Monday, May 9, 2011
I know this space is reserved for book reviews. I am quite aware that a DVD is not the same thing as a book, though the digitalization of our universe has blurred the edges of our nicely compartmentalized brains. However, I received a copy of Unplanned from a book publisher, and so the review belongs here, even if it does have to sit at the edge of the gym, watching all the other reviews dance together while secretly hoping for someone to just ask her to move to the music of this blog.
Unplanned is a brief (1hr) documentary. It is technically boring, mostly just shots of those speaking, with the occasional still of whatever setting is described. It is somewhat typical in its writing, without incredible nuances of the spoken word you might find in something by Michael Moore. But it does not need fancy effects or vocal excellence, because the story is enough.
The documentary tells the tale of 1 woman's journey from pro-life to pro-choice to leading one of the biggest Planned Parenthood clinics to changing her mind after actually seeing what happens in an abortion. The lead woman is the main speaker. It is produced by Focus on the Family.
If you know this much already and are hesitant to watch the film (as I was), I encourage you to pop it in your player. It is not at all what you would expect from Focus on the Family. Rather than being judgmental and derisive, this is the first voice in the abortion debate to view the opposite side as human.
The film does a wonderful job of capturing the complexity of the debate. it excels in asking the question "what is a loving way to respond to my opponents?". It never forgets that any person who has chosen abortion or supports an abortion is still, at their core, a beautiful creation made in God's image, and worthy of honor.
This film, more than any other voice in the debate, remembers that we are human. That abortion is difficult. That the debate is impassioned and important, but that Love is a better way. For that reason, I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
If you would like to win a copy of this dvd, simply comment on the post and a random winner will be chosen.
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this DVD from Tyndale, but was not required to give a positive review. Also posted on bookleenex.tumblr.com
via Joel Mayward
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Well there you have it folks, you heard it here first. This will be the final book review from this blog. You may or may not be wondering why I would kill off the last residue of consistent posting by doing this. Well there is a multitude of reasons, but I’m not going to share just yet. I will keep reviewing books, just not here. I won’t tell you where until I actually register the new site. Let’s just say that the title of the new page will make you smile. In the future, this blog will be used to focus on a new direction.
Booksneeze, a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers, sent me a book for a review. My review does not have to be positive. The most recent book I requested is called “time with God for Fathers”, by Jack Countryman. Fortunately for the book, I judge them largely by their covers. This hard-backed number has a nice finish, a sturdy binding, and best of all, an elastic place holder. Much more convenient than a traditional ribbon, this manly strap keeps pages where they need to be.
Unfortunately, that’s about the best thing I can say for the book. it’s a series of incredibly brief devotionals. Usually a small passage (2-3 verses), followed by a paragraph for reflection. While this makes it easy to breeze through the book, it leaves little substance behind. I have no qualms with the content of the book itself. In fact, about 1 out of every 5 devotions was quite insightful to me. The problem is that this book is not worth the 9.99 you will shell out to obtain it. The book ends with some indexes of verses for different situations, which I suppose is nice.
With a title like “time with God for Fathers”, you would think the book would help you spend more, not less time with God. These teeny devotions are not even long enough for a morning rest on the throne if you catch my meaning. If you don’t, I”m saying that a bathroom break will use up about 4 devotions if you’re quick.
Decent, not great content. Too short, excellent cover= 3 out of 5
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
For Booksneeze, I received a set of 3 Hermie & Friends DVDs. In return, I will review them without having to give a good review. Here’s what I’ve decided. In order for CG animation to be great, a few things are necessary:
1) keep it simple. Veggie tales pulls it off because there are no moving limbs. Hermie does not because it’s about centipedes, catipillars, spiders, and other multi-legged bugs.
2) keep it entertaining. Parent’s will be much more apt to watch a show that is at least mildly appealing to them (a la Shrek). Again, Hermie falls short. Don’t get me wrong, Buzz Bee’s singing gets stuck in your head like an icepick gets stuck in an eye socket.
3) have a decent message, but don’t try to get overly biblical when you’re message isn’t. Again, Hermie falls short. Recognize that most kids don’t need a lesson in sanctification, and so you don’t need to exposit Romans in cartoon form. Sometimes, good messages can be learned without the Bible.
4) Max Lucado is really funny. Show more of him interacting with the critters because that part fulfills all the above requirements, and is your strongest suit.
