Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Memory Between Us

"A Memory Between Us" by Sarah Sundin is part of a trilogy (although I believe each book can stand on its own) of books about three brothers serving during WWII. Each book focuses on one of the three brothers and their quest for love and wrestling with God. I think I inadvertently read book two of the series, but felt I got a good grasp of the context of book one.

The book is about a WWII bomber pilot, Major Jack Novak, and a nurse, Lieutenant Ruth Doherty, he meets in the hospital as he is recovering from flak injuries. The rest of the story is fairly predictable, but not a complete bore to read. I read it pretty quick and it moved along at a fast pace. This is a good book to digest on the beach or on a plane.

To her credit, I believe Sundin did a marvelous job with historical details that painted a very vivid picture of hospital life and bomber runs over Germany. I think her nod to the story of Ruth and Boaz was also well done.

I find it hard to discover WWII historical/romance fiction books so I really appreciate authors that try to tackle this era. I think the story could have been 50 to 70 pages shorter, but enjoyed reading it nonetheless. It was a fast, non-stressful read which is something I sort of needed after reading several non-fiction books on social justice issues.

To recap:

Worth Reading? Sure

Recommend to a Friend? Maybe

Worth Buying My Own Copy? No

Stars: 3 out of 5

Friday, December 17, 2010

Under the Overpass

I’ve kind of been on a non-fiction book kick as of late and more specifically books focused on the social justice aspect of the Christian walk. (However, in contrast… I am now reading a completely predictable and sappy WWII Christian romance novel that is lame but I for some reason can’t abandon reading it…)

Under the Overpass” is the first book in this genre that pulled back the curtain and allowed me to really comprehend the reality of homelessness in America. Instead of encouraging me to do this or that because the Bible says so or because I have been so blessed, the author, Mike Yankoski, took me on a journey to not just “tell me”, but to “show me.”

During college, Yankoski became convicted to experience life on the streets of America. He teamed up with a friend, Sam, and the two of them spent five months living homeless in six different US cities during 2003. The pair each left with a backpack, sleeping bag and guitar and survived by panhandling while playing music and taking advantage of generosity of soup kitchens and hospitality of local churches.

There were four things that stood out to me in this book:

- From the very beginning of the book, I was inspired by the sheer obedience Yankoski displayed in taking on the challenge of living homeless. It’s a crazy idea, but even gutsier to follow through and willingly put himself on the streets. I’m sorry…I don’t think I could do it!

- There’s a section where Yankoski describes homeless men and women who have obvious and severe mental illness issues. We’ve all seen people like he described…living in their own personal “hells” day after day. It makes one wonder how many of them are perhaps living under the power of demons like the man Jesus encountered in Mark 5:1-20.

- I was actually really impressed and surprised that Yankoski and his companion made an effort to attend a local church every Sunday. Yankowski describes many of these experiences and the varying reactions he received from “Christians.” Sadly, I can see that I would react similarly (apprehensive and stand offish) in some of the same instances if I were being completely honest with myself.

Lastly, I kept cringing every time Yankoski described the usual way “nice, normal” people averted their eyes and walked in a different direction to avoid coming close to the author and his traveling companion Sam. I do this all the time…I feel so paralyzed when I get in these situations. You want to help, but society has sold us a lie that we shouldn’t give homeless people money because all they will do is buy drugs or alcohol to support their habit. I thought Yankoski did a wonderful job shedding some light on ways I can navigate this better in the future.

Bottom line, I really enjoyed this narrative about living on the streets. It certainly could have been grittier (all vulgarities and crude language was removed out of respect for the readers and standards of the publisher), yet I felt it deconstructed enough of the wall I have around me to begin seeing men and women living in homelessness. I know I’ll have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide my steps in terms of how I respond to what I see, but I feel this book has armed me with new a understanding and courage to take my own journey in this area.

You can read the first chapter of the book here.

The publisher has also created a pretty comprehensive action plan for “next steps” after reading the book.

NOTE: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

To recap:

Worth Reading? Yes

Recommend to a Friend? Yes…to those who have an interest in this topic

Worth Buying My Own Copy? Not necessarily unless you like to lend books out a lot.

Stars: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Radical

I’ve only been a Christ-follower for 6 years so I realize in the grand scheme of things my perspective on “what things shape my walk with Christ” can be na├»ve and presumptuous at times. Yet, I truly believe that as I look back on my life “Radical” by Dr. David Platt will be one of the defining books that shaped my walk with Christ. Much like “Choosing to Cheat” by Andy Stanley has shaped the way I approach work/life balance that is honoring to God (and a book I usually read over again once a year if not twice a year), Radical is going to be another “shot in the arm” book I read whenever I feel my faith journey has hit a plateau.

And if that is not enough of an enticement to run out and read this book, here’s another. I rarely buy books…I don’t care for clutter…therefore I am a huge fan of the local library. The first time I read this book it was the local library copy. Immediately upon completion of the book I went to my local Christian book store and purchased my own copy and reread the whole thing again – this time highlighting all the things I didn’t want to forget or wanted to reference quickly down the road. 1) I purchased my own copy and 2) I read the book twice in 2 weeks. Not very common occurrences for this book reader!

During 2010 Platt has lead his church on a journey aptly called “The Radical Experiment” in which he challenged the members of his church to:

  1. Pray for the entire world
  2. Read through the entire Word
  3. Sacrifice their money for a specific purpose
  4. Spend time in another context
  5. Commit their life to a multiplying community

Radical: Taking back your life from the American Dream serves as a thesis for proving out why American Christians need to begin making radical changes in their lives in order that we fulfill the Great Commission. Platt states that “somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.” He further says “…the cost of discipleship is great. But I wonder if the cost of nondiscipleship is even greater.”

What resonated with me most about this book is pondering the gravidity of not obeying God’s will for my life. That the cost of nondiscipleship is a grave and serious trend in American churches that is propelled by a body of believers paralyzed by the comforts and luxuries that the American Dream offers. The majority of American Christ-followers see discipleship making as a role only church leaders or long-term missionaries can fill when in reality all Christ-followers are commanded (not suggested) to go to all nations and make disciples. Platt summarizes this point poignantly when he says “…we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all.”

I am looking forward to letting the lessons learned in the book permeate through me over the next several weeks, months and years. I truly want to take on the Radical Experiment for a year and be intentional about praying for the world and getting into the Word daily. For the first time in several years I actually considered what other context God may be calling me to in 2011 to spend a week of my time. The past several years I’ve been very lukewarm about joining an E3 Partners mission trip (Adam has been on two the past year and half – 2009: Ecuador; 2010: Russia.) This past Monday I signed up for an E3 Partners short-term mission trip to Kursk, Russia in August. I am so nervous about this, but excited for what God will do through and in me during that week.

If you are feeling stalled in your walk or apathetic about the way church is done in the US, I highly encourage you to read this book. You will be encouraged and able to pick yourself up, dust off your discouragements and start biblically living God’s will for your life.

To recap:

Worth Reading? YES! YES! YES!

Recommend to a Friend? Yes...I'm apologize now to all my friends who will get sick of me talking about this book

Worth Buying My Own Copy? ABSOLUTELY!!! I wish I could buy 10 and give them away.