Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Theology without Borders: An Introduction to Global Conversations by William A. Dyrness and Oscar García-Johnson

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
The global church is in a state of transformation: the impetus has shifted in missions from Western bases to a whole-world mobilization. Theology is bound to do the same.

Among emerging scholars are voices that have rarely been heard - from Asia, Africa, and elsewhere. How will this transform the Church or the understanding and study of God-with-us within existing theological groups? Will the West continue to shape theology even as its domination of scholarship is expanded by other ways of thinking and knowing? The brief history of theology (Appendix) is a bonus.

Dyrness and Garcia-Johnson explore intercultural trends that influence who is thinking about God - and what they are thinking. The global community of faith has the right and obligation to interact with the West; it is part of our communal duty and joy together. In our teaching context of SE Asia, my husband and I find that the wisdom of cultures informs and enlarges our own ideas in reading scriptures.

This is a thoughtful companion to Soong-Chan Rah's The Next Evangelicalism and Charles Kraft's classic Christianity in Culture: A study in dynamic biblical theologizing in cross-cultural perspective.

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture by Craig G. Bartholomew

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
I teach hermeneutics in Asia - and it's a fascinating subject. I know I know ... the title sounds like something from sci-fi language. The gist of "hermeneutics" = a method of interpretation, esp. scripture.

Bartholomew begins with a viewpoint that is trinitarian, centered on Christ, and considers the scriptures to be God's authoritative revelation of himself, humans, and the created universe. Obedience to the revelation is primary, beyond scholarship and insight. The author explores "why to" as well as "how to."

I was drawn in immediately by the author's "philosophy of listening" to the text. My primary mode of daily scripture intake is listening via YouVersion. The Word comes alive as I hear it in blocks of 15 / 30 / or 60 minutes. But hearing demands deeper interaction and study, beyond mere listening.

The interaction of philosophy, biblical scholarship, and faith (def. trusting obedience, says theologian Waldemar Kowalski) produces a transformation in understanding scripture. It also increases our desire to know and please God.

I will integrate information from this volume into future courses. The combination of historical studies, spiritual disciplines, and insights into approaching the text make this a valuable addition to current hermeneutical books.

Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate by Michelle Lee-Barnewall

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
This book provides a "third" alternative to the current debates about women's roles in marriage and church leadership = a new starting point. Lee-Barnewall examines the culture of the United States and its historical influence on patriarchal theology and gender-based definitions of inclusion and hierarchy. What if we are asking the wrong questions? What if our current pragmatism -  asking "who does what?" - is at best a divisive beginning for discussion?

I found this a fascinating read, having been utterly startled (as a Canadian) by how closely cultural trends throughout American history play out in the lives of local churches and national denominations. I admit to shock during background research for my dissertation - the empowerment of the Spirit for a disempowered group (women in the first generation of Pentecostalism). Why? I saw how closely the surrounding worldviews were mirrored and championed in American churches, including

  • the Victorian-era "ideal woman" 
  • the mid-19th-century to early 20th century "woman of virtue" who upheld morality
  • and the woman as valuable domestic servant in post-war America.

While I disagree with several of Lee-Barnewall's conclusions, her theological and cultural research is broad and relevant. Her call to rethink why and how we debate gender issues and roles is provocative and will provide the backdrop for further studies. This book is a useful addition to future studies and discussions in seminary classrooms.

Pop Painting: Inspiration and Techniques from the Pop Surrealism Art Phenomenon Kindle Edition by Camilla D'Errico

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.

Part pop gallery, part instruction book, this book brings a fresh view of a trend in accessible surrealism. After I read it and paged back and forth to view the techniques, I showed it to my friend, a painter and sketch-master. She flipped through and gobbled it up, as I had. Within minutes, her paintbox was open and she was trying some of the methods.

I recommend this for cartoonists, people who love to see the world in a new way, and beginning to advanced painters. You'll learn a lot, be amazed and amused, and probably think of using your paintbrushes in new ways. 

FUN, refreshing, and challenging. Worth a read - and a new coffee table book besides.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Bed of Scorpions by Judith Flanders

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Beautiful British English. That was my first reaction to the descriptive and specific language in the book. This murder mystery is full of literary allusions and fine turns of phrase. The wit, sarcasm, thrill of danger, and entanglements of romance (past and present) make this an entertaining read.

I'll keep my copy and read it again on the airplane. Time will pass and I may be biting my nails again.

Roebuck Tales of an Admirable Adventurer by Luke Waterson

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review.
What on earth! What an adventure! This book started with a bang and a song and never let up. With humor, rolicking storytelling, and descriptive language, Waterson brings to life the escapades and horrors of life in the late 1500s.

If you grew up reading and re-reading Robinson Crusoe, Kidnapped, Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus and other such adventures, you'll love this tale of travel, baking, love, and exploration.

Waterson's imagination and historical research makes this a compelling and entertaining read. Not for the faint-of-stomach.

The Mindspan Diet Reduce Alzheimer's Risk, Minimize Memory Loss, and Keep Your Brain Young by Preston Estep

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review.
Okay, I need this book. I'm learning a new language (badly and slowly) and frustrated that a previously nimble brain is clogged with distraction and a Teflon coating.

