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juxtaposed-finding-sanctuary-on-outside-daisy-rain-martin-paperback-cover-art1Juxtaposed is a well-told memoir of a sexual abuse survivor. Despite being abused by her stepfather, a minister in the church, Daisy Rain Martin still believes in God. She won’t tell you how or why, really, just that it’s a part of who she is. Martin isn’t here to tell anyone how to survive, how to get out, or how to deal with the aftermath. She just tells her own story.

I’m not an abuse survivor, so I can’t particularly relate to that subject, but I do recognize good storytelling, and I’m sure there are many others who can relate.

I got a free PDF of this book for blogging purposes, but I liked the first chapters so well that I paid for the actual ebook so I could finish reading it on my phone (which is where I seem to do most of my reading now).

I also told my husband that this book could have been written specifically for him. And then he read it and agreed!

Being Jesus In Nashville started off as a bit of a gimmick – Jim Palmer was going to do a modern version of In His Steps, the 19th century classic that first asked, “What Would Jesus Do?” He was going to apply the question to his own life and write about his experiences. Simple enough, right?

But it turned into a book that his publisher declared “outside the bounds of biblical, orthodox Christianity.” And he suddenly found himself without a publisher. So this book is now self-published.

What happened? It’s hard to explain quickly – but really, it’s right there in the title. Jim asks whether a person, like himself, can BE Jesus. Not just be LIKE Jesus — BE Jesus. That’s the controversial part. But he’s not saying I’M GOD, WE’RE ALL GOD, either.

It’s worth reading just to try to make sense of it all. Palmer’s written a couple of other books, which he refers to during this one. I rather wished I had read them before, but I don’t think its necessary, either.

Find out more about Being Jesus in Nashville (and how to buy a copy on Amazon) at Palmer’s blog.

I guess I didn’t notice that this is really a book for pastors. I am neither a pastor, nor currently a church leader, so it didn’t exactly speak to me. It is full of good information and ideas, though. The first section is about power; how power has traditionally been used (or in some cases, abused) in the church, and how pastors can change that. The second section deals with servant leadership, and the third is a practical section about prayer, scripture reading, following the ancient monastic vows of povery, chastity and obedience, and becoming a servant leader.

I found the practical information most helpful — it was a good reminder to add some structure to my spiritual life, with concrete ideas for doing so.

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to change the way you pastor.

Before reading this book, almost everything I knew about Justin Bieber came from Glee. Or secondhand from Twitter (I don’t follow Bieber, who’s a fairly prolific and honest tweeter). And maybe a little bit from my kids, but they’re not huge fans either.

So Bieber’s story was completely new to me anyway, but reading it with a spiritual twist, and from the point of view of a woman my own age, put it into a good context for me.

Cathleen Falsani (author of The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers) admits that she was only minimally aware of Bieber before writing this book. She became interested after seeing a February 2011 Rolling Stone article titled “The Adventures of Super Boy: God, girls and boatloads of swag.”

And indeed, Justin was open about his faith in the interview. This is the one where he talked about homosexuality (he thinks it’s none of his business) and abortion (he’s against it, but also says “I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that”).

But faith is part of his overall story, too, especially from his mother’s point of view. Much of the book really discusses Justin’s mother’s faith, rather than his own.

Falsani takes us through Justin’s history starting from before he was born to a teenage mother, through his childhood and into his current teen years. She recounts events that are probably familiar to the true Beliebers, like how he became a YouTube sensation, and how he ended up with a record deal.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to directly interview Bieber or people close to him for the book. So the information is coming from other interviews, and from Twitter. In fact, the advance copy I read includes several pages of tweets by Justin and his mother.

What’s clear is that Justin Bieber has grown up surrounded by faith, and that it’s part of who he is. I’d also say that’s he’s still very young, and his faith is still developing. Right now, he’s got the faith he’s grown up with; the faith of his family and friends. Like other young people, he’s still going to have to figure out whether this faith is authentically his own, and something he can live out as an adult.

ADDENDUM: I had my 11-year-old daughter read the book, too. She said that a lot of it was things that she already knew from Bieber’s movie. She also didn’t like reading pages and pages of tweets. She thought some younger people and teens might be interested, but that this book was geared more toward adults.

 


This book has a SQUIRREL on the cover. I have no idea why. Somebody should figure that out. [update: my husband reminded me that there’s a story about a squirrel in the introduction. I was too busy thinking “SQUIRREL?!” and thinking about this.]

The subtitle is The Art of Not-Evangelism. I love this. I have never felt like traditional, getting-people-saved evangelism was an effective tactic. Actually, I’ve never felt like the whole philosophy of “let’s convert people and get them to attend our church on Sunday” was a good one. So this book is right up my alley.

According to Medearis, “making disciples of all nations” doesn’t mean we have to get everyone to go to church on Sunday, subscribe to a certain set of theological beliefs, or recite a certain prayer or prayers. It just means helping people to develop a relationship with Jesus and to follow Jesus.

And that’s it. It’s about Jesus. Not about Christianity or any other religion.

I loved it. It’s well-told and easy to read.

Here’s a sample:

Visit Carl Medearis’s blog.

Buy this book from Powells.com

If you’ve ever done any therapy, you’re probably familiar with the idea that we all live by scripts. Sometimes we’re living out scripts that are unhealthy, even though they’re familiar.  Author Frank Viola suggests that as Christians, we need to look at the scripts we’re using to live out our Christianity with a critical eye, because not all of these scripts actually come from God. He exhorts us to re-center on God, and let Him revise our lives.

