Experiments in Honesty – Book Review

experiments in honestyI read Steve Daugherty’s Experiments in Honesty as my first blogger review book in a long time. What a great choice to get back on that horse with! Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book based on my promise to blog a review of it. The content of the review is entirely up to me.

The advice offering part of my brain seems more acutely willing to weigh in than it has for many years. There were, of course, the years of early adulthood when, as Mark Twain might have observed, “I still knew everything.” I was eager to dole out advice then.

Though nostalgia and seeing 60 coming on faster than a speed limit have apparently resurrected a propensity in me to offer advice, solicited or not, I have taken Steve Daugherty’s practice in this book under advisement.

In other words, sharing insight drawn from my own experience and observation comes across better than “Ok, now, here’s what I need to teach you: listen up….”

Experiments in Honesty is the opposite of a preaching practice I’ve come to notice lately. Some preachers actually parathensize the phrase “you listen to me here” throughout their messages.

If I’m not already listening to you, telling me to do so will not make me start in the middle of a message.

Daugherty, starts from the other side. This book of full of rich stories plumbed from a hunger and thirst for righteousness. The reader shall be filled, if only he or she follows along.

Perhaps I am struck because I see so much of myself in his stories. When he compares his response to feeling hunger, “I’ll make myself a sandwich” to his wife’s, “I will feed the family, because if I’m hungry they probably are, too.” caught me gently off guard and exactly where it should. Guilty as charged. Yet I wasn’t condemned in my guilt; I was drawn towary this book that is about looking inside. It offers a way to see and understand and grow and recognize that me simply trying to become someone else is the opposite of the point of the gospel.

You’ll find yourself in Experiments in Honesty, and it’ll be a you you want to find, and a you you want to grow. It’ll make you want to know yourself and God better; not because “you better, or else!” but because you are both worth knowing better.

 

Book review: The Story Lives

Here is my latest review of a book for the Speakeasy Blogger Network.  I’ve just finished Henriet Schapelhouman’s The Story Lives.The Story Lives

This is a good, straightforward read. She had me at “Story,” actually; the more I work as a pastor, the more I meet people and seek to hear their stories. Though the seeds of the power of story were sown in me in seminary, they have only really taken root recently.

I appreciate Schapelhouman’s passion and her ability to weave stories from scripture with stories from contemporary lives. This is the primary strength of this book, in my opinion.  Connecting our story to God’s story is essential, and The Story Lives helps us do this.

But it offers more, as well.  Schapelhouman invites Jesus’ followers, and indeed any reader, into the missional life.  Where some today might seem to pit missional living against traditional church membership, Schapelhouman offers what I take to be a healthy corrective without dualizing.

Being ‘missional’ is, after all, about actually following Jesus and thereby becoming part of the Kingdom of God present in the world.  It is not an alternative to being a member of a congregation. It is, rather, the healthy living out of being a member.

On the other hand, the text sometimes felt platitudinous to me – as though a truckload of “Christian Lifestyle Slogan-Art” had driven too close to a scanner.  Even here, though, I must admit; the triteness of so many of those sayings derives from our historical refusal to have our lives transformed as God has offered.

The subtitle, “Leading a Missional Revolution” lead me to expect a more confrontational approach. To me, The Story Lives reads more like “Leading a Missional Transition.”

I’ve read plenty of ‘missional’ stuff; this book fits well within that context, but I found nothing earth-shatteringly new here. If you have not yet read of a missional understanding or perspective on following Jesus, this is a good place to start.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Being Jesus in Nashville -a book review

image

I have to admit that I was drawn to read and thus review Being Jesus in Nashville in part because it was turned down for publication by “Christian” publishers. I was also a little imtrigued that a multiple Cy Young Award winning pitcher was now writing about Jesus. I quickly learned that this is a different Jim Palmer.

Long story short, I very much appreciate Palmer sharing this story with us. I’m not sure I buy all the theological pariculars he offers, but I surely resonate with his journey and the evolution he has faced throughout his life.

Like any of us, Palmer was not satisfied with the Jesus who wants to forgive us but leave us substantially the same until some miraculous post-life transition happens. Like John Wesley, Jim Pamer was (and is) determined that “following Jesus” actually means following Jesus. Thus the title and premise for the book; Palmer seeks becoming Jesus for Nashville, his home. He concludes, through a story that, I assure you, is provocatively worth reading, that he ought rather learn to be Jim Palmer as God created him to be.

