Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

another e-reader post

I love tech gadgets. My computer is still my favorite, but my iPod (I am an iSheep!) and my phone come in as close seconds. They would be the same gadget except for those damn data plan charges!

So, I’ve spent the past couple of years looking at e-readers. I keep putting it off because they are expensive and books are a pretty handy technology themselves. Now there’s another new e-reader out from Barnes and Noble. The Nook. TWO screens-one a color touch screen for browsing your library and other admin. chores, the ability to lend books and some special features for when you’re actually at a B&N store. Although, why you’d need to go there with the wifi and 3G capabilities is a little bit of a mystery. . Very nice- but the same high price tag.

So, to help me make an objective, unemotional decision I found this handy chart…..
shouldyougetgadget from





























Unfortunately, the chart says NO and again my dreams of a really amazing reading gadget have been thwarted.


Movie vs. Book-Inkheart

I just finished watching Inkheart with my younger kids. I really love the kids movies and books that involve the imagination of the characters as an active part of the storyline.

Inkheart should have stayed on the pages of the book, though-my imagination did a better job than the filmakers. There are other great kids movies, just recently, to watch-Bridge to Terebithia, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe & Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium for instance. Or older ones like A Little Princess or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (personally, I’ll take the old version but you can pick your poison).

I’m not sure what the difference was between them and the film version of Inkheart but I think it might have something to do with the difference between a book you notice reading every time you turn to the next page vs. a book you are so engrossed in that you don’t have the sensation of reading the text or even of time passing. It seems to me the they told the words of the Inkheart story but they never went inside the Inkheart story themselves.

I noticed my kids, as they were watching, asked questions and talked about the characters throughout the movie. They liked the effects and idea so much they talked about how the filmakers did this or that thing- how they created a unicorn with text printed on it, and why the girl had to be dressed like she was headed to some creepy wedding at the end. But, if they’re talking about how the film was made, then they’re not willingly suspending reality as is required by any movie watcher or book reader. They never put aside this world for the world in the movie. That’s the difference between a good movie and one not worth the time- can we put aside our world and then, after a couple of hours, return to it with a slightly different outlook because of the story we were just immersed in?

Inkheart was definitely a no. So if you like the idea of someone who can read characters from a story into existence in our world and the havoc they can cause- read the book; it’s worth the extra time.

Book Review-Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry

I just read a book called Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry by a guy named Andrew Root. If nothing else I have to thank him for raising my reading level by a few grades just through being able to say I read the entire book and looked up a lot of words….and I have a degree in English(that’s like saying I went to college to spcifically to learn to read)

The book made good points about relationships, especially in youth ministry, being about the relationship, not about “earning” the right to influence the other person. That was already on my radar but it was good to  hear some reasons why spelled out so specifically by someone with more education and a better vocabulary than I have. And, unintenionally, Root steered me toward reading Bonhoeffer again. I’ve read him before but now I have a little more concept of his context and everything he had to say makes a lot more sense.

The thing that’s really worth wrestling with coming out of reading this book, though, is how to help the volunteers I work with internalize some of the ideas. One of the basic volunteer “needs” is a concrete idea of their role. To say “your role is to be create a reliable, deep realtionship with a kid; sharing the place they are and standing up for them when they can’t do it themselves” is not exactly concrete-it’s not like it just happens with every kid who walks into your life. Also, to provide programming that includes realtional opportunities is pretty easy but to provide THAT kind of in-depth work, on a regular basis with three different age groups and several different programming opportunities presents a significant challenge.

The book deserves at least a second read. It had some complicated diagrams I’d like to understand more fully, and I’d like to see where he might be going with it as an overall appraoch. I like/work toward/agree with the idea of teens being full members of their congregation with everything being available to them AND with youth-oriented programs being available to adults as well. It’s a complicated dynamic-messy as all getout-but it seems more in line with being fully human. Root’s book is pretty strong on that point-acknowleding the humanity in all.

Smaller bites of failure

How’s that for a pessimistic title for a blog entry? I haven’t kept up at all with the Story Project. (Due dates are not as awful as I’d like to pretend they are.) But from time to time something comes up that reminds me that it’s hanging around in the background waiting for me to pay attention to it, like a dog whining to go for a walk.

I’m reading a book, for fun for a change. It’sIreland by Frank Delaney. I picked it up for the Irish history aspect and discovered a treasure trove of storytelling details. Things I’d never pick up from a text or website. It may be enough to push me out of my current rut.

A while ago, I wrote about not knowing the direction this whole idea was taking and so I had stalled. I never recovered from that stall, which by now is a full-blown stop. It’s discouraging in a sense because I don’t particularly want to go back to the beginning. And I know that I stalled because of a fear of failure more than anything else. I can give all kinds of bs excuses why my topic was too broad, or I wasn’t finding the information I was looking for or , simply, and most likely, I just don’t have the time this week/month/pick your favorite procrastination time frame.

So, if I don’t want to fail and my remedy to that is not to do anything about it at all, I’m sure to fail eventually. It may be a fading failure over a fireworks style failure but the result is the same: I get nowhere.

