Archive for February, 2010

Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Posted in Book Review on February 24, 2010 by seguewm

Having enjoyably read Gilberts previous book – Eat, Pray, Love – I was thrilled to hear from a friend that she had published this new book.  I love the way this woman wrestles through issues, demons, in her life.  Her authenticity is refreshing.  The depth of research on her topic is obvious.  Thus, in this book, you will learn a lot more about Elizabeth and her family as well as about marriage.

As a pastor/counselor I would highly recommend this book to anyone either contemplating marriage or within a marriage.  There are a plethora of nasty cultural notions out there that need the light of day focused on them. Elizabeth does this well.  She had to.  She had been married, divorced, didn’t want to get remarried, but would have to again – to continue in a relationship with Filipe, the man she loved.

This book wanders somewhat naturally from her real-life, personal experiences, then into brief forays into research about marriage.  Her presentation of the academics of matrimony are almost always just enough to explain her context, yet not so much as to bore the reader.  Similarly, her travels and nostalgic recollections are just enough to engage the reader, yet not so much as to create a book merely composed of the anecdotal.  I found this a creative and useful blend of the profound and the personal.

Lack of knowledge, as well as fear to duplicate a previously noxious life encounter, predictably paralyzes millions of us from moving into joy.  Elizabeth had created and existed in a box of anxiety regarding marriage.  Circumstances, though, well described in her book, compelled her to re-examine her self-imposed parameters for relationships.  Her study was self-help, cognitive-behavioral therapy at its best. She chose to admit and confront her preconceived notions about marriage with the facts.  She chose to listen to the experiences of friends and family who shared with her the truth that her fears, though legitimate, were not the whole story.

Finally, Elizabeth breaks free from her past and embraced what she had previously and adamently rejected – marriage.  Armed with a revised and healthy perspective, she chose to marry her beloved.

The Map, by David Murrow

Posted in Book Review on February 22, 2010 by seguewm

Several years ago, I had a hitch put on the back of my Tahoe.  As I left the place of business where the work was done, I noticed on the seat next to me a book, with a note from the business owner.  It was a previous publication by David Murrow: ‘Why men hate church”.  I read it and was blessed.  The author nailed the issue in my life.   Thus, upon seeing this new publication from Murrow, I didn’t hesistate to pick up it up!  

In his new book, David makes the case that Matthew has cleverly embedded in his gospel a code for discipleship – a three-fold path that, when followed, leads to a dynamic spiritual experience.  This pathway – when followed -transforms the way of ‘church’.   

The first part of the book is an intriguing Da Vinci Code type story that well illustrates the journey we must all enter.  The second half of his book details the three paths, cautions the reader to avoid chasing rabbits to our own spiritual destruction, and ends with several chapter outlining practical applications.

As I sit in a cafe listening to a background song by Cyndi Lauper, ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun‘, I am reminded that this book was primarily written for ‘men’ who are bored with church-as-usual.   Much of our 21st century Christian teaching either implies or outright condemns as ‘sin’ everything even vaguely linked to testosterone.  Murrows strongly disagrees.  Without men, the church is impotent.  Matthew’s gospel presents the truth – how men must be masculine – and why this is essential if the church is going to function healthfully. 

Every believer – male or female – must begin the Christian journey with a full-hearted submission to Christ.  When we speak about submission it feels like weakness, feminine, to men – yet without it the strengths of men get misdirected. This is a narrow gate. Without a full surrender of heart, mind, soul, and strength to God – there isn’t any Christianity.

Built upon the foundation of submission, though, is the next leg of our journey in faith.  Christ ascended to the right hand of God to give us the promised gift of power – the Spirit.  Through the indwelling of the Spirit we are enabled to engage the world around us in God’s strength.  Most of Matthew’s gospel, according to Murrow, unveils this second path.  Jesus is presented confronting obstacles – demons, church leadership, storms, sin, and sickness – with power.  We often miss the point that Jesus strength is seldom exercised ‘nicely’.  He is a man’s man.  Guys, don’t miss this point.  Christ calls us to be men, not girly men, not whimps – yet in his strength, not our natural, carnal strength. 

Out of this strength arises the last path – the way of sacrifice.  Without complete submission to Christ and a willingness to receive and to live out the power of the Spirit, there really cannot be a healthy sacrifice.  The apostle Paul reminds us that martyrdom – apart from the submission to and the reception of the Spirit – is vain.  It takes Godly strength to truly sacrifice all for Jesus. 

Don’t miss this book!

A New Kind of Christianity, by Brian McLaren

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , on February 22, 2010 by seguewm

What would be your top ten questions – honestly speaking – that you have about the Christian faith?  What just doesn’t seem to work for you, or bugs you, or simply leaves you speechless?

In Brian’s latest book he courts ten questions that he believes – if openly pursued – would, and are, transforming what we call our Christian faith.  After having read this book twice, I still can’t think of a question other than the ones he has addressed.  My only frustration with this book is that each question ought to have been a whole book. I found myself wanting to know more, discuss more – although each chapter opened up a Pandora’s box of pursuit, some of which I’ve already raised among my friends.

On the critique end, other than wanting to hear more, I also wondered if Brian said less because he was too gracious.  He leaves an abundance of questions open-ended, sometimes his responses are a bit nebulous.  Did he only intended to elicit thinking without unnecessarily alienating first time readers?  Or, was he raising the kind of questions we all ought to be discussing, yet without – himself – having all the answers. 

I found the extensive notes at the end of the book as valuable as the chapters themselves.  In fact, they often added clarity that was missing in the chapter. 

Over all I was blessed.  Not simply by having my mind titillated by stepping across the threshold of a frequently posted forbidden zone, but because most thinking folk realize that Brian has accurately articulated the exact questions we have secretly pondered.  A reluctance to thoroughly think through and openly discuss these ten questions is, in my opinion, an irresponsible vote for spiritual anarchy.  The world needs to hear the church revisit these questions often and deeply.  The church has captured one third of earth’s population.  The church must act responsibly and courageously.