Essential Worship – A Book Review

essential-worshipThere may be nothing more contentious within the church than the worship ministries. What music should be played? Is it too loud? Who should lead? How close (or far) are we to God’s plan for corporate worship? The questions go on and on and it seems that there are all kinds of answers from every possible direction.

“Essential Worship” by Greg Scheer is a helpful handbook for leaders. Whether those leaders be pastors, worship leaders, worship directors, worship pastors, or whoever, Scheer has done a thorough job of putting together a handbook that can be used by these leaders to help them in leading their ministries.

This book is divided into five parts: Principles, Past, Practice: Music in Worship, Practice: The Arts in Worship, and People.

In the Principles section, Scheer starts with the primary and most important topic: what is worship” He leads the reader through other principles such as what is Biblical worship, who is the audience, and what does worship do. He moves into the Past section and invites the reader to look at the past as well as various methods and modes of worship that have been used throughout the history of the church.

Parts three and four are a helpful foray into the practice of worship within the church. Scheer does a very good job of remaining balanced by offering thoughts and suggestions from both past as well as current repertoires and methods. While it seems that his experience may be in traditional forms of worship, it does not seem to bias his viewpoint.

Part five is about the various people involved in worship leadership within the church: pastors, leaders, musicians, and the like. Scheer offers some beneficial advice here on how to move through potential conflict.

There are nuggets of information scattered throughout this book. It’s not necessarily a book meant to be read front to back but can instead be used as a resource. After all, it is called a handbook. Scheer’s experience, wisdom, and thorough research into this book is apparent and it will serve church worship leaders well.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

Facing It

I’ve got a workout buddy that I meet at the gym twice a week. He’s far more experienced (and in way better shape) than I am, so he leads our workouts. I just sit back and pray that I’ll make it through them. He knows some of the things that I want to work on, so he includes workouts that will be best for getting done what needs to get done.

Our gym isn’t the most up-to-date facility, the equipment works fine, but it sure could use an update. There are free weights and a few machines. There are exercise balls, spinning bikes, floor mats, and other things that enable us to do what we need to do.

But there’s one thing in the gym that makes me cringe every time my buddy goes to get it…..

THE WHEEL OF DEATH

 ab-wheel

Maybe you’ve seen it before. Maybe you’ve used it before. Maybe you have the same look of shock and horror on your face every time that you come across it.

I remember seeing these things when I was a kid four hundred years ago. I guess you can’t improve upon greatness…….or pain.

As much as I hope that the ab wheel would just disappear from our gym, I also know what it does to me when I use it. It works my core and if I push myself, it should flatten out that 40+ tummy of mine (operative word there is “should”).

When we met at the gym the other day and we pulled out the wheel of death, I couldn’t help but think about the things that we try to avoid. Most of us will try to avoid some things that aren’t good for us or that will harm us. Some of us will avoid things that we know might be good for us but for which we find ourselves with a great aversion towards.

The fact is, there are some things, regardless of how we might react to them, that are good for us, at least in the long run. They might cause pain and agony in the short term, but the long term benefits will far outweigh that pain and agony.

Nope, we can hardly ever see it at the time. Who really likes to subject themselves to such pain?

I’ve been astounded at my observations of how this mindset extends so much further than the gym. When we face things that we don’t like, we simply run away. Let’s find a safe place where we can go so as to avoid the things that we don’t like. Let’s find a way to create a safe zone where nothing distasteful can enter.

But what happens to the growth that might have occurred in us had we had to face what we didn’t want to face? What happens to our resolve? To our sense of conviction? To our ability to hear opposing viewpoints? Do we really grow if we only surround ourselves with the things that we like?

This isn’t a recommendation for everyone to go hang out with the complete opposite of yourself, but it is a pondering of just what this does to us. I imagine that if we run every single time that we are faced with some kind of offense or opposition, we’re probably not moving much further from the space which we are already occupying. We’re not going to grow, to mature, to develop. We will be destined for mediocrity.

