Tuesday, December 27, 2011

No Sew Worship Banner-A Fabric Prayer with Bling

The End Result is 4x7' and suits this big wall
We are a church with a "traditional" style without being asleep.  Our sanctuary was built in 1960 and is stately but needs some color.  Banners from the bookstore or church supply run from $150-250 or more.  We need some splash for a lot less cash.  We have a long term plan to make 12 banners over time.  The set will eventually contain three pairs of the large ones in liturgical colors and six smaller ones on the side walls.  We are starting with the names of Christ.  This first one is the test case and came out very well.  The rest will assembled by families or Sunday School Classes receiving them in Kit Form.  This helps the whole of the  church "own" them while keeping them of good quality and unified in theme.

Our secretary laid it out the design very quickly with a laser level with the fabric pinned to the office wall.  She is amazing but it can be easily done on the floor with the yard stick and tape measure. The visual center needs to be a little higher than the actual middle of the fabric.  Allow 2 extra inches at the top for the casing to hold the curtain rod and about 4 inches at the bottom for the "point".  

The shapes were cut out of paper from the computer then traces onto the fabric that had "Wonder Under" ironed onto it.  The shapes were cut out and then ironed onto the fabric.  

The stones and trims were added with Aleene's "Super Fabric" glue. It strings a bit and you have to work fairly quickly but is very strong.  The confirmation kids put the stones where they wanted them and I glued them on in about 15 minutes.  

The shapes and letters were trimmed in strung sequins.  I used a walmart bag to keep the glue strings off of the fabric.  

This was hard for a novice guy-crafter at first. Without the trim the edges were ragged.  

My first thought was to use shirt paint but the sequins added a cleaner line.  

I used cheap vinyl gloves to keep the glue off of my hands and found another benefit.  The sequins did not stick to the gloves and could be pushed down into the glue.  

The fine point of the container caused problems with stringing but gave good control.  By squeezing the sides of the tube you can pull the glue back into the tube and save some of the mess.

The letters took the longest to trim out.  They were cut out of "wonder-undered" fabric after being traces off of computer prints.  The sequins popped them out and made them sharp when seen at a distance.  

A "casing" or pocket was made by turning over 2 inches of the fabric and gluing it at the top with a small bead of the glue.  A cheap telescoping curtain rod slid into it the pocket.  The rod was glued in the middle with the Aleene's glue to keep it from sliding and cording was tied to either end 

The materials: 2 yards Fabric, assortment of assorted acrylic gems, Aleene's Super Fabric glue, 5 yards of strung sequins, 1 telescoping curtain rod, 1 yard 1" fringe, and  2 yards of wonder under iron on material, The project cost was around $40 and took 2-3 hours of time in three sittings.

Tools: plastic bag to shield the glue, small scissors, tape measure, yardstick, vinyl gloves (cheap cleaning ones),

What I learned:

  • Start with a good and simple design.  Detail is lost from a distance.  Keep it simple and use few words.  Lighter weight and colored fabrics showed stains from the glue!  Don't get excited though.  They don't show from a distance.
  • Have a "Big Picture" plan with a theme and some boundaries.  Yet...let the detail oriented people work up the details. Let the crafters and quilters get on board creatively. Use this as a way to forge a relationship between the congregation and worship.  
  • The ratio of 1/2 as wide as it is long is good.  look at your space.  The bigger the space the bigger the banner.  The letters need to be bigger than you think-fill up the fabric with big letters and few words.
  • Get a seamstress to lay it out.  My secretary  got the project started correctly and this is how we got such a good result.  .  
  • The fabric needs some body or it won't hang straight. This is "sueded" polyester.  It was on sale, looks great and forgave the glue smears.  It should last a long time too.  A quick brush with the lint roller and it looks super.  
  • This is not a big group project.  I started this out as a confirmation class project but ended up finishing my self. One or two people that get along can do it quickly.   I glued on all of the sequins in an hour while I watched Leno.  
  • You won't lose your "guy card" doing this. Anyone, though a novice and  non-sewer, can achieve great results but I counted on others to pick out the colors.  Lots of people brought pictures and ideas. 
  • The fringe on the bottom not only added some flash but  helped to hold the shape of the bottom.  The only thing I would change would be to add some flat gold trim to the sides.
  • Don't Forget-this is a prayer and not merely an arts and crafts project. Teach with it, worship with it and expect Christ to use our efforts to make disciples.  

