Category Archives: Spirituality

Book Review: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

0062113763The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

by Rita Leganski
ISBN: 9780062113764
HarperCollins, 2013

You will enjoy this book if you are a fan of magical realism. If you prefer cold hard facts, maybe not so much.

Given the title, The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, I don’t think I’m giving away too much when I say the main character does not speak, or at least not with words. Voiceless, he uses other means to communicate deeply with people (alive or dead) and with nature and the universe.

Rita Leganski creates a charming character in Bonaventure Arrow. Because he doesn’t speak, Leganski can’t use traditional dialogue to convey his insights and emotions. She uses head nods, gestures, and thoughts in a way that I feared might get tedious and annoying after a while, but it never did.

The mystical New Orleans setting matches the mystical nature of the story. Leganski brings in Southern Baptist tent revivals, Roman Catholic rituals, Voodoo curses, and Hoodoo charms to add spicy twists to her narrative.

Occasionally, just very occasionally, the stilted dialogue of Bonaventure’s mother, Dancy, did not ring true to me. Dialogue is not Leganski’s strong suit as a writer. Her strength is beautiful, descriptive narrative that captures the essence of a thing.

“Dancy did not know of Gabe’s feelings, but Bonaventure could hear them and he thought they sounded like a pearl that forms in concentric layers of kindness to protect a helpless oyster from a hurtful grain of sand.”

Fortunately, since Bonaventure doesn’t speak, dialogue is not a prominent feature of the book, so the dreamy story flows.

Leganski gives us plenty to think about: life after death, different ways to perceive the unspoken, the benefits and dangers of religion, the need for forgiveness (or not), acceptance of differences, and the poison of guilt, revenge and loneliness.

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow received unanimous approval from the members of my book club: fans of magical realism all.

Book Review: A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

house-in-the-sky-9781451645613_lgA House in the Sky

by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
ISBN 978-1-4516-5148-5
Scribner, 2013

This one will stay with me for a while. 

Since I finished reading, my mind returns again and again to memorable scenes, pivotal moments, and mystical insights.

For most of us, international travel is an occasional money-depleting endeavour undertaken between long stretches of home, but for Amanda Lindhout, home was an occasional money-replenishing pastime undertaken between long stretches of international travel. Lindhout backpacked around the world, ticking off countries on an invisible list, comparing and contrasting the reality of them to National Geographic pages she thumbed through as a child. The National Geographic photos were one of the stable factors in an often turbulent childhood.

The book begins with the stories of this childhood, which, if examined deeply enough, might merit a book of their own. Her memories of this time are both not really relevant and entirely relevant to the core of what this memoir is about: a kidnapping Somalia. For readers to understand how Lindhout ends up in Somalia at one of its most dangerous times in history, she needs to tell us the childhood and teenage events that shaped her, and she needs to delineate her evolution from “carefree young backpacker” to “aspiring war correspondent.” And she needs to let us know how Nigel Brennan ended up along with her on such a horrific journey.

This book takes reader on an up-and-down emotional ride: a downer of violence and alcohol abuse, an exciting ascending stretch of international travel to exotic locations, a gut-clenching plateau of apprehension because we know what lies ahead, a long, slow descent into horror, and finally an upward coast to healing, forgiveness and plans for the future.

Lindhout gives an honest account of her missteps and her self-blame and guilt, especially when it comes to the complicated relationship with Nigel. She shares how she used the power of imagination and gratitude to persevere through months of boredom, and physical hardship.

Lindhout and Corbett write a compelling story that, at the end of it all, is a tribute to the power of compassion and spirit. It stays with you for a while.

 

Book Review: Zealot by Reza Aslan

9780679603535Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

by Reza Aslan
ISBN 9780679603535
Random House, 2013

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but the sword.” —Matthew 10:34

Reza Aslan begins Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth with the above quote above as the epigraph. It made this peace-loving Christian squirm. I sat up and prepared to have my assumptions challenged.

