Superman on Earth: Reflections of a Fan
Gary D. Robinson / Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2010
Thoughtprints: Poems En Route
Wilma Curtis Buckner / ©Wilma Buckner, 2009
Daily Disciple: A One-Year Devotional Guide
Gary Holloway / Abilene: Leafwood Publishers, 2008
Steppes of Faith: Discovering God’s Goodness in Ukraine
Janice Lemke / Purpose Press, 2010
Eyes of Integrity: The Porn Pandemic and How It Affects You
Craig Gross and Jason Harper / Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010
I remember grumbling with some fellow Christian church ministers many years ago that we did not seem to be a publishing fellowship. We were reading Episcopalian, Baptist, Presbyterian, and other authors, but not many from our “own kind.” I’m no longer grumbling. In fact, I’m no longer able to keep up. Here’s a recent sampling.
Meeting a Good Friend
We begin with Superman. When Gary Robinson sent me his little book—Superman on Earth—I confess my heart didn’t pound with the prospect of reading about some middle-aged guy’s comic book hero. I’m a little old for that stuff, you understand. But much to my surprise, Robinson hooked me with the first page. Who could resist this paragraph?
“You might be a card-carrying, convention-going, comic shop-haunting fan. Or you might be somebody who, from time to time, catches an episode of Smallville. You may have put away your long, flapping towel, along with other childish things. . . .”
I never was a Superman fanatic, but I do really enjoy a good write, and Robinson writes good. Along the way you pick up a bit of gospel, an insight into parsonage life, an appetite for this respectable man’s irrepressible imagination, and a reminder that reading books—even comic books—is a good way to make lifelong friends. And as friends go, you could do worse than hang out with Superman!
Expressing Devotion to God
Wilma Buckner’s thin volume of poems, Thoughtprints, is perhaps less valuable as poetry than it is as thoughts on Christian living. She captures its inner conflicts, as in “Heart God”:
In the sanctuary of my heart
I keep a god.
I give him time and thought,
But in the temple of my mind
I know a God
And so I cannot do obeisance
To my heart god
But from time to time
I tip my hat and wink
When I pass by.
And, to those denying any place for females in church leadership, she opposes this succinct observation:
In black sweats
With lace collar
Buckner is at her best when she approaches her subject, as she does in these two snippets, aslant, as Emily Dickinson would say. Whatever triggers her musings, though, she leaves no doubt that this poet loves, and wants her readers to love, God.
For a more direct route to devotions, Gary Holloway’s Daily Disciple is a helpful guide. He offers a theme for each day and includes a verse from Psalms, a meditation, an additional passage of Scripture, and a brief prayer for each day of the year.
The meditations are from some of the Stone-Campbell Movement’s early great leaders, a feature unique to this book. I have seen nothing else quite like it. Holloway, who is executive director of the World Convention of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches, believes in this disparate fellowship and devotes himself to promote its unity and fruitfulness. Daily Disciple is one of his commendable efforts.
My wife and I are following this guide daily, and are glad.
Serving in a Troubled Land
Steppes of Faith: Discovering God’s Goodness in Ukraine is Janice Lemke’s second book (her first was Five Loaves and Two Bowls of Borscht). Here is the perfect antidote for people who think missions, missionaries, and missions books are boring. Steppes of Faith is anything but.
What made reading this book such a treat is that I know these people: Janice, the author; Cory, her husband; daughters Janelle and Alicia, who were toddlers when their parents moved to Ukraine with CMF International and are now beautiful young women. Cory’s assignment was to develop a training center in Feodosia to prepare Eastern Europeans for church planting and renewal. The mission was a hard-won success, and the Lemkes are now back in the United States.
Cory’s story would be fascinating to read, but this book is Janice’s. An accomplished storyteller, Janice makes even the mundane sparkle. Steppes is a woman’s-eye view of missions. It’s about shopping in strange marketplaces, home-schooling two bright pupils who are learning as much from their adopted culture as from Mom’s schoolbooks, befriending and sharing the gospel with neighbors and coworkers, feeding the training center’s visiting students, supporting and recharging a husband often exhausted by his demanding work, and looking after, listening to, and identifying with the people her family had come to serve. It’s a love story, with all the adventure, excitement, dangers, and demanding everydayness appertaining thereto.
Her conclusion is in the preface: “In Ukraine, I lived among people who experienced war, famine, social upheaval, and persecution. We tasted a little turmoil ourselves. Their testimonies and our own experience with God’s faithfulness bolster my trust in God’s ability to provide, whatever the future might hold.”
Addressing a Current Scourge
Speaking of missions, Craig Gross’s Eyes of Integrity: The Porn Pandemic and How It Affects You takes us to a mission field we didn’t study when I was in Bible college, one which I’m also confident Gross didn’t learn much about in the classrooms of Hope International University, his alma mater. Yet he’s on to something.
What preacher, including this writer, has not fulminated against pornography? Who hasn’t bewailed the pervasiveness, even the inescapableness, of sexually salacious online content? And who hasn’t been shocked at the growth of available pornography over the last several decades—it’s a $14 billion-a-year industry—and wondered what’s to become of children who, in our country at least, have such a dim prospect of maintaining their innocence?
While the rest of us wring our hands, Gross and company determined to do something about it. So, armed with the gospel, they marched into the heart of the industry. They moved to Las Vegas, they attend the porn industry’s conventions, and they set up their own Web site (XXXchurch.com) to minister to those trapped by, profiting in, and producing porn.
Eyes of Integrity tells their story, and a gripping one it is. Gross doesn’t merely present the statistics to prove how bad things are, although he does that. He also addresses the question, “What can be done about it?” While affirming that God meant sex to be something good, he tells stories about just how bad it can become in the hands of its perverse purveyors, and how much damage it does to easily addicted users—which potentially means most of us.
What makes this a helpful volume, though, is his advice:
• how to avoid its grip
• how to protect the family
• how to establish safe workplaces
• how to make the church a haven
• how to rescue those caught in its snares.
It’s a disturbing—but encouraging—read.
LeRoy Lawson, international consultant with Christian Missionary Fellowship International, is a CHRISTIAN STANDARD contributing editor and a member of Standard Publishing’s Publishing Committee. His column appears at least monthly.