Sunday, October 02, 2011

some of my amazon reviews

Into God's Presence: Listening to God through Prayer and Meditation

Into God's Presence: Listening to God through Prayer and Meditation
by Elizabeth Babbs
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.99
Availability: In Stock

36 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, honest primer, July 25, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Liz Babbs is a saint.

Only a saint could open a book with:

"It's hard enough to pray, anyway. Do I really need another book to make me feel guilty about my prayer life?"

What she has written instead is the definitive popular-level primer/ introduction to Christian meditative prayer.

And kudos for more honesty: "The books I found on [meditation] were complicated, inaccessible....I wanted a simple 'how to' guide without any jargon....that fitted my lifestyle, not the lifestyle of a monk or a man." (p. 12). Please don't read from that that this is a woman's book, or directed primarily at women. It is not at all, it is simply one that she wrote from a place that resonated with her, and this approach delightfully makes the whole work more accessible to all (the more personalized/local, the more universal). I am a man, and not a monk...and I loved this book. Maybe women are far better at being honest...honestly! (By the way, if you want another good prayer book by a woman, that is also not a woman's prayers book, try out Margaret Feinberg's "Sacred Echo" and it's equally honest statements like "Though I pray repetitively, vehemently, I hear the thick silence, like that which follows the dropping of a heavy, leather-bound book onto a hard, wooden library floor."

Babbs helpfully defines meditation as a subset of prayer: "Christian meditation is a deep form of prayer that can lead to direct communion with God." (p. 15), Her Celtic-sensitive approach (see her "Celtic Treasure"; but know that Celtic Christianity is not at all a topic in the book under discussion) allows her to approach meditation holistically and Hebraically.....and above all, honestly.

And honestly, honesty is a rare trait in books about prayer and meditation.

That she is candid about her own vulnerabilities, and the ironic circumstances of burnout while writing the book ("My Diary of Burnout," see pp. 142-145), wonderfully strengthens the book, and endears us toi her.

That she navigates complex theological concepts related to meditation; concepts that entire graduate classes are devoted to (Lectio Divina, p. 82.; Ignatian spirituality, especially how to use creative imagination to meditate on a Scripture like The Prodigal Son, p. 86-90), and simplifies their explanations and essence without cheapening their profundity for the sake or practicality is a vital gift.

That she is (and her evangelical publisher, Zondervan) not afraid of what some would see as theological red flags (her complete healing from ME, or what we call in the US chronic fatigue syndrome/CFS; a visit to the Toronto Blessing, p. 69) is refreshing. I also must thank Zondervan for not censoring the word "bastard" (p. 69), as that word alone, and its potentially shame, is embedded in a story that is humbly honest and hugely healing. Her theology is balanced and biblical, but also boldly gentle.

Suffice to say this book is strongly recommended, and will be included in the discipleship curriculum of our congregation. But a couple quotes I particularly enjoyed:

"Jesus could have healed many more people and been far busier....but he chose to listen to his Father and do what he said..His ministry was punctuated by withdrawal. That was his action plan for effective ministry." (p. 29) In this and other sections, she dismantles and deconstructs our idolatry of busy-ness. The book itself is creatively framed by an inclusio: at the beginning (p. 17) she runs together a whole paragraph without spaces or punctuation, which she types out with spaces at the end, (pp, 183-184)so that we can read it, get it...and also get the point that we are far too overloaded, and need the punctuation and full stops of Christian meditation.

I also loved her testimony of "retreat on the streets." "Jesus identified with those on the margins of society, and we are called to do the same." No believer would argue with that thesis, how many of us have intentionally experimented with"wandering the streets...{and} sensing God's heart for people." (p, 159). This is what we call in our flock, "missional monastism," and key to a nondualistic meditation and biblical worldview.

One minor quibble; not with the content of the book, but with the way the publisher didn't "translate" several Britishisms (like "holiday," p, 148; and British spellings like "centre," p. 150 "programme," p. 161) in the American edition. This would be a simple correction in any future editions. I would hate for any Americans (or any non-British) to miss the point of some of her most helpful ananlogies and ideas; notably the "Who's in the Driving Seat-You Or God?" section (pp. 31-34, and note even in that title is a Britishism, as Americans say "driver's seat"). The real problem is most Americans don't know that what we call the "trunk" of a car is a "boot" in the U.K (p. 142). And I had to look up "M.O.T," (p. 150: "Going on retreat is a little like booking your car for an MOT." This is incomprehensible to Americans). Though I could figure out what it meant by the context, I had never heard of it (It's "Ministry of Transport," and is an annual test of car safety in the U.K.)

Thanks St. Liz, for this valuable Kingdom resource: a highly practical primer in something so basic to Christian spirituality, but so little practiced: Christian prayer and meditation

The ValueGiver

The ValueGiver
by Dallas Elder
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.78
Availability: In Stock

18 used & new from $9.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars a life-changer, February 2, 2011
This review is from: The ValueGiver (Paperback)
Blurbs from the back cover copied below. The last one is mine, and I meant every word(:

"We are broken, inadequate and filled with guilt and shame. That is the human condition, and as a result, we are tempted to see the world and, more importantly, our own selves as bereft of worth. It is this debilitating tendency that Dallas Elder addresses in The ValueGiver. Through the use of story, textual examination, and personal vulnerability, Elder weaves a narrative of hope and help. The result is a well-written, life-giving book that will uplift the spirit of all who read it.""
-JP Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, and author of The God Question

""Here is a book that is well-written, engaging, filled with real-life stories and practical examples. There is much sage advice here growing out of Dallas Elder''s seasoned experience in ministry. The ValueGiver will both enable you to see others more clearly through the eyes of Christ and equip you as you seek to call forth the divine dignity in them. Read it and be inspired and blessed to be a blessing to others.""
-Steve Seamands, Professor of Christian Doctrine, Asbury Theological Seminary and author of Ministry in the Image of God

""Drawing from a deep wellspring of personal pain and pastoral experience, Dallas Elder has given us a beautiful book. The ValueGiver shows how the redeeming work of Christ is much more than an afterlife oriented "ticket to heaven." Instead we learn to see salvation as the recovery of the Imago Dei. It is in the redemption of our identity as beloved creatures who bear the image of God that we learn our true value and how to bestow this inestimable value upon others. I heartily recommend this book and hope it will be read far and wide.""
-Brian Zahnd, Lead Pastor, Word of Life Church, St. Joseph, Missouri and author of Unconditional?: The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness

"I am glad to see how The Value Giver tranmits so much of the heart and mind of my dear friend, Dallas Elder. He is a wise, gentle and powerful friend of God who has a grasp on sound truths and a commitment and zeal to patiently and faithfully practice what he has learned. Moreover, he is a skilled and compassionate spiritual leader and guide who creates healthy and life-giving relational contexts all over the world so that many others can also become great friends with Jesus Christ. The ValueGiver is laced with compelling stories, revealing personal experiences, relevant Scriptures, witty word pictures and great quotes that will stick with you. Please read this will see the Lord in fresh ways and be empowered to love him more fully and follow him more freely.""
-Michael Sullivant: Conference Speaker, Author of Prophetic Etiquette and leader of the ministry Radius.

""We are always enthused when an author's experience establishes the premise for his work. Yet, it is not merely inspiration that you the reader, will obtain from these pages. The ValueGiver expounds on the Creator's value system, and the restoration process for fallen mankind. Dallas Elder develops passion for living out life's purpose in the heart of the reader. It is exciting to think how this book will have eternal impact on many lives.""
-Jonathan Carey, Founder and President of the CTC Network and author of Building Your Vision.


"Dallas Elder, a pastor with a storyteller's heart, possesses an amazing gift of articulating profoundly simple, and simply profound truths. I have been waiting years for this book; I dare you to read this life-changer, and tap into your destiny of receiving and giving value."
-Dave Wainscott, pastor of Third Day Fresno and adjunct professor of Bible for Fresno Pacific University and Latin American Bible Institute-Sanger, CA

Confined in Skin and Bones

Confined in Skin and Bones
Availability: Currently unavailable

9 used & new from $12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Godhaunted, earthy brilliance, January 17, 2011
amazing, ahead of its time, prog meets punk meets Van Der Graff Generator, Gabriel-era Genesis meets screamo (years before it was invented). God-haunted and earthy poetic lyrics.

