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He Saw That It Was Good

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An absolute balm to the soul of creatives. Activism, faith, creativity and truth intersecting to help us have a real impact on the world, even when we are weary. recommended.
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He Saw That it Was Good
Eloquently stated, He Saw That It Was Good is a book to be re-read, even more slowly, in order to take it in more thoroughly.
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I had high hopes for this book, but it did not live up to them. Some sections are interesting and thought-provoking; others are neither. Some topics are addressed with care and nuance; others are dismissed with the barest of reductionist commentary. It swings from focussed and pointed to rambling and vague. I wish the whole thing lived up to the potential of the best parts.
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I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, but I"m glad I took a chance and requested it.  Using honesty the bible and music, the author helps us look things through different eyes, especially with race with regards to the church.  It's practical advice and a very easy read, but something that you will want to refer to and read again.  I really enjoyed this book.
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I did not know much about Sho Baraka but I heard an interview about this book and it cautivated me. I really enjoy reading "He Saw That It Was Good". It's beautiful, inspiring and challenging. Love his  insight about creativity and how to use what God has given you where you are. It is inspiring and challenging.
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( received complimentary e-copy from publisher )

As I read this book, I felt like I have just completed an extensive college seminar.  This is one book that I will refer to and recommend time and time again.  So much to think about and inspire.  While not PG - 13 in just a couple of places, so sensitive readers please take note.  Readers will come away ready to create just what the broken world needs to continue to heal.
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I sure hope this review can do this book justice.

Sho Baraka's He Saw That It Was Good: How Your Creative Life Can Change a Broken World is a mixture of poems, stories, anecdotes, and Biblical scripture. Essentially, it's a call to the Christian church to embrace other voices than "white", and it's a call to African-Americans to embrace the truth of their own stories and tell it.

Not gonna lie, I was a little confused as to where to book was going during the first two chapters. But after that, things started clicking. I wrote several notes in my GoodReads updates, and I took a lot of screenshots of favorite passages in my ebook version.

I'm not familiar with Sho Baraka's music, although now, of course, I'm going to seek it out. But I enjoyed reading about his experience making hip-hop music in the Christian music world, and how when he's being truthful in his craft, the Christian community doesn't always like that. (That reminded me of when Derek Webb used an expletive in one of his songs to make a point that Christians would be in an uproar over the use of that word as opposed to the hypocrisies he was calling them out on. He was right.)

The title of the book comes from the book of Genesis when "God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good." We are good. That's our true story. That's where our identity starts. That's our truth.

This book reminded me of a discussion that an old Bible study group of mine had about creating art that glorified God but also stayed true to the realities of the world we live in. Do we censor language even though that's how people talk? Do we create a sugarcoated happy world, even though that's not reality and won't resonate with anyone reading or viewing? Why are we creating? For money or for God? How can we reconcile our messiness to be good people and create works that do good? How can we recognize other cultures and other voices in what we create?

There are a lot of good takeaways in this book, and I'd encourage everyone (black and white) to read it.

