Category: Recent picks

Beliefs books : recent arrivals

Spiritual healing, church history and mindfulness meditation all feature in this month’s selections. Don’t forget that our Gale database has many religions and beliefs periodicals in full text. Titles include : Interpretation, Islam & Science, Journal of religion and popular culture, Journal of theological studies and many more. Use your library card to login for free.

Syndetics book coverNine lives : the Enneagram in life stories, by Eric Foggitt.
Why do we make the same mistakes over and over? Why do people make crazy choices? Can we change and grow up or are we like the proverbial leopard with his spots? In these nine short stories you’ll meet… a whole cast of [characters] who find out – eventually – that it is possible to change and grow. Each of the main characters is a different Enneagram type.

Syndetics book coverThe complete Buddhism for mothers : Buddhism for mothers, Buddhism for mothers of young children, Buddhism for mothers of schoolchildren, by Sarah Napthali.
Become a calmer and happier mother with The Complete Buddhism For Mothers. Parenthood can be a time of great inner turmoil for a woman, yet parenting books invariably focus on nurturing children rather than the mothers who struggle to raise them. … In her clear and engaging way, Sarah Napthali takes us on a journey through the challenges (and the pleasures!) of raising children, using Buddhist teachings and principles to help her answer the eternal questions of mothers everywhere: Who am I now? Where am I going? And how can I do my best by my children and myself? … Even if exploring Buddhism at this busy stage of your life is not where you thought you’d be, it’s well worth reading this book. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe first Muslim : the story of Muhammad, by Lesley Hazleton.
“It is surprising how little most people know about the life of the prophet Muhammad. Hazleton sets out to rectify that in this eminently readable biography. Relying on two biographies from the eighth and ninth centuries, as well as other sources, she presents Muhammad’s life as both history and story. It begins with a moving scene: Muhammad alone in the barren mountains, at night, praying and waiting. Who he is and how he came to be there are revealed in chapters that show him as an orphan in need of protection, as a young camel driver appreciated for his fairness, as a prophet touched by Allah, and as a political leader driven to bring the message to all those with ears to listen. … A highly readable, insightful biography.” Drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics.

Syndetics book coverBuddha’s book of sleep : sleep better in seven weeks with mindfulness meditation, by Joseph Emet ; [foreword by Thich Nhat Hanh].
Buddha’s Book of Sleep is the first book to treat sleep disorders from the perspective of mindfulness meditation. Yet this is a natural choice – mindfulness meditation has proven effective for other psychological problems such as stress, depression and anxiety and these very issues are what become sleep problems when our heads hit the pillow. Divided into two sections, this book attacks sleep disorders with a combination of wisdom and practical meditation exercises. … [this] will help the reader calm their hurried thoughts and rest easy. (description from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverWhen “spiritual but not religious” is not enough : seeing God in surprising places, even the church, by Lillian Daniel.
“In this wise and witty collection, some of them short musings and others in-depth theological explorations, United Church of Christ pastor Daniels [writes] about people who feel compelled to tell her they find God in nature, as if Christians “never heard all those Old Testament psalms that praise God in the beauty of natural creation,” she dissects shallow, individualistic spirituality, and evokes the rough beauty of church where “we are stuck with one another.” Whether pondering the reality of never-completed jobs (like parenting), sharing lessons learned from teaching in Sing Sing prison, or describing her personal struggles with yoga and meditation through the lens of the Martha and Mary story, Daniels offers an honest, often hilarious perspective on faithful living….” (drawn from Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverJesus wars : how four patriarchs, three queens, and two emperors decided what Christians would believe for the next 1,500 years, by Philip Jenkins.
Historian Philip Jenkins tells the fascinating, violent story of the Church’s fifth century battles over ‘right belief’ that had a far greater impact on the future of Christianity and the world than the much-touted Council of Nicea convened by Constantine a century before. Over the last 2000 years, Christians have repeatedly struggled to resolve the tension between two seemingly rival claims: Jesus was fully human and yet fully divine. Never was the debate more central to Christianity than during the Church Councils of the fifth century…. (drawn from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverIn the footsteps of Jesus : a chronicle of his life and the origins of Christianity, by Jean-Pierre Isbouts.
“Using new archaeological discoveries, Isbouts takes readers on a trip back in time to uncover Jesus and the places where he lived, preached, and died. The first part of the book, The World of Jesus, looks at the larger Roman world as well as the locales that nurtured Jesus and his work. The text then goes on to trace the life of Jesus as he moved through Galilee, ending up in Jerusalem for his final days. The book concludes with a look at the Christian communities that sprang up throughout the Roman Empire. An epilogue tracks various pilgrimage routes. … Good for browsers and students of the period alike.” drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics.

Syndetics book coverThe journey : a practical guide to healing your life and setting yourself free, by Brandon Bays.
“Diagnosed with a basketball-sized tumor in her uterus, Brandon Bays refused drugs and surgery, instead discovering a powerful direct path to the potent healing power of the soul. Six and a half weeks later, she was tumor free. …”–Back cover.

Recent beliefs arrivals

Once again, this selection covers a wide range – from the culture of Biblical times, to ethics, forgiveness and the latest from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Syndetics book coverWisdom of compassion: stories of remarkable encounters and timeless insights
“An attendee at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s meetings all over the world and coauthor with him (The Wisdom of Forgiveness), Chan provides an insider’s account of the spiritual master’s teachings at venues large and small. “This is the Dalai Lama in context,” he writes, “live, unscripted, and at his most charismatic.” Encounters are arranged by theme: “Overcoming Adversity,” “Educating the Heart,” and “Compassion in Action.” … These inspiring dialogues communicate His Holiness’s worldwide appeal and essential commitment to compassion. (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverJews and words, by Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger.
“These four long essays – really more of a free-flowing conversation between the noted Israeli novelist and his daughter, a historian-focus primarily on the Jews as “a nation only by virtue of its texts,” from the Bible to the work of contemporary Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai – and the interpretations and argumentations that flow from them. The authors, secular Jews who are lovers of the Hebrew Bible, note that “Genesis, Isaiah, and Proverbs are our pyramids… our Gothic cathedrals… undemolished in the flow of time.” They look specifically at the role of “vocal women,” such as Eve and Lilith, in the Bible and biblical legends…. it will appeal to lay readers interested in a nonreligious Judaism based on contemporary readings of traditional and more modern Jewish texts. (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe saint who would be Santa Claus : the true life and trials of Nicholas of Myra, by Adam C. English.
“Serving up a fresh look at St. Nicholas of Myra-of Santa Claus fame-English, (religion, Campbell Univ.; Theology Remixed: Christianity as Story, Game, Language, Culture) reexamines new evidence about the personal life and ministry of the saint whose acts of charity led to the legend of St. Nick…. Expertly weaving through the web of historical facts and legend, English does a solid job of fleshing out the life and ministry of this man who became a saint who still inspires today. This academic work is best suited for those who have knowledge of early church history. (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverFool me twice : fighting the assault on science in America, by Shawn Lawrence Otto.
“Otto (founder and CEO, ScienceDebate.org) provides the latest defense of science in the ongoing culture wars. From the space program to the public debates on evolution and global warming, Otto makes the case that postmodern ideologies like the “marketplace of ideas” and the equality of different “ways of knowing” have resulted in a devaluation of scientific knowledge in the media, the general public, and the political spheres. Politicians, journalists, the public, and scientists themselves all share the blame for the shrinking role science plays in public discourse and policy….. Although overly polemic at times, the arguments are eloquent and the sources rigorous and thorough. The information contained in the book is critical to an informed electorate and enlightened policy makers. (drawn from CHOICE review, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverPaul and Jesus : how the Apostle transformed Christianity, by James D. Tabor.
“Historians know almost nothing about the two decades following the crucifixion of Jesus, when his followers regrouped and began to spread his message. During this time the apostle Paul joined the movement and began to preach to the gentiles. Using the oldest Christian documents that we have – the letters of Paul – as well as other early Christian sources, historian and scholar James Tabor reconstructs the origins of Christianity. Tabor shows how Paul separated himself from Peter and James to introduce his own version of Christianity, which would continue to develop independently of the message that Jesus, James, and Peter preached. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverNot for happiness : a guide to the so-called preliminary practices, “plagiarised by” Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse.
“This stylish and wonderfully written guide to the so-called Preliminary Practises is not only very much written for and easily chewable by a western audience but also and most importantly is extremely profound and clear, all the way widening limited views and removing tons of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the Vajrayana path and Dharma practice in general. It is full of pith instructions suitable and fitting for this time and age Dharma practitioners. Every single Dharma practitioner interested in seriously engaging in the Vajrayana path should definitely take a good look at this timely masterwork by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche.” (Amazon customer review)