The Meaning of History

The Meaning of History
by Ronald H. Nash
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.89
Availability: In Stock

32 used & new from $7.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars great place to start...just don't end here, December 3, 2010
This review is from: The Meaning of History (Paperback)
I have an aversion to verse-itis.
I hate the seduction of reductionism
I am apologetic about any use of apologetics.

But I unapologetically love the book...even though I didn't want to.
I don't necessarily see Nash selling out to any of those paths.
Mostly, he is limited by the very medium (which becomes, and here becomes {see dictionary definition #2}, the message)
a short introduction (!) to the meaning of history.
Facing an impossible job, he has done wonderfully well.

The basic idea is to introduce us to the speculative history of speculative history, via a comparison of the cyclical view with a linear view (specifically, a Christian view and worldview), and then through a succinct summary of representative figures of the philosophy of history: Augustine, Vico, Kant, Herder, Marx and Spengler/Toynbee..
and all with an apologetic edge; offering the Christian worldview, which Nash defines as linear as opposed to cyclical.


1)For all the risk of reductionism, it may be the best place for the general (Christian) reader to start on the topic. Nash also offers that it also "a good place...for slightly advanced students of the subject to check their previously acquired opinions" (p. x). I also appreciated his ability to avoid a cheesy "we must train our young people to recapture a Christian worldview" as he discusses how important worldview ("conceptual system") is; and reminds us that everyone inevitably operates from one, and that worldviews are inherently religious. It was somewhat surprising (and refreshing) to read an evangelical saying in print that "Paul Tillich was right." Though Nash is quick to nuance:
"Paul Tillich is right when he defined religion as a matter of 'ultimate concern'...Religion is more than this, but it cannot be less." (27). His chapter on worldview reminded me of VanderLaan's quote that "every story has a pricetag."

2)The chapter on Hegel is hugely helpful. Nash makes the case that Hegel is widely misunderstood
as the thesis>antithesis>synthesis triad. Nash notes that Hegel himself never directly used those three words together, and when he did encounter what would today be popularly considered the basic Hegelian view of the triad, he explicitly rejects it (see Hegel's preface to Phenomenology of Mind)!
Hegel is not very Hegelian at some points! (and don't blame Calvin for all things branded Calvinism...ditto for
SK et al). The issues raised in the process of deconstructing and reconstructing Hegel are also key in grasping
a) what Hegel intends to connote by aufhebehn (synthesis) and Geist (Spirit/World Spirit/Mind/God)
b)the centrality of self-consciousness and freedom to Hegelian thought.

2)I certainly was not expect a proposed solution to the authorship mystery of The Book of Hebrews to show up in the book at all, let alone to be so pivotal to the flow that a whole chapter (4) is dedicated to the suggested writer...Apollos..being "the first Christian philosopher). Nash makes the case that the argument of Hebrews assumes an author familiar with (from experience), and arguing against, a Philo -tainted, and Alexandrian-infected (read circular/cyclical) view of history. Check it out in Chapter 4 (though, maddeningly, a huge teaser for "the first Christian philosopher" in the book's introduction [page 4] mistakenly suggests this unveiling happens in Chapter 5....... the only typo/editing mistake I found in the whole book, pretty rare)

3) A format criticism: The book has no concluding chapter. It ends with a chapter on the New Marxism.
That seems bizarre, even impossible for an apologetics kind of book...until you realize there indeed is a brief concluding section, but it will never be found by the causal reader, as it is part of the final chapter on the New Marxism.

In all, an excellent...maybe the to start. Nash would be the first to be sure you branch out from there.
But what a gift to have this unprecedented starting place.

A more detailed version of this review is on my blog, Holy Heteroclite.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 22, 2011 1:48 PM PDT

Structure of Matthew's Gospel: A Study in Literary Design (Library Of New Testament Studies)

Structure of Matthew's Gospel: A Study in Literary Design (Library Of New Testament Studies)
by David Bauer
Edition: Paperback
Availability: Out of Print--Limited Availability

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing resource, October 29, 2010
I had the privilege of being a student of Dr. Bauer for a seminary class on Matthew about the time this book was released. The course was life-changing: not only is Bauer one of the world's leading specialists in Matthew, but his communication, teaching and writing skills are so personal and passionate that even technical material is understandable. His heart for God, Scripture and practical application are all commendable.

I owe my passion for Matthew's gospel all these decades later to Dr. Bauer. I now teach Matthew on the college level, and I draw from his well in probably every class session. No one has brought to life the beautiful and intentional literary design, and its resultant theological/practical implications to life like Dr. Bauer.

As it is academic, the book would probably be s stretch for college students, but a worthy one to stretch towards.
Anyone seeking to capture the flow, narrative and message of Matthew will find a wealth of resources.
Whether structural analysis of biblical text is new or not to you, as it is wrestled with, you will be amazed at the life lessons that will result. If you have never considered the crucial place of chiasm, inclusio, and other literary devices/forms in Scripture (or other ancient texts), buy this book yesterday. Bible teachers and preachers should buy it even sooner than that.

Even better, sit in on one of his classes with this book in hand as soon as possible.

Tell him I sent you.

God bless, and thank you, David Bauer.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament
by Craig S. Keener
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.86
Availability: In Stock

79 used & new from $13.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars the one book besides the Bible that you need, October 20, 2010
I am a huge book fan, I own and use thousands.

But my title to this review is no joke.

If you only had one book besides the Bible, this should be it.
Ironically, in our day, we need it (or something equivalent, and not much comes close) to grasp the profound and crucial historical, cultural background of the Bible.

I am a pastor and Bible teacher. I am a firm believer in the inspiration of Scripture, so of course I believe The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, and will help us to understand the Bible.
But until we grasp what the Bible said and meant to its original readers, we miss being in the place where the Spirit can show
us fully what it says and means for us today.

An indispensable resource.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 29, 2011 10:33 AM PDT

Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who's Already There

Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who's Already There
by Leonard Sweet
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.99
Availability: In Stock

68 used & new from $3.57

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars a master masterpiece, September 22, 2010
Note: to see the many links, pics and videos that are part of this review, see the blog version at
"holy heteroclite"

Book Review: Leonard Sweet's "Nudge"

I am a huge Leonard Sweet fan,
so to say his latest book is my favorite of his is both officially true and ridiculously false.

It's a bit safer to say my favorite is whichever one I am reading, re-reading or teaching from at the moment.
I wish some of his lesser-known classics (and the catch is, all his books are classic) were better known ("Summoned to Lead"); and I love it when one of them is off the beaten track of his usual theme (church and culture), like "11." I hope he never stops cranking them out.

By the way, these are not even all of his books...or even all that I own... here in the picture..

But I put "Nudge" on the top, because in a sense it tops, and concatenates all those that came before.

I'll never forget Ezra Earl Jones' promo blurb on the back cover of 1994's " Faith Quakes" (my firs Sweet book):
"....he reads everything, and remembers what he reads, and quotes widely."
This is surely still one of his core gifts (I wonder how many more

books are in his libary these sixteen years later)....and this time out, that gift seems so fueled and focused that I have no idea what he will do next to top or equal it.

This is his Joshua Tree.
(Which gives me great hope for more Sweet masterpieces, because I think U2 have produced a few more masterpieces.. after that seminal album...eveb after "chopping down the Joshua Tree.")

He still quotes wonderfully widely, from Polanyi (p, 17) to Julia Child (p.177)...all are theologians (and therefore "signs"..more on that in a minute), but this time the quotes are even more exceptionally tethered and textured throughout the text.

Perhaps the beauty of the book, which is on evangelism, and Sweet saw it as sort of the third volume of a trilogy on ecclesiology ("So Beautiful') and Chrostology "Jesus Manifesto," co-written with Frank Viola),
and it just tracks that an evanglism-ology (aren't you glad there's no easy academic word for it? Actually, I would suggest there is, but it's "semiotics." See Sweet's "Semiotics 101" section, pp. 41-44. Semiotics is the study of signs...and Sweet sugests on p, 272 thatsemiotics is indeed the very "currency of the gospel." )would flow next. And that after several books on culture, particularly those attuning us to EPIC culture, it's now time to spell out a practical theology of culturally-sensitive evangelism.

