Archives For *Brief Reviews*


Love and Care for ALL God’s Creation

A Review of 

Every Living Thing, How Pope Francis, Evangelicals and Other Christian Leaders Are Inspiring All of Us to Care for Animals 
Christine Gutleben, Editor.

Paperback: Front Edge, 2015
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Review by Alexander Steward


As we look across the Christian landscape within the United States there are many denominations with varying degrees of theology which guide their doctrine and practices. It is the hope of many to be able to work on an ecumenical level with our sisters and brothers in Christ. We do not always have the pleasure of doing so as we let our differing opinions get in the way of what is better for our communities.

The collaboration of Every Living Thing brings many denominational statements and beliefs around creation care into one convenient resource. While at times we tend to get into a theological war of words, it is nice to be able to see where our common beliefs align and build a foundation to reach out in common care for all of creation. While there definitely are apparent differences when we discuss the specifics, it does not mean that we end up mostly at the same conclusion.

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I wrote brief reviews of the following books that were released this week:

by C. Christopher Smith, editor of The Englewood Review of Books
Becoming Wise:
An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

Krista Tippett
* * * * * (out of 5 stars)

Imagining a more meaningful and more elegant way of life.
Krista Tippett, the host of public radio’s On Being, weaves threads of her own story with sizable clips of interviews from the show to offer us a rich vision of what it might look like for us to become wise in the twenty-first century. This book is especially recommended for those who yearn for something deeper than the daily grind of consumerism in which we are all too often ensnared. Tippett helps us loosen our bonds and imagine a more meaningful and more elegant way of life.

You Are What You Love:
The Spiritual Power of Habit

James K.A. Smith
* * * * * (out of 5 stars)

Taking a hard look at who and what and how we love.
We are constantly being formed by the choices we make and by our day-to-day relationships. This is the central idea at the heart of You Are What You Love. Given that we are always being formed by the people and things surrounding us, Smith argues that the church community should be at the very heart of our formation as Christians. This important book challenges us to take a hard look at who and what and how we love.

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Persistence is the Key.

A Review of 

The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance
Bethany Hanke Hoang / Kristen Deede Johnson

Hardback: Brazos Press, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]


Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee


Young Latin scholars, René Padilla and Samuel Escobar stood before a sea of evangelical leaders at the first Lausanne International Congress in 1974 and reminded these leaders that while the proclamation of the Gospel continued to be a critical aspect of both local and global mission, it was insufficient without attending to biblical justice in local communities and around the world. By many, they were applauded. By many, they were derided. Today Padilla and Escobar’s message is embraced by many evangelicals, especially passionate youthful ones. The Justice Calling is a simple book that follows in the line of increasing succession to encouraging evangelicals towards justice. Proclamation is no less important now, but justice has claimed its rightful place in integrated tandem, letting the words of the mouth work in conjunction with the deeds of compassion.

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The ‘Medicine of Mercy’

A Review of 

The Name of God Is Mercy: A Conversation with Andrea Tornielli
Pope Francis

Translated from the Italian by Oonagh Stransky
Hardback: Random House, 2016.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle  ]

Reviewed by Roger Dowdy


We need mercy! We need healing! “We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this: we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption. Today people try to find salvation wherever they can…..turning to many fallible things, seeking hope and compassion – someone who listens and cares. This is what I call the ‘apostolate of the ear’” – the ‘medicine of mercy’ (16-17).

Though I am not Roman Catholic, as an ordained Deacon I have been spiritually and missionally captivated by Pope Francis – his life story, his teaching and proclamation, and the vital public example of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. This humble ‘activist’, priest, cardinal, now Pope of the Church in Rome, embodies the essence of Jesus, the one who came to extend God’s mercy to all. Pope Francis is a magnification of prophet Micah’s directives for living according to God’s will [Micah 6: 6-8 CEB]: With what should I approach the Lord…God on high? [God] has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.

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Going Deeper with C.S. Lewis’ Books
A Review of 

Reading C. S. Lewis: A Commentary
Wesley Kort

Hardback: Oxford U.Press, 2015
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Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
Many people have extremely positive or negative feelings regarding C.S. Lewis. Wesley A. Kort attempts to take a middle ground in his work Reading C.S. Lewis: A Commentary.  Dr. Kort, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Duke University, emphasizes multiple times throughout the work that he is “neither a devotee nor a detractor” (vii) and indicates his study of Lewis arose from students requesting a class on Lewis.  For this reason before embarking on a journey through this book, it is imperative that readers actually read the preface and other front matter rather than turning immediately to the first chapter.  Doing so prepares the reader for Dr. Kort’s attempted objective attitude and the approach he takes to Lewis.

