Thursday, February 5, 2009

Book Reviews Two for One!


Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore:

My sister-in-love (and law) Kayla emailed me this book recommendation several weeks ago.  She was pretty insistent I read it.  I am so glad I did.  It is a truly inspiring story of how two men from completely different worlds break into each other's lives.

The main characters are the authors themselves.  This is a true story.  Denver Moore grew up a poor black boy in Louisiana sharecropping. The reader gets an open-eyed look at what amounted to nothing more than modern-day slavery.  You are plunged into his world and you will not quickly forget what you learn there.  How this impacts and molds his future is for you to find out. Read the book.
Ron Hall shares his rags-to-riches recollections.  Born into a lower middle-class family, Hall eventually becomes a world-class art dealer with some hard work and a lot of good fortune.  In contrast to Denver's plank lumber shotgun shack in Louisiana, Ron Hall hobnobs with some of the world's wealthiest while abiding among the opulent elite of Fort Worth, Texas. How these two characters' lives become forever intwined?  You'll need to read the book.

So there is hardship, sadness, faith and doubt for two men from either side of the track, a heroine that rescues them both, and a God Whose love endures..."forever".

I really don't want to say much more about it.  It was one of those that I laughed and I cried.  I learned more than I wanted to know, but that's a good thing.  I am too often content to pretend like I have enough problems of my own, so that I can easily convince myself I have no time or energy to deal with "other" people's problems.  Especially people who have problems I cannot at all relate to.  In fact, if I am honest, I usually pass judgement on those "other" kinds of people and their problems.  After reading this book, I found out I am the type of person that needs to know "how" a person got into whatever mess they are in.  That interest trumps my desire to show unconditional love and grace.  I think I've been getting those things backwards.  

So how did I get all of that from this book?  You'll have to read it to find out!

When You Rise Up:  A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul Jr.:

This was another book that was recommended to me....with some reservations.  I have read a few books on homeschooling and this was, by far, not my favorite.  I have not read anything else by R.C. Sproul Jr., so I will try not to make any sweeping judgments.  

So let's get down to the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The good:  
This is a great book for people that are already homeschooling their children, but just need a heavy dose of extra encouragement.  The author reminds of us our spiritual duties to our kids and how that relates to their at-home education.  We are reminded that as Christian parents our first goal is not to produce little Einsteins but rather disciples of Christ.   We can never allow ourselves to flip-flop in our priorities where our children's spiritual nurture is concerned.  This is a great reminder.  If you don't homeschool, you may not realize how incredibly tempting it is to feel that we (homeschoolers) must produce the best and the brightest AND the most spiritual children in our communities.  We have eschewed the help of the state and insisted on doing the whole thing ourselves.  It can, at times, feel like....pressure.   Mr. Sproul Jr. reminds us that it is our God-given right, privilege, and duty to raise our kids in this way and that for whatever God calls, He equips.

The bad:  There were a lot of words in this book.  It's actually not a long book at all, but at times, it felt the author was going on tangents.    If you do not subscribe to the notion that homeschooling is an incontrovertible duty for all Christian parents, then you will have some trouble with this book.  As a homeschooler, I do not believe this is the only way to raise godly kids.  There are probably some kids that go to school at public or private school who would do much better at home.  There are some homeschooled kids that would do better in a 'school' setting.  Mr. Sproul Jr. would not agree with me on this.

The ugly:  Yes, there is some ugly.  In this book, Mr. Sproul Jr. does quite a bit of condescending.  He certainly condescends to parents who have not chosen to homeschool, but even those that do are pretty much painted as....idiots.  In some parts, he ends up coming across as just another mean Calvinist.  Now, there are many, many reformed values I hold dear to my heart.  I am not trying to pick on Calvinists......BUT, there is this weird thing going on in the reformed camp (at least in a lot of the literature).  If you don't fully agree with them, you are somehow stupid and in grave theological error.  There is no room for differences.  Wow, I hesitate to even write this, as there are many reformed writers that I have been so blessed by.  This is just a generalization to be sure, but it seems for many of these writers that so emphatically embrace the "doctrines of grace", they have not been so transformed by grace that it just oozes out of them.  Tangent:  When I first learned about grace, I thought the more you knew about it, the more you studied it, the more God's grace would ooze out of you.  That's not true!  Some of the most humble, grace-aware, transformed, Spirit-filled people I know have never even heard of the "doctrines of grace".

