Archive for the ‘beloved’ Category

In his book Rewilding the Way – Break Free to Follow an Untamed God, Todd Wynward asks many questions about the state of Western Christianity and the state of our planet.  One of the most intriguing for me was: How can Christians who have a spouse and children that they want to care for and support also radically follow the call from God through Jesus in the times in which we live? This is a question that I often ponder as a Christian who loves God deeply and who also loves my spouse and children deeply.

The book offers biblical background, historical examples and modern day prophets that point to these questions.  I think I was hoping for a more prescriptive approach vs. a descriptive vision because I tend to like lists and steps vs. dreams and stories but that is a difference of style than a critique of the content.  My only wish is that the examples had been a little more broad.  If I’m unable to move to New Mexico or the East or West Coast and not interested in becoming a Mennonite, the stories that relate to my circumstances become thin.

Overall, the book offered me glimpses of what the way forward could be, introduced me to people and movements I knew little about and provided another perspective on what Christianity in the future could look like.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.


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When my copy of Steeped arrived in the mail, I sat and turned through the pages, salivating at all the delicious foods pictured there.  The pictures and layouts had me dreaming of hosting tea parties and warm summer soirees.


Life happened and I only ended up having time to make three of the recipes in the book.  They were each from a different section of the book and each called for a different kind of tea.  I live in a small, rural town so I decided to make recipes with ingredients I knew I could find here.  I ended up choosing Mint Pea Soup, Smoky Tomato Soup with Parmesan Thyme Crisps, and Blueberry Scones with Rooibos Honey Butter.


Overall, the recipes were easy to follow.  I really liked the creamy tomato soup and the crisps added crunch and flavor that paired wonderfully with the soup.  The blueberry scones were easy to make and the honey butter made them extra decadent.  The mint pea soup ended up tasting mostly just of blended peas and wasn’t a favorite at my house.


While each of the recipes called for a different tea, none of the teas ended up being a dominant flavor in the end.  I kept searching for their flavor in each of the dishes but never found I could distinguish them.  I was hoping for more distinct tea flavors in the dishes.


I am looking forward to trying more and more of the dishes in Steeped.  Maybe one day I’ll actually get to host a tea party and serve one of the whole menus found in the book.  Until then, I have a beautiful book full of gorgeous food pictures and great recipes to add to my recipe book collection.

You can learn more about the book here: http://anneliesz.com/steeped-book/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

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The authors envisioned this book as a way for lay people to wrestle with the depth and breadth of theological reflection found in seminary. I think it accomplishes this task well.


There is not much in this volume that is new to me as a self-identified progressive pastor. But I did find the chapters concise and think that this book will be a good reference when trying to deal theologically with these topics in preaching and teaching.


There are a few places that I take issue with the authors. They suggest that the reason for the decline of the mainline church is that we aren’t vocal enough about our progressive theology. I tend to think that low church attendance isn’t about theology, per se, at all. They also make the claim that vegetarianism is God’s desire for humans. That is not an idea I’d encountered before and one I’ll have to give more thought but am not immediately convinced.


With the study guide included in the book, I think this book would be great for a church book study or to hand out to church folks who are looking for more. I am personally glad to have it on my shelf now as a great reference that I am sure will get used.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.



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I was ready to love this book.  The description sounded like something right up my alley.  I did enjoy parts, but overall it felt a bit uneven.

What I appreciated was the author’s theological reflection in light of her very traumatic childhood.  It was helpful to hear her wrestle with the age old question of why bad things happen to good people from her unique experience.  I appreciated her humor, her fast-paced writing style, her honesty.

However, it felt a little disjointed to me.  There were major  events that went by without explanation, major characters that just dropped out of the picture.

I think one of my disconnects with the book was that its critique of church was not a church I recognize.  As a mainline Protestant, I didn’t share her experience.  I know the Lutheran church she attended was boring, but not all are.

In the end, I’m glad she shared her story and I’m glad I got a chance to read it.  I learned from it and enjoyed her writing in parts.  I would read another of her books.

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ImageEvery once in awhile, I review a book for Speakeasy.  The description for this book intrigued me, “Cross Examined challenges the popular intellectual arguments for Christianity and invites the reader to shore them up  …….. or discard them.  Take the journey and see where it leads you.”

Enticing for sure.  And the book does what is promised – it definitely challenges some intellectual arguments for Christianity.  But Ican’t say I recommend it, for several reasons.

First, it’s an apologetics text masquerading as a novel.  The writing is fair if not eloquent, but the story is pretty simple and the long stretches where the story is interrupted for teaching are awkward.  Second, the biased nature of the story is not helpful.  The atheist is good.  The Christian pastor is bad.  The Christian parents are old-fashioned tyrants.  The Buddhists are nice.  There is no nuance, every character is fairly one-sided.

Finally, I find the apologetics to be tiring.  Full disclosure, I am a Christian and a minister.  But the intellectual debate around Christianity has never held much sway for me.  I’m not interested in proving my faith, I’m interested in living it.  There is enough in following Jesus, trying to love as he loved and proclaiming resurrection – light in the midst of darkness for me.  Arguing philosophical points doesn’t make or break my faith.

Maybe this book is for others for whom these arguments are energizing.  I had hoped that the novel would help to make the process less annoying for me.  Unfortunately, I did not find that to be the case.



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Keeping the Feast



I got this book as part of a project called SpeakEasy that sends you a book if you will review it.  I was drawn to this book because of it’s attempt to connect the communion meal in church with our everyday meals.  I was not disappointed.

This was a great book.  I loved the poetry, I loved the recipes, I loved the stories.  I can see using it in sermons, in educational settings and for my own edification.  I can see re-reading it many times over.

The author draws upon many of my favorite theologians – Bruegermann, Buechner, L’Engle.  He draws on ancient and modern writers, old and new songs.  It’s a book that feels contemporary but could become a classic. Milton Brasher-Cunningham is the kind of writer I like. He cares about words. He uses them as necessary and with purpose.

I’m gushing, but it’s a book I needed.  To re-member the roots of Communion.  To feed my soul at a time when it is dry.  To connect the everyday and important meals with my everyday faith. Here is one of my favorite passages:

“Jesus sat with his disciples around the table and, as he served them bread, he said, “Every time you do this, remember me.” What if we could hear those words as an invitation to communion and community in every meal, in every cup of coffee, in every beer at the pub: every time you eat and drink, look each other in the eye and remember me, remember the love that binds you and do whatever you have to do to forget the lies you have learned that tear you apart.”

I highly recommend this book!

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I came to Wild Goose West not knowing what to expect. I left feeling more hope for the future of faith than I have felt in a really long time.

The whole of Saturday at the festival felt like what church is supposed to be. We started the morning with worship as a family. It was simple. It was heartfelt. And most importantly my kids could wander around and I didn’t feel the need to corral, shush or correct them.

Throughout the day I got to hear people share about their thoughts on church and faith and be challenged, be uplifted, have my mind opened to new ways of thinking. I got to hangout out with old friends. I got to watch my kids make new friends. At the end of the evening, I got to hear 7 people passionate about church and their denominations share what they love and like least about their faith traditions. And then we held hands and sang “And together we’ll proclaim the news that God is in the land. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” I got to close the night by meeting new people, hearing good music, and laughing.

It was organic, open, genuine, relaxed, thoughtful. I felt no pressure to proscribe to anyone else’s thoughts on faith. I felt invited to live my own faith more genuinely.

There was an openness about the thing – an intangible presence of good. Some might even call it God.

I often have a hard time picturing what faith communities will look like in the future. I feel like, at Wild Goose West, a got a glimpse. And I’m excited to get there.

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