Archive for the ‘Christian’ Category

Review of Falling Upward, by Richard Rohr

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Falling Upward

A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

by Richard Rohr

Jossey-Bass (Wiley), 2011. 198 pages.

This is a book about spirituality by a Franciscan teacher, and about how our focus changes in the second half of life.

I’d like to think that I’m young for this book, but I also think that my divorce was a huge crisis right at midlife, so in some aspects, I’m on the other side, and it’s fitting for me to read about the “second journey.”

Here’s what Richard Rohr has to say in his “Invitation to a Further Journey”:

A journey into the second half of our own lives awaits us all. Not everybody goes there, even though all of us get older, and some of us get older than others. A “further journey” is a well-kept secret, for some reason. Many people do not even know there is one. There are too few who are aware of it, tell us about it, or know that it is different from the journey of the first half of life. . . .

I find that many, if not most, people and institutions remain stymied in the preoccupations of the first half of life. By that I mean that most people’s concerns remain those of establishing their personal (or superior) identity, creating various boundary markers for themselves, seeking security, and perhaps linking to what seem like significant people or projects. These tasks are good to some degree and even necessary. . . .

But, in my opinion, this first-half-of-life task is no more than finding the starting gate. It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey. It is the raft but not the shore. If you realize that there is a further journey, you might do the warm-up act quite differently, which would better prepare you for what follows. People at any age must know about the whole arc of their life and where it is tending and leading.

We know about this further journey from the clear and inviting voices of others who have been there, from the sacred and secular texts that invite us there, from our own observations of people who have entered this new territory, and also, sadly, from those who never seem to move on. The further journey usually appears like a seductive invitation and a kind of promise or hope. We are summoned to it, not commanded to go, perhaps because each of us has to go on this path freely, with all the messy and raw material of our own unique lives. But we don’t have to do it, nor do we have to do it alone. There are guideposts, some common patterns, utterly new kinds of goals, a few warnings, and even personal guides on this further journey. I hope I can serve you in offering a bit of each of these in this book.

There’s a lot of wisdom in this book. A lot of it doesn’t exactly fit the doctrine I was taught growing up. I’d like to think that the fact that doesn’t bother me, that I can see the wisdom, might be a sign I’m beginning the path of the further journey.

I did pull out many quotations from this book at Sonderquotes, which will give you an sampling of some of the writer’s wisdom.

Here’s how he finishes his “Invitation to a Further Journey”:

So get ready for a great adventure, the one you were really born for. If we never get to our little bit of heaven, our life does not make much sense, and we have created our own “hell.” So get ready for some new freedom, some dangerous permission, some hope from nowhere, some unexpected happiness, some stumbling stones, some radical grace, and some new and pressing responsibility for yourself and for our suffering world.

josseybass.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander, MD

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Proof of Heaven

A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife

by Eben Alexander, M.D.

Simon & Schuster, New York, 2012. 196 pages.
Starred Review

Let me say right up front that for skeptics, it will take more than one person’s personal experience, even a neurosurgeon’s personal experience to convince them that heaven is real. For someone who already believes it, though, Eben Alexander’s story is wonderful confirmation. And it’s clear that his experience convinced him.

As a neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander believed that our consciousness and existence is rooted in our brain and neurochemical impulses. So when he was attacked with meningitis that completely disabled his neocortex, he shouldn’t have been conscious of anything. Instead, he experienced heaven and talked with God.

At the very least a miracle happened that he survived six days in a coma and recovered full brain function afterward. Dr. Alexander goes into the medical details of his case, and it’s clear that at the very least his experience convinced him that heaven is real and our consciousness can exist apart from our brain.

I’ve read a few of these books about near death experiences now. It does strike me that the details are different for each one, and for each one it suits what the person knows and expects (though all would say it’s much grander than what they expect). But at least one message is common to all of them: God loves you. So much.

Here’s how Dr. Alexander explains in the Prologue that his story is important:

During my coma my brain wasn’t working improperly — it wasn’t working at all. . . . In my case, the neocortex was out of the picture. I was encountering the reality of a world of consciousness that existed completely free of the limitations of my physical brain.