This one looks good now.  More Banners will be added over time

Friday, December 9, 2011

10 things to do with leftover King's Hawaiian Bread.

One of the mainstays of United Methodist Communion is the use of those bulbous, beautiful and tasty loaves of Hawaiian Bread.  They provide a identifiable and unified loaf that has become an unintentional emblem at our worship at the Table.  These loaves are also large and usually have a quantity left over.   So, what do we do with the leftovers?

United Methodist worship instructions say, " The consecrated elements are to be treated with reverent respect and appreciation as gifts of God’s creation that have, in the words of the Great Thanksgiving, become “for us the body and blood of Christ”" (UM Hymnal; page 10), "Although they have undergone no substantive (physical) change, the elements have been consecrated—set apart."

"If any bread and wine remain, they should always be disposed of by (1) the pastor and/or others at the pastor’s direction consuming them in a reverent manner following the service; (2) returning them to the earth by pouring (2 Samuel 23:16), burying, scattering, or burning.  Also,  The Book of Worship directs, “What is done with the remaining bread and wine should express our stewardship of God’s gifts and our respect for the holy purpose they have served” (Book of Worship p. 30) (see also "This Sacred Mystery", P. 31-33)

I'm going to go out on a limb here in front of God, colleagues and the cabinet and offer suggestions for our leftovers.  Waste bugs me.  God has given us precious time, resources and relationships.  Nothing should be wasted.  If I draw some fire for having loose communion theology here, so be it but wasting the elements is not good stewardship.  Here we go..........

1.) Obviously, the first priority is to serve them, or send them out with consecrated lay persons, to those in the nursing homes or home-bound.  This is a touchable connection with the whole body of the church that we mustn't miss. Don't settle for wafers or disposables unless you just have to.  Serving communion is the front line of disciple making of the server as well as worship for those being served..

2.)  Serve large chunks to the children after the benediction.  I don't just leave the leftovers out with the donuts but give them to the kids and simply say, "Jesus loves you and so do I".  Some of the adults come around too.  The only negative is that it cuts into my bread pudding.

3.)  Scatter them for the birds, cats and squirrels.  They can also be divided among the communion stewards too.  This is already the tradition of many.  Our wildlife is well trained and the leftovers get cleaned up quickly. The juice accelerates de-comp in a compost bin if you are in to that also.  I like the picture of the elements building muscle in animals or growth in plants but still prefer using them at home.

Here are some table uses.
Have recipes?  Send them to revavanhooser@gmail.com or as a comment-

Note:  Leftovers freeze.  You can save them until you have enough for a recipe.  We have two services and usually have enough for these uses.  Obviously, any bread reaching the end of its life can freeze or be added to this.

3.)  Croutons/breadcrumbs:  Cube the leftovers place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them in a 200 degree oven for about 4 hours.  They are done when completely dry.  They don't work well for dressing-kind of slimy. If desired, lightly toss with olive oil, salt, and "Perfect Pinch" Italian herb mix.  Tony's Cajun and garlic powder add a kick too.  I prefer them plain.

 The dried cubes can be ground in a food processor too and used for breading fish or stretching meatloaf.   These are light and remind me of  Panko crumbs.

4.) Bread Pudding:  The giving and receiving of bread pudding is a holy moment for me.  Bread pudding was invented as a way to use bread that would otherwise be wasted.  Any firm baked good can be used.

This is a generic recipe for a 9x9 glass baking dish.  Double this recipe for a 9x13. It works well with Splenda, though I add 50% more than I would sugar and doubt that it helps the calorie count much.

