Sunday, November 12, 2017

trust and be trustworthy

There is a certain something required to make any relationship work. We all know that; sometimes we know what it is that’s missing, but don’t know how to get there, and sometimes we don’t even know what it is that’s lacking.

Mac Richard, in his book The Trust Protocol: The Key to Building Stronger Families, Teams and Businesses (Baker Books, 2017) suggests that the key ingredient is trust.  Without trust, we stumble through the trials of life, often finding that it’s easier to bail than it is to stay and work on the issues that are causing the problems in the first place.

Mac manages to incorporate any number of personal experiences, ranging from football, to marriage, to parenting, to church, and even a few interviews with some senior military officers. And in doing so he makes a strong case for being willing to do what it takes to earn that trust that all of us are so desperately seeking, and so passionately want others to see in us.

As someone who has struggled with this issue in the past, I think that this book has the potential to awaken an awareness in us: that we have to be trustworthy in all our relationships; and that if we’re not willing to demand that we can trust others than sometimes we might just have to settle for less that we deserve.

I received a copy of this book from BakerBooks in exchange for my review.


4/5

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas opens in theaters Nov 22

Christmas is just a few weeks away.... (I know some of you are already counting down the days), and for many families, reading or watching A Christmas Carol is a favorite tradition.  This year you can add to the fun by planning on making time to watch "The Man Who Invented Christmas" starring Dan Stevens, Jonathan Pryce and Christopher Plummer. 


The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebeneezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.

In Theaters on Nov 22nd-just in time for the holidays

We all know the story of Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge, but other than his knack for taking life as he saw it in London, we know little of how Charles Dickens came up with his classic literature. All right, let's be real, after watching this movie, due in theaters on Nov 22nd, we still won't know for sure; but this is a whimsical idea of how it might have happened. Watch as Dickens 'meets' the characters that he brings to life in the pages of the novel that has brought so much joy to so many people since it was written in 1843.

It's brought joy, and inspired people to become the new and improved Mr. Scrooge.  For the last 8 years, the 6th graders at a local Jr High read A Christmas Carol each year, and then do a Tiny Tim project on the last day of school before Christmas break.  For most of those years they've collected socks and hygiene items which are donated to the local Rescue Mission.   The Ogden Rescue Mission is a non-profit organization that serves the least of the least in our community. Each evening the offer supper and a bed for transient guests, they provide turkeys or hams for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last week they had a coat giveaway. And they have a residential, Christ based recovery program.  

I’ve been privileged to volunteer with the Ogden Rescue Mission for the past 15 years, chapel services, bible studies, and encouraging 6th graders to step up and give a gift of dignity. There are always needs, plumbing, roofing, food for guests and participants in the residential treatment program. The rescue mission provides such an incredible service for the community, but receives no government funding.  Maybe this year, you can make a difference by supporting the Ogden Rescue Mission.

Where did Dickens get his inspiration? Why did he write this book? We may never know, but thanks to a writer from 175 years ago, homeless people today are a little better off than they might otherwise have been.  And a special giveaway of some Christmas movies, thanks to my friends at Grace Hill Media.


Watch the trailer here

Friday, November 10, 2017

Mi Casa Uptown: sermon and Story

Everybody loves to hear a story, probably because we all have a story. Or stories. Family, community, jobs, military service, divine encounters. We especially like stories when they are well told, and we haven’t already heard them a myriad of time. Good preaching incorporates good stories; and good stories can certainly be used to incorporate preaching. So I’m hard pressed to decide if Pastor/Storyteller Rich Pérez is preaching or telling a story in his book Mi Casa Uptpwn, (B&H Publishing, 2017).

                This is a story about growing up as an immigrant family from the Dominican Republic settling in New York.  It’s a story about family and community. It’s a sermon about love.
                Pérez loves his family, and his community, and that love comes through on every page of this engaging work. Somehow he manages to paint a picture of community and family and how they are intertwined, especially in immigrant communities. The barrio, the neighborhood where people settle because they have something in common with the other people who live there. And that commonality makes them stronger.
                Rich takes us to a day when we knew and talked to and with our neighbors, when the neighborhood bodega was the place to be (and the sense of loss when Big Box stores took over the Mom and Pop stores.
                And this book is also a reminder of grief, of loss, but more importantly hope.
                I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.


                5/5

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

All Things New is laborious reading

For some time I’ve had the conviction that eternity with God does not start when we die, but when we die to self. Along the same lines, I have to wonder why everyone talks about heaven as if it’s some magical, mystical, faraway place in the sky. Sometimes I have to wonder if I’m reading a different Bible than the rest of the world, and then John Eldridge writes a book like All Things New: Heaven, Earth and the Restoration of Everything You Love (Nelson Books, 2017)

He talks about heaven in terms that I understand, heaven in terms of the restoration of the original perfection that God created, not as a new location, something that God had to come up with to replace the disaster that mankind has made of Eden.
Theologically I’m with Eldridge on this one, but for my preference, there is just too much going on. Narnia, Middle Earth, camping, mountain climbing, personal tragedies, Colorado Bureau of tourism, and a lot of scripture. It just seemed to be all over the map.  If he had limited the scope, I think the book would have been more readable.
Hardcore Eldridge fans will probably enjoy this book as much as they do some of his other works, but I guess I don’t fit into that category. I had to force myself to finish the book.
I received an advance readers copy in exchange for the review.

3/5

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Mending Your Broken Swallow

We all know what it feels like. Some of us even admit to it once in a while. That feeling of brokenness, of being shattered into pieces. The complete lack of Shalom.  And then there’s wholeness. The trick is recognizing that there is something broken, and then working towards restoration. Putting things back into place, back together. Tough to do on our own. But sometimes we think we can pull it off without anyone being any the wiser. And then you read a book like this one. Whole” Restring What Is Broken in Me, You, and the Entire World. (NAVPRESS, 2017) by Steve Wiens helps us recognize that there is a way to pick up the pieces and put them back together.


I read the book through rather quickly—the first time. And then I had to go back and read it again. There was a lot that spoke to me, during the season of brokenness that I’m going through right now. But out of brokenness comes completeness, hope and Shalom-type-peace.

I wish I could rate this differently than the systems allow for. 4/5 is only 80%, nowhere near high enough. But 5/5 is 100%, and that’s just a little too high. Can someone come up with a way to rank on a score of 20? This would be a 19.  What bothers me is the use of so many Hebrew, Greek, and even a word or two in Latin. Even the glossary while helpful, seemed a bit, to me, pretentious.

