Thursday, June 14, 2007

We went to the zoo last week, and I took a bunch of pictures. A few turned out decent. You never know when you go to the zoo what will happen. When we walked by these rams they started going at it and I caught a good sequence. I was about 50 yards away and used a 300 zoom lens. I took these three shots right in a row- probably 1 second total.

I have finally finished writing comments on most of the books I have read in the last few months. I find this a helpful exercise.
* Dominion by Randy Alcorn
This story follows Deadline and includes some of the same characters. However, instead of focusing on newspaper politics, this time Alcorn turns his attention to race relations. As always he paints a winsome picture of eternity as well. A mother and two children are killed in a drive-by shooting and Ollie (sp?) is on the case. With the help of the murdered woman's brother the case unfolds to find corrupt politicians in cahoots with local gangsters. Through it all God works to turn all things for good. Alcorn is not going to win the Nobel prize, but I do find his books encouraging and educational.
* Pastor's Conference- Piper, Keller, etc... & Piper NPR Tsunami interview
Go to the following link to find these on the Desiring God website ( Actually, this is a great website to check out if you have not been. Dr. John Piper makes everything he has done available and it is all worth reading and listening to. I think he is one of the best preachers in the world today and will definitely go down in history as a great man of God passionate for Jesus.
The first link above is to the 2006 Pastor's Conference which was titled, "The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World". There are 8 or 9 talks available and they are all worth hearing. The talk by Tim Keller is especially good, I think.
The second link above is for the NPR interview Dr. Piper did after the tsunami in 2003. Anyone who has wondered about earthquakes and tsunamis and other natural disasters and a sovereign God and questions that arise should listen to it. The interviewer had done a series of interviews with a Buddhist monk, a Hindu, a Jewish Rabbi, a Muslim, and then with Dr. Piper. His answers blow her away. The best part of it is listening to her respond to his answers. She is speechless; clearly she has never heard anything like what he says, and she is awed. She keeps saying, "That's amazing." You get the feeling she is ready to repent and come to Jesus. I have listened to it a few times.
* Showdown by Ted Dekker
If you like Dekker, this is another weird, creative, disturbing, Jesus-loving story. The setting is Paradise, CO, a small town in the Rockies. Nearby, hidden away sits a monastery with a hidden secret. What happens when evil enters Paradise disguised as good. Only one boy knows the truth, but what can he do? What will it take to end the madness? How does freewill fit in the equation? Can God really work good out of evil? What can bring redemption? Dekker brings it all together in a way that makes the gospel real again. Would I make the same choice the key character made? I hope I would.
* Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This is a must read for everyone who wants to live in community. Bonhoeffer experienced deep suffering and solitude in his quest to stop the Nazis. Here he writes of Christian community, what makes it so special and what can ruin it. He clearly has experienced the joy and pain of living in community as well as the terrible loneliness of being without community. He recognizes what a gift it is, and reminds us who take so much for granted how petty our squabbles are and how love truly does overlook a multitude of sins. He is not preachy but challenging and convicting and definitely inspiring and winsome as are so many who have lived through the fires of discipleship and experienced God's grace in them.
* Boundaries for Kids by Cloud & Townsend
This is a good parenting book. The idea is that kid's need to take responsibility for their lives. They learn that when parents set appropriate boundaries and stick to them. One key factor is coming up with appropriate consequences. The parent who spends lots of time nagging, yelling, losing control, and generally doing what their kids should be doing [not that I read this book for those reasons : )] will find this book helpful. An example they use would be something like having your child clean their room. You tell them what to do and make sure it is clear and then make sure the consequences of not doing it are clear and then stick to it. The average parent says, "clean your room." They say it a bunch of times. It does not get done. Finally the parent yells at the kids about how they don't do anything and are lazy and then cleans the room themselves. Instead of cleaning the room you can insert any number of things. Cloud and Townsend's boundaries prevent the parent from falling into that trap. If the child does not clean her room then she can't go play (or whatever it may be). She does not clean her room so the parent calmly and with empathy (very important) states that she suffers the consequences. The child gets upset and throws a tantrum and so forth, but the issue is the boundary, not the parent. The child is learning to deal with reality. This will transfer as the child matures. They list the 10 laws boundaries as they expound on this topic. I find that the idea works well when there are natural consequences, but is much more difficult when there are not. I also wish they would have better spelled how it relates to age. Often I found it unclear which age group they were speaking about in their examples. But overall I found it to be good material. The main issue I have with books like this is that if I could do what they say, I would not need the book. They give knowledge, but that does not always help. I feel like I need someone to come and live with me and walk me through what I should do as they see the opportunities arise.
