Archive for the ‘Christian’ Category

Review of Hope Beyond Hell, by Gerry Beauchemin

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

hope_beyond_hell_largeHope Beyond Hell

The Righteous Purpose of God’s Judgment

by Gerry Beauchemin

Malista Press, Olmito, Texas, 2007. 245 pages.
Starred Review

Years ago, through reading the books of George MacDonald, and through reading the Bible trying to put aside my preconceived notions, I came to believe that the Bible actually teaches that hell is not forever — that it has a redemptive purpose and will eventually be emptied out and every knee will bow to our loving Father. George MacDonald, however, while implying that this is what the Bible teaches, doesn’t lay out an argument of why he believes the Bible teaches this. Gerry Beauchemin, in this book, lays out an excellent argument.

Gerry Beauchemin calls his view “The Blessed Hope.” I like that very much, and much better than “Universalism,” because I think it’s different than what most people think of when they hear “Universalism.” Yes, I believe in hell. But I believe it represents the lengths to which a loving Father will go to bring his children back to Himself. It is not purposeless, everlasting torment.

Now, many Christians will automatically be arguing, “But that’s what the Bible says?” Is it really? I suggest you read this book and rethink that view. And I agree with the author that The Blessed Hope honors the character of God.

God is good even in His judgments. They are not infinite and horrendously cruel, but just, righteous, and remedial.

Many people don’t realize that the view that hell is eternal is not the one the church fathers held. I certainly didn’t realize that. Although this view is common today, it actually originated with Augustine, and so is called the Augustinian tradition here.

First, the author presents the pillars of his argument. The first pillar is the meaning of the Greek word Aion, which is more consistently translated “age” than “eternal.” Interestingly, Augustine, who supported the “eternal” interpretation (which is not consistent with other usage), was one of the first church leaders who wasn’t a native Greek speaker.

Then he talks about Gehenna, the lake of fire, which is every time spoken of as something finite, like prison. Also the word for “destruction,” apollumi is shown to mean “set aside,” “bring to nothing,” not “annihilate.” The author says, “Popular theology claims God is able to do all things except restore the destroyed for whom Christ died. Really?”

He also looks at God’s will and man’s free will. “God ‘will’ have all men to be saved. Does this mean God purposes with intent to accomplish His will, or that He merely desires it with no power to make it happen?”

He sums up the chapter on “Pillars” with this paragraph:

In this chapter, we have examined the foundational pillars upon which belief in infinite punishment is based and found them wanting. How many Christians including pastors and theologians have critically examined these pillars in light of the evidence presented here? I would venture to say very few. Given this evidence, let us explore with a fresh and open mind, unshackled by a flawed system and study the following chapters in sincerity and truth. Is there hope beyond Gehenna and the lake of fire? Might these judgments also have a positive purpose in God’s unfailing plan for man? The answer lies in the very nature of God Himself. Would a truly all-powerful and all-loving Creator bring into existence billions of people knowing well they would suffer for eternity as a result? Would He really pay such a price to get a few to love Him forever? This is what our tradition has taught. Is it true?

I do believe that Gerry Beauchemin goes on to present a wonderfully logical and complete argument for The Blessed Hope. Honestly, his words fill me with joy and love for my loving Father, who is Good, not vindictive and harsh and cruel. I am so glad that the people around me who don’t see things exactly my way will not be suffering in hell for all eternity — even the ones who make some bad choices in this life! (And don’t get me wrong — I wish they’d spare themselves a lot of suffering on that path to Life! But I really do believe God knows what each one needs.)

I’m not going to present all his arguments. Because I’d like people to consider them in full. I will, however, quote some paragraphs that I underlined in my slow savoring of the book.

This is from a chapter on God’s nature:

The longsuffering of our Lord “is” salvation. What a thought! When does the longsuffering of our heavenly Father for His children ever end? Does it end sooner than yours toward your children? The love of God expressed in His longsuffering will do what His brute power could never do — win the hearts of His enemies (Ps. 66:3-4) and make them His friends (Jer. 31:34; Jn. 15:15; Ro. 5:10).

