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Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus' Final Words Our First Work
Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus' Final Words Our First Work
by Robby Gallaty
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.98
68 used & new from $7.34

3.0 out of 5 stars Discipleship is important but not necessarily tied to the methodology of this book, February 3, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There is much to like about this book, especially its emphasis on helping all Christians--not just the "professionals"-- live in closer relationship with God and with their fellow Christians. Discipleship building is an important part of our life of faith, so this focus is a good one.

However, Gallaty's mehanistic approach to developing discipleship relationships through very structured plans and methods is too limited and does not adjust for the various places in culture that congregations and individuals must inhabit. Further, his strong emphasis on intimate group discussions, not unlike the 70s and 80s encounter or "sensitivity" groups could be off-putting for many introverted people. Yes, we need to be open and honest, but does discipleship really require this approach in all situations? I think not.

That said, this is a book worth reading and pondering, pulling out the valuable thoughs and suggestions while not slavishly following methods that may not work for most readers.


Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America
Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America
by Rich Benjamin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.28
51 used & new from $0.53

5.0 out of 5 stars "An Improbably Journey" that is still relevant today, February 1, 2016
I am coming to this book "only" 7 years after it was published and almost a decade since Rich Benjamin spent time living in three different "whitopias" around the country, yet, sadly, many of his observations are still relevant today. And while this book has been around for an extended time, it is still very worth reading--far more than Waking Up White, for example, even though that was just published in 2014.

One of the most refreshing characteristics about the entire book is the author's favorable and pleasing characterizations of the individuals he interacted with during his brave experiment in living in overtly segregated communities, even some who were expressing white supremacist views directly to him. "The majority of whites in predominately white communities across our heartland are endearing and kind. ...day-to-day interaction in some of the whitest parts of America, I discover, is quite pleasant." (p 184) As I read this and similar comments, I wondered, and worried about, whether he would be able to say the same thing if he were to try this bold experiment today.

Just because he is able to see the real people behind some problematic attitudes, however, he does not gloss over the significant issues he sees being lived out in so many parts of the country. "Structural racism exists across institutions, public policy, and other important domains (education, the judiciary, real estate, etc.). The difference between interpersonal racism and structural racism is huge." (p 190) Once again, I could only feel deep sadness, frustration, and anger, when I considered how little progress (and perhaps how much regression) has been made since the book was published.

This is not just an account of a few episodes of living as the very rare black person in a Whitopia, though the writing is engaging as he details these experiences. More, there are reams of statistical data interwoven and an excellent--but heartbreaking--final section on what some of the misbegotten patterns in our country mean to those shut out of the opportunities some of the most exclusive Whitopias. His musings on what is going to happen to the 14 year old who mugs him are incredibly moving.

So pick up a copy of this book, even if it is "old" and consider how the problems outlined here need to be addressed--and how you might be able to take some action for change even a decade later.


Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War
Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War
by Ian Buruma
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.04
54 used & new from $11.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Life as a "German Jew" in Britain during the early 20th century, February 1, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Memoir? Collection of family letters? Piece of social history?

Their Promised Land is something of all of these, as a talented writer excerpts an almost unbelievably large stock of letters between his grandparents to give us a picture of life for a privileged yet discriminated against part of society during and between the two World Wars.

Winifred and Bernard Schlesinger were children of German Jewish families who had emigrated to England well before World War I had started, and they both thought of themselves as British members of the upper class. There were servants (think of a slightly less staffed Downton Abbey) and elite schools, classical music for entertainment, and famous family and friends. Bernard did what every patriotic British youth of the time did, enlisting in the army, using his nascent medical education to its fullest. Meanwhile, Winifred is at home, feeling guilty about not being able to do more, so their correspondence grew even as their relationship did.

As the years passed, the letters continued between Winifred and Bernard. Their relationship clearly remained strong even as the times of separation were long. And those letters! These are not just "how are you? I am fine, the weather here is great" notes written in haste. There is a depth of conversation few of us ever see, whether in old-fashioned snail mail missives or email and social media messages. Through them, we can get a feel for what is happening in the world, and Buruma's commentary provides great contextual background as the years pass, and the world moves closer and closer to another war and the tragic events that led up to the Holocaust.

Yes, the Schlesingers were now British, but they were also still Jewish, and they still had many, many family members in Germany, some of whom did not survive Hitler's worst atrocities. Bernard Schlesinger spent much of the war in India, often with musings on whether he should be closer to the "real" war being waged in Europe. Meanwhile, Winifred was back in Britain, trying to raise their own children along with caring for twelve German children they had been able to rescue from the pograms playing out there.

These letters give us a rare insight into what life was like for people who were so very close to the events we only read about on a larger scale. Ian Buruma has done a marvelous job of creating a narrative that is readable and insightful. Well worth the read.


