Posts Tagged ‘David Housholder’

That Time When I Met David Housholder

After working with David Housholder (aka Hous) for nearly a year, we finally met in person in Dallas on Tuesday. Hous and his wife, Wendy, were in Dallas for a conference. So my guys and I drove up to have dinner with them.

The funniest thing about meeting Hous in person was the first thing he said to me, “You’re so tiny!” I knew he was tall because he often mentions his height, but I guess I don’t exactly broadcast the fact that I’m rather short. It does just go to show though, that my personality is “larger than life.”

Over at Life & Liberty, I posted a longer version of the story of how we met online and started working together; that post is under the title, The Joy of Meeting People Online (click the title to read that post). But I thought it would be fun to share a couple pictures with y’all right here.
05-27-2014 Hous & Jen

Hous and I, you know, just hanging out in Dallas.


05-27-2014 Epic Tinker-Housholder Summit

The Whole Gang at the Epic Tinker-Housholder Summit: (from left) My husband-David, Me, Hous’s wife-Wendy, my son, Hous


A Vision for Loving Community

Every human is infinitely and equally valuable. We don’t raise that value by achieving more than others. Our creator creates us equal.

I don’t work with these children because I’m better than these “needy” kids and want to “help” them with my superiority. Instead, I create a loving community with them to celebrate our equality and shared human fellowship. I level the playing field so we can unlock our gifts together.

–Kati in The Blackberry Bush by David Housholder

See my previous post for my review of The Blackberry Bush.

In the Thick of It: A review of The Blackberry Bush novel by David Housholder

David Housholder takes some real risks with The Blackberry Bush–risks that yield sweet results.

20130809-204303.jpgNOTE: I received a signed copy of The Blackberry Bush novel as a gift from the author, David Housholder. We are friends and we work together at Life & Liberty, which is Housholder’s online magazine. His gift of this (and his other book) was with no strings attached. I am under no obligation to give a positive review of the book. 

The Blackberry Bush
is the coming of age story of Kati and Josh, two young people whose destinies are intertwined. The characters were born on the same day and are distantly related. But they live on separate continents and have no concrete knowledge of one another until a brief and life-changing encounter in their early twenties.

The book repeatedly mentions blackberry bushes: characters walk among the bushes, get scraped by the thorns, etc. Housholder uses the blackberry bush symbolism to represent that which ensnares us in life. The challenges we face, the demands made of us, and the choices we make often grow out of control and it is hard to emerge from the bracken unscathed.

As Housholder leads us through the thicket with Kati and Josh’s stories, he personally risks some scrapes in the choices he has made as a storyteller. These risks prove to be fruitful for the reader.

Risk #1

The first major risk that Housholder takes with the novel is that of introducing a cast of characters that span generations and live on separate continents. The stories of numerous characters are woven in with the telling of Kati and Josh’s stories as we learn about their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and find out how Kati and Josh are related.

While telling so many stories in the space of one novel may be risky, I found each of the characters to be very interesting. I loved hearing the backstories of the choices of Kati and Josh’s elders that led to where they each wind up. If anything, I would enjoy learning even more about Kati and Josh’s parents. And I was especially intrigued by Josh’s grandmother, Adri.

To hear all of these stories, the reader is taken back and forth–through time and across continents. Housholder pulls this off beautifully. It helps that he provides a family tree that the reader can refer back to as the characters are introduced, and he makes effective use of the omniscient “Angelo” who narrates just enough to seamlessly weave the stories together.

Risk #2

A second big risk that Housholder makes is that he does not shy away from difficult realities of life. While the book’s central theme is deeply grounded in biblical truth and the main characters are Christians, Housholder does not try to sell the Christian life as all sunshine and puppies. Characters go to church faithfully while also wrestling with substance problems, thorny relationships, and troubling self-image.

This is risky on Housholder’s part because many Christians see struggles in life as a sign of weakness or lack of faith. Furthermore, a frequent criticism of Christians from those outside the faith is that they are just a bunch of hypocrites who say they believe in Jesus but fail to live up to his name.

Promotions of the novel promise that readers will find their stories in this book. Despite my friendship with the author, I was skeptical of this promise. I mean, how could my life possibly be reflected in a novel written three years ago by someone I just met last summer? Pluswhich, since the main characters are just kids, I didn’t think that I, as late-thirty-something, would have much to relate to. As much as I admire Housholder’s work and value his writing, I just could not imagine I would see myself in the book.

I was so wrong.

First of all, I found bits and pieces of both Kati and Josh’s stories with which I could personally relate. But I was especially taken aback by elements of other characters’ stories that felt intensely personal to me. The truth is, this book hit me in ways that I will not be writing about publicly–ever.

By exposing so many very real and very raw realities of our human experience, the book does keep the promise of readers each finding their own stories in it. The truth is we all have struggles–no matter how strongly we try to keep the faith. And as so much of my own life still seems so very much a work in progress, I feel very much that I personally am still in the thick of the blackberry bushes.

But Housholder does not leave Kati, Josh, and the others, or you and me, lost in the bracken. He gives us the hope of a God who seeks to free us from the entanglements of life.

Risk #3

The third big risk that Housholder takes is that of choosing to talk about God and faith in very ordinary language rather than distinctively Christian vocabulary. His language about God and faith is approachable even for those with minimal experience with the Christian faith. While church attendance is mentioned, and the name of Jesus is invoked in prayer, this book is not a sermon or a doctrinal statement about the Christian faith.

Consistent with my experience in working with Housholder, he seems, in the novel, to be more interested in the character’s spiritual experiences than with their theology. What Housholder or his characters believe about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is not given much detail.

