Archives For *Brief Reviews*

 

The Gifts and Limits of Self-Care
 
A Review of 
 

Four Gifts:
Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength
April Yamasaki

Paperback: Herald Press, 2018
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Review by Danielle Davey Stulac

 

It was the second year of graduate school, and I was four months into a grueling regimen of eight-hour per day reading sessions—a grueling regimen for which I sacrificed meals, fresh air, exercise, sleep, and friendships. I had grown accustomed to ignoring my body and its basic needs in order to stuff my mind with as much knowledge as possible. But that day, as I finished a lunch break and mounted the stairs of the library for the second half of my daily reading session, I sensed a nudge from God: “go get a massage.” Though my back ached and exhaustion had already set in, I resisted. Surely, I didn’t have time or money for something as frivolous as a massage. After a short wrestle with these thoughts, I decided to do it (having learned from experience the folly of ignoring such nudges). To my surprise, as the masseuse pressed her hands against my tense shoulders, I began to cry—long, heaving sobs. That such a small moment of care elicited tears that woke me up to the self-destructive nature of my attempt to be a disembodied mind for the duration of my exam year. I realized that I could not ignore my body, let alone soul. For my mind to function, I needed my whole self to be well. I needed to live wholeheartedly.

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“This Kindly Working Love”
 
A Review of 
 

The Farm
Wendell Berry

 
Hardback: Counterpoint, 2018
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
 
 
The newly released book The Farm by Wendell Berry is a worthwhile purchase simply for its beauty. A trade reprint of the hard-to-find letterpress edition by Kentucky’s Larkspur Press, this new book retains the elegance of the original in both its design and its monochrome drawings by Carolyn Whitesel.

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The Saint in Vivid Color
 
A Brief Review of 

St. Francis and the Animals:
A Mother Bird’s Story

Phil Gallery
Illustrated by Sybil Mackenzie

Hardback: San Damiano Books, 2018
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
 

“These stunning illustrations and the engaging text describe how Francis related to a great variety of animals. This book is sure to spark valuable conversations.”
-Fr. Pat McCloskey, OFM

Narrated by Mother Bird, this picture book is an elegantly-illustrated retelling the familiar stories of St. Francis and his interaction with the animals.

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Honest, Knowledgeable Answers
to Pressing Science Queries
 
A Brief Review of 

Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs,
and Zombies: Youth Ministry
in the Age of Science
Andrew Root

Paperback: Fortress Press, 2018
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Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
 
 
Many individuals inside and outside of the church feel that science and faith are incompatible.  An oft-repeated story is that of the active youth group member who heads off to the state university only to have their Christian faith shredded by a professor.  However, these questions are bubbling to the surface at an earlier age as high school and even junior high students, particularly in our STEM-obsessed society, are faced with these issues.  Church members, parents, and church staff, particularly youth ministers, are often unprepared to face the questions young people raise and can easily fumble the question.  Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies: Youth Ministry in the Age of Science provides a much needed and engaging resource to help with these questions.

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A Nerdy Faith
 
 
A Brief Review of
 

Faith Across the Multiverse:
Parables from Modern Science

Andy Walsh 

Paperback: Hendrickson, 2018.
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Reviewed by Fred Redekop
 
 
Andy Walsh writes his new book Faith Across the Multiverse: Parables from Modern Science, for an audience to which I do not belong (at least in this present universe). Walsh has a PhD in microbiology and has done postdoctoral work in computational biology. Suffice it to say that he is a scientist, and also a deep thinker about the intersections of both science and faith.

I had trouble getting through much of the science that Walsh offers, and admit to having skimmed many parts of the book, particularly the four chapters: “The Language of Mathematics,” “The Language of Physics,” “The Language of Biology,” and “The Language of Computer Science.” I took my last science or math course in Grade 12, so I am not well-versed in this kind of language at all. I have a great interest in science questions, and I do not think that science and faith are opposites. They should be able to be discussed as ways to understand God, but I know that many people see them as archenemies of theological conversation.

