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Rebecca K. Reynolds: Courage, Dear Heart (Paperback, 2018, NavPress) 5 stars

Review of 'Courage, Dear Heart' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

I read this book so slowly, not because it was hard to read (in fact, it was easy to read, well-written, and made of soul-salve that helped make all the life that surrounded my reading time easier), but because I didn't want to close the book eventually without another chapter of it to hold onto.

This book tops my list. It's a box of letters handed me by a dear friend I've never met and who's never met me but somehow knows the contents of my brain and heart and feels all that jumbled mess too, and wants to care for me despite not knowing who I am in particular.

It's written with a masterful pen and a frank authentic honesty that would evoke Flannery O'Connor, if only Flannery O'Connor left you feeling renewed instead of depressed.

If I can get you to read just one book at my …

Micah Mattix, Sally Thomas: Christian Poetry in America Since 1940 (2022, Paraclete Press, Incorporated, Iron Pen) 1 star

Review of 'Christian Poetry in America Since 1940' on 'Goodreads'

1 star

I've flipped and read in this volume a lot now looking for poetry that is Christian rather than just employing language that sounds vaguely spiritual — there are maybe a handful or fewer in the whole volume. For every three poems by William Baer responding to Scripture, there are countless that pray to Eve as if she were divine instead of to God, or that try to reshape God into the image of the Native American "Great Spirit" and ascribe sin and failure to Him in the process, or that elevate human behaviors (even sinful ones) to the status of being holy somehow rather than signs of sin's curse.

There is in most of this less meter or form or skill or semblance of Christianity and more streams-of-consciousness new-age syncretism and pantheism and straight-up secularism.

This reads a bit like what an unbelieving academic who's never encountered Christianity might think …

Ray Nayler: Mountain in the Sea (2022, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 4 stars

Humankind discovers intelligent life in an octopus species with its own language and culture, and …

Review of 'Mountain in the Sea' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

It does the thing all good sci-fi should do: use the sci-fi setting.to examine and interrogate questions of ethics and society.

The narrative is fairly engaging, even if the characters' dialogue leaves them with very little in the way of distinct voices — perhaps for reasons that are maybe explained in-world.

Overall, it's a fun summer read that raises a lot of interesting ideas about what it means to be a person and how our actions impact those around us.

For parents of sci-fi readers, there's enough casual (but not really described in detail, thankfully) sex in the book that it's probably not one to hand to teenagers — so be aware of that.

Ben Palpant: Letters from the Mountain (2021, Rabbit Room Press) 5 stars

Review of 'Letters from the Mountain' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Insightful, well-written, and relentlessly focused on the glory of God and the diligent use of skill towards that end.

If Goodreads had half-stars, this would be 4.5 stars: there are times where he makes two contrary generalized prescriptions in a single chapter, without enough clarity to know where the balance lies, particularly in the last few chapters.

This is a small knock, though, for how good the rest of the book is, so it's worth rounding up rather than down.

Review of 'Everlasting Is the Past' on 'Goodreads'

2 stars

The author is too much in love with his own cleverness of style, I think, as the structure of the book often becomes incoherent streams of consciousness that muddy the waters of the stories he tells.

At other times, he makes some truly puzzling snap judgments, ironically while describing how well he learned to love this inner-city body of Christ.

In the end, it seems that he's not learned that much except how to blend in to a different community from the one where he grew up, and then how to become fiercely and harshly dismissive of those outside in the name supposedly of defending those whom he thinks need him as their shield.

He revels in threatening the city council with a hostile newspaper column, and weeps in repentance of preaching Jesus's unconditional redeeming love too...fiercely, I suppose, to a woman on her deathbed who in the end, doubted …

Russell D. Moore: Courage to Stand (2020, B&H Publishing Group) 4 stars

Review of 'Courage to Stand' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

An excellent book, with much that is needed for thoughtful, honest Christian life against a backdrop of confusion about what it means to be a Christian, especially against the backdrop of pervasive "means-to-an-end" Christianity - Moore points back to the reality that our lives are the means, and the end is Christ Jesus...not the other way around.

The one weakness of this book is its persistent attachment to the framing device of Elijah at Mount Horeb -- while that's a good reference point for some of the principles in this book, others leave an impression of being squeezed into the suitcase of this story, jammed just a bit noticeably out of shape to fit in there.

Peter Scazzero: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Hardcover, 2017, Zondervan) 1 star

Review of 'Emotionally Healthy Spirituality' on 'Goodreads'

1 star

For Scazzero, the highest marks of spiritual maturity are getting in touch with your passions and emotions, letting them guide you, and throwing off the awfulness that must inevitably exist in your family upbringing and anyone who might not affirm you you wholeheartedly as you follow your dreams.

The worst things you could do conversely, are to turn out like your parents in any way, to question whether your emotions at any point are in line with the truth of Scripture, or to get too attached to other people to the point that you care what they think. Or to work in a job that you sometimes don't find enjoyable or rewarding (because, in Scazzero's view, that isn't God's will for your life, since otherwise it would line up with the "seeds of goodness" -- things you enjoy -- that God put in you).

After all, as Scazzero says, "Jesus …

Review of 'Emotionally Healthy Spirituality' on 'Goodreads'

1 star

For Scazzero, the highest marks of spiritual maturity are getting in touch with your passions and emotions, letting them guide you, and throwing off the awfulness that must inevitably exist in your family upbringing and anyone who might not affirm you you wholeheartedly as you follow your dreams.

The worst things you could do conversely, are to turn out like your parents in any way, to question whether your emotions at any point are in line with the truth of Scripture, or to get too attached to other people to the point that you care what they think. Or to work in a job that you sometimes don't find enjoyable or rewarding (because, in Scazzero's view, that isn't God's will for your life, since otherwise it would line up with the "seeds of goodness" -- things you enjoy -- that God put in you).

After all, as Scazzero says, "Jesus …