Lance & Megan's Blog

Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri


Formational Book Review by Megan

5/5 stars

“How can you explain why you believe anything? So I just say what my mom says when people ask her. She looks them in the eye with the begging hope that they’ll hear her and she says, ‘because it’s true.’

            Why else would she believe it?

            It’s true and it’s more valuable than seven million dollars in gold coins, and thousands of acres of Persian countryside, and ten years of education to get a medical degree, and all your family, and a home, and the best cream puffs of Jolfa, and even maybe your life.

            My mom wouldn’t have made the trade otherwise.

            If you believe it’s true, that there is a God and He wants you to believe in Him and He sent His Son to die for you- then it has to take over your life. It has to be worth more than everything else, because heaven’s waiting on the other side.”

Everything Sad is Untrue is a beautiful story of an Iranian family that fled to Oklahoma. The story is told in the style of 1001 Arabian Nights and from the perspective of the author as a twelve-year-old boy. Nayeri weaves the story from his great-grandparents to himself, into one tale of strength and belonging.

Reading as a Disciple

“There are gods all over the world who just want you to express yourself. Look inside and find whatever you think you are and that’s all it takes to be good. And there are gods who are so alien to us, with minds so clear, the only thing to do would be to sit at their feet and wait for them to speak, to tell us what is good.

A god who listens is love.

A god who speaks is law.


Love is empty without justice.

Justice is cruel without love.”

Mercy and justice are two topics that can actually be divisive. It’s been on personality tests, “which is more important, mercy or justice?” as if you can only show one or the other but not a mix. Americans tend to be more focused on justice, what is right or wrong. It is not always so easy though. God is the perfect mix; he shows perfect justice and absolute love. Nayeri writes of how this is blended and brings it all together with “I think He’s a God who listens as if we are his most important children, and I think He speaks to tell us so.” When we have experienced an injustice, we want justice. When we have experienced hate, we need love. God sees the big picture and knows the best timing for what we want and who needs what.

“Why should anybody live with their head down? Besides, the only way to stop believing something is to deny it yourself. To hide it. To act as if it hasn’t changed your life.” God’s love has changed our lives because he showed us mercy when he should have shown us justice. It is good to read a story of persecution to be reminded of the price that has been paid. “She wanted everybody to have what she had, to be free, to realize that in other religions you have rules and codes and obligations to follow to earn good things, but all you had to do with Jesus was believe he was the one who died for you.” Such a great summary of the Gospel and simple reminder to readers of what our faith is all about.

Reading Communally

            “A patchwork memory is the shame of a refugee.”

Refugees are also another difficult topic for Americans to address. This book was full of evidence of that, believers and unbelievers alike. How can we welcome the foreigner? Everything Sad is Untrue has many stories of how Nayeri’s family endured the switch to living in the states, unfortunately, so many stories of how they were not welcomed. Empathy may never be achieved but we can still show sympathy for those that are in a new land, different from their own, having to relearn simple tasks such as grocery shopping and even using a toilet.

“Sometimes when you’re a refugee, you have to give up the dignity you’d have if you said, ‘you know what, thank you, but no thank you. Your son treats my son like a dog, and your daughter says, ‘ew,’ if we get near her, and we appreciate how smiley you are, but we’ll figure out some other way to attend school.”

As believers, we shouldn’t force newcomers to give up their dignity but instead treat each person we meet with dignity and respect. Each individual holds intrinsic value because they are imago dei, the image of God. Everything Sad is Untrue tells many stories of how some people may perceive something but actually there is so much more going on. We do not know the whole story for each person we meet. We must rely on God to fill in the gaps of knowledge between us and give grace to each other. As Episcopal priest Timothy Jones wrote in an article for Rabbit Room, “we are persons made to flourish through the affection and presence of others.” We are not meant to be alone.

Final Thoughts

            I loved this book because, while I am most definitely not a refugee, I sometimes feel like a foreigner in my native land and can identify with some of the sentiment expressed by Nayeri. We have taught our kids what imago Dei means and work to instill in them that each person is made in the image of God and therefore their life is valuable. This lesson becomes real when we meet someone different from us; refugees are an easy example. This book was refreshing in not only how it was written but also the story of hope and resilience.

Also by Daniel Nayeri:

The Many Assassinations of Samir, Seller of Dreams

Other books on refugees:

Somalia- When Stars Are Scattered by Omar Mohamed

“In a refugee camp, you are always reminded of the things you have lost. It is a valiant and agonizing struggle to focus not on what you have lost… but on what you have been given.”