Another interesting paragraph comes after quoting Christ telling his disciples to pray that God would send out laborers into His harvest (Mt. 9:36-38):

Why are we asked to pray for laborers for the harvest? Why are they needed? Doesn’t the text say it is because people are weary, scattered, distressed, and dispirited? But what has our tradition led us to believe? Answer: To pray because all people are on their way to hell! Isn’t there an inconsistency here?

And here is the introductory paragraph to the chapter called “Purpose-Driven Judgment”:

Is there any positive purpose to God’s Gehenna judgment? What purpose does it serve? According to the prevalent theology, its only purpose is to inflict pain. It refuses to acknowledge it has any remedial effect, and presents it merely as a perpetual prison from which its victims can never escape. I intend to show in this chapter the following facts: First, this view is simply unjust, and Scripture does not support unjust punishment of any kind. Second, Scripture affirms death is no obstacle to God in accomplishing His purposes in any life. Third, God is just and His justice satisfies even our God given human understanding of justice. Fourth, the Bible provides clear examples that all His judgments are driven by a positive purpose.

This paragraph echoed my own experiences when I read the Bible after becoming convinced that George MacDonald (who studied Greek) believed the Bible did not teach that hell lasts forever:

Most of us are not aware of how powerfully our paradigms affect how we understand the Scriptures. They force us to conclude certain passages do not mean what they say. Unless we are keenly aware of this, and make a diligent effort to compare Scripture with Scripture, we cannot see truth staring us in the face. It has been a slow, hard process for me. But once I stepped out of the eternal hell paradigm and began seeing Scripture without that filter, I was freed to receive God’s revelation in a fresh new way.

He looks at proclamations from Scripture, the Apostles, church fathers, logic, the character of God, and consequences. Is Christ really the Savior of the World?

Scripture refers to Christ as the Savior of the World. In fact, “Jesus” means savior (Mt. 1:21). The Father sent Him as such (1Jn. 4:14). Though popular theology gives lip service to this title, it actually denies it. It attests instead that Christ is merely the Savior of “some out” of the world. Or again, He is the “wish to be” Savior of the world. If the mass of humanity is lost forever, call Him what you will, He is not the Savior of the world. It does not matter that few, many, or most of the world is saved. Even if none are saved, He would still be referred to as “Savior of the world.” For the reasoning is simple: to offer salvation, makes a savior. That is strange indeed — “The Savior of the world not saved.” What would you think of a lifeguard who was hailed as the hero of the day at the funeral of a young child for merely having offered her a life preserver and then threw it to the other end of the pool?

Here’s an interesting summary:

The Blessed Hope and the Augustinian Tradition present two opposing views of God. Of these two ancient theologies, only the first does justice to the character of our glorious God as He is revealed in Christ. It is what the prophets, the apostles, and the early Church embraced. The second, on the other hand, is shackled by a theology of terror which I contend is the primary reason the Gospel has not yet taken the world by storm. Is it by coincidence that once it dominated the western church the medieval world plunged into the “dark ages”?

I am by no means presenting all the arguments here. If this interests you at all, I strongly recommend this book. As for me? Reading this book filled me with joyful, blessed hope.

hopebeyondhell.net

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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 via Amazon.com.

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 God Is Able, by Priscilla Shirer

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

God Is Able

by Priscilla Shirer

B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2013. 157 pages.

A big thank you to my friend Ruth for giving me this book for Christmas!

God Is Able looks closely at Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Each chapter looks at one phrase from these verses, attempting to get all their gloriousness to sink into our hearts.

She writes in a colloquial style. She gives lots of examples and illustrations. The real power of this book, though, is in its ability to get you thinking about these powerful verses. Reading a chapter about each phrase only begins to do them justice.

BHPublishingGroup.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, a gift from a friend.

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 The Only Necessary Thing, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Monday, March 24th, 2014

The Only Necessary Thing

Living a Prayerful Life

by Henri J. M. Nouwen
compiled and edited by Wendy Wilson Greer

Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1999. 224 pages.
Starred Review

Here is an excellent choice for reading small bits daily as a devotional book. They are sections taken from the body of work by Henri Nouwen, compiling his teaching on prayer.

Here’s his “Invitation” at the front of the book:

The invitation to a life of prayer is the invitation to live in the midst of this world without being caught in the net of wounds and needs. The word “prayer” stands for a radical interruption of the vicious chain of interlocking dependencies leading to violence and war and for an entering into a totally new dwelling place. It points to a new way of speaking, a new way of breathing, a new way of being together, a new way of knowing, yes, a whole new way of living.