Sure, this breaks down at some point, I’m sure it does. There are certain topics and ideas which I want to avoid extreme opposition. I’ve wrestled with them and think I’ve come to rest on a good conclusion. But if my conclusions are really as sure-footed as I think they are, shouldn’t I be okay with a little wrestling now and then?

When I go back to the gym and that Wheel of Death is lurking in the closet, waiting to inflict pain upon me, I hope I don’t run. I hope I give it a try, because ultimately, what it will do to me will be far more significant and beneficial than if I simply were to tuck my tail and run away. 

Stepping Out

Last time I left the country was about 12 years ago. I had only been married for 4 years, I had no children. I went all the way to Europe, spending a week in Kiev, Ukraine, working with a small church over there to do some outreach events in their neighborhood.

The trip was a growing experience for me and probably for my wife. It was the first time that we had been apart from each other for that length of time and that geographic distance. I was in a new place where I didn’t know the language, meeting new people and trying to do my best to assimilate and blend in, something I found much easier for me than my companions on the team.

Tomorrow, I board a plane and leave the country again, this time for Costa Rica. 12 years and 3 children later, this will prove to be yet another growing experience for me, my wife, and our family. I’ll be gone for 10 days working with a team to put on a children’s camp in the mountains.

I’ll be honest, I’ve resisted this trip from the start, and I’ve been asking myself why the moment that the resistance began. While there are factors here and there that might contribute to my resistance, the biggest one has to do with my family.

For years, I never had to travel significantly for work. The furthest that I had to go was down the street or a few towns over. Over the last few years, I’ve had to travel for work more frequently, one state away, a few states away, across the country. It was hard for me whether I was gone for 2 days or 7 days, I just never liked to leave my family. But the thing that always made it easier was a phone call or a video call, the ability to hear or see my family through technology.

And that’s one of the reasons why this trip will be harder for me, aside from the day and a half in the beginning and the two days on the back end, I won’t be in contact with my family.

I’ll be about good work, God’s work, assisting in the lives of kids who don’t always have the opportunity to do what they’ll be doing. I’m familiar with the language, not fluent, but familiar enough to carry on casual conversations. I think that’ll make some of the discomfort a little easier.

What’s that phrase that’s always thrown around? Absence makes the heart grow fonder? What if I’m already fond?

I don’t know all that will happen while I am away, both where I am and back at home, but I’m pretty certain that this trip will change us, all of us, in my family. I think my heart will grow, both for my family and for the world. I think that my perspective of God’s kingdom will grow, seeing how we are connected despite geographical boundaries, borders, and ethnic variances.

Christians in the western world can too often forget that God’s kingdom is so much bigger and more expansive than we are, trips like this help to bring that into perspective. I’m excited to see what God will do, nervous and anxious along the way, but I’m sure there’ll be a story or two to write about when I get back!

 

How Are You?

how-are-youIt’s a question that we may speak as often as we hear it, but how often do we ask it with sincerity, sincerely wanting to know what’s going on with the person whom we’re asking? When someone asks it of us, how likely are we to give an honest answer or do legitimately think that, if we gave an honest answer, the person who was asking us really gave a rip?

As I get older and the lens of what’s really important in life seems to become clearer, I continue to see that there are certain themes and principles that seem to apply across the board. No matter who you ask, no matter where you are, these things seem to be true.

One of these things that I have come to appreciate and understand more and more over the past few years is the fact that you can never assume that what’s on the outside of the box matches what’s on the inside. In other words, when it comes to people, just because someone seems to be doing okay on the outside doesn’t mean that they aren’t hiding something….or, more accurately, not divulging what’s really going on for any one of a number of fears.

For me, as a pastor, Sunday mornings can be among the busiest hours of my week. I am trying to make sure that everything is set. Whether I am preaching or leading the music team or whatever I might be doing, it can be an incredibly stressful hour. That’s not to say that I am not focused on the goal of that time or the importance of it, it just means that there are other things that I need to maneuver through to get focused on just why I am there. But it can be easy for me to casually cast off a “How are you?” here and there without really thinking through what I’m really asking or, worse yet, without really wanting to know or hear the answer.