Vietnam- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanha Lai

Syria- Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh

*Have not read any of these books… yet. (Two are on my bedside table)

(Update: Finished When Stars Are Scattered.)

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The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers


Book #1 of The Wilderking Trilogy

Formational Book Review by Megan

4/5 stars

“Courage is the will to lay aside fear because your desire to do right outweighs your desire to avoid getting hurt. You said you were frightened of the panther.”


“Then why didn’t you run away?”

Frightened though he had been, Aidan never even considered that possibility. “I couldn’t leave Dobro to be eaten by a panther. I couldn’t leave my sheep either.”

Bayard smiled. “You felt fear. But you didn’t act out of fear; you acted out of courage. Dobro was fearless. You were courageous, which is a much better thing to be.”

The Bark of the Bog Owl (TBOTBO) is a retelling of the story of David with a southern flair. The story follows Aidan Errolson, the youngest of 5 boys, who is relegated to watching the sheep in far off pastures. He longs for a courageous and adventurous life but the most adventure he gets is fighting off a panther with his sling. That is until the Pyrthen Empire lands on their shores. If you know the story of young David (I Samuel 16 & 17) than you will know the gist of this story. There are some twists and creative license is taken as should be expected.

Reading as a Disciple

“But I don’t feel like the Wilderking.”

“How is a Wilderking supposed to feel?” asked the prophet.

“I don’t know. I don’t suppose anybody knows. There’s never been a Wilderking before.”

“Precisely. None but you can say how a Wilderking feels. You are the only one.” He poked a finger into Aidan’s chest for emphasis. “And you don’t have to feel anything in particular.”

Bayard leaned toward Aidan. “Let me tell you a secret, Aidan.” He looked over his shoulder as if making sure no one was listening, then whispered, “I don’t usually feel like a prophet.”

We are often driven by how or what we feel in the moment. It is easy to do; sometimes we give in to our feelings (I make an extra batch of cookies because I feel like it,) sometimes we don’t have a choice (I’m still a mom whether I feel like being one) and other times we just don’t (I decline an extra helping of dessert even though I do want more.) Feelings are used to make decisions big and small. This exchange in The Bark of the Bog Owl, is a beautiful lesson in not making decisions based solely on how we feel. We don’t need to feel something special to do something great or small, we need to be obedient with what is in front of us. This same conversation continues later,

“What if I am destined to be the Wilderking? How should I live?”

“The same way you should live if you weren’t the Wilderking. Live the life that unfolds before you. Love goodness more than you fear evil.”

The same can be said of believers, to live the life that God has put before you. Love goodness in your workplace, in your school, in your home. In this era, where we can be pushed to pick a side, it is easy to forget it is more important to love goodness more than what we fear. By loving goodness around us, we can point others to a good God who loves us. But… loving goodness is a choice and we often won’t feel like it.

Reading Communally

“The doubt, actually was easier than belief.”

Just as loving goodness is a choice, so also is belief in the face of doubt. Doubt can be easier because it leaves room to settle for failure; it leaves room to save face if your belief turns out to be false. Hesitation, uncertainty, confusion, indecision are all synonyms for doubt, none are ones we want to be used to describe us. Doubt comes more easily when faced with discouragement and questions from those that are older and more experienced than us. Rogers does a great job of showing the brothers’ doubt and anger at their insolent brother desiring to do what is right. Our doubt and unbelief can have a huge ripple effect for others around us. The Bible gives many examples of doubt changing a community, look at the Israelites, doubt led to a golden calf being built! By Aidan choosing belief, he was able to rally the Corenwalders from their stupor.

The longing to belong can give way to peer pressure. Not only can it be difficult to stand alone when everyone around you doubts, it is hard to stand out and be confident. In TBOTBO, the Corenwalders want to impress the Pyrthens and be accepted by them; but instead “the Corenwalders’ attempts at imitation seem all the more clownish.” How easy it is to lose our sense of belonging and identity. The story continues to address the identity of the Corenwalders as a nation and their struggle to keep it.

Final Thoughts

Overall I enjoyed the book despite already knowing the general storyline. It was mostly predictable but there were a few surprises thrown in. It will be interesting to see in the other books, how Rogers tells the story of David and at what point the trilogy ends. The Bark of the Bog Owl is a great read aloud for families and provides plenty of conversation starters.

