Life Together

Life Together was written by Bonhoeffer as a manual to living in intentional community with other believers. This is important to remember when beginning it.

The book is divided into five sections:

1. Community
a. In this he talks about the basis of Christian community—pretty much that it should be based on our relationship with Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less.

2. The Day with Others
a. What should your prayer and worship times look like in the morning and evening? He has it well prescribed. Most readers will find it rigid and only slightly helpful.

3. The Day Alone
a. What should your alone time look like when living in community with others? Much emphasis on the disciplines of solitude, silence, meditation and prayer.
b. I really liked the way he started out this chapter: “Many people seek fellowship because they are afraid to be alone. Because they cannot stand loneliness, they are driven to seek the company of other people,” and he goes on to say, “Let him who cannot be along beware of community,” and “Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. (p. 76 and 77).
c. What he said on meditation is the best thing I’ve heard to help me to understand it…”It is not necessary that we should discover new ideas in our meditation. Often this only diverts us and read feeds our vanity. It is sufficient if the Word, as we read and understand it, penetrates and dwells within us. As Mary ‘pondered in her heart’ the things that were told by the shepherds, as what we have casually overheard follows us for a long time, sticks in our minds, occupies, disturbs, or delights us, without our ability to do anything about it, so in meditation God’s Word seeks to enter in and remain with us.”
i. I LOVE this because I’m the type of person who has a tendency to replay events in my life, analyzing the words and actions, having a hard time forgiving and forgetting, or thinking about things over and over, like a food I really want or an experience I long to have, sometimes driving myself crazy. Scripture rarely does this for me, so I want to get to this place.

4. Ministry
a. What do people in community do for one another? What is important when living with other people in such close quarters, and with such intentionality? Bonhoeffer gives some great suggestions.
i. The Ministry of Holding One’s Tongue
1. Basically keeping our thoughts to ourselves, no matter how much we want to tell someone—I was convicted that I shouldn’t even “vent” these to Jake (my “other”). Bonhoeffer gives a case that if we keep our evil thoughts in our heads, this is the best way to combat them.
ii. The Ministry of Meekness
1. Thinking little of oneself. This one really challenged me. Sometimes I think that I’m less sinful that I am, or that others sins are somehow worse than mine. But, with this, he’s saying, you have to realize that you are a sinner—that you should consider your sin the same, if not worse than others, which will lend to a spirit of forgiveness, patience, and love towards your brothers or sisters in Christ when they are driving you crazy by the sin you see in their lives (because you will, because you live with them).
iii. The Ministry of Listening
1. Even back in his day, people just liked to talk a lot and offer solutions. He said we need more listeners. GOOD listeners.
iv. The Ministry of Helpfulness
1. Serving others daily is vital. Even if it’s things like cleaning the bathroom or cooking dinner or something really practical that someone else needs. Not with a tally in one’s head either, but just genuine service out of an attitude of this is what we’re made to do- to serve. Everyday.
v. The Ministry of Bearing
1. Bearing each other’s burdens. Letting people be different from you. Forgiving them quickly. Suffering with others. Rejoicing with others.
vi. The Ministry of Proclaiming
1. Speaking God’s Word to others. Allowing yourself to be a vessel to do that, and allowing others to do that for you, trusting that God is going to use each other in your formation as a person. But Bonhoeffer is quick to emphasize that this shouldn’t be judging, but should be firm if needed.
vii. The Ministry of Authority
1. Not elevating one person as the most important or highest authority in the group.
5. Confession and Communion
a. Practicing confession with one another, both ways. And he talks about not having to confess necessarily to the whole community, but one person is fine, and the person can offer forgiveness to that person on behalf of the whole community. And finally, to share in the Lord’s Supper with one another in a biblical way…giving time leading up to it for people to confess to God things, and to each other things so that the Lord’s Table is kept pure.

So that’s it! It’s short, but sweet. The first half was slow and not helpful to me. There were a lot of things that I disagreed with, but the last few chapters were really challenging and helpful as I think about living in intentional Christian community in the future. I think this would be a helpful book for people to use in talking about community expectations, desires, goals, etc.
Here’s to authentic, intentional, Christ-centered community! An experience we Malloys deeply dream of sharing in … we’ve had great beginnings in this…

Wanting All The Right Things

Wanting All the Right Things is a relevantbook by Shirin Taber, a Iranian-American who spent most of her life learning what it was like to live a multi-cultural life as a woman. Shirin has spent several years abroad, working with college students all around the world. It is through her childhood, and through these experiences abroad that the content for Wanting all the Right Things birthed.