Syndetics book coverThe passionate Jesus : what we can learn from Jesus about love, fear, grief, joy and living authentically, by Peter Wallace.
“The author (Living Loved: Knowing Jesus as the Lover of Your Soul) is a gay Episcopal priest who looks at Christ through the lens of a Bible scholar. Knowing the text of the Bible is the key to knowing Jesus. “In all four gospels, strong and emotionally intense language dominates the Passion narratives,” Wallace writes. For the reader looking for a Bible study, the author goes deeply into the scriptures that convey a loving Christ, seeking to portray Jesus as a man with human characteristics, a Jesus who is vividly there in times of fear and grief and joy….This book will appeal to the reader looking for a deep Bible meditation.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverEthics, by Julian Baggini ; series editor, Simon Blackburn.
The Big Questions series is designed to let renowned experts confront the 20 most fundamental and frequently asked questions of a major branch of science or philosophy. In ‘The Big Questions: Ethics’ Julian Baggini, one of Britain’s best-known philosophers, condenses complex, contemporary issues of right and wrong into 20 key questions. He examines how we can start to answer them, what they might mean to us and how they influence the way we choose to live our lives. The ideas debated include : Can it ever be right to kill? Should euthanasia be legal? Do animals have rights? (drawn from goodreads.com)

Syndetics book coverLet it go : forgive so you can be forgiven, by T.D. Jakes.
This book explores forgiveness as an idea and at the same time offers specific and clear actions for readers who seek to apply the idea in their daily lives. Offenses are a part of life, he says. But conflicts can be resolved and relationships do have a future, if we learn how to forgive. No matter how great or small the injustice, Jakes shows how the matter can be put behind you for the sake of a better tomorrow if you can “Let It Go.”

Syndetics book coverA cultural handbook to the Bible, by John J. Pilch.
“Pilch, author of The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible (1999), provides Bible scholars and readers with another insightful collection of articles that helps place the Bible in a historically accurate cultural context. …Pilch has a knack for making potentially dry material lively and interesting, using pop-culture references like Garrison Keillor and Hollywood musicals to illustrate a particular point in a relevant and entertaining way. While this is first and foremost a reference book for those seeking to broaden their understanding of the Bible using current knowledge of Middle Eastern cultures, it may prove to be a draw for history buffs as well. (Drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverUnapologetic : Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense, by Francis Spufford.
“A book written for atheists. I was giggling all of the way through. A very sweary book but I think the language helps make his point. For once we have a defence of faith which is predicated not on nit picking arguments but rather on how it feels to believe, and how it feels right to the author. I identify with him a lot. I love the honesty of his writing. He has no pat answers. I’m sure many traditional Christians will be offended by this book. And that is sad. Couldn’t put it down…” Goodreads customer review.

Syndetics book coverUnleash! : breaking free from normalcy, by Perry Noble.
Why is it that we trust Jesus with our salvation but never fully trust him with our lives? God longs to unleash his full measure of power in our lives to fill us with passion and purpose. But too often the things of our past-fear, anger, bitterness, worry and doubt-hold us back. Rather than focusing on the reality of who Christ is and what he has done for us, we allow ourselves to be identified by all the things we aren’t. … Join Perry on this journey as he digs into the major barriers holding people back and shows how Jesus calls and equips his followers to experience a life most of us never dreamed possible. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Saints and pilgrims : latest beliefs books

From the Kabbalah, to Camino de Santiago, divine compensation to overcome financial stress, or the Vatican’s secret plan to save Jews during World War Two, this month’s selection covers a wide range for your holiday reading and reflection.

Syndetics book coverJesus of Nazareth : the infancy narratives, by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) ; translated by Philip J. Whitmore.
In 2007, Joseph Ratzinger published his first book as Pope Benedict XVI in order to ‘make known the figure and message of Jesus’. Now the Pope focuses exclusively on the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life as a child. The root of these stories is the experience of hope found in the birth of Jesus and the affirmation of surrender and service embodied in his parents, Joseph and Mary. … It is a story of sacrifice and trusting completely in the wisdom of God as seen in the faith of Simeon, the just and the devout man of Jerusalem, when he is in the presence of the Christ child. Ultimately, Jesus’ life and message is a story for today, one that speaks to the restlessness of the human heart searching for the sole truth which alone leads to profound joy and freedom. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverFaitheist : how an atheist found common ground with the religious, by Chris Stedman.
In Faitheist, Stedman draws on his work organizing interfaith and secular communities, his academic study of religion, and his own experiences to argue for the necessity of bridging the growing chasm between atheists and the religious. As someone who has stood on both sides of the divide, Stedman is uniquely positioned to present a way for atheists and the religious to find common ground and work together to make this world – the one world we can all agree on – a better place. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverA message of hope from the angels, by Lorna Byrne.
Lorna Byrne sees angels with as much clarity as the rest of us see people, and she speaks to them every day. In this inspiring and uplifting book, Lorna reveals how we can call on the help of our angels to carry us through the challenges that we all inevitably face, including loneliness, depression, stress, financial strain, heartbreak, the death of a loved one, or feeling inadequate as a parent. No matter what obstacles we face, we can call on this support to make our lives happier and more fulfilling. (drawn from the publisher’s book description) We have also received Angels in my hair : a memoir by the same author.

Syndetics book coverAnd man created God : kings, cults, and conquests at the time of Jesus, by Selina O’Grady.
This text takes the reader on a geographical and intellectual journey across the evolving empires and kingdoms of the ancient world. Through evocations of individual rulers and holy men, Selina O’Grady shows how emperors sought to shape religion to their ends, and how religion shaped emperors and their subjects.

Syndetics book coverUnderstanding the mysteries of Kabbalah : exploring the ancient esoteric heart of Jewish mysticism : offers concise and practical insight into the foundations of Kabbalah and explores how it aims to deepen our connection with the universe and contribute to the search for awareness and true enlightenment, by Maggy Whitehouse.
This lavishly illustrated book covers the fascinating Kabbalah tradition, from its beginnings to its modern incarnation as a mystical path followed by many celebrities. It explains how the Tree of Life and Jacob’s Ladder are at the heart of Kabbalistic teaching, bridging the gap between humans and the divine. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverA pilgrim’s guide to the Camino de Santiago : St. Jean, Roncesvalles, Santiago : the Way of St. James : the ancient pilgrim path also known as Camino Francés, by John Brierley.
This comprehensive guidebook to the Camino de Santiago and its offshoots contains all the information needed by modern-day pilgrims wishing to walk the sacred Way of St. James. Overview route planners plus daily stage maps and detailed town plans help sojourners with all the advance preparation they need. The maps feature contour guides to help distinguish the terrain that will be crossed each day, while full information on all pilgrim hostels, as well as details for alternative accommodation, allow travelers to plot adequate nightly stopping points. All reference information is accompanied by helpful spiritual guidelines to support the seeker’s inner journey as well as the outer pilgrimage. Otherwise known as the Camino Frances, the main route covered in this volume is the most popular sacred route through Spain, from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago. (drawn from the publisher’s description).