Like I said, though, one thing that I am coming to realize more and more every day is that there can be far more going on beneath the surface than the casual “How are you?” with the obligatory “Good” or “Fine” retort actually shows. And I wonder just how many people answer the question honestly and really feel that they can answer the question honestly. If I answer honestly, will the person asking even care? If they care and I’m honest, will they tell the world about what’s going on in my life? If they find out what’s really going on in my life, will they shun me and make me feel as isolated as I already feel?

I’ve come to realize that just because someone answers that they’re doing good or fine or whatever, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s an honest answer. And so it’s forcing me to pay attention and to listen. How do people carry themselves? Are their words and answers matching their body language? Are they dropping any subtle hints about what’s lying beneath the surface as I speak with them?

Because I can get so caught up in the goal and the endgame, I can easily forget about the people involved in accomplishing and achieving that goal. When I do that, it cheapens the relationships that I have that are far more important than that would indicate. The last thing that I want is for the people around me to think that they are just cogs in a system of simply getting to the end. I wouldn’t want to feel like that, so why should I think that anyone else would want that either?

No, things aren’t always what they seem. There is usually so much more lurking beneath the surface, but it takes intention, patience, love, empathy, care, and time to really get there. People aren’t going to share it right out of the gate. They need to know that they can trust you, they need to know that you won’t betray their confidence, and they need to know that you really, truly, genuinely care about them and what’s really going on in their lives.

I’m learning, I’m growing, and I’m trying to do better here. I’m working to make sure that if I ask someone “How are you?” that I am ready for whatever kind of answer they might return to me. I might not always like the answer, I might not always feel like I’ve got the time for the answer, but to not listen and care about the answer is to allow someone to float off all alone out there in the world.

We can make a difference when we listen and pay attention. We can make a difference when we legitimately ask the question and want to know the answer. I know that when I’ve done it with genuine concern, it’s made a huge difference to the people to know that someone is paying attention and someone cares. I know that there have been times when the question has been asked of me and I probably gave more of an answer than the person was expecting, but in the end, it made all the difference in the world for me to be heard and to know that someone really cared. 

Books Read (and finished) in 2016

open-booksIn 2016, I read 52 books. Out of those 52 books, 16 of them were read for publishers and reviewed on my blog. 9 of those books were on my 2016 Book Plan (which consisted of a total of 28 books). So, I struggled again to even hit the 50% mark of books that had been on my plan. While that may be discouraging to some people, it’s not so to me. This is not a science and I just see every year as an iteration to work towards making this process more efficient. If I’m not enjoying what I’m reading and having fun with what I read, there’s really no point in doing any of this.

Seeing as I’m a pastor, the bulk of my reading focused on spirituality. I went on a three month sabbatical this past summer. 3 of the books that I read this year were included in my sabbatical plan. These are the books that I read this year that focused on spirituality: 

Michelle Anthony “Spiritual Parenting”

Eugene Cho “Overrated”

Michael Frost “The Road to Missional”

Bob Goff “Love Does”

J.D. Greear “Gaining By Losing”

Craig Groeschel “#struggles”

Abraham Joshua Heschel “The Sabbath”

Kent Julian “99 Thoughts on Leading Volunteers”

Madeline L’Engle “Walking On Water”

C.S. Lewis “Mere Christianity”

Brennan Manning “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus”

Russell Moore “Onward”

Steven L. Ogne and Kenneth E. Priddy “The Leadership Ladder”

Eugene Peterson “Five Smooth Stones For Pastoral Work”

Nik Ripken “The Insanity of God”

Bob Roberts, Jr. “The Multiplying Church”

Nelson Searcy “The Renegade Pastor”

John Stott “The Radical Disciple”

Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird “The Multi-Site Church Revolution”

Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird “Multi-Site Church Road Trip”

John Van Sloten “The Day Metallica Came to Church”

Ravi Zacharias “I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah” 

Reviewing books for my blog is a big part of my list (about 30% of the total books that I read). I reviewed the following 16 books for my blog in 2016:

George Barna “America at the Crossroads”

Jimmy Evans & Allan Kelsey “Strengths Based Marriage”

Elyse Fitzpatrick “Home”

Brandon Hatmaker “A Mile Wide”

Michael Horton “Core Christianity”

Bryan Loritts “Saving the Saved”

Erwin Lutzer “Rescuing the Gospel”

Albert Mohler, Jr. “We Cannot Be Silent”

Mac Pier “A Disruptive Gospel”

Matt and Beth Redman “Finding God in the Hard Times”

Judah Smith “How’s Your Soul?”

