Dec 072013
 

I was delighted to meet Jon Ido Warden earlier this year and receive a review copy of his self-published book, “Resisting Grace: Our Avoidance and His Persistence.” I confess that I have only read one-third of it, so what I can write is a book reaction and a first impression of the book overall, so you may consider this book as a resource for your life and/or for someone you know. How the author described the book on its about page:resisting-grace-preview

Writing this book has been a five year process in my life. The book worked on me as much as I worked on it. Resisting Grace is about God working to bring about changes in our lives and we resisting it. It is about understanding what his grace is doing as well as understanding our resistance so as to learn to cooperate and experience greater works of grace. It’s about what is God trying to do in my life. It is about hearing him, being stirred by him, moved by him, stripped by him, filled by him, transformed by him. It’s knowing He wants to change you. It’s knowing change comes from him. It’s knowing it is not in formulas of self-helps techniques but in the dynamic power of grace that only comes from intimacy with a God who works within. It’s knowing why we resist him and how we can start moving with instead of against with such a good work of grace.

What I think is particularly and specifically about this book is the context from which the text emerges. I’ve heard of Jon’s reputation and renown for his ministry and impact among Asian American Christians, a topic that I personally also have great interest, and he’s clocked in over 35 years in ministry both in the church and in clinical settings. Jon draws from insights from the Scriptures and his personal, professional, and ministry life (like most other Christian authors) but his voice is distinctly Asian-American (and there is no one Asian American context, but rather, many Asian American perspectives.) Jon is Japanese-American, grew up in the US, and has experienced first hand the cultural & identity struggles. Thus I find the book to be written from a contemplative and reflective perspective, with occasional allusions to a bicultural context; the majority of the book is written with our shared common humanity in mind and thus accessible to non-Asian-Americans also.

The word grace is a very powerful word, because it points to the power of God, the infinitely powerful God, but it’s kind of lost its meaning because the word grace is used differently by different Christians. We say we want amazing grace, but do we really? Do we recognize grace when it shows up? Jon helps us to see the power of grace at work by taking a closer look at our human tendencies to resist God’s grace, and gently helps readers to remove those hurdles and barriers by raising our awareness and kindly showing our blind spots. I think what’s most valuable is the book’s description of the 5 stages of grace: illuminating, awakening, determining, deconstructing, and empowering. Just as the 5 stages of grief (popularized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, adapted as 6 stages of grief by Pastor Rick Warren,) has helped so many through the intensive and essential process of working through loss, Jon’s 5 stages of grace gives a useful framework to guide others to experience life change by responding to God’s grace. (Granted, thus, and I’ll say, that, this book is not an easy read, think more Dallas Willard and less Francis Chan.)

Also want to mention that Jon Ido Warden is part of a team blog, the Slanted View, where they share reflections on faith, brokenness, culture and manhood from a Pan-Asian American perspective: “We are a group of men meeting to explore our stuff regarding faith, culture and manhood. We come from several Asian American cultures: Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Philipino, Vietnamese, East Indian, Thai, Taiwanese.

Aside: for those of you that are still reading to this point, I’m going to shift gears and share a personal commentary on my book-reading habits. The printed book is big, 265 pages in a paperback. I get more than my share of printed books to review, in the mail, because of this blog, and I’m no longer able to read nor review most of them, unfortunately. In this season of my life (and I can’t say how long these personal seasons last for me, but I can say that’s my current pace and phase of reading habit), the momentum of my content input is currently predominantly listening to podcasts, scanning social media via tweets and status updates, occasionally skimming blogs, reading ebooks on my Kindle app (either on tablet on smartphone), with printed books at the bottom of the stack. So to get my attention, at least in this season of my life, social media is best, digital media is second, and printed media last. All that could change in an instant. And that’s the nature of digital life in the 21st century. Change happens fast. What a contrast to grace, something that more often does its work slowly over time, with an occasional burst of dramatic transformation.

Mar 182010
 

Through my work with Leadership Network, I’ve had incredible times to connect with church leaders all around the United States, and even a few around the world. I love to connect people to people and people to resources. The resource I want to connect you with is this new book by Scott Wilson, Steering Through Chaos: Mapping a Clear Direction for Your Church in the Midst of Transition and Change.

Scott Wilson is pastor of The Oaks Fellowship just south of Dallas. I first met him in Dallas at the Multi-Site Churches Leadership Community that I’m a part of managing, along with the church’s leaders, which included Justin Lathrop. What I love is the inviting vibe of their leaders, doing amazing things (by the grace of God) as a fast-growing church while also being personable, relational, and accessible. That’s what came through to me in my interactions with Scott and Justin, and this came through in Scott’s new book too. (cf. Download a sample chapter of Steering Through Chaos)

Watch this video of Scott Wilson talk about the book (cf. extended version):

What caught my attention with Steering Through Chaos were these things:

(1) Scott quotes so many other people in this book, like a synthesis of all that he’s gleaned from other church leaders! I didn’t fact-check, but the acknowledgements section would be dozens of pages if he were to list all the names of leaders mentioned in the book!

(2) Scott shares his own story of going through a massive church transition, that included relocation, building campaign, leadership transitions, personal challenges, and managing healthy relationships. This narrative approach sure makes the underlying principles much more understandable and practical. Yes, this book covers a lot of ground.

(3) The book speaks to personal health. In an early chapter, the author lists a stress chart to honestly show the reality of what changes do to people, and doesn’t ignore or overlook this in the name of being “spiritual” or bieng a “leader.” Being emotionally healthy is vital for short-term and long-term success, for both personal and organizational health. And, it means getting the help you need, whether a life coach, counselor, or whatever. I’m glad this is weaved in throughout the book.
Continue reading »

Dec 242007
 

It’s that time of year, when all of us look back at (some) highlights of the year 2007, and to celebrate Christmas holidays too.

If your inbox resembles anything like mine, with lots of unread emails and Inbox Zero hasn’t become a habit yet, you’re probably receiving lots of emails with a PDF attachment (or Word .doc) of people’s annual Christmas newsletter. With rising costs of gasoline and postage stamps, this is the way things are going to be for a while.

Our version is less wordy and image-y this year. So to you and yours, a very Merry Christmas!

 Christmas 2007 e-Card

[update] with over 2,500 emails in my Gmail address book, there’s no way I can personally address each e-card to my friends and family. So this is my catch-all.

And, if you’re also tired of the consumerism of the season, join the Advent Conspiracy to restore the meaning of Christmas, its worship, compassion, joy, peace, and goodwill to all.


[AC] Advent Conspiracy from Jon Collins on Vimeo.

Apr 062007
 

Today is Good Friday, and a most apt day to comment on this book I’ve been reading titled God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer by Pete Greig.

The introduction opens with Jesus’ own unanswered prayers, ultimately being forsaken and abandoned by God, gasping: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” He entered that darkness so that we can be brought into the light. My heart dropped at the end of Chapter 1, as he retold of a time when his wife had a seizure, and his own prayers were reduced to barely 2 words, “Oh, God.”

When it comes to prayer, I don’t need more theology, I need more empathy. It helps me to just read the stories of people and the kinds of prayers they pray in the worst of circumstances; it gives me the camaraderie and fellowship with other saints to know that prayers of genuine honest feelings are just as meaningful as logically affirmation of theological truths about God’s character, His creation, and dizzying circumstances. Pray truthfully, and honestly.

[disclaimer: I received a comp review copy]