Syndetics book coverThe Dead Sea Scrolls : a biography, by John J. Collins.
This compact book, is not so much about what the Dead Sea Scrolls are but, rather, how the arguments around them have impacted Christianity, Judaism, and the wider world. Collins writes engagingly about the history of the Scrolls and examines the debates and conclusions that various scholars have put forth about who wrote the Scrolls, what the location of their discovery means, and the way the wide-ranging writings have been used to promote various positions. . . . A solid introduction that offers plenty of information. (drawn from Ilene Cooper, Booklist )

Syndetics book coverThe Pope’s Jews : the Vatican’s secret plan to save Jews from the Nazis, by Gordon Thomas.
Accused of being “silent” during the Holocaust, Pope Pius XII and the Vatican of World War II are now subjected to closer examination in Gordon Thomas’s newest investigative work, The Pope’s Jews. Thomas’s careful research into new, first-hand accounts reveal an underground network of priests, nuns and citizens that risked their lives daily to protect Roman Jews. Investigating assassination plots, conspiracies, and secret conversions, Thomas unveils faked documentation, quarantines, and more extraordinary actions taken by Catholics and the Vatican. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe law of divine compensation : on work, money, and miracles, by Marianne Williamson.
New Age thinker Marianne Williamson reveals the spiritual principles that help people overcome financial stress and unleash the divine power of abundance.

Syndetics book coverA year of Biblical womanhood : how a liberated woman found herself sitting on her roof, covering her head, and calling her husband “master”, by Rachel Held Evans ; cover photo by Maki Garcia Evans.
The author spends a year exploring traditional Biblical roles for women, including such activities as interviewing a polygamist’s wife, visiting an Amish school, abstaining from gossip, and corresponding with an Orthodox Jewish woman.

Syndetics book coverMy sisters the saints : a spiritual memoir, by Colleen Carroll Campbell.
Author Colleen Carroll Campbell blends her personal narrative of spiritual seeking, trials, stumbles, and breakthroughs with the stories of six women saints who profoundly changed her life: Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina of Poland, Edith Stein of Germany, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Mary of Nazareth. Drawing upon the rich writings and examples of these extraordinary women, the author reveals Christianity’s liberating power for women and the relevance of the saints to the lives of contemporary Christians. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverSpiritual partnership : the journey to authentic power, by Gary Zukav.
“In his first major work since “The Seat of the Soul,” Zukav introduces a profound new relationship dynamic which enables and empowers individuals to reach their true potential and discover what Zukav calls authentic power.” (Syndetics summary)

Beliefs and religions recent purchases

The latest arrivals feature a relook at angels, The Shack, the latest Deepak Chopra, and getting to know your neighbours.

Syndetics book coverBlasphemy : the true, heartbreaking story of a woman sentenced to death over a cup of water, by Asia Bibi with Anne-Isabelle Tollet.
Punjab, Pakistan, June 2009. At midday Asia goes to the nearest well, picks up a cup and takes a long drink of cool water. .. Suddenly one of her fellow workers cries out that the water belongs to the Muslim women and that with her actions, Asia – who is Christian – has contaminated it…. ‘Blasphemy!’ someone shouts… Asia was soon after thrown into prison and then sentenced to be hanged. Since then she has been kept in a windowless cell. …only two public figures came to Asia’s defence: the Muslim governor of the Punjab and Pakistan’s Christian Minister for Minorities, both have since been brutally murdered. Here, in equal measures shocking and inspiring, Asia Bibi, who has become a symbol for everyone concerned with ending the violence committed in the name of religion, bravely speaks to us from her prison cell.

Syndetics book coverAngels all around us : a sightseeing guide to the invisible world, by Anthony DeStefano.“The increasing secularization of society has led, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, to a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God.’ Anthony DeStefano’s book, Angels All Around Us, is a welcome attempt to remind Christians of truths which, though mentioned explicitly in the Gospel and belonging to the deposit of faith, in recent decades have been overshadowed.” Archbishop Rino Fisichella, Vatican City, Rome.

Syndetics book coverThe shack revisited : there is more going on here than you ever dared to dream, by C. Baxter Kruger ; foreword by Wm. Paul Young.
Young’s novel, The Shack, has been embraced by Christians worldwide. Kruger explores this story of a man lifted from the depths of despair through his life-altering encounter with God, and guides readers into a deeper understanding of the core message of the novel: God is love. (summary courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverIf you’re lucky, your heart will break : field notes from a Zen life, by James Ishmael Ford.
Using anecdotes from his own life, with quotations drawn from sources as varied as the Bible, and stand-up comedy, Zen teacher and Unitarian Universalist minister James Ishmael Ford shares the gifts won over his lifetime of full-hearted engagement with the Zen path. If You’re Lucky, Your Heart will Break breathes new life into the Buddhist ideas of karma and rebirth – as well as the Buddhist precepts of ethical action – and finds for them kinship in other spiritual endeavours. Even the most cynical of hearts will find resonance in Ford’s compassionate presentation of basic human truths. (drawn from the publisher’s summary)

Syndetics book coverJesus : a theography, by Leonard Sweet, Frank Viola.
Biographies of Jesus generally have been written by those trying to investigate the historical Jesus with little attention given to the grand narrative of Scripture. On the flip side, those interested in tracing the theology of Scripture are typically disinterested in historical Jesus studies. These two approaches have yet to converge…until now. Written for the average reader as well as scholars. (drawn from the book summary)

Syndetics book coverIs God an illusion? : the great debate between science and spirituality, by Deepak Chopra, Leonard Mlodinow.
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Hawking have had a major impact on the loud and popular debate between ‘aggressive atheists’ and religion. Now ‘the rock star of the new spirituality’, Deepak Chopra, is entering this debate, sparring with leading physicist, Professor Leonard Mlodinow.

Syndetics book coverDrink, smoke, pass out : an unlikely spiritual journey, by Judith Lucy.
Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey takes us on Judith’s path from being a child so Catholic that she wanted to be a nun, to a genuinely curious adult looking for meaning via atheism, advanced yoga, astral travel and a whole lot more. Based on the popular ABC television series of the same name, this book features her trademark blend of her ‘brutal frankness and dazzling wit’ (The Age), and will appeal to anyone who has wondered about the bigger questions in life, as well as fans of her bestselling memoir, The Lucy Family Alphabet. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverEvolution of the Word : reading the New Testament in the order it was written, by Marcus J. Borg.
Contents : A chronological New Testament — Before anything was written — Paul and his letters — Time line — 1 Thessalonians — Galatians — 1 Corinthians — Philemon — Philippians — 2 Corinthians — Romans — Mark — James — Colossians — Matthew — Hebrews — John — Ephesians — Revelation — Jude — 1 John — 2 John — 3 John — Luke — Acts — 2 Thessalonians — 1 Peter — 1 Timothy — 2 Timothy — Titus — 2 Peter.

Syndetics book coverThe art of neighboring : building genuine relationships right outside your door, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.
Once upon a time, people knew their neighbours. We now choose to live among strangers, and it can be hard to make lasting connections with those who live right outside our front door, although we have hundreds of “friends” through online social networking. This unique and inspiring book asks the question: What is the most loving thing I can do for the people who live on my street or in my apartment building? Through compelling true stories of lives impacted, the authors show readers how to create genuine friendships with the people who live in closest proximity to them. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe ultimate conversation : talking with God through prayer, by Charles F. Stanley.
Chapter headings include : A conversation with the great problem-solver : your priceless privilege — With whom are you speaking? : your perception of God will characterize your prayer life — The God who answers : He is faithful to show you His will — Listening to God, walking with God : the importance of learning the sound of His voice — Our helper in prayer : the Holy Spirit as our ambassador — How God uses silence : His message in the stillness — Talking to God on behalf of others : how to know you are praying God’s will — The answer to our hearts’ desires : accepting the challenge to wait.

Syndetics book coverThe book of Job : when bad things happened to a good person, by Harold S. Kushner.
Draws on lessons from the Book of Job to offer advice on how to retain faith in the face of adversity and explains how to recognize controllable and uncontrollable factors.

Syndetics book coverThe power of the Prophetic Blessing, by John Hagee.
“The power and permanence of the Prophetic Blessing has been clearly charted over the centuries in Scripture… This transforming supernatural blessing, when spoken by spiritual authority, has the power to sculpt your future! And as you’ll discover from Pastor John Hagee… the words of this blessing carry the power to revolutionize your life – and the lives of your children and grandchildren – for today, tomorrow, and forever, so that you may all experience spiritual, physical, emotional, and relational prosperity”–dust jacket.

