Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Standing on the Threshold

A Feature Review of 
Two New Advent Devotionals:

Celebrating Abundance
Walter Brueggemann

Compiled by Richard Floyd
Paperback: WJK Books, 2017
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and
 

Rise Up Shepherd!
Reflections on the Spirituals
Luke A. Powery

Paperback: WJK Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Pam Kittredge

 

Standing on the threshold between ordinary time and sacred time, we open our hearts and become ready to enter into the season of Advent.

Advent—the beginning of the Christian liturgical year—is a reminder to the faithful of the imminent and impending birth of Jesus. We are a people pregnant—with hope, with love, with the joy of God’s coming. In fact, the word advent—from the Latin, adventus—means just that: coming.

Advent is—or can be—a time of expectant waiting, a time of holy anticipation of the miracle of Jesus’s birth.

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Something Truly Magical

A Feature Review of

The Art of Flavor: Practices and Principles for Creating Delicious Food
Daniel Patterson / Mandy Aftel

Hardback: Riverhead Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Andrew Camp

 

Learning to cook starts with proper techniques, from knife skills to cooking techniques. With these tools in our arsenal, we are able, given access to the right ingredients, copy a recipe with relative success. However, to move beyond this level of cooking to experimenting with different flavor combinations is a whole different skill.

Unfortunately, most cookbooks tell us what to do without explaining why we should combine those flavors. Where are we home cooks to turn, then, to move beyond mechanistic cooking, relying on what others say to a more creative, confident home cooking where we can create food that is personal, fun, and attentive to who we are? Thankfully, Daniel Patterson, a chef, and Mandy Aftel, a perfumer, together hope to fill this gap with their newest book The Art of Flavor.

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The Present, Shameful Debacle.

A Review of

No One Cares About Crazy People:
The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America
.
Ron Powers

Hardback: Hachette Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Ben Brazil

 

*** LISTEN to an NPR interview
     with the author of this book… 

 

When Scott Walker was in the midst of his successful run for Wisconsin’s governorship, Milwaukee County Hospital faced allegations that its mentally ill patients had suffered vicious abuse. As Walker’s team worried about political fall-out – he was Milwaukee County executive at the time – an aid’s email offered reassurance.  “No one,” she explained, “cares about crazy people.”

Ron Powers’ new book, which draws its title from that callous phrase, provides infuriating proof that it is entirely accurate, as well as heartbreaking evidence that it is not.  On the infuriating side, Powers provides a nuanced, multi-layered history of the callousness, ignorance, greed, and ideological rigidities that have left the nation’s mentally ill in “conditions of atrocity” (xix).

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God, the Host
 
A Review of
 

Saved By Faith and Hospitality
Joshua Jipp

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017
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Reviewed by Bob Cornwall
 
 

*** This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s website,
     and is reprinted here with permission.  Browse his website
     for other excellent reviews!

Sola Fide!  The declaration that we are saved by faith alone has been one of the hallmarks of the Protestant tradition. There has long been an aversion to “works righteousness,” but this too often has led to what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” Perhaps, in our time, there is a need to reclaim a fuller biblical vision of salvation, one that is not merely individualistic, but that engages all of life, here on this planet. So, perhaps we would be well-served to speak of being saved by faith and “hospitality.” Such is the premise of Joshua Jipp’s profound and prophetic book.

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Or So I Like to Think:
The Great Talk of
David Bentley Hart

 
 

The Hidden and the Manifest:
Essays in Theology and Metaphysics

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017
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The Dream-Child’s Progress And Other Essays

Paperback: Angelico Press, 2017
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Essay by Martyn Wendell Jones

 

*** This essay first appeared in our Fall 2017 magazine issue.
     SUBSCRIBE NOW and be sure to receive our next issue.

 

There are few things as pleasing to me as the great garrulous tradition in American literature. Our country’s abundance of grandly verbose storytellers represents the best of our cultural inheritance. Think of Melville, the wild and abyssal “thought-diver,” author of one of the world’s greatest stories of maritime and metaphysical adventure; think too of Whitman, irrepressible and expansive and democratic, who shed tears at the death of Lincoln—“O Captain!”; then there is Twain, whose creation Huckleberry sees his raft go “all to smash and scatteration,” which the critic Michael Schmidt identifies as evidence of a thrill for great speech.