Mine was in some ways a perfect storm of near-death experiences. As a practicing neurosurgeon with decades of research and hands-on work in the operating room behind me, I was in a better-than-average position to judge not only the reality but also the implications of what happened to me.

Those implications are tremendous beyond description. My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us and about where the universe itself and all the beings within it are ultimately going.

The place I went was real. real in a way that makes the life we’re living here and now completely dreamlike by comparison. This doesn’t mean I don’t value the life I’m living now, however. In fact, I value it more than I ever did before. I do so because I now see it in its true context.

Perhaps Proof of Heaven is an overly optimistic title for some. But if you do believe in heaven, reading this book will bolster your faith and remind you that some important things in life can’t be seen with our physical eyes. And God loves you.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/proof_of_heaven.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Beautiful Outlaw, by John Eldredge

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Beautiful Outlaw

Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus

by John Eldredge

Faith Words, New York, 2011. 219 pages.
Starred Review

In Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge looks at the personality of Jesus. He points out that Jesus was not the sort of person who didn’t make waves. He does an amazing job of causing the reader to take a fresh look.

What is missing in our Gospel reading — and in our attempts to “read” what Jesus is saying and doing in our own lives right now, this week — is his personality, undraped by religion. Let’s see if we can find it.

Now, I’m well-versed in the Gospel story. I’ve read about Jesus over and over again. But John Eldredge was able to make even me see Jesus in a fresh light. I felt like he was saying, Remember? This is what Jesus is like. Here’s his take on the Gospel story:

Any way you look at it, it is a beautiful story. Playful, funny, so human, so hopeful, so unreligious. And it is that particular quality that gives the passage its true character and gives us an essential for knowing Jesus as he really is. The man is not religious. If he were, the story would have taken place in a religious setting — the temple, perhaps, or at least a synagogue — and Jesus would have gathered them for a Bible study or prayer meeting. Jesus doesn’t even show up at the temple after his resurrection. He’s at the beach, catching his boys fishing, filling their empty nets and then having them to breakfast.

The subtitle talks about the aspects of Jesus’ personality the author focuses on: He’s playful, disruptive, and extravagant. But all of this talk about Jesus’ personality is to tell us it’s worth it to let Jesus’ life fill our lives. He’s talking about Christ living in us.

As we love him, experience him, allow his life to fill ours, the personality of Jesus transforms our personalities. The timid become bold and the bold become patient and the patient become fierce and the uptight become free and the religious become scandalously good. “They looked to Him and were radiant” (Psalm 34:5 NASB). They looked to Jesus and became like him. Loving Jesus helps us to become what human beings were meant to be. As Athanasius said, “He became what we are that we might become what he is.”

In short, this book is about looking hard at who Jesus really is, and then letting Him change who we really are.

beautifuloutlaw.net
ransomedheart.com
faithwords.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Praying for Strangers, by River Jordan

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Praying for Strangers

An Adventure of the Human Spirit

by River Jordan

Berkley Books, New York, 2011. 322 pages.

River Jordan was facing a rough year. Both of her sons were active duty military. One was being deployed to Afghanistan and the other to Iraq. A crazy resolution came into her head, and it ended up being the only resolution she ever carried out, all year long. She began praying for a stranger every day.

This book is the story of that resolution and the way it transformed her year and her life.

The chapters are short. This makes a lovely inspirational book to read a chapter a day during your quiet time. Some of the chapters tell about strangers she met and felt compelled to pray for. Some told their stories to her and why they desperately needed prayer when she offered it. Some she never told she was praying. But what a thought, what a challenge: To pray for a stranger every day.

She reflects on what she learned in the amazing year, and why she’s going to keep going:

But what I am learning when I pray for strangers is that I fully expect those prayers to be answered for the simple reason that this act is carried out from one soul to another without any personal agenda attached. The faith attached to those prayers is tangible, sometimes more than others. When I pray for those closest to me, all those prayers are a part of my selfish heart. Yes, I pray out of love for them but also for my need for that love to continue. For them to be well, happy, successful. For them to thrive in their lives that I might find happiness.

