THE ROAD BACK TO YOU – BOOK REVIEW AL

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My first introduction to the enneagram was a couple years ago at a youth ministry conference I attend. The enneagram is an introspective tool designed to provide 9 different ways of relating to your self. Admittedly, I was and have been pretty suspicious of its merits beyond it being a simple personality test that assigns you a label with which you can justify your bad decision and behaviors. As incredulous as that may make me seem, I still hold there may still be an ounce of truth to that suspicion. However, I have come to see more value in this personality-typing tool after reading The Road Back To You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. BTW, not my favorite book title.

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Before I became acquainted with the enneagram, I had been familiarized with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. In comparison, the Myers-Brigs is a wholly more psychological self-assessment tool while the enneagram could be said to be more emotionally and even spiritually focused. But don’t go comparing it to your horoscope sign just yet. There is some real depth and uncanny insights to the enneagram system. An example of the 9 different personality types that the enneagram identifies can be seen below.

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If you’d like to find out which type you are or see descriptions of each type you can visit https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/

The Road Back To You is a great introduction to the enneagram. The stories are very helpful and the tone is friendly and open. However, if your goal is to really hash out where you fit in all of this, there is much more intensive and involved work to be done. After reading this book and taking a simple online survey I thought for sure that most of the attributes of the 7, “The Enthusiast”, fit me perfectly. However, on another day and on another online survey, I came out to be a strong 3, “The Achiever”. Is one of these a facade? To they work together? Are they in conflict with one another? As you’ll read in this book and find in other sources, each personality type can also come with their own “wing” personality type and even indicate with personality traits you tend to take on in stress and which you tend to take on in security.

I think knowing yourself is important. “Nearly all wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves,” – John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.1.1) However, I’ve seen people become so wrapped up in analyzing themselves that it can become a drive towards a type of self-obsession. It seems to me that the goal of understanding myself better is to make me a better servant of others. This to me is intrinsic in Jesus’ words, “Love others as well as you love yourself.” – Mark 12:31 (MSG)

Next week I’ll be reviewing The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller.

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WHY MEN HATE GOING TO CHURCH – BOOK REVIEW AL

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Why, hello there!

Book for this past week was WHY MEN HATE GOING TO CHURCH by David Murrow. This book was recommended to me about 18 months ago by another friend and youth minister and I immediately bought it because I was intrigued by its premise despite not knowing David Murrow at all. Turns out he’s written a couple other books like, HOW WOMAN HELP MEN FIND GOD, WHAT YOUR HUSBAND ISN’T TELLING YOU, and THE MAP: THE WAY OF ALL GREAT MEN. I’m sensing a theme. But I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this book.

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Murrow spent little time focusing on the general feminizing of our Western culture or the demonizing of masculinity. He focuses on the church and her history of being largely a place that celebrates people with more feminine qualities. As an example of this, he points to many things but one of which that stood out to me was how we tend to characterize Jesus himself. He presented two lists of attributes… I’ll just go ahead and put them below.

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He then asks which of these columns we’d be more likely to attribute to Jesus. Almost everyone affirms that Set B carries the more accurate picture of what we think of when we think of Jesus. Then Murrow reveals that he pulled these two sets of attributes straight from the book MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS  obviously indicating that Set A is meant to describe men’s characteristics and Set B, women’s. Well, no wonder men don’t always relate to this feminine Jesus. He goes to indicate that Jesus did often exhibit masculine characteristics but they are rarely highlighted in church.

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Another point Murrow makes that stood out was about current worship services. Take out the fact that singing for 20 minutes at a time is not necessarily every man’s forte, megachurches and community churches have started utilizing praise and worship songs that use romantic, even borderline lustful, lyrics towards Jesus. It’s not hard to imagine why some men wouldn’t be very comfortable with that.

Murrow goes from church decor to Bible class expectations for students, to the bulk of most church’s ministries that always seem to prefer those with more feminine characteristics. This is why we often seem our women thrive in the church and the few men who more often than not have more feminine qualities become clergy. A church exhibiting a gender gap with women outnumbering men is often the sign of a shrinking church. Conversely, the church with a healthy male membership is almost always the sign of a thriving church. So why then do churches do so little to intentionally engage their men?

