Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis traces the disparities of the haves and have-nots in what is becoming the land of opportunity oRobert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis traces the disparities of the haves and have-nots in what is becoming the land of opportunity only for the privileged. Taking core samples of data and interviews across the nation, the inequalities of socioeconomics are most easily reduced to the highest level of education achieved by individuals and their parents. Essentially, two classes emerge, one whose families generally reach a high school education at best, and one whose families traditionally attain degrees in higher education as a matter of course. All the charts showing these two classes show a striking “scissors” effect, where in every area, one strata of society are facing ever-worsening results in education, employment, and family structure; while the other half of the population enjoy ever-improving opportunities in all corresponding areas. Segregation of poor and rich sides of town, no longer by race but instead by class, removes many of the social connections that keep thriving communities afloat, while the rich side of town can afford to finance their own school budgets, health care, etc. Deficits in public spending marginalize those who have no other alternatives to their local education, medical care, family welfare support, libraries, and so many other social services. Most debilitating of all, though, is that our nation no longer sees all kids as “our kids,” but only those of people we know, leaving a whole generation to fend for itself. Putnam, like so many others, attempts to root out the causes of the rapidly growing divide, such as school culture, community culture and parenting practices; and finding practical, holistic and sustainable solutions....more
For those who wish to prove, or perhaps disprove, once and for all the claims of this famous Jesus fellow, The Case for Christ for Kids, by Lee StrobeFor those who wish to prove, or perhaps disprove, once and for all the claims of this famous Jesus fellow, The Case for Christ for Kids, by Lee Strobel and Rob Suggs, presents a, erm, body of evidence for those who wish to put their faith or the faith of others to the test. Looking at historical documents, witnesses, hoax theories, they use standard court evidence procedures to weigh disparities in perspective and consistency, as well as delve into theories of hoaxes, conspiracy, and hallucinations. After all, lots of megalomaniacs have claimed to be God over the millennia, and we have called them all nutcases except for this one. What makes this guy believable, and why has he had such a large impact on humanity? Wonderfully conversational, it can be read aloud as a devotional to your family or youth group, or even just to yourself, as a means to solve this mystery of a Savior on a cross....more
Belief in a Creator of the universe does not require one’s brain to exit the room. In Case for a Creator for Kids, acclaimed author Lee Strobel (withBelief in a Creator of the universe does not require one’s brain to exit the room. In Case for a Creator for Kids, acclaimed author Lee Strobel (with Rob Suggs) shows how logic plays a vital role in the understanding of one’s faith in an Intelligent Designer. Written conversationally enough to read aloud to your family or perhaps your church’s youth group, Strobel and Suggs define and use the scientific process in evaluating current theories, comparing them to Scriptural explanations and laying out a case reminiscent of a court proceeding. Introducing the concepts of energy, vacuums, natural laws, irreducible complexity, biochemistry, genetics, infinity, odds, coincidences, and principles such as Anthropic Principle and the Kalam Argument, this study would be a wonderful boost to science class in homeschool settings, but is certainly an enjoyable refresher for any person of any age who wishes to put faith in a Creator to the test....more
They are short. Their feet are hairy. They drink a lot of beer. Most of them are simple farmers who enjoy a good fireworks show. Nevertheless, the hobThey are short. Their feet are hairy. They drink a lot of beer. Most of them are simple farmers who enjoy a good fireworks show. Nevertheless, the hobbits of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy save their world and earn the most honored place among the splendid wizards and kings in their Fellowship. Likewise, their counterparts, the Pevensie children, are the heroes who save Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. While Tolkien’s and Lewis’ protagonists are not formally trained for grand battles, nor do they necessarily even know how to leave their home town, they dare to embark on adventures that transform them along the way. The lowly becomes extraordinary, and humble servant becomes hero. We relate to their ordinariness, and we long to fall into such a transformative tale ourselves.
On the Shoulders of Hobbits, by Louis Markos, studies in-depth these universal longings that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien capture in their masterful fairy tales which reveal a truth beyond our seen world. Though we are told daily that we are just evolved meat, these literary prophets dare to unveil a higher Call on our lives, and a Road we must walk, as exemplified by little Frodo and the Pevensie children--even doomed Gollum. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we already are on such a journey.
If Lewis and Tolkien’s robust characters reflect the best and worst of our own hearts, holding up a mirror to our own inner selves, we must take either warning from the haughty ugliness seen there, or accept encouragement from the humble nobility lent us from Elsewhere—or perhaps a little of both. We must fight against the barrier of unbelief that makes the ordinary something to be taken for granted, and we must choose to be either a willing or an unwilling participant in a story that is much greater than ourselves. ...more
In Anne Lamott’s memoir of her ongoing faith journey, Traveling Mercies, we find a friend who is deeply imperfect but willing to let the God of the unIn Anne Lamott’s memoir of her ongoing faith journey, Traveling Mercies, we find a friend who is deeply imperfect but willing to let the God of the universe speak to her through broken down cars, the death of loved ones, raging addictions, bad traffic and the general soul-killing mud of life. After crafting herself “a patchwork God, sewn together from bits of rag and ribbon, Eastern and Western, pagan and Hebrew, everything but the kitchen sink and Jesus,” Anne eventually meets a Christian, a priest even, that she can tolerate long enough to have a meaningful conversation. After she implores him for the explanation for his faith, he replies that Christianity is like realizing you are on a shelf in the pawnshop of the universe, dirty, forgotten, with a price tag so faded as to be unreadable. Then Jesus himself comes into the shop, and not only buys us but takes our place so we can walk free indeed.
