Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Book Review: Manfield's Book of Manly Men

When the men's movement in Christianity started in the mid-90's with Promisekeepers, it was badly needed for me as I approached my 30's and entered married life. A few years later, I was introduced to John Eldredge's "Wild at Heart" as I became a father.

It's my stance that movements like these are needed, not because men need to assert their place as top of any hierarchy, but because many of our nation's and culture's troubles are caused by the failure of men to be who God called us to be, and to act as God has called us to act. Moreover, as one who grew up without anyone to model manhood for me, I have personally benefited from these books and teachings.

Now, 20 years later, it's likely that many who appreciated the men's movement may have concluded that all has been said that needs to be said; I don't share this point of view. I love the message of Wild at Heart. It was life-changing. But it did leave me at a place where I realize my father wound, prayed about it, sought healing, and then talked about it.  But that's not the ultimate goal. If our families are to flourish, if we as Christians are to bring about God's kingdom in the lives of those around us, we men need to stop talking about our father wounds and apply what we now know. We need to be the husbands, fathers, workers, teachers, coaches, and ministers that we are called to be.

That, readers, is the goal of Stephen Mansfield's new book, "Mansfield's Book of Manly Men".  Don't be fooled by the humorous cover and title. This substance in this book is, well, substantial. It's meat for those who have been drinking milk. It challenges the reader. It contains great stories and examples, but ultimately, the point of the book is simply to explain what men are called to do, then calls men to do it. If Promisekeepers was the trumpet call, now is the time to move forward, and Mansfield is leading the charge.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book review -- Ragamuffin Gospel Bible: Meditations for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Brokenhearted

Although I probably have too many bibles in my house, I had read just enough of Brennan Manning's writing to pique my curiosity about this new bible. Manning, who died last year, is best known for "The Ragamuffin Gospel", which is but one of many Manning books from which quotes, paragraphs, and statements were pulled for this devotional bible. 

The selected writings are, in many cases, perfect for each passage they accompany. Manning had a rare gift, and this bible is a perfect introduction to those who have never read his work before. This devotional accomplishes its purpose of providing excellent commentary alongside scripture. 

The closest thing to a negative, and it's a small one, is that the Ragamuffin Bible only comes in one translation: the NIV. 

The Booksneeze book review program  provided a copy of this book to me in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Book review -- Messiah: Origin


Messiah: Origin, a graphic novel by Matt Dorff and Mark Arey and illustrated by Kai Carpenter, tells the story of Jesus through pictures, with minimal words. The words that are used are all Scripture, taken from all 4 Gospels. In this, the earthly life and ministry of Jesus is depicted in pictures and words in a way I've never seen before, and I like it.

This is not the first  graphic novel depicting bible stories, and this is not the first narrative to combine the Gospels into one story. But as far as I know, this is the first time those two techniques have been used to tell this story.  And it's a compelling read.

I must confess, I didn't go into this book with high expectations. And when I hear the phrase "graphic novel", my first thought is that it's a nice way of saying "comic book for adults".  But I was way off. Being able to read the words of the Bible, accompanied by the illustrations, added a dimension to the experience which brought more life into it.

Messiah: Origin is the second in a series. The first was called The Book of Revelation, and was written and illustrated by the same team.  I encourage adults and kids to check out the series.

Note: Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program provided a review copy for me.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

My Problem With Ted Cruz and the Government Shutdown

I've been mostly avoiding politics in this blog, but will jump in: I'm not happy with the efforts of Republican congresshumans to refuse to pass a budget unless Obamacare is defunded.

Obamacare is an awful piece of legislation, and will do more harm to our nation than its proponents can fathom. But it is the law, and it was passed fair and square. Republicans are wrong to use the budget approval process to try to strike it down.  Democrats have tried similar tactics in the past. It's wrong no matter who does it.

Obamacare passed. It's the law. They got more votes than we did. Them's the rules. When we start saying "I don't care what the majority voted for, I'm going to hold my breath till I get my way", we are no better than 3rd-world countries.

If you don't like a law, vote it out. That's how democracy works. Don't try an end-around.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Book review: NIV College Devotional Bible

As part of Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program, I recently received a copy of Zondervan's NIV College Devotional Bible for review purposes.

I'm not a fan of the NIV translation, but I really like the way this bible is put together. The 200+ devotionals are well written, and applicable to anyone, not just college students. The devotionals often use extra-biblical stories to illustrate the point. For example, next to the story about Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers outside the temple, there is a devotional about righteous anger. As an illustration, it refers to Florence Nightingale and her observations at the appalling conditions for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, and how her anger at the situation led to her personal life mission to care for the sick and injured.

