A Gay Son’s Journey to God


I’ve read a lot of books over the years, some good and some bad, and Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan is one of the best.  This true story chronicles the journey of Christopher as a gay man who experiences redemption in Christ and the parallel journey of Angela, his mother, as she experiences rebirth in Jesus, including a renewed marriage and new hope for the future.

I read this book in less than a day – I simply could not put it down once I started it.  Page and page I wanted to see what happened next in the story – the story both of Christopher’s journey into deep and devastating sin and its consequences, and then the beautiful story of hope, restoration, and redemption.  It was not an easy story to read, nor did the authors hold many punches when describing the life lived by Christopher; with frankness and honesty we read the stories of experiences that led to suicidal thoughts, anonymous sex, involvement with drugs, and even trouble with the law.

Chapters were written by either Christopher or Angela, offering each person’s perspective on the journey, each chapter switched from one to the other author.  While many books I read in this format are hard to follow and frustrating to read, the flow of the book and the transition from one author to the other was absolutely seamless.

One of the most insightful chapters in the book was the one entitled, “Holy Sexuality”.  In a world where both secular and sacred authors struggle with how to address the entire issue of homosexuality, Christopher re-focuses the discussion on what is important: Jesus Christ.  He writes, “I had always thought that the opposite of homosexuality was heterosexuality.  But actually the opposite of homosexuality is holiness.  God never said, ‘Be heterosexual, for I am heterosexual.’  He said, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.'”  He then concludes, “So the question is, if I continue to have these feelings I neither asked for nor chose, will I still be willing to follow Christ no matter what?…God’s faithfulness is proved not by the elimination of hardships but by carrying us through them.  Change is not the absence of struggles; change is the freedom to choose holiness in the midst of our struggles.”

Overall, I’m giving this book a 5/5 stars – it’s a must read for everyone.  It offers hope and truth rather than condemnation and judgement for anyone willing to listen.

For the record, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.

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Book Review: The Fourth Fisherman


This book was actually a disappointment, and perhaps I’m to blame for that.  I thought the book was going to focus on the story of how three Mexican fisherman survived nine months drifting at sea, but it really focused on telling the changes in how the book’s author, Joe Kissack, was transformed.  Perhaps I should have recognized that since the cover of the book has “How three Mexican fisherman who cam back from the dead changed my life and saved my marriage” written directly under the title, but I didn’t.

The book chronicles the story of Joe Kissack, a man who went from begin a high-ranking executive with Sony Pictures to living like the rest of us.  For the first 15 chapters or so one chapter tells his story and then the next tells the fishermen’s, and then the final 25 chapters focus solely on Kissack and attempt to use his journey to bring the story of the fishermen’s experience to life in a book and movie as an illustration of his own struggles.  But it just wasn’t very successful.  I just expected more focus on the fishermen and was immensely distracted by the self-centeredness of the author in the story.  SPOILER ALERT: DON’T READ THE NEXT SENTENCE IF YOU INTEND TO READ THE BOOK.  He finally identifies himself as the fourth fisherman, which to me seemed like an insult to the three who did survive.  I don’t know, I guess I expected the fourth fishermen to be Christ and for the book to focus on the transformation of them through their Christian faith and the miracle of their survival, but it didn’t.  It basically tells the story of one man who gets consumed with the American dream and then tells how he overcame.

If you’re looking for a story that’s inspirational to say, “Wow – look how God moved!” then this might be worth your time.  If you’re looking for a story to read because you’re going through struggles and you want to know how other people pushed through them to come out okay on the other side, though, you’ll be sadly disappointed.  While Kissack shares that he eventually was transformed, it doesn’t really talk about how he was transformed, offering no model for others to follow.  In fact, I see nothing about the story of the fisherman that related at all to his life at all.  He credits his work with them as transforming him, but I just don’t see, even after reading the book, how his interaction with them was anything transformative (one might even think, based on how he writes, that it was a distraction from what was really important).

the-fourth-fisherman-book

To read the first two chapters for free, visit the book’s website and click on “Click to Start Reading”

I’ll give t 1.5 stars out of five.

For the record, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.

Free Book Available: Faith & Other Flat Tires


Don’t forget about the chance to win a free copy of Faith and Other Flat Tires by Andrea Palpant Dilley.  All you have to do is post a comment to the review of the book (click here to access the original review)!  Only a couple days left, since all entries must be submitted by July 31 at 11:59pm (that’s about a week away).

