Book Review: Called to Create

Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk

Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Easy, moderate length

Summary
The book is basically an argument that all Christian are called to create in come way or another. For the hypothesis to work, Raynor needs to play around with definitions and stretch a little bit to make everyone ‘fit’ the mold. He considering entrepreneurship to be equivalent to creating, and defines it as ‘taking a risk for a general good’. I have a few issues with this definition and his attempt to expand the meaning to cover all forms of creating, but he does make good arguments as to why Christians should work and are called to do so.

The book is broken into four parts – calling, creating, challenges, and charge – of three chapters each with a short intro chapter. At just over 200 pages, it is a ‘medium’ length book but reads pretty well. He gets a little overly repetitive, especially with certain phrases, such as, ‘called to create’.

My Thoughts
I wanted to like this book more, and overall thought it was pretty good, at least at pushing people to work and having a good understanding of the ‘Christian’ view of work, but disagree/dislike two major aspects of this book. First, unfortunately, I think the whole premise of this book, as far as the way to argues his point, is misguided. You do not have to be ‘called’ to create; you can just go create. God doesn’t have to ‘call’ you to start a business, you can just do it. Raynor is obviously a gifted and brilliant entrepreneur, but he doesn’t have to backdoor theology into it.

He somewhat touches on this a bit in his chapter about pastors/missionaries. He pointed out what Luther did during the Reformation as far as saying all work in meaningful and pastors aren’t better other people simply by virtue of their profession. I think this is an issue again in our time, at least among Christians, that people hold up pastors as ‘holier’ or better than other. I actually heard someone ask a lady the other day, what she did to have two of her (three) sons become pastors. The lady said that she didn’t do anything and seemed somewhat surprised by the question, because in the question was the implication that the goal of parent is to raise a pastor or that all other careers are less important. The corollary would mean that she failed with the third son.

Back to the book, while that chapter is great and important for our time, he contradicts the sentiment by writing the rest of the book. I’m sure many people feel ‘called to create’, but maybe some other just like paint, and enjoy it as a hobby. Or maybe some people, as he talks about business owners often, just want to work for themselves.

Related to that, and my second issue with the book – his definition of creating and entrepreneurship. It is very much in the American ethos to see business owners as great and noble, they are the job creators, risk taker, the backbone of our economy; except that almost none of that is true. I’ve never seen a survey of business owners that even listed ‘create’ jobs as a reason to start a business. The number on response to why someone started a business is basically control/lifestyle. People want to be their own bosses. I know that the only reason I’d ever start my own business is so that I wouldn’t have to work 7-5 for someone else. His definition of entrepreneur includes ‘for the general good’ almost no private business are started for this reason. People either thing they can offer a new or better product or want to make a lot of money, if not for the reasons above.

So, I think his whole basis is off, so much so, that he has to circle back and try to inject theology into it. He calls God the ‘first entrepreneur’ to justify everyone else needing to be one. There is no way God meets either part of his definition. God did not create for general good, but for His own glory. Likewise, He did not take a risk – God is all-knowing (omniscient) and all-powerful (omnipotent). By definition, He cannot ‘risk’ anything.

All that said, if you are an entrepreneurial type person, or perhaps a creative person who is thinking of maybe a side hustle or career change, this could be an interesting book. There are cool stories and interviews with people who have started businesses and non-profits. His theology on work is great. Overall, you will get hyped reading this book because the author is such a positive and enthusiastic writer. This is especially true if you are techy or looking into new ways of doing non-profits (in which case, you could look even more in to Charity Water). However, if you are like friends of mine – she writes songs because she likes writing songs, he runs his own business because he wanted to work for himself – I’m just not sure it is the best for you. To me, his entire hypothesis is off-base and ill-defined, however, as I said above, if you are already wanting to start a business and just want some encouragement and are looking for something to read, this is probably a good book for you.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Loving My Actual Christmas


Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Short, easy book

Summary
I think the best summary of this book comes from the subtitle of the intro chapter – A Recalibrating of the Season. That would be the Christmas and Advent seasons, both the secular and Christian aspects. Her goal in writing this is to help people get past the over commercialized, hectic and stressful parts of the American Christmas season. She advocates doing an Advent devotional/study to help ground you in the Christian aspect.

So much so, that the majority of the book is her going through the four weeks of advent, what she did that week in actual life and what she did as far as reading, studying, and being thankful.

She finishes up the book with a conclusion that is about half as long as the entire book, because there are so many sub parts – scheduling, finances, relationships, and logistics. This is where the book takes a turn from reflection to more practical tips.

My Thoughts
I wasn’t really a fan of this book, not because it is poorly written or has a bad message or anything of that nature. The main issue – I’m quite far from the target audience. She is one of these busy Christian women with four or five kids that is heavily involved with a number of things and is constantly stressed. I’m a father of one, and overall pretty chill guy. I don’t really relate to the pressure and stress of mom bloggers with multiple active kids.