It’s often difficult to look at questions that make us think. But Wiens does his readers a favor by including a few of those questions at the end of each chapter. I tried to deal with them as I was reading, but what great conversation starters for a small group. The chapters are some of the big questions of life, and the discussion questions help us to put those big questions into perspective and answer them on a personal basis.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.


19/20

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Can the classic hymns still speak to us today?

I grew up going to church and singing the hymns that were in hymnals published in the 1940s and 50’s. Hymns that were written decades earlier than that. Many of the hymns we sang so often 50 years ago, and I’ve been singing them ever since, that I can sing along without missing too many of the words.  But often that’s all the hymns mean to me: Words. I like hymns, but the language of so many of them is confusing.
                And when language is confusing, the beauty of the hymn gets lost. It’s easy to decide that we prefer praise songs, or contemporary music, something that speaks to us where we are today.
                Fortunately a new devotional is available to help us experience 18th and 19th century hymns in the 21st century. Classic Hymns,(B&H Publishing, 2017)  edited by Lore Ferguson Wilbert, is part of the “Read and Reflect with the Classics" series.

                The premise is simple. Pick a hymn, include the lyrics, assign the reading of a passage of Scripture (on which the hymn is based, or to which it pertains), ask some questions about the passage, then bring it forward to today, by asking several questions for personal reflections, and offer a prayer.  A simple devotional exercise that allows you to spend time with God, and learn about the classic hymns.
                I’m familiar with over half of the hymns chosen for this book, there are some I would have omitted because I question the theology behind them (even though God's people have been singing them for years), and there are, of course, some personal favorites that I might have included.
                I was provided a copy of this book by LIFEWAY/B&H publishers in exchange for the review.

4/5

Transformation Through Singing

Sing: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church (2017, B&H Publishing) by Keith and Kristyn Getty offers some great answers to the questions surrounding why we sing in church. In my case it’s more a matter of making a joyful noise to the Lord rather than anything that vaguely resembles song, but God calls us to give it our best shot, and who am I to argue with God?

                My voice may not entertain anyone, it might not invite people into a time of reverent worship, but theologically speaking, taking our cues from the Bible, God's people should sing, and we should sing wholeheartedly. We should sing in church, and in our homes, alone, with our family, and yes, even in public, when the public is the congregation at your local church. Singing is a part of worship, and as God's children we should be all about worshiping Him.
                The Getty’s explain why we should sing, where and with whom we should sing, and invite us to sing. They thoughtfully provide a few ‘bonus tracks’ also for pastors worship leaders, songwriters, musicians and other creative types.
                An enjoyable book, geared towards any worshipper.  I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my review.

5/5

Great Answer to an uncomfortable question: Is Your Dad a Pirate?

Children are naturally inquisitive, and they usually don’t have filters, so when they see something or someone who looks different, they tend to ask questions—much to the chagrin of their parents. And when you’re young and it’s your parent who is the recipient of stares and questions, it might be embarrassing.
                Sadly, for many years we’ve been a nation at war, and war has casualties. Not all of them come home in body bags. Some have prosthetic limbs, or hooks where there should be a hand. Others lose the use of an eye, and for long periods of time have to wear an eyepatch. 
                Bad enough for the service member who for the rest of his life will have to deal with the price of war, and horrible for that man, or woman’s, young children.
                And then along comes this wonderful book by Tara McClary Reeves Is Your Dad a Pirate? (2017, Mascot Books), with its marvelous illustrations by Daniel Fernandez.  Dad has come home from war, wounded, and bearing the marks of those wounds.  With his eyepatch and a hook at the end of his arm, he might be mistaken for a modern day Captain Hook. No wonder all the kids who see him point, stare and often ask: Is your Dad a pirate?

                And Reeves puts a twist on the story, as she gives the man’s daughter the perfect answer: No he’s not a pirate, he’s a hero.
                Such a difficult subject for anyone to understand, much less a small child, but this book may just help a lot of embarrassed parents of inquisitive children, not to mention the children of today’s real heroes.
My friends at ICON media provided me with a copy of this book to review AND an extra copy of this book as a giveaway.   If you’re local and interested… first to request it gets it.

5/5

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Learning to Bounce Back

Lately there have been a lot of storms. Serious storms that cause a lot of damage and cause issues that we never want to face.  And the constant is that somehow people need to get over things, even when it seems that ‘getting over’ the storm will never be possible. And for some people, stuck in a rut from which they see no possible escape, that might be the case. But fortunately, that’s not the norm.  Aaron Früh, in his book BOUNCE: Learning to Thrive through Loss, Tragedy and Heartache (BakerBooks, 2017), dispels the myth that we can’t thrive despite the storms.

And as Früh points out in this book, we were meant to get over things, to bounce back, regardless of how impossible that might seem at the time. He offers some tips, simple ones actually, that can have a major impact. (think about Naaman who didn’t want to bathe in the river to cure his leprosy because that was such a simple solution…it took a servant to say like ‘why not try? If the prophet Elisha had asked you to do something big, you would have done it.’ (See 2 Kings, 5:1-13))
Aaron lists four things that get in the way of our bouncing back, and expounds on them: self-pity, disappointment, Resentment toward God, and Indecisiveness. But there’s more to our inability to bounce back, than just that: all too often we don’t know where to start the path to healing, and so there are some helpful hints there too. (and the biggest one for me is CRY OUT FOR JUSTICE!)
I received a copy of this book from BakerBooks in exchanged for my review.

4/5

watch this clip from GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN

The True Story About Winnie-the-Pooh! GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN OPENS IN THEATERS THIS WEEK AND NEXT!  The story  takes us to post-war England and the lives of the Milne family.  A.A. Milne, an author and veteran of The Great War suffering from PTSD becomes inspired by his son to create characters that we all know and love today.

watch this

I was able to pre-screen the movie, and was just blown away.  And my friends at Grace Hill Media have offered to let me do a give away...all you Pooh fans, get ready!


