Gabriel Models Virtue; Speaks Worlds

Stephen Gabriel.  2011.  Speaking to the Heart:  A Father’s Guide to Growth in Gabriel_10012013Virtue.  Falls Church:  Moorings Press.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Virtue.  That to which we hold ourselves accountable to.  Or not.  If your forehead were a billboard, what objectives would be written there?  Stephen Gabriel’s book, Speaking to the Heart, is a book that I wish that I might have written at a younger age.

Speaking to the Heart is a book for fathers written by a father (11).  Gabriel’s focus on virtues arises from the desire to be an intentional father who can assist his children in navigating the turbulence of life (12).  For those of us uncomfortable with the subject of virtues, Gabriel advises—pay attention to your discomfort because it points in the direction of wisdom (14).

The book is organized around 20 virtues starting with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love (charity).  These 20 chapters are introduced with an introduction and followed with a conclusion.  Each of the 20 chapters begins with a scripture passage and a famous quote.  The virtue is then defined in a single page.  This definition is then followed by a two page discussion entitled:  “Considerations for Growth in the Virtue of XXX”.

Chapter 7, for example, focuses on temperance.  The scripture passage is 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 which begins:  “All the fighters at the games go into strict training…”  He then cites Robert Burton:  “Temperance is a bridle of gold.”  Gabriel writes:  “Temperance is evidenced by a sense of moderation and restraint in the exercise of our appetites.”  First among the considerations for growth cited is:  “I reflect on how I seek my happiness and fulfillment”.  Another gem is:  “I am more attentive to the people I am with than to the food and drink.”

Gabriel’s Speaking to the Heart oozes authenticity.  What gives the book authenticity is not the author’s professional background, expertise in ethics, or ability to turn a phrase. Gabriel is not an obvious candidate to take up the pen here. Gabriel’s authenticity arises because he promises publically to model virtue as a father and outlines what that looks like.  In a postmodern world devoid of adults, that takes guts.  You want to be a good parent?  Model virtue.

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RPC Sharpens Shorts; Gets Buy

Roy Peter Clark.  2013.  How To Write Short:  Word Craft for Fast Times.  New York:  Little, Brown, and Company.Roy Clark, How to Write Short

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

So. You are a boomer with a manuscript in hand terrified of having to promote a book in a new world of blogs and tweets.  What do you do?  Start by reading Roy Peter Clark’s new book, How to Write Short.

Introduction

Clark writes his advice in 35 short reflections organized into two sections:  “How to Write Short” and “How to Write Short with a Purpose”.  He caps these sections off with an epilog: “A Few Final Words–441 to Be Exact”.

Summary

Clark’s first reflection focuses on getting you to open your eyes.  In a world inundated with data in the form of writing, images, and sounds, what catches your attention?  Coyly, Clark paraphrases the line from Sixth Sense.  Not, “I see dead people”, but “I see short writing”(15).  Clark collects shorts like other people collect sidewalk pennies.  In reviewing the sparse style of these shorts, he draws attention to the backstory that makes them interesting.  Shorts sparkle because they remind you of something.  A “grace note”, Clark adds, increases the sparkle by reframing the sparkle in a new, interesting way.  Or it may just offer a jolt (17-21).

Assessment

I did not expect a writing book to be a page turner.  I did not expect How to Write Short would get me to look at my long writing differently.  I do expect that I will be referring back to this book in my book’s next edit. Yeah!

RPC Sharpens Shorts; Gets Buy

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide for the Perplexed By Gordon P. Hugenberger

Hugenberger, Gordon P. 1994.  The Lord’s Prayer:  A Guide for the Perplexed.  Boston:  Park Street Church.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The book speaks to the hollowing out of large parts of the church in recent years. The consensus view focuses on the form rather than the content of our faith. Liberals have abandoned the basic doctrines of the church while evangelicals have eschewed depth to appeal to seekers. Scholarly devotionals helps mitigate this problem by offering believers something more thoughtful to chew on.

Against this backdrop, the Lord’s Prayer: A Guide for the Perplexed, written by Rev. Dr. Gordon P. Hugenberger reflects biblically on the content of the Lord’s Prayer. For example, the introduction points out that the Gospel of Luke gives special emphasis to Jesus’ prayer life (5). Hugenberger is the senior pastor at Park Street Church, Boston MA and a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. Park Street Church is famous as the site for in early Billy Graham revival in the 1940s.

A topic likely to generate discussion is Hugenberger’s discussion of why newer translations omit the doxology to the Lord’s Prayer. The doxology is–For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen–found, for example, in Matthew 6:13 in the King James Version of the bible at the end of the prayer. The basic reason is that the doxology was added in later Greek manuscripts because Jesus meant the Lord’s Prayer to be a template for prayer, not an officially sanctioned prayer. The church took this advice seriously adding petitions, like the doxology at the end of the prayer (7). When scholars examined earlier manuscripts, those manuscripts did not have the oxology.  Because newer translations give preference to older Greek manuscripts, the doxology was left out or became a footnote.

Hugenberger’s book is useful as a devotional study for mature Christians and their study groups wanting to deepen their understanding of the Lord’s Prayer. The book is short enough to read in one sitting, but devotions are best enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.

