In two weeks, I listened to all three Hunger Games books. They are creative, entertaining, thought-provoking, and obviously addictive. I thought the first two were especially exceptional. Based on the concept and violence involved, they may not be appropriate for pre-teens.
Pastrix is an inspiring, thought-provoking, and edgy description of the Christian spiritual journey of Nadia Bolz-Weber, who is a Lutheran pastor and a nationally recognized figure in the Emerging Church (Liberal Christian) movement. Bolz-Weber clearly has a very fine mind and a remarkable personal spirituality that has survived her previous life as an alcoholic and standup comic, her scarred conservative church upbringing, and several years as a searching, lost soul. Bolz-Weber’s ministry is inherently dedicated to those suffering from addictions, or people with other life experiences such as non-traditional sexual orientations, abuse, poverty, etc. She is noticeably most comfortable with people from these backgrounds, and includes many interesting stories along these lines about both herself and her parishioners. Be ready for lots of swearing -- I can’t decide whether she consistently swears out of habit, to be provocative, to make herself more accessible to the downtrodden, or as a defense measure to prevent herself from becoming too normal. For those with bible-based or evangelical beliefs, be prepared for some controversial positions, but overall, this doesn’t appear to be a major agenda item for Bolz-Weber, who repeatedly attests to her great love of Christian liturgy. Towards the end, Bolz-Weber addresses the challenges, and ultimately the happy results, of her ministry intersecting with what society would refer to as normal people. She candidly describes her experiences (and current initial successes), but the story ends without being able to answer the question of whether the radical and liberal Christianity Bolz-Weber promotes can scale beyond the scope of her personal leadership and advocacy. The answer is probably, “If God wills it.” In conclusion, Jesus stated that the greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Bolz-Weber’s book is the story of an imperfect woman who with God’s grace is trying really hard to (and arguably succeeding at) living these commandments. I wish her God’s blessings and recommend the book.
This is a magnificent and entertaining audio program that truly makes a serious and complicated play accessible to anyone. My family listened to the play with commentary version of this program in preparation for seeing the play performed, and we all felt it made a world of difference in our appreciation of both the performance and the play. Strongly recommend!
"Have a Little Faith" is two inspiring, true stories – one about a rabbi who spends his whole life at one synagogue in New Jersey and the other about a Christian pastor in the poorest part of Detroit who is a reformed NYC drug user and dealer. Central messages include: God is bigger than any single religion; mercy, compassion, and acts of love are universal ways to worship God; addictions are especially difficult to overcome and can cause tremendous damage to one’s life; sing more when talking to people; value positive legacies; be optimistic – have a little faith.
Favorites quotes from the book (possibly paraphrased):
“Everyone is a person of God.”
“You are not your past.”
“Picture the holiest person you know…and now picture them wearing ragged clothes hiding behind some trash cans holding a shotgun and begging God not to send them to Hell.”
"Jesus, Interrupted" by Bart Ehrman is a well written and well organized analysis of The New Testament using historical (biblical scholarship) techniques. I think the first half of the book, where Ehrman points out significant issues and differences between the various books of The New Testament, is much better than the second half where, in my mind, he presents many historical anecdotes as he strongly hypothesizes about how the early Christian church developed and how that development impacted the Bible. If you are a Christian who has not encountered biblical scholarship before, many of the ideas in this book would be very startling to you.
Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey is written for those of us who have sometimes struggled with institutionalized religion. I thought it would be a lot of commiserating about the challenges of being part of a Christian church, but instead Yancey chose to write chapters about the 13 people who most inspired him and helped him see what a real religious life looks like. People covered in these mini-biographies include Martin Luther King, Jr., Annie Dillard, Feodor Dostoevsky, Mahatma Gandhi, John Donne, and Shusaku Endo. Strongly recommend it!
Despite some of the data issues and poor statements of the past year, I continue to believe that climate change is occurring and is caused by man. I think erratic weather (especially weather extremes) is a symptom/result. Although I am not personally a huge fan of Al Gore, this book does a very nice job of exploring and analyzing numerous potential solutions. It assumes climate change is occurring. Strongly recommend it.
One of the best novels I have read. Deeply moving and thought provoking, it is a gut wrenching story of tragedy, injustice, and redemption.
"The Prodigal God" is a very short book that examines the Christian parable of the Prodigal Son. It makes some insightful points about how the true target of the parable may have been those people represented by the elder son, and it is especially thought-provoking as it discusses how the elder son, who tried very hard to live a correct and righteous life, is the son who ended up alienated from the Father at the end of the parable.
"Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster is a thought-provoking and challenging book about Christian spiritual disciplines. These disciplines include meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. Although I am not able to meet many of the principles and suggested techniques in the book, I think it does a wonderful job of advocating that a religious life should have many more facets and attributes than simply prayer, attending a service, and reading scripture.
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