I’m beginning to see that the part of me that reaches out to the homeless and the well-to-do, the young and the aged, the broken and lost, is the one that matters most. My heart has opened up so much further than I ever dreamed possible. These strangers, this adventure, are making me a better person in spite of myself. Once an internal recluse, I’m more open to not only meeting people, but opening myself up to truly caring what happens in their lives. . . .

That’s the way it is now: These people and their stories are no longer shadowy extras, character walk-ons cruising the periphery of my life. Their stories have become integrated into the fabric of my own. Perhaps the poets and prophets were right all along. We don’t come into this world separate, or belonging to a select few, but we’re a part of the human race. All of us amazingly the same in spite of our differences. This is the real thing. We belong to each other. We always have. And in the process of my understanding this, of walking out this resolution, I’ve lost my regret and instead have counted it lost if I don’t touch a life, offer a smile, a prayer, a pause along the way. So every day I continue to do this one tiny thing. This one tiny, incredible thing.

I recommend taking a walk with River Jordan on her surprising journey. You will be inspired and you will be challenged. And your eyes will be opened.

riverjordan.us

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Always True, by James MacDonald

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Always True

God’s 5 Promises When Life Is Hard

by James MacDonald

Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2011. 151 pages.

This is one of those bread-and-butter good spiritual reminders books. James MacDonald goes over five promises from God that you can always count on.

This makes good reading to slowly go through in your devotional times, and that’s how I was approaching it. The first four promises were nice steadying, comforting, encouraging reading.

Promise #1: God Is Always With Me.
I Will Not Fear.

Promise #2: God Is Always in Control.
I Will Not Doubt.

Promise #3: God Is Always Good.
I Will Not Despair.

Promise #4: God Is Always Watching.
I Will Not Falter.

Those were great, they were uplifting, and it encouraged me to read about them. But the fifth promise blew me away.

Here’s the deal. Back in 2006, when I first learned that my husband had filed for divorce, and I was completely devastated, God gave me this verse:

“If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you. . . .
No weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

— Isaiah 54:15, 17 (NIV)

Now, over the years that followed, whenever my husband would mention the word lawyer or threaten me with legal action, this verse would come up, somehow or other. It happened over and over and over again.

Eventually we did get divorced, but last April there was one part of the agreement my ex-husband had not complied with. I didn’t want to do it, but I felt I had to take him to court. My lawyer filed a motion for him to comply and it went to court in April, and things got taken care of, and I was awarded court costs.

The next morning, I opened up this book to read a devotional chapter. Here’s what jumped out at me, in a highlighted box as the chapter heading:

Promise #5: GOD IS ALWAYS VICTORIOUS
(I will not fail)

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord. Isaiah 54:17 (NKJV)

Yes, in that moment, I felt very loved, very protected, very cared for, and very noticed.

James MacDonald sums it up in a heading for this chapter:

Jesus Christ the Lord, who is Himself all the Promises of God, will be forever victorious. I’ve read to the end of the Book, and God wins.

This book is, plain and simple, a book of encouragement; a book to cheer you on as you overcome. Here’s another statement he makes that I love:

If we have to think hard to come up with God’s blessings, we must be walking around with our eyes firmly shut, our ears closed, and our hearts hard.

Read this book if you can use some encouragement and some reminders of God’s faithfulness.

JamesMacDonald.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased through Crossings Book Club.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt, by Christi Paul

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt

A Memoir

by Christi Paul

Tyndale House Publishers, 2012. 280 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Nonfiction: Personal Stories

This powerful story had me transfixed until I finished it. Christi Paul tells about her four years of marriage to a man who abused her emotionally and the repercussions of that in her life. She deeply wanted to stay. She’d made a vow. She tried hard to be able to take it. But ultimately, her faith in God helped her see that she needed to leave and helped her recover.

This book is good on many levels. In the first place, it’s a mesmerizing story. Christi Paul tells about how she fell in love with Justin and decided to marry him. Looking back, she can see she made a bad decision, but reading the book, it’s easy to understand how it happened, and why it was hard for her to leave.

