7)
h Faith(fulness): being faithful to fulfill Gods will in our life (see Proverbs 3:3-4)
h Self-Control: having the power to control ourselves (see 1 Thessalonians 5:6)
h Love: unconditionally loving others (see 1 John 4:10-12)
h Patience: being patient with others (see Proverbs 14:29)
h Kindness/Goodness: choosing to consistently do the right thing in our relationships with others (see 1 Thessalonians 5:15)
h Gentleness: being thoughtful, considerate, and calm as we deal with others (see Philippians 4:5)
h Humility: choosing to esteem others above ourselves (see Philippians 2:3-4)
h Hope: coping with the hardships of life and death because of the hope we have in Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 6:17-20)

He also sums up the seven functions of Biblical Community:

S V Spiritual Formation
E V Evangelism
R V Reproduction
V V Volunteerism
I V International Missions
C V Care
E V Extending Compassion

The second obstacle towards community that he discusses is isolation. He cites that one of the main reasons for that is the diminishing of the neighborhood. He then lists the five characteristics of a community around a common place:

a) Spontaneity
b) Availability
c) Frequency
d) Common Meals
e) Geography

He then suggest that we teach our congregation the following principles in order to minimize their busyness:

1. Cut down the commute
2. Live off a single income
3. Choose stability (dont change jobs unnecessary)
4. Set Geographic Boundaries
5. Identify a Core
6. Free up your schedule
7. Spend time together
8. Agree to a common purpose
9. Play in the front yard together
10. Orient yourselves to the rules of being a good neighbor
11. Find a purpose to bring all neighbors together
12. Rediscover the Lords day

The third boundary that prevents community is consumerism. He lists that consumerism undermines community in at least 4 ways:

1. Imbalanced independence V If we needed things we couldnt buy, many of us would have more friendships.
2. Distrust
3. Lawsuits
4. Social loafing

Five characteristics of community around common possessions:

1. Interdependency
2. Intergenerational life
3. Responsibility
4. Sacrifice
5. Children

Lessons learned from the book:

The importance of a common purpose, what would it look like in our church?
The importance of beliefs and practices
The importance of a grid to help people grow spiritually
The importance of intergenerational ministry.


:: Thomas 1:58 PM [+] ::
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:: Friday, November 08, 2002 ::


I read this book over the weekend and found it both simple and engaging. It focuses on Jesus' way of creativity. Philippians 2:6-11 is central to this book.

SUMMARY:

The world needs artists who will give them a window - a space of time to experience God. If we are going to be that community then we need to reclaim a christian imagination. This recapturing will be found in the life of Jesus. Philippians 2:6-11 is a hymn that early Christians sung - it captivated them. In this Hymn we find Christ's humility, radical obedience and servanthood - all three ingredients are essential for artists. First artists need to be humble - or hidden in ChristCol 3:3. As artists we need to know eho we are, listen to God's call through that and serve with all our might. Being gifted is no reason to become into the trap of 'entitlement. Michael Card also calls artists to cultivate a life of listening. Listening through the Word, prayer and to the parables of our ordinary lives. He challenges the industrial forms of modern christianity and calls artists backto community where there can be apprenticehips, accountablity, experiment and acceptance. This book stirred me to become a person who revels in God and loves others with the gifts our Artist gave me. I would highly recommend this book - It is a quick read with long-lasting implications.

QUOTES:

- Creativity is a response (p.28)
- By definition a celebrity is someone we celebrate. I looked it up. Just above the listing for celebrity I saw another word, celebrant. A celebrant is defined as someone who officiates the Eucharist. A celebrant is focused on Jesus and his sacrifice. Interesting contrast. Today I choose to be a celebrant. By God's enabling grace I will hold Jesus up before the world and not hold myself up. (p.30)
- The imagination is the bridge between the heart and the mind, integrating both, allow us to think/understand with our hearts and feel/emote with our minds. (p.55)
- To harness the imagination, or better yet, to bring it under submission to Christ is something about which we don't talk or pray or do enough. But before it can be redemptively used, it must be reclaimed. (p.56)
- The pattern of Jesus' life 0 humility, servanthood and radical obedience - must become our pattern as well. (p.70)
- There was something indecribable about the way Jesus performed his miracles that always miraculously directed the attention away from himself and toward the Father. (p.76)
- Knowing who we are is the hiddenness of humilty. It is believing that the giftedness we may indeed possess is not of our own making, that the purpose of its being given is not that we might gain attention or praise for ourselves, but that we might respond in gratitude with our best creative effort to win praise for the One who first gave the gift. (p.79)
- And have you so surrendered your arrt to your Savior that were he physically to walk in on you and speak directly to you, you would not change anything you are now doing? (p.121)
- The best artists begin by being influenced and end up influencing. (p.122)
- If your talent or marketability is such that you could easily go on the road all the time, think twice. Think about fame as a 100 percent effecient way of disappearing as a simple individual and joining the mythologized world of exaggeration and oversize. Think instead about the value of datying home and becoming what our culture so sorely needs: a local, hometown hero." (p.127)
- Because respectable-looking church-goers often have terrible problems in the hidden recesses of their lives, I think we need 'lament teams' along with the trend for 'prasie choruses'. (p.144)
- The music that the world loves, the rhythms of the world transform the heart to a bar, not the holy temple of God. (p.150)

:: Thomas 9:35 PM [+] ::
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