Change of Plans – Hiatus from the Blog

11 02 2010

Well…it turns that Jason and I have some explaining to do.  Over the past two months, we have, as a staff, been trying to make sure that we are using our time in the best ways possible.  While this blog has been, and continues to be, a lot of fun for us…it seems that the amount of time we invest in it is not proportionately reaching the amount of people we would like to see.  So, we are going to take a break on the Riverside Online Book Club until the Fall of 2010.  We know that’s a long hiatus, but when we come back, we want to try and appeal to a broader group of folks than we are currently engaging.  For all of you faithful blog readers and contributors, we sincerely apologize for the break.

That being said, we still strongly encourage you to get a hold of a copy of The Orthodox Heretic, and read it.  It’s great.  If you feel like posting a thought or a question about it, please comment on this post, and we will be sure to respond and engage you in conversation.   We will not, however, be discussing it with a specific reading schedule as we have done in the past with previous books.

 Again, we apologize for an inconvenience this decision may cause you.  Check back in August to find out what book we will be reading and discussing in September.  Happy Reading!


Orthodox Heretic – Discussion Starting February 1

27 01 2010

Well, it’s been a little while since we last journeyed together through a book.  Lots of reasons for the break, but we’re ready to step back in.  Starting Monday Feb. 1, we will be discussing our next book, the Orthodox Heretic by Peter Rollins.  I know, I know the title doesn’t exactly “pop” or sound inviting, but trust me, this little book just might blow your mind.  It has certainly blown mine.  Rollins’ collection of 33 original modern-day parables will challenge the way you believe and why you believe.  You can purchase the book by clicking the link on the right side of the screen.  Jason and I are really excited to hear your thoughts and insights about these short stories of faith.

– Jarrod

Holiday Break and a New Book Announcement

14 12 2009

First off, thanks to those who journeyed with us through A Christmas Carol.  It sounds like it was a really good experience for those who were involved.  We will be taking a short break over the holidays.  But, we invite you to check back in January for more information about our upcoming books.

We will let you know now that our next book is called The Orthodox Heretic.  It is a collection of modern day parables written by a man named Peter Rollins.  Each of the parables are very short, but they contain amazing amounts of wisdom and material that will no doubt challenge us in meaningful ways.  You can purchase this book from by clicking here

Our hope is that we will be able to grow together by engaging these short but powerful parables.  Please check back soon for a reading schedule for this book.  We wish you a happy holidays and encourage you to read a good book during this time. 


A Christmas Carol | Chapters 4-5

7 12 2009

Good Monday Morning Everyone –

I hope that everything is going well for you in this hectic holiday season.  I also want to thank those of you who have chosen to take this journey with us through Dickens’, A Christmas Carol.  I know that reading a book during this time of the year can be a challenge, one more thing to do when you already don’t have enough time.  I know that I’ve felt a pressure while trying to find time to read this book that has been somewhat distracting.  And yet, Dickens’ writing is just so good, it has been more than worthwhile.

As a quick aside, I would like to point out that while Jason was nice enough to find this wonderful book for us, he was also nice enough to break the reading sections up where I covered 4 chapters, and he covered one.  One chapter.   He claims that the number of pages breaks down evenly between us, but I don’t know.  J

Anyway, one way or another, we have come to the end of our journey, and as I have stated previously, and as many of you have shared in the comments section, it has been an enjoyable journey indeed.

Looking specifically at chapters 4 and 5, a couple of things stand out to me.

“Please tell me that I can rewrite my future!”  Scrooge never says it this way, but it’s what he keeps begging the Spirit to tell him.  He is desperate to hear that he still has time to change the course of his life drastically enough to take it in a different place entirely.  Have you ever felt that way?  Have you ever had a moment of clarity break in on you, pushing you to the place where you want nothing more than to transform your way of life?  I have.  And the best news you can hear in that moment is… “It’s not too late.  There’s still time for you to be who you want to be.  There’s still time.”

In the final chapter, Scrooge acts out, in his life, the transformation that has taken place in his heart.  He makes the most of the time he has left.  I love one of the last statements in this book.  “Scrooge was better than his word.”  Scrooge did more than he pledged to do, was changed more than he realized.  In a world where people struggle to barely keep their word, to follow through with their stated commitments, here we have the story of a man who ended up being better than his word, doing far more than he committed to do and be.

I don’t think that there could have been a better way to bring this short little story to a close. 

I guess what I’d really like to hear from you is, what lesson are you going to take from this book?  How has it changed you?

Looking forward to your responses.


A Christmas Carol | Chapter 3

1 12 2009

Hello all,

First I wanted to thank all of you who have taken up the challenge to read the book.  The response that we have received has been great.  I hope that you are finding this book to be an enjoyable and challenging read.  I know that I am.

I think chapter 3 of this story is my favorite piece of the book.  It’s here that we are introduced to the classic scene of Bob Cratchit, his family, and of course Tiny Tim.  There are some remarkable quotes that occur during that dinner at the Cratchit home and, in fact, Dickens goes to great lengths to describe the meal and how it was received.  His focus on food throughout this book reminds me very much of all the meals that are described in a book that we read many months back, Peace Like a River.  There seems to be this idea that these meals have powerful meaning in people’s lives.  Dickens does a great job of stressing that.

