Books

The book cover of “Soil and Sacrament” by Fred Bahnson. Photo via RNS.

The book cover of “Soil and Sacrament” by Fred Bahnson. Photo via RNS.

Fred Bahnson’s first bit of advice when he started planning a church garden eight years ago came from an elderly tobacco farmer who grabbed a handful of soil, rolled it around in his fingers and shook his head:

“You don wohn fahm heah,” he said in his deep North Carolina drawl.

Those were not the only discouraging words he received as he planted and cultivated one of the earliest and most successful church gardens, 20 miles north of Chapel Hill.

But Bahnson, a Duke Divinity School graduate and a pioneer in the church gardening movement, had a different view of farming than the older tobacco farmer. He knew that if he gave back to the soil more than he took out — in the form of compost, manure and other soil food — he could create an abundant garden.

Corrie Mitchell 08-06-2013
Eva Piper considered herself a "shallow Christian" before the accident that revi

Eva Piper considered herself a "shallow Christian" before the accident that revitalized her faith. Photo via RNS.

Eva Piper considered herself a shallow Christian until the accident that revitalized her faith and turned her Baptist pastor husband, Don Piper, into the best-selling author of “90 Minutes in Heaven.”

“It wasn’t until Don’s accident that I really opened myself up to a really honest relationship with the Lord,” said Eva Piper, who says she’s embarrassed to recall her superficial faith.

Eva Piper writes about life after her husband’s alleged visit to heaven in “A Walk Through the Dark,” released on July 30. Her book comes nine years after the publication of her husband’s book, which spent more than five years on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

Julie Polter 08-02-2013

The March by PBS / Secular Days, Sacred Moments edited by David Cooper / One True Vine by Mavis Staples / The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dale Hanson Bourke

Rev. Jana Norman 07-22-2013
Photo courtesy Marcell Mizik/Shutterstock.com.

Man praying over a white plate while awaiting to be fed. Photo courtesy Marcell Mizik/Shutterstock.com.

Human beings seem to come with certain built-in spiritual inclinations, and gratitude is chief among them.

Parents and teachers think we have to be taught to say thank you, but maybe it just comes naturally. Gratitude is both accessible and enlivening.

Accessible because it’s as easy as paying attention to that which we might otherwise take for granted.

With gratitude, when our lover holds our hand for the umpteenth time it feels like it’s the first time and we’re grateful for them all over again. Or when we sit down to a plate of something humble and home-cooked it suddenly transports us to all those other meals in all those other places where we felt loved, accepted, and welcomed.

Elaina Ramsey 07-08-2013

Live Simply by Franciscan Media / Who is Dayani Crystal? by Pulse Films / Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valers / Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk by Heather Kopp

Trevor Barton 06-10-2013

Giving hands support a tree. Photo courtesy art4all/shutterstock.com

If I were a tree

     I would like to be

          A giving tree.

Leaves a peaceful green,

     Birds could sit and sing,

          Children laugh and swing

                Upon my branches.

 
Julie Polter 06-05-2013

Educating All God's Children: What Christians Canand ShouldDo to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids by Nicole Baker Fulgham / Bidder 70 / Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action by Mae Elise Cannon / Courage to Think Differently by George S. Johnson

Jim Rice 06-05-2013

Even at their best, toys like the American Girl Dolls send a mixed message.

Trevor Barton 06-05-2013
St. Francis of Assisi statue in Mexico, PerseoMedusa / Shutterstock.com

St. Francis of Assisi statue in Mexico, PerseoMedusa / Shutterstock.com

Editors Note: The following poem by Trevor Scott Barton was written while he was living in Africa and reading The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi.

Holding you in the palm of my hand
I see your tiny feet and hope you'll live and walk these stony paths
To the pump to get water.
Blessing you in your meekness and gentleness,
You are Jesus to me today.

Christian Piatt 05-20-2013
'The Invisible Girls' cover. Photo via Jericho Books

'The Invisible Girls' cover. Photo via Jericho Books

Sarah Thebarge is the author of The Invisible Girlsa new memoir from Jericho Books. I was fortunate to get a few minutes to ask her a few questions about her touching, funny, compelling new piece of work.

Q:  Your book is about Somali Refugees and also about your survival of breast cancer.  How do you write one book about both things?

A:  When I met the Somali mom and her girls on the MAX the first time, we had a lot of differences – different religions, ethnicities, skin color, and language. But as I developed a relationship with them, I realized that we had a lot in common at the core. Because I’d been a little girl growing up in a fundamentalist culture, where men buried you under yards of fabric and lists of rules and taught you that women were supposed to be silent.  And I knew what it was like to be a refugee of sorts, because after I nearly died of cancer in my 20s, I sold everything I had and got on a plane with a suitcase of clothes and flew from the east coast to Portland, Ore., and started over. And so even though the narrative lines of the Somali refugee family and my cancer experiences seem disparate, they actually weave together well, because all this time, I’d been an Invisible Girl, too.

