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Another Country by Mary Pipher

"Community" is the latest fad in church life in America; we've "lost" it, somehow, in the past two to three decades, and we’re desperately trying to "find" it, or "create" it. "Small groups" are being embraced as the solution to this huge issue of isolation and disenfranchisement, but an unlikely prophetic voice from the secular world offers some ideas which tap into natural order vs. contrived formation.

Mary Pipher (author of Reviving Ophelia) challenges the way we do life in American culture that has contributed to the segregation of the generations, the net result of which has created an aging population disconnected relationally from other generations. Everyone loses in this arrangement. With sensitivity and respect, Pipher describes the paradigm shift which occurred around the 1950s, when community life was replaced with individualistic life and the disconnection began. Fifty years later, the old and the young have little interaction and the richness of doing life intergenerationally has been lost. "A great deal of social sickness in America comes from this age segregation," she writes (p. 18).

She captures the heart of true "family ministry" as she describes an approach to life which connects the generations. She observes, "If ten fourteen-year-olds are grouped together, they will fight one another. They will form a 'lord of the flies' culture with its competitiveness, social anxiety, and meanness. But if ten people aged two to eighty are grouped together, they will fall into a natural age hierarchy that nurtures and teaches all of them. Because each person has a niche, competitiveness will subside. Each person will have something unique to contribute. Values will deepen and experience will grow richer. For our own mental and societal health, we need to reconnect the age groups." (p. 18)

We would add "spiritual health" to her statement. This well-spoken statement reflects the driving vision of Home Improvement Ministries. Everyone wins when the Body of Christ functions intergenerationally. Mary Pipher has penned another insightful and relevant book; Another Country is well worth reading. --- Virginia Friesen

Marriage on Trial by Glenn Stanton and Dr. Bill Maier

For the first time in the history of mankind, confusion reigns regarding God's design for marriage. What has since the beginning of time, in all cultures, been accepted as true (that the definition of marriage is the union of a man and a woman) is suddenly up for grabs, unclear, too narrow, hateful, or inadequate.

While most evangelical Christians agree that God's design for marriage is clear, most also admit that articulating their belief is difficult. Part of the difficulty is influenced by the reality that to take any stand apart from acceptance of homosexuality as a normal lifestyle option is to receive the judgment of being hateful, narrow and small minded, homophobic, etc. Sadly, in a departure from a societal commitment to protect any group from being the target of hate-language, it is okay for those labels to be assigned by those in the pro-homosexuality camp to those who are not.

How do we respond? How can we express a Biblical view thoughtfully, accurately, and compassionately? Marriage on Trial is an equipping book which answers these questions. These men have done an incredibly thorough job of researching secular data which corroborates Scriptural truth. With sensitivity, they speak the truth in love and prepare us to have honest conversations on this very relevant subject. If you've been stuck when your child, your college student, or your neighbor asks you "why not?" regarding Heather having two mommies, order this book now. It will prepare you to get unstuck in those moments.

It will also challenge you to work to have the kind of marriage that reflects the goodness of God's design. The dismal statistics regarding marriage have certainly opened the door for criticism of this relationship. Stanton and Maier address the reality that the clarity of the design of marriage has been diminishing for decades as our culture has shifted from "commitment to the covenant" to "commitment to my happiness." Healthy marriages are a great advertisement for God's design in this unique and powerful relationship.

This book is a must read if we will be prepared to speak for truth about this politically driven, culturally divisive issue. --- Virginia Friesen

When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer by Jerry Sittser (Zondervan)

It's a question everyone asks at some point along life's journey and Jerry Sittser, in his articulate, from the trenches point of view, gives some helpful handles on how to come to a place of peace with this honest question. Never one to produce formulas, Sittser reflects on the question with the honest angst of one who has plumbed the depths of it following the personal devastation he experienced after losing his mother, his wife, and his 4 year old daughter in a head on car collision with a drunk driver. In the end, he leaves us with no easy answers, but with a convincing and compelling position of trusting in the sovereign God of the universe. "Ultimately, God's greatest answer to prayer is something far different from what we could imagine. It is not what God does for us that demonstrates God's greatest answer to prayer;it is what God does in us. God wants to change us to His liking, not to change the world to our liking." (p164) (Also by Sittser: A Grace Disguised and Discovering God's Will) --- Virginia Friesen

Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth by Dr. Jeffrey Satinover (Baker Books)

Confusion continues to swirl around the issue of homosexuality and the Christian community is not immune from the distortions propagated by our media controlled culture. What is true regarding this highly complex subject which has taken a front and center seat in politics, education, and media? Is homosexuality the result of genetics? Is it God designed and God ordained? Though popular culture would answer those questions affirmatively, and quickly label anyone with a differing opinion "homophobic and hateful", Jeffrey Satinover presents a compelling position in this excellent resource book. He has done his homework and presents research data and evidence from a pro-gay media campaign which give a thoughtful analysis of the problem and a hopeful proposal of some solutions. This book will give you a clearer understanding of why America finds itself at the crossroads of redefining marriage and will equip you with the truth needed to take a firm Biblical position on this critical issue. Dr. Satinover writes with compassion, clarity, and hope; this book is a must read for all high school and older who want to be better able to articulate a God-honoring perspective on this controversial, watershed subject. --- Virginia Friesen

Mommy Paints the Sky by Danny Oertli (NavPress)

Faith is tested in the crucible of pain, and though none of us would choose a path marked by suffering, we do choose how we will respond to it. That response defines us much more than does our experience.

In Mommy Paints the Sky, songwriter and Christian recording artist Danny Oertli reveals his response to the unexpected tragedy of his beloved Cyndi's untimely death eight years into their marriage. Refreshingly honest and disarmingly transparent, Danny allows us to enter his world, which has been rocked by both unfathomable pain and joy. He chronicles his journey with reflective insights about how he was met by God even in his darkest moments. Absent are the empty platitudes often used in Christian circles to explain God's goodness and sovereignty in the face of loss. Danny's grief and sorrow are real, but are not without hope. His authentic relationship with God removes pretense and permits him to personally wrestle with God's will.

This book will touch you on many levels. Though their love story is beautifully written, the book is so much more than that. It's a book which affirms God's very personal involvement with His beloved children and speaks with clarity God's word to each one: "I love you. I am all you need."

Besides this compelling book, Danny has released a CD entitled, "Everything In Between". The CD includes a song titled "Mommy Paints the Sky". See www.dannyoertli.com for ordering information. --- Virginia Friesen

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