Religions and Beliefs : recent new books

Heretics, church conflicts, how to tame your tongue, and faces of compassion all feature in the recent arrivals to our beliefs shelves.

Syndetics book coverBrigham Young, pioneer prophet, by John G. Turner.
“*Starred Review* In 1859, Brigham Young declared, I love my religion above all things else. In recounting the life of a man whose devotion made him one of the titans of nineteenth-century America, Turner traces Young’s cautious investigation and then wholehearted acceptance of the radical gospel preached by the Latter-day Saints prophet Joseph Smith. This gospel meant not only a new volume of scripture (the Book of Mormon) but also priesthood ordinances sealing families in the eternities  … Turner’s broad historical perspective clarifies why Young’s ecclesiastical successors have still felt the man’s influence even after abandoning polygamy. An impressively detailed portrait of a controversial giant.   (drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverChange your words, change your life, by Joyce Meyer.
Words are a big deal. They are containers for power, and we have to decide what kind of power we want our words to carry, says the author. “I believe that our words can increase or decrease our level of joy. They can affect the answers to our prayers and have a positive or negative effect on our future. ….”  Topics include:  How to Tame Your Tongue ;  When to talk and when not to talk ; Speaking Faith and Not Fear ;  Do you really have to give your opinion? ; The importance of keeping your word ; The power of speaking God’s word.   (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe illustrated Bible retold and explained : from the Creation to the resurrection, editor-in-chief Father Michael Collins.
Sumptuously illustrated, this large book format book is a useful introduction to the stories of the Bible. It’s coverage extends well beyond the well-known favourite stories (e.g. Noah’s ark and Paul’s conversion). The illustrations complement the text well and include paintings, landscape photos and explanations of how people lived in Bible times, archaeology, historical artefacts, and specially commissioned maps.

Syndetics book coverJust one thing : developing a Buddha brain one simple practice at a time, by Rick Hanson.
You’ve heard the expression, “It’s the little things that count.” Research has shown that little daily practices can change the way your brain works, too. This book offers simple brain-training practices you can do every day to protect against stress, lift your mood, and find greater emotional resilience. Just One Thing is a treasure chest of over fifty practices created specifically to deepen your sense of well-being and unconditional happiness. Just one practice each day can help you: – Be good to yourself – Enjoy life as it is – Build on your strengths – Be more effective at home and work – Make peace with your emotions.

Syndetics book coverJesus : an historical approximation, by José Antonio Pagola ; translated by Margaret Wilde.
Contents include :   A Galilean Jew — Life in Nazareth — A seeker of God — A prophet of the reign of God — A poet of compassion — A healer of life — Defender of the last — A friend of women — A teacher of life — Creator of a renewal movement — A faithful believer — Combative and dangerous — Martyr of the reign of God — Raised by God — Exploring the identity of Jesus. 

Syndetics book coverEmbraced by God : celebrating who and whose you are, by Babbie Mason.
Babbie Mason shares her personal journey to understanding how very much God loved her, not as a singer or teacher but as His child. Here she equips readers to accept that love, and grow their confidence because of it… Babbie’s warm, creative and friendly approach will engage readers and encourage them on this blessed journey”  (drawn from goodreads)

Syndetics book coverDivine healing hands : experience divine power to heal you, animals, and nature, and to transform all life, by Zhi Gang Sha.
Zhi Gang Sha was born in China’s Shaanxi province and became interested in healing during childhood. He received a doctorate in Western medicine from Xi’an Jiaotong University and is certified in acupuncture and moxibustion. … Per his personal website, Sha’s stated mission is “to transform the consciousness of humanity and souls in the universe to create a peaceful and harmonized world and universe”. His title Tao II made the New York Times Bestseller List for 2010. (Drawn from Bowker Author Biography)

Syndetics book coverHeretics : the creation of Christianity, from the Gnostics to the modern church, by Jonathan Wright.
“A lively new examination of Christian heresy, from a historian who argues that heretical dissent helped Christianity become the world’s most powerful religion.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGreater : dream bigger, start smaller : ignite God’s vision for your life, by Steven Furtick.
“The death of Apple founder Steve Jobs prompted megachurch pastor and author Furtick (Sun Stand Still) to read a saying of Jesus Christ about doing great things. Jesus claimed ambitiously that disciples will not only do things they see him do but “will do greater things.” Furtick weaves stories of his own life with that of the prophet Elisha, the lesser known successor of Elijah. The spiritual fodder that Furtick squeezes from his story and that of Elisha is impressive. …Like many sermons turned book chapters, the book is full of personal and Bible stories, but seems patched together. Still, Furtick’s laugh-out-loud turn of phrase, enthusiasm, and faith pops even in print.  (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics) 

Syndetics book coverRedeeming church conflicts : turning crisis into compassion and care, by Tara Klena Barthel and David V. Edling ; foreword by Ken Sande.
“Every church will experience conflicts. How a church handles these inevitable conflicts determines its future and the spiritual health of its members. If properly approached, church conflicts can be used for spiritual growth – both individually and corporately as the body of Christ. …Two church-conflict resolution experts take readers through the Acts 15 model of approaching conflict in order to help them understand the intricacies of their church conflict.  (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverFaces of compassion : classic Bodhisattva archetypes and their modern expression : an introduction to Mahayana Buddhism, by Taigen Dan Leighton ; foreword by Joan Halifax.
“This wonderful book could also be artly titled ‘An Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism.’ From Ali to Gandhi, Dylan to Thoreau, and from Gertrude Stein to Mother Theresa, Faces of Compassion introduces us to enlightened beings, the bodhisattvas of Buddhist lore. They’re not otherworldly gods with superhuman qualities, but shining examples of our own highest potential. Zen teacher and scholar Taigen Dan Leighton takes us through the ages to meet the people who have shaped history and society with their compassion and wisdom. Faces of Compassion emphasizes the universality of spiritual ideals, and the power each of us has to change our world” — www.amazon.com

Syndetics book coverWhy did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed cross the road? : Christian identity in a multi-faith world, by Brian D. McLaren.
“Using stories from his life and what he has gleaned, sometimes creatively, from theologians, McLaren focuses on ways Christians can reconfigure concepts such as Christology and the Trinity to build a robust emergent Christian faith that repudiates violence, coercion, and domination. Although he claims to reject a sugary Coke commercial version of interfaith “harmony,” McLaren’s utopian vision, however, might strike even his followers as overly sanguine in its downplaying of the problem of evil. Further, some of his personal anecdotes read more like Save the Children infomercials than slices of real life. Ultimately, McLaren remains worth reading, lively and passionate at translating progressive theology into a popular idiom. (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Quest for meaning : recent beliefs books

The philosophy of pluralism, the idea of sin, and the new field of Integral thought feature in the Beliefs books which were shipped to the library in the last month.

Syndetics book coverMana Māori and Christianity, edited by Hugh Morrison…[et al.]
“This book examines encounters between the Christian church and Māori. Christian faith among Māori changed from the missionary endeavours of Pākehā settlers, to the development of indigenous expressions of Christian faith, to partnerships between Māori and Pākehā in the mainline churches, and the emergence of Destiny Church. The book looks at the growth, development and adaptation of Christian faith among Māori people, and considers how that development has helped shape New Zealand identity and society. It explores questions of theology, historical development, socio-cultural influence and change, and the outcomes of Pākehā interactions with Māori.”–Publisher information.

