Posts Tagged ‘Paraclete Press’
Book Review: Breath of Life
Author: Rabbi Rachel Timoner
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557257048
This is the third book I’ve read of the six that have been published by Paraclete Press in a series on the subject of the Holy Spirit in various faith traditions (see here and here for reviews on other titles I have read). I have intentions of reading and reviewing all of them eventually, but at this juncture, I can report that I am greatly impressed with the series thus far. Each of the three titles I have read are very scholarly, but not difficult to read and respectfully objective with regard to viewpoints outside the particular tradition they are written.
As the subtitle reads, Breath of Life is written from the Jewish perspective. My history and tradition is of the Christian persuasion, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began Breath of Life. What I did find, was not only refreshing, but in many ways revolutionary, even to the point that some of my theology concerning the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology) has been changed. Perhaps it might be better stated instead of revolutionary, I rephrase my new awareness as evolutionary.
Why the change?
What was it that brought me new awareness that would change my thinking about the Holy Spirit? I think a general understanding of what is meant by “spirit” from the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) was very influential. Rabbi Timoner shares much in the introduction that helps to shed light on some of the translation issues we encounter; this was enlightening to me. Another influential point was the Rabbi’s writing in Part One – Creation: Breath of Life; specifically the chapters two through four were very poetic and extremely moving to me. My intellect, my emotion, and my spirit were all equally moved as I read and learned things I had not considered before about the movement and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Chapter Two, Spirit In Us, was a very moving essay uniting the creation of humankind with the Spirit of God. I think there was nothing revelatory here for me, but the way that Timoner expressed this “union with God” was especially moving for me and helped establish a foundation from which to build upon for the rest of the book.
“God creates our spirit within us, a spirit that sustains us with vigor and that can turn us toward God in steadfastness. When we pay attention to our spirit within us, we find ourselves yearning to be in God’s presence.” -Rabbi Rachel Timoner; Breath of Life (p. 37)
As I continued to enter into deeper trust with this writing, I realized that I was paying attention to the spirit within me…as I was attentive to this spirit, I noticed God the Spirit speaking wisdom to me through Rabbi Rachel’s words. I was enchanted by the aspects of community and relationship that she highlighted again and again as one of the trademarks of the movement of God’s Spirit.
“Jewish tradition claims that God is speaking to us all the time. According to Midrash, the moment at Sinai has never ended. God’s voice continues to echo through the world, and it is up to us to listen for how we should live.” -Rabbi Rachel Timoner; Breath of Life (p. 65)
Chapter Seven, Finding Purpose through the Spirit, was another very meaningful chapter to me. I think I would summarize it to say that Timoner teaches that we are all imbued with God’s Spirit. How we respond and interact with God’s Spirit determines the destiny we will live into. She closes the chapter with these words; “Our task is to use the measure of ruach we’ve been given to reach for understanding, to look for miracle, to listen for God, to discern beneath the surface of life our portion of God’s purpose. Some people have been given an extra measure of ruach, enabling them to do extraordinary things. All of us have been given enough to be able to understand God’s revelation—to align ourselves with God’s greater purpose, making ourselves instruments to do good.” (p. 93)
This is not a very long book, but it is one that has taken me a long time to read. I have wanted to savor it, not rushing through it, so I could start my next project. I’m glad that I have taken my time; being deliberate and allowing plenty of time for reflection has been rewarded (in my opinion) with a more robust and enriched understanding of how God’s Holy Spirit works in and among humankind. This is certainly a book that I highly recommend for those who are looking to deepen their relationship with God. In fact, I recommend the entire Holy Spirit series from Paraclete Press.
Book Review: Lent and Easter with the Holy Fathers
Compiled by: Peter Celano
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557256928
As much as I wanted to enjoy Lent and Easter with the Holy Fathers, it just did not stand up to the other devotional resources I had collected for this Lenten season. I feel disappointed making this admission as I had higher expectations for this book when I ordered it, but it was not what I expected. In fairness, there were very good excerpts included in this collection of writings, but the consistency of quality was lacking in my [subjective] opinion.