Cube 4 cupstotal of Kings Hawaiian Bread (or leftover church donuts! Stale is good, moldy is bad)  Leave them out to dry overnight if you can. The Hawaiian bread is too light for pudding without some regular bread.  Add a couple of sliced of whatever you have.  Stale buns are perfect.   Put the cubes in a baking dish sprayed with Pam.

Prepare a custard with: 4 eggs, 2 1/4 cups milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla,1 tsp. cinnamon and 1/2 cups of raisins, craisins, or other dried fruit-if desired.  Whisk completely smooth but not foamy, pour on the bread and let it soak for 20 minutes or longer.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.  It should be firm to the touch but may jiggle a bit. You can glaze it with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar mixed with 2-3 tbsp.'s of orange juice, top it with coolwhip or just leave it alone.   These are dense calories.  An honest portion is probably 1/2 cup-whatever......get out the big spoon. Bread Pudding is a treat, a thing of beauty and not for everyday.

5.)  Crustini/Garlic Toast:  slice 3/4" thick, sprinkle with olive oil, parmesean cheese and "Perfect Pinch" Italian mix (Or garlic salt, Tony's or whatever suits you), toast it under a broiler until brown.  Eat it with a salad or spaghetti..

6.)  World's Best Cinnamon Toast.  slice 3/4" thick, lightly spread with margarine, and sprinkle with mixture of 1/2 cup of sugar with 1 tsp of cinnamon.  Toast the slices in a toaster first or fully prepared under a broiler until brown. Oh yeah.

7.) Sandwiches, paninis or sliders:  panini-with ham, cheese and tomato.  I use my George Foreman Grill for that.  Toast the slices first and make sliders with  "Mini-Burgers" found in the frozen foods.  Bake them on a cookie sheet with minced onion on the top.  Add the patty, cheese, mushrooms or whatever on the "white" side of the bread.  Amp up the peanut butter and jelly with cookie cutters to make shapes for kid's lunch sandwiches.

8.)  French Toast: Make a mixture with the proportions of 3 eggs, to One cup of milk, and 1 tsp of vanilla. This will do 1/2 of a loaf, double for a full one.  Dredge full widths by 1" slices of bread into the egg mixture and cook over a medium heat in griddle or pan.  I like mine with cinnamon,sugar free syrup and strong black coffee.  Fruit, butter, powdered sugar, peanut butter, or Hershey's syrup works too.  Whatever you are in to.  This is a realistic breakfast for anyone. I had this stirred up, cooked, with dishes in the dish
washer in 20 minutes.  Cut them into strips and they can go out the door in a paper napkin.

9.)  Fondue-This is very hip right now. The King's bread works better with the chocolate or deep frying than the cheese.  I don't have a proper fondue pot and haven't since the '70s.  Those that do will have an easier time with it.  Very tasty.

10.)  Strata/Breakfast Casserole:  Cube 4 cups the bread into a 9x13 glass baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Mix in 2 cups of grated cheese, 1 lb. of cooked and drained sausage* into the bread cubes.  Mix 8 eggs, 1 tsp of salt, black pepper to taste, and 3 cups of milk.  Pour it over the bread and let it soak for at least 30 minutes or in the refrigerator overnight.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes-until it doesn't jiggle in the middle.  Serve with picante, additional cheese, syrup, catsup or eat it as it. The finished casserole freezes well and single servings microwaved  for a ready made breakfast.

*If you don't like sausage or are cutting down on fat, use reduced fat deli ham or any of the soy or turkey products that are out there.  Bacon, onion, and green pepper can also be sauteed and added here too.

The Pie Pans are always clean, uncut and reusable too.  I place them under glue bottles, quart jars of stain or finish, thawing meat in the fridge and the feral cat's food on the back porch. I keep 2-3 around without creating too much clutter.

