Browsing Category: Book Reviews

Live What You Love – One of My Favorite Books

Confession: as much as I love imagination & creativity & stories, I prefer non-fiction ones to the fiction kind. If I’m going to pick up a book there’s a 95% chance it’s going to be non-fiction of some sort…and an 75% chance it’s going to be a memoir style book.

I am inspired & intrigued by others’ stories – how they see the world; the experiences that have shaped them. Maybe because when I find a piece of my story in someone else’s it makes me feel a little less crazy :)

Live What You Love: Notes from an unusual life (the new paperback edition says “passionate life” I prefer “unusual” :)) was one of those stories for me…the kind I found a piece of my own it. Or at least the story I wanted to have – an usual one. It is hands down one of my favorite books. I’ve read it 3 or 4 times & re-read parts of it from time to time just for fun.

A little taste for you…

I know…anyone who shares their story of an unusual life has my attention. :) If you’re looking for a fun vacation read or just want a little inspiration going into the new year, check it out.

 

Stories that Mark Us…Reflections on Love Does

“I don’t know how to explain Bob’s love except to say it is utterly & delightfully devastating.”

I hadn’t even made it through the introduction but I knew this book was going to be one of those that becomes a landmark along my life’s journey. I kept reading. That first sitting I read a third of the book before I stopped. Then I went & wrote four pages in my journal, texted a couple of friends with encouragement, & asked a few others to answer some tough questions for me.

It was a short sentence on page 7 that really got me “I wasn’t a project; I was his friend.”

Convicted.

My strategic process wired brain oftentimes causes me to approach friendships like they’re projects. I truly love my friends, but I also can’t stop trying to help that grow/fix their problems/figure life out/etc. I made a resolution right then to be intentional about not approaching friendships like projects. To listen without providing answers. To spend more time encouraging than admonishing.

(The really honest truth is that I approach friendships like projects because oftentimes being able to help people figure out a problem makes me feel valuable…like I have worth in that friendship…but that’s another post for another time.)

A great story is one that causes me to reflect on my own, write my own, & live my own. Love Does left me inspired to strive to be known for more than just loving Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, I want to love Jesus. But, I want to be known for loving others with everything I am because I love Jesus with everything I am. I want to live it not just say it. Practice it not just study it.

What story have you read recently that has marked your life’s journey?

A Book for the Soul of an Artist

I first heard of Gary Molander when I read “The Idiot’s Guide to Church Burnout” on CollideMagazine.com. That was January 16th, 2010. I know because that’s the day I clipped the article into Evernote. It was also a day that was a dot in a picture that a couple of months later God would connect.

The last line of the article I read that day haunted me “I want to be clear. Burnout is a very real thing. I’m not questioning its existence. I’m questioning its root cause. And I really don’t think the root cause is being overworked and underpaid. I think the primary cause is our inability to marry our deepest God-given passions and desires to a structure or organization where we honestly believe that God can change the world through us.” It haunted me because that’s exactly where I was. But I was no where near being ready to admit it.

Fast forward a year…almost exactly…it was January 20th, 2011. I know because the magic of technology tracks things like that on emails. Gary emailed to say he was working on a book “Pursuing Christ. Creating Art.” and he wanted me to write an introduction to a chapter on the Church. At this point, and even up to the point that I sent that piece to Gary, we had never had a face to face conversation. To say I was humbled is an understatement.

Gary may not have the title “pastor” at any church. In fact he writes in his book “I think it’s a really good thing I’m not a pastor anymore…” But, Gary is a pastor at heart. And he is a pastor especially to artists because as an artist himself he understands that wiring & what it means to experience life from that corner of the world.

In “Pursuing Christ. Creating Art.” Gary time & again reminds us that it’s not about us. He speaks from a knowing & broken place as an artist himself but one he refuses to wallow in. He validates the emotions of artists but challenges all of us not to use them as an excuse. An excuse for anger, bitterness, divisiveness, inaction, & more.

In sharing his own stories, experiences, & struggles as an artist Gary encourages each of us to take heart, & to remember that we are first & foremost children of God. At the end of the way, that is what matters. And at the end of the day misplacing our identity in anything or anyone else will leave us producing false art.

There are so many incredible “one-liners” from the book I could fill this post up with, but I’d rather encourage you to read them for yourself in the context of the book. You can pick up a copy here.

I think we all need to be reminded, from time to time, to wholeheartedly pursue Christ while creating art rather than getting lost in a pursuit of art that leaves us unintentionally creating Christ. 

*Image taken from the e-confessional companion guide for the book. It’s beautiful. And helpful. Check it out here

Permission to Speak Freely and the Gift of Going Second

I got Anne Jackson’s “Permission to Speak Freely” when it came out back in August and it’s been sitting neglected on my shelf for the last several months. But, I finally had the chance to finish it and wanted to share a few thoughts.

For me it was one of those books that I read and I reminded I’m not alone…one where the author seems to put words to my heart. Here are just a few of the passages in Permission to Speak Freely that did just that.

“Most of us choose to live in one of these extremes: conforming or escaping. Few can find peace living in the tension of both. Those of us who do wonder if we’re too idealistic to believe a faith community can be a hospital where our wounds are welcomed and can be healed. That true sanctuary can be found both within the walls of the church and outside the church as well.

A Scottish minister once told me, “If you can’t be an idealist in the church, then something is extremely wrong.”