I love to open classes and seminars by abruptly and abductively asking the group to fill in the blanks in the following two statements with their first instinctive answers:

"In England, they drive on the __________ side of the road."
"Boy, you can sure tell _________ is at work in the secular world nowadays; all you have to do is look around!
One can debate the validity of several answers, but I maintain that until our first and foremost answers are "left" (as opposed to the worst wrong answer of "wrong"), and "God" (as opposed to "Satan" or "sin"...I mean, who's bigger and who's winning?), we have let Christian culture co-opt us into viewing our own culture as superior, and "secular" culture as inherently evil (Here's a short magazine article I wrote on the two questions).

So, when it comes to evangelism, it is refreshing to find a volume whose subtitle is "Awakening Each Other To the God Who's Already There,"... not "How To Share Your Faith with Godless People in a Godforsaken World."

No wonder Sweet makes the heterics list...he speaks vital, Isacharrian truth for our times.

Maybe it's that he comes from a Wesleyan tribe..for some reason, conservagelicalism (and Calvinism) are uncomfortable with what Wesley called "prevenient grace," the grace that precedes salvation. But the "nudge" of the title suggests that teh very essence of evangelism is nudging pre-Chistians to recognize (or "re-cognize," as Sweet helpfully hyphenates it) where God and grace are already at work and wooing. I read a Book once that claimed "the whole earth is full of his glory." Could it be that earthlings are too...even the hellbound and heathen?

"Nudge evangelism" is based on the following three revolutionary notions:

...(okay, some not so much "revolutionary" as hibernating--but when these "notions" cease logging zzz's, they will have revolutionary consequences). We will explore these more in depth a little later. But let's lay them out in full now:
-Jesus is alive and active in our world.
-Followers of Jesus "know" Jesus well enough to recognize where he is alive and moving in our day.
-Evangelists nudge the world to wake up to the alive and acting Jesus and nudge others in the ways God is alive and moving (I call these nudges "small saves").
-page 34

As opposed to a review or summary, I'll simply highlight some of my favorite quotes and sections, and let you know that with my "6-star (out of 5)" review that you'll "carpe manana" and order this timely book yesterday .

Nudge is an invitation to move beyond church-centric Christianity to a holistic, omnipresent theology of the signified reign of God. God is, Paul told the Athenians, "not far from any one of us."37 If God can speak through a burning bush, through plagues of locust, through Balaam's ass, through Babylon, through blood on doorposts, through Peter, through Judas, through Pilate's jesting sign hung over the head of our Lord, and through the cross itself, then God can and will speak through art deco architecture, abstract expressionism, classic literature like Virgil's Aeneid, ass media, disease, Disney, hunger, Twitter, etc. The question is never, "Is God using this?" Rather the question is, "What is my/our invitation upon hearing?"
God meets us everywhere, in a bewildering variety of forms and fashions. Eighteenth-century hymn writer Isaac Watts called John's book of Revelation "the opera of the apocalypse." We grow giddy over mystic numbers, signs and seals, heraldic beasts and composite beings, but what about the opera of the everyday? The ordinary and mundane? John Updike believed his only duty as a writer was "to describe reality as it had come ... to give the mundane its beautiful due." Updike was a brilliant semiotician.
Nudge argues for the triangulation of all three: Scripture, Culture, Spirit. But we walk a tonal tightrope: in touch with the world but in tune with the Spirit through highly pitched souls, with heightened sensitivities that connect to the Scriptures and then to the Spirit and then to the culture.
"As we watch for the signs of your kingdom on earth,
we echo the song of the angels in heaven." (Eucharistic Prayer F, Common Worship).
-From chapter one, free read here, or download here)

I love this section as it says so well what I have tried to say, but not so well. We have a motto in our church family:"Engaged to Jesus, and Engaging Culture." We intentionally didn't go for the obvious cautionary connective: "Engaged to Jesus, BUT Engaging Culture."
I admit, with Sweet, that it is a "tonal tightrope," and sometimes delicate balance..but it is the normative, formative way/place to no "but," only a reminder that Jesus has assumed we have been "in the world" already all this time. As Sweet often says, "We are in the world, and not of it...but not out of it yet either."

It should go without saying, but because the church has been overreactionary on the other extreme, it is good that Sweet does say it (on p. 55):"The world is not God, of course, but the incarnation goes all the way down, and the Spirit indwells all that exists."
I love to ask, "Who is the Holy Spirit poured out in in our day?"
The (shocking) answer: "Absolutely all flesh.
You want chapter and verse?
I nudge you to check out Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17

I am a great fan of one of Sweet's recurring themes over the years, a "sound theology" (see that tag at bottom of this post for info), so i was thrilled he sounded the theme again. See especially chapter four, "Pause: Use Your Ears (Do You Give Ear to God?").

"To read the Bible, the ears come before the eyes' (p, 148)
"Nudge begins with sound" (153)

Throughout the book, he calls attention to (well, first of all the primacy and discipline of "calling attention" itself , and "giving attention", noting that "attention is a relational term" [p. 279]).... how often Scriptures, particularly Jesus...and thus hopefully we as welll begin with "Listen..."

Perhaps my ultimate recommendation of the book is knowing that deep at heart,most every reader of this post (anyone brave enough to be found on my blog) intuitively knows, and resonates (a "sound" word, by the way)with this fact:

"Evangelism as we know it hasn't worked." (35)

And for those who appreciate how vital

"loud farts in the salon of spirituality" (as Eugene Peterson would say it)

are for communicating in our EPIC days, the very closing and quite intriguing
last words (word-pictures) of the entire book are:

"Maybe the dove and rooster are companion birds. (279)

I dare yo to byt the book, and not jump to the end of the book to unpack that statement, which itself can summarize microcosmically the whole book and nudge of "Nudge."

Instead, I humbly nudge you..and double dare you... to read the book in one sitting,
which may well be the only way you'll be able to.

It's that good.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 13, 2011 9:13 AM PDT

Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women

Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women
by Dan J Brennan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.99
Availability: In Stock

18 used & new from $9.09

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars splendidly readable, and charitably subversive,, June 23, 2010
(note: several links are mentioned in the review..To make them active links,and to see a video inteview of the author). see this same review on my "Holy Heteroclite" blog)

Dan Brennan's splendidly readable, and charitably subversive, "Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions
Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women"
definitely came along at the right time for me. Brennan's unique, straightforward, and engaging way of tackling the topic; and his unique, straightforward, and engaging approach connected dots for me among three growing convictions:

--A reductionist view of sexuality almost inevitably becomes seductionist. We are (g)not gnostic. By obsessing with rules, we end up being ruled by obsexxing. Ironically, that's when we may be most vulnerable. We in the Protestant tradition can all these (5oo!!)years later still define ourselves primarily by what we are against, and not by what/Who we are for. We desperately need to incorporate insights from Catholic and Eastern streams to keep center, and steer away from gnostic ditches.
---The Trinitarian nature of life, relationships, church/ecclesiology....of, well, everything...has profound ( and profoundly untapped) implications for....well, everything.
----The promise of the rabbinic tradition of "elevation" (which Bono of course has prophetically endorsed/sung about/prayed about) is uniquely applicable our current juncture in postmodernity and church history.

Bottom line: The books is on cross-sex friendships, and a defense of how they can work.

That no other evangelical Christian-oriented book has even been dedicated to this topic at all..

...let alone challenged the deeply-embedded conservagelical party line (which ironically sounds like the folks Paul is poking fun at in the "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" of Colossians 2:21)....

in our lifetime (part of the point, earlier writers, many of them...gasp!...Catholic, have done well here) is enough to recommend it.

But the way he traces church history (I recently learned a lot about church teaching it! That the "holy kiss" commanded in the New Testament was counterinuitively on the lips, even when cross-gender, nailed me...but not as much as the profound reason for that, see this link) and interweaves solid biblical exegesis, and knows just the right quote from hugely helpful thinkers as Leanne Payne, Rob Bell, Scot McKnight, Marva Dawn, Rodney Clapp, catapults this to a five-star review.

I am about to confess:

I have been known to occasionally meet publicly with women at Starbuck's.


