Tag Archives: Reviews

Book Reviews || Flood Fiction || #1. The Flood, David Maine

imageThere has been MASSIVE interest in the new Noah film – and rightly so, what a stonking story! I hope to see the film at some point . . . but, I ALSO have a couple of great books on my shelf which use the biblical story of Noah as a backdrop for some great fiction. So, in the next couple of days – 3 brief reviews – first up:

1. ‘The Flood’ by David Maine
This is a staggering book – drawing you right in to the time, the place, the whole feel of . . . Well, humanity on the edge of a precipice! Earthy, honest language from a whole host of characters (we get Noe’s perspective – Noah; and a bunch of his family comment – from totally devoted ‘my father can do no wrong’ to, ‘dads a crackpot’. All this commentary on the crazy notion of an ark in the middle of nowhere and beautiful writing,

The sun beats him like a rod. Around him the land quivers and ripples as if still just an idea in God’s mind . . . . He wonders if he has made a mistake, then exiles that thought. If he has made a mistake, it means God has too.

The pages where Noe speaks himself are wondrous in their simplicity – this simple, straightforward man thrust into a bizarre and epic struggle to save his family and a bunch of animals . . . but, the voice I enjoyed the most was when his wife narrates, she refers to Noah as, ‘Himself’,

Himself thrives on sacrifice. It’s bread and meat to him, it’s air, it’s the blood in his marrow. If God ever stops asking for sacrifice, Himself won’t know what to do with himself.

We come through the maelstrom and out the other side, Noe hears God speak and be holds the sign of God’s promise,

Across the sky streaks a rainbow of such intensity it leaves Noe gasping. Spanning from horizon to horizon, it sprays down colour like an enormous prism, painting green fields with red, riverbanks with yellow, fruit trees with dazzling indigo. Even Noe’s own shadow glows with a crisp blue sheen. He tries to speak but the words cower in his larynx. Then The Lord is gone out of his head anyway, and Noe is alone again.

It is not the Bible. It is a work of fiction, but a fabulous rendering of the story. It is not a child’s book. This is a grown up rebelling, nature red in tooth and claw – as is humanity, which is why God cleansed the world. It is powerful, sobering stuff – and will leave you wondering at what took place and what it meant for Noah and his family to get ready for it (for years) then live through hell on earth and come out the other side . . . It will also have you scurrying back to the scriptures to read the original.

Tomorrow, ‘Not The End of the World’ by Geraldine McCaughrean . . .


REVIEW: “Fortunately, The Milk”, Neil Gaiman // a dad’s BIG dream drama

Neil Gaiman writes odd stuff.  Dark odd stuff for adults, weird and crazy laugh-out-loud-funny odd stuff for kids.  “Fortunately, The Milk” is due for release in mid September 2013 . . . get it pre-ordered now!  

A (apparently) hapless dad is left alone with the kids while his other half heads off for a conference . . . what could go wrong?  I have had many conversations with my wife where I have realised I am nodding, but not paying attention (doom), at the start of this story the Dad is buried in a newspaper (with Gaiman, that could be literally, but I just mean he is reading it), but we then discover he is an astonishing Dad as he recites back to his other half everything she has just reminded him he needs to do for the kids (clearly, she is taken a back . . . I can only imagine the dad grinning to himself behind the newsprint).  

There is something though – in the midst of the genius of apparent total recall something gets dropped off the list  – er, “dad, there is no milk”. . . . Dad leaps into action – and disappears out the door, it is unclear for quite how long, but crazy, down right odd, bizarre and loony adventures ensue (or at least, upon his return this is the tall story the Dad tell the kids . . . )  I love the classic comments from the kids, “I thought this story would have ponies.”, and Dad, deftly weaves in some ponies . . . other interruptions are dealt with in a “I was just coming to that” brilliance.  By the end of the story I wanted to BE this Dad (not of fictional children, I have some great ones of my own), but, be that spontaneously creative – have some hilarious adventurous fun with something as ordinary as fetching the milk.

A tall tale, with a shed load of improbable characters and scenarios thrown in, if only every mundane act took us on a magical journey – life would be exhausting, we would never finish conversations (“you think YOU had a day of it when you tried to cross the road during the earthquake which hit at exactly the same time as the total eclipse of the sun, well, that’s nothing . . . “) . . . but think of the fun, and death defying, lives we would lead!

Get this book, maybe even let your kids read it when you’re done.

20 Essential Ministry Books // #5 “Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry” Doug Fields

Doug Fields is probably best known for “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry”, which was written back in the mid 90s.  This book, still written 10 years ago, isn’t really a follow up – in some ways, it is more a book that gives each of us involved in ministry a context, the values and the ethos we should have before we start thinking about which tool; which youth ministry teaching book; which resource we are going to use in ministry.  This is why, as I look at this whole list of my essentials, there is not really a book for running a programme or doing youth ministry with young people – it is not the most important stuff.  The best thing we can offer young people is a healthy US.  This book from Doug seriously helps with that.

The book is split into chapters around particular topics, all with a view to helping you have a healthy view of ministry, our role as youth leaders and – especially helpful – we can drawn on the experience of others throughout the book who are honest about their mistakes and some of the pitfalls we might avoid with their generously offered hindsight.

I did not read this book in my first two years of youth ministry – but, it is an essential read, at whatever time you get your hands on it!  The most helpful chapter (which I wish I had the opportunity to read back in 1986) is about working with parents.  Seriously, if you read nothing else in the book, or browse the other chapters with the “i know this stuff” feeling . . . don’t skip through this chapter!  As a single guy from the late 80s to the late 90s, I spent a decade ignoring parents almost completely – duh!  Parents, and their faith and values, are essential to the spiritual health of their children, we ARE NOT.  Doug shares from his own pain of missing this, but doesn’t wallow – through what he has learnt along the way, he helps us get to grips with why this needs to be a priority of ministry with young people and how to go about it.

You may not see a chapter heading that stands out to you, maybe as I write this it is because I have a particular desire to help others (and myself) get it right with parents – maybe it is because I am a parent myself now.  This is another reason this book is so critical, Doug has this “360 view” of the place and purpose of youth ministry – I think, so often, in my own practice, I have just been looking at what I am doing right now (barely thinking to the next session, never mind the impact of the work with young people in 3 or 4 years time).  I guess this has been emphasized at different points in ministry – I have worked for churches where the senior pastor has young children, so the kids work is “vital”; a senior pastor with young teens, so the 11-14s work is “vital”; a senior pastor who’s kids were about to go to university so the key question was, “what are we doing for students?” . . .

This book helps me reflect across every area of work and, rather than focus on the work itself, get me to focus on ME and what I am prepared to bring to every piece of work, every relationship, in the pursuit of reaching and discipling children and young people.

Further highlights that mean I keep returning to this book – for a “pep talk from Doug” are:  Dealing with discouragement // Establishing (or recovering) a strong spiritual foundation // Time Management! . . .

The area of the book (for me at least) that I keep returning to is right at the back . . . Doug’s recommendations for what to practically focus on in your “first two years”, the thing is – they are not “jobs” to be ticked off a to do list . . . they are habits, actions that need to be kept up.  So, whether you are brand new to youth ministry (or any kind of ministry, the same applies!) or been doing it in various ways for 27 years (yep!) this is the kind of gold dust book that will keep reminding you, in an encouraging way like a good friend, to keep going, to have hope and to love ministry . . . not just for now, but for as long as God has called you to it.

Get this book.