About the Book
The Holy Fathers in this compendium are popes from the past to the present. Some of the writings are from St. Peter, Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope St. Gregory I, Pope Innocent III, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and several others. Again, with such a list of revered papal voices, my expectations were high. The title of this devotional, Lent and Easter with the Holy Fathers, led me to believe that the devotional writings would carry me through the entire season. There are writings arranged for every point of the Lenten calendar beginning with Shrove Tuesday even, but the actual weeks of Lent only include 5-6 short writings. Holy Week provided reflective excerpts that helped spur good meditations throughout the week beginning with Palm Sunday, but with such a deep and rich supply of writing to draw from I just expected more.
The book is just over 100 pages long and is sectioned into six chapters grouped by the points of the season: Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent: Forty Days of Preparation, Holy Week, Easter, and Eastertide.
I do not want to be misunderstood; there are some great meditations in this small devotional and several were very inspiring for me. If this collection were the only devotional book I had in my possession, my impressions may have been different; however, with the luxury of abundance in resources I had, I can definitively say there are better options available.
Book Review: Small Surrenders
Author: Emilie Griffin
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557256423
I have involved myself with several devotional materials during this season of Lent and ranking at the top of my list as “most enjoyed” is this work by Emilie Griffin, Small Surrenders. I have enjoyed many writings and books by Emilie over the years and was equally inspired by this Lenten devotional piece. Griffin sets the tone for the overall reflection of this devotion in the first paragraph of the introduction page; she writes:
Lent is a time when we deepen our faith in a journey not of grand gestures but of small surrenders. (p.vii)
The journey begins, as one might expect, with a reflection on Ash Wednesday and continues through Easter Sunday. Griffin interacts with the writings of spiritual masters, both ancient and contemporary, as well as all points in between to help illuminate her reflections. The content is deep, but the material and presentation thereof is not too difficult to grasp regardless of who the reader might be.
The format is straightforward, simply following the successive weeks of Lent. Each writing is a brief 3-5 pages in length and takes almost no time to read. The substance of the writing, on the other hand, can be something that is meditated on throughout the day…or longer. I found my heart and my intellect stirred repeatedly as I navigated my Lent with Emilie Griffin’s Small Surrenders.
It is hard for me to point to a “favorite” section of the book; as I said, I have enjoyed it from start to finish, but I did mark several pages with quotes that follow:
On Silence and Solitude: “Christians believe the voice of God permeates the universe and can be heard if only we slow down and tune into the place where silence reigns. (p.49)
On Willingness to Surrender: “God leads us in the way of salvation if we are willing to listen for the instructions God gives.” (p.63)
On Attentiveness to God: “One of the principal disciplines of the spiritual life is attentiveness: being alert to the simple, often subtle ways that God’s grace enters our lives. Often, we have to set aside our anxious preoccupations in order to see that our days are filled with mercies.” (p.79)
On Reconciliation: “The reconciliation we look for in Lent is not only with God but with others. The Gospel says clearly that, if we want t relationship with God, we should make peace with each other.” (p.140)
As I have pointed out, I am a fan of Emilie Griffin and have several of her books in my personal library. There is a reason for this; she writes with a gentle and tender spirit, drawing from a deep well of spiritual wisdom. Her words are seasoned with humility and genuine concern for others—this attitude shines forth in everything I have read.
Personally, if I have any recommendation about reading this beautiful little devotional book, it would be not to wait until Lent. It is worth reading anytime…again and again. I know I will be dipping into its goodness again.
Book Review: Catholic Spiritual Practices
Edited By: Colleen Griffith & Thomas Groome
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781612612461
I love the format of this little book.
Catholic Spiritual Practices is a collection of essays describing various spiritual disciplines and practices, which can be helpful with a person’s development in the Christian faith. The format of the book is very easy to follow with the assorted disciplines grouped into three primary categories: prayer, care, and spiritual growth. The essays themselves are concise, but provide an understandable overview of each practice, their expected outcomes, and a high-level introduction or “how-to” so the reader can have an idea of how to participate in the practice. I believe the essayists and the editors have done an exemplary job of presenting such a rich collection of spiritual practices in a manageable and practical form.