I am not sure I would be comfortable with doing so at a full-blown restaurant, indoors, as a meal. (Except, say, with a pastor friend and colleague in our network.....who just happens to be named Nancy......... and female).
Right or wrong, I still generally keep the Saddleback/Billy Graham guidelines (which the book weighs).
Though I am certain the Holy Spirit will lead me to break them a bit more (biblically, even though I am not a binitarian this).

And yes, I am aware that even the Starbuck's level meetings can be risky
(see "Uncle Ernie at Uncle Harry's" and "God, beach and breasts"), and that we men (in particular) risk over-sexualizing.

But since that infamous Scripture that nine out of ten evangelicals would swear (well, promise) on stack of Bibles was in the Bible ("Avoid the appearance of evil") is nowhere in the Bible (and the one Scripture we confuse for that one actually makes basically the opposite point, please read this link from Tia Lynn)..

..the risk I am worried about should not be "what will people think."

The risk I may be indeed taking is that I won't grow as a disciple of Jesus, unless I do occasionally partake in such "sacred order" encounters.

I am in sin if I "avoid all appearance of evil."

Well. for the two readers that are left, I continue (:

I don't intend to write a review that is a summary of the content, or even one that fully divulges where he lands, but one that references and quotes the book briefly, through the grid of the three topics I laid out above (and copied below).

I sincerely hope you are already sold on the book, and my comments will intrigue you into cutting the deal.

I highly recommend reading chapter one (or watching this video interview withthe author) if you have any doubt; then I would double dare you not to finish the book in one setting.


1)A reductionist view of sexuality almost inevitably becomes seductionist. We are (g)not gnostic. By obsessing with rules, we end up being ruled by obsexxing. Ironically, that's when we may be most vulnerable....

Rob Bell, who is quoted wisely throughout the book, asserts that
"our sexuality is all the ways we strive to reconnect with our world, with each other, and with God."

If that is so (and the Bible backs it, see Brennan's studies of Genesis, for example), how can we avoid (or why should we) what the author calls "embodied relationships" that are inevitably sexual, but not romantic or erotic?

Such is what the amazing "cloud of witnesses" throughout church history that Brennan invokes and quotes attest to (Why have we never seen these quotes elsewhere?)

As I wrote about it in The Reduction of Seduction posts (here and here) I do get how we in leadership cannot help but complicate relationships with "parishoners" or others who view us in a pastoral/God-figure role. The "woman in the 22nd pew" has permanently messed up my life, thank God.

And there is need to always remember the names we'd like to forget (from Swaggart to Haggard)

But it is precisely we as leaders, with our drive to control, that hinders the Spirit's work in our communities. In the name of carefulness, we abdicate prayerfulness. We inadvertently (??) bless legalism, sell gnosticm, and endorse immorality.


What if I simply quoted two of the most acceptable standards among evangelical writers here
These are the killer quotes (if read thrice and pondered) that Brennan brilliantly introduces us to:

"It is therefore easy to see why Authority frowns on friendship.
Every real friendship is a sort of secession, even a rebellion." (C.S. Lewis, p. 145)

"[Seeking intimacy, at any level} is not a venture that gets the support of many people.
It is inefficient." (Eugene Peterson, p. 150).

No wonder we (I) hijack our sermons and framejack our pastoral counsel;
we feed (our) power, and fear (the peoples) freedom.

Much better to be found faithful and inefficient
(Read Ellul, well as the Marva Dawn "I cast you out, foul spirit of effectiveness" article here).

Thus, our sermons on "thou must" create musterbation.
We "should" on people.

Also, that this author (like hardly anyone else you read today, save the Godsend N.T. Wright) radically gets what Scripture means
by "New Creation" is worth the price of the book. Any serious study of 2 Corinthians will reveal that the only way it cannot be translated is the way we pastors have always preached it (and likely the only way you have ever heard it: "If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation," When a straightforward reading of the Greek is "If anyone is in Christ, there the new creation is [in part].

Every pastor worth his or her salt knows that's what it says, but who preaches it?
"New Creation" throughout the Bible is a corporate manifestation of the Kingdom of God; the Kingdom of the future partly and partially consummated in the present life,and on earth.

Yes, I see that hand. I know all the dangers of an overly "realized eschatology." Yes, I know the Corinthian church bough it hook line and sinker, and it led to sexual (and other) immorality.
But I also know the danger of not realizing the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer
(Read Ladd, Wright, et al...or how about the Bible in context for a change and get back to me!

And check Brennan's quotes below.

The fact that he incorporates the biblical worldview of New Creation in passing; without even defending or commenting on it like I just did, is refreshing and revolutionary, timely and telling:

"in the new creation, men and women are not limited to stark contrasts where we must choose between romantic passion or inappropriate sex/infidelity." (p.. 17)

"rethinking male-female oneness in the new this new age, the New Testament makes clear there are new social intimacies." (71-72)

"in the beginning of the new creation...with his resurrection, Jesus met Mary Madgalene, an unmarried woman, alone in a garden.." (99)

How tragic that those who preach the most on "not being of the world," don't often preach on "being in the Kingdom."

As Len Sweet says, "We are in the world, and not of it...but not out of it yet, either."
In this world we will have troubles...but also delightful marital sex, and delightful non-romantic cross-sex relationships! If that word "Delight" trips you up, do NOT read one of the strongest section in "Sacred Passions' on that D-word!

2)The Trinitarian nature of life, relationships, church/ecclesiology....of, well, everything...has profound ( and profoundly untapped) implications for....well, everything:

I was thrilled to find extensive coverage of the practical ramifications of a Trinitarian worldview, ecclesiology, and sexology. I have often quoted Len Hjalmarson and Jurgen Moltmann on this lens (see labels marked "trinity" below), so found these additional quotes confirmational:

"our trust in the Trinity's embrace frees us to love more fully with triune types of love--fostering deep relationships that involve solid friendships without sexual innuendo"
(Marva Dawn, p. 77)

"It is precisely the one triune God in whose image all human beings are created who holds the promise of peace between men and women with irreducible but changing identities."
(Miraslov Volf, p. 146)

"Like the Trinity, we are called to understand who we are not as isolated individuals who have to make contracts to protect ourselves, but as persons with faces turned towards God and each other." (Edith Humphrey, p. 169)

If you are thinking this all sounds like theological gobbledygook, or a "sloppy agape" "free-love" orgy, you are far from the point. We cannot theologize, or make practical decisions without the Bedrock doctrine (and lifesource) of the Triune God who is intrinsically relationship ( liminally and missionally).

3)The promise of the rabbinic tradition of "elevation" (which Bono of course has prophetically endorsed/sung about/prayed about) is uniquely applicable our current juncture in postmodernity and church history.

On this final point/thesis of mine....maybe one related quote from Brennan which radically re-paints a category such as "chastity" as positive will suffice:

"Chastity, then, becomes the relational skill of choosing freedom to dance with personal beauty, goodness and truth in embodied relationships (138).

On this point, I can do no better than point you to rabbis...and Bono:.

We start with Rabbi Cohen;

"For the chasid, prayer is not something one recites, it is rather an exercise that one performs, or an
experience that one enters into.... There is no room for inhibition...singing and dancing are essential means by which ...he expresses his emotional cleaving to God....but
that desire for God has to be so overwhelming that any extraneous thoughts are excluded...If distractions are erotic in nature...and (one) faces up to the predominance of the sexual urge at both conscious and subconscious levels, and
its capacity to intrude even during prayer...then he has learned to take measures...Chasidism dealt with this by introducing the doctrine of the "elevation of strange
thoughts." This...technique not of sublimation, but of thought conversion, whereby the beauty or desirability of the woman is latched upon and used not as a sexual but rather as a mental and spiritual stimulus.... taught to "elevate" these thoughts by substituting the beauty of God for the
physical beauty that is currently bewitching us. (The pray-er) has learned to immediately contrast the pale reflection of beauty that humans are endowed with, on the one hand, and the supreme Divine source of authentic and enduring beauty,
on the other..."

Any U2 fan will immediately and clearly connect all this to the U2 song, "Elevation."
(Read more, and exegete and watch the song here...ideally it's a soundtrack to this great book)

So please, buy the book.

Read Starbucks...with a friend.

