Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: Churched

Recently I read Churched:  One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess by Matthew Paul Turner.  My expectations and what I found in the work were vastly different.  Once I changed my mind set and began looking at the book for what it is, I found myself coming to enjoy this humorous work.

When I first read the title and the brief descriptions of Churched, I was quite interested in the book.  As a children's ministry leader, I am always on the lookout for works that provide some insight into children's perceptions of truth and spiritual truths that arise from them.  As I began reading Turner's memoir, I encountered a towel-wrapped man relaxing in the sauna of a Nashville gym.  In this condition, Turner describes his uncomfortable conversation with another towel-clad gentlemen sporting a "tattoo of Jesus breathing fire out of his mouth."  (Turner, p. 1)  How's that for an attention grabbing opening scene? 

The opening conversation serves as an introduction to Turner's reminiscence of his spiritual journey as a child growing up in a Fundamental Baptist church.  I found myself coming face to face with situations that led me to question exactly what the book's purpose was.  Most memorable for its humor and its shock value was the description of the pastor's piano-playing wife, Mrs. Laura Nolan.  Turner states, "I only knew her [Mrs. Nolan] as the woman in our church who made walking in high heels a reason for even the holiest of Baptists to stop reading their Bibles and stare.  My first thought upon seeing her hips shift gracefully back and forth as she moved from her chair to the piano bench was that she looked exactly like Farrah Fawcett."  (Turner, p. 34-35)  By this point in the book, I decided it was COMPLETELY necessary to remove any thought that this was going to be helpful in children's ministry, and simply read the book for what it was -- a personal memoir.

And that became the key to my enjoyment of this book!  Churched is filled with charming, humorous and heart-felt anecdotes that will resonate with many readers as Turner explores issues of sin, death, personal evangelism, and boring sermons.  Hidden among the funny and occasionally shocking comments -- the kind that make you ask yourself if he really just SAID that -- are some gems of spiritual truth that encourage and challenge. 

I think Turner himself gives the best advice to his readers on how to approach his book in the memoir's final chapter, "Benediction."  In an introductory conversation with Pete, the man who will become his current pastor, Turner describes himself as the author of "Christianish" books.  Churched is not intended to be a work that will spark great theological debate or provide new insights into Scripture.  Rather, it is the fun-filled and honest memoir of a man who has learned to laugh at his past and recognize that in spite of it all -- and because of God's grace -- he knows his Heavenly Father in an intimate, personal relationship.

Happy reading!

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


It has been far too long since my last post, so I simply had to sit down and write something.  Rather than trying to find something profound to say, I thought I would take the opportunity to update you on what's going on in my life....especially since it has been a while since I have had a chance to update many of you personally.  So, here goes a brief (I hope) overview of what's going on in my world at the moment.

1.  Another Semester at MSCC.  The spring semester has been plagued with snow days, so all classes are lagging behind schedule slightly.  Add to that the fact that it feels as though there is a mass exodus of the faculty, so I have picked up an additional class (college survival).  That means I'm teaching daily and serving as a tutor 10 hours each week.  It's enough to keep a guy very busy, but I am not complaining.....I really do enjoy working with students and watching them succeed.

2.  The Secret Garden at Germantown High School.  This gig sort of fell into my lap earlier this year....and I'm really thankful.  The students are extremely talented and the music director and choreographer are super easy to work with.  I am playing the weekend shift (Friday - Monday) due to conflicts with classes and church in the middle of the week.  The music is more demanding than I originally anticipated, but I'm finding my way back into the groove that is musical theater.  I still find it hard to believe how long it has been since I've played a legitimate show with a solid company.  Broken turntables and wasted rehearsal time aside, it's a great experience so far.  The show is slated to open in late February.

3. The Piano Studio.  After much debate, I continued teaching piano privately and have picked up a few additional students in addition to keeping all of my previous students.  The debate was never over whether or not I enjoyed teaching, but if I was willing to continue dealing with the physical environment.  The price of the space is perfect (free), but most of the time the place is slightly better than a pig stye and there's not much I am authorized to do to improve the situation.  I thought about moving the lessons into my home, but the physical layout of the house and the distance my students would have to travel were not going to be conducive to that option.  I am currently discussing some other options with a fellow artist in the area for the future;  I'm hoping that by the summer situations will be much different.

I am also working on a couple of recitals that will be performed later this spring.  I am most excited about the opportunity to work with my good friend, Joe McClellan.  The repertoire is quite fun and we have similar interpretations of the music.  After a string of stressful and unfulfilling collaborations this time last year, it is refreshing to work with people who are respectful and considerate in all matters.
4.  The Church Job.  Last night, we began a new semester of Awana.  21 kids and 10 staff members showed up for the start.....and I was thrilled with the results.  Even though I didn't have everyone that I had hoped for present, the night went well -- with nothing falling through the cracks -- and the kids had a blast.  This semester, we are producing a series of mini-musicals with the kids each month that will be presented in the sanctuary on Sunday morning.  This adds a little more work to my plate during the week, but the students seem to be responding I think it will be worth it. 

There has been some stress recently related to my sister's ex-husband (a totally inconsiderate jerk, to be quite honest) and his attendance on Sunday mornings.  I refuse to go into this here, but it has led to some other complications in my world.

5.  Dentistry.  Whenever I become terribly stressed, my TMJ begins to flair up.  Normally it is something that goes away after a few days of medication and wearing my retainers.  Not this time, though.  Throw in the fact that I am PETRIFIED at the thought of visiting the dentist, and you begin to see the issue at hand. 

Thankfully, I have found a great dental practice in Germantown that specializes in reluctant patients.  After 2 sessions (I know, I know)....we finally discovered the root of the problem and pain I have been experiencing:  an old mercury filling has separated from the tooth and a bit of decay has developed.  The pain is under control and next Thursday the dentist will remove the old filling and replace it with a newer treatment.  The repair work plus the fees for cleaning and a new retainer (for upper and lower plates) is going to run me a bit in the hole financially, but I am willing to deal with the additional expenses just to be in a situation that is not so emotionally traumatic for me.

Other than that, I eat (most evenings anyway), do a lot of driving, and sleep.  I anticipate some things slowing down a bit in a few weeks and finding time to return to a regular schedule of blogging and reading.  Definitely stay tuned for more adventures in my life, promises to be an exciting ride!