Aslan described himself as a man “raised in a motley family of lukewarm Muslims and exuberant atheists . . .” At age 15 he “found Jesus,” and then still later unchained himself from the belief that Bible stories were literally true. The author with Muslim/atheist/Christian background studied and sought more meaningful truth in our ancient texts. Out of his studies grew an interpretation of what the Jesus before Christianity would have been like.

“Jesus of Nazareth—Jesus the man—is every bit as compelling, charismatic, and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ. He is, in short, someone worth believing in.”

Aslan builds a mind-world for us. He re-creates in vivid detail the “obscure hamlet” of Nazareth and first century Palestine. Within the Nazarene peasant homes  of “whitewashed mud and stone” he sets the kind of man who would arise out of such a place. He shows what he believes Jesus of Nazareth, a man shaped by the people, the geography, and the politics of that impoverished village would be like.

Aslan’s insights into Paul and the unforeseen affect his actions would have on the shape of the church were particularly interesting. When Paul called Jesus “Jesus Christ” instead of “Jesus the Christ,” for example, his slant rippled down through the centuries to the Christians of today. Jesus the man dealt with the earthy bodily concerns of his people. He fought against poverty and oppression, he resisted Roman authorities, and he struggled for justice. Paul and others minimized Jesus’ nationalistic human concerns and transformed him into a universal spiritual leader. Out of that grew a new religion, something Jesus wouldn’t have imagined.

“. . . practically every word ever written about Jesus of Nazareth, including every gospel story in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, was written by people who, like Stephen and Paul, never actually knew Jesus when he was alive . . .”

Every reader will come to this book with different amounts of knowledge of the Bible and other historical writings, and with different interpretations of what they know. Some of the historical facts Aslan shares will surprise some readers; some of his assertions will upset others.

This book will kindle conversations about Jesus, Paul and Christianity, and it is a worthy read for that reason alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Quantum Jumps by Cynthia Sue Larson

Adobe Photoshop PDFQuantum Jumps: An Extraordinary Science of Happiness and Prosperity

by Cynthia Sue Larson
ISBN 9870971934955
RealityShifters®, 2013

More than 100 years ago, the experiments of  scientific greats like Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and Erwin Schrödinger threw some traditionally accepted scientific laws into question. Quantum mechanics defied logic and boggled minds.

More than 100 years later, our minds still boggle. We’re having some difficulty accepting the possibilities of our Quantum Age, because we resist believing in anything in the absence of hard proof. In Quantum Jumps, Cynthia Sue Larson presents a “radical new paradigm—that we exist in a holographic multiverse in which we can literally jump from one parallel universe to another.” I have no doubt many will find it hard to believe.

Quantum jumping is the process by which a person envisions some desired result or state of being that is different from the existing situation—and by clearly observing that possibility and supplying sufficient energy, makes a leap into that alternative reality.” 

(Are you thinking of Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap right now?)

The idea isn’t new, and we find similar themes in the words of Napoleon Hill, Charles Haanel, and Jesus. (“Ask and it will be given to you.” Matthew 7:7) More and more experimental results support the possibilities. Larson includes examples of experiments with drug placebos, weight loss, goal achievement and empathy.

Larson outlines three quantum jumping steps:

  1. Attain a relaxed, detached and peaceful altered state.
  2. Feel energized about your visualized positive outcome.
  3. Take positive action in keeping with your new reality.

We make “quantum” jumps every day. When we get out of bed and eat our favourite breakfast, for example, we unconsciously complete all three steps; we’re just so used to doing it, we don’t give it much conscious thought. If it is so easy for us to manifest our breakfast, why not greater things, then?

Larson recommends a meditation practice in which we envision ourselves as connected to, and part of, an eternal infinite. The practice might help you lose weight, find a romantic partner, change jobs, ease depression or locate lost objects.

I’m grateful to Einstein, Bohr, Planck and others for inviting us into the Quantum Age. I’m encouraged by the ideas Larson presents in her book, even though some of them still felt a little “out there” for my comfort zone. I won’t discount them, though. After all, poor old Galileo had no way to prove to the masses that earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around, and he was vilified for his “out there” theory. He died being dead right.

