This is the one Narnia book that I had skipped. I guess the whole idea of reading about a sea voyage left me less than enthusiastic to give it whirl....moreThis is the one Narnia book that I had skipped. I guess the whole idea of reading about a sea voyage left me less than enthusiastic to give it whirl. However, I found the story surprisingly more beautiful than some of the others in the series. It includes a treasure-trove of lessons about redemption, temptation, perception, and more.
Lucy and Edmund find themselves accompanied by their desperately annoying and self-consumed cousin Eustace on an unexpected trip to Narnia while pondering over an old painting of a sea voyage. They are lulled aboard The Dawn Treader, formally-Prince-now-King Caspian's ship. Caspian is sailing to find seven lords of Narnia who were sent away by his evil uncle in years past. The children join the search party and discover many new lands and creatures along the way. They also discover more about themselves and the nature of Aslan.
A friend once pointed out to me that Eustace's dragon episode (and especially Aslan's subsequent rescue) was one of the more poignant and heart-wrenching illustrations of redemption in the Narnia series. I can't agree more. The book is worth reading for that scene alone.(less)
McGrath's biography was an easy read, and I learned new things about Lewis which I'd never known before. Regrettably, I still don't feel if I understa...moreMcGrath's biography was an easy read, and I learned new things about Lewis which I'd never known before. Regrettably, I still don't feel if I understand C.S. Lewis the MAN. However, I'm not sure any biographer writing 50 years after his death would ever be able to do that.(less)
I'm not going to lie--this no literary masterpiece. In fact, the writing was barely tolerable at times. However, in a world where commitments only las...moreI'm not going to lie--this no literary masterpiece. In fact, the writing was barely tolerable at times. However, in a world where commitments only last as long as they are convenient, the story of a couple overcoming enormous obstacles is inspirational. I especially liked how Kim Carpenter discussed bluntly how his faith (and Krickett's) saw them through a traumatic, life-changing event.
A word of caution: this book is not like the movie. Actually, I can't say that with authority because I haven't seen it. However, I only picked up this book after one of my high school students wrote a critique of the movie complaining that they basically ruined a good story. She's a pretty reliable source. ;)(less)
An easy book to read? No. An important and thought-provoking book? Yes.
Kamal Saleem describes his childhood as a Sunni Muslim in Lebenon and recruitm...moreAn easy book to read? No. An important and thought-provoking book? Yes.
Kamal Saleem describes his childhood as a Sunni Muslim in Lebenon and recruitment into the PLO at the ripe old age of seven. The reason this book was so difficult to read is because it is filled with the detailed descriptions of the terrorist training, terror attacks, violence and murder that Kamal took part in. Emotionally, I wanted to close the book and pretend that things like this can't possibly be happening, but rationally, I knew that it was important to read on even though it disrupted my comfortable American world.
Kamal rationalizes that it is the very fundamentals of America--welcoming immigrants, freedom of speech and religion, tolerance--that make her so vulnerable to a spread of radical Islam.
Kamal is now an American citizen and converted to Christianity. However, he doesn't spend an extraordinary amount of time in the book talking about his conversion experience.
Reading this book gave me a better understanding of the mentality of jihad. It also made me wonder if, by viewing the world through our American rose-colored glasses, we fully understand the extent of radical Islam and what it means for "infidels" such as ourselves?
Young Mr. Merrick doesn't have a care in the world. He is rich, spoiled and lives only for his own pleasure until the day he wakes up in a hospital an...moreYoung Mr. Merrick doesn't have a care in the world. He is rich, spoiled and lives only for his own pleasure until the day he wakes up in a hospital and discovers that a good man has died because his life was spared. His encounter with death causes him to seek a penance of sorts: he buckles down at college determined to become a great brain surgeon like Dr. Hudson, the man whose life was lost so at a his might be saved. Along the way, he is introduced to a coded journal among the doctor's personal items, and he sets about trying to decipher it. What Merrick finds makes him question the old doctor's sanity at first, but later finds truth, power and freedom in the words. In the meantime, he falls in love with Dr. Hudson's young widow, and becomes entangled in a complicated relationship with her and others as he seeks to live out the mysterious words of the journal.
I found this story quite engaging though it was maddening at times because I wanted a quick, tidy resolution. Also, I'm not sure how I feel about the theology (yes, theology) that this book advocates. In case you missed it, the "power" that Hudson, Merrick and others find comes from Matthew 6:1-4 (the whole "don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" bit). Sure, I believe in the power of giving, but there's more to Christianity than that. Besides, I feel like the characters were giving only to receive something for themselves in return (power, success), at least in the beginning. It's very much like "Pay it Forward." Still, the heart of the story is that when we rely on God's power instead of our own and live selflessly instead of selfishly, we can experience abundant life-- that's something I can totally a get on board with.
(Sidenote--I found it interesting that the chuch in the 1920s was experiencing the same worries as we still have today: What will happen to the faith since the next generation doesn't seem to be inerested in the things of God? Should we change to draw in young people? etc.)(less)
Wes Stafford is president of Compassion International, a Christian relief agency devoted to rescuing children for poverty, so it's no surprise that he...moreWes Stafford is president of Compassion International, a Christian relief agency devoted to rescuing children for poverty, so it's no surprise that he is passionate about loving children. What is surprising is his own story--raised in west Africa as a missionary's son, he saw how poverty and the absence of simple things like vaccines, mosquito nets and fresh water can weaken or destroy people. He also experienced abuse as a child in the boarding school that he attended, so he is very attune to the suffering of the world's children.
Unlike "The Hole in Our Gospel," written by the World Visions's CEO as a challenge to Christians to do something about poverty (a great book, by the way), Stafford instead challenges us to see the worth in children as children--not as potential adults. It's a refreshing point-of-view.