Second, this book provides a window into emotional abuse. It can help people understand how women get into a hurtful situation, and why it’s so hard to get out. It can help you see one form emotional abuse takes and give you compassion for women in that situation. Christi Paul doesn’t write to make you feel sorry for her, but she does help you understand her. She also tells the hard questions she asked herself that helped her to heal.

Third, this book is all the more compelling for women who’ve been in some kind of abusive relationship. I appreciated that she took her vows before God seriously, and was in no hurry to divorce. I think the parts that most resonated probably say a lot about the reader. (Perhaps I still need to work through feeling guilty about my own divorce?) It’s so easy to see in someone else’s life that it does not glorify God to live in such a hurtful relationship.

Now, Christi’s ex-husband was more overtly abusive than many. And she also was able to see that she’d made a mistake marrying him in the first place. It’s perhaps harder when the emotional abuse is more covert than name-calling, taking forms like blaming or defining your reality. In those cases, it’s all the harder to see clearly that this is emotional abuse and this is wrong. So I still strongly recommend Dr. Patricia Evans’ books on verbal abuse, because they are so crucial to understanding the many different forms abuse can take.

It’s also perhaps harder when the abuse starts in a mid-life crisis situation, rather than at the start of the marriage. You can’t tell yourself that you simply shouldn’t have married him. But that still doesn’t mean it glorifies God to stay in that situation.

Still, as she said:

People often think holding on is what makes you strong, but sometimes it’s letting go. I was committed to releasing all that haunted me from this relationship. I wanted to learn from it, yes, but I was no longer willing to be chained to the memories that made me feel inadequate, insecure, and fearful.

Or in another place:

Each of us has a different story. Not everyone needs to leave her partner. We don’t want to abandon people who need help. Your answer might not be to get out — only you know what’s right in your situation. And my purpose isn’t to demonize people who are abusive. They’re wounded and hurting in their own way. But please hear this: until someone is healthy enough to treat you with civility, dignity, and respect, that person isn’t healthy enough to be in your life.

The part on healing during and after abuse is especially powerful. I strongly believe that one part of healing is coming to a place of forgiveness, and that is much much easier when you can begin to see the many ways good has come into your life through the abuse. Not that abuse is good, but that as you come through it, you grow. Christi Paul shows much of her process of thinking this through, and it’s helpful and healing and thought-provoking.

I loved the way she showed that living through the abuse helped her become a stronger person in many, many different ways. I feel the same way. I like the person I am after coming through the end of my marriage, and it resonated to see Christi Paul write the same thing.

This book is strongly rooted in the author’s Christian beliefs, as you can see in this paragraph:

Hear this loud and clear, my friends: you weren’t put here to be abused. God’s will isn’t for us to wake up each day mired in fear, self-doubt, and condemnation. He wants us to see ourselves the way he sees us — wounded but worthy. To view ourselves and each other with forgiveness and grace. To trust and believe in Him despite where we’ve been, what we’ve done, or what someone told us we are.

This book is a beautiful story of hope and God’s grace, and it gives the reader plenty to think about. I know I’ll be thinking about Christi Paul’s words for a long time to come.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Boy Who Met Jesus, by Immaculée Ilibagiza

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

The Boy Who Met Jesus

Segatashya of Kibeho

by Immaculée Ilibagiza
with Steve Erwin

Hay House, Carlsbad, California, 2011. 219 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 Nonfiction: Personal Stories

Immaculée Ilibagiza’s books fascinate me. Her deep love for Jesus was refined and purified in the fire of the Rwandan genocide. She tells that story in Left to Tell and her message of forgiveness in Led by Faith.

Then, in Our Lady of Kibeho she got even a Protestant like me excited about visions of the Virgin Mary that had come to three schoolgirls in Africa.

The Boy Who Met Jesus tells of another visionary from that time in Kibeho. Segatashya was a pagan shepherd boy who heard the voice of Jesus and then experienced repeated visions of Jesus talking with him, and his life was profoundly changed.

Segatashya’s visions have not yet been officially declared genuine by the Catholic church, but Immaculée interviewed people who talked with Segatashya and examined him, and none of those people have any doubt that he was genuine and his message was directly from Jesus.

The words he says Jesus told him may not appeal to those who believe you must exactly follow a certain doctrinal pattern, but I find the words full of love and beauty.

