Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review: Facing Feelings in Faith Communities

Alban Publishing has recently released some very practical and pastoral books for both clergy and lay leaders, among them is William Kondrath's new book, Facing Feelings in Faith Communities (Herndon, VA: Alban, 2013). Kondrath is the William Lawrence Professor of Pastoral Theology and Director of Theological Field Education at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. In addition to teaching he is also a creative consultant, multicultural trainer, as well as an executive coach. His many years teaching and consulting comes through in this book. If you are a pastor or lay leaders and want to learn more about your own feelings and how feelings and emotions impact ones family and the local parish then look no further, this is the book for you.

Kondrath is truly an expert and knows his material yet he does not get caught up in academic and scholarly talk. Surely he is trained and has plenty of real life and academic experience but he writes as if he is in the room with you guiding you along the way.

Most of us have all sorts of feelings: anger, sadness, grief, joy, happiness, and probably a lot of shame and guilt mixed in, I know I do. If you're human you have feelings. Kondrath takes these different feelings, dissects and explains them using real life examples, and then shows us how these feelings can also impact our fellow parishioners. After being for a pastor for a while I realized that so many of the problems that I encountered were not what I would call problems that could be solved but people coming and expressing their feelings in some what "inappropriate manners" such as lashing out, exhibiting passive agressive behavior, and so forth. Ask any pastor and they will all agree, folks come to us with feelings about God, about their faith, about their parents and project it on us!

Facing Feelings is divided up into ten rather short chapters and one of the great benefits of this book in particular is that each chapter has a series of questions pertaining to that particular feeling whether it be anger, sadness, joy, or fear. I took time out and wrote in my journal as I read through this book and I hope you do to. These questions can also be used for small group discussions as well.

The book also has a great series of footnotes for further reading and I'll make sure to follow up on some of them since I still have a lot more to learn about my emotions and feelings!

For more information about Facing Feelings click here 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Discernment

Every day I make many types of decisions, some big and some small. Most of them are small. For example I might have to decide whether to have eggs or cereal for breakfast. Or I may need to decide whether I will visit a parishioner before or after doing some domestic errands. We all have different types of decisions to make, some are easy and some are more difficult. Sometimes the decision is made for us before we can even think about it. I may have my day all planned out but if it starts to snow and the roads become icy I will probably stay inside the rest of the day.

If you are interested in a fulfilling spiritual life and are looking for a good book to read then you need to read Henri Nouwen's latest book called Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life (NY: Harper, 2013). Nouwen was a famous Catholic priest, author, and retreat leader. His books have sold millions and there are plenty of retreats that are based on his work. I have read three of his books so far and have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them.

Discernment is written in a typical Nouwen conversational style. He had a way of writing that was clearly understandable yet very deep as well. Various stories from his personal life seep through as well which make the book even more enjoyable.

This book is divided into three major parts: What is Discernment?; Discerning Guidance in Books, Nature, People, and Events; and Discerning Vocation, Presence, Identity, and Time. The book concludes with three appendices which were written by some of his close friends and students.

I found the entire book very enjoyable and read slowly on purpose, I wanted to savor every page! I underlined a lot of sentences too, food for further reflection and certainly for sermons too. Nouwen digs deep in the Sacred Scriptures as well as in the writings and lives of the saints and in our culture as well. His section on Discerning Guidance in Books, Nature, and Events was most interesting since we often do not look to those areas to read the "signs of the times" so to speak. Discernment is usually difficult because many people have to make decisions during difficult times such as whether or not to leave a job, whether or not to get married, or whether or not to get ordained or not. Nouwen recommends that we do not make hasty decisions nor should we drag our feet, but as we walk in the darkness we slowly try to seek out the light that guides our way.

For more information about Discernment click here 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review: Sacred Relationships

There are plenty of books on spirituality around, some on Jesus and spirituality, others on the Apostle Paul and spirituality and others on different aspects or spiritual practices such as fasting, almsgiving, lectio divina, and so forth. However, I have come across few books dealing with spirituality and relationships in the Old Testament. This new book published by Liturgical Press (2013) is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to dig deeper in the Old Testament in order to build stronger and closer relationships with God and neighbors alike.

Rabbi Michael Barclay is an ordained rabbi and a lecturer. He is the spiritual leader of the New Shul of the Conejo. He has an easy to read writing style and since he is a rabbi and spiritual leader and lecturer you feel like he's right in the room with you as you read. There are few difficult theological terms and when he does use them he explains what they mean. There is also a glossary in the back of the book for a reference.

What I liked most about this book is that it deals with a very important part of the Bible which is by in large neglected by Christians. It is hard enough getting parishioners to read the New Testament let alone the Old Testament which is almost four times as big! For many people the Old Testament is scary; strange names and stories pepper the pages. Yet Rabbi Barclay chooses almost a dozzen of the more poignant and perhaps palatable sections of the Old Testament as points of reflection. We learn about Ruth, the Psalms, Job, Daniel, Esther, and more. This is not a scholarly exegetical work so do not fear that you'll have to read page after page of footnotes or scholarly debates. After providing a brief overview of the book or passage Barclay provides the reader with a handful of key insights for the reader to reflect on.

This book is truly a gem. However, after reading it I really wanted more! I wanted Barclay not just to keep going, to provide more insight but I wanted him to go a bit deeper in the text, to pull out some more pearls of wisdom. Since he is well versed in Hebrew exegesis and the inspirational writings of the Talmud and the various sayings of the rabbi's I really wanted to know more about Ruth, Esther, and the like. I could easily envision another volume perhaps dealing with the other books of the Bible, providing more insight and inspiration for readers, especially Christians who are lacking in the Old Testament.

If you are searching for a sound Biblical reflection on building stronger relationships and healing the broken ones in your life then take and read Sacred Relationships, you won't go away disappointed.

For more information about Sacred Relationships click on this link 

To learn more about Rabbi Barclay click on this link