As a woman who spent most of her life in America, I know how hard it is to be a “good woman.” Many people have different ideas what that looks like—a career-oriented woman who climbs the ladder to influence and success, a stay-at-home mother who has cookies on the table for her children everyday and maybe even homeschools them, or maybe a woman who has perfected the art of balancing taking care of her children and also working outside the home for the betterment on the community in which she lives. Often times the Church will have an opinion on what a good woman looks like, and the world has a different view. Most of the time these two ideas clash. So what’s a woman, more specifically a Christian woman, to do?

Shirin lists several things that women in general tend to want, or desire for their lives (in some degree or another): significance, beauty, intimacy, solitude, financial security, a legacy, and the supernatural. She talks about how each of these things are real needs for women, but the way in which we desire them can be not only unbiblical, but healthy. After spending a chapter on each, Shirin ends with a chapter on raising our daughters in this “emerging femininity,” and another on mentoring younger women.

I won’t go into each chapter, although I want to ☺, but I instead wanted to discuss my major thoughts on the book as a whole. Shirin does a great job of maintaining a balance between the traditional value on being a mother, and pursuing other outside interests. The thing is, she emphasizes that we can do either one, or both… that one is not the “perfect” life across the board.

Shirin emphasizes again and again that women are not men. And by the mantra “I can do anything a man can do”… and then pursuing that, has made it out to look like that men are the ones that should be emulated… that manhood is the best and women should all try and be men…simply because we can. She emphasizes that manhood and womanhood is different. God created us differently. And we as women need to figure out what true womanhood is… not necessarily what the Church has always emphasized, but true, biblical and cultural womanhood. And we need to figure out what real manhood is, for that matter as well. Not necessarily what culture tells us or necessarily what the Church has traditionally said, but what God says about the matter.

One thing that I think was lacking in this book was a strong ending. Shirin ends a little heavy on “mother power,” which I think is unhelpful to those who decide that they would rather focus on raising spiritual children than having biological children. Although probably helpful for some women, I would have enjoyed a little less pop culture images. Although not a bad example, she used Desperate Housewives and Angelina Jolene to illustrate some things throughout the book, the latter being particularly hard to connect with.

This book is just the beginning of the journey that God has me on to discover just this thing. Wanting All the Right Things was a great start. Shirin uses lots of Scripture, as well as popular feminist theorists, to weave a tapestry of healthy womanhood.

Books for further reading:
Eve’s Revenge: Women and a Spirituality of the Body by Lilian Calles Barger

In Pursuit of the Ideal by Nancy M. Wilson

Women Caught in the Conflict: The Culture War Between Traditionalism and Feminism by Rebecca M. Groothuis

What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman by Danielle Crittenden

Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety by Judith Warner

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf

Why Beauty Matters by Karen-Lee Thorp and Cynthia Hicks

The Myth of a Christian Nation

Dr. Gregory Boyd, a man that is both well-loved and critically disliked, based this book off a 6 week sermon series he delivered at Woodland Hills Church entitled “Cross and the Sword.” Despite his well intentions, 1,000 people left that congregation because of the controversial messages.

So, knowing this about the situation, I was very curious as to what made people leave—I was very interested in getting into meat of the book. Our good friend JR. gave us the book a year or so ago, convinced that we would find it very interesting and thought-provoking.

I began the book last summer, but after a few chapters put it down, not quite ready for it. I had realized that my heart wasn’t quite healed enough from a couple years earlier when Jake and I discussed and voiced the sentiment that this book holds. The wounds were still too raw. But, a week before we left for Nairobi, I decided it was time. And indeed, it was.

The reason for writing this book is that Boyd believes that “a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry.” So, as a pastor he felt called to be a prophet to the congregation he was entrusted with, and to share his convictions with the American evangelical Church. Now, idolatry is a big thing to be accused of…and I don’t think he gives this accusation without much thought and prayer.

Throughout the book Boyd emphasizes several big ideas.

The first is that the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this World are very different, with no real overlaps. The Kingdom of the World uses “power over”, and the Kingdom of God uses “power under,” demonstrated through Jesus Christ’s life.

Another thing he emphasizes over and over is that America was never a “Christian” nation. He really encourages the reader to research the origins of this country, using many different sources (not just your junior high history text book). Boyd shows how many of the times when we think of as the “golden years” were really filled with sin, oppression, and other things that does not look remotely to the Kingdom of God.

