Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review of Feasting on the Word: Advent Companion

Feasting on the Word Advent Companion  -     Edited By: David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor, Kimberly Bracken Long
    By: Edited by D.L. Bartlett, B.B. Taylor & K.B. Long

by David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Kimberly Bracken Long
ISBN 978-0-664-25964-8
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Feasting on the Word: Advent Companion is such a nice resource for pastors to have. For many of us, it will save us a lot of work during the holiday season. Furthermore, the Advent Companion puts several different resources right at a worship leader, teacher, or pastor's finger tips. Included in this book are four worship services designed to use during the four Sundays of Advent. There are also four midweek studies. There is also a service provided for a "darkest night" services that uses the Psalms to speak to many people's profound sense of loss, brokenness and sadness during the Advent season.  There are also a few Eucharistic resources for Advent and Christmas in the back of the book.
Each Sunday also has a rather extensive preaching commentary that follows the pattern of the Feasting on the Word resources, sharing homiletical, pastoral, theological, and exegetical perspectives on each of the passages chosen.

What is surprising to many with this resource is that it does not strictly follow the Revised Common Lectionary, as many of the Feasting on the Word resources do. Instead it just offers one service for each Sunday of Advent. Perhaps this is because much of the groundwork of pure lectionary-based services has already been laid with their commentaries and worship companions. This is a great resource, however, for busy pastors leading a church through a busy season, and a resource I would recommend to any church that is in the least bit liturgical.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review of She Calls Me Daddy by Robert Wolgemuth

She Calls Me Daddy: 7 Things You Need to Know about Building a Complete Daughter
by Robert Wolgemuth
ISBN 978-1-58997-785-3
Focus on the Family Imprint
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This fine book is a reprint of an old favorite. She Calls Me Daddy is a practical, winsome guide to parenting daughters. Very conversational in style, Wolgemuth focuses on some vision and values for establishing yourself as a father that can raise healthy girls. Full of first person stories and helpful illustrations of both successes and failures of the author, the book is not only informative it is entertaining.

In this addition, I appreciated the section on non-traditional parenting such as single parenting, step parenting, and non-custodial fatherhood. It shows that the author is seeking to be in touch with the experiences that many men are going through in our culture that is rife with divorce and deadbeat dads.

This book was reprinted because it is a nice read and it has also proved to be helpful for Christian men who want to be good parents of girls for over a generation. I recommend picking up this book right away.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Review of Not A Silent Night by Adam Hamilton

Not A Silent Night: Mary Looks Back to Bethlehem
by Adam Hamilton
ISBN 978-1-4267-7184-2
Abingdon Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Designed to partner with a video series if desired, Not A Silent Night is a brief, accessible study of the Advent and Christmas story through the eyes of Mary.

In this study Adam Hamilton takes a unique approach. Working back in time through Scriptural references about the life of Mary, Hamilton begins with the cross and the resurrection and works back to the manger. In doing so, he gives us a unique perspective about the purpose and meaning of Jesus' birth before we get to celebrating it.

His study, through the eyes of Mary awakens us to a new kind of beauty involving what happened. A beauty that redemptive, well-acquainted with suffering, and at the same time powerfully simple and strong.

Grab this book. And if you are a pastor, plan on teaching through what is in this book at some time in the future.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Book Review of Mercy and Melons by Lisa Hickman

Mercy & Melons: Praying the Alphabet
Lisa Nichols Hickman
Abingdon Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This is a wonderful, feel good book on being thankful and counting your blessings.

When I was a youth pastor, I used to use a little game to teach gratitude. I would put the kids in a circle, and I would have them pray through the alphabet, finding things to be thankful for with each letter of the alphabet. That is exactly what this book does, only with more beauty and depth.

In Mercy and Melons the author reflects on two things that she is grateful for with each letter of the alphabet. Each chapter, much like the cover drawing above, has beautiful calligraphy and illustrations that gives a visual for each thought. It is a fast read, and a good one.

This book would be a great collection of devotions for folks that need to lead meetings with devotions. It would keep the meeting positive and move it forward.

Book Review of The Daniel Plan by Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, and Mark Hyman

The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life
by Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, and Mark Hyman
ISBN 978-0-310-34429-2
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Rick Warren is a well-known author, pastor, and Christian leader. He was beloved for being a normal guy who was also a pastor. The kind of guy that for several years loved to wear beach shirts and flip-flops to work, who preached straight-forward sermons, who at one point said that Mastercard saved his marriage, and was a little bit portly.

One day, after a mass baptism, he came to the conclusion that he needed to do something to help him get healthier, and he invited his friends at Saddleback Church to join him on the journey. He brought in some leading health experts, and developed with them what became known as the Daniel Plan, a health journey that combines some biblical principles on caring for one's body with some sound science and dietary wisdom.

The Daniel Plan as a book lays out the plan to begin a journey toward healthier living. Included are calls to eat better, to care for one's body through exercise and fitness, to find social support for healthier living as well as personal and emotional growth, and a challenge to grow deeper in faith disciplines. Also included in the book is a meal plan, a detox guide, and more.