Scotty Smith “Every Season Prayers”

R.C. Sproul “What Is Reformed Theology?”

Chad Veach “Unreasonable Hope”

Jon Weece “Me Too”

Jared C. Wilson “Unparalleled” 

I also read a few biographies/autobiographies (not sure all of these qualify for that category, but if they were on the edge, I put them here):

George W. Bush “41 – A Portrait of My Father”

Alan Chambers “My Exodus: From Fear to Grace”

Martin Dugard “To Be A Runner”

Laura Hillenbrand “Unbroken”

Jennifer Knapp “Facing the Music”

Nabeel Qureshi “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”

Gene Simmons “Kiss and Make Up”

I tried to branch out and read some books that focused on business, marketing, or other leadership principles. Here are those books:

Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”

Jim Collins “Good To Great”

Seth Godin “Tribes”

Patrick Lencioni “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”

I didn’t read many novels this year, just one to be exact, but I did read a few plays by August Wilson after hearing about him over the years. Here are the novels and plays that I read:

Stephen King “11/22/63”

August Wilson “Gem of the Ocean”

August Wilson “Fences”

While the books that I read in 2016 can’t very well be called diverse, I think I had a fairly decent mix of genres this year. I will continue to try to mix things up this year. My Book Plan for 2017 can be seen here.

Postscript:

After the publishing of this post, I started and finished “How Full Is Your Bucket?” by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton. It’s tied into some of what I did on my sabbatical and actually brings my total books read number up to 53 to equal my total in 2015.

Book Plan for 2017

Library with a book ladder and lampThis is my fourth year of putting together a reading plan. I’ve still not got a good rhythm on it. I think there are far too many unknowns for me and there are far too many good books out there that I am longing to read. So, I’ll keep plugging away and trying.

I’m trying to broaden my horizons a little bit more. I’ve been feeling a pull to more diversity in my plan, so I’m adding some touches here and there. I know that there will be blog books as well, books that I will review for my blog, which is always an unknown. I’m, never quite sure just what kinds of books will be offered, so it’s hard to predict those books. 

My plan for 2017 will be to lessen the number of books in the plan in hopes that I will be able to be more efficient in reading books from this list. It hasn’t gone well in the past when I have tried to read books on my plan when I’ve had an extensive list. Out of the 28 books on my plan for 2016, I only finished 9 of them, but I still managed to read 52 books for the year, one less than 2015, an average of one book per week. 

Maya Angelou “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

Rachel Held Evans “Evolving In Monkey Town”

Victor Frankl “Man’s Search for Meaning”

Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch “ReJesus”

Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon “Resident Aliens’

Howard V. and Edna H. Hong, editors “The Essential Kierkegaard”

Walter Isaacson “Steve Jobs”

Tim Keller “Center Church”

Tim Keller “Preaching”

Stephen Mansfield “The Search for God and Guiness”

Brenda Salter McNeil “Roadmap to Reconciliation”

Matt Mikalatos “My Imaginary Jesus”

Jürgen Moltmann “A Broad Place”

Flannery O’Connor “The Complete Stories”

Andrew Peterson “The Warden and the Wolf King”

David Platt “Counter Culture”

Preston Sprinkle “Living In a Gray World”

Preston Sprinkle “People To Be Loved”

John Steinbeck “Of Mice and Men”

Howard Thurman “Jesus and the Disinherited”

Mark Twain “How To Tell A Story and Other Essays”

N.T. Wright “Simply Jesus”

This is my plan which I know will most likely shift and change a little bit, but if I don’t start out with something, I’ll have a hard time hitting anything.

Would love to hear about some of your favorite books and whether or not you have interacted with any on this list.

