Seeing Through the Fog: Book Review

Has your world ever fallen apart? On more than one occasion mine has fallen apart. My wife Heather has journeyed through the last 15 years of her life with leukaemia + a bone marrow transplant. You can read her story here: www.smythfamily.wordpress.com

That’s why I was so intrigued to read Ed Dobson’s new book, Seeing Through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart.

Ed has written one of his best books about his own eleven year struggle with ALS. He shares his heart, struggle and emotions from the point of his diagnosis + physical deterioration + seeking forgiveness + spiritual journey + thinking of the after life.

We ask for forgiveness. And we forgive other who ask us. In that way, we can experience healing, healing in our souls. – Ed Dobson

Regardless of how your world might be falling apart right now, Ed’s book is MUST READ!

Follow Ed’s Story.com

You can purchase Ed’s book through Amazon below.

Book Review: I AM SECOND

I Am Second
I love stories. Especially when you hear about a life that was transformed or changed through an experience that they went through (good or bad). I love when my spirit is bubbling up inside me as I listen to a story and when it gets to the end I can boldly say to the story-teller, “That’s the God I know!”

As I sat down to read this book over a few days, I was excited because I had used several of the videos from I AM SECOND in various youth ministry contexts. Each video is visually simple yet powerful, verbally thought provoking, and very inspiring. (I used three “V” words there, cool!). I am also a person who loves things visual, seeing a person share their own personal story, seeing their facial expressions of joy or pain is very powerful. Yet when I read, I love to visualize what I’m reading.

As I began the book I kept having this sense of confusion come over me because it wasn’t clear to me who was telling each of the stories I was reading. Every story, through out the whole book, kept switching from first person to third person. I then jumped ahead to a story I had seen on video that impacted me personally and started reading with expectation. I was let down because as a reader I wasn’t sure who was telling the story. I was left confused.

There are many ways to tell a redemptive story and I know that the redemption that God offers to each one of us is mind blowing. The big problem I had with the book was that the redemptive story of God seemed hidden, missed, not communicated well, I’m not sure what. When someone has a life changing encounter with the living God it is usually very clear to everyone through two ways: 1) their life changes (behaviour, decisions, attitude, thoughts, language, body language, etc…), 2) the reason for the change is clear, they tell you that it was because of their life intersecting with the living God and his son Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some of the stories in the book I AM SECOND seem to lack a depth of the redemptive story and the life change that each person went through when they encountered God through Jesus Christ. I’m not sure if that’s because the authors wanted it that way or if the person telling the story was not coached on how to tell the story of the redemptive work of God in their life.

Overall, if you are looking for a book to read about how various people go through a rough/rock-bottom experience and they emerge on the other side without drowning and discover God, then this is a book you will enjoy. If you are looking for a book that is very well written and explains in detail the redemptive work of Jesus in the life of various people, then this is not the book for you.

My recommendation is to watch the I AM SECOND videos for free. The book is not a must have on my book shelves. Stick with the videos.

I received this book from Graf-Martin Communications to review and my opinions are my own.

How to Resign with Grace & Dignity

Below is an informational letter that youth pastor Mark Strickland sent to his congregation. His letter is filled with a clear sense of grace and dignity. His honest letter is an excellent way to inform your congregation that you will be leaving.

What are some points you can take from Mark’s letter? What would you have done differently?

Monday April 23rd, 2012

To the Elders, Deacons, Members, Families, and Teens of Milton Bible Church:

This letter is difficult to compose as I write today to inform you that Wendy and I plan to resign from our positions at Milton Bible Church as of Saturday June 30th, 2012.

I (Mark) have been offered acceptance into Teacher’s College at Tyndale University, starting in July and have accepted that offer.  Going to Teacher’s College will be a career change for me as I plan to pursue teaching over the next season of my life.