At the risk of sounding overly idealistic, I’d like to say that for those of use who believe the church should be one of the safest and most grace-giving places a person can experience here on earth, it’s time to reclaim what our faith stands for.” (page 85)

I’m definitely one of those idealists. And it just’s good to know I’m not the only one. :)

You can’t will yourself to transform. There’s nothing you can do to make your heart “get” it. Nothing. You can prepare for it, and be receptive when it comes, but that’s all you can do. You have to step back and let it soak in.  (page 95)

Even though the one thing I desired was to be by myself, deep down, none of us wants to be alone. The reason we crave isolation so badly is because more than our fear of being alone is our fear of rejection. (page 110)

Ouch! That one is truth. And the truth does indeed sometimes hurt.

“It’s funny: I feel I end up being a bit of a broken record because I keep saying it’s about community, or whatever you want to call it. We just need honest relationships. But for a lot of people, that’s scary place to start. But the burden of fearing those relationships is so much heavier than actually having them. Once we have them, we realize how necessary they are.” (page 176)

Yep, that’s my life!

Anne talks a lot about the “gift of going second.” The idea that when we risk…risk our hearts, our “image,” tackle fear head on and shed our masks sharing openly and transparently about our struggles and doubts we give others the freedom to do the same. Only it’s not quite as risky for them and the fear isn’t quite as great because they have been given the gift of going second and when it comes to being transparent going second is always easier. I think Permission to Speak Freely is that gift for many people. Thank you, Anne, for giving us all the gift of going second. I’m feeling challenged to pass that gift along to others.

Have you read the book? If so, what were your thoughts?

Picking Dandelions – My Interreview

A month or so ago I jumped at the opportunity to host Sarah Cunningham on her blog tour for “Picking Dandelions.” Yesterday, I sat down with Sarah via Skype and chatted about the book with a little life and ministry sprinkled on top  for good measure. Since I’m all about stories, I didn’t want to do a typical question/answer interview format here on the blog. So, instead, you get my interreview – little bit review, little bit interview, and hopefully little bit story.

For those who haven’t read the book, Sarah is quite open about her character flaws and the roller coaster ride she’s been on trying to tackle them. What would cause someone to sit down and write a book about their faith journey knowing full well revealing their flaws to the world would be part of it? Sarah wants people to know that their story of faith is important no matter how simple it may seem. She hopes that her story, flaws and all, will attract the attention of someone who isn’t looking for a Christian memoir, but maybe for a story of spirituality.

Sarah’s faith journey is a simple one, one that brought her to the metaphor of dandelions. She sees her faith as a simple gift she offers just as children might offer their mothers a simple dandelion picked from the yard. I loved this about her story because I can so relate. Growing up in the church faith was something that I always had, it wasn’t a dramatic conversion experience, and there were times when I felt I had missed out because of that. I read “Picking Dandelions” and thought, “it’s nice to know I’m not alone.”

In the church world we hear a lot about “Big Ideas.” The “Big Idea” of “Picking Dandelions” is transformation and the need for intentional ongoing change in the Christian Life. Sarah chronicles this journey in her own life with great humor and honesty for her readers in a Donald Miller-esque style. One change Sarah tackled was clutter, namely material clutter. Being a bit of a “hate clutter but can’t throw things away” person myself I was curious if Sarah had conquered clutter in her life. She says she has in some areas of her home like the living room and kitchen. Others, like her closet, however, are a bit of a different story. A great tip from Sarah for those looking to reduce clutter – put a post it note on clothing or shoes that you know you don’t wear on a very regular basis. Every time you where it, write the date on the post it note. Check the date the next time you use it. When you see it was a year and a half ago, you’ll probably be inspired to get rid of it .

Working in a church I was curious how we as the Church can promote or encourage this idea of transformation and the need for change. I asked Sarah her thoughts and the answer she had was quite simple: with everything that you do – every Bible Study you start, every Sermon Series, every song – ask if it is leading people to be more like Christ. I think this is something our churches need to start striving for. (By the way, if you want to hear more of Sarah’s thoughts on this, check out this article).

After reading Sarah’s book, I’m inspired. I’m inspired to share what I think is too ordinary. One particular paragraph stuck with me from “Picking Dandelions.” Sarah writes, “As I’ve lived and written about changes in my life, I’ve come to believe that the most powerful transformations are not distinctive, exclusive discoveries that separate one film writer’s or one author’s experience from the rest of humanity. Instead, they are ordinary stories that point to the extraordinariness of Eden growing up among the everyday weeds of our lives.”

So, if you grew up in the church feeling gypped because you didn’t have a dramatic dark to light experience as a believer, then, “Picking Dandelions” is for you. Or if you did have a dramatic dark to light experience but now, some time later, you question how much your life has really changed as a result. Then, “Picking Dandelions” is for you too. Maybe you just want to read about someone else’s flaws to make yourself feel better? Well, then, this book could work for you too.

But, be warned. As you read “Picking Dandelions” you will probably be, much like I was, inspired to take a good hard look in the mirror and give your character a check-up. And, well, you may not like what you find. The question will be whether you live with it or make a plan to change it.

* For more of Sarah’s writing check out her blog at www.sarahcunningham.org
* Buy the book on Amazon: Picking Dandelions: A Search for Eden Among Life’s Weeds.

Book Giveaway – Picking Dandelions

Do you want a free copy of Sarah Cunningham’s new book, “Picking Dandelions?” Entering is easy.

On Friday I will be posting my review of the book as well as an interview with Sarah. I want to ask her your questions. So, leave a comment below with a question for Sarah and you will be entered to win a free copy of her book. The winner will be chosen at random.

Update: You have until Tuesday February 23rd at midnight to enter!