Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Blue Parakeet

by Scot McKnight

The last few years many of the younger set at the church I attend have opted to leave this congregation in which they have grown up and find a new church home. At the same time our fellowship continues to be blessed with other young families new to the church. It makes me wonder why that might be. What is it they are turning from or turning to? While I haven't come right out and asked (but probably should) knowing some of them, I think they are just trying to figure out how to live a life that reflects Christ to others. They are wondering how to live out the Bible today. How do we read, interpret and apply Scripture in our 21st century? This can be a huge challenge when scripture seems so counter cultural. In The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight poses some theories on Bible reading and Bible doing.

Let me say personally this was a challenging book to read. Not in that it was hard, rather the ideas challenged some of my thoughts on scripture reading.  Here are a few of McKnight's thoughts on scripture:
  • God gave us the Bible not so that we can know it, but so that we can know and love God through it. (emphasis mine)
  • The Bible is God's communication to us. We need to listen as He speaks. 
  • God speaks to people in their day in their way.
  • When we take our hands off the pages of the Bible, read and listen to its words, and enter into its story by faith, something happens. It renews and continues to renew its powers. 
McKnight says most of us approach the Bible as bits of laws and morsels of blessings. We read the Cliffs Notes version of the Bible and we pick what we will adopt and choose what we will adapt, often basing our decision on a "that was then, this is now" philosophy.

Scot uses a number of examples to support his theories, but his champion is the role of women in the church. His interpretations of the scripture verses used to establish these roles is new to me. My church tradition in that regard is rather conservative and limiting. Yet, I think the role of women is one of the big questions confronting most of today's churches in America. How do women fit into God's plan? How do men and women continue to carry God's plan of salvation to all nations?

Here are some of my thoughts about scripture:
  • Reading and doing the Bible is not easy. It sometimes seems to contradict itself and it sometimes seems impossible. 
  • I feel like I need to know it all and I want to be right because I'm committed to it. But I don't know it all and I'm not always right and I have to be okay with that.
  • I need to be a better listener when I read God's word.
  • Love is the key.
Go ahead and read The Blue Parakeet. Be challenged. Then call me for coffee and we can talk.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Whole Town's Talking

by Fannie Flagg

Ugh! Such a disappointment.

I'll admit it has been a long time since I read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe, but I can't imagine this book was written by the same person. Green Tomatoes had interesting and engaging characters who lived interesting and challenging lives. The Whole Town's Talking is overflowing with characters, so many that you can't remember who's who, and yet none of them is developed enough to make them worth your time. The idea of the book is to cover a century in the life of a small Missouri town, so there are historical references throughout the book provided in light of its impact on these midwesterners. Basically, it's not enough and it's too much.

I know that I tend to be a tough critic when evaluating a book, but my neighborhood book club read this, and at our recent meeting not a single one of them enjoyed the book. Several didn't get much past the first hundred pages. There was only one burning question for those who didn't finish it, and that was, "what happened to those people who disappeared?" In case you are reading it for an answer, I won't spoil, but I'll tell you go ahead and skip to the last page to find out, then dust your hands and walk away. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Heavens May Fall

by Allen Eskens

A whodunit that puts two good guys on opposing sides of the murder of Jennavieve Pruitt. Detective Max Rupert is convinced it's the husband, Ben while his friend, attorney Brody Sanden is so convinced of Ben's innocence he comes out of retirement to defend him. Ben, the handsome young attorney, loving husband and father was out of town when his wife was killed. As the discovery unfolds lots of skeletons pop out of Jenn's closet that provide great motives for her lover, her sister and her friend. Brody just needs to find out which of them is responsible for this horrific crime.

The Heavens May Fall is kind of like a James Bond movie in which you already know how it has to end. But unlike those movies, Eskens makes the "bad guy" so likeable you are actually hoping for the twist. This is a decent read.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Brat Farrar

by Josephine Tey

The poor Ashby kids, after losing both their parents in an accident, their elder twin brother, Patrick, heir to the family fortune, disappears without a word. Then ten years later, as the property is ready to transfer to Simon, a handsome young man appears at the door claiming to be Patrick, but is it really him? He looks like Pat, talks like Pat and knows all the family secrets. He is soon settled in and ready to gain his inheritance. Only his twin brother Simon knows the guy's a fraud, but he cannot reveal the truth without exposing his own past misdeeds.

Brat Farrar is a classic psychological suspense novel in the style of Alfred Hitchcock, who was Tey's contemporary. For me, it was predictable, but I kept hoping it would end differently. A very quick and enjoyable rainy day kind of book. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Hike

by Drew Magary

In a word: bizarre!

Ben is a hard-working businessman, husband and father who may just be having a midlife crisis when he is sent to the mountains for a seminar. Because he arrives early, he decides to get some fresh air and go for a hike in the woods, but then he gets lost. He notices a path and begins following it and stumbles upon a campsite only to be chased away by some doberman-faced guys determined to kill him. Enter BIZARRO WORLD! The remainder of The Hike is a cross between a fairy tale, an adventure game and a drug-induced psychosis. Ben finds a witch who gives him magic beans, a man-eating giantess, a talking blue crab and a Spanish explorer on a century old expedition. His only way home is to stay on the path for years and years until he encounters the Producer.

Yes, this is a strange and oddly fun book, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy kind of way.  You'll like it if you like weirdness and read it on the right day. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

I Am the Messenger

by  Markus Zusak

I previously mentioned I'd read some different but fun books, here is the second:

There are times in everyone's life in which you struggle with your own purpose. In I Am the Messenger, Markus Zusak addresses that head on with Ed Kennedy, a 19- year old cab driving, card playing, dog loving kid who is unsettled and unsure of where this path is taking him. But then one day he finds an ace of diamonds in his mailbox and that changes everything! Ed is now on a mission to discover the meaning of the card and who left it there. The card leads him into some challenging situations where he is forced to make some difficult choices. Along his journey he meets a barefoot runner, an abusive husband, a struggling family and himself.

The story of Ed shows how the people you encounter on your life's journey provide you with meaning and purpose. Success is in the person and how they respond to circumstances and those around them not in place or position. This is a quick, fun read with a good life lesson.  It is listed as YA, but keep in mind Ed is 19 before you let too young of an adult read it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Middlemarch

by George Eliot

Any reading nerd knows Middlemarch is listed on every "top 100 books" list and as such it would also be on their own "to-read" list.  I'm glad to say I can finally check it off mine! Eliot is in the same genre as Dickens, Austen and Alcott who present long, drawn out dissertations on society, culture, class structure, roles and relationships. I tend to like these stories and this was no exception.

The story begins with Dorothea Brooke, an intelligent young woman anxious to find her life's purpose. Then there's Dr. Lydgate caught between medical advancement and debt, Reverend Casaubon living with his aging spinster sisters but wishing instead for a wife and Mary Garth with her nose to the grindstone. Gradually we become acquainted with the whole little village of Middlemarch with all of its cares and concerns. There are so many characters it can become confusing, but each one has their own challenges along with supportive friends who guide them through. This is definitely a character driven novel, so there's no hurry to get it done and even when you do finish, it seems as if Middlemarch just keeps marching right along through time.

If you're a fan of the aforementioned author's then this is right up your alley.