* Pillars & Prophets by Carl Medearis
Medearis, who has lived in the Middle East for many years, has tried to put together a "Basics on Islam" book for those who want to learn about Islam and Muslims with the goal of sharing the love of Jesus with them. He gives information and then includes ways of responding or approaching Muslims with that knowledge. He shares God's love for Muslims and it comes out in the book. Unfortunately, the book published before being edited well. Although it does not contain any factual errors that I am aware of, it does have many grammatical and formatting mistakes making it more difficult to read then it should be. I also wished he had included more personal stories in the book as he has some amazing stories of his time traveling throughout the Middle East and sharing his life with the Muslim peoples he encountered.
* Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
There is a reason the classics are categorized as such. I originally started reading this 900+ page book from the desire to understand Central Asian peoples better by reading the same literature they have all read. My need to understand Central Asians has diminished, but I am glad I read AK nonetheless. It is a story of sin and redemption, hope and despair, love and lust, city and country, innocence and deception, sincerity and show, as well as societal pressures, reputation, class issues, and more. I especially appreciated Tolstoy's description of Levin and Kitty's conflict. When Levin argued with Kitty he felt like he was hurting himself. He describes the idea that the two have become one in a very poignant and powerful way.
* Business for the Glory of God by Wayne Grudem
This is a very simple book with short chapters covering topics such as Profit, Employment, Ownership, Productivity, Money, Commercial Transactions, Inequality of Possessions, Competition, and Borrowing & Lending, written from the perspective that, although these things can be used for evil, they are not, in fact, evil in themselves and can be used to glorify God. What he says seems obvious, but would be hotly contested in many circles. I found it very encouraging and helpful in terms of setting some basic foundational concepts in place as I consider going to business school and entering into a more overt world of business in a foreign country.
* Freakanomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
I enjoy books that try to describe how the world works, which is why I read this book. Being an economist, Levitt looks at the world from an "incentive perspective". He believes that everyone acts based on the incentives before them. If you can figure out the incentives you can predict behavior. Just listing his intriguing chapter titles should be enough to pique interest in those who care about these things:
1. What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common? This chapter is about cheating.
2. How is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents? This chapter is about the power of information.
3. Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms? This chapter shows how conventional wisdom is usually wrong.
4. Where Have All the Criminals Gone? Among other things he tries to make the case that the precipitous drop in the crime rate in the mid-1990's was due to abortion. He says that most of the young black men who would have been committing crimes were aborted. Note: He does not make the case that this was a good trade-off, but rather just tries to state what he thinks is true.
5. What Makes a Perfect Parent? In my opinion this title is a bit deceiving as I disagree with the categories he uses to define the perfect parent. He is constrained by factors that are measureable, but many of the keys to good parenting are not measureable. Nonetheless, what he says is thought provoking.
6. Perfect Parenting, Part II - In this chapter they look at children's names with special attention to the relationship between name, race, and class level.The book made me think about or rethink some of the assumptions I have about "how things work". I found it entertaining, challenging, and inspiring.
* Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
I read this with a friend. Rob Bell is founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Michigan, a church that grew to 10,000 in four years. God spoke to me in significant ways through some of Bell's thoughts. I found myself disagreeing with a good bit of what he says, but I do not think he is heretical, which I have heard some say. He has some amazing insight into the culture and geography or Jesus' time and place. He has done a tremendous amount of reading and it shows in the insights he gives. He clearly has a heart to reach the lost of his generation with the love of Jesus in a relational, non-"churchy" philosophy of ministry. My guess is that his writing will look different in 20 years when he has experienced more of the brokenness that comes with following Jesus. The main problem I had with the book is that he was critical of so much around him while it took him 100 pages to note that he has ever made a mistake.
* Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour
A Palestinian Christian who experienced awful treatment at the hands of the Jews entering Israel after WWII is seeking to be a peacemaker between Palestinians and Jews. This is basically a biography of his life and how God called him to the life of a peacemaker. A major lesson was that if we do not forgive those who mistreat us, we will become like them. This is a good book for anyone who has not read anything positive about the Palestinians or who automatically thinks 'terrorist' when the word Palestinian is spoken.
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