Book Review-On Living by Kerry Egan

On Living Kerry Egan
If you’ve ever wondered what the work of a hospice chaplain looks like, read this book. In fact, I almost didn’t read this book because I feared it would feel too much like a day of work. While her stories resonated with me, I didn’t feel like I was working. I felt like I met someone who understands what I do and why I do it. I’m so glad I read this book.
In my time with hospice, I’ve heard stories from people in their 20s, and those who have passed the century mark and every age in between. I’ve met people who have never lived far from where they’ll die and people who arrived here shortly before their deaths. I’ve met people who have spent their whole lives worrying about money and people who have never worried about money. I’ve congratulated couples who have been married 40, 50, 60, even 70 years, and I’ve sat with people who saw the hospice team as their family because they had no one else. I tell you this because what is written in these pages is not unique. All hospice chaplains hear stories. As one of my favorite social workers says often, “We love to hear your stories.” And that is what I do, I listen to stories and help those entrusted to my care make meaning for themselves.
This wonderful book gives you an insiders view into life as a hospice chaplain. You’ll read about joy and heartbreak. You’ll see that it isn’t easy to be present as another’s life nears the end, and you’ll see that it is so worth it. I highly recommend this book to you!
It was difficult to pick only one quote to share with you because this book is filled with so many beautiful words. I’ll leave you with the words used to end the book.
“If life were like a novel, and I could tie things up nicely with a bow, I would claim it was Gloria [the patient we meet on page 1] who gave me my parting advice. But it wasn’t. It was a little old Jewish lady who gave me a blessing every time we met. She’d fled Poland with her parents and brother in the 1930s arrived in the United States ten years later alone. A woman whose story I haven’t told here, and will instead keep bundled in my heart with hundreds of other stories. I’ll leave you with it, as she left it with me: “Promise yourself,” she said that last time we met, “promise that you’ll have a great life, no matter what happens'” (206).

Celebrating Earth Day with Faithful Families by Traci Smith

In my work with children, youth, and families, I was always searching for great ideas and resources to share with others. One of the resources that I highly recommend is Traci’s Smith, Faithful Families. In this new book, you’ll find all the information you need to create a variety of spiritual practices for your family or for yourself. My review of the book will be shared soon, and in the meantime, I’d like to highlight one of the practices from the book.

Earth Day is coming up soon and Traci does a wonderful job of helping us combine celebrating Earth Day with God’s love of creation. (In fact, all of the practices are ways of acknowledging God’s presence and our connectedness to God and each other in our regular, daily lives).

Earth Day-Feeding the Birds begins with a brief reflection and introduction. “This practice is designed to help children honor creation every year on Earth day by reading the creation story and making a bird feeder” (56). This practice is recommended for ages 4 and up and can be completed with only pipe cleaners and O-shaped cereal. You can make this bird feeder in about 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll want to gather your family outside on Earth Day with a Bible and bird feeder making supplies. Read Genesis 1 together. Next you’ll talk about creation as a family. You can use the question provided like “What is your favorite part of creation?” (56) or use your own questions. To create the bird feeder you simply string the cereal on the pipe cleaner and bend it into the shape of a ring. Place your bird feeder on a tree and say a prayer together.

Each practice includes notes and variations to help you. The practices are written as a script so you can easily follow along or pass the book to older children or other family members to share the reading responsibility. The script includes options for everything you need to say including prayers, introductions, and questions. As you can see from the Earth Day practice, the intention of the practices in this book is to make it easy for your family to find ways to “create sacred moments at home.”

I hope you’ll spend some time out in creation on Earth Day creating sacred moments. And I hope you’ll add the book, Faithful Families,  to your family library and your church library. For more information about this book and many other resources, please visit http://www.traci-smith.com.

 

 

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review of this book.

Book Review-There’s a Clergywoman in the Pulpit

There’s a Woman in the Pulpit

Christian Clergywoman Share Their Hard Days, Holy Moments & the Healing Power of Humor
edited by Rev. Martha Spong
An excellent collaborative work by clergywoman of all ages from the United States and a few other countries. The essays are divided into Calling, Sacraments, Death, Experiences, Being a Pastor And ______, and Life Outside the Church. In these pages you read real stories by pastors who are just like you and very different too. You’ll laugh and cry as see yourself in some of the stories and wonder how this happened as you read others.
I hope this book give non-clergy a little insight into the life of a clergy person. And I hope this book will inspire you to support the future clergy people in your life. It isn’t an easy calling, and it is our responsibility to support the next generation so they can lead us.
On a particularly hard day, I read Rev. Robin Craig’s, “Preaching Ahead of Yourself.” She said, “Preach ahead of yourself. Preach what you hope to know again one day. Preach the confidence for which you long. Preach the promises awaiting fulfillment. Preach the peace that seems utterly elusive. Preach the practices you follow, despite the bone-dry life on which they leave no imprint” (147).
I encourage you to read this book at your own pace, and then to pass this book along to someone you know who needs to read it too.

