Quick Review: The Gifts of Imperfection

After reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly a few weeks back, I decided to read her book The Gifts of Imperfection as well.  This was the foundation of her initial TED talk that went viral and brought Brown into the public idea and her research on shame and vulnerability.

I wanted to read this book because she referenced a few sections of it in Daring Greatly that intrigued me and because Brown’s book’s are fantastic Manila traffic audiobook experiences. They are interesting and carry depth, but they aren’t so complicated or theory oriented that I have to rewind and backtrack on things. Both of these books are great and provide much more context and perspective to supplement the TED talks.

The Gifts of Imperfection was actually more personally significant for me than Daring Greatly. Perhaps this is because of my past and current manifestations of perfectionism and overly serious temperament most of the time. There were several sections that I found to provide such great insight into dynamics, fears, and pressures that have been part of my life and journey at various points.

Perhaps most helpful, this book came at a timely point in time where I have been experiencing increased pressure and expectations – some from others and some from within. I cannot do all the things I am needing to do.  Correction.  I cannot do all the things I am needing to do as well as I want.  That distinction is revealing about my struggles and this book reminded me of the futility and danger of trying to control my environments or please others or deliver high-quality results in every area of life. It’s a life-giving book and there’s much that echoes what the Scriptures say about living by faith in the vulnerability of life.

There is an excellent section on parenting that is different from some of the parenting content in Daring Greatly but that was really helpful for us as we now have our oldest child in middle school. There’s also great content on the role of faith (though some of the spirituality content was ambiguous and at times feel a little new age in its language). But the content from a research perspective of the correlation between authentic faith and living wholeheartedly was interesting to me.

I haven’t read Brown’s more recent books, but the treatment of vulnerability and shame is really good and is highly relevant to every walk of life because it’s part of the stuff of life. I can help but think through these themes through Genesis 1 – 2 because they echo the big story of Scripture.

Anyway – I highly recommend The Gifts of Imperfection. I see myself coming back to it from time to time because I resonated so much with different sections.



Quick Review – Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas

I recently read David Cortright’s Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas  as part of the Peace Studies PhD program I am currently in.  I had not heard of the book prior, but it blends some of the themes of my current area of study with my enjoyment of history as a history major.

The book is a history of the approaches people and groups have taken to take a stand against violence over the course of the past few centuries, especially the past 150 years or so.  There is a helpful overview of the origins of peace movements, nonviolent strategies, as well as the great barriers that have traditionally undermined peace efforts in the course of history which is perhaps the most insightful and interesting portion of the book.

The history of peace efforts in the face of great international challenges such as World War I, World War II, and other wars was incredibly insightful. There is an abundance of histories written on just about all other aspects of these conflicts, but I had not yet come across an analysis of these events through the eyes of peace advocates.  It was fascinating to read about the various groups, philosophies, different methodologies, and key figures like Einstein among others.

Where the book is really strong is in illuminating the forces that undermine the work of peace when it really matters.  One of the key themes that consistently shows up is nationalism functioning as a barrier to peace efforts.  I’ve known the distinction between patriotism and nationalism, but I came away wanting to distinguish these concepts even more clearly. Nationalism is a key theme that exposed the limits of the peace movements from the World Wars all the way to more recent conflicts.  I was amazed at how much was in place prior to the World Wars to support the peace processes and how quickly much of it dissolved in the waves of nationalism that swept over the countries.

There is a great introduction to the historical movements of nonviolence as well general treatments of the dynamics of violence in society and the difference between pacifism and nonviolence. One of the things that struck me is how leaders of nations time and time again have routinely sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives because of certain patterns of thinking that history has shown to be inadequate to the moment they faced. It’s a tragedy and a reminder to advocate for Biblically based reconciliation in society and between nations as the path of hope for peace.



Quick Review: Forgiving As We’ve Been Forgiven

This summer I had a chance to read Forgiving as We’ve Been Forgiven: Community Practices for Making Peace by L. Gregory Jones and Celestin Musekura.  The book is written where each author trades off chapters and complement each other’s perspective.  Musekura is from Rwanda and had countless friends and relatives murdered in the Rwandan genocide. Jones has been part of the Duke Divinity School faculty and the school of reconciliation they have developed there.

The stories that both Jones and Musekura bring in addition to their theological and Biblical reflection are powerful together as a collective narrative. There is a helpful section on how reconciliation involves needing new hearts, renewed minds, and healing from unjust actions.

There is also an excellent chapter on forgiveness and memory – how the fallacy of forgiveness as “forgetting” needs to be replaced by a more Biblical and Christ-focused paradigm of forgiveness in community. This echoed some of the work of Miroslav Volf on memory, but it is captured in a pretty succinct form.