Our journey to this decision point has been a long one.  We have enjoyed our years of ministry at MBC and love the people in this church.  Over the past eight years we have experienced highs and lows in ministry, but about a year ago both Wendy and I began to feel a strong stirring that persisted in our hearts.  As we talked and prayed about it, it became clear to us last December that God was pushing us towards a new chapter in our life.  Although I have enjoyed serving as a pastor, I did not feel a strong calling to continue in vocational ministry.  A desire of my heart had always been to teach and as Wendy and I prayed about our future I decided to try applying to Teacher’s College atTyndale University.  In late February of 2012 I was invited for an interview at the school.  I had that interview in March 2012 and I was offered acceptance into the Bachelor of Education program in mid-April.  Wendy, who is already a teacher by profession, has been applying to public school boards and Christian Schools over the past month.  We are hopeful that she will find work, and we believe that God will provide the right opportunity at the right time.  We plan to sell our home in Milton and move closer to Tyndale University by late August.

I cannot emphasize how much we have enjoyed being a part of Milton Bible Church.  MBC goes way beyond being a workplace for us and we consider all of you a part of our family.  You have loved our family and have treated us with exceptional kindness.  We can only hope that we served you well over the years.

God has done incredible things in our time here and I know he will continue to move in amazing ways in the future of MBC.  Jim and Mary have been fantastic mentors for Wendy and I, and I know that we would not be the leaders we are today without their example, mentoring, and leadership in our lives.

In youth ministry, there is never a good time for a youth pastor to leave.  When I started eight years ago, I vowed to not be a 1 or 2 year youth pastor, here today, gone tomorrow.  I’m happy I’ve been able to spend so many years ministering to youth in this community.  But the hardest part of God’s leading in all of this will be leaving the amazing students we work with.  We love all of you and pray you will understand that God has a plan in all of this for you, too!  In this upcoming season I challenge you to be strong, trust the Lord, trust the church, and trust those who come after Wendy and I!

I am confident that the Lord has a bright future for MBC, particularly in the areas of children and youth.  Those who come after us will take these areas to another level.  I am confident that God has a plan for some of you in this, too!

A scripture that strikes me as summing things up is this one:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

I pray all of us will strive to live in His calling and purpose!

In Christ,

Mark and Wendy Strickland

Book Review: God Without Religion

Andrew Farley has given us another great book. God Without Religion is a must read book.

When we’ve lost our sense of belonging in God’s kingdom or the feeling of closeness to the King, we may look to religion to answers. It’s difficult to simply ignore religion, shutting the doors on its offers. And we can’t afford to ignore religion unless we’re certain we already have everything we need to make life work, apart from religion.

Religion is a thief that’s delighted to clean us out. Religion plots to rob us of our spiritual possessionsand our sense of security.

I know use parts of this book as part of my conversations with others around the conversation about religion. Thanks @DrAndrewFarely

I give this book 5 out of 5 Longhorns.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.

Book Review: The Art of Mentoring

This is a powerful book that gives very clear insights for both a mentor and a mentee (not sure if that’s a real word or not?).

One of the biggest challenges that faces any older generation is the passing on to the next generation. Darlene Zschech is a mentor who I have learned from just by watching her over the last number of years. You only have to look at the leaders that have come from her mentoring and their global impact to truly see what kind of a mentor she really is.

Darlene gives us 14 Values to consider and I believe that they are important. Some I agreed with fully and other I thought, “huh, why did she put that in or even after the last value she just talked about?”
I was excited to read this book and I must admit that I was not overly impressed but I was encouraged by this book. I would recommend this book for a mentor or someone wanting to be mentored. This book would be a good read for the beginner or seasoned leader but it may not be one you keep on your book shelf.
I would give this book 3 out of 5 Kiwi’s!


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Book Review: What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary

James Emery White touches many areas that are not covered in a Seminary education. The main reason for that is because a seminary education is just that, education. You spend time in class, reading and writing papers. How can you expect to learn any of this in the classroom?
When I first started reading this book I laughed because I went to seminary and I basically said, “I’m looking forward to you teaching me something I didn’t learn in seminary.” As I read through the book I was agreeing with it and saying things like, “I knew that in seminary” or “I wouldn’t have said it that way but its similar” or my favourite “how could you NOT know that after going through seminary?”
After I finished the book I began reflecting on it and my own seminary experience. I then had one of those “A HA!” moments. I didn’t learn any of the things that James White wrote about in seminary. Where I did learn them was from the local church I was interning and from my mentor who I met with weekly. Yes it was dousing my seminary year but not in the seminary classroom.
With that being said, I would recommend this book to Pastors and non-profit ministry leaders – new and experienced. This book is practical, the chapters are short and it’s written with a good natured sense of humour.
I would give this 4 out of 5 pineapples.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.

