Love Thy Body – A Book Review

Love-thy-Body-Nancy-PearceyIn the introduction to “Love Thy Body,” Nancy Pearcey writes about her exposure to Francis Schaeffer’s books and the metaphor he used in them regarding truth. Schaeffer used the metaphor of the two stories of a building to compare our culture’s approach towards truth. Schaeffer’s metaphor went something like this, “In the lower story is empirical science, which is held to be objectively true and testable…The upper story is the realm of morality and theology, which are treated as private, subjective, and relative.” This two story approach is the framework for the rest of Pearcey’s book as she makes constant reference to it in the chapters that follow.

Tackling issues such as abortion, euthanasia, identity, and sexuality, Pearcey applies Schaeffer’s metaphor to show just how this approach towards truth and morality has influenced the worldview of everyone, including Christians. Pearcey claims that this body/person dichotomy denigrates the body and, “is the unspoken assumption driving secular views on euthanasia, sexuality, homosexuality, transgenderism, and a host of related ethical issues.”

Pearcey carries this dichotomy out to its logical ends to paint a fairly frightening picture of where we are going as a culture and society. When we change the definition of a person, we move towards removing the rights of people who still deserve rights, regardless of whether or not they can mentally make decisions for themselves. We also take away things that should be stable and make them flimsy social constructs.

The personhood theory that Pearcey outlines in “Love Thy Body” is a theory and philosophy that claims that people can disassociate their emotions from their bodies. This claim and theory influences a person’s viewpoint of themselves and allows them to disassociate feelings from body, the two story approach that Schaeffer put forth in his writings. Pearcey claims that this kind of disassociation leads to an embrace of many things such as same-sex identity and transgenderism. Pearcey writes, “The person who adopts a same-sex identity must disassociate their sexual feelings from their biological identity as male or female – implicitly accepting a two-story dualism that demeans the human body. Thus is has a fragmenting, self-alienating effect on the human personality.”

The two story approach divorces feelings from biological reality. Regarding transgenderism, Pearcey writes that transgender advocates, “deny that gender identity is rooted in biology. Their argument is that gender is completely independent of the body.” When we embrace this approach, we disconnect identity from the body.

The disconnection of mind from body leads to an embrace of the thinking of philosophers like Nietzsche who said, “There are no eternal facts as there are no absolute truths” and “Facts do not exist, only interpretations.” The irony of statements like these are that they contradict themselves as they themselves are absolutes and facts, based on what Nietzsche puts forth.

This two story approach also impacts sex. When we disconnect mind from body, we reduce sex to a physical urge to be fulfilled rather than a connection between two people representing a deeper spiritual and theological significance. Sex is about more than biological drives and needs, but also about the communion between persons.

While most people may not claim that they embrace this ideology, Pearcey writes that the, “most powerful worldviews are the ones we absorb without knowing it. They are the ideas nobody talks about – the assumptions we pick up almost by osmosis.” Unintentionally, we may be embracing these ideologies and allowing them to impact and influence our worldview. Pearcey goes on to say that a, “person’s morality is always derivative. It stems from his or her worldview. To be effective, we have to engage the underlying worldview.”

This division of mind and body, the two story approach as Schaeffer suggests, leads to biological facts being abandoned and disregarded as social constructs. Postmodernism leads to the disconnection of morality from nature, it grounds gender and other biological realities in our minds and feelings rather than in science.

With the condemnation of this type of thinking, Pearcey is quick to remind her readers that the church still has a tall responsibility. “Even as churches clearly communicate the moral truths of Scripture,” she writes, “they must also become places of refuge for victims of the sexual revolution who have been hurt by its lies.” Christians cannot simply judge and criticize without offering support for people who are struggling to make sense of this mind/body dualism. If grace is not offered throughout this wrestling, then the church is doing something wrong.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with Pearcey, “Love Thy Body” is an important read. Her careful analysis of science is much more grounded than other writings that have tended towards an emphasis on unstable feelings rather than biological realities. Pearcey’s voice is a breath of fresh air in tumultuous times. She never comes across as chastising or condemning, but genuinely offers concrete information to deconstructing the dualistic postmodern approach to truth and morality.

