Book Review: Hello, I Love You by Ted Kluck

Ted Kluck, writer of things sports- and church-related, is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. In Why We’re Not Emergent and Why We Love the Church, he offers the “everyman” perspective on why the emergent church movement doesn’t work and why the visible church deeply matters to the life of believers. But in his latest book, Hello, I Love You, he tackles a topic that’s perhaps closer to his heart than any:

Adoption.

In the last couple of years, adoption has been the topic of conferences, sermons, blogs, books… you name it. It’s been top of mind for many Christians.

While the resources that have been produced are no doubt beneficial, this book is different.

That’s because in Hello, I Love You, Kluck takes readers on a deeply personal journey into what he experienced becoming an adoptive father.

And a lot of the time, it’s not pretty.

Love Letters

Written in two parts, the first is based on notes taken during the adoption of his first son, Tristan. Kluck shares (with often hilarious results) the events leading up to Tristan’s adoption.

One of my favorite moments, strangely, is the painfully accurate description of the Detroit airport. While the Northwest side looks more like a mall than an airport, Kluck writes,

[T]he non-renovated Delta terminal looks like the world’s largest Greyhound station—a dimly lit hole strewn with garbage and smelling faintly of a mixture of Cinnabons, grade-school, and industrial-grade cleaning agents. (p. 34-35)

(If you’ve ever been in this airport, you know how true this is.)

What struck me most profoundly though was how the first half frequently broke from the traditional narrative model and became letters written to Tristan, sharing the events of the day, thoughts on life, music, sports and faith.

In this half of the book what comes across most clearly is how much Kluck loves his son, who at the time wasn’t even his son yet. In one letter, he writes:

I can’t stop looking at your picture on the digital camera. I feel silly, but I keep saying “lemme see Tristan.” And then your mom and I pull out the camera (again) and flip through the pictures (again).

And we prayed for you tonight, Tristan. We prayed that our Lord would keep you safe from evil and prepare your little heart to be loved by us… (p. 53)

Reading this, it’s amazing to see the love that God creates in the hearts of parents for their children—even those who are not biologically their own. Truly, it is inspiring.

Griping, Grumbling & Genuine Authenticity

Part two chronicles the Klucks’ adoption of another boy, Dima. Written more as a journal during the events of the adoption, the feeling is quite different.

The tone changes. It’s still funny, but there’s something else there.

It’s a struggle with despair.

The Klucks’ second adoption didn’t come out of, necessarily, the same kind of desire that their first did—it came out of necessity. In the time between the two adoptions, they learned that they were unable to have biological children.

Kluck doesn’t portray himself as a great man of faith or even a particularly great husband. He’s often painfully honest about his shortcomings.

He struggles with feelings of resentment toward his church and its extremely fertile congregation (pp. 95-101).

With a sense of failure as a man and a provider (p. 161).

He becomes a grumbler, and his complaining alienates him from his wife and blinds him to God’s grace in his life.

Kluck isn’t playing humble here. He doesn’t look to anything outside of himself as the source of his problems—he acknowledges his own sins and strives to move forward in repentance.

As the story of Dima’s adoption unfolds, he displays genuine authenticity.

A Refreshing Reminder

Reading Hello, I Love You gave me, as a husband & father who hopes to one day adopt, a refreshing reminder. Kluck’s honesty about the struggles he and his family faced during the process, to say nothing of the astronomical financial cost hit hard; but with every word of this book, he tells us, “It was worth it.”

It’s a reminder to me that every sacrifice I make for my daughters is worth it. And it’s a reminder that for Jesus, who paid the ultimate price for sinners like me to be adopted into God’s family—from His perspective, it was worth it. Not because I deserve it, but because He is so gracious.


Title: Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood
Author: Ted Kluck
Publisher: Moody (2010)

A galley copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher

Looking Back: My Favorite Books of 2009, part one

I love books, and this year I’ve probably read more of them than I ever have in years past. Out of 60+ books, some have been good, others not-so-good. Others still have been excellent—and I want to share ten of these that I’ve found to be the most helpful, meaningful and enjoyable.

