Buechner: Fiction as Self-Revelation [QUOTE]

If writers write not just with paper and ink or a word processor but with their own life’s blood, then I think something like [our own words being just as much to us as from us] is perhaps always the case. A book you write out of the depths of who you are, like a dream you dream out of those same depths, is entirely your own creation. All the words your characters speak are words that you alone have put into their mouths, just as every situation they become involved in is one that you alone have concocted for them. But it seems to me nonetheless that a book you write, like a dream you dream, can have more healing and truth and wisdom in it at least for yourself than you feel in any way responsible for.

–Frederick Buechner,Telling Secrets


For Advent 2013: a Free Liberti Prayerbook & Devotional


As of this past Sunday, the Christian Church finds themselves in the season of Advent. I don’t know about you, but this season has snuck up on me (admittedly, I was a little occupied). I’ve been working on a new Advent Mixtape, but it’s not done (you can find last year’s here). I have an idea for an Advent series, but I haven’t fully thought through the concept (see past series here). I’ve had devotionals and reading plans set up on my phone to do, but I haven’t done even one day of them all this week.

But one of the beauties of the Church Calendar is that it doesn’t depend on us. The realities pointed to in these weeks are objective realities that happened (and are happening) in spite of us, and not because of us. Another beauty of the Calendar is that it happens every year, so even if we don’t engage one year like we’d like or hope, there’s always next year.
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“The Books” are updated, and…what do YOU think about Iran?

(Forgive the picture. I know it’s weird, but it captures my love for books so well.)

I just wanted to put up a quick post to let it be known (to those few people who might care) that my “The Books” section above is updated again. In the midst of my reading and research for the summer Bible Survey Class, I had to put all personal reading off to the side–and, along with that, that Books page.

But, I’ve updated it now, with my new additions. For personal reading, I’ve added Moby Dick and Stephen Kinzer’s All The Shah’s Men. For my devotional reading, I added the poems of Hart Crane (which are rocking my world). I’ve also changed the formatting on the page for easier reading, and added links to posts in which I’ve shared quotes, reviews, or meditations from my time reading that book. Hopefully this will make this page a little more useful for those looking for book recommendations.
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Let’s (TED) talk about porn & Struthers’ “Wired For Intimacy” [REVIEW]

Earlier this year, I read William Struthers’ book Wired For Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. It was an amazing book and I learned much from it (and I encourage anyone to read it, male or female).

One justified criticism, however, that I have heard about this book is that it doesn’t quite speak to the questions that many would naturally bring to such a book. It’s separated into two parts: the first is theory, the second is application and implications.

This is all well and fine, except the first part is extremely clinical and tries really hard to be a casual observer to the effects of pornography. This results in a whole lot of the minutiae of various hormones and chemicals in the brain and what happens to them and why. But, there’s no context as to why (or whether) any of these effects are necessarily bad or harmful. It merely describes various chemicals and brain structures and how pornography is received and processed, but in his attempt at neutrality and avoiding value-judgments, he ends up creating at atmosphere in which the reader continually thinks “okay, so what?”.
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READ THIS BOOK: “Genesis For Normal People” by Peter Enns & Jared Byas

A theologian whom I respect and a professor with whom I went to seminary have teamed up to offer a really great book on the first book of the Bible. Genesis for Normal People: A Guide to the Most Controversial, Misunderstood, and Abused Book of the Bible is a walk-through of Genesis following its themes and history. They open with these words:

Genesis is an ancient story. This may sound like an obvious or even patronizing way to begin. Of course it’s an ancient story. But once we look at what this means, that short phrase might be the most important thing to remember about Genesis. It will guide the rest of this book, showing us how to approach Genesis and what we should expect from it.

For many, the opening book of the Bible is a little confusing. It reads strangely, it doesn’t “sound” like any other book of the Bible, and, as Christians, we don’t know why we would even want to read it (except maybe for the first few chapters, but even those have a bunch of problems of their own).

Ever wondered what a sane, intelligent, and faithful understanding of Genesis would be in light of the findings of science or history? Ever pondered what the relationship between Adam and Darwin might look like? Have you ever been confused by a random history channel special that cast doubt on some of the stuff in Genesis? Ever tried to read the darn book only to only to ask yourself why you started to in the first place? Do you want to know how it connects to the rest of the Bible? Would you want all this talked about and explained in everyday terms with little prior biblical or theological knowledge needed?

Well, this is the book for you. (If you’re still skeptical, you can read a wonderfully comprehensive review of the book here.)

A quick note for any atheists or skeptics that find themselves reading this: this book is also for you. As a champion of (what I feel are) “not crazy” ways of reading Genesis, I have received a lot of pushback from atheists over the years who try and argue that the only true and faithful ways to read the book are in those (what I feel are) “crazy” ways. They try and say that if you “accommodate” the difficulties in Genesis away, you no longer have the faith you were trying to defend in the first place, and so you might as well abandon the whole enterprise. I challenge you to read this book and walk away feeling the same way.


As far as obtaining the book, I have good news, and I have bad news:

Good News: it’s only $1.99 (for a limited time, then it will go up to $4.99)

Bad News: at least for now, it’s only available for Kindle E-Readers.

The Good News about the Bad News: you can download free apps on your computer, phone, or tablet to read the book anyway. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center showed that computers were the most popular device to read an ebook on; not a phone, tablet, or even a Kindle. So….you have no excuse.

What the Gospel is not. [QUOTE]

“I believe the word gospel has been hijacked by what we believe about “personal salvation,” and the gospel itself has been reshaped to facilitate making “decisions.” The result of this hijacking is that the word gospel no longer means in our world what it originally meant to either Jesus or the apostles.”

— Scot McKnight, “The King Jesus Gospel

Amen. I’m so glad this book was written. So far, it’s pretty amazing. And on the Kindle, it’s currently only $3.99.