Celtic Treasure: Unearthing the Riches of Celtic Spirituality

Celtic Treasure: Unearthing the Riches of Celtic Spirituality
by Liz Babbs
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $9.95
Availability: In Stock

29 used & new from $0.79

5.0 out of 5 stars a coffee table book to actually be read, March 2, 2010
(Condensed from [...])

I received a review copy of Liz Babbs' gift-size edition "Celtic Treasure," and want to brag on it.

I won't go into much of Celtic spirituality actually is, as that is what this new book (accurately subtitled,
"Unearthing the Riches of Celtic Spirituality")
and Babb's previous integrative book and music( "Celtic Heart") are all about.

But if this is all new to you, you may want to start with Keltic Ken's audio interview with her at this link:

Suffice to say Celtic Christianity is a historic movement much more multiplex than just the powerful point person you may associate with it (St. Patrick), with profound help for us walking in the Kingdom today. Bottom line takeaway, perhaps, is: heaven comes to earth now, it's not just us going to heaven later. There are ways to form and reform community/communitas in ways that leave room for sacred space (without the idolatry of place). And there are means to discipleship that are (as we say at our church) mystical and missional; as well as monastic and marketplaced. Celtic worldview eschews "either-or" thinking in favor of a biblical "both-and" approach.

Since that just confused you, anyway (:....

I much prefer to introduce you to things Celtic, and Babbs' delightful book, in a less propositional way...which is itself indeed a very intrinsically and epistemologically Celtic way of learning.

Risking being propositional, then, here are several (random) bragging points around the book(:

First of all: it, its layout and photographs, are gorgeous.
This is a coffee table book (as we say on our side of the pond) that is not to only ornamentally decorate the table, and decidedly not one to set a coffee cup on. Like all good books I own, I took notes. But unlike any other book I own, I felt I had to make the notes on a separate sheet of paper, and not in the book scribbles would look like sacrilegious graffiti on the beauty of the book.

Around 1989, I took an amazing class from George Hunter III, who had at that time done some research that later became the wonderful book, "The Celtic Way of Evangelism." Several years later, Hunter presented that material for our West Coast Men's Retreat: great theory made practical. I could get quite excited about the implications of Celtic spirituality/theology/music for fact, too excited, if not careful. (Far too utilitarian, modern-evangelical, and compartmentalized an approach).

What Hunter's material, and what Celtic Christian music (Moya Brennan, Iona, et al... and other artists who may not be officially "Christian" or consistently "Celtic": Sinnead O'Connor, U2 as in "Drowning Man") does for me...

....and what Babb's book dramatically and powerfully does for me..

is my second bragging point: challenges me into the implications of Celtic spirituality for all of life.

Celtic spirituality is holistic, sytemic, nonlinear, centered-set, inductive/abductive and intuitive.
How timely that those terms are all buzzwords for postmodern sensitivity; but they are first and foremost signposts of Celtic spirituality, which was (and is) ahead of it's time and therefore on time.



Babbs' prose and poems, especially due to the way they are typset, are the perfect thread to weave together the themes of the book. They are not mere markers or punctuation; they are to the point, and are the point. They themselves express and embed a Celtic sense in a way that historical narrative inherently cannot.

One example:

For love is of God.
It's the life force shaping all creation.
The very essence we breathe.
For love removes boundaries
eradicates prejudice
crosses divides
builds community
and moulds
Liz Babbs

Chapter Five on "Celebrating Creativity" was a standout for me, and my fourth brag.
I have so often lamented that Christians, who are made and remade in the creative image of a creative Creator are so often the least creative people on earth! Part of Liz Babbs' calling is as a "creative prayer consultant." May that tribe increase!

This chapter is a model and microcosm of the others: it is packed with history, but in a concise and engaging way; and it is illustrated with art and photos that bring it to life.

Witness, page 52:

"Fathers were said to pass the gift of storytelling to their sons and poetry to their daughters, and storytellers and poets were held in high esteem." Babbs then brilliantly dovetails this insight with an example of a Celtic poem attributed to St. David, which includes the line: "No man loves poetry without loving the light." Great example of simple and profound, and simply profound Celtic wisdom whih must be resurrected to speak into today's church.

Three not-necessarily Celtic commentators come to mind:

"Poetry is just the evidence of life, " Leonard Cohen offers," If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash."

In a vintage dictum, Chesterton nailed it: "Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom."

Celtic fan Martin Smith of Delirious once replied to Keltic Ken and I when we asked his wisdom about church, "I'm a poet, not a church leader."

When we grab hold of Celtic spirituality, and realize that now more than ever, poets leaders. All I can say, we Western pastor types, and heresy hunters who lump anything Celtiis as "New Age," pagan or satanic have often been adventures in missing the point.

Even though Babbs' book is not marketed as a "church leadership" book, it may well rank among the top five books that should be included in seminary curriculam, but likely aren't...until seminary education becomes more...well, Celtic.

But at heart, this is a valuable book for any follower of/leader towards Christ..

notably those noticing a flatness and emptiness to much of what passes today for meaningful Christianity.

I recommend it to long as you remember, it is not just for the coffee table.


Availability: Currently unavailable

6 used & new from $22.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars shimmering, vulnerable, classic, November 16, 2009
This review is from: Strength (Audio CD)
It is absolutely unbelievable that this review of mine is apparently the first and only (so far) Amazon customer review of what is widely recognized as not only a beautiful and seminal classic, but even the first modern worship album (and a decade ahead of its time, to boot).

Since it's a 1992 album that has gone through seasons of being out of print, I can only guess this is a new listing on amazon.

Or..because I belong to it, I guess I forget how small, select, and underground the collective circle of that "WIDELY recognized" is.

Best kept secret, indeed.

But don't take my word for it (though you are about to hear it)! Just look at some of the references to this CD in reviews of other Violet Burning CDs here on (That it is inevitably hinted at, and referenced, in many of these reviews suggests its watershed status). Read respected critics like Kim Gentes: "one of the best worship albums I had ever heard in my life...delicate, evocative and worshipful genius."

Even those of us who were Violet Burning fans from the first (raw, punk-ish) album were unprepared for the intimate and ethereal, atmosphere..created by this music. The passion of the first album remained: but is somehow dialed down sonically, even as it is amped up in sensitivity. It's all channeled through intimate confession, not through a Marshall amp attack, at least this time.

Songwriter and frontman Michael Pritzl may not have intended this as a worship album, and it can indeed be listened to without that framework and worldview, but I do need to say that no album released before or after has facilitated such renewal, worship, and tears in me than this. Scenes from its soundscape, whether through a literal playing of the disc, or whether through those deep recesses of my brain and soul where this music is forever embedded, have probably blessed my ever day for almost twenty years.

That's likely because this is a passionate man pouring out his private broken/overflowing heart in a public place.

The haunting (female) background vocals of Jamie Eichler, the gamble of a string section that more than payed, what to mention first? It's got to be "The Song of the Harlot," an evocative, provacative, holy and hushed ballad, a retelling of the woman of loose reputation who washed Jesus' feet with her hair. If you never figured the word "whore" could be appropriately sung in a "Christian" song (a prayer even), and could actually be the only fitting word, you haven't heard the way the line "If I could be anyone at all, let me be the whore at Your feet" is delivered here.

The only thing offensive here is the truth that "so may times I have been the whore."

But what is a (brilliant) cover of the Beatles "Eleanor Rigby" doing next on an album that is to me pure "worship"? Believe me, it belongs and segues perfectly in the context.
That "no one was saved" has never hurt more...or made more sense.

The sound is largely different than any other Violets album (except the later, "A Stranger in This Place," in which retooled songs from "Strength" and other CDs are included from a "vibe" perspective.) Many of their albums are guitar-driven, fueled by distortion and reminders of The Cure or My Bloody Valentine. "Strength" is quieter (a million degrees more so than its successor, the brooding, grungy sucessor, the self titled album). To call "Strength" "acoustic" is not quite fair (though the almost-too-personal to listen to album closer, "Through My Tears" largely fits that description).For one, some great electric guitar solos are in the mix ("No One Like You"). For two, if you need points of comparison, you might think Radiohead, some Depecehe Mode...and (though they weren't around yet) Delirious at their most vulnerable and inventive. However. all those points of reference are partly right and dead wrong.
The unique sound must be sampled and experienced.