Happy reading!

Snowflakes

grayson-allenSnowflakes are delicate and fragile creations. While each of them is unique, if you touch them with your hand, they melt. They can be blown easily by the wind, changing directions based on the forces that surround them, the forces that are stronger than they are. Snowflakes may be pleasant at first, but if you get enough of them together, they can wreak havoc on roads and cause an awful mess. Real snowflakes usually are limited to one season out of the year.

While the real snowflakes are limited to one season out of the year, the figurative snowflakes seem to be joining us indefinitely…..at least until someone decides it’s time to do something about them.

Grayson Allen is a snowflake!

If you follow college basketball at all, you know who Grayson Allen is. He’s in his junior year at Duke University and is among the starters on their men’s basketball team. He’s a 6’5” 21 year old Floridian who has been in the news over the last few years, but especially the last few days, as he intentionally trips his opponents on the basketball court.

Well, according to most people it’s intentional. According to Allen, or at least his antics, his reactions, and his body language, he’s just an innocent victim of bad-calling referees.

The latest infraction for which Allen has made the news took place on Wednesday night when Duke opposed Elon. Allen tripped Elon’s Steven Santa Ana (a clip you can see here).

There are so many things to say about what Allen did, but I think that my greatest concern with this is Allen’s reaction to his resultant technical foul (also seen in above video link).

Like I said, Allen is a snowflake.

I’m not sure where his sense of entitlement came to him. Maybe it was growing up in Jacksonville, Florida attending the Providence School, a private Christian college preparatory school also in Jacksonville. Maybe it was being recruited to Duke University, one of the top basketball schools in the nation. Maybe it was being born at the wrong time in history. Regardless of how it happened, it happened.

When I watched the highlights from Wednesday night’s game, I couldn’t help but shake my head and think to myself, “These are the kinds of kids that we are raising.” Dirty. Entitled. Ruthless players.

A friend jokingly (and rhetorically) asked the question on Facebook whether Allen’s upbringing might be blamed for him being a “thug.” A valid point that will most likely be overlooked far too quickly as Allen is white.

But putting race aside, my concern is that these kinds of snowflakes will one day be out in the “real world” and I wonder whether there will be any kind of intervention before that day comes. All eyes will be watching Duke University, especially Coach K, wondering just how long they will deem an appropriate time frame for his suspension. Will it be one game? Five games? More? Will the league intervene and throw a harder sentence at him?

While some would say this is the time for him to learn lessons, I wonder whether, as a junior, he should have already learned some of these lessons that he is expected to learn this time around. After all, he was heavily criticized for at least two incidents last year which resulted in little more than a slap on the hand. When there are no consequences for our bad decisions, what will stop us from making those same bad decisions again?

Generation Snowflake needs time to deal when things don’t go their way. Generation Snowflake seems to want everything handed to them on a platter without having to work for it. Generation Snowflake is probably not so much a generation as it is a handful of snobby kids who seem to be standing in the spotlight and getting all the press. If I was the rest of that so-called generation, I’d be pretty ticked!

I can’t do anything about Grayson Allen (well, other than gripe about him on social media and my blog), but I can do something about my own children. I can teach them to work for what they want. I can teach them that there are times (many times, in fact) when things don’t go the way that you’d like. I can teach them that just because things don’t go your way doesn’t entitle them to mope around until the situation changes, which let’s face it, probably won’t happen.

I can teach my children how to act and then hope and pray that they take it all in and avoid becoming a member of their own generation’s snowflakes. I don’t think any of them will ever be playing a college sport in the NCAA, but if they do, I hope when that time comes that I will have taught them better than to act like such snowflakes! 

Strengths Based Marriage

The Clifton StrengthsFinders assessment is used to assess the top five strengths of an individual. While everyone has all of the 34 signature strengths themes in the assessment, everyone is unique in the combination of those strengths that make up their top five. While there may be others in the world with the same combination of strengths as you, the probability is fairly small. Understanding your strengths is key to growth and development.strengths-based-marriage

StrengthsFinders’ emphasis is to focus your energy and efforts on the strengths that are your top five, the strengths where you have the most capacity for growth and development. Focusing on your bottom five strengths is actually an exercise in futility as you not only focus on areas where your capacity is at the least but it also takes the focus away from the areas where you have the greatest capacity.