11, "Birds Nests" for Breakfast:  A fast foldable breakfast in three steps.  This is lightly sweet

Heat a skillet to a medium heat, spray with PAM
Cut or poke a hole in the bread and drop an egg in. cover pan
Salt and flip when the egg is firm
Top with salsa or cheese if you wish

Share these items whenever possible with someone else and praise God as you eat.  The point of this exercise is to stretch the communion table experience to the dinner table and then make it a point of conversation.  Share the use of the communion bread with your dinner companions.  This is an non-intrusive way to show people Christ is doing in your life and the life of your family.  .

addendum:  If you feel like cheating and actually buying a loaf, here are some more official recipes:  http://www.kingshawaiian.com/recipes/  This is not health food but is traditional and tasty holiday and party fare.  The andouille sausage dip looks pretty tasty.  Bring some to your next covered dish and I promise to try it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What's A Church to Do With Men: "Why Men Hate Going to Church" by David Murrow

David Murrow asks a valid question in his title. Why do men hate going to church? What do you do about the gender gap in the church? He spends the first half of the book defining his terms, proving there is a gap and pointing out the church's failings in focused detail. Has the church become a ladies club? Have we given up on the risen Christ as a "real man?" Is there any thing to do about it.

The second half of the book gives concrete help in amending church structure and style to appeal to boys and all ages of men.  My only critique of the book is the assumption that we can simply bend the shape of the church and be overrun with men.  This is not as easy as leaving out hugging or going with a solo "Man Up" style. Men are important and neglected but are still a part of the church's whole. We cannot control all of the cultural reasons that the church has this gender gap and we cannot leave the women out.  Murrow does, however, give an extensive list of things that are in the church control to be and become a "Church for Everyone."

The author also includes bolsters the book with an excellent presence on the web. His site, churchformen.com offers helps that are consistent with the book including a helpful pop quiz or "Guy Friendliness Test". He also has a speaker's board.   My church,deep in cowboy country in Texas, and I failed this text.  I am a real guy, ok?  This book opened my eyes to the guy repelling habits that I have and our church pays little attention to.  The hugging thing, getting the scriptural Jesus's story right, handling prayer, basics of ministry to and other things are fairly simple to fix.  This can be done without minimizing women and the holistic ministry of the church too. Murrow puts ministry to men on the "front burner" and then tells us ways to attract them.

I recommend this book highly to pastors, all age level ministers, Christian educators and worship leaders. This would help a Godly and frustrated wife or mom to understand her men.   "Why Men Hate Going to Church"  would probably not be a small group study but that is guy repelling anyway.  It would be a super staff study and focus book for any Men's Group or ministry.  

Would you like some application and additional thoughts.  This topic is a big concern of mine and you can read this and some extra notes on my other blog, http://geekfornonfiction.blogspot.com

Tyndale publishing gave me this book through their BookSneeze program for free in exchange for this review. They expected and received my honest evaluation.  Thanks to them for the opportunity to read it and thank you for reading my review.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

So Very Tired of the Trivial: "Going Deep" by Gordon MacDonald

Going Deep is a book for those who are weary of mind candy.  On the surface this is a leadership geek book for pastors but there is more going on here.  Gordon MacDonald and his wife Gail are an amazing pastoral couple and give us a book with two threads.

 First, a process of leading a congregation from the pastor's (Gordon's) great idea to cultivate leadership to the congregation's  purpose as the church. This process begins with the plea for an "Elevator Story" by an exective at a ball game, was filtered through a time of prayer, went to a church already accustomed to being "cultivated,  on to dreaming, informing, reflecting, selecting, cultivating, casting, adjusting, healing and building.  The end result is not a linear process but a culture that expects the cultivation of spiritual depth by the entire church.  This is the end of most leadership material but keep reading.

Second, "Going Deep" offers an almost magical look into a pastoral leader's thought process.  There are no punch lists and few bullet points.  The book offers a glimpse into the mind of a deep thinker as he journeys from the birth of a prayer borne idea to its evolution and application.  Written in a narrative style, it is both a teaching and learning experience experience by a lot of people.  The journey begins with a trip to West Point on to a conversation at a Red Sock's game, through the city dump, a rabbi's office and then through various levels and gatherings of the church.  The end result is not the end but a community of Cultivated Deep People-who happen to be Christ-Followers.