I reviewed it on the blog

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Goodbye Christopher Robin, in theaters Oct 13th

Who doesn’t love Winnie the Pooh? Wait, that was a rhetorical question, because I’m sure that somewhere there is a crusty curmudgeon who doesn’t. Poor soul. But what most people don’t understand is the way the beloved bear made his way into the hearts of so many people around the world. And would you believe that, in part, World War I is responsible? And class struggles, and unhealthy family dynamics? And PTSD?
Would you believe that the happiness that Christopher Robin and Pooh brought to the world created so much unhappiness for the Milne family?
 Grab your jar of honey and prepare to be entertained by Fox Searchlight Pictures new release Goodbye Christopher Robin”, but be aware, Eeyore’s sadness is very present throughout this film.

A press release states:
GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN gives a rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children's author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie-the-Pooh.  Along with his mother Daphne (Margot Robbie), and his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald), Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War.   But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, what will the cost be to the family?

I was allowed to pre-screen the movie (It releases OCT 13th) and was amazed by the complexity of the story line. It’s fairly simple at first glance:  Upper class ‘shallow’ meets WWI; some people change but others don’t. Men go to war, and return different. PTSD is an ugly companion that disrupts families, and gradually the close relationship between mother and child deteriorates while circumstances lead to an improved relationship between a happy child and his distant father. Thankfully there is a Nanny to be the constant in the little boy’s life.   Out of the father/son relationship comes a book, from that book comes success and fame. From that success comes a breaking of the recently restored relationship. The War to end all wars is followed by another war, with all the pain and sorrow that war brings.
            Goodbye Christopher Robin opens with shots of beautiful country landscapes, and the hedonistic lifestyle of England’s upper class. And then the War starts. Well-known playwright A.A. Milne goes off to war, and returns a changed man. PTSD at its worst. He has been successful, but war changes him. Instead of writing plays for sheer entertainment value, he now wants to write about the horrors of war. He wants answers to the question, “Why do we have wars if nothing changes as a result of the war?” He wants a sense of purpose. Needs a sense of purpose.
            Not-so-understanding wife Daphne, who seems to have been more inconvenienced by the war, than bothered by it, doesn’t see things as her husband does. She, as many of us seem to do, becomes oblivious to evil. As Daphne comments, “Writing against war is like writing against Wednesdays. Wednesdays are a part of life; if you don’t like Wednesday stay in bed, but it’s still Wednesday, and if today’s not Wednesday, Wednesday is coming.”
            Milne wants to write about war, the horrors of war, what it does to nations and to souls, and he answers the question, “Who wants to read about war?” in a very succinct way: “anyone who doesn’t want it to happen again.”
            We all have expectations and hopes, and many of them are false. We look to the wrong things to make us happy, and are surprised when we’re not any happier than we were before.
            And the film is full of teaching moments…things like how PTSD affects the whole family, or a lesson on the restorative power of looking at truth and the world through the eyes of a child. And how success can be overwhelming, and just like other things that are supposed to bring happiness, it can often bring heartbreak. And of course the fact that we all need to feel loved.
            There were some quotes I thought might fit in this review, but taken out of the context of the film, they are nowhere near as powerful as they otherwise are. So you’ll just have to watch the film to glean this snippets of wisdom.  

            This story is a wonderful reminder of how plans sometimes backfire, and success can tear things apart. It’s a story of the aftermath of war, a picture of broken and restored relationships, and a call to learn to love others as they want or need to be loved, not necessarily as we think they should want to be loved.

Thanks to my friends at Grace Hill Media for the opportunity to screen this film.

watch the trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxCEXQr1X7g&authuser=0 , and be sure to see the film in theaters when it releases soon.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

thoughts on "The Sacred Slow"

            I’m generally in a rush to get somewhere, or to get something done, and at the same time I’m trying to learn to rest and relax in God's presence, to experience Sabbath rest.  I know that fast and furious is okay in an emergency, but every day and everything shouldn’t be an emergency. So we’re back to slow, and once again I agreed to read and blog about a book based on the title.
            And the title is intriguing, The Sacred Slow: A holy Departure from Fast Faith (by Alicia Britt Chole, W Publishing Group, 2017) sounded like it would be just what I needed to help me ease back into a gentler pace, a more sustainable pace, a pace that would help me better connect with God.
            Unfortunately, the book doesn’t work for me. The chapters are short, and as a devotional that’s probably a good thing, but I had trouble staying focused on even a few short pages.  I wanted something that would slow me down, give me time to talk with God, time to be still in his presence, and besides I don’t do well at journaling, so the ‘exercises’ at the end of each chapter, seemed like one more thing I needed to hurry to get done.
            Additionally some of the exercises seemed more like something one would be asked to do as a part of their therapy, rather than time with God.
            I imagine that my opinion of this book is based more on my personality and style than it is the book itself, and there are probably any number of people who would be able to bask in God's presence through these exercises---I’m just not one of them.
I received a copy of this book from HandleBar in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.  

3/5

Friday, September 29, 2017

Opening our Eyes to the Remarkable Ordinary

Sometimes we need to learn to open our eyes and see God at work. Yes, learn to see Him at work. Sometimes it’s obvious, but other times, we have to force ourselves to think about why we’re not seeing God in our neighborhood and in our lives.  
Frederick Buechner writes in such an engaging style that it’s easy to gloss over the important stuff without even seeing it. My how art imitates life. His book The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look and Listen to Life (Zondervan, 2017) points out that we are often so busy looking for something beyond ordinary that we don’t see the remarkable. It’s happening here. It’s happening now. And yet we miss it.

Sometimes we need to slow down, not easy to do in today’s hectic world, and be careful that you don’t fall into the trap that Buechner, in his 90’s has no choice but to slow down. Being slow is a learned art form.  And it’s in art that we often see the remarkable, or at least teaches us what to be looking for. Those who have a strong faith walk might also be able to see the remarkable: after all we’re used to being told that God is present in even the smallest detail.
And this master storyteller points out the importance of laughter, but also, and no surprise here, of telling stories. Stories matter, and we all have them, but like God, like the remarkable, we often don’t see them, and so we miss out on much of what’s going on in our lives.
The Remarkable Ordinary is filled with stories. Stories that point out how we travel on a journey, to an unknown destination, but if we take time to stop, look and listen to life, we generally end up with a life of peace—better than we used to be, even if we still have room to grow.
5/5

I received a copy of this book from Handlebar in exchange for my review 

A Crazy Holy Grace

The name Frederick Buechner sounded familiar, but I didn’t know from where (and I still don’t) so when I got an email asking if I would like HandleBar to send me a copy of his Book A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory, (Zondervan, 2017) in exchange for a review, I gladly said ‘yes’. I’m certainly not disappointed.

