Book Review: Mondays With My Old Pastor

Mondays with My Old Pastor: Sometimes All We Need Is a Reminder from Someone Who Has Walked Before UsMondays with My Old Pastor: Sometimes All We Need Is a Reminder from Someone Who Has Walked Before Us by José Luis Navajo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can honestly say I wish I had read MONDAYS WITH MY OLD PASTOR when I was a young preacher. The wisdom contained in this book has blessed me tremendously. There are few chapters when my eyes did not shed tears. This is not just a sentimental book about an old pastor, but instead is a very rich resource of wisdom and strength that I feel has given me greater insights into what it means to be a preacher.

“Life doesn’t start when you’re twenty, or when you’re forty. Life starts at Calvary. And that’s where fruitful service begins as well. Let the cross be so present in you that it becomes your way of life and your rest.”

This book recounts a young minister’s twelve Mondays spent with an elderly pastor and the lessons and stories he heard while there. In every chapter the old pastor gives the young pastor a key to living life in the shadow of the cross while serving the God of the church. Enclosed in these chapters are some wonderful stories and truths that will enrich anyone who serves in the ministry of the church.

“God is not looking for celebrities, nor does He choose His servants consulting celebrity magazines; He prefers vessels of clay to administer His treasure … On a stage is where celebrities shine; on an altar is where God’s presence comes down. The two are incompatible; we will have to choose: human celebrities or godly impact.”

In one chapter the old pastor reveals the death of his son to his weekly visitor. The tenderness and grace with which this chapter was written was worth the whole book. Of course I resonated with this chapter.

“God draws near to us and wraps us and keeps us warm. The miracle of His presence fills the hole of any emptiness, even the most atrocious ones … even those losses that leave you adrift … I managed to understand that death is just a change in mission and that our little Joseph is more alive than ever, because if death weren’t a prelude to another life, then this present life would be a cruel joke.”

As I said earlier, I wish I had read this as a young minister. However, it’s possible that I wouldn’t have appreciated it in my younger years as much as I do now. I look forward to reading through this book again at a future date and gaining even more wisdom. Reading this book felt like I was the one who was spending Monday with My Old Pastor.

“Travel on the road of the cross until the end,” he told me. His eyes had a layer of water covering them, on which a smile was cradled. “Don’t give up. The cross has its price…but there is nothing more beautiful, or more worthy of embracing.”

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Book Review: A Light in the Darkness, Light of Loian

A Light in the Darkness, Light of LoianA Light in the Darkness, Light of Loian by Heather Sutherlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Because I know someone who knows the author, I decided to read A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS. It is certainly not in the category of books I typically read, but I did enjoy it. It could be classified as Christian Fiction, but only in an allegorical sense. It would also classify as fantasy fiction, with ghostly figures, princes and kings, and mystical powers.

The story chronicles the development of Merrilyn from an orphaned girl into a powerful healer who has powers she did not know she had. One of the King’s sons has disappeared and his other son, Prince Justan, is charged with finding out what happened. Justan and Merrilyn grew up together and have a growing love interest. There is danger and intrigue as they battle the forces of darkness who are attempting to destroy Merrilyn because of her newfound abilities.

The reason I gave it a good rating was because the story was well written, enchanting, and engaging. The story moves along fairly rapidly but with enough detail that one is drawn into the imagery and begins to feel that we know the characters. As a 53 year old man, I would think that I’m not the core audience for a book such as this. But I suppose anyone can enjoy a good story. I think this would be a great story for a preteen through adult to read. It is free of profanity and graphic (or any) sexual content, which I appreciated.

I’d happily recommend it to a youngster who was looking for a good story and also to any adult who just enjoys a good story. This is the first in a series.

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Book Review: Food – A Love Story

Food: A Love StoryFood: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I tend to overload my reading with theology and devotional books. Occasionally I read through a fiction book. After reading Jim Gaffigan’s FOOD: A LOVE STORY I’m going to have to try to read more humor books.

Supposedly there are good fats and bad fats. I like to think of myself as a good fat. It helps my self-esteem when I look in the mirror.

