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To Heal a Wounded Heart

Pilar Jennings. Shambhala, $18.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-61180-515-4

In her uneven memoir about the ways Buddhism informs different lives, Jennings, a psychoanalyst, weaves together three stories: her unsettled childhood shuttling between her Peruvian mother and her Scottish-Canadian father; the refugee background of her friend Lama Pema, a Tibetan Buddhist monk; and the unstable family life, resulting in selective mutism, of her six-year-old psychotherapy patient whom she calls Martine. Jennings demonstrates clear insight and deep compassion for all these figures, and has a flowing prose style that incorporates an eye for detail, such as the descriptions of the games she played with Martine as part of therapy. Despite this, the work disappoints. Jennings touches on Buddhism rather superficially, relating the facts of her interactions with Lama Pema that helped her and her patient without offering deeper analysis or introspection into the reasons. The story line spends too much time focused on Jennings’s own feelings, and relatively mild troubles, rather than the experiences of her patient and her friend. Without a clear theme or thesis behind the story, the book is pleasant without being particularly insightful. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 01/05/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Jesus of Arabia: Christ Through Middle Eastern Eyes

Andrew Thompson. Rowman & Littlefield, $32 (236p) ISBN 978-1-5381-0944-1

Thompson, an Anglican priest living in Abu Dhabi, draws on over 20 years working in the Middle East to de-Westernize Gospel stories in this accessible book of clarifications. Intrigued by aspects of Gulf Arab culture that reminded him of the world portrayed in the New Testament, Thompson decided to dig into the ways Gospel stories have been distorted over time and across cultures: “I want to retrieve the Jesus of history who through accident of modern imperialism and colonialism has become infused with a Western identity.” Thompson weaves together reflections on such topics as camels, seating dilemmas in the majlis (meeting room), the dangers of ancient pearl diving, and the differences between English and Middle Eastern sheepherding. Acknowledging frankly the speculative quality of this cross-cultural approach, Thompson also provides suggestions for future exploration and encourages efforts towards Muslim-Christian religious dialogue. Thompson’s gentle, earnest faith is evident throughout, as are his respect for the Muslim religion and his love for the Gulf region and its peoples. Though this impressionistic, wide-ranging account contains some vague premises and poorly expressed arguments, it offers engaging perspectives on Gospel stories that are rarely considered by Western readers. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 01/05/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Prayer Wheel: A Daily Guide to Renewing Your Faith with a Rediscovered Spiritual Practice

Patton Dodd, Jana Riess, and David Van Biema. Convergent, $23 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6031-1

Dodd, former editor at OnFaith; Riess, former PW religion reviews editor; and Van Biema, former religion writer for Time, hope to stimulate Christians’ interest in the Prayer Wheel, a long-lost diagram that can be used to structure a 28-day discipline of prayer. The diagram was found in a 12th-century German book of gospels that emerged at a rare book dealer in Manhattan in 2015. They begin with a cursory explanation of the wheel’s origins but are primarily interested in reviving the use of the wheel to guide and enrich prayer by tying each day to a different thematic element of scripture. In concentric rings representing sections of the Bible and through seven “contemplative paths toward God” arranged like spokes through the rings he wheel uses Christianity’s “big ideas” about the Lord’s Prayer, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, events in the life of Christ, and the beatitudes to form a progression of prayer. Easy to follow and comprehensive, the prayer guide seems as impressively clever today as it was in the 12th century, opening the truths of faith to deeper contemplation that comes with sustained prayer and providing matter for conversation with God grounded in scripture. Some readers will wish for a little more history, but as a prayer prompt, the wheel is divine. This book will make a delightful gift for all interested in deepening their prayer life. Agent: Todd Shuster, Aevitas Creative Management. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/05/2018 | Details & Permalink

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