My Review of Philip Yancey’s Vanishing Grace

21816684Opening with an introduction to his book group which consists of diverse occupations and worldviews that both challenges Yancey’s views and beliefs and seeks to hear what “evangelicals” think, Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? is a timely book for today as Yancey seeks to go behind the rhetoric and find out why religion, especially Christianity, is being perceived more negatively today. His search leads the reader on journey that is rich and multifaceted.

Calling Vanishing Grace,four short books…bound inside the same cover” Yancey’s writing takes the reader over a wide ranging landscape in which he seeks to find new ways through the efforts of “pilgrims, activists, and artists” to communicate the Christian faith in a very diverse religious and philosophical landscape and in a way that seeks to avoid Christians being considered “as one more lobby group.”

The result is a book that revisits H. Richard Niebuhr’s five types of relationship between Christ and Culture and takes us back to the radical nature of the faith and church in its earliest days as a force of compassion and grace with the goal of calling the church to not disengage from culture nor seeking to act as a conquering force using power but as a place where grace flourishes and draws people to Christ. It is a journey that reminds the reader of the radical nature of God’s grace to bring hope and compassion to people.

What I have valued from this book is  Yancey’s recognition of the tension between church and culture and  that points of common ground between the two are possible, necessary even, for a society to flourish in the best way possible. He offers no quick fix but an honest hope that with great humility and grace, the Christian faith can again become truly good news to individuals and societies.

I rate this book an ‘outstanding’ read.

Note: I received a galley copy of this book from the publisher, Zondervan, via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

A “Pre “All Hallow’s Eve” Hump Day Prayer

Good and Gracious God,

 

Your goodness and graciousness has come to us through lives of “saints” in everyday life.

 

For them we are grateful because they have served as models of faithfulness, compassion, mercy, hope, and love.

 

We have seen and experienced their faithfulness in their everyday living and working as they have honored You with faithful work in the workplace.

 

We have seen  and experienced their compassion in moments of pain and despair with quiet actions and helpful words.

 

We have seen and experienced their mercy when we it would have been easy to judge, say ‘NO!” and walk away.

 

We have seen and experienced their hope during difficult moments – when bills are overdue, when work is uncertain, when health is unsteady.

 

We have seen and experienced their love in moments of ‘I do’ and ‘It’s a girl!’ to the moments of ‘we commit the body of our …”

 

For it has been Your faithfulness, compassion, mercy, hope, and love we have experienced through them

 

They are our “Saints” our guides our mentors of faith

 

And for them

 

We are grateful and thankful to You.

 

Amen

 

My Review of Peter Ackroyd’s Charlie Chaplin: A Brief Life

20587906Peter Ackroyd’s biography of silent film legend Charlie Chaplin is a  mixture of  film criticism and biography, and while brief at just over 300 pages,  is a somewhat unsympathetic portrait combined with wonderful passages that offer windows into the early years of the American movie industry and the life of a man who created and shaped a legendary character during those years into an enduring cultural image.

Beginning with Chaplin’s troubled and impoverished childhood in London, Ackroyd walks us through Chaplin’s rise to stardom and through his later years, filled with political accusations and declining health and life. Included in this walk is the often repeated cycle of seduction, marriage, and divorce which left a trail of recriminations and mental and emotional stress in his life. But Ackroyd, I think, balances this presentation with a helpful review of Chaplin’s artistic and commercial successes in the cinematic world  with a critical eye of Chaplin’s films.

Charlie Chaplin: A Brief Life (Nan A. Talese) is a brief introduction to a legendary actor and director that provides a blunt and yet fascinating glimpse into one of the 20th century’s stars. I liked this book more for the fascinating depiction of the early days of film and Chaplin’s groundbreaking and meticulous work as an actor and director than for anything else.

 

I rate this book a “good” read.

 

Note: I received a galley copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday Meditation: “Seeing, Believing, Leaving!”

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Monday Meditation: A Freedom Mission

Isaiah61gIsaiah 61:1

Behind the Pulpit: the Art of Preaching

A highlight of Monday mornings  is a chat on Twitter (called tweet chats) that focuses on sermon preparation, or in Twitter parlance #sermonprep.

This week’s chat was another lively one as we discussed sermons based on

  • an expositional approach to scripture which is an explaining of a particular passage in the Bible, sometimes described as “verse-by-verse”
  • a topical approach in which a particular topic, such as prayer or healing or parenting, is address and relevant passages are shared on that topic
  • and a lectionary approach, based on the Lectionary that has been in use for hundreds of years by some denominations  in the Christian tradition, featuring selected readings from both the Old and New Testaments

As we discussed these approaches and shared our sermon development process the following exchange took place:

The exchange between us, as well as the thought provoking and at times, soul stirring, conversation also reminded me of two important things that are ever in my thinking as I prepare a sermon each week:

  • The guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit
  • And the Biblical basis of any preaching I do

I pay attention to my audience (congregation) and I do my best to listen to them so that I know what is going on in their lives and the issues they are seeking answers to and direction for. But I cannot forget that the truth of scripture and the movement of the Spirit must be primary each Sunday.

There is an art to preaching, guided and shaped by the Holy Spirit and informed by the truth of Scripture, that is both beautiful and holy.

As for the rubric?