That being said, this dvd set teaches decent lessons. The colors are nice. The animation is simplistic and unmotivating. Very basic computer animation makes the set seem cheap, probably because there was no budget to make it good. Will it work as a temporary baby sitter? yes. Is it decent quality? yes. Would I recommend it as a curriculum or to friends? Not unless it’s free.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
New church presentation software is coming out soon called Proclaim and it’s located here http://proclaimonline.com. Unlike all other church presentation software systems, this one will allow pastors, worship leaders, and worship team members to all access and add to the same presentation before it’s presented, and then use the same application to run the presentation during the service.
<a href=“http://www.proclaimonline.com”> <img src=“http://www.proclaimonline.com/webads/v2/400x90.gif” /> </a>
To add to the excitement of the release of Proclaim, they are giving away $25,000 in worship resources in The Great Worship Resource Giveaway. They are going to have 100’s of winners of some of the best worship resources on the market. The giveaway is located on the Proclaim home page http://proclaimonline.com where you will see how to enter. You can also see all the prize partners there, listing out some great resources from companies like Planning Center Online, Graceway Media, Worship Leader Magazine, Centerline Media, Musicademy, Clover Sites, Christian Musician Summit, Luna Guitars, National Worship Leader Conference, and prizes from many more.
I’m excited about this new product Proclaim. You can see a video of the software on their site which gives a quick detail of how it will help worship leaders and ministry teams. Visit http://proclaimonline.com to see the video, and enter ‘The $25,000 Great Worship Resource Giveaway’.
Monday, February 14, 2011
“Getting Things Done”, by David Allen: Holy cow this book is a lifesaver. I have been a fan of the GTD method for some time now. Most computer nerds implement it in some way or another. I couldn’t make it work for me, though. The reason was that I was trying all the tools without the foundation. It is not an exagerration to say that this book has revolutionized the way I deal with commitments. For the first time in months, I feel in control of my workload (now I just have to work on perspective). If you constantly find yourself avoiding commtiments because you weren’t sure exactly what you had to do, this book will help. If you find yourself overwhelmed because you know exactly how much you have to do, it will help. If you look at the hundreds of piles of projects on your desk, this book will help.
Wait, that’s not true. The book won’t help at all. The information in the book, if practiced thoroughly will help. All I can say is that I am significantly less stressed as a result of getting everything out of my head and into my new system. I finished the book last night, but started implementing about a month ago, and have commented for fear that I may drop out. I’ve floundered, but now know how to get back on the horse.
Percy Jackson book 2: great story, in the style of an old epic tale. This book made me want to finish the series. 4 stars (still a little cliched writing).Percy Jackson book 3: mediochre. I still want to finish the series thanks to book 2, but this was a bit of a letdown, not sure why. Also, not a very good job of foreshadowing (or maybe too good), since the twists at the end were absolutely expected.
“Walls”, by Ryan Rush: This book was given to me by Tyndale publishers. Actually, I requested it. They sent a free copy, I review it in whatever way I see fit. Long story short, the book was dull. I couldn’t bring myself to finishing the third chapter. It seems like another stereotypical self-help book from a pastor. I appreciate the idea of the book (we build up walls between ourselves and others, including God). I agree that unhealthy boundaries are a primary cause of many problems. I agree that we have to tear down walls that block us off from others and God. But the book itself was just uncompelling. I suppose that if you are suffering from not feeling close to God, and can’t figure out what the wall is, it might help. I don’t know, I didn’t finish it. Think of the book as any other book from any other pastor about their personal “solution to people’s problems that’s worthy of a book since it grew my church big”. I wish Rush the best in his ministry, and think that the ministry itself would be helpful. The book, to me, was not.
“This Is Your Brain In Love”, Dr Earl Henslin: Another free book, this one from Thomas Nelson. Again, I get to review it however I want. So I will review it typing with only one hand. But seriously, I got this book for my wife. She saw the list of available booksneeze books, and said “hey, that sounds contagious”. Well, not actually, but you get the point. It was contagious.
I have read a lot of resources on Christian sexuality (which is not all that different form other’s sexuality it turns out). This is the first resource by a Christian that I have read that is based in neurophysiology. Instead of assuming that the problem is a lack of communication, the author shows you how your brain might be the cause of the problem (manifested in lacking communication). The author started as a family therapist, but realized the strategies he was taught didn’t work. he attended a seminar on brains, and had an epiphany. perhaps relational problems are the result of unhealthy brains.