If I were to offer any criticism of the book, it would be regarding the title. Not all of the practices included in the book are exclusive to the Catholic faith. Unfortunate as it may be, titling the book as it has been titled will exclude a significant number of people who could benefit from these spiritual practices.
Title aside, I would recommend this book for anyone. Admittedly, there are some disciplines included in the collections that are not fully embraced by all faith traditions; this should not be considered an insurmountable obstacle. My recommendation is to experiment with the practices that do not conflict with or compromise your tradition and allow yourself and your soul to be enriched by the results.
I am delighted to have come across this gem of a book. I have found new ways to present some of these ancient practices to others seeking to grow more deeply in their faith. I look forward to sharing them and I look forward to growing with them myself.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Paraclete Press to read and post a review on my site. 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 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Book Review: The Little Book of Hours
Compiled by: The Community of Jesus
Published: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557255334
Several years ago, after reading Praying with the Church by Scot McKnight, I started experimenting with the practice of praying with fixed hour prayers. I have found this holy habit to be one of the most defining of my personal spiritual disciplines. I continue to seek out and use various prayer books that are modeled after this style of prayer. Following the Benedictine monastic tradition of praying the liturgy of the hours, the Community of Jesus has compiled The Little Book of Hours.
If you are unfamiliar with fixed hour prayers, the liturgy of the hours (also known as the Divine Office), is an ancient tradition that punctuates the day with prayer at certain times. Most commonly, these punctuations follow prayer times at morning, noon, evening, and night. Other monastic communities may seek to expand these prayer times to seven times a day.
The Little Book of Hours is a brief compilation of the prayers used by the Community of Jesus at the Church of Transfiguration on Cape Cod. While the actual prayer liturgies used by the Community are more expansive than those in this prayer book, the collection here represents the heartbeat that sustains and nurtures the said Community. The liturgy of hours in The Little Book is wonderful first step into the practice of praying the liturgy of the hours. This four-week cycle of hours is ideally designed for praying in a community, but is also a perfect fit for small groups and can be a great tool for personal prayer. I have just completed my first four-week cycle with this little book of prayers and plan to use it regularly during my prayer and devotional time through the coming year.
Book Review: God With Us
Edited: by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557255419
God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas
This is a fabulously beautiful book, both in content and in quality. Paraclete Press and editors, Greg Pennoyer and Gregory Wolfe have done a masterful job of retelling the Christmas Story through the seasons of Advent and Christmastide in this work. They have combined the gifts of art in poetry, paintings, Holy Scripture, liturgy, and prayer to produce a wonderful devotional for the Christmas season.
First, I’ll share a few words on the technical aspects of the book itself. The book is heirloom quality being very sturdy. It is hardbound with glossy, heavy gauge paper. The title of the book is gold embossed on the spine over a very durable feeling red cloth cover. Paraclete Press has also thoughtfully included a single ribbon marker for place keeping. The volume is somewhat large and non-standard in size at nine and a half inches by seven inches and just slightly over a half inch thick.
Second, I will highlight some of the content details. The book is arranged as a daily reader, following the track of Advent through the weeks leading up to Christmas and then proceeding through the season of Christmastide (The Twelve Days of Christmas) and ending on the Feast of Epiphany. Multiple fonts and font colors are used to bring the reader’s attention to various sections, sidebars, and highlighted areas of each devotional piece.
An incredibly gifted group of authors and spiritual writers has been invited to share in this collection of Advent devotions. Among the group are the following names: Scott Cairns, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus, Kathleen Norris, Eugene Peterson, and Luci Shaw.
The illustrations included in God With Us are classic masterpieces, beautiful and timeless—some of the pieces shared are from Gauguin, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Redon, and Leonardo di Vinci. I loved the illustrations as focal points for my meditations.
