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WILLIAM SIRLS: The Reason
I’ll mention some similarities to The Shack in a moment, but one similarity that exists outside the pages itself is the fact that neither The Shack nor The Reason were ever intended to be seen by a larger audience. Wm. Paul Young wrote the former for his kids with the initial “print” run being a dozen copies. Photocopies really. William Sirls wrote the latter and submitted it to Westbow, a self-publishing division of Thomas Nelson, Inc (TNI) to be available in print on demand, until it was read by a TNI receptionist who had an eye for good writing.
Sirls is an unlikely author. As covered here earlier, “…Sirls, who began writing a novel in 2004, shelved his story after he made the decision to turn himself in to authorities and spend 29 months in federal prison, convicted of wire fraud and money laundering. While in prison, Sirls began to understand what it meant to have a true relationship with God. Inspired by his developing faith, Sirls picked up his original manuscript and began creating a spiritual backbone to his novel.“
Like The Noticer by Andy Andrews, and So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore by Jake Colsen (pseud.), William Sirls’ book contains a character who seems to have unusually deep insights into people and events both past, present and future. Is he more than what he appears to be?
Like the currently popular Rooms, The Book of Days, and The Chair by James Rubart, The Reason contains a continually advancing plot, a good mix of male and female protagonists — nice to see more fiction men can enjoy — and supernatural occurrences.
Like The Shack, this book, The Reason contains a crisis or if you will, a “great sadness.” Or several. Not to mention several characters in a crisis of faith.
And like all of these, The Reason uses a fair amount of “Socratic dialogue” to give the complete work a didactic or teaching value without compromising considerations of plot and characterization. There is enough character balance that the tough questions of life are addressed in a manner that isn’t preachy or ‘churchy’ resulting in a book that could be given — or should be given — to people outside the faith family.
The ultimate message of believing faith in The Reason probably answers as many questions as it creates new ones. I certainly couldn’t stop reading this book, and I suspect it will be among the top ten Christian titles heading into the fall season.
STEVEN FURTICK: Greater
Somewhere early on in the book Greater: Dream Bigger, Start Smaller, Ignite Gods Vision For Your Life Steven Furtick comments that where his first book — Sun Stand Still — invited people to “pray audacious prayers,” in this book he wants to invite people to “live audacious lives.”
I say “somewhere” because normally when I read a book to review here, I grab a half sheet of white paper — which also acts as a bookmark — and as the reading progresses, I note different words and phrases that I want to incorporate in the review, and I also note page numbers for excerpts at my other blog. That process fell apart with Greater; I just kept reading and reading and before too long I had a completed book and a blank sheet of paper.
So now what to write?
Greater is based on the life of the prophet Elisha, who asked his mentor, Elijah, for a double portion of all that Elijah had and did; which is remarkable when you consider Elijah on Mount Carmel, and the fact we know that story but can’t always quickly recite an Elisha story. But Steven Furtick argues that certainly Elisha did receive a greater portion.
Three things stand out to me on reflection, and in the absence of more detailed notes.
First of all, I continue to gain respect for all that Steven Furtick has accomplished and is doing at Elevation Church in Charlotte. He shares more of his personal story in Greater but does so in a way that relates to those of us who haven’t started a megachurch lately. While some of us spent our teen years rocking to Top 40 radio, Steven went to work playing and replaying sermon audio of great classic preachers, learning every nuance and cadence of their teaching. You sense that this is a unique person for whom God had a unique calling; yet at the same time he writes to the average person whose job may not seem as spiritual and may not be as high profile, and to those who may not currently have a job at all.
Second, while my mom enjoyed Sun Stand Still, I was much more aware this time around of a writing style that would strongly connect with a reader in their thirties, twenties or even teens. (Greater doesn’t need a youth edition; the book is the youth edition!) Christian book readers, meet your next generation author. But Furtick also bridges the generations that will read his book; when he speaks of an experience as a young man burning his (secular) CD collection, he stops to remind his younger readers that by burning he doesn’t mean duplicating.
Finally, Steven Furtick has the ability to extract a teachable moment from absolutely anything. I’d mention a few, but they’d all be spoilers… Okay, one: Have you ever been at a football game where a referee’s ruling is sent ‘upstairs’ for a second opinion? An announcement over the public address system begins, “Upon further review…” Well, as they say on Seinfeld, in this book, “that’s an episode.” Analogies like that stick with you and come back to you in the moment you need that extra shot of faith.