It is not easy to express the radical change that prayer represents, since for many the word “prayer” is associated with piety, talking to God, thinking about God, morning and evening exercises, Sunday services, grace before meals, sentences from the Bible, and many other things. All of these have something to do with prayer, but when I speak about prayer as the basis for peacemaking, I speak first of all about moving away from the dwelling place of those who hate peace into the house of God. . . . Prayer is the center of the Christian life. It is the only necessary thing (Luke 10:42). It is living with God here and now.

Some other sections struck me, so I’ll list a few for you here. This will give you the idea of the book. It’s got thoughtful, meditative insights on living a prayerful life.

But, as Christians, we are called to convert our loneliness into solitude. We are called to experience our aloneness not as a wound but as a gift — as God’s gift — so that in our aloneness we might discover how deeply we are loved by God.
It is precisely where we are most alone, most unique, most ourselves, that God is closest to us. That is where we experience God as the divine, loving Father, who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Solitude is the way in which we grow into the realization that where we are most alone, we are most loved by God. It is a quality of heart, an inner quality that helps us to accept our aloneness lovingly, as a gift from God.

Another:

Prayer, then, is listening to that voice — to the One who calls you the Beloved. It is to constantly go back to the truth of who we are and claim it for ourselves. I’m not what I do. I’m not what people say about me. I’m not what I have. Although there is nothing wrong with success, there is nothing wrong with popularity, there is nothing wrong with being powerful, finally my spiritual identity is not rooted in the world, the things the world gives me. My life is rooted in my spiritual identity. Whatever we do, we have to go back regularly to that place of core identity.

From the section on “Belovedness”:

God does not require a pure heart before embracing us. Even if we return only because following our desires has failed to bring happiness, God will take us back. Even if we return because being a Christian brings us more peace than being a pagan, God will receive us. Even if we return because our sins did not offer as much satisfaction as we had hoped, God will take us back. Even if we return because we could not make it on our own, God will receive us. God’s love does not require any explanations about why we are returning. God is glad to see us home and wants to give us all we desire, just for being home.

I liked this one from the section on “Forgiveness”:

The interesting thing is that when you can forgive people for not being God then you can celebrate that they are a reflection of God. You can say, “Since you are not God, I love you because you have such beautiful gifts of God’s love.” You don’t have everything of God, but what you have to offer is worth celebrating. By celebrate, I mean to lift up, affirm, confirm, to rejoice in another person’s gifts. You can say you are a reflection of that unlimited love.

And finally, I love the image in this one:

Forgiveness is the great spiritual weapon against the Evil One. As long as we remain victims of anger and resentment, the power of darkness can continue to divide us and tempt us with endless power games. But when we forgive those who threaten our lives, they lose their power over us…. Forgiveness enables us to take the first step of the dance.

Some beautiful thoughts for people interested in deepening their prayer lives.

CrossroadPublishing.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/only_necessary_thing.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 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 Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? by Brian D. McLaren

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World

by Brian D. McLaren

Jericho Books, New York, 2012. 276 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #8 Nonfiction

This is an important book for Christians to read if they want to interact with today’s society. (If they want to just hide out apart from the world, then they shouldn’t bother.) I like the questions Brian McLaren poses, and I like the thoughtful and thought-provoking answers he gives.

At the beginning of the book, he talks about the identity problem Christians have:

Simply put, we Christians already know how to do two things very well. First, some of us know how to have a strong Christian identity that responds negatively toward other religions. The stronger our Christian commitment, the stronger our aversion or opposition to other religions. The stronger our Christian commitment, the more we emphasize our differences with other faiths and the more we frame those differences in terms of good/evil, right/wrong, and better/worse. We may be friendly to individuals of other religions, but our friendship always has a pretext: we want them to switch sides and be won over to our better way. We love them (or say that we do) in spite of their religious identity, hoping that they will see the light and abandon who they have been to find shelter under the tent of who we are.

Alternatively, others of us know how to have a more positive, accepting response to other religions. We never proselytize. We always show respect for other religions and their adherents. We always minimize differences and maximize commonalities. But we typically achieve coexistence by weakening our Christian identity. We make it matter less that they are Muslim or Hindu by making it matter less that we are Christian. We might even say that we love them in spite of our own religious identity.

