Tag Archives: reading

Mistborn

I am not what you would call a reader, or at least not what I would call a reader. So much so, that there is an entire section of my blog that was dedicated to encouraging myself to read. For a while I was writing reviews for the books I had assigned myself to read.

Alas, much like the rest of my efforts here recently, that lapsed. In fact for much of last year I hardly read anything (excluding the internet). Then whilst playing Iron Banner last fall (a monthly PvP event in the video game Destiny), someone on one of the other teams had a name related to some book I had never heard of, but apparently half my fire team had. They talked briefly about what great books they were & then we moved on.

Fast forward to my vacation to Europe last thanksgiving & I thought it would be good to have a book to read. I remembered the name of the book, I think I had made a note of it. So I bought Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Actually I bought the whole trilogy, because why half do something right?

Other than a little Elmore Leonard, I have not read a great deal of fiction in my adult life, most of my getting into reading efforts centered around spiritual things or at least self help deals. I really didn’t know what to expect or if I would stick with it, but I thought it was worth a try. The last time I got into a fiction series was when my wife, before we were even engaged mentioned the Anne Rice vampire series. I started to read them just to have something to talk to her about & relate with. I remember enjoying them, but I also remember them dragging on at times.

So as I started Mistborn, I had no expectations, I had never read a fantasy type book and wasn’t sure what to expect or if I would even finish it.

I am not going to go through the plot of the books, the twists & turns, how the author manages to hook you in, only to break your heart & then somehow make it all alright, or even better than it was moments before. Or how he develops characters that despite being in a fantasy universe are still very believable, likable & relatable, as flawed as they are heroic.

What I will tell you is that not only did I finish the first book, I read the entire trilogy & then I read the 2nd trilogy. I love these books, in a way that I never expected to, in a way I cannot really explain; it’s like when you find that one guitarist that just stirs your soul with every solo, or that singer that breaks your heart with every note, the one that just fits you perfectly. I absolutely love the universe Sanderson has created, the magic system, the personalities, the whole thing, I totally love it.

Now I am in a very new & quite frankly rather annoying position, a position that actual readers I am sure can relate to. I have finished the books, all 6 of them. I know he is working on some more & apparently there is an e-book prequel that I need to hunt down, but I am finished, there are no more. This annoys me, because I truly love these books. My wife suggested I find some other books in the same genre to read, which while a valid suggestion, is simply not what I want. I want this universe, I want Vin & Elend, Wax & Wayne, I want allomancy & feruchemy (although maybe not hemalurgy, because that’s just gross). I want more dang it and there isn’t any, at least not yet.

So instead I am writing on my blog, because for the first time in my life I get to complain that I have caught up with a book series.

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Reading: The Shack by William P Young

After a good start to the year with reading I allowed myself to get out of the habit until recently when I read The Shack. The book was given to my wife to read by a neighbor, my wife who is an amazingly fast reader took a long time to read the book so I assumed that she didn’t enjoy it. However over dinner one day the subject came up & it turned out she did enjoy it, she had simply put it down for about a month when she got mad at it. I was intrigued enough to give it a try. As the list of books I have written about on here will tell you, I don’t’ read fiction very often, it’s not that I don’t enjoy it, it is just that, well, I don’t have a good reason.

As I started with the book, I was not sure what to expect, my wife & neighbor had been very careful not to ruin the plot for me. The first few chapters were ok at best, for me there were far too many characters to try and remember who was who (I know, I should read more). The darkness of the book was slowly building until I reached the point that I am quite sure is where my wife put the book down. You can see it coming in the book & I understand why it upset my wife so much (no I’m not going to tell you what happened).

From that point on, the book builds from darkness into beautiful, blinding light. It presents one of the best explanations of God’s love for us & how His creation works that I have read. The writing is masterfully immersive. I really felt like I was a part of the story, I could imagine everything I was reading. At times I had to remind myself that this was fiction as I became envious of the journey the lead character was on (the good parts of it, not the bad). Then the realization came to me that I had been / am on a very similar journey. So many of us are. They is what makes the book so great, it is the story of redemption, of healing, of processing anger, especially that deep hidden anger at God for what we think He allowed to happen to us & that disappointment that He didn’t love us enough to stop it happening. Which is of course nonsense, but that has never stopped anyone that I know from going there. We all need therapy in some form or another. We all certainly need God to speak into our true identity, to here from Him about how He really sees us. Maybe, just maybe, this book could be the beginning of that journey for you.

