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Human Dignity in a Broken World, Two Book Reviews

Shalom Sistas, by Osheta Moore

I read this book on Saturday evening (if you want to read a lot, have surgery and have friends who bring you books, that really helps). Loved it.

I don’t know that Osheta would use the words human dignity, but that’s what shalom is about – peacemaking, peace building, relationships of healing and hope. And the only way to do that is to offer one another dignity. Her book is an honest and brave siren call to live in our neighborhoods and schools and workplaces with courage. I heard Osheta speak recently and loved her combination of passion for the hard work of pursuing justice with the freedom to enjoy simplicity, like an afternoon at the dog park. She offers 12 ways for women to actively and intentionally be peacemakers in our communities.

I love this quote, especially because I have experienced the truth of it. Peace is not passive and it is not an end goal, it is a way of life. “Peace is fierce—it has to be, because violence and discord won’t go down without a fight. Those who wield peace in the face of the world’s violence do it fiercely.”

 

Perfectly Human, nine months with Cerian, by Sarah C. Williams, PhD in philosophy and a professor at Regent College.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Plough Publishing.

I read this book in one weepy afternoon post-surgery. (Books make great post-surgery gifts, in case you have someone heading in for a procedure). My publisher gave me this one while I was at their offices last week. It is heartbreaking and beautiful, a mother’s love story and ringing testimony to the value of every single human life.

After a devastating diagnosis declared her unborn baby would not survive, Sarah and her husband choose to carry the pregnancy to term anyway. This has a terrifying and painful impact on her body and their family, but it also profoundly changes them for good as they declare with her body and with their baby, the worth of a life. What makes up a human life? How is worth determined?

Not everyone will agree with their choice, but that doesn’t matter. Few of us agree with each other about almost anything (American political situation, anyway?). What matters, is this is one family’s story and testament to beauty and life, and it is stunning.

Here is another review in Christianity Today.

And Sarah also wrote in the Huffington Post about her experience.

The Bookshelf, September 2018

I am in love with libraries. Always have been. My mom used to have to limit me on the number of books I could check out. I still had to use a grocery basket to carry them all.

I recently put about twenty books on hold and then realized that, when they call came through at the same time, I should probably stagger my holds. Ah well.

I’m also in love with the free neighborhood library stands. There are three within a mile walk of where I am staying. The other night I took a walk, talked to a friend on the phone, and scored a pile of excellent books. Tonight, I will take another walk and drop off books for others to enjoy.

Here’s what I got (haven’t read them yet):

Liars Club, by Mary Karr

Under the Banner of Heaven, a story of violent faith, by Jon Krakauer

The Martian, by Andy Weir

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (okay, I read this like a hundred times as a kid and want to share it with other kids)

Here’s what else I’m reading this month (some, I’m skimming, because I want to get all the words in that I can, while I have access to the miracle that is a library)

A Moonless, Starless Sky, ordinary men and women fighting extremism in Africa, by Alexis Okeowo. This is a heart-wrenching and fascinating look into the lives of several people across the continent of Africa, including a child soldier and his forced bride, who end up married to each other after they escape the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, and the story of young girls trying to play basketball in Somalia.

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero (not the money one, the in general you one)

Demon Camp, a Soldier’s Exorcism by Jennifer Percy, which, as my doctor noted when she saw what I was reading before an appointment, sounds incredibly creepy. It is about PTSD and war and, well, demons.

The Gospel of Trees, by April Irving, a memoir of growing up as a missionary kid in Haiti. Here’s a quote I highlighted:

“If only this place wasn’t so beautiful! You want to love it, to make it your own, but it won’t take you. It only looks at you strange, then laughs behind your back. Rather humbling, you know? But it’s good for us tet cho Americans to know we can’t have everything.”

The Very Good Gospel, how everything wrong can be made right, by Lisa Sharon Harper

Practicing Resurrection, a memoir of work, doubt, discernment, and moments of grace, by Nora Gallagher

Finding God in the Waves, by Mike McHargue (aka Science Mike)

What are you reading?

Rethinking, Rebuilding. Love in International Service, a book excerpt

Today I bring you an excerpt from Ryan Kuja’s new book: From the Inside Out. I resonated strongly with his words on wholeness. The world is broken and we are broken. I don’t even have to look outside my own mind and heart to recognize the need for healing and restoration and that reality is amplified as soon as I lift my eyes up to the broader world. What can promote and facilitate healing? Love. Unity. Integration belief and action. Peace.

If you enjoy this excerpt and would like to read more, you can find Ryan’s book here and his website with links to more of his published work here.

Book Excerpt- Chapter 5

Making All Things Whole through Love

“Those who follow Jesus,” wrote Franciscan sister and professor Ilia Delio, “are to become wholemakers, uniting what is scattered, creating a deeper unity in love.” The deepest call of Jesus followers is to be wholemakers— acting in ways that bring about the wholeness that underlies the fabric of the cosmos. We seem separate but in our roots we are part of an indivisible whole. There is an integral connectivity that links us. If this is how reality is construed—through a substrate of love, a fabric of connection and deep unity—than participating in mission as if this were true means looking at our task differently, through the lens of the hidden wholeness that exists in Christ prior to and beneath all things. Jesus followers are tasked with intentionally participating in completing the world; mission is nothing less than action toward the fulfillment of the cosmos itself.

The reconciliation of all things is not only a possibility, human flourishing is not only an idea, shalom not a mere word to be adopted, but realities ingrained in the fabric of creation itself.

Placing ourselves in alignment with the shape of God and thus the shape of the universe itself so that we may be conduits of shalom means bringing together the inner and the outer. It means reintegrating contemplation and action. Our logical Western-trained minds say prayer and work, spirituality and ministry are distinct, autonomous aspects of life, but that is a fairly new invention based on Western philosophy and Greek metaphysics, based on the thought of Descartes and Plato more than Paul and Jesus.