Book Review-When God Was a Little Girl

When God Was a Little Girl 
David R. Weiss
Illustrations by Joan Hernandez Lindeman

The story of creation is told from the imaginations of a father and daughter in this beautifully written and illustrated book. You’ll want to read this one again and again with a child you love or you might find yourself reading it by yourself. The starting point for this story is the creation stories of Genesis. From that foundation, the words and images jump off the page as the joy of creation comes to life. God’s creative Spirit shines through this book. You will know in your heart that creation is good and you are loved by the God of all creation when you finish reading this book.
Enjoy!

Book Review-What Did Jesus Ask?

What Did Jesus Ask?

Christian Leaders Reflect on His Questions of Faith

Edited by Elizabeth Dias


Jesus asked many questions. Our faith leaves us living those questions and wondering how best to live as his disciples. Each chapter of this book is a short reflection on a question Jesus asked. The voices who wrote the reflections are diverse in all ways except all being Christians. You may recognize some of the authors and others voices will leave you wanting to know more about them. You could read this book quickly or savor it. You could use this book to open a meeting, as a starting question for Sunday School or as themes for a sermon series. This book does not answer the questions Jesus asked instead it invites us to ponder the questions and ask more questions.
In this book are theological positions with which I disagree and even in those essays, I found truths that ring true. This book forced me to read essays with which I agree and disagree and to think and ponder with the authors.
This is a book for anyone who wants to dive in Scripture in a different way. You’ll enjoy this journey along with fellow believers. Your faith will be challenged and strengthened by exploring the questions Jesus asked.
Sister Simone Campbell pushed me to be extravagantly generous and be grateful for the extravagant generosity of others.
Yvette Flunder said, “Any theology that suggests that God receives some and rejects others is not reflective of the ministry of Jesus Christ” (81). I read these words on a night when I needed to be reminded of this fundamental truth.
Carrie Newcomer said, “I know when the world feels anything less than miraculous to me, I’m probably not paying attention” (105). You’ll enjoy one of Carrie’s song here- https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2qZyoRiBteI
Dhyanchand Carr reflects on the Good Samaritan and leaves us with this challenge, “So maybe, rather than simply drawing a lesson to be compassionate toward the less fortunate, we should reflect on the great and immeasurable love of God which transcends all legitimate and difficult barriers and reaches out to us” (176).
I struggled with these words from Rudy Rasmus, “The truth of the matter is, no one really knows what the impetus was for Judas’ actions, but we do know that either failure, shame, or remorse caused him to take his own life, subsequently killing the prospects of hope for reconciliation, restoration, and the truth to ever manifest” (206). In response to this I say, I do not believe it is ever too late for reconciliation or restoration in our relationship with God. Why do we limit God and God’s love for each and every one of us?
I had to force myself to keep reading the essay that began with these words, “You do not expect a priest to be formed by a woman” (216). I wanted to scream at the author why not? I kept reading his story searching for the good news among the pain his words caused me.
I struggle with what changes I need to make in my own life to live out these words. “If we choose not to care, then we are no longer indifferent onlookers; we are in fact active aggressors. If we do not allay the pain of others, then we are contributing to the suffering of our world. If we do not choose to heal the suffering around us, then ultimately we do not want to be healed. Like Christ, then, it is our vocation and  obligation to seek out the oppressed and to discern the consequences of our actions. If we do not work for the welfare of our world, then we do not genuinely desire to be well. In our efforts for healing and reconciliation, we must ask ourselves difficult questions about lifestyle and habits. Just how prepared are we to sacrifice our excessive lifestyles–that is to say, when will we learn to say, “Enough!”–in order for others to enjoy the basic right to survive?” (229-230).

Book Review-The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

You will like Arthur Pepper. He is a man trying to find his place in the world after his wife dies. He begins to question everything he thought he knew about his wife after discovering a unique piece of jewelry she owned. This discovery leads him on a quest to know his wife better. It makes him question how well he knew her. It makes him wonder why she married him. Arthur reminds us that grief and learning to live again look different for each of us. Join Arthur as he grieves the wife he lost, the changes in his life, and the chances he takes to live again.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves to read a good book. This book is written for anyone who is grieving the loss of someone you love or wants to support someone who is grieving. You should read this book because you need to meet Arthur Pepper.
Someone else’s review ended this way, “The author’s outlook remains relentlessly upbeat, and in the end, this sentimental novel is as cozy and fortifying as a hot cup of tea on a cold afternoon.” So, I recommend you fix yourself a cup of tea and read this book!

