Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book Review: Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish by C. Christopher Smith

Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish by C. Christopher Smith

Paperback, 179 pages
Published June 12th 2016 by IVP Books

Description from Goodreads: We have been created to live and work in community. But all too often we see ourselves primarily as individuals and run the risk of working at cross-purposes with the organizations we serve. Living faithfully in a neighborhood involves two interwoven threads: learning and action. In this book C. Christopher Smith, coauthor of Slow Church, looks at the local church as an organization in which both learning and action lie at the heart of its identity. He explores the practice of reading and, in his words, "how we can read together in ways that drive us deeper into action." Smith continues, "Church can no longer simply be an experience to be passively consumed; rather, we are called into the participatory life of a community. Reading is a vital practice for helping our churches navigate this shift." Discover how books can help your churches and neighborhoods bring flourishing to the world. 

Summary: Reading for the Common Good explores how reading in community, specifically the church community, creates a learning community and shared social imagination which results in clearer congregational identity, sense of mission, and wider engagement with the neighborhood, environment, economics, and politics.

Smith lays out his thesis at the beginning of the book:
“In this book, we will view the local church as a sort of learning organization, in which both learning and action lie at the heart of its identity. We will explore the practice of reading—perhaps the most important component of learning in the twenty-first century—and consider how we can read together in ways that drive us deeper into action” (12).
Smith encourages us to enlarge our vision of reading, noting that we are formed by the books we read. While we start with the Bible, we expand out from there, reading broadly across “theology, history, urban theory, ecology, agriculture, poetry, child development, economics, fiction and more" (15).  Smith’s vision for reading goes beyond the individual to his congregation and community.

You can get a sense of the book’s trajectory from the chapter titles, listed below:

Introduction: The Local Church as Learning Organization
1. Slow Reading in Accelerating Times
2. Shaping the Social Imagination
3. Reading and Our Congregational Identity
4. Discerning our Call
5. Reading with Our Neighbors
6. Deepening Our Roots in Our Neighborhoods
7. Hope for Our Interconnected Creation
8. Toward Faithful Engagement in Economics and Politics
9. Becoming a Reading Congregation
Epilogue: Revive Us Again
Reading Lists
List 1: Recommended Reading for Going Deeper
List 2: Englewood Christian Church Reading List


  • Well written
  • Some good ideas (I especially like the idea of the way books read us and form us.)
  • Great annotated bibliography at the end of the book. 


  • Seems a little thin on the question of how to get our church to be a reading church. (Though Chapter 9 attempts to address this question.)
  • The question the subtitle of the book sets itself up to answer is “How do books help our churches and neighborhoods flourish?” While Smith does set out to answer this question, I found myself wanting more practical and concrete answers. It all felt rather abstract at times.
  • Sometimes Smith’s ideas seem a bit too, well, ideal. Even though he talks about his own church and community, it just doesn’t seem like his ideas would work as well in other places.  

Reading for the Common Good Purchase Links: Paperback ($11.24), Kindle Edition ($10.68)

I received an e-copy of this book from IVP through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

top ten book to movie adaptations

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Book to movie adaptations can be painful because of the changes that are made and the parts that are left out. And the more we love the books, the harder it can be to enjoy the movie version. Even still, there are some fun  book to movie adaptations and even a few where I liked the movie better than the book (this is very rare).

So here are my Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations:

1. The Lord of the Rings - LOVE the movies, but the books are still better.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) - this was a pretty good adaptation but of course the book is better.

3. Harry Potter - The books are better but I still enjoy the movies.

4.The Princess Bride - The movie is definitely better than the book.

5. Inkheart - I liked the movie better than the book

6. Stardust - I liked the movie better than the book

7. Fight Club — I liked the movie better than the book

8. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Both the one with Gene Wilder and the newer one with Johnny Depp)

9. Ever After - one of my favorite adaptations of the Cinderella story

10. Bridge to Terabithia - one of my favorite books as a child and a good movie too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Monday, August 01, 2016

What I'm Into (July 2016 Edition)


Currently Reading:

  • Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science by Mike McHargue
  • Rise of The Circle (Meta #3) by Tom Reynolds
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster
  • The Heart of Light: A Tale of Solomon Star by Charlie W. Starr
  • The Chapel of the Thorn: A Dramatic Poem by Charles Williams, Edited by Sørina Higgins 

Finished in July:

I've been cleaning off my DVR. That has entailed finishing DC's Legends of Tomorrow and watching all of this year's episodes of Marvel's Agent Carter. I've also been re-watching the most recent season of Doctor Who.

