Review: 52 Little Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life

52 Little Lessons from It's a Wonderful LifeSometimes when life doesn’t go the way we want it to, we may feel like George Bailey of It’s a Wonderful Life. There is much we can learn from George and his compatriots in the fictional Bedford Falls.

Bob Welch has compiled some of what he’s gleaned from the Frank Capra’s movie starring James Stewart and Donna Reed into a book 52 Little Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life (Thomas Nelson). The easy to read chapters present the challenges of life from a variety of characters including the miser Mr. Potter to the angel Clarence.

Welch gives us insights into how George maintains his passion while also offering suggestions on what this may mean for our own lives.

Some of the chapters may seem repetitive as Welch looks at the same scenes from different angles. Nevertheless, one doesn’t need to read the book all at once. It’s short chapters are ideal for quick devotionals or occasional reading.

The book does occasionally use scripture to highlight how these lessons are grounded in the Christian faith, but this book does not heavily push religion. God is watching over George Bailey, and Welch reminds us that God watches over us all.

If you love Capra’s movie and like reflective or devotional books, this may be something for you. It is not an academic or theological exploration of themes. Welch writes about the “little lessons.”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Where’s the prophet from your community?

CEB Blog Tour: Live the Bible“The Lord your God will raise up a prophet like me from your community, from your fellow Israelites. He’s the one you must listen to.” – Deuteronomy 18:15 (CEB)

I was struck by the Common English Bible’s use of the word “community” in this lectionary passage for this coming Sunday. It makes me think about the community I live in and serve amongst.

Where may God be calling forth a prophet from among my community today? How would I know when there is a prophet in our midst?

Keep reading, and we hear God say, “I’ll put my words in his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him” (vs. 18b). God’s word will be on the lips of the prophet.

I hope I will keep my ears open to whom is speaking the word of God in my community today. I hope you will too.

This post is written as a part of the CEB blog tour. I received a complimentary copy of the Common English Bible for my participation. You may receive a copy as well by commenting below. One person will be selected at random of all those who comment by 7 a.m. CST, Tuesday, January 31. Sorry, but only U.S. addresses are eligible for the complimentary CEB.

Learn From Dickens’ Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens-A Christmas Carol-Title page-First edition 1843Charles Dickens wrote his holiday classic A Christmas Carol more than 160 years ago, and it still speaks to us today. Dickens’ story, whether read or seen in one of many screen adaptations, reminds us of the joys of Christmases past, the busy-ness of Christmas present and the uncertainty of Christmases future.

Join me Sunday, December 5, at Hillcrest UMC in Nashville, Tennessee, for a four-week study of A Christmas Carol and consider for yourself whether the coming of Christ is a season of humbug or a reason to give of yourself. Class begins at 9:40 am and will be held in the Fellowship Hall. We will begin this week in setting the stage of 1843’s London, who is Scrooge and the encounter with Marley and the Spirit of Christmas Past. Bring something that reminds you of a previous Christmas, either in happy or in sad times.

Quitting Christianity

Anne RiceThe writer Anne Rice just announced she has quit Christianity after having written her story about how she converted into the faith. I cannot comment on her decision whereas I do not know her and have never read any of her books, before or after her acceptance of Christ. What I can comment on is my own faith journey as a Christian who questioned Christianity but remained committed to the faith.

More than ten years ago I was a student in a liberal college in Michigan. I was active in two campus ministries, one that was considered pretty liberal and the other that was more in line with Mainline Protestantism. I was born and raised in Mainline Protestantism, but I was also taught about the need to be active for social justice. Therefore, I was pleased with the social concerns of the liberal ministry I joined in college. Nevertheless, participation in this ministry led me as I was leaving college to question whether these views were really Christian. I was committed to Christ, but I wondered if my understanding of his teachings were really what Christianity was about.

Around this time I took a job with a new church start. The staff of the church plant came from much more conservative Christian backgrounds then myself. The congregation was being formed within the United Methodist Church and its senior pastor came from that tradition. However, the children’s and youth pastor was Baptist and the music minister came from the Assemblies of God tradition. I felt like the token liberal on staff.

Nevertheless, I developed a good working relationship with my colleagues within the developing congregation. We would often debate issues, but we knew that deep down that we all had the same love for Christ and the desire to spread his word. It was in these conversations that I regained the confidence to call myself a Christian. No, I did not accept all the ideological or theological viewpoints of my colleagues, but I learned to call them my brothers in Christ.

My hope for Anne Rice and all those who love Christ but question Christianity is to take heart in its core. I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord. And, I believe in the Holy Spirit. Christ taught that we are to love God and love our neighbor. Loving my neighbor means loving those Christians who may not have all the same beliefs as me. To grow stronger in Christ, we need to reach out to each other and not pull away.

Following the Five Practices of Fruitful Congrgations

United Methodist bishop Robert Schnase of the Missouri Area has written a popular book about strengthening local churches, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. Many congregations and regional conferences have used this as the basis for rethinking how they do ministry. The local church where I worship is no different. For the past five weeks, we have been going through the book and taking personal time to reflect on our own congregation. I want to share with you some of the ideas that came to my head.

First off, let me mention what these five practices are:

Schnase says that the point in having these five practices is to “give congregations a common language.” As a Christian communicator, I understand that a common language is important to conveying the message. Five practices are simple enough for church members to get their heads around and still have choice as to what areas they could best focus on.

The bishop further goes on to say that the adjectives used with each of these practices could be interchanged. Yet, the important thing is that we should take a step beyond what is typical. Hospitality, worship, faith development, mission and service and generosity are all important; however, we need to take them to a higher level where the emphases become much more obvious in our lives.

Please join me in the conversation here as I explore each of these practices of fruitful congregations and feel free to check out Bishop Schnase’s own five practices blog. Together we can transform the church and the world as we devote ourselves to the teachings of Christ.

How Does a Connected Economy Relate To a Connected Church?

I am just beginning to read Blur: The Speed of Change in the Connected Economy. While this book was written in 1998, the connectedness that Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer write about is still evident today; indeed, even more so.

As I read Blur, I am not particularly interested in finding a cause to our current economic troubles, but rather in discovering the reality of the economic environment and how we could respond successfully to it. Further as a Christian communications consultant, I read every business book with an eye to how it affects the church.

After setting up the conversation in Chapter 1, Davis and Meyer use Chapter 2 to discuss the connections growing between product and service. The marketplace no longer sees a major distinction between the two. In order to stay competitive, one must provide a service along with the product or develop a product to address service needs.

Where does the church fit it? The church has been mainly about service. Its primary purpose is not to sell a product, but to bring together the community of faith on its path toward discipleship. However the church is still in the world and needs to demonstrate to the people how it is relevant.

What services has the church historically provided? These can be viewed as spirituality, feeding the hungry, healing, education (religious, ethical, secular), community, music, quiet place and many more. All of these, including spirituality and religious education, may be found outside of the church.

Combining these aspects of the church with products and services in the secular world may help the church to reach more people and become more effective with its mission. For instance, think about how the use of technology may enhance these services. Deeper spirituality may be found through meditation videos or slideshows; more hungry may be fed by coordinating efforts electronically; healing is provided by connecting with medical information; educational courses are taught across distances at the pace of the student; community is found through social media; music is shared and listened to on digital devices; and even a Web page with nothing but an image may help a person take a quiet moment.

The church has much opportunity to engage. Will it? Will you help it?