Book Review-The CEB Women’s Bible

While I did not need another Bible, I was delighted to have the opportunity to experience this Bible. I have been enjoying this translation for a few years. The Common English Bible (CEB) is available on the Bible app I use, so I often read it with my hospice patients. I find this translation to be easy to read and understand.
This Women’s Bible contains study helps and other information about the women of the Bible. And all of the extra information was written and edited by women. Each book of the Bible is introduced in a succinct summary. Each chapter begins with a brief reflection. The best parts are the portraits of women throughout the Bible. Each portrait introduces us to a woman (named or unnamed). The portraits share what we know about each woman and remind us how much is still unknown. This Bible includes an index of every woman-including those whose names we do not know. While reading through the text, you’ll enjoy and learn from the articles. These are short pieces on a variety of topics like pregnancy, divorce, sin, shame, and in-laws. Some extra goodies at the end include questions to be used each Sunday with the lectionary, one-month Bible overview reading plan, New Testament in 90 days reading plan, Bible in one year reading plan, and maps too.
Many of my clergy friends have a verse or story they look up in new translations to see how it measures up for them. When I get a new Bible, I turned to Luke 8 and read about the faithful followers of Jesus. I love seeing the name Susanna in the Bible and knowing that there were women following Jesus from the beginning. This Bible includes a portrait of Susanna.
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I recommend this Bible for anyone hoping to learn more about the women in our sacred text. I recommend this Bible for anyone who wants to try the CEB. If you, like me, always wondered what the women were doing and thinking in Biblical times, this is the Bible for you.

I’m looking forward to exploring the #CEBWomensBible more, so I can continue to discover more about my female ancestors in the faith and pass along their stories to the next generation.

 

I received a copy of this Bible in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review-Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned about Life by Harold S. Kushner

Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned about Life Harold S. Kushner
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This audio book is read by the author. He has a soothing, calming voice that makes it easier to consider the difficult topics contained in this book. Kushner tackles tough topics like original sin which he rejects, helping others, revenge, forgiveness and how we practice our faith. He uses the Bible, personal experience, and modern examples to explore the topics.
In his chapter, “Forgiveness is a Favor You Do Yourself,” Kushner looks at forgiveness in a new way. He writes that revenge is not about justice; it is about power. He would encourage us to stop using those two words interchangeably. He writes forgiveness is active not passive. Two Scripture examples in this chapter are Joseph forgiving his brothers (Genesis 45) and David and Michal’s inability to forgive each other in 2 Samuel 6. What if we were active in forgiveness? What if we stop trying to get revenge on our “enemies” and instead seek forgiveness? These are some of the difficult questions this book will leave you considering.
Many of the Biblical stories and verse he shares are not the most often cited examples pulled from the Bible. I appreciate that he opens up and discusses parts of our sacred text that we don’t often highlight. I enjoyed listening to this book so much that I used it in my most recent sermon. You’ll enjoy this book whether you read it or listen while the author reads it to you. This book is written so anyone can read it and understand it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be challenged in your worldview and your faith.

Book Review-Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday by Jeffrey A. Nelson

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Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday
Jeffrey A. Nelson
This is a book to savor and reread. This is a book to read as part of a book study at church or by yourself for self-reflection and growth. This is a book for new people of faith, seasoned clergy, and everyone in between. You need to read this book. It will feed your spiritual life.
“It is one thing for me to enjoy the thought of a spiritual practice, but it is quite another for me to begin observing it” (1). This book gives you the tools and the wisdom needed to move from the thought of having a spiritual practice to actually having a spiritual practice. With stories, Scripture, reflections and real-life examples, the author invites us to develop our God-given spiritual natures. We are encouraged to grow closer to God where we are now and while we are living our daily lives. “Not every moment is a sacrament, but every moment has the potential to be sacramental” (20). While the author encourages us to be open to worship in a church (see Chapter 8-Encountering Together), he encourages us to notice what is “of God” in our daily lives.
The author does not shy away from difficult faith questions. Where is God when all is wrong in my world? How can I pray when I have no time? Who is God to me? How can I grow closer to God? Who walks this journey with me? The author does not give us all the answers to these questions. He invites us into the conversation and asks us to continue the conversation.
This book has the potential to make you think. Reading this book gives you the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with God. This book may encourage you to change the way you see the world. I recommend you read this book and see how your eyes are opened to see people and the whole world differently.

Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity by Katherine Willis Pershey

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This book is the story of a marriage, yet it is so much more than the story of a marriage. With honesty and humility, Katherine and her husband share the story of their marriage. This book is so much more than simply a memoir; their marriage story is interwoven with Scripture, history, celebrities, literature, and scholarship. The author tackles tough topics like death, sex, temptation, infidelity, egalitarian and complementarian marriages, economic and racial injustice, blessings, mercy, and the Apostle Paul. The author does this all while keeping you engaged (ha!) and wanting to read more about marriage and her marriage.

This book has forced me to confront my own feelings on marriage. Yes, I am married. Yes, my husband is amazing and I still love him 9 years after I said I do. Yet, at the same time, I’ve often disliked the institution of marriage. I love the covenant making-I dislike the state involvement-although I appreciate the tax break. This book has made me fall in love with the institution of marriage again. I hope you enjoy the story and I hope it inspires you to tell your story.

This book comes with a wonderful study guide (written by me), so you can read it with your book group or Sunday School class. So read the book and use the study guide

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.