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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

There’s been lots of hubbub going around about U2’s new album, No Line on the Horizon.  In the past I haven’t gotten too into the whole U2 thing (I think I might still prefer Coldplay), but after hearing all the positive feedback this new album was getting I decided to pick it up for myself (thanks, iTunes) and check it out.  I’ve been listening to it a lot lately, and I must say, I’m impressed.  Here’s a taste of what I’m really enjoying about this album:

Deep lyrics, a familiar tune infused with fresh melodies.  The whole album is good.  Give it a listen.

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The Shack I’ve been looking forward to reading Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack for quite some time now, so when I received the book for Christmas this year I couldn’t wait to get into it.  There’s been quite a bit of controversy surrounding this book, and since it had been recommended to me by at least 5 people I figured it was one I should pick up.

Basically, Young weaves for the reader a tale of Mac, a man who, having faced incredible tragedy in his life, ends up encountering God (the trinity) for a weekend at the place that most represents the pain of his past.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind when reading The Shack is that, while based on Christian Theology, it is still a fictional book.  Young paints a beautiful and mesmerizing picture of the trinity – Papa (God the Father), Jesus and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit) have conversations and interactions with Mack that brilliantly portray the beauty of the Trinity.

I was slightly disappointed with the ending of the book (which I won’t reveal for those of you who haven’t read it), but I still highly recommend it.  Anyone who needs a bit of new life breathed into their understanding of God should pick up this book.  It will challenge you and it will inspire you.

There’s a reason why it was a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

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My sister has recently got me hooked on singer-songwriter JJ Heller.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been so refreshed by such grace-filled lyrics and haunting melodies (perhaps since Missy Higgins?).  Over the course of 4 or 5 days, the songs from her albums “Only Love Remains” (2006) and “The Pretty and the Plain” (2007) have come incredibly close to landing among some of the most played songs in my iTunes library.  I’ve been especially hooked on the title track to the 2006 album Only Love Remains (maybe this has something to do with the fact that I’m pretty sure Kristen has been running the song on repeat for approximately the last 203849822 hours in the room next door).

Usually such repeated play of a song causes me to get sick of a song really fast, but every once in a while a song comes around that deserves such airtime.  Such a song is one that resonates deeply in the core of my being – one that needs to be soaked in through the pores and made part of one’s being.  This is one of those songs.  So, here are the lyrics and a video of a live performance.  Let it permeate your soul.  Mmmhmm.

Scenes of you come rushing through
You are breaking me down
So break me into pieces
That will grow in the ground
I know that I deserve to die
For the murder in my heart
So be gentle with me Jesus
As you tear me apart

Please kill the liar
Kill the thief in me
You know that I am tired of their cruelty
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

You burn away the ropes that bind
And hold me to the earth
The fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth
I begin to see reality
For the first time in my life
I know that I’m a shadow
But I’m dancing in your light

Teach me to be humble
Call me from the grave
Show me how to walk with you upon the waves
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains


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How To Think TheologicallyThis book was required reading for Introduction to Theological Education.  I found it to be a pretty thorough overview on the topic of theological reflection.  The authors begin by laying a solid foundation for theological reflection, stressing the fact that everyone is a theologian, because everyone (particularly anyone who follows Christ) has to engage in theological reflection as part of their daily lives.  They discuss some basics of theological reflection, such as the difference between embedded theology and deliberative theology and using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (Scripture, tradition, reason, experience) as a resource for theological reflection.  Following this foundational work, the authors seek to engage their readers in the practice of theological reflection through a series of exercises dealing with various theological topics.

I’d probably give this book a four-ish star rating (out of five) as a resource.  The authors lay out the topic well, but the subject matter can come off as confusing and frustrating if you don’t know much about theology before picking up the book.

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Starting Right Starting Right: Thinking Theologically about Youth Ministry could, quite possibly be the best book ever written on the topic of youth ministry.  At the very least, it is the best academic text book (partly because it is the only one) on youth ministry.  It had been sitting on my bookshelf for almost a year before I picked it up, and I find it rather unfortunate that it took me that long.  It was the first of three required reading books for my seminary course on Ministry to Students in the Church.

The entire text of the book is based upon the premise that in order to effectively minister to youth in any setting, one must be firmly rooted in their theological beliefs.  Kenda Creasy Dean refers to these foundational beliefs as our theological rocks and defines them as “the convictions about who God is and what God is about that are normative for everything we do” (Dean 2001, 17).  In other words, our theological rocks are those beliefs we hold that are absolutely essential to our Christian faith and practice.  These core beliefs affect everything we do in youth ministry:  “Our theological rocks affect how we develop an evening youth program, approach a sermon, handle conflict, engage parents, plan a retreat, counsel teenagers, [and] relate to our own families” (Dean 2001, 17).  Everything that follows in Starting Right builds off of this foundational premise of firmly rooting ourselves by identifying our theological rocks.  Building on this theological foundation, Starting Right is developed into a well-organized manifesto of practical theology for those who minister to youth, beseeching them to put their core theological beliefs into practice as they minister to adolescents.  My own ministry practices in youth ministry have been greatly tested and affected by the ideas presented in this book.

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