PETE WILSON: Empty Promises
I am biased.
I have read every book Pete Wilson has ever written — both of them — but I came to the first already a huge fan after years of reading Pete’s blog. When Plan B released, I raved, “I believe that with this single book, Pete Wilson moves outside the circle of American pastors and bloggers and into the arena of people we consider major Christian voices for this generation.” But it wasn’t just hype.
But with Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing, I wasn’t sure if the second book could live up to the superlatives I had heaped on the first.
Not to worry. This book is a class act. I want to explain why in a moment, but first, I need to say that Empty Promises is about our various attempts to pursue happiness and satisfaction in life by chasing after and striving for the material things or marks of status that we think will help us attain that personal fulfillment. Of course — spoiler alert! — the end result is that the peace, joy, contentment and completeness we are looking for can only be found in knowing Jesus Christ.
But most of you who read this blog also read Pete’s blog, and you know him and wife Brandi and the three boys with the hip names, so I know you’re going to buy the book in some form or other; so let’s move on to why I think the book works so well.
First, there is the transparency of the author. There were times I cringed as I was reading, thinking, ‘Pete! What are you doing? Don’t you know some of the people who attend your church are going to be reading this?’ Especially when Pete shares about ending a recent phone call with church board members and then raking his hand across the desk sending everything flying. You’re not supposed to share those kind of stories. It spoils the pretense that keeps our Evangelical system working so well. Pastors can’t experience moments of brokenness, can they? That would make them… well… human.
Second, there is the obvious amount of work that goes into crafting any book. I remarked here awhile ago that I would love to see the large pieces of chart paper that a certain fiction writer must have tacked to his walls to detail the plot line of an obviously complicated book. It’s the same with non-fiction, though. There are quotations and footnotes to be sure, but each chapter, and each paragraph has to have a specific purpose. Put too much into one chapter and people miss the individual points. Put too little in, and the book is shallow. The forethought that goes into a book dictates a certain pacing will result and this book reminded me of that so well.
Third, there is the high value that is placed on scripture throughout each section. It’s like I’m conversing Pete — and listening to the weekly internet service from Cross Point means I am actually hearing his voice as I read — and at each juncture he’s saying, “You know that reminds of that time in the Bible where…” followed by a related text. There is a lot of scripture in Empty Promises. Which reminds me, if anyone tells you that the only way to teach the Bible is verse-by-verse exegesis, then hand them this book, okay?
Fourth, the DNA of the entire book can be found in each chapter, and on each page. Seriously. Rip a page out of the book and give it to someone and you’ve given them the essence of the whole. Except the page with the desk-raking story. Then again, maybe that page, too. I can’t say this about every book, or even most books that I’ve read, but it’s really evident that the essence of the book is written into every page.
Some will feel I’ve more dissected the book than anything, but I really feel that this is a writer who truly resonates with the average Joe or Joanne. Whether that’s because of his transparency, the conversational yet rich text, the identification with the various Bible stories used as examples, or the consistency of the message throughout; it’s hard not to see the book as though one is holding up a mirror to their own life.
Pete calls the book a “diagnostic” and that’s really what we need; because, as a culture, we in The West are chasing after all the entirely wrong things.
Read an excerpt from Empty Promises at Christianity 201
A copy of the book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Catch Cross Point Live at 6:00 PM Central Time, Sundays with live Q & A
or catch the Empty Promises series anytime at crosspoint.tv
CRAIG GROESHEL: Detox
This review has been the longest time in coming, because I’ve been reading the book out loud for our family Bible study time, half a chapter per night. I did not set out to do this, but the guys were enjoying Soul Detox: Clean Living in a Contaminated World by Craig Groeshel (Zondervan), so we kept on going. (I should have offered to do the audio version, and killed two birds with one reading.)
It was interesting reading Soul Detox right after reading Empty Promises by Pete Wilson. In both books, we’re reminded how much we’re saturated by the dominant culture, and with both books we’re dealing with authors who are terribly candid, incredibly transparent.
