Tag Archives: with open hands

2 sentence book reviews, part 4

it’s a crazy week for me — a few days in colorado for an event at group publishing, and a few days in the san bernardino mountains with my family and another family. so, i think it’s time to post a week of 2 sentence book reviews!

i’ve got 44 lines for 22 books. the first sentence of each review is a summary, and the second sentence is my opinion. hope you appreciate the brevity!

part 1: five general fiction books
part 2: three general non-fiction and two young adult fiction books
part 3: four illustrated books or graphic novels and one humor book
part 4: four christian living books and three theology and ministry books

Christian Living

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life, by Jeff Goins
5 stars
Acknowledging and unpacking the painful, necessary, and re-orienting process of having your life up-ended for a greater cause. The next book you should read.

My official endorsement: Wrecked fulfills two rare deliverables: it messes with you (in a good way), and introduces you to the fantastic writing of a new author you’ll certainly be hearing more from.

Kingdom Journeys: Rediscovering the Lost Spiritual Discipline, by Seth Barnes
5 stars
Filled with well-told, powerful stories, Barnes convincingly proposes the process of having a Kingdom of God vision sparked in your heart and mind. Required reading for anyone who wants to change the world, or who works with people who might.

My official endorsement: Two things really set this book apart: first, Seth has something new to say, something important and insightful about faith development (and, particularly, about the faith development of young adults); second, Seth makes reading the book a wonderful adventure with the inclusion of dozens of captivating true stories. Youth workers, pastors, parents, and young adults themselves need to read this book.

Note: Barnes is presenting on this topic at The Summit.

Shrewd: Daring to Live the Startling Command of Jesus, by Rick Lawrence
5 stars
an unpacking of jesus’ instructions to be as shrewd as a serpent and as gentle as a dove. amazing and insightful book — SO worth the read (i’ll be recommending this in my coaching programs).

Living With Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness, by Joshua Becker
5 stars
A practical book for teenagers who want to live simply. Accessible and compelling, Becker’s clearly knows what he writes about.

My official endorsement: What I really love about Joshua’s book (and why I will be recommending it to teenagers, parents, and youth workers) is that he so clearly describes a compelling way of living. Today’s teenagers are pitched this and that all day long; but rarely are they exposed to a truly compelling and contemporary way of living that is somehow both counter-intuitive and so obviously biblical.

Theology and Ministry

Junia Is Not Alone, by Scot McKnight
5 stars
A brief but powerful unmasking of both the significant female leaders of the Bible, as well as the mistranslation that has obscured them for centuries. Anyone who has ever wondered (or maybe even more importantly, anyone who hasn’t wondered) what the Bible says about women in leadership must read this quick book.

The Zambia Project: The Story of Two Worlds Flipped Upside Down, by Chip Huber
5 stars
The autobiographical story of a school chaplain and his teenagers whose passion for impacting the world was sparked, resulting in significantly altered lives in two communities – one in suburban Chicago, and one in a tiny Zambian village. So much better than most self-published books, this is a great read for youth workers, mission leaders, and anyone with a Kingdom dream of changing the world.

My official endorsement: Narratives have within them a powerful ability to stir our thinking, shape our outlook, and awaken our imaginations. The Zambia Project is a fantastic example of that reality, with gorgeous implications for youth workers, educators, parents, and development workers. When you read Chip’s book, you can’t help but think, “Well, clearly, God moved in that situation.” But the thing is: God wants to move in and through you also.

With Open Hands, by Henri J. M. Nouwen
5 stars
Nouwen’s classic book is a simple insight into prayer. Understandably dated at points, it still provides a deep cleansing breath, and a metaphor that will shape my own prayer life for years to come.

when justice won’t help (a lesson i keep re-learning)

i’m on a 3-day silent retreat right now, at a remote cabin in the desert. the swamp cooler is working it’s little heart out, trying to keep the interior of this sweat lodge to a mostly tolerable 85 degrees (it’s 107 outside). i don’t normally blog while on a silent retreat — in fact, until my last trip out here, there was no option, as there’s no cell reception, and there wasn’t wifi. but now, there’s wifi; so — since this post is part of what i’m “working on” today — i’m making an exception and using it.

i experienced one of those speedbumps last week that we all blindly drive over from time to time: an unintentional (i believe) action that hurt. i felt diminished; really, i re-experienced the mostly healed wound of feeling side-lined (interesting that i’m here in the desert, on a trip planned a couple weeks ago, revisiting the place i processed that initial hurt years ago).

that flicking of my old wound took me briefly into a handful of familiar, but usually unhelpful spaces of self-pity, anger, name-calling (at least in my head), and a demand for justice. i wasn’t stating this demand to anyone in particular; it was more of a whiny prayer. sort of a psalmic “don’t you see this?” cry to god.

sunday morning, i sat in church with some of these thoughts swirling in my head. they weren’t incapacitating, by any means, as they have been at times in the past. they were more like a very small number of gnats, stupidly circling each other just at the edge of my peripheral vision. but when i noticed the senior pastor walking on stage after the second worship song (no! he never does that at this point unless he has some impromptu nudge from god — nudges, knowing him as i do, that are highly accurate and not self-centered), i was instantly screaming in my brain: he’s going to say that he senses that someone is struggling with jealousy, and i do not want to be honest about that right here, right now!

i was right that he had something to say. but i was wrong about the content. god wasn’t interested in confronting me, but rather, blindsiding me with grace. once again.

the pastor said, “i have a sense that some of you are thinking right now, ‘i need god, i need peace.'”

what? wait a minute. no, i need justice! and if you’re going to tell me i’m wrong, god, you should be confronting my pettiness, my need for acknowledgement, my desire that you do my bidding.

the pastor continued, “some of you desperately need reconciliation, peace, and freedom.”


and then the kicker, “i was looking at you all singing, and thinking about what a wonderfully eclectic church this is, and i sensed god saying to me, ‘you have no idea how much i love these people.'”

instantly, my pettiness and insecurity, my demand for justice, was zapped by the shrink-ray of god’s love. once again, i was reminded that achieving the justice i think i want and deserve is not my best path to wholeness. i was reminded that the best marko i can be — the one who lives a full and deeply satisfying life — is the one who lets things go, who gives up my rights, who moves proactively in my calling rather than reactively to the missteps of others.

this morning, i read henri nouwen’s 1972 book on prayer, with open hands. he writes:

you still feel bitter because that girl wasn’t grateful for something you gave her; you still feel jealous of the fellow who is better paid than you are, you still want revenge on someone who doesn’t respect you, you are still disappointed that you’ve received no letter, still angry because she didn’t smile when you walked by. you live through it, you live along with it as though it didn’t really bother you… until the moment that you want to pray. then everything returns: the bitterness, the hate, the jealousy, the disappointment and the desire for revenge. but these feelings are not just there, you clutch them in your hands as if they were treasures you didn’t want to part with. you sit rummaging in that old sourness as if you couldn’t do without it, as if in giving it up, you would lose your very self.

… what is possible is to open your hands without fear, so the other can blow your sins away. for perhaps it isn’t clammy coins, but just a light dust which a soft breeze will whirl away, leaving on a grin or a chuckle behind. then you feel a bit of new freedom, and praying becomes a joy, a spontaneous reaction to the world and the people around you.

yes, i think i’d prefer peace and freedom to justice. maybe god’s gifts of peace and freedom are justice after all.