My own next book, The Value of Doubt, will be out in a few weeks. And I hope you'll come to the Kansas City Public Library's Plaza branch the evening of Sept. 28 to hear about it. For details and to register, click here.
In fact, they're pouring off the presses at a prodigious rate -- so fast it's impossible to keep up. But today I wanted to give you a list of some recent ones that have crossed my desk. I won't be doing anything like a long review of them, but I will give you just a bit about them and then give you a link to a site that can tell you more and even sell you the book.
You might be interested in:
-- When Anything Goes: Being Christian in a Post-Christian World, by Leslie Williams. This is an informal book of Christian apology, meaning a defense of the faith. It's well written and quite accessible even to younger readers who may no longer understand biblical references. Williams offers her judgment (from Episcopal roots) that God is very much alive and that Jesus Christ is both relevant in the 21st Century and necessary. There is hope for the Christian church here, even if at times she overstates the ways in which the culture has undone a society rooted in Christian traditions.
-- Breakaway Amish: Growing Up with the Bergholz Beard Cutters, by Johnny Mast, with Shawn Smucker. Perhaps you recall the wildly improbable story a few years ago of former members of an Amish community in Ohio attacking Amish men there and cutting the beards of those men. This is the story of that strangeness told by the grandson of the man who led the attacks. That grandfather was one more in a long line of religious zealots who decided to worship personal power. It's a sad, cautionary tale, but one that needed to be told.
-- A Man Who Told Us the Truth, by Will Davis Jr. The author, founding and senior pastor of Austin Christian Fellowship in Austin, Texas, offers here his review of some things Jesus Christ said and why what he said was truth. It's a book of Christian apologetics that seems designed for seekers, not people who already have struggled through many of the hard questions of faith.
-- Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow. People of faith have known for a long time that the vision of God as an old white man with a beard who hovers out there somewhere and oversees humanity is far too simplistic, to say nothing of too male, too racist and too silly. But what kind of useful image might replace that one? That's the central question addressed by these two scholars who have spent much of their careers focusing on women in religion and feminist theology. The two authors don't agree about everything, and that gives added strength to the book.
-- Dwelling Places: Words to Live in Every Season, by Lucinda Secrest McDowell. This is a book of daily devotionals focusing on a separate word each day. The author relies on storytelling, and does it well.
-- Sacred Reading: The 2017 Guide to Daily Prayer, by the Apostleship of Prayer, Douglas Leonard, executive director. While we're on the subject of devotionals, here's one from an international Jesuit prayer ministry. I'll bet even some non-Jesuits will find this useful.
-- The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections, edited by Lisa M. Hendey and Sarah A. Reinhard. Let's do a trifecta of daily devotional books. This one comes from the folks at CatholicMom.com, and, as you might expect, offers help for the saints we call mothers.
-- Mary's Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God, by Judy Landrieu Klein. Like the previously mentioned book, this one also comes out of the partnership between CatholicMom.com and Ave Maria Press at Notre Dame. The author shares her difficult struggles with her own children's serious issues, and recounts how she came to rely on what she learned from Mary, mother of Jesus.
-- Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn't the Only Option -- And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex, by Bromleigh McCleneghan. Unsatisfied with all the old answers about sex, the author, pastor of a church in suburban Chicago, decides here to have a new look at all the old questions and approaches. Why is it so difficult for some people of faith to have honest, open discussions (with children and even each other) about matters of sexuality? This book can move us toward better, more helpful discussions about sex and what our faith teaches us about how to understand it. It's a useful guide for a culture saturated with distorted views on what should be seen as the beauty of appropriate sexual responses.
-- My Life with the Saints: 10th Anniversary Edition, by James Martin (the book has a Sept. 1 release date). This was the book, first published in 2006, that really put the author, a Jesuit priest, on the map. It's his description of what various Catholic saints have meant to his life. This edition has a new epilogue by Martin, who became known as the Official Chaplain of "The Colbert Report."
-- Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews and Talks, by Dallas Willard, edited by Gary Black Jr. The late teacher and theologian Dallas Willard (he died in 2013) was a popular writer, especially, but not exclusively, among Christians who would call themselves evangelical. This book is a collection of his writings and other material, some of it previously unpublished, that gives readers a good sense of why he was so widely read.
-- Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways to Love the Life You Have, by Roger Housden (publication date Sept. 8). This is in the self-help category (well, I'd put it there). It advises readers to quit struggling so much and learn to love life. The desire for what we don't need and what, in fact, may hurt us, is what Housden wants us to avoid.
-- A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve, by Mother Teresa, edited with an introduction by Brian Kolodiejchuk. As the late Mother Teresa is canonized as a saint on Sept. 4, this posthumous book of her teachings will be a good resource to remind people of her life and her commitment to serving the poor. The editor of the book is the priest who has been in charge of the cause of her canonization. In this Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis, Mother Teresa's words collected here will help the world understand not just her thinking but also why each individual is called to act mercifully.
-- Twelve Little Ways to Transform Your Heart: Lessons in Holiness and Evangelization from St. Therese of Liseux, by Susan Muto. This book draws on the wisdom of the French-born saint known as "Little Flower." It unpacks the "little way" of hiddenness, gratitude, sacramental life, simplicity and other aspects of faith. Her name, by the way, also is honored in Kansas City's St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church.
-- The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life, by Brother David Steindl-Rast. The author, a Benedictine monk since 1953, offers here his understanding of the paradox and ambiguities of a life lived with deep spiritual awareness. It's an approach that honors the idea that different people bring different gifts and problems to questions of religion: "The word God," he writes, "ought to be used with utmost caution if we want to avoid misunderstandings." In that case and, in fact, in much of life, "the silent language of gestures helps to express our unity."
-- The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki's Ancient Epic -- Complete and Comprehensive, by Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy (Sept. 6 publication date). This famous ancient Indian epic is brought back to life in this new version. Author Egenes has written books about the benefits of yoga and meditation, while author Reddy is a medical doctor who taught at Albany Medical College. This old sacred text provides much of the religious context of India even today.
-- The Mysteries of the Rosary: An Adult Coloring Book, by Daniel Mitsui. The title tells it all, and proves that today any subject in the world can be the focus of the adult coloring book craze.
-- The Beautiful Not Yet: Poems, Essays and Lyrics, by Carrie Newcomer (Sept. 16 release). I never review music here and don't intend to start now, but in this case I'll make the small exception of offering you notice that songwriter and recording artist Carrie Newcomer has put the lyrics to her new CD in this small book along with some poems and essays. And the lyrics are quite engagingly spiritual, such as: "Carry nothing but what you must,/Lean in toward the Light./Let it go, shake off the dust/Lean in toward the Light./Today is now, tomorrow beckons/Lean in toward the Light./Keep practicing resurrection." (I also like the CD.)
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AND HE'S NOT LIKE HIS DADDY, EITHER
Some Christians in Vancouver, preparing for a March 2017 festival, say they don't want the Rev. Franklin Graham to be part of it because he's "incendiary and intolerant." Sounds like a conclusion from Captain Obvious, who recently declared the pope to be Catholic and Barack Obama America's first black president.
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P.S.: Anglican Bishop David Alvarado of El Salvador will be speaking about refugee issues at a public forum, “Immigration: Seeing the Connections,” at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2, at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Kan. For details about that and related events, download this pdf: Download Bishop Alvarado of El Salvador.