#50in55: My Absurd Goal to Read 50 Books Before 2016 (Pt2)

Pt. 2 [Books 8-14]

I love to read! I’m a pretty fast reader! With these super powers combined I’ve decided to attempt to read 5o books over the final 55 days of 2015. Some suggest that I might miss out on something reading at this pace but I’m not reading books faster than normal — just more often than normal (I’m looking at you Netflix). Here’s my takeaways from the books I’ve read so far:

Books 1-7

8 – The Mountain of the LORD – Roy Blizzard

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Quick Review: A basic discussion of the Temple Mount. This didn’t really add anything new or even interesting to the topic for me. The ebook is inexpensive ($3.99 at the time of this posting) so there’s some value in picking it up but there are way more interesting books on the topic.


9 – Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins – Annette Simmons

Rating: ★★★★☆

Quick Rating: Love this book. This is all about storytelling…something I love! The author argues that as we become more and more proficient at telling stories we can significantly increase our ability to lead/impact those around us. Great read – I’m planning on picking up some other books from Annette Simmons soon.


10 – Fagin the Jew – Will Eisner

Rating: ★★★★★

Quick Review: This is a really interesting graphic novel that views the story of Oliver Twist from the perspective of the character Fagin [the Jew]. As a friend of mine, George, noted, “He was ahead of his time!” A Contract with G_d is on my reading list — hopefully before the end of the year.


11 – Living into Community – Christine D. Pohl

Rating: ★★★★☆

Quick Review: I was already a fan of Pohl and the author’s previous book ‘Making Room‘ and this book has only added to my fandom. The 1st part of the book is particularly wonderful – a great defining and reshaping of the hopes of community that should be a part of our church. The end of the book was a bit too practical – I’m more of a fan of vision casting so this bogged down a bit for me. Overall — Excellent.

12 – Dead Aid – Dambisa Moyo

Rating: ★★★★★

Quick Review: This book was very insightful. I’d recommend this to anyone interested in unintended consequences of aid. Moyo really walks the reader through all of the pitfalls and systemic problems that have been created by Government aid to Africa. One can only imagine that this is not exclusive to Africa but in any situation that behavior is dictated by large sums of money in aid.

13 – Disunity in Christ – Christena Cleveland

Rating: ★★★★★

Quick Review: Cleveland does a wonderful job in this book of demonstrating how our differences have continued to set up boundaries. This book does a wonderful job of encouraging each of us to step outside of what’s comfortable and ‘normal’ in order to engage with others with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and cultures. A must read for the church today!

14 – Missing Microbes – Martin J. Blaser

Rating: ★★★★★

Quick Review: This is an extraordinarily fascinating book about enzymes in our systems. The potential danger of our love of antibiotics and what illness/consequences we may face because of their effectiveness at eliminating many of the microbes that are necessary for our lives. This book had my attention the entire time. Well written and compelling.


Thanks for following along – what books are you reading right now? Feel free to leave suggestions or your reviews in the comments! Thanks.

Forgive them…

Today, on Facebook, I posted a couple of thoughts on the direction some of my fellow Christians are heading in regards to the topics du jour (Open Borders, Terrorist Attacks, & Holiday Offenses).

A dear friend of mine asked me how I thought we should respond to those that have caused harm and our enemies. This is so complicated, but it got me to thinking about Jesus’ and, maybe more strikingly, Stephen’s response to those in process of murdering them:

Forgive them

These words haunt me. I can’t really comprehend them on a couple levels. First they confound me because I’m representative of privilege and power (White, Male, Cis-Gender) and therefore I’ve never experienced anything remotely close to persecution. Additionally, when I do face inconveniences (that’s the most I can bring myself to call any ‘plight’ in my life) I find it extraordinarily difficult to think in a manner that reflects these verses. So where does this leave me? Us? Christians?

I don’t know.

We’ve all experienced so many different things in this life. Heaven and hell. Peace and turmoil. Power and oppression. Some of us have had lives that have weighed down one side of this scale more so than the other. Personal experience(s) will ultimately be what shapes our ideals in regards to solutions.

Though I want to leave room for our conclusions to differ, I’d like to call us to consider some common foundations.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7.24-27 [NIV]


The Marginalized: Jesus was very concerned about how we treat those caught up in the repercussions of oppression. Hungry, Naked, Imprisoned were (and I’d argue still are) all categories of the oppressed in first century Jerusalem. Being occupied by the Romans meant subjugation to strict laws and taxes. Many of which led to extreme violence (Jesus was but one of thousands crucified) towards the marginalized and poor. What did Jesus ask of the people in these situations? Nothing, in fact, in some mystical and beautiful way, he identified himself as one of them. (“I was hungry and you fed me…”)

G_d always demanded of Israel to welcome the foreigner and stranger because it was only a short trip through their collective memory to the days of their own oppression in Egypt. Remembering is a powerful tool for G_d’s people.