Perhaps you’ve heard it before: God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way. To some, this may seem an insult. To Anne Lamott, me, and the millions who have flocked to Jesus for His forgiveness and transformative redemption, this news is nothing less than the miracle we have been seeking our entire lives. A priest friend of hers summed up the faith journey as “having a commitment to—or at least an acceptance of—being ineffective and foolish;” while her young son’s wisdom asserts, “I think I already understand about life: pretty good, some problems.”
So much hard-fought wisdom nestles in these comforting and challenging pages, including the Dalai Lama’s explanation of bad things occurring in clusters, Persian mystic Rumi’s treasures in ruins, the softness and illumination of grief, the widow’s bags of dimes, living a disease-threatening life, and remembering that Jesus is the donkey on the wall. ...more
You already have everything you need. This is Ann Voskamp’s message in One Thousand Gifts, her journal of her own journey to joy in the midst of the sYou already have everything you need. This is Ann Voskamp’s message in One Thousand Gifts, her journal of her own journey to joy in the midst of the seriously mundane. As a farmer’s wife and homeschooling mother of six tumbling, bumbling wee ones, she—like all of us—can struggle with feeling lost in a sea of dishes, laundry, sibling squabbles and dust. A nagging sense that there might be more out there somewhere beyond the life we lead, whatever ours may be, robs us of joy in the very midst of the treasure God has bestowed on us. Ann’s challenge is to document the hundreds and thousands of very specific blessings of our lives, and watch with wonder as gratitude replaces fear, hope trumps stress, and our dreams open right before our newly opened eyes....more
Jim Ware’s God of the Fairy Tale is none other than a God who turns the world upside-down and inside-out through a looking glass of faith. The universJim Ware’s God of the Fairy Tale is none other than a God who turns the world upside-down and inside-out through a looking glass of faith. The universal allure of fairy tales across all cultures and millennia speaks to a yearning for a hidden, but sure, realm of reality. Do we dare to believe that there is more than the human eye can see, that there truly is a hidden world of the spirit? Dive into these retellings of familiar stories and open your eyes to the goodness and promise we have all suspected and eagerly sought to recreate in our myths, legends and fantasy literature. Perhaps the stories are all true....more
Kevin Harney, pastor, author and consultant, equips stagnant churches worldwide to become havens of vibrant outreach and growth. With strategies thatKevin Harney, pastor, author and consultant, equips stagnant churches worldwide to become havens of vibrant outreach and growth. With strategies that easily translate into the basic tenants of a happy and friend-filled life, Harney encourages Jesus followers to shake off the corporate habits of inwardly-focused organizations and make outreach more than a mere slice of the annual budget, centralizing instead as the common goal of every separate ministry. For outreach to become sustainable, more like a marathon than a sprint, participants must be able to pace themselves to continue without giving up and must train regularly in order to stay in shape. By changing habits of negativism and replacing them with prayer and innovation; by taking things it already does well and turning these outward into the community; and budgeting outrageously for its money, time and resources toward people who are spiritually disconnected, the Church’s temperature for outreach, or “love quotient,” will heat up and become a blessing to the world....more
David Dark’s name defies his mission: to bring to light that which is hidden. In his densely intellectual address of truth revealed in such pop culturDavid Dark’s name defies his mission: to bring to light that which is hidden. In his densely intellectual address of truth revealed in such pop culture icons as Beck, Radiohead, Homer Simpson, Coen brothers movies and more, he not only opens eyes to beauty cleverly—and purposely—hidden among seemingly mundane entertainments, but he also more aptly defines the very word apocalypse itself. Having come from the Middle English word for revelation, it is not always the cataclysmic end of the world commonly associated with Christianity. It is at its very core the opening of doors into the unseen world of spirit and heart for all who are willing, like Neo of the Matrix, to see a reality that might prove horribly inconvenient. He challenges us to allow ourselves to be moved by the weird and the irreverent to, well, reverence. It’s a paradox, but apparently this method of prophetic teaching has worked for millennia, and he contends that everything, when seen with an artist’s eyes, can contain the devastating beauty of a single sparrow, the self-deprecating humor of our own attempts at goodness, and ultimately the intense hope behind every atom in existence. Not a passive read, this thesis will require the use of all your college education for its Dickensian sentence structure and delightfully underutilized words (salvific, datum, etc), which collectively enforce a slow processing that shakes readers awake from the “desensitizing madness” that embezzles our souls. Beware: you may choose the red over the blue pill after all. Or perhaps you already have.