This book is rich in information. It’s not a book to read through quickly. The content needs to be ingested, wrestled with, and unpacked to get a deeper understanding of what Pearcey is saying but also to really begin to see some of the absurdity of where these theories end when they are brought to their natural conclusions and even how scary those conclusions are for everyone as those conclusions will most certainly lead to impacting everyone.

Christian or not, I believe this is an important book to be read with an open mind.

(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.)

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What Are You Afraid Of?

I am afraid. I am full of fear.

I do not know what is going to happen. My fear wants to seize control (or at least give me the illusion that I’ve seized control). My fear wants me to have plan in place, so I’m looking, I’m grasping at any possible plan. I can make up plans with the best of them, so this is cake. Problem is, it’s not the right plan.

No, it doesn’t hurt to act. God wants us to act, but not to act in fear. How many times are we commanded in the Bible, “Do not be afraid?” Not urged or invited, but commanded.

Are my fears bigger than God? I’ve certainly been acting like they are. But we read, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” Trust in me, he tells us. Come to me, he tells us. My burden is light, he tells us. Cast your anxiety on me, he tells us.

So, what am I waiting for? What are you waiting for? What am I so afraid of?

More Than Just A Prayer to Recite…

“Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name….”

If you grew up in the church, the Lord’s Prayer has probably become familiar to you. You may have grown up reciting it to the point that it’s imbedded in your brain and you can recite it without much thought or contemplation.

The Prayer That Turns the World

In his latest book “The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down,” Albert Mohler even says that, “many evangelicals can identify with…what it is to pray without really praying.” Although we may have memorized the words of this prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, we may have not given it much thought. But Mohlers suggests that this prayer and what is contained within it is actually revolutionary if we really take to heart what Jesus said.

Before venturing into an exposition of Jesus’ prayer, Mohler expounds on the idea that evangelicals have gotten good at praying without really praying. He challenges the reader saying that a lot can be told about our relationship with God based on how we pray and how we worship. Mohler defines what prayer is and what prayer isn’t.

Mohler walks through each of the key phrases in Jesus’ prayer, expositing each and pointing towards Jesus’ prayer not as something to simply recite, but as a guide and primer on just how we approach God in prayer. We pray not so that we can simply list off all of the things that we want or need, but to commune with God, to relate to God, and ultimately to be changed by him. As Mohler says, “There is no true intimacy with God without prayer.” Mohler points out that the intentional phrasing in the prayer points us away from our individualism and reminds us that we are part of a greater whole, the body of Christ.

The Lord’s Prayer is also a reminder to us that we are part of a kingdom that is not of this world and a king who far exceeds the political powers which make headlines on a daily basis. Our commission as followers of Christ is to make disciples of this king and citizens of his kingdom. As we pray that the Lord’s will be done, we are asking God to align our will with his, not asking that he make our heart’s desires come true. Our hearts desires in prayer should slowly begin to align to the heart’s desire of God.

We are reminded, through this book, that our prayer for our daily needs may not always be answered in the ways that we might think or even hope. God will provide for our needs but perhaps not the way that we might have imagined. We are taught to forgive as we are forgiven, not because we are forgiven. We receive forgiveness through Christ and because of what we receive, we extend forgiveness to others.

Mohler reminds the reader that Christians are not somehow immune to temptation. No temptation is brought on by God, but it is allowed and with that temptation, we are given the tools by which to triumph over it. The power to resist temptation isn’t something we muster up with enough gumption and energy, it is only something that we can accomplish through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The reader is reminded at the conclusion of the book that the last phrase that has been tacked on to the Lord’s Prayer was not found in the original manuscripts of the Bible. While that doesn’t make it wrong, it doesn’t make it God’s Word, Mohler writes. It may have been added in the decades and centuries following Jesus to act as a doxology.

Mohler concludes his discussion of the Lord’s Prayer by reminding his reader that, “This prayer is dangerous…This prayer is hopeful…This prayer is compassionate…This prayer is reverent…This prayer is good news.” Through the Lord’s Prayer, we not only understand what God asks of us when we come to him but also we begin to understand more of who he is as we unpack this prayer.

If, as Mohler says, you have ever felt like you, “can go through the motions, say all the right words, and even lead a congregation or group in prayer without remembering a single word…or even understanding what (was) prayer for,” you might consider reading “The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down.” It’s a short enough read that you won’t feel like you are getting bogged down but it packs enough into those few pages that you will feel challenged in how you approach this important prayer the next time you recite it.

