Archives for category: books

As I’ve shared here before, the Idea Camp tribe has been such an important part of my life & ministry over the last couple of years. This collaborative movement of idea-makers has been a constant source of inspiration.

No, you’re not crazy if you think that it’s more important to work together for the Kingdom of God than to seek individual credit or accolades. This ethos of partnership, collaboration, and getting things done is rooted in the ethos of Charles Lee, the founder and glue behind the Idea Camp.

I’m grateful for Charles, who has been an encouraging friend and wise mentor to me (and many others)  in so many ways. I’m never surprised to see the caliber of people Charles is able to bring together. For example, check out the roster of speakers Charles has lined up for this year’s Ideation Conference in Chicago.

Today, Charles’ first book, Good Idea. Now What? hits the shelves at brick & mortar bookstores (and, of course, at various online retailers). Good Idea is filled with practical insights, both from Charles’ experience and from his vast network of social entrepreneurs — including Soledad O’Brien of CNN, Scott Harrison of charity: water, and Blake Mycoskie of TOMS.

Good Idea is written for two kinds of people. From the introduction:

1. The idea lover who is sick of just sitting on great ideas: These are individuals who recognize that their ideas may never come to pass without a strategic process and a developed skill set.

2. The idea maker who needs to refresh and reaffirm his or her understanding of the elements for implementing ideas well: No matter how experienced you may be, this book will be a good resource for sparking meaningful conversations about your ideas.

The world needs us to dream better dreams, but even more than that, to act on our convictions. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with Charles where I wasn’t encouraged, challenged, and/or inspired to action. I highly recommend Good Idea. Now What? and I’m excited to see the great ideas that get put into action as a result.

You can read a sample chapter here.

I met Dan King (perhaps better known as @bibledude) through the Idea Camp, a unique tribe of idea-makers who collaborate for good in their neighborhoods, and around the world. Dan’s love for his family and for the church to rise up and become the force for good that God intends stood out to me as we shared a meal together.

The title, The Unlikely Missionary: From Pew-Warmer to Poverty-Fighter, captures the essence of what Dan seeks to do with this book — to move people from lukewarm church attending to passionately following Jesus to serve those He loves. For a more in-depth conversation on why Dan wrote this book and what he hopes to accomplish through it, read this interview I conducted with him for

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Devastation of the magnitude of the earthquake in Haiti that killed *230,001 people in January 2010 stretches the bounds of our ability to comprehend the depth of brokenness and suffering in our world. News of tsunamis, tornadoes, and flooding shakes the earth and our faith.

From the outside, even our angriest shouts at God seem ridiculously small. Can we really figure out the meaning of suffering when so many people lose so much, so quickly? When the earth itself is ripped open with violence and disregard, what can we feel except very, very small?

The Safety Dance

In the church, we are often tempted to avoid suffering, to make life as safe or comfortable as possible (just listen to the way much Christian media is marketed, “Safe for the whole family”). At other times, we might Kinkade-ify suffering; that is, to gloss over the reality of pain, or to forge ahead by pretending everything’s great, thanks for asking.

Suffering With

Trying to walk alongside others who are suffering is a kind of suffering in itself. Compassion means to suffer with another person. Sweeping generalizations about the sovereignty of God lose their meaning when a friend has just lost a beloved child. Perhaps it’s more meaningful to sit in silence nearby, covered together in ashes and tears.

Suffering unites. As Dave Gibbons notes, not everyone can relate to our success or victories, but everyone can understand pain. Not that we’re called to seek out hardship as an end in itself; rather, to face with courage the reality of our broken world, and to share with empathy in the suffering of our neighbors.

After Shock

Kent Annan, co-director of Haiti Partners, has worked in Haiti since 2003. After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World is Shaken is Kent’s psalm to God — anguish, confusion, hope — in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.

Throughout After Shock, Kent writes with disarming honesty. Not the “keeping it real” kind of honesty we might read in confessional memoirs today, but the kind that refuses to throw religious-sounding platitudes into the darkness of theodicy and call it a day.

Kent describes a conversation he had with someone in the United States who was marveling at an amazing story of survival, in which a woman emerged from the rubble of collapsed building fourteen days after the earthquake praising God:

We grasp at straws trying to make sense of the suffering. To fill the silence, we say things that are sincere but sometimes silly. We find slivers of Scripture that prop up our defense, but do we want the kind of God that the logic of our straw-patched statements creates?

Don’t Turn Away 

In the same way that sharing your goals publicly might actually prevent you from achieving those goals (“When you share a goal publicly, your brain enjoys the sharing in the same way it enjoys the achievement itself, and you’ve lost some of your motivation”), becoming a consumer of disaster tourism can trick us into thinking we’ve done something about suffering — as Charles Lee has noted, genuine compassion is more than a tweet.

However, After Shock calls us into deeper faith and action:

Don’t turn away and pretend suffering isn’t pandemic. Don’t become a charitable tourist of suffering either. Pain is personal, but also universal. Don’t turn away from doing everything possible to stop suffering. There’s so much we can do nothing about, but we can help — sometimes one person and sometimes many.

Broken For You

In Kent’s description of celebrating the Eucharist alongside Haitian Christians in the rubble of a collapsed church, I come to know better the Christ who embraced the destroyed by becoming broken Himself. “The body of Christ in this place broken, literally broken bodies, broken homes, broken church building,” distant yet near in the rubble and dust.

May we become the response to a world that is always crashing around us.

Full disclosure: Kent is a friend from seminary, and I received this book free by winning a contest via Twitter. However, I would highly recommend After Shock even if neither of those were true.


* From the footnotes of After Shock, “The number of people who died can only be estimated and so rounded off, but adding the one seems like a way to try to hold onto the personal scale of loss.”

The month of May has been a bit of a whirlwind (but what’s new, right?).

A quick update on what’s burning up my bookshelf these days:

From a Liminal Place: An Asian American Theology, by Dr. Sang Hyun Lee

Dr. Lee is a pioneer in Asian American theology. I was fortunate to have studied in seminary under Dr. Lee and his wife (also a professor, Dr. Lee). From a Liminal Place is a powerful book, not only for Asian Americans, but for all who seek to follow Christ faithfully not from a seat of power, but from the creative, prophetic edges.

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As part of the Booksneeze program from Thomas Nelson, I received a copy of Richard Stearns’ book, The Hole in Our Gospel, for review.

In The Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns describes his journey from corporate CEO to following Jesus into the poorest corners of the world. Stearns currently serves as president of World Vision US.

In the introduction, Stearns writes:

Being a follower of Jesus Christ requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world. If your personal faith in Christ has no positive outward expression, then your faith – and mine – has a hole in it.

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