Archive for the ‘Church in America’ Category

The_Martian_2014This will not be a normal review full of all sorts of technical considerations and the like. I simply wanted to take a few minutes of space (haha) to note that a) I read this book and b) I enjoyed it immensely. I enjoy the science fiction genre, but I confess it's been a while since I have read science fiction. I think the last time I did was when I read C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy a seriously long while back.

Then one day I was watching something, maybe a ball game, and I saw an advertisement for a movie coming out soon called The Martian staring Matt Damon. Well, I like Matt Damon's overall body of work and I saw Ridley Scott had something to do with it and I noted that I would definitely be seeing the movie. A few days later, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and this book showed up as a Kindle deal. Since I'm cheap like that, I had no problem dishing out the $2.00 or $3.00 for the Kindle version of the book. And then I started reading.

And I loved it. Love. Love. Loved it. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I thought it was a bit over the top when it came to the language (there were a lot of f-bombs, and it was vulgar at times) but I was able to overcome those issues and enjoy a story. Kind of reminded me a lot of the movie Castaway, but only in theme. Obviously life on Mars is a wee bit different than life on an island on earth. The science behind the book was a lot of fun to navigate. I was able to understand most of it, but there were times when I felt it wasn't necessary to understand everything that was going on scientifically in order to appreciate the story itself.

The story has a nice flow to it even if the ending seem to be a wee bit predictable. I mean, he had a 50-50 chance, but since I was reading the story I wasn't too worried about the main character not surviving.

Obviously I am a bit late to the game on this book hence the short review. Nevertheless, I wanted those who do read this to know that I thought it was a great story and worth the read.


GraceI received an email from the author of this book asking me if I would review the book. In the interest of full-disclosure, the author provided me with a gift copy of the book for my Kindle via amazon. I do not know the author or otherwise, but agreed to review the book here at my blog and and also to post the review at

Picture of Grace is a short children's book in the genre of picture book. It is an endearing story about a young girl who adores her grandfather who happens to be a painter. She spends considerable time with him in his studio talking to him while he paints. Clearly, the little girl adores her grandfather and he clearly adores her.

I cannot say too much about the plot without ruining it for potential readers, so let me just say that it takes a quick turn and ends in a rather unexpected, yet pleasant, way. 

As far as the story goes, this is a success. I rather enjoyed the story and I rather enjoyed the artwork. I have noted in other reviews of children's books that I am a fool for good artwork in children's books and this one got me too. I think the artwork is very well done and it compliments the story nicely. The characters are slightly exaggerated but this endears them to the reader. A lot of the story is conveyed through the characters' emotion displayed in the pictures. The artwork rendered nicely on the Kindle program running on my Dell 2in1.

I had two problems with the book. One is that at times the transitions in the story seemed kind of abrupt. This is a small thing to me and probably won't even register with younger readers. Mostly it's a matter of preference and it's not one that in any way detracts from overall content of the story.

The other problem I had was with the character Delilah who is the antagonist. Her character rankled me she was so unpleasant. I wondered where the influence for this character came from because she seems rather offensive and it was almost hard to believe someone could be so callous. With that said, this might be a character in the story where a child reader would need adult guidance to understand. Really, she's a fairly complicated character for a children's book.

On the whole, though, I enjoyed the story. It only takes a few minutes to read and it does have some meaningful lessons that can be pulled out and addressed by an adult. Among those themes, love, grace, death, family, and, well, mean people.

And mean people become the perfect place to speak to young readers about how to be a picture of grace and graciousness.

I have no problem recommending the book and awarding it 4.5 stars because of the issues I noted above.

4.5/5 Stars

Important Book & Author Things

  • Where to purchase Picture of Grace (Amazon: Kindle, currently $0; hardcover is $13.67)
  • Author: An interview with the author Josh Armstrong
  • Illustrator: Taylor Bills
  • Academic Webpage:
  • Editor:
  • Publisher: Self-published (?)
  • Pages:
  • Year: 2015
  • Audience: children
  • Reading Level: Elementary
  • Disclaimer:

Greek"Those within Greek scholarship often lament that students, pastors, professors, and New Testament commentators seem out of touch with what is going on in Greek studies." (from the Introduction, 20). Thus begins this important work by Constantine Campbell and after reading this book, it is no wonder we seem out of touch. It seems to me that ignorance might just be bliss. I jest, of course, because this is a very important book and I hope it receives a wide audience, future updates, and reprints. It is technical and a times heavy, but a slow reading will be helpful and since I'm of the opinion that more preachers ought to be studying directly from the Greek, I highly recommend this book to preachers even if scholars and students are also in the primary audience.

