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Date: 7 September 2010

Book review: “Permission to Speak Freely”

This is going to be an odd book review, and I don’t care.

That sort of honestly and freedom isn’t necessarily what this book is talking about, but, in a way, it’s close.

The book is called Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art On Fear, Confession, and Grace. Anne Jackson got the spark for this book after she posed the question on her blog, “What is one thing you feel you can’t say in the church?”

That is a very challenging question. The book itself…a surprisingly pleasant and uncomfortable challenge. An uncomfortably pleasant challenge? An intoxicating struggle? I don’t know what you’d call it. But, it will test you if you let it.

The text is about Anne’s story, and how she’s using her story as a spring board for others to start telling theirs. She had the courage to start talking, to be vulnerable, so that others—anyone at all who feels afraid, hurt, in bondage, cast down, absolutely alone—can be less afraid to start talking. When someone else speaks first, especially about some of the difficult, dark things going on, it’s a lot easier to speak second.

Church leaders need to read this book. Home fellowships need to read this book. Brothers and sisters in Christ need to read this book. Any church body, at any time, should be ready to discuss the more difficult topics in a community, and do so without alienating, hating, and excommunicating the folks that don’t agree with the “traditional” idea. There is freedom and grace ready and waiting.

The book itself is not structured in a normal, average book sort of way. It has art and design pieces (submissions of responses to the question) that get you to meditate a bit, to look deeper past your own walls and safe guards. Plus, it doesn’t give you all the answers in the end. It doesn’t expect you to follow these 5 steps toward freedom. It doesn’t give you the layout of exactly how your life in gracious liberty should be, what it should look like, and exactly how to get there from here.

This is a great book. It will be a wonderful addition to your must-pass-it-along library. If you read this book and keep it…then you’ve missed the point entirely. You need to read it again (don’t worry, it’s quite a fast read). Then, trust me, pass it on.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book review: “The Boy Who Changed the World”

The Boy Who Changed the World welcomes youngsters to consider themselves special, to see that what we do matters, and what we do makes a difference. By jumping into the lives of four historic men—who are not necessarily the same old, run of the mill, always picked, everyone knows about them, historical figures (Norman Borlaug, Henry Wallace, George Washington Carver, and Moses Carver)—kids will get an important understanding into how history has been shaped and effected.

This book does a wonderful job showing the kids how everything they do matters; how special, important, and significant they are. Any child can easily feel encouraged (though they’d never say it) that they “can be the kid who changes the world.” And what child doesn’t enjoy playing such an important role in life? What child doesn’t pretend to be a superhero, or the good girl coming into the picture just in time to save the day? Except The Boy Who Changed the World helps them see there’s no need to pretend. They are special and they can change the real world.

The reading was simple and engaging. The illustrations were superb and fun. This will be a very good book to pick up for your little ones.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Not that happy with CEB’s Sermon on the Mount

I really wish all translations would have translation notes like the NET Bible. I would love to understand what they were thinking, why they made the decisions they did, and even what resources helped them come to their conclusions. The Common English Bible (CEB) is no exception. I’d love to see their reasoning behind some of the odd and questionable readings, as well as the why they went with some of the readings I really like.

The Sermon on the Mount is a primary, crucial, fundamental, vital (or choose any other similar adjective you like) portion of not only the Gospels, but of the New Testament and Bible as a whole. In Matthew’s “Sermon,” the CEB translators probably had David Crowder Band on the brain.

Happy are people who are downcast . . .

Happy are people who grieve . . .

Happy are people who are humble . . .

Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness . . .

Happy are people who show mercy . . .

Happy are people who have pure hearts . . .

Happy are people who make peace . . .

Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous . . .

I can’t say I’m all that happy with happy. While happy is one of the words that fits the meaning of makarios, I don’t see it working in this passage. We tend to understand happiness as an emotion, something that changes with our mood, reactions, circumstances. Happy conveys a smile, a cheeriness. And though in a sense there’s truth to the happiness in connection with what Jesus said (grieving, the harassed; is “downcast” really a good translation?), it’s not what he meant.

I think it will cause more confusion than anything.

Later in Matthew’s text, when Peter proclaims (his misunderstanding of?) who Jesus was, the CEB reads:

Then Jesus replied, “Happy are you (makarios ei), Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you.” Mt. xvi.17

Happy doesn’t make sense to me here. Take the phrase, “Happy are you.” I’ve never said that. I’ve never read that. I’ve never heard anyone else say that. It doesn’t come off as normal, common English. And Jesus was definitely not telling Peter that the disciple was really happy and giddy.

I want to look at another example. Even later in Matthew’s text we run into this passage:

“Who then are the faithful and wise servants whom their master puts in charge of giving food at the right time to those who live in his house? Happy (makarios) are those servants whom the master finds fulfilling their responsibilities when he comes. I assure you that he will put them in charge of all his possessions.” Mt. xxiv.45-47

Happy here brings the focus of the sentence on the servants. And that’s not the point; the focus is on the master and what he is doing. While most translations render makarios here blessed, not straying from how they translated the word in Mt. v, I think it’s easy to see the idea of favor in this passage. And favor is one of the translation options for makarios.

In fact, while most translations of Revelation i.3 use “Blessed,” “God blesses,” or some other variation of blessed, the CEB has

Favored (makarios) is the one who reads the words of this prophecy out loud, and favored are those who listen to it being read, and keep what is written in it.

While I can see favored here in Revelation as a good rendering, I don’t believe “Favored is the one” makes a compelling case for “common English.” There has to be an easier, less awkward way to put the phrases together. And, although favored I think fits better in Mt. xxiv than happy does, neither works out well in the so called Beatitudes.

Someone might consider it a trivial issue. But, I find the Sermon on the Mount so critical to Christianity that we need a clear reading of the text available. There is no need to be watering down or confusing a reader.

But, I must say I appreciate the translation of Mt. v.48:

Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.

I like the added explanation, “in showing love to everyone.” That should definitely clear up the confusion.

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