If you are a C. S. Lewis fan, you really need to listen to William O'Flaherty's interview with Walter Hooper on his All About Jack podcast!

A snapshot of some of the other podcasts I try to keep up with:

What I'm Into

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Book Review: Love: Expressed by Tristan Sherwin

Love: Expressed by Tristan Sherwin

Paperback, 252 pages
Published October 23rd 2015 by WestBow Press

What is this book about? Tristan says, “It's a book about life-every part of it. About how it should be lived, how it should be explored, how it should be expressed. This is a book about meaning, about life's trajectories. It's about God. It's about you. It's about them.”

Brian Zahnd says, “Tristan Sherwin has written a smart and beautiful book showing us that Jesus Christ is the love of God expressed as a human life. This is the life we are called to imitate; this life of love is what we are made for."

What do I say?

Love: Expressed is about love and theology and spirituality, not in the abstract, but in the rubber meets the road, getting your hands dirty kind of way. Sherwin takes us through eight chapters of different ways the love of God can be expressed in us and through our lives: through obedience, learning, mercy, service, worship, Sabbath, prayer, and humility. Love: Expressed is deeply rooted in Scripture, but is also loaded with pop culture references that I tended to enjoy quite a lot. Sherwin also includes personal stories as he works through the different chapters of the book.

The core scripture the book turns on is the passage in Matthew where Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment and he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:34-40). Sherwin goes back to these verses several times throughout his book as he attempts to work out what it really looks like to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Some quotes I really liked:

“True religion is about reciprocating the love that we have already been shown.” (13)

“…could having questions about God (questions that are actually pursued) be more of an expression of love than thinking we have all the answers? Could a mind stimulated, and in pursuit of God be more ‘pleasing’ to him than a mind that is swept clean and vacant?” (33)

“Mercy provides the sanctuary we all desire, but such an environment can only exist if the architect is love.” (59)

“…it is love that has called us to this place, love that has received us, love that sits enthroned on the mercy seat…” (60)

Love: Expressed Purchase Links: Paperback ($18.08), Kindle Edition ($5.99)

Tristan Sherwin is a husband to Steph, a father to Corban and Eaden, a friend to some, a teacher to many, and a follower of Christ. Tristan, whilst in full time employment, is a Pastor and teacher at the Metro Christian Centre, Bury, England. A lover of books, music and film.

Tristan longs to see that followers of Christ are released to follow and not enslaved. Equipped and not burdened. Engaged and not silent. His heart is that those who claim they love Christ are empowered to express that love.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book Review: C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell: A Companion and Study Guide to the Screwtape Letters by William O'Flaherty

C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell: A Companion and Study Guide to the Screwtape Letters by William O'Flaherty

Paperback, 300 pages
Published March 15th 2016 by Winged Lion Press, LLC

Today, C. S. Lewis is arguably most known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, but before that, The Screwtape Letters was his first claim to fame. He even appeared on the cover of Time magazine with a picture of the devil behind his shoulder.

William O'Flaherty has put together a very practical and useful study guide for The Screwtape Letters. I could easily see myself using this to lead a book club or small group study through The Screwtape Letters. O'Flaherty's book contains plot summary, and great discussion guide questions (and even suggested answers!) along with a topical glossary and several appendices. It has been endorsed by several Lewis scholars including Diana Pavlac Glyer, Don King, Devin Brown, Carolyn Curtis, Charlie W. Starr, and Crystal Hurd. I would recommend it to anyone who loves Lewis and wants to further their study of The Screwtape Letters.

Lewis enthusiasts may know O’Flaherty from his work with the “All About Jack” podcast and EssentialCSLewis.com.

C. S. Lewis Goes to Hell Purchase Links: Paperback ($14.99), Kindle Edition ($5.49 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited)

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Friday, July 01, 2016

What I'm Into (June 2016 Edition)


My reading slowed down a little bit in the month of June due to some super fun things like the C. S. Lewis and Friends Colloquium I went to at Taylor University, and having my roommate from college, Megan, come spend a week with me! But I have now finished reading 64 books so far in 2016.

Currently Reading:

Finished in June:

  • I re-watched seasons 1-4 of Doctor Who with Megan while she was visiting me!
  • I've also finally started watching The Legends of Tomorrow episodes off my DVR. I'm probably halfway through the season. 

Diana Glyer, Colin Duriez, and Sørina Higgins speaking on the future of Inklings scholarship at the C. S. Lewis Colloquium

Megan! LEGO LOTR! And we were watching Doctor Who! 3 of my favorite things!

Celebrating my brother's birthday!

My cousin's adorable children, who are always on the move! Love them!

What I'm Into