Let me be clear: Palmer did not give up on following Jesus, or decide to settle back into the American Christianity that is “not perfect, just forgiven.” Rather, he learned through an interesting set of events interpreted through his passion to follow Jesus that the more or more closely he follows Jesus the truer he becomes to the person God actually created him to be.

Read Being Jesus in Nashville; tell me what you think. I would very much enjoy having conversation(s) about this book. In fact, I believe that’s just the kind of response Palmer would want.

Book Review: The Silent Years

Have you ever wondered what Jesus’ life was like other than what we find in the Gospel accounts?  If you haven’t, you should.  Either way, I recommend Alan Green’s The Silent Years.

I encourage you to read this, and otherwise (on your own or with others) to wonder what Jesus’ life was like because I believe Incarnation is about God being fully human.  Reading the bible accounts of Jesus can leave him too far away, to much, well, a bible character rather than an actual person.

I like to remind people, especially during Advent and the Christmas season, that baby Jesus messed his diapers as much as the rest of us did.

Alan Green offers a very readable imaginative version of Jesus’ life. I read a couple of other reviews before writing this one, both of which are concerned with Green’s not portraying Jesus as divine.

I, on the other hand, find this particularly helpful.  Green’s Jesus is human enough that he doesn’t presume his own divine nature so as to differentiate himself from others. Green’s Jesus stands out from everyone around him, but does so in very human ways.   Green’s Jesus is believeably human and believably divine.

Yes, there is the point at which Jesus (Yeshua throughout the book) confesses having sinned. However, the sin he confesses is a sin – of wanting to kill a man for raping a woman.  I’m not convinced that such a thought is a sin.  I am more likely to think it a sign of mental and emotional health to feel this way.  Even here, Green’s Jesus seems to me very appropriately human.

Even the fact that Green refers to Jesus as Yeshua throughout helps his cause. Don’t you expect more of someone named Jesus?  Again, this step helps accomplish Green’s task of pulling Jesus out of the scriptures and into reality.  At least it does for me.

So read this book.  If you find something in The Silent Years that you believe contradicts what scripture teaches about Jesus, go with scripture.  If you think Jesus is or was no more than a Bible Character that you may or may not remember from Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, read this book.

Book Review: Speaking of Jesus

Carl Medearis is a pastor and follower of Jesus. He wants the world to know Jesus.  He is convinced that if people are introduced to Jesus, they will be willing, even eager, to learn from him and follow his ways. Having lived in Lebanon for 12 years, he is also a leader in Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations.  Speaking of Jesus: the art of not evangelism is his invitation to the rest of us who follow Jesus to “quit defending Christianity” and begin inviting people to follow Jesus along with us.

In one sense this is another in a long (recent) line of “they love Jesus but hate the Church” books.  Since I haven’t read any of the others, I offer this one as a good one to read, if you only read one.

Medearis invites all of us who follow Jesus to reclaim our Lord and Savior at the expense of defending the Church, organized religion, or institutional Christianity.  Though I grew up in the Church, I did not feel beat up by Medearis’ characterization so much as encouraged that Jesus is really what each of us, at one time or another, found endearing and attractive about this faith.

The author has extensive positive experience sharing Jesus, his life and teachings, with those of other faiths and no faith. In each shared experience, Jesus is shared openly and inoffensively.

“Jesus didn’t come to build a Kingdom. He brought one with him.”  Simpler, clearly words have rarely been spoken, yet this line near the middle of the book captures Medearis’ overall intent; to invite us to join Jesus and to share Jesus.

Speaking of Jesus is challenging and reaffirming.  I’ve got this theology and Jesus stuff down in my head.  I know the answers to most questions.  I am smooth and quick with words that fit the situation.  Yet I am increasingly aware this is not what most people are looking for.

Medearis challenged me to offer Jesus rather than reason and compassion rather than passion. He takes on the “us versus them” that so easily characterizes so much inter-religious talk from several different angles.  I really appreciated the variety of ways he shares that it comes down to Jesus; not beliefs, not reason, not “winning.”