This is a book that can be read in about 3 hours so it’s manageable and well worth the investment to be challenged to think about forgiveness through the communal lens as opposed to the therapeutic models of today or the purely individualistic models of forgiveness that people function out of.  The authors offer a vision of how practices of forgiveness are crucial to community building and creating healthy and strong futures – not just dealing with past wrongs.

Here is their rough outline for an approach to community reconciliation.  They include Scripture references and connections to Christ’s work, but I’m just giving you the headlines of the categories they offer.


Step 1: We become willing to speak truthfully and patiently about the conflicts that have arisen.

Step 2: We acknowledge both the existence of anger and bitterness, and a desire to overcome them.

Step 3: We summon up a concern for the well-being of the other as a child of God.

Step 4: We recognize our own complicity in conflict, remember that we have been forgiven in the past and take the step of repentance.

Step 5: We make a commitment to struggle to change whatever caused and continues to perpetuate our conflicts. Forgiveness does not merely refer backwards to the absolution of guilt; it also looks forward to the restoration of community.

Step 6: We confess our yearning for the possibility of reconciliation.

If you’ve read a lot of Volf or other writings on reconciliation and community oriented forgiveness this may not give you much new content outside of the narratives from Rwanda and other contexts the authors draw from in their writing, but the stories are really are what makes the theology and methodology come alive in powerful ways.  This was of great personal value to me so I recommend it, especially if you are wrestling with unforgiveness or difficult relationships.


Quick Review: Daring Greatly

I finished Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly today and it was really great.  I’m not sure I need to give too much of an intro due to her enormous popularity through her TED talks and involvement in the Global Leadership Summit a few times in recent years.  So I’ve seen her content and enjoyed it, but I  hadn’t read one of her books and been able to be exposed to some of her research in more depth.

Brown is a shame researcher among other things and this book is really unpacking what dynamics are at work within us to either catalyze boldness and greatness in life or hinder and limit us.  The key as she communicates it is the idea of shame resilience – the ability to live vulnerability and bounce back with risk and courage in a world that often seeks to limit and judge.  So vulnerability and shame are at the core of this book as well as some of her other works as well.

From a theory standpoint, it fascinates me how the research reinforces what I believe the Bible teaches about identity, the fall, and redemption. She unpacks the crippling and paralyzing darkness of how shame works in peoples lives and communities. But she also illustrates how a person’s sense of what she calls “worthiness” or wholeheartedness is what makes the difference in people’s lives. That sense of worthiness that comes through love, grace, and emotional connection is what provides the security and grounding to risk and live with courage amidst vulnerability in this threatening world.  The research confirms clearly the Biblical narrative and its theology of identity.

Practically – there is excellent content that includes great content for parenting and for leadership.  As parents in the heart of parenting young kids, it’s super helpful reinforcement of what will help shape wholehearted kids and how to negotiate vulnerability as a family.  The same with leadership, but the content and application to family and parenting felt most valuable to me right now.

This is a significant book and the general arena is pretty key today. People do not understand the power of shame in these ways – in the west or east. In Asia, these are huge themes and topics that need addressing and leadership in the family and the church among other places.  But it’s the same in the west.

This is a great read for parents, leaders, spouses, and friends. It takes us to the heart of what’s going on in the deepest parts of us in our daily struggles and gives hope for a path forward if we feel stuck.  So I highly recommend the book or any of the talks you can find on youtube or the TED website. It’s worth it!


Quick Review: How People Change

A couple months ago I read  How People Change by Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane. I’ve already used some parts of the book in my mentoring and small group work and plan on integrating some of the content into one of my classes in the upcoming term.

There’s several books or models of change or growth out there. Many Christians prefer Tripp and Lane’s work because it’s firmly grounded in Scripture and is focused on personal sanctification.  That’s why I like this book and their Relationships:  A Mess Worth Making, which I use in my Interpersonal Relationships course.

The strength of the book is the model which ties personal sanctification and behavior change to the Biblical themes of eternal hope, being married to Christ, and Christian community and body life.  They provide a framework that helps people evaluate how circumstances trigger behavior – either good or bad.  But what separates the model is that they use Scripture to push people the extra step into the heart areas and idolatry that lies at the foundation of the bad behavior.  They focus on both the root and the fruit of behavior.

I found a link to a summary article of the book which is a great small group tool and not too long. The link is:  https://www.ccef.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/archive/sites/default/files/2302015_0.pdf

Sometimes I hear people compare Tripp and Lane’s worth with Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s.  I see them doing different things and so I have often been using resources from both.  Tripp and Lane present a model and foundation for personal sanctification and interpersonal and spiritual maturity.  Cloud and Townsend tend to focus on human and personal development.  Sometimes there’s a lot of overlap there, but they are different enough to where it’s important to understand what the resources are meant and not meant to do.