If that is you, then this will probably be a great book to help ground you for the holidays. Another thing I didn’t know when I requested this book, it is a spin off of her other book – Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me. So, to be fair to the author, had I known about this book, I would have known more about her writing and audience and likely wouldn’t have requested this book. However, judging by the other reviews, had you read that book and enjoyed it, then you will also like this book.

I thought her reflections on the Advent devotional were interesting, and more importantly, it will help introduce some people to the concept of Advent. Most American Evangelical churches do not use a liturgical calendar, which can be very helpful in keeping your mind focused on Christ throughout the year. So if nothing else, if readers decide to start an advent devotion for themselves or a tradition with the whole family from reading this book, then it will have been a great success.

Finally, her concluding thoughts were very practical and useful. If you are the target audience, they are also probably pretty helpful in reminding you not to go to wild and over-schedule yourself too much, both time-wise and financially. Overall, if you fit in this category and are looking for something on the topic of handling the season, this is probably a good book for you.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In the News 11/17/17

Antarctica was once covered in forest, so that’s pretty cool.

Another ‘responsible gun owner’ accidentally shoots himself and wife, at church, will explaining how he would protect himself and others should someone attack the church. It is ironic, but it isn’t funny, almost like guns aren’t toys and this wanna-be hero complex might be dangerous. Hopefully, he and his wife will cover quickly.

FCC again trying to ban net neutrality. As a reminder, this means that companies like AT&T and Comcast could slow your internet down if you use things like Google or Netflix.

House passes a tax bill that along with ballooning the deficit that they supposedly care about will also repeal state and local tax deductions and limit the mortgage interest deductions.

As the article points out, “Repeals many other deductions: These include those for medical expenses, tax preparation fees, alimony payments, student loan interest and moving expenses.”

Not mentioned in the article, and just in time for National Adoption Month, the bill would also repeal tax credits that help offset adoption cost. Natalie has a good run down of why adoption is so expensive.

Hannity calls for a boycott of the sponsors that pulled their adds from his show after he should support for Roy Moore, who apparently likes underage girls.

Related, this article. The Evangelical response to Moore is going to be a huge point in our political history, I think. Then again, we screwed it up with Trump, so who knows? It has been well documented what Evangelicals thought about Bill Clinton in the 90’s and why he wasn’t fit for office. As the article points out, we’ve already given up ground on morality so that we could claim it was alright for ‘our guy’

 Between 2011 and last year, the percentage of Americans who say politicians who commit immoral acts in their private lives can still behave ethically in public office jumped to 61 percent from 44 percent, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings poll. During the same period, the shift among evangelicals was even more dramatic, moving from to 72 percent from 30 percent, the survey found.

Think about that, the number of people that basically said, ‘never mind, morality doesn’t matter’ went up almost 150%. Trump is the only reason. If we take the correct stance with Moore, maybe we can regain whatever little credibly is left of Christians to have in society.

Quickly, on Moore, he has done nothing illegal, it appears. I want to make that clear to start with, because there are people accusing him of being a molester or pedophile, and that is incorrect. The age of consent in most states, including Alabama, is 16, so the girls that he did interact with were of age. It just make him creepy and weird as man in his early 30’s dating high school girls. As a man in his early 30’s, this is really unimaginable, when I see high schoolers or even college students at church, I can’t believe how young they look. We just hired a guy in his early 20’s at work and another 30 year old and I swear we didn’t look that young. So, that is a bit repugnant and anyone violating the half plus seven rule is creepy to me.

Now, if he did have sexual contact with the 14 year old, then he is, in fact, either a child molester or statutory rapist, depending on how the law is in Alabama. Either way, if convicted (hypothetically, as the statue of limitations has run out), he would be a registered sex offender. Since he cannot be tried, you have to seriously ask yourself, do you believe that his plan was to hold this girls hand for a few years until she was old enough? To me, the answer is clearly no. So, is a potential sex offender who we want representing ‘evangelical morality’? Again, we have Trump, so what is the difference?

Two more thoughts, then I’ll wrap it up. I appreciate that a few people are at least willing to admit, that it is all still just about abortion. I disagree we should be single issue voters, especially when it means supporting a possible sex offender. I’d appreciate if some more people were even more honest and just say they only care about low taxes, drop the whole morality charade completely. That would at least be consistent.