Especially Jim Gaffigan. What I like about him both in writing and on stage is that his talk is not peppered with profanity (rarely) and graphic sexual content. He’s a dad and married to a devout Catholic and I think he really keeps his family in mind when he’s writing his material. They are there, present in all of his bits … and that tells me he’s not only a comic, but a husband and father who loves his family.

I struggled through my twenties and thirties, and then one day I looked in the mirror, saw my belly, and said, “I give up. It’s all over.” It wasn’t defeat as much as it was acceptance. I figured, I got a hot wife. If she leaves me for getting fat, that means she’s shallow. “Honey, do you think looks are important? No? Good. Now pass the gravy.

Another reason I enjoyed this book is that I’m as fanatical about food as Gaffigan is and his unabashed love affair with food had me laughing and agreeing all the way through.

These pompous responses are because no one admits they go to McDonald’s. McDonald’s sells roughly six billion burgers a day, and there are only three hundred million people in this country. I’m not a calculus teacher, but I figure some of these people are lying.

Yes, I believe we need to do a lot of serious reading but every once in a while it helps to just smile a little … enjoy an outright laugh … and realize the Scripture is true that laughter is good medicine.

I’d never want my last real meal to be a kale salad or a PowerBar.

I’m with Jim.

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Tulsa Workshop: Melancholy Memories

Part of a crowd some time at Tulsa Workshop

I have to admit to being a bit melancholy. Today I got a notice in my email from a calendar entry. It’s time to go to Tulsa for the Tulsa Workshop. Only, the workshop is no more. Anyone who knows me well knows I live for this yearly family reunion and revival all rolled into one. I don’t blame the leaders for letting it go… the vital signs have been headed downward for a while now. But it’s hard not to miss this. And the truth is that there isn’t anything in the Spring within driving distance that can replace it.

There’s a temptation to kind of slosh through a lot of old memories at this point but I’ll spare you. I’ve written about the International Soul Winning Workshop  so many times (see some links below).

John Robert on a snowy day at Tulsa Workshop.

So many of my Tulsa memories are blended with memories of my family making the trek to Tulsa. Maggy, Nicole and John Robert and some of his friends would often go to the workshop. Can you imagine that John Robert  had no problem missing most of the week of school to go? He didn’t mind at all. And we didn’t either. We placed a high value on his education, but the spiritual experience of the workshop was of great value to us and to him. Even so, there’s a long list of names I associate with the workshop. Not just the speakers, but the friends that we would only see once a year. That was especially valuable in the days before Facebook! Do you remember those days? Barely.

I’d just like to say thanks to everyone who helped make Tulsa Workshop the wonderful experience it was. Under the fire of critics and armchair quarterbacks, these men and women made sure it all happened. At the helm for so many years Marvin Phillips and Terry Rush led the way. I was in awe of them and I still am. We worshiped with such joy under the leadership of many, but none more than Jerome Williams and later Shane Coffman and those that sang with them. It felt healthy to see the older coaches step aside and see Wade Hodges and Shane Coffman and Jason Thornton assume the roles leading the workshop. I know each of them would recognize an army of volunteers and helpers but those were the faces we saw.

On those stages I heard some of the most amazing preaching I’ve ever heard. I would be wrong to try to list them – but I can’t help a little. In addition to Marvin and Terry are such memories. The night Stanley Shipp preached with such passion. Jimmy Allen made such a powerful speech under the influence of one of his well known headaches that he was interrupted several times … and some were unhappy with some things he said, but he said them with full assurance! I heard Richard Rogers’ last presentation at Tulsa. He died before the next workshop came around. Mid McKnight – oh I’m so glad I had a chance to hear him. Jeff Walling, how did he do that every-single-year? Jim McGuiggan said one of the most memorable things I’ve ever heard on a stage in the pavilion. Don DeWelt – thank God Marvin had the courage to tear down that wall and bring that brother (along with other Christian Church brothers like Bob Russell) to Tulsa. I still have a lot of tapes and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to put them to .mp3 so others can hear them.

