Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Lance Hahn's The Master's Mind

This book was the first one I have ever received that I could not read. From the beginning, the author casually invoked Nazi Germany, the worst example of human beings in the last century, as the bar he could make you climb over. That is the lowest bar possible. If you are not better than that, you have no reason to be reading anyway. And even if it somehow was acceptable, neither Nazi's nor any others who commit atrocities can serve as an example of insecurity, depression, or confusion, which are the very things he supposedly structured his book around.
Of those three problems (insecurity, depression, and confusion), one of them is a medical condition. I don't imagine any doctors prescribing reading books about Nazi's in any capacity to treat depression. Nor should they. Confusion is so entirely vague that there's no way to address it at large. And insecuriy? Are "hope, strength, peace, joy, and love" the cures to that? Again, not the case. Insecurity is a battle within oneself, not a cosmic struggle. He says he wants to show us how much God "wants to strengthen our minds to enable us to rise above the noise..." but to make that statement is to belittle the reader, to count their very real problems as just "noise." It's disrespectful.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Book Review: Gordon MacDonald's Ordering Your Private World

How do you review a book that says nothing? It's like the author keeps repeatedly trying to say whatever the reader wants to hear, jumping from point to point. The book starts with discussing how being "driven" can be dangerous to focusing on your inner world only to end up to get a lesson on how to prepare to pray. Never does the "private world" ever make sense. Is it our conciousness? Is it time with God? It is kept vague.

Provided Summary: One of the great battlegrounds of the new century is within the private world of the individual.The values of our Western culture incline us to believe that the busy, publicly active person in ministry  is also the most spiritual.
Tempted to give imbalanced attention to the public world at the expense of the private, we become involved in more programs, more meetings. Our massive responsibilities at home, work, and church have resulted in a lot of good people on the verge of collapse.
In this timely update of his classic Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald equips a new generation to live life from the inside out, cultivating the inner victory necessary for public effectiveness

A book on meditation would be much more suggested than this. By the end of the book MacDonald focuses on topics like keeping a journal or focusing on the time of the day to pray, but till then whatever the private world is, doesn't make much sense. Instead, the book talks about the downfalls of being a driven person, whatever that means, at the beginning. Essentially, it is saying don't be a narcissist, but he never puts it in those terms. Warning people away from being driven is much more dangerous when you never clarify what is the opposite of being driven is.

Prayer and journaling seem obvious conclusions by the end of the book too. It isn't the first time a book like that has given step by step instructions on how to incorporate those into your life. This is just another book to pick to put into your crop of books already providing a way to put those into your life. I typically provide quotes from books, but I found this one to be so repetitive on the subject matter I didn't find them conducive to any points to make about the book. 

The book is under 200 pages, but it's the longest 200 pages I've had to manage. The most popular biblical characters you always hear about dot the book from Paul to David, and if I hadn't already the points made about them before then it might have been insightful. People already use those guys to make the same points over and over despite the long list of other people in the Bible. Jesus gets a quick mention though as he always does, but no one really knows how to talk about Jesus since his message rarely matches the point they want to make about these books anyways. As telling as that is it never seems to resonate. 

This book was provided by Herald Press in exchange for a review. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: Beth Moore's Get Out of That Pit

What's left of Christian bookstores provides many options for self-help books that read like fortune cookies accompanied by a tight smile and vacant eyes to greet you on the cover. I'm still not sure how people decide whether it's Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Max Lucado, or as I'm about to discuss Beth Moore, they want to inject them with short verses strung together to create a peppy theme. It seems quicker just to shake a Magic 8 Ball and let an answer surface to the top. Considering this book runs for $16.99, I think it's cheaper to buy the ball.

Provided Summary: From her first breath of fresh air beyond the pit, it has never been enough for Beth Moore to be free. This best-selling author and Bible teacher who has opened the riches of Scripture to millions of longs for you to be free as well—to know the Love and Presence that are better than life and the power of God’s Word that defies all darkness.