Craig Groeshel is the pastor of Life Church, better known as lifechurch.tv — a multi-campus church (15 at last count) based in Oklahoma. He’s also the author of The Christian Atheist: Believing in God as If He Doesn’t Exist, Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working, and It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It. My personal exposure to Craig was heretofore limited to the Swerve leadership blog, the teaching series that resulted in Weird and the Chazown video series.
Like the rest of the family, I enjoyed Soul Detox. With a healthy dash of scripture, Craig relies principally on powerful illustrations, mostly from his own ministry life experiences. The book is divided into three sections
- Toxic Behaviors
- Toxic Emotions
- Toxic Influences
and each of these is divided into four chapters, with the twelve chapters total making this a natural choice for an elective or small group study for which, yes, a DVD curriculum just happens to be available. However, you could really dive into the book anywhere, since the overarching message is a constant throughout each section and chapter.
Doing what preachers do best, Groeshel sermonizes throughout, but then this book is about rebuke, exhortation and encouragement; it’s a call to repentance, a call to life change.
With each chapter further subdivided into 8-10 specific examples or teaching sections, this book is a resource I intend to keep handy, especially at times where the world — especially as it streams into our homes via the online conduit — is too much with us. We need to be constantly reminded of the soul pollution that is taking place and make intentional decisions that will bring about detoxification.
JIM CYMBALA: Spirit Rising
While your ideal trip to New York City might include tickets to a Broadway show, my ideal visit would coincide with prayer meeting night at the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
It’s not the famed Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, although that would be great; but just the idea of attending a service at a church where they break all the rules of what a North American church service is supposed to look like is enough for me to covet the experience. Where they follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Where they like loud music but aren’t afraid of silence; even extended silence. Where people line up around the block waiting for the doors to open on Sunday. Where people arrive two hours early for midweek prayer meeting because they want to spend more time in God’s presence. Where people get saved from crime, from crack, from prostitution.
This is actually a book review; and what you’ve just read above is really my biggest takeaway from reading Spirit Rising: Learning to Tap Into the Power of the Holy Spirit, the newest in a line of books by Brook Tab pastor Jim Cymbala. That’s it. Something good is happening there. Jim wants to share it. My guess is that he’s hoping some of it becomes contagious and spreads to your city or even your house of worship. With a healthy balance of teaching and amazing testimonies, this is a book that will transform your expectations of what can do.
For the many who read Francis Chan’s Forgotten God, here’s a book if you want to go deeper into understand the person and work of the Holy Spirit. If you’re a church leader or pastor who wants to be inspired for greater things, this book could be your game changer.
MARK O. WILSON: Filled Up Poured Out
This weekend I had the pleasure of reading Filled Up, Poured Out: How God’s Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose by Mark O. Wilson (Wesleyan Publishing House, March 2012), pastor of Hayward Wesleyan Church in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Although the endorsement on the book’s cover by Mark Batterson indicates this as a book for pastors and church leaders, it is so much more than that.
Wilson has put everything in this book except the kitchen sink. It’s an encouragement collection of stories, quips, analogies, adages, and many scripture references. I hesitate to introduce comparisons, but I would think of this as a large glass of water for someone engaged in Christian service who finds themselves running dry; or an energy bar for the person whose strength feels depleted.
He arranges the 190 pages into three sections: Vacuus, Repleo and Fluo. The first section sets the stage indicating the nature of the problem: 45.5% of pastors surveyed said they have experienced depression and burnout (p. 19) a stat which resonates with Mark’s own experience;
“I realized I had been depending on yesterday’s grace; failing to keep my spiritual life fresh and up to date. My soul was empty and needed to be replenished.” (p. 16, italics added)
The second section talks about the process of filling up, but he contends we need to be emptied before we can be refilled; which begins with confession and repentance. I quoted a section of this on the weekend at C201. I also loved this quotation:
Our job is to seek His way instead of demanding our own. Instead of me writing the check and asking God to sign it, I need to sign a blank check and ask God to write it. (p. 50; US-check = cheque-UK)
And several other insights for which I didn’t note page numbers; like this one, the response of a young boy who is given a fully grown St. Bernard for his birthday:
“Wow. That’s great. But is he mine or am I his?”
And this prayer:
“God. Your will. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else.”