A phrase that Boyd uses over and over is that we are called to bleed. He talks about how we are afraid to live the Kingdom of God because it’s too costly. We’re afraid to bleed for people- to live in a way that actually “hurts” us… but we don’t realize that that is the way of the Kingdom coming. One example he gives is that, generally, the Church would rather vote against abortion than actually taking a young girl into your home who has been kicked out of her house for getting pregnant, and helping pay for the costs of having the baby, as well as spending time helping to raise the baby as well (which is a true story). Or, the Church would rather lobby for legislation that increased affordable housing in a city or an increase in some kind of aid to the poor than use their money to build affordable housing in their city… and then using their time and skills to build the houses as well. He encourages the reader to not be afraid to live the Kingdom in such a way that it affects them… their standard of living, their schedules, their families, their lives.

A final thing I really appreciated was that Boyd calls us to some distinctly Kingdom of God activities—one of them being prayer. He really challenges us to spend more time in prayer for things and people. Especially being here in Africa, I’m learning some about God’s people call to pray—and how it should be a daily part of all of our relationships—with our friends, family, neighbors, and churches. People really believe here that God’s people pray. It’s what Christian’s do.

One thing that I think was lacking in this book- Boyd made it seem that if we acted according to the Kingdom of God, that non-Christ followers would fall in love the Kingdom of God way of life and hence with Christ himself. But, I know from Scripture that some people hated Jesus or loved Jesus but had real issues with some of the things he said—they were too hard or different than what their natural inclination was. So, even if you take the things of this book to heart, and examine yourself for evidence of various degrees of idolatry, and then act differently, you may still be met with opposition—and not just from other Christians who don’t agree, but some non Christ followers as well

In a way it’s a shame that Gregory Boyd had to be the one to write this book. Because many conservative evangelicals don’t agree with him on some of the other aspects of his theology, they dismiss this. But, I would hope that we all would be willing to believe that not everyone’s theology is entirely perfect or entirely incorrect. We’re all on this journey together, and by keeping our hearts and minds open to what God is speaking through various people, we’d become better Kingdom of God citizens.

Under the Overpass

Wow! Talk about a book that one gets lost in…. I read this book in just a few days, which is a MAJOR feat for me, having a 9 month old around the house who loves lots of attention. This was a pretty popular book a few years ago, but I didn’t really want to read it, i think due to its high popularity. But, when i came across it at a library sale for a dollar a few weeks back, i figured i couldn’t go wrong. And boy am I glad that I did!

For those of you who haven’t heard of this book, it’s about an upper-middle class college guy who decides that he’s too comfortable in his lifestyle and needs to actually DO something that is going to help him to live out the kingdom in an active way, instead of just learning and talking and giving money. He wanted to learn what it was like to be uncomfortable, to sacrifice his wants and needs for someone elses, and to make an actual sacrifice….giving not only out of his abundance, but to where he actually feels it and must change his lifestyle.

Initially, I was very critical of him. Reeeallly? i thought– you think that by living on the streets like you’re homeless for 6 months is going to change you? you dont know what it feels like to not have the hope that you’re ever going to get out of it. you have this continual thing to look forward to… knowing that you’re going to get all cleaned up, sleep in a soft bed, and eat everything you want in just a half year. BUT, he anticipated this from his readers, and explained himself early on… saying that he’s aware of these things, but that he still wanted to go for it, not letting himself be discouraged by it.

And really, throughout this book you can tell that he really got into it. He suffered. He went without food. He panhandled. He cried. He was lonely. He was cold (or hot). He was jeered at. He felt it, if even for a short time. And as you can see at the end of the book, he changed because of the experience (which is exciting, because not everyone always changes after a big experience like that). He wanted God to teach him and he was teachable.

Anyway, one of the big themes of the book was the way that christians interacted with him throughout his months on the street. Sure, a few were nice and gave him some change and one group actually invited him to hang with them (shower and eat and sleep in a bed), but for the most part, he was IGNORED. And that was so sad to me. Again and again. Some of the stories make you so mad! But then again, do I ever walk by a homeless person? of course. Do I ever invite them to eat with me? ha, never. offer a bed? no way. smile? mostly not.

This book was eye-opening to the church’s reaction to the least of these– to those who are outcast of society, who often do have addictions and are smelly and are not pleasant to look at. But that’s all the more reason for us to love them- unconditionally- and to serve them as if there were Jesus.