As a certified Strengths Communicator, I was very interested to read “Strengths Based Marriage” by Jimmy Evans and Allan Kelsey. As I’ve studied strengths, I have been curious to know how those strengths affect and impact our relationships with one another as well as the various roles which we fill in our lives. Evans and Kelsey look at marriage from their areas of expertise as marriage counselor and strengths expert, respectively.

They begin their book with an introduction to strengths, which is helpful for those who have not had significant experience with StrengthsFinders. I imagine that most people who pick up this book will have had some experience with StrengthsFinders to even open the book. The standard assessment for StrengthsFinders simply gives one their top five strengths yet Evans and Kelsey talk about the top ten and bottom five strengths. In order to get the full assessment with all thirty-four themes, the price is significantly more than just the standard assessment. Many books that talk of StrengthsFinders include an assessment code, something that this book does not include. It would be helpful to at least include an assessment code for the basic assessment and give the reader an understanding of the cost of the full assessment, even possibly offering a discount code for the full assessment.

Evans and Kelsey tackle each subject from their respective expertise, dividing each chapter into two parts, from a marriage counselor perspective and then from a strengths expert perspective. They share out of their own experience and give some practical examples of how strengths play out in their own marriages. They also share from their experience with various individuals and couples that they have worked with in the past. For those who are unfamiliar with the language of strengths, they use the language simply enough to be understood, in my opinion.

While there are times when they seem to repeat themselves, I think that “Strengths Based Marriage” was a good book. The authors offer practical steps toward improving communication, bringing healing, and strengthening a marriage. If nothing else, this book could help couples become more self-aware and more intentional and observant in their relationships.

The authors are realistic in their use of strengths as well, never claiming that the language and application of strengths can act like a “magic bullet” of sorts to bring complete healing and restoration to broken marriages. As Kelsey writes, “What I am trying to point out is that our strengths act like lenses, coloring the various activities of our lives and making us choose one thing over another.” StrengthsFinders is simply one more tool to help communicate and possibly improve relationships. The relationships that this book addresses are marriages. Whether your marriage is on the rocks or doing well, “Strengths Based Marriage” can be a helpful resource for improvements.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

A Disruptive Gospel – A Book Review

Ipier_disruptivegospel_wSpine.inddn the first chapter of “A Disruptive Gospel” Mac Pier shares his own experience of coming to understand and embrace the gospel. He explains the gospel and then lays out five specific matters which we should organize our lives around if we embrace the gospel and Jesus. The five matters are: the gospel matters, church unity matters, cities matter, millennial leadership matters, and movements matter. Pier spends the rest of the book emphasizing these matters.

Pier reiterates his point about unity multiple times through the book. He writes, “Division in the church breeds atheism in the world.” His reiteration of this is great that it’s hard to think there isn’t some kind of back story. As much as he emphasizes unity within the church, it doesn’t seem that he is overly promoting ecumenical ministries. The bigger issue within cities is the segregation that exists within churches. The lack of integration within churches can be just as great of a hindrance to the gospel as disunity.

“A Disruptive Gospel” also promotes an awareness of, care for, and raising up of millennial leaders. Millennial leaders are the church of today and tomorrow, to disregard or ignore them is to almost purposefully seek the death knell of God’s church, although I don’t believe anything can kill God’s church. There needs to be strategic movements and intentional plans to seek ways to transition the youth of today into leaders by discipling them and investing in them. One leader shares, “Young people desperately want a ‘third place’ to connect, and very few churches provide that space. There is virtually no transition from youth group to a larger church gathering on Sundays.”

The movements that have occurred and are occurring within U.S. cities such as New York and Dallas are the focus of many of the early chapters within “A Disruptive Gospel.” Movement Days have been started within cities with the realization that cities shape culture, gospel movements shape cities, and leaders catalyze movements. The idea behind Movement day was to create a convergence between the prayer movements that are taking place within the church as well as the church planting movement that is taking place in the church. As Pier says, “What our cities need more than anything is a maturing and deepening of relationship between diverse Christian leaders within the same city. Missional unity is the ball game.”