Other Jonathan Rogers books:

The Wilderking Trilogy

The World According to Narnia

The Charlatan’s Boy

The Terrible Speed of Mercy

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Why Art Matters by Alastair Gordon


A Call for Christians to Create

Formational book review by Megan

4/5 stars

“… art matters because people matter. Art gives a voice to people who can’t be heard. Art shapes the way we see the world and one another. Art matters because a beautiful painting or sculpture can transform us in a way nothing else can. It’s not just that art can brighten our spirits (which it can.) A good work of art can excite or incite, provoke or soothe, inspire or settle.”

Alastair Gordon is a Christian artist based in the UK. He teaches at the Leith School of Art and has been the artist in residence for the City and Guilds of London Art School.  Why Art Matters starts out with a simple, yet profound declaration that art matters because people matter and people are made in God’s image.

Reading as a Disciple

“Times have changed and most people today think differently from our ancestors, who regarded beauty as inseparable from its parallel qualities of goodness, justice and truth.”

Gordon makes the distinction that only God is able to make something from nothing; we create from what He has already created. The first thing we read in the Bible is God being creative. It’s easy to sort of bypass the creation story without realizing how it shows that God was creative. There was a process to His creating.

“When we read about how God created the universe there is a sense of rhythm, order and intuition, with God making the sky and seas on the second day and then returning to them on day five to enhance them with birds and fish. The same could be said of the night and day he makes on day one, as he returns on day four to make the sun and moon to enrich his earlier creation.”

Gordon references the creation of Middle-earth in the Silmarillion to talk about how art can be redeemed. Tolkien writes that Iluvatar, the creator, sings His world into being and invites his creation to join in the song and create with him. Instead of joining in the harmony, Melkor sings a discordant song and brings disharmony into creation. “We might expect Iluvatar to cancel out Melkor’s disruptive music, to press rewind and start again. Yet he allows the discordant melody to play out and into creation. Even more, he interweaves the discordant melody with the music of creation to allow a tension between harmony and corruption.” The same can be said of art today as it is made by broken-image bearers. As believers we might be tempted to wonder why God allows evil to continue but we miss God’s big picture and the redemption of His image. Art helps us see His beauty and the redemption of that beauty with its parallel qualities.

Reading Communally

“To me, this is one of the greatest mysteries of creation: how God continues to create all things and how he might use us to do so.”

It is such a beautiful thought that we continue to work with God as part of His creation. The creation story is important to show the partnership of God with His creation, Adam. Adam was part of the creation process as he was tasked with naming. Think of an artist creating a beautiful sculpture and then asks you to come up with the title, it’s quite the honor.  The creative partnership with God in the Bible continued in the making of the temple as well. “Simply to make something well is to reflect the character of God.” Since we are each created in the image of God, we reflect some aspect of His character in what we do or say, or in the context, create. It is important to be in community to better catch glimpses of God’s character in His creation. “We are an accumulation of the stories we read and the stories we tell…” and our story, or testimony, matters to the community of believers.

Final Thoughts

Why Art Matters was a simple and well laid out book for all readers. As a linear thinker, I found it incredibly easy to follow and comprehend. Gordon gave great examples and stories that enhanced his points. While he is a painter, he did a good job of not ignoring the other arts, he did reference many painters or his experience painting but it did not downplay other arts. I would recommend this book to anyone but especially to those that are in the arts already.

Other good books on art and faith:

Rembrandt Is in the Wind: Learning to Love Art through the Eyes of Faith by Russ Ramsey (highly recommend)

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henry Nouwen (Love this book)

Art and Faith: A Theology of Making by Makoto Fujimura (on my To Be Read pile)

Discovering God Through the Arts: How We Can Grow Closer to God by Appreciating Beauty and Creativity by Terry Glaspey (on my TBR pile)

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The Joy Switch by Chris Coursey


How Your Brain’s Secret Circuit Affects Your Relationships- And How You Can Activate It

Formational book review by Megan

3/5 Stars

“My hope with The Joy Switch book is 1. You learn to recognize whether your relational circuit is working, 2. If not, you know how to use the Joy Switch to turn it back on, and 3. You learn relational habits to sustain the relational circuit so it works at its optimal range.” 

