Brief Reviews, VOLUME 6

Brief Reviews – Christine Valters Paintner, Phil Madeira, Men Pray

I have recently written three brief reviews for other websites…
(Read the reviews below, in my order of preference for the books)

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1933495545″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”106″ alt=”brief reviews” ][easyazon-link asin=”1933495545″ locale=”us”]Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice[/easyazon-link] Christine Paintner
Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2013.


Reviewed for the Slow Church blog…

One of the key facets of what John and I are calling Slow Church is the idea that creation operates as a gift economy: i.e., that all life is created and sustained by God.  Our call as humans is to live gratefully within the broader economy of creation.  Part of a life of gratitude is the living of a receptive life, in which we are wondrously attentive to the abundant gifts of God that surround us at any given moment.

The challenge to living such a life, however, is that we all too often are formed into the pattern of industrial Western culture that is moving ever faster, and in which attentiveness is rapidly becoming a lost art, as Maggie Jackson has chronicled in her recent and superb book Distracted.  However, humanity is not lost, we are still capable of reversing this trend and re-training our attention.  There are many arts, crafts and even hobbies (e.g., birdwatching, as Phil Kenneson has pointedly argued in a recent talk on Slow Church) that can train us to be more attentive.  It is in this context, that I found Christine Valters Paintner’s new book, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice.  I was familiar with Paintner’s work, and had even reviewed her recent book on Lectio Divina.

I was therefore not surprised that Eyes of the Heart is a profoundly helpful resource in helping us to recover the lost art of attention, and will certainly be of interest to readers who are interested in photography (or those who might eventually become so; although with the smartphone explosion over the last few years, practically everyone has easy access to a decent camera, and is a photographer at some level).

[ Read the full review…  ]

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1455573140″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”106″] [easyazon-link asin=”1455573140″ locale=”us”]God on the Rocks: Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith[/easyazon-link] Phil Madeira
Hardback: Jericho Books, 2013

Reviewed on

I have long appreciated the gritty, rooted tunes of Phil Madeira, and was eager to read GOD ON THE ROCKS, his first book. Like his songwriting, his work here is clear and straightforward, pulling no punches — and reminiscent of Frederick Buechner’s work in that regard. We also find a deep, southern sense of the blues here. Consider this passage:

“Maybe it’s magical thinking, Maybe I’m just a blue-colar mystic, but I’m fixated on the idea of God Almighty whispering a Muddy Waters tune into my soul, his ancient whiskers scratching my infant skin, both disturbing me and tickling me, and leaving me with the inescapable yearn to hum over a seveneth chord.”

Yes, it is this inescapable yearn that haunts Madeira — as it did other Southern writers, including Thomas Merton and Walker Percy — and that flavors this new memoir. If you are haunted by this yearning, as I am, I suspect that you will find GOD ON THE ROCKS a captivating read!

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1594733953″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”109″] [easyazon-link asin=”1594733953″ locale=”us”]Men Pray: Voices of Strength, Faith, Healing, Hope and Courage [/easyazon-link]
With an introduction by Brian McLaren
Hardback: Skylight Paths, 2013

Reviewed on The Good Men Project website

Do men pray? Should they?

Brian McLaren argues, in the introduction to a new prayer book for men entitled Men Pray: Voices of Strength, Faith, Healing, Hope and Courage, that they should. “There are times known to all of us,” he says, “when what life demands of us – patience, courage, wisdom, forgiveness, backbone – goes beyond the resources we can muster. We will either collapse or snap under the gravity of those demands, or we will open ourselves to a strength beyond our own to bear up under them” (xvi). McLaren’s apologia for praying men is well worth the price of this new volume, it frames the diverse collection of prayers and poems for men that comprises the bulk of the book.

Beginning with a deeply personal story of watching his devout grandfather pray, he comes to the realization that neither he nor his grandpa before him knew how prayer works, but rather the impulse to pray is borne of a humility that recognizes that the world’s needs go far beyond what any individual can bear. And in this recognition …

[ Read the full review … ]

I probably will continue to do occasional brief reviews over the course of the summer. Watch for them…

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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