Julie Polter 05-11-2013

A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher by Sue Halpern / Kinship Across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration by Kristin E. Heyer / Skipping Stones / In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan: A Model for Peacemaking

Tom Getman 04-29-2013
Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer

Fr. Michael Lapsley's Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer

Most Americans sat glued to the TV or radio on April 15 (or raced to finish tax returns) transfixed by the horrific Boston Marathon bombing and aftermath. Nearly 100 friends of Fr. Michael Lapsley’s gathered that evening at Busboys and Poets restaurant and bookstore in Washington, D.C., to be soothed with a testimony of faith by South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, soul-stirring cello music, and a transporting testimony of healing by apartheid regime bomb victim “Father Mike.”

One of my favorite newspapers in the world, the South African Mail and Guardian, reported on April 19 this way: 

“Boston bombings: the marathon struggle of survival and healing … a priest from South Africa, apartheid fighter and a bomb victim himself reaches out to Americans about forgiveness … He had not planned it that way. The event was to launch his book. It had been scheduled for last October but Hurricane Sandy scuppered those plans. Instead it took place on a day when three people were killed and more than 100 injured in Boston.”

LaVonne Neff 04-29-2013
'Fat Chance' and 'Salt Sugar Fat'

'Fat Chance' and 'Salt Sugar Fat'

If you eat food, here are two newish books you should know about.

You may already have met Robert H. Lustig, author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease (2012). Lustig is the UCSF professor whose surprisingly riveting 90-minute lecture, "Sugar: The Bitter Truth," has already had nearly 3.5 million hits on YouTube. The thesis of his lecture: it's not dietary fat that's making Americans gain weight, it's sugar. And sugar is doing much worse things than increasing our clothing size. It's setting us up for a whole range of lethal diseases that are almost entirely avoidable.

...

In Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (2013), Moss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, tells what the food industry has been up to during the last couple of decades. Food executives, Moss says, are nervous: people are figuring out that convenience foods aren't good for them.

Charles Austin 04-23-2013
Photo by Paul Kolnik/courtesy The Testament of Mary production

iona Shaw in a scene from The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín. Photo by Paul Kolnik/courtesy The Testament of Mary production

How far can one go in retelling a Bible story, adding things that are not in the original? In The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin goes a long way.

His 2012 book is now a Broadway play presenting a view of the mother of Jesus so different from pious tradition that it angers some Christians, creating a “new,” intellectually and spiritually challenging Virgin Mary.

Yet in the end, Toibin’s searingly human Mary may be ultimately more accessible than the Mary of porcelain perfection set high on a pedestal.

The Irish writer, who has written about his strong Catholic childhood, imagines Mary 30 years after the crucifixion of her son. She lives as a virtual prisoner of two of Jesus’ disciples, still mourning her son’s death, bitter at what has happened since, and seeking consolation from pagan idols, which make more sense to her than what happened to Jesus.

Adam Ericksen 04-05-2013
Rob Bell at Powerhouse Arena. By Paul Williams, Via Flickr.

Rob Bell at Powerhouse Arena. By Paul Williams, Via Flickr.

(The Controversial figure Rob Bell has created another firestorm with his latest provocative book What We Talk About When We Talk About GodRaven Foundation Education Director, Adam Ericksen and Tripp Hudgins will share our thoughts on the book in this blogalogue. We invite you to join the discussion by leaving a comment.)

Sadly, this is our last post on Rob’s book What We Talk About When We Talk About God. As Tripp Hudgins stated, my previous post was a lengthy missive, and yet I feel like we have just scratched the surface of this book. I promise to make this concluding post shorter, but I’m tempted to inflict upon you the longest post ever! because there is so much in these final 30 pages.

I noticed that we haven’t made a list yet, and every blogalogue needs a list! So, to keep this from becoming the longest post ever!, I offer you the top 3 reason that Rob Bell matters.

Mallory McDuff 04-04-2013

Fiction with a climate change theme.

Julie Polter 04-04-2013

Novels to stretch the mind and heart.

Julie Polter 04-04-2013

Just Lead! A No Whining, No Complaining, No Nonsense Practical Guide for Women Leaders in the Church by Sherry Surratt and Jenni Catron / 99 Blessings: An Invitation to Life by David Steindl-Rast / The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson / Life after Death: Practical Help for the Widowed
by Elizabeth Bookser Barkley

Elaina Ramsey 04-04-2013

Everyone can use guidelines—and repair manuals—for living in Christian community.

Julie Polter 04-03-2013

Those who study together can also change together. Here are our recommendations for good books, videos, and online resources for stepping forward to reverse climate change.

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