Thursday, September 24, 2015

Eve by William Paul Young

From the Author of The Shack comes a new novel, Eve. This work of fiction takes on the story of creation like the Shack took on the topic of death. There is a science fiction atmosphere of the story of Eve. The story opens with John in the Refuge, a place between worlds, where a large storage container washes ashore with multiple dead bodies and one survivor. The main character is a 15 year old girl named Lilly Fields. She is paralyzed initially and has amnesia. She is in and out of consciousness while her body is being repaired but what sounds like aliens. She is told she is to be a witness of beginnings, presumably the creation story, a real Adam and Eve story. The author has some wild ideas about God as seen through an old woman Eve and a young woman Eve, an Eternal Man, Adonai, amd Elohim. Mr. Young appears sincere in his use of the main character Lilly searching for God and God's love. I think the nod to the biblical story of Lillith gets lost. I thought from the description before reading this book that Eve would be the one to wash up on the shore. Lilly has the DNA of everyone on earth but its not clear as to the significance of this fact.
I thought the descriptions were sophomoric and juvenile. True to form, Mr. Young goes very dark in his main character when she realizes that she is a rape survivor when her memory comes back. Simon enters the story and says he is her only friend and the 3 other people including John that claim to be her friend are lying and using her for their own gain. Lilly does not know who to believe. As to the creation story it certainly does not follow any of the biblical accounts, so be warned, if as a Christian you are reading this book as a scripture lover. The discrepancy is gaping and some might find it offensive.
When addressing original sin we hear “It happens when humans turn from face-to-face trust and let the darkness of death enter them. Thanks to Adam, we all have inherited shadow-sickness in our mortality. Resisting it is the war in which we are all engaged.” "Then when addressing free will “Trust is not a once-in-a-lifetime decision, but a choice made within each moment as the river runs. We are thankful for the gifts that surround us, and then we let them go, trusting that nothing will be lost, even if we lose it for a time.”
I would not recommend this book to you. It was confusing when I think the aim was to be mysterious. It misses the mark for enriching our spirituality as readers. It asserts to be of deep thought but only reinforces that God loves us. I found it simplistic and worth missing all together.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

In God's Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics by Joan Chisttister

Meet the Desert Monastics face to face or should I say heart to heart. I loved this book for the spiritual wisdom that it imparts. I learned so much about what is important in life. It's like having a spiritual director in your pocket. I realy liked the quotes from the desert fathers that were at the beginning of each chapter. Then the rest of the chapter unpacks the meaning of the quote and expands on the explanation of how this applies to each of us in modern times.
There are 35 chapters that are short and digestible but the reader might want to give time to meditate on each. This book would be good as a Lenten retreat. The first few chapters discuss what you might want to be leary of in a false spirituality. The middle chapters describe what an adult spirituality might look like. The last chapters concentrate on an individual's place in the bigger Christian world.
One of the most interesting ideas of consulting the desert monastics is that what they dealt with in their society in Egypt in the 3rd through the 6th centuries in trying to not get caught up in the materialism and selfishness in their cities is common now for our time as well. So how do we become like the monks and nuns of their time in our modern day society? We are generally seeking a closer relationship with Christ as modern day Christians but so much is distraction and gets in our way.
The abbas advice and stories are about how to simplify our lives and get to the heart of the matter and capture our inner heart strings too. I was intimidated about the topic of the desert monastics at first but the author has made them fun and easy to understand at first read but with enough depth in spirituality to interest the seasoned reader of Christian spirituality.
I would recommend this book to you as a book to savor. It is definitely one I will keep close on my shelf and you will want to have a copy too.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Complete Francis of Assisi: His Life, The Complete Writings and The Little Flowers by Jon Sweeney

This a first for me, a review of three books in one. I love the title becasue it gives you a preview of the three titles that Sweeney has included under one cover. The first book is "The Road to Assissi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis" by Paul Sabatier. This is the first biography I ever read about St. Francis which was given to me by a friend and I reread it for this review. The second book is "The Essential Writings of St. Francis", here you can read the actual sayings and letters of St. Francis. The third book is "The Little Flowers" by Brother Ugolino which is a book about the legends and myths of St. Francis. I find this approach of including these three books to be a very inclusive approach to give the reader a comprehensive look at who was St. Francis. Let's now take a closer look at each of these books.
The Road to Assisi to was first published in France in 1893 by French Prostentant Paul Sabbatier. More than 45 editions have been published in French alone. So it is definitely a classic. This book gives you specific historical facts with dates needed in a good biography, but there is also a reasonable flow of interesting stories. This makes this book informative and entertaining. It starts with his early life raised an aristocrat as a Bernadone in Assisi, Italy. It goes through his meeting with the Sultan, his later life receiving the stigmata and his death including his writing the Canticle of the Sun.
The Essential Writings of St Francis edited by Sweeney, the author of this compilation, give us insights into the thoughts and mind of St. Francis. He was not a scholarly man and was a man of few words. Some of his best loved writings are letters.
The Little Flowers ia a best loved Christian favorite that many have quoted from and it includes amusing anecdotes. It is interesting to hear stories that apear to have been told by his closest followers and brothers.
This is an important look at St. Francis as a whole. Sweeney has included personal comments all the way through the book. The author seems to be a modern day expert on St.Francis including this book and many others.
I would recommend this book to you but it is a rather long read taken as a whole. One thing I think that could be made more clear is the spirituality of St. Francis. I don't think this was the aim of this particular compilation but it is more of a get to know the man and his legacy book. The book gives you a thorough introduction but only an introduction that skims the surface of the impact St. Francis has made and the depts of his spirituality.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self by Anil Ananthaswamy

This isn't a catholic book and some might argue not even a religious book at all, but it has meant alot to me spiritually. It is all about our sense of self and I have found this not only to be about neurobiology and psychology but our intangible spirit. Our perceptions and thoughts that make up our sentient being and our body together make up who we are. This book has been a big piece of my recent spiritual journey. In a more conventional sense, we all know someone who has Alzheimer's, Autism, or schizophrenia, and this book helps to understand their unique perspective of themselves and the world.
I have a medical background so I am fascinated with the anatomy and physiology of our brain. I was surprised at how much we really know about the brain in the diseases mentioned above. The descriptions are easy to understand and if I am a loved one of someone with these conditions this book would definitely help me. My favorite part is the delving into our sense of self, our sense of self as subject or our "I" narrative, also our sense of self as object or "this is my body". Understanding ourselves is important before we can pursue a relationship with God or with our fellow neighbors we seek to help.
Most interesting is the descriptions of ecstatic seizures that are described as like mystical experiences of God and out of body experiences or OBEs being explained away. I don't think these physical descriptions point to atheism but that the hand of God works through our physical world. If you love science, psychology, medicine and spirituality, then this book has it all. Each condition has a detailed case study that makes the point more directly with an entertaining slant.
I would recommend this book to you but it is a bit technical in its language so be warned. It may not be for everybody. The science is sometimes hard to follow but the personal stories make up for it. I heard an interview of the author on NPR radio and was immediately intrigued. I'm glad I got to read this book for review and you definitely will not be sorry for your time spent checking out this book