Sunday, July 26, 2015

Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

This book is written by a pastor who grew up as the son of LGBT parents. As a youngster, with his parents, he participated in LGBT events and experienced, firsthand, the hatred and lack of grace from individuals in the Christian community.This book is a combination of memoir and a guide for relating to diverse people, specifically with LGBT people, with grace and truth. This author is senior pastor of Discovery Church, in Sim Valley, CA. He speaks widely on LGBT issues, sexual differences, and faith to people regardless of where they stand in this debate. This book contains a forward by Kyle Idleman, author of NOT A FAN. The book contains twelve chapters, many with subheadings. Kaltenbach ends MESSY GRACE with A Final Word to wrap up his points. He provides acknowledgements of those who made this book possible and provides notes to cite sources that his research is based on. He ends it all by listing suggested books for further reading.

I devoured this book, reading it in three days. It was a rough ride emotionally, though it was very readable in a literary sense. It hurt to read about how people who professed Christ as Savior treated the parents of the author, in blatant and in subtle ways. I found that I was triggered emotionally by stories in the book that were not mainly about LGBT issues. The author reserves his strongest words of rebuke for "conservative Christians" who are devoted to advocacy for traditional Christian values, and he includes many stories from the LGBT community, from his own life and from the lives of others, that show that LGBT people have long felt rejection, mean-spiritedness, bullying and plain coldness from the Christian community. This hurt, as I am identified with this community. My feeling is that much of this is that many pastors, famous Christian leaders and Bible teachers, and conservative-leaning media, such as one national TV Network, are complicit in this, in inciting and encouraging such attitudes in churchgoers by their own examples. I have LGBT people in my own life. They are all such caring, decent people that it is tough for me to view them as people who have adopted lifestyles that displease God. A family members said, the other day, "Gay parents take excellent care of their children." My first remembered account of encountering an openly gay individual is when I went to college. This person was an outspoken, strong advocate for the LGBT community. Most of those in the Christian community, whom in know, are silent on this issue and fear "to go there." I wish the author had addressed the reality that more and more whole denominations are formally approving homosexuality as morally acceptable for followers of Jesus, ordaining gay pastors, and marrying gay couples--and how this causes the Christian community to compromise with the culture. He did not discuss that, except to put out questions for local church fellowships to discuss. I like how he left room for disagreement with him, unlike many authors who are opinionated in their presentations. It was sad how this author grew up hating the Christian community and that it was through searching the Bible, not through encounters with the Christian community, that he changed his mind about LGBT issues. I got the sense that he saw, as the greater sin, as the tendency to speak truth without enough grace, than speaking grace without enough truth. This is a compelling book and this author has a unique story.

I recommend this book for every pastor and lay leader in every local church fellowship, whether conservative or progressive. It will give them the tools to preach on this topic with an equal balance of truth and grace. I know that many pastors do not feel equipped to discuss this controversial topic ans so they remain silent on it. I do not recommend this book for followers of Jesus who are new to the faith, for they they need to get grounded in basic truths before tackling this controversial issue and being sound enough in faith to reach out to those who are seen as radically unlike us. I do not recommend this book for LGBT people who are bent on pursuing that lifestyle and have no interest in spiritual things. I do recommend this book strongly for all LGBT people who are interested in spiritual things or are reconsidering their beliefs or may be confused by them. I also strongly recommend this book for any Christian who struggles with same-sex desires. I strongly recommend this book for all Christians who want to know how to relate to the LGBT community. I think he should write a version for young people, as this is very much an issue and many LGBT young people are victims of homophobic bullying.

I received a complimentary, advanced reading copy of this book (which is not scheduled for release until October 2015) through Blogging For Books, in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to give a positive review of this book.

Monday, July 13, 2015

An Open Letter To Ariana Grande

Dear Miss Ariana:

I doubt that that you will read this as this is a post on a very small blog. I only have known about you for several years because my beautiful, precious daughter, has been an avid fan of yours for several years. She has adored you. She has looked to you as a role model. I know that many other fans also adore you and look to you as role models. You possess tremendous influence over your many adoring fans who look up to you as a role model.

But last week, I was surprised and saddened to scroll on my Facebook Newsfeed and see the headline of an article that claimed that you licked donuts in a public place and then joked, "I hate America. I hate Americans." Later, I shared the photo of you with your quoted words against America and Americans. I did share that photo, and, unlike the majority of my posts, it generated comments by angry Facebook users whose patriotism had been offended. I felt obligated to share the video which caught your comments, with my daughter. So I emailed it to her. On Facebook, your name was trending as a hashtag for days.

