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More: How to Move from Activity for God to Intimacy with God

Greg L. Hawkins. Multnomah, $19.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-60142-862-2

Hawkins, former executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and current pastor—alongside Max Lucado and Randy Frazee—at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Tex., explores ways of living an intimate life with God in this hands-on primer. With style and smarts, he transparently divulges his mental state during seasons when he felt "off" with God and explains how God used tragedy to help him understand how little control he had over life's happenings. Hawkins's biggest lesson occurred when he discovered a tumor on his left kidney and he understood that God had placed such a dire obstacle in his path in order to explain that Hawkins's intrinsic worth came from him being a child of God, not his own accomplishments. Readers will learn object lessons about the value of a strong inner core in comparison to material or financial success. Hawkins's welcoming style will encourage Christ followers to spend more time in reflection and inspire a reevaluation of what matters most in this temporal life. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Wisdom of Solomon and Us: The Quest for Meaning, Morality, and a Deeper Relationship with God

Marc D. Angel. Jewish Lights, $18.99 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-58023-855-7

Angel (Maimonides, Spinoza, and Us) successfully parses excerpts from the biblical books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and the Song of Songs to present a traditional but intellectually honest approach to the most important questions of life. He begins with the traditional rabbinic view that these three books reflect different developmental stages in the wisdom of the biblical King Solomon. However, though the prevailing opinion is that Ecclesiastes was the work of Solomon's cynical old age, Angel adopts the view of a 16th-century rabbi—that Ecclesiastes was the youthful work of the king as he was striving after life's meaning. This was followed in Solomon's prime by the morally focused Proverbs, and then the spiritual longing of the allegorical Song of Songs in his old age. Based on this ordering, Angel constructs a three-tiered approach to exploring the question of how one may lead a meaningful, ethical, and spiritually connected life. Even those who don't believe that the biblical King Solomon was the author of these books can nevertheless appreciate the wisdom contained in Angel's volume, gleaned and clarified by study over the course of a vibrant rabbinic career. This analysis will appeal to Jews and non-Jews seeking answers to some of life's most basic and sticky questions. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens

R. Scott Hanson. Fordham, $35 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-8232-7160-3

In 1657, the people of Flushing, now a neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., drafted the Flushing Remonstrance, a plea for religious liberty and diversity, in the face of an attempt by New York governor Peter Stuyvesant to persecute anyone who was not a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. From colonial times, Flushing, which its residents often call "the birthplace of religious freedom," has teemed with religious diversity fostered by immigrants who bring their own religious traditions and fervently practice them. Hanson's intimate portrait of lived religion in this New York City neighborhood is at once tedious and inspiring. Hanson offers a detailed history of Flushing from its earliest colonial days, discussing its growth into a "community of churches" in the 19th century and its dramatic expansion in the 20th century beyond the "Protestant-Catholic-Jew" model into a bustling religiously diverse community where Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and Buddhists live side by side in relative religious harmony. Hanson points out that the relative absence of religious conflict in Flushing illustrates the promise of such a religiously pluralistic community, though spatial and theological limits challenge the quest for unity. He urges interaction and cooperation that lead to tolerance, ecumenism, and inclusivism, rather than conflict, intolerance, proselytism, and nativism. The prose is flat, but readers will still enjoy this glimpse at the lived religions of a particular community, which deserves a place alongside Robert Orsi's The Madonna of 115th Street. (July)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Parenting in Perspective: Timeless Wisdom, Modern Applications

Barry Kislowicz. Maggid/Koren, $22.95 (190p) ISBN 978-1-59264-456-8

In this powerfully insightful primer on parenting, Kislowicz underscores, through abundant research and illustrative stories, the key role of perspective in raising healthy, responsible, and committed Jewish children. Drawing from a deep knowledge of Torah and psychology, Kislowicz, a rabbi and educator, presents relevant psychological theories in an articulate and comprehensive manner to demonstrate his fundamental belief: "More than just the amount of time and attention we devote to our children, putting kids at the center means challenging ourselves to see things from their perspective rather than our own." To help transition his theories into practice, Kislowicz follows two fictional families as they struggle with a slew of parenting challenges and follow and deviate from the strategies he recommends. Among the chapters are "Morals and Mitzvot"; "Learning Your Child"; "Practice, Practice, Practice"; and "Teenagers." Kislowicz seamlessly moves from topic to topic and effectively incorporates the science behind the logic in a remarkably understandable and thought-provoking way. His advice is tailored to orthodox Jewish parents and an observant lifestyle, but his advice is so grounded and sensible that any parent would benefit from his informed guidance. (June)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Grace: A Bigger View of God's Love

Randy Alcorn. Harvest House, $12.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7369-6746-4

Alcorn (Heaven), the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries, offers more than 200 daily thoughts to help readers better understand God's many-faceted grace. Each brief entry offers a Bible verse, some thoughts about it (one to several paragraphs in length), and an inspirational quote. The book doesn't try to redefine grace, but rather explains that the gift of grace isn't something to be taken for granted, and helps readers wrap their heads around the hard-to-understand concept that God loves and forgives all of us without condition. Understanding that gift, these passages suggest, can lead readers to view themselves as sinners who are well loved, and serve as a catalyst and example for how to extend grace to others both in and outside of the church. Alcorn often contemplates daunting concepts such as having to confront sin that's contemplated or committed in the best interests of another person. At other times the message is much more winsome, as when, on a Christmas morning, he ponders the wondrous gift of redemption. Alcorn effectively demonstrates how grace itself allows believers to understand the nature of being given a gift that no one could never deserve. (July)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Heart Made Whole