There’s a lot pertaining to growth and development that Tripp and Lane do not attempt to cover.  I similarly do not see Cloud and Townsend offering a comprehensive model of sanctification or Spirit filled living.  I think there’s a lot of potential to use the strengths of both to do holistic and Biblical based training that impacts Spirit-filled living and character transformation with human growth and development that reflects the overall narrative of Scripture.

I found this book to be a great resource and a help personally and for me as I mentor individuals and small groups. I recommend it and I’ve noticed that around once a year it’s offered free or for a couple dollars on amazon as an e-book so keep a look out 🙂


Quick Review: The Call

           The Call by Os Guinness is meant to be to be read and digested over a period of time – like a daily devotional or reflection. It’s actually so deep and catalyzes such depth of thought and introspection that it can’t really be consumed another way.  I loved going through this book as I was challenged spiritually and intellectually.

           One of my takeaways was how the pervasiveness in which all meaning and activity in life is meant to be an experience of the Caller and an expression of worship.  Calling is not just about finding my unique purpose in the world, but it is about connecting to a comprehensive vision for how I have been created to worship the Caller in a particular context and time. Calling then is not fundamentally about me at all – it’s about the Caller.  Of specific relevance was the chapter about “The Audience of One.”  We’re called to live our lives to please God alone. I resonate deeply with Guinness’ comment that, “The trouble comes, of course, when we truly live before an Audience of one, but the audience is not God but us” (Guinness, 2003, kindle loc 2069).

One insight I reflected on more deeply that connects with the above reflections relates to how I view different aspects of work. While in general, I do not believe I tend to divorce the sacred and secular in practice, I was convicted in my attitude and motivation in different parts of my duties and responsibilities that sometimes are not as significant or praiseworthy – those things that simply take hard work and effort and that do not garner much attention or praise. Guinness uses the language of “drudgery,” which resonates with some aspects of my life and ministry experience – from things like commuting in traffic to other things like paperwork and meetings. Guinness writes, “Drudgery done for ourselves or for other human audiences will always be drudgery. But drudgery done for God is lifted and changed” (Guinness, 2003, kindle loc 3209). As I am connected to my Caller, all of my work has meaning. If the Caller would be pleased, why should I express contempt at some forms of my work?

Another insight that I reflected deeply upon was the sin of sloth. It is easy to not think about this sin because of how busy and active I am, but Guinness corrects this perspective and clarifies that sloth does not just involve physical laziness, but indifference to the Caller and the world into which the Caller has sent us. He writes, “Sloth is inner despair at the worthwhileness of the worthwhile that finally slumps into an attitude of “Who cares?” (Guinness, 2003, kindle loc 2445). I was reminded again that I do not want to have a faith that is “privately engaging but socially irrelevant” (Guinness, 2003, kindle loc 2809). I am resolved to guard against indifference in my life, relationships, and ministry so that my expression of my calling is an expression of worship to the Caller.

Another significant chapter related to the themes of reputation and image. Guinness asks if we have had our “white funeral” (Guinness, 2003, kindle loc 3646). The challenge is that we must die to ourselves in many ways, one of which involves dying to our image and reputation. There are not too many things I resist more than looking like a fool, yet if that is my highest value I reject Christ.  This was one of many challenging chapters that examine different areas of character.

This is a fantastic resource for personal development and character growth.  It is important for refining a sense of overall calling in life, but it’s relevant for discipleship in general.  I highly recommend this – this would be a great thing to go through over time with a small group or team.


Quick Review: Jesus Feminist

I recently read Sarah Bessey’s Jesus FeministAn Invitation to Rethink the Bible’s View on Women. Again – I don’t do full blown reviews because those can be found on the interwebs, but I like to share some of where I find there to be value for those looking for different things to read.

First, I really enjoyed the read as the author writes in a way that I really appreciated and enjoyed. There’s just great life and artistic quality in the writing that I enjoyed. It also makes for a quicker read than many books.

Second, the book really wasn’t what I thought it was – with its provocative title and everything.  I was expecting a deeper dive into egalitarian versus complementarian issues or the debate on women in ministry, but really I found the book to be more oriented towards mobilizing women towards engaging in mission and matters of justice and love in the world.  So that was a bit surprising to me, but I appreciated that the book’s focus was not just to re-hash or argue for a position theologically. It seemed to be to be more of an exhortation to women (and men for that matter) who are paralyzed or stuck by rigid traditionalism and an inspiring call for them to get engaged in mission.   There’s nothing on that front that anyone should have a problem with.

The word feminist no doubt will rile up folks and probably created a buzz, but I didn’t find this book to be advocating feminism in the contemporary or liberal manner. In that sense, I felt like the title was slightly misleading. But on the other hand, she draws attention to Jesus and often overlooked or minimized parts of Scripture that speak to how men and women ought to be partnering with one another on mission.

