Friday, February 27, 2009


Hey everybody!

Why do I feel the need to write on this thing so late at night? I have no idea. Well, actually, I do have some ideas but they aren't that important.

Tonight's entry will be some book recommendations. I was going to say "reviews" but honestly, I liked all of them so I will just tell you a little about them and then you can go read.

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

Ok, I heard about this book a little while ago and actually watched a seminar the author did at Google headquarters last year. I wanted to read it but never wanted to drop 20 bucks on it. So imagine my joy when I went home for winter break and my mom just comes up to me and says, "oh, I just bought this book. It looks interesting." And there it was. So naturally, I read it in two days.

Keller spends the first half of the book dealing with common doubts about God and Christianity and spirituality that people have and does it with a lot of respect for the doubters. He knows his stuff, people. If you are at all familiar with the arguments he mentions, which I am, it makes the book that much more readable. the next half of the book is his reasons for why he thinks Christianity is true. I thought the best chapter in this section was "The Knowledge of God." In this chapter he proposes that everyone "knows" there is a God but they just don't acknowledge it. We all know what is right and wrong, but why? what is our moral standard? There is a lot more to his argument than that but I will let you read the book for it. If you want some good brain food, pick this one up. Speaking of brain food . . .

Culture Making by Andy Crouch

Hot diggity dog this was a fun book. I am on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and every so often they send me a chunk of new book that IV Press is releasing. This one just came in the mail. I read it about a month later. It was probably the most interesting book I have read in the last two or three years. I was glued to every page.

Crouch's thesis is that Christians have typically taken four postures towards the larger culture (never mind the four chapters he spends defining culture!): condemning it, critiquing it, copying it, and consuming it. None of these are inherently bad, but they fall short of what God intended for us. He argues that we are called to cultivate culture, that is, to develop that which is good and make it better, and create culture. This is a book I will almost certainly be reading again. I HIGHLY recommend it.

I Once Was Lost by Don Everts and Doug

Another book that was just sent to me. I know both of the guys who wrote this book and have an enormous amount of respect for them and the work they do and who they are as people and Jesus followers. This is a book about what it looks like for "postmodern" people to come to faith in Jesus. They have, through interviewing over 2,000 college age people who have become Christians in the last decade, discovered five thresholds that people go through on their journey to faith. The first is simply learning to trust a Christian. Anyone who interacts with non-believers these days knows who big that is. The second is becoming curious about Jesus. The third is being open to letting Jesus change and challenge them. The fourth is seeking hard after answers to their questions. The fifth is actually becoming a committed Jesus follower.

For each stage they offer stories and practical advice for people coming alongside their friends. This book is SOOOOO helpful in learning about where different people are and what might be helpful to them. Again, I HIGHLY recommend this one. I recommend it even higher if you work in ministry with young people.

And now for some fun reading. Once or twice a year I dive into wonderful escapist fiction. This last year, I took a stab at some authors who were new to me. These are both fantasy books that deal with magic and wizards and dragons and such. I will review the trilogies as sets and not the individual books.

The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb

I had never read anything by Robin Hobb but some good friends of mine were pretty keen on these books so I thought I would give them a try. The three books in the Liveship Traders series are Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, and Ship of Destiny. The basic story revolves around a family of traders who work on ships made of a special wood that actually comes to life after three generations have lived aboard the ship. It is a pretty interesting concept. Think "Pirates of the Caribbean" only way less confusing and with better characters. Of course, no story about ships and sailing would be complete without pirates. And oh, are there pirates in this one. The villain, Kennit, is a wonderfully complex character. I never knew whether to root for him or hate his guts. There is a side story involving a group of sea serpents that I didn't really like until I figured out where it was going. These books were pretty stinking good. I loved the characters. That was probably the best thing about them. I can read just about any story about anything as long as the characters are real and believable. All that to say, these are a good summer read. Enjoy!

The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind

I am saving the best for last here. I have only read the first three of a twelve book series, but wow, these were so much fun to read. It was the beginning of winter break and I wanted some good fiction. I went to Borders and almost picked up another Robin Hobb book, but then the Terry Goodkind shelf caught my eye. I will admit, I was drawn to the books not only because of their sleek cover art, but also because the books were thick. I thought I would get more for my money with a thicker book. I was not disappointed. The books I read were Wizard's First Rule, Stone of Tears, and Blood of the Fold.