I will find the hearts of everyone who believes in me and follows my commandments — no matter which Bible they read or which religion they belong to.

When I come looking for my children, I will not only look in the Catholic Church for good Christians who do good deeds and acts of love and devotion. I will look across the entire world for those who honor my commandments and love me with an open and sincere heart . . . it is their love, not their religion, that makes them true children of God. Tell this one truth to all those to whom you speak in my name: Believe in me, and in whatever you do in life, do it with faith and love.

Those who do know of God, who have been taught of God’s ways, will be held to a higher standard . . . for to those who have been given, much will be expected. No one is forced to believe in God, but still, God lives in every person’s heart . . . just follow your heart to God’s love. Those who live in love will hear God’s voice, because God’s voice is a voice of love.

Though his message was not all sweetness and light. He foresaw the genocide of Rwanda, not knowing what it meant, but begging people to repent. He talked about the End of Days, but offered encouragement to those who follow Jesus.

After Segatashya’s apparitions, he was told by Jesus to go to other African countries and spread the message. Those stories are fascinating, too.

Immaculée tells about her visits with people who knew Segatashya and a member of the Commission of Enquiry who examined him. But I think my favorite part is where she met Segatashya herself as a college student before his death in the genocide. She asked him what Jesus was like.

“What you need to know is this: Jesus knows us all to the very depths of our souls, all our dreams and worries, all hopes and fears, all our goodness and all our weakness,” he explained. “He can see our sins and faults and wants nothing more than for us to heal our hearts and cleanse our souls so that we can love him as immeasurably as he loves us. When he sends us suffering, he does it only to strengthen our spirits so we’ll be strong enough to fight off Satan, who wants to destroy us, so that one day we can bask in the glory of his presence forever.”

Whatever your beliefs about God, it’s hard for me to imagine someone reading this book and not being touched.

hayhouse.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of A Praying Life, by Paul E. Miller

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

A Praying Life

Connecting with God in a Distracting World

by Paul E. Miller

NavPress, 2009. 279 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Other Nonfiction

My small group began this book more than a year ago, and I continued slowly through it on my own. I think it’s the best book I’ve ever read on prayer, full of practical ideas for really getting personal with God and listening for His voice.

I like the first section: “Learning to Pray Like a Child.” He thinks of prayer in a very personal way with God, and gives examples of how that has worked in his life. He prays like someone really talking with his Father, and helps me want to do that, too.

And Paul E. Miller doesn’t simply talk about prayer. He talks about a praying life. Here’s a section from the Introduction:

Because prayer is all about relationship, we can’t work on prayer as an isolated part of life. That would be like going to the gym and working out just your left arm. You’d get a strong left arm, but it would look odd. Many people’s frustrations with prayer come from working on prayer as a discipline in the abstract.

We don’t learn to pray in isolation from the rest of our lives. For example, the more I love our youngest daughter, Emily, the more I pray for her. The reverse is true as well; the more I learn how to pray for her, the more I love her. Nor is faith isolated from prayer. The more my faith grows, the bolder my prayers get for Jill. Then, the more my prayers for her are answered, the more my faith grows. Likewise, if I suffer, I learn how to pray. As I learn how to pray, I learn how to endure suffering. This intertwining applies to every aspect of the Christian life.

Since a praying life is interconnected with every part of our lives, learning to pray is almost identical to maturing over a lifetime. What does it feel like to grow up? It is a thousand feelings on a thousand different days. That is what learning to pray feels like.

He goes on to explore many different facets of prayer. How much do we really know our Father? How comfortable are we talking with him? The ideas in this book can help.

There were many, many sections of this book I especially like, and I’ve posted them on Sonderquotes. I am sure I’m going to come back to this book again and again for encouragement from a fellow-traveler.