If I were to offer any critique, it would be for the prayers included at the end of each devotional writing. Two things I found were a little troubling for me; one, was the reduction in font size (perhaps down to a 9pt. font). Second, was the font color change to light gold. While the color change was aesthetically pleasing, the reduction in font size and the light coloration made reading the prayer difficult. I found myself on more than a few occasions lifting and tilting the book toward the light, so I could find a better reading angle with hopes of seeing the words more boldly. Aside from this one little nit, I find no fault with the book. Everything about it from binding to content to presentation is exquisite. I believe it is a heirloom quality piece and will be proud to hand it down to my own children.
Book Review: The Meaning is in the Waiting
Author: Paula Gooder
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN:9781557256621
I have thoroughly loved the devotional writing of Paula Gooder in her book of Advent reflections, The Meaning is in the Waiting. There is absolutely nothing “highbrow” about this little book of devotions; I found it very readable and highly engaging, it was hard for me to put down. Gooder’s writing style in this Advent reader is down-to-earth and thought provoking in a very charming and practical way. I felt as if I were hanging out in a rural country kitchen chatting up thoughts and personal perspectives about this season of expectant waiting. I don’t know Paula Gooder, but she seems like an old and dear friend after hanging out with her in this book.
As I mention, the book isn’t overloaded with viciously cerebral theological thoughts, although the devotions are anchored solidly to the Biblical narrative. Gooder interacts seamlessly with the narratives of Abraham, the Prophets, John the Baptist, and Mary, stitching and interweaving her own thoughts and experiences with those of the Bible. This helped to not only hold my interest, but served as a launch point for me to enter the stories as well, laying alongside the stories of the Bible and Paula with my experiences. I started to realize the meaning for my own waiting. This, in my opinion, is the sweet success of this beautiful little book.
Advent, then, calls us into a state of active waiting: a state that recognizes and embraces the glimmers of God’s presence in the world, that recalls and celebrates God’s historic yet ever present actions, that speaks the truth about the almost-but-not-quite nature of our Christian living, that yearns for but cannot quite achieve divine perfection. Most of all, Advent summons us to the present moment, to a still yet active, a tranquil yet steadfast commitment to the life we live now, it is this to which Advent beckons us, and without it our Christian journey is impoverished. (p.21)
The devotional follows the natural form of the Advent cycle with four weeks leading up to Christmas day. Each week is devoted to a specific theme: Week 1—Abraham and Sarah, Week 2—The Prophets, Week 3—John the Baptist, and Week 4—Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I enjoyed the writing of each theme very much, but was drawn particularly close through the identifications I made with Abraham, Sarah, and Mary. I think each reader might have a unique experience and attachment to certain characters; such is the wonder of these writings.
As of this writing, we are two weeks away from Advent 2012 and this provides plenty time to place an online order to your favorite retailer for this guide through this season that begins the Cycle of Light.
Book Review: The Paraclete Book of Hospitality
Author: The Editors of Paraclete Press
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557256652
I have just finished a genuinely heart-warming and seriously challenging book. I found the Paraclete Book of Hospitality a remarkable book considering that it was able to achieve both responses from me; that is “warmed” and “challenged.” I don’t believe those feelings are mutually exclusive, but it is rare that I put down a book feeling as significantly challenged (maybe even spanked a bit) as I did and still have the very real sense that I was loved deeply in the process. I know I sensed a special nearness of the presence of God as I was reading.
This is a small book; at less than 120 pages, it is also short. It is not a difficult read, nor does it take long to read… but I recommend taking time to chew the content slowly. The content is best digested along with thoughtful self-examination or it was for me.
The book is based upon the teachings of hospitality from the Bible; “love your neighbor as yourself.” The inspiration for Benedict’s Rule and the subsequent teaching that focuses on the subject of hospitality (see The Rule of St. Benedict 53:1).
All who arrive as guests are to be welcomed like Christ, for he is going to say, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
I found an especially challenging quote in chapter three from Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Dan Homan who reflect in their book Radical Hospitality the following:
“Benedict finds God in people. You can’t ignore people when God is looking out their eyes at you. In the tiresome, the invalid, the rebellious, we are faced with God. It is our own failures to love that we have to deal with when we talk of hospitality.” (pg.41)
Page after page, chapter after chapter, raising-the-bar challenges are seasoned with loving examples and practical suggestions to enter the practice of a life-giving hospitality. There are suggestions for practicing hospitality at home (probably one of the places it might be needed most…), there are creative ways suggested to care for others, and a chapter I especially enjoyed (Chapter Five) teaches ways to celebrate and practice hospitality through the seasons of the year (the Church Calendar).
