Archives For *Brief Reviews*

 

Thoughtful, Committed Citizens Changing the World
 
A Brief Review of 

Battle for Bed-Stuy: The Long War on Poverty in New York City
Michael Woodsworth

Hardback: Harvard UP, 2016
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Reviewed by Leslie Klingensmith
 
 
Too often, we learn history as an impersonal set of dates, geographic locations, and the names of the major players.  While those academic facts are important, our collective past can potentially be much more alive to us in the present and, therefore, more helpful as we seek solutions to the social ills that affect us all.  Historical writing is most effective when it is able present people and scenarios from the past in a way that humanizes those who were there and shows us how decisions made “at the top” actually changed the lives of ordinary people.

Michael Woodsworth, in his book Battle for Bed-Stuy:The Long War on Poverty in New York City, makes a credible attempt to look at one community through a period of decades.  He analyzes Bedford-Stuyvesant’s (“Bed-Stuy”) efforts to combat poverty and remain a safe, vibrant, appealing place for people to live.  Battle for Bed-Stuy is especially useful for learning how President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty legislation and its programs played out in a real community populated by people committed to improving their surroundings and their lives.

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Let them Flow in Ceaseless Praise
 
A Brief Review of 

Moments & Days:
How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith
Michelle Van Loon

Paperback: NavPress, 2016.
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Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
 
 

As individuals and families turn the calendar to December, thoughts turn to Christmas, and for some, Advent.  Celebrations of Advent and Christmas may cause some to wonder about the remaining seasons of the Christian year.  The celebration of Chanukah may cause thoughts of wonder about the Jewish year as well.  For individuals who wish to learn more about the Jewish and Christian year, Michelle Van Loon, best known as a Her.meneutics blogger, recently published Moments & Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith.

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Dying for the Faith

A Review of 

Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship
Charles Moore / Timothy Keiderling, Eds.

Paperback: Plough Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Fred Redekop

 

Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship is a disturbing book. The book comes out of a project called Bearing Witness conducted at Goshen College ( a Mennonite college ). The foreword is written by two people from Goshen College, John Roth and Elizabeth Miller.  Charles Moore and Timothy Keiderling have organized the stories into time periods. The book begins with two stories of Stephen and Polycarp, and the first chapter is about Christians who live out their faith in the presence of the Roman Empire.

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Called to A Life of
Care, Faith, and Love

 
A Review of

Here I Am:Faith Stories of Korean American Clergywomen
Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Paperback: Judson Press, 2015
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Reviewed by Pam Kittredge
 
 
 
Whenever stories are told and collected, it is important to ask who is doing the speaking and the collecting. Is it the loudest, most dominant voice–the voice of power–that is heard and accepted as representative of the collective story? What about the voices of the not so powerful? The voices not often heard outside their own community? How are those voices to reach us? Who will listen to and collect those stories?

In Here I Am:Faith Stories of Korean American Clergywomen, editor Grace Ji-Sun Kim does both. As editor, Kim listens. She draws into conversation a rich blend of cultural and theological and strands, then braids them skillfully together and collects them for us.

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Prepared to Act Faithfully As Christians
 
A Review of
 

A Letter to My Anxious Christian Friends: From Fear to Faith in Unsettled Times
David Gushee

Paperback: WJK Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Bailey Shannon
 
 
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have taken over the internet, TV channels, magazines, and every news source in the United States. Anyone who is not living under a rock has seen, heard, and participated in this painful presidential election.  There are many valid reasons for American Christians to be upset, anxious, and confused as it relates to the future of their country and the people living in it. One of the most important actions a Christian citizen of the United States can do is vote.  When we vote it should not be because of an unhealthy commitment to a political party or a blind following of some political figure. Our vote must be well-rounded, educated, and influenced by our commitment to Jesus.

