Friday, April 12, 2013

Book Review - King of Torts - John Grisham

Oh, the temptations of materialism.
A young lawyer stumbles into a few incredibly lucrative class action lawsuits.  Initially, he is both awed and disgusted by the flagrant waste, luxury, arrogance, and greed of the other class-action lawyers.  But rather quickly he is sucked into their way of life - including a private jet and a vacation home in the Caribbean.  However, a few bad decisions and a little bad luck lead to the total unraveling of his little empire.
On the surface, King of Torts is just a quick read about the follies of the superrich and the easy-come-easy-go nature of wealth.  Dig deeper, though, and open your own heart a little, and Grisham's scalpel begins to probe our own hearts as well.
How often do our own desires increase in proportion to our increasing income?  For those of us who have experienced financial growth or increasing income, we know the experience of buying luxuries we thought were frivolous when we had less money.  We may have even looked down on those who "wasted" their money on such things.
Materialism doesn't always have price tags in the millions.  It doesn't even have to be double digits.  The little stuff can be just as materialistic as the big stuff, and we can just as easily get sucked in to consuming more and more, with more and more recklessness.
The other little moral of this story is patience and prudence.  Slow and steady discipline usually wins the race over the big all-or-nothing gambles.  Just spend a little less and save a little more, and you'll be amazed at the financial security that slowly develops in your life.
I love it when entertaining fiction also speaks truth into my life.  Well done again, Mr. Grisham.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review - Building a Discipling Culture - Mike Breen

Best book I've ever read on how to do church.  Hands down.
The writing is not knock your socks off.  The cool factor is fairly low.  The editing is a little lacking.
But the concepts ...  WOW!

Here is a brief rundown.
  • If you set out to make disciples, you will inevitably build the Church.  If you set out to build the Church, there is no guarantee that you will make disciples.  This is by far the most simple, most profound and most radical concept in the book.
  • Everyone needs to be discipled by someone and actively discipling someone (or at least moving toward it).  This in itself is not radical or new.  People have been talking about this for centuries.  What is unique for our era is an actual plan for how to do this and the expectation that it can, must, and will be done.  We are actually asking people to model after us - so we better get our lives in line with what we see in Jesus!
  • Discipleship takes a great deal of time, intentionality, relationship, and personal investment.  If we are genuinely going to disciple someone, we have to invite them deeply into our lives.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Review

I couldn't put it down.  Bathroom, bedroom, living room, breakfast table, car, mechanic.  I read it at every free moment until I was done.
Stieg Larsson deftly blends the narratives of the super-rich, struggling sociological outsiders, midlevel power players, abusers, and victims.  Its backdrop in Sweden, although obvious from the names of people and places, actually had almost no impact on the accessibility of the story for me as an American.  I instantly related to the themes of power, relationship, justice, identity, and discovery.
However, reader beware.  This is not a book for people with weak hearts or sensitive minds.  Violence and sexual abuse are major factors in the story.
On the other hand, without giving away the plot, I always love it when hope emerges out of the ashes of the pain.  Larson beautifully plumbs the depths of human pain, yet he also follows through to hope without the slightest bit of sentimental cheese.  Well done, sir.  Well done.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book Review: "The Client" by John Grisham

The Client reads fast and rips your heart out slow.  A couple of kids in a trailer park stumble upon a mob lawyer just as he's about to commit suicide.  Out of a mixture of curiosity and compassion, they get sucked into the mess.  One boy ends up learning where a certain celebrity body is buried.  Then, the lawyer bites a bullet from his own gun.
The rest of the story is the kid trying to find a way out of the mess he stumbled into without harming his family in the process.  He is being chased by the mob and the Feds, and he is a poignant mixture of crafty and helpless, cunning and innocent.
In addition to its sheer enjoyment value,  The Client offers a beautiful little glimpse into the lives of an underprivileged family.  They are simply struggling to survive amid tragically difficult circumstances, yet they maintain steady love and grace for each other.  That's one of the things I love about Grisham.  He can deliver a profound message without the reader ever being aware that a sermon lies between the lines of the narrative.  Well done, sir.  Well done.

Monday, April 1, 2013

When Jesus Needs a Fire Extinguisher

A few pastoral reflections.
1. Always test fire related special effects on the real stage before the real event.
2. Maybe fire related special effects are not a good thing for church services in general.
3. Always have a singer who can keep singing incredibly no matter what.
4. Always have a guy who will run up and grab the flaming stone door and rush it out of the sanctuary.
5. This will be one of those events that is permanently seared into the memory (and carpet) of this church.  (I was --- old when the stage caught on fire at the Easter production.)
6. Did Jesus just kick down a burning door and walk through a wall of flames?  That's cool, no matter what you say.