This is the only Bible-reading plan that I have ever been able to complete! I think that it is successful because of the enormous commitment that one...moreThis is the only Bible-reading plan that I have ever been able to complete! I think that it is successful because of the enormous commitment that one must make--reading 12 pages per day. Knowing that missing one day's reading means reading 24 pages to catch up is good incentive to stay on task. However, I do recommend reading with a group because accountability is key!(less)
When I first heard about this book, I thought it must be some kind of "scare-people-into-repentance-and/or-righteous-living" by reminding them of thei...moreWhen I first heard about this book, I thought it must be some kind of "scare-people-into-repentance-and/or-righteous-living" by reminding them of their own mortality, so I was disinterested. However, once I got into the book, I didn't really find that to be the case at all. Instead of making a "bucket list" (though, I admit, it does sometimes seem to be doing so), it really asks you to start living more intentionally. Instead of floating through life and crossing off our never-ending "to-do" lists, it suggests focusing on what matters: loving God and loving people. I found that many of the passages really challenged me to let God have control of my life completely, trust Him and find ways to love and appreciate those around me. I did feel that, in some chapters, the authors did do some stretching of Biblical passages in order to fit the topic at hand, but overall, I would recommend the book to Christians who need to be reminded of the greatest commandments and how to prioritize their lives.(less)
It pains me to give one of my favorite authors a 2 star rating, but I felt as if I were trudging through a muddy field in leaky rain boots while readi...moreIt pains me to give one of my favorite authors a 2 star rating, but I felt as if I were trudging through a muddy field in leaky rain boots while reading this autobiography by C.S. Lewis. Perhaps it was because I already had an understanding of his life and conversion (see Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis), so I did not find much new information in Surprised by Joy. Though Lewis can sometimes be a difficult (but pleasurable) read, quite frankly, this book made me feel like an absolute moron. So many scholarly allusions were made--people, places, things that I'd never heard of--that I either had to do a quick Google search or simply sigh in despair. Obviously, I'd never make the cut at Oxford.
*Lewis lost his mother at a very young age. His relationship with his father was strained from that point on. *Lewis was tremendously impacted by his experience in a harsh boarding school at an early age. *He describes life in all-male boarding school as a terrible experience mostly due to the fact that he didn't like to play "games" (sports) and didn't want to play the system (social hierarchy). He also spends some time describing "fagging," and now I fully (and sadly) understand where the term originated. Surprisingly, Lewis does not condemn this practice from a morality point-of-view because he did not feel like he should comment on something that was never a temptation for himself. *It really was Lewis's love of story that led him to Christ--that along with a few good men. Lewis makes one understand the importance of having Christians in the scholarly fields. It was men like Tolkien (and other less notable names) that showed him that a logic and faith CAN coexist. *I really loved Lewis's description of his conversion. He kept repeating how it was not an emotional experience, but a thoughtful choice. Emotions are fickle things, but a firm decision to follow Christ can never be underestimated. *I would have enjoyed hearing more about his later years. Ironically, he married a woman named Joy. Wouldn't that story have been a great tie-in with the title?
Okay...so it was warm and fuzzy and a little too happily ever after, but it was actually a little less predictable than I expected. A good feel-good r...moreOkay...so it was warm and fuzzy and a little too happily ever after, but it was actually a little less predictable than I expected. A good feel-good read for the holiday season.(less)
I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not.
Using in-depth exegesis of scripture in language for "the average guy," Idleman explores what it means to be a Christ-follower. He especially focuses on Jesus' invitation to take up our cross and die daily (Luke 9:23). Unlike other hot megachurch authors, Idleman does not presume to know what that means for each person. Sure, it could absolutely include moving to Burma, but it might also mean being visably "Christian" in your workplace or giving up things that divide our attention from God. There's no new message here--follow Christ whole-heartedly and be willing to sacrifice comforts if necessary--yet it is a message that often needs repeating in our modern world.
Bonus: Idleman is witty and has a gift for finding wonderful illustrations which, as most pastors will tell you, is not always an easy task.(less)
This book is primarily geared to those who work in ministry. At first it reads like a business management book, but shortly Stanley dives into scriptu...moreThis book is primarily geared to those who work in ministry. At first it reads like a business management book, but shortly Stanley dives into scripture, applying wisdom taken from the formation of the early church. While there are probably no new ideas in this book and plenty of good old fashioned "common sense," it still reminds leaders that they can't be all things to all people and to focus on the areas in which God has gifted them, allowing others to use their gifts to fill in the gaps. I would definitely recommend this book to others.(less)
Kay Warren recounts her decision to surrender to God (particularly for AIDS advocacy) despite her inadequacies and initial disinterest in doing so. Th...moreKay Warren recounts her decision to surrender to God (particularly for AIDS advocacy) despite her inadequacies and initial disinterest in doing so. This books challenges us to give in to God's leading even if it seems too big or illogical. I was surprised by this book--it was better than expected!(less)
While this book seems to focus on education within the church, it is based on John Milton Gregory's "The Seven Laws of the Teaching" which is very muc...moreWhile this book seems to focus on education within the church, it is based on John Milton Gregory's "The Seven Laws of the Teaching" which is very much emphasized in the school where I teach. Hendricks was very insightful and challenging while remaining lighthearted and humorous. He follows each of the seven "laws" and elaborates on them, giving practical applications and expelling the importance of each.
Though I read this book as part of my professional development as a school teacher, it should be required reading for Sunday school teachers. Why, Church, has Sunday School--our most important teaching time--become something that we don't take seriously? We need to be reminded that Christian education is IMPORTANT and act accordingly. (less)