Since our nation’s founding, we have been a polemical people; Gilbert Seldes’s The Stammering Century, American to its core, is a record of people of the 19th century, some of real eminence, giving themselves over to various utopianisms and cultic enthusiasms—the snake oil pitches and True Enlightenment hustles mixing with earnest seeking after the God-of-backwoods-revival. Our nation’s complete spiritual history and profile would show us to be strivers after the ineffable by way of quite a lot of declaiming.

Numbered among our country’s current generation of great talkers would certainly be the Eastern Orthodox philosopher-theologian David Bentley Hart, whose two recent essay collections attest to his capacity for a great speechifying all his own.

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Cultivating Shared Presence
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Together: Community as a Means of Grace
Larry Duggins

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Alden Bass
 
 
 
New Testament scholars believe that when Paul entered a new city on his missionary journeys, one of the first things he did was set up a tent-making stall in the local market. Day after day, he would sit in the narrow alleys of the shopping district, doing business and striking up conversations with passersby. Though he engaged local synagogues, there is no doubt that many of his contacts came through the spontaneous communities which formed around his daily presence in the marketplace.

In this latest addition to the Missional Wisdom Library series, Larry Duggins suggests that the church recover something of this model by facilitating missional “communities” – making space on church property and within church life for Christian and non-Christian people to come together for work, play, and fellowship.

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Learning to Dance Together
 
A Review of 

A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community
John Pavlovitz

Paperback:  WJK Books, 2017.
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Jennifer Burns Lewis
 
 

Whether one is graceful and light on one’s feet or is rhythmically challenged with two left ones, learning to dance with a partner can take time and varying amounts of patience. In his new book, A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community, John Pavlovitz calls for courage and patience in leading congregations…and people in general… toward the marks of a bigger table, a different kind of dance. Radical hospitality, total authenticity, true diversity and agenda-free community are the author’s indications of a faith-filled community of believers that truly strives to welcome all. Like dancing together, the building of a bigger table takes patience and Pavlovitz offers an honest and transparent new book that is filled with autobiography, story-telling, and strategy for a hopeful path forward for those who wish to accept the invitation to be brave and bold in their faith community’s welcome and to be effective dance partners in the dance between religion and culture today.

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An Earnestness and An Elegance
 
A Feature Review of 
 

The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays
Megan Stielstra

 
Paperback: Harper Perennial, 2017
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Reviewed by Seth Vopat
 
 
We have learned a mere 140 characters is all that is needed to express much in our digital world. Twitter has become the ideal platform for those with a sharp whit who speak and connect with the emotional angst we all feel about current events in our world. For those who need more space the blog has become the preferred method to speak and analyze the present.

Some might say the essay format like Megan Stielstra’s new compilation of essays entitled, The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, is outdated and obsolete in our digital wrong. But, they would be wrong!

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Memory Carved Into the Land

A Review of 

Riverine: A Memoir
from Anywhere but Here
Angela Palm

Paperback: Graywolf Press, 2016
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Reviewed by Sarah Lyons

 

How is it possible to forget something that the land itself remembers?

When Angela Palm was in high school, her next-door neighbor and the boy she loved was sentenced to life in prison.  Corey, just coming off drugs and suffering from withdrawal—details Palm would not learn until much later in her life—murdered two of their elderly neighbors and then stole the couple’s car, lighting it on fire a few towns away in an attempt to erase what he’d done.  In the days that followed his arrest, Palm’s rural Indiana hometown would speculate as to what his motives were.  Her government class took the opportunity to talk about opposing views on the death penalty.  Coworkers whispered rumors until they noticed her listening, and then silenced themselves in a weak attempt to protect her.  No one asked Palm if she was okay, and so she buried the trauma silently inside her.

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Here We Are, Slaves to This Day
 
A Feature Review of

Exile: A Conversation
with N.T. Wright

James M. Scott, Ed.

Hardback: IVP Academic, 2017
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Reviewed by Joseph Johnson

 

At their best, good conversations are lively, wide-ranging, and sometimes even surprising. They push us to consider ideas from new angles and hammer out with fresh clarity why we see things the way we do. It’s not always easy to find these kinds of discussions, but the essays that make up Exile: A Conversation with N.T. Wright demonstrate for the most part what thoughtful scholarly discussion is meant to look like. The contributors are generally successful at avoiding the twin pitfalls of uncritical acceptance and blunt rejection in their responses to N.T. Wright’s influential (and controversial) proposal regarding the notion of ongoing exile as an influential “controlling narrative” for many Second Temple Jews and early Jesus followers (8).

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