Two stories will introduce my thoughts. I was engaged in a conversation today on Facebook–the pinnacle of good, scholarly atmosphere and advanced learning–when a commenter made a rather startling statement. I had posted something about a political candidate published in a popular magazine and someone commented and said something about like, "well if by such and such you mean…" I responded, "'you'? I didn't write this." My friend wrote back, "This is why I love Koine Greek, so much easier to write what you mean." The timing most certainly was providential, but I'm not sure that my dialogue partner has spent much time actually reading about the advancements in Koine Greek scholarship if he thinks it is easier to write what you mean in Greek than, say, English. Or maybe he has and it is. The simply word 'you' managed to cause some misunderstanding–although I was playing funny with him–and we had a good laugh. Still…

Back in the day, when I was still an undergraduate, I spent my Fall and Winter semesters hunkered down in the confines of Ray Summers' Essentials of New Testament Greek. I did this for three years, a total of six semesters. We weren't always in Summers' book after my first year (we used other primers and books too) but when it came to mastering paradigms, my professor insisted we study Summers. I remember those days fondly–working through paradigms, plowing through the translation of Johannine literature (the 'easiest'), learning vocabulary, struggling to get the concept of the deponent verb, mastering participles, periphrastics, and genitive absolutes. Ah, good times indeed. But we spent most of our time mastering paradigms and translating text.

Come to find out, 20 some years later, there was far more nuance to the Greek of the New Testament than I ever thought imaginable. Who knew that behind closed office doors, or in the midst of a conference only attended by a relative few, or in the finely tuned pages of a peer reviewed journal smeared with publishing blood, there was so much debate going on about whether or not Greek verbs actually carry tense or that aorist verbs might not always indicate straight forward punctiliar moments in past time? (Summers: "The function of the aorist tense is a matter of tremendous importance. The time of action is past. The kind of action is punctiliar." 66)

Turns out, Koine Greek–what I was taught was simple 'market place' Greek–is not, after all, so simple and easy and uncomplicated.

To be sure, the study of Greek at the undergraduate level is relatively easy when compared with the depth of conversation that is, evidently, engaged at higher levels of education by linguists and as is represented in this book by Constantine R Campbell. There are debates about everything one can imagine when it comes to Greek, the parsing of nouns, mood, verbs, deponents, tense, perspective, indicatives, perfects, and, when it is all said and done, translating the actual text into something that is both faithful to the Greek and readable by the general church. It is a chore–but I suspect more a labor of love. Campbell is correct: I am hopelessly out of touch. This book is an excellent corrective.

Maybe the undergraduate level study of Greek needs to be a little more intensive (maybe it is now; it's been 20 years since I was an undergraduate) or maybe our definitions are just too simple. I'm not a Greek scholar or a linguist, so setting the tone for undergraduate level study of Koine Greek is not high on my list of things to do. I have Summers' book sitting just above my head on my desk, but after reading Advances in the Study of Greek, I'm wondering if it might be time to purchase a new primer because I'm sure that if I learned anything from this book by Campbell I have learned that a lot of developments have taken place in our understanding of Greek since Summers published in 1950. And who would have thought that? 

Changing gears for a moment, I note that there are a lot of decisions that go into the translation of the New Testament into other languages. We have been blessed here in our time to see the publication of about a thousand different versions of the Bible and I have always asked myself, with each new translation: why? I think I now know why. It is not just so simple as translating one word in Greek into another word in English. There are levels of nuance, interpretation, and decisions that have to be made by the translator for every single proverbial jot and tittle. Frankly, it is staggering to consider what goes into translation and I suppose to this point every translation is, at some level, a paraphrase. It may have been unintended, but this book gave me a deep appreciation for those who do the work of translation of the New Testament into other languages (even English)–especially in cultures where there is no written language. 

Key to this book is the subtitle: New Insights for Reading the New Testament (my emphasis). This book is not just about translating, it is, or at least purports to be, about reading the Bible. It does make one wonder just how much of our reading is done incorrectly. On the other hand, the author has limited his audience because there are not many people sitting in the pews on Sunday with a copy of Nestle-Aland in their hands or on their Kindle. But as DA Carson points out in the Foreward, "This book is not for beginners, but it will provide enormously useful in helping scholars, advanced students, and serious pastors to find out what is going on in the field of New Testament Greek studies–especially if they are tempted to think that advances cannot be made" (17).