He begins by describing a healthy relationship, with the best chapter every by any author on sexuality. In it, he basically says that Americans are dualistic and focus more on body parts than sexuality. We need to change. I agree. Then, he describes 5 common brain imbalances that cause tension in relationships: scattered, over-focused, blue mood, agitated, and anxious lovers. Turns out, I’m agitated. He also prescribes non-medicinal solutions to each brain type, with additional info for those who need medical help.
The best part? He never says “it’s not your fault”. He always says, “it’s harder for you because of your brain, but get over it and think right.” Predispositions are factors, but never solely responsible.
Finally, Henslin ends by describing some “best practices” for couples. Practical, honest, and simple enough to be acted on.
Any couple married more than 6 months could really learn from this book.
Note: all pictures were ripped off from amazon.com
Thursday, February 3, 2011
I like to keep current with teen trends. I like to read books. Ergo, I spend much time reading the books teens read. Also, they are a nice break from anything intellectually stimulating, much like Christian literature. here is my review on teenage fiction series (taken as a whole series):
- Chronicles of Narnia- the original pop fiction written by a Christian. Unlike most other children’s fiction, and most other Christian lit, this series is well-written. Great imagery, engaging story, approachable allegory. This series receives a big fat 6.5 meatballs, which on a meatball scale is enough to cover a footlong sandwich plus a half meatball (aka 11 on an amp).
- Harry Potter- the subtley Christian allegory wrapped in a demonic shell according to some. Writing: very good, not great. The story: excellent. The whole creep factor: minimal. This series has been rejected by most good Christians because it does refer to a few words people use in Wicca, but refers to them in meaningless ways. The whole “our children are all going to become witches” scare turned out to be nothing. The author, a searching Christian, at least cared enough about her story to have a point. 5.5 meatballs since someone took a bite out of your sub (rocking 9.5 on the amp scale).
- Twilight- bad writing, intriguing story if it weren’t for Edward and Bella. Teaches kids that you shouldn’t have sex . . . because you will die! Full of manipulative relationships, an excellent example to teens of how not to treat others. A big fat veggie sub (your amp remains unplugged)
- Percy Jackson- i’ve only read the first episode. It was good enough to read the second. Bad writing, but an exciting story. Probably more evil than Harry Potter if parents took the time to care since it’s all about, you know, false gods. Stereotypical teenage drama: kid doesn’t feel special. Kid learns he has a power. Kid feels special and saves the world by ignoring adults’ wisdom. Kid doesn’t learn lesson. Written like an action movie, at least the story goes somewhere. 3 meatballs (a quiet 2 on your amp while you warm up and practice).
- Eragon- I’m a total nerd so my score doesn’t really count. It’s clean, it’s exciting, it’s written by a kid. 5.5 meatballs because it has taken so long for book 4 to come out. Warning: he uses magic.
- Hunger games- I don’t know where to start on this one. Kind of creepy with teens killing each other. Amazing story. I can’t wait for the movies, but I know they will screw up the books. Great writing. The only downside is the whole teenage murder while adults watch aspect, which is downplayed. Subtle allegory for the astute reader. 6 meatballs because nothing is allowed to replace Chronicles. (10 on the amp scale, loud enough to play Squad Five-0’s “Rockin it, rockin it at the apocalypse. It’s rock and roll at the end of the world”)
Now, should teens read these books? That’s for parents to decide. Read it first, and then choose whether or not to let your teens read it. Don’t rely on other’s thoughts about the book until after you have read it. I will let Malachi read each of these series, depending on his age. I will also talk with him about what is in the books, the messages they teach, and how that should relate to his faith. Call me crazy, but sometimes engaging art is a worthwhile skill to learn, even if it’s not Christian. As a parent, it is YOUR responsibility to teach your kids to critically engage culture. Many will disagree with my decision, and I respect that. If you have questions about any series and who should or shouldn’t be allowed to read them, ask below.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
As part of my own personal full disclosure today, I thought I might mention to you that this post is unofficially sponsored by booksneeze. I hope some time soon to create a separate blog for just my booksneeze reviews, with an amazing title, but not today. Today I will briefly review “The Quotable Chesterton”.