He Saw That It Was Good is published by WaterBrook and is available to purchase now. I received a free eARC in exchange for my review.
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While I had never heard of the author before, I was intrigued by the title and description of this book. I'll also admit that I found the cover to be appealing, which, for better or for worse, is sometimes a factor in choosing my next read. In his book, He Saw That It Was Good, Baraka dives into tough issues in our American society and our world as a whole. He challenges the reader to think through some of this stuff, but never in a way that feels condescending or arrogant. He expresses the importance of viewing our stories in light of Christ and who He made us to be rather than who the world tells us we should be or who we'll never be because of our past or the past of our families or societies in general. Baraka's writing style is a unique mix of casual and easy to understand but also deep and theological. This is a book I've already recommended to a few people, and I think it will be one I continue to.
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This book is unique, intense, and deep. It requires soaking in the ideals of the author, pondering how to incorporate it into your life. One quote I think pulls out a lot of what the author is saying is this:
"What is the story I’m telling with my life and work? Or asked another way, How do my life and work paint what I believe about God?"
Using the creativity given to all of us, in some form or another, what story are we telling people about the God we serve and the people whose lives we might enrich through that creative means? I'll be rereading this book for a while, thinking about the things shared in it, hoping that I am using what God gave me to touch as many lives and hearts for him as possible.
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This is a unique book on race issues and faith and music.
It is a combination of race issues in light of the author's faith, and race issues he faced as a Christian musician who is Black. There was more about music in this book than I expected, but Sho Baraka is a musician, so that is what he knows -- makes sense. I enjoyed seeing his perspective on race issues based on his faith. He has a strong faith in Jesus! I wasn't expecting that. The book was interesting. I just didn't follow most of the music discussion, because I am not familiar with hip hop music, especially not Christian hip hop. Sho gives a different perspective on race issues than I have seen in other books on racial topics, so it is worth reading for another point of view. I received my copy from NetGalley, and was on the book launch team.
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Baraka self describes his book as mostly “musings about people, events, movements, and ideas that I believe could help us cultivate good work and creativity.” (297/335) The core of the book, he writes, is “how the stories we live shape the world around us.” (42/355) I found the book to be insightful and thought provoking, even if a bit rambling in its content. 

I'll share some observations and conclusions, noting that I am a white Christian having had experiences in the evangelical, Charismatic, and nondenominational tribes of Christianity. Baraka challenges readers to understand the importance of our tribe in forming our stories and how those stories shape up. He encourages us to have our stories begin with the image of God, forming the basis. He challenges our theology and shares his experiences in Reformed doctrine, appreciating the theological growth but noting the disconnectedness from his heritage. He notes that the church should include consideration of people from all economic and social areas. Christianity is not a religion for only the privileged. “Christianity cannot work for the palace and not the peasant.” (186/355) The church needs the powerful and diverse expressions of faith, from a variety of people and tribes.

Baraka is a controversial artist. He believes writers and artists are to be honest about their expression of the world. This includes language some might feel offensive. Some of his music has been banned from Christian retail outlets because of the language used. He uses some of that language in this book too, noting it is not for shock value but as an honest expression of life. 

This book is a rambling collection of Baraka's thoughts on a variety of subjects. I thought it would be more about being a creating Christian. He does give seven principles that he says will move people to a blessed creative life near the end of the book. These include such concepts as understanding God has given us gifts for the benefit of others and that we are to be content. His writing is more about our lives being a creative expression of who we are than about the traditional concept of being creative, such as in art or music.

I found this book to be a jarring wake up call to those of us living comfortably within our fold of evangelical exceptionalism. He writes here, and has recorded songs, reflecting his honest feelings about racism and misogyny. This book will be an uncomfortable read for Christians who want to sanitize their understanding of Christian life.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
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This was an outstanding book and one that accomplished it’s purpose—to make me feel uncomfortable.

It begins with a biblical admonition—to not think more highly of ourselves that we ought and thinking that, of course, out theology is right. Of course it isn’t. 

He guides us through misguided thinking gently—and sometimes not so gently. He gives us guidance on how to use our creativity for good. He starts with asking what we are making and why we are making it. Big questions.

He challenges and irritates, cajoles and soothes, but pushes.

I enjoyed this book very much and even listened to some of his music.

If you’re wanting to challenge yourself to make a change and make a difference, read this book.  Highly recommended.

I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for a fair review.
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I thought that this was very interesting and enlightening. I'm not necessarily a creator but I am looking to understand social justice and Christianity better. This was a good start and it's very well written and I imagine it would really impact someone who is a musician or other variety of creator.
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This book was my introduction to Sho Baraka. I know nothing of his music or communication style. But I found myself drawn to the pages of this book, wanting to read and know more about Baraka and his experience creating as a Black man in a largely white atmosphere. 

Baraka writes an incredibly insightful look at creativity and how it can be used to best preach to a broken world. I found myself highlighting things throughout the entire book, and beginning to think in new ways. There was a portion of the middle of the book where I felt the writing veered off-topic and into more of a history of the Black experience in America. I understand this is the lens through which Baraka creates,  but I felt like I didn't understand all of how that history truly impacted creativity. (This lead me to my 4-star review instead of 5). 