I think this book has some solid advice for more disciplined living. My only struggle is that I have an aversion for overcommercialized trends, especially in the realm of Christian discipleship and marketing. Nonetheless, a great book and perhaps a fun community activity in churches for a season such as Lent.

Book Review of I Like Giving by Brad Formsma

I Like Giving: The Transforming Power of a Generous Life
by Brad Formsma
ISBN 978-1-60142-575-1
Waterbrook Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I picked up this book as part of my ongoing study on stewardship. One of the most most "invested" teams in our congregation right now is our stewardship team. They are studying what stewardship is all about, they are seeing the value of generosity, and they are trying to teach our church the importance and value of generous giving.

Brad Formsma may the most passionate, contagious advocate for being generous that I have ever read. He is simply passionate about giving. Especially when that giving goes toward the kind of things that allows lives to be transformed and relationships to grow.

I Like Giving begins with Brad sharing about his giving journey, and about how learning about, participating in, and advocating for the spiritual discipline of generosity has changed his life. It then begins to share about how giving works, different ways persons can live generosity, and how that generosity can form one's entire life.

I Like Giving is also a website which produces videos and shares stories of other people's giving stories. Some of the stories will move you to tears.

The only drawback for this book for my purposes (and most likely not a drawback for others) is that it proved to be relatively unhelpful in encouraging people to tithe to their local church, which is part of what I was looking for.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Reflections on 10 years of blogging: Networking

Once I started blogging, it was not very long before I discovered that writing a weblog was a wonderful tool for networking. In early 2005, MySpace was just getting off of the ground, Facebook would not launch publicly for another two years, and Twitter was a glimmer in some techie's eye.

Networking happened in a number of ways for me in my blogging journey:

Professional Networking

One of the things I discovered through my blog is that I could connect to a number of ministry leaders and colleagues that also had blogs. We could have dialogue on certain issues about important matters. It was wonderful to have personal access to people with whom I might have never been able to have a conversation with otherwise. Authors personally asked me to review their books.

Also, there were influential community thought leaders throughout Colorado Springs that I was also able to connect with through my blog. This led to some interesting conversations with folks that I would have never had a chance to talk about my faith with otherwise. It also led to some stellar social invitations.

Social Networking

In my early blogging days, social networking happened in a couple of ways. One way to social network was through what I would call "blog-surfing". By this I mean that one could press a "next-blog" button on the top of one's blog, and surf from blog to blog all over the world. If a person had similar or shared interests, or said something interesting, you just left a comment on their blog and invited them to visit yours if they wished.

Also, once I started blogging, I had several friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends that began to blog. I met some neat people this way. For instance, I met Robin Moser, who turned me on to Red Dirt Country music, which I still enjoy. I also, through a happy accident, met someone who turned out to be related to some good friends of mine through Sterling, KS.

Some people from these blogs I keep track of  through Social Facebook today. Folks such as an artist/author in Austin, a stay at home mom that moved to Las Vegas, A businessman and thinker from Auckland, a working mother from El Paso, and a pet owner from Southern California, and a musician that now lives up in the Northwest.

The blog allowed me to talk about my ideas, my life, and my faith with seminarians and atheists, Muslims from Pakistan and missionaries in Africa. It was a great time for diverse conversations with Northern European fundamentalist Christians, African_American women from the South, homosexuals and homophobes, bestselling authors and people were afraid to get out of the house.
It was the hey-day of blogging as far as I was concerned.

Reflections on 10 years of Blogging: A New Beginning

I began blogging on December 7. 2004. For the next couple of weeks I am going to reflect on my blogging experience, and perhaps offer ideas about how my blog may evolve into the future.

Friar Tuck's Fleeting Thoughts was born after I had been at Colorado Springs for about 15 months. After serving at First Baptist Church of Colorado Springs. I was, for a number of reasons, feeling more and more isolated and lonely in my life and in my ministry. I felt trapped in my work. I felt stuck in my career. I was single. I did not have many hobbies, and I had always dreamed of being a writer.

I remember when I wrote my first post on my blog. It was intoxicating. It was like seeing my name in print. I had my own free website. I had the opportunity to form my own voice, to practice writing, and to share my thoughts with others. 

When I started blogging, my writing had several purposes:

Recording my thoughts and insights somewhere permanent, so that they would not get away from me.
I had this habit of reading something, and forgetting what I had read. I would think of things, but then forget what I was thinking about soon after I did so. The blog was a way of keeping track of those insights that came to mind, especially if I thought they would be helpful or useful later. So, the title became Friar Tuck's Fleeting Thoughts.

Strengthening my writing skill
I have wanted to be a writer since I was a child. And, if I was not a pastor I might have tried to be some sort of journalist. I still dream of writing books, being an academic, or something else that will allow me to read and write.

To develop a feedback loop for ministry thoughts and ideas
I was often thinking about theological and ministry matters, but had no way of having any sort of conversation about such things. Putting something down in writing and letting people respond gave me a forum to get the feedback I needed.