Well now I’ve just started rambling with Tulsa memories so I’m going to close that down before this post gets out of hand. Yes, I’m a bit melancholy that I won’t be gathering with friends old and new and hearing the gospel with them … but I’m happy too. There are a lot of smiles and much warmth in the memories flooding my mind right now.

As I mentioned above here are some links to a few other posts where I talked about Tulsa Workshop on this blog in past years. Thanks for reading. Feel free to share your Tulsa memories in the comments if so moved.  JD

International Soul Winning Workshop – March 4, 2008

Sharing a Few Video Moments from Tulsa Workshop – March 29, 2008

Thursday in Tulsa – March 23, 2007

Friday at Tulsa – March 24, 2007

Tulsa and the Trajectory of My Faith Journey – April 8, 2014

 

 

Book Review: I Died Last Night

I Died Last NightI Died Last Night by John Orr
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I DIED LAST NIGHT is a fictional account of a regular church member who dies and finds himself in an eternal state of torment. The descriptions of the experience in hell are quite detailed and graphic (if you’re squeamish, just move along to another book). Scripture references are supplied in case one might think that hell is not that bad, which would be a mistake. Following a quite miserable perusal of the kinds of thoughts one might have while being tormented by demons, the souls of those we hated in this life, and ultimately Satan himself, we are asked to examine our commitment to the Lord and ask ourselves the question of the title: Where would you be if you died last night? It appears to me that this book is not written for the non-Christian, but for the church member who has become lax in their commitment to Christ.

I’m not 100% sure what this book is supposed to do … reading other reviews and the conclusion itself I see the words “wake up call”. I do agree that many in the church need to be awakened to a greater level of faithfulness and love for the Lord. I’m not sure that when I read this book that’s what I get. I will allow that there might be some for whom a fear-driven religion will keep them on the straight and narrow. But in both the beginning and end of the book the author reminds us that only a few are going to make it without waking up in hell (and I assume the author counts himself among the few!).

Aside from reading it for myself, I don’t know that I would hand this book to anyone with the hopes of igniting a greater love for Christ in them. The two main culprits of the narrative that lead us to an afterlife in hell seem to be the false teachers who have led the lost person to believe something wrong and the idea those who lived under the illusion that we can just be a good person and that will be enough to save us.

To quote the departed theologian Jerry Clower, “I have made arrangements to miss hell.” I’m sure I don’t understand all there is to understand. I’m certain I fall short in performing the duties of Christianity at times (I added ‘at times’ to make myself feel better). I don’t doubt that in God’s hands in the afterlife I will realize that some of the things I thought I knew were totally wrong. But I don’t think any of those things will cause me to be lost, for the blood of Christ is a powerful cleanser and it continues to flow in my life. And, to me, that’s what’s missing in I DIED LAST NIGHT. God’s greatest desire is to save me, not to send me to torment. My largest impression from this little book is that if I don’t get my knowledge and deeds all squared away, too bad – off to hell I go.

If this book really does make someone ‘wake up’ in their Christianity or decide to repent of some practice they know does not please the Lord … or even begin doing some things they’ve been neglecting…well, then good. Yes, it made me squirm a bit (I’m certain that is an intention of the story), and that’s not all bad. But I do think if I give this book to someone who really struggles in daily life, they are more likely to give up than to persevere.

That’s because I’m not sure that grace has a place in this book. The preacher who was grace-full, writhes in the fire along with the main character. In fact the character asks him, “What happened to all your grace?” That, to me, was the most offensive thing I read in the book. I expect that Mr. Orr believes in grace. I don’t want to suggest he doesn’t.

I can see from the other reviews that it impacted some in a more positive way. Good. That wasn’t my experience. I did give it two stars for creative presentation of the experience of hell by the author and the graphic art by Stewart Yeakley that was, indeed, graphic. I also liked the cover art by Josh Feit and the general design of the book. Start2Finish books always have a professional appearance to them. I would not discount anything else written by John Orr, as he has a way with words and I’m sure he has a lot to offer should he dedicate himself to another volume.

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