Beth’s journey out of the pit has been heart-rending. But from this and the poetic expressions of Psalm 40 has come the reward: a new song for her soul, given by her Saviour and offered to you in Get Out of That Pit—friend to friend. This is Beth’s most stirring message yet of the sheer hope, utter deliverance, and complete and glorious freedom of God.

Beth Moore covers all things "pit" in this book. Purposely in a pit, accidentally in a pit, shoved in a pit; you name it she has got you covered on pits. If you are tired of my usage of the word "pit" already, then imagine reading this book. The word is used so much it can distract you from what is being implied throughout the pages, which I'm sure wasn't directly the intention, but it harms whether intended or not. In giving people the gear to try to climb out of that pit it places the blame on some groups I find concerning such as the mentally ill, the disabled, and people with addictions. The problem with trying to write a book summed up in a little over 200 pages is that it doesn't give each sensitive issue its own focus. Addressing someone who has dealt with atrocities such as rape or murder is very different than addressing someone who is affected by a family member with a mental illness or has a child with a disability. Putting them in a list to address to the reader how they might be in a pit because of that person seems insensitive. Suggesting that disabled family members with disabilities put you in a pit is akin to being a victim of a crime is insensitive. Being a victim of abuse can hardly be the same as being the caretaker of a dependent loved one. Circumstances (a.k.a. "Pits") aren't one size fits all. Neither are the ways to provide advice.

Moore writes on page 25, "Like my family of origin, you can be thrown into a pit by a loved one suffering from mental illness. I cannot adequately voice the fear that can be incited by someone with serious bouts of irrational thinking." 

This is all the book states on dealing with mental illness, and it paints a negative portrait without any further story. Dealing with mental illness isn't easy for the person experiencing the illness and someone who loves them. I would know because I've dealt with a mental illness since the age of 6. It's never spoken that the person with the illness themselves can be thrown in a pit.

Is it possible for people to relate to the stories Moore gives? The majority of the stories she provides about herself is a trip to the cabin in the mountains, a Florida fishing trip, how she only stays in hotels because RVs can smell, and an awkward golf lesson with a friend. These are the examples she gives to make herself relatable. These examples are so unrelatable to the reality of what most people experience, particularly those in the "pits." She doesn't want you thinking the poor and rich experience the pain of the "pits" differently, but these examples don't help affirm we all mesh in the same pit. Nowhere does Moore mention how you climb out of the pit of worry you can't feed your family tomorrow, that your electricity is going to be cut off, or you can't afford the gas bill in the winter. Those aren't the pits that are unhealthy relationships or past demons you can't shake for a better tomorrow. It isn't addressed how you see the light at the top of the pit when you're in those situations.

It's true that everyone feels pain. Pain is pain no matter what causes it. What Moore says is dismissive of how individual experiencing pain is though. The book overall promotes a selfishness about oneself. The book provides such vague advice packed with Bible verses that you could draw any conclusions for yourself.

This book was provided by Handlebar Marketing in exchange for a review. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Book Review: Hanna Schott's Love in a Time of Hate

The inspiring story of  Magda and Andre Trocme is a story many might be unfamiliar with. It's one that needs to be heard because their story makes a statement without needing to point out it was a statement.  The Trocme's did have personal accounts they had written about their lives, and Magda would later submit those unfinished memoirs to Swarthmore College in Philadephia. German Journalist Hanna Schott draws from those written accounts, other written historical work about Le Chambon during WWII, and firsthand accounts of survivors still living in Le Chambon to write about the couple who hid Jewish refugees in their village during WWII. Because it is a story adapted by Schott there are added questions, feelings, and focuses making it more so what she personally took from their story than told through their eyes.