This is a short easy to read book, that has to be read more than once. Perhaps easy to read is misleading. It flows, short anecdotal accounts of things that matter in his life. But there are so many different layers that are only uncovered after a 2nd or 3rd rereading.  You pick how you want to read it: as a devotional, as a Readers Digest ™ collection of stories, as a collection of theological essays, or as a starting point for you to get honest about your own pain, your own memories, and your own pathway to healing.
And let’s be honest: we all struggle with pain.  And further honesty means we have to admit that we all have those memories. But pain and memories don’t have to define us. In the midst of darkness, we can still find hope and healing thanks to that “crazy, holy, grace”. Buechner shows us that there is a path up, and remembering the past is often a good way to get started on that path.
5/5

I received a copy of this book from Handlebar in exchange for my review 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ordering Chaos

I've read a couple of Gordon MacDonald's books and thoroughly enjoyed his writing style: he tells stories, and brings them alive. The stories are allegorical, and point out life lessons that we can all benefit from, and when those stories are directed at the local church, it's easy to 'recognize' certain people that exist in every congregation.

All that to say that I jumped at the chance to review the revised and updated edition of Ordering Your Private World (Thomas Nelson, 2017).             
At first, I was slightly disappointed to not find the familiar story telling style that i was expecting, but this is a different style of book, and it's written in a different style, and let's face it, the book was exceeding popular 35 years ago, revising and updating, means new information, not a total rewrite in a totally different style.

Even so the familiar style pops up in several places, and brings the story to life.
At its core, this is a 'how to book'. How to keep the focus on the main thing, how to keep the first thing first, how to say no, how to balance the different roles that we all play: child, parent, spouse, (in this case) pastor. It all starts with God.

But it's also the story of a journey. Some of the things that MacDonald has learned over decades of ministry could never be taught in a Seminary class, or at a one-day workshop. He offers tips on journaling, on dealing with people, on maintaining a healthy marriage, friendship and Sabbath. And it all starts with God.

For those interested in learning more about this sense of order, there is also a helpful study guide included in the back of the book. It can be done by individuals or by groups. And face it, at some point we all need help quieting the multitude of voices clamoring for our attention so we can focus on what’s really important.            

4/5

I received a copy of this book from Handlebar in exchange for my review. there was not an expectation that I had to write a positive review. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

thoughts on Lance Hahn's "The Master's Mind"

There are a couple of ways that I’m trying to allow my will, my mind, my life, to be bent to the Master’s. One of them is the things I do in my chosen field of ministry. And the other has to do with some self-improvement stuff that I’ve been involved with for the past 40 years.  So the title of this book fascinated me.  But I found Lance Hahn’s The Master’s Mind: The Art of Reshaping Your Thoughts (W Publishing Group, 2107) to be a bit of a disappointment. I want my will aligned with the will of God, and it makes sense that since, as we read in Isaiah: Isa 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," (NIV)
                This book is one I picked to review because I was fascinated by the title; but for some reason, I had a difficult time following the train of thought of the author. I don’t think he was off base scripturally, (and since he’s a pastor, I would hope he would be on track here). There was a lot of good information and examples provided about how negative thoughts often lead to negative actions, and why the Master would prefer positivity over negativity. But…
                When I say it was a difficult read, I don’t meant that it was too deep from me to comprehend, but rather that it was rather dry for my tastes. Additionally I didn’t find anything new to stimulate my thought processes. Others may not have been exposed to some of the things Pastor Hahn writes about, but for me it was a rehash of things I’ve read about in many other places.
                I received a copy of this book from HANDLEBAR in exchange for an unbiased review.

                3/5

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Not your parents' worship--and that's okay

     This was a difficult book for me to read, because it is a book that I needed to read. And even though I like to think that I'm eclectic in my tastes, and that I'm as contemporary as the next guy, I definitely have my biases.  What's wrong with the hymns written 200 years ago? Who says we need to update the contemporary worship music from the 70's?  Why do we need a worship leader instead of a choir director? What's wrong with piano and organ, with the occasional trumpet fanfare on Easter morning?
     Yes, I'm being facetious.
      My friend and co-laborer Fred Lopez of Ogden's Hope Resurrected Church has just released Rising Soundz: From Pain to Purpose. Several of his worship leader/music minister friends have corroborated with him and in addition to the book you can also buy a CD and/or DVD.

     Pastor Fred identifies the need for a sound that this generation can identify with, much as my parents liked centuries old hymns, and I could relate to Maranatha. But things have changed. More and more people in this country (USA) are not identifying as Christian; yes there are Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists, but there is a huge increase in the group that identifies as no religious preference. How does the Christian community reach out to them?
     Lopez paints a picture of the pain that exists in all generations, but is especially visible in a certain element within our culture. But pain doesn't have to end there. God has a plan for all of us, and in many cases our pain can lead to creativity, which in some ways defines our purpose. And that purpose just might be to join God on his redemptive, restorative mission.
     As a strategist, Pastor Fred is able to develop a plan for the worship leaders of this generation to be able to connect with others in their context and culture. He identifies biblical precepts and precedents for the role of worship leader, and just as, if not more, importantly, offers the encouragement that is so sorely needed if a musician is to put forth something 'new'--that is different from what we've been doing in church for a very long time. How do we become a part of the body when we don't fit in? (It's hard to believe that a church would be so picky about who's up in front of the congregation, but there you have it).

     Unity, leadership, creativity come together to make a major impact on those who wish to minister to the least and the lost. And that combination comes together in a number of ways, most of which don't look like your parent's Sunday morning worship experience. Worship is pleasing to God; we are created to worship. You're unique, and your worship is too. Don't let the pain of your past drag you down, allow it to help your soar into the worshiper that God has always intended you to be.

head to this site to order your book.

5/5

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Lean into the Whisper

Sometimes you have to yell to get my attention, but sometime a whisper is even more effective. And sometimes the voice of God is best heard in that still small whisper.  And Mark Batterson talks about that whisper in his latest book: Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God. (Multnomah, 2017). 

