The Art of Work, by Jeff Goins

Posted in Book Review with tags on November 5, 2015 by seguewm

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Looking for meaning in all the wrong places? Most of us do. A life worth living is more than being happy, even more than being successful. What most folks really want to know is if their life has meaning. We think we’ll find meaning if we earn a college degree or two, marry someone we are compatible with, get hired by a company that offers incredible benefits, or are growing as a person in our weekly sessions with a great therapist. Nope.

Meaning doesn’t ‘come to us’ from outside of us. Rather, the meaning of life unfolds by first noticing who you already are. It is the totality of your existence over a lifetime. Look at what you have already accomplished. Ask what others ‘see’ when they see you? Your life as it has been is telling you what you need to know. Notice, listen, develop, discover, overcome, master, ‘be’.

Jeff nicely illustrates each of his points with well told stories. His book reads easily, yet inspires the reader every step of the way. Enjoy.

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What Philosophy Can Do, by Gary Gutting

Posted in Book Review on August 25, 2015 by seguewm

Is there a place for philosophy in our 21st century American culture? What does philosophy have to offer? Can a philosophical approach to the issues of our day actually be beneficial? Would congress be better served if our politicians consulted philosophers before debating potentially divisive legislation? Would our young people be better prepared to be the leaders of tomorrow if they were philosophically astute?

Professor Gutting presents a philosophical approach to various issues that currently divide our country. From climate change to abortion, atheism to capitalism, Gutting carefully explains the valuable practical role that philosophy could play, if permitted. Something has to change. Washington is gridlocked. Families are divided. In fact, our whole country is suffering from destructive divisiveness. Our strength is in unity, not a unity through the impossibility of uniformity, but a unity in charitable diversity. Philosophy is an instrument to that end.

Though written for the public, ‘What Philosophy Can Do‘ still has an academic air to it. Some chapters would be more easily grasped if step-by-step explanations were given. The author sometimes assumes his presentation is clearer than it really is for the average reader without any background in philosophy. A little more ‘hand-holding’ through novel notions would be useful.

Overall, though, this volume offers a much needed perspective for those who honestly grapple with the difficult subjects of our age. This is a book that most folks should read and then re-read and seriously think about.

Strange Glory, by Charles Marsh

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , on July 26, 2015 by seguewm

nT0Rqd6IfA7i8Fx4JtqmE75N2dNfIZyMuuNMRMbXAUyakfsH2f0LGH7PB_I2aWxmmfbSab8nUhfjqIifkpEGUClCFzuEAnB7CDfyM67tLGI-3_wH9oRpqnJGJQwIWiXjZkU4TuADmLiaHq3cLd8bKu_-T4uVdCPl6qsBT2UU=s0-d-e1-ftStrange Glory explores the manifold expression of human nature through the relatively short life of the twentieth century theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Marsh does an excellent job in retelling the story of this provocative mind, adding insightful details that others understandably glossed over.

Bonhoeffer lived, at least from one perspective, an enviably charmed life. He was born into privilege, born with a gifted mind, yet also born with an unusual drive to explore spirituality. Sadly, both privilege and giftedness also served as distractions and even as obstacles to his emotional maturation. The result was that Bonhoeffer’s life was one of constant war, fighting battles on several different fronts simultaneously. At any given time he was at once wrestling with his theology, his church, his culture, his politics, and well as his sense of self.

The reader is reminded that man can function like a beast or as a saint, depending on his willingness to apply his power to choose. The choosing can be a tortuous process, if one is willing to become as fully informed as possible and determined to wrestle with the options until a clear path is made evident. Bonhoeffer was unwilling to run from the issues that faced him and resisted inclinations to slavishly react to circumstances. He chose to be a thinker rather than a mere lazy follower of other men’s thoughts.

The context within which Bonhoeffer lived added another layer to his decision making. Though he, and we, would have preferred it was otherwise, the choices we are given are not always between something good and something bad. Often, we can only choose between bad and a little less bad, or as Marsh nicely explained, between bold sin or the sin of neglect. Bonhoeffer chose not to run from the issues of his day, abandoning them for others to solve. Yet by engaging his reality he was torn between two seemingly contradictory commands given by Christ. On the one hand Jesus calls us to release those who are oppressed, yet on the other hand to love one’s enemy. To disobey either was ‘sin’, yet as Bonhoeffer concluded, sometimes ‘sin’ is the only option available, which only grace allows for.

So, what does a follower of Christ do when confronted with the evils perpetrated by the likes of Hitler? Are we called to love the Hitlers of life even though they continue to destroy thousands and even millions of innocent lives, or do we so hate the evil of folks like Hitler that we are willing to participate in any mission to stop him – even if that includes his assassination? It is ‘sin’ not to rescue those who are being oppressed, yet it is also sin to murder the perpetrator of oppression. In the setting of his times, Bonhoeffer discovered that his theology was only useful if it worked in real life, not simply within the four safe walls of a cathedral.

Following the Jesus of scripture, Bonhoeffer had been lead into pacifism. Yet, overlaying his theological conclusion was the reality of the 1940’s German regime, which inclined Bonhoeffer to set aside his pacifism – at least in this particular case. In other words, his choice to become part of an assassination plot did not mean that he had decided to cast out morality in all circumstances. With excruciating effort he concluded that ‘sin’ was morally acceptable in rate cases. Few wrestle as intensely with these issues as did Pastor Bonhoeffer. Most folks either run from stress-inducing issues or mindlessly react to them.