(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.)

The Gray of Growth

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Challenge and Change.jpg

For anyone who has spent any amount of time in the church, the idea and topic of spiritual formation has most likely come up at one time or another. As is the case with many words and phrases in Western Christianity, some words and phrases have been emptied of their meaning because of the frivolous ways we’ve used them. Spiritual Formation may have become a buzz word in some circles, but it’s an important concept for all of those who consider themselves to be followers of Christ and who desire to continue to grow.

One thing that I’ve noticed in my own life and in our culture is that we really like “Color By Numbers” types of things. We like to have a script laid out before us, clear instructions that will give us a step by step approach towards completing the desired task. But rarely is the path of growth as linear, formulaic, and structured as we think it is.

If you’ve ever gone through any kind of training, you know that there comes a time when the muscles that you are trying to grow and train need to be tricked and challenged. While regular workouts with the same exercises can still be beneficial, in order to experience growth, changing things up becomes necessary to progress and not plateau.

The Apostle Paul understood the need to discipline the body in order to grow and be trained. There needs to be an order and a structure in what we are doing in our training and spiritual formation, but we may have found that we’ve done the same exercises for such a long time that we need to change things up in order to avoid the plateau of growth that can come when we continue to do the same thing over and over again.

As I get older and grow, I am seeing the benefit of growth not only on an individual basic, but on a communal basis. Like so much of life, we need to maintain some kind of balance. We may find ourselves emphasizing more individual growth rather than communal growth, or vice versa, but finding the balance can be a challenge. While the balance may wane and sway at times, we always need to be mindful of the multi-faceted aspect of growth that happens when we learn individually and corporately.

I sometimes wish that I could simply read a book that would give me all the steps that I need to be perfect in my growth, but that’s far too simplistic to think that it can be effective. While there are helpful methods and books that outline these methods, change is important in our growth and challenge will be part of that. Like the sign in my gym says, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

When Is It Right To Die? – A Book Review

when is it right to dieIt’s been fifty years since Joni Eareckson Tada became a quadriplegic after diving headfirst into the Chesapeake Bay in 1967. Over that time, she has risen above not only the challenges that came with her accident, but also from a stage 3 cancer diagnosis and countless other challenges that have come her way. She’s experienced the will to die, depression, and despair that so many others in similar situations to her own have experienced. Her ability to write “When Is It Right To Die?” is supported not only by the research that she has done over the years, but also by the vast experience that she has personally undergone. In short, her expertise it not simply theoretical, it’s experiential as well.

It’s been more than twenty-five years since the original edition of “When Is It Right To Die?” was released. Tada admits in the preface to this new edition that twenty-five years ago, her hope had been to provide a, “primer of sorts to readers whose only exposure to euthanasia was the occasional headline.” She goes on to say that much has taken place in the past twenty-five years to support the idea that people have the “right to die.” That change in the two and a half decades between editions was what led Tada to update her original book.

Tada writes in the introduction, “I am convinced that the principles that guided me and my family through the nightmarish maze of depression, suicidal thoughts, suffering, and death can help others. What we learned as a family can benefit other hurting families.” This is why she wrote and updated this book.

“When Is It Right To Die?” was a gut-wrenching read for me. So much of the conversation around end of life issues seems to hinge on so many factors. Financial. Spiritual. Emotional. Mental. There have been numerous high profile cases that have been highlighted in the media which have focused on these issues. Terri Schiavo. Brittany Maynard. Many of the names of those who were thrust into the spotlight of this important topic may stir in us a world of emotions. Those names will certainly stir up controversy in specific circles.

Tada writes from her own experience, her own research, and she writes with a candor and empathy that let her reader know that the end of life which seem to be reduced to purely mechanical and almost robotic decisions are actually far more complex than many, on both sides of the issue, have fully admitted. How do an individual’s decisions about their own end of life impact themselves, their families, God, and others? While the right of the individual seems to have gained the greatest focus, there is no denying that these decisions and their impact are far more impactful than just the individual.

But there are also a host of difficult questions that need to be wrestled with in order to have a better understanding of just how nuanced the conversation is around end of life issues. Have individuals who have wanted to avoid painful suffering in the end actually cut short their lives prematurely? What defines personhood? Have individuals who have been removed from life support without their consent really been in the perpetual vegetative state that others have claimed they have been in?

