Love Does is a memoir of sorts, stories and vignettes from the life of author Bob Goff. Goff is an extraordinary man, full of whimsy and heart. Some o...moreLove Does is a memoir of sorts, stories and vignettes from the life of author Bob Goff. Goff is an extraordinary man, full of whimsy and heart. Some of the stories made me laugh out loud, others made me tear up. The premise of the book is that love does, love is about action. And I believe that to be true and an encouraging message.
What is a little troubling about the book is that doing for Goff often costs more than time and energy. It costs money, and lots of it. I really struggled with the lack of acknowledging that 99.9% of Christians worldwide could not live as Bob does because they could never spend as Bob does. I have noticed that evangelicalism lately is all about living lives of service and doing amazing things, and I worry that might marginalize those for whom taking a year off to ”minister” just isn’t financially possible. If you struggle with contentment, this book might not be for you.
Another concern was the lack of connection to a local church and the skepticism towards typical Christianity. A lot of this is a good thing — I love the idea of a “Bible Doing” group rather than a Bible Study — but the sum of it felt like a lone ranger, individualistic faith rather than the true and deep community of faith that I believe to be the most biblical model.
I enjoyed this book, but it made me want wads of cash so I could do the sorts of things Bob does. And that’s not really the point. I’d love to see someone live an extraordinary, whimsical life of sacrificial love on a budget of $50,000 a year or less. I’d read that book in a heartbeat. Goff’s stories are really interesting and the profits are going to Restore International, so if you are intrigued, I’d say go ahead and read it.(less)
One of the most disorienting things in life is suffering. Even when we know all the right things about how the world is fallen and broken in every way...moreOne of the most disorienting things in life is suffering. Even when we know all the right things about how the world is fallen and broken in every way, pain jars us, and makes us question who God is and our relationship to him, in part because "we are not often told that once we've been delivered into freedom, the hardest times may still be ahead" (pg 75.) As we journey through life and its inevitable suffering, we need to be reminded of the truth, and Leaving Egypt is an able and welcome guide.
By using the Exodus narrative as a structure, author Chuck DeGroat guides us through four parts of the Christian life. (1) Egypt: Facing Our Fear, (2) Sinai: Receiving Our New Identity, (3) Wilderness: Entering the Furnace of Transformation and (4) Home: Experiencing New Identity and Mission. Though each part is essential, well-written and helpful, I felt most drawn to the third section. As the subtitle declares, we often find God in wilderness places, and it is good to be reminded of how God is at work in the midst of suffering and how he uses our suffering teach us.
Though DeGroat shows the hopefulness and promise in suffering, he is also very honest about its difficulty. There are no formulas for quick fixes, but a deep and real acknowledgement of the pain and darkness we all grapple with and a helpful framework for lament.
Though theological and thoughtful, this is a very practical and applicable read. DeGroat draws from many years of experience as a counselor, pastor and professor to help readers understand how this Exodus narrative intersects with their own lives and struggles. There are also questions at the end of each chapter for personal reflection or group discussion.
The Exodus story "invites us to look back at where we've been and remember God's relentless love for us despite our many failures" (pg 154.) Even though we may feel like we prefer the safety and familiarity of our own Egypts and enslavement, God longs for us to move forward. As we journey through our own difficulties and pain, Leaving Egypt reminds us of the truth of who we are, as believers united to Christ. I know I will read it again (a rarity among Christian books for me) and appreciate its simple, clear wisdom. I have already recommended it several times, and would commend it to anyone in the church. (9.5/10)(less)
The Starboard Sea is a well crafted story, ably written, about a young man's Senior year at a New England prep school. Jason is a boy born into privil...moreThe Starboard Sea is a well crafted story, ably written, about a young man's Senior year at a New England prep school. Jason is a boy born into privilege who is struggling to make sense of the world as his life falls apart.
His best friend and sailing partner is dead, his parents are divorcing, and he is unable to return to his previous school to finish out his high school career, so he's off to somewhere new, a school for the misfits who are cast or kept out of the most elite prep academies. As he tries to navigate his circumstances, he befriends Aiden, a California girl with her own dark past.
I enjoyed the story, but the writing really set this apart for me. I was very drawn to the descriptions of sailing and found myself thinking of sailing apart from when I was reading. I was also moved by the way Dermont described relationships. I felt Jason's losses and pain acutely, because she did a good job portraying them (and not just informing us of how he felt.)
It's a coming of age story and set at at boarding school, but I wouldn't classify this as young adult. Not because the themes are mature and sometimes graphic (even though they are), it just feels more geared to adults. (8.5/10)(less)
Tullian Tchividjian's Jesus + Nothing = Everything examines the fundamental truth of the gospel and how to embrace Christ's finished work for believer...moreTullian Tchividjian's Jesus + Nothing = Everything examines the fundamental truth of the gospel and how to embrace Christ's finished work for believers. I would not describe it as an exposition of Colossians, but Colossians features prominently. I would not describe it as a spiritual memoir or a particularly personal work, but occasional details of Tchividjian's difficult year transitioning through a church merger and feelings of inadequacy provide a thread for readers.
