Monday, May 26, 2014

Stop Yawning!

There was once a lion named Aslan, who wasn't safe, but he was good, he was wild, not like a tame Lion. Narnia fans will recognize the reference, and the metaphor. Drew Dyck uses a different wild beast as a metaphor for God in his book “Yawning at Tigers: you Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying.” (Nelson Books, 2014).
The book reminds us that God is more than the kind, gentle, meek Jesus of the pictures we remember from the walls of our Sunday school rooms. Although God is love, there is also a different side to him, one that strikes fear into the heart of man. And it was refreshing to read of God as he is presented in the scriptures, and not a being that takes on different characteristics depending on what we want him to look like on any given day.
Animals in their cages at the zoo might seem tame, but watch them in their natural habitat and you quickly understand that a small confined space and 50 pounds of raw meat a day changes the dynamics of the hunt. Because we can’t fully understand God, we create a zoo in our minds for Him too. But he God of Scripture does not fit into any box that we could create for him, and Dyck does a good job of reminding the reader of that fact.
This is a fun book to read, but don’t be deceived. Scripture says that God created man in his image; unfortunately, across the millennia, man has been trying to reciprocate, and in Yawning at Tigers, we are reminded again and again that God is not amused by our feeble attempts.
Most books that I review are suitable for new believers, or they are appropriate for mature believers, or maybe they would best be left to theologians and serious scholars. Dyck has managed to write a book that is suitable for anyone who is willing to examine the difference between the God that one has put in his own personal zoo, and the God of Scripture.
There is a study guide included with this book, and it’s just as exciting as the book itself.
Highly recommended!

Disclosure: I received this book free from the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, May 23, 2014

review Parenting for the Launch

Dennis Trittin and Arlyn Lawrence have compiled all the tips that I should have started reading 17 years ago. Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens To Succeed in the Real World (LifeSmart Publishing, 2013) includes the things parents need to know about raising children who are ready to be the adults they need to be when they leave home for a life of college, military or marriage.
They write in an engaging manner, and include plenty of personal anecdotes. They even let us know that along the way they learned some of these things by making their own mistakes. One of the most freeing pieces of advice is to allow your kids to make mistakes. Let them fail, don't enable. Be there to support them, but at some point they have to acknowledge the fact that there are consequences for the choices we make. There is also a strong, and much needed emphasis on the fact that each teen-ager is unique, and they may not each be the 'mini-me' that parents might dream of their children becoming.
There are  lessons on relationships and on finances; on education and even on learning to ride a bike (although that is certainly not one of the main objectives of the book.
Each chapter concludes with a section called "TAKE FIVE"  some questions that help summarize the chapter, and depending on how you answer, help you to identify some areas that you might want to consider in more depth.
Overall this is a helpful book because it consolidates many of the things that we have heard in other contexts, and presents them in a systematic approach.  It also follows a linear progression which I happen to appreciate.

This book is important for today's cultural context because there are so many children growing up without the appropriate role models in their lives. As Society becomes more and more mobile, and we deal with blended and single parent families, having resources available is something we can't do without.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Find your own "Heroic Path

Where did we lose our way? Manhood has been dummied down over the years until we no longer know what it looks like.  John Sowers wants to help us find the way back to the life we were called to live, to be the men that God created us to be. The path back looks different for everyone, but there are some similarities. Sowers paints a picture of his own heroic path and gives the rest of us plenty of ideas. The book is "The Heroic Path: In Search of the Masculine Heart"  And you want to read it; you really do want to read it.

You want to read it if your Dad is dead, or in prison, or you never knew him. You want to read it if your Dad is nearby and you know and love him. You want to read it if you are or might someday be a Dad. You want to read it, because it's up to you to help teach the next generation how to be the men that God has called them to be instead of the imitation men we see in the movies or the gang members, bank robbers, rapists and murderers, and dirtbags that we see on the evening news and read about in the newspaper.

Because as men, many of us have lost our way, and we need a map to help us get back on our own heroic path. We need a mentor, a guide, and we need direction. Many of us don't even know where to look for the map.  Lots of boys grow up to be men without having had a man in their life to follow and learn from.  There are lots of reasons, and lots of arguments for and against each of them, but the result is the same: adult males who never learned to be men, and so they still act like little boys and teach the next generation to do the same thing.

It doesn't affect just the individual - the lack of knowledge spills over and affects every area of a man's life: family, school, job, even his relationship with God. As Sowers puts it, the question we have to ask ourselves as men is simple: "How do we step out of the tea party and onto the treacherous path?"  It's time to put a stop to the idea that the way we build ourselves up is to beat others down.
Sowers hasn't just written a 'how to' or self-help book; he is telling his story, what happened, what the result was, and how he learned to make the necessary changes that will impact his family for generations.
I found myself coasting along, enjoying the read, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, bold truisms jump off the page and remind me that I don't have all the answers.  My story is different, but truth is truth and what's true for one of us, is true for all of us. (We don't always respond the same way, but it's still true).  You're reaching for your cup of coffee, and bam! "We disengage from life because we are afraid to fail."  "When Death smiles at you and you smile back, something changes." "We grow when we face ourselves."  "In our culture, there is a serious lack of elders."  "The men who live through confrontations exude quiet strength." "We must forgive our fathers." "We store pain for years in a buried rusty toolbox. We push through and pretend it doesn't matter."

"Heroic Path"  is more than just a cathartic writing, it's much more than a poignant memoir, it's more than a story of what life was like and what happened. This is a call to action for all the aging boys who are ready to grow up and learn what it is to be a man. Not just the macho he-man, but a man who accepts his responsibilities, and does the right thing, even when that right thing comes at a cost.

It's time to answer that call to action and become a part of the solution.


Monday, May 12, 2014

you and your dragon

Jim Burgen’s “No More Dragon’s” (Thomas Nelson, 2014) is a fun book to read. It’s filled with anecdotes and personal stories, Burgen draws lessons from C.S. Lewis’ stories of a wonderful land called Narnia, and using dragons as a metaphor talks about dealing with many of the things that bother us in ourselves, in others, and in the church.
I have to admit that I got carried away with the writing style and for a while found myself reading for pleasure. The book was a welcome change from some of the more ‘scholarly’ tomes I’ve had to read lately for class. But when I brought myself back to the content, I was amazed at the nuggets that are to be found in these pages.
As he discusses the dragons that we meet in various disguises, Burgen also invites us to interact with scripture. What a great reminder that the dragons have been around for a long time, and Jesus dealt with them on a regular basis.
You won’t want to miss the lessons on faith. We all from time to time find ourselves having the crisis of faith, when we look at the situation and tell ourselves that either there’s something the matter with God, or that we’re not (doing something) hard enough. We get angry at the God who could let something like (whatever it is) happen. But faith is not a code, faith, according to Burgen, is “trusting in God's promise to give us more than enough mercy, grace, love, compassion, and strength during our times of most desperate need.” And it’s the assurance that during those bad times we’re not alone, because God ‘still loves us and will take care of us.”
There are lessons on forgiveness, and finally the realization that being a ‘dragon’ is not the best that God has planned for us. Crawling out of the dragon skin, may be difficult, but, not being a dragon is a much better way to live.

I liked the book, and give it 4 ½ /5 stars.