Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

Catching up on reading (& posting). Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been posting less for the past year or so. Instead of my usual three to four posts a week, it’s been more like that many a month (sometimes less). Suffice it to say I needed a rest. More on that in due time. Anyway, I’m back on the horse now — and looking at 16 of the faith-themed books that been sent to me. A haven’t read them all — but a couple (which I noted) genuinely impacted me in a positive way. As for the rest, my thoughts are more impressions than reviews. In any case, you can decide for yourself if they’re worth a read.

    Charles Slagle has a heart for helping people get beyond the often debilitating effects of fear-based religion (something which, believe me, is something I can relate too).  In this book, which has personally helped me, he opens his own heart to the mercy and wisdom of God and humbly passes along the loving freedom of what he hears to us. The basic message: God created you, unconditionally loves you, forgives you and will never leave you. Stand in loving awe of that. Stop worrying, be yourself and be kind to others.  Highly-recommended!
  2. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian World by Rod Dreher
    The American Conservative senior editor argues that the way forward during chaotic times is to — like St. Benedict of Nursia during to the collapse of the Roman empire — is to build resilient Christian communities base on the principles of order, hospitality, stability and prayer.
  3. Between Heaven & Hollywood: Chasing Your God-Given Dream by David A.R. White
    Memories and advice from a former Evening Shade-sitcom actor turned Pure Flix-movie mogul and producer of such films as God’s Not Dead. And the award for Best Chapter Title goes to: When Plan “A” Doesn’t Work, Remember God Has 25 More Letters.
  4.  The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn
    The leader of Hope of the World Mysteries delves deep into the Bible to reveal its deepest mysteries. This sort of thing may be good and challenging for some people. I’m not putting it down. But as someone who struggles with issues of religious obsession, I find excessive ruminating about the Bible to be counter-productive. Keeping it simple is what’s best for me. See Charlie Slagle’s book above.
  5. Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty by Kate Hennessy
    Hennessy tells the story of her grandmother, the product of a self-described “disorderly life” that included several lovers, an abortion and a child born outside of marriage. She was a communist, a pacifist and a Catholic who is now being considered for sainthood. Note to Hollywood: I think there’s a great movie here.
  6. Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Ann Lamott
    Lamott, the author of several New York Times bestsellers including Grace (Eventually) and Traveling Mercies, defines mercy as “radical kindness.” It is, she says, not deserved and involves forgiving debts and absolving what may seem to be unabsolvable.
  7. Let’s Be Real: Living as an Open and Honest You by Natasha Bure
    The teen daughter of actress Candace Cameron Bure (Fuller House) offers honest advice to girls about everything from acne to body confidence to faith.
  8. My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford
    The author explores the Evangelical Christianity of her youth and its relevance to her adult life.
  9. The Orphan, the Widow and Me: Paying it Forward with Both Hands by JT Olson
    The author, who was an orphan himself, tells the story of the founding of his Both Hands charity that takes literally the biblical call to “look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

10. Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis by Mark K. Shriver
The author interviews people who new Pope Francis before he was pope.

11. Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly
  The bestselling author and business consultant says God wants us to be happy. We just need to believe that and act on it.  Or as the Abraham
Lincoln quote on the back of the book jacket says “Most people are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

12. Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Spirituality by Ronald Rolheiser
  The Catholic priest and author of The Holy Longing continues his exploration of mature Christianity – describing three stages that include getting
our lives together (developing our personalities and talents), giving our lives (personality and talents) away by using them to help others and
preparing for our death so that it too is a blessing to others.
13. Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens and Dr. Issam Smeir
Written in support of World Relief, this couldn’t-be-timelier book takes on the issue of 60-million refugees worldwide who have been forced to flee
their homes as a result of war, persecution or natural disasters. Does global terrorism lead us to put moratorium of virtually ll immigration from
certain parts of the world? Or, with proper vetting, should we welcome the destitute with open arms?
14. Spiritual Sobriety: The Promise of Healthy Faith When Good Religion Goes Bad by Elizabeth Esther
Another book that has personally helped me to discern the difference between positive faith and toxic religion. A couple of key quotes:

Page 78/“If our mistakes are strong enough to compromise God’s acceptance of us, isn’t that the same as saying our mistakes are stronger than God? This is similar to believing that we are inherently evil. If that were true, then it would mean God created depravity. But just as it is impossible for God to create evil, so it is impossible that our mistakes are stronger than God’s hold on us. As Richard Rohr writes, ‘ You are being held onto so strongly and so deeply that you can stop holding onto, or defending, yourself. God sees and loves Christ in you; it is only we who doubt our divine identity as children of God…To be fully conscious would be to love everything on some level–even our mistakes.'”

Page 136/“For my part, I’m a Catholic but not dogmatic. My religious practice is guided by ancient Christian tradition while my spirituality ensures that I remain openhearted and not legalistic. I find great solace in treading old paths worn smooth by saints gone before me. But I also find immeasurable grace in developing my own relationship with God.”

Great stuff. Highly recommended — especially for fellow strugglers.

15. The Chamberlain Key: Unlocking the Biblical Code That Proves the Existence of God by Timothy P. Smith with Bob
The book purports to unlock secret codes in the Bible. Again, I’ve become a beaten-down believer in keeping my faith simple. After many errors
involving overthinking Scripture (leaning too heavily on my own understanding when simply trusting God is enough). God is Love.  To me, that’s the Bible decoded. You can elaborate a bit (love God by loving others as yourself) but that’s the essence.

16. You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why It Matters by Deepak Chopra and Menas Kafatos
Chopra, a well-known New Age thinker and holistic physician, and Kafatos, a professor of computational physics, look at the nature of reality through the prisms of science and spirituality. I read part of the book. Very interesting. Understood very little. In the end, I realize don’t have to know everything.  God is love is enough for me.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11














Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11


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