The last section deals with the resulting overflow that results from being filled, and how that reflects in the life of the individual and the life of the church as a whole, in compassion ministries, holiness, and influencing both the local community and the world.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this; and I want to share the entire first chapter with you. This link will take you to a .pdf file sample of the introduction and chapter one.
We all face desert times in ministry and in our personal Christian pilgrimage. But times of refreshing are available even when the road is rough and the well runs dry.
** Read an excerpt from Spirit Rising at Christianity 201
JAMES RUBART: The Chair
My acquaintance with Christian fiction is growing but still extremely limited. The few books I have read — and greatly enjoyed — begin with a plot contrivance; where the author says, ‘Let’s hypothesize X, and then see where that takes us.’
In his third novel, The Chair, author James Rubart asks us to accept the premise that since Jesus spent his pre-ministry years in carpentry, he might have made objects — or at least one — which with great care could survive until the present age. Doesn’t the Bible say something like “he makes all things well?” (Mark 7:37) Rubart introduces his hypothesis on the very first page of the very first chapter, in case you missed it in the title. Good to get it out of the way, I suppose.
From there, the novel snakes through a series of twists and turns not unlike his two previous titles Rooms and The Book of Days. Somewhere, in James Rubart’s house, there must be a room where he spreads out giant sheets of flip-chart paper and figures out how to get his characters from beginning to end. There would have to be.
And Rubart does a lot of figuring out. You can really sense the research that goes into his books and the cultural references that give the story a vivid, three-dimensional texture. And yes, this is very much fiction for guys, but with enough relational dynamics and rich characters that women would enjoy it as well.
Some of the plot coincidences are serendipitous, I’m sure. How does Corin, the lead character get to do all the things he does and still hold down a job? Easy, put him in a retail sector where opening the store at noon is fully acceptable. Little touches like help The Chair to move from start to finish without credibility gaps.
So there’s a chair, and it appears to have supernatural qualities. Healing properties. And there are people who would like to own it. ‘Nuff said. This is a spoiler-free review.
I picked up yesterday on page 180 and read another 200 pages in an almost single sitting. “I will stop at this chapter;” I said, and then kept on going. And going and going. The book is published by a Christian publisher — B&H Fiction — but isn’t preachy. Honestly, if I were Rubart, I’d be negotiating subsidiary rights in the broader, ABA book market. Or film market. But despite its non-preachy tone, The Chair does ask the right question: What is true healing?
If someday you find yourself with a supernatural chair with healing properties, be sure to be careful what kind of healing you really need to ask for. Or expect.
Five stars out of five for each of plot, characters, and realism.
Here’s a review of The Book of Days
PHILIP YANCEY: What Good Is God?
Yes. I am biased.
Upon first reading The Jesus I Never Knew on a fall day fifteen years ago, I knew I had found a favorite author. So with great anticipation I looked forward to What Good is God (FaithWords) which released October 19th. I was not disappointed. This is a different book; it has a rhythm and cadence all its own; it is a book which will stretch any who read it, including Yancey aficionados like myself.
The format is quite different.
Divided into ten parts, each part contains two chapters which focus on a particular group of people, and a particular place in the world. This is a travelogue of sorts, and while you don’t have to spend the time in airport waiting rooms as did the author, you feel like you’ve earned some frequent flyer points by the time you turn the last page.
The first chapter in each of the ten sections describes Philip Yancey’s journey to a diverse set of places. As a journalist, travel ignites his writing. It also introduces the reason that finds him where he is in his role as a speaker. The second chapter in each of the sections is in fact the text of a speech (or in one case, a sermon) given to a diverse group of people.
But I didn’t know that ahead of time.
So the second chapter of the first part totally ambushed me. I am familiar with the feeling of tears welling up as one approaches the ending of a good book. I did not expect that to happen so soon as it did in the first part, with the text of Yancey’s address to the student body of Virginia Tech just days after the shooting there left more than a dozen fatalities, and just a few more days since Philip Yancey’s own traffic mishap in Colorado left him close to either death or paralysis.
In the sections that followed are speeches to business leaders in China, sex trade workers and the people who minister to them, the student body at his old Bible College, a Charismatic church in South Africa and members of the C. S. Lewis Society in Cambridge, England, an AA meeting, Christians in India and the middle east; and many others. These are speeches and addresses you and I would never get to hear, and would never be drawn to read were it not for the set-up in the previous chapter.
