Of Mess and Moxie – A Book Review

of mess and moxieIt’s always slightly awkward reading a book for which you are not the intended audience. Jen Hatmaker can make one feel even more awkward about this. At times, it can feel almost like eavesdropping or voyeurism, peaking behind the curtain and getting a glimpse into the secret lives of women. The nice thing is that Hatmaker generally doesn’t play into those feelings and allows her readers, regardless of whether or not they fall into her target audience, to feel as if they were meant to be there all along.

In her latest book “Of Mess and Moxie” author and speaker Jen Hatmaker vamps on the things that have made her so successful. She speaks of motherhood, of getting old, of the church, of family, of fame, of her passions, and so many other topics that resonate with her readers. In some ways, her books seem to be the equivalent of a “Seinfeld” episode, they’re about nothing and everything all at once. I mean that in the most complimentary way.

Jen Hatmaker is raw and honest. Some people don’t like that. When she says “bless your heart” you know exactly what she means. She’s always been that way but she’s being refined. In her rawness and honesty, she can admit that she hasn’t always taken the best approaches. She admits that she doesn’t do anything half way, she jumps in head-first, giving her whole self to whatever it is that she’s embracing at the moment. She’s not afraid to stand for what she believes in and also not afraid to admit that there have been times when she’s not always gotten it right.

Through the words of the introduction and first chapter of “Of Mess and Moxie” the reader can hear her angst and frustration but also her tenderness and compassion. She’s experienced a lot in the past few years. Her public declaration in support of same-sex marriage didn’t win fans in evangelical circles. I am sure that she’s still facing the repercussions of her evolving stance and there seems to be some lingering sting within her words.

There are moments when her sass seems to be getting the better of her. There’s a fine line between being sassy, being funny, and being a winsome communicator. Most of the times Hatmaker holds that tension well but she seems to cross the lines a few times. While her honesty and candidness are admirable, there are times when she seems to be trying too hard to gain the affection of the edgy crowd by her choice of words. Words are powerful and once they’re out there, you can’t take them back.

In all her sass and sarcasm, Hatmaker has a way of connecting with women (and the occasional male reviewer like myself or curious male sojourner) in such a way that reading her books feels more like a conversation on a couch, covered with your favorite blanket, snuggled up in front of the fireplace with a hot cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or whatever your hot beverage of choice. Hatmaker makes her readers feel less alone, verbally hugging them and letting them know that there are others out there whose experiences may mirror their own. She never really toots her own horn and her self-deprecating humor deflects the fame that many try to pin on her.

Most of the time, I feel as if I could hang out with Jen Hatmaker and have a decent conversation. We might become fast friends. Occasionally, when we hit points of disagreement, I wonder how those disagreements would play out in conversation. Hatmaker is pretty clear that she values the Bible and loves Jesus. Her relational personality can make it somewhat difficult to separate out her emotions and feelings from some of the hot-button issues that she’s chosen to engage.

She has experienced for herself the “me too” factor that most of her readers most likely experience when they read her books. That place at which they arrive when they realize they are not alone but are joined by a whole tribe of women who have shared the same experiences and emotions that they have. She does a masterful job of communicating that and doing her best to recruit others to that tribe.

Jen Hatmaker makes her readers want to come back for more, over and over again. She’s easy to read, she’s funny, and it’s abundantly clear why she’s been labeled “the sound bite queen” as she’s quotable and Tweetable! Hatmaker spreads out four chapters of “How To’s” throughout the book. They are hysterically funny, enough to have had me laughing out loud in the middle of a crowded Starbucks. Whether you agree with her or not, there’s no denying that Hatmaker can keep her readers engaged.

I enjoyed “Of Mess and Moxie.” Hatmaker seems to be a modern day Erma Bombeck. There is nothing theologically astounding in here. Her simple observations of faith and family and all of the things you encounter on this journey called “Life” are insight enough. She has the gift of encouragement and I would be hard-pressed to believe that any woman feeling a little beat up in the midst of her situation or circumstances could easily find comfort here in Hatmaker’s words.

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

Advertisements

Overwhelmed

I’ve been thinking about the word “overwhelmed” a lot lately. It’s probably because I’ve been feeling it…..a lot. Overwhelmed with emotion. Overwhelmed with activity. Overwhelmed with thoughts. Overwhelmed with worry. Overwhelmed with anxiety.

The word “overwhelmed” means “to turn upside down, to overthrow.” But like so many other words, it can mean something so different based upon its context. While we (or I) may use it more often as a negative word, it can easily be used in a more positive way.