Yes this is a work of fiction, yet in some ways it is so much more real than any “fact’ based books you will ever read.  I highly recommend picking up a copy & reading it, just make sure you stick with it past the beginning!

 

Reading: The Last Champions by Dave Simpson

Following the intensity of the last 2 books I read I almost took a break, but I decided that rather than take a break from reading I would move onto a completely different subject from Jesus & read The Last Champions by Dave Simpson. The book is a look at the 1991-92 Football League championship winning team, Leeds United. 1991-92 was the last season of the old first division before the formation of the Premier League, the invasion of countless fortunes and the slow transformations of the game I grew up loving into the almost unrecognizable entity that it is today.

I actually bought the book for my mother  when it first came out, she then brought it for me to read when she visited from England last year, and it has sat on my shelf until a couple of weeks ago.  The book would be of interest to sports fans in general in addition to those with an intrigue into management techniques and general human interest, but mostly to fans of the once great Leeds United.

This was the last team to win the top domestic football honor in England with an English Leeds United parade the championship trophy in 1992manager. It was a team assembled on a low budget filled with players who made “normal salaries”, the kind of money that today’s “superstars” make in a week, not a year.  Leeds United might not have had the greatest collection of talent that season, but what they did have was one of the all-time great work ethics and a genius manager whose depth of preparation and unique man management skills got a group of players to all peak at the same time, for a whole season, to achieve the impossible, something that only the richest of the rich can dream of today.

I say that they did not have the greatest collection of players, however don’t believe everything you read in the press about that team. Not the greatest, maybe, possibly the most underrated collection of heroes ever? In my opinion; absolutely.

LUFC ChampsNow, I am biased, I was a season ticket holder in 91-92, my third year of watching Leeds United. I used to stand on the west side the old “kop” on a plastic box (to make me tall enough), with my Mum and Uncle. Biased I may be, but I think that my experience of watching the team week in week out would also make me something of an expert on a set of players that the country / world did not see nearly as much as they would have done today. These were the days of one live televised game per week, although whenever we were on tv we certainly shined.

I could easily sit here and regale you with tails of Rod Wallace’s lightning pace, Chris Fairclough being better than Des Walker or Steve Hodge’s key contribution as almost a forgotten man in the legendary LUFC midfield of 91-92, but I won’t. Nor will I bore you of my teenage love of David Batty, the lad who grew up only a few short miles from me and went to the same high school. Maybe I will go into the beginnings of my Leeds United fandom on a future blog entry, but this is supposed to be about a book.

What a book it is too, it reminded me of the club I fell in love with, not the one I keep up withLUFC Champs 2 today hoping for a magical tweet of surprising good news, but one which, much like the sport they play, is virtually unrecognizable as the same entity today. It reminded me of a strange time in life, when football was an oasis for me, an escape from the horrors of high school. A time when I was trying to find my place in the world, Leeds United gave me that place. The team and the sport became my love, my passion, my community. Standing on the terraces I found my voice (literally), I could make as much noise as I wanted and instead of being scolded (when screaming at unfathomable decibel levels), I would receive only nods of approval. The atmosphere at Elland road in those days, especially on the kop was unparalleled, I don’t care the event or the size of the crowd, nothing can compare with that booming, ferocious cauldron that we created back then. I’ve been to old firm games, a cup final, different US playoff sports, only Celtic could get close, but even they, with all their numbers, could not match the atmosphere of eland Road in those days.

The book visits with many of my childhood heroes, sharing their stories and memories of not only that season, but the 2 prior, basically reviewing the first 3 years of my attending the games. Gary Speed (rip) made the statement that he was so young and he didn’t really appreciate what had been achieved; he just expected to always be that successful. I felt the same way, I am glad that I didn’t know then what I know now, although I would have savored it more, it would have tainted it somewhat.