The book is broken down into 10 chapters and covers the following areas of concern:

1. Short history of Greek studies; 2. Linguistic Theories; 3. Lexical Semantics and Lexicography; 4. Deponency and the Middle Voice; 5. Verbal Aspect and Aktionsart; 6. Idiolect, Genre, and Register; 7-8. Discourse Analysis I (Hallidayan) and II (Levinsohn); 9. Pronunciation; 10. Teaching and Learning.

Obviously, some aspects of Greek study have been left out due to space considerations, but what Campbell does cover in 200 some odd pages is breathtaking. Within each of these sections is detailed study of some of the things that, perhaps, some have taken for granted (aorists, perfects, for example). What is also helpful is that he includes an Expanded Table of Contents where the reader can find reference to specific scholars or topics covered in the book. I found this to be an especially helpful feature–along with the index and lengthy bibliography located at the end of the main text.

Another aspect of this book that I like is that Campbell includes plenty of examples to help the reader understand where he is going with his argument. Sometimes seeing an argument is makes it easier to understand and I found this to be a great feature of the book. To the uninitiated who wish to venture into this book, there will be challenges. You need a fairly serious working knowledge of the Greek even to understand the examples he gives to explain certain concepts.

The only problem I see with the book is that with so many theories and scholars and divergent points of view, it seems that at some point, and at some level, some conclusions are purely subjective and speculative. Campbell might agree with that assessment given that even DA Carson, who wrote the Foreward, notes he isn't always convinced by Campbell's arguments. The world of Greek semantics is a complicated and without a trustworthy guide it can become a Gordian Knot. We must tread with humility and caution and I'm convinced that Campbell is cautious and open to dialogue and exploration of his ideas and thoughts. This is no scholarly puff piece. This is just an excellently written book.

I think Campbell tries to maintain a fine balance between scholarly integrity and depth and faithful, Spirit led exegetical thoughts. At the end of the day, Greek exegesis will take the scholar or preacher so far, but I think there must be some dependence upon the Spirit to lead us into truth–I don't think Campbell would disagree, but that is clearly not the purpose of his book and this is not the place to make the argument. This is not to say that rigorous work with the Greek text is unnecessary. I stand firm that I think more preachers ought to be engaged in the study and use of the original languages as much as possible. It's also my opinion that some preachers ought to simply put the Greek New Testament away or go back to school given the way they mangle it in the pulpit or the flimsy observations they make based on what this tense means or that verb means. Campbell does a good job warning us of the dangers of careless use of the Greek.

This is an accessible book for those in advanced study of Greek and one that I think preachers ought to give serious consideration to reading. The breadth of resources Campbell discusses and engages has given me some ideas for further study–in the hopes of replacing my worn out Summers primer (whose work did not make the pages of Campbell's early history in chapter 1). It has also inspired me to start applying some serious effort into my study, comprehension, and retention of Greek.  Applying the thoughts practically in the final chapter (Teaching and Learning Greek) was especially helpful and I am glad that he did not leave us hanging on wondering what to do with all this information.

This is an exciting book. I highly recommend it and warmly award it 5 stars.

5/5 Stars 

Important Book & Author Things

  • Where to purchase Advances in the Study of Greek Amazon (Kindle, $19.99)  CBD ($19.49) Zondervan (Pre-order for $34.99)
  • Author: Constantine R. Campbell
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Pages: 250 (paperback)
  • Year: 2015
  • Audience:Pastors, linguists, preachers, college professors, students of New Testament, students and professors of New Testament Greek, translators
  • Reading Level: College Level
  • Disclaimer: I was provided a free reader's copy courtesy of Zondervan via NetGalley.

It appears that I still get visitors to this blog so I have decided to start making the occasional post. To start, I will invite you to visit my google site where I am currently writing and publishing Bible studies on the book of Daniel. Feel free to browse and read and download.

There are also sermon texts, book reviews, and audio.

Studies in the Bible as Literaure


Thanks for (continuing) to read.