Revise Us Again: Living from a Renewed Christian Script is short, to the point, and full of good examples, including some humorous stories and some that will probably make you cringe.  If you’ve read and liked Viola’s other books, you’ll appreciate this one, too.

We went to see the movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last weekend, and while it was often quite different from the book, the Christian messages included by C.S. Lewis were definitely still there.

Not everyone sees this, though, so if you’re interested in knowing more about the Christian themes in the book, Carl McColman’s book The Lion, the Mouse, and the Dawn Treader: Spiritual Lessons from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia is a great place to start. McColman goes through the book chapter by chapter, tracing the lessons. It’s a good analysis, especially for those who are new either to Narnia or to Christianity.

Want to read a FUNNY book about Jesus? This is it! Imaginary Jesus is a novel, in which Mikalatos introduces us to various familiar versions of Jesus — King James Jesus, Testosterone Jesus, Magic 8-Ball Jesus, while he searches for the REAL Jesus.

I was a tiny bit disappointed at the end…real Jesus didn’t quite work for me. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and its reminder that we’re not always following the real Jesus, even (or especially) when we think we are.

My husband managed to snatch this book and read it before I did, and he posted his review a long time ago. He also included Todd Agnew’s song “My Jesus,” which totally fits with this book.

Finally, I’m proud to say that Matt Mikalatos is from our own Portland, Oregon. I look forward to reading more of his work.

Check out Matt’s imaginary website for Imaginary Jesus! You can even download and read a sample chapter there.

Disclosures: I received a free copy of the book through The Ooze Viral Bloggers in exchange for this review. I do receive a small commission for any purchases made through Amazon.com links above. Thanks!

Colors of God: Conversations about Being the Church was co-written by three authors/pastors: Quentin Steen, Dave Phillips, and Randall Peters. The three are or have been leaders of an emerging church called neXus in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada.

The book draws on their experiences working with an emerging congregation, but the three also come from an Evangelical background, which is reflected in their theology. In fact, the evangelical aspects were a little off-putting for me at first. I come from a Roman Catholic and United Methodist background, so I have a hard time with statements about “the finished work of Jesus Christ”, like “the gospel says that Christ has fully met all the expectations and requirements of God on my behalf.”

I think behind the language we probably do agree more than disagree, though. I do agree that we should not be worrying so much about whether we are pleasing God with our holiness. God is already pleased with us and loves us, and nothing can come between us and the love of God! And I do think we need to acknowledge our brokenness and our need for God’s grace. I just don’t necessarily believe in the theology of atonement that goes along with that.

Anyway. The book is divided into four sections. Blue represents Gospel Faith, Green is Healthy Living, Red is Inclusive Community, and Yellow is Cultural Engagement. These are the tenets that neXus is based on. In each section, the three authors carry out a three-party conversation, which is apparently to the sermons/teaching they do at neXus. This is followed by a chapter of question and answer with questions frequently asked by other people, and a chapter of additional notes on the topic, again in a conversational style.

I really enjoyed the conversational style and humor of the authors. In one of my favorite exchanges, Randall references Karl Barth on whether everyone goes to heaven (Barth says no, because some will choose not to), and Dave and Quentin respond.

Dave: By the way, let me say, I believe you just quoted a German theologian. I kind of think that makes you a dangerous liberal, but I’ll leave it at that.

Randall: He’s actually Swiss, by the way, not German.

Quentin: Nicely played.

The authors also refer constantly to scripture, and specifically to Jesus’ parables. They do look at Scripture a little differently. I thought their take on the Good Samaritan was a little odd (the injured man represents Jesus?), but I thought their look at Matthew 18 was interesting. Matthew 18 begins with the disciples asking “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It then moves quickly from “unless you become like little children” to “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away,” and on to the parable about leaving the 99 sheep to look for the one lost one. This is followed by the instructions for what to do if your “brother” sins against you:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (NIV)

And then we get Peter asking how many times we must forgive someone (seventy times seven, says Jesus) and the parable of the unmerciful servant.

The interesting part to me is the authors’ interpretation of treating someone like a pagan or a tax collector. They point out that many churches use this passage as instructions for (or justification for) kicking someone out of the church. However, how did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? Levi/Matthew WAS a tax collector who became Jesus’ disciple. And Jesus was well-known for treating outcasts with love.

I think this book is great for anyone with a fairly orthodox theology who’s interested in the emerging church, or the future of the church in the 21st century and beyond. I found it easy to read, but also thought-provoking and spirit-stirring. I definitely recommend it.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review as part of The Ooze Viral Bloggers program.

This is life: noisy, dirty, dangerous. And it’s the best we get in this fast-paced, hard-nosed, crazy-making world. But is there more than chaos, commotion and calamity? Is there some majesty even in the dust?

In this unique compilation of journey notes, new author Krista Finch asks these questions, speaking honestly about herself and the world around her. With curiosity and passion, she digs into ordinary moments for the truth about awakening and reawakening. Brokenness and beauty. Ruins and restoration. And what she keeps finding in the clumps and clods is nothing short of glory. Welcome to life as is – unfinished but beautiful.

As Is by Krista Finch is a well written series of notes and vignettes. It’s just not really my thing. I prefer to read something with an overall story and/or structure, and this is really just a series of short pieces. If you enjoy short, beautifully-written vignettes, you might really like this book. It just didn’t work for me.

I received a free copy of this book from The Ooze Viral Bloggers in exchange for this review.