It was certainly a different time, in many ways a different game. Back then the team was part of the community, I was too young to be in bars and see the players mingling freely with the citizens of the city, but the connection with the city and myself was just as real. These were not mercenaries, these were real people, who played the game in the manner that it is meant to be played and cared like fans, not just employees.

As a Leeds United fan I am lucky enough to have seen us be the best team in the country, I have my own tales to tell just like my Mum and my Uncle had from the Revie days. I am one of the fortunate few, I doubt there will be another generation that will be able to say the same thing. I am truly grateful to Dave Simpson for writing this book, taking me on a misty eyed journey through our shared history. The book keenly reminded me of what I once loved so dearly and also of what is rapidly going from not appreciating to utterly despising about the current era of the game.

Ok one memory – a quick contrast from then and now. Today players fall over at the slightest touch, begging the referee to give the opposition a yellow card or worse, gamesmanship, trying to seek an advantage at any cost. More than once back then I watched Gordon Strachan, captain of Leeds United, talk the referee out of giving the opposition a yellow card, getting up quickly from a hard foul, not a slight glance. Sportsmanship, fair play, respect and honor. Trying to win against their best with your best simply to see if you are good enough, because that is the point. That more than anything is what I miss about sport and more than anything what money has ruined about sport in general, not just association football. Read the book, hop on youtube and watch digitized VHSs and pine for the good old days, I certainly did.

 

Good Gifts – The JIBTYI Notes; part 1

The JIBTYI notes – part 1 – Good Gifts

It’s a funny old thing this Christian life, sometimes when you are muddled about what you are to do; if you are to try and keep pressing, or to try and find a way of balancing a “normal” life with this life of pursuing God that you have felt called to, but is so much more difficult that it at times feels less than appealing. Sometimes something comes along that just rocks your world and removes any question of the status quo that was threatening to creep in. So here is the story of my experience with reading the book “Jesus is Better Than You Imagined” by Jonathan Merritt.

notes

 

Continue reading

Reading: Jesus is Better Than You Imagined

As I’ve confessed many times on here, I don’t read much; at least I didn’t read much. The reason there is a reading section on my blog is not because I feel I have some literary review talents, but that I need to almost guilt myself into reading more. There is nothing necessarily wrong with not reading, I just feel like part of my goal to become “all I can be” (whatever that means) should involved reading more.

Having said that a week ago I finished reading “Jesus is Better Than You Imagined” by Jonathan Merritt for the second time. That’s right, for the first time in my life I reached the end of a book and the first thing I did was turn back to the beginning and start again and do you know what? It may well be the next book I read too; it was that profound an experience.

jibtyiUsually I would tell you here why I read this book, but I’m going to save that for a later post. After reading the wonderful, but intensely theologically deep Unveiled, I glanced through this new book, as usual, to see how many pages there were, how small the font was and to estimate how long it would take me to read it. Maybe that is the first thing I learned, my goal had been to just read the book, to get through it and check it off my self-appointed list. However after the first read through, a quick count would tell me that I filled 10 pages of notes by the time I had finished the book and I didn’t start writing my thoughts down until chapter 3.

What could have been a nice simple quick read was the spawn of maybe the most active my mind has ever been, certainly whilst reading a book (this would be where I pretend that I have read the bible like this, but while I read it and get a lot from it, sometimes I need a translator to help). Thoughts, realizations, conversations with God were flooding in from all over the place. I had to write them down; it was the only way to have a hope of processing it all.

I don’t write in books (other than middle school French text-books), I don’t recall why, it may be strange for a “non-reader” to have such a reverence for books, but the thought of writing in books has always been foreign to me. My copy of Jesus is Better Than You Imagined now has blue ink throughout it, sentences underlined, paragraphs squared off for quick access in the future, yet I fear that I have missed some spots, another reason for a third reading. I have read some good Christian books in my walk with God, some books that have really helped, but I have never had such a profound experience with a book that is not called the Bible (which I realize is counter to my previous statement, I have had many intensely profound moments with the bible, just not as extended and spread out over one period). So I guess my first observation with this marvelous book is that it is almost irritatingly thought provoking, in a really good way!