But what of the book’s title?
I believe the title prepares you more for something along the lines of a response to today’s militant or “New” atheists. Perhaps the marketing department at the publisher had something like that kind of hook in mind. However, the book doesn’t deliver along the lines of apologetics, and while I wasn’t at all let down, I hope purchasers will be appraised about its true content before they buy.
Rather, through its series of narratives, the book demonstrates that if anything, God is what’s good in the world. That on a global scale, Christianity is making a difference and on a personal level, this is a faith that works. The answer to the question the book’s title asks is found in the way that the Christian God infuses every area of life, especially those places of hurt and pain. This is Reaching for the Invisible God meets Where is God When it Hurts. Or maybe The Bible meets your morning newspaper.
Still, seeking resolution to the book’s title promise, I turned over the final page and immediately rushed back to the introduction. If I were not a believer, not a Christ follower, how would all these stories answer the title question?
Technology manufacturers have a phrase called “the tabletop test.” Engineers design wonderful new products: iPhones, netbooks, video game consoles, notebook computers, MP3 players, optical storage devices. But will the shiny new product survive actual use by consumers in the real world? What happens if it gets pushed off a table accidentally or dropped on a sidewalk? Will the device still work?
I look for similar tests in the realm of faith. My travels have taken me to places where Christians face a refiner’s fire of oppression, violence and plague…
When I spend time among such people, my own faith undergoes a tabletop test. Do I mean what I write from my home in Colorado?…
I must admit, my own faith would be much more perilous if I knew only the U.S. church, which can seem more like a self-perpetuating institution. Not so elsewhere. Almost always I return from my travels encouraged, my faith buoyed…
If a person had never read Philip Yancey before is this book a good place to start? Probably, I would recommend What’s So Amazing About Grace? For the rest of us, don’t miss this unique piece of writing from Philip which is, truly, as big as the whole world.
The full title is What Good is God: In Search of a Faith that Matters (Faith Words, hardcover, 287 pages, October 19, 2010; $23.99 US/$26.99 CAN)
Photo: Randal Olsson – The Christian Post
Sometimes you have a hunch about a book, even though it’s not one that you’ll ever read yourself. Obviously, I don’t fit the demographic for The V Society: The True Story of Rebel-Virgin Girls by Adele Berry, but I ordered a couple of copies of this book for our store. I think it will work well with late high school and college aged females who enjoy Rob Bell or Brian McLaren; people who are looking for something edgy and might also read Rachel Held Evans, who I reviewed here a week ago.
So I was interested when a few days ago I found a promotional trailer for the book. (You can also watch the video the book’s website.)
Only two videos had been posted on that account, so I got curious as to the other one. It’s actually a 89-second montage showing the actual printing of the V Society. In a world where the future of print books is being questioned, this film footage could serve as an historical document some day.
RACHEL HELD EVANS: Evolving in Monkey Town
I know it’s generally uncool for a blogger to review a book that’s two years old, but then again, I actually paid for my copy, so technically this isn’t a review review; whatever that means. I was more overcome with curiosity, having become a regular reader of Rachel’s blog.
Sometimes a great blogger does not a great book author make, but in this case — sorry, Rachel if this seems uncomplimentary — the book was far better than what I’m accustomed to reading each day in blogland. The thing that struck me was that the book was so readable; the first hundred pages flew by in a single sitting.
Rachel Held Evans’ title refers to growing up in the town that was the venue for the Scopes Monkey Trial, the trail concerning the teaching of evolution and creation in public schools that some Christians see as having been as pivotal as Roe v Wade. I’d love to say that it ends there, that Rachel isn’t personally a proponent of some kind of theistic evolution, but in fact, this is one of the issues she deals with.
And Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All The Answers Learned to Ask the Questions (Zondervan, paperback, June 2010) is definitely about raising the tough questions and allowing doubts to nurture somewhat without ending with a total abandonment of either God or some of the primary fundamentals of the conservative faith in which she was raised. To that end, this is a book that will appeal to readers of authors like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren.
