Baseball and Spirituality: APC is writing a book!!!

photo-mainOkay everyone. I’ve got some killer news to share…

I’m writing a book exploring the spirituality of baseball.

…but wait, it gets better…

To create a narrative framework for this project, during the 2014 MLB season I will be traveling the country visiting all 30 MLB ballparks. These stories will be the foundation for the resulting book.

…HOLY SMOKES. THIS IS HUGE.

I’ve been exploring this possibility for about a year now. Researching, studying, making connections between the two in my brain and putting together short sample pieces in hopes that this could actually come to fruition. A few months ago, I put up a pseudo-cryptic post asking for research suggestions, and then last week I posted on Instagram a photo of Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati utilizing the hashtag: #ballparktour2014.

Then this past week I got confirmation from The House Studio, a publisher in Kansas City, that they want to partner with me on this project and help create and produce this book.

So this isn’t just a hypothetical dream anymore. It’s happening. And it’s happening soon.

Something even cooler about this project: my seminary, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, is letting me utilize this book as my capstone project to complete the program and finish my Master’s of Divinity. Pretty awesome, huh?

I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign as a way of doing some fundraising, but more importantly help market the book. Assuming I reach my fundraising goal, you can pre-pre-order the book by contributing to the campaign.

That’s all I’ll say about it for now, but expect updates, news, tweets, blogs and more to start popping up from me all over the place. Thanks for helping me out everyone. I’m so thankful for each of you and can’t wait to get rolling. It’s going to be an exciting 2014!!

Here we go!

-apc.

tough questions from andy root.

i am in the middle of andrew root and kenda dean’s latest book “the theological turn in youth ministry”. andy explains that Jesus was a representative for us in his death on the cross, and that, likewise, we ought to be a representative for our students. this representation appears in a number of ways, and he asks some really tough reflection questions for every youth worker to consider in their ministry areas. thought I’d share them on here. this is all directly from the book:

a representative is qualified. Jesus was qualified to be our true representative by incarnation, crucifixion and ressurection. have we helped our volunteers and young people do deep theoretical reflection on human action and theological action? or have we settled for a programmatic focus?

a representative must regularly face in two-directions. Jesus, as the church confesses, was simultaneously the Son of Man and the Son of God, human like us, but also completely other. youth workers and volunteers have been taught to identify with adolescents, but have they also been taught the importance of differentiation?

a representative must suffer. God in Jesus suffered the full human condition. have we understood that (youth) ministry demands suffering? are we aware that youth ministry is more than just fun and games, that it is a call to bear the suffering of the adolescent as one follows the suffering of Christ?

representation flows from vocation. Jesus could not be distracted from his vocation of the cross that bore the suffering love of the Father for the world. can youth workers articulate that suffering love in youth ministry is about doing but also about thinking? have we seen ourselves as local theologians reflecting and articulating Gods continued unveiling in the world?

those who are being represented know themselves as being apart of the representational event or act. Jesus calls his disciples to love as he does; discipleship (as Bonhoeffer asserted) is the invitation to follow Jesus to the cross. have youth workers helped adolescents see and participate in representation? do youth workers see their part in helping adolescents themselves become representatives of Christ in the world?

just wanted to share those questions. makes for great fodder with volunteers/fellow youth workers.

-apc.

review: a confederacy of dunces.


posted another review blog over at iumbc.com. i honestly loved this book – one of my favorites we’ve read in the Club so far, but it didn’t get rave reviews from my fellow group members so i felt the need to be a little more generally honest. i found this book absolutely hysterical. but anyway, more thoughts on A Confederacy of Dunces here.

-apc.

review: water for elephants.


check out my Water for Elephants review over on the Ultra Manly Book Club blog, or read it below. if you’re a dude, i recommend checking out the site.

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Disclaimer: I feel I am required to adopt somewhat of a defensive persona when beginning this post. Yes. We are a bit embarrassed to have included this in our book club. However, part of our guidelines for iUMBC is that we are culturally aware of the “popular” books of the day. Sara Gruen’s 2006 novel, Water for Elephants, is considered by many to be “so hot right now. “ So hot, in fact, that felt the need to make a movie out of it starring the Twilight Heartthrob himself (who shall remain nameless due the fact that his name escapes me and I refuse to increase his popularity by Googling it). The convictions of those affiliated with iUMBC tend do disagree with this “so hot” notion. Also, this review contains *spoilers*.