Kigndom_conspiracyTitle: Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church

Author: Scot McKnight

Publisher: Brazos Press

Year: 2014

Pages: 289

Kingdom Conspiracy

I read a lot of books and I write reviews for most of the books I read. Most of the books I read are kind of popular level books written for the general Christian population among us and they are thus not too deep or theologically hefty. Mostly they are boring.

Every now and again I come across a book that radically alters the way I think about things or the way I believe or understand things. Sometimes a book utterly rebuilds the landscape. Kingdom Conspiracy is one such book. I say this without the slightest hint of hyperbole: this might be one of the most important and significant books written during my generation. That is how important this book is and that is why this book should be read by every Christian–pastor, preacher, and parishioner alike. I think the Pope should read this book–maybe he has. Seminary professors ought to read this book. In a world where words often mean nothing, it's important that we are also careful not to make words mean anything or everything. This, I think, is key to understanding McKnight's ideas in Kingdom Conspiracy. 

Not everyone who reads this book is going to wholly agree with all of his ideas of what the kingdom of God is (sometimes I thought the hair he was splitting was a little too fine) or his understanding of certain passages of Scripture. But one thing I think everyone can and should agree upon is that whatever we think of the kingdom of God we need to be very careful not to define it too loosely or casually. That is to say: not everything people label as 'kingdom' work is, in fact, kingdom work. (To put a finer point on it: merely calling something 'kingdom' work does not necessarily make it kingdom work or sacred and when we call something kingdom work, even if it is, it is not ours to bypass the church in the process.) Definitions matter as much as articulation. Thus his opening salvo: "Precision begins with defining terms" he writes quoting Marilyn McEntyre. Yes. It does. He goes on: "I lay down an observation that alters the landscape if we embrace it–namely, that we need to learn to tell the story that makes sense to Jesus. Not a story that we ask Jesus to fit into. No, we  to find the story that Jesus himself and the apostles told" (22).

Definitions and articulation matter. What I continue to see and hear–both from pulpits and in the books being published–is that we get it wrong on both marks most of the time. The Americanized gospel of 'join the club, go to church, and follow the rules so you can also go to heaven' is the result of unclear definitions and poor articulation. It's the result of thinking democracy=kingdom. That is decidedly not the kingdom articulated in the Scripture. Again, I see it in the books I read for review and in the sermons I hear and read. I am grateful for preachers like McKnight, N.T. Wright, and others who refuse to take shortcuts around the Bible to make a gospel that Jesus fits into. Frankly, I think if we asked a group of 100 Christians to articulate the Kingdom story, 99 would fail because it simply is not preached in the pulpits: "Until we can articulate the Bible's kingdom story, we can't do kingdom mission" (23). I agree.

I was in his grip after 3 chapters and he never let go.

What has most amazed me since I started (and finished) the book is how aware I have become of kingdom language in the Bible. Don't get me wrong: I think McKnight nails it most of the time when it comes to understanding what Kingdom is and is not. My point is that as I read through the Bible–I am currently teaching through the book of Daniel–I am amazed at the language that is used: kings and kingdoms, kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven, and so on. It's all over the place. It's amazing and it is there from front to back, Genesis to Revelation, and all places in between. Maybe someday some fine theologian will do a comprehensive study of the Kingdom of God from the beginning to the end of the Bible. I think it would be a fascinating study. (I'm currently reading a book called The Kingdom according to Luke and Acts by Karl Allen Kuhn which is exploring Kingdom in a small part of the Bible, but he is also nicely tying that story in with the meta-narrative of the entire Bible.)

I'd like to note what I think is probably the most significant aspect of the book for me insofar as giving readers something to practice. I belong to a generation of people who have by and large given up on the church. Let me be honest: I'm on the edge. I'm on the edge because of my experiences as a pastor with churches that have refused to move forward and who found that getting rid of me would make their lives easier. But I haven't given up entirely for two reasons. First, the church hasn't given up on me. If one church has gotten rid of me for their own convenience, another church has taken me in and bathed my wounds. I still love the church; the church still loves me. Second, because the McKnight solidified for me something I have already and always believed: the church and the kingdom are synonymous. Thus: "…kingdom mission is church mission and that kingdom mission is not working for the common good…" (115). Further,

What I am not in favor of is assigning the word 'kingdom' to such actions [as public action or social justice or compassion for the poor or feeding the homeless] in order to render that action sacred or to justify that action as supernatural or to give one the sense that what she or he is doing is ultimately significant. When we assign the word 'kingdom' to good deeds in the public sector for the common good, we take a word that belongs in one place (the church) and apply it in another (the world). In so doing we run the risk of diminishing church at the expense of the world. (115, his emphasis.)

