I just read one of the best books I have read all year… at the end of this year.  And I have to say that Bill Hybels’ Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul is the perfect resource for the New Year.

My favorite quote was when the author described his prayer life by saying, “Every morning around 5:30, I climb out of bed and get directly on my knees for prayer.  If I don’t do this, I’m too apt to become distracted with “doing” and never return to prayer.  After I pray, I spend time in a favorite chair, or in the unhurried setting of my home office, where I open God’s Word and invite its wisdom into my soul.  I write in my journal, asking myself hard questions about my actions.  What sin pattern is God illuminating in me that warrants confession and a change?  What relationships need repair?  Where is God inviting me to grow?  What opportunities does He want me to say yes to?  Where is he praising me for a job well done?” (71).

What would a “God-First Schedule” look like in your context and calendar?


The Hard Way…


I had some time during the Christmas break to finish the tenth book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.
My favorite quote was when the author describes “Reacher always arrang[ing) the smallest details in his life so he could move on at a split second’s notice.  It was an obsessive habit.  He owned nothing and carried nothing.  Physically he was a big man, but he cast a small shadow and left very little in his wake” (2). 
Honestly, this was by far my least favorite in the series.  The story was slow.  Not many twists or turns.  My attention drifted.  I felt like I have read bits and pieces of this narrative before.  First time I have felt that way about a Reacher book before.  Let’s hope that this is not the case for the next 9 books!    
With that in mind, here is where I rank each installment thus far…
  1. Tripwire (#3):  Vietnam and Wall-Street 
  2. Killing Floor (#1):  Currency and Counterfeiting 
  3. Enemy (#8): Cold War and Cover-Ups
  4. Without Fail (#6):  Secret Service and National Politics
  5. Persuader (#7):  Drug Smuggling and Kidnapping 
  6. Echo Burning (#5):  Immigration and Domestic Violence 
  7. One Shot (#9): Assassinations and Soviet Prisons
  8. Running Blind (#4):  Sexual Harassment and Serial Killers 
  9. Die Trying (#2):  Extremists and Militias  
  10. The Hard Way (#10):  Mercenaries and Missing People
I plan to continue this series during the final week of the holiday break by picking up Bad Luck and Trouble. 
The Hard Way…

The Boys Daring Greatly…

I have mentioned many times before of my book exchange with Ryan Smith.  A couple of years ago, we rescheduled the event around Christmas.  This year’s selections were…

  • I gave my friend The Boys in the Boat.  This was my very favorite read of 2014.  I had to show Ryan that there is such a thing as good sports history (since he did not care for The Boys of Summer).
  • He purchased another leadership development resource for me – this one being Daring Greatly.  Really looking forward to getting to it!   
Now, for those who have been keeping track . . . 
  • I have now pulled from genres which include Sports History (twice), Children’s Literature, Fiction, Theology (twice), and Leadership.     
  • He has now sent me works that cover Leadership (twice), Christian Living, Travel, Theology (twice), and Fiction.  
What does this say about us?
I already cannot wait for Round Eight.  A good man, that Ryan is.
The Boys Daring Greatly…

First Steps Out…


I cannot begin to count how many times a month I am approached as a Christ follower, lead pastor, and church planter with the question, “What are your beliefs on what the Bible teaches on the topic of homosexuality.  Partially this is due to our church being fairly new within the community and partially because of the cultural climate and questions in which we live.
Maybe the better question is how has Christ called us to serve those who identify themselves to be a part of the LGBT community as well as how can we serve the families most affected.  For such an approach, this book is a wonderful resource.  The author speaks openly and honestly with those who are struggling with their same-sex attraction.  In this way, she offering them an alternative to the extremes of “pride” on one side of the spectrum and “anger or shame” on the other.  Her parents share insight from their experiences that encourage and equip family members through their own journey.
My favorite quote was when McFerren suggests, “When I first began to see and understand that this is what was at work in me, I started to rise up a little bit against it. The foundations of my faith gave me the understanding that I could and should call out to God for completion and identity in these areas instead of trying to draw it out of a relationship with a woman — or any human for that matter. The revelation came that I was engaging in idolatry, expecting wholeness and fulfillment from something and someone that wasn’t designed to give it to me, and I was valuing that as primary to God. It was angering and humiliating when I saw that I was underestimating my own womanhood and allowing some other woman to define what was rightfully and uniquely mine to express. This marked my freedom from the bondage of looking to women for affirmation in my womanhood, and I started looking for that affirmation in the mirror — the one I dressed in front of each day and the one this is the Word of God.”
I am praying for our family and church, that we would be messengers of the gospel to all people of all backgrounds.  That we would show and share Jesus with truth and love.  It will be far from easy and absolutely impossible without viable relationship.  
First Steps Out…

Crucify! Why the Crowd Killed Jesus…

Upon the recommendation of a good friend (and the fact that David C. Cook gave it away for free, for a limited time, did not hurt), I picked up Timothy J. Stoner’s Crucify!: Why the Crowd Killed Jesus.  I have to say that it was one of the best books that I have read this year.  And besides one of my all-time favorites (N.T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus), one of the best on the topic of the historical Jesus.

Though Stoner takes some liberty in explaining the motives and methods of the day, his narrative style brings the account to life.  Tension builds.  Truth is reveals.

My favorite quote was when the author suggests, “In the Garden of Eden, Eve demanded dignity and equality with God.  In lowly Nazareth, Mary gladly humbles herself and acknowledges her status as a mere servant.  Eve’s rebellion launched a cosmic conflict, while Mary’s free and voluntary choice to submit brought redemption to a world at war with itself and its Creator.  Although she does not know it, her simple words have ushered in hope, healing, and life for the entire cosmos” (34).

Merry Christmas!

Crucify! Why the Crowd Killed Jesus…