Here are the first five in no particular order (probably):

Just Do Something
by Kevin DeYoung

The question of discovering God’s will for our lives is one that plagues the majority of us. But, pastor and author Kevin DeYoung argues, that’s in large part because we make following God’s will far harder than it needs to be, because we’re looking for the wrong thing. Instead of looking at God’s revealed will of decree (meaning that what He ordains will come to pass) and His will of desire (what He desires from His creatures), we seek to divine His will of direction.

Read the review | Order a copy

Buy•ology
by Martin Lindstrom

Martin Lindstrom spent 3 years and 7 million dollars in an experiment known as neuromarketing–trying to understand how the brain responds to the stimuli provided by advertisements, what works and what doesn’t. What he found absolutely destroys much of what we’ve believed about what attracts and repels us to products and brands.

Buy•ology a game-changer for marketers and one of the most worthwhile marketing books I’ve ever read.

Read “Brand-olatry” | Order a copy

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl
by N.D. Wilson

Perhaps the most delightfully peculiar book I’ve ever read. Author N.D. Wilson invites readers to join him as he attempts to describe the indescribable: God speaking Creation into being, ex nihilo (out of nothing). With a quick wit and sharp tongue, Wilson engages and entertains readers while reminding us that we live in a world filled with wonder and beauty—and none of it is by accident.

Read the review | Order a copy

Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion
by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck follow up their first book, Why We’re Not Emergent, with Why We Love the Church, a passionate, biblically centered, God-honoring look at the Church—and why, for all her warts, we need to love her as much as Christ does.

Famed evangelical scholar J.I. Packer’s endorsement brought a smile to my face: “Bible-centered, God Centered, and demonstrably mature… As I read, I wanted to stand and cheer.”

Read the review | Order a copy

Fake Work: Why People Are Working Harder than Ever but Accomplishing Less, and How to Fix the Problem
by Brent D. Peterson & Gaylan W. Nielson

Fake Work is what you think it is…and so much more. With this book, authors Brent D. Peterson and Gaylan W. Nielson are drawing a line in the sand. The working world is broken and needs to be fixed. What we don’t need to do is create cool, hip workplaces, to make going to the job more comfortable.

What we need to do is focus on transforming how we work and the work we do. Because real work is about results.

Read the review | Order a copy


Join me for the second half of the list tomorrow.

Friday Funnies: Ted Kluck's Day-long Rock Bender

Ted Kluck, author or The Reason for Sports: A Christian Fanifesto and coauthor of Why We’re Not Emergent & Why We Love the Church, is working on a new book!

This time, Kluck is delving into the seedy underbelly of Christian music with To Hell With the Devil: 365 Days of Christian Music, from Al Denson to Alice Cooper

“The idea is that I’ll listen to nothing but Christian music (concerts, CD’s, videos) for a whole year.  This will be especially challenging for me since I haven’t listened to Christian music since 1991, when I was 15,” he wrote back in June when announcing the project.

Three months into the project, he succumbed to the siren’s call of rock and/or roll:

It’s October 21 and I just fell off the wagon.  Hard.  If this were a movie I would be Tony Montana falling face-first into a giant pile of blow in Scarface. It’s taken me almost three months into my fast, but I’ve discovered a very troubling, simple truth:  Christian artists can’t write love songs.  There are a few who get close (like Anberlin, “A Day Late,” and Paramore, “crushcrushcrush” and even Stryper, “Honestly”) but for the most part, Christian bands either suck at ballad writing or don’t even try (more likely).  And perhaps the fact that it’s more exciting to hear Sebastian Bach (Skid Row, not the other one) sing about lost love in “I Remember You” than my church’s praise band singing about “Amazing Love,” (about Jesus) says something incriminating about me.  Check that, I know it does.

But here’s the thing:  When I hear “I Remember You,” I think about things, places and people that I actually remember.  I do remember yesterday, walking hand in hand, love letters in the sand, and all of the stuff that Bach sings about.  It’s cheesy, yes, but it’s also the kind of thing that evokes – that makes a person feel.  Ditto for Warrant’s ballad, Heaven, which they probably intended to be less about the real heaven, and more about sleeping with some chick.  (Keep in mind, this is the band that brought us such lyrical poetry as “Cherry Pie.”)  But still, I love it.  It reminds me of driving my tan GMC pickup truck around Hartford City in 1993, wishing I had the courage to talk to girls.  Is there much that’s more romantic than having a “picture of your house, and you’re standing by the door, it’s black and white and faded, and it’s looking pretty worn”…and later, “I’ve got nowhere left to go, and no-one really cares…I don’t know what to do (cue guitar riff), but I’m never giving up on you.”