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We Cannot Wait Till Tomorrow

A Review of

The Great Chasm: How to Stop Our Wealth from Separating Us from the Poor and God.
Derek Engdahl

Servant Partners Press, 2015.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed By Paul D. Gregory

People read books for various reasons. Maybe you read romance novels to be “swept away to a distant land.” Or maybe you enjoy a book that is set in the mountains and is wet with beautiful imagery of mountain peaks, blue skies and crisp clean air. Still others may enjoy stories with happy endings because they like to imagine themselves in the heroine’s role (wouldn’t everyone love to be Tom Cruise at the end of the movie Jerry Maguire). And still others read books hoping to find answers to life’s big questions.

There is a good chance that you will not be fond of the message contained in Derek Engdahl’s The Great Chasm. There’s an even better chance that you will not enjoy some of the imagery he uses to describe the slums of Manila, Haiti or Mexico. And many of you won’t be thrilled to read about servant living and/or the importance of giving up things we don’t need. And many readers will finish Engdahl’s book with a nagging pain in their side, as they acknowledge their own failure to have compassion for those in need.

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To Reflect, To Breathe, To Unravel

A Review of 

Earning Innocence: A Novel
Andrew Taylor-Troutman

Paperback: Resource Publications, 2015
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Reviewed by James Compton

Do you remember when you were in elementary school if you saw your third grade teacher at the grocery store or the bank or the shopping center it was just the strangest thing ever? Teachers aren’t supposed to be normal people. They’re supposed to live at school and only care about homework, right? Not exactly. Just like pastors don’t live at the church. But sometimes it can come to seem that way, which is why Andrew Taylor-Troutman’s novel Earning Innocence is so helpful in learning the real life struggles and joys that come with being a pastor.

Taylor-Troutman states, “So much of prayer is a calling to mind,” and in his novel he delivers the road map to navigate a pastor’s mind, a path that is not without roadblocks nor detours. However such obstacles can be overcome with active prayer, with a calling to mind the presence of our everyday situations. As the story dives into the mind of Reverend James Wheeler, we learn about the life of a pastor as one who not only prepares to give sermons on Sundays, but also one who makes home visits, who delivers funeral services, who is a husband and a father.

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A Slow-unfolding, Meditative Walk

A Review of

Roots & Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons
Christie Purifoy

Paperback: Revell, 2016
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Reviewed by Shari Dragovich


I have spent the majority of my adult life journeying home. In 1997, I married my high-school sweetheart. Neither of us were finished with school. We lived in two different apartments by the time my husband graduated medical school in 2000 and was launched into active duty service with the U.S. Army. Over the next thirteen years we lived in five more houses across the country. With each move, I tried my best to thrive where God planted me. Yet, during all those years I held deep within the longing for arrival; the hope of a land I could call home. A place I might grow deep roots rather than the shallow ones easily pulled free. I wondered, though, as a Christian were my thoughts sinful? Hadn’t I been taught this world is not my home? Was it possible my longings were just that—my own—and never God’s intention for me this side of eternity?

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Bringing Forth Important Questions
A Review of 

Boundless: What Global Expressions of Faith Teach Us about Following Jesus
Bryan Bishop

Paperback: Baker Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee
Follower of Jesus or Christian? Is there a difference?

We all know somebody (or perhaps are that person) who says, “I’m not a Christian. I’m a follower of Jesus.” And in many ways, we see such a disassociation from the church as a copout, an individualistic and consumerist distancing from organized religion to distinguish oneself as the more faithful follower. I played with the distinction for a while. Ultimately I rejected it, because, the church and being a Christian is, contextually appropriate for my situation.

The same cannot be said for hundreds of people who follow Jesus in the negotiation of their local regional and religious contexts. Bryan Bishop, in Boundless: What Global Expressions of Faith Teach Us about Following Jesus, explores insider movements and seeks to discern how one negotiates a separation of the Christian identity from that of follower of Jesus.

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The Deep Waters of Suffering

A Review of 

The Mystery of Suffering
Hubert van Zeller

Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2015
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]
Reviewed by Charlotte Donlon
I have been a member of a Reformed, Protestant church since I became a Christian twenty years ago, but I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the wisdom I’ve gleaned from other Christian traditions. Ever since I was introduced to Benedictine spirituality in Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk, I have sought out others who write from a similar perspective. Benedictine monks’ commitment to praying the Psalms and practicing lectio divina, silence, and solitude appealed to me as a young mother of two small children, and it continues to appeal to me now ten years later. In a world that largely discourages a contemplative lifestyle in favor of busyness and achievement, the Benedictines have taught me how to rest and receive.

So it was with a sense of appreciation and expectation that I approached The Mystery of Suffering by Benedictine monk and sculptor Hubert van Zeller. This book was originally published in 1964 as Suffering in Other Words: A Presentation for Beginners. It was re-released and published with the new title in September of 2015.

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