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The Whole Life: Finding God’s Rhythm for Your Spirit, Soul and Body

David Stine. Howard, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5190-3

In his instructive book, Stine (Hearing from God), founding pastor of Metro Church in Washington, D.C., lays out his methods for creating a life of fulfillment through caring for spirit, soul, and body. After struggling with stress and being diagnosed with Graves’ disease, Stine realized as he was reading a passage in Thessalonians that he was caring for his body the wrong way. “I pray that God would give you a Whole Life rhythm in your spirit, soul, and body,” he writes. He breaks down these three main areas into nine developmental pillars that, he suggests, form the basis of a healthy life. Pragmatically, he makes a “whole life wheel” of these nine segments—prayer, Bible reading, and dream; mind, will, and emotions; nutrition, fitness, and rest—and asks readers to plot their commitment to each on a chart. The resulting misshapen circle then allows readers to track what parts of their lives need most work as they try to round out the edges of their whole life plan. Each chapter dives into practical instructions, including how to pray, explore the Bible regularly, resolve guilt, remove unsanctified beliefs, make spiritually guided decisions, and design a healthy lifestyle with aerobic exercise as the core focus. Though Stine’s health advice lacks the depth and authority of the theological sections, his whole life process will provide Christian readers with a systematic approach for integrating spiritual and physical well-being. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/09/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Still in the Game: Finding the Faith to Tackle Life’s Biggest Challenges

Devon Still, with Mark Dagostino. W, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7852-2242-2

Still, former NFL defensive tackle, shares how a religious upbringing helped him to take him on life’s biggest challenges in his moving, forthright memoir. He grew up in Wilmington, Del., and was raised by this mother after his parents divorced when he was six. By his adolescence, he found that getting into trouble was a great way to see his disciplinarian father. He also soon realized how dangerous his city could be: “You grew up knowing that one day you might be talking to your friend and the next, his face might be on a t-shirt as a tribute.” Still’s parents’ support, the teaching of his coaches, and the spiritual influence of his grandmother helped him get his life on track and secure a scholarship to Pennsylvania State University. After playing in the NFL for five years, he left football to pursue inspirational speaking. In the second half of the book, he writes about the sudden, devastating diagnosis of his four-year-old daughter with stage-IV neuroblastoma in her liver. Relying on the principles of persistence and faith that he had cultivated his whole life, Still coached his daughter through a miraculous recovery. This inspiring memoir will appeal to Christian sports fans. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/09/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers

Margaret Feinberg. Zondervan, $16.99 ISBN 978-0-310-35486-4

Speaker and teacher Feinberg (Scouting the Divine) explores the foods of the Bible in this delightful book of scriptural lessons, travel anecdotes, and recipes. In essaylike chapters, Feinberg describes meeting with food producers from around the globe to gain a deeper perspective on the relationship between food and spirituality. In “A Flaky Fillet of Fish,” she joins a crew of fisherman on the Sea of Galilee who expectantly wait for God to deliver their catch. (Related recipes include Leif’s Baked Halibut and Mom’s Almond-Crusted Tilapia.) In “A Plate of Sweet and Succulent Figs,” Feinberg visits a farm in Madera, Calif. that challenges her notions of perspective and attentiveness as she witnesses the tiny fruits emerging from massive trees. In “A Dash of Sea Salt,” she descends into the caverns of a Utah salt mine and considers images of salt in the Bible, a symbol of “new beginnings and a separation from the past.” She also harvests olives in Croatia, visits a butcher in South Texas, and attempts to make 18-minute matzo. Feinberg’s approach is conversational and practical, and she includes sidebars of simple activities based around showing grace before eating (such as going around to highlight each person’s best attribute or “fruit of the spirit”). Christian foodies are in for a treat. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/09/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can’t Resist