Developing a scrapbook of sorts of pictures and old writing I had done
I did not want to lose track of the writing I had done, and some of the sermons and articles I had written. This had happened in the past when computers crashed, so I began to assemble pictures and writing from the past on this blog as well.

Quote collection
I have always loved quotes. The blog would be a place to collect quotes and links to writing I appreciated.

And so I began to write and share, Many of the above goals were met. However, I had no idea how my blog was going to evolve and my experience with blogging was going to grow in the years to come

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review of John Knox for Armchair Theologians

John Knox for Armchair Theologians
by Suzanne McDonald (Illustrations by Ron Hill)
ISBN 978-0-664-23669-4
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I have been very interested in Calvin and in Reformed Theology for quite a while now. However, I have learned very little about the development of the Reformed Movement in Scotland and the rise of Presbyterianism in the British Isles. Thus, I found this John Knox for Armchair Theologians helpful and informative. The illustrations entertained me, and the reading was both instructive and easily accessible.

John Knox was a complex figure, and this book captures his complexity. Whether it is trying to discern his level of influence in the confessions and order of the early Presbyterians in Scotland, or discussing his marital history, McDonald does a good job at describing the importance of Knox while cutting through myth and controversy and getting down to business with real history and theological issues.

McDonald also does a great job at presenting the information in an orderly manner. Some of the "Armchair books" read more like monographs, bouncing around from issue to issue. This book has a logical and easy to follow progression that tells the story of Knox's life through his beliefs and his actions.

Book Review of Calvin's Theology and It's Reception edited by J. Todd Billings and I. John Hesselink

Calvin's Theology and Its Reception: Disputes, Developments, and New Possibilities 
edited by J. Todd Billings and I. John Hesselink
ISBN 978-0-664-23423-2
Westminster John Knox Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Calvin's Theology and Its Reception is a unique book of theological scholarship that will be used by people from all sorts of theological backgrounds from years to come. Including both conservative Reformed voices and well as voices that love Calvin and his theology which would be considered more mainline, this short paperback monograph packs a big punch in a fairly brief package.

Another thing that is very helpful about this book is the systematic way it is organized.  Each section has a few articles. Topics covered include: Scripture and Revelation, Union with God, Election, the Lord's Supper, and the church in society. Each section includes both reflection on the historic as well as the contemporary implications of different aspects of Calvin's theology. Of particular interest to many who, like me, are interested in matters of spiritual formation, will be the discussion of Union with Christ by J. Todd Billings and Michael Horton.

Having lauded this book for its diversity, I must also say this: at least have of the scholars that are writing in this book are from institutions in western Michigan. Nevertheless, this is a fine book, and would be great for a class on Calvin or a discussion group of Reformed pastors of any stripe.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys by Robert C. Dykstra, Allan Hugh Cole Jr., and Donald Capps

The Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys
by Robert C. Dykstra, Allan Hugh Cole Jr., and Donald Capps
ISBN 978-0-664-23340-2
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Faith and Friendships of Teenage Boys is a short book put out by Westminster John Knox about the relationships of adolescent boys. The book is very therapeutic in its approach, with some references as well to how to relate and pass on the Christian faith to teen boys in the church.

This book is well researched and well documented. It is both accessible and intelligent, and will have much to offer to pastors, youth pastors, teachers, and parents of teens as well. Central to this book is that healthy identity formation for adolescents, including adolescent boys, takes place in the context of relationships. This is an important insight. Many youth leaders in churches are strongly geared toward relational ministry with teens, but have a harder time equipping teens to relate well to one another.

Also, a lot of attention has been paid to the dynamics of adolescent girls relationships with one another, including their structure, as well as the benefits and pitfalls of those relationships. Less attention has been paid to how boys relationships are structured, and how the social structures of adolescent boys can either be life-giving or destructive. (Most often boys have experience with both kinds of relationships).

I would recommend that youth leaders and pastors at least skim this book if they have any interest in either healthy spiritual formation or identity formation for adolescent boys.

Book Review of Violence In Scripture by Jerome F. D. Creach

Violence In Scripture
Interpretation Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church
ISBN 978-0-664-23145-3
by Jerome F.D. Creach
WJK Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

Violence In Scripture is part of the resources provided by Westminster John Knox Press and the Interpretation Series. To begin with, Interpretation put out a series of Bible commentaries directed at preachers and bible teachers. These commentaries are very practical and well respected. After finishing the Bible commentaries, the Interpretation folks began to take on the study of themes in Scripture, of which this work is a part.

Violence In Scripture takes on the issue of how the Bible deals with violent behavior, as the title indicates. It attacks this issue sequentially, moving through the narrative of Scripture from the Patriarchs, through the Pentateuch, in Hebrew history and through the Prophets, moving forward into the New Testament. The Psalms are also employed in this study.

The work in this commentary/study is smart, thoughtful, and even handed. Jerome F. D. Creach definitely has a perspective, but his perspective does not cloud him from being fair-minded and taking on the difficult issues regarding violence and discussing them with intelligence and integrity. I love how it is outlined, and the thoroughness of this fine work.

I will add this book to my library, and use it right along with my other books on war, peace, and violence in discerning God's will on such issues.