Showing posts from May, 2011

book report: God's Battalions by Rodney Stark (2009)

The Crusades are complicated. Rodney Stark tries to simplify things too much. His book, God's Battalions, The Case for the Crusades, is polemical and, at times, strident. He chops with a dull ax, which is not to say that the book is worthless, it lacks nuance. He makes overreaching assertionsCover via Amazon that aren't always supported by the very facts he presents. If Saladin was such a slime ball, then why do so many historians find noble things to say him that he can't? Saladin, like any human being, is a complicated entity. If you want a black and white story on the Crusades that supports your simplistic beliefs about them, this is the book for you. If you, like me, are trying to understand the history of the Crusades, this is a first, shallow step into the deep pool of this history. But don't stop at this step, keep reading the works of other historians.

book report: Two Wars by Nate Self (2008)

I downloaded this when it was free for the Kindle, and it was much more than I bargained for. It was like a peanut M&M, sweet chocolate on the outside and something healthy to chew on inside. I sat down for a good read about army life in Afghanistan, for which I was richly rewarded, but after the story of his involvement in the day long firefight in Afghanistan with ambushing Al Queda on Robert's Ridge, I bit into a the more intense story of his PTSD upon return to civilian life.
I really enjoyed reading about his training as an Army Officer at West Point. I really enjoyed learning about his Ranger training. I learned about military life in Bosnia and Afghanistan. His descriptions of the battle on the mountain top known as Takur Ghar brought me on the ground with him and his squad. He served in Iraq also, but that was when PTSD started it's depressing effects on him. He retired from military life but couldn't adjust to civilian life. He knew he was destroying his marri…

book report: Aftershock by Kent Annan (2011)

I brought this book along with me on vacation, but I'm an abnormal person. This is not light beach reading. This book is about a wrestling match between the author and God. It's not a flashy, staged, professional wrestling match with a certain outcome, but more of an amateur match, at the high school level. This is not an insult of Kent Annan's writing, but, if you've ever been to some of those high school matches, an analogy to the long and drawn out contests between kids who are evenly matched and make slow progress. If I may reach for a Biblical metaphor, this is like Jacob's long night of wrestling with God, from which he emerged, crippled but with a stronger faith (see Genesis 32).
The earthquake in Haiti, which killed his friends, yet also enabled others to fly to the US for expert medical care, and destroyed his friends' homes and churches, and fractured families, fractured his faith and crippled his soul. He found solace in the blues catalog of the Bibl…

what i learned from this year's Lenten fast

Observing Lent is a new thing for this low-class, evangelical Protestant. It's a novelty to me. I didn't grow up with it. The most suffering I ever did before Easter was a sunrise service I was brought to as a child. However, a few years ago I started experimenting with Lent. One year I abstained from meat and I didn't resume it for a year and a half, instead of 6 1/2 weeks. Another year I abstained from alcohol for Lent. But this year, after reading McKnight's book on Fasting, see the book report, I started practicing the twice-weekly fasts. Wednesdays and Fridays, of the ancient church, referred to as early as the Didache, see that book report. McKnight wrote about the difference between abstention and fasting. Physically, I agree there's no pain like hunger. Abstaining from chocolate or beer is an abstention from pleasure, but fasting is a journey into pain.
I wanted to fast for Lent to remind myself, just a tiny bit, of the suffering of Jesus for my salvation. …

book report: The Teaching of the Twelve by Tony Jones (2009)

Early on in Christendom, the Didache was esteemed as holy scripture by some churches and early leaders after the apostolic age, but was eventually kicked out of the canon. I appreciate the efforts of Tony Jones to bring to the Christian reading audience an old book to complement their efforts to worship God rightly, especially in their lifestyles with his book, The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community. I found out it was on sale in the Kindle store for under a dollar and grabbed it.
The text itself is uncomplicated. It is brief and speaks simply. There is not much nuance. I appreciated some of these verses.
1:6 Let your alms sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give them.
2:2 you shall not murder a child, whether it be born or unborn
2:7 Hate no one; correct some, pray for others, and some you should love more than your own life.
3:3 My child, don’t be lustful, for lust leads to illicit sex. Don’t be a filt…

book report: Dangerous Church by John Bishop (2011)

I'm a northerner who never experienced barbecue in my youth. The closest I came to barbecue was hot dogs. Then I became a griller and tried out barbecue sauce as a young man. But I don't think I really started to appreciate real southern barbecue until a southerner opened a small restaurant a mile away. I don't really understand why the place was never successful. Perhaps because too many of my northern neighbors had no idea what they were missing. What has this to do with John Bishop's book, Dangerous Church? It's a book, that by the cover and title, seems to dry and overdone, like the first time a northener like myself would look at a meat done in a dry rub at 250 degrees for 5 hours, like the veal ribs I made this weekend. What looks like dry crust, is actually a flavorful jacket holding within tender chunks of meat that fall off the bone and almost melt in your mouth.
One of my other stereotypical faults as a Connecticut Yankee is my cynicism. The garish book c…

i don't think i can join the celebration

I'm trying to follow Jesus as best as I understand him and as his Holy Spirit enables me. So when I read the Sermon on the Mount, I learn that I'm supposed to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me.Matthew 5:38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends r…