ZAGG Messenger Folio Tablet Keyboard Case for iPad mini 2 / iPad mini 3 - Black (IM3BSF-BB0)
ZAGG Messenger Folio Tablet Keyboard Case for iPad mini 2 / iPad mini 3 - Black (IM3BSF-BB0)
Price: $59.99
7 used & new from $38.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent keyboard feel, with a few limitations, February 1, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The iPad mini is small enough that any keyboard designed to work with it must make some decisions on what to include and what to omit. The Zagg Messenger Folio Tablet Keyboard has made some wise choices.

First, it is a full keyboard, unlike another brand I tested that requires extra key combinations just to get to quotation marks, etc. Even so, the keyboard does not feel cramped even for my moderately sized fingers. There is very little adjustment needed between it and typing on my MacBook Pro, something I really appreciate.

Overall, if you are looking for a keyboard to use as an alternative to keying on the screen, this has many advantages. However (and this is why I would have rated it only 3 1/2 if that was an option), using it is really only an option when you are sitting at a desk or on some other firm surface--like an airplane tray table. That's because there is only one positioning option, and that is a little unstable. My guess is that most people who want to use a keyboard would be planning to have it available for just these situations, so it might not be all that big a drawback.

The other feature worth noting is that the case is on the thick side and is a hard plastic that might not be as protective as the leather portfolio cover I usually use. It is easy to disconnect the iPad from the keyboard, so I will likely return to my other cover when packing the iPad where it could face possible damage. Overall, though, this is worth considering if you want/need a keyboard for your tablet.


Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race
Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race
by Debby Irving
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.49
41 used & new from $10.50

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Conflating Economic Privilege and White Privilege Does Not Help Address the Real Problem of White Privilege, January 24, 2016
Yes, "white privilege" is a real thing. Yes, Black Lives Matter. Yes, we all need to do much more to understand why life is very different for white and black (and brown and Latino and Asian and...) in America.

Still, this book is such an unrealistic portrayal of life for most white people in the US that it is likely to exacerbate tensions rather than help resolve them.

As other reviewers have pointed out, Ms. Irving has conflated much of her economic privilege into her white privilege. She readily admits to a very upper class (let's not even try for "upper middle class") background but then seems to think that this kind of upbringing has given her the same experiences as the "rest of us," who have often had to deal with limited choices because of the less than affluent communities and schools we inhabit.

Further, it is almost beyond belief that a person given the privileges she has had could be quite so uninformed about the real world. Are all white people as blind to reality as she seemed to be before "waking up white?" I find that difficult to believe. Here, for example, is one of her early experiences in the real world of work.

Irving completed four years of college at "very white" Kenyon college and then spent an extended time on a study abroad program in "also very white" Vienna. She then returned and used her father's extensive connections to get an internship at WGBH, Boston's premier public radio station.

On her very first day at the station, this new intern with no job experience is approached by another staff person and is offered a position as managing director of a local dance company! Though she admits that she may not be well qualified, she still takes the job.

As Irving tells it, one of her first grants at the dance company provides funding to bring 500 "inner city children" to the Boston Shakespeare Theater to watch a daytime dance program. She expects that this experience will be a wonderfully welcome opportunity for the kids. Imagine her surprise then when the lines of school buses begin bringing the students to the theater.

"When the kids started pouring off the buses, I couldn't believe how many were black...I had never seen so manyh black faces in one place in my life. I felt complete shock that 'inner-city' seemed to equate with 'black!'" (page 108)

Really? One can spend more than 20 years in the US, at apparently good schools, can listen to a public radio station with all kinds of diverse programming, and still be "shocked" that inner-city and black are synonymous in her city?

It is this kind of removal from everyday life that makes Waking Up White a very unhelpful book. It can only reinforce stereotypes some of other races may have about all whites, and it is so totally not real world that most whites with far less economic coddling are likely to just blow it off as so much "liberal pandering." There are far better works out there that address what is a real problem without making things worse.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 3, 2016 3:39 PM PST


Tattler Reusable Wide Mouth Canning Lids & Rubber Rings - 12/pkg
Tattler Reusable Wide Mouth Canning Lids & Rubber Rings - 12/pkg
Offered by LPC Survival - Berkey Guy
Price: $10.50
12 used & new from $9.71

1.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, but not reliable, not reusable, not acceptable as a substitute for standard single use lids, January 22, 2016
When I purchased these lids two years ago, I was excited to be able to reduce some of the waste that occurs with single use lids. I also anticipated a long term savings in the cost of canning.

The first season I used them, I had one fail to seal, out of a dozen. I chalked this up to my inexperience with the rings, but I was disappointed because I had not had a single failure with standard lids on at least a hundred jars over two years.