In general – I did feel like she bypassed or minimized some of the key parts of the discussion and some of the harder questions. At one point she declares, “I’m out” in reference to the debates and conflict over women in leadership and all that.  I completely understand why she and others feel this way, yet I’m not sure any of us can just bypass a question that does require a decent amount of study, dialogue, and engagement.

But I enjoyed the book and resonated with a lot of it despite the fact that some aspects of the conversation might have been minimized or quickly dismissed. It was not a full-blown academic treatment of the roles of men and women in ministry, but there are some great insights and perspectives that add to the discussion and dialogue.  It was refreshing to read in a lot of ways – in a lot of the content and the style of writing.

Quick Review: Resolving Everyday Conflict

Sande and Johnson’s Resolving Everyday Conflict is essentially an abridged version of Sande’s more well known The Peacemaker.  It’s a great summary of Sande’s approach to resolving conflict and it’s very manageable and framed in a very accessible and smooth way.

I did this book via audio book despite already having the e-book. It took me less than 3 hours to listen to it so it wasn’t long at all.  I covered all of Resolving Everday Conflict to and from a hospital visit to a friend (Manila traffic!)

It includes chapters on Sande’s “4 G’s” as well as the “7 A’s of Confession/Apologies.” If you don’t know what those are – get one of these books or google summaries of the Peacemaker and you can probably find a good summary out there. I have no doubt there are fantastic summaries online out there for free.

This would be a great and manageable resource to do conflict resolution training because it’s concise and clear and easy to go through. The ebook version is only 2 –  3 $ less than the full version of The Peacemaker which goes into a lot of the content on a much deeper level so if you had to pick one book I’d suggest The Peacemaker, but if you know you only can manageable a smaller dose of content that covers the essence – this is a great option.

If you have not read either, I highly recommend going through it. It’s great content on conflict resolution, forgiveness, and essentially the gospel as well since that is the foundation of Christian reconciliation.


Quick Review: Culture Making

I recently finished Andy Crouch’s Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling and wanted to share some quick thoughts on the book. I had been wanting to get to it for quite a while and some of the discussions I’ve been in recently related to ministry and education gave me cause to finally dive in.

Essentially the book presents a theology and practice of creative stewardship and work. After an exploration into what “culture” is and how it works, there is an analysis of the many ways people engage culture.  The most common expressions of how Christians engage culture are noted as condemning culture, consuming culture, critiquing culture, or copying culture.  There are some similarities to some of the categories offered by Reinhold Niebuhr as well as to more recent work by Tim Keller. But Crouch’s focus is primarily on culture as it relates to creativity and calling (thus the title) as opposed to a full-blown theology and practice of cultural engagement that includes political and social engagement. The term cultural engagement doesn’t really even capture Crouch’s thrust – he focuses rather on “culture-making” instead.

Crouch, drawing on Genesis and the Scriptures, argues for two other paradigms that are more “Biblical” in nature.  He names creating culture and cultivating culture as the two approaches to culture that are often overlooked by Christians, but that provide the greatest redemptive contribution to God’s purposes in restoring the world.  He uses the metaphors “artists and gardeners” to illustrate what is involved.  Cultivating refers to the work of stewarding the best of what humanity is and has created while creating obviously refers to the effort given to bring dreams into reality for the sake serving mankind and glorifying God.

I found the discussion incredibly helpful and enjoyable, especially because creativity and cultivation have long been overlooked. Creativity has had its champions, but I was intrigued by the role of “gardeners” in the church and in the Kingdom of God. I’ve been thinking about this and feel like it is a neglected aspect of the church’s engagement with culture.  Maybe the historian in me is drawn to the idea, but it feels significant to me.

There’s a lot more in the book including content related to power and other topics that are of interest, but the thrust of the book is above – helping people understand the many ways they navigate culture and to consider that the best way to impact society for good and for God is through the creation of new cultural goods. The argument being that bad or insufficient culture isn’t transformed until something better comes along to replace it. One of the incisive criticisms Crouch levies at the church is noting how most efforts to bring Christian worldview to the table in relation to culture stops in the realm of critiquing culture, falling well short of creating culture.

My final note is that Crouch gives an insight in his introduction that really stuck with me. He notes the popular maxim, “Pray as if it all depends on God and work as if it all depends on you.” I’ve always understood the kernel of truth here and the call to diligent stewardship exercised in dependence on the Lord, but something never fully felt satisfying to me.  Crouch critiques the application of this phrase, affirming that we need to learn to work as if it all does depend on God – because it does. Stewardship is implied, but the freedom of exploring vocation in the guidance of the Holy Spirit opens doors for creativity and inspiration.

I think this book gives a lot to chew on – not every person may be gifted or inspired to be a creator or a cultivator, but these are elements that every community would be wise to nurture for the sake of both worship and mission.


Leadership Formation & Development Within Systems and Organizations