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids

What a GREAT book this was for me, as a new mom who is struggling with what it means to be a mom in this day in age. The struggle for a lot of new moms comes from unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a mom and work, or a mom and not work.

Some of the things these two moms talked about where making peace with your choices, not feeling like you have to be a perfect mom, not competing with other people, and being able to say no. There is no perfect mom, and they help to communicate that well. Hundreds of moms were interviewed, and all started out the interview with, “I’m so happy! I love being a mom! It’s so amazing.” And then when pressed further, they kinda started breaking down, admiting that they don’t enjoy everything about it, and in fact, it’s not what they really expected.

One quote I can kinda identify with (and i can say guilt free), is “I love being a mom; I just hate doing it.” For a person with a lot of ambition, sitting in a chair or running around a baby crawling around can be mind numbing after hours and hours without grown-up mental stimulation. I love Asante a ton, and would give my life for him. But the hard part is being a full-time mom. I may get some judgment from that, but those who actually have kids can probably understand :).

I give five stars to ms. ashworth and ms. nobile. 🙂 thank you for this book.

Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live

Seems like a theme of mine huh? Justice. Helping the Poor. Living intentionally. Community living.

This book, however, was a bit different in the way that it wasn’t practical steps– it was more of a motivational/inspirational call to living this way. I think that this would be a good read for someone starting out on this journey. This husband-wife author duo takes us through the lives of a fictitious family who is faced with this conviction. Although I really liked this element, I feel like overall the book was confusing and poorly organized. Sometimes I didn’t understand the reason for using the chapter titles, and I felt like the chapter content wasn’t really a chapter…it was just kinda a long conversation broken up semi-arbitrarily.

One thing that stuck out to me was the authenticity of the authors. Both grew up in a conservative church (i’m guessing southern baptist), and they were very real about how this journey was hard for them to make. But they were really encouraging to the reader that no matter what what your background, you can live this way. No matter the denomination. Or political leaning. Everyone has a call by God to live justly.

Micah 6:8 says, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Many of us are quick to want to know how to better walk humbly with God. And most of us are trying to love mercy, despite the difficulty. But very few really pray and research and see what God says about acting justly. What does this look like in this day of age? What did it look like in the old testament? How about the new testament? How are you living unjustly? These are questions that must be answered by every person and community.

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

What a great great great book. I think this 270 page book is one of the books that every Christian living in America should read. Maybe other places too, but definitely America. Christianity Today put it on their list of the top 50 books that have shaped Evangelicals in the 20th century (coming in at number 7, I think).

A group of friends and I decided to read this book this summer, meeting every week or so to discuss a chapter. During these discussions, we’ve had some great dialogue, and hopefully have devised some great plans to help us to live out what the Holy Spirit has impressed upon us as we’ve read Sider’s prophetic book.

Sider begins by giving us the facts about poverty today. Billions of people are hungry. Many children die everyday of things that could easily be prevented. Then he follows that up by talking about the affluent minority- how much we spend on things like ice cream and food and housing and tvs, and how much we don’t give to things like, oh, the church. By this point you’re seeing the disparity, but you’re asking, so what? Is it our fault that we live in such a great place? Do we really have anything to do with people being poor?

Anticipating these questions, Sider next dives into about 75 pages of thoroughly showing God’s heart for the poor and oppressed. After reading this, it’s completely ASTONISHING at how much Scripture talks about this, and how it’s so vital to us living out our faith. I think this passage in Matthew 25 is an example of a clear call to us to meet the needs of the least of these around us:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

After convincing us that this is clearly God’s heart, Sider talks about what causes poverty, and then challenges the reader to reflect on his/her life personally, communally, and then societally. He gives challenging applications and calls the reader to a life that is different than what we’re living now.

At points in the book, I wish Sider would have stronger language. He tends to get real close to saying something bold, but then backs off from it. Sider should say what he means and not apologize for it. This is a 20th or 25th year edition, so maybe he got so much criticism from his first copy that he wanted to tone things down some.

Read this book. Then buy it for other people. Get a book club together to discuss.

The Revolution: A Field Manual for Changing Your World

This book deserves a post for each chapter because of the great content of each one. I think I may do that on my other blog, but for this one, I’ll try to cover it all.

The various chapters covered the topics: human trafficking, poverty, war and peace, clean water, gang violence, women’s rights, fair trade, torture, environment, hunger, HIV/AIDS, and capital punishment. The editor, Heather Zydek, got a different author to write each topic. She did an excellent job choosing just the right person- the people had different faith backgrounds (all christian), different genders, and different passions.