Miss Ariana, I was not able to get my sound up and running until the other day. It was not until then that I actually heard what the video captured you as having said. I had trouble hearing what you said and catching your words. But I could hear them. You may have said these words in jest. You may not have meant anything by these words. However, Someone, many years ago, said that "Out of the abundance of the heart a person speaks." What you say reveals what kind of a person you are underneath. Your words reveal your character. It is not only what you said, if in jest. It is that you used profanity, as indicated by the fact that the curse word was bleeped out.

I know that you have apologized for your remarks. You actually are said to have apologized two times. I understand that you are blessed with forgiving fans who created the hastag #IForgiveAriana. That is good! Yes, you have been quoted as saying that you "did not mean it" when you made the statements against America or Americans. I know that you are a young woman, not much older than my daughter and probably many of your other fans. Yes, I know that you are human, and humans make mistakes. That is because we humans are polluted by something called sin. I do not know if my daughter got my email and opened the video.

Miss Ariana, I suspect that the fact that you and other celebrities have so much influence over our young people says as much about our culture as it does about you. Many of your fans can be called what are known as "the unpaid bills" of the modern American Church, which has failed our youth. I fear that the fact that you and other celebrities have so much influence over your young fans is because we, their parents, have lost our young people's trust and respect and so they look to you and other celebrities for what so many of us parents and our local church fellowships are failing to provide them--guidance, teaching, and understanding. Your fans are also "the unpaid bills of many of us parents. Because of our "celebrity culture," many of us tend to give up trying to communicate with our youth as they tend to get very uncommunicative in their teen years. Even without our failures as local fellowships and as parents, our culture idolizes celebrities like you so you have this influence.

Miss Ariana, there is another matter we need to address. Like all of us, you have a problem that is referred by the nasty three letter word S-I-N. This means that, like all of us, you were born with a nature that is opposed to God. This nature expresses itself in everything from using profanity, as you were caught doing on that video, to lying, stealing, cheating, gluttony, wrong use of our sex drive (outside of male-female marriage), outbursts of temper to gossip, selfishness, thinking you are better than others, and arrogance. There are many more expressions of that nasty word S-I-N. But God came into the world in His Son, Who lived a perfect human life and did not commit even one sin. He died on a cross to take your place and my place and He took His own punishment that we deserved for our sins.

Miss Ariana, if you are reading this, I invite you to repent (change your mind about your sin), turn to God and ask for His forgiveness so you can be saved. Let Him change you and your life. Then, you will be able to use your celebrity to share with your fans something that is of far more value than a wild night of musical performance or music CD's.

If you are reading this and are a fan, whether of Ariana or of any other celebrity, remember that celebrities are ordinary people, just like you and me. The only thing that separates them from us is their money and their fame. They cannot fill up the empty hole in your heart. That can only be filled by coming to Christ and giving Him your life, telling Him you are sorry for your sins (and meaning it) and living the rest of your life for Him.

Click Here To Watch the Full Video

Ariana Grande Apology

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hyacinth Girls by Lauren Frankel

This is a work of fiction. This author has experience with working with young people, which has prepared her for dealing with the topic that this book is based on. Se has worked with them both as an educator and as a librarian, both in the US and in the UK. Other than her educational and professional experiences in these matters little else seems to be known about this author. This book begins with a Prologue which sets the tone for how the plot will unfold. Except for the final chapters, the end of each chapter includes interactions between two of the main characters in this book; many of these sub-sections are text messages between these two main characters. Halfway through the book it shifts into the plot from one of the main character's point of view, and it has two more sections that shift points of views. This book ends with the author's acknowledgments to those whose input made this book possible.

This book, being fiction, is harder to review than non-fiction is. At least that is the case for me. It is even harder because of how this book is written, from the view points of more than one of the main characters. I did not grasp that the book was written from multiple viewpoints until over halfway through this book. Frankly, because the plots in the book threw me off, the author kept losing me and my interest. I felt that I was being thrown around and that I did not know where I would land, a critique that, in college, was made of one of my essays. But this is the author's debut novel. The teenage main character was true to life as her language, as told in her parts of the book told in her perspective and through her texts to another teen character, make clear. These portions of the book tend to be in-your-face, blunt and irreverent (no, I'm not saying all young people are like this!). I just had a hard time getting into the action in this book and to feel with the characters until the very end. Maybe it is just me, not the author, that causes this experience but as is said, perspective is reality though I'm not always sure of them. I think it is probably best to read this book more than once, to really grasp it. The strengths of this book are its subject matter and the realism in which it is dealt with. The author also exhibits honesty in portraying the leading adult character and in the lessons this character has learned. The conclusion and what the main teen character learned are powerful and show that when the truth comes to light, it often totally changes our concept of individuals whom we know. This novel is given many subheadings so that readers can stop without having to wade through pages of text or having to mark the text (a no-no in borrowed books). It is a fast and easy read, from a literary standpoint.

