Book Review-Letters to a Youth Worker

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Letters to a Youth Worker  Mark DeVries, General Editor

Brentwood, Tennessee: CYMT Press, 2012.

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-3

When I started reading it, my initial reaction was that this seemed like a book aimed at a person new to youth ministry. As I kept reading, I realized while not full of new insights for someone who has done this for more than 10 years, it did have many great reminders in a easy to read format. And so, I recommend this for everyone who loves youth-for parents who want to know more about what it is like to be a youth worker, for church staff who do not work with youth but want to support those who do, for congregation members who want to be more in touch with youth, and for all those who have committed to working with youth for money or simply because you love youth.

This book is filled with letters addressing various situations a youth worker might encounter. It is written by a variety of people who have worked with youth in different capacities over the years. It uses many mistakes made by the authors to remind us that we are not the first ones to do this and we are not the first ones to make mistakes.

This book spent much time reminding us that ministry is something we are not called to do alone. I think that is essential to remember because ministry can be so lonely, and yet there are many ways to involve and engage others in this journey along with us.

Even those of us who know better get so busy doing ministry that we forget St. Anselm’s call to “faith seeking understanding” (66). We must continue to learn and grow in our own faith while nurturing the spiritual lives of others. This book is a good resource for making that happen.

On page 40, a covenant for the church and the youth worker is presented. What a great way to begin a ministry, with promises like “We will pray and spiritually support (promises for the church) and I will pray for our church, its leaders, and members and our community (responses of the youth worker.”

“What I’m hoping to emphasize to you is that the real heart of ministry is the amazing privilege of seeking God, of seeking to place yourself inside God’s very action in the world. The heart of youth ministry is to try to articulate how and where this God acts and move, and then constructing practices and activities that honor and seek for that place where God moves” (61).

“Who is your theologian?” (67). Who is it that you’d pick to journey alongside you as you study and grow in your faith?

“One of the occupational hazards of ministry is professional holiness: doing the right things with the wrong heart” (72).

“Youth ministry IS about investing. One thing I do know to be true is that good investments yield good dividends. And your investment in young people–your faithful actions, your positive spirit, your persistent conversations, your healthy decisions, your own love for God–will yield a return, though we may never get to see the full investment report this side of heaven” (84).

 

Book Review- Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber

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Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint Nadia Bolz-Weber

New York: Jericho Books, 2014.

Emotional Response-5

Scholarly Response-5 

This books gets high marks on both emotional response and scholarly response because I enjoyed reading it and this book made me think. Deep theological conceptions like grace, forgiveness, loving our enemies, and resurrections, are explored through the lives of people who “good Christians” might not want to see on Sunday mornings.

Each chapter begins with a Scripture reading that grounds and focuses the story or stories presented in that chapter. It like reading stories and reading a sermon at the same time. In this book, we are free to question with Bolz-Weber and wonder how to make sense of it all. We are free to admit that we don’t have all the answers, and we mess up often. We are free to see ourselves in these stories. And we are encouraged to keep seeking God, to keep looking for the good in others, and to keep reminding ourselves that we are God’s beloved children.

I know that some people will not be able to read this book because of the language used. Instead of being offended by her language, I’m wondering if you might be able to see it as a dialect or her chosen way of speaking. So who should read this book-anyone who has questions about faith, anyone who wonders where God is acting in the world today, anyone who has ever wondered if he or she is a beloved child of God…if any of those questions have ever run through your mind, you need to read this book to be reminded that many of God’s best stories start with nothing and God can transform the nothing that you are able to bring into something wonderful.

“It’s (the Christian faith) about how God continues to reach into the graves we dig for ourselves and pull us out, giving us new life, in ways both dramatic and small” (XVIII).

“I need a God who is bigger and more nimble and mysterious than what I could understand and contrive. Otherwise it can feel like I am worshiping nothing more than my own ability to understand the divine”(15-16).

[Read more…]

Book Review-Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

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Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life around Tables with Recipes Shauna Niequist

Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013.

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-3

For those who don’t know me, it is probably good for you to know that I don’t cook. I was blessed to marry an amazing cook who loves experimenting in the kitchen. I am happy to be the sous chef (sometimes), stay out of the way (most of the time), eat the food that is lovingly prepared, and do the dishes. Knowing this, it might be funny to know that I love reading about food-how to prepare it, how to have a dinner party, where food is grown. I don’t want to prepare the food, but I am fascinated by food. And I love to gather around the table as much as Shauna Niequist does. I love sharing a meal with others. I appreciate how she makes the connections because other tables and the communion tables. They are all opportunities for us to gather together, share today, learn together, be together.

This book is a collection of her stories and recipes. At the end, she shares the idea of a book group reading a section of the book (there are four) and gathering together to discuss it over dinner using the foods mentioned in that section. I think that is a perfect way to read this book. Or, you can read it like I did-by myself hoping someone would make these foods, so we could share them together. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories, anyone who needs reminders of how God is present with us, and anyone who believes there is a connection between what we do on Sunday mornings and what we do the rest of the week.

“What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table” (13).

“When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of the hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat. When you eat bread and you drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere–on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach” (17).

“My friend Shane says the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see  those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us” (251).


“The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite” (257).

Book Review-With Burning Hearts by Henri Nouwen

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With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life  Henri J. M. Nouwen

Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2003 (illustrated version).

Emotional Response-5

Scholarly Response-4

My response-

Using the story of the walk to Emmaus (Luke 24) as his guide, Nouwen invites us to sit with the sacrament of communion and find ways to bring the awe and wonder back to this sacrament.

We are reminded that we can bring our broken hearts to Christ’s table and there we will be joined with others who have broken hearts too. We are called to respond to our losses not with resentment but with gratitude (34). Nouwen urges us to take responsibility for our part in human brokenness. Only after accepting responsibility can we respond in gratitude.

I first read this book while in the midst of deep grief and wondered how do you hold in your heart all nature speaking of her and the new beginning when you still miss her so much? After much reflection, the answer is to come to the table as I am and be willing to be transformed. Eating at Christ’s table and being part of a faith community doesn’t immediately remove your pain. It does give you a place to share with others who have had pain in their lives. It gives you a place to be a giver and a receiver and a call to go out into the world with what you have learned. The word transforms us and transforms our worldview.

“That’s the Eucharistic life, the life in which everything becomes a way of saying “Thank you” to him who joined us on the road” (126). I recommend this book to anyone who wants to think more about living a life filled with thanksgiving. While the book is not challenging to read, it may challenge the way you think about others, the sacrament of communion, and yourself. [Read more…]

Book Reviews

How my book reviews work-

1-I evaluate the books based on two responses. Each response can receive up to 6 points.

     Emotional Response

Did I enjoy reading it?

Was I moved?

     Scholarly Response

Did I learn something?

Did I find what I was reading to be well-researched and correct?

2- I’ll share some my thoughts on the book including the groups or people to whom I’d recommend the book

3-I will conclude with some insights or quotes I found useful from the book.