What would happen if we began to reimagine mission as relationship in which we recreate each other through a deep mutuality? Participating in the ongoing creation of the world through mending and being mended, healing and being healed, becoming wholemakers as we are being made whole?

This missional spirituality is radically grounded in materiality while simultaneously oriented toward a cosmological horizon that is coming to us from the future, a future in which “Christ is all, and is in all” (Col 3:11). We experience a foretaste of that eschatological future in the present. From the very heart of reality itself, from within the messes, the brokenness, and the tragedy, Christ redeems, restores, reanimates, and resurrects. The world is being reconstituted, day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath, to reflect the new reality which Jesus referred to as the kingdom of God. It is all heading into renewal.

Every act of peace, each move toward courage, every act of selfless love is an act of new creation, small and often unnoticed perhaps, but powerful nonetheless as it is a participation in God’s being. In this way we don’t merely believe in God, worship God, or work for God, but we participate in God’s life.

(I confess that I have not read the entire book yet, but after I read the excerpt Ryan sent me, the book jumped to the top of my list. If you have read it, share your thoughts in the comments or over on Facebook.)

A global citizen with a background in international mission, relief, and development, Ryan Kuja has lived in fifteen cities and rural villages on five continents. He holds an M.A. in Theology and Culture from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology as well a Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. A spiritual director and writer, he has written for Sojourners, Missio Alliance and several theological journals. His first book, From the Inside Out: Reimagning Mission, Recreating the World, released in June 2018. Ryan is currently serving as the Field Director of Word Made Flesh in Medellin, Colombia. You can find him online at ryankuja.com and on twitter as @ryankuja.

*post contains affiliate links

The Bookshelf, August 2018

(post contains affiliate links)

This month I’m sharing books both my dad and I have loved and one he recommends, which I have not yet read, but its on my to-read list, once he finishes.

Made for These Times, by Justin Zoradi, a book about doing work that matters (fun fact: my brother-in-law is mentioned by name in this book).

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. An inspiring, historical sports story about the Olympics held in Germany before World War II and the US rowing team.

Barking to the Choir by Gregory Boyle. Excuse the multiple mentions in the past few months of this book. I bring it up again because of how deeply it impacted my dad. He stopped every chapter or so to wipe his eyes and read several paragraphs to my mom and I. It is a book that will change the way readers live and love.

The Day the Revolution Began by NT Wright. This had been on my to-read list but my library didn’t have it. Turns out, my dad has it and had filled it up with notes and thoughts. It is taking me a while to get through because I’m reading both the actual book and his notes.

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I love all of Larson’s work. This book is about the Chicago World’s Fair and an unsettling series of murders.

 

And here are the books I read this month.

Out of Sorts, by Sarah Bessey. It is about time. Finally, got my hands on this book and I love it. I love how she makes loving Jesus so beautiful, even in the middle of great, big questions.

The past few months have been rough for me and these words carried me through a challenging moment in the middle of August. I took Sarah’s words out of context and pasted them over my own wilderness. They birthed a sliver of hope, a hope I desperately needed and am still clinging to:

Set out pilgrim. Set out into the freedom and the wandering. Find your people. God is much bigger, wilder, more generous, and more wonderful than you imagined. On the other side of your wilderness, you may even find yourself reclaiming it all – the tradition, the habits, the language. You may be surprised someday to find yourself right back where you began, but with new eyes, a new heart, a new mind, a new life, and a wry smile. Now, instead of being whatever label you preferred, perhaps you can simply be a disciple, a pilgrim, out on the Way, following in the footsteps of the man from Nazareth. You aren’t condemned to wander forever. Remember now: after the wilderness comes deliverance.

Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of less, by Greg McKeown. This is a helpful, challenging read, especially for Enneagram 3’s, which (coming clean), I believe I am. Making choices, cutting back, saying no. You know, easy stuff, like that.

You’re a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. Mostly, I read this because it was available from my library and I’ve been on the waiting list for her other book: You’re a Badass, for so stinking long. I thought it might be a kind of preview, but it was also really interesting. (I’m not great at making money, hence, I read the book. I’m still not, but maybe I’m less scared of talking about money. Maybe.)

Grounded, by Diana Butler Bass, about finding God in nature, in humankind, in our daily mundane and average, stunning lives.

Two Hours, by Ed Caesar, about the work of trying to break two hours in the marathon (written before Nike’s attempt this past spring)

What are you reading?

What I’m Reading, July 2018

Or, what my 12-year old daughter is reading, for the young among us, and the young at heart (personally, I still love books for this age), some classics and some new-ish books. She’s a reader, keeping mom happy.

The Giver

The Westing Game

This Island Isn’t Big Enough for the Four of Us. Oh man, I still just love and love this book. I can’t read it out loud to the kids without laughing. I must have read it a hundred times as a kid.

The Inquisitor’s Tale, Or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. Could barely tear her away from this one.

The Scourge

I have a hard time reading much while we are in the US, there is just a lot more to do here. Things like axe-throwing events, frog-chasing, mini golf, multiple graduation open houses, and so much more. Plus, I have a massive stack of magazines that piles up while I’m away, because yes, I still prefer to read magazines in hard copy format rather than online. So I’ve had a lot of Runners World and New Yorker to catch up on.

The Day the Revolution Began, by N.T. Wright, about the meaning of the crucifixion of Jesus. The particular copy I’m reading is full of my dad’s underlinings and notes, which is fun and adds another perspective to the book.

Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd, about spirituality and femininity

The Destiny Thief, by Richard Russo, about the writing life