Book Review & Free Book: Faith and Other Flat Tires by Andrea Palpant Dilley


Faith and Other Flat Tires is actually a book I had difficulty putting down. Ms. Dilley’s story of doubt and struggle was deep and personal, and she doesn’t hold much back in terms of honest struggle in her writing. She makes mention often of Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan, even naming the eight stages of her journey to coincide with the stages of Pilgrim’s journey in Bunyan’s work. The book focuses primarily on the struggles she has with God in general and Christianity in particular, with raw and honest story-telling from her own life. I found her story captivating and intriguing, truly difficult to put down.

She does a fantastic job of identifying her faith struggles and in explaining how some of her actions related to these larger issues – something many people can’t seem to grasp (that idea that our day to day decisions are often the result of deeper conflicts within us). She spends the majority of the book sharing what her life was like as she went through her rebellious (for lack of a better term), or searching, stage in life. This part of the book was magnificently written, offering a glimpse into the life of someone who not only struggled with her childhood faith but also with wanting to resolve that struggle.

My difficulty with the book comes in the fact that I wanted a much clearer resolution, but one was not given. Without giving away the book I’ll just say that I saw less of a change in belief and more of a change in action as I progressed through the book. Perhaps it is just me, but I wanted to see how she answered the questions she was raising throughout the book – at least in a deeper way than she did. It’s not that I disagreed with her answers (because it’s not my place here to agree or disagree with them, so I’ll hold those opinions to myself), it’s just that I found her answers somewhat shallow for someone who demonstrated such depth of thought in her questions.

Overall, the book was enjoyable to read and it was refreshing to read the honest reflection of someone as they struggle with their faith. Too often in Christian circles we tend to hide behind an image that “we have it all together” and, by-and-large, Christians are unwilling to share their struggles and doubts with others. But doubt is part of the Christian walk (faith, by it’s nature, requires us to believe in something we naturally will doubt), and to see this doubt expressed so clearly in this book is a refreshing change from what I find in most Christian writing. In this respect I compare her writing content with Phillip Yancey’s, though the book is much easier to read (and does not require the concentration or reflection) than Yancey’s work. I’ll give the book 3.5/5 stars and would recommend it for anyone who doubts and is looking for a fellow traveler along the way. Just don’t limit your reading to this memoir because I’m not sure you’ll find the resolution you are looking for (or need). The book would also be a great gift to a friend or family member who struggles with doubt – or even wandering after becoming saved.

For the record, I received a free copy of the book from the publisher for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review. For a free sample of the beginning chapter or two, please click here. I also have one free copy of the book to give away (no, not the one I read, a second copy given to me to award to a reader of my blog!). To be eligible to receive this copy you need to post a comment to this review and tell me the story of one of your faith struggles, or the struggle of a friend or family member you’d like to give the book to as a gift, and what you hope to find by reading the book (or hope your friend/family member finds) – as short or long as you like. I’ll accept posts and responses throughout the month of July, which means that all responses submitted prior to July 31, 2012 at 11:59pm will be eligible. After reading through them I’ll select one (solely at my discretion) and contact that person via email (so please make sure you include your email when asked so I can contact you if you’re the winner. I’ll post the name of the winner in early August.

Guest Post: Andrea Palpant Dilley, author of Faith and Other Flat Tires


Soon I’ll be posting my review of Faith and Other Flat Tires by Andrea Palpant Dilley.  In preparation for that review, Andrea has written a special introduction wanted to share today.  Please check back in two days  (July 3, 2012) for my review of her book as well as a chance to win a free copy!

One winter afternoon when I was twelve years old, my father picked up a teenage hitchhiker who was standing on the side of the road wearing blue jeans with big holes in the knees. It was thirty-five degrees out that day. He climbed into the van with us, and then my dad drove on. The ensuing conversation, which I will never forget, went something like this:

“These are my kids, Andrea, Ben, and Nate. My name’s Sam. What’s your name?”

“Donovan.”

My father paused. “Have you ever heard of Amy Carmichael?”

“Um, no …”

“She was a missionary to India who worked to save young girls from sex trade. She worked at a place called Dohnavur, which is kind of close to your name, Donavan. So you have a good name, a name with Christian purpose.”