I’m thinking! I’m thinking! Writing to follow….

A Prayer for those in Bondage

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,” Luke 4:18

 

Father God,

We pray for those today who are in bondage.

Some are in bondage to others as sex slaves and slave workers.

We ask O God that you move in the hearts and minds and wills of all those who can do something TO do something to bring freedom from this bondage for someone’s daughter or son.

Some are in bondage to an addiction – alcohol, drugs, sex, food, the internet, approval, etc

We ask  Holy Spirit that you would again this day move and act within the hearts and wills of those who are in bondage that they would see their powerlessness and make that first step of admission of that powerlessness to You, themselves, and those who can help them get on the path of/to recovery.

Some are in bondage through domestic violence or they are in an abusive relationship.

We pray dear Jesus that You will intervene in the right way, NOW, on their behalf and bring freedom both physically as well as in every other way, to them. And we pray for the children caught in these situations, even now we ask that You will help them know You are there with them and that You are doing something about it.

Father others are in bondage to a state because they have chosen to worship You and Your one and only Son and are being held because of their refusal to renounce that faith. We stand with them this day as they stand for You and Your wonderful and redemptive grace and love. Help them to stand strong in the face of harassment, imprisonment, and even death so that You will receive them into Your great and Holy presence until that day when You will return and put all things to right.

And Lord many of us are in bondage though the lives we live are normal and free.

We are in bondage to fear, anxiety, and there is a smoldering resentment and anger that causes us to lash out and/or withdraw from our family and friends who, though they be seemingly powerless to help us, are the very ones who can often help us get started out of the inner hole we have dug for ourselves.

So God this day, we who have freedom, the freedom to move about, the freedom to protest, the freedom to say ‘NO!’… and ‘Yes!’ we pray for those who are not so fortunate. We ask for Your love, grace, and mercy, to do its good and wondrous thing now and in the days ahead for them that they will be… free!

Amen.

My Review of Thomas McKelvey Cleaver’s Fabled Fifteen

21504505Thomas McKelvey Cleaver’s Fabled Fifteen: The Pacific War Saga of Carrier Air Group 15 is a wonderful recollection about a group of US naval aviators who were  in the air over the Western Pacific 70 years ago in two historic naval engagements – the Philippine Sea (also known as the Mariana Turkey Shoot) and Leyte Gulf – which broke the back of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Known as Carrier Air Group 15, this group of Naval Aviators, became a highly decorated unit with over 300 enemy aircraft shot down and  numerous ships including the world largest battleship Musashi  and the Zuikaku, the last of the Japanese carriers who participated in the Pearl Harbor attack, sunk.

Based on unit records and interviews with still living members of the unit, Cleaver tells a wonderful and very readable story about a unit whose seven month tour on the USS Essex demonstrated the value of strong leadership, excellent training, and group cohesiveness that created a true killing machine. As he does so, he details the daily life of carrier operations as well as providing the backgrounds of key officers and enlisted personnel and how they came to be part of the Fabled Fifteen.

I liked this book as it provides both a historical context of carrier operations as well as the human element of war. I was also struck, as I read the dates of the battles, that what I was reading was unfolding 70 years ago at this time!

Highly readable and well written, Fabled Fifteen is a great addition to the large body of literature on the US war effort in World War 2. It will be a welcome addition to anyone interested in both military and aviation history.

I rate this book a ‘great’ read.

Note: I was given a galley copy of this book from Net Galley via the publisher (Casemate Publishers)  in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

On the Book Table and Kindle 10.13.14

After slowing down for about a month, the book table and the Kindle are again occupied with a variety of books and here they are!

Two books occupy the book table :

17978235The first is a novel by UK novelist Justin Cartwright called Lion Heart (Bloombury Press). I have barely started this book but after this post is written (on a Sunday night) I am going to open it and get further into it before bed. But a historical novel that speaks of Richard the Lion Heart and Robin Hood, has got to be a great read!

 

 

 

The second book is The Making of An Ordinary Saint: My Journey From Frustration to Joy with the Spiritual Disciplines by Nathan Foster 20665251(Baker Books.) Nathan is the son of Richard Foster who wrote the classic book Celebration of Discipline in the 1970’s, who shares his struggles in practicing the classic spiritual disciplines.

 

 

 

 

20785896And speaking of spiritual disciplines, the Kindle has another wonderful updated edition of a favorite of mine, Marjorie Thompson’s Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life (Westminster John Knox Press). I read the first edition several years ago and have gone back through it since then. I have already found a great deal of food for thought.

 

 

 

When I was approved by Zondervan via Net Galley to read Philip Yancey’s newest book Vanishing Grace, I was elated! And I have not been 21816684disappointed by what I have read so far. As usual Yancey gets to the heart of the matter very quickly and with insight.

 

 

 

 

20587906Peter Ackroyd’s biography of silent film legend Charlie Chaplin, Chaplin: A Brief Life (Nan A. Talese)  is the biography on the Kindle right now. His description of Mack Stennett’s studio (where Chaplin made his first films 100 years ago) and what kinds of noises were never heard in the silent film era as a movie was being brings a “you are there” feel to the book.

 

 

 

Well, lots to read… better get on with it!

Have a great week everyone!

 

See you behind the page!

 

 

Monday Meditiation: Children Matter to God!

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