So I spent the majority of the day in my office with huge, cushy headphones on, belting out the lyrics to ballads that I should have waited until next year to dust off.  And it’s as good as I’ve felt in a long time.

You can click through to read a detailed account of Ted’s rock bender.

Nothing but Christian music for a year? That’s more than I suspect most could endure.

Pray that he survives.

Book Review: Why We Love The Church

Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

The last few years have seen a glut of books about the church… and honestly, most have been ripping on her pretty hard. Truthfully, there are too many to name, and too many to possibly answer. But the big idea from guys like George Barna, Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, and a host of others, boils down to this:

The church has lost it’s way, and everything needs to change. So let’s blow it up and do something different.

For many, it’s experimenting with disorganized religion, where there’s no authority, everyone speaks and no one really learns anything. For others, it’s abandoning corporate gatherings altogether in favor of possibly having a spiritual conversation on the golf course or at Starbucks.

What Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck offer in Why We Love the Church is a passionate, biblically centered, God-honoring look at the Church—and why, for all her warts, we need to love her as much as Christ does.

In his chapters, DeYoung addresses the topic from four areas: The missiological, the personal, the historical and the theological. In  this, DeYoung is helping readers to develop a solid doctrine of the church. This is an understanding we sorely need, because I think very few of us really understand what the Church truly is and what is to be her role.

I particularly found the historical view of the Church interesting, as DeYoung deftly defangs many of today’s common criticisms of the Church. Be it Columbus’ journey to America, the Crusades, Slavery or the alleged pagan origins of preaching (according to Frank Viola, who really needs to read his Bible  more), he provides answers and a wealth of information that many of us would be surprised to learn. One quick example: Did you know that as early as the seventh century, several Christian leaders, including the Venerable Bede, taught that the earth was, in fact, round? In fact, according to Jeffrey Burton Russel (from whose quote the following is adapted), there was near unanimous scholarly agreement that the world was spherical during the first fifteen centuries of the Christian era, and all doubt of this had disappeared by the fifteenth century (see pp. 128-129).

DeYoung concludes the book calling us back to an increasingly forgotten doctrine, the loss of which is, perhaps, the reason why we’ve lost our love for the Church: The doctrine of original sin. The root issue for all of our issues with the Church is sin, because the church is made up of redeemed sinners, all seeking to put their sin to death. But just as Paul reminds us that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7), if we truly love the church, we need to bear with the Church “in her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ and hope for her glorification. I still believe the Church is the hope of the world,” writes DeYoung, “not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head” (p. 226).

Co-author Ted Kluck’s chapters were a very different sort of read. Kluck’s style is very much the everyman-journeyman sort of tale, wherein he lays out why he loves the church—even when it’s hard. He shares his family’s struggle with infertility, which is difficult enough, but only made more apparent when one is a member of a Reformed church where the average family is 6.5 children and most every woman is pregnant at the same time. He shares his interaction with John Marks, a man who was raised in the church and became an atheist. Marks, along with Christian filmmaker friend Detweiler, made the film Purple State of Mind. He shares insights from Chuck Colson, whose words for those who would meddle unnecessarily with doctrine are sharp, and from Art Monk and his son, whose faith has impacted his son in a way that I think most of us who are dads all desire. Perhaps the most impactful for me was his epilogue, a letter to his 5-year-old boy, Tristan. An excerpt from this:

Church isn’t a magic pill you take, that punches your ticket for heaven. Nor is it a glorified social/country club you attend to be around people who talk/think/look/act like you do. It’s a place to go each week to hear the Word of God spoken, taught, and affirmed. It’s a place to sing praises to our God, even if those songs do sometimes feel a bit awkward. It’s a place to serve others. It’s a place to be challenged. Sometimes you’ll feel uncomfortable with those challenges, because sometimes your life will need ot change. This has been the case with me. (p. 203)

The Church is difficult. The Church is challenging. But the Church is where we all come together to learn, praise and serve our great God and Savior.

I love the Church. Do you?


Title: Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion
Authors: Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
Publisher: Moody Publishers