Archives For *Brief Reviews*

 

Finding God in All Matters

A Review of 

The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength
Leslie Leyland Fields, editor

Paperback: Kregel Publications, 2018
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Reviewed by Cynthia Beach

 

Voices of friends, I thought, as I read essay after essay in The Wonder Years on topics as diverse as horses to letting go, body image to domestic violence.  And those doing the speaking are some of my favorite friends, too: Lauren Winner, Elisabeth Elliot, Brené Brown, Ann Voskamp, Madeleine L’Engle. These names are among the thirty-five other “over 40” women writers who contributed essays to the latest anthology from the deep-thinking author Leslie Leyland Fields.

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Courageous Honesty

A Review of 

Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life
Jack Deere

Hardback: Zondervan, 2018
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Reviewed by Matthew R. Bardowell

 

There is a moment in Jack Deere’s memoir that illustrates what is perhaps the book’s main theme. A 10-year-old Jack sits in his living room amidst the family’s Christmas presents. Young Jack unwraps “a sturdy, vinyl blue and yellow model airplane with a small engine” (p. 26), but what he really wanted for Christmas was a larger balsa wood biplane with a big engine. The model plane he received was for beginners, and Jack, with the outsized confidence of the very young, did not consider himself a beginner. Naturally, he is disappointed, and his disappointment soon curdles to resentment. He is sent to his room. Later in the day, as he flew his vinyl plane, young Jack “crashed it after every takeoff” (27). Recollecting this scene, Deere remarks: “I was surrounded by [. . .] gifts, unable to feel anything but anger at what wasn’t there—an object of desire that I would have destroyed” (27). In these moments, Deere’s memoir is nearly Augustinian in its insight into the fallen human condition. The vinyl airplane is his pear tree.

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Spreading like Wildfire
 
A Review of

From Jerusalem to Timbuktu:
A World Tour of the Spread of Christianity
Brian Stiller

Paperback: IVP Books, 2018.
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Reviewed by Leroy Seat

 

Timbuktu, now one of the eight administrative regions of the Republic of Mali in West Africa, has long been used, as author Brian Stiller points out, “as a metaphor for a far-away and unreachable place.” But Timbuktu has literally become the geographical center for worldwide Christianity, which is a major emphasis of Stiller’s book. Especially in the last six or seven decades, Christianity has grown and spread in such a manner that now its “center” is farther south than it has ever been.

Stiller, a Canadian born in 1942, is well qualified to write a book on the growth of Christianity outside the North Atlantic countries over the past century. Since 2011 he has served as Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance. In that position he has traveled extensively and has had contact with numerous Christian leaders, churches, and movements outside of North America.

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Nearer to the Heart of God
 
A Review of 
 

God in Disguise
Trudy Taylor Smith

Paperback: CreateSpace, 2018
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Reviewed by Kelly Treleaven
 
 
As a teacher in the American South living in an upper middle class neighborhood and wrestling with my own religious identity, I didn’t expect to feel as personally moved as I did by an account from a Christian missionary seeking solidarity with the poor in India. But that’s exactly what good memoirs do, they connect: across continents, through spaces and experiences and beliefs. With admirable narrative dexterity and piercing vulnerability, Trudy Smith relates her spiritual and physical journey in a way that will reach those longing to hear God’s voice, especially those who may suspect they are unworthy of hearing it, incapable of interpreting it, or deaf to it altogether.

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A Voice Crying in the Wilderness. 
 
A review of

I Pledge Allegiance:
A Believer’s Guide to Citizenship in 21st-Century America
David Crump

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2018
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Reviewed by Trudy Smith

 

I grew up Southern Baptist in a small town in Texas. I still remember singing the fight songs of each branch of the military during patriotic worship services celebrating the Fourth of July or Veterans’ Day, and pledging allegiance to both the Christian and American flags that hung in the sanctuary. According to David Crump, this display of Christian nationalism demonstrates that rather than being immersed in the gospel Jesus preached, I was instead awash in the kind of dangerous “civil religion” that characterizes much of the American church today.

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Breaking and Making Images
 
A Review of 
 

Image and Presence: A Christological Reflection on Iconoclasm and Iconophilia
Natalie Carnes

Paperback: Stanford UP, 2018
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
 
 
To write words on a page, or to draw an image, is to restrict and confine. The full presence of a person, creature, or object can never be confined in this representation, and yet they are present in powerful ways in the representation. These dynamics of the specific limits of an image, and the presence that is contained in the same image, are central to Natalie Carnes’s insightful new book Image and Presence: A Christological Reflection on Iconoclasm and Iconophilia.

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Wonder, Whimsy,
and Mystical Love

 
A Review of
 

The Canticle of the Creatures for Saint Francis of Assisi
Luigi Santucci

Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2017.
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Reviewed by Bailey Shannon

 

The Canticle of the Creatures for Saint Francis of Assisi entered my life in the most appropriate and timely way. I recently started an internship at a wilderness academy where I instruct children in nature connection and (hopefully) instill in them a love and passion for the natural world. Whenever we walk down to the river, we pass a house with a yard full of herbs and perennials, trees and trinkets, and beautiful garden decor. One of the decorations is a four-foot-tall statue of Saint Francis. The children greet him as we pass by; I like to think he is giving us his blessing.

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This is a fascinating new book
that released last week…

 

The Art of the Wasted Day
Patricia Hampl

Hardback: Viking, 2018
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Listen to Maureen Corrigan’s review
from NPR’S Fresh Air:

 
(Anyone here reading or finished this book?
I appreciate the Sabbath-like dimensions of this idea,
but do wonder the degree of privilege it takes to waste a day — or substantial portion of it?)

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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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