I have a secret: I LOVE children's books, children's storybooks, and books designed for children and caregivers to enjoy together.
See that? My love is deep enough that I had to add some bold, underline, and italic flair to really get my point across.
But on the other hand, I guess it's not so much a secret. My Amazon deliveries know it to be true. I often meander through the storybooks in the Target aisle, marveling at the beautiful artwork and the inclusive storylines displayed on the shelves. I've been known to bring new books home from trips in the interest of "an unexpected gift for my child" or "doing research for work." (It doesn't work. My wife sees right through it!)
But children's books about God, and faith? I have more of a LOVE/HATE relationship with those.
I was so excited to learn that Matthias Roberts would be publishing a book. My faith and sense of self have been nurtured over the past few years as an active listener of his podcast Queerology: A Podcast on Belief and Being. I was eager for the wisdom he’d be bringing into the world, now in literary form!
And yet, the immediate feeling I felt when receiving his book for my advance review was not excitement. In fact, my first thought when opening the package was this: “I wish it had a different subtitle, because I’m not going to be able to carry this thing with me anywhere I go."
“Give thanks to the Lord. God is good. God’s faithful love lasts forever!” (Psalm 107:1)
November, with the Thanksgiving holiday, offers us a natural opportunity for giving thanks and showing gratitude. Yet, as Christians we are reminded that every day is a day to give God our thanks and praise! The practice of gratitude is a spiritual discipline for any age – and need not be limited to “saying Grace” at the dinner table! So throughout November, I've used the Faith Presbyterian Church Midweek emails to offer a weekly book review of a children's storybook for which gratitude is a primary theme. For those outside the Faith congregation who don't receive those emails, here are all four of the storybook reviews.
Note: I wrote the following book review for the Foothills Presbytery blog. The review was published in February 2019.
At first glance, there seem to be two competing narratives about the prevalence of digital technologies in our society. One perspective holds that the incredible advances and benefits offered by modern technologies are evidence that such products are inherently “good” for humanity. The other perspective, citing troubling statistics of increased isolation and adverse health risks, render such technologies as “bad.”
The reality, as with virtually everything else in postmodern society, falls somewhere between the either/or binary these two perspectives would suggest. Suffice it to say that modern technologies – like all technological innovations that have come before – can be used both for the wellbeing of society and for evil, destructive purposes. (For just one example, the same social media product that helped to fuel a democratic uprising in several oppressed nations also provided the platform for outside forces to influence democratic elections in our own nation!).
Note: I wrote the following book review for The Presbyterian Outlook. The review was published in January 2019.
“It was a life-changing trip!”
So goes the all-too-common refrain of those returning home from a short-term mission experience. Perhaps the trip has challenged paradigms or broadened perspectives. Maybe it has suggested a need for shifting priorities or reallocating financial resources. Regardless, the rush of the post-trip enthusiasm tends to fade quickly upon reentry to the daily grind of life, and often, this reversal leads to the painful realization that what was once described as life-changing ended up changing far less than imagined or hoped for.
Note: I wrote the following book review for The Presbyterian Outlook. The review was published in August 2018.
If there’s one thing that Rachel Held Evans sets out to accomplish in her newest book, Inspired, it’s to demonstrate just how seriously she takes the Bible.
One could consider this an ambitious goal for Evans to undertake, considering her previous works led many in the evangelical community to accuse her of diminishing the Bible, and several Christian bookstore chains have banned her books from appearing on their shelves. Yet, the eagerness with which she dives into a deeper exploration of scriptural texts testifies to how seriously she views the task, as does the depth of the citations she includes as bibliographic endnotes.
As a pastor whose ministry includes the work of faith formation and discipleship across the generations, I have compiled a list of go-to Storybook Bibles for regular reference. (I also have a corresponding list of Storybook Bibles to stay clear of, but that’s a review for another time).
I just added another Storybook Bible to my “go-to” shelf.
In their new title Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible, well-known and well-respected Presbyterian educators Elizabeth Caldwell and Carol Wehrheim have compiled 150 stories from throughout the biblical canon.
Faith is about more than mountaintop experiences.
Don’t get me wrong. I look back on my first thirty years of life with both a recognition of and appreciation for those moments where my feet stood upon the sacred ground of what Celtic spirituality calls a “thin place” – a place where heaven and earth appear to meet.
The first thing I can say about Searching for Sunday is that it’s a very slow read.
I know that beginning a book review with a sentence as loaded as that one can run the risk of implying that the book was dense or boring or simply a chore to get through. Those implications, however, couldn’t be further from the truth, so allow me a moment to explain myself more fully.
Yes, the third literary offering by Rachel Held Evans (officially released today: April 14) was actually a slow read for me. But that’s only because it’s the kind of book that requires enough time to actually slow down and experience it.
Note: I wrote the following book review for The Presbyterian Outlook. The review was published in the March 16, 2015 edition of the magazine.
The word “holy” is not always well received by modern ears. For instance, to be “holier-than-thou” speaks of a moral superiority with which many have grown increasingly uncomfortable. To “be holy” conjures up images of a sanctimonious and self-righteous individual that, in their need to have all the perfect answers and live a perfect life, become nearly impossible to associate with.
I'm a husband, a father, a news junkie, a theatre enthusiast, an amateur foodie, a wannabe barista, and an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) currently serving as Associate Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Cape Coral, FL.
This blog is maintained personally by me and does not necessarily represent the views of the Faith Presbyterian Church congregation or any other congregation I have served. Every effort is made to give proper attribution for quotations, images, and other media used on this page.