However, it is the journey that the Spirit takes Scrooge on that really grabs my attention.  Dicken’s describes it like this:

“Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end.  The Spirit stood beside sick-beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich.  In almshouse, hospital, and gaol, in misery’s every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door, and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts.”

The significance of all this to me is that Scrooge isn’t simply being taught to see his own story differently or even to have a better perspective about the people that are closest to him (his nephew, Bob Cratchit).  He is being shown that the way he sees the entire world must change.  Dickens is his most pointed in this section in which he seems to be making some very large statements about the society that he lived in.  His calling out people in his own time for neglecting the poor, but also for missing the fact that it is often in unexpected places that we learn the most about what it means to be human.  The Spirit takes Scrooge over the sea and they peek in on sailors whose tough facades drop just enough for Scrooge to see the heart they have kept hidden.  It’s the wind-hardened sailors, the crippled children, the sick, and the poor that the Spirit seeks out to offer his blessing.  And for this they travel all around the world.  What an image!

In the end of the chapter the Spirit warns Scrooge of the terrible impact that Ignorance can have on a society.  This isn’t a story about a grumpy old man who learns how to be happy.  It’s the story of a selfish person who has his eyes opened to the good and the bad that exists in this world.  That is an incredible challenge for a person like me who is tempted to find safety and comfort in my own little corner of the world.

So, what stuck out to you from the visit of the second Spirit?  We would love to hear from you.

Also, the newest Christianity Today has an article about the historic importance of A Christmas Carol.  If you would like a copy, let me know. 


A Christmas Carol | Chapters 1 – 2

24 11 2009

Well, first off, I want to apologize that this post is happening on Tuesday of this week as opposed to Monday.  Things have been a little bit crazy around the Robinson household this week. 

Jason asked me if I’d be willing to kick things off for our discussion of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and for some reason I can’t quite remember, I agreed. 

I have to admit, going into this book, I wasn’t all that excited.  I’ve seen more movies about Scrooge and his 4 ghostly visitors more times than I can count, or care to remember.  This story just feels old and worn to me, I was sure that it held very little promise of helping me experience something new and fresh.

I was wrong.

From the first page, I realized that as much as I knew about this story from the movies, I had somehow missed the humor and the passion and the insight that beat at the heart of this ghostly little tale.  First off, I found that I had forgotten (or perhaps never paid enough attention before) just how good of a writer Dickens is.  There are so many great phrases, lines, and images that he uses to convey his message of having a compassionate commitment to loving our fellow human beings.  Second, I discovered that Dickens was doing far more than writing the script for a movie about a grumpy old man who undergoes a supernatural change of heart.  On the contrary, Dickens is telling a story about you and about me, about the people we live with and next to, asking all of us to be better towards each other.

There are all kinds of quotes I could use to point this out, but if you’ve read the first two chapters, you already know what I mean. 

I do want to share one quote that has haunted me (and yes, I intended for that to be a groan inducing pun) ever since I stumbled across it.  It comes on page 12 of my copy.  Marley, Scrooge’s deceased old business partner is warning Scrooge about his selfish ways and their undeniable consequences.  Marley confesses that he made the same mistake in life, and that now he sees things far differently.  He closed himself off from the basic needs of the people around him, and Marley would give anything to go back and change things.  He says, “At this time of the rolling year, I suffer most.  Why did I walk through crowds of my fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that Blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode?  Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?”

The first Christmas start led three men who had more than they needed, to visit a poor young couple who were sleeping in a barn.  Where have I allowed the light of Christmas to lead me, through the years?  I’m a man who has more than I need…why haven’t I let the light of Christmas lead me to the doorstep of a family in need?  Why do I tend to think that the light of Christmas is more about leading Christ (and all His blessings) to me, rather than understanding that that light is sending me out as Christ’s representative to people like Mary and Joseph?  These are the questions that I haven’t been able to escape this week.

There’s my two cents.  I wanted to let everyone to have a chance to share their first impressions with the book so far, so I strongly encourage you to do just that in the comments section.


New Book for the Holidays

11 11 2009

Hello again.  I know it has been a while since we finished Jantsen’s gift, but we did want to give you the opportunity to read a short book with us as the holidays grow near.  Actually, this book fits really well with this time of year.  So, we are proposing that we read original book version of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. 

Several years ago I rented this book on CD and listened to it on a road trip that I was taking.  Now, I have seen countless movie and TV versions of this story as well as several live theater adaptations.  So, I figured that I knew everything there was to know about the book.  I was pleased to find that the book adds a depth that many popular versions do not.  In fact, there are several themes that we discussed in Jantsen’s Gift that are explored in much greater detail in this tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s change of heart.  I found myself truly falling in love with this timeless story and I hope that you will have a similar experience. 

Since this is a classic story (and extremely short, for a book) there are several places that you can read it for free on line.  You will find a link to one of these in the sidebar as well as a link to buy it on  However, we have purchased eight copies that we are willing to part with for free for the first eight people that approach Jarrod or myself this Sunday.  We will begin reading it this coming week and deal with it in chapter chunks.  It really should not take long to read each section.  Below you will find the reading schedule.

Monday, November 23 – Chapters 1 and 2

Monday, November 30 – Chapter 3

Monday, December 7 – Chapters 4 and 5

I realize that this goes through the Thanksgiving holiday but I think you will find this a fast read, even though some of the language is older.  I hope you will consider joining us for this fun and challenging read.