Lately, my use of overwhelmed has felt much more negative. Tomorrow is the six year anniversary of my mom’s death and no matter how far I get from that day, it seems that it still has as severe of an impact as it did when it first happened. I can feel the anxiety and sadness rising up within me. I can feel myself getting overwhelmed.

I’ve had some additional responsibilities on me over the last two months. I’ve found myself growing in many ways, learning how better to manage my time and be more efficient. At the same time, there are moments when I feel incredibly overwhelmed, overcome and overthrown.

Even Jesus, as he prayed in the hours leading up to his death in Matthew 26, was overwhelmed. At least that’s how the New International Version translation of the Bible renders it. “My heart is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

But I think we can be overwhelmed with good. I think we can be overwhelmed when people do things for us that leave us speechless. I think we can be overwhelmed as we look at the blessings that we have in our lives rather than looking at what we don’t have.

As I’ve pondered it, I’ve thought more and more about how I want to be positively overwhelmed. I know that I will not stop being overwhelmed by other things, but how will I choose to respond?

I had a rough night last night. Didn’t sleep well. Tossed and turned. Dreamed restless dreams. Other than the overwhelming emotion of what tomorrow represents to me, a few other things were thrown at me in the past few days that completely threw me off. I’ve felt vulnerable, detached, disconnected, and aloof. While it was nothing compared to what Jesus talks about in Matthew 26, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling overwhelmed.

I really felt like I had no choice but to do my best to allow myself to be overwhelmed by God. My go-to place for that is the Psalms. I have always appreciated the raw and honest nature of the Psalms. So, I put on my head phones, laid on the couch, and let the Psalms be read into my ears.

And you know what? It worked. I was overwhelmed.

I was overwhelmed with the goodness of my God. I was overwhelmed with his presence with his people. I was overwhelmed with his faithfulness. I was overwhelmed with the salvation that he brings and offers to us.

I think the key to finding the positive aspect of being overwhelmed is to know where we need to go to find it. I will oftentimes go to the wrong place, some place that doesn’t fulfill, that doesn’t really meet the need. When that happens, it does the reverse of positively overwhelming me and I feel even more overthrown. We can all find places that will give us a temporary reprieve from the overwhelming feelings we face.

But in the Psalms, we find the God who is there. We find the God who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. We are not alone. We may be overwhelmed, but if we really stop to think about it, we can be overwhelmed by all that God is and all that he has done for us.

This past Sunday, we sang this song in our worship service. It’s a song that I’ve loved from the first moment that I heard it. I had forgotten about it until Sunday and as the music washed over me, I was truly overwhelmed.

Slaying the Giants

goliath must fallAnyone who has attended Sunday School for any length of time is most likely familiar with the story of David and Goliath. David, the young shepherd boy, is on an errand to deliver something to his brothers who are in the army. He hears Goliath taunting the army of Israelites and can’t get over the fact that this Philistine giant is disrespecting the God of the Israelites. David talks to King Saul, who offers for David to wear his armor which is way too big, but eventually, David faces Goliath with only his shepherd’s sling and five smooth stones. Goliath’s confidence is in his strength while David’s confidence is in the strength of God.

Many people read this story and put themselves in the place of David, suggesting that they are the ones who are supposed to conquer their own giants. In his book “Goliath Must Fall,” author, speaker, and pastor, Louie Giglio, suggests that WE are not David in the story, but God is. We don’t fight our battles ourselves, but God fights them for us. In fact, it’s God’s strength that propels us and in order to see true and lasting change in our lives, “we need to understand our dependency on the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Our change is more about trusting and less about trying.”

Giglio suggests that most of us don’t struggle with hundreds and hundreds of giants, but really with five big giants: fear, rejection, comfort, anger, and addiction. The bulk of “Goliath Must Fall” deals with these five giants and the ways that we can battle them.

Words are important, as are titles, Giglio says, thus the name of the book. It’s not that Goliath WILL fall or that Goliath HAS fallen, but Goliath MUST fall. In other words, our giants will not fall in the future at some designated time. Our giants haven’t been conquered even though Christ has won the battle. Instead, in order for us to really live a life of freedom in Christ, our giants MUST fall. It has to happen.

Giglio presents all of this with a sincere honesty. In fact, having recently read Giglio’s other book “The Comeback,” I thought that this book was more honest, real, and even raw. He does not present giant-slaying as something that we do on our own nor does he try to convince the reader that difficulties and hardships won’t exist in our lives. God may just set up a table for us in the presence of our enemies. That table represents God’s provision to us, even as we face and sometimes fail against our giants.

