Book Review: The Great Spiritual Migration, by Brian D. McLaren

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Christianity appears to be on the move, as it has been for centuries. Readers who wish to explore this story can start with Brian McLaren’s book, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian. McLaren explains that Christianity has long been an evolving faith, which has challenged outdated religious and political systems since its earliest days. We are now seeing, he writes, a shift from a belief-based system to a system based on redemption and love.

Many readers will identify with McLaren’s account of his own crisis in faith, in which he questioned his own system of beliefs during a retreat. He compares the need to “question long-held beliefs” with science’s willingness to change its mind when it discovers new facts. The scientific method emphasizes the search for truth, rather than adherence to outdated beliefs in the face of newly discovered facts.

The Great Spiritual Migration contains examples of Christianity’s history of spiritual, theological, and missional migration. For example, he notes that in the United States, slavery and white supremacy were considered to be “consistent with ‘biblical’ Christianity.” Scholars are still coming to terms with Christianity’s violent history. He outlines the need for “new questions” as Christianity migrates from “fear, violence, exploitation, misinformation, and the plundering of the planet” toward working for a “just and lasting peace in the larger ‘us’ of the kingdom or commonwealth of God.”

As a Christian with a progressive and inclusive world view, I welcomed the opportunity to read Brian McLaren’s latest thoughts on my faith. The Great Spiritual Migration assures me that I am not alone in my questions about the direction Christianity has taken in the past, and my hopes for a new direction in the future. I highly recommend this book to readers who are searching for hope and guidance in these often troubling times.

For more information about Brian McLaren, click here, and for more information about the book, click here.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. All opinions in this review are my own.

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Book Review: The Book of Esther, by Emily Barton

Book of Esther

In The Book of Esther, Emily Barton delivers an imaginative blend of alternative history, steampunk, and feminism. The story takes place in Khazaria, where a Jewish refugees have fled from oppression in Germania. The main character, Esther, is a courageous girl who, like the Esther of the Old Testament, makes a bold decision to fight for her people. Accompanied by a mechanical horse named Seleme and a young slave, she searches for a kabbalistic village in hopes that the residents will turn her into a man.

Elements of magical realism appear in the story. Esther is not transformed into a man, but an army of golems, which are mythical creatures formed by humans from clay, join Esther’s cause. When the golems want to pray and give thanks to the creator, questions arise concerning what it means to be fully human. Gender, religious, and social identities are called into question throughout the story.

I enjoyed reading The Book of Esther, although I found the many themes and obscure histories overwhelming. All in all, I appreciated this story of a bold, courageous girl who questions her role — and roles forced on others — in Khazar society. Readers who enjoy magical realism and alternative history should give this book a read, as they will not be disappointed.

To learn more about author Emily Barton and this book, read this author bio and this book summary page.

FTC disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.in character, Esther, is a courageous girl who, like the Esther of the Old Testament, makes a bold decision to fight for her people.

Adding and Subtracting

Even now, Labor Day weekend reminds me of the first day of school, and still feels like the beginning of a new year. This year finds me adding and subtracting once again.

I’m not sure why I felt blindsided by this past year. I shouldn’t have been surprised when family health emergencies, a graduate school workload, and running multiple businesses took a mental and physical toll. For months, my approach was to just try harder. But wise counsel from my dear husband John helped me to untangle my thoughts and begin to listen to my own inner wisdom.

It starts in the garden, or a walk with our dog. A patch of earth, a solitary flower, or a ripening apple will catch my eye.

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My mom taught me to silently thank the flowers when I see them. I recall what my teacher and mentor, herbalist Susun Weed said: “Every breath is a giveaway dance between you and the plants.”

Here’s what else I’ve learned:

Not everything I like to do has to turn into a business. So I am closing my online handcraft shop and returning to what I love to do most — make things by hand for my home, my family and friends, and myself. Now it’s fun again!

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I can redirect the energy that I had spread among three businesses into my independent recruiting business — a new and real blessing! I can feel my blood pressure decreasing already.

I am a member of the body of Christ, who reminds me to rest in Him. I’ve returned to my home church here in Boise, where I was baptized in 2015. After many months away from church, I began to feel a tug and went to Maundy Thursday service this year. Haven’t looked back.

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I don’t have to force every moment into “something productive,” as if nothing else is enough. And isn’t that a thing that manages to nag at all of us — “am I enough?”

I’m returning to me, beginning to believe that just maybe, I am enough.

I pray the same for you — because you are enough.

 

 

 

Looking For Things

“You see, I like to look for things” — one of my favorite lines by poet Rainer Maria Rilke. I’m learning to look with renewed eyes, thanks to a series of journal prompts I am reading. Today’s prompt tells us to look for feathers, as a sign of wisdom.