Marsh, in this volume, invites each reader to rethink what it means to follow Jesus. There is no downside to that, since the end result is a matured faith.

The Counterfeit Heiress, by Tasha Alexander

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , on October 6, 2014 by seguewm

tchreviseda This recently published book in the Lady Emily series, The Counterfeit Heiress, is an engaging, fast-paced, and delightful ‘whodunit’.

I have always enjoyed the structure of Tasha’s novels. The chapters are short, yet end with a difficult to resist enticement that makes it nearly impossible to set the book down without at least an almost childish peak into the next chapter. Also, as she has done in her past books, there are two parallel story lines that add to the mystery by raising the necessary question – how and when will the two accounts ever converge?

Be sure to carefully read the first two chapters. I found it necessary to read through them several times, knowing that the author has proven to be purposeful in every word that she has selected. What may initially appear to be unnecessary detail, has actually been carefully and cleverly crafted to set the stage for all that follows.

Throughout this volume there are many gems – not only in historically accurate facts, but you will also encounter many memorable expressions. The author has thoroughly done her homework and has produced a masterpiece that weaves together suspense, romance, humor, and intriguing insight into the Victorian age.

Though this is a continuing series, you will not have to read the eight volumes that preceded this new one in order to understand and appreciate the current book. It nicely stands alone. Each old character is adequately reintroduced, while the character of each new individual is carefully developed without being tediously over described.

In the end, Lady Emily, along with her husband Colin and a couple of dear friends, solve the mystery of the counterfeit heiress. Enjoy.

Theology From Exile

Posted in Book Review with tags on June 15, 2014 by seguewm

Sea Raven’s, “THEOLOGY FROM EXILE: Commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary for an Emerging Christianity – The Year of Luke” is a refreshing masterpiece of genuinely mindful commentary. The lectionary is finally a delight to read. Sunday readings provoke a week long dialogue relevant to life in the 21st century. Don’t expect a rehashing of the same old religiously and politically ‘safe’ pablum.

The ’emerging’ Christian will find the format familiar, while the content will surpass expectations. The launch originates in Luke, yet often explores texts lifted from out of both testaments. If you are hesitant to question the status quo, don’t waste a moment with this volume. It is not for the faint of heart, but is ‘just what the doctor ordered’ for those with a progressive bent. Whether utilized for individual devotions or to guide a weekly group discussion, it may be useful to journal your reflections along the way.

Blood Doctrine, by Christian Piatt

Posted in Book Review with tags on May 23, 2014 by seguewm

226050730 I love a good novel, especially one that weaves in the past and the present, yet does so in a believable manner. I am even more delighted when the writing style keeps me engaged, the theme makes me think, and the characters have more dimensions than two. When I finish reading a novel I want to be left with a ‘what if this really happened?’ Or, has this already happened?

Who was Jesus? What was he really like? Have we really grasped His story? If the stories about him are even half true, how did he do what he did? Was it in his genes? If so, if we had his DNA could we birth another ‘Jesus’ with similar abilities?

Christian Piatt’s new book scratches where I itch. In fact, ‘Scratch’ plays an important role in the story, but that’s all I’ll can say about that. There are several unexpected twists and turns. There is much more than could have been added, but it’s more likely to be found in a sequel.

Meanwhile, enjoy the ride and invite your friends to read ‘Blood Doctrine’.

 

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.

“We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church”, by Deborah Brunt

Posted in Book Review with tags on May 12, 2014 by seguewm

Image  “We Confess” raises many important questions that the church, if they want to remain a bible-believing people rather than merely a ‘religious club’, must own up to. Granted, the author raises her questions from out of her interpretation of the scriptures. You may not understand the scriptures as she does. I confess that I don’t in all respects. But, then again, most of my Christian friends actually do subscribe to the majority of her interpretations of what the bible teaches. In doing so, they have made this book a necessity. The questions raised within it require an answer from all who believe as she does.

First, why do we ‘celebrate’ the Civil War? This was a horrible act within the history of our country. The number of lives lost over issues – and there were more than just one – that few bible believing Christians would take a similar stand on today, make this a horrible blight on the history of Christendom. If anything, whenever the Civil War is brought up, all Christians should confess with one voice – ‘we were wrong’. Our values were not biblical, they did not correctly represent the teachings nor the lifestyle of Jesus. In this, I agree with the author.

On the other hand, secondly, the author examines both the old and new testament and derives from them what she honestly believes will be the consequences for the church if it does not confess their wrong in the past and in their present attitudes today. Because the evil of our past thinking and behavior has not been faithfully confessed and deeply repented of, it continues to fester within the church today. If we do not deal with this soon, according to the author, God will intervene and punish the church severely until she repents.

As the Christian right continually seeks to commandeer the government contrary to the clear teachings found in Romans 13, it must be doing so without the direction and power of the Spirit. Because they have not confessed of having done so in the past, they continue to do so in the present. The church has convinced itself that their only error in the past was to have used the bible to sanction enslaving other human beings who were not of the Caucasian race. By making this the only issue of the Civil War, and one most Christians truly do repudiate today, they have missed the other issues that had actually led them into the trafficking of human beings. 

Read the book with an open mind. Look at the whole picture. Take the appropriate steps. Invite your loved ones to do the same.

 

 

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.