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Cloud: Reclaim Life, Achieve Success

Henry Cloud, One Life Solution

Cloud: Reclaim Life, Achieve Success

Henry Cloud.  2008. The One-Life Solution:  Reclaiming Your Personal Life While Achieving Greater Professional Success.  New York:  HarperCollins.

Reviewed By Stephen W. Hiemstra

I cannot ignore any book by Henry Cloud. Back in 2003, my pastor preached a sermon based on Cloud’s earlier book called: Boundaries. The sermon interested me enough that I bought and read the book. Applying prescriptions from the book to my life led me to perceive my call into pastoral ministry.

Introduction

The One-Life Solution is a book focused on constructing and developing better boundaries at work (19). Cloud observes that most people get caught up trying to control the things outside their control. Things like other people, circumstances, or outcomes. Meanwhile, they lose control of themselves (22). In this context, Cloud defines a boundary as a property which defines where you end and someone (or something) else begins (25).

Six Key Areas

In a work environment, Cloud sees boundaries bringing order to six key areas: 1. Ownership, 2. Control, 3. Freedom, 4. Responsibility, accountability, and consequences, 5. Limits, and 6. Protection (25-30). Interestingly, these six areas do not lend structure to the discussion that follows. Rather, the book mostly focuses on applying boundaries to establish structure and reduce anxiety.

A Henry Cloud Audit

Cloud suggests that a good place to start is with an audit. The purpose of this audit is to measure where you spend your time, disconnects between time spent and personal values, and what personal issues contribute to the problem (69).  This method of analysis is reminiscent of what Miller and Rollnick (2002, 38) referred to as gap analysis–highlighting the discrepancy between present behavior and …broader goals and values.

Assessment

An important point in assessing books with the character of movie sequels is: does the sequel add value to the initial book? Here the answer is yes. Henry Cloud’s The One-Life Solution contributed real value to my understanding of boundaries. For Cloud the key was seeing examples of how to manage difficult office situation with tact and grace. My favorite example recalls an obnoxious CEO who laid into him everyday at his desk at 4 p.m., which ruined his evening as well as his day. Cloud (152) simply made a rule not to talk to him after 4 p.m. I had a supervisor very much like that.

References

Cloud, Henry and John Townsend. 1992. Boundaries: When to Say YES; When to Say NO; To Take Control of Your Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Miller, William R. and Stephen Rollnick. 2002. Motivational Interviews: Preparing People for Change. New York: Guilford Press.

Also see:

Cloud and Townsend Set Limits; Heal Relationships; Gain Control 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

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Can You Drink the Cup? by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Henri J. M. Nouwen.  2006.  Can You Drink the Cup?  Notre Dame:  Ave Maria Press.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

When a friend of mine in Christ recommended this book, I was surprised and happy to take the recommendation.  I thought that I had read all of Henri Nouwen’s books. The book’s dedication to the l’Arche Daybreak Community here in Northern Virginia added special meaning for me because a friend of mine worked and lived there.

In this book, Nouwen talks at length about his personal history, particularly his ordination. From the age of six, Nouwen wanted to be a priest and he was ordained as Roman Catholic priest on July 21, 1957 in the Netherlands (16). As a gift for his ordination, his uncle gave him a chalice (20). “Can You Drink the Cup?” is a book structured around the metaphor of drinking wine.

The book starts with citing Matthew 20:20-23. In this passage, the mother of Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, comes to Jesus to request that her sons be given seats at the left and right of Jesus when he comes into his kingdom. Jesus denies the request posing a question: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Matt 20:22 ESV).

Nouwen sees the cup as a symbol of our life. He asks: “Can we hold the cup of life in our hands? Can be lift it up for others to see, and can we drink it to the full?” (24) Nouwen structures his book around these three themes: “holding, lifting, and drinking” (25).

Holding. Nouwen comments: “drinking wine is more than just drinking. You have to know what you are drinking and be able to talk about it” (29). (Now I know why I prefer beer!) In talking about this holding of the cup, Nouwen talks about the joys and sorrows of living and working with special needs people. Nouwen writes: “Joys are hidden in sorrows!” (56) In my own work with Alzheimer’s patients, I have come to know both the joy of walking with them and the deep sorrow, deep abandonment they feel.

Lifting. Nouwen writes: “Lifting up the cup is an invitation to affirm and celebrate life together” (61). The symbolism here is not only the toast and the word that are spoken, but the celebration, especially the celebration of communion. A toast is a blessing (68). In Spanish, a blessing is a good word (bendición) and a curse is a bad word (maldición). In the biblical world where worlds are created and destroyed by God’s word, one learns to choose one’s words carefully.

Drinking. Nouwen reminds us that offering a drink to a visitor is a basic act of hospitality (86). Being willing to share is another way of saying that one accepts one’s status in life. At what point do we reach that point? A resident of L’Arche, Gordie, asked Nouwen: “Why are people leaving all the time?” (93). This question cuts to the core of pastoral ministry. As an intern, I was happy to work with Alzheimer’s patients but Gordie’s question cut to core–could I, as Nouwen did, give up the fast track and just simply work in a home with Alzheimer’s patients? What level of sacrifice are we willing to offer? What about our families?

As a seminarian, I found “Can You Drink the Cup?” very convicting. Perhaps, you will too.

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