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Since reading The Iliad in college, I’ve loved the stories of the goddess Minerva / Athena, protector of many things that are dear to me: justice, poetry, crafts, weaving, and owls. Feathers. Things that I had forgotten until recent days.

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So our dog Paavo and I were on our usual morning walk in the grove near my church. Of course, I smiled a little as I found a feather…

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but then I found another…

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and another…

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this one is my favorite…

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…and then one more on our way home…

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So today, I am grateful for this sprinkling of reminders to look, see, and value my wisdom.

What have you looked for today?

I highly recommend this series of journal prompts, for exploring inner wisdom. Be well and be blessed!

 

Recipe: French Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Soup

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Have you tried French green lentils?

 

Two weeks ago, a family health crisis forced us to quickly learn about the ulcer-friendly or “bland” diet. My husband learned that he had a bleeding ulcer, and that onions, garlic and spicy foods were out of the question for the time being. As a family who loves to cook, we were determined to find flavorful alternatives to these cooking staples. Of course, if you have an ulcer or other digestive condition, ask your doctor about the foods that are best for you.

Soups are a favorite meal at our house, and I’d been meaning to try French green lentils. These small, dark gray-green lentils have a lovely sweet flavor and creamy texture. The caramelized roasted vegetables, along with some mild cooking herbs, add a rich flavor that helped us forget about the term “bland diet.”

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Roasted, slightly caramelized vegetables replace onions and garlic.

 

My husband likes to add zucchini and other vegetables to roasting meats, so I decided to use that idea for this soup.  My mom and I had fun cooking this soup and refining the recipe. No garlic, no onions, and lots of healing thoughts went into this soup. Here’s the recipe:


Ingredients

1 cup French green lentils

4-inch strip of dried kombu

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried ground thyme

Sea salt to taste

2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1-1/2 cups diced potato

2 zucchini, sliced

1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Dried oregano

Directions

1. Sort and rinse lentils. Place lentils and kombu in a medium bowl and soak for 4 hours (Available in health food stores, kombu is a sea vegetable that helps make beans and lentils more digestible) .

2. Just before the lentils have finished soaking, preheat oven to 425 F. Lightly coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, toss the carrots, potatoes and zucchini in oil. Sprinkle with dried oregano and sea salt, then toss some more. Place the vegetables in the baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, turning the vegetables halfway through cooking time. Vegetables will be ready when they are tender and slightly caramelized.

3. Drain and place the lentils and kombu in a large soup pot. Add enough water to cover the lentils and add bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Remove from heat and set aside until the vegetables are finished roasting.

4. Add roasted vegetables to the pot of lentils and stir to combine. Sample the broth and add more water, salt and additional thyme if needed. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook the soup for 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Ladle the soup into bowls, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Bland diet? What bland diet? You’ll be amazed at the depth of flavor, even without the tried and true onion and garlic base. Hope you’ll give this soup a try!

Natural Living Beauty

Some of my husband’s photos have been published on this wonderful site called Broken Light. Hope you’ll pay a visit!

Broken Light: A Photography Collective

Please welcome first-time contributor John G. Evans, a man who has been suffering since 1972 from what is now known to be a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from a trauma faced during military service time. He has discovered that photography and poetry have allowed him a second chance at life, and have released him of his depressive states and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. He recently relocated to Boise, Idaho, to photograph the mountain ranges, rivers, canals, nature, wildlife, landscapes and weather.

About these photos: “This photo series was taken in San Antonio, Texas, at the zoo early in the morning during the peak of the “golden hours” between 7:00 am – 9:00 am. The mood was quite beautiful and serene that one has the potential of losing yourself within the crisp cool morning air of twilight and the natural living beauty that surrounds you within this natural & metaphorical landscape of exotic birds &…

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Love in Action

Insight into the words of Thomas Paine and more!

Vehemence!

“An army of principles may penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot.” Such a powerful statement by Thomas Paine, very powerful! Should this power of the written word be taken out of context for political, social, or economic gain? Absolutely not! And those of who refrain from coming to embrace this power as a personal verbal inflection for a personal, selfish gain should truly have their motives and gains highly questioned.

Quite obviously, Paine’s motives for the “rights of man,” were to free two young countries from the tyrannies of their respective periods of time; thus being the French and the American Colonial Revolutions. As well, it should be clearly noted Paine died penniless and homeless, so there was no political, social, nor economical gain to be made. He simply spoke truth. And this was to no gain with the exceptions for these two countries to have the right to…

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