Posts Tagged ‘review’

Okay, to start off, this post has little to do with the plot line of last night’s “premiere” of the Roseanne spinoff, The Connors. You’ll recall that last year’s reboot of Roseanne was seemingly heading for good things ratings wise, before Roseanne Barr made some racist comments, landing the show on the ABC scrap heap, and for good reason. It looked like it was over, but almost immediately, there were rumblings of another series, Roseanne without Roseanne. It aired last night and this writer was not overly impressed.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some good acting. There was. John Goodman has always been a good actor and he played the grieving husband very well. Laurie Metcalfe’s scene of grief at the end of the show was also a solid performance. The problem was the writing, but the writers aren’t entirely to blame either. How do you restart an iconic show without it’s title character? Well I think their solution very quickly became the problem. They made Roseanne a victim of the opioid epidemic. I get that. It’s a hot button issue and it’s on a lot of people’s minds, and this is a show that has never shied away from hard topics. The problem is how do you make it funny, because this show is known as a comedy, and comedies have to, by definition, be funny, especially in a premiere. That’s where they got into trouble. Most of the jokes, and all the jokes surrounding Roseanne’s death by opioids, were in horrendously, horrible taste. There is simply no way to make that funny and I think that’s the ultimate issue. Sometimes we artists have to admit defeat and let our creations die with dignity (or whatever you can call what happened to Roseanne). There was simply no way to replace Roseanne, and there was no way to make her disappear.

To my mind there were only two possibilities for this show to work. Rehabilitate Roseanne (the person), or let this thing die. In our current climate, the first was pretty much impossible, though I’d like to hope repentance is still a viable alternative. Otherwise we’re all doomed. At the end of the day, in my opinion, this experiment failed. Some things are just not going to work.

As creatives, sometimes we need to look at our wounded creations and make a hard decision. Is it worth the effort to resuscitate this thing, or would our efforts be better spent on creating something new? I usually lean toward something new.

There’s an old saying, “Don’t meet your heroes.” Well I kind of broke that one last night and I don’t understand what the problem is. I met one of my favorite communicators, comedian Brad Stein and he was everything I’d hoped he’d be. He is one of those guys who can have you rolling on the floor laughing and before you know it, he is driving home a deep point that makes a lot of sense. I love that kind of comedy—it makes you laugh, and it makes you think.

I have to admit I was nervous. We brought Brad in for a performance at the church I pastor. When he went on, he jokingly mentioned that I risked my entire ministry to bring him in and while that was a stretch, there was a certain ring of truth to it. Oh, I love my congregation and they love me, and we know each other really well by this point, but there is a risk. It’s like when you make a new friend and you know they are a great person, but when you introduce them to your other friends you hope they will like your friend as much as you do. Well my nervousness was wasted. Brad’s performance was hilarious, his timing was impeccable and his material really connected with everyone. He interacted with the audience, in a good natured and hilarious way. His set was both tight and well prepared with just the right amount of spontaneity to keep it very fresh. The comedy was on point.

We took a brief intermission at about the midpoint, and then he shifted gears into The God Experience. This part of the performance was incredible. There was still comedy, but it was combined with some really amazing illusions and, believe it or not, apologetics. Yes, Brad Stine used his considerable entertainment skills to prove there is a God and communicate the Gospel. His knowledge of theology and philosophy was impressive (He is a true thinking man’s comic). The fact that he could present all this information in such an entertaining, engaging way, was even more impressive. He had everyone engaged from the youngest children on up. It was a great evening.

Even better was watching him interact with my folks after the show. He was kind and gracious and, of course funny. He was with us as part of what he calls his “No Church Too Small Tour” and that really holds true. He made it affordable for even a small church like mine. I was really impressed by that. This is a man who has performed in some of the largest churches and conferences and comedy clubs in the world, as well as appearing on TV and in movies, making himself available to small churches in order to help us build the Kingdom. I was blessed and so was my congregation as well as all the many visitors that came in from other churches and the community in general. I cannot recommend Brad Stine highly enough. He worked with us. He was kind and humble. This is a guy who really cares about the church and building the Kingdom. If you get the chance, bring him in.

