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.

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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.

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”.

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”.

Book Review: The Vertical Self

by Adam Clark: theemergingnetwork.org

The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are In An Age Of Self Obsession by Mark Sayers

Note:Disclosure of Material Connection: This book was received free from Thomas Nelson  Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program.

The title is a mouthful…

“The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are In An Age Of Self Obsession”

…but if you can look past the length, the title gives away some great insight. First, Mark Sayers is going to base everything he says biblically, faithfully and with a strong theological basis. Second, we are obsessed by our own narcissistic views and, thirdly, how he can help. I love long titles so far as they hold true to the book. This does it perfectly.

When it comes to content, watch out Perez Hilton…

When it comes to content, watch out Perez Hilton, we may now have a new king when it comes to celebrity culture. Sayers nails it on the head: We are obsessed with being sexy, cool and glamorous, but that leaves us with nothing more than idolatrous viewpoints of those around us that we see as cool, sexy and glamorous. In the end, we strive for the mystery that comes with these labels, but instead of looking up to the eternal mystery that comes from God, we look out to the horizon to seek out how we can best fit in with those around us.

We have stopped looking up at God to find who we are (based on the created order that God himself declared as good). We see the world and creation as tainted and can no longer seem to piece together the “Christian” and “Society” puzzle pieces that we wrestle with everyday. We canʼt be sexy if we are Christian, can we? Well, God made everything including what we view as sexy, so sexy is good. It is what we do with the desires and understanding of sexy that is bad. When we throw around words like cool, sexy and glamor without thinking, they lose all meaning. When we can check our desires under the Lordship of Christ, in community, in their worthiness and by the fruit they produce, we begin to live once again as a vertical being seeking our meaning in God.

Mark Sayersʼ book illustrates that a life sought out in the horizon of our lives is tiring, wasteful, meaningless and without any input into the society to which we so desperately want to feel connected. I saw this because the images we try to perfect in order to be accepted are constantly changing. It does make more sense to allow the cool, sexy and glam lifestyle to come out naturally. Those who truly have it are comfortable in their own skin – they live looking upwards.

Being holy does not have to be dorky. It does, however, consist of looking up to our creator and finding our order in creation. Any youth leader should give it a read, or even use it as a study as the study guide in the back provides a great starting point for any accountability group.

Book Review: The 5 Love Languages

So I began reading The 5 Love Languages for the second time. The first time I read it I was single and knew everything. This second time I am 8.5yrs married and know nothing.

I really enjoyed the updated version of this book. Gary Chapman is a clear communicator and the chapters semed to flow quickly. I finished the book on my third night of reading it. As far as the love languages go I’m still the same as I was when I was single but the other four love languages jumped out at me as I started to think about where I would place the various members of my family and those closest to me.

Here’s a rundown of the five love languages:

Words of affirmation–Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the reasons why someone loves you sends your spirits skyward.

Quality Time–In the language of quality time, nothing says “I love you” like full, undivided attention. Really being there, with the TV off and all chores on standby, makes your significant other feel truly special and loved.

Receiving Gifts–Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift.

Acts of Service–Can vacuuming floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an acts of service person speaks volumes.

Physical Touch– Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face can all be ways to show excitement, care and love to a person whose primary love language is physical touch.

This book is must read, however, the exercises in the book are a “must-do.” It’s one thing to read a book and agree or disagre with it. What I would suggest is that you use the exercises in this book over the course of the next six months to a year in you life and see what happens.

My only complaint about the book having such a world-wide audience is that it is still very American.

www.5lovelanguages.com

“Available now at your favourite bookseller”

Book Review: The Hole in Our Gospel

The Hole in Our Gospel: The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World by Richard Stearns (Thomas Nelson).

This book combines Stearns deep and personal experience of God working in his life and makes a very direct challenge to North American Christians. Stearns tells the story of how he came from being a wealthy and successful Christian businessman to becoming the President of World Vision-USA.

Stearns shares his personal story of how God worked in his life in a very intimate way. How God surprised him and moved him into a greater understanding of what it means to believe the whole Gospel, not just certain parts that are personal and that’s where it ends. The whole Gospel as Stearns shares involves each on of us evaluating our own personal goals and lifestyles and if they parallel with what God has truly asked us to do for this world. Stearns issues a thought provoking challenge through his own personal story.

The Hole in Our Gospel is an excellent corrective challenge for youth workers. It will allow you the opportunity to think about the Gospel differently and view the world through a new set of lenses. The only question that you will have to answer after reading this book is, “How will you and youth ministry be different after reading this book?”