“Oh.”

In the hitchhiker’s long pause that followed, I remember thinking, “My father is out of his mind, preying on this young hitchhiker who wanted a ride and instead got a church sermon on Christian missionary history.” I felt embarrassed in the same way I did when my dad prayed over our food in a restaurant and the waiter brought the ketchup while he was still praying.

When we reached the cut-off road to our house, my dad pulled onto the shoulder and then turned to my older brother. “Ben,” he said, “Why don’t you give Donovan your jeans. It’s cold out.” In the back seat of the van, Ben took off his pants while my little brother and I looked sideways at each other. Proverbial Christian wisdom says you give away the coat off your back, not the pants off your backside. In exchange for my brother’s, Donavan handed over his own ripped jeans and then climbed out of the van.

When we asked where he was going, Donavan said, “Farther north toward Canada.” That was all. He was out wandering alone in the prairie land of eastern Washington. I watched from the back seat as he diminished into the distance, a tall lean figure standing on the side of a long winter road.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, that experience foreshadowed the day that I would get up and leave behind the faith of my childhood. I would be the one climbing out of the car, striking out on pilgrimage into the unknown.

The reasons for my departure were complicated. I spent my early childhood in Kenya as the daughter of “social-justice-and-Jesus” hippy Quaker missionaries and the rest of my growing up years in a healthy, smart church community back in the U.S. And yet, when I came of age and turned 23, I chose to leave the church. I literally stood up from the pew one Sunday morning and walked out right in the middle of a sermon.

A few months before—in the summer after college—I’d worked at an orphanage in the slums of Nairobi and in those months started feeling deep unease about the Christian faith. I wanted to know: Why does God seem distant and inaccessible? What good does prayer do for an AIDS baby or anyone else? And why in the world does God allow kids to suffer parentless in a slumland?

When I came back to the U.S. in the fall, I walked out of the church sanctuary one morning and started into a two-year journey away from Christianity. My faith had a flat tire. I was a lonely college graduate standing on the side of a cold winter road, a lost hitchhiker with no car and no direction, looking out at the wilderness of my heart.

Years later, I returned to church with a changed faith. But I didn’t know that at the time. The day I left, I set out on a search having no idea where I would go in my wandering and or how I would find my way back home.

 

 

From Andrea’s bio: Andrea Palpant Dilley grew up in Kenya as the daughter of Quaker missionaries and spent the rest of her childhood in the Pacific Northwest.  She studied English literature and writing at Whitworth University.  Her work as a writer has appeared in Rock and Sling, Geez, and Utne Reader, as well as the anthology Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical.  Her work as a documentary producer has aired nationally on American Public Television.  She lives with her husband and daughter in Austin, Texas.

Book Review: Seal of God by Chad Williams


Seal of God chronicles the life of Chad Williams, a Navy Seal who served from 2004-2010 and is now in full-time ministry.  The book is basically Williams’ testimony of how God changed his life.

This was an easy, enjoyable read – a great summer book (I read it in about 6 hours over two days).  The first 2/3’s of the book focus on Williams’ life before Christ got ahold of him, with some extraordinary stories of his life before Christ.  I suppose that was my only criticism of the book: while his transformation was dramatic and incredible, I found myself wondering why I had to read so much to finally find evidence of what God had done in his life.  That’s really the only reason I’m not reviewing this book more highly.  Williams said throughout the book that he was very self-centered and proud of his own accomplishments, and that was clearly echoed in the first 180 pages of the book.  There was a dramatic change after the story of his conversation, but I was just hoping to see that sooner rather than later.

I will report that once the transformation happened in the book it was incredibly dramatic and inspirational.  Perhaps one of the most moving parts to read was when he told the story of the abuse he underwent by others after becoming a Christian – it’s hard to believe behavior like what he chronicled still exists in our country, but I know it does.  It’s also a confirmation that Jesus’ words are true that we will be persecuted for our faith.

In conclusion, I’ll give this book 3/5 stars.  If you’re looking for an inspirational, quick read this summer then check out Seal of God, but don’t be surprised if at times you walk away from it focused more on the author of the book than the Author of Changed Lives.

For the record, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest (though not necessarily favorable) review.