                I think I’ve read most, if not all, of Mark’s books, and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed them all. Whisper is no exception. When you start reading a book and sense the passion of the author, you know you’re in for a good read.
                So why do we have to wait for God to whisper? The same reason we wait for others to whisper: we are prone to being so used to the noise and raucous clamor, that we become immune to it.  It might be that we lose our hearing in a certain range, or as is the case with many married couples that selective hearing sets in. Maybe it’s that everyone yells, so when someone is intentionally quiet, we take notice, and lean forward to better hear what is being said. So, God whispers with the hope that we’ll lean forward to hear what He has to say.
                One of the things I like about Mark’s books is the amount of detail he provides. He takes the most (seemingly) random things and puts them into the context of his prayer life and the story line.  I guess we all do it to some extent, but I have a hard time connecting the dots like he does.
                This is another book that I would love to lend to my friends, but I have underlined so many things, that I can’t bear to part with it.
                Simple prayers work. And we learn one in Whisper that is repeated throughout the book: “Speak LORD, for your servant is listening. It’s short, sweet, simple, and scriptural (1 Samuel 3:9)
                Batterson talks about the power of a whisper, and puts the power and the whisper in the context of seven languages: Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings and Pain. God declares His love for us in so many different ways. And all we have to do is learn to listen. 
                I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for my review. There was no expectation that I was required to write a positive review. This book will release soon!

5/5

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Is God Loving or Angry

For years I’ve heard about Jonathan Edwards famous sermon “sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. I probably even read a manuscript of it at one time or another, so I jumped at the opportunity to read Brian Zahnd’s book Sinners if the Hands of a Loving God: the Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News. (Waterbrook, 2017)

The title intrigued me. I go to the local Rescue Mission on a regular basis, and while there are others who go there to preach fire and brimstone, I think what’s needed is love, mercy and grace. Most of the clients there know that they have a sin issue. They don’t need to be reminded of that, what they do need to know it that God loves them.
Brian makes some good points about Jesus being the fulfillment of the law and the prophets—He didn’t come to abolish them. And I liked how he used Old Testament examples and then showed how thanks to Jesus fulfilling, completing, perfecting the law, we no longer have to stone people to death, or exact an eye for eye. We can show compassion, and point people to Jesus. We can love them into the kingdom, instead of trying to scare them into it.
And then we have to talk about Hell. I saw some of the same tracks that Zahnd talks about. People burning in everlasting eternal fires. I didn’t like them when I was a teenager, and I don’t like them now. They’re creepy.  I believe that Hell is real, and I like to remember that hell is the eternal state of being out of God's presence. Is it a big room, very hot, flames licking at the edges and little demons with tails running around in red suits, jabbing people with their pitchforks? I think that is an artist’s rendering.  Regardless of what Hell is really like, it’ real, and if we listen to Jesus, the only way to avoid is to go, through Him, to the Father. And here’s where it seems like Zahnd may be straying a little from traditional Christian thought.
As I read through the chapter on Hell (Chap 6: “Hell…and Hoe to Get There”) it seems that Zahnd is suggesting that you can avoid Hell even without professing belief in Jesus. I hate to think that some really God-fearing people, people who worship God, will not be enjoying eternity in God's presence because they stayed true to their religious roots, but I can’t reconcile Jesus’ Words with desired, or aspirational belief system.  Having said that, Zahnd makes a strong case that our version of Hell is probably quite different than the biblical version.
Except for that one area, I enjoyed the book.
I received a copy of the book from the Publisher (WaterBrook) in exchange for a review.

4/5 because of some theological questions. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

How Charles Dickens met Tiny Tim and Ebeneezer Scrooge

    Christmas is just a few months away....(I know some of you are already counting down the days), and for many families, reading a Christmas Carol is a favorite tradition.  This year you can add to the fun by planning on making time to watch "The Man Who Invented Christmas" starring Dan Stevens, Jonathan Pryce and Christopher Plummer.


We all know the story of Tiny Tim and Ebeneezer Scrooge, but other than his knack for taking life as he saw it in London, we know little of how Charles Dickens came up with his classic literature. All right, let's be real, after watching this movie, due in theaters on Nov 22nd, we still won't know for sure; but this is a whimsical idea of how it might have happened. Watch as Dickens 'meets' the characters that he brings to life in the pages of the novel that has brought so much joy to so many people since it was written in 1843.

It's brought joy, and inspired people to become the new and improved Mr Scrooge.  For the last 8 years, the 6th graders at a local Jr High read  A Christmas Carol each year, and then do a Tiny Tim project on the last day of school before Christmas break.  For most of those years they've collected socks and hygiene items which are donated to the local Rescue Mission.   

Where did Dickens get his inspiration? Why did he write this book? we may never know, but thanks to a writer from 175 years ago, homeless people today are a little better off than they might otherwise have been.
watch the trailer here

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Bible Story, but not the Bible

If you’re interested in the main themes of the story of the Bible, but don’t feel up to reading the bible, this may be the book for you.  Dr William H. Marty’s The Whole Bible Story: Everything that Happens in the Bible in Plain English (Illustrated Edition) (Baker Books, 2017) was originally published several years ago (2011) and this edition adds illustrations. Some of the illustrations, by the way, were enjoyable to look at and even enlightening.  I also enjoyed the brief intro to each chapter which presented the setting, and the main characters. The chapter conclusion was also as helpful or more helpful than the chapter itself.
                It certainly is in “Plain English” which might be a good thing for some people; but the way it’s written concerns me. Nothing is out of place, the themes are not misrepresented, but I didn’t get enough of a sense that this is not a bible—it’s a condensed version of the metanarrative. Yes, it might be good for the beginner, but unless there is someone to disciple that beginner and lead him or her to the complete Bible there are bound to be some serious misunderstandings down the road.
                This seems to be a fairly basic and elementary rendering if it is used with college students. I might have enjoyed it while in release time religious education when I was in 5th or 6th grade) many years ago) but by High School, much less college, I don’t think I would have appreciated it.
                Another concern I have is that much of the New Testament don’t seem to be adequately covered. The gospels and ACTS have sections dedicated to them, but much of Paul’s theology, found in the epistles, not to mention the Revelation, get pretty short shrift.
                Quite frequently I can pinpoint a specific target audience to whom I would recommend a book. Not the case with this one. My best advice, if you’re having trouble with some of the more literal translations of the Bible, get a paraphrase, or a translation that slants towards thought-for-thought rather than word-for-word. I’m not even sure what to do with this book. I guess it will sit on the bookshelf until I find someone who might be able to use it.
                3/5