It’s also a ‘growing up Christian’ type of memoir, and as Rachel herself admits, to do something of that nature while still in one’s twenties, is a bit of daunting task. This book will certainly resonate with anyone in Rachel’s demographic, or who identifies with postmodern culture.
While the book is edgy, it didn’t stir up the hornets’ nest that her next book — A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master — is bound to when it releases in late October. (See an article on this subject here at TOL.)
In the meantime, you’ve got Rachel’s blog to enjoy if you’re looking for more.
DAVID GREGORY: The Last Christian
The year is 2088…
Any kind of futuristic writing — both fiction and non-fiction — requires taking a great deal of risk. Especially if you incorporate technologies that some readers find just plain silly. What if the audience doesn’t see your vision of that era as plausible? A few bad reviews and your book is fodder for recycling.
Fortunately, David Gregory (Dinner With a Perfect Stranger, A Day With A Perfect Stranger) is able to navigate the future just fine, thank you. While he hasn’t lost the heart of an evangelist that so characterized his shorter works mentioned above, any apologetic in Last Christian is weaved into a much larger, much more complex plot.
That plot concerns biomedical advances that are becoming reality towards the end of the 21st century. But it’s the absence of religious ethics that characterizes the world in which these so-called ‘advances’ are taking place. Into that environment steps a character who is almost literally from another time. Someone who doesn’t fit into such a world. Someone who discovers that the unease is mutual.
As a mostly non-fiction reader, I now fully understand the meaning of the oft-used, “that was real page-turner.” This is a book possessing a literary intensity I have not experienced in a long, long time. Each chapter — and the narrative moves along quite rapidly — ended with a surprise, driving me deeper into what followed. That pace — and those plot twists — continue right up to the end.
But don’t take my word for it. Allow me to do something I’ve never done before here, and steal some consumer reviews from a retail website:
- As I read the back cover’s description, I thought to myself, “Yeah, right.” Then I read the book. Gregory’s use of existent technologies, experimental technologies and not-too-far-distant-future-type technologies renders this fictional work very believable. As for there only being one Christian left in America in 2088? Well, even that isn’t so hard to imagine if you see how rapidly we’re following Europe’s footsteps, using no discernment governmentally, socially and even the evangelical church seems to be losing it’s bearings on the gospel and God’s Word…
- This book was full of nail biting edge of your seat suspense, with a few twist and turns you won’t expect or see coming! … I would love to see this as a movie!
- Christianity has died out completely. The mega-churches of the 90’s are now schools and malls. While all this sci-fi stuff is entertaining to read, the heart of the book goes much deeper. Gregory makes a really important point in his book. The reason, he writes through one of his characters, that Christianity died in the US early in the 21st century is because Christians didn’t look any different than non-Christians. Their lives hadn’t been transformed by the power of the Gospel.
- David Gregory’s America seems so far removed from our current way of life, but it’s easy to see how we could easily venture down the same road. The Christian worldview is becoming an object of disdain for many, and technology is advancing at an incredible rate. The Last Christian was a fun and entertaining read. It’s a science fiction thriller with Christian apologetics mixed in. Although it was certainly a page-turner, it also caused me to really think about some serious issues in our culture today
- Christian fiction has taken a direction that is wonderfully exciting and The Last Christian is a fantastic example!
- I was shocked by the many things that are slowly taking root even now in America, despite the book’s setting being in 2088. At this time, Americans have become accustomed to feeding their desires and pleasures through entertainment and enjoyment. …many live in virtual reality more than they do in the “real world”. In the name of tolerance and acceptance, all things are acceptable and morality is something each individual decides for his or himself…
I compared these reviews to a few from “the usual suspects” list of bloggers, and while I recognize that some of these reviewers blog as well, I think they said it best.
My recommendation here leans a little more toward Christian readers, but some other reviews spoke of possibilities in giving or loaning the book to someone outside the faith; perhaps provided they had demonstrated some spiritual openness. It certainly speaks in a mature manner to some of the main elements involved in following Christ, as well as addressing what Christianity isn’t. Age-wise, because of the ‘sci-fi’ flavor, I can see this book appealing to older teens as well as adults, provided they can commit to the 400+ page count. (We’re talking about four times the word count of the two Perfect Stranger titles.)