Readers can think of Tchividjian's Jesus + Nothing = Everything as a way to recalibrate and assess our functional beliefs and ask ourselves if we are adding anything to the gospel. There are many good books in this stream right now, and I find that a good thing. Like this book asserts, the gospel is not the first step of the Christian life, it's the hub. We must constantly remind ourselves of the fundamental truths, we never grow out of them. And so reading this book and others like it (Steve Brown's Scandalous Freedom comes to mind) from time to time is a good exercise for all of us, because we are prone to "think of the gospel as God's program to make bad people good, not dead people alive" (pg 116.)
Though Jesus + Nothing = Everything is focused on fundamentals, there is a great deal of meaty content to ponder. For example: "Our performancism leads to pride when we succeed and to despair when we fail. But ultimately it leads to slavey either way because it becomes all about us and what we must do to establish our own identity instead of resting in Jesus and what he accomplished to establish it for us" (pg 46). "The gospel alone empowers and emboldens us to press on and strain forward with no anxiety over gaining other people's sanction or good opinion--even God's! All the care and love and value we crave--full and final approval--we already have in Jesus" (pg 92.)
The book moves backwards from Everything to Nothing to Jesus, and then forward again. The structure is not bad in itself, but Tchividjian is fairly repetitive. This is a good trick for preaching, to repeat sentences that summarize your point well, but in writing it can feel poorly edited, (e.g. he said that exact same thing three pages ago.) It wasn't a huge distraction, and it did help me not to miss any critical points, but it was quite noticeable.
Overall, Jesus + Nothing = Everything is a helpful read for any Christian. I'd particularly recommend it for those coming out of more legalistic traditions and trying to overcome those tendencies. As we walk in faith, it is easy to stray into moralism. This book is a reminder of the simplicity of the gospel - that Jesus himself, his life and his work, are worth everything. Nothing in our hands we bring, simply to the cross we cling. May we not forget. (less)
I enjoyed this a great deal, and am looking forward to discussing it in book club this month. It was gripping but simple, and the spirituality felt ve...moreI enjoyed this a great deal, and am looking forward to discussing it in book club this month. It was gripping but simple, and the spirituality felt very genuine, even though I am pretty sure that the author is an atheist. It gave me a lot to consider.
I wish I could give this 4.5 stars. The lack of half-stars is my least favorite thing about goodreads.(less)
This is an interesting memoir to me because I've lived in Birmingham, but I was expecting something more from it. The major stories aren't as well fle...moreThis is an interesting memoir to me because I've lived in Birmingham, but I was expecting something more from it. The major stories aren't as well fleshed out and detailed as necessary to make it really stick with the reader, and the writing was not as strong as it could have been, maybe with a better editor. I liked it, but I wasn't profoundly moved.(less)
My favorite comprehensive, practical parenting book. I do think it's helpful to have a philosophical and theological framework with which to interpet...moreMy favorite comprehensive, practical parenting book. I do think it's helpful to have a philosophical and theological framework with which to interpet this system, and to know when to veer off the course. They are a bit heavy handed and also go a bit farther than I think most would / should in application. However, I think the practical examples are helpful to shift parents towards giving their children more responsibility.(less)
So moved by reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Carolyn Custis James...moreSo moved by reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Carolyn Custis James responded by writing a book that tackles God's global vision for women. With clarity and insight, James sets out a theology of women that works both for affluent surburbanites and those in the developing world. Women matter to God, they are his beloved daughters, and that knowledge gives them a foundation to rest upon and to strength to fight oppression and injustice.
James is challenging the church to answer three questions: (1) What message does the church offer women in the twenty-first century? (2) What will the church do to address rampant suffering of women throughout the world? (3) What message are we sending to the world by how we value and mobilize our own daughters? (p. 41)
In answering the first question, James explains how women are made in the image of God, just as men are, are of great value. She also explains that God made women ezers, helpers. But unlike the docile doormats that many picture, Ezer is also the Hebrew word used to describe God's strong help, how the mighty warrior defends and protects his people. Both men and women benefit and are at their best when they join together to serve the church and the world. I think her work in this area is invaluable to the church as an encouragement to women.
The second question is more of a challenge than anything else. Though James highlights some women who are fighting injustice around the world, there isn't an easy solution to the problem of suffering and oppression and there isn't an easy answer. I wish this had been more fully developed, and included more stories of women advancing the cause of justice and mercy.
More controversial than the other two, I appreciated the way James handled the third question. She established that it is wrong for us to equate biblical womanhood with being a wife and a mother, which are two good and valuable roles that we often elevate to the point of excluding and marginalizing other women. Her ministry is not for or against women's ordination or a blanket egalitarianism, which is sure to frustrate those on both sides who would like to see her take a strong position one way or another. But I find it wise, as those with either conviction can learn a lot from James.
Half the Church could have been organized a little better, and integrated justice more clearly as well, but I still appreciated it. It is a good book, not a perfect one, but one that will encourage the church.(less)