Scott Sauls. Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-4002-0180-8

Sauls (Jesus Outside the Lines), pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tenn., provides conversational, scripture-heavy advice on how to incorporate Jesus’s example of openness into one’s life in this upbeat book. He begins with a simple question: “What would it look like for the local church to become the most diverse and welcoming—rather than the most homogeneous and inhospitable—community on earth?” Sauls unpacks passages from the Bible relating to the need for community, kindness, and faith-filled connection. For instance, he does a close reading of Genesis to stress the importance of marriage and then examines the Pauline epistles to illustrate how those without family also form the core of communities. He focuses particularly on Jesus’s speech on hospitality from John 13: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Woven throughout are stories of lessons in humility learned from figures Sauls admires, such as Austrian businessman and Christian philanthropist Karl Rabeder, who gave his fortune away to charities, and J.R.R. Tolkien, who explained how imagination and reason are deeply reconciled in the gospel accounts. Though the book greatly lacks in practical advice, it is a readable, hopeful exploration of creating an inclusive Christianity through a close reading of scripture. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/09/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Healing Racial Divides: Finding Strength in Our Diversity

Terrell Carter. Chalice, $19.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8272-1512-2

Carter (Leadership in Black and White), pastor of Webster Groves Baptist Church in St. Louis, Mo., considers racism in America and American churches in this balanced, informative book. He begins by walking readers through the civil rights movement, the roots of racial division, the “normality of Whiteness,” and the subjugation of minorities before turning to strategies for healing racial divides in America. Carter uses the metaphor of the high school lunch room to speak about society at large. In his estimation, the popular kids (the majority class) create normative behaviors, and unpopular kids (minorities) comply with and assimilate to the popular behavior or remain subjugated. Though Carter admits that racial animus appears nearly intractable and is based on white-centric ideas that have dominated the laws and institutions of America for centuries, he calls on readers to be receptive to the perspectives of others and cites Jonah as a guide for divided times: “And, every now and then, God calls us to participate in the process, even when we consider those people our enemies.” He also presents three internal problems churches should focus on resolving in order to recruit minorities: viewing other races as suspect, speaking at potential members rather than with them, and refusing to leave white spaces in order to engage minorities. Carter’s wise work will compel white Christian readers to engage in race relations in a more up-front, graceful, and honest manner. (Jan.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the location of Webster Groves Baptist Church.

Reviewed on 11/09/2018 | Details & Permalink

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When Faith Fails: Finding God in the Shadow of Doubt

Dominic Done. Thomas Nelson, $17.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-4002-0776-3

Done, pastor of Westside Church in Portland, Ore., insightfully addresses the problem of doubt in the Christian mind in this lucid debut. Done’s way of thinking emerged from a revelation: “It dawned on me that what had been wrong in my heart was my relentless quest for certainty.... I’m learning that sometimes the most liberating words are ‘I don’t know.’ ” He focuses on four sources of doubt among believers: difficult biblical passages, suffering in the world, contradictions between science and scripture, and the silence of God when life hurts. In each instance, Done addresses the questions and provides answers from sometimes unexpected sources (including Nietzsche and quantum physics), always leading back to the productive value of doubting faith. For Done, God’s plan will always overcome one’s doubts and so doubt should be embraced. There is a faithful way to live, he writes, that “doesn’t demonize or idolize doubt but recognizes doubt for what it is: an opportunity for authentic and vibrant faith.” Drawing on his own experiences, the lives of those he has pastored, and characters from literature, Done crafts peaceful meditations that will appeal to Christian readers interested in the intersection between faith and uncertainty. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/09/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family

Sara Georgini. Oxford Univ., $34.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-19-088258-7

Historian Georgini considers American religious history through three generations of the family of John Adams (1735–1826) in this expansive but jargon-heavy debut. The changing nature of American Protestant belief is skillfully illustrated in Georgini’s close study of the religious evolution of the well-educated, well-traveled Adams family. The first section comprises a mini biography of 17th-century English emigré Henry Adams and his deep Puritanism. In the second section, Georgini looks at the moral activism of John Quincy Adams—particularly his legal advocacy for the slaves involved in the Amistad slave revolt. Finally she considers the scholarly writing of Henry Adams on churches, which she finds to have Buddhist influences. The subject is fascinating, but Georgini’s prose is often overly dense and verbose, and those unfamiliar with the denominational labels of American religious history will struggle. Showcasing Georgini’s copious research, this religious biography of the Adams family will appeal mainly to academics working in 18th- and 19th-century Christianity. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/09/2018 | Details & Permalink