I recommend this book for all of those involved with young people, including parents, educators,teachers, youth ministers and youth workers, child and adolescent psychologists. It is a book about young people and about a major social ill that affects them, bullying. I recommend this book for all those who like novels. I recommend this book for young people themselves so they can be educated on bullying, though I think a good non-fiction book on bullying for young people may work better. There is profanity in this book that would make it a "PG-13" rated book though not so graphic as to be an "R" rated book.

I received this book free of charge through Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to give a positive review of this book.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

The American Church by D.W. Glomski

This is a short book. Information on the author is limited, as I have read this book as an e-book. From what I could glean, he was an aspiring pastor but changed his mind. He has been for years with an unconventional group called the Plymouth Brethren, who hold their church meetings in house settings. He was a member of their group for 22 years. This book begins with an Introduction which prepares us for what this book will be about. This book is arranged in ten chapters which each illustrate the points that he desires to make. He then finishes this book with afterwards that contain explanations to various groups. His Afterwards consist of A Word to Pastors, A Word about the Wine and the Wineskin, A Word to the Plymouth Brethren, A Word about the Apostles, A Word about Church and Going to Church, A Word about Change, and A Word about the Number One Problem in the Church. He then ends with a list of books that he suggests to readers for further reading.

This is the first book that I ever have read in e-book form, and so I was ale to quickly go through it. Also, it is a short book, not much over 100 pages. But when I started the first chapter, my hackles already began going up and it was not so much over the author's topic of the book. I was ticked off at his hard-hitting references to people who use any government benefits and how he lumped them into one general category as welfare freeloaders who get their kicks out of living off the system or living lazy lives. While he is right in that some people indeed abuse government benefits by laziness or even by fraud (the second is not referenced), he betrays at least a misunderstanding of how the "welfare" system works in that there have been major cuts and reforms in all means-tested (need-based) government programs. He also betrays ignorance of the fact that programs like Social Security, Social Security Disability and Medicare are not means-tested and so are not considered welfare programs. As for his subject which is general spiritual immaturity, he seems to lump American Christians into one broad category as weak, sickly, spoiled, selfish and bratty Christians. I fully agree that many who attend church fellowships fit this profile and need to grow up spiritually by following Jesus instead of following people. The Bible is full of admonitions to do that and the author does backup much of what he says by using Scripture. I applaud him bringing up matters pertaining to women that are offensive to even devoted believing Christian women, such as the Biblical call to be quiet in formal church fellowship meetings and to wear head coverings in those meetings. We don't like it (I don't like it!) but these calls to women are considered part of the Bible and many of us consider the Bible to be the Word of God. But this author comes off as arrogant in his approach to addressing God's calls to submission for women, and he makes no effort to balance these mandates for female submission with Jesus' honoring women when in His Incarnation and the Biblical principle that we are all equal in personhood if not in function. When I came to the Afterwards which contained messages to certain people groups that are more encouraging than the book itself, I was looking for an Afterward for us women. I did not find it and I was disappointed. I know that the author comes from a place of not having been with any organized church fellowship for decades but he comes off as judgmental and superior in his tone though he says that he has a Pastor's heart toward the modern American Church. Maybe he does have such a heart, but it is easy to feel beat up by this book if you attend organized worship services. I think he also overlooks that many people in these organized worship services may not even have living relationships with Jesus and so may lack the power to mature in a faith that they may not even possess, as the Gospel has been watered down to stress the grace, love and forgiveness of God which we all love to hear about, while excluding the uncomfortable parts like sin, judgment, judgment and hell which all of us (including myself) find uncomfortable and offensive) which are also integral parts of the Biblical message. But this book includes important truths that all believers, especially all those in official leadership positions, badly need to hear and apply to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, he offers few practical ideas of how to put his radically counter-cultural principles into practice. This book left me wanting more.

Would I recommend this book? I would with reservations as it offers no advice for practical application. I recommend this book for Pastors and I would encourage them to read the Afterward, addressed to them, to brace themselves for the tough message in this book that shatters long-established values from centuries of tradition. I recommend this book for all Christians who, I promise, will find much of this book offensive. I warn non-Christians to avoid this book as it will inflame the prejudices most already have against the Christian community.

I received this book in e-book form, free of charge, through BookLook Bloggers, in exchange for my honest review of this book. I was not required to give a favorable review of this book.

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