Syndetics book coverGod in a brothel : an undercover journey into sex trafficking and rescue, by Daniel Walker.
“A New Zealand-trained police officer with a calling to rescue children from the clutches of the sex trade, Walker has written about the four-year period he worked as an undercover investigator for nonprofit organizations dedicated to combatting child sex slavery. … Walker describes operations he undertook to investigate and extricate poor children from horrific abuse and oppression. Unfortunately, Walker has chosen to change or obscure names, places, even the organizations he worked for. The result is an overly general account that will prevent readers from understanding the complexity of the issue. … The book’s strength lies in Walker’s very honest descriptions of the toll the work took on his marriage, his faith and his personal ethics. Evangelical Christians, for whom trafficking has become a hot issue, will surely appreciate it. (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe illustrated encyclopedia of Hinduism : a comprehensive guide to Hindu history and philosophy, its traditions and practices, magnificently illustrated with more than 470 magnificent photographs, by Rasamandala Das ; consultant, M. Narasimhachary.
“Hinduism is perhaps the oldest major religion. The comprehensive book explores its rich historical and cultural development, from its Indian roots to its vibrant application in the present, global context. Over 470 illustrations, plus a useful introduction, a clear timeline and a full glossary of Indian terms. This accessible book provides the perfect reference for anyone wishing to explore the compelling faith and culture that is Hinduism.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverGenerous justice : how God’s grace makes us just, by Timothy Keller.
It is commonly thought in secular society that the Bible is one of the greatest hindrances to doing justice. Isn’t it full of regressive views? Didn’t it condone slavery? Why look to the Bible for guidance on how to have a more just society? But Timothy Keller, pastor of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, sees it another way. In Generous Justice, Keller explores a life of justice empowered by an experience of grace: a generous, gracious justice. Here is a book for believers who find the Bible a trustworthy guide, as well as those who suspect that Christianity is a regressive influence in the world. … In short, Timothy Keller speaks a language that many thousands of people understand. (drawn from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe quest for meaning : developing a philosophy of pluralism, by Tariq Ramadan.
“How different do our various religions, philosophies and traditions of thought make us? And can we see past what divides us to discover what we have in common? Tariq Ramadan, philosopher and Islamic scholar, sets out on a journey to answer these questions and find the universal truths we hold in common, no matter how we arrive at them. … Ramadan argues that there are universally shared beliefs that are arrived at in many traditions of thought. Written in a direct and meditative style, with resonance for all, this important and timely book will direct and shape debate around the important questions of our time. (drawn from the book jacket)

Syndetics book coverMeditating selflessly : practical neural Zen, by James H. Austin.
This is not the usual kind of self-help book. Indeed, its major premise heeds a Zen master’s advice to be less self-centered. Yes, it is “one more book of words about Zen,” as the author concedes, yet this book explains meditative practices from the perspective of a “neural Zen.” The latest findings in brain research inform its suggestions. … [It] guides readers toward that open awareness already awaiting them on the cushion and in the natural world. … Drawing widely from the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience, Austin helps resolve an ancient paradox: why both insight wisdom and selflessness arise simultaneously during enlightened states of consciousness. (drawn from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverGodforsaken : bad things happen, is there a God who cares? Yes, here’s proof, Dinesh D’Souza.
“The biggest question about God is not, surprisingly enough, whether he exists. It’s about whether God is really good. In this book, Dinesh D’Souza applies recent scientific discoveries in physics, astrophysics, and biology to the persistent problem of evil. The result is a stunningly new and well-reasoned exploration of why a good God can allow so much suffering in this world….” (Drawn from the book jacket)

Syndetics book coverSin : the early history of an idea, by Paula Fredriksen.
“Fredriksen … traces the concept of sin through seven “evolutionary jumps” from the teachings of Jesus and Paul in the first century C.E., to Valentinus, Marcion, and Justin Martyr in the second century, to Origen of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo in the third to fifth centuries. Her carefully nuanced discussion emphasizes the different “worlds” or mental frameworks that influenced these thinkers, e.g., the Jewish world of Jesus as distinct from the Roman world of Paul, a diaspora Jew, and Jesus’s expectation of the imminent in-breaking of God’s kingdom …. VERDICT This is an erudite study of related ideas of sin, salvation, human destiny, the messianic role, and the influence of worldview and political context on conceptual ideas that those who ponder or teach such matters may well find rewarding. (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of syndetics)

Syndetics book coverAm I a Jew? : lost tribes, lapsed Jews, and one man’s search for himself, by Theodore Ross.
“In 1982, when Men’s Journal editor Ross was nine, he moved with his divorced mother to a small Mississippi town. She instructed him to hide his Jewishness and to say he was Unitarian. By the time he was an adult, Ross had developed a furtive fascination with Judaism and continually asked himself if he was a Jew and what it really meant to be a Jew. His quest took him around the country, sampling a variety of ways of being Jewish. … This effort lacks the depth, clarity, and originality of the best books on Jewish spiritual journeys like Paul Cowan’s 1982 An Orphan in History, and Ross’s kvetching about the loss of his heritage feels contrived. His encounters with various Jews nevertheless offer moments that are perceptive and provocative. (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverHow to pray : alone, with others, at any time, in any place, by Stephen Cottrell. (3rd ed.)
“How To Pray is a basic primer on prayer. It will get us started, keep us going and uses every stage of life and its varied events to renew and expand our understanding of being alive to God through prayer. Completely honest about the struggles and difficulties everyone encounters, it will help us discover how natural prayer is, even when we least feel like it… — www.amazon.com

Syndetics book coverA room with a pew : sleeping our way through Spain’s ancient monasteries, by Richard Starks and Miriam Murcutt.
This account of the authors’ journey through rural Spain to deviate from the usual tourist routes, and visit the many ancient monasteries peppered around the Spanish landscape. These are monasteries that remain true to their calling as monasteries. This is not a guide book, more of a travelogue, as they encounter the routines of monastic life and interview some of the monks and nuns, but it does include enough information for you to plan your own journey.

Syndetics book coverEvolutionaries : unlocking the spiritual and cultural potential of science’s greatest idea, by Carter Phipps.
“Evolution is universal in this masterful survey by Phipps of the diverse ideas that make up the emerging field of Integral thought. By presenting “culture, consciousness, and the cosmos” as dynamic and interrelated areas of expansion, mind and matter alike are viewed as part of “a vast process of becoming.” …. While concepts like transhumanism, complexity science, spiral dynamics, and the noosphere will be new to many readers, Phipps, EnlightenNext editor, explains them thoroughly and makes a strong case for their legitimacy. In the process, the lives of several theorists – from 20th century sages such as Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo to contemporary intellectuals like Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen – are examined. These “evolutionaries” are shown to possess a worldview that is optimistic yet realistic, both rational and spiritual. … (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Beliefs Recent arrivals

This month’s selections evidence that we live in a world of diverse paths, from science to postmodernism, psychology to politics to the parables of Jesus.

Syndetics book coverThe great partnership : God, science and the search for meaning, by Jonathan Sacks.
Explores how religion has always played a valuable part in human culture and far from being dismissed as redundant, must be allowed to temper and develop scientific understanding in order for us to be fully human. … the author shows how the predominance of science-oriented thinking is embedded deeply even in our religious understanding, and calls on us to recognise the centrality of relationship to true religion, and thus to see how this core value of relationship is essential if we are to avoid the natural tendency for science to rule our lives rather than fulfilling its promise to set us free. (drawn from publisher’s description).

Syndetics book coverRoll around heaven : an all-true accidental spiritual adventure, by Jessica Maxwell.
“An all-true accidental spiritual adventure that led one nonbeliever to lunch with Deepak Chopra, dance with Stephen Hawking, heal with Yogananda, banish evil spirits with Buddhist lamas, find true love in a Presbyterian church chair, share Celtic revelations on the isle of Iona, talk all night with the Daughters of Islam, and learn an abiding respect for all paths to God. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe misleading mind : how we create our own problems and how Buddhist psychology can help us solve them, by Karuna Cayton.
“Buddhism asserts that we each have the potential to free ourselves from the prison of our problems. As practiced for more than twenty-six hundred years, the process involves working with, rather than against, our depression, anxiety, and compulsions. We do this by recognizing the habitual ways our minds perceive and react – the way they mislead. The lively exercises and inspiring real-world examples Cayton provides can help you transform intractable problems and neutralize suffering by cultivating a radically liberating self-understanding. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSelfless insight : Zen and the meditative transformations of consciousness, by James H. Austin.
When neurology researcher James Austin began Zen training, he found that his medical education was inadequate. During the past three decades, he has been at the cutting edge of both Zen and neuroscience, constantly discovering new examples of how these two large fields each illuminate the other. Now, in Selfless Insight, Austin arrives at a fresh synthesis, one that invokes the latest brain research to explain the basis for meditative states and clarifies what Zen awakening implies for our understanding of consciousness. … His quest has spanned an era of unprecedented progress in brain research and has helped define the exciting new field of contemplative neuroscience.

