newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: July, 2014

Are you thankful like me that video was not as prevalent when we were younger?

I can only imagine what I did when I was a kid that would have had the ability to go viral and embarrass me when I got older…

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Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This post is a book review for Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

As an amateur Bonhoeffer enthusiast who has read many of his works, whether or not I had been offered the opportunity to review Strange Glory for free is irrelevant; I would have read it anyway.  I read another biography on Bonhoeffer which came out approximately three years ago and is of similar length; that one does a good job of focusing on the professional aspects of Bonhoeffer’s life as a theologian, thinker, and how the war created internal conflict for him.  Strange Glory by Charles Marsh does a great job of providing a holistic view of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

There are two things I appreciate about this book.  The first is that the book is very well researched without coming across as academically boring.  It is not uncommon to find sentences throughout the book that start off with phrases such as, “As prominent Bonhoeffer historian ___ notes…”, which shows Marsh spent a lot of time researching and pouring through sources.  Marsh’s extensive bibliography source list in the back is also a great place for someone wanting to read more.

The other thing I appreciate about the book is that the author presents Bonhoeffer’s life as it is without trying to glorify him or make him out to be some hero or larger than life figure.  Marsh presents Dietrich’s high points and low points, as well as the surrounding details, and lets the reader decide for himself whether it is something admirable or not.

Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an excellent read.  Do not be fooled though; at over 500 pages, it is a long read.  For the person who wants a detailed look at the life of Bonhoeffer, this is a perfect extended introduction.

I received my copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for providing a review of it.  The opinions are mine; I was not obligated to post a positive review.

God of infinite Grace; or, Why I can’t believe in a God that doesn’t love Hitler unconditionally.

As an avid reader, whenever I approach a new and difficult text, context is important.  There are things I want to know about a book when I am having trouble making sense of it.  Why did the author write this?  What is the author’s personal connection to the topic?  What things were going on in the author’s life and the world around him at the time of writing?  Having the answers to these questions makes reading a difficult text much easier.  And I think that understanding this approach helps to make sense of a God of infinite Grace.

But first, a story.

I have a pastor who is like a father figure for me.  Before being a pastor, he worked at an automotive factory.  One of the people with whom he was partnered on a particular production line could go months without saying one word to him if he did something to irritate her (I can only assume that usually these things done were unintentional).  And he would feel like there was no explanation for why she acted the way she did.

Until the day she let her guard down.

And shared a story.

One of those stories.  The kind of story that makes a person forget everything that he or she knows about a person and look at the person who shared the story with a new perspective.  Once we begin to understand the personal tragedies that others experience, we suddenly start to be able to overlook and forgive their flaws.

This is (probably) why God can love everyone despite what they do; He has infinite context on everyone.  Even the most heinous individuals in history were at one point children.  Each one of them went through adolescence.  Each one of them had something unexpected beset them.  Or many things.  Hitler lost both of his parents before he was twenty, lost other siblings, and failed at the career he aspired to have.  I am not trying to justify or rationalize the death of more than 6 million Jews; I am just trying to point out that someone does not wake up after a terrible night’s sleep and think, “I am going to become a dictator and try to annihilate an entire people group.”  I would find it difficult if not impossible to believe in a God who could not love a person like Hitler unconditionally because that would mean that there is eventually a cut-off point.  I am nowhere near perfect with a penchant to mess up multiple times hourly and daily.  A god who loves with a cut-off point would have me more scared that I didn’t hit that quota than living with a desire to please him.

There are two lines of disagreement I can predict being raised:

  1. Are you insinuating that your God offers unconditional grace and love to people like ___ (Saddam Hussein, my abusive alcoholic father, etc.)?   There have been times when I have not been happy with this idea, and I am still not entirely comfortable with it.  The truth is that we can pray for a Psalm 137:9 God and He is okay with that.  God wants us to get our emotions out in the open and deal with them.  But eventually, as people, we need to get past them and heal, else we lose out on all the joy that life has to offer.
  2. This is great, if God were real. I don’t believe in your God.  And that is fine if you choose not to.  Jesus speaks of his disciples and that the world will be able to know whose they are because of the level of love they show (John 13:35)*.  First John 4 addresses the idea that those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.  Answer me this, what is the harm done in a world where people choose to engage in this World with the belief in a God of Grace?