The two of David Gregory’s shorter books mentioned above already exist as movies. Could Last Christian make it to the big screen? It would be an extremely fast-paced film to be sure; but for now, we have the book which earns my highest recommendation.
JAMES RUBART: Rooms
It’s been more than a week since I turned the last page of Rooms by James Rubart. More than a week to gather my thoughts about the twists and turns of plot and spiritual journey that make up one of the most interesting books I’ve read.
I am not a fiction reader at all, but an increasing percentage of my reading in the last twelve months has been Christian fiction. The book came to me by way of a recommendation from the owner of the Christian bookstore in a small town in Eastern Ontario while we were on the first day of our vacation.
Then, in a manner fully in keeping with the spirit of the book itself, a copy showed up unsolicited in the mail. [Insert Twilight Zone theme music here.] I took it with me on the next leg of our holidays, and began to understand the passion in the store owner’s recommendation.
There are going to be comparisons to The Shack. I say this in the future tense because I’m not sure that this book has hit its stride yet, even though it’s been available for a few months. Unlike Shack, however, I think Rooms will avoid the doctrinal and theological controversies that dogged the former title, especially given its publication by conservative B&H Fiction (a division of the Baptist company, Broadman & Holman.)
That said, the book is edgy enough in a couple of areas to raise some Baptist eyebrows. Don’t let the publisher imprint dissuade you. James Rubart is a comparatively new author, but one who I believe we will be hearing more from in the future. (I’m already looking forward to Book of Days releasing in 2011…)
There are also going to be comparisons to a title which I have not read, the book House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, as both books are based on a similar premise. (Although, if you want to stretch things, so also is The Great House of God by Max Lucado, although that’s not close to being a fiction title.)
The protagonist in the story, Micah Taylor, finds himself the inheritor of a large (9,000 square foot) house with, for lack of a better word, supernatural rooms that appear and disappear — and one that is more constant — representing different aspects of his life history and personality.
And then there’s Rick. Seems like every book I read lately has a guy who ‘just shows up,’ who has uncanny insights and knowledge. Echoes of The Noticer by Andy Andrews, So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore by Jake Colsen, and Bo’s Café by a trio of authors. (Tangent: All books mentioned in this post, including Rooms, should be high on your list of books you can recommend to a male reader, including those who don’t consider themselves readers.)
Yeah. That’s about all of the plot that I need to say. From there you’re on your own.
Given sales figures in the millions, comparing this book to Shack isn’t exactly the worst thing I can do. However, while that book is something unique that is being used to reach those outside the Christian faith, Rooms may find its audience among the already converted. I do think there’s room for both types of readers with this book, and I hope it finds a response over the next few months from a variety of readers. Keep it on your radar.
The reviews: On one Christian retail site that allows customer reviews, 15 were posted. One gave the book 4.5 out of 5 stars. The other fourteen gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Wow!
The book trailer video: 46-seconds; blink and you miss it.
The picture: James has one and one only promotional picture which appears everywhere. Including LinkedIn. There was one exception — the one on this post — but when I right-clicked it, I ended up with a message reading “Ephesians 4:32 “(“…let him who stole, steal no more…”) advice which, if taken, would mean and end to photo sharing on any social networking sites. So I got the picture above from a tribute James did to his father on his personal blog. Not sure how Ephesians feels about that. Next time I’m stealing the other picture.
The publisher marketing: I was a little light here on plot, so here’s more teaser copy from B&H which may contain minor spoilers:
On a rainy spring day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out. Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning brand new nine-thousand square foot house. And after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend.
When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away like the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way. But as he slowly discovers, the home isn’t just spiritual, it’s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah’s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny.
DONATE YOUR CLUB Z POINTS AND AIR MILES
BEGINNINGS Pregnancy Care Centre now has a community account where anyone who wishes to can donate all or a portion of their Club Z Points (Zellers) to Beginnings. The account number you need is ID # 978-0421. Simply see the customer service representative at the store or go online to set up the points to go to this account. Beginnings will use the points to purchase items for their care cupboard or office supplies.
You can also donate your AIR MILES to CHRISTIAN SALVAGE MISSION, which provides used books and Bibles and teaching materials to missionaries in remote parts of the world. Quote # 8007 960 3655.