These are the main teaching points that I want to apply to my life and ministry.

  • Pray for God to give you an idea and not merely ask a blessing on your idea. Trust God for your starting point.
  • The time and talent of the pastor must be invested in the idea. PASTOR must make a stand. Have relationships with members deep enough to go to the ball game with.
  • The time and talent of your pastor must be invested in the idea.  The CHURCH must likewise make a stand.  Have a deep enough relationship with your pastor and take him or her to the ballgame.  Allowing this level of focus by taking extraneous duties away makes this process a success.  And no, most of us don't have all of this staff and will stand alone to find this focus
  •  Take your time and allow an idea to develop on the spiritual foundation that you have laid..  Most leadership books try to be instant-this one took two years and is still evolving.  
  • Groups have a life.  The grown-up members are kicked out into the world at about 40 weeks.  The key is independent and interdependent disciples.  
  • Recruit core leaders who are teachable, grow-able and able to mentor.  Don't collect those that need to get involved to feel better or deal with a spiritual crisis.  
  • Listen to all of your voices; executives, corporate trainers, rabbis, and various group members.  All are your counselors.  God's voice comes from the strangest places-don't forget to listen to member in the "corners", children and youth.
  • Remember to let scripture guide and Journal.  There is power to writing down the journey. The Bible teaches powerfully in a narrative and so does George MacDonald.  Journaling a narrative during a long term project allows for feedback, correction and definitive assessment.
  • Expect depth.  The author pushed courageously for depth and   "Depth comes before competence".  Too often we try to keep everyone comfortable-God tested and so should his church.  
  • Keep current with technology-surround yourself with young people and young at heart.  There is nothing pious about being backward.  
  • Finally, trust your people.  MacDonald's leadership let him lead and his diverse CDP (Cultivating Deep People) team members were trusted to follow and then lead.  He communicates the wonder of a deep thinking group of Christians sharing the same Christ led vision and watched as they wandered and discovered.

I was blessed by this book.  Any pastor, administrative leader, evangelism leader and Christian ed. leaders will be provoked to a new way through its subtle lessons.  Thanks to Tyndale's Book Sneeze program for giving me this book in exchange for this review.  They expected and received an honest review.  Thanks for reading TheThoughtfulPastor blog.  

I review for BookSneeze®

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review: "Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After" By Craig Groeshel

Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After: Preparing for a Marriage That Goes the Distance  -     
        By: Craig Groeschel
The author begins, "I wrote this book because people in my generation are making decisions way before marriage that actually sabotage what they really want for their futures." (p. 5)  Pastor Craig Groeschel writes a scriptural, human, transparent and painfully-uniquely-Christian view of relationships for today's couples.  He begins with our primary relationship-in Jesus Christ and uses that as the foundation to build and grow flourishing, life long relationship.  
This is not a Pollyanna look at marriage but a working process toward a great relationship.  Groeschel speaks from his own life's victories and mistakes.  He allows the reader to be imperfect and find a new starting place to begin a relationship well.  The book gives solid scriptural advice, based on Biblical principles all reinforced by  stories from real people, his own family and  Napoleon Dynamite.  He presents solid principles in bullet points with fresh humor to help negotiate the minefield of pre-marriage and reminds us that "God's greatest weapon in this wonderful adventure is always His own love-a love we find most clearly lived out in the person of Jesus Christ.
People who are not churched will still find great value in this book.  Yet, Craig is unshakably Christian in his answers and dares to say that a God-styled start will yield victorious results.  Whether your relationship is not working or if you are beginning life with "your number 2" (God must be your number 1) and want to do it right, you will find answers here.
"Love, Sex and Happily Ever After" is interesting and well written.  It can be read in a couple of hours but it has a lot of content packed into its pages and should be read with care.  The study guide at the end is well done and would be a great small group experience.  Pastors will find it useful in pre-marriage classes or counseling, a young adult study group or college student class.  It is not written for marriage and family counseling and the jargon is geared for young adults. I am better for reading it.
Thanks to Multnomah press for giving me this book in exchange for this review.  I appreciate them expecting honest review and I thank you for reading Thethoughtfulpastor blog.   