This parable-based approach is like to work for anyone, but particularly those at this age, an age that most people are learning the importance of making their life count for something. The devotionals in this bible can be helpful to the young man or woman who is starting to see the world differently than ever before, and trying to his one's place in it.

In additional to the devotionals, there is a bible reading plan that lasts 9 months, as well as things you come to expect, such as index, concordance, etc.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Ranking Batman


Before Miley Cyrus stole the spotlight Sunday night, approximately 75% of the nation's Internet's bandwidth was being consumed by comments about the selection of Ben Affleck as Batman in the upcoming "Batman vs Superman" movie.  Most of the talk was negative, some supportive, and some was just funny. (The best line: "I've just seen Christian Bale going to Affleck's apartment with some Huey Lewis records and an axe.")

The protests kept coming, drowning out admonitions from level-headed people like myself to just. calm. down. We're talking about a fictional character, people.

As one of the few who refused to contribute to the vitriol, I could step back and notice some things about the way these discussions were going. Besides the Bennifer and Daredevil references, the bulk of the protests (and even some of the pro-Affleck comments) focused on comparisons:

"Ben Affleck will be the worst Batman since that fat guy in the ill-fitting suit."

"At least he might be better than Clooney."

"Was Betty White not available?"

When we're talking about an iconic character who has been portrayed on screen by several actors (only James Bond has the same combination of iconic status + multiple well-known actors), comparisons are inevitable. So let's take a stab at ranking--worst to first, Casey Kasem-style--the actors to take on the role of Batman since 1960 on the large or small screen.

NOTE: I don't have Lewis Wilson, Robert Lowery, Bruce Thomas, or Kevin Conroy listed here, as I am unfamiliar with their work and frankly, so are all but the most dedicated Batman fans.


5. George Clooney
Although Clooney is not a bad actor, he mailed this one in. In fact, even he freely acknowledges his inability to handle this role, famously stating that he may have broken the franchise. He didn't. Somehow, he managed to salvage a career since then. Perhaps you've seen Clooney in a successful film or two since then.  I can't say the same for....

4. Val Kilmer
Kilmer was a better Batman than Bruce Wayne.  He did a good job, but it appears that he had trouble landing good acting jobs afterward. Kilmer's best roles (Tombstone, The Doors) happened mostly in the 9 years between "Top Gun" and "Batman Forever".   After that, not much to be proud of. Exhibit A: for the voice of KITT the car in the new Knight Rider.Exhibit B: The musical version of "The Ten Commandments"

3. Adam West
We all know the 1960's TV series (and the one movie) was campy. In fact, you look up the word "campy", and the dictionary shows a picture of Adam West as Batman. But he knew what he was doing at the time, and he played it to the hilt. He was in on the joke. He never tried to be "Tortured Son of Murdered Parents" Batman. He knew what he needed to do to make that TV series work, and he did it spectacularly.

2. Christian Bale
Bale played the role as one would imagine when reading the darkest versions of the comic books/graphic novels. Wayne/Batman was forever screwed up because his parents were murdered in front of him. He was a detective's detective. As Bruce Wayne, he was a great pretender.  He personified the type of man who could bring self-discipline of body and soul to unprecedented heights.

For all these reasons, he should be the best Batman ever. But Bale's performance has one very noticeable flaw: the voice. He went out of his way to not sound like Christian Bale, and to adopt a raspy voice similar of one of Marge Simpson's sisters. Many viewers, myself included, had a hard time not thinking about Christian Bale changing his voice as we were watching The Dark Knight, and ultimately, an actor's job is to make us remember he's not acting. The resulting loss of points knocks Bale to 2nd place, right behind...

1. Michael Keaton
The current negative comments predicting failure for Affleck have a ring of familiarity to those of us old enough to remember the announcement of Mr Mom/Beetlejuice/Johnny Dangerously as the new Batman. In fact, had this occurred after Al Gore came down from heaven and brought us the Internet, perhaps the outcry against Keaton would have been even worse than that we witnessed this weekend. But the fact is, he nailed it. When Tim Burton's "Batman" made its way into theaters, moviegoers realized immediately that Keaton was an excellent choice. He captured the tortured soul aspect of the character, but wisely avoided over-acting.

Of course, when you're sharing screen time with Jack Nicholson playing The Joker, under-acting is the wisest move you can make. But it's more than that. Keaton let the director direct. He let the other actors shine. He let the lighting & sets set the mood, and most important, he let his eyes tell the story. That's the mark of an excellent actor. His restraint, subtlety, and his anti-Beetlejuice persona was exactly what was needed. That's why the 1989 "Batman" is ultimately more enjoyable than the Dark Knight movies, and it's why Keaton is the standard that Affleck and future Batmen should aspire to.