Christa Black Gifford. Zondervan, $16.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-310-34649-4

In this compulsively readable entreaty, Gifford, a speaker, songwriter, and blogger, urges readers to invite God into the midst of their most painful circumstances in order to experience healing at the heart level. Sharing her own experiences with trauma, betrayal, and the death of her infant daughter, she describes how easily people can guard their hearts from God and explains how she finally learned to run toward God instead and lay her hurts and disappointments bare in front of him. Gifford also weaves in scriptures from a variety of paraphrases and translations of the Bible, hoping to help readers understand how God has designed their hearts to speak and guide them toward deeper intimacy with him. Gifford's authentic voice and willingness to be transparent make her work an invitation to deep heart transformation for anyone who is holding it together on the outside but feeling roiled by life's darker moments. (June)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith

Sarah Withrow King. Zondervan, $16.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-310-52237-9

Evangelical public policy activist King (Animals Are Not Ours [No Really, They're Not]) ambitiously makes a case for veganism and animal rights to an evangelical Christian audience that may not have thought much about the biblical significance of animals except as sacrifice and meat. King reexamines some key theological concepts, such as dominion, and major doctrinal arguments about the kingdom of God and reconciliation, using language that evangelicals will be comfortable with in order to move readers to reflect about animal welfare. Her theological analysis is more provocative and successful than the rest of the book, which relies on shocking anecdotes about horribly mistreated animals at zoos, pet stores, research labs, and factory farms. Considerable existing literature critiques animal treatment, especially in food production; a growing body of literature of ecospirituality also considers the dignity and place of animals in God's creation. For her audience, King's argument may be innovative, but those outside evangelical circles who have religiously motivated concern for the earth will find this work under-researched and longer on shock value than ethical provocation. (June)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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A Woman's Place: A Christian Voice for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World

Katelyn Beaty. Howard, $22.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4767-9409-9

Beaty, Christianity Today's first female managing editor, writes eloquently on the potentially divisive topic of women entering the workforce in increasing numbers, which has transformed traditional conceptions of the place of women within the family unit. Beaty practically notes that all women work, whether caring for the family or earning money; it's simply their surroundings that change. In researching the book, Beaty discovered that most women feel torn between their jobs and family obligations. Citing theologians and Christian thinkers with various opinions about women treating vocational jobs as their callings, Beaty situates her main argument around Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In and considers how Christian women should balance responsibilities toward their families, their faith, and their own career ambitions. The book is written for a narrow audience; the women interviewed "tended to be at least middle class, have a college degree, live in or just outside urban areas, and be white." Readers will be treated to in-depth study from a scriptural perspective as Beaty traces the history of women and work through the ages. Beaty's work is certain to generate lively discussion and some personal soul-searching. (July)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Holy War: Cowboys, Indians, and 9/11s

Mark Cronlund Anderson. Univ, of Regina, $27.95 trade paper (340p) ISBN 978-0-88977-414-8

This provocative psychohistorical reflection on post-9/11 America posits that U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are merely the latest in a lengthy history of military engagements with which the perpetually traumatized nation regenerates itself through acts of violence that replicate frontier tropes. By exploring landmark moments in the U.S war against Mexico, the Marines' occupation of Nicaragua, the invasion of Vietnam, and the Reagan presidency, the book shows the European civilizer/savage narrative repeatedly recreated with different names and faces. Anderson, whose 2007 Cowboy Imperialism and Hollywood Film mines similar territory, meticulously illustrates how the interplay of mass media, government manipulation, and a complacent community of mainstream historians perpetuates the frontier myth of America as innocent victim, slow to anger, and reluctantly compelled to battle to defend its divine mission. Delivered with a confident, authoritative voice, the text can drift from heavily academic to downright colloquial, an unfortunate tonal inconsistency that may undermine some of its excellent arguments. But Anderson's persuasive contentions that the U.S. is always in need of an enemy (like some say God requires Satan) and trauma demands repetition is well supported by documentation explaining why peace is an exceptional state for the world's most powerful country. (June)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Enlightened Negotiation: 8 Universal Laws to Connect, Create, and Prosper

Mehrad Nazari. SelectBooks, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-59079-368-8

In this informative and illuminating book, Nazari, a business professor and meditation and yoga teacher, combines his areas of expertise to look at the many ways people negotiate, consciously and unconsciously, in everyday life. To show how to become more successful in reaching common ground, he shares personal stories that demonstrate "enlightened negotiation," which considers ethical and spiritual principles as well as business success. Nazari stresses that values such as truth, fairness, and compassion have a place in the boardroom. He identifies eight "laws" of enlightened negotiation: trust, intention, communication, strength, flexibility, manifestation, mindfulness, and reflections, each bringing its own challenges and rewards. He details each of these laws, showing how to generate intended outcomes and deal with unintended results. He also explores individual negotiating styles, the power of the spoken word, and the practice of ahimsa, which dictates doing no harm but allows for self-protection. Standing out in a crowded field of books on improving negotiation skills, Nazari's explanation of his uniquely soulful and mutually beneficial approach offers a way of reaching consensus while promoting reciprocal and self-affirming respect. (June)

Reviewed on 07/01/2016 | Details & Permalink

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