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review: "The 360 Degree Leader" by John Maxwell

In any organization, most leadership comes from the middle. Presidents, pastors and parents may think that they have a handle on things but those in the middle of every organization are the ones who make things happen. Maxwell encourages primary leaders to think about leading from the center rather than the top. An effective leader is one who can lead up, across and down. Too often, leadership becomes a top down phenomena and frustrates everyone. Influence and not position are what makes positive things happen.


Whether you are a leader in a secular business, the church, or in your own home, you need to read John Maxwell. "360 Degrees" is the most flexible and usable of his many works. Too often leadership is confused with simply being in charge. This book defines it as freeing others to lead and then gives concrete and easily implemented tools to assess and implement change. I am a pastor and my comments come from the context of Church, however, that does not take away the power of this book for your context.

Maxwell invites the "big boss" to abandon and adapt the existing organization and create a culture of properly placed middle managers with a unified vision. He also invites those in the middle to celebrate their position and lead where they are planted. This takes work and the pain of re-tooling a lot of preconceptions. The author says, "I can't remember a single time I've regretted getting out of my comfort zone and trying to get acquainted with someone I didn't know." The cure for this pain "walking the halls" and personal growth for all concerned. John Maxwell does not abandon the reader when this tome moves to the shelf also.

The book is a masterpiece, especially for the church, but only one of the parts of its overall message. By going to http://www.360degreeleader.com/login/login.aspx you can take a free and very helpful self assessment to guide you through the next steps of creating a stronger organization. A "360° Leader Comprehensive Assessment" can also be purchased. This site is also an entry to many resources, both free and for purchase, at http://www.johnmaxwell.com/ . His e-newsletters remain part of my Monday "Briefings". Go to a workshop whenever you have access too and take your church leadership with you!

I strongly recommend this book for anyone in leadership, and that is virtually everyone in an organization. It makes a great small group workshop or study for an administrative board too. A workbook is available. I have not read it but have ordered a copy and will bet that it is helpful.

I write reviews for Tyndale's BookSneeze program but purchased this on my own nickel! Please rate my review and thanks for reading TheThoughtfulPastor Blog.

Addendum:    I would like to add some additional material from Maxwell's book for those who will remain here and read  for a bit.  These are the lessons that I put to use from my study.  This is ongoing and I will add more from time to time.

  • Be fulfilled in the "middle".  It is ok to lead somewhere other than the top.  "Develop strong relationships with key people, Define a win in terms of teamwork, engage continual communications, Gain experience and maturity, and put the team above your personal success."  This isn't just church stuff but it is essential for the servant leader of a church.  Page 62
  • The free online leadership survey was helpful.  There is a full version for $99 but I benefited from this freebie plus an honest look at what I was doing (unsuccessfully) at the time. 
  • Go to www.johnmaxwell.com and sign up for his e-newsletters.  He has several to suit you, including a one minute video, and they help keep you mind focused. Share them with your significant circle.  This is a part of everyone's growth.
  • The focus for the 360 leader is ideas and not results...it is the idea that develops influence and strengthens the team.  I open court ideas more than before.  Listen to them all, especially the "foolish" ones.  
  • Walking the hall is something I have always done.  It is doubly important now.  See page 200 for the list but tend to your people who are tending to the business and pay attention when the avoid you.
  • Grow your people and create a safe circle of people with high potential.  Do so intentionally and not accidentally. If you are not growing you are backing up.
  • "Unleash your leaders to lead".  Most of the leaders in the middle don't know they are leading.  Tell them, reward them and above all listen to them and grow with them.  
  • As tempting as it is to have yet another training workshop, these principles need to be modeled and caught in pieces rather than taught in a class setting.  Rather than talk about them I am walking the halls more intentionally and forging different relationships.
  • I am re-reading after moving to another church.  The flexibility taught in this book works with "re-tooling" in the ongoing processes of the organization.  In other words, it is a life-thing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Book Review: Looking at a Larger Life- "The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven"