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Beyond Evangelicalism:
Finding Spiritual Renewal in the Ancient

A Review of 

Theosis: Patristic Remedy for Evangelical Yearning
at the Close of the Modern Age
Michael Paul Gama

Paperback: Wipf & Stock, 2017
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Reviewed by Cynthia Beach

 

 

When Dr. Michael Gama told me about his book beneath a patio umbrella one April day in Portland, I listened. I could relate.

Dissatisfied with the faith expression of my church heritage? Check.

Hungering for a faith that permitted more mystery, more God? Check.

Gama, whose pedigree includes the likes of Fuller Seminary (MDiv) and George Fox Evangelical (Doctorate of Ministry), keenly examines evangelicalism itself and his own journey beyond.

Early chapters explore the shifts in philosophical zeitgeist that became the soil, roots and structures for the blossoming of evangelicalism.

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Christ-like Thinking
about Religious ‘Others’

 
A Review of
 

A Christology of Religions
Gerald O’Collins, SJ

 
Paperback: Orbis Books, 2018.
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Reviewed by Leroy Seat
 
 
Australian Jesuit priest Gerald O’Collins was from 1973 to 2006 a professor of systematic theology and of what Roman Catholics call “fundamental theology” at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The author of many scholarly theology works, O’Collins (b. 1931) has now written another book, a slim volume that attests to his scholarship and to his stature as a theologian.

O’Collins begins his book by stating that the term “theology of religions” has been used at least since 1959, but no one has previously proposed a “Christology of religions.” This book is his attempt to sketch the contours of the latter term.

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Weaving a Life of
Relationship and Experience

A review of

Mentoring: Biblical, Theological, and Practical Perspectives
Dean K. Thompson /
D. Cameron Murchison, Eds.

Foreword by Jill Duffield
Afterword by Martin Marty

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2018
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Reviewed by Jennifer Burns Lewis
 
Every now and then one encounters a resource that provides a treasure trove of information and perspectives that enhances one’s ministry and life. Mentoring is just such a resource. Educators, parents, seminary staff, field education supervisors, spiritual directors, coaches, denominational leaders and everyone called to nurture and encourage relationships with emerging Christian leaders — as well as the emerging leaders themselves — will find thoughtful reflections from multiple angles as they seek to mentor, understand the mentoring process, or assist those merging leaders in identifying great mentors.

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A Reality Experienced

 

A Review of

In the Middle of Things: Essays
Meghan Florian 

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Mark Jenkins

 

I sometimes wonder if one of the greatest accomplishments in life is to arrive at the age of 60 a less grumpy person than one was at the age of 30. If so, I have failed. Because grumpy is probably the best word to describe myself when I first laid hands on Meghan Florian’s collection of essays, The Middle of Things.

I hasten to add that my ill-temper had nothing to do with the content of this book. It was more the promise made by the publisher on its back cover: “In the tradition of classic essayists from Virginia Woolf to Annie Dillard…” It is, of course, the standard overpromise intended to sell books.

Not unsurprisingly, The Middle of Things doesn’t (quite) live up to that promise. Nonetheless, the further I read in Florian’s essays, the greater I came to enjoy her company. This young author may not – yet – be a new Dillard or Woolf, but her voice is clear, strong, and often compelling.

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A Glimpse into
the Pope’s Mind and Heart
 
A Review of

With the Smell of the Sheep:
The Pope Speaks to Priests, Bishops and Other Shepherds
Giuseppe Merola, ed., 

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2017
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Reviewed by James Dekker

 

Considering that the Roman Catholic Pope is commonly called “the Holy Father,” it might come as a surprise that Pope Francis has been the target of pretty unholy criticism from certain church leaders, lay and ordained. First Things, the journal founded by the late Richard John Neuhaus—once progressive Lutheran pastor turned conservative Catholic priest—regularly publishes articles sharply opposed to Francis’ speeches, writings, theology and activities.

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