Archives For *Brief Reviews*

 

Accessible Silence
 
A Review of
 

Silence: In the Age of Noise
Erling Kagge

Hardcover: Pantheon, 2017.
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Reviewed by Bailey Shannon
 
Erling Kagge is a man of many talents. As an explorer, lawyer, art collector, publisher, and author, Kagge possesses rich knowledge that touches all parts of the human experience. In his most recent book Silence: In the Age of Noise , Kagge reflects on some his life experiences in an attempt to answer the following questions: What is silence? Where is it? Why is it more important now than ever?

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“What We Need Is Here”

A Review of

At Home in this Life:
Finding Peace at the Crossroads of Unraveled Dreams and Beautiful Surprises

Jerusalem Jackson Greer

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2017
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Reviewed by Sara Sterley

My husband and I lived in “little boxes suburbia” (a la the intro song to the television show Weeds) for ten years, spending countless hours scouring real estate listings for some property that we could turn into a small farm that was within our price range, expending plenty of angry energy toward the neighbors that complained about us not using chemicals on our lawn and turning over much of it to gardens, repeatedly trying to tell ourselves to be happy where we were planted. And then, one day, we found the home and land, if not of our dreams, at least about at that intersection of where our price range, desired location, and dreams met. There might have been lightning and trumpets sounding in the way we have told the story since. But At Home in this Life: Finding Peace at the Crossroads of Unraveled Dreams and Beautiful Surprises is not one of those stories, and I found it all the more refreshing because it wasn’t.

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How Do We Imagine the Resurrection?

A Brief Review of 

Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision
John Dominic Crossan / Sarah Sexton Crossan

Hardback: HarperOne, 2018
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith

I have spent a fair bit of time over the last year, reflecting on the differences between the way that the Trinity has been imagined in the Eastern and Western traditions of Christianity (and the ways the Eastern tradition of social trinitarianism might orient us toward a deeper, conversational life together). I was therefore curious when I heard the premise of Dom and Sarah Crossan’s new book Resurrecting Easter, which explores a different issue of theological representation that distinguishes the East from the West, namely the depiction of Jesus’s resurrection.

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Being Rather Than Doing
 
A Brief Review of 
 

Mindfulness and
Christian Spirituality:
Making Space for God
.

Tim Stead

Paperback: WJK Books, 2017.
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Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
 
 
 
Recently the topic of mindfulness is heralded on magazine covers, news sources, social media and may even be present in your local school classrooms.  All of this talk about mindfulness may leave a Christian wondering what is this and is this something that I can practice as a Christian? Tim Stead, Vicar of Holy Trinity in Headington Quarry, Oxford and a mindfulness instructor with the Oxford Mindfulness Center, answers these questions and others in his 2017 book Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality: Making Space for God.

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The Soul Damage of 
Fundamentalist Culture
 
A Review of
 

I Will Shout Your Name
John Matthew Fox

Paperback: Press 53, 2017
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Reviewed by C.S. Boyll

 

Using humor and tragedy, John Matthew Fox has published his first short story collection that inspects the foibles of fundamentalist culture and its soul damage.

 Fox is gentle with his characters’ psyches, although he doesn’t offer much, if any, spiritual power and solace. These believers make decisions with little awareness that Jesus will and does stick closer than a brother. I can’t deny that such outliers are among the Bride of Christ. Many readers have known at least one irritating person like “God’s Guerrilla” Randolf Hamilton. A retired missionary, Randolf still gives hellfire-infused speeches to youth groups, hooking their attention with stories about Bible-smuggling and snakebite survival.  Unfortunately, Randolf suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s. Ironically, losing his memories makes Randolf a better father and grandfather.

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The Genesis of a Hymnal
 
A Review of 
 

Auden, the Psalms, and Me
J. Chester Johnson

Paperback: Church Publishing, 2017
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Reviewed by David E. Anderson

 
 

Choosing a new hymnal is controversial enough for many congregations, so consider the emotions that surround revising a centuries-old Psalter. In the late 1960s the Episcopal Church (the U.S. member of the Anglican Communion) undertook a revision of their Psalter in parallel with revising their Book of Common Prayer. Work on the Psalter, which had been used with minor tweaks since the 1500s, began around 1968 and was completed in 1971, and work on the BCP concluded in 1979.