“Every human encounter I holy.” (page 76)
Chapters Seven and Eight are also full of great suggestions for integrating hospitality into the dailyness of our lives. These are also very challenging chapters as the editors include additional teachings from the Bible and other monastic rules of life. A couple of quotes I will continue to ponder…
“Do not be nowhere in your effort to be everywhere, or attentive to no one simply because you are running after everyone.” And “Welcome God. Unless you are God-filled there will be no sharing and giving, unless he lives in you, you will be unable to welcome people sincerely.” Both quotes from -Jerusalem Community Rule of Life.
This is a delightful little book…and one not to be taken lightly. There is wisdom for the ages found in these pages. We can learn much by putting to practice the words and suggestions from this Paraclete Book of Hospitality.
Book Review: The Intentional Christian Community Handbook
Author: David Janzen
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781612612379
This book is outstanding! The extraordinary breadth and depth of experience shared in this single volume leaves me at a loss for words, but I will try to share my thoughts in this review.
As I have already indicated, there is a lot in this book; it weighs in at just over 350 pages including the introductory writings, notes, and selected reading recommendations. The author, David Janzen, is uniquely qualified with over forty years of intentional Christian community experience and leadership to write this handbook. I’ve been studying and reading almost everything I can get my hands on regarding intentional communities, neo-monastic communities, and the like for the past several years. I’ve read a lot of good books, learned a lot of great things, but I have yet to encounter the detail and attention this particular work gives to intentional Christian community. I would not refer to it as a handbook; I will refer to it as THE Book. It is this good.
Janzen has outlined the ICCH into six parts. Part One is titled The Yearning for Community in Context. It seemed to me, this chapter was about describing philosophy for Christian community and since the context of community can be unique from person to person, Janzen provides some first-person introductions to people drawn to and living in Christian communities. He will use the personal snapshots throughout the book.
Part Two invites the reader into exercises of self-examination; specifically to ponder the calling of intentional community in their life. I appreciated the honest and humility that David Janzen displayed in the chapters of this section. While not using the words exactly, he tries to move the reader past notions of romanticism and community. He shares some of the difficulties of shared life together and brings balance by sharing successes and beauty of living a Christ-focused life. Again, throughout this section Janzen uses the stories of others to springboard into real-life situations that help to give substance and flesh to these ideas and experiences.
Part Three of ICCH I think, is devoted to preparation before joining or beginning a community. In this section, Janzen deals with “first steps,” conflict, commitment, membership, stability, as well as sticky issues like race and gender. While these chapters are loaded with great information, I found a numbered list on pg. 110 especially helpful that essentially touts the merit of being “birthed” by a mature or existing community. The value of this type of oversight and support can be priceless.
Parts Four, Five, and Six cover the lifespan of community; Part Four is the first year, Part Five is the adolescence and growing years, and Part Six speaks to maturity and perpetual fruit-bearing. Chapter 19, On Why Your Community Might Need an Onion, from Part Five was one of my favorite chapters. The Onion Chapter uses a metaphor developed by the Simple Way Community (Shane Claiborne) that describes levels of involvement-commitment of the peoples associated with the community. I liked the illustration and the accompanying metaphors described which helped to develop my own community involvement design where I have used a diagram of concentric circles.
I had a number of favorite quotes, but one in particular seems to sum up the whole of this marvelous book. Janzen writes regarding participation in Christian community and spiritual formation; “Becoming a committed community member does not automatically cause one to grow in all, or any, of the virtues. But without community these things usually do not happen, and with community, there is help” (pg.212)
This book is definitely written to and for a particular demographic, but if you are thinking about or even remotely interested in intentional Christian community, you need not look further for an all-in-one resource. This is it.