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven  -     
        By: Kevin Malarkey, Alex Malarkey
The cover say this is, "A remarkable account of miracles, angels and life beyond this world".  It is remarkable indeed but there is more than just a glimpse of the heavenly realm.  People in general are hungry for proof and this book offers an un-provable proof for the disciple's journey.  Scripture meets life in this book's message.  In "The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven", God is speaking to us through the victoriously tragic journey of a little boy and his family.  

Kevin and his then six year-old son Alex were involved in a Central Ohio car crash in November of 2003.  Alex was basically decapitated, with his head held onto his neck by muscle and tissue.  Medical logic could give no hope for his survival.  Alex recalls his heavenly journey with Christ, and the adversary while in a coma.  His father Kevin chronicles the storms of life going on around him during those same moments.  Each chapter gives a word from Alex on Heaven.  However, if you stop there you miss the total message that God has for you.

This is a story of miraculous healing, encounters  with Christ and with heavenly angels.  It is reassuring and a witness to God's overwhelming faithfulness. I can't "prove" or "dis-prove" what he saw.  However, looking at the fruits of his story  I cannot deny the glimpse of heaven shown in the supernatural response of human angels at work around the Malarkey family.  A trauma nurse's certain prayer of reassurance, a marriage that survives tragedy, the church that overwhelms with their prayers,  a relative stranger paying their bills, no health insurance and yet providence, a tree crushes their home and helps to make sense of the accident, a movie star makes treatment possible, plus the many nurses, doctors, and "random" people that enter and exit his story, all of them transformed by the unmistakable fingerprints of Christ.

Alex and his foundation are dove tailed into Christopher Reeves foundation also. See: http://www.christopherreeve.org/site/c.mtKZKgMWKwG/b.4451921/k.2951/Paralysis_Resource_Center_Home.htm for good information.   Reeve's surgery paved the way for Alex to make it possible for children with spinal cord injuries to lead more independent lives.  You can catch up with Alex's ministry on his website at http://www.theboywhocamebackfromheaven.com/ or on facebook at  http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Boy-Who-Came-Back-From-Heaven/132184650140021

"The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven" has been widely read in our church.  Believe me, I don't believe every story and am not very trusting with authors who claim direct revelations.  I suppose this shows that I am "supernaturally challenged" (p.185).  Understand clearly, I simply cannot mislead people and don't recommend things lightly. Read this book.

In this book, Alex does not get his humanity polished out and the family struggled and struggles yet.  As in scripture, these miracles have made opportunities for Alex to introduce people to Christ.  This family still has to rely on God for everything and do not enjoy a happy movie ending.  This and not the ability to see angels is where I find the message.  I identified with his dad a lot during my reading.

His father Kevin writes this after a direct encounter with God, "You don't need to see or talk with angels to live a life that glorifies God.  Don't be derailed in your quest for meaning by seeking a supernatural experience.  Seek God through His Son, Jesus Christ."  (p. 189)  I would humbly add that seeking God through Jesus is a supernatural experience.

I was moved to take action.  This book convicted and inspired me to stretch in prayer, shake off the prison of self pity, and challenge my church to believe that God can. I was humbled to think of my prayer life and that of my congregation when reading of the Christian ministers written of here. The Malarkey's give us the grit and struggle that is a part of life here along with the comfort and perfection of what is to come.    I believe what it says on his licence plates.  Alex "WIL WALK".

( I was asked about the rating bar being absent here!  This is not being reviewed for the publisher.  I wrote this review to encourage YOU!  No rating is needed.  Please rate the ones for Tyndale and Multnomah.  Thanks.)