‘“Propaganda [works] because we want it to. This is one of the few real pleasures left to modern man: this illusion that he is thinking for himself when, in fact, someone else is doing his thinking for him.” --Thomas Merton’ ...more
Amy Clipston’s A Plain & Simple Christmas continues her series of life from the perspective of a young woman who has left the Amish faith of her cAmy Clipston’s A Plain & Simple Christmas continues her series of life from the perspective of a young woman who has left the Amish faith of her childhood. After three years married to the man of her dreams, a hardworking Christian man who adores and supports her as she learns this new way of life, they are finally expecting their first child. Though elated in their anticipation of his or her arrival in the New Year, babies, or “bopplin” in her native Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, bring back bittersweet memories of the family and tight-knit community she was forced to leave behind due to the shunning. With Christmas approaching, she senses that she should go back home and face the unresolved pain of severed relationships, especially to her stern and religious father. A baby needs to know his freindschaft, or family, after all. Will her father allow her to come for a Christmas visit, the first time she would see her family since getting married, and most importantly, will he be able to forgive her for causing so much pain to her family? A quick and simple read, this little dumpling of a book is armchair travel into Lancaster County, Pennsylvania at its best....more
Musing on the childhood faith he left behind, as well as the teachings of starkly different traditions from his own, in Have a Little Faith, Mitch AlbMusing on the childhood faith he left behind, as well as the teachings of starkly different traditions from his own, in Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom shows that we are all on a journey to find “comfort, love and a peaceful heart.” The good news, as it has always been, is that the secret to achieving all that we need and desire is neither profound nor earth-shattering, but it often takes the most dire of circumstances to enable us to embrace it. Though pain is an admittedly efficient teacher, wouldn’t you rather just learn at the knee of a darling 90-year-old Jewish Rabbi? Or his unlikely compatriot at arms, a former gang member and criminal serving the poorest of the poor in downtown Detroit? Whatever your faith tradition, or lack thereof, you may find in these journals that “there is something beautiful to learn, and it doesn’t bite you and it doesn’t weaken you, it only proves a divine spark lies inside each of us, and that spark may one day save the world.”...more
“Whatever mistakes her son might make in life, Cindy was sure God would have mercy on him. The church, she feared, might not.”
As a member of both the“Whatever mistakes her son might make in life, Cindy was sure God would have mercy on him. The church, she feared, might not.”
As a member of both the evangelical Christian and Same Sex Attraction communities, author Justin Lee provides facts and perspective that may be able to bring these bitter political enemies into the same camp. Whether we believe, as Lee’s research has shown, that same-sex relations in the Bible were either temple idol-worship or ritualistic hostility to outsiders--obvious cultural taboos contrary to the morality of the Old Testament , but bearing no resemblance to a consensual, loving and committed relationship in marriage--those who value the life and love of Jesus owe it to themselves and their communities to hear all sides of the issue. While some issues are Biblically inscrutable, we know with certainty that Jesus himself condemned those who would use God for their own purposes of alienating and exploiting others. We must trust His ability to bridge this divide. ...more
Author/pastor David Platt is not afraid to ruffle readers’ feathers as he challenges the modern interpretation of having it all in Radical: Taking BacAuthor/pastor David Platt is not afraid to ruffle readers’ feathers as he challenges the modern interpretation of having it all in Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Depression, addiction, crime and suicide are perpetually on the rise despite our jumbo flat screen TVs, expensive vacations and luxury SUVs. Clearly what Thomas Jefferson described as the pursuit of happiness had much more than our current culture of acquisition in mind, and Platt says that those who follow Christ should know better. He contrasts typical American church attenders with Christ—an essentially homeless man who lived his life as a self-sacrificial servant to the most helpless of society—claiming that if His followers were really like him, as the term Christian implies, their lives would look a lot more like his. If we claim his name on our lives, the goal of our days should not be to DVR a favorite show or make sure that our face is prominent on social media newsfeeds. Platt proposes that if we have settled for this kind of hollow living, we haven’t made God’s priorities our priorities, and we are probably miserable as a result.
So how do we take back our lives from a spirit-draining society? See to the needs of the world. Show God’s great love to spiritually lost people and teach them to do the same. Replace the spiritual checklists with genuine compassion with skin on to those who are dirty, poor, sick and unloved—and don’t do it for accolades. And most of all, “live in such a way that we are radically dependent on and desperate for the power that only God can provide.” We accomplish exponentially more dependent on Him than we ever could with our well-meaning and well-planned strategies. Even if we suffer for faith-filled efforts, Jesus promises us a life that is full to over-flowing. ...more
“For fast-acting relief from stress, try slowing down.”—Lily Tomlin
During the Industrial Revolution, philosophers predicted those in our century woul “For fast-acting relief from stress, try slowing down.”—Lily Tomlin
During the Industrial Revolution, philosophers predicted those in our century would be bored out of our mind due to all the work being done by machines. Why is it, then, that we see to have even less free time than ever, with resulting stress quite literally eating our lunch and causing all manner of havoc with our health and psyches? Carl Honore explores this issue in depth in In Praise of Slowness, helping us reevaluate the pace at which we approach all of life’s opportunities. Since we can’t really have it all, we need to choose quality over quantity of activities and connections; do less in more time; choose mindfulness in each moment; and enjoy life rather than speed through it to scratch it off our list.
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” –Ghandi ...more