Book review: Faith For This Moment by Rick McKinley

In his new book Faith For This Moment, Portland pastor Rick McKinley asks, What does it mean to be the people of God now?

Today, many Christians in America feel like exiles within their own country. Some yearn to return to the Christendom of an idealized past. Others seek to assimilate the values of our culture into the church. In between are those uncomfortable with either extreme–exiles looking for a new way of understanding what faith looks like in a polarized, pluralistic, post-Christian culture.

In Faith for This Moment, Rick McKinley comforts and equips the spiritually homeless. He shares how people of faith from other times and places lived faithfully, prophetically, and imaginatively, compromising neither their principles nor their compassion and never giving in to despair. For those searching for a better way to live out their faith in our complex cultural moment, this is it.

We live in a crazy time here in North America, and people of faith seem to be either holding onto their beliefs so tight that they forget to love their neighbours, or have become so closely tied to the culture that there’s nothing indistinguishable about them.

Cover Art

McKinley offers helpful analysis about living in exile and living in the heart of Christendom, and offers timeless practices that we can employ in order to keep the heartbeat of Jesus going in this time and beyond.

“We are called by God to love our neighbour and our enemy, to embrace rather than demonize those who, we disagree with,” McKinley writes. This book certainly helps re-centre the reader towards those ends.

Book review: I Declare Way by Levi Lusko

I Declare War is a new book by Levi Lusko, the lead pastor of Fresh Life Church – a multisite church located in Montana, Utah, Oregon, and Wyoming that he and his wife Jennie planted in 2007.

The basic premise is this:

Win the battle with yourself by declaring war on your darkness, demons, and self-sabotaging tendencies. Discover the thoughts, words, behaviors, and power you need to achieve ongoing victory. You might not want to (or even know you need to) declare war, but it’s time for you to want to enter the fight. It’s likely you are your own worst enemy. Learn to get out of your own way and discover the secret weapon to winning the war within.

Lusko specifically targets our thoughts, words and actions and outlines how we can gain control over these areas in order to win the war within ourselves.

In all honesty, I’m a bit torn after reading this book. On one hand, I readily acknowledge I struggle to do the best and right thing when it comes to words, actions and even thoughts. I am can be grumpy and snippy, spend time doing things that aren’t beneficial to my life, and get bogged down in anxious and depressive thoughts. I know this needs to change, and Lusko offers some helpful tools towards that end.

Having said that, I’m not big on war metaphors, and using examples from the real world (or even biblical tales) wherein there’s a hero on one end and, well, death and destruction on the other … there’s better language to use, in my opinion.

There’s not much new in this book, but that’s the thing, I think – these are timeless struggles and timeless answers, and we all need the reminder every now and again.

Definitely worth a look and there’s some helpful nuggets in this one.

Book Review: A Light So Lovely by Sarah Arthur

The one thing I can say for sure about Sarah Arthur’s A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, Author of A Wrinkle in Time is that it made me want to drop everything and read anything her subject has ever written.

In the year in which L’Engle would have turned, and when her most popular book was released as a major motion picture by Disney, Arthur – through personal reflection, second-hand stories and interview – paints a picture of the woman behind so many great literary works, writing specifically about her imagination, her faith, her pattern of defying categories, and what readers today can learn from her legacy.

From the official description:

Bestselling and beloved author Madeleine L’Engle, Newbery winner for A Wrinkle in Time, was known the world round for her imaginative spirit and stories. She was also known to spark controversy – too Christian for some, too unorthodox for others. Somewhere in the middle was a complex woman whose embrace of paradox has much to say to a new generation of readers today.

Sarah definitely seems like the right person to write this book. A graduate of Wheaton and Duke, the former long-time youth pastor she serves as preliminary fiction judge for the Christianity Today Book Awards & has been writer-in-residence for the Frederick Buechner Writers Workshop at Princeton Theological Seminary. She’s also written a fair bit in her own right, including some devotionals based on the Lord of the Rings books.

A Light So Lovely is a great look at what makes the author of Wrinkle in Time click, and I’ve put a bunch of the great author’s books on hold at the library as a result. Anyone interested in her work should check this out, but it’s also a great introduction and surely a gateway into the greatness of L’Engle.