The series we’re working through in youth group right now is a baseline on faith. One of the sessions is on fear. The main point of that session is that fear is the theological opposite of faith. Faith is the action of living what you believe. Fear either stops you, in which case your belief isn’t as strong as you might have thought or fear opens a door for you to behave in a way that honors your beliefs. Faith is what gives a person the courage and confidence to face fear and move through it. Running from it prevents forward motion, uses energy and raises stress levels. If I really believe that God put me where I am, to do what I do and that I have certain gifts that he will make use of in that place, then I really either have to prove it by moving forward or admit that I don’t actually believe it.

Somehow this is all related to Ireland. In it, there is a storyteller who is relating the history of Ireland to his listeners, but you don’t get too much from him directly. Instead, the story is about a boy who is captivated by him and has a special connection to him. That’s great for me. it helped me narrow down what I’m doing to something manageable and also has some good practical ideas, but, in the form of a story, of course. It’s exactly what I want to be able to do with the whole project-tell the stories in a way that deeper learning can happen. To take it beyond the story.

 I told a parable the other night about a Kingdom where everyone wears a crown and is a member of the royal family-as long as they remember that they are not the King. That story worked the way I I’m talking about. I have to be really careful though. I found out that I am too much the teacher and want to explain the story-it should stand for itself. I should only be the conduit through which it passes.

So, that’s where I am today. Collecting stories, trying to figure out some of the nuances needed to tell it well and give the space in the telling for the listener to “breathe”. A smaller bite that maybe I have a big enough mouth to chew.

When is a Frog not a Frog?

The Space trilogy by C.S. Lewis. I’ve read them before; a long time ago and had forgotten how much I like them. I’m through Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. I really love Perelandra, but I was talking to a friend who said he prefers Out of the Silent Planet by a longshot over the other two. To each his own, right?

I’m not sure why these books aren’t as popular as some of this others- Not the Chronicles of Narnia because they have that appeal to children, along with adults. These are definitely more adult oriented, but they also combine Christian philosophy within the story. Perelandra in particular is a largely about a faith struggle, so it lends itself to considering the puzzles of living in the shadow of the Fall.

The other writer I’ve enjoyed that has the same manner of writing the argument into a fictitous setting, is Brian McLaren. The difference with his works that are written that way is that the story’s purpose is the philosophical discussion whereas Lewis’ writing is a story that, by it’s nature, has to wrestle with the grander questions. Making assumptions would take away from his story.

Out of the Silent Planet is an action movie. Quick moving, lots of input, lots of characters to draw the readers’ attention. Perelandra is, I’d guess purposely, the opposite. Few characters, lush descriptions, little sense of physical danger excepting one section. There’s a last book (it is a trilogy after all) but I’m not through it yet, so that review will have to wait.

What Lewis really does well, as far as Story goes, is that he understands that the conventional assumptions we make can be challenged in the context of the Story intself. It’s not necessary to pull the questions out of the context, like we usually do in children’s Sunday School classes up through the adults’ sermons and lectures. If the Story has something to say, Lewis seems able to tease it out within the story itself. He doesn’t treat his readers with condescention, as if they are unable to figure out the point; so often we feel like we have to explain the story. If the story is worthwhile, can’t it stand by itself? Why do we feel such a need to dissect it and pull out the innards? Do you remember in High School Biology when you dissected a frog? it was a frog, but then those kids tear it to shreds and, really, if anyone took a look at what was left afterward, how many would know that it had started as a frog? How would our audiences know there was ever a Story there to begin with, if we insist on deconstructing it to prove our point? Sometimes, when you kiss a frog you get a Prince-what if we dissected the wrong frog?


Have you ever noticed….

…that, when you are interested in something but not searching for it, you’ll see it everywhere? But the minute you start searching for it, it disappears?

I have read and heard so much about stories and storytelling in the past few months, but the second I’ve looked for something specific, it’s all gone! On the other hand, I read a book yesterday (yes, the whole book), just for fun. It was a story about a storyteller, who is telling a story to another storyteller who in turn is telling the reader her own story….ugh.

This happens to everyone, right?


I’ve been reading a book by Chip and Dan Heath called Made To Stick. First, let me say that the cover has this duct tape look graphic across the middle, it’s textured and it catches the attention of about every third person who sees it! They are compelled to touch it and most ask if it’s a real piece of duct tape.

Ok, so cool cover aside, the book is terrific. It’s like mining for gold-there’s a big pile of dirt and some gold nuggets. You wouldn’t have nearly as much fun digging around for gold without the dirt to dig in and enough gold that you actually find something once in a while. Terrific stories, made-you-think “exercises”, and lots of little quips and proverbs. The brothers have an easy-going, casual style of writing that makes the how-to aspect of the book feel more like a friendly conversation than  a bullet point, Six Steps to Better Communication inter-office memo.

Their way of thinking about communication and passing along ideas must work because I can remember most of what I’ve read and tell it to other people without agonizing over a “What exactly was that about, anyway?” feeling when I’m talking about it. Plus, they like the idea that doing helps with long-term learning and that just makes me happy.