About two months ago, Zondervan sent me some more books to review. Since I am addicted to reading books (no matter the quality as you soon will see), i accepted. Of course, there is a caveat. I am supposed to post my impressions of the books. Unfortunately, thus far, Zondervan has received more critical reviews than those celebrating the works from me. This last set of books is no different.
Grace Notes: by Philip Yancey
This book was decent. It is a collection of essays, readings, and excerpts of Yancey’s other books. I don’t have a big beef with any of the content I read, but the vast majority of the sections are de-contextualized. That is, some essays refer to previous chapters even though those chapters aren’t in the collection. For the Yancey fan, this is a decent buy, and I did greatly enjoy about 15% of the writings. About 70%% were mediochre to decent. 10% were so decontextualized as to remove all meaning from the reading, and the last 5% were wretched. All in all, this is a good toilet book/ devotional. And calling it a toilet book is not bad, just indicative of the amount of time it takes to read a section. 2.5 out of five stars
Learning my Name: by Peter Gall
This is one man’s personal story of encountering God and realizing God loves him, no matter how poorly Gall views himself. I understand the point, but thought the writing was pretty bad, overall. In attempting to be a poetic writer (and succeeding in being an apoetic writer), Gall ignores most every biblical basis for his thoughts/beliefs. Just one example: in describing God’s desire for intimacy with us, Gall writes that God desperately wants to run his little finger down our chest like a lover. Nevermind the fact the Bible never uses Erotic love to describe God’s love for us (unless you are one of those folks who believes Song of Solomon is only about us and God rather than a description of how our relationships with others ought to be). One out of five stars
The Best Idea in the World: by Mark Greene
This was the best of the books given to me. It was the only one that actually challenged me to think outside my preconceived notions of religion in general and Christianity in particular. The central premise is that relationships are the basis of meaningful life, especially life with God. Using the Jesus Creed: love God, love others, Greene argues that every decision we make in life, including which microwave to buy has profound influence on our relationships with others, which influences our relationship with God. It’s sort of a Christianized version of the butterfly effect. Great writing, excellent personal examples, and the first unique Christian literature I’ve read in some time. I strongly recommend this resource to those who realize there is something more to life than just following the rules, and are looking for a language to describe their internal predicament. Four stars.
The Return of the Prodigal Son: Henri Nouwen
This book was given to me as a gift by Shawna Smith, who first heard about it from her son, who needed it as required reading for a course. Henri Nouwen is a spiritual life guru, and a Catholic priest. Here is an example of just how much protestants can learn from our spiritual fore-runners. Like it our not, the Catholic church still has a corner on the market in spiritual formation imo. This book is a combination of reflections on the parable of the prodigal son, and Rembrandts depiction of said parable. Deeply personal (but not sexual like Gall’s book), incredibly insightful, and by far the most well-rounded approach to the prodigal son for the average reader. Another great book worthy of a read. Five stars.
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