As a Christian, Tada sees the value of human life through a different lens than those with no faith background. She holds to the belief that we are created in the image of God and each of us is valuable, regardless of our abilities or inabilities. Taking a life prematurely, in her opinion, seems to contradict this belief.

Tada also mentions other options at the end of life. I was grateful for her mention of hospice as my own experience with my parents and hospice was incredibly positive, especially during a very difficult season of life. The resources and options that are available before the death process has begun may be more numerous than some would admit. She encourages her readers to do their own research and consult a host of counsel regarding advanced medical directives and living wills. Be informed in order to make informed decisions.

“When Is It Right To Die?” was made so much more poignant to me considering who Joni Eareckson Tada is and what he has experienced in her life. Half a century as a paraplegic in a wheelchair coupled with just what she has accomplished in those five decades has given her a stronger voice in this conversation. Her perspective is thoughtful and sensitive, but she is not afraid to express her opinions. Having explored end of life issues before, this book was incredibly helpful. I think that it could be equally beneficial for those who have been seeking a means by which to explore the subject. Even if you are coming from another perspective other than a Christian perspective, the insights that Tada shares can be helpful and I didn’t feel that she ever became preachy in how and what she shared.

(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.)

Your God Is Too Glorious – A Book Review

Your God Is Too GloriousWhy is it that we seem to want to find God in all the glorious and magnificent places in the world? Have we forgotten how God came into the world, as a baby born to a teenage virgin? God put on the flesh of normality, became one of us, and accomplished the impossible through unlikely circumstances. In looking up to the sky and expecting flashes of lightning and rolls of thunder, we have a tendency to forget that it’s in the normalcy and the mundane of life that God works.

That’s the premise of Chad Bird’s latest book, “Your God Is Too Glorious.” We have taught ourselves to be astounded by the grandiose and extraordinary instead of finding the grandiose and extraordinary in the simplicities of life. Often God speaks to us in those small places through small people in the small details. As Bird writes, “…our ears grow so accustomed to these loud voices that we become deaf to the quiet voices whispering profound wisdom on the fringes.”

Story after story is shared by Bird within this book, person after person is named, emphasizing his exact point that God is speaking but we may not always be listening. We may set our sights high, even to the point of creating impossible expectations which we can never meet, but God wants us to be faithful where he has us, doing the ordinary and mundane because it is out of the ordinary and mundane that God can show just how extraordinary he is.

As Bird writes, it is not our calling for us to do great things for it is a great God whom we serve. When we accomplish great things, we can also have a tendency to think that we’ve done them on our own rather than giving the credit to God who accomplishes great things through his ordinary people.

Bird shares accounts of people in the Bible who prove this point as well. The pages of the Bible are lined with the names of people who were insignificant save for their obedience to what God called them to. He mentions characters who we may or may not have read about in the past, some of whom are not even named within the pages of the Bible, some whose mention didn’t even last more than a sentence or two. That did not make them any less significant to the work that God accomplished in them and through them.

This whole premise can seen so clearly when we look at the church in the 21st century. Bigger and better seems to be a tagline that many churches have embraced, but God can truly work in the small things. As we read in Zechariah 4:10, “Who dares despise the day of small things.” Bird writes, “When we’re always on the lookout for the next big thing that God is doing in the church, we grow blind to the old little things he’s been doing all along.” The church is not about seeing how much bigger and better we can make things, it’s about us gathering around the gifts of Jesus in order to realize just how great he is.

Reading “Your God Is Too Glorious” was very timely for me. It was a needed reminder to be faithful with the little things and to stop running after what seems to be more important. Even rest is important to the point that God called “holy” the one day set aside in creation to rest. I appreciated Bird’s reminder that what culture or “the world” may call insignificant is not insignificant to God. If you have struggled with always trying to outdo yourself and always feeling disappointed that you aren’t being used by God to do great things, this book may be an encouragement and helpful reminder to you as 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.)

The 2018 Book Plan

20180103_090939This is Year #5 for me doing an annual book plan. I’ve been trying to streamline the process year by year to see if I can get better. Last year, I read 69 books. My book plan had twenty-two books total of which I read eleven. So, 50% isn’t a horrible number, but I certainly want to do my best to move closer to achieving 100% read on my list.