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American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, and Technology

D.W. Pasulka. Oxford Univ, $24.95 (296p) ISBN 978-0-19-069288-9

Pasulka, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, approaches UFO believers with an open mind in her irresistible debut, diving into how technology and media are creating a new religious experience for them. Pasulka admits that ufology is a field replete with dead ends for an academic, given its code of silence and history of disinformation and public hoaxes. Instead of crafting a well-sourced argument, she offers a personal account of her encounters with believers and a frank discussion of her evolving understanding of the UFO phenomenon. Lively character sketches bring the story to life as Pasulka meets the brilliant and charismatic Tyler, who takes her on a blindfolded journey into the desert to visit a potential crash site, and James, a bold, adamant researcher who is the only scientist Pasulka met who was “ ‘out’ as a UFO experiencer.” As she goes deeper into the murky subculture, she wrestles not just with flying objects, but with the nature of perception, truth, and myth. Pasulka compares ufology to more traditional religions, such as Christianity, likening miracles to UFO sightings and faith in God to faith in abduction. Pasulka gives wonderful, entertaining insight into the curious study of UFOs. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/09/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others

Barbara Brown Taylor. HarperOne, $25.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-240656-9

In simple and sharp prose, Taylor (An Altar in the World), a former Episcopal priest who teaches religion at Piedmont College in Athens, Ga., explores how teaching an introductory religion course has influenced her own views on faith and Christianity. Told as a series of vignettes structured around her course tracing world religions—primarily Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism—through history, the book has an academic tone but also wonderfully imbues the mundane with meaning through descriptions of class field trips to mosques, temples, and shrines that incorporate student reports and anecdotes from class to illustrate the evolution of her students’ thinking and the changes brought by physically visiting sacred and holy places. Taylor tells her class that her real subject is “divine diversity”—the attempt to live peaceably and with convictions in a world where differing religions make wildly varying truth claims. Though the lessons and field trips touch on multiple faiths, Taylor’s meditations frequently morph into biblical exegesis as she applies the lessons of other religions to her own understanding of Christianity. For example, the openness of Buddhist monks prompts her to consider the similarities they share with Christian ascetics. For Taylor, religious strangers can be the best teachers, as they provide a new perspective on the human relationship with the divine, and, she reasons, a sophisticated theology of comparative religions should always be informed by on-the-ground research. Taylor’s fluid book, which includes a small, well-chosen bibliography, is a fine primer on interfaith studies. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/09/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Annie Leibovitz at Work

Annie Leibovitz. Phaidon, $49.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7148-7829-4

Leibovitz looks back at her career and the images that helped propel her to photographic superstardom in this captivating photo anthology. The bulk of the book focuses on Leibovitz’s most famous images, such as of Nixon’s resignation, the Apollo 17 shuttle launch, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and the Bush administration in the Cabinet Room of the White House. In essays that accompany each photo series, Leibovitz explains the history and circumstances behind each image. She describes her work as simply capturing a moment, and is self-aware enough to freely admit to her own shortcomings. During a photo session at Philip Johnson’s Glass House, for instance, she recounts how she ignored the owner: “I kept saying, Oh, you can do something else, and I walked around, rather rudely, taking pictures.” Leibovitz possesses a down-to-earth view, such as describing the Pirelli fashion calendar, which she shot for the 2016 edition, as “Essentially a pinup calendar produced in a limited edition.” Other anecdotes are more personal, such as describing her time documenting life during the siege of Sarajevo in 1993. This fascinating work will appeal to photography historians and casual observers alike. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 11/09/2018 | Details & Permalink

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