Let me start here. I love the Bible. I have read it through like a novel (cover to cover) several times and have also done a few Bible reading plans. This should come as no surprise to people who know me because I am a minister. That being said, I also know that for many people, reading the Bible is a daunting task. Let’s start with the obvious. It’s a huge book. It’s a collection of books written over a long period of time, the books are not chronological and there are a few points where novice readers get stuck, such as Leviticus, the instructions on the Tabernacle. etc. This often causes them to give up.

Enter The Story. The folks who compiled it did a masterful job of making this sort of Scripture collage urning the Bible into one unified story. Composed of actual verses from the NIV Bible with the occasional narration (Set in a different font to avoid confusion) to move the story along, this book would give a novice reader a really nice handle on “the greatest story ever told” and as such I highly recommend it. There are also study questions for each chapter to take the reader even deeper.

Now just to be clear this is not a Bible not should it replace reading the actual Bible, but if you’ve ever been stuck trying to read through the Scriptures or if you’re confused about how and when things happened, this book is for you. Also if you have someone in your life who is curious about Christ, faith and the Bible, this would be a nice way to introduce them to the Lord. I thoroughly reading this in my devotions for the last month or so. I highly recommend this.

I don’t usually post across platform (i.e. the same post to all my different blogs) but today I am going to make an exception. Yesterday, a friend of mine was talking me about trying to get more into reading and asked me for some recommendations. Then today as I was working my way through today’s assignment in Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century I was asked to write about ten books that I love and why they impacted me. As I began to think of all these great books, it was hard to pick the top ten (I ended up with 12). but these are some of the best books I have read in the past few years and al of them would be beneficial to any creative. If you’d like to read any of these books, please click the image beside them and order them from Amazon. If you do, a very small portion of the purchase price will go to support this website.

  1. The Bible because it is the Word of God and contains so much information necessary to life on this planet and in the world to come. Nearly every time I read it, I see something new.

  2. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park because it showed me the power of research in telling a story. The science in the book makes the premise so plausible that one begins to wonder is this being done.

  3. Andy Andrews The Traveler’s Gift. I read this book at a time when I was feeling very depressed and self-absorbed and it reminded me that there was more to life than what I was seeing and that there are principles that can help everyone all the time. This book also introduced me to Andy Andrews and secured in me the desire to become a professional speaker.

  4. Andy Andrews How Do You Kill 11,000,000 People? This small book is an exploration of the holocaust and the thinking behind it showed me that evil prospers when good people do nothing and the evil power of lies.

  5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I read this book because I had to for a school assignment, and several times since because I wanted to. Tolkien tells the story of a comfortable little man living a comfortable little life who discovers a big world full of problems and decides to do something about it. It’s a classic coming of age good versus evil story where good prevails. Of course one cannot speak of The Hobbit without the follow up epic, THE LORD OF THE RINGS
    . There are so many great things in these stories, but I guess the biggest thing I took away was it doesn’t necessarily take the most powerful to make a difference. Sometimes all it takes is for ordinary people to step up.

  6. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. It almost seems wrong to mention Tolkien without Lewis. These two contemporaries and friends wrote some amazing stories. In the Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis gives one of the truly great examples of allegorical story telling. From this book, I learned that you can tell a great story that makes a fantastic point without beating people over the head.

  7. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. This book was one of the quickest books I have ever read which is strange for a memoir. I didn’t agree with everything in this book, but it really challenged me to look at how I communicate and live out my faith. The other reason I loved this book is because it got me to read…

  8. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. So here’s what happened. Miller writes Blue Like Jazz and it sells like a zillion copies so of course some film makers decided to make a movie out of it. In their meetings with Miller, he discovers they are taking a lot of liberties with the story. What Miller discovers is a great book does not always translate to a great movie. The problem though is BLJ is in many ways Miller’s life story. He begins to question how you live a better story and sets out to live one. This book made me check the story I am living and set out to live a better one too.

  9. Tribes by Seth Godin. This short little book has a basic premise. There are all kinds of people out there with all kinds of interests, and what they need is for someone to bring them together into community and lead them. This book was a huge influence on what I do. I started blogging immediately after reading this book and helped to bring so much of what I was trying to do in this world into focus.

  10. Linchpin by Seth Godin. This book talks about living artistically whether one is an artist or not. Living a remarkable life and being remarkable, living one’s life as a gift to the world and becoming indispensable. This book also made me look seriously at my life and the way I am investing my talents, abilities and pretty much my life in general.