For reasons that will become clear in the pages ahead, I’m convinced that neither of these responses is good enough for today’s world. So I will explore the possibility of a third option, a Christian identity that is both strong and kind. By strong I mean vigorous, vital, durable, motivating, faithful, attractive, and defining — an authentic Christian identity that matters. By kind I mean something far more robust than mere tolerance, political correctness, or coexistence: I mean benevolent, hospitable, accepting, interested, and loving, so that the stronger our Christian faith, the more goodwill we will feel and show toward those of other faiths, seeking to understand and appreciate their religion from their point of view. My pursuit, not just in this book but in my life, is a Christian identity that moves me toward people of other faiths in wholehearted love, not in spite of their non-Christian identity and not in spite of my own Christian identity, but because of my identity as a follower of God in the way of Jesus.

This book explores those ideas in detail, and lays out what a strong benevolent identity can mean for our doctrine and our liturgy and our sense of mission.

I read this book over a long period of time. (I kept having to turn it in because it had holds.) I think I’m going to buy myself a copy and read it over again, because there’s much in here that I want to absorb more fully.

This is well worth reading. And if you disagree, it would be worth analyzing why you disagree. How do you think Christians should interact with today’s multi-faith world?

brianmclaren.net
jerichobooks.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 God Believes in Love, by Gene Robinson

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

God Believes in Love

Straight Talk about Gay Marriage

by Gene Robinson
IX Bishop of New York

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2012. 196 pages.

Here’s a thoughtful, intelligent, personal, and thoroughly Christian presentation on why it’s time to make marriage legal for gays and lesbians.

Now, I come from a very conservative background. I grew up thinking the Bible was pretty clear that homosexuality is sinful. As I’ve grown up, though, I (obviously?) have far more gay and lesbian friends and co-workers, and I wonder. It was actually a sermon series on controversial issues in my own church that helped me see maybe the Bible is not so clear on that topic after all.

But this book helps me see intellectually what my heart had already figured out. That we’re calling things sinful that God almost certainly doesn’t call sinful.

I appreciate that Gene Robinson does take a Christian approach. He doesn’t say that God is wrong in this area. He very much feels that gay marriage can be God-honoring.

Usually when I review a book on issues, I present snippets from different arguments. This book does present well-thought out arguments that address most issues I’ve seen presented in, say, Facebook posts against gay marriage. But I don’t want to present sections out of context. When I do that, I often get arguments back, as if the quotation is all there is to say, and can be too easily refuted. Let me just encourage you, if you’re honestly interested in this question, of whether Christians can legitimately support gay marriage, to read this book and give it plenty of thought and prayer. I’m glad I did.

I will simply quote from the bishop’s summing up at the end:

I believe in marriage. I believe it is the crucible in which we come to know most deeply about love. It is in marriage that God’s will for me to love all of humankind gets focused in one person. It is impossible to love humankind if I can’t love one person. That opportunity to love one person and to have that love sanctioned and supported by the culture in which we live is a right denied gay and lesbian people for countless centuries. It’s time to open that opportunity to all of us. Because in the end, God believes in love.

aaknopf.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 Christianity After Religion, by Diana Butler Bass

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Christianity After Religion

The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening

by Diana Butler Bass

HarperOne, 2012. 294 pages.
Starred Review

This is an important book for Christians to read, no matter how they feel about the sociological phenomena happening that the author describes, and whether they agree with her or not.

Here are some segments from her introduction:

Strange as it may seem in this time of cultural anxiety, economic near collapse, terrorist fear, political violence, environmental crisis, and partisan anger, I believe that the United States (and not only the United States) is caught up in the throes of a spiritual awakening, a period of sustained religious and political transformation during which our ways of seeing the world, understanding ourselves, and expressing faith are being, to borrow a phrase, “born again.” Indeed, the shifts around religion contribute to the anxiety, even as anxiety gives rise to new sorts of understandings of God and spiritual life. Fear and confusion signal change. This transformation is what some hope will be a “Great Turning” toward a global community based on shared human connection, dedicated to the care of our planet, committed to justice and equality, that seeks to raise hundreds of millions from poverty, violence, and oppression….