That being said, if you have a problem with Calvinists, this book won't help you like them any better. 

If you are not yet a homeschooler but you saw this book listed on my blog and decided to purchase it to explore homeschooling as a possibility (sorry Doug), just read it with a grain of salt.  He really does say some good things, but you just have to have a bit of a thick skin while reading it.  :)



  1. Thanks Kara....I have that book "When you rise up" Thanks for the review. Now I may not make time to read it. In the beginning when it seemed so overwhelming, I bought a lot of books. I was just thinking the other day that I need to get rid of most of them even though I haven't read them. I spend so much time actually doing the schooling I don't have much time to read about how to do it :o) Although I am sure they are good for some people, I would rather spend my time on other things! You just gave me some time! SWAK!

  2. Hey, Kara!

    I loved your book reviews! I think Denver and Ron, should they find your online review of "SKODAM," would ask to publish yours at their website! :-) I'm so glad the book spoke to you. It certainly was transformational for both Jason and me.

    I'd not heard of the Sproul book (of course I know of him), but enjoyed your review nonetheless.

    I'll add a recent experience that comes to mind when you mentioned Calvinism: when listening to James McDonald on the radio the other day (great preacher, teacher, and man of God from all I've ever heard from him - his show is "Walk in the Word"), he was sharing a time when he was talking to Don Piper (whom I really respect and enjoy much of what he has to say) at a conference. Don had called himself a Calvinist and James shared with Don that he does not all himself a Calvinist, Wesleyan, or anything other than Christian, but didn't have an opportunity to share why at the time. Don listened and contacted him later for more information on his belief. James said that, while he loves the teachings of John Calvin, as well as John Wesley, Augustine, and the Apostle Paul, and knows them as brilliant men who helped to enrich our faith, he doesn't use any man's name in reference to his relationship with Christ. He believes to do so is wrong and elevates a human to a place reserved for Christ alone. Yes, James believes many great men throughout the ages were and are being used by God to promote His glory and name, but far too often we find ourselves in camps with labels - Calvinist, Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical, etc. - aligning ourselves strongly with the beliefs that stem from a man who is only a man, yet not Christ. Shouldn't "Christian" suffice? Granted, the world has tarnished the title - but that is not for us to judge or choose to help tarnish the name by not living as a follower of Christ. To be a Christian - a follower of Christ - is a holy and pure calling. James said he's not saying we shouldn't be an "-ist" or an "-al," but we should first and foremost be Christ's, learning what we can from his prophets and teachers, but not elevating any man or organization's thoughts/interpretations/beliefs before those of Christ's.

    I thought that was good - wish I could find that radio transcript for you - and thought you'd appreciate it!

    Love you dearly,


  3. Hi Kara,
    I agree with Kayla.... there has been lots of labels running around the Christian camp ... and the best is still and always will be "Follower of Christ" or "Christian". I am a 5 point calvinist... but I am a Christian first and foremost and only refer to Calvin ( or try anyway) when talking doctrines.
    I like how James McDonald thinks and I think it would be good if all Christians fell in line with his thinking....there are too many divisions that I think are detrimental to the body of Christ.
    And, like yourself, I think it is rather an amazing irony that those who 'seem' to study the doctrine of grace most have so little evidence of it in their lives. I am a sinner and saved by grace but I don't show it as much in my life as I should... but by God's grace I will more and I grow in the knowledge of Him who saved me!
    I hope you are enjoying your first NW winter... it has been a bit odd... but it has been that way for the last few much so that odd is normal now :D
    In Christ, Mrs. M of Salem

  4. Hello Dear One,
    I am soooo with you on that particular Sproul Jr. book (as you know :) I look forward to reading about Denver & Ron, thanks!
    Kayla- share it girl!
    I'm currently reading through Acts & I'm reminded what 'Christians' & 'church' look like. Matthew 22: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."