And he's correct. For the Christian, the church should be a significant priority. "Kingdom is the realm of redemption and the redeemed, not what followers of Jesus did in the public sector" (114). Yes. His argument is, admittedly, complex and being able to draw that line in minds that are already persuaded is difficult. Nevertheless, we must indeed have our minds open and our hearts rent so that we can clearly define and articulate bible things. In the tradition I have belonged to for most of my life, this has been a part of our 'doctrine'–that we should call bible things by bible names. This is good. Now my tradition just needs to start defining Kingdom with more accuracy and clarity and then begin articulating it from the pulpits of our churches with more frequency, more duration, and more intensity.

I am glad that McKnight takes up for the church. I am guilty, but I get tired of people running down the church, the body of Christ, the Bride for whom Jesus died. So often people are so busy running the church down that we might think christians can get along with it. We cannot. We need the church. All of us. Yet we struggle.

"It is more glamorous to do social activism because building a local church is hard. It involves people who struggle with one another, in involves persuading others of the desires of your heart to help the homeless, it means caring for people where they are and no where you want them to be, it involves daily routines, and it only rarely leads to the highs of 'short-term mission' experiences. But local church is what Jesus came to build, so the local church's mission shapes kingdom mission" (97).

We can do better.We need the church. We need one another. McKnight helped stoke the fires of affection in me for the church again. Maybe I have been too critical; perhaps unfair. With a prophet's insight and conviction, McKnight confronted my own church angst and now restoration has begun in me.

This book asks some difficult, soul-searching questions. It challenges time honored traditions concerning definitions. While I get the point of demarcating this book along lines of 'skinny-jeans christians' and 'pleated-pants christians', I think even McKnight would acknowledge there is a lot of room for frilly-dress and bonnet christians, overalls christians, sweat-pants christians, polyester slacks and silk shirts christians, and many more besides.  In other words, his categories help us see the differences but all of us have this problem of definition. His clear point is this: be careful how you define words because your definition directly affects your articulation. I agree.

The book is heavily researched and, as per usual, given that it is written for a popular audience, notes have been relegated to the end of the book. It is deeply exegetical and contextual–in other words, he doesn't prooftext his readers but thoughtfully engages in exegesis of large swaths of scripture to give context and clarity to his ideas. It contains a substantial subject index which will be helpful for preachers and teachers alike. Sadly, there are no references except what is found in the end notes so following up with his research might prove to be a bit of a chore. This is a book that will not disappoint the thoughtful reader–the person wholly engaged in trying to understand what Scripture says about a particular theological subject.

I simply cannot say enough good about this book. Please read it.


51swoznfYCL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers

Author: Michael G. Long

Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press

Year: 2015

Pages: 176

Mr Rogers' Neighborhood on Wikipedia

From what I can gather, Mr Rogers only broadcast his television program during Republican Presidential administrations because according to Long these were the only presidents Mr. Rogers was critical of. Try as I did to find a Democrat who was the object of Mr Rogers' ire (or Long's for that matter), I could not find it. Somehow Long manages even to make the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal sound like something out of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe–peace, calm, and somehow righteous. This is sad. I'm one who grew up watching Mr Rogers and enjoying the work he did–especially the Neighborhood of Make Believe and I think this would have been a fantastic book if the author's bias had not shown through so abundantly.

I am all about criticizing the government and those who are in positions of authority, but I think if it is going to be done, it should be done in an evenhanded sort of way. That is, all politicians–regardless of party stripe–should be criticized. Michael Long simply did a poor job of being evenhanded in this book. It makes for a long, frustrating book–regardless of whether or not the reader happens to be a fan of Mr Rogers. Somehow Long manages to skip over the entire Carter administration–as if Mr. Rogers had nothing to say about Jimmy Carter or his policies–and plow a straight line from Nixon to Reagan to Bush to Bush. (Clinton is mentioned only a couple of times an both times, ironically, rather favorably.)

The problem with this book is that it only has one point of view (and it wasn't that of Fred Rogers) and I'm inclined to believe that Mr. Rogers was far more complex than Long would have us to believe. Instead I think this book is an interpretive history pushing Long's agenda. It's not that Mr. Rogers didn't do or believe the things written about, but Long writes them in a vacuum of sorts–not really giving us a full picture of Fred Rogers.