When it comes to prayer, we, too, just need to get the words out. Feel free to stop and pray now. It’s okay if your mind wanders or your prayers get interrupted. Don’t be embarrassed by how needy your heart is and how much it needs to cry out for grace. Just start praying. Remember the point of Christianity isn’t to learn a lot of truths so you don’t need God anymore. We don’t learn God in the abstract. We are drawn into his life.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/praying_life.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy of the book.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Help Thanks Wow, by Anne Lamott

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Help
Thanks
Wow

The Three Essential Prayers

by Anne Lamott

Riverhead Books (Penguin), 2012. 102 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 Other Nonfiction

I’ve always loved Anne Lamott’s down-to-earth spirit, and this book’s title says it all. If you think about it, isn’t it true: Help. Thanks. Wow. Those are indeed the three essential prayers.

She has a chapter for each prayer, with funny and insightful observations. Then there’s a chapter at the end titled “Amen.” Her observations move me, inspire me, make me laugh, and encourage me to pray.

I’ll include some bits from her “Prelude” chapter:

Some of us have cavernous vibrations inside us when we communicate with God. Others are more rational and less messy in our spiritual sense of reality, in our petitions and gratitude and expressions of pain or anger or desolation or praise. Prayer means that, in some unique way, we believe we’re invited into a relationship with someone who hears us when we speak in silence.

Prayer is talking to something or anything with which we seek union, even if we are bitter or insane or broken. (In fact, these are probably the best possible conditions under which to pray.) Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up. The opposite may be true. We may not be able to get it together until after we show up in such miserable shape.

I’ll post more from this book on Sonderquotes, because it’s full of nuggets that uplift and inspire me.

Why am I saying so much? Put simply, my reaction when I finish a book by Anne Lamott is: Wow.

riverheadbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

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Review of A People Tall and Smooth, by Judith Galblum Pex

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

A People Tall and Smooth

Stories of Escape from Sudan to Israel

by Judith Galblum Pex

Cladach Publishing, 2011. 219 pages.

A People Tall and Smooth tells the stories of many Sudanese refugees who have ended up in Israel.

Judith Galblum Pex and her husband John run a hostel in Eilat, Israel. She introduces the situation that developed in 2007 with these words:

“People from over one hundred nations intermingle in Israel. Besides Jews from Kazakhstan and Kansas, Burma and Belgrade, Calcutta, Congo and places in between, over a million tourists every year add to the mosaic. Include in the mixture two hundred thousand legal and illegal workers from countries such as China, Thailand, Philippines, Nepal and Ghana, and it’s clear that the average Israeli is used to seeing faces of all colors and shapes.

“In 2007, however, a new group appeared on the scene whose appearance and status was unlike any other till this time. We began to notice men, women, children and babies on the streets in our town of Eilat who were exceptionally black and strikingly tall.

“‘Where do they come from and who are they?’ My husband John and I asked ourselves. ‘What language do they speak?’ Having managed The Shelter Hostel in Eilat on the Red Sea since 1984, we are used to interacting with diverse people groups and were eager to meet these new arrivals.

“Our questions were answered when a tall, dark man walked through our front gate one morning. ‘I’m Gabriel, a refugee from Sudan,’ he introduced himself in perfect English. We then had even more questions. How did these Sudanese get to our city of Eilat in the south of Israel? What made them want to come to Israel of all places? Were they refugees from the genocide in Darfur that we’d been reading about lately?”

Their questions were answered by the refugees that came streaming to them. I was fascinated by how many Sudanese believed this passage from Isaiah 18 applied to them:

“Woe to the land of whirring wings along the rivers of Cush, which sends envoys by sea in papyrus boats over the water. Go swift messengers to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech whose land is divided by rivers … At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord Almighty … to Mount Zion.”

Judith Galblum Pex writes:

“Whatever the original meaning, many Sudanese took this passage as a personal encouragement in their complicated struggle as refugees in Israel. Still, life with uncertainties in Israel was better for them than what they had endured in Africa.”

This book tells the stories of several Sudanese refugees, of different backgrounds, who wound up on their doorstep and became their friends. The writing is a little uneven. I would have preferred less about how they got the stories and the author’s reaction to the stories, and a focus on just the stories themselves. However, the stories are so compelling, you can get past that distraction.

This book contains amazing true stories of powerfully resilient people with a strong faith in God who have come through incredibly difficult events. The stories are both eye-opening and inspiring.

cladach.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a book sent to me by the publisher.