Unfortunately, my results have become more dismal. First, it seems that these really aren't reusable, as none of the rubber rings that had been used once before produced a seal the second time. 100% failure rate is unacceptable, especially at these prices.

So now I am stuck with four dozen expensive, and essentially useless lids. Sorry to have this experience, but I really want to warn others of the problems here.


Tattler Reusable Regular Size Canning Lids
Tattler Reusable Regular Size Canning Lids
Offered by LPC Survival - Berkey Guy
Price: $9.50
14 used & new from $7.81

1.0 out of 5 stars Not reliable, not reusable, not acceptable, January 22, 2016
When I purchased these lids two years ago, I was excited to be able to reduce some of the waste that occurs with single use lids. I also anticipated a long term savings in the cost of canning.

The first season I used them, I had one fail to seal, out of a dozen. I chalked this up to my inexperience with the rings, but I was disappointed because I had not had a single failure with standard lids on at least a hundred jars over two years.

Unfortunately, my results have become more dismal. First, it seems that these really aren't reusable, as none of the rubber rings that had been used once before produced a seal the second time. 100% failure rate is unacceptable, especially at these prices.

So now I am stuck with four dozen expensive, and essentially useless lids. Sorry to have this experience, but I really want to warn others of the problems here.


Vicks Filtered Cool Moisture Humidifier
Vicks Filtered Cool Moisture Humidifier
Price: $34.99
2 used & new from $34.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Small but not portable, January 4, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Overall, this is a nice little humidifier. It is small, and therefore can't be expected to humidify a whole house, or even a large room. But in a small room, such as a bedroom it does a nice ob of adding moisture. The loose construction of the unit is nice for cleaning, but makes it really difficult to keep together if you have to move it even from one part of the room to the other. Whild moving it to a different outlet, not only did I dump a load of water on the dog, but actually crunched the filter, which slid out of the housing and got pinched when I tried to re-secure. This is not a problem if you plan to leave the unit in one place, but it definitely limits my willingness to move it from room to room.

PROS
Small footprint
Relatively quiet
Easy set-up
Variable setting

CONS
Not overly portable--pieces fit together loosely and come apart if you try to move it from one room to the next.
Filter is not very durable and difficult to find replacement


Sony CFDS50 Portable CD, Cassette & AM/FM Radio Boombox
Sony CFDS50 Portable CD, Cassette & AM/FM Radio Boombox
Price: $49.87
18 used & new from $34.17

2.0 out of 5 stars Maybe okay for other things, but the CD player died right away., December 18, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It is difficult to find any kind of CD player in this MP3/online age, but I wanted one that could play an extensive collection of holiday CDs I already own. This seemed to be a good way to go, and it worked well for the first few weeks that I had it.

I had bought it in early autumn and used it without problems several times. However, the real test was going to be when I could stack up my Christmas CDs by my desk and settle in to some nostalgic listening.

Unfortunately, when I inserted a CD, I received two consecutive numeric messages instead of music. I turned the player off. I unplugged it and plugged it in. I cleaned every part I have ever known to be a problem with these players. I even read the manual! No help there, as it only reiterated what I had already done and mentioned only one error message, one that did not match at all what I was seeing.

The radio still works fine. The sound is adequate for the price I paid.I no longer have any cassettes that work so haven't tested that part of the functions. So I will give this two stars, for what does work.

However, if you are buying this for the CD player, don't. The rating for that function is a negative 2, or 3 or more.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 19, 2015 11:12 AM PST


Awakening the Evangelical Mind: An Intellectual History of the Neo-Evangelical Movement
Awakening the Evangelical Mind: An Intellectual History of the Neo-Evangelical Movement
by Owen Strachan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.04
50 used & new from $12.02

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Coverage of a Key Time in the History of the American Church, December 18, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
For anyone interested in the history of American evangelicalism, Awakening the Evangelical Mind is an important read. Owen Strachan has given a concise summary of the way that a key group of leaders came together to respond to some of the modernism/fundamentalism clashes of the first few decades of the 2oth century. Their actions provided the base for much of what evangelicalism looks like even now in the 21st century.

Many of the men mentioned here may not be familiar to today's evangelical laity, so reading Awakening the Evangelical Mind is an important way to fill that gap. It is revealing that these men resolutely held to basic tenets of the Christian faith even as they worked to reinvigorate the intellectual aspects of Christianity. Given some of the tendency in much of today's "evangelical" churches to return to an emotional, theology-deprived approach to ministry, this background is an important reminder of where the Church is called to be in culture across the ages.

Strachan's writing is not terribly exciting, but he has covered a key time in the history of the church with clarity and brevity not always found in scholarly works. Well worth a read for those inside evangelicalism, as well as a resource for some on the more progressive side of today's Christianity, to remind them that intellectual approaches to the faith are not the province of only those on "their side."


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