One of the original members of the committee charged with revising the Psalter was the English poet W. H. Auden (1907–1973), whose winter home was New York City in the late 1960s. Auden was intimately familiar with the Psalms from his childhood in the north of England, but as importantly (and not noted in the book reviewed here), he had written librettos, with his partner Chester Kallman, to be set to music for composers including Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky, and Hans Werner Henze.

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The Light Breaks Through.
 
A Review of

Wounds Are Where Light Enters: Stories of God’s Intrusive Grace
Walter Wangerin, Jr.

Hardback: Zondervan, 2017
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Reviewed by Alexander Steward
 

[ Our Recent Interview with Wangerin ]

 
Walter Wangerin has become one of the quintessential story tellers of this day and age. His stories break through the mundane and add a personal touch to everything that he shares. Whether his stories are based upon scripture or from his own personal collection reflecting upon his own experiences, he can connect with his readers and listeners as he offers the opportunity to enter the story as well.

In his newest collection of stories, Wangerin shares stories from his own family. Stories that helped shape him as a person of God. In these stories, the reader witnesses humanity. A humanity that resides in the ordinary. A humanity that resides in the sin and the brokenness of life. The stories are endearing and are a witness that Walter Wangerin is a human being just like anyone else. Too often, pastors are put upon pedestals in the eyes of their parishioners, forgetting that they too sin just like everyone else.

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Looking to Christ

A Brief Review of

The Spirit of Simplicity
Jean Baptiste Chautard

 

Translated by Thomas Merton
Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2017
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Reviewed by Josh Morgan
 
 

The Spirit of Simplicity has a compelling backstory: a 70 year old hidden text written by a famed French Cistercian, Jean-Baptiste Chautard, translated with notes by Trappist (a Cistercian branch) monk, Thomas Merton. In a world of complexity and loudness, simplicity for our lives and souls is compelling and increasingly popular.

The text itself is short: 114 pages of content, including 14 illustrations of monasteries, and 23 pages of notes from Merton. It is broken into two parts: The first being the aforementioned translation of Chautard’s The Spirit of Simplicity and the second excerpts from writings and speeches of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a leader of the Cistercian order, on the topic of interior simplicity, with added commentary by Merton. From a readability standpoint, the reader must remember this text’s place in history: Part 1 was written in 1920s French, translated into 1940s English, both with a target audience of the theologically trained monastic community. Bernard died in 1153. For readers familiar with dense mystical and theological texts, this time will seem familiar and accessible. For those looking for a simplicity self-help book, it will be a grind.

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Humble Confessions
 
A Review of

Presence and Process:
A Path Toward Transformative Faith and Inclusive Community
Daniel P. Coleman

Paperback: Barclay Press, 2017
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Reviewed by Josina Guess
 
 
 

First Confession:  I did not know that Process Theology was a thing until I read this book. In an interview with Tripp York on the Homebrewed Christianity podcast, Daniel Coleman said that he was looking for “Process Theology for Dummies” when he set out to write this book. Presence and Process does a concise job of introducing and distilling thoughts and concepts that are usually confined to academic circles. Coleman’s thorough research and careful gleaning of a wide variety of quotes from monks, nuns and masters throughout the ages offer lay readers lots of helpful nuggets of truth and could whet a reader’s appetite for deeper exploration. I still got a bit bogged down by the jargon, but appreciated that there were practical suggestions rooted in Christian teaching.

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Contagious Joy and Contentedness
 
A Brief Review of

The Round of a Country Year:
A Farmer’s Day Book
David Kline

 
Paperback: Counterpoint, 2017
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Reviewed by Bailey Shannon

 

When I first started reading The Round of a Country Year by David Kline I thought, “This is just an Amish man’s diary…”. Kline writes a short entry almost every day for a full year about life on his farm in Holmes County Ohio. I thought I would become bored after the first few pages.  However, I was quickly absorbed into this farmer’s poetic and meditative observations.

I never realized know how many birds visited rural northeast Ohio. Now, I know that there are at least the following species: towhees, cardinals, sparrows, rough-legged hawks, horned owls, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, Carolina wrens, blue jays, Cooper’s hawks, mocking birds, and cliff swallows. And as far as firewood goes, I learned a helpful poem that informs you which firewood to burn in the wood stove. The list of firewood include: beech-wood, chestnut, birch, ash, oak, poplar, apple wood, pear wood, and, as the poem warns, never use elm.

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