I never used to be the guy who would read halfway through a book and then just leave it, but it’s been happening more and more. A number of the books on my list for this year are books that were started in 2017 or before which I never finished. Call it a Year of Jubilee, trying to play catch up a little bit.

I’ve tried to pepper my list with books that are strictly for enjoyment. Finally going to finish the Lord of the Rings trilogy of books for the first time in my life.

I’ve also got a number of books that are related to my position as a pastor. They run the gamut on topics as my role is fairly diverse. Just like baseball teams have utility players, I feel like I’m a utility pastor in many ways, playing roles across the board and filling in gaps as they need to be filled.

There are 30 books total on this list, a bolder number than the 22 books that were on last year’s list. But I have been intentionally setting aside books over the last few months, piling them up on my desk and keeping them in front of me as I’ve looked towards compiling this list.

As always, I am open to book suggestions. As I’ve posted my Books Read In 2017 post on social media, I have had people make recommendations which I hope to follow through on in 2018.

Here’s hoping for a more successful completion of my list in 2018!

Bill Bryson “A Walk in the Woods”

Steven Curtis Chapman “Between Heaven & the Real World”

G.K. Chesterton “Orthodoxy”

Bruce Cockburn “Rumours of Glory”

Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D. “Younger Next Year”

David Daniell “William Tyndale – A Biography”

Kevin DeYoung “The Hole in Our Holiness”

Shusaku Endo “Silence”

Zack Eswine “Preaching to a Post-Everything World”

Michael Frost “Incarnate”

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch “The Shaping of Things to Come”

Nicky Gumble “Alpha – Questions of Life”

Caleb Kaltenbach “Messy Grace”

Tim Keller “Center Church”

Erik Larson “The Devil in the White City”

Joseph Loconte “A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War”

Barack Obama “The Audacity of Hope”

Stacy Perman “In-N-Out Burger”

Eugene Peterson “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”

John Piper “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals”

Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin “Growing Young”

Soong-Chan Rah “The Next Evangelicalism”

Francis Schaeffer “The Church Before the Watching World”

Francis Schaeffer “The Church at the End of the 20th Century”

James K.A. Smith “You Are What You Love”

Paul Tillich “Dynamics of Faith”

J.R.R. Tolkien “The Two Towers”

J.R.R. Tokien “Return of the King”

J.R.R. Tolkien “The Tolkien Reader”

Tish Harrison Warren “Liturgy of the Ordinary”

Painted Fairways

painted fairwaysEarly last month, I was meeting with a friend and mentor for lunch. We were sitting in the dining room of his club, looking onto the golf fairways that ran along the property. As I perused all that my eyes could see through the windows, deep in thought, my eyes hung up on the fairways, their green hue a stunning contrast to the dying landscape which surrounded them.

My friend must have noticed my gaze lingering on the grass because he turned to me and said, “Do you know how they get it so green?”

Shaken from my daze, I quickly replied, “No.”

“Paint,” he said.

He could tell I was confused based on the quizzical look on my face, so he continued, “They paint the fairways in the wintertime to maintain the green.” Then he smiled at me, awaiting my reaction.

I was stunned, but not shocked. I smiled and we continued our conversation, moving on from the slight detour that the fairway had caused us. But I’ve thought about that fairway multiple times in the weeks since.

Even as I sit and write this, I’m snickering to myself as I think about the level that we go through to keep up outward appearances. We don’t care if the grass is dead or dying, we’ll do whatever it takes to put on the front and make everyone think that things are just fine.

How often do we do it?

Let me think long and hard about this social media update I’m about to post. Regardless of the tumultuous morning I’ve had, let me put it out there for everyone to see that my life is perfect and that everything’s going just fine.

We just finished up a Christmas season during which my family received tons of Christmas cards, complete with perfect family pictures. I loved each and every one of them, but you know what I loved more than those pictures, the accompanying letters that told of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the past year.

You see, I’m doing my best to stop pretending. I’m not going to waste any more time and money on painting fairways. If the grass is dead, so be it, let the world know, maybe it’ll make someone else feel better that they’re not the only one with dead grass.

I’ve become a big Jackson Browne fan over the years and of all the music he’s written which I love and admire, his song “The Pretender” is among my favorites. The final words of the song are haunting:

Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender

We don’t have to surrender, to give in to what we think everyone else wants to see. We don’t have to give in to save face and put on a front so everyone thinks our life is perfect.