From what I can find, there were close to 900 episodes of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood film at various points between 1968-2000, which might also cause us to wonder how George W. Bush made his way into this book (although there was some interaction between President Bush and Mr. Rogers in later days of Rogers' life), and yet we are supposed to believe that what Long has given us is representative of the whole of Mr. Rogers. His bias in the book is a very real problem for the book and for those who who wish to remember Mr. Rogers fondly. As an example of Long's bias, consider this quote concerning George W. Bush–who was never president while Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was broadcasting new episodes:

Not everyone followed Rogers's [sic.] counsel. President George W. Bush favored fighting violence with violence and quickly authorized the War on Terror, promising to hunt down and kill terrorists who threatened the United States. Of course, rather than doing the dirty work himself, he relied partly on the soldier-parents of young children. Given Rogers's [sic.] convictions about child abuse and war, he must have seen the president as yet another child abuser in a long line of presidents and politicians. (77, my emphasis).

This is, in my opinion, simply ridiculous and irresponsible. He must? Really? Fred Rogers has been dead since 2003 and now it is safe to extrapolate his thoughts to accuse a former president of being a child abuser because he fulfilled his sworn duty to protect the constitution by sending volunteer citizen-soldiers to war so that people like Long would continue to enjoy the very freedom he enjoys? And let's be honest, George W. Bush acted with the full support and authority of both houses of congress, a group of people that includes men, women, black, white, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, Republican and Democratic. A principled disagreement is one thing; attacking character is something else entirely. Long is rather unprincipled when it comes to his criticism of those with whom he disagrees–quite unlike the person he writes about in this book.

But the point is this: before George W. Bush became president of the United States of America, there were eight solid years of Democratic President William Jefferson Clinton who also engage in various un-peacelike activities during his reign. And yet Long manages to conveniently skip all mention of Clinton's war activities altogether. It is mind-boggling, frankly, that such bias even manages to find its way into print without an editor pointing it out to the author and saying something like, "Hey, you might want to soften the blow a little." And as noted above, when Clinton is mentioned, it is hardly for the sake of calling him a womanizer or a cheat or a liar much less a child abuser when he, too, launched missiles at foreign nation or when he took advantage of a young intern. I'm sure Mr. Rogers must have had some opinions about those activities. Yet Long neither quotes nor speculates about Mr. Rogers' thoughts. 

At the end of the book, I am less concerned about Mr. Rogers and his vegetarianism (who cares?), his championing of minority rights (yay!), his opposition to war (again, yay!), his pacifism (yay!), or his overall ethic of 'can't-we-all-just-get-alongism'. Really. War is not nice. Hate is bad. Bigotry is evil. Peace and love are good. And Christian people, like Mr. Rogers, should be at the front, leading the charge against such evils in this world by demonstrating in their own lives and churches that these things have been overcome. With that said, I am concerned that Long has not given us a complete picture of Mr. Rogers and I think this will ultimately frustrate some readers who will grow weary of his obvious bias. I know I did.

So in the end, here's my take. As far as Mr. Rogers is concerned, I have no opinion. He is an icon of American History, a pacifist, a gentle giant, a man who loved children, worked hard, was very wealthy, and demonstrated his love and compassion towards all people. He used his platform to preach his gospel as was his American right to do. Great. I applaud him for that.

On the other hand, Long's presentation of Mr. Rogers is exceptionally frustrating. The book's chapters are a bit unbalanced, they are slanted towards what some might call a 'liberal bias', and, as noted above, they are unfair in their presentation of presidential administrations. If Mr. Rogers loved all people as they are then I find it hard to believe that he would have been as hateful (that's not really the word I'm looking for, but it will have to do) towards Republican presidents–to the utter exclusion of Democratic ones–as Long makes him out to be. Sometimes I was left with the impression that Fred Rogers had such a singular focus and that he was somewhat tone-deaf to the people around him–as if the only way he could really communicate with others was through television camera. Maybe the word is 'hard-headed.'

Mr. Rogers was subtly subversive.  

The book is complete with end notes and a stout index. I appreciate the few graphics (photos) that were interspersed throughout the book. And, to be sure, I did very much enjoy the trips to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Rekindling my memories King Friday, Trolley, and Daniel Striped Tiger was pure joy. This made the book somewhat worth the effort. Fred Rogers was truly, somewhat ahead of his time in some regards and I am glad for a man of such courage and conviction.