I think this book is well worth the time for anyone who finds themselves in any kind of creative endeavor. 


I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. This review is my own, honest opinion.
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As a fellow artist interested in creating truth and beauty in a broken world, this new book by Sho Baraka caught my attention. Having now read it, I'm thrilled and grateful to have spent time in its pages.

I was grabbed by the shirt collar beginning with the second line of the introduction—"We would each like to think we are part of the solution rather than the problem." Yowza! And yes!

In addition to being a globally recognized artist, Sho Baraka is a careful thinker, a committed student of the Bible and of life, and a gracious-but-unapologetic truth teller in an era when Truth is difficult to discern.

Each page rings with the honesty of a man who has lived and learned. In his words, "Dishonest stories haphazardly paint bull's-eyes on the backs of others."

Regardless of what your passion is—music, writing, painting, speaking—this book will give you a roadmap to cultivate your creative calling and impact the world for good.

"God is good. And one of the implications of being made in His image is that we were made to cultivate good."

I read a copy via net galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I honestly did not know what to expect with this book, but the title and premise caught me up in my tracks. I had never heard of Sho Baraka, as I don't typically listen to music that falls in the christian rap genre. (Although I know of Lecrae and Andy Mineo). Aside from this.... the subtitle "how your creative life can change a broken world" is the reason why artists, authors, poets, musicians do what we do. Any & every book on the market which mends faith & art is something I will DEVOUR. "He Saw That It Was Good" did not disappoint - just WOW!

We were made to create as we reflect the image of a creative God..... Sho Baraka's prose, storytelling, experiences, and honest incisive view into the life of a Christian faith as a creator of art... is just, WOW. From social injustices & personal mishaps you will be empowered to use resistance as an opportunity for creative expression and breakthrough; to learn greater of God, your own art in the world, and yourself. You will be CHALLENGED. In these pages, he wrestles with the complexity of humanity, and as he puts it, finds redemption in the dysfunction. A book about stories and how they shape society...a book about honesty and how we manipulate what is "good." An incredibly thought provoking, challenging, edifying read, no matter you background or current-ground. (Is that a phrase, a word?). Passionate, thoughtful, generous, he truly lives what he writes. Not your ordinary CCM artist nor your watered down sunday school teachings.... If that's what you expect in these pages, you will not find that here. It was really interesting to read of some of his experiences as a recording artist...asked to cut and edit out the bulk of some of his music, to take the raw depravity of humanity out of it for the sake of "what sells." But what if what we all need is someone to just show us ourselves? As the author puts it... "Relevance isn't based on how much you speak. It's measured by how much people listen when you speak. Is there gravity to your words?" Certainly, certainly that is found here. Also, my favorite may have been when he wrote about rest, contentment.... because "A lack of rest kills creativity." I made over 320 highlights in my kindle.

A few more favorite quotes.

"To be great in our work is to be humble"

"When we don't control our lives and work ,they control us. When we are no longer being transformed by the renewing of our minds, we become worshippers of our work."

"I find Christianity even more compelling because of its beneficial worldview. It keeps me motivated to operate in a world of corrupted ideals, systems, and people in need of a heavenly hope."

"Are we being honest? Or are we creating fragile Christians who don't know how to handle obstacles and pain? When they experience these things, they end up thinking the church was a liar the whole time."

"Our art replicates either the shallowness or the depth of our relationships with God and people."

"The more we sanitize the world, the more likely we are to be traumatized by its evil."

"If we never let light into the darkest places of our hearts and culture, our eyes will never have a chance to adjust. We will remain is a state of perpetual adolescence."

"The gospel is both confrontational and unifying. Lets' remember that, whether in the palace or in the desert, we may still be orphans."

"The gospel is real when we find ourselves loving our neighbors who don't fit our careful constructs. Our goal shouldn't be uniformity. It should be dignified tension and learning. On both sides."