Summary: Love in a Time of Hate tells the gripping tale of Magda and AndrE TrocmE, the couple that transformed a small town in the mountains of southern France into a place of safety during the Holocaust. At great risk to their own lives, the TrocmEs led efforts in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon to hide more than three thousand Jewish children and adults who were fleeing the Nazis. In this astonishing story of courage, romance, and resistance, learn what prompted AndrE and Magda to risk everything for the sake of strangers who showed up at their door. Building on the story told in Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, German journalist Hanna Schott portrays a vivid story of resisting evil and sheltering refugees with striking resonance for today. 

I assume since it is stated in the summary the story provides "striking resonance for today" means the message to take away is how similar we're treating current refugees in 2017 to how the Jewish were treated during WWII.  We see the example of Magda and Andre who despite the risk of their safety was determined to act on what they thought was their religious duties and provide shelter and safety to those who had nowhere else to go. They didn't compromise their own religious convictions in the wake of many challenges despite the tough questions they had to ask including, "when is deception okay?" The task of weaving the story in with a message to continue in a modern day context is mostly in the introduction of the book. 

Vicki Reddy, founder of We Welcome Refugees and executive producer of The JUSTICE Conference, writes of how she connected to Love In a Time of Hate to the current refugee crisis, "I keep asking: Where is the church right now? Where are the followers of Jesus? What are doing in response to the greatest humantarian crisis of our time?"

There are obvious accounts of what happened to directly show all the dynamics to stir the audience in what they see today too in the book. While I find it compelling, inspiring, and a scary tale of what we see occurring in society today, I also hesitate to ever use someone else's story to make a point they can't directly speak on now. We can assume with almost 100% certainty Andrea and Magda would have responded the same to the refugee crisis of now, but we don't need to make that statement because we can see it in their actions.

As easily as we can interpret Magda and Andre's story of one about love and peace found through their belief in Christ, someone can just as easily argue their positions for war and nationalism drawing from the Bible. I would know since I've had the arguments defending refugees against those citing the Bible as reasons we shouldn't. How do you respond to people of the same religion who oppose how you identify with Christ when they are spending hours in churches trying to understand and sympathize with the atrocities of King David, a man even described as being after God's own heart, in the Old Testament as a powerful military leader who made some "mistakes" in war? I've even had people cite Jesus himself as a reason you bear arms by taking just taking a chunk of the context in Luke 22. Then Exodus 22 reads a lot like the "Stand Your Ground" laws in states like Florida or Oklahoma. It wasn't for lack of reasons based in the Bible that people scoffed at Andre choosing to be a pacifist in the reformed church during his era, though I find it an admirable quality about Andre.

The story of Andre and Magda themselves is inspiring as it is, and I would have loved had the book dedicated more time to the Trocme's time in Le Chambon. Almost 150 pages discuss Andre and Magda's childhood, their meeting in the U.S., and they eventual landing in Le Chambon, but only a little over 100 pages discuss their life hiding Jewish refugees in the village. I never could get the whole grasp of their sacrifice because it was all so brief, especially the part where Daniel Trocme was taken by Nazis with the children he housed to a concentration camp, where he eventually died. Plus, Andre and Magda weren't only inspired and in the company of Christians, which showed a unity far beyond what could be captured in the book. Daniel was nonreligious and made that sacrifice, the Trocme's still let children at the school they founded practice their Jewish rituals, and the Trocme's were admirers of Gandhi. They had even planned a honeymoon trip they couldn't make to see Gandhi in India. I would have loved to have seen more of the letters from Andre and Magda to read more of their philosophy and what drew in particular to the Gospels?

Andre and Magda do have a timeless, heroic story. Even if we eventually mature as people regarding the current refugee crisis, and rise up to the do the right thing we will be using this story again and again because war will inevitably continue to cast citizens to the side.  Stories like Andre and Magda's don't need my added commentary to know what the right thing would have been to do then and now. They already show it through their actions. We hopefully will always find it in ourselves to do the right thing when helping others and put our own fears aside to do so, especially when we've never known fear like people pushed out of their homes and across the sea only knowing that floating into the unknown is better than the home you've always known.

This book was provided by Herald Press in exchange for a review. 


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