Category Archives: Book Review

“Speak” By Nish Weiseth Review

“Story draws us together, hands and voices and memories. It bridges the distances we’ve created, because we thought the distance would keep us safe. It doesn’t. It only keeps us lonely.”

Story is something that is universally uniting and in many ways it is something we as a sound bite generation have forgotten. We are more interested in Facebook posts, blog comments and judging someone based on 140 characters or less. What this has led to is more online fighting and less actual conversations and discussions. Maybe part of the reason for all of this is because in losing the importance of story in each of our lives we have ended up dehumanizing each other. In “Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World”, Nish Weiseth places story once again at the heart not just of humanity but how people and cultures change.

Nish, who is a blogger, speaker and author, shares her own journey, her own story. In it she also shares the stories of those people whom she has met and known. Through her storytelling ability Nish shows how the power of story can deconstruct our assumptions about others.  Nish offers humor along with heart in giving the reader a glimpse into what the heart of story is about, finding the humanity, the image of God, in one another

Nish’s book was a joy to read. In pastoral ministry it can be easy to get caught up in systematics, definitions and theology that is removed from daily experience. Nish reminded me, as I read, that there is a beautiful grace God gives us when share our own story. In a world that seems so cruel, often on social media, the uniting factor of story, of where we came from, what shaped us, what our dreams and hopes are is powerful. Sharing our story is not easy though, it is something that makes us vulnerable, it is something at opens up who we are to others. In a world where hiding behind an online persona, where we only post what we want, truly sharing your story means allowing others to peek behind the mask.

Nish speaks of story of all of us. She does not say that story only matters for those who reached fame, political success or anything of the like. Rather what Nish urges the reader to do, is to see their ordinary lives as an amazing story when living faithfully in the normal things for God. I encourage you, especially those who spend time in the social media world, to read this book, to be reminded of the importance of your story and the story of those you know.

You can buy “Speak” on Amazon here.

 

 

Girl At The End of the World- Review

“I’m so thankful God allows us the freedom to leave places that scare us and find safe places where we can rest. God is big enough to meet us anywhere.” -Elizabeth Esther

 

I was raised Roman Catholic, it was the faith of my family, but it was not something that was central to my life. Once I was out of High School I stopped going to church or considering myself affiliated to any type of faith system. In 2002 I had an encounter with Jesus that I believe transformed my life, and I started to attend a reformed protestant church. In all of this though, the idea of “cults” and fundamentalism seemed like the things you watch on documentaries, you know, “people that drink the kool aid” type groups.

 

Those ideas started to change when I started to follow Elizabeth Esther on Twitter. Her voice into the dangers of cults that may not look from the outside like the cults you see on “20/20” really started to get me to think about my definition and the dangers of fundamentalism in my life and thought. (She was also the reason Lauren and I started to watch American Idol, so thanks for that EE!)

 

Elizabeth is a great storyteller, she is able to grip you and pull you into her world and experiences. In her book “Girl At The End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future” she gives her autobiography of growing up in “The Assembly”. In her story we are brought into a legalistic group that controls and manipulates its’ members while using good Christian language. Elizabeth’s story is one of growing up in fear and confusion.

 

Elizabeth takes the reader on a journey of what it was like to grow up, to become a woman in this type of group. She tells of the control her grandparents held over this Assembly even down to who they date, how they date and what they grow up to do, all in the name of “God’s Glory”. And that may be what was most unsettling for me. What do we do for “God’s Glory” that has blinded us from the actual people in front of us? It can be tempting to read Elizabeth’s story and dismiss it as just a “fundy group” that was interesting but has no bearing on our life. However what I started to wonder was in our Christian culture of “modesty”, “courting” and even submission to authority can we at times fall into the same sin and danger that characterized The Assembly she was part of?

 

Modesty for example is something Lauren and I have discussed in raising 2 girls, one being a 9-year-old with her own fashion sense already. How do we encourage our daughters to see their bodies, as something to not be ashamed of but also something not flaunt for attention. We honestly do not have the answer to this, but Elizabeth’s book really challenged us to think deeply and to not just assume modesty language is the answer for our daughters and sons for that matter.

 

I think in the end, the beauty of Elizabeth’s story is the power of God’s grace and love to give her strength to break free from such a place. The grace of God, as well, to speak through her to help others in similar circumstances. And also conviction from God to challenge us in how we can use our faith, at times, as tools of power and control, not of love and grace.