Those in Christian circles will be blown away at the release date of this disc. Pritzl and team were so pioneering. One hears here hints of the best worship music releases since then (and none of the cookie-cutterness of the worst), but in 1992 the who genre didn't even exist.

The Violet Burning singlehandedly prefigured and created it.

That alone merits the 5 stars accompanying this review.

The album comes off like reading Pritzl's journal set to the music that existed before it, and was birthed by it. One feels almost voyeuristic, catching him in a confession booth or God-encounter.

I haven't even mentioned the overall lyrical and theological theme, as the sonics are so good they can be enjoyed on their own. But that is impossible for me, as even the instruments draw me to the end of myself and limits of my humanity. Which is precisely the point. I cannot divorce the album from its own suggested theme: In the liner notes one finds the Scriptural reference ,"the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of man."
Some of the songs, like "The Face of Beauty" celebrate the radical self-emptying of Christ, and the strength-in-weakness motif of much of the New Testament.

I feeler stronger in faith every time I even think of this album.

No other album in my collection of hundreds, no liturgy, takes me to this an authentic starting point for life at its fullest.

Thank God for this album.

It IS liturgy, life...and strength. 
Parabola: Experiencing Jesus As Reality (Second Edition)

Parabola: Experiencing Jesus As Reality (Second Edition)
by Kelly J. Deppen
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.99
Availability: In Stock

4 used & new from $12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars No wonder she had me from page one.., March 18, 2009
"Parabola: Experiencing Jesus as Reality,"
through the lens of parobola, "aims to explore the Person of Jesus Christ as
Reality and as The Realm in which His people live..
..and also explore the convergence of recent discoveries in mathematics and quantum theory and the scriptures.."

No wonder she had me from page one..

That's the point, I think; read it from page one.

If you started (or she started) with her vision of Fulton Sheen in his glorified state on page 85, you might not even bother with the rest of the book. (Uh, pretend you didn't hear about that yet!). But by that point, even a cessationist is likely to believe her. (:
(Good thing she didn't recount the whole episode in tongues (: )

If you started with page 112's
"Hello, earth to the scientists: We could have told you that. Could it be that this 'higher dimensional space' is our higher reality we know as 'in Christ Jesus'?," you...and more importantly any skeptic scientists reading...might have unnecessarily not read on, reading her as one of those fanatic fundies in their undies, and a reductionist one to boot. But in context and sweep of the book, she earns her authority by page 112. She has done her homework. And as the back cover suggests, she has a gift of "prophetically provoking."

Much of the book is corraboratory evidence, midrash even, from scripture and physics, of the reality of being in the Kingdom, in the heavenly realms, and most significantly "in Christ Jesus." In college, one of my professors assigned us a paper around the question, "Based on the Epistle to the Romans, is the phrase 'in Christ,' meant to signify a spiritual, metaphysical reality/ mystical union and relationship, or is it merely a figure of speech?"
I always assumed the expected answer was the latter, but I have hungered for, and find the Scripture itself hungering for us, more of the former.

I got an "A" anyway.

It is risky for a believer with a bare-bones knowledge) to plunder an attempt to back the Bible up from math and science, it only makes us look as dumb as we sometimes are.

I usually prefer to read non-Christian PhDs who...without trying beautiful cases for God. Try Pulitzer Prize-winner Douglas Hoftsadter's "Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid." After deeply (and longly: 719 pages) studying math, art and science, he has no better phrase than an awed "eternal braid" for the Godhaunted connectedness and convergence of them all.
He believes in the eternal braid, but not necessarily in the Eternal One as we know him.
Or Frances Collins, an evangelical beliver in Jesus, PhD and head of the Human Genome Project who wrote the landmark, "The Language of God"
(interestingly also a commentary on a diagram with God-impliations: the double helix)

Suffice to say it is a good and God thing that we also have believers and thinkers like Deppen. She need not be a Pulitzer Prize winner or PhD ("I often say, "You can have more degrees than a summer day in Fresno, and still not know what you're talking about") to speak and write well (in a mere 119 pages) in this area of potential landmine and embarrassment to the cause of Christ. She is charismatic (in both senses of the word)....and if you really need a PhD's recommendation of her, there is a glowing endorsement of the book by one in the
the book reads like some kind of morphing, parabola even, of:
passionate devotional theology
easy to understand, but not watered down physics.

How cool is that?

So, having said all that I have said about reading her from page one, especially if this is new turf and territory to you, let me lift from the book just a few quotes (in paginated order of course) that I have underlined. This may give you a taste of the vibe and flow. But what you are missing here is the brilliant emergence and progression with which she builds her case.

Religion has historically explained reality dualistically, meaning it has separated spiritual and physical reality, and never the two shall meet. This dichotomy has had many names; 'the spirit and the flesh,' 'heaven and earth,' and my least favorite: 'the church and the world.' That just smacks of judgement, doesn't it?

Einstein reframed our picture of physical reality.. in less than a month in 1905.
-p. 43

(In particle-wave duality....the photon exists in two dimensions...This is what I like to call the proof of the possibility of being in two places at once. (48)... Here is where our parabola serves us well...This is the land of being in two places at once. You are simultaneously in the physical earth realm and in the metaphysical Body of Chist. (61)

I never under any circumstance ask the question 'What denomination are you?' The Lord taught me to refer to denominations as expression of Him. So I am incorporating that into my awareness and the way I speak. (80)

Strangely, the five ...solid, yet separate String Theories remind me of the current state of the fivefold Christian ministries: apostolic, prophetic, evangelical, pastoral, teaching...What the manifold ministries need is a unifying convergence-a singularity. I believe with all of my being that this place of unity is called 'in Christ Jesus.' (p 109)

Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 17, 2011 8:21 AM PDT

Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television

Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television
by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.32
Availability: In Stock

37 used & new from $6.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars even better than the real thing, December 2, 2008
Some of the memories my wife and I have of catching fleeting glimpses of TBN and other Christian TV include bizarre moments like a female televangelist interviewing an armless woman...and asking her how she puts on her makeup; and Robert Tilton spouting out "Someone is called to give a million dollars to this ministry;don't think about it, don't pray about it...just call in!"...followed by a long outburst of tongues to confirm the word.

I have a hard time with many of these shows; but I have to dare to believe God is using some (all?) of them, even if...well, you know.

So I was thrilled to hear that one of my favorite Sarcastic Lutherans (check the author's blog name), and a brilliant thinker, had been asked to write a book about the experience of watching 24 hours of Christian television (in the company of some wonderful hand-picked friends)..TBN, to be exact.

I must have prayed for her the moment I heard she had the job.

As hilarious as the book is(it exceeded even my high expectations here), I found it not only appropriately respectful (some will disagree...maybe even the author!), but hugely helpful in many "serious" ways...
It is her humility ("I, too live in a lavish lifestyle funded by the giving of the faithful, and this realization is discomforting. It is undoubtedly the plank in my own eye" -p.67) and wit that grant her authority to note out loud and in public things any of us have noted privately,like:

"I'm fairly certain that the descriptor 'Christian' when applied to music and TV shows is not an indicator of theological content but instead points to what is absent:profanity, homosexuals, liberals, uncertainty--basically anything that would challenge a particular worldview."

One well-crafted subtheme: ,I must say Bolz-Weber's passing insights about "simulacra" (12, 56) or "hyperreality", which at first glance appear as easy jokes....are incredibly helpful. This is territory that Ian Robertson picks up regarding U2's intentionally ironic and subversive "Even Better Than The Real Thing"/ZOO TV era use of this method (Chapter 6 in the Mark A. Wrathrall edited "U2 and Philosophy").

And finally, how about this? At one point in the 24-hour marathon, a Christian celebrity "sits on a garish sofa talking about how Jesus is better than nightclubs, which is, of course, a false dichotomy. I believe in Jesus and nightclubs,or even Jesus in nightclubs, but that's another story" (133)

Or is it?
Maybe that point is the prophetic punch right through dichotomy to"real reality," and the very story, of this vital book...or the next one she will hopefully write.