So here I am, with ten pages of notes to go through and all sorts of things I want to say about this book, thoughts that I need to process, some to share, some to keep. I suppose you can expect many related posts over the coming days and weeks. I want to try and give a brief description though of what struck me to round out this initial post, but where to begin, what to say about this wonderful, wonderful book?

notes

Let me say this, the author’s honesty and openness is refreshing. This is just as much a book about his life as it is a book on removing the human limitations that we all too frequently place on our limitless God. While the book is Jonathan’s story, this is also my story, the content is obviously different, but it is my story, heck it is probably most of our stories. That is the beauty of it.

The book reads to me not like a collection of sermons or theological teachings, although it is theologically rich, Jesus drips from the pages, the book reads like a conversation with a dear friend. The kind of conversation you can only have with those you trust the most, those that you love. Maybe it reminds me more of the conversations I had going through “Making Peace With Your Past” a few years ago, which was group therapy in all but name (it’s a study), those conversations with initial strangers that would create a bond that will last a lifetime. The relationships may not be active, in a way exposing yourself that much can at times make it difficult, for some to then “do life together”, but the bond created will always be there.

As you read, the emotional involvement with the book only deepens, everything contained is so relatable. At the same time as relating to the actual situations, I found God tapping me on the shoulder, repeatedly asking if I got it now. Wondering if having read it I now saw where he was in my situations. In a way the book for me was like one giant spiritual Homer Simpson “DOH” moment. There were as many reminders contained as revelations, so many powerful teachings that I have received over the past ten years that in my humanness I had either pushed to the back of my mind or forgotten completely. It always seems to go back to my great struggle to live consciously, to be aware of God, not just in the big things, but in the tiny details, in the regular, the mundane, He is everywhere, you just have to look.

One of the random thoughts I had while reading, other than I’d like to buy a case of these books to give away (don’t worry honey I’m not going to), was that if ever a non-believer wanted to know why I believe what I believe. If a non-believer wanted to figure out what made Christians believe in an invisible, difficult to prove God, this book may explain it better than anything I’ve read. It is just a beautiful picture of life, the struggles we all face and the difference having God in your life can make.

I don’t know if there are any plans to develop a study guide to support the book, I hope there are, if not maybe I’ll do it myself. I’d love to run through this thing with my brothers from church. I feel that it could be a hugely powerful tool in a group setting for both deepening one’s spiritual relationship and for at least beginning the healing process that so many of us need to go through in order to become healthy human beings; so that we can begin to experience the life that God wants for us.

There is a very good chance that I will never meet Jonathan Merritt, but my brother in Christ will always hold a special place in my heart, he and his incredible book will always be in some distant way a spiritual mentor to me. I will always remember reading how well he thinks and being reminded me of how much I still do not think, of how I still live too much by instinct. Most of all, I will always remember that no matter how far I go, not matter how close to God I get, Jesus will always be better than I imagine.

 

 

Reading: Unveiled by Alan Smith

Well look at me I finished another book – woohoo!! Very different from Elmore Leonard’s collection of short stories, Unveiled is a Christian book on “The transforming power of God’s presence and voice”.

I actually bought the book about a year ago. The author Alan Smith was a pastor at a large Printchurch in a neighboring town (I say was because he has just planed a new church in the DFW area, I am sure the Lord will bless him greatly in that endeavor), he was at my church as a guest giving a very powerful sermon. This was not the first time I had been on the receiving end of Alan’s powerful teaching; several years ago he came to our church and taught a 4 week series called Foundations of Freedom. That course was the genesis of some real life change for me and was honestly something that I had been desperately seeking (without knowing) since I had invited Christ into my life several years earlier. Anyway, this time Alan was there preaching and also selling his book “Unveiled” in advance of a conference he would be holding at our church. I don’t recall what the conflict was but I was unable to attend the conference, I did however pick up the book. The book then sat on a shelf for a year patiently waiting. Was I too busy to read it / Too lazy? Did God want me to wait until now? Ahh, the mysteries of life. Whatever the reason, I’m not glad I waited, but I am very glad I have read the book.