.....And many, many more profound nuggets, if you will. Thank you to the kindle for the highlights feature that is easily stored in the notebook!

Drawing from the creation narrative of Genesis, this book is 10000/100. I cannot say enough about the words printed on these pages (or typed in your kindle, as I read it) HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!! Grateful to Netgalley & Waterbrook for an early copy to review.
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I knew very little about author, Sho Baraka, before reading this book. I did know he was a Christian rapper/musician. I found out he is also an excellent communicator, well-read, a poet, and a thinker/theologian.

This book is primarily about creativity and work/art. The opening of Baraka’s book was stellar. In spite of it being a fairly short book, there are so many quotes I would love to share. I’ll choose a few and you’ll just have to read the book yourself to not miss out on the others. I’ll begin with a quote that gives a general overview.

“The creative life seeks to produce or restore the blessings of a truth that benefits more than just ourselves. It seeks to reform our souls and society. It recognizes the evils around us while not allowing them to paralyze us. To do this work well, we must always be doing inventory on our hearts and hands...The creative life honors the Spirit that inspires us while fixing our eyes on a redemptive future in which God has invited us to participate.”

We must have a sober view of ourselves and others. Even King David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned against God and others. We need to tell the whole truth in our art, not just pieces of the truth.

“Everyone’s hero has the potential to be a villain to others. Work that seems good to you may be a curse to others. We must understand the complex composition of our lives. We have the propensity to be both heroes and villains. It is very possible for you to be an oppressor and a liberator...We sing the songs and praises of David. We read the gems of Paul. However, I’m sure Uriah’s relatives felt anger at the very mention of the king. I’m sure the family members of those persecuted by Paul had some contempt for his letters. Individuals are complex, and their legacies are complicated. How we tell their stories can have a bigger impact than the bloodshed itself.”

“Our work is spiritual because of how we work, not where we work.” Our daily faithfulness is of utmost importance. We must be faithful with little before we are ready to be faithful with much. Small things matter and compound over time. “People don’t wake up heroes; they decide to participate in daily practices that push them toward heroism.”
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I knew very little about author, Sho Baraka, before reading this book. I did know he was a Christian rapper/musician. I found out he is also an excellent communicator, well-read, a poet, and a thinker/theologian.

This book is primarily about creativity and work/art. The opening of Baraka’s book was stellar. In spite of it being a fairly short book, there are so many quotes I would love to share. I’ll choose a few and you’ll just have to read the book yourself to not miss out on the others. I’ll begin with  a quote that gives a general overview.

“The creative life seeks to produce or restore the blessings of a truth that benefits more than just ourselves. It seeks to reform our souls and society. It recognizes the evils around us while not allowing them to paralyze us. To do this work well, we must always be doing inventory on our hearts and hands...The creative life honors the Spirit that inspires us while fixing our eyes on a redemptive future in which God has invited us to participate.”

We must have a sober view of ourselves and others. Even King David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned against God and others. We need to tell the whole truth in our art, not just pieces of the truth.

“Everyone’s hero has the potential to be a villain to others. Work that seems good to you may be a curse to others. We must understand the complex composition of our lives. We have the propensity to be both heroes and villains. It is very possible for you to be an oppressor and a liberator...We sing the songs and praises of David. We read the gems of Paul. However, I’m sure Uriah’s relatives felt anger at the very mention of the king. I’m sure the family members of those persecuted by Paul had some contempt for his letters. Individuals are complex, and their legacies are complicated. How we tell their stories can have a bigger impact than the bloodshed itself.”

“Our work is spiritual because of how we work, not where we work.” Our daily faithfulness is of utmost importance. We must be faithful with little before we are ready to be faithful with much. Small things matter and compound over time. “People don’t wake up heroes; they decide to participate in daily practices that push them toward heroism.”

If you are a writer, artist or enjoy theology, you will appreciate this book. I received an ARC copy from the publisher and net galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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This was a fine enough book and it was really well written; however it just wasn't for me.....................
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