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Places of Time, Attention and Togetherness
 
A Review of 

Come to the Family Table:
Slowing Down to Enjoy Food, Each Other, and Jesus

Ted and Amy Cunningham

Paperback: NavPress, 2016.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Janna Lynas
 
 
Looking back, it’s where I grew up: around a table, food the impetus that lured me in and fed my belly. But the people and the stories were what kept me there and fed my heart. Prayer first, food next, then a question asked or a memory shared.  The book cover condenses the main premise nicely: “The family table is where parents model Christ’s love, grandparents provide wisdom, children experience a sense of belonging and friends enjoy hospitality” And so Come to the Family Table, by Ted and Amy Cunningham shares personal experiences of a hurried lifestyle that caused an intentional slowing and time at the table with not only their children but the other people in their life that need their time and attention.

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A Faithful Journey.

A Brief Review of

The Pilgrim Journey: A History of Pilgrimage in the Western World
James Harpur

Hardback: Blue Bridge Books, 2016.
Buy now:  [ Amazon

 

Reviewed by Warren Hicks

 

In The Pilgrim Journey, James Harpur takes on the substantial task of summarizing the history of pilgrimage in the Western World. Given the slim volume he presents, I was dubious of just how well he would manage his objective. Given all of that, I think he pulls it off very well. Unlike the peregrinati or white pilgrims of the Celtic tradition, Harpur has a clear idea of his destination and moves there with alacrity, crisp language, and clear, compelling accounts of both legend and history while still allowing for the journey to inform as much or more than the destination. I consider that a faithful pursuit of pilgrimage and to be done efficiently in a book that could have easily been twice as long.

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One of this week’s best new releases

 
 

Here I Am: A Novel
Jonathan Safran Foer

Hardback: FSG Books, 2016
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Here is a clip from our review by Amy Neftzger
that will run in our next print issue:
(SUBSCRIBE NOW and don’t miss this issue).

Love is integral to life and this idea is prevalent throughout the novel. In most cases love is a struggle for us as we figure out how to best love our spouses, children, parents, and others. As part of finding his identity, Jacob attempts to learn how to give and receive love. He wrestles with this, just as we all do, and he tries in his imperfect manner to reason out the best way to demonstrate love, knowing that that intent and perception may be two very different things. Eventually he comes to the conclusion that without love each of us will die. However, each of us will also die with love, but not all deaths are equal. Love won’t make anything last longer than it should, but love is essential. We all need it and it impacts the quality of our lives, as well as how we perceive our own deaths.

Listen to an NPR interview with the author:

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Reducing Suffering Where We Can
 
A Review of
 

Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith
S
arah Withrow King

Paperback: Zondervan, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]
 
 
Reviewed by Alisa Williams
 
 
As someone who was raised in a large Christian community that actively promotes the virtues of vegetarian and vegan diets, I was intrigued to learn about Vegangelical. I’ve been vegetarian my entire life – raised by parents whose faith led them to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle in early adulthood, and King’s premise that “animal stewardship is part of a holistic ethic of Christian peace and justice” is I something I wholeheartedly agree with.

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Tiptoeing Into Ancient Spiritual Formation

 A Review of 

Transformed by God’s Word—Discovering the Power of Lectio and Visio Divina
Stephen Binz


(icons by Ruta and Kaspars Poikans)
Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 

Reviewed by C.S. Boyll

 

Catholic Bible scholar and speaker Stephen J. Binz, in Transformed by God’s Word—Discovering the Power of Lectio and Visio Divina, persuaded me to do something in Bible meditation that I’ve never done before. But, before I confess to what I did, let’s discuss Binz’s transformative possibilities for lay readers, both Catholic and Protestant.

I hope the Latin words Lectio Divina and Visio Divina don’t put off readers because of unfamiliarity.  Lectio Divina or “sacred reading” is simply meditating on a Bible passage with attentiveness to what the Holy Spirit desires to form in one’s heart and mind. Binz writes, “Rather than keeping scripture at a safe analytical distance, this formational reading leads us to personally encounter God through the sacred text. It opens us to personal engagement with God’s word. We involve ourselves intimately, openly, and receptively through what we read. Our goal is not just to use the text to acquire more knowledge, get advice, or form an opinion about the passage. Rather, the inspired text becomes the subject of our reading relationship, and we become the object that is acted upon and shaped by scripture. Reading with expectation, we patiently allow the text to address us, to probe us, and to form us into the image of Jesus Christ.”

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