ONGOING – BEGINNINGS CRISIS PREGNANCY CENTRE is now offering services to people in Port Hope, using the Port Hope for Youth Centre, upstairs at 38 Walton Street; Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 AM to Noon. Services include pregnancy testing, options counseling and pregnancy support. For info call the Cobourg office at 905 373 4575.
Christian Music en Français
Paul Baloche and Friends is a collection of some of Paul Baloche’s best known worship songs translated into French and recorded in Quebec. (For some reason the title on the CD cover is in English, though the album, but for a final bonus cut, is entirely en Français.)
The album reminds us how much material Baloche has contributed to the worship life of contemporary churches; these are some of our best known, popular worship pieces.
Second, it reminds us we are part of much larger, much greater body of believers. Hearing these familiar songs in another language is humbling, especially to those who tend to think that North America (or England or Australia) is the center of the Christian universe.
Songs on the album include:
- Élève-Toi (Arise)
- La Terre Entière (All The Earth)
- Ton Nom (Your Name)
- Louez Adonaï (Praise Adonai)
- Offrande (Offering)
- Jésus Tu Es (Jesus You Are)
- Ouvre Les Yeux De Mon Coeur (Open the Eyes of My Heart)
This recording is available at Searchlight for $19.99
JUDI PEERS’ book, Guardians of the Lamp is a “historical fantasy” for teens based on life in Bible times. It is intended for sale in both Christian and general market bookstores; though for Christian teens, this book fits in very well with the writing of authors Chuck Black or Bryan Davis. The story incorporates a time travel dimension, with the present section set locally in Peterborough, Ontario, at a time just before Christmas; and the rest of the book set in the year 1000 BC, where the story’s main character, Gavin Turner finds himself needed for battle against mythological beings that were formerly just obscure Old Testament names. The book is available at Searchlight for the very reasonable price of $12.95 and the accompanying workbook is now available for only $14.99.
Paul’s book, featured in Faith Today magazine is available FREE online! The Pornography Effect: Understanding for the Wives, Girlfriends, Mothers, Daughters and Sisters was written in April, 2008 and is intended as a resource for the women who often represent the collateral damage in the internet pornography issue. After review by several major U.S. publishers, the print version is still pending, but in the meantime, we wanted to make this information available to people who need it.
You are invited to read the book online at www.thepornographyeffect.wordpress.com (It’s recommended you set your browser to a larger text size — click on “view.”) With 15 short chapters the book is only two full internet pages and can be finished in under an hour. Click on “previous entries” after chapter six to get to chapters 7-15.
‘THINKING OUT LOUD.’ Opinion, devotional thoughts and links to many other blogs; and almost all of it somehow church- and faith-related. To reach Paul’s blog / webzine, with readers on around the world, click on this link: www.paulwilkinson.wordpress.com
Our Brockville location is now closed.
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED AT YOUR CHURCH — Police checks for childrens’ ministry workers is now a fact of life at many of our churches, but some people just can’t be bothered going to all that trouble and the small expense. The result is that many churches are now short volunteer workers to help with child and youth ministry. Somewhere there is a child that needs your time and attention. If you don’t offer to help, your local church may have to curtail or even discontinue certain aspects of its Christian education program. Consider making yourself available to your church in this way.
EMPLOYMENT — Searchlight networks with a broad spectrum of Christian people across Northumberland County. If you are either looking for a job, or are a business that potentially has a position available at your workplace, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Job-seekers, do NOT e-mail US your resumés; just tell us the type of work you are seeking and whether full time or part time.
- We have a variety of people in our network who are LOOKING for work, including unskilled and semi-skilled.
Sponsored by SEARCHLIGHT CHRISTIAN BOOKS, 884 Division Street, Cobourg. 905 372 5519; out of area call 800 210 5661. We’re on Division Street (Highway 45 Exit off the 401.) Go south about four traffic lights; we’re just south of Elgin St. on the east side.
Remember that Searchlight is BOTH a FULL SERVICE CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE and a fully accredited CHRISTIAN BOOK OUTLET STORE
We also operate the CHRISTIAN BOOK SHOP TALK blog; if you’re in the business, contact us for the address information. THINKING OUT LOUD is a blog page containing articles by Paul Wilkinson and reprints from around the blogosphere. Link here or type www.paulwilkinson.wordpress.com