I think they did a good job of introducing the topic, providing motivation to care about it, explained what Scripture said about it, and then explained what one can do to get involved. I decided I care a lot about each one, and there’s not enough energy and time to do something for each. BUT, I really want to live in such a way that doesn’t make any of these things worse, and then choosing a few to do something to actively combat.

This would be a good book for those who are unconvinced about the Christian’s responsibility in these topics, or for those who want to get an introduction to these horrible issues.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

Kudos goes to Scott and Sarah Parsons for letting us read this book before they did! They bought it and then insisted that we read it. The fun thing about this book was that I got the opportunity to read it very quickly. I read about 1/2 of it when we went to Jake’s parents’ house, and then finished the rest of it this past week.

Operating Instructions is Anne’s journal of her son, Sam’s, first year of life. Anne is a single mother who is a christian, among other things. As many who have kids for the first time, she realized how much having a child can reshape or enhance her relationship with God. All of a sudden some of these common illustrations that people use to describe our relationship with God comes to life in flesh and blood.

I could identify with Anne’s experience in some ways. Some entries were expressing how she felt like she was on cloud nine- that motherhood was amazing and beautiful and Sam could do nothing wrong. Other times the entries were the result of a bad day- and Anne was worn out, tired, feeling fat, and wondering if she would ever make it through Sam’s infant years. And wondering if she’d ever have time to write again. Sometimes these entries were days apart; other times only hours! And that’s how motherhood/fatherhood can be. And I’m glad that she expressed that honestly.

Of course something I could not identify with is that she is a single mom. Trying to raise a child by herself. Doing the night shifts by herself. Learning how to breastfeed by herself. Figuring out how to work from home and be a single parent. Amazing. Thankfully Anne had a ton of help around the house. Her best friend, Pammy, was around a lot in the early evenings, as were people like her brother, mother, and friends from her church. She also ended up hiring a college age student to come every weekday for a few hours a day. She had things to keep her sane like going out to the movies with some girlfriends on one evening, and doing different things other evenings. I think it’s awesome how the community came around her. I wish that all single mom’s would have those people.

My common complaint with books by Anne Lamott is her vulgarity. She is quite the cusser, and that can be kinda distracting or unnecessary (in my opinion). I suppose that this is her journal, so she can say whatever she wants. The pages are riddled with obscenity, so if you have a hard time with that, this may be a tough book to get through.

Overall, this was a fast-paced read where Anne was very transparent in the first year of her child-rearing experience.

Communicating for a Change

Communicating for a Change, by Andy Stanley, turned out to be a very…informative read. I can’t say it was enjoyable, because it really wasn’t. But I surely learned a few pieces of information that will help me the next time I speak to a large group of people.

My boss, Jerry, recommended this book to me because it really helped him learn how to communicate better. Either he thinks I don’t communicate well, or he thinks that we all have room for improvement– lol. Whatever the case, I’m glad that he did let me borrow it.

Stanley lays out 7 things that he does that he suggests all speakers/preachers do:
1. Determine your goal.
2. Pick a point (what’s the ONE thing you want to communicate)
3. Create a map (how are you going to get there? what journey are you taking your audience on?)
4. Internalize your message (if you have to look at your notes because you dont know what you’re going to say, and you’ve been working on this for days, how is your audience going to believe that you think this is important?)
5. Engage your audience (help it to be interesting).
6. Find your voice (dont just copy others– who did God make you to be?)
7. Start all over (when you get stuck, use the questions- what do they need to know? why do they need to know it? what do they need to do? why?- to get you back on track)

The one big thing I took from this book was that fact that when one speaks, you have to communicate VERY clearly and spice it up– be interesting. When you speak, people will listen to you if they feel that what you’re going to say is relevant to their lives. Speak to what people are dealing with. Speak about difficult topics. Speak about things that are not particularly interesting (and need to be said), but in a way that engages the audience. Who cares if you say something if no one is listening? Jesus spoke to people in a way that they understood. We in turn are to speak in a way that people that we are around can understand. Tell stories in modern day language. Tell parables in ways that are contemporary. Take people on a journey. And communicate ONE idea. Not two, not three. But one. If you have three points in a sermon, make it into a 3-week series. But people often don’t remember 3 or 4 points on monday after your sermon, but they will probably remember one. And isn’t that better than remembering none?

Although I’m not a preacher, and probably never will be, God has given me opportunities to speak at the BSU, and probably will give me more opportunities sometime in the future. So, this is good to add to my toolbox.