                I received a copy of this book in exchange for a written review.  There was no expectation that I would be required to post a positive review. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

when generosity is transformational

How much does it take to make a difference for the kingdom? And in the broadest sense of the word, the answer has to be “it depends”.  There are all sorts of variables, but one common factor is the willingness to listen to God, and follow where He leads.
                Mac Pier has compiled 31 stories of people who have been willing to do just that, and then give in extraordinarily generous ways. In his latest book, A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities through Strategic Giving (Baker Books, 2017) Piers relates the accounts of people from around the globe who are making a difference in their cities. 
                Pier explains that there are 3 themes in his book, 1) God's vision for the world as referenced in the book of Isaiah, 2) spiritual movement, and 3) relational networks.  The relational network is something that he builds on, and is a specific one, people that he knows, with whom he has worked, and who he counts among his friends. The spiritual movement is one that is happening world-wide. God is moving people to where they can hear the gospel, and by most accounts, the percentage of believers is growing faster than the general population.
And then there is Isaiah. My favorite part of this book. I was torn between wanting to read story after story, and wanted to read this book as a devotional to be savored over a period of a month.  Each chapter starts with a verse from the prophet Isaiah, then we are introduced to one or two of the people in the relational network, and Mac shares what they are doing in their part of the world. Each chapter ends with a brief statement about the scripture, followed by ‘points to consider” and a brief prayer.
Caution. This is not for the faint of heart. Much of the strategic giving involves tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases millions. This type of giving is far more than I can aspire too, but it inspires me to “give up to my potential”.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.

4/5

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Convicted: forgiveness like you've never seen before!

We all know what it’s like to hurt or be hurt, and many of us have experienced forgiveness in its many forms. In other words, we all have stories about forgiveness, but probably none of us quite to the extent of the story told in Convicted: a Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship (Waterbrook , 2017).

Jesus told a story about a moneylender who held 2 outstanding debts, one much greater than the other. The characters in the story include a woman who had sinned greatly, recognized the extent of her sin, and had much for which to be forgiven. She was grateful.  At the same time another sinner refused to see that he also had sinned greatly, he felt that he was entitled to having his debt cancelled.  The same forgiveness was not forthcoming.  As Jesus tells the story, before telling the woman that her sins are forgiven, he makes an equally telling comment to the second sinner:  “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." (Luke 7: 47, NIV)
                Jesus spoke in a parable to illustrate a truth, and the book Convicted is a retelling of a true story. The authors are writing of their experience. Andrew a crooked cop, who had somehow gotten impressed with himself, and felt that he was above reproach. His entitlement mentality led him to places that he should never have gone. And Jameel, someone who, and excuse the cliché, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Really. And that misfortune took him to a place where he never planned on going.
                Jameel’s hatred helps him for a time to survive prison, but hatred can’t sustain you forever, and by the time he meets Andrew again, things have changed.
                Andrew is finally held accountable for his crimes, and as you might expect the two men meet. What you might expect is that Jameel’s hatred would lead to a violent confrontation, but instead what we see play out is forgiveness that most of us wish we could experience, but might never have the opportunity to see. And after forgiveness, comes a friendship that crosses lines of race and strengthens the faith walk of each man.
Be looking for this book in Mid-September.

(privileged to be on the launch team, so I got an advance copy of the book) 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

in, and out of, the pit

We all have those moments, those moments when it feels like things couldn’t get much worse, and we’re left grasping at anything that seems to offer us a way out of the pit. Beth Moore in her book Get Out of That Pit: Straight Talk About God's Deliverance (W Publishing Group, 20017), has a lot to say about that pit, or as may be the case, those pits.

                The story line is pretty linear—the horrors of being in the pit; how we get into the pit (we slip in, get thrown in or jump in; acknowledging that there is a way out of that pit, and the steps to getting out (cry out for help, confess to God the nature of the problem, and consent to let Him help). Then we wait for God to show up and show off. Hopefully it doesn’t take too many pit experiences to convince us that we’ve had enough, and so we can make up our mind to try to avoid the things that got us there. And once we’ve allowed God to pull us out we should change out tune, and live a different life, one that keeps us focused on God, which in turn helps us to avoid the pits in the future.
                  I admit that I had not read any of Beth Moore’s material previously, but I know a lot of people who have engaged with her Bible Studies, and have enjoyed them. So I welcomed the opportunity to look at this book.  I should have passed on the opportunity.  Beth Moore writes for women, and I guess I was aware of that, but I figured that this is Bible Study material, so it should have a somewhat universal appeal. It doesn’t.
                I found this book to be rather simplistic in nature, which may be more indicative of her intended audience (and for baby Christians this might be a good start).  In my opinion the cover set the tone for the book. Ms Moore is very nicely dressed, every hair in place, flashy jewelry and nicely applied makeup.  There is no way I was going to be convinced that this woman had ever been near a pit, much less wallowed in one.
                I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review…I was not required to write a positive review.

3/5

Thursday, August 10, 2017

We all have a prodigal-- but there's hope

Even if you don’t attend church regularly you’ve probably heard the parable of the Prodigal Son as told in the Gospel of Luke. There have been sermons preached on it, books written about it, it’s been adapted, and I imagine that without much difficulty, one could find movies or plays which at least touch on the major themes of these verses.  So why do we need still another book based on that same passage?
                The simple answer to that complex question is probably because most of the people I know, myself included, have a prodigal in their life. Maybe it’s a parent, a child, a sibling, a spouse, or a longtime friend. Maybe your prodigal is you. Those people are in our lives, and we all need help in learning to love them the best way we can. We don’t want to slam the door in their face (well maybe at times we do), and we don’t want to enable them in their addictive or inappropriate behaviors, and at the same time we want to help.  And that’s where this book may be helpful.
                Is there hope?  Jim Putman with his father Bill Putman think so, and they explain why, along with a lot of helpful tips in their recently released book Hope for the Prodigal: Bringing the Lost, Wandering, and Rebellious Home (BakerBooks, 2017).

                The book is broken into three sections I: the Ideal, II: the Ordeal, and III: the New Deal. And those section headings are enough to give you the main idea of each section. We know what we should be striving for in our relationships, but sometimes stuff, often horrible stuff, happens, but there is hope for restoration.
                Although I enjoy the Parable of the Prodigals, and the book is based on the story and the main points within, I found this book slightly difficult to follow. Although there were some helps as to who was writing [ I (Jim) or I (Bill)], it was often confusing because the stories were repeated—once in the first person, and once in the third.
I received a copy of the book from BakerBooks in exchange for a review, I was not required to write a positive review.