Recent nutritional and longevity scientists suggest that genetics are not the leading indicator of health and long life. Drawing on studies from around the world, Dr. Estep refutes the low-carb craze and presents evidence for low-fat, low-iron, low-salt, and pescetarian-vegetarian lifestyle (eat fish but no other meats).

Estep's book offers hope to those hoping to keep their brain young and agile. The "Your Move" suggestions, based on copious research and easy-to-implement choices, are practical and doable.

The action plan, recipes and meals will keep you on track. Here's to a better memory and long, healthy life!

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

★★★★★  The publisher provided a copy for review.
What happens when your assumptions of religion and life are overturned? Qureshi writes of his firsthand experience in exploring scriptures and faith from the viewpoint of a follower of Mohammed. He writes of coming to understand Jesus as Savior, God as mysterious Three-in-One, and the Family of God has his own people, spread across the world.

This is as much a compelling story as an exploration of theology. Very helpful and hopeful for those working in Muslim contexts. A hopeful "must-read" for those concerned about souls around them and conflicted by the current Islamic migration.

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by McMillan, Rachel

★★★☐☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Like Sherlock Holmes? So do these friends, Merinda and Jem. They explore the crime scenes of Toronto with an eye for details and a strong stomach in distasteful places.

There's a little bit romance, a lot of history, and some detective techniques mixed up in this story of girlfriends, the dark motives of the underworld, and shady characters.

I found it hard going at times, the combination of old-fashioned language, abundant details, and past culture clogging the story. Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and PBS murder mysteries may have a good time with this novel.


★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
You'd think an organic farm and little café would be tranquil settings. Think again!

Family secrets and dealing with the past. Murder, deception, and financial stress. The complications of family history and small-town politics.

And friendship, hope, and romance. It's all here.

I was entertained by the descriptions of baking and cooking, by the love of a grandma for her granddaughter, and by the unraveling of past into a hopeful future.

Almost Like Being in Love by Beth K. Vogt

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Sometimes the past pops up when you least expect it! Kade and Caron have a history of love and misunderstanding. When they're thrown together after years apart, sparks of attraction begin to bridge the caution and hurt between them.

This romance will please those who want to like the characters in a novel. Families can be complicated and hard to please, friends can offer hope and embarrassment, and a new location doesn't guarantee happiness. With its twists and turns, truths hidden and revealed, the novel comes alive.

Enjoy this entertaining escape from the routines of everyday life.

Close to You A Novel by Kara Isaac

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Did you love the Hobbit movie and other Tolkien books? You'll enjoy this romantic romp through literary references.

I laughed out loud a few times. I blinked at the antics of the characters. And I believed the story of two very different personalities, Allie the disgraced academic and the lengths to which an entrepreneur (who needs his uncle's money) will go. It's also a tale of hard work, emerging and old friendships, and redemption.

I thorougly enjoyed the descriptions of New Zealand. Plus, we all know people "like these" with their quirks and passions for things that may or may not interest us.

All in all, it's a fun read, worth taking along on a trip to pass the time. As a bonus, you'll learn a lot of background for the Hobbit movie.

Lie in Plain Sight by Maggie Barbieri

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Not one mystery but two! The book kept me on the edge of suspense (even terror of what could happen next) and engagement (family life and friendships can be messy). Barbieri develops believable characters, likable or not.

Sometimes details of life don't seem to fit. What we know - or the assumptions about how and why things happen - don't match what's going on. This story of life in a small town, juggling relationships, and making ends meet is a good story.

There were a few moments when I felt disconnected between converging stories, but on the whole I enjoyed it and look forward to the next Barbieri novel.

Coloring For All Seasons: Spring by River Grove Books

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
Want a pretty way to welcome Spring? Here's a new coloring book for adults, complete with curves, complex and simple combinations, and pictures that you may want to prop up on your desk.

The hope of springtime, the beauty of flowers and nature, and the meditative repetition of coloring ... what's not to like?

Enjoy this update on the coloring books we used to enjoy as kids.

Scatter: Go Therefore and Take Your Job With You by Andrew Scott

★★★★ ☐ The publisher has provided a copy for review.
"Not your typical evangelization book," was my first response.

Christians struggle to share Good News - God's offer of reconciliation through Jesus Christ - with those around them. It's not that we don't like the idea of offering hope, freedom from sin, and wholeness.

But the pressure, the obligation, and the duty overwhelms us. We may read method books, cool and trendy how-tos (which don't transcend culture), or send up desperate prayers when we want to help a hurting friend.

Scott examines the mandate and methodology of scripture. How did the first believers take the gospel around the world in a short time? =Through pain, suffering, work, travels, and every other commonality of humankind.

He also asks us to examine our own stories of God's presence and graces. The parables and stories in each chapter ask us to rethink our assumptions of God-with-us.

It's an easy-to-read volume, though not a light one. The reflections at the end of each chapter asked me to reevaluate my relationship with God and others. Well worth reading - and this one I shall read more than once.