  11. Re-Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson This is a business book, with a lot of really great ideas for creative folks. In addition to all the great content, I loved the way this book was formatted. It inspired the way I designed my own creative ministry book Running A.M.O.K.: Random Musings for the Creative Hands of the Body of Christ

  12. The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. This book was a huge influence on me. I got it after reading about it in Linchpin. This book deals with the resistance that keeps people from creating and how to overcome it. This book is a must read for every creative. It will help you smash through creative block and also to fight the resistance.

If any of these books looks appealing to you, click the image to order them from Amazon

I am in the midst of searching out a new book for a book study with my church creative arts team. I am currently in the midst of a great one, The Creative Call: An Artist’s Response to the Way of the Spirit (Writers’ Palette Book)
I am finding this book most enjoyable. While Elshimer is a writer and a musician, she takes great pains to include all the other disciplines as well. You will no doubt receive a better review when I am finished with this book, but for now, I wanted to key in on a few of the quotes from other creatives she includes in the pages of this volume. These will all be hugely valuable to any Christ following creative:

“Remember that as a creative person, the important thing is to create. Who sees what you make, where it goes and what it does is a secondary consideration; the first is to exercise the talent God has given you.” Franky Schaeffer

“It’s simple. You just take something and do something to it, and then do something else to it. Keep doing this and pretty soon you’ve got something.” Jasper Johns

“It is within my power either to serve God or not to serve Him. Serving Him, I add to my own good and the good of the whole world. Not serving Him, I forfeit my own good and deprive the world of that good which was in my power to create.” Leo Tolstoy

“[God] wants to make us co-creators with Him, but He can’t do so unless we believe that doing the work of becoming an artist is important, so important that some other things may not get done… Doing artist work, when we let the Spirit lead us, is doing God’s work.” Janice Elsheimer

and finally “Try? There is no try. There is only do or do not.” Yoda

This book will help you connect your creativity with your Creator. It will also help you to strip away your excuses.

Just make art!

utdFirst a confession, I hate horror. I’ve never willingly watched a horror movie and walked out on the one that was on in my house (edited for TV) because even that was too much. As such, I really had no interest in reading Stephen King. Then a year or two ago, I read his book 11/22/63 because the concept seemed interesting and it seemed he was veering away from horror. For the most part he did in that book and it was a really thought-provoking read.

I assumed he would do the same with Under the Dome. I watched the first season of the CBS series based on the book, so before vacation, I picked up a copy to read on the beach. I really liked the series I figured the book would fill in some of the details and prepare me for the coming series. I doubt that is the case. This book is wildly different from the series.

Did I like it? That’s a tough question. There were several to many times where I seriously considered quitting it as some parts were so gratuitous, that I felt I had no business reading it. At times I felt it was needlessly gory and at other times, needlessly dirty. There is one thing to be sure, King knows how to let you know a character is capable of great evil. It’s a well written page turner beyond a doubt, I read all 1,074 pages in just under two weeks, but I cannot recommend it, because I know many would find it extremely offensive. That being said for every time I thought, “Oh, Stephen, why did you go there?” I also thought “How is he going to redeem this?” and “What is going to happen next?”

More than anything else though, what kept me reading is what he did with the main villain, Big Jim Rennie. You see one of the ways that the TV series differs from the book is that in the book, Rennie is a “Christian”, a bible quoting, “God-fearing Christian” convinced that everything that is happening is “God’s will.” Before the dome comes down to separate the town, his town, from the rest of the world, he’s a shifty egomaniacal big fish in a small pond, who thinks manufacturing Methamphetamine is okay because he uses the money (well some of the money) for the good of the town. After the dome, with no one to stop him, he tries to become “emperor” killing anyone who gets in the way of him doing “God’s will.” I think this is what hit me more than anything. There is this huge exploration of situational ethics, doing the wrong thing for the “right reason” at play in the pages of Under the Dome. And Big Jim’s actions show the disastrous results of combining this line of thinking with a misguided faith.

To me this book says when it comes to God’s will, we all need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. You see the danger of seeking God’s will isn’t God, it’s us. The Bible says the heart is deceitful above all things, and it can be really easy for us to assume that “God’s will” is whatever we want. The reality is God’s will is for us to want what He wants. We need to know and be in the Word and use the Word to guide our will to God’s.

