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The Hunter's Devotional.

Steve Chapman. Harvest House, $9.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-7369-6705-1

Chapman, a musician and avid hunter, draws on his rich experiences in field and forest as illustrations of larger spiritual truths about disappointment, failure, loss, redemption, hope, family, and love in this inspiring collection of 52 devotions. A rousing storyteller, he captures the reader's attention with his stories of the challenges and successes he's faced as a hunter and the ways that he's seen God's hand at work in those moments. For example, he tells the story of his friend Jim, who had spent his young life illegally poaching and trapping, but saw the light and became a game warden; Chapman compares Jim's change of heart to the apostle Paul's, whose transformed from a persecutor of Christians to a tireless advocate of Christianity. Chapman, in the vein of the biblical King David of Jerusalem, takes his time in the "great cathedral of the outdoors" to focus on God the Creator, and challenges readers to find their own quiet place to reflect similarly. He tells his story of eating a nourishing meal after having forgotten to eat because of various distractions, illustrating that spiritual nourishment can sustain those who face their doubts and fears. Filled with honesty and humor, these devotions will certainly appeal to hunters and even those who've never picked up a gun or bow. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/17/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Book of Sacred Baths: 52 Bathing Rituals to Revitalize Your Spirit

Paulette Kouffman Sherman. Llewellyn, $17.99 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-0-7387-4602-9

Fans of Sherman (Dating from the Inside Out) are in for an impressive treat with her collection of 52 fun and sacred baths to improve every aspect of your physical and spiritual life. This cookbook of sacred baths, such as "Love Yourself Madly," "Clear Negative Thinking," and "Great Body-Image," will delight anyone who finds a soak in the tub revitalizing. Sherman recommends making goal-setting more powerful by connecting it to a spiritual bath. The first chapter of the book focuses on the history of ritual bathing and the magical healing powers of water. The second part contains the recipes, which include specific candles, oils, crystals, and much more, topped off with an explanation of the bathing elements. Though the tools needed to stage these spiritual baths are specific, numerous, and unlikely to already be in your home, they can easily be purchased. Readers in search of a one- or two-step process may find Sherman's sacred baths too advanced, as they require meticulous preparations, numerous steps, and extensive shopping, but for some, the result will prove well worth the effort. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/17/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children

Marjorie Ingall. Harmony, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8041-4141-3

In this insightful and humorous guide to being a better parent, Ingall, a columnist for Tablet magazine who grew up Conservative, attended an Orthodox day school, and married a Reform Jew, draws on her own experience as a mother, as well as a plethora of Jewish and secular sources, to create a highly readable parenting manual that takes into account just about every issue a parent might encounter. Ingall begins by explaining the history of the stereotypical Jewish mamaleh and her age-old wisdom, and goes on to tackle topics such as maintaining discipline, distrusting authority , and emphasizing education without fetishizing it. The ultimate goal is "to keep our kids from becoming schmucks" and raise "self-sufficient, ethical, and accomplished kids." Yiddish words are thrown around (a glossary at the end will help) as she performs a comedy routine that is full of chutzpah and pizzazz. Ingall implores parents to be firm and sincere, and help their children create meaning in their lives. Ingall's engaging guide will help parents, Jewish or not, navigate the jagged terrain of child-rearing with a hearty dose of confidence and laughter. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/17/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Interfaith Leadership: A Primer

Eboo Patel. Beacon, $18 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-8070-3362-3

Patel (Acts of Faith), head of the cooperative student group Interfaith Youth Core, makes a compelling argument for interfaith activism and leadership, and provides a plethora of diverse examples of what interfaith leadership might look like and how to go about it. In clear, straightforward prose, Patel guides the reader through helpful thought experiments—for example, a Muslim family moving into a predominantly Methodist town—and shows how social theory can become practical. He also outlines the necessary knowledge, skill set, and qualities for interfaith leadership, allowing readers to approach this as a handbook or reference manual that can be consulted depending on the various needs and situations. Patel's writing is accessible and engaging; this book will likely find its audience among religious leaders (of all ages) for ministry purposes, and will be an excellent addition to any undergraduate or graduate syllabus in religious studies. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/17/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Doing Good Is Simple: Making a Difference Right Where You Are

Chris Marlow. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-310-34357-8

"An apathetic Christian is a deathblow to those who are suffering," says Marlow, founder of the anti-poverty organization Help One Now. Apathy is an old Christian sin, he notes; sometimes called sloth or acedia, the key element is a marked disinterest in anything outside one's self. Writing in a breezy, intimate, first-names-only style, Marlow provides quick, painless listicles: "Three Hurdles to Doing Good," six ways to jump those hurdles, "Six Desires of Every Human," and six steps to establishing good partnerships. All are clear and concise, and provide encouragement to act. Avoiding a guilt-laden approach, Marlow recounts success stories while gently weaving in recollections of his own violent upbringing and mission trips working with orphans in Zimbabwe and Haiti. For example, when Marlow found out that hungry kids in Haiti could be fed for about 25 cents per kid per meal, he paired up a coffee-roaster in Raleigh, N.C., with schoolchildren in Haiti: the roaster adds a 25-cent "anti-apathy" tax to each bag of coffee, which funds food for students. Marlow's practical guide to social charity is a must-read for anyone who wants to be a decent human being. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/17/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Bridezilla of Christ: What to Do When God's People Hurt God's People

Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin . Multnomah, $15.99 paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-60142-872-1

In their latest joint venture, writer Kluck (Why We're Not Emergent) and Martin (Finding God in the Dark), a recording artist turned pastor, tackle the subject of hurt within the church. In alternating chapters, Kluck and Martin highlight their personal experiences with being hurt and hurting others. Much of the book focuses on how church can be messy and feel more like an episode of Real Housewives than a community of saints. It explores how individualism, consumerism, and entitlement can corrupt the church and lead to a negative environment where people are constantly pitted against each other. Kluck and Martin also spotlight gossip within the church community and how rapidly it can create a toxic environment where people feel unwelcome and unloved. Both are talented writers, but their differing writing styles and stories lead the book to feel disjointed at times. Kluck and Martin ground their reflections on hurt with biblical and theological reflections, particularly utilizing the works of C.S. Lewis, and include practical advice on what to do when readers realize they've hurt others or have been hurt themselves. This is an engaging look from two distinct viewpoints on dysfunction within church communities. (July)

Reviewed on 06/17/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere

Samuel C. Williamson. Kregel, $14.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-82544-424-1

Williamson (Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids?), founder of Beliefs of the Heart, illuminates the various ways in which God's voice can be sensed. The first time he perceived God, he was a "ten-year-old atheist" reveling in profanity; "Sam, I am real, and you don't understand," he heard. Yet sometimes it's not nearly so clear-cut, he acknowledges, and so other means of God's communication might include mental pictures, dreams, or memories recalled for no obvious reason. Rather than taking the form of an audible voice, God's words have often manifested for Williamson as "a voice burning in my heart." He zeroes in on moments from his life when he followed God's guidance, such as leaving his software company with no new job lined up. Meditation, scripture passages, and confirmation from other people can all corroborate a direction from God, he has found, though—remembering prophets' fear and trembling—he cautions against the idea that a sense of peace is automatic proof of God speaking. This short book is slightly repetitive and overly indebted to quotations from other theologians. However, it is divided into digestible chunks and has plenty of practical ideas. It's equally suitable for Bible study groups and individual devotional use. (July)

Reviewed on 06/17/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization

Os Guinness. IVP, $20 (239p) ISBN 978-0-8308-4465-4

Guinness, routinely disobeying the Bible's repeated commandment to "Fear not!", packs this sequel to Renaissance with alarms and threats. He starts by enumerating the challenges to the contemporary American church, including abortion, homosexuality, progressive secularism, same-gender marriage, gender transition, and evangelism. The title refers to a label plastered on the 11th-century reformer, Peter Damian, who fought against simony, homosexuality, and pedophilia in the church. Considering himself as "impossible" as Damian, Guinness prophesies catastrophe: "We face a solemn hour for humanity at large and a momentous showdown for the Western church." Hyperbole and metaphor are Guinness's go-to rhetorical devices and he inundates his well-founded points with waves of polemic writing, blowing hard against "generationalism" and atheism. Writing for those believers worried about secular shifts in society and eager to wall off the church from destabilizing forces, Guinness explores an exclusive brand of Christianity that, however well-argued, will irk those wishing to celebrate the inclusive joy of Jesus. (July)

Reviewed on 06/17/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Justice Calling: Live Love, Show Compassion, Be Changed

Palmer Chinchen. Howard, $14.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4767-6199-2

Pastor Chinchen (Waiting for Daylight) is on a mission to help the church rediscover relevance in service and social activism in a world desperately searching for ways to meet people's deeply felt needs. In language aimed at the church member in the pew, he spans the spectrum of human experience—race, religion, nationality, and gender—and sees the world around us as fertile ground for Christian service. For him, the nature of the search for justice is a deeply spiritual endeavor: "We need to start our justice conversation by looking at Jesus Himself." Using examples from the headlines, Chinchen reminds readers that injustice, cruelty, and hatred are everywhere, and says it is up to the church, and specifically to Christians inspired by the teachings and example of Jesus, to become active agents of change. "A right understanding of worshipping God... connects worship with practical issues of social justice," he asserts. This engaging, heartfelt call to action for greater engagement in social affairs by Christian communities will be a powerful reminder for all. (June)

Reviewed on 06/17/2016 | Details & Permalink

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It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies

Mary Eberstadt. Harper, $25.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-06-245401-0

Eberstadt passionately argues that secularism is a religion of its own whose orthodoxy of diversity ironically demands the exclusion of traditional Christians. In her telling, the permissive attitudes of the sexual revolution have hardened into the only acceptable public position, and anything opposed to them cannot be tolerated. Claiming that secularists are engaging in a moral panic and a witch hunt, she outlines various means (including legal cases, public scorn, and critiques of homeschooling) whereby they attack traditional believers in the United States and Europe. Casting believers almost entirely as innocent victims without any political or cultural power causes the work to lose some nuance, as does her assertion that Western secularism places Islam off limits for critique. For traditional Christians, Eberstadt provides a language to defend their position, a comforting sense that their persecution is real, and a view of the irony of progressives curtailing freedom. The work is unlikely to gain converts from secularism, but the final chapter's call to attend to rhetoric and avoid generalization powerfully makes the case for more civility in the midst of intense disagreement. (June)

Reviewed on 06/17/2016 | Details & Permalink

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