Monday, January 25, 2010

The Family God Uses – Tom & Kim Blackaby

© 2009 New Hope Publishers, Birmingham

Tom Blackaby is no stranger to participating in family ministry. He grew up in the home of Henry Blackaby who gave us Experiencing God. In that home he developed an attitude of service that has been played out in church staff positions, in Christian higher education, and ultimately in joining his father on writing projects and as international ministries director of Blackaby Ministries International.

With this background, Tom has now teamed up with his wife, Kim, to develop a book (and accompanying group study) that encourages families to work together in ministry. The book is designed to include illustrations from real-life examples – both from the authors’ backgrounds and from testimonials from others who have participated in the activity of God as families.

The book is divided into six parts that provide a foundation and structure for families to join God in the work He is doing. The book provides excellent encouragement for families to go on mission together from all walks of life. The Family God Uses earns a whopping four out of five reading glasses.

I do see one major drawback to this particular book: the best audience for it is a Christian audience made up of regular people who want to live for Christ, but my fear is that the book will find a larger readership among “professional” Christians (ministers and preachers) who will place the book on their shelves without sharing it with non-minister types who just want to be effective Christ-followers. With that in mind, the good people at New Hope Publishers have provided me with a copy to give away. So, the first person to answer the following question correctly in the comment section of this blog will be awarded their own copy to read and be inspired by.

Give away question – I occasionally participate in clown ministry at home and while on missions trips. What is the name I have chosen for my clown personae?

Benjamin Potter, January 25, 2010

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Dinner with a Perfect Stranger – David Gregory

© 2005 Colorado Springs, WaterBrook Press

I must admit, I had some difficulty categorizing this one. I picked it up for a song at a book fair several months ago (possibly even at a previous year’s book fair), and let it gather dust on the shelf until about three days ago. On the surface it looks like a short fiction—easy to read, well written dialog, the whole novella scene. Then as you read it, it starts turning into an apologetic, even a comparative religions essay. But at final glance it is a superb evangelism booklet: it doesn’t preach, but doesn’t hold back any punches either. I found that the publisher, likewise had some difficulty placing this one—the library of congress info suggests that it is fiction (with three different emphases). The category information included with the barcode on the back of the dust jacket claims it to be “Christian Living/Personal Growth.” Since the publisher has no qualms multi-listing this book, I won’t sweat the categories either—after all the author previously published it in a different edition using a different pen name.

Here’s what you have: Nick Cominsky receives a dinner invitation to, of all places, Milano’s (an upscale, downtown restaurant that is high on atmosphere) from, of all people, Jesus of Nazareth. Expecting a bad practical joke from the guys at the office, Nick decides to accept the invitation just to find out how it will play. What he finds when he gets to the appointment is a simple unassuming man in a business suit. The conversation naturally turns to religion and Nick discovers that this man knows more about him than anyone should, but for some reason it doesn’t make him angry. Instead he is intrigued.

Pick up a copy of this book and you’ll feel like you had dinner with Jesus, too. And at five reading glasses, you’ll be glad you did.

Benjamin Potter, January 11, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ford County – John Grisham

© 2009 New York, Doubleday

I like Grisham’s fiction. There, I’ve said it, and I stand by it. Admittedly I like some better than others. In conversations with others, I have discovered that I like the ones that others don’t like (and vice versa). But because I like Grisham fiction, it was natural that I pick up a copy of his collection of stories set in his fictional Ford County, Mississippi—which was the setting of one of his better novels (and his first) A Time to Kill. Now for the first time since his debut novel, Grisham comes home to Ford County.

As a simple explanation, quietly between the book title and the author’s name on the front cover, rests the word “Stories.” The publisher could well have put the word “Snapshots,” because that is what you will find, snapshots of Ford County and its semi-redneck residents. The stories are not really related in their content aside from the fact that they are set in Ford County (and several of them deal with lawyers—which you would come to expect from Grisham).

The stories are fairly short and swift to read. One encounter follows three family members as they drive to death row to be with the youngest member of the family in his last hours before execution. (I much preferred this treatment to Grisham’s earlier, much longer work The Chamber.) Of particular interest are the opening story “Blood Drive,” the last story “Funny Boy,” and the next to the last “Quiet Haven.”

Blood Drive” chronicles the adventures of three young men who are loosely commissioned by the community of Box Hill to drive to Memphis to provide blood for one of their own who is reported to be on his deathbed after a work-related accident. “Funny Boy” watches the gay son of a prominent Clanton family who comes home to die of AIDS only to be rebuffed by everyone but the elderly black woman who is willing to care for him. Small town politics, prejudices, and power plays are revealed in vivid color. Even so, I particularly enjoyed “Quiet Haven,” the tale of a traveling nursing home worker who embeds himself into the lives of the elderly residents long enough to find personal gain as well as revenge on the abusive system. This story bears the unique honor of being told from the voice of the conniving narrator.

The three highlighted stories are worth the price of the book, and the others won’t disappoint. The seven stories in the covers of Ford County will entertain you, keep you guessing, and occasionally make you laugh. It is well worth your time at 4 ½ out of 5 reading glasses.

Benjamin Potter, January 7, 2010

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