Are you tired of painting fairways? Are you tired of pretending? Maybe you don’t need a resolution, no idle promises to make and break. Maybe you just need to stop pretending.

So, go ahead, let ‘em see your dead grass. You just might be the inspiration that someone else needs to stop painting their fairways.

 

It Takes A Village…

madison parkMaybe you’ve heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. In the case of Eric Motley, it wasn’t a village, but a town.

Motley chronicles his upbringing in his book “Madison Park: A Place of Hope.” He tells his story of his journey from a small town on the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama all the way to the White House. From circumstances that seem unlikely and from people who gave far more of themselves than most people might be expected to give, Motley shows how many roots have fed into the tree of his life.

Motley starts out as a child born out of wedlock and raised by his grandparents. He is born into a town which he describes as, “a close-knit cocoon of several hundred self-reliant descendants of former slaves.” Madison Park, as he describes it, seems either like a dream come true or a creepy version of Mayberry, or maybe both. Everyone knows everyone and people look out for each other. When someone doesn’t have something, others rally around to provide. Needs are met over and over with no expectation of repayment. It’s a story that we may have heard many times played out in fairy tales, but for Motley, it’s all true and he has been the recipient of the kindness, generosity, and grace of an entire town.

Eric Motley was given the moniker D.U.K. at an early age, the designated university kid. He would be given opportunities that his parents and so many others in his town had never had. While vicarious living can be dangerous at times, the kind of vicarious living that we see in the lives of the residents of Madison Park as they pour into Eric Motley is inspirational and uplifting.

Experiences and all the learning that goes along with them, that’s what Eric Motley gained in Madison Park.  Being babysit for years by Mrs. Hattie Mae Sherman, also known as Mama Sherman, who operated the Washerteria. Being helped and supported by Aunt Shine, who rose in church to call upon the townspeople to rally around young Eric when he had been moved from the Rabbits to the Turtles reading group while in first grade. The town came out in droves with books, encyclopedias, magazines, and a whole array of reading materials that would help Eric move along in his reading. Picking blackberries for Mrs. Beulah Byrd. And on and on the stories go.

Madison Park implanted itself on the person of Eric Motley. As he attended Samford University and continued on to receive degrees from St. Andrew’s in Scotland, Motley would always find a home back in Madison Park. Though the years have changed him and he has grown and learned, the place always seemed sacred to him. After both of his grandparents, his caregivers, had died and been buried, the townspeople had reserved the burial plot next to them so that Motley might eventually be laid to rest alongside them, assuring that the town would always be his home.

Throughout his story, Motley is always humble, winsome, and charming. He never lets the degrees which he’s accumulated go before him but always speaks of his own merit. He never ceases to mention and remember all who have poured into him, knowing that his life is a testimony to not only the lives of his grandparents who raised him, but of a town who loved him, was proud of him, and wanted nothing more than to see him succeed.

Motley understands the privilege that he’s received. He writes, “Invariably the will of God mysteriously unfolds just as it should.” “Madison Park” is the story of the mysterious will of God unfolding in the life of a little boy who has gone on to fulfill the dreams of an entire town. I don’t expect that we’ve heard the last from Eric Motley. If you want to be inspired, to feel good, and to know and see the power of invested lives, “Madison Park” is a book that will give you all that and more.

(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.)

The Books I’ve Read in 2017

books to readIn 2017, I read 68 books, up 16 from my 2016 total of 52. Of the 68 books that I read, 24 of them were books reviewed for publishers (that’s about 35% of my total of 68). 11 of the books were books from my 2016 Reading Plan (about 16% of the total of 68) of which there were a total of 22 (50% of my originally intended books).

I’m slowly getting better. The two issues that I continue to have are that I see books from publishers that are intriguing and I read them and that I have so many piles of books that I want to read. It’s hard to estimate that number. In 2016, only 16 of my total books were read for publishers, so my total of reviewed books for 2017 jumped up by 50%. Not knowing just what will be published and what my interest will be in those books is difficult.

The second part of that is harder as I hate to get rid of books that I haven’t yet read. I’ve become a little more disciplined as I get older, realizing that if I haven’t read something in 20 years that I most likely won’t get to it. I hate to ever feel that I am wasting my time on a book either. Most of the books that I have read have been about 200 pages on average, the 400 or 600 page books are a bit more of a commitment for me, so my list is not heavily populated with those.