I just wish Long had not messed with my recollections of Mr. Rogers with his biased reflections on a few episodes of the Neighborhood. 

2/5 Stars

[Disclaimer: I was provided an ARC from Westminster John Knox Press via NetGalley in exchange for my fair and unbiased review of this book.]

Facing the BlitzTitle: Facing the Blitz

Author: Jeff Kemp

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Date: 2015

Pages: 240

Facing the Blitz

[Disclaimer: I was provided a readers copy of Facing the Blitz via NetGalley in exchange for my fair and unbiased review.]

So, since I'm required to be honest in my review, let me start the honesty in this way: I didn't finish this book. Frankly, the book was boring and it is just not my kind of read. I wanted to like the book and I wanted to enjoy the book, but it just never took off for me the way I had hoped it would. And Tony Dungy's praise notwithstanding, this is not a book for everyone.

I think the thing that bothered me the most about the book was the metaphor. I think the word 'blitz' must appear on every page about 50 times. OK, that's a wee bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, I think the readers will get the metaphor without being reminded of it on every page. By the time I got through the first few chapters, I was worn out–kind of like a quarterback who has faced too many blitzes in a game by a crazed linebacker. A metaphor is good as long as it is not overused or overworked. He wore me out with his constant reference to my struggles as a blitz.

Another problem I had with the book is that there is nothing unique or distinct at all about the advice in the book. I have read a lot of books, sadly books like this one, and all they ever amount to is exactly what the subtitle says: Turning trials into triumphs. But let's be honest: trials do not always turn into triumphs and no amount of strategizing (that may not be a word) is going to change that. I'm always skeptical of people who write books and have quick, easy answers–especially athletes whose struggles tend to be things us mere mortals cannot understand.

This book was too quick; too easy. I think there are better ways to deal with trials and better books to guide us to those ways. And I don't know if this book was intended to be a particularly christian strategy or not. So if you are looking for a particularly christian point of view, you might find this book to be a bit shallow.

In my opinion, this book tried too hard. The truth is that life is not a game, and if it is a game, it is certainly not a game of football. I understand Kemp went through some rough times as a football player–the son of a former football player, politician, etc. But I would venture to say that this is all relative: getting traded from one football team to another might be traumatic for him, losing a game might suck, but it is not the same–no matter how much we want it to be–as losing your career, losing your house, losing your family, and not having the benefit of millions of dollars from contracts to get you through. So in this regard, nothing he says is relevant to everyone even if it is relevant to a few–like some of his athlete friends. I think this is a fine example of a book that is simply out of touch with 'real' people. Like I said, he tries too hard because he comes across as that super pumped up and positive athlete who views everything in life as strong safety he must avoid or a defensive end he must out think.

So as much as I wanted to like this book and as much as I wanted to recommend it, I just can't go too far in my recommending and liking. I'm not going to deny that this is a book some will find helpful and encouraging. I'm just not one of those people because I don't see the struggle. When you have walked a day in my shoes, then you can tell me how to turn my trials into triumphs.

2/5 Stars

I saw the story of a blogger who was ‘hacked to death’ by a group of Muslims who said he ‘committed crimes against Islam.’ #AvijitRoy

I keep wondering about a religion that endorses murder. I thought Islam was a religion of peace. #Bangladesh

Sad. #AllLivesMatter

Jan 17, 2015

PT Forsyth is amazing.

Jan 17, 2015

Still Blogging

I stopped by today to see how things were going and found out that this blog still receives quite a bit of activity. There were comments that needed approval and people are still visiting regularly.

Well, I still blog. Life has changed a lot since I blogged here regularly, but I’m still ‘out there’ writing and sharing. If you are interested, you can visit the latest incarnation of my blog:

I would be happy to have you stop by for a visit.


This is an experiment.


May 1, 2014

2nd Test post for FB.

Test Post for FB.

Stay tuned, or tune back in soon. My schedule has lightened up and I will be blogging again soon.

“There was hardly anything I did that did not involve language: the Word of God provided not information but revelation. Jesus told stories and taught and prayed, not to entertain us or inspire us but to draw us into a participating, believing, listening, loving way of life that was, above all, local and personal: prayerful. I wanted to do that too. A way of using language in which God, whether implicitly or explicitly, had the first word.”–from The Pastor, 239