Author Chris Coursey lays out at the beginning his goal in writing the book. A very simple and direct goal, easy to lay out a plan and give direction for the reader. The book is directed at such an important part of our lives, relationships. We can’t avoid it. We have some kind of relationship with our family, spouses, co-workers and store clerks. Coursey says “The areas in our brain that govern character, emotions, and identity are all relational.” So that should make understanding and building/maintaining right relationships a priority, and as the book goes on to say, its hard to stay relational when joy levels drop.

Reading as a Disciple

“Once our relational brain shifts to enemy mode with God, we lose all ability to joyfully interact with another relational being. […] Approaching God when we are in enemy mode is an excellent way to ensure God feels distant because our brain is in the worst possible position for a relational interaction.”

The author Chris Coursey, is a believer and talks about faith and how it relates to joy and relationships throughout the book. I found it interesting when he said “Thinking about pain and hurts is a great way to remain in nonrelational mode with people and with God.”  It is so easy to do, we can replay events and words that hurt us in our minds and we struggle to find God in a situation. Coursey goes on to talk about how to stay relational with God and find His peace in these moments. Just as God instructed the Israelites to put up monuments to his faithfulness, we should also have times of looking back on when we enjoyed God’s presence and faithfulness and when we experienced His peace. Though our circumstances may not change, we will be in a better position to hear from God and accept His peace. 

Reading Communally

“Isolation makes unsuspecting victims more vulnerable.”

Again, this book was not just about us and our own ability to turn our Joy Switch on but also how to help others come back to a place of joy. Community and our connection to the body of Christ is critical. Experiencing negative emotions is normal and inevitable, what the book covers is how to help us return to joy quickly and this also applies to our relationship with others. If we are able to return to a place of joy, then we can help others. We can often get stuck though and struggle to return to joy. “This ‘stuckness’ leads to the loss of abilities we often take for granted, such as the ability to stay loving, kind, thoughtful, caring, considerate, compassionate, and generous. It means the unwelcome appearance of personality distortions like narcissism… Narcissism, the inability to shift out of enemy mode and process shame, robs joy and keeps people stuck in enemy mode.” Those are all things we easily experience on a bad day. This is also where addictions come into place because we are looking for joy substitutes, artificial, nonrelational replacements for comfort. 

The majority of the book is devoted to the habits that Coursey believes will help us return to joy quickly: connection, appreciation, rest and Shalom. 

Final Thoughts

The book is packed with great thoughts and insight into staying relational with others and God. What I enjoyed was the questions and practices offered at the end of each chapter. It’s a great way to keep the book practical and helpful. 

What I don’t like is that the book bordered on providing a cure or step-by-step approach to be joyful. While Coursey mentions very briefly that is not what this book is for, by using the imagery of a switch, he oversimplifies something to just being joyful or not. He mentions “there is a progression with different ‘relational shades’ like colors on a color wheel.” And later he says “the relational circuit is like a dimmer switch with shades of relational mode.” But it is too hard to not get the idea of on/off out of your mind when it’s in the title of the book and there is a big picture of a switch on the cover. This is misleading for the reader. There is no “cure” to doing away with negative emotions and remain in some euphoric state of joy. What Coursey does not go into is how negative emotions are not necessarily a bad evil thing, (Jesus experienced them,) but they are a normal part of being human. God can provide a way for us to navigate those seasons in our lives when the negative emotions seem to outweigh the joy. This book should be seen as only a small step or tool to navigating those seasons, not the cure. 

Other Chris Coursey books

The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages- we recommend this book!

The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled People

The 4 Habits of Raising Joy-Filled Kids

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Verses for this Time


Since this has been a crazy season for most of the world and the future seems uncertain, we thought it important to be memorizing some of God’s Word, especially on hope.

We challenged our staff to memorize these verses, see if you can get them down in a week.

  1. Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
  2. Isaiah 40:31- but those you hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
  3. Philippians 1:6- being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
  4. Romans 15:13- May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  5. Romans 8:24-25- For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
  6. Romans 8:28- And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
  7. Psalm 3:2-6- Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.
  8. Colossians 3:1-2- Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set you minds on things above, not on earthly things.
  9. Isaiah 43:1-2- But now, this is what the Lord says- he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
  10. Psalm 147:11- the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
  11. Deuteronomy 31:8- The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
  12. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18- Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs then all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
  13. James 1:2-4- Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
  14. Jeremiah 17:7- “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
  15. Lamentations 3:22-25- Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

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