Syndetics book coverConnecting Christ : how to discuss Jesus in a world of diverse paths, by Paul Louis Metzger.
“Metzger explores how the faithful and conservative Christian can engage in open and respectful dialog with those of other faiths without losing sight of the obligation to witness. His work includes brief comments from leaders in other faith traditions. VERDICT Anything that can promote courtesy, across faiths or other lines, is welcome; Metzger’s book should be required reading for evangelical pastors and preachers. (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverMade for goodness and why this makes all the difference, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu ; edited by Douglas C. Abrams.
“Desmond Tutu, Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, as well as chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, hardly needs an introduction. …The book is founded on the broad notion that we are created with the freedom to choose good or evil but also incline fundamentally to the good. Abstract theology or spirituality has never been Archbishop Tutu’s way; accordingly, this book flows effortlessly through narratives that illustrate Tutu’s unquenchable hope.” (Drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics) Another new book by the same author is God is not a Christian.

Syndetics book coverSolomon among the postmoderns, by Peter J. Leithart.
Solomon’s words from a famous passage of Ecclesiastes have been translated, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Leithart says those words are better translated ‘Vapor of vapors, all is vapor,” emphasizing that human life is fleeting. He uses this theme, as well as the entire book of Ecclesiastes, to indicate how Solomon resonated with the themes of today’s postmodernism. (drawn from the book jacket)

Syndetics book coverThe righteous mind : why good people are divided by politics and religion, by Jonathan Haidt.
Dismissing the notion that the human mind is fundamentally rational, Haidt briskly guides the reader through decades of psychology research in order to demonstrate that emotion and intuition determine our judgments, while reasoning is created only later to justify these judgments (a la Hume). …. Blending lucid explanations of landmark studies in psychology and sociology with light personal anecdotes, Haidt has produced an imminently readable book about the complexities of moral psychology and the human fixation with righteousness. (drawn from Publishers’ Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverReligion in human evolution : from the Paleolithic to the Axial Age, by Robert N. Bellah.
“Bellah’s book is an interesting departure from the traditional separation of science and religion. He maintains that the evolving worldviews sought to unify rather than to divide people. Poignantly, it is upon these principles that both Western and Eastern modern societies are now based. What strikes the reader most powerfully is how the author connects cultural development and religion in an evolutionary context. He suggests that cultural evolution can be seen in mimetic, mythical, and theoretical contexts. Ultimately, Bellah contends that our society is especially informed by our lengthy biological past. VERDICT This is an academic work … Most lay readers, even if compelled by the subject, will find it heavy going… (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe power of parable : how fiction by Jesus became fiction about Jesus, by John Dominic Crossan.
“Through an exploration of the literary genre popular in the ancient world, distinguished Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan dissects the versions we read in the Gospels to get back to what Jesus really intended to teach. …By unlocking the meaning and purposes of the Gospel’s parables, we can arrive at a better portrait of this enigmatic and charismatic Jewish figure who transformed his world and the next two thousand years of history”– (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverGod and the folly of faith : the incompatibility of science and religion, by Victor J. Stenger ; foreword by Dan Barker.
“Stenger argues that religion is a remnant of “caveman logic,” full of “cowardly denial and self-defeating ignorance” used “by those in power to retain that power and keep the masses in line.” Stenger, who has written multiple books on rejecting religion, provides many reasons for abandoning ideas of God, from the classic “religion has brought us inquisitions, holy wars, and intolerance” to more unusual theories comparing religion to infectious parasites and destructive viruses. … While dyed-in-the-wool New Atheists may enjoy this book, it will not go far with the average reader. (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverSeeing, knowing, being : a guide to sacred awakenings, by John Greer.
“Modeled on the hero’s journey as presented by Joseph Campbell, the book itself is divided into two parts: “The Exile,” which explains how cultural conditioning leads to a distinction between self and other, and “The Return,” which traces how nonduality can be regained and ego vanquished. From Rumi and Alan Watts to The Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching, Greer carefully collects inspiring quotations from the world’s wisdom traditions to evoke a sense of oneness and interconnectivity. … This wise and serene book is clearly the product of many years of study and practice with nondual beliefs. (Drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

The colours of hope : July beliefs books

Three different takes on aging head the selections this month, while systematic theology and misused Bible verses complete the list.

Syndetics book coverAging as a spiritual practice : a contemplative guide to growing older and wiser, by Lewis Richmond.
“Although this is a user’s guide to aging well written from the perspective of a Buddhist priest and meditation teacher, you don’t have to be a Buddhist or, for that matter, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or even a believer to appreciate its very helpful reflections. … As Richmond poignantly observes, Everything we love and care about . . . will change, transform, and eventually pass away. … Included are stories of ordinary people, some of whom like growing old and others who do not. In addition, Richmond offers examples of contemplative Buddhist practices.” (drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverA vision for the aging church : renewing ministry for and by seniors, by James M. Houston & Michael Parker.
Are we ready for the opportunities and challenges facing the aging church? Now is the time for the church to offer ministry to its increasing number of seniors and to benefit from ministry they can offer. A noted theologian (Regent College) and an expert in the fields of social work and gerontology show that seniors aren’t the problem. They are the solution.

Syndetics book coverSouls in full sail : a Christian spirituality for the later years, by Emilie Griffin.
“… Emilie Griffin begins, taking us on an exploration of the second half of life. It is a book filled with wonderful, rich story, wisdom from those who have gone before us and carefully crafted spiritual exercises. She explores relocation, vocational changes, losing her mother, and negotiating and renegotiating her relationships with her grown children.The journey of our later years is a wondrous voyage, though turbulent at points. But it is the journey we have been preparing for all along. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHeaven is now : awakening your five spiritual senses to the wonders of grace, by Andrew Farley.
“In his latest book, Farley (God Without Religion) explores ways to live life and love God through the five senses. Each sense is loosely attached to a spiritual idea; for example, the “hear” section is about knowing which voice to listen to in one’s life and the “see” section is about being aware of what Jesus accomplished. … Readers who can get past the standard sermon fodder and take the time to employ the back matter will learn how to refocus their lives on God. (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverGod and the folly of faith : the incompatibility of science and religion, by Victor J. Stenger ; foreword by Dan Barker.
“Stenger, who has written multiple books on rejecting religion, provides many reasons for abandoning ideas of God, from the classic “religion has brought us inquisitions, holy wars, and intolerance” to more unusual theories comparing religion to infectious parasites and destructive viruses. He warns about a small, secret cabal of wealthy Christians (mainly Republicans) who control the U.S. government and conspire to stop good science. Verdict Stenger’s shock-jock style of humor (”Science flies us to the moon. Religion flies us into buildings”) is unlikely to change minds and instead lessens the chances for respectful dialog. (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe novice : a story of true love, by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh transforms an ancient folktale into a timeless parable. Born in rural Vietnam, Kinh Tam’s beauty and intelligence were obvious to all. …. Throughout her marriage, Kinh Tam’s mind was devoted to her husband, but her heart never wavered from her true calling. She wanted to be a monk. Yet Buddhism was still new to Vietnam and temples accepted only men for ordination. So Kinh Tam disguised herself as a man, and joined a monastery as a novice. Years of joy and peace passed until a local woman accused the novice of fathering her unborn child. Torn between two impossible choices, Kinh Tam faced the unbearable with the boundless heart of Buddha, and her choice forever changed her life, her country, and her faith. (From the publisher’s description.)

Syndetics book coverSeeking silence in a noisy world : the art of mindful solitude, by Adam Ford.
Explores our existential search for mindful solitude, what it can mean, and how we can benefit from peaceful solace. Silence-seeker Adam Ford wisely interrogates the quiet spaces and pauses in life, drawing upon the spiritual use of solitude in religious traditions from native American initiation ceremonies to Christian hermitages. He examines the creative power of silence as a source of inner strength and self-knowledge, and also reveals its darker side when used as a political or relationship weapon. …Through personal anecdote and daily meditations, Seeking Silence in a Noisy World shows how we all find moments of soothing peace to nourish our spirits in an increasingly chaotic world.