Who am I to question the possibilities?

“Everything in the universe is within you.
Ask all from yourself.” —Rumi

________________

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from RealityShifters® for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

 

Book Review: Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton

5f454fee7d985d67b1b6fc87d3d40cf6Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back

by Josh Hamilton with Tim Keown
ISBN: 9781599951607
FaithWords, 2010

Every once in a while it’s good to re-live “The Dream.” Every once while it’s good to read a story that raises goosebumps. Every once in a while it’s good to reflect on Josh Hamilton’s life to learn something about how to live ours.

It’s Beyond Belief that at the age of 6 Josh Hamilton already showed such outstanding baseball skills that he played with his eleven-year-old brother’s Little League team. It’s Beyond Belief that the first player chosen in the first round of the 1999 baseball draft would end up selling his wife’s wedding ring to buy crack cocaine. It’s Beyond Belief what happened at the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game:

Josh Hamilton stepped up to the Yankee Stadium home plate. He took a few practice swings, settled into the relaxed bounce of his batting stance and waited for his pitches. An awestruck crowd watched his mesmerizing performance as he blasted 28 home runs in the first round. No one took eyes off his performance. If they had to pee, they held it. If they wanted a snack, they waited. Swing after swing, he launched balls into the stands, many of them 500 feet or farther. Only one other player in all-star history even came close to this number of home runs in one round. (Bobby Abreu, with 24.) His fellow players looked on and asked, “How do you follow that?”

Not bad for a reformed drug addict and alcoholic who was suspended from baseball for three years for drug use.

In the winter of 2005-2006 Josh Hamilton found faith, pulled himself out of a haze of drugs and alcohol and got clean. That same winter he had a dream. He dreamed that he would take part in a home run derby in Yankee Stadium and he foresaw himself being interviewed by a female television reporter. At the time, he was still under suspension. At the time the All-Star game had still not been awarded to Yankee Stadium. It made no sense.

In July 2008 he lived the dream—and how. In interviews with ESPN following his performance his voice cracked as he thanked God for getting him to that point. An ESPN commentator summarized the spectacle:

“It’s a lousy night to be an atheist.”

Josh Hamilton’s life is noteworthy for its extremes.

As a baseball player he was (and is) so very good, so exceptionally good, so head-turningly good. As a drug addict he was so very destructive, so body-ravagingly destructive, so head-shakingly destructive. As a comeback player he was so very miraculous, so odds-defyingly miraculous, so head-tiltingly miraculous.

With such a roller-coaster life, no wonder Josh Hamilton wants Jesus beside him for the ride.

Hamilton speaks openly about the role of his Christian faith in his life, but he doesn’t impose his views on his audience. He can’t tell his story without sharing his faith, though, for without it his story would have a different, sadder end. In the bedroom of his grandmother’s house, with the smell of crack cocaine still lingering in the air, he read James 4:7: “Humble yourself before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The Bible words became the foundation for his new life. Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, Josh Hamilton repeated the mantra and rebuilt his body, his marriage, his family relationships and his career. The power of those words proved more powerful than the craving for drugs. The power of those words led to “The Dream” fulfilled and gave baseball fans the gift of watching Josh Hamilton play.

Josh Hamilton was born to play baseball, but that’s not all. “This is about so much more than baseball,” he says. Faith, addiction and outreach loom large in the arc of his life story. That’s why, every once in a while it’s good to re-live “The Dream” of Josh Hamilton’s baseball life. Every once in a while it’s good to feel those goosebumps when reading about faith winning out over the ravages of addiction. Every once in a while it’s good to reflect on Josh Hamilton’s life to learn something about how to take life’s hard lessons learned and use them to help others.

“. . . I believe if it could happen to me it could happen to anybody. I believe I am a good person who made bad choices. I believe I am living testimony to the power of addiction. I’m the cautionary tale. I accept that.” —Josh Hamilton

_______________________________

Read about the Josh and Katie Hamilton FourTwelve Foundation here: http://www.joshhamilton.net/fourtwelve-foundation/

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