the wordhaver is over there ——>

I’m in dire need of some simplification in my blogging life.keep-calm-and-moving-on-12

I dived in (more like was shoved into) the world of blogging three years ago, ultimately ending up with what I named my “wordhavering” blog some two years ago. About that same time, I was encouraged (shoved more like, again) to start a blog for each area of ministry I’m involved in (yes I do the pastor jig, gig, thing). So I had one for education classes, one for small groups, and one for the bookstore I manage. Then early this year I started another blog for the daily devotions I write for my church community.

Five blogs.

And I’ve realized that’s three too many.

The education blog never really got off the ground, so I finally deleted it a few months ago. The small group blog has just never picked up traction with my target audience (the small group community in my church). That’s actually not a bad thing. Face to face connection and dialogue seems to be the preferred avenue of communication (go figure). So I’m closing the loop on that one.

Then there’s this blog, the BookCellar blog. This one has actually gotten some traction and picked up a number of followers (thank you!). It’s been stretching to try my hand at book reviews (I still think I suck at them) and fun to try writing book reviews using a rating system stolen adapted from the Today I Watched A Movie blog.

But I need to close the loop and put my energies into the two blogs I keep coming back to: (1) the daily reflections blog with posts five days a week in which I “haver” my way through Scriptures we are processing in our church community both in small group settings and in the larger Sunday morning “church” context; and (2) my “wordhavering” blog where I can be a little more random and ranging with poetry posts, theological musings, quotes, pictures or whatever strikes my fancy. And now it’s where I’ll do any book “reviews” I take the time to write – I’m just not going to even try to rate or professionally review the books. I’ll just share the books that move me and tell you a little about why they do.

So those of you who have enjoyed my speed on this BookCellar blog, I invite you to check me out on my two remaining active blogs. I hope you find helpful grist for your mind, heart and soul.

Thank you for following along with me here.

Read more.
Judge less.
Love deep.
Live large.

Actually, the tag should read, "over there"

Actually, the tag should read, “over there”

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i think this what we call a “pick-me-upper”

dont even bother tryingI just don’t know if I could get into this one.

And look, it’s even unabridged…

Notice the author stopped at 89…he didn’t even bother getting to an even number…

Or a multiple of seven…

Was going to check for this title’s availability on Amazon…

but

why

bother?

 

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Captured by Gettysburg

Gettysburg

I haven’t done one of these in a while. But I have to stop and do it for this one. Have to.

This has been my summer read.

Yes, I know it has a limited audience – history lovers, civil war buffs, etc. Yes I know that means a limited readability for many and that what I find thrilling and soul-nourishing (because I am a history nut and a civil war aficionado, so sue me) will be not so much for others. I know that.

But I have to rate this one through the roof. I do.

I read Allen Guelzo’s Gettysburg: The Last Invasion over the past two months, mostly in the cool of the morning or evening on my patio on weekends. It’s been my Sabbath read (the irony of that is not lost on me).

I have been reading about Gettysburg for four decades; I’ve played, replayed and replayed again the battle and campaign on a tactical and strategic level during my previous us life as a gamer, and when the movie Gettysburg was released in 1993 and ended up showing here in Boise in what is now the Overland Park Cinemas (prior to Edwards coming to town in 1997), I was first in line. Watching Gettysburg on the big screen was a religious experience for me. It was.

All of that to say, when I saw Guelzo’s book, I nearly did the fly-by on it. I mean, what more could there be to see or to learn? But the book was so pretty (this is not one to read in iPad or Kindle format, I’m telling you, you’ve got to hold the hard copy in your hands). So, this being the 150’th anniversary of the three day struggle in July of 1863, I thought it might be worth revisiting those fields.

Worth it? Guelzo held me, spellbound. Maybe it’s just because it’s been too long since I’ve read a Civil War book. Maybe it’s because Guelzo is a marvelous and careful story teller. I would say it was more of the latter.

It says something when you know how this story ends, you know how each of those days ebbed and flowed, you know what happened at that climactic charge on the third day, but Guelzo rivets you anyway.

Take the third day as a case in point.

Pickett’s Charge has always seemed anti-climactic in retrospect, a foregone conclusion. So once Guelzo had finished narrating the events of the second day, I expected a let down. But instead it gripped me like a cliffhanger and I could not put it down until I had finished it.

________________________________________________________________

Lewis Armistead was not interested in bogging down into a slugging match around the trees. Directly ahead he saw the ruined guns of Cushing’s battery, and behind them Alexander Webb’s last reserve regiment of the Philadelphia brigade, the “Fire Zouaves” of the 72nd Pennsylvania, and beyond them…nothing. Nothing but the provost guard and the dead horses and overturned wagons in the Taneytown Road, nothing but daylight and victory and the destruction of the Army of the Potomac and the end of the war and independence and peace, and so he lowered his sword and called, This day is ours, men, come turn this artillery on them. And for a moment, the balances shivered and teetered, unsure which future world to bless.