Syndetics book coverThe colors of hope : becoming people of mercy, justice, and love, by Richard Dahlstrom.
“We are called to impact a culture that is overwhelmingly preoccupied with personal peace, prosperity, protection, and survival. Christians should be artists who paint with the colors of hope in a broken world, embodying Christ’s redemptive presence in our personal lives, our work, and our relationships.This inspiring and practical book offers tools for living out this vision in daily life, with special attention given to the challenges we face in staying focused on the mission of imparting hope to others even while dealing with our own personal issues…” Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverConvergence with nature : a Daoist perspective, by David E. Cooper.
David E. Cooper explores our relationship to nature – to animals, to plants, to natural places – and asks how it can be shaped into an appropriate one which contributes to the good of people’s lives as a whole. Religions and philosophies have much to say about our relationship with nature, and Chinese Daoist philosophy has long been regarded as among those most sympathetic to the natural world. Daoists seek an attunement to the Dao (the Way) which is characterized by a sense of flow (water being a favourite metaphor), spontaneity, non-interference, humility and patience – virtues which contrast with the aggressive and exploitative values which characterize a modern world increasingly subject to economic imperatives. Like the best of contemporary nature writing, the classic Daoist texts reveal a yearning for convergence with nature, nostalgia for a lost intimacy with the natural world, disillusion with humanity or its products, and a feeling for nature’s mystery. … (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTempted and tried : temptation and the triumph of Christ, by Russell D. Moore.
“Moore walks readers through the Devil’s ancient strategies for temptation revealed in Jesus’ wilderness testing. He considers how those strategies might appear in a contemporary context and points readers to a way of escape.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe Christian faith : a systematic theology for pilgrims on the way, by Michael Horton.
“A prolific, award-winning author and theologian, professor Michael Horton’s highly anticipated The Christian Faith represents his magnum opus.” (Syndetics summary) Features include: (1) a brief synopsis of biblical passages that inform a particular doctrine; (2) surveys of past and current theologies; (3) discussion of issues within various Christian traditions, as well as postmodernity, (4) an extensive bibliography and charts. At 1052 pages, it may be a little heavy for any pilgrim, but armchair theologians who view theology as “doctrine that can be preached, experienced, and lived, as well as understood, clarified, and articulated” will find plenty here.

Syndetics book coverThe most misused verses in the Bible : surprising ways God’s Word is misunderstood, by Eric J. Bargerhuff.
“Whether intentionally or not, people take important verses out of context, and pastor and Bible scholar Eric J. Bargerhuff has seen the effects: confusion, faulty decisions, sin being dismissed, and more. With a deft touch, he helps readers understand and apply sound principles of interpretation and application of twenty familiar verses. This concise high-interest approach appeals to the curious as well as readers concerned about incorrect theology” — www.amazon.com

Searching for wisdom : recent beliefs books

This month’s offerings feature popular authors ranging from Richard Rohr, to Bart D. Ehrman.

Syndetics book coverToxic charity : how churches and charities hurt those they help (and how to reverse it), by Robert D. Lupton.
Although we contribute money, and many volunteer hours to support needs here and abroad it appears to be a bottomless pit. Why are the same people trapped in cycles of unemployment, and poverty? Lupton, with many years of experience in urban renewal, argues that “when relief does not transition to development in a timely way, compassion becomes toxic. …He chronicles examples of good intentions gone awry and examines charitable activities that are resulting in transformative outcomes. … A must-read book for those who give to help others. (drawn from Booklist review, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverDid Jesus exist? : the historical argument for Jesus of Nazareth, by Bart D. Ehrman.
“The short answer is yes. But Ehrman, who’s written much on early Christian history and literature (e.g., Misquoting Jesus, 2005), … shows how empirical historians examine the evidence to conclude that Jesus almost certainly existed. He concludes with an account of who Jesus was historically, namely, an apocalyptic prophet. Finally, those who do not advocate belief in Jesus might be more successful, he says, if they emphasized the discrepancies between the historical Jesus and Jesus as modern Christianity represents him rather than harping on his nonexistence. As engrossing a rigorously nontheological work about Jesus as you’re ever likely to encounter. (drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverA lever and a place to stand : the contemplative stance, the active prayer, by Richard Rohr.
“This book, by a well-respected spiritual master, offers a critique of religious attitudes that create an alternative pious world for their believers without really challenging the oppression, materialism, and sectarianism of our modern world. According to Richard Rohr, religion without a genuinely contemplative stance is often at the root of the problem. He explains that religion can only recover its purpose as a transformational system if it overcomes its own temptation to embrace power, certitude, wealth, and fundamentalism. …(drawn from the book jacket)

Syndetics book coverThe Holy Spirit in the world today, edited by Jane Williams.
“In recent decades, churches across the world have been rediscovering the dynamic power and deep wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Alongside the experience of the Spirit many theologians have begun to explore the theology of the Spirit and in 2010 a major conference took place at Holy Trinity Brompton on this very topic. This book is a collection of twelve papers delivered at this conference, and includes contributions from Jurgenn Moltman, Miroslav Volf, David Ford and Rowan Williams” (drawn from the publisher)

Syndetics book coverIn the shadow of his wings : the pastoral ministry of angels, yesterday, today, and for heaven, by Jonathan Macy.
Historically, angels have been viewed as either disconnected objects of speculative investigation, or as mystifying beings mysteriously influencing our lives. However, this is not how the Bible describes them. … We see messages of encouragement, revelation, and guidance; we see judgment and correction; we see strengthening, we see journeying; we see prayer and worship. … Using only Scripture and a classic model of pastoral theology as the framework, this book shows practically how angels are employed by God to bless His church and people as His servant ministers who glorify Him alone. (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOn being : a scientist’s exploration of the great questions of existence, by Peter Atkins.
“Peter Atkins is the shining exception to the rule that scientists make poor writers. A Fellow at Oxford and a leading chemist, he has won admiration for his precise, lucid, and yet rigorous explanations of science. Now he turns to the greatest–and most controversial–questions of human existence. Can the scientific method tell us anything of value about birth, death, the origin of reality–and its end? Are these questions best left to faith? Atkins makes a provocative contribution to the great debate between religion and science. …He explores breathtaking questions–asking the purpose of the universe–with wit and learning, touching on Sanskrit scriptures and John Updike along the way….” — www.amazon.com