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a beautiful quote on life & pain

One cannot cut the lines of experience out of one’s face, like the rotten bits in an apple; one has to carry them about in one’s face and know that one carries them; one sees them, as in a mirror, every day when one washes oneself, and cannot cut them out, they belong there. But all the same, it is a festive waiting, full of joy and sorrow and remembrance and good-bye for ever.

— from “Death of the Adversary” by Hans Keilson, our December book club selection for Staché

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the Staché is upon us. (looking for a book club?)

No, this post has nothing to do with the picture. Sorry.

(But it is an amazing picture, though, am I right? I think I look like Mario.)

As most people know, several months ago I started a new job. Part of my orientation in the specifics of this field was a 12-week training course with others in the field from different agencies all over the city. We had assigned seating–assigned at random–and the table of people I ended up with were pretty fantastic. We joked and learned and had a great time for our twelve weeks together.

During our hour-long lunch breaks, we would all pull out books and read at the table. We learned that each of us were lovers of books and as our 12-weeks came to an end, we decided to start a book club to stay in touch with one another.

Enter: Staché: the paper trail
The website: ReadMyStache.wordpress.com
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On History & Economics, a Book Review: “Popes & Bankers”by Jack Cashill

cashillI have a new article up on Patrol Magazine (yeah, I know; it’s the first in a long while).  Patrol recently changed up the philosophy and design of the site, making it much more of a blog-type format, as well as trying to focus more on consistently substantive and “Christianly” reflections on the world today.  In the spirit of that, today was posted I review I wrote for Thomas Nelson Publishers on Jack Cashill‘s newest book, Popes & Bankers.  Some of you may remember that while I was in the middle of reading the book, I wrote for Patrol about Cashill, and how I thought he was a propagandist, revisionist historian, and (frankly) crazy.  I also mused about how it was that Thomas Nelson Publishers, a Christian publishing house came to publish this particular book.  This caused a response from someone involved in the nonfiction acquisitions process at Thomas Nelson that was involved in getting Popes & Bankers published.  I get what he was saying at the time, but even now, after having finished the book, I stand by what I said.  You can read the exchange below after the link and the break.  Enjoy the review and leave your comments!

Review: “Popes & Bankers,” By Jack Cashill | Patrol Magazine

Here was the exchange:
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“Jack Cashill Writes a Good Book, But He’s Insane.” -Patrol Mag

I have an original blog post I’m working on for tomorrow, but for now, I’ll promote my most recent article on Patrol Magazine.  It’s about a book I’m currently reviewing for Thomas Nelson publishers (full disclosure: they sent me the book for free).  It’s about the struggle I’m having after finding out that this otherwise enjoyable book is written by an author who is pretty crazy.  How?  Well, just read on.  Patrol even made it a cover story today, so I’ve provided the cover story picture as your link to the article.  Enjoy.  And leave comments!

You can read all my articles for Patrol right here.

REVIEW: “Simply Christian” by N.T. Wright

Simply Christian
Bishop N.T. Wright
Zondervan, 2006
Buy Now Here
Pre-Order New Ed. Here


As I revealed in a recent tweet, I believe I’m walking into a new obsession with the author/scholar/pastor N.T. Wright. Surprising to many, I’m sure, with me being a seminarian and all, is the fact that I had never read any Wright before this book. Sure, I’ve known of his existence for years, had seen a few of his YouTube clips, and skimmed a few of his articles, but I had never read his books. My housemate during the two months or so before seminary began reading through Wright’s entire Christian Origins and the Question of God series (books 1, 2, 3) constituting over 2,100 pages of reading. He couldn’t stop reading, nor stop telling me about how amazing this man was. I nodded and agreed, sure that I would read something at some point. I had no idea what I was missing.

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Writing in Hope & Angst (a Lament, a Praise)

Okay, now for a personal post. I usually don’t do these, but some encouragement/wisdom from others might help. I don’t know what exactly has been the cause, but the past few weeks have seen my desire to write and effect change rise to a level I’ve previously never known, only to be brought low by information on every side.

If I had to guess, I think my increase in desire and confidence to write has been inflamed by several fronts. First, intellectually, I’ve been experiencing a clarity and creativity of thought concerning books I’ve been wanting to write. Books that have been rolling around in my mind for about a year finally have some shape, structure, and direction. Also, I’ve been feeling more confident in my ability to think and subsequently express those thoughts in writing. This little slavery and atheism series I’ve been doing has been giving me a chance to flex some muscles I didn’t know were there. This has led to lots of affirmation and encouragement from others concerning my writing prospects. This has put writing in the front and center of my mind.

But, anxieties and insecurities ensue, both from within and without . . .

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My Official Review of “Fearless” by Max Lucado at Reform & Revive

Look at that face.  That’s Max Lucado.  And I just reviewed his new book Fearless.  You can find the review here at Reform & Revive.  Some of you may have read my “Review Preview” and now are wondering why on earth I’m putting up this little post, just to send people somewhere else for the review.

Well, that “Review Preview” got a lot of hits due to search engine traffic.  That means that this site will appear sooner in a search for the book than will Reform & Revive.  But, seeing as reviews of this sort are much more in line with the mission and purpose of R&R, rather than that of this bog, I thought it was more appropriately posted there, and not on this blog.  So, I’m putting up this post on the off chance someone meanders here due to a search engine.  So, if you have fallen victim to such an off-chance, you can find the review at my webzine, Reform & Revive, found at the link below:


By the way, for those that have stopped by for the next part of my Beauty series, you will find the next installment here tomorrow.  Probably.  Well, technically, my review of John Navone’s book Toward a Theology of Beauty counted as the “next installment”, but I’ll write another tomorrow.