Book Review: Serving God And Country

A story of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish military chaplains in World War II.

Recently the folks over at Christianity Today asked me to interview Lyle W. Dorsett about his new book Serving God and Country. Hello, fabulous assignment. It was a pleasure on three levels:

One, reading the book.
Two, getting to talk to Dr. Dorsett about the book and more.
Three, getting to share a bit of our conversation with CT readers in print and online.

But since an author interview is (rightly) about what the author has to say, here’s what I as a reader thought of Serving God and Country.

Drafts, Writing, Sex, Characters: Amy’s Author Interview, Part One

Drafting vs. the finished, final copy.

Writing on writing.

Talking about sex.

And that pesky issue of composite characters.

Amy Kannel, a former classmate of mine and a great writer in her own right, is hosting and posting a two-part interview with me, this week on her blog. (You can also check out Amy’s earlier (thorough!) review of Craving Grace.) Here’s a taste of Amy’s first round of questions—visit her blog today for the full questions and my responses, which give an inside scoop on Craving Grace and quite a bit more.

How is this book different from the book you initially proposed to your publisher?

It seems unusual to write so consciously about the process of writing…How did you discover more of God’s sweetness through the process of writing a book about it?

Tell us more about Cora…Is creating a character like this a common practice in memoir writing?

Over the last several years you’ve had quite a platform for speaking to young girls…How has your message changed since experiencing the events of Craving Grace and then having the book published?

Wait—why are you still here? :) Time to hop on over to Amy’s interview.

Review Swap & Giveaway: Faithbook of Jesus

This week, author Renee Johnson and I are reviewing each other’s books*. It seems we’re doing this in lieu of actually meeting each other, because for the last few years we’ve known about each other and have had mutual friends (one of those: my husband was in a small group with Renee before he and I met), yet we’ve never had the chance to say “Hey” in person. Here’s hoping that will happen someday! For now, I’ve been getting to know her through her Twitter feed and her first book, Faithbook of Jesus.

I haven’t asked Renee about this, but I’ll wager a guess that Faithbook was written in part to give twentysomethings a start in reading Scripture and keeping it in mind every day. I’m guessing this because it’s broken up into manageable, page-long devotionals, where each one:

  • Begins with a Scripture verse
  • Offers related thoughts from Renee, linking the Scripture to daily life and offering creative thoughts on how the two connect
  • Provides a quote from another twentysomething—continuing the conversation, you could say
  • Includes a prayer for the day
  • Suggests additional related Bible verses/passages

I appreciate the format of this book because I’m one of those longtime Christians who still struggles to read the Bible on a daily basis. I seem to go in spurts, which in part means I’m

“Three Cups” Overturned?

Mountain-climber/philanthropist Greg Mortenson’s memoir, Three Cups of Tea, became a bestseller several years ago, which is precisely why it took me until last winter to pick it up and read it. I’ve never been good at trendy reading. But I had been hearing fantastic reviews and had picked up the book at least a few times in bookstores over the years, and I do love pretty much every kind of tea.

Then, back in November or December, I was organizing bookshelves and saw that a paperback copy of Tea was one of my newly-so husband’s literary contributions to our marriage. I cracked into the book one day, intending to read just a couple pages. But Tea is a tough one to put down. I finished it in less than two days, despite having all kinds of other supposedly important things to do.

As he appears in the book, Mortenson is an intriguing character: brash and convincing and tireless. The book’s setting sparked my curiosity too—Pakistan and Afghanistan, beyond being international hotspots of late, were also locations in which the military folks I know either had served or would soon be serving. And I was hooked on the premise that some strapping American hiker could end up being a school-builder for thousands of kids in war-rocked and rural areas halfway across the globe. What generosity! What sacrifice!

However.

By Request: Thoughts On Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

This post is a bit of a relenting. A few weeks ago when I saw my former pastor’s name was a Top Ten Tweet, that there was some controversy about his new book Love Wins, that certain evangelicals were Twitter-farewelling him, etc., I made up my mind to keep from throwing my hat into the discussion. For one thing, I prefer to get along with people rather than to debate them. (Not always the most helpful or useful approach, but there you have it.) For another, much of the debating that happens among church folks can be petty and annoying. And I figured that when the book actually came out things would blow over.

The book came out. The blogs and reviews kept scathing/praising. The front page of FoxNews.com one day said that some pastor somewhere had been instantly fired for speaking out in defense of Love Wins. Amazon.com listed the book in its top ten books sold. I’m still waiting to see whether or when it will blow over. In the meantime, practically every day in the last week or two, a close friend or acquaintance has asked me what I think about all this.

I plan to read Love Wins at some point, but as of now I haven’t. I’m hoping that when I read it, I’ll see that universalism isn’t the (or even a) touted theme—I expect it won’t be, especially since the Mars Hill leadership team (which I have worked with closely, which I respect deeply, and which upholds this as its theology) has stood behind it. Also because Rob endorsed Craving Grace, which pretty clearly notes that grace isn’t grace unless sinfulness is part of the equation. I didn’t spell out h-e-l-l anywhere in the manuscript, but human need for atonement is a central theme throughout.