Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Critical Reaction the Second

I felt like it was time to post something other than just book reviews, but now I am not entirely sure what to say.  I thought the title Critical Reaction does elicit an interesting line of thoughts. Does anyone want to say what there first thoughts are when thinking of that combination of words?

Do you zero in on the critical part and think someone is being critical of the reaction of someone else?

Or do you think of the reaction word first and think that the way you respond in the given circumstance is extremely critical?

What kind of reaction do you feel when you hear the following news bulletins?

--30-100% horse meat found in some kind of lasagna that Aldi's sells.  They buy it from someplace in France who was advertising beef and putting horse meat in instead.  Who's gonna know?  It seems the manufacturers might be passing the buck to the stores by saying they were putting pressure on them to lower their prices.

--Parents charged with murder after following Mike and Debbi Pearl's "Train up a Child" book.  Supposedly the girl was found naked out in the back yard, was emaciated and had evidence of having been beaten.  I don't buy much into the Pearl's system of operation, but I believe that has gone a step too far to leave them out in the cold and starve them.  I followed a fascinating facebook post/comments on that this afternoon for awhile and let me just say there were some critical reactions and if you even dared to try and support the Pearl's you were in danger of being badly lashed out at.

--Kulp wins 69th Assembly Republican Primary.  Yes, that is old news--I am actually waiting to see if he won the main election today, but that isn't up yet.  I know there are many and varied opinions on this, but I personally think it would be kind of cool if he won. Someone I sort of know in government.  That isn't going to happen very often.  I don't really know what the 69th Assembly person does, but it sounds important!!!

So that brings me to some questions that can garner critical reactions:  (please tell me what you think)
1. Are there Christian politicians?
2. How long were the days when God created the earth?  24 hour days or longer or shorter?
3. Who wants a foot of snow for Thanksgiving and then another foot every couple of weeks the rest of the winter?
4. Who thinks all medical people are out to get you?
5. Will we recognize our loved ones in heaven?
6. Who thinks black socks are cool?
7. Why do adults wear tights?
8.  And if your church standard says no thin hosiery, should you be wearing tights instead?
9. Why is it called a potluck meal?
10. What should we name our first child?

That's all for now folks.

Critical Reaction

Yes, I know another book review.  This book was given to me by Bethany House Publishers for the sole purpose of writing a review about it.

Critical Reaction by Todd Johnson was not a book I would have normally picked up to read.  I picked it because, of course, I didn't want a month to slip by that I didn't try to get a book to review.  If you love mystery and intrigue than you would like this book.

D and I both read it and for a bit on Sunday evening, I was reading it aloud so we could both know what was going on as I had caught up to where he was at.  He then finished the book while I did the responsible thing and went to bed.  I quickly finished it the next morning before going to work.

The plot is based on a nuclear plant in the desert that had an explosion.  One of the guys hurt in the explosion was trying to sue, but it seemed like a lost cause, but of course, throughout the book, they were able to gather enough evidence to win the trial in the end.

One of the things that did impress me about the book was the way that the author was able to weave together multiple characters and keep the story flowing.  He had multiple stories going within the main story and yet I never lost track of what was going on.  That requires some talent.

It was a good book--one that held my attention and made me wonder exactly what was going to happen.  Well, like most fiction books, you already know what is going to happen, but how is the author going to get to the end point is more the question.

I enjoyed the book.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Real by Jamie Snyder

This book was given to me by Bethany House to read and write a review about.

I really did intend to write a few blog posts in between the book reviews, but it hasn't happened.  This book review however will likely reflect a fair amount of the thoughts I have been pondering lately anyway.

This is a book I would highly recommend to everyone.  I feel like I need to flip right back to the front cover and start reading all over again.

The subtitle is "Becoming a 24/7 follower of Jesus" and his all-consuming question throughout the whole book is this: "If Sunday didn't exist, would anyone know you are a follower of Jesus?" Now, I'm going to take a few liberties here to expound on this question in ways that Jamie didn't touch, but I don't think Jamie is Mennonite.  As Mennonite ladies we stand out in the crowd and I am pretty sure that is not the way that Jamie intended.  We look like Mennonites every day of the week, but do we look like Christians?  Do we have love and joy reflected on our faces from what is shining out of our hearts? Or do we just have religion?