Syndetics book coverThe apocalypse : a brief history, by Martha Himmelfarb.
“For most people, the term “apocalypse” conjures disturbing images of impending doom. Yet historically, apocalypse encompasses far more than the cataclysmic events prophesied in the book of Revelation. ….The book traces the tradition of apocalyptic writing through the Middle Ages, when Jews and Christians continued to record apocalypses and developed related forms of literature. It concludes with a look at the modern era, when the production of apocalypses may have ended, yet movements with intense expectations of the world’s imminent demise continue unabated. Accessible and enlightening, this brief history provides readers with insights into the fascinating historical genre of apocalyptic literature. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeing gay, being Christian : you can be both, by Stuart Edser.
The primary aim of this book is to explain to gay or same-sex attracted people that they can be both gay and Christian – that the two are not mutually exclusive. The calm authoritative voice of science and scholarship, explains that gay people are neither sick nor sinful. Author Stuart Edser threads his own extraordinary story throughout the text, using this and his experience as a clinician to guide his thinking. At the end, he presents an alternative model of Christian discourse to that which we usually hear and offers a positive voice so often glaringly absent from the Church’s utterances on homosexuality. (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA life together : wisdom of community from the Christian East, by Seraphim Sigrist.
“Taking his cues from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s influential Life Together, Moscow bishop and author Sigrist (Theology of Wonder) puts an Eastern Orthodox spin on the theme of unity. Like Bonhoeffer, his push for community stems from an inability to meet with other Christians, one result of life under Soviet rule of Russia. Other similar themes emerge: the importance of group prayer, the need to bear one another’s burdens. …. Readers in a global society fraught with discord will find hope in this revived prescription for an “interweaving of relationships.” Sigrist’s nuggets of wisdom are the kind of gems that readers will treasure and quote for years to come. (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverOther : embracing difference in a fractured world, by Kester Brewin.
“Beginning with Jesus’ instruction to love God, and love our neighbour as we love ourselves, Brewin explores how we might better engage ‘the other’ within the Self, within God and within the worlds we inhabit. Drawing on Brewin’s work as a theologian, poet and teacher this accessible and highly original work prompts us to reconsider the key question of ‘what kind of selves do we need to be in order to live in harmony with others?’” (drawn from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverInside Scientology : the story of America’s most secretive religion, by Janet Reitman.
“A contributing editor at Rolling Stone, Reitman has expanded on her 13,000-word story on Scientology, which ran in 2006, to produce a detailed and readable examination of the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church, and his successor, David Miscavige. The book is rife with astonishing accounts of the abuses of power, the purges, and the climate of fear and intimidation commonplace in the top ranks of the organization. What’s lacking is a thoughtful analysis of what Scientology represents within the broader 21st-century culture…. (drawn from Publisher Weekly rview, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverRender unto Rome : the secret life of money in the Catholic Church / Jason Berry.
“An investigation of epic financial intrigue, “Render Unto Rome” exposes the secretive and sometimes highly dubious ways the Catholic Church uses its money.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWho made God? : Searching for a theory of everything, by Edgar Andrews.
“science, philosophy and faith with an amazing lightness of touch, Edgar Andrews exposes the pretensions of the new atheism of Richard Dawkins and others, blending incisive arguments with gentle humour.” (Syndetics summary) Chapter headings include:
Sooty and the universe: who made God? — Yogurt, cereal and toast: can science explain everything? — Stringing it all together: searching for a theory of everything — Pouring concrete: foundations and hypotheses — Ferrets and fallacies: a brief critique of God, the failed hypothesis — Peeling onions: the ubiquity of law in conscience, nature and society.

Beliefs books : new arrivals

The latest additions to the religions and beliefs collection encompass the Amish, Buddha Standard Time, some origins of the 2012 Apocalypse thinking, and a Christian view of place.

Syndetics book coverWalking gently on the earth : making faithful choices about food, energy, shelter and more, by Lisa Graham McMinn & Megan Anna Neff.
“Each chapter uniquely begins with a prelude by Megan Anna that highlights an African perspective or practice, helping us glean the wisdom of another culture and reminding us of the interconnectedness of everything on the earth. Lisa’s fluid, passionate writing then offers both the truth about the state of the earth and inspiration to get back toshalom–a peace that allows all things to thrive. Covering such topics as farming practices, slave labour, consumer power, climate change, alternative energy sources, and family size Lisa clearly demonstrates the effects of our choices and makes it easy for us to choose with discernment, with lists of resources and organizations at the end of each chapter. …” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMan seeks God : my flirtations with the divine, by Eric Weiner.
“When a health problem puts him in the hospital, agnostic Eric Weiner is asked by a nurse. “Have you found your God yet?” This unbalances his equilibrium and he embarks on a personal mission to do just that. This entertaining book includes heartwarming accounts of those he met along the way – those steeped in Sufism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism, Wicca, and even a UFO-based religion.

Syndetics book coverWounded wisdom : a Buddhist and Christian response to evil, hurt and harm, by Ross Thompson.
“How as the hurt people we all are, are we not to be harmed and harm others in turn? This is an urgent issue for a world increasingly embroiled in more and more conflicts that are regarded, bythose who wage them, as battles of good against evil.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverYour true home : the everyday wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh / [Thich Nhat Hanh] ; compiled and edited by Melvin McLeod.
“Inspiring, joyful, and deeply insightful, this book offers daily contemplations and words of wisdom from one of today’s most important spiritual teachers. These powerful and transformative words of wisdom, drawn from the works of a bestselling and prolific author, touch all aspects of readers’ lives, from the personal to the global, and reflect the great themes of his teachings. ” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverScapegoat : a history of blaming other people, by Charlie Campbell.
“We still crave simple explanations for complex happenings,” Campbell writes, but these explanations have often led to tragic situations in which innocents suffer for crimes they didn’t commit. … The book offers examples organized into thematic chapters (Jewish, Christian, sexual, Communist, medical), which cover ancient to modern times and show how powerful leaders and enemies of the people have always been “inextricably linked, reverse sides of a coin, one the shadow of the other.” Although Campbell is a witty and engaging writer, the book never develops an argument beyond anecdote, ….” (drawn from Publishers Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverBuddha standard time : awakening to the infinite possibilities of now, by Surya Das.
“We’re all given the same twenty-four hours a day.We can spend our time feeling hurried and harried, overwhelmed by chores and demands, distracted and burned out . . . or we can awaken to Buddha Standard Time, the realm of timelessness whereevery choice, every action, and every breath can be one of renewal and infinite possibilities. … Drawing on Tibetan Buddhism and other great wisdom traditions, as well as on neuroscience and holistic traditions, renowned teacher and national bestselling author Lama Surya Das shares real world examples, practical exercises, and essential techniques. ” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Amish way : patient faith in a perilous world, by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zercher.
“This second book by the authors of the award-winning Amish Grace sheds further light on the Amish, this time on their faith, spirituality, and spiritual practices. They interpret the distinctive practices of the Amish way of life and spirituality in their cultural context and explore their applicability for the wider world. Using a holistic perspective, the book tells the story of Amish religious experience in the words of the Amish themselves. Due to their long-standing friendships and relationships with Amish people, this author team may be the only set of interpreters able to provide an outsider-insider perspective….(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhere mortals dwell : a Christian view of place for today, by Craig G. Bartholomew.
“Where Mortals Dwell provides a biblical, theological, and philosophical grounding for the significance of place in our rootless culture. Bartholomew illuminates the importance of place throughout the biblical canon, in the Christian tradition, and in the contours of contemporary thought. This timely book encourages readers to recover a sense of place and articulates a hopeful Christian vision of placemaking in today’s world. ” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRenovation of the church : what happens when a seeker church discovers spiritual formation, by Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken ; foreword by Dallas Willard.
“2012 Christianity Today Book Award winner. Pastors Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken tell the story of how God took their thriving, consumer-oriented church and transformed it into a modest congregation of unformed believers committed to the growth of the spirit …. [this] … triggered major changes in the content of their sermons, the tenor of their worship services, and the reason for their outreach… Honest and humble, this is Kent and Mike’s story of a church they love, written to inspire and challenge other churches to let God rewrite their stories as well. ” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverApocalypse not : everything you know about 2012, Nostradamus and the Rapture is wrong / John Michael Greer.
“All the end time prophecies splashed across the media in every age have had something else in common: every one of them has been wrong. Apocalypse Not is a lively and engaging survey of predictions about the end of the world, along with the failed dreams and nightmares that have clustered around them. Among the stories highlighted are: the birth of the apocalypse meme out of archaic star myths in the ancient Middle East; the failed end time prophecies of Nostradamus, Mother Shipton, and other famous prophets; the long and murky road from the Great Pyramid to today’s Rapture beliefs; and the real origins of the belief in apocalypse in 2012 ….” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverObjecting to God, by Colin Howson.
“… In this book Colin Howson analyses in detail the evidence which is claimed to support belief in God’s existence and argues that the claim is not well-founded. Moreover, there is very compelling evidence that an all-powerful, all-knowing God not only does not exist but cannot exist, a conclusion both surprising and provocative.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUnderstanding world religions, by Irving Hexham.
“Presents religion as a complex and intriguing matrix of history, philosophy, culture, beliefs, and practices. Hexham believes that a certain degree of objectivity and critique is inherent in the study of religion, and he guides readers in responsible ways of carrying this out.Of particular importance is Hexham’s decision to explore African religions, which have frequently been absent from major religion texts. He surveys these in addition to varieties of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.” (Syndetics summary)


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