G.K. Chesterton is one of those names Christians like to throw out as if we’ve actually read his books. Realistically, though, he was far too witty, intelligent, and sardonic for our palates. Instead, we need something accessible. Something with just enough content to be profound, just enough sarcasm to be scathing, and just enough wittiness to be unforgettable. “The Quotable Chesterton” is what you need.
Want to have something brilliant to add at you next family Dinner? Tired of being beaten with the wits of your aunts and uncles (you know who I’m talking about)? Grab this book, pick 5 quick quips, arm yourself, and steer the conversation towards those topics. The topics are unfathomably numerous (yes, the letter “Z” has an entry). Virtually any conversation can benefit from your quoting of Chesterton. you, too, can be your own intellectual savant.
Consider saving some of the best corollaries for common conversation. Be just funny enough to get laughs out of the intelligent bunch in the room, but too smart for the average listener. That’s what works best if you desire the Frasier Crane effect.
For late night parties, simply look up the quotes under “cheese”. Bound to receive a laugh or two.
Hundreds of quotes, dozens of topics, differing lengths, all organized alphabetically by topic. Great for creating sermons, or enlightening yourself. All without the hassel of actually reading the content. Spark notes for one of the most well-respected writers of this century. My only beef with the book: too many references to authors and thinkers of years past. Also, not much of a “front to back” read-through. I prefer the random page approach myself.
I received this book for free, so long as I reviewed it (it didn’t have to be positive, and i’m not sure if this review is positive or negative). i will be reviewing it over and over for myself. heck, it even caused me to order a chesterton book through the library. 5 stars.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
My most recent booksneeze revealed a slightly pinkish mucus with an astounding outer shell. “The Sacred Meal” by Nora Gallagher has my favorite cover of the Ancient Practices Series (edited by Phyllis Tickle). A nice dusty rose background punctuated by the antique image of an old chalice and bread. The wine in the cup is dark. Strikingly so. There is no doubt what this episode in an excellent series will describe.
Evidently, I do judge books by their covers.
Originally, i was going to go with “The Liturgical Year”, as it is the topic I am least familiar with. Then, I recognized the author of “The Sacred Meal”. Nora Gallagher is one of my favorite writers. She does not author books, but writes well. Anything she writes is worth reading simply for her skill. This book is excellently written, a series of stories about how communion has affected the writer. Nora brings the reader with her through her journeys into the sacred meal. That part of church which is so significant, so misunderstood, and yet so plain. Like Christianity’s founder, the plainness of communion is only skin deep. Inside that skin lies a mystery more complex than the recipient can imagine. No wonder people accused Jesus of teaching with authority.
The content itself is light on Scripture (which speaks infrequently of communion), heavy on story, and mixed in application. Unlike “The Sacred Journey”, which I adored for its challenges and inconsistencies, Gallagher chooses to view communion from a pluralistic view. That is, search traditions, find what is good, ignore the differences, and hope to speak to every reader in agreeable terms. I preferred “The Sacred Journey”.
Here are some quotes that describe the book’s main emphases:
“More than any other practice, taking Communion forces us to be with others, to stand with them in a circle or kneel at the altar rail or pass a tray of grape juice and cubes of bread. We are forced to be with strangers and people we don’t like, persons of different colors and those with bad breath or breathing cheap alcohol. It forces “them” to be with “us” and us to be with them. (p12)”
“Do this to remember me. Do this to remember who you were with me. Do this to remember who you are (p. 24)”
“A practice is meant to connect you with what is deeply alive, to stir in you the same kind of aliveness that the disciples of Jesus must have felt around Him (25).”
“The first time I served, I felt as if I were walking on quicksand. I lived in fear of spilling. And once, I served a young man in a nice tan T-shirt and I poured the blood of CHrist all down his front. We stared at each other for a second, and then I had to move on. In the sacristy afterward I whispered to a priest, “I spilled wine all over this guy.” He paused while wiping off a paten, looked thoughtful, and replied, “That’s too bad. I guess we’ll have to burn him (63-64).”
“While any ritual can be reduced to magic, just about all of them contain an element of something that is deeply meaningful and human: the element of thanksgiving (77)”.
The last quote is derived from a masterful chapter, #7- Eating and Thanksgiving. However, the rest of the book is good, not great. Perhaps I approached it with too great of an expectation. My fascination with communion has lasted my entire life, and is one of the only things I remember from the Catholic church. This book may be helpful to the neophyte, but for most is just a reminder of what happens when we feast together. 3 of 5 stars.