17.4.13

"Mondays with My Old Pastor" by Jose Luis Navajo

Mondays with My Old Pastor chronicles a young pastor's being pulled off the edge of ministry-burnout by the advice of the pastor he had when he was young.
What a fabulous idea! I was all set with my itch ready to be scratched.  Lots of good reviews buttressed my expectations.  Of course, you know what happened next: be careful of expecting too much.
Navajo works hard, does do a good job of crafting a coherent storyline, and creating sympathetic characters.  Also--we must say this in his favor--Navajo brings us back to the foundations in ministry: scripture and prayer.

Here are some things that bothered me:
1.  Over-written.  Melodramatic depictions of ordinary scenes: someone's always crying, everyone's gaze is sincere or heartfelt, everyone's expression is pained or enraptured.  Too much. 
2.  Under-Scriptured.  Gobs of neat stories and funny-but-makes-you-think quotes from random people, but little Scripture.  Little quoted, little contemplated: for a pastor who built his life on the Book, very little actual Book appears.  (For example, in the last twenty pages, Khalil Gibran, Lebanese poet, gets two quotes; Scripture gets zero.)  Of course, Scripture permeates the worldview and philosophy of the characters, etc..  But... well, It'd a been nice to hear it too.
3.  Over-blown.  He's got a symbolic thing with roses blooming, and then there's dreams, and then a hidden acrostic.  Too much.  And then there's the fifteen principles.  Fifteen?  Fifteen constitutes a shopping list, not key principles to live by.  I'm not necessarily a minimalist, but you got to draw the line somewhere.  Three points and a poem, anyone?

A worthy effort; I'm looking forward to more by Navajo.  His heart's in the right place and he has a talented pen, now just to sharpen the latter to better express the former.

5.7.12

"Father Hunger" by Doug Wilson, short review

Father Hunger
by Douglas Wilson

Wilson has done us all a great service.  This was a phenomenal presentation of biblical reasons for men to be...drum roll, please...men.  

Wilson makes it clear what that means: in short, to be wildly generous.  This generosity includes generosity of strength, providing firmness, solidity, boundaries, obstacles, memorials.  But this generosity is first and foremost, flat-out giving: radical sacrifice, bleeding one's life out, for others.
Where this generosity is absent, it creates problems.  Indeed, many (most?) of the problems America faces are the result of fathers failing to do what they are to do.
Wilson pours theological footings and also nails on practical advice, and everything in between (maybe especially plumbing and electricity--while we're on this metaphor).
Listen friend: I'm going to go and buy a case of these.  Not only does Wilson do a great job laying out the problems, the real problems, the solutions, and tips'n'tricks, he does it with...well, with what can only be described as "verve."  

*Verve: the spirit and enthusiasm animating artistic composition or performance.*  
That's Wilson alright!  His prose leaps off the page; when he wants to smack you, he smacks you.  But half the time he gets you laughing first.  It was a joy to read and I could hardly put it down.  I'm practically a professional book-putter-downer, but not this one.

5.10.11

Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks

Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing
by Larry Brooks

The six core competencies of successful writing, according to Larry Brooks, are: concept, theme, character, structure, scenes, and voice. The first four are elemental components; the last two relate to execution.
And that was the summary this book needed. Honestly, I read this book and I had to search for a place in the book where the main point of it could be easily discovered. There are two helpful pages tucked at the end of the book (218-219). Otherwise? Good luck. This book does not seem heavily edited.
But first, the positives: Brooks has been immensely helpful in providing writers with an alternative model of story-writing other than "pantsing," as he calls it. Since Stephen King's memoir "On Writing," I've had this image of the writing process in my mind where you just feel your way forward, write the whole thing about three times, and hopefully discover a story along the way. That's pantsing: flying by the seat of your pants.
Brooks offers an alternative. In short, plan ahead. Sketch the story, all of it, from characters to scenes, ahead of time. That was phenomenally helpful. King and others give the impression that anything other than pantsing it is not true art. Brooks knocks that idea flat. It's about the story first; art second. It has to be a story before it can be art. Tell a good story; make good art.
Brooks' six competencies may also be helpful. I'll have to go back and think about it because they were drowned in a deluge of analogies and lists. Oh! the metaphors. Oh! the lists. What I'm about to say may sound like an exaggeration, but it is not: This book contained thousands of analogies/illustrations/examples/metaphors. I estimate an average of a dozen a page. Seriously. And lists. Lists sprouting all over the place! We start with six items, but each item grows a half dozen more items, which each grow sub-lists that appear to be in pairs or triplets and may even have list-offspring of their own! Lists and comparisons, in other words, drown out the genuine help Brook offers.
He says it is a presentation of a course he offers. It feels that way. I only wish it had been a distillation of that course as well.