4/5

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Who am I and What do I do? Pastoral Theology

Who am I and what do I do? Important questions for the Pastor, and Daniel L. Akin and R. Scott Pace have done a wonderful job answering those questions. And in doing so, they may just have added a new field of study for Seminary students, or those who feel called to the pastorate: Pastoral Theology. The results of their work are found in an engaging and readable book: Pastoral Theology: Theological Foundations for WHO a Pastor IS and WHAT He DOES (B&H Academic, 2017)
                If you’ve ever struggled through a book on systematic theology, and wondered ‘Why?”, you’ll appreciate this book. No, it doesn’t cover everything in great deal, because it’s intended to answer questions that pertain to pastors, it’s a guide to the road to being a successful pastor. What makes a Pastor a good pastor? Of course, that varies some depending on the personality of the individual but there are certain constants. New pastors struggle to find their identity, and often get bogged down in making friendships, figuring out who the power players (official or unofficial) are in the church, add probably have to deal with the politics that happen in any group as leaders fight for their particular ministry. All that can make it difficult to stay true to the theological basis of being a pastor.  
                The book is divided into 3 sections, each with a particular emphasis. Part 1 deals with the Trinitarian Foundation, part 2 focuses on doctrine, and the 3rd part address some practical issues.
                As I started reading this book, it wasn’t long before I was thinking about a sermon series based on Part I. The 3 persons of God. The authors address theology, Christology and Pneumatology. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Yes, these chapters are geared towards pastors, with discussions of God's character, Christ as God's champion, and the Spirit as God's Companion. But at the same time, if the Trinity is important to an understanding of my role as pastor, the congregation should also be taught about the three persons. Most pastors talk about the Father and the Son, but, and I’m guilty, many pastors neglect the Spirit. The Spirit is often hard to understand—so  He is often forgotten in the life of the church.
                Part II addresses Doctrine, again with three C’s : God's Compassion, His Community and his Commission; so we are introduced to a basic study to the theology of man, of the church, and of mission.  What is the pastor’s role in each of these areas? Yes, they are definitely all important, but sometimes the Pastor is called to take an active role and sometimes he is called to teach the church it’s role.
                But it’s not all book learning. Part III addresses how to put some of these things into practice. How does the minister deal with God's congregation? What is important in the preparation to Communicate God's Word through preaching? What is God's covenant, and how does it apply to families? Especially the family of the Pastor? How do we make sure that our families aren’t being neglected because the congregation is needy, and the demands of the ministry are so great?
                Everything in this book is grounded in scripture, and the appropriate passages are included in the text, so there is no reason to doubt what is being said. Have a doubt? Turn to your Bible and check the reference.
                This should be required reading for Seminary students, and those called to the pastorate. Members of Pastoral Search Committees should read this book, and carefully question candidates based on some of the things put forth on these pages.  Many thanks to the authors for doing such a thorough job of defining the role of Pastor in such an understandable and scripturally grounded way.

                5/5
                   I received a copy of this book for review.  B&H Academic provided the book in exchange for my review. I was not required to post a positive review

Friday, August 4, 2017

First Friday Coffee with the Ogden Police Department

What a great idea! Diana, Ogden Police Department’s Community Outreach Coordinator arranges a monthly event designed to allow members of the community to interact with members of the department. This morning, it was held at The Daily Rise.  Several officers are there, there’s free coffee, and a great atmosphere.
            I went because there’s something about coffee, but also to show support for the Department. Others showed up because they had questions, and one lady even showed up with a thankyou note for the officers who had responded to a recent 911 call.
            I think this is such a great idea on so many different levels, first and foremost being that getting to know the officers who are likely patrolling in your neighborhood before you need them makes it easier to ask for help later. Personal relationships are so important in every other aspect of our life—family, school, work, church, and the sports or other social activities—why should this be any different.
            In my work as a corporate chaplain, I often hear that a lot of problems can be avoided when people know in advance where they can turn for help. Like a school principal or the HR person at work, a police officer is not your enemy. They might have to respond or react to your inappropriate behavior, but the goal would always be to address the issue before it becomes a major problem.
            These men and women have a tough job, somedays you can make it a little easier for them, just by offering a smile when they drive by.  And by the way, I would imagine that on a regular basis they see things that no human being should ever have to see. Pray boldly for their safety and peace of mind.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Thoughts on Bezet's Real Love

Fess up—you know someone who is far from lovable. Well, at least you don’t find them very loveable, even if their mother does. It would be nice if everyone with whom we ever came in contact was one of those nice people, but God in His infinite wisdom created all of us as individuals, in His image, but still individual. Which means that Tab A doesn’t always fit Slot B.  It doesn’t come naturally to us to love some of those Tab A’s that don’t fit our Slot B. And then God decided that even though we’re different in many respects that we’re supposed to love our neighbor. Even when we find that neighbor fairly unlovable. Oops!
            And my take away from Rick Bezet’s book Real Love in an Angry World: How To Stick to Your Convictions without Alienating People (Baker Books, 2017) is that speaking the truth in love is, in God's eyes, a much better alternative some of our natural tendencies. And of course the flip side is also true, quite often I’m one of those unlovable people; maybe you are too.
            Bezet looks at some of the problems we have dealing with other human beings and offers some suggestions for getting on track. Sometimes that means learning to listen, sometimes it’s seeking counsel before acting on what we think we’ve heard, and sometimes it’s asking for help interpreting what we just heard. And maybe it means getting a different translation of a bible, one written in language that you understand.
            The book is an easy read, and Bezet has a charming sense of humor that comes through in his writing. And it’s all interspersed with solid theology, and pertinent biblical references.
            An enjoyable read, and helpful pointers for loving the neighbor—even when.
            I received a copy of this book from Baker Books in exchange for this review.