 

I am not perfect.  No one is.  But grace helps me to love others as if we lived into a world that is closer to perfection.

*Disclaimer: At almost 29 years of age, I have not even come close to mastering how to love others.  In fact, many times I am guilty of doing the opposite.  So if you see me on the street, realize that I know I have plenty of work to do.

My promise to you the, reader.

I promise never to commit any “Word Crimes” to you, the reader. This song has proven yet again why Weird Al is still the parody king.

A note. Of sorts.

I am an avid reader, a bibliophile.  I also enjoy writing.  Three years ago I learned that I was able to merge those two passions together in the form of blogging for books programs.  When I moved on from my old blog to join the WordPress family, my hobby came with me.  To all readers, when I write a blog post which is a book review, I will indicated in the first line that it is a review/endorsement/caution never to read/ etc. for a specific book.  Most of the books reviewed are written by faith-based authors.  With some amount of hope though, perhaps a book I review will strike you as just interesting enough to get ahold of and read.

 

-G

Cynic is challenged to build a Home Behind the Sun.

This is a review of the book Home Behind the Sun.               

             It feels like lately I have been reading books that aren’t the ones I would typically read.  I tend to hold a more cynical view on things, so when I picked up a book called Home Behind the Sun: Connect with God in the Brilliance of the Everyday my first thought was “Pass.”  But something about the description made me want to pick this book up and read it, despite the fact that I am not one for books the even have some resemblance to self-help products.  To my luck and excitement, I would struggle to classify this as a “self-help” book because it is so much more complex and reads more like a narrative than a counseling session.

                Timothy Willard and Jason Locy are both capable writers in their own right, but together something (almost) magical happens.  Their prose comes to life in a way that connects with the reader and makes him or her believe that the message being presented throughout the text, that the joy and excitement of life happens in daily life and we need to regain that passion for it, is something the authors believe wholeheartedly.

                By far, my favorite chapter out of the book was “A Rocket Ship to God.”  The way the author weaves together a narrative about imaginative play with his daughter while working an underlying theme about trying to shake a cynical perspective is well written.  As being overly cynical is something with which I struggle, I appreciated the chapter.

                I recommend Home Behind the Sun for two reasons.  The first reason is that the prose writing is almost poetic in its composition; it is evident that the writers put a lot of effort into the text to make it sing.  The second reason for recommending the book is that it is one of those rare books that can resonate with the reader and challenge him or her in a way that does not quite seem like a challenge.

 

I received my copy of the text from the publisher through their BookLook Bloggers program.  I was not obligated to write a positive review on the book; the thoughts and opinions expressed are mine.

Graduations and self awareness.

Teaching high school seniors has taught me that nothing is permanent.  Things/idea/people come and go.  Attachments are temporary.  There is always a next step to take, whether as people we are aware that we are taking it or not.  

Something else teaching seniors has taught me is that (for me) not being around people regularly is the quickest way to lose contact with them.  I wish I could say this were not true.  The seniors I had in the graduating class of 2014 were a great group; I am going to miss them.  But by this time next year, many of them probably will be eclipsed by 2015 seniors.

Friends I had in the past are eclipsed by friends I see regularly now.  I want so badly to be able to say that the friends I have had throughout my life are still forefront and center for me, but this is not the case.  Friends move/get married/ have kids which changes friendship dynamics.  And then for the guy (me) who needs to maintain constant contact for relationships to work, those strong friendships start to fade.  In this case, what’s a guy to do?

I admit that it is not all the fault of circumstances.  Friendships are a two-way path.  Life changes things for people but then shouldn’t that mean that I/we should pick up the slack to make these friendships work?  Life is complicated.