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.

Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus by John Hendrix

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A friend of mine recently found herself at the beach, and so she stopped at the wonderful Browse About Books to see what wonders were contained there. As you might expect from a friend of mine, she purchased many books. She was kind enough to allow me to read one of her new purchases, Miracle Man. This is a wonderful children’s book that brings the story of Jesus to life in modern language and colorful illustrations. It is short enough to read with a child while still including many familiar parts of the Gospel stories. The author admits he could not share every story from the Gospels and yet he does a great job of highlighting the story of Jesus in a short story form. You will enjoy the artwork and the way the art and story blend seamlessly. This is a great book for a church library or your home bookshelf.

Images of Grace: An Inspirational Coloring Book

I searched for a coloring book that would inspire me with its words and images.  Images of Grace: An Inspirational Coloring Book by Jacqui Grace combines Scriptures, song lyrics, and saying with shapes you’ll want to color. I’ve just begun using this book and I know it will be a Sabbath staple. Not only is coloring fun, it is also good for you.
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Have you embraced coloring as an adult? If so, what are you coloring?
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We All Grieve!

We are all grieving. We do not get over grief. We learn to live in our new normal.

In my work as a hospice chaplain, I help people to name their grief and decide how to respond. Whenever life does not happen as we planned or hoped, we may grieve for what will not be.

Too often, we are told grief is linear. As if we can move through the correct steps of grief to come out the other end or to the finish line and be grief-free. Grief does not work like that. We circle around and around. We feel better and are sad again. We cry and smile. We scream and wonder why. Grief is unique to each person and circumstance. We need to acknowledge and accept each other’s grief.

In order to invite you to think about grief and possibly think about it differently, I encourage you to listen to this amazing conversation about grief. Pauline Boss, The Myth of Closure from On Being with Krista Tippett

 

A Prayer for All of Us

Loving God,

You are the constant in our lives. You love us every second of every minute. From you, we learned to love. This loves that brings us so much joy also brings us pain and heartbreak. You know our hurts and our grief. We grieve the changing of relationships and we know that people are not the only cause of our grief. God, you know that changes cause grief even when we know the changes are good. While it is difficult to thank you for the pain of grief, we do thank you, Gracious God, for our ability to love and adapt and change.

We bring our grief to you-

for relationships that ended,

for chances we did not take,

for loved ones who died,

for new jobs and new schools,

for the ends and the beginnings,

for the things we are no longer able to do,

for the times we are told no,

and for anything else that causes us grief, we give to you, God.

Continue to walk with us on this journey, Faithful God, as we grow, change, and grieve. Amen.

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Book Review-Dancing with Jesus

Dancing with Jesus by Sam Stall

Are you looking for the perfect gift for your pastor? Here it is. In this short board book you’ll find dance moves paired with Bible stories. What’s not to love? Warning-Some people will find this book sacrilegious and inappropriate, however, I think we need to laugh. My favorite dances are The Pilate Shuffle and The Apostolic Conga. In The Pilate Shuffle, you get to shuffle around the dance floor, wash your hands, and act like a chicken (see Matthew 27:24-26 for a sampling of Pilate’s part in the story). To do the Apostolic Conga and bring more people to Jesus, you start a conga line and invite others to join you. It is obviously one way of living out the great commission from Matthew 28: 19-20.

This book makes the people and stories of the gospels come alive (Lazarus even makes an appearance) with humor and wit. I highly recommend this book as a gift for the pastor or seminarian who needs a laugh and, maybe, some new dance moves.

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