            4/5

faith lessons from a horror story

Sometimes blessings come from unexpected places, and sometimes valuable lessons come from pretty strange sources.  For example, would you expect a horror movie to be a source of valuable Faith lessons?
                Yeah, me neither. At least not usually. But sometimes that happens.  In fact, there’s a scary movie being released next week that offers some valuable insight into how when we’re at our weakest, we are ever so susceptible to falling prey to temptation.
                Annabelle: Creation, the story of a possessed deal releases in theaters o Friday August 11.watch the trailer here
                And one of the main lessons we can learn from films about the supernatural is that evil is real. It’s real, it’s frightening, and when we’re at our best, we tend to walk away, but in moments of weakness, and despair, we’re much more likely to embrace it, especially if it seems that we’ll be able to find answers to our questions, or relief from pain and sorrow.
                So no, I’m not recommending OUIJA boards, I’m not suggesting tarot decks, just offering a commentary on the whys of their use.
                So, ‘Annabelle: Creation’ starts with every parent’s worst nightmare: the unexpected and sudden death of a child. And in the midst of their broken heartedness, opportunities arise for them to find answers. The problem is that by the time they realize that the hoped-for answers aren’t forth-coming, they have been drawn down a dark path.
                Horror exists, horror I evil, but Christians have read the book, and we know how the story ends. God defeats evil. So instead of turning to the supernatural instead of God, we should know that we need to use our faith, to use prayer, to call upon God. He has the answers to our questions. He can help us in our times of grief.

                The movie tells a story, and like all stories it teaches a lesson.  Let the lesson you learn from this be that God is the answer, in our darkest moments, God can heal our bodies and our souls. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Quality Time with the Local Police Department

I have a great deal of respect for members of the Police Departments, here locally and across our country. They get to work interesting hours, and although they know what time their shift starts, depending on what might be happening several hours later, they aren’t always sure of what time they might get to sign out and head home.
                Recently I thought it might be interesting to spend a few hours on patrol in the neighborhood of the church where I’m a pastor, so I reached out to the local Police Department. Diana Lopez, the Community Outreach Coordinator, was able to make the arrangements. Thanks, Diana! Last weekend, Officer Ken Huckaby was kind enough to let me spend a few hours riding with him. And a couple of hours into the shift, we realized that we work in the same area of Ogden, and we’re also neighbors where we live.
                I’m not a big believer in coincidences, but there are a lot of “God-Moments” in my life. Shortly after Diana had arranged this ride-along, a blog post appeared in my inbox. The author listed 14 ways to better understand the community in which you’re doing ministry, and one of those 14 things was “Ride with a Police Officer or Firefighter”. Police officers and firefighters tend to be great resources when it comes to learning about the community. And Officer Ken was no exception—more later on that.
                There are always some conditions: you have to agree to some things ahead of time…nothing out of the ordinary, just things to keep you safe. And signing that waiver was just the first of the paperwork I saw that evening. And by the way, that was the only paper work actually done on paper. Computers can make life easier, help with a quicker response—and save trees.
                When I walked into the Francom Public Safety Building, there was a man in a wheelchair on my side of the window. He said something to me, but he was looking down, and I couldn’t hear him very well, so I assumed that he was talking on the phone. It was only when I sat down to wait for someone to escort me back to fill out the waiver, that I realized that he was talking to me. His motorized chair needed to be charged and he couldn’t get home, so he stopped in to use an outlet.  I don’t know if that’s the norm, but it was gratifying to see that this man’s needs were being met.  His appearance and mumbling might have made him a persona non-grata in many places.  He wasn’t hurting anything, or bothering anyone, he just needed enough charge on his battery to get home. And as we talked, the discussion turned to faith. An answer to prayer: “Lord, bring me to people who want to hear about Jesus”. A friend of mine qualifies that when he says that he can make small talk all day long, but he’d rather talk about God's Kingdom.
                It was a slow start as my Ride had paperwork to finish from calls during the first part of his shift. As he worked, we chatted about a number of things happening in the community. Some of the biggest problems were no surprise.  Mental health issues, gangs, and overcrowding in the jail system all contribute to the problems on the streets. Add in drugs and alcohol, and it’s no surprise that the Police Department keeps busy. (Except on this shift. Officer Ken said it was a boring evening, and I should try again some other time. Note to self: try to get a repeat ride)
                How long does it take to become so aware of what’s going on? I thought that I was pretty observant, but it didn’t take long to figure out that situational awareness is a strong point for those who patrol our streets. I could barely make out what the dispatcher was saying, and Ken was responding. After one call in particular we left Ken’s area, and there were several other patrol cars heading the same way. I was pretty amazed at how, without any obvious coordination, each of the responding officers could determine in which direction he needed to head. Ken recognized the person who had called in for assistance, and stopped her to get some more information about her call. It’s interesting how some people who have a lot of contact with the police have a lot of contact with the police!
                Has your car been reported stolen? The oncoming shift is told about it, and as they patrol, they’re looking for it. Concerned about loved ones with whom you can’t get in touch? Someone might be dispatched to check on them.  Something suspicious going on in the neighborhood? The patrol officer might just be driving by, see it, and stop to make sure everything is all right. Something missing and presumed stolen from your apartment? You guessed it, the officer on shift will be sent to investigate and take your statement.
                Of course, there’s a shortage of officers in most departments across the country, there’s a shortage of jail beds, a shortage of funding, and even though mental health issues rank high on the list of problems that an officer might see during any given shift, there aren’t enough Psych hospitals or beds to handle the magnitude of the problem. There is a lot of latitude given when it comes to dealing with issues. Sometimes, usually, a ticket is a much better option than a trip to the 12th street jail.
                What did I learn about police? If Officer Huckaby is any indicator, most police officers are a lot more like Jamie Reagan on Blue Bloods than they are like Hank Voight on Chicago PD.  Ogden is lucky to have officers on the job who care about the community and the people they serve. And a lot of those serving the community have also served their country by spending time in the Armed Forces.  I’m retired from the Air Force, and frequently people tell me “thank you for your service”.  It’s about time members of our Police Departments (and Fire Departments) get the same measure of respect.
                So, what did I learn about my community?  A lot had to do with the people. Seems like the people who show up at homeless shelters and churches aren’t always strangers to the police. And then there are the gangs. I’ve heard of a few of them, but the list is longer than I thought. There are also some places in the neighborhood that are more prone to trouble than others. Interestingly enough a couple of the areas which were pointed out to me, are areas where I’ve recently done prayer walks. Some people might think they should stay away from those areas. I’m thinking I should up my Situational Awareness quotient, and spend more time in those dark areas, praying for God's light to shine there even more brightly.

                And I’m off to pray for a couple of streets in my neighborhood, and for the officers that patrol those streets!