Listen to his description on the difference between relationship and religion:  "Religion is defined by rules and regulations, but a relationship is built upon intimacy.  Religion can be scheduled; relationship is spontaneous.  Religion is about measuring up; relationship is about growing deeper.  Religion is man-made; relationship with Jesus is God-ordained.  Religion is predictable; relationship is passionate.  Religion earns the applause of men; a relationship with Jesus results in the applause of heaven."  So my question to you is:  which are you in?

He gives several qualities of a true Christ follower--one who worships every day of the week.  These qualities are a bit radical, but I think every last one is needed in the life of a true Christian and every last one of them touched me and convicted me of areas I need to improve in.

Unbridled generosity:  giving and giving--it's all His anyway.
Daring courage:  are we willing to be like Peter and John and risk imprisonment or worse because of our faith and our teaching.  How do I respond to the unpredictable in life: the lost job, the terminal illness, etc?  "Some people pretend to have courage; others actually do."  Which camp do I fall into?
Rebellious joy: Paul and Silas singing in prison was a complete opposite of what anyone would have expected them to do.  They refused to let their circumstances get them down.  Life can be tough, but if we think of the final result--our end goal--our final reward how can we be anything but joyful?  This is one that really struck me.  I read this chapter a day after hearing a sermon on being joyful in all circumstances and wearing that joy on our faces and I knew I had a job in front of me.  I haven't felt the greatest over the last few months and there have been way too many times where that ill feeling was expressed on my face and in my voice and I don't want to be like that.  I want to have the joy of the Lord even in the midst of feeling like happiness is elusive.
Risky faith:  How much are we willing to give up to follow Jesus?  Do we say we follow Jesus, but make sure that we stay in America in our nice homes and sleep in our comfortable beds and drive our nice SUV's? That is settling for a safe faith.  "My fear is that too many of us have adopted a faith that involves no risk.  Our idea of following Jesus looks more like a safe walk in a park than a dangerous journey through mountainous terrain.  The reality is, when you choose to follow Jesus, when you build your life on your faith in him, you are most likely going to be led to places you would rather not go.  You might be compelled to give more than makes sense.....Following him means a life of loving the unlovable, forgiving the unforgivable, and sometimes doing the undesirable."
Relentless hope: What is my hope in?  Vanity?  Success?  Money?  "Hope is the gentle voice in the depth of our souls that whispers greater things to come--maybe not in this life, but in the life to come."
Scandalous grace: unmerited favor.  We have much to learn in this respect.  I could branch off on my own hobby horse on this, but for right now I will refrain or maybe I won't.  Grace is nothing I can earn, but I think too often in today's churches we take what God has given to us freely and we make others earn it.  People have to earn the right to be a part of our church.  You messed up?  You are going to pay--oh we say we forgive, but before we are going to extend to you grace and allow you to be a part of our church again, you are going to prove yourself.  And then we can't figure out why people walk away.  Look at the story of the time Jesus was at Simon the Pharisee's house for a meal.  Simon was a very religious person and he didn't have the time of day for this lady who came to anoint Jesus' feet.  He was appalled that Jesus would even allow her to touch him--she was supposedly a prostitute.  But Jesus extended grace.  Jesus extended grace to the woman brought to Him caught in the act of adultery (by the way, whatever happened to the man in this story?).  The religious leaders were ready to stone her, but Jesus extended grace and forgiveness.  We tend to draw boundary lines--we will extend grace to these kinds of people, but not to those.  Those people are excluded by God's grace--by whose standard?  Ours, of course, definitely not God's.  Jamie's challenge was to break those boundary lines that you have set up in your mind and go extend grace to that person that you struggle to think worthy.  They are worthy--we are all worthy.
Mad love:  Hosea is a prime example of this--told to go marry the prostitute Gomer and to love her and to redeem her and bring her back from prostitution.  That is the kind of love we are to have.  It's a no-holds-barred kind of love.

I guess you can tell that I really really enjoyed this book--it wasn't exactly a book that you can read and not have it convict you in some point or in many points.  I just wonder if all of us as Christians would take these points seriously--if we would seek to live them out in our own lives, if so many of our troubles would be solved.

Fragrant Whiffs of Joy by Dorcas Smucker (It's Giveaway time)

Ah yes, this was just what the doctor ordered. I've wanted to review Dorcas' last book or two and was always too chicken to ask, b...