This book is concerned with religion and change — specifically how Christianity, especially Christianity in the United States, is changing and how people are questioning conventional patterns of faith and belief. At the outset, let me be perfectly clear. I do not think it is wise to adapt religions to contemporary tastes willy-nilly. As the gloomy nineteenth-century Anglican dean William Inge once said, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widow in the next.” I do, however, think it is exceedingly wise for faithful people to intentionally engage emerging religious questions in order to reform, renew, and reimagine ancient traditions in ways that make sense to contemporary people.

The 1970s were the beginning of the end of older forms of Christianity, and now, decades later, we are witnessing the end of the beginning. What follows is a sustained reflection on how religion has changed in our lifetime — a life lived between the beginning of an end and the end of that beginning — and what that means for Christian faith and practice. Much has changed. Where Chirstianity is now vital, it is not really seen as a “religion” anymore. It is more of a spiritual thing.

She achieves this “sustained reflection.” I read it slowly, so I don’t remember everything she said, but that it all got me thinking. However a couple things stood out:

First, people of all religions and non-religions are talking about and seeking “spirituality.” It’s not so cool to be “religious.” But everyone seems to be after being “spiritual.” Here’s an interesting section about that:

But spirituality is neither vague nor meaningless. Despite a certain linguistic fuzziness, the word “spiritual” is both a critique of institutional religion and a longing for meaningful connection. In a wide variety of guises and forms, spirituality represents an important stage of awakening: the search for new gods. As the old gods (and the institutions that preached, preserved, and protected the old gods) lose credibility, people begin to cast about for new gods — and new stories, new paths, and new understandings to make sense of their new realities. In the process, the old language fails, and people reach for new words to describe the terrain of their experience. “Spirituality” is one such word, an ancient word, to be sure, but a word that is taking on fresh dimensions of meaning in a fluid and pluralistic religious context. To say that one is “spiritual but not religious” or “spiritual and religious” is often a way of saying, “I am dissatisfied with the way things are, and I want to find a new way of connecting with God, my neighbor, and my own life.” It might not be a thoughtless mantra at all — in many cases, it may well be a considered commentary on religious institutions, doctrine, and piety.

Another part I remember is where she talked about how community is more important than ever.

If you want to knit, you find someone who knits to teach you. Go to the local yarn shop and find out when there is a knitting class. Sit in a circle where others will talk to you, show you how to hold the needles, guide your hands, and share their patterns with you. The first step in becoming a knitter is forming a relationship with knitters. The next step is to learn by doing and practice. After you knit for a while, after you have made scarves and hats and mittens, then you start forming ideas about knitting. You might come to think that the experience of knitting makes you a better person, more spiritual, or able to concentrate, gives you a sense of service to others, allows you to demonstrate love and care. You think about what you are doing, how you might do it better. You develop your own way of knitting, your own theory of the craft. You might invent a dazzling new pattern, a new way to make a stitch; you might write a knitting book or become a knitting teacher. In knitting, the process is exactly the reverse of that in church: belonging to a knitting group leads to behaving as a knitter, which leads to believing things about knitting.

Relationships lead to craft, which leads to experiential belief. That is the path to becoming and being someone different. The path of transformation.

It is also the path found in the New Testament; the Way of Jesus that leads to God. Long ago, before the last half millennium, Christians understood that faith was a matter of community first, practices second, and belief as a result of the first two. Our immediate ancestors reversed the order. Now, it is up to us to restore the original order.

As you can see, she draws some conclusions from current trends and reexamines what Christianity should be all about.

A thought-provoking and important book.

dianabutlerbass.com
harperone.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 Safe Journey, by Julia Cameron

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Safe Journey

Prayers and Comfort for Frightened Flyers and Other Anxious Souls

by Julia Cameron

Jeremy P. Tarcher (Penguin), 2013. 151 pages.

This is a lovely little book, in paperback and designed to easily fit in a travel bag for airplane reading. I’ve never really been afraid to fly, but Julia Cameron writes in a way that makes her feelings universal, even if you’re not dealing with that particular fear.

She approaches her fear of flying with story. She tells about a memorable flight, telling us her frightened prayers she sent to God, and then the reaction of the two frightened flyers sitting in her row. She talked with one seatmate about praying to overcome her fear — and then he ended up flying back on the same flight as she did!