Readers looking for a Christian novel to use as a glorified Gospel tract will be disappointed with The Blackberry Bush. On the other hand, readers looking for conversation about what it means to live fully for God will find this to be a brilliant discussion-starter.

The Fruit

Through the risks that Housholder takes with generations and geographies, acknowledging the entanglements of life, and fresh vocabulary for God and faith, he yields a thought-provoking and heart-warming novel. And while it stands on its own as a meaningful work of fiction, it can bear even more fruit for readers who do allow the stories in it to interact with their stories. This would work well as a springboard for personal journaling or for book discussion groups. Questions in the back of the book can help readers work through the major themes presented in the novel. I recommend reading and sharing The Blackberry Bush.


For more information about The Blackberry Bush, you can visit the novel’s website:

To read my reaction to Housholder’s other book, Light Your Church On Fire Without Burning It Down, click the title.

To order Housholder’s books, please visit his online store at Life & Liberty:

Confessions of a Lutheran Charismatic

Confessions of a Lutheran Charismatic OR What Happened to Me When I Read David Housholder‘s Book about the Holy Spirit

This is not a book review, this is the story of what happened to me when I read David Housholder‘s book, “Light Your Church on Fire Without Burning it Down.” Now if this were a real book review, it would be important to mention that I received this and Housholder’s other book as gifts from the author. Even so, it is well that you know about these being gifts. If anything, the gifting of the books gives me permission not to write a book review. Instead I can simply use the books as best suits me, as all good gifts are intended.

(If you don’t know who David Housholder is or why he might be inclined to gift his books to me, click here for the back story.)


Before I tell you what happened to me when I read the book, I will tell you briefly about the book itself. “Light Your Church on Fire Without Burning it Down” is about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Housholder names Lutheranism as his first spiritual language, but now considers himself fully bilingual with his second language being Pentecostal spirituality. The purpose of the book is to translate Pentecostal spirituality into terms that other Christians can understand.

Having grown up dual-enrolled at a folksy 1970’s Lutheran church plant on Sundays and a Charismatic Methodist youth group on many Wednesdays, I consider myself rather conversant in Charismatic spirituality even if not certain of all the lingo. Part of why I like working with Housholder is because he understands aspects of my spirituality that are less understood by many Lutherans. To be honest, I didn’t expect to have any major revelations while reading the book. I just wanted to see what my friend had written and maybe get a little better grasp on terminology that was missing from my vocabulary.

There were terms that he defined that I did not know. For instance I learned that “Pentecostal” refers to a specific movement started in the early 1900s whereas “Charismatic” refers to Christians of non-Pentecostal denominations with a more toned down version of the Pentecostal flavor of spirituality. I also learned that Pentecostals don’t use “it” as a pronoun for the Holy Spirit–they say “he.”

For those who are less conversant in Pentecostal spirituality, Housholder’s book covers the topic well. Housholder relates Pentecostal spirituality to concepts and events in scripture and traditional Christian spirituality. His conversational writing “de-mythologizes” Pentecostal spirituality and makes it approachable and understandable.

If this were a true book review I would probably go on to tell you some highlights of the book, I’d offer quotes and good things like that. I’d probably even tell you about the part of the book that made me uneasy, for the sake of good journalism. But this is not a book review. So, instead of all the proper treatment of a book I am going to tell you what happened to me after page seven.

What Happened after Page Seven

I was barely into reading the book, in just the first chapter, when I had to abruptly stop reading it and set it down. On page seven Housholder describes a healing meeting (healing ministry is described later in the book) in which he heard a woman start “singing over someone in tongues.” Housholder later defines “tongues” as a primal language of “expressing oneself vocally without the structure of grammar &/or vocabulary.”

The concept of tongues was not new to me–in fact, I was relatively certain I had prayed in tongues before. But only, when I did it it was always musical, like a song whose words I had never been taught. But I had never heard anyone outright acknowledge singing in tongues to be a real thing until I read page seven of Housholder’s book.

Since I didn’t know that anyone else thought of “singing in tongues” to be a real thing, and since any form of tongues is largely viewed with suspicion by many mainstream Christians, I kept it quiet. I mean that in at least two ways. First I kept it quiet in the sense that I didn’t tell a living soul that I could sing in tongues. Secondly, I kept it quiet in the sense that I didn’t do it very often. I largely squelched the gift–much to the impoverishment of my spirit.

It saddens me to have a gift that I don’t use. It’s like receiving a gift card for my favorite store, only every time I go to the store I find that I’ve left the gift card at home. If I’m lucky, I can pay out of pocket for my purchase if I have the cash on hand. But sometimes, I may have to forego a purchase because I forgot the gift card. But if only I had brought the gift card!

So, for me, the true gift of Housholder’s book closely parallels the gift he has given me creatively–the reminder and encouragement to use the gifts that God has given me. So, after reading page seven and hearing Housholder talk about the “singing in tongues” as a real thing, I put the book down and yielded to the gift.

The Spirit’s song came through me in all of its unintelligibility and it was beautiful. I myself do not know what the words were in English, but the theme of the song was something along the lines of, “My soul magnifies The Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior” from Luke 1:46. I felt a deep connection with God in the singing.

When my husband got home he became the first person I told about this ability. Before writing this I had occasion to mention it briefly to Housholder himself. And now, I am telling the whole Internet. The reason why I’m telling is because I am tired of leaving my gift card at home. I want to use all the gifts that God has given me to His glory.

And so, you see why this is not a proper book review. I am much too biased by Housholder’s influence in my life. Would that we all have people in our lives who bias us so strongly by their good will and generosity toward us. Would that we all have people in our lives whose gifts bring out the very best of ours.

To order your own copies of David Housholder’s books, please visit his online store:

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