Book Review: At Second Glance,’The Call’ by Os Guinness Gets a Hard No

The Call by Os Guinness was quite big when I was in college. First published in 1997, it was either required or recommended reading for students just a few years later, and it remains a treasured source of wisdom for those who ask these questions: Why am I here? What is God’s call in my life? How do I fit God’s call with my own individuality? How should God’s calling affect my career, my plans for the future, and my concepts of success?

There’s more than 100,000 copies of this book in print, and in this newly updated and expanded anniversary edition, Guinness explores the truth that God has a specific calling for each one of us and guides a new generation of readers through the journey of hearing and heeding that call, one that is “for all who desire a purposeful, intentional life of faith.”

I remember reading it circa 20 years ago and being encouraged and challenged, and thought it might be worth revisiting now that I’m in my later 30s and still asking some these questions. The thing is, my perspective on them has changed quite a bit, and I’m not the same person and don’t hold all the same beliefs that I did back then.

So as I cracked open this Guinness afresh, some immediate flags were raised. It became more clear to me that he was writing from a position that I have moved far away from (ie: a literal reading of the Bibile), and something further prompted me to do some digging. A quick search found him saying “President Trump is God’s wrecking ball stopping America in its tracks (from) the direction it’s going and giving the country a chance to rethink,” and Christians should love people who are in the homosexual lifestyle like they do people in prison.

Any concept of God’s call that allows for support of or even a positive take on Donald Trump and speaks at the LGBTQ community this way gets a hard no from me, and puts a huge cloud over this book that didn’t allow me to read much further than the first few chapters.

Here’s some more context on Guinness’ stance on Trump, which isn’t outright supportive but remains unfavorable. 

Book review: The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen by Lisa Gungor

In early 2015, our third son Henry was born.

Shortly after his arrival, our midwife pick up a slight irregularity in his heartbeat, and after taking him to see a pediatrician and a specialist, it was determined that he would need to be admitted to hospital for a procedure to repair the issue.

All this within the first 5 months of his life.

The procedure went well, although he did develop a blood clot that caused us to stay at the hospital for longer than anticipated, and required regular needles and much more follow up than we initially thought.

But, he was fine and healthy, and continues to grow into a strong young boy.

While this was all going on, I had purchased Gungor’s One Wild Life season pass, giving me access to a trio of new albums released roughly within a year.

The first album featured a song called ‘Light’ that resonated with us very deeply with respect to Henry.

Your eyes, they opened
And love was spoken
The tears came tumbling down

Your heart was broken
The words were spoken
The tears came tumbling down

And the blind gained sight
As we met our light
Oh the joy and fight
The gift of life

Cut to last March, when Lauren and I went to see Lisa and Michael play an acoustic show in Toronto, a Gungor event that included some Q&A.

Having heard on the Liturgist Conversations podcast that they were both working on books, I took the chance to ask what they were about and when we could get our hands on them.

Michael responded briefly about his work, then gave Lisa the floor. She talked about their journey together, and Amalie and Lucie, and how her book would revolve around the birth of the latter.

Lucie, as we learned, was born with Down syndrome and heart complications, and her name means light.

Lisa’s response to my question, then, was an introduction to the very song that meant so much to Lauren and I, and I knew then that I needed to read her book asap.

All the more when, two months later, we learned that Lauren had been diagnosed with breast cancer, further shaking our foundation and putting life in a whole new, flickering light.


Sure enough, Lisa’s book more than lived up to expectations as one of the best memoirs I’ve read in a long time.

In it she writes about her experience growing up in the church, her relationship with Michael, their start as a band, and of course their marriage, their doubts and unbelief, gains and losses, and their daughters, both of whom helped put everything else in perspective in their own unique ways.

Lisa and Michael’s story is much different than ours, beginning with the fact they’re Grammy-nominated musicians who now live in Los Angeles and hang out with people we can only admire and respect from afar.

But it’s also not that much different, having been raised religious and in a culture of purity before marriage, struggling to learn what it means to be a husband and a wife as well as parents, and suffering through loss and trial along the way.

At the end of the day, it’s important for someone to acknowledge that the effects of trauma last far beyond the event itself, and it’s good to be reminded that we’re not alone; Lisa wonderfully expresses both in meaningful ways in this book.

I wanted to add a quote to this review, but I didn’t even mark the book up with pencil as I usually do because the whole thing is entirely underline worthy.

All this to say – please pick up this book, listen to Gungor and support their music, and be thankful that Lisa was willing to let us into her story in this way.

Like this song, it’s a gift.