 

I would strongly recommend this book on multiple levels. Just as a story it is well written and captivating, it was hard for me to put it down. On another level though it is convicting as well as inspiring in how we are live as Christians this side of Heaven and the dangers of legalism and authority.

 

This book left me with more questions, like “now what?” or “where do we go from here?”. I wish Elizabeth would’ve given a helpful guide to avoiding fundamentalism in our own lives, but maybe her book was to simply be about her story that also gives a mirror into our own.

“The more I choose to believe God loves me, the more loving I believe God is. I am no longer a victim being acted upon. I am now actively participating in loving God, loving myself, and loving others.” –Elizabeth Esther

 

You can purchase her book here on Amazon.

You can also follow Elizabeth’s blog here.

“everPresent” Book Review

3 years ago I attended a seminary-like program that took me to Seattle once a month where I would be in a cohort of several students. These students came from all over the world, places like, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada and various states in the USA. While the school was good, I can honestly say that it was the relationships that came from that that I carry with me today. It is what I have learned from those in my cohort that helped me as I planted Redemption Church here in Rio Rancho, NM. 

 

One of these students is Jeremy Writebol. Jeremy currently serves in a church in Wichita, KS. He is also a author who has just released a book called “everPresent: How the Gospel Relocates Us in the Present ”. Jeremy asked me to read it and review it, I was happy to do it and was blessed by this book. My review is below.

 

One of the things I have had to deal with as a pastor is how to help people see their place as a Christian here in world. Many see what I do, working as a full time pastor, as the sacred job, while their jobs are mundane, boring and not exactly “kingdom work”. Many see worship and honoring God as something to be done on a Sunday in church. They see the gospel as something to be shared through a tract or an awkward presentation separated from “real life”. In “everPresent” by Jeremy Writebol a different picture is given, a fuller, more life-giving picture for a disciple in the everyday. Jeremy reminds us that place (location whether physical or spiritual) matters. Jeremy does this by first showing us how God is the only “ever present” one who is everywhere at once.  He then shows how this omnipresent God came down, lived, died and was resurrected for our sins. Because we have sinned and we are by nature messed up, we also are dislocated on our own from God with no way to get back. Jesus redeemed us and gives us the purpose that our hearts have longed for, a purpose of being present with God, and for God where we are. Understanding this helps our view of worship and living for his glory in the everyday where God is there with us, not just on Sundays in “God’s house”.  Jeremy gives a clear vision of how this “ever present” God sends us to specific locations, has us where we are for specific purposes, and that our spiritual and our physical both are sent and matter in our daily work as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.

 

In the 2nd part of this book Jeremy hits the practical side of this “ever present” Gospel. This is where I believe the book truly shines. Jeremy helps the reader see how the mundane, the everyday are not to be thought of as “secular” but rather as sacred, that all of life is sacred because we are always before God. Jeremy does this by giving a very handy way of looking at life as being about places. Whether it is the first place of the home and family, second place as work, third as social environments, or the fourth place of being in the city.  They way this part is broken down into these places helps the reader have a clear vision of how the gospel is present in all of life. Jeremy also does this by sharing how he sees, lives and works to have the gospel present in his own life in each of these places.

 

I am very excited for the book to be released today because I want my people at Redemption Church to read and soak in these truths. I want them to see the gospel as “ever present” in their daily lives. I want them to see that God is there with them, that there is no special “sacred” jobs and then the rest, but that as Christians all is sacred because all is done for the glory of the “ever present” God.

You can order “everPresent” paperback on Amazon here.

You can also get the e-book version from GCD here.

Below are a few choice quotes from the book.

 

“Our perspective concerning our homes, workplaces, gyms, restaurants, parks, office buildings, theaters, and everywhere in between should be that this is God’s place and God is here.”

 

“The only way for God to undo the injury of our soul dislocation was to undo what had been done. The place of God had to be remade.”

 

“As long as we have life and breath and are awake to live out another day, the gospel still bears impact on our homes, whatever their state. The relocating, renovating work of Jesus is still active, forming the household of God.”

 

“The office, classroom, retail store, restaurant, factory, and laboratory are all places in which created humanity exercises dominion to cultivate and develop God’s initial creation. Work is essential to who we are. Work is right.”

 

“Like the false dichotomy of the material and spiritual, bad religion created another dichotomy with regard to our work; sacred and secular.”

 

“Even the most reclusive introvert still needs relationship with others. We were created for community.”