Throughout the book, Giglio continued to return to the story of David and Goliath, giving background information about David. He focused on many of the aspects of the account that can often be overlooked, especially when we jump to the Sunday School version of the story. I was glad to be reminded of the richness of the biblical account of David.

I would recommend “Goliath Must Fall” for anyone who has struggled, is struggling, or will struggle, which means pretty much all of us. Giglio presents his message with encouragement, humor, and honesty. His classification of the five types of giants that we all face seemed spot on as well. This book is a great reminder who is fighting our battles and who is walking alongside us as we face each of our giants.

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

This Looked Worse In My Head

chicken-littleI am the king of creating crises in my head. I like to blame my experience and education as an engineer, always looking for the worst case scenario and trying to protect and design for what’s feasible to expect. As much as I’d like to blame it on that, I’ve come to understand that it’s more of a character flaw than anything else.

While it’s good to always be prepared (can I get an “Amen” Boy Scouts?!), I think I’ve moved from preparing for the unexpected to bracing myself for the worst.

If I really sat and thought about it, I could probably come up with at least a page of examples of this very thing from just the past six months. How many times I’ve anticipated that things were going to be so much worse than they were only to find out that the dramatic portrayal in my head was significantly distorted from reality?! Over and over again, I go in expecting that a situation is going to result in something awful and I come out shaking my head, asking myself, “Why do I keep doing this?”

If I’m honest, I think it’s about self-defense and self-protection. It always feels so much better when I’ve planned for the worst, at least I won’t be disappointed or surprised. But more often than not, things don’t even come close to looking like what I had pictured in my mind.

I had this experience happen multiple times in the last week. As soon as I stepped up to deal with a situation, my mind began racing. The moment that I woke up in the morning, my brain immediately jumped to the situation. How would I deal with it? What would be the outcome? How would I survive? My heart began beating faster and faster, I could feel the beads of sweat begin to form on my brow, that sick-to-my-stomach feeling overtook me, and I could feel the butterflies or moths or whatever they were dancing in my stomach.

Then the moment came……

And all of my undue fears proved to be just that: undue. My worries were for naught, in vain, unfounded. What was even more astounding (or embarrassing, if I’m honest) is that reality and the picture in my head weren’t even close. It was like asking a kid to draw a dragon and he ends up with a cute little mouse. What I feared and what actually happened weren’t even in the same ballpark.

But I’m learning. I think some of my anticipation really does have to do with preparation and self-preservation. One of my biggest struggles in dealing with people is my own emotion, my own self-management, from an emotional intelligence standpoint. If I prepare myself for the worst, I can also prepare myself with the specific mechanisms and checkpoints that I need to put in place to ensure that I hold it together, that I don’t fly off the handle, and that I keep myself from saying something or doing something I’ll regret.

 I don’t know if I’ll ever stop anticipating the worst. I sure hope I do. In the meantime, I hope I learn from every situation that comes across my path, that I learn how to self-manage, that I learn to keep my emotions in check, and that I learn that thinking that the sky is falling and preparing for just such a scenario really does get old after a while!

The Comeback – A Book Review

The ComebackComeback stories seem to draw a lot of attention. Some might call them “Cinderella Stories” and others might talk about the underdog, but when it comes to comeback stories, most people seem drawn to them. Maybe it’s the unlikelihood of the stories or the cast of characters that seem to litter the landscape of such stories. Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve all probably experienced a moment or a time in our lives when we’ve needed our own comeback and we’ve been the underdog or the “Cinderella” in the story.

Louie Giglio writes of our own need to experience this and be part of these stories in his book “The Comeback.” We all have come to a place when we’ve needed a comeback. Perhaps we’ve gotten our lives off track by ourselves. Perhaps we’ve just had a number of unfortunate events happen to us. Regardless of the cause of the turmoil in our lives, many of us have come to a place where it’s the bottom of the ninth and we are seemingly down by an impossible number of runs. When we come to that place, we need a comeback.

With his balance of wit, wisdom, and Biblical truth, Louie Giglio shares stories of others who have experienced comebacks in their lives. Some of the people of whom he shares are in the Bible and others are people he’s met along the way. All of them have experienced some kind of comeback in their lives, a second chance, an opportunity to get their heads above the water and begin swimming again. That comeback that we need to experience can only be experienced in Jesus Christ.