________________________________________________________________

I did not expect this read to make me tingly. I didn’t expect his epilogue journeying through Lincoln’s speech on November 19 of that year to make me teary.

Do yourself a favor.

Read this book.

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time to Start

I now have a go-to book when gifting graduates of all ages and stages of life.

Seriously, how could you NOT want to read this book?

Seriously, how could you NOT want to read this book?

That’s really the point of Jon Acuff’s latest book, Start – we are at multiple points of “graduation” all through our lives. Any of us at any time can be faced with a new opportunity to start – though we usually call such times disaster, calamity, reversals, and setbacks and avoid them like the proverbial plague.

Start isn’t a feel good book, it’s a get real book that will alternately make you laugh and cringe – and most of the laughing and cringing are at Acuff’s expense.

Start explores the road that leads away from “average to awesome” through successive stretches of learning, editing, mastering, harvesting and guiding which are simply not locked in anymore to various stages of our personal timeline (learning in your twenties, editing in your thirties, mastering in your forties, etc.); we are presented with opportunities to start at any and every season of life. I really don’t go in for motivational tomes. I don’t. Typically they come up smelling plasticky to me. Not so with Start.

Acuff hits a good chord. How could he not with the subtitle “Punch Fear in the Face”?

Take and read.

Here’s a taste:

One afternoon in Atlanta, a guy named Lanny gave me some horrible feedback. I’d spoken at two camps he’d put on for about 5,000 students, and he had some evaluations he needed to go over with me. The feedback was horrible because it was true. According to Lanny, ten to fifteen people who saw me speak said that I “lacked passion” for my material. He said they felt like it was a performance, not material I was really passionate about.

I sat there a little stunned at first. I like to get feedback that says, “You’re awesome. Almost too awesome. You don’t need spotlights on you when you speak because the glow of your greatness illuminates the stage.” And this feedback was not that. The crowd thought I was fake. They thought I was going through the motions. They thought I was performing words I’d memorized.

And the sad thing is, they were right.

At the time, I was practicing my speeches eight to ten times per gig. I’d stand in my office, face out the window toward the Cracker Barrel next door, and do a full dry run of each speech. Over and over I would practice until I knew every line of my forty-five-minute speech. I’d do all the hand motions, time myself, and even give pauses for the invisible crowd to laugh in my office. (Invisible people think I’m hilarious!) I practiced this way because I didn’t want to feel out of control onstage. I was so worried about making a mistake that I tightly clutched my hands around my speech. I had it perfectly manicured so I could control every second. No surprises.

Lanny picked up on that and gave me some advice: “Jon, your speeches are so over-structured that you’re not leaving any space in them for something new to happen in the moment. That’s the best part of a speech, when something brand new appears. When there’s a surprise that both the audience and the speaker get to share. That’s what connects an audience with a speaker, the feeling that you’re going on a journey together, creating something together, and neither one of you knows exactly where it’s going to go, but you’ll end up there together.” Giving a speech that way takes a courage I didn’t have at the time, and so does taking your first step on the road to awesome.

Average is so popular because average is familiar. We all know how to do average. Ninety-nine percent of the people on the planet do average. The road is well worn, the decisions are obvious, and the next steps are crystal clear….

The road to awesome, though, is defined by the surprises. It’s not a block in a downtown city laid out long ago by methodical city planners. It’s a rambling dirt road with twists and turns that offers something new at every corner. Let’s leave room on our maps for some surprises.

Hear, hear.

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The Promise of Paradox Scares Me to Death Regularly

what a pair

I didn’t intentionally place these two side by side on our “Readshare” shelf (people can take any book on this shelf, read, and, hopefully, not being book piggies, will return said books when finished). But these two made me pause and laugh – and laughter was a much needed gift at the moment.

I’ve read The Promise of Paradox — Parker Palmer is a fav of mine. His book The Courage to Teach has been foundational and formative for me in what I do as a teacher in whatever setting (think I encountered it in the mid-nineties).

God Has Never Failed Me – But He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times is new to me (oh, but then, not really.) Haven’t read it, but the title itself is worth the price of admission. Generally, the last thing we do is celebrate the contradictions of life. Generally, we want religion to remove or at least to smooth the contradictions — and it’s certainly not supposed to introduce us to more of them!

Real religion embraces contradiction and paradox, however. And in light of the real religion I have known, I would probably have to change the title of Toler’s book to “God has never failed to scare me to death.”

Because he, and life, do. On a regular basis.

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