The story, like most fantasy stories, begins with a guy from a middle of nowhere place who lives a normal life. Unbeknownst (that is a great word to write!) to him, he is a man of great destiny and importance. He is the Seeker. A true seeker. One who seeks the truth in all circumstances. He is called upon to fight against a man named Darken Rahl. How's that for a scary name? I won't get too much into the story here because it was just so much fun to discover it all as I went. There are so many twists and turns here. The characters are so alive! The bad guys are REALLY bad and the good ones all have serious flaws. These stories are very adult. What I mean is, they don't sugar coat anything. There are some really disturbing scenes here. Not for the faint of heart. For me, they just upped the realism, which is helpful in a story where people use magic and talk to dragons. The books also touch on themes that are very common to us all: friendship, loyalty, love, good vs. evil, and a lot of others. There are also great political questions raised. One of the most compelling parts of the story is where the heroine, Kahlan, must lead a group of 5,000 young men into battle against an army of 50,000 who are hell-bent on killing anyone in their path. I pretty much sat in my room all day and never stopped reading these. If you like fantsy, you will LOVE these books.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Have a Hilarious Life

She came in at 4:45am.

She said calmly but firmly, "Ok, it's time to wake up."

Then she held up an alarm clock that began playing a very pleasant (but loud) wake-up song.

I lifted my head from my sweatshirt pillow and smiled.

Scattered amongst the pews and all over the floor of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Long Beach, California, roughly 40 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff workers began to stir.

And I remember clearly thinking to myself, this is hilarious!

Cue the Lost flashback woosh.

I had flown to Long Beach with a few other staff from the northwest to do a Bible Study "dig-in" through the first four chapters of The Gospel of John at Campus By The Sea on Catalina Island. We were getting prepared for our big student missions conference, Urbana, coming up this winter. Oh, this is an important detail: It was raining.

In order to get to Catalina, you have to take a boat. I would say ferry, but then you might be tempted to picture a large boat filled with cars, like in Seattle. This was a boat. It was much closer to the type of thing that takes you from Pier 39 to Alcatraz than the thing that takes you from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Although, come to think of it, those are called ferries too. how about a picture. Yes? Our boat was supposed to leave around noon.

We showed up at 11am and waited. Gradually, more and more staff trickled in. I can always spot InterVarsity staff at a terminal. Yes, this time I was specifcally waiting for them, but it reminded me of all the times I have been at airports and seen people I KNEW were IV staff. There is just something about us. I don't know if I can put my finger on it.

The weather had not changed but I did not expect that to be a problem because I was used to the Seattle ferries and they had never seemed to rocky. But we soon received an announcement that our boat had been canceled. I heard something about "gale-force winds." I am no sailor, but that sounds bad. We waited around for a little while and ate lunch. I led some of my friends through "The Cube" and talked politics. Aren't stimulus packages fun? That's what she said. Moving on!

The next ferry was supposed to leave at 2. aaaaaaaaaand it got canceled. So our leader, Bruce, said we would be moving to a church where we would be for the rest of the day. We had work to do and couldn't let something petty like gale-force winds stop us. IV4Life! So we packed up and migrated to the church. Along the way I learned the difference between GPS and triangulating your position. That is a nice way of saying we got a little lost and the iPhone was not much help, but it was still so cool!

After a few hours of digging in to John, and taking a wonderful little cheap shot at the staff from USC (Go BEAVS!!!) it was time to turn in for the night . . . BUT we had to get on the first ferry out and that sucker was leaving at 6:15 in the a.m. And the really fun thing was that the only place for all of us to sleep was on the floor in the sanctuary. So that was where we slept.

So why was this hilarious?

Come on! How many companies can expect something like that from their employees and receive virtually NO complaining? How many could do that and have everyone feel like it was a normal thing to happen? I can't really think of any. And that is why InterVarsity Staff are awesome.

What's even better is that was just the beginning. I learned a little something about "residual swells" on that boat ride. Apparently when the gale-force winds stop, the waves think it is fun to still be huge and make you want to throw up. Then we went to this crazy island that had wild bison running around. Yes, BISON. We stayed in cabins with no electricity. The camp looked like New Otherton (for all those Lost fans out there). There was even a patch of ground that looked like a hatch had blown up in it. Oh, and my friend got eaten by a monster made of black smoke. Ok, that last one isn't true but wouldn't that have been SO COOL!!??!?!

And then we studied the Bible for two days. Who does that?

That is why I have a hilarious life. And I love it.

We have to go back Kate!!! We have to go BACK!!!!