It can be easy for those of us who are in need of a comeback to get to a place where we don’t think we deserve another chance. We think, and sometimes the church tells us, that we need to have it all together. Giglio writes, “See, we don’t need to shine ourselves up and sit in a beautiful church sanctuary. We don’t need to gather our children and spouse together and figure out how to become the world’s most functional family. We don’t need to get well before we meet Jesus. That’s what he does for us.” Jesus is the one who provides the comeback for us, we don’t do it ourselves.

Giglio shares a lot of stories in this book. Some of them seem almost as if they came straight from a Hollywood script. In fact, it was hard for me to read a good portion of the first half of this book as there were so many stories of success and comeback that it was difficult to take considering some of the experiences that I’ve had myself. I began to ask myself, “What happens when there is no comeback?”

At just the right time, Giglio gets into that, talking about how comebacks don’t always look like we’d like them to look. Sometimes there is just no cure. Sometimes there is no repairing the relationship. Sometimes the child just doesn’t come home. When we come to that place in our lives when the comebacks don’t match what we had envisioned in our heads, we need to remember that Jesus experienced the ultimate comeback in order that we might experience the same.

There is a life beyond the temporary comeback, a salvation that is eternal, and we can’t lose sight of that. As difficult as it is to accept, the answer doesn’t always match up to our expectation. But just like Lazarus was raised from the dead and would still eventually experience death again, there was something beyond that physical death and we need to remember God’s faithfulness and love in the midst of those times. We need to remember that because of the ultimate comeback of Jesus, we too can experience the same.

“The Comeback” was full of inspiring stories. Louie Giglio is engaging as a storyteller. At times, he can seem to ramble on and maybe overshoot his point, maybe even to the point of ramming it into the ground rather than gently sticking the landing. He never comes across preachy so much as he might come across as wordy. “The Comeback” probably could have been at least twenty to thirty pages shorter.

At times, when it felt like Giglio was edging out into a prosperity gospel, he reeled it back in again and brought in biblical truths that showed just where he stood.

If you have been experiencing frustration and difficulty in your life and you need encouragement, “The Comeback” is for you. This book is geared towards those who are looking for answers and encouragement and Giglio provides both. They might not always be the answers you’re looking for, but they’re the ones you probably need to hear.

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

Play the Man – A Book Review

play the man“I fear we have forgotten how to make men.” That’s one of the lines in the introduction of Mark Batterson’s latest book “Play the Man.” We’ve lost something as a society with our inability to foster an adventurous and daring spirit in little boys and to help them grow up to be men. Just as animals within a zoo seem so much tamer than they would normally be in the wild, Batterson quips that perhaps churches do to people what zoos do to animals.

Batterson is a great storyteller and throughout “Play the Man” he tells stories, his own and the stories of others. He has a way of inspiring passion in his reader as he tells stories in such a compelling way that you’re ready to get up and go storm the gates of hell with a squirt gun when you’re done.

To make a case for raising men, Batterson suggests seven virtues that need to be instilled in young men in order that they might grow up well. These virtues are tough love, childlike wonder, will power, raw passion, true grit, clear vision, and moral courage. Mixing Scripture, personal anecdotes and stories, and real life accounts of people living out these virtues, Batterson makes a case for the importance of these virtues but the need to pass them on as well.

The most important part of this book, for me, was the last part where Batterson shares more personally about the various things that he has done with his own sons to instill these values into them. He never claims perfection, honestly admitting his own faults and laying out the things that he might have done differently had he had the chance. He shares from the experiences that he had with his own sons in their rites of passage that he helped to cater specifically to them.

Batterson has also set up a website where he shares resources. Specifically, he has copies of the discipleship covenants between fathers and sons that he talks about throughout the book. These covenants are set up to help fathers and sons move towards this rite of passage together.

I’ve read most of Batterson’s books. I am always inspired and filled at the conclusion of his books. He communicates in such a way that is simple and helps to make even the most unlikely of candidates believe that they too can embark on the journeys of which he writes.

“Play the Man” is an important book for our culture. In a day and age where kids are growing up faster than they ever have before, this book lays out some important ideas and virtues that require time and investment in order to instill them in the next generation of men. If you are a father, a grandfather, an uncle, or just a mentor to young men, you need to pick up a copy of this book to get some ideas as to how to successfully help young men to grow up to play the man!

(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.)

5Q – A Book Review

5QIn the early days of the Christian church, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus laying out the various roles of those in the church. He wrote in Ephesians 4:11-13, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors (shepherds) and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” This description has come to be known as the fivefold ministry of the church.