Romans 12 gives the guidance and lets us know how to discern God’s will. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” God’s will and the ways of the world are nearly always diametrically opposed. While I can’t recommend this book, and I have no idea of whether or not this was King’s motivation, Under the Dome challenged me to test the motivations of my heart before assuming God’s will is whatever I want to do. In that respect it was worth the read.

I know I reviewed this book earlier, but I just need to encourage you one more time to check this out. It’s the story of great good coming out of great pain. The story of the Peifer family who had a child who passed away after only a few days. They decided to take a year away and go to Africa to serve in the mission field as houseparents. It was a trip that changed the whole course of their (and thousands of other) lives. It shows that every life matters, everyone is significant and part of God’s plan.

This is a book that shows the amazing faithfulness of God and the His ability to give beauty for ashes. It’s one of the most encouraging motivating books I have ever read. Warning: This book will make you want to do stuff… Important stuff… Stuff that makes a difference.

Ephesians 2:10 is one of my favorite verses to preach on. It says, “for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I’m fond of saying “You were created by God on purpose, for a purpose, so live on purpose.” If I had to sum up Purpose Driven Life in one sentence, that would be it. In this re-imagining of Rick Warren’s classic, his goal is to help people discover and live out their God-given purpose. As you can imagine this has always struck a chord with me.

Originally released ten years ago this book is a masterpiece. It’s sold over 32 million copies worldwide making it the best-selling non-fiction hardback in history (besides the Bible). In it’s pages,after looking at our lives and our relationship with God, Warren breaks down five purposes God has for each of our lives. Purpose #1: You Were Planned for God’s Pleasure (Worship), Purpose #2: You Were Formed for God’s Family (Fellowship), Purpose #3: You Were Created to Become Like Christ (Discipleship), Purpose #4: You Were Shaped for Serving God (Ministry) and Purpose #5: You Were Made for a Mission (Mission). He then painstakingly breaks these down into 40 daily readings designed to draw the reader closer to God and God’s mission. The stuff in these pages is gold. The back ofthe book is filled with study questions making this not just a great devotional but a wonderful small group resource as well.

So how do you improve on a classic? Well for starters, Warren added two new chapters to the end of the book on two traps that will seriously keep you off your purpose: envy (comparison) and being a people pleaser. For my audience of Christian creatives, these chapters will be especially poignant.

Warren also taps into technology with the book. Each chapter now comes with a QR code linked to a short video in which Warren highlights the main point of the chapter. Each chapter also ends with a link to a message from Rick Warren on the topic of the chapter. These resources alone make the book worth purchasing again. Here’s a sample.

This is a book that should be in every believer’s library. It’s a classic,beautifully brought up to date and a must read for every one who wants to live “on-purpose.”

I got my advance copy from

With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God
by Skye Jethani

Skye Jethani's With

Skye Jethani's With

I just finished reading Skye Jethani’s latest book entitled With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. I am trying not resort to hyperbole, but this book was really life changing. In the book Jethani examines five ways most people relate to God. There is life under God, over God, from God and for God. With the possible exception of over God, all of these sound great and they are to some degree, however they can each represent a very unhealthy relationship. And all of them are to one degree or another about fear and control.

People living life under God live in Live to appease God through “strict obedience to moral and ritual commands.” This sounds good except at its core is an attempt to control God and our conditions through our obedience.

People living life over God see themselves as managers, and “autonomous beings who have been given a divine manual for operating my life and world and whose fate will ultimately rest upon how well I implement God’s principles and instructions.” Again this is an effort to control. We don’t have to pray, we don’t have to depend on God we can just do the right thing and ensure that God will always make things go well.

People living from God fall into consumer Christianity, seeing God as a celestial Santa Claus who we use to get what we want. This is the shortest way to center of the universe syndrome where everything including God revolves around me.

People who live life for God see themselves as servants, “workers created to fulfill a great mission. Their “sense of value is inexorable linked to what (they are) able to accomplish and the magnitude of (their) impact on the world.”

My confession is I have been all of those people at one point or another and have lately been life for God and it has been miserable at times because it generates a picture of God not as loving Father but as Father who can never be pleased. This is a false picture and not what God wants. God wants us in the fifth way, Life With God. As I saw this I became convicted and have repented of some rather messed up attitudes. I don’t just want to be with God some day in heaven. I want to be With Him in my every day life right now. How about you?
With is a must read.