*I received a copy of this book for review.

9.8.11

"Redistributing...chocolate bars and ice cream cones."

Hilarious quote. Something truly profound lurking here:

"This is the uprising of the working class. We're redistributing the wealth," said Bryn Phillips, a 28-year-old self-described anarchist, as young people emerged from a store with chocolate bars and ice cream cones.

UK PM recalls Parliament for London riot crisis - Yahoo! News

25.6.11

Your joy

"Every joy is deeply opposed."

from: "Know Your Deepest Opposition."

(who knew John Eldridge and John Piper had so much in common?)

14.6.11

They Did Not Give Up

"They Did Not Give Up."

This collection of anecdotes and quotes captures a bit of the vision behind my "normal Christianity." That is, it's a commitment to following Jesus that embraces, as He does, our failures and sinfulness as opportunities. Opportunities to embrace His love afresh, to glorify His sacrifice, to receive the Spirit, to enter God's life, to etc. ad infinitum
There is a natural resilience in the human spirit, placed there by God no-doubt. But it pales in comparison to the supernatural resilience of the Faithful Spirit of God.

12.6.11

Art Project, powered by Google

This is flat out one of the coolest things the internet has ever provided: Art Project by Google.

10.6.11

Winnie-the-Pooh quotes by A.A. Milne

Some serious, seriously awesome, and funny quotes
from a bear Of Little Brains.
Winnie-the-Pooh quotes.

Favorites:
"If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear."
"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day."
"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called."

21.4.11

review of: Max on Life, by Max Lucado

In Max on Life, best-selling author and pastor Max Lucado addresses 172 questions from seven different areas of life. He writes with wit, graciousness, and clarity. And most important, he addresses each question with biblical wisdom. The message of Max on Life is that the Bible matters for life, for every area of our lives, for every question. From hard things to regular things, God's Word can help.
Max Lucado is an extremely gifted writer. He gets right to the point. He hones in on the heart issue. He does not flinch. And he does it all with sensitivity and humor.
Max knows his Bible. I am a pastor. I know my Bible. But Max...Max knows his Bible. And he answers the questions as only someone who knows their Bible can answer a question. If the Bible is not clear about something, Max does not make it clearer. If the Bible is clear about something, Max does not equivocate. Where the Bible offers differing perspectives, Max gives us its latitude.
Which highlights the fact that on every page, Max is writing to hearts. He hears hearts in the questions and writes to hearts with his answers. He is sensitive and careful. He writes with love. Again, as a pastor, I found each answer extremely helpful. I can only hope that the Spirit of God will help me answer these difficult questions with something like the humility, graciousness, and confidence that Max answers them.
Which brings up the final point of applause: Each answer is shorter than a page and a half. Most are less than a page. In other words, Max answers these questions--some quite difficult--with all the knowledge, all the finesse, all the pastoral wisdom described above, all in about one page.
When the biblical writers talk about the Spirit giving gifts, I do not think that they mean that the Spirit gives people gifts as much as the Spirit gives gifts through people. This book is a gift. Receive it and be glad.

*I received a copy of this book for review from 'booksneeze.com.'