 The book’s protagonist goes by the name Jacob Jankowski, and although his surname would suggest it, he does not play hockey. Instead, Jankowski is a disgruntled old man living in a nursing home. The majority of the text is spent in Mr. Jankowski’s flashbacks to the time he spent in the circus as a college kid. In his final year of vet school tragedy strikes in his family and he copes with the difficulty by running away and boarding a circus train. Seems reasonable enough.

Through a series of events, young Jacob discovers himself working amongst the carnies. He is torn between the circus hierarchy: Workers and Performers. His friends are all workers; Camel, an old sick drunk addicted to cough syrup, and Kinko, a midget whom Jacob once encounters masturbating in their sleeping quarters. So awkward. The reader learns to love and cherish these two quirky men. The tension mounts when Jacob falls in love with a performer, Marlena, who rides an elephant in the circus finale. Unfortunately, Marlena is married to an abusive man, August, who is also Jacob’s boss.

Thus far, this book probably sounds fine, and I will admit that the first 2/3 of this book is decent. The tension builds, it’s an entertaining read, and there are even a couple split lips in the first 200 pages. It’s what happens next that derails this book completely.

The two most lovable characters are easily Camel and Kinko, and at this point in the novel they are both living with Jacob in a storage car near the back of the train. Camel has been poisoned by his cough syrup addiction and is losing feeling to his entire body. Jacob and Kinko are able to make contact with a relative of Camel’s who agrees to meet up with them on their tour and take Camel away to help him recover. Kinko has just overcome his initial hatred of Jacob (partially due to the embarrassment of being caught in the act), and is turning into a terrific companion. What’s going to happen with Camel? Are they going to make it to Camel’s cousin in time? What is Kinko’s roll going to be as the plot develops further?

The answers never come. One night, while Jacob sneaks off to the Performers’ cabin, the author decides that it would be a good idea to have the two most likable characters thrown off the train.

So that’s what happens. Rather than finish their story and have them play a role, their characters are just inexplicably killed off like the unnamed extras in a Predator movie. Only these aren’t just unnamed characters; they’re important names in the book who have storylines of their own. Rather than try and tie all the loose ends together in the end, Sara Gruen decides to take the easy way out and end all storylines that aren’t the sappy love story. It’s lazy writing and it can’t be tolerated.

Once Kinko and Camel were killed off it was easy to find issues with this book I suddenly hated. For example, it becomes very obvious that the inner monologues of Jacob are actually the creation of a female author. Gruen uses situations that play directly to a woman’s emotional state: cruelty to animals, an abusive husband, and a depressed old man who’s younger self was the vanquisher of both the animal cruelty and the domestic abuse.

No wonder women love Jacob Jankowski – he’s a sad old man (tear) whose 23-year-old self loves and cares for animals (sniff, sniff) and who rescues a woman from a psychotic abusive husband (more tears). Talk about dreamy…and a complete waste of my time. These scenarios don’t appeal to men. Don’t misunderstand me here – there are certainly ultra manly men who care about these things – but this is not the sort of thing that gets men amped about reading a novel. It’s geared to women, and it took a poor decision by the author to make that clear.

While iUMBC does not recommend this book to our followers, we do believe that bringing awareness is crucial. Read it if you must, but please continue to spread the word. This book is not well done and is far from manly.

-apc.