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Father’s Day sermons do more to scathe and rebuke men, men’s bible studies are often avoided for the fear of sitting in circles and talking about emotions, men’s breakfasts at least have manly man food but are often scheduled to what suits the more elderly men of the congregation. Try sitting down right now and write out a list of all ministries your church has and decide how many are suited for your women and how many for your men? Chances are that the women’s ministry blows away whatever 2-3 men’s ministries your church has.

So Murrow does much to show how this imbalance is a detriment to the church’s health and how intentionality towards our men in every ministry, especially the Sunday morning service, is imperative. I love how he offers up the idea of a “Sports Sunday” (and I’m not a sports guy in the least) where everyone sports their favorite team’s jersey or colors and instead of a traditional potluck there’s a church-wide tailgate party. What’s great about ideas like this is that women can jump on board while it’s much tougher for men to cooperate with anything that makes them look too “girly”.

Highly recommend this book for church and ministry leaders, male and female!

Next book I’ll be reviewing is THE ROAD BACK TO YOU: AN ENNEAGRAM JOURNEY TO SELF-DISCOVERY  by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.

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C.S. LEWIS AND DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE – BOOK REVIEW AL

Summer has come and now almost gone and taken with it almost all motivation and discipline I may have possessed to keep up with my reading. But now that I find myself near the end of summer and the business of summer youth events, it’s time to get back to it. I managed to finish 2 books in the past couple months. First was the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and the second was C.S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath. While I might refer to some crossover between these two works, know that I did not and do not intend to make any kind of pointed commentary on the life of C.S. Lewis by reviewing these books together. That being said, let’s get into it!

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

First, let’s talk about Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. I have always enjoyed this story since I was a young boy. I remember reading a Great Illustrated Classics version of this tale of duality and enjoyed different Hollywood iterations. I recall watching The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and thinking (wrongly) that Jekyll and Hyde were a type of superhero team; the brains and the brawn something in the vein of The Incredible Hulk. I learned later in life that The Incredible Hulk was indeed inspired by this story and in the comic book’s earlier beginnings, there were more similarities between the two. For instance, Bruce Banner used to seemingly turn into the Hulk at night and not necessarily when he was angry.

Both The Incredible Hulk and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde hit on themes of duality and primal releases of repressed aggression that seem to resonate with me. I don’t consider myself an angry person in the least but the Hulk has always been one of my favorite superheroes. However, I do find I love the idea of the repressed, or rather, the disciplined and reigned in savage nature that resides in someone that could suddenly be released if they are pushed too far. The idea of an inner strength that is held back due to its lack of civility and the very real strength required to keep that uncivilized strength at bay really strikes a chord with me. Most forms of stoicism do I suppose. The quiet strength.

I enjoyed getting to take in this familiar story in its original form and rediscovering the themes within that are more human than superhero.

C.S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet

I’ve only read a handful of C.S. Lewis’ works. I’ve read Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Problem of Pain. I’ve taught from The Four Loves and I’ve had The Chronicle of Narnia books read to me since I was a child. I always liked The Lord of the Rings series better but I might have been guilty of holding that position because I liked the LOTR movies better. In any case, I certainly have a deep respect for C.S. Lewis and I look forward to delving deeper into his other celebrated works I have yet to enjoy such as Surprised By Joy, The Great Divorce, and Till We Have Faces.

I had been pretty ignorant as to who C.S. Lewis was and mostly knew him from reputation and his more popular works. Alister McGrath does a great job of laying out a thorough chronological account of Lewis’ life. McGrath unapologetically points out the things that we can’t know for certain about Lewis but does a fine job of laying out the narrative of Lewis’ life from what we do know from his writings, letters, journal entries, and other written accounts.

McGrath’s account helped me appreciate the humanness of Lewis or “Jack” as was his nickname. He made mistakes, even questionable decisions. Despite these, it can’t be denied the literary genius that he was. It was impressive to read how he’d have students test his memory in a game where they’d take books at random from his library, recite a random passage and Lewis would then identify the book and often finish the passage from memory. Learning about his father and brother and his relationship with both was very revealing as was his childhood in Ireland. You can almost imagine Lewis stepping through the magical wardrobe of his childhood memories and returning to the green Irish landscapes in his descriptions of Narnia. And his strong emphasis on the importance of the imagination was striking, though I’d wager I’ll see more of that in his works I have yet to read.

Though a longer book for this amateur reader, I enjoyed getting to know Lewis better through McGrath’s work.

Next Time…

Honestly, I’m not sure what I’ll be reviewing next time but whatever it is it will be shorter. 🙂