Education and information are key factors in seeing a gospel movement take off. Pier writes, “We can love only that which we know. The more we know about our community, our church, or our city, the more we will care about its well-being. Research compels us to act.” How can we reach people that we don’t know and don’t know about? If we fail to know them, we will fail to love them. We need to become more aware of the people who Jesus wants to be a part of his kingdom, not necessarily the ones who are already in the kingdom and the church, but those who may be the furthest away.

Pier goes on to share about what is taking places within cities throughout the world. The United Kingdom. Dubai. Germany. South Africa. The Philippines. God is at work throughout the world and there is much to be learned about what is being done and tried all around.

The subtitle for “A Disruptive Gospel” is “Stories and Strategies For Transforming Your City.” The first half of the book seemed to move along fairly well. There were nuggets of information and good insights that I thought were really helpful. As the book moved on, the information seemed repetitive and dry, less about story sharing and more about information sharing. My interest waned as it went on. So, I could almost give two different reviews for the two halves of this book.

Overall, there was good information in here. That information could probably have been shared in half the space that it took. If you don’t mind skimming a book to find the nuggets that lie along the way, you might want to read “A Disruptive Gospel.” If you are expecting a book that moves along at a decent pace, holding your interest at every page, you may want to read something by the guy who wrote the foreword of the book, Tim Keller.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

Hopeless Romantic?

I’m not sure just what it is, but every single time my kids have a school program, I’m trying to hold back tears.

EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. 

Fall. Winter. Spring. It doesn’t even matter what time of year it is, I’m like a basket case in my seat as I watch my kids do things that surprise and amaze me, that make me smile and cry all at the same time 

It’s not like these programs are tear-inducing programs. No hint of Hallmark here, but somehow or another, they still find ways of hitting me right in the chest.

Maybe some of it has to do with the fact that during every single program, at least once, I am wishing that my mom and dad were there. But I think it goes way beyond that. I think it stems from the fact that there is pride (not the bad kind) that wells up within me as I see my kids doing things that make them stand out. How can a mom or dad NOT be proud of their kids when they’re doing what kids should be doing? 

I’ll be honest, it’s an emotional time of year for me anyway. All it takes is one song to throw me back about 30 years. I’m transported to my childhood home with smells and sights and sounds that have been eternally etched on my brain. I can picture everything. Christmas tree. Pajamas. Presents. Green rug. Hi-Fi circa 1975 or thereabouts. Evie singing “Come On, Ring Those Bells” from that Hi-Fi stereo, complete with the cracks and pops that only vinyl can offer.

But like I said, I well up any time of year. These kids always blow me away. I guess it’s yet one more picture of grace that I see in my everyday life. I realize just what I have that I don’t deserve. I realize how far short I fall from being who I really wish that I was, and yet my kids still manage to keep plugging along without the help of therapists…..at least for now.

As I sat there on the hard bench of the cafeteria bench watching my middle child perform in his holiday play, I was just blown away. The kid can act. The kid can memorize. The kid can work a room. The kid can make a joke. While my eyes welled up, so did my pride as I thought, “What have I done to deserve this?”

It’s a time of year when you really see the difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots”….at least if you really look around. As much as I keep wanting, it’s a time of year that I am reminded just how blessed that I am 

Here we are, two weeks from Christmas, and I’m blubbering at the sight of an inflatable Rudolph in the neighborhood…..it might just be a LOOOOONNNNNGGGGG 2 weeks!

Deep down inside, I’m a hopeless romantic, but I guess I hide it well. Maybe it’s self-preservation and self-defense, but regardless, there’s way more emotion down deep than most people who just get a casual glance at me would really expect or imagine. I’m fine with that.

There are a lot of things to hope for during this time of year, but my biggest hope is that I can be half the man that my children and wife deserve. I am a blessed man, blessed beyond measure.

Now, let me go find a good Christmas movie to continue with my blubbering!!!