Book Review: Jesus Creed for Students


the first sentence of the forward of “Jesus Creed for Students” makes it perfectly clear why this book was written: “this book is about following Jesus.” the authors (Scot McKnight, Chris Folmsbee and Syler Thomas) explain that this book is to be read alone but dissected in a group setting. the “Jesus Creed” is straight from Matthew 22, “love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” in short: life is about “loving God and loving others.”

this book has been rewritten from the original version specifically for students to connect with, and it does an incredible job of being relevant, stylistically conscious, and, ultimately, very applicable for the life of every teenager.

relevance: this book takes questions that ever student deals with and packages them in a way that students can understand and wrestle with. questions like,

– who am i?
– who does God want me to be?
– how does God want me to live?
– is there more to Christianity than just being “good”?
– how do i talk with God?
– what is life all about?

but even more than providing accessible answers to those and similar questions, the authors are contextually relevant to today’s teenagers. topics like social media, respecting parents, school life, labeling and judging. there is so much insight that can be gained from so many books, but very few books are written so that students can connect with them. students pick up a book, read the first couple chapters (maybe) and then put it down because it never connects with their world. this book does that very well and is very relevant for youth. my personal guess is that this book would be perfect for the 8th-11th grade age group.

the answers to these questions also push against the religious stances of today’s American teenager. in the book, “Soul Searching”, sociologists Christian Smith and Melina Denton study the religious life of the American teenager in ways no one has before. they concluded that rather than the true Gospel of Jesus, today’s youth are following what Smith and Denton call “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”. this idea affirms the existence of God as a Creator and supreme being, but that he is only essential in hard times and that the most important parts of life are being nice, morally good people and to be happy about oneself. clearly, this is an incorrect view of the gospel, but it is a reality of today’s students. the questions that “Jesus Creed for Students” asks are exactly what is relevant.

writing style: this book is a quick read – students won’t have to stumble over cumbersome wording like they may when reading a book written for adults. the authors do an amazing job of articulating the Jesus Creed in a way that is accessible to youth, but also that it doesn’t lose any of its overall message. the book paints what the true Gospel is all about in a way that students can read and not be bored or turned off.

it does this in a few different ways: first, the book uses this generation’s lexicon. words like “wannabe”, “grunge”, and “popularity” – subtly, the authors have inserted the language that students can understand and connect with, thus, making them more effective in reaching their target audience. they avoid complex language and colorful sentences and instead employ hyphenated descriptors and culturally conscious creations.

– instead of “disciples” it’s “Christ-followers”.
– instead of the “second commandment” it’s the “love-others statement”.
– instead of “material possessions” it’s “iThings”, “iWants”, or “iNeeds”.

they’re youthful enough to connect more effectively, but not childish enough to lose focus or impact (or to become overly silly with their creativity). students will connect with this book – with the concept of “loving God, loving others” – because it is written in their vocabulary.

practical application: in my opinion, application is the easiest way for students to connect well or to not connect at all with a certain concept. if i say, “pray more,” then students may or may not actually pray more. but if i give them a exact prayer to pray with guidelines and a terrific explanation of how to pray and when and why, then they are absolutely going to apply “praying more” in their lives. this book’s greatest strength is providing practical application points for the concepts introduced.

at the beginning and the end of every chapter it either states “Recite the Jesus Creed” or “Say the Lord’s Prayer”. it encourages this repetition as a way of establishing a spiritual rhythm in life. they suggest reciting the Jesus Creed every morning and every night and upon both coming and going from their home. and then add to it by reciting the Lord’s prayer with it at the same times for a month solid.

the authors also encourage students to get involved serving somewhere without anyone else knowing: a way for students to grow strictly with God, and to develop their desire to serve for the right reasons.

they are also very specific when it comes to asking questions. there aren’t any vague or unclear questions; they are focused and intentional:

– “what do you think ‘whenever you pray’ means?”
– “how are you doing on reciting the Jesus Creed daily?”
– “what is your biggest temptation when it comes to branding yourself?”
– “what do your possessions reveal about where your heart is? are you serving two lords?”

questions like these interrupt the text so that students can think about them as they are reading the next paragraph – simultaneously reading and applying the text. students need this sort of dialogue within the text if they are going to process what they are reading. the application is consistently the most effective aspect of this book.

cover to cover, this book is a home run. students can connect, comprehend, and have perfect outlets to apply the Jesus Creed. i would 100% recommend this book – in fact, in the season of planning summer activities and curriculum, this book will certainly find its way into the conversation.

-apc.

buy the book: paraclete press.