Once at her destination, she got strategies from friends, like postponing worrying and acting as if. Those strategies, combined with prayer and helping someone else, healed her fear of flying, as demonstrated when she took a third flight to meet her firstborn grandbaby.

The story’s nice, but Julia Cameron’s prayers are inspiring. She tells God how it is and asks for what she needs, simply and directly. Here’s one example:

Dear God, I am frightened.
Please let us find smooth air again.
Get us out of this turbulence.
Thank you for your help.
Amen.

She also intersperses quotations from others about flying and tips for the reader to try. Even though I’m not plagued by a fear of flying, this book was a lovely reminder to trust God about things I was worried about.

juliacameronlive.com
tarcherbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/safe_journey.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 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 Cold Tangerines, by Shauna Niequist

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Cold Tangerines

Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

by Shauna Niequist

Zondervan, 2007. 250 pages.
Starred Review

I was surprised to see that Cold Tangerines was written in 2007. I checked it out because it was new to our library. Better late than never!

Cold Tangerines is another book of meditations on the importance of living a grateful life, on all the blessings God embeds in our everyday world.

A lot of her writing doesn’t seem momentous. But that’s fitting, since she’s talking about walking with God in the everyday.

Here’s a representative section at the end:

It’s rebellious, in a way, to choose joy, to choose to dance, to choose to love your life. It’s much easier and much more common to be miserable. But I choose to do what I can do to create hope, to celebrate life, and the act of celebrating connects me back to that life I love. We could just live our normal, day-to-day lives, saving all the good living up for someday, but I think today, just plain today, is worth it. I think it’s our job, each of us, to live each day like it’s a special occasion, because we’ve been given a gift. We get to live in this beautiful world. When I live purposefully and well, when I dance instead of sitting it out, when I let myself laugh hard, when I wear my favorite shoes on a regular Tuesday, that regular Tuesday is better.

Right now, around our house, all the leaves are falling, and there’s no reason that they have to turn electric bright red before they fall, but they do, and I want to live like that. I want to say, “What can I do today that brings more beauty, more energy, more hope?” Because it seems like that’s what God is saying to us, over and over. “What can I do today to remind you again how good this life is? You think the color of the sky is good now, wait till sunset. You think oranges are good? Try a tangerine.” He’s a crazy delightful mad scientist and keeps coming back from the lab with great, unbelievable new things, and it’s a gift. It’s a gift to be a part of it.

I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift, who will use it up and wring it out and drag it around like a favorite sweater.

If you like that one, here are more quotes I collected on Sonderquotes.

I believe this stuff with all my heart. But it’s always good to have a reminder. I recommend reading this book slowly, a chapter or so a day, and getting a daily reminder that God is good and life is full of His gifts, even during hard times.

shaunaniequist.com
zondervan.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/cold_tangerines.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 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 To Heaven and Back, by Mary C. Neal, M.D.

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

To Heaven and Back

A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again

by Mary C. Neal, M. D.

Waterbrook Press, 2012. 222 pages.

Here’s another Near Death Experience book. I grant you that if you don’t believe in heaven, you can probably find ways to explain these away. But for those of us who believe in heaven, stories like these are magnificently encouraging. At the very least, it’s hard to deny that Dr. Neal should have died in the accident she describes. And once you admit that her very survival was miraculous, it’s hard to ignore her description of talking with angels and her sense of mission in her life afterward.

This book isn’t as focused and polished as some of the similar books I’ve been reading. But an interesting aspect is that she felt she was given a mission to help her family through some hard times. And then her son died. So as if a near death experience weren’t enough, this is also a book about a family dealing with the grief of losing a son, and doing so with grace.

As with every other similar book I’ve read, one of her main descriptions of heaven was a place of love:

My arrival was joyously celebrated and a feeling of absolute love was palpable as these spiritual beings and I hugged, danced, and greeted each other. The intensity, depth, and purity of these feelings and sensations were far greater than I could ever describe with words and far greater than anything I have experienced on earth.

This book tells a dramatic story. It also gives us a glimpse of the hand of God in someone’s life. And I find that encouraging.

waterbrookmultnomah.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/to_heaven_and_back.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 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 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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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/falling_upward.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 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.