My other, and final, thought is really more of a fisk of this quote by a Moore supporter (and Bill Clinton detractor) from the article:
“All of us have sinned and need a savior,” Floyd said.
Sadly, pastors discussing sin in public now only seem to happen when they are dismissing a sin.
“Of course, moral character is still important.
Obliviously moral character doesn’t matter, we have Trump (81% of Evangelical voters) and you are literally being interviewed about your support for someone who attempted statutory rape. 
But with Bill Clinton or Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby, we’re talking about something completely different.
In what way? 
You have to look at the totality of the man.
Exactly, he has a long history of dating teenage girls as a man in his 30’s. He attempted to date a girl that, had he been successful, would make him a sex offender. This is why people are saying he is unfit for office, the totality of the man. Speaking of which, he is also a man who said Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office. 
That’s why I support Judge Moore.
Why again? I missed any actual reason.
I’ve prayed with him.
Oh, sure, that’s a legit reason.
I know his heart.”
No, no you don’t. No one knows anyone’s heart. You don’t even know your own. Jeremiah 17:9
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

Book Review: The Way of Hope

The Way of Hope: A Fresh Perspective on Sexual Identity, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Church

My Rating – Must Read

Level – quick, easy read; short

Summary
The book is broken into 10 chapters, each more or less representing different phases in Fisher’s life story. Mostly written as an autobiography of her life and journey from fundamentalist church, through homosexual relationships and considering a sex change operation, back to church and struggling to understand it all. Woven throughout the book are suggestions on our response as a church to same-sex marriage and identity issues, based on things she has seen go right and go wrong.

Outside of the 10 chapters that are the core of the book, there is the typical intro and then, at the end (obviously), there is an epilogue that consist of three brief interviews with her mom, her dad, and her ex-wife that are really just incredible. She ask her mom when she suspected she was gay, talks to her dad about her parent’s divorce, and discusses the pain of her own infidelities with her ex-wife.

My Thoughts
Probably the only critical thing I have to say about this book is that the subtitle is wrong. For me, there was nothing in this book that offered a ‘fresh perspective’ on any of her topics. However, her more intended audience might be more of the fundamentalist, don’t discuss sexuality type people she describes in her book that made up her church, family, and small town.

Other than that, the book is great. Her writing style is fantastic – fasted-paced and kind of erratic, funny, and very open and honest. While she does quote quite a bit of scripture and state clearly that homosexual activity is wrong, that isn’t really the point of the book. She isn’t trying to convince anyone to change or offering a theological and biblical defense of the viewpoint from scripture. With the book being mostly about her mixed with her personal writing style, you, instead, feel like to get to know her.

Even more importantly, you get to understand where she is coming from, and, to the extent you can, what she went through. I think this is really the strength of the book. Proximity to issues changes your view, or at least your reaction to them. Extremely conservative Christians in rural areas or small towns, might not have many opportunities to engage with gay people. So, it is easier to ostracize, from a distance. The way she writes this book, someone could read it and start to feel that proximity. Someone could put a face on an issue and at least try to understand.

It is easy to just say, being gay is wrong, and you should chose that. Reading her story (or hearing someone else’s), you see it isn’t that simple. I hope that more people that have that view will read it and see the struggle that gay Christians have. That instead of judging and condemning, we need to love them and help (if we can) them in their struggle.

Finally, those last three interviews at the end were just crazy to me. Obviously, her mom was one of the those people who would rather cut off contact with a gay daughter, but they have since reconciled. Her ex-wife has also made it back into a church, one connected with the one fisher attends. The interviews alone make this book worth the price, add in the personal tone of her spiritual and emotional journey and changes and this is definitely a must read book.

Payday Lending and the Church

A week or so ago, the small group I lead watched this video at the suggestion of some of the pastors at my church. I had planned to write a little more about it, but haven’t really found the time. This is an industry that preys on people’s poverty and need, and there is a lot of hesitancy to do things to regulate it, mostly because so many politicians have been bought off by the industry.

I especially appreciate the irony of the one Texas city councilmen who said he wished the Federal government would do something (as his excuse for doing nothing).  I figured saying the Federals should tell local cities how to run things would get you kicked out of the Republican Party in Texas.

Another difficulty seems to be that there aren’t great solutions. There are many other issues associated with poverty and emergencies and other reasons people may need more or lack access to traditional credit. I like the attempt here, to cap how much you can take from people and to require more transparency.

I was very happy to see some churches taking the lead in helping to care for the poor. For one, we are literally told to do this in the Bible. Not just the ‘love your neighbor’ type Gospel message, but there is much in the Old Testament, especially the Prophets about fair treatment and wages for the poor. Also, this issue of high interest rates has been something the church has been against for at least 500 years. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin wrote about the problems of high interest rates. Luther called people who take advantage of those in need through high rates as bad as the worst people on earth. Calvin considered the maximum allowable rate to be around 6% (while debatable, the 400% or so payday and title lenders charge now is clearly wrong.)

Check out the video (just over 30 minutes and pretty well done) and go look into rule in your state. See if there is something you can do to curb the abuse.