Full review:


Countdown to Sunday: A Daily Guide for Those Who Dare to Preach

Countdown to Sunday: A Daily Guide for Those Who Dare to Preach
by Chris William Erdman
Edition: Paperback
Availability: Currently unavailable

11 used & new from $37.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't let death write your sermons, March 27, 2008
"The best way to be a really good preacher is by not trying to be good at all."

"Go ahead, preach as badly as you can. You can't do it."

If I could just keep those two great bits of advice in healthy tension, I'll be a much better preacher this Sunday.

Knowing Chris Erdman and his giftedness, I was prepared for a great read on the "countdown to Sunday." Not only was I not disappointed, but I feel I am somehow far more prepared for the rest of my Sundays; and far more prepped to engage life and God in a number of ways. Yes, it is officially a practical book about preaching (but far from a cheesy formula or bad sermon itself), but unlike any book in this genre since Dennis Kinlaw's "Preaching in the Spirit," it is far is spiritual formation woven into the stuff of daily life and world events; with a special focus on sermon preparation and preacher preparation.

Of course anyone who grasps the implications of:

1)our living "in modernity's last gasp"
2) U2's "inhabiting" their songs as an encouragement for us to inhabit the text
3) working your week so one can actually spend time with loved ones and sleep well on Saturday, and actually worship with, and enter sabbath with, the congregation
4)"our fear of each other... is at bottom, fear of death"

is a genius in my book!

The book is a model for how to work your week as the sermon grows. Interspersed among the daily guidelines are powerful prayers and fantastic theological and cultural insights. Erdman's eminently helpful suggestions and his engaging conversational tone dovetail with his loaded prophetic statements about (for example) the subtle insidiousness of extreme nationalism. He must be wrestled with.

His four page chapter on hospital visitation shines. I don't dare give it away, but I dare say it changed almost everything about the hospital visit I made today. And probably my sermon this Sunday.

And coming to view funerals as "dissent from death", as well as coming to terms with the fact that "Death would love to help us write our (funeral) sermons" refill me with the hope and life of the gospel.

I particularly enjoy that many of the author's suggestions I have stumbled onto over the years; and several of his ideas I can now incorporate and test-drive. But how I wish I had this book, and Chris Erdman as my preaching professor, twenty years ago.

But if I could eventually say with him that"I nearly always come out of my Fridays with a much clearer sense of what the Word wants to do among us come Sunday," it's not too late.

And I am already drawing from it as I teach preachers in our network.
Maybe I'll eventually practice most of it, and not just preach it.
Let the countdown begin.

The Violet Burning

The Violet Burning
Price: $12.00
Availability: In Stock

17 used & new from $4.35

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars the most listenable "unlistenable" album ever made, March 25, 2008
This review is from: The Violet Burning (Audio CD)
Perhaps the most devastating, heartbreaking; the most listenable "unlistenable" album ever made.

Born out of tough life circumstances, death and betrayal, and tenuously tethered to an incredibly vulnerable place, the gut-wrenching and guitar-wrenching angst, faith and doubt that emerge here are in fact beautiful,touching, and ultimately healing.

This is not angst for art's sake; this is nor even really art for angst's sake. It's unedited life that also winds up being art, angst, anger and worship.

Such is the hardwon faith that does not bypass lament.

I cannot use the word "masterpiece" lightly; but I cannot not use it here.

Michael Pritzl and The Violet Burning had created two wonderful and promising CDs (especially the essential "Strength," their first (and radically different) masterpiece; truly the first modern worship record..only a decade ahead of its time!) to this point (and many gems have been released since).
But nothing prepared for this full on lunge into grunge and abyss; heaven by way of hell.

"Have I gone too far?/Can you reach me?" ("Underwater"), "Can you fill my soul? I just don't have what it you?" ("Eleven"), "Do you feel scared like I do/Do you feel lower than angels?" , "Will I ever shine in your eyes?" ("Goldmine"), and "Can I see the light?" ("Feel") are not thoughts and questions that folk who are "supposed to" believe in God are usually allowed to express..let alone explore. But thank God (literally) this band was allowed to and required to. The emotion (and sometimes intentional nonemotion) in the vocals and the instrumentation (particularly the dirty bombast and orchestral air of the guitars) add up far beyond the sum of their parts, and transport the listener to places they may or may not want to go. But the rare and refreshing upturns ( as "I feel your fire" in"Arabic Tremolo Radio") infuse us all the more with wild hope, as they are backdropped against the void.

Brilliantly produced by Steve Hindalong, the atmosphere shines, shimmers, haunts and a heavy kind of way. Fans of Andy Prickett's unique guitar sonics will be rewarded.

Musically, the Violets have been compared to, and recommended for lovers of the likes of U2, The Cure, Radiohead, Delirious, and My Bloody Valentine. This visceral album in particular has been linked to the relentless "grunge"movement, and distorted guitar, angry young man angstrock scenes. Those qualifiers may be helpful in tipping you off (If you only like classical or pop, you may never be able to fully enter the
journey). But in the case of this masterpiece, all bets and categories are off in the long run. It is possible for one who has no place in their record collection for any of the aforementioned to find this album a very benchmark of their life. The record is a cathartic experience that will lift you up if you let it; if you can endure it to the end. I wouldn't even be surprised if it has literally saved someone's life. But don't get near it if you are find no place for death in your life and naked honesty in your faith (or faithlessness).

And some all out rock attack that just might tear apart and reassemble your soul, and make you stronger.

"Don't let me die here naked/Knowing these lies

You might even try listening to it just for "fun" as an occasionally danceable rock record.

Listen to it if you like distorted guitar, but don't want to get in touch with your heart, life and God-shaped hole.

Yeah, right. I dare you.

But whatever your motive, buy this yesterday.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 25, 2011 11:54 AM PDT

The True Christmas Story - Ray Vander Laan DVD

The True Christmas Story - Ray Vander Laan DVD
DVD ~ Ray Vander Laan
Availability: Currently unavailable

2 used & new from $17.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazes year after year, December 19, 2007
As a pastor, I have shown this video on Sunday mornings and home groups for years. One home group has seen it maybe seven times, and still learns something new every time...

Sweet Mercies

Sweet Mercies
Availability: Currently unavailable

22 used & new from $1.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Guitar driven, intelligent ,honest worship, August 1, 2007
This review is from: Sweet Mercies (Audio CD)
Especially if you like guitar-driven (which was a creative choice, as Ruis is a keyboardist), passionate "real rock" worship which doesn't come off trite or cheesy; and could get excited about not one, but two, Violet Burning-related guitarrists extraordiare (Shawn Tubbs and Glenn Pearce)...

You need this overlooked classic CD. From the evocative and etheral vibe of the opening psalm, to its revved up reprise at the end; this CD inspires heartfelt worship in a genre and vein one expects of Ruis at his best.

A Conversation With Jesus

A Conversation With Jesus
by Stephen A. Seamands
Edition: Hardcover
Availability: Out of Print--Limited Availability

31 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars I have drawn from this well for 17 years, July 13, 2007
I was fortunate enough to be a student of Dr. Seamands' when he was beginning to assemble this material. I heard many snippets of this book as classroom devotions in 1990. I can still remember them! So from my early notes to this actual book....this material has been one of my main wells of renewal in these last seventeen years of ministry.

Thank you Dr. S!


Clinical Theology, a Theological And Psychiatric Basis to Clinical Pastoral Care (Volume 1)

Clinical Theology, a Theological And Psychiatric Basis to Clinical Pastoral Care (Volume 1)
by Frank Lake
Edition: Paperback
Price: $52.56
Availability: In Stock

24 used & new from $42.83

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars an amazing classic, back in print!, March 28, 2007
Only three of my seminary professors had their own copy of this classic; the famous "big green book.' Even by then (1990) it was such a cult classic (If one may wink and use that phrase for a theological book).

For years, I had to look all over the world for a copy before scoring one in England......Thank God it is back in print for a new generation.

Sure, some of it is dated, but this seminal and searching work must be wrestled and reckoned with. No one before or since has so masterfully synthesized theology, psychology and philosophy (Kierkegaard et al) in such a "clinical' yet practical amd pastoral way. Don't let the terribly boring title fool you. It is somewhat intellectual, and may not be for all. But I venture that anyone...especially pastor and counselors..who give it a try will be amazed. I even find it devotional; Lake's obvious love for Christ and awe of the power of the atonement is stirring. The chapter on the "Schizoid" position is uniquely relevant to our day.

Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 13, 2010 5:38 PM PST

Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series)

Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series)
by Earl G. Creps
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.96
Availability: In Stock

64 used & new from $5.83

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars headed off road, December 14, 2006

One of the things I love about this book is, that in a non-cheesy way; eschewing the seduction of reduction(ism), Creps coins phrases that capture a category of reality that missional leaders must wrestle with: For example, a key category throughout the book is "the sought,"
as alternative to what we have called "the lost." And the whole book is a huge and holy help in aiding old modern preachers like me jack up their "get-it" factor regarding this "new species" of humanity that is the younger crowd: "homo postmodernus." (43)

Especially in these changing days, only off-road disciplines; worked creatively into our on-road "prayer and Bible study" adventure as missional leaders will bolster us.

So I will center this review around one of those disciplines; highlighted in Chapter Four: "reverse mentoring; " as it is arguably central to the book; but definitely to my learning curve on the off-road adventure.

"Reverse mentoring," then, is---and nearly every word here is loaded and leaded---:

"A very specific form of friendship in which the junior instructs the senior, not as a replacement for other forms of mentoring but as an essential complement to them." (42)

To the painful point:
"Do I possess the humility to accept instruction from a nine-year old?.. How many times have I missed the Kingdom because I insisted on being the adult in the relationship?" (51)

Finally, a word on "the sought"..those God is seeking, but who are not yet intentional followers of Christ:
"Over time, drinking coffee and writing sermons in the presence of the sought cultivated changes in my approach without ever involving a conscious decision.... drinking coffee with the sought became almost sacramental., convincing me that (emphasis mine) sermons sbould be composed only among them. (69)

Earth to Earl!
Pastors study? Seminary library?

Dang, he's right. He's on Earth.
Excuse me, I think I am now on the way there;
And on the way to an off-road way.

Demonstrates Plastic And Elastic

Demonstrates Plastic And Elastic
Price: $13.60
Availability: Usually ships in 1 to 3 weeks

4 used & new from $3.00

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes Even Plastic is Elastic, December 27, 2003
The Violet Burning's "Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic," a sneak-up-on-you and amazing classic, may not work for everybody, but I believe that anybody who gives it a chance and time will eventually see it work its way into your life like few other musical offerings can even begin to. This fourth Violet Burning full length release builds on and transcends all that went before: "Chosen"'s groundbreaking passion; "Strength," the first and finest modern worship album (only eight years ahead of its time), and the self-titled CD's grungy, gut-wrenching (and guitar-wrenching), brutally honest heartbreak psalms.

The pressing and practical problem for record-store folks is where to file this CD..which is precisely the genius and point of this offering. Is it rock or is it worship? Yes. Is it punk or ballad? Believe it or not; both/and! No contradiction; just paradox. Or maybe a contradiction..but who cares? But the real genre breakdown, and interpretive key to this layered and intriguing work is spelled out as early as the title ("Is this CD plastic or elastic?" "Yes, both, precisely)" Michael Pritzl, who basically "is" the Violets, was inspired to have his band cut this CD after returning from Berlin and seeing a sign reading "Plaste und Elaste"..that is, "Plastic and elastic." This sign triggered his thoughts that life, relationships, romance and faith are sometimes divided into "plastic" experiences and songs (fun, maybe superficial and throwaway party stuff), and "elastic" items (flexible, fluid, stretching, deep, profound, emotional to the max). So about half the songs are at heart "plastic": fun, rollicking rockers like "Moon Radio," "Berlin Kitty", "I'm No Superman".."new-wavish" songs and "single jingles" that stick like crazy in your head, and are all incredible on CD; and triply more so in concert; but songs I confess sometimes only preface the real treat of this disc: the "other half": the very "elastic" and ultimately astonishing, elongated, ethereal beautiful and at times almost-impossible to deal with emotive "feeling" songs; both in lyric and guitar. Like "She Says Electric" (a song about ..among other things, that is..remember that plastic "stretches" thematically) what a friend told Pritzl it feels like to be lost in worship": I am electric..face to the sun." Like "Oceana," (about ..on some listenings and levels another friend leads him closer to God; and "Gorgeous" (most days my favorite song of basically, well..nothing less than all time..tied with "Goldmine" from the previous VB CD and "Song of the Harlot" from "Strength") ....a song I believe invokes how God feels about us: "I feel so much the distance in your eye..You won't catch me that way.. You're gorgeous".

But it's the last two songs, "We Close Our Eyes",the memorial to the band's former producer and mentor Chris Wimber (son of founding Vineyard pastor, John), taken from life at an all-too-early age. How could one truly listen and engage the promise of the hushed lyric and not believe it: "We're not alone..We're going to live forever." And I dare you not to take Pritzl literally when he recommends that "we close our eyes" while soaking up this song. Try on "Seamonster" (about God casting our sins in the deepest sea, and remembering them no more"; "eating" our sins like a seamonster..what?) that transport me even higher and deeper into Kingdom reality,and can move me to tears and hear-rending intercession and on-my-face worship....Indeed, I am electric and can't be interrupted when these two closing tracks unfurl, shimmer, build, swirl their way into me in an unhurried and other-worldly vibe, and in the words of bassist Herb Grimaud, Jr, "take you on a journey every time."

And what to do with one of the most discussed songs on the bands website:,"Ilaria." Frankly, I think every song in the VB catalog has an element of God talking to us in the lyrics(Even if it "seems" at first to be about a human relationship or event, or even a throwaway "plastic" moment) . In "Ilaria"'s line, "I kind of like it when you sway", I think this is directed to God. Pritzl has admitted being fascinated with a literal translation of the Hebrew of Genesis 1, where the Spirit is "swaying," "hovering" or "moving" over us. Much of this CD evokes for me what it may be like to sway and move with God, a place we don't often let our hearts take us. And the infectious "robotic dancing" of "Robot Fluide Robot" is a creative synthesis of "plastic" instrumentation and "elastic" lyric. "Sugarlight USA," perhaps another plastic/elastic combo, is arguably about addiction, David Bowie's "Major Thom" persona, a critique of American culture , alienation, television and (inevitably) our God-images ... all at once.

Fans of the earlier three CDs, and the three later CDs, will find this CD an indispensable crucible, landmark, and launching pad. A band captured on the rebound from an intense, heartbreaking season, full of joy..full of..well, plastic moments where there is no shame or guilt in reckless abandonment to a (not really)disposable dance number...and glorious, evocative "elastic" pilgrimages, The lyrics..of the elastic pieces, anyway,are not immediately accessible (a different animal altogether from some of the more recent worship and pop numbers) and are right-brain impressionistic invitations to explore life, God, ones own bare heart and relationships,..and like good art, will mean different things to different listeners..which of course is an "elastic" quality.

Opening with, and briefly closing with a worshipful pouring out of ones naked longing and vulnerability before God "Lay Your hands now on me..Let your love cover me".... first accompanied with ear-splitting punk riffs, and finally with barely audible organ, purposefully frame this whole CD event as authentic, creative , and fresh worship, the like of which is found nowhere else I know.. For who else could weave plastic and elastic, let the twain creatively meet, and couch it in profound worship..even though some may note detect a note of worship until a third or fourth listen! I may be a sucker for ethereal guitars and extended vibe and drone (a genre the later Violets may not visit as much) , but to me, when fused with the uncompromisingly honest and passionate heart of Michael Pritzl and company , I admit with no shame that such has midwifed many a holy moment with God and others in my life. Whether you like droning guitars or not, if you prayerfully let this CD into your life, including those dark soul-recesses, you'll likely find , in the language of "Fluide" , "we're all the same"...desperate vagabonds sniffing for , in the lyric of "Elaste", "something strong to fill our hole."

Having said and accoladed all that, in a sense, this disc is almost incomprehensible without the context of its predecessor, the self-titled CD (a true masterpiece, a word I would not quite apply to "P and E"... though you noted I began this essay with an easy "classic" rating and 5 stars), because it is only most fully seen and tasted in the light of finding ones way back from near despair, and finding God blesses us with both plastic and elastic foretastes of unspeakable joy..which Michael Pritzl in an apostolic way can begin to articulate and speak for us.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!