newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: April, 2015

What does it mean to be “Simply Open”?

This is a review of the book Simply Open by Greg Paul.

Prayer.  What is prayer?  What does it mean to pray?  How does one pray?  Can a song be a prayer?  Can food be related to prayer and experiencing God other than by saying grace before a meal?  In his book Simply Open, Greg Paul takes on the task of challenging the reader to encounter Divinity through all five senses plus mind and heart.  For the individual open to what Paul proposes, this project is rewarding.  And the accessible way in which he approaches the subject through his writing makes the text of Simply Open easy to engage with.

Greg Paul begins Simply Open by establishing a groundwork: what does it mean to be open, what his personal experiences are that lead him to authoring this book, and how the reader can best benefit from this book.  From there, each chapter begins with a short prayer that focuses on one of the senses, anecdotes and explanations that pick apart each line of the short prayer, and then an ending with the prayer again.

What I appreciate about this book is that the reader does not fully have to buy in to the ideas that Paul is trying to convey in order to enjoy the book.  The personal stories about encountering God in unexpected circumstances are well written and can capture the reader who has just a casual interest in the topic.  This book is worth picking up and reading, and sure the reader might not experience exactly what Paul is writing about, but there is a good chance he or she will if they remain Simply Open.

This book was provided to me for free through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for reviewing it.  I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

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Questions, part THE LAST; or, why a year-long series is finished one-fouth of the way through.

Breaks, respites, and vacations are all good things.  They can be a time for relaxation, reflection, and refocus.  Since the start of 2015, I have been using The Jesus Code as a guide for weekly Bible readings and as a catalyst for blog posts on topics connected to both actual and rhetorical questions raised within the writings of the Bible.  But something was missing…

I took a two week break (Holy Week and Spring Break) from posting from my reading journal because I was no longer excited with the project.  And I needed to know, “Why?!?”

It’s the same reason that often times an ambitious project goes undone after initial excitement.  Lack of investment.  A feeling of obligation to post weekly, combined with it being someone else’s discoveries as my starting point (even if my thoughts and reactions were NOTHING like the author of the devotional book’s), made the project feel like more of a job than a hobby.

For anyone who has tried to read the Bible on a regular  basis, when it feels like chore is when it becomes no fun and loses all the magic.  So let’s look at the bigger underlying idea.  The Bible is not a book to read out of duty, but out of love.  Love for the Inspiration and love for what it can do for the reader when applied to life.  Try reading it for yourself and see what I mean.

Until next time…

Following “The Ancient Path”

This is a review of The Ancient Path by John Michael Talbot.

Church history fascinates me.  Let me be more specific: ancient Church history fascinates me.  There is something about how a nonviolent political movement at the B.C./A.D. changeover (get what I did there???) transformed the world and influenced so many different people.  So when I came across the book The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life by John Michael Talbot, I was excited to encounter a collection of miniature biographies of the Desert Fathers, some of their most important teachings, and how they could be applied to contemporary life.

Be advised: the description of this book from the bookseller’s website or Amazon is slightly misleading.  The description would make it seem like the concentration is on the Desert Fathers, and how Talbot applies the teachings is just a minor piece.  For much of the book I felt like this was a John Michael Talbot autobiography with the lives of early Church Fathers (1st-5th C A.D.) being used as a lens to explain how he and his faith community ultimately live.

This book reads part memoir, part catechism, and part historical text.  While Talbot’s life was an interesting read, I was expecting and hoping for a greater emphasis on who some of the early Church leaders were and which of their writings to read.  For me, the most useful part of this book was the collection of end notes in the back of the book for each chapter.  Talbot cites the Fathers continually, so the end notes is full of resources for different works of the Fathers.  Others who are familiar with Talbot might appreciate the total sum of this book; while I am not saying this is not a respectable read, I am saying that this is less about the Fathers and more about one man’s life journey from Protestant faith to touring musician to temporary hermit to lay faith community leader all while reading and learning from the Fathers himself.

People living in community will get a lot out of this book.  Catholics will appreciate this book.  John Michael Talbot fans will love this book.  As I am none of these three, the book was okay.  If you read this book hoping for profiles of the early Fathers, be prepared to have to really sift through the pages to find what you are looking for.

This book was provided for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for publishing a review of it.  I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are those of the author.