17 You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. 18 Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lordyour God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

19 When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. 20 When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. 22 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.  — Deuteronomy 24.17-22 [NRSV]

How do we begin to recognize who is a member of the marginalized and who is the oppressor? How can we identify ourselves within those that have been marginalized?

The Oppressor: “Turn the other cheek…” — we love to quote this when it benefits us but we are way less likely to quote this passage in moments like those in Paris, Beirut, Nigeria & Too Many More in 2015 alone. Does this mean we just lie down and be trampled? In the words of St. Paul, “Heavens no!” (Romans 6.2). I’d argue that these are not the words of someone that stands idly by while the world burns down around them. Rather if we read this in context we discover that turning the other cheek (or walking an extra mile) is actually a non-violent way of standing against the oppressor. Jesus asks his followers to find creative (and effective) ways to stand up and against those who might try to force your submission.

And of course the powerful words quoted above: “Forgive them…”

How do we stand up to those who would desire to make us submit to their wicked intentions? How must we do this in a manner that reflects the teachings of Jesus?


So where does this leave us? Because there are so many other sayings of Jesus to consider (ie. “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” Mt. 5.44 though we tend to prefer 5.43).

I don’t have the answer(s) for how to respond to these heinous acts against our neighbors but I do believe Scripture gives us some amazing foundations from which to begin the discourse. Though I don’t know the ‘answer’ I do know that the answer is NOT preying on one another for the sake of being viewed as ‘right.’

We must remember that even at the moment of torture and imminent death Jesus was teaching us what it means to be about forgiveness and reconciliation. This is offensive not to those we extend the olive branch but to our own sensibilities. I pray we work hard together to find a faithful way forward.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.


#50in55: My Absurd Goal to Read 50 Books Before 2016

I love to read! I’m a pretty fast reader! With these super powers combined I’ve decided to attempt to read 5o books over the final 55 days of 2015. Some suggest that I might miss out on something reading at this pace but I’m not reading books faster than normal — just more often than normal (I’m looking at you Netflix). Here’s my takeaways from the books I’ve read so far:

1 – How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass – Christopher DiCarlo

Rating: ★★★✯☆ [3.5]

Quick Review: I really enjoyed this book. It was a strange book to begin with because those closest to me know this title is something I perfected quite some time ago. ;)    — [are emoticons allowed on blogs?]

The heart of the book is critical thinking and sound arguments, wrapped up in a humorous but forthright tone. Anyone interested in critical thinking and questioning should enjoy this book.

2 – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen

Rating: ★★★★✯ [4.5]

Quick Review: When you set a goal of fifty books in fifty-five days [#50in55] you would be wise to begin with a book like this. David Allen does an excellent job of helping you set aside some of the more traditional concepts of organization and change them up. It’s about mental clutter as much as it is about physical clutter on one’s desktop (Analog or Digital). If you’re an organization/get-things-done kinda person you will appreciate this title and all the tips/ideas in includes.

3 – Legacy Code (Book 2) – Autumn Kalquist

Rating: ★★★★★

Quick Review: I’m a sucker for sci-fi and Autumn Kalquist’s stuff hooked me. She’s a self-published author who has really captured my attention. I’ve become an evangelist of sorts for her books amongst my friends/family. The books are relatively short and inexpensive. I will read anything Kalquist writes for the foreseeable future.

4 – The Gospel of John, An Actual Translation – Roy Blizzard III

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Quick Review: The formatting for this ebook was almost unreadable. I haven’t read the ‘dead tree’ version so it may be better. I value Blizzard’s desire to show the Ancient Jewish imagery and language in the Gospel of John and I will likely use it as a resource at times but I probably won’t recommend it too often.

5. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach

Rating: ★★★★★

Quick Review: Stop reading this blog and go read this book! Seriously – go now! This is a beautiful parable about life, living, and being. I had been recommended this book by some dear friends and only regret not taking up their recommendation sooner. If you like short stories with depth and beauty you’ll find this to be a go-to book for a long time to come.

6. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories – B.J. Novak

Rating: ★★★★☆

Quick Review: Great. Meh. Funny. Meh. Engaging. Meh. This is seemingly the pattern the book takes. There are amazing stories and pretty mundane [meh] stories. I waffled a bit on the rating because there are many stories that should’ve been edited out but other ones are quite excellent. How does one rate a book like this? I’m an optimist so I went with a 4 instead of a 3 — but reader be warned you might not like these.

7. Humble Inquiry – Edgar H. Schein

Rating: ★★★★★

Quick Review: I’m a sucker for Questions! This book helps the reader understand the value of a good question. We’ve been trained to be ‘The Answer Person’ when in all reality the best leaders tend to be the best questioners. I was told that Schein’s other books are equally excellent.

These are the first seven of my #50in55. I’ve actually read 13 so far, but you’ll have to wait for those reviews!

What are you reading? What are your recommendations? Please post your ratings/reviews/recommendations in the comments section below [this could be one blog post where folks want to ‘scroll down’].