Thursday, December 27, 2007


Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

Captivating is the complimentary book for women to the book Wild at Heart for men by John Eldredge. In it the Eldredges describe the things that every woman longs for: to reveal beauty, to be romanced, and to be a part of a great adventure. They dig down to examine things like why little girls like to twirl around and play dress up. Another component is the discussion of relationships and how women are very much relationally oriented and many times define their well being by how their relationships are going. These may include relationships with friends, a husband/significant other, those they act as a mother to (whether their own children or other people), or their relationships as a daughter.

The Eldredges describe how vital it is that a woman develops foremost her relationship with God and fills up the desires of their heart with Him rather than seeking it from other relationships whether those be their husband, children, parents, or friends. Ultimately, they must get those heart desires answered by The Bridegroom.

Throughout the book, they use examples from both the Bible and popular movies/books. Some may be uncomfortable with the large number of examples from fiction vis a vis strictly Biblical examples. My feeling was that some of the examples from fictional stories may help the reader gain a perspective on femininity from stories they enjoy outside of the Bible.

I was not able to personally identify with some of the components of the book but believe it would be a good read for any female to gain a greater understanding of the desires of her heart or men who want a glimpse into how women work.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Excelsis Deo

Have you ever been singing "Angels We Have Heard On High" and gotten to the chorus of "Glooooooooooooooooria in Excelsis Deo" and wondered what the heck is Excelsis Deo? The Wisdom of Dre has researched this very question and found it to correspond to the Latin phrase "Glory to God in the highest." A literal translation of excelsis indicates lofty, high, elevated. Some more modern renditions of the song such as that played at Pleasant Valley Baptist on Sunday include a tag in the song that goes: "Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the highest." So next time you sing this carol, you'll know the meaning of that quirky little phrase about excelsis.

The Christmas Candle

The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado

This nice little novella by Lucado is a tale about a small community in Victorian rural England. Every 25 years just before Christmas an amazing event occurs where for several generations past an angel appears in a candlemaker's shop touches a candle which lights then is extinguished after briefly lighting up. The first candlemaker who encountered this was terrified and astonished but after giving the candle to a needy person and instructing her to pray when lighting the candle the woman's prayer for financial provision was miraculously answered. Other such miracles occurred every quarter century.

Due to a mix up when the angel visits in the year of the story, the candlemaker isn't sure which candle is "the one" and has to give out multiple candles to various people in need. The result is people engaging in prayer and consequently receiving God's blessing though they didn't actually receive the miracle candle. It is a good lesson for the community in remembering the ultimate source of power and not to worship the miracle candle.

As mentioned, this is a nice little story which can be read in one sitting and has a feeling to it similar to Lucado's children's story "You Are Special." It's definitely not heavy on biblical theology and can focus a bit much on the importance of the angel rather than Christ as the reason for the season but would be fun to read as a bed time story to a child.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner

This autobiographical story of Chris Gardner chronicles his impoverished upbringing in Milwaukee, homelessness in San Francisco, and ultimate rise to riches through sheer determination and hard work.

Gardner's childhood was wracked with the violence and abuse of a step father who routinely verbally and physically abused their family. He found some solace in learning through reading books at the library. He ran with various crowds as a youth and generally stayed out of trouble.

After finishing high school, he went on to enlist in the Navy having heard exciting stories from his uncle of traveling overseas. However, the majority of his time in the Navy was spent as a medic stationed at a Marine military base in the States. Through his solid work as a medic he was introduced to a leading surgeon who opened a research clinic in San Francisco and asked Gardner to join him there.

He helped with the surgeon's research and was respected as a very knowledgeable expert in training medical interns on surgical techniques. He eventually married and after prodding from his wife sought higher pay through a medical sales job. After several years of marriage he had an affair which resulted in the birth of his son and breakup of his marriage. He continued the sales job for a short period of time until meeting a stockbroker with a nice car and decided to change careers.

The internship offered a very low stipend and he was forced to live out of motels, homeless shelters, and sometimes sleep on trains or public restrooms. His tenacity at the internship as well as commitment to study resulted in passing the securities examine required to be a stockbroker and ultimate hiring at Dean Witter.

He then went on to build a portfolio of business first in San Francisco then working on Wall Street. Currently he owns his own investment company based out of Chicago and has a net worth estimated upwards of $60 million.

I first read the book and then saw the movie and though the book offered a good story of honest hard work the movie in this case had a better feel good aspect to it. The movie covers only about a third of the book and focuses on the positive elements of Gardner's relationship with his son and pure determination in reaching his goals. The book in contrast incorporates a generous amount of profanity and detailed descriptions of his promiscuous behavior. While overall I would recommend the book as a good read, a cautionary note should be kept in mind regarding the "adult" elements of the book.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

Fresh Wind Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala

Cymbala's book more than anything is a call to prayer and earnest seeking of God. As a young man in the early 1970s he began pastoring the fledgling Brooklyn Tabernacle having had no formal training. Through his own brokenness and seeking God, he came to understand that God would bless the ministry and continue to bring people for them to minister to and introduce to Jesus if they would truly seek Him and not rely on their own devices or abilities.

As a result, the Tabernacle saw a great deal of growth and tremendous Christian ministry opportunities were opened to reach out to the people of Brooklyn and New York City as a whole. From the very beginning they made the cornerstone of their church the Tuesday evening prayer service during which they called to God and sought Him. Many extraordinary events occurred as a result and continue to happen today.

People who were once very closed towards Jesus come to true repentance and a real relationship with Him through this ministry. The Tuesday evening prayer ministry is so important that Cymbala will not accept speaking engagements if they keep him away from the prayer meeting more than one prayer meeting at in a row.
As a result of allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and direct them through seeking Him in prayer, they see lots of really cool stuff that could in no way be scripted.

Prayer is also an integral part of their Grammy award winning choir ministry with the weekly rehearsal incorporating at least 30 minutes of prayer to the practice.

Far from being a feel good type of book, Cymbala challenges the reader and today's churches to truly come before God and passionately seek Him in prayer and study of the Bible. He mentions various trends and how some churches try to cater to popular culture and make things cool and hip and while those things aren't bad in and of themselves, he emphasizes that it is a mistake to promote these flashy programs and neglect the ministry of prayer. Contrastingly, he points to the early church "These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer..." Acts 1:14 When believers and the church are in constant communion with God, He tends to work more actively and mightily.

I highly recommend this book as a reminder on the importance of prayer as well as a good high level overview of the history of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.

If you found this review helpful, please let Amazon know at this link.
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