As I look at this list, it can be broken down into a few different categories: current issues, ministry issues, and enjoyment. When I find that there are issues that are being talked about within my context, I will try to find books that will inform me on those. There are ministry issues that I face within my own context as well that I need to do further reading to better understand, which covers the ministry issues category. Most of the books that I read for fun are either novels or biographies.

I am always trying to find time to review books, both on my own and for publishers, which will be beneficial to the people within my church. I know that people’s time is precious and if they are going to read, they want to read something useful, helpful, and beneficial. As much as I can help people to maneuver through the waters of unread books and resources, I want to do that.

Planning towards 2018, my reading plan list will most likely shrink to less than 22 just to remain practical. It’s not unusual for me to be reading 3 or 4 books at a time, which can get a little excessive at times. Usually, in seasons like that, I will find myself gravitating towards one book that takes precedence over the others.

I am slowly pulling together my 2018 Reading Plan and will hope to post that later this week. In the meantime, this is the list of the books that I have read:

Eric J. Bargerhuff “The Most Misused Stories in the Bible”

Mark Batterson “Play the Man”

Anne Bogel “Reading People”

J. Clif Christopher “Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate”

Ron Citlau “Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted”

Eric Clapton “Clapton: The Autobigraphy”

Ta-Nehisi Coates “Between the World and Me”

Gregory Coles “Single, Gay, Christian”

Suzanne Collins “The Hunger Games”

Andy Crouch “The Tech-Wise Family”

Andy Crouch “Strong and Weak”

Michael Eric Dyson “Tears We Cannot Stop”

Emerson Eggerichs “Before You Hit Send”

John Eldredge “All Things New”

Cary Elwes “As you Wish”

Rachel Held Evans “Evolving In Monkey Town”

Doug Fields “Help! I’m A Student Leader”

Victor Frankl “Man’s Search for Meaning”

Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch “ReJesus”

Chip Gaines “Capital Gaines”

Louie Giglio “The Comeback”

Louie Giglio “Goliath Must Fall”

Greg Gilbert “What Is the Gospel?”

Jeff Goins “Real Artists Don’t Starve”

Jon Gordon “The Energy Bus”

Craig & Amy Groeschel “From This Day Forward”

Jen Hatmaker “Of Mess and Moxie”

Nancy Heche “The Truth Comes Out”

Alan Hirsch “5Q”

Jon Huckins w/Rob Yackley “Thin Places”

Bill Hybels “Just Walk Across the Room”

Kyle Idelman “Grace Is Greater”

Walter Isaacson “Steve Jobs”

Timothy Keller “Prayer”

Timothy Keller “Generous Justice”

C.S. Lewis “A Grief Observed”

Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach “Why I Didn’t Rebel”

Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have A Dream and Letter From Birmingham Jail”

Stephen Mansfield “The Search for God and Guinness”

Brenda Salter McNeil “Roadmap to Reconciliation”

Matt Mikalatos “My Imaginary Jesus”

Lesslie Newbigin “The Open Secret”

Carey Nieuwhof “Lasting Impact”

Henri Nouwen “Life of the Beloved”

R.J. Palacio “Wonder”

Eugene Peterson “Run With the Horses”

Mac Pier “A Disruptive Generosity”

David Platt “Follow Me”

Soong-Chan Rah “Prophetic Lament”

Thom S. Rainer “I Am A Church Member”

Tom Rath and Barry Conchie “Strengths Based Leadership”

Deidra Riggs “One: Unity in a Divided World”

Alan Roxburgh “Missional”

Greg Scheer “Essential Worship”

Nelson Searcy “Fusion”

Trent Sheppard “Jesus Journey”

Preston Sprinkle “Living In a Gray World”

Preston Sprinkle “People To Be Loved”

John Steinbeck “Of Mice and Men”

Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger with Jeffrey Zaslow “Highest Duty”

J.R.R. Tolkien “The Fellowship of the Ring”

Desmond Tutu “No Future Without Forgiveness”

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

Walter Wangerin, Jr. “Wounds Are Where Light Enters”

Benjamin Watson “Under Our Skin”

Michael Wear “Reclaiming Hope”

Carlos Whittaker “Kill the Spider”

Jared C. Wilson “The Imperfect Disciple”