The Faith of Leap – Falls Short

Book Review by Heather Smyth  www.smythfamily.wordpress.com

The Faith of Leap 

by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch

When I first saw The Faith of Leap I eagerly jumped right into the pages.  I agree with the authors that as Christ followers that we are “called to an ongoing, risky, actional, extravagant way of life –a life resonant with that distinctly wild –and yes Christlike –faithfulness of their Lord and Master”.  In fact, I believe that at times in my own life that I have lived out my own stories of great faith, in obedience to what God had asked of me, even when others questioned my actions.  I have also walked alongside friends who have their own stories of great faith, patiently waiting on God to fulfill His promises.  I have witnessed some great stories of faith.  More than that, as I read the Biblical accounts of men and women who have trusted God in great faith, they resonate deep within me.  The story of Abraham heading up the mountain to offer his son Isaac as sacrifice to God, the trusting, faithful response of Abraham to his son, “God will provide a lamb, my son” and Abraham’s response in naming the place where the sacrifice was made “The LORD Will Provide” are foundational to my own understanding of who God is and my understanding of faith.   I was excited to read of more stories of people who have lived out or are in the process of living out their own “faith of leaps” and to be encouraged in my own faith journey of trusting God in obedience to what He has called me to.

In the end, I found this to be a good textbook about the theology of faith, but really, the reading of it was tough.  When I think about my friends and the faith stories that they have lived out or even my own stories of faith, they are exciting and wild, filled with groaning and waiting for God to show up in the everyday-ness of life.  I couldn’t wait to hear how God would show up next, in my own story or in the story of others.  Oh how those stories were missing in this book.

That said, there were many stories of faith and wild adventure outlined in the book.  Included in the book were many biblical stories, historical stories and fictional stories but there were few modern day examples of people living today.  There were a lot of fictional examples and I learned a lot about Frodo from The Lord of the Rings and his grand adventures.  And really, while I like Frodo and all the other hobbits as much as the next person, and while I can relate to their struggles and triumphs, in the end, they are just characters and their journeys are just made up from a clever imagination.

But what about the real, stories of regular people -individuals, families, churches and communities that have lived out their own leaps of faith?  Those who have faithfully obeyed God when what they were called to do seemed ridiculous or questionable to those around them, where are their stories?  They were few and far between, scattered throughout the pages.

Even more, what about those same groups of people who are in the middle of the their leap of faith, who are still waiting, risking and trusting for God to answer their prayers and to fulfill His promises to them?  I mean, when I read the story of Abraham and Isaac on the mountain, I already know the ending.  I know that God provides.   But what was it like for Abraham to walk up that mountain?  “Come along Isaac… God will provide.”  That is the Faith of Leap!   How do you live in the moment of that faith?  How do you walk alongside someone in the middle of their story?  Oh how these stories were missing from this book.

Yes, we need to hear biblical, historical, fictional and modern day stories that are complete, that have a beginning and end where God has called his children, where people have responded in faithful obedience and God has responded and fulfilled his promise.  These stories all serve to build a foundation of faith and help me and help us in the day-to-day of being obedient and waiting in faith.

By leaving out these stories, modern stories and “in the middle of” stories, this book was left with a big hole.

To be honest, it’s been a while since I have read this book.  And while I was excited to start reading, I trudged through the middle and skimmed through the end.  This book churned up a lot of emotions and frustration in me and I am surprised that as I revisit this book at the strength at which these have surfaced again.

In the end, I will continue to live out my own stories of faith and share these stories with others.  I will continue to stand beside my friends who are in the middle of their own “faith of leap” and encourage them with the stories of Abraham and Noah and others who have walked before us, knowing that God is faithful and that The LORD Will Provide.

If you are looking for a book about the theology of faith, this is it.  You’ve found it.  But if you want to experience the “faith of leap” for yourself, then save yourself some time and step out in faith, in obedience to what God has called you to do and live it out for real life.  You won’t be disappointed.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.