The best way I can think of to describe what is contained in the pages of this magnificent book is an essential guide for anyone who wants a deeper, more intimate & more experiential relationship with God. I say essential, because I believe there is not a Christian out there who will not get something from this book. I am very familiar with a lot of the content; however it refreshed my mind, it brought things back to my conscious, taught me many new things and it also affirmed things I have been doing in places. The book also challenged me, made me want to focus even more on my relationship with God and reminded me yet again, that I don’t just want to be a Christian spectator. I want my relationship with God to be interactive, to be experiential, I want it to be the way it was designed to be.

The book is not a story or collection of stories. It is a congruent set of teachings, it is filled with scripture which not only lends great weight to what is being taught, but it helped me to feel more connected with God as I read. Alan is an immensely gifted teacher, he teaches at a very deep level but in a way that is completely comprehendible to a layman like me. This is a guide towards a right relationship with God, towards freedom, there are tremendous practical examples contained to help you on this journey.

In short of all the books I have read that are designed to help you in your relationship with God, I would recommend this over them all, it is that good. I’m sure it’s not all encompassing, it’s certainly not the only great book our there, but whatever, get a copy & read it & then read it again & again, that is what I plan to do.

Reading? Yeah, about that …..

Last year, when embarking on this conscious journey to become better / more / whatever the word should be, I made the declaration that not only was I going to make myself read more in 2013, but I was going to write about what I had read.

When I initially thought about this catch up post, I was going to chastise myself and try to explain why I had failed so. Then I thought about it and you know what? I read a ton in 2013, I might not have completed my list, but I read books not on there and I also read more blogs than I ever expected to read in my entire life. It’s amazing how much pleasure can be found in reading blogs, prior to entering this world I’d probably never have believed you if you told me.

When on vacation recently I finished up a book that I have been reading (very slowly) over the last year.  I found myself really enjoying reading, I enjoyed the peace and quiet, I enjoyed being still and completely against my norm, I enjoyed the tv being off.  So without trying to make it a chore, I am once again going to try and read some actual books this year. I mean,  I have half a shelf full of unread books, it only makes sense to read them!

So lets see if I can remember enough of the undocumented books I have read in the last year to at least say something on them.

 

Fire in the hole by Elmore Leonard

This is the book I finished on vacation. It is  a collection of excellently written short stories. The title story was the inspiration behind the tv show Justified, my favorite show. I expected that to be my favorite part of the book, however knowing exactly what was going to happen definitely detracted from that somewhat & I found myself enjoying some of the other stories more. Short stories are an interesting concept to me, they allow you to read the story & then put the book down without being compelled to start the next story. This is convenient, but if you’re like me can make for a very extended book reading. It is nice to be able to complete the tale in one sitting, however in the case of most of these stories I found myself wishing there was another chapter, they were just that well written.  I really enjoyed this book and already have another collection of the late Mr Leonard’s stories waiting to be read.

 

Fathered by God by John Eldredge

I read this book as part of a study with my men’s group at church. It is both an excellent book and an excellent guide to authentic manhood. In today’s broken and confused society with so many man finding themselves as adult children as opposed to having masculinity bestowed on them as it should be; this book in the context of a healthy group study is an invaluable tool. It can really help to straighten things out in your mind, help you find healing, help you find some direction and purpose and help you to recover some of the lost parts of growing up that we all have.

 

It’s not about me by Max Lucado

 

Another book that we read as part of a study, the great part for that use is that the study guide is contained in the book itself. The book is interesting, it starts of kind of basic and feels a bit simple, yet every chapter deepens, the book will open your eyes are really challenge you with how you live your life and live out your faith. The last chapter of the book is probably the most powerful word picture I have seen with regards to how we as Christians represent the Father and how we live our lives shapes the perspective and opinion of God for those who have not met Him yet. It is worth reading for the last chapter alone!