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.”

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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.

Beliefnet Updates Site for Spiritual Seekers

When did Beliefnet update their site? I have every now and then dropped on beliefnet since it was fairly new, I was in grad school studying religious journalism. When the .com industry busted ten years ago, I thought it would take beliefnet with them. However, Beliefnet continues on and maintains itself as a hub of religious news and discussion.

Yesterday a tweet I received pointed me back to Beliefnet to read an article. At that time I saw a new look for the site. It is now cleaner, more organized and less jarring.

While it still does not provide much content that I am interested in, the content it has relating to spirituality would certainly draw in a wide variety of seekers.

Church leaders should check it out, if only to see what members of their congregation or community are following. I do not expect Beliefnet to help form disciples, but it could help inspire conversations within our own religious communities.

Knowing the Movie and the Future

On Friday I finally got around to seeing the movie Knowing starring Nicholas Cage. I was curious about it when it first hit the screens, but it took a broken air conditioner and a $1.50 movie theater to finally get me out of the house. It is not Cage’s best movie, though I think he did a fine job.

What bugged me most about the movie was the ending. I don’t want to go into details so as not to spoil it for others. What I will say is that the Cage’s character, John Koestler, is an astrophysicist struggling throughout the two hours about whether it is possible to know the future. He grew up in a strong Christian family, but when his wife died in a fire he gave up whatever remained of any faith.

This faith appears to be tied to a Calvinistic interpretation. According to John Calvin, God predestines people to be saved and taken to heaven, though God may also predestine some not to be saved. This view suggests a world already planned out.

I, on the other hand, follow in the path of John Wesley and Jacob Arminius. In this understanding, humanity has free will to choose or reject God. Now I believe God may already know what our choice is, but it is still our choice.

The movie, Knowing, was entertaining. I liked the general storyline, whereas it revolved around a strange list of numbers that appears to have predicted every major disaster in the past 50 years. As a former mathematics major, I enjoyed seeing numbers play a central role.

However, I do not think it developed the spiritual side of Koestler’s struggle or fully explained the religious imagery behind the list and the surrounding occurrences. This culminates in the strange ending where you cannot be certain if it is really about something religious after all. While Koestler felt peace at the end, I did not.