In the introduction of his new book “5Q” Alan Hirsch writes, “It is sobering to consider that, as far as we can tell, Christianity is on the decline in every Western setting…” This decline of which Hirsch speaks of is due, in his opinion, to the abandonment of the bulk of this fivefold ministry of which Paul wrote. He says, “As for the church’s ministry, the historical church has largely opted to exclude apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic frameworks and has viewed ministry through the now severely reduced categories of the pastor (shepherd) and the teacher (theologian).” Using the acronym APEST to describe this fivefold ministry, Hirsch claims that the Western church has done a good job of eliminating the APE ministries and accentuating and even overemphasizing the ST ministries.

Hirsch asks his readers to read through this book with soft eyes, doing their best to let go of the ways that they’ve looked at things in the past in order to see more clearly what we’re missing by excluding these crucial elements of ministry for the body of Christ. Hirsch goes so far as to say that, “the fivefold ministry is the way, or mode, by which Jesus is actually present in the church, and by which he extends his own ministry through us.”

Hirsch proceeds to support the idea of fivefold ministry with a biblical foundation. As we live into our own gifting and encourage others into their gifting as well, we begin to fulfill the purpose for which Christ left the church on the earth as his ambassadors and representatives. We move towards the fullness of Christ as we live into this ministry. The church has been sorely lacking by not living into this paradigm and ideology. This lack has led to a “fatal and degenerative dis-ease into the body of Christ.”

Jesus epitomized this fivefold ministry in his own life and the church has been called to carry out and continue to use this paradigm to accomplish his work on the earth. The cultural mandate to which the Church has been called should fulfill this purpose through these ministries. This fivefold ministry of the church Hirsch terms 5Q. As Hirsch writes, “Once we have identified 5Q as perfectly exemplified in the life and ministry of Jesus, we can then see how he grafts these into the foundation of the church.”

Hirsch lays out the five ministries: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher. He gives descriptions of the various characteristics of each, also giving examples of how these gifts may manifest themselves in both sacred and secular environments. Hirsch says that these fivefold archetypes can actually be found throughout creation and history, giving them ontological weight.

Hirsch then moves from Christ to the church, describing just what it would look like if the church should embrace 5Q and live into this fivefold ministry and archetypes. He also describes just what happens when there is a deficit in these areas, giving examples of just what that would look like within the church. To live into this paradigm is to move towards a much more functional means of doing things. The apostle Paul described the church as a body and Hirsch agrees. Just as the parts of the body work together with their strengths and functions, so should the church follow suit. To neglect an area is to be deficient. “To remove one is to undermine all the others. We need all five to mature.”

Over and over again while reading “5Q” I found myself nodding my head in agreement with all that Hirsch lays out. The APEST model is something that he has spoken of in his other works as well, but not to this same depth. It makes sense. It’s logical. It’s biblical. In theory, it seems like it should be successful, in a biblical and spiritual sense, not necessarily in a worldly sense.

In order for the 5Q approach to really work, there needs to be a paradigm shift within the Western church. That shift may be easier for some local communities and harder for others. That shift may be easier for some congregations and harder for some pastors. Egos can’t get in the way because they will surely short circuit this approach in a heartbeat. The purpose of a body is shared ministry and experience, if personalities who can’t handle being the center of attention or the primary focus can’t step aside to embrace a fivefold ministry, we can expect that the Western church will continue the decline that we have already been experiencing.

5Q is not a new idea. It’s as old as Christianity itself, but the focus and shift within the church has moved away from a more balanced approach towards ministry and placed the emphasis and weight on a select few. Should we then be surprised when we see some of those crumble beneath the weight and when we see so many longing for something so much more significant than they have experienced? I think not.

I’ve been a fan of Alan Hirsch for years. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him in a little Irish pub in Long Beach, California a few years back. There was no pretense about him in person and his writing reflects the genuine personality that he possesses. He writes not with a pretentious confidence but with a loving desire to share the knowledge and wisdom that he has gained through his own experience, seen both personally and second hand.

If the Western church were to shift back towards this fivefold ministry which Hirsch is encouraging, I think we would see a significant change in effectiveness and in staying power. Of course, if we instead choose to embrace the things that we have always done, we shouldn’t be surprised if we see history repeating itself.

There are plenty of resources in this book for local communities to use to help more towards 5Q. I look forward to exploring them myself to see just how the community of which I am a part can move back towards ministry the way that Christ intended.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from 100 Movements. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)