Recapturing the Wonder - A Review

We are lost in a world that has largely lost its wonder. Small rectangles of sand and copper steal our attention from sunsets, changing leaves, and the very image of God that sits before us at the dinner table. The chemical composition of our food, often merely the presence or absence of some ingredient, is more interesting than its savor and preparation. The many little natural spectacles deemed near-miracles by previous generations have been explained scientifically, and are thus bore us. We are jaded and blind to the spectacular in a world filled with wonder.

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This should never be, especially for the Christian, but most of us fall into the malaise of modernity that saps the glamour from the glory-saturated world around us. We succumb to the continual bombardment of media, entertainment, and fragmented attention that reduces our ability to perceive the holistic wonder of creation.

Mike Cosper’s book, Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World points us solidly in the right direction to fix what ails prevailing culture.

Summary

The book is broken down into seven chapters with a distinct introduction and epilogue. Each of the chapters consists of a prose explanation of what the problem is with a paired pathway that provides practical steps to diffuse the damage done by our loss of wonder. Cosper identifies seven problems: (1) disenchantment; (2) religiosity; (3) excessive self-awareness; (4) busyness; (5) unwarranted feelings of scarcity; (6) lack of community; (7) unregulated lifestyles. The pathways offer solutions: (1) re-enchantment; (2) grace; (3) seeing Scripture as alive; (4) withdrawing with God; (5) practicing abundance; (6) holding feasts; (7) creating a rule of life.

The bare lists in the paragraph above do little to convey the helpfulness of Cosper’s book. He really gets the wasting sickness that is modernity and its wayward children. His suggested solutions are not novel or New Age solutions, but delves into historical practices of the church to find solutions that were and are intended to make us more human.

Analysis and Conclusion

Few, if any, will apply Cosper’s program in whole. However, even if a reader gleans one or two selected practices, the benefit is likely to be significant. Re-enchantment has the potential bring joy back into life because trees are beautiful and the sky is alive. Understanding grace renews the sense of hope and lifts the weight of guilt. Experiencing the liveliness of Scripture blesses the reader who encounters a living God. All of these are very helpful.

One of the more intriguing practical suggestions in the volume is to hold a feast. Not a potluck, as most Baptists have experienced in full, but a massive meal with few distractions, bountiful food, and a purposed focus on the goodness of the One who gave it all.

Perhaps the most powerful idea in Cosper’s arsenal is of creating a distinct pattern of life that intends to inculcate godliness and communion with God. Here Cosper relieves the medieval monastic practices of their dutiful obligation and supplants it with the original purpose of the formal structure, which was to form the character of the monks. A rule of life doesn’t earn salvation; it furthers sanctification.

Recapturing the Wonder is a book that warrants reading several times. A first pass, perhaps, to diagnose and gain a sense of the whole. A second, deeper exploration that is supposed to determine which practices will be most helpful and can be best applied in your situation. It may be helpful to digest the book slowly with a spouse or with a group of friends with the intention of implementing practices incrementally that can restore a sense of humanity.

This is an excellent book. It can be read quickly and dismissed, but it has potential for enduring value. This is the sort of book that provides just the sort of remedy our harried society needs.

Note: I was given a gratis copy of this volume by the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.

The Radical Book For Kids - A Review

The Radical Book for Kids is one of those books that makes you exclaim, “I wish I’d had this when I was a kid.” In fact, I said this so many times while reading this book, I risked annoying my wife. Turns out, one of the endorsers had the same thought I did, but I didn’t notice that until I was half way through the book.

The simplest way to explain this volume is to compare it to a basic overview of Christianity presented in the format of the Dangerous Book for Boys (or girls). The closest equivalent to this book that was around when I was a kid would have been a Boy Scout Handbook.

This description, however, risks making this sound like a Christian knock off. That wouldn’t be fair to the author, Champ Thornton. He may have been inspired by the format, but this is a book that deserves to be considered on its own merits.

The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith is filled with brilliant colors, attractive graphic design, and oodles of information. This is the sort of book that draws you into reading it, if just to admire the pictures.

There are no chapters or clear segments in the book, though there is an order and progression to it when reading it from cover to cover. It’s the sort of book meant for opening randomly on a Sunday afternoon.

When you open the book, you might find yourself reading a summary of the biblical story line, learning how to make a sling, or reading a biography of a great Christian. At another reading, you could discover the different systems of money used in the Bible, learn why manners matter, or getting introduced to the structure of a New Testament Epistle. At a different time, you might find yourself learning the Greek alphabet, exploring images of Christ in literature, or reading tips on how to memorize something.

Thornton combines biblical survey, typological teaching, hermeneutics, systematic theology, and church history into a coherent jumble of discipleship. He’s included a few jokes, some trivia, and occasional games with eternal truths that will really help kids understand more about the Christian faith.

The whole book pitches important topics at the right level for kids to understand. If I had to give an age range, I’d say 7-140 is about right. I am confident my first graders will enjoy this as much as my preteen.

This lively book will be a great gift for the kid who has been sitting through church, Sunday school, and AWANA for years, but still hasn’t gotten the big picture. That’s the greatest strength of this volume, it continually shows how the gospel holds everything together. Even though it is filled with a variety of information, it has one consistent theme.

Once you give this to your kids, expect to be peppered with random facts about Christianity. You may also be roped into playing “Dogs and Jackals” or making a ‘clay’ pot with them. You’ll probably have to make sure all the kids get a turn with it, too, though that will likely settle down in a few weeks.

If there is one critique of the book, it is that there are some pop culture references that may seem dated in 20 years. However, none of them are critical to the book, and at that point you’re considering the value for your grandkids.

So, buy the book, give it to a kid you know, and watch them enjoy exploring the depths of it. This really is an excellent volume that deserves a place in your home.

Note: I received a gratis copy of this volume from the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.

On Being Discipled in an Internet Age

It is easy to focus on the negative aspects of technology and the Christian man: distraction, access to pornography, isolation, etc. Discussing the dangers of technology is important, but we should not forget to celebrate the positive contributions of technology.

One example of a hugely positive contribution that technology has brought to men in the 21st century is the ability to find amazing quantities of high quality discipleship material. Among the dangerous websites, sources of distraction and bad doctrines, there are brilliant examples of phenomenal Christian content available and ready. It really eliminates any excuse that a modern man has of not being discipled.

Certainly sermons, podcasts, blogs, and e-books will never replace person-on-person accountability. However, never before have so many excellent resources been made available, often at no cost.

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