Healing Spiritual Wounds (Book Giveaway)

For those who have been hurt by the Church;

For those trying to hold onto Christian faith in the face of “Christian” hate and rejection and violence;

And, I strongly suggest, for the pastors and church professionals seeking to cultivate safe spaces for hurting Christians who are determined to find healthy faith communities rather than reject Christianity altogether;

For you, I highly recommend Carol Howard Merritt’s Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God after Experiencing a Hurtful Church.

Better yet, I encourage you to win a beautiful hardcover copy of Healing Spiritual Wounds by entering this week’s book giveaway! Simply drop me an email with the subject “Healing Spiritual Wounds” by Sunday, June 4th at 5:00pm eastern for your chance to win!

As I wrote in an earlier book review, every chapter of Healing Spiritual Wounds unpacks theology & sociology & history in order to give readers the permission to name their spiritual wounds and to claim new, grace-filled understandings. Impressively, Carol Howard Merritt does this work without falling into unhelpful categorizations of “conservative” or “liberal” theologies. She names the Church’s harms topically — emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, etc. — and through personal stories acknowledges that harm is caused by the Church across its theological/political spectrum.

As I was pleased to express in my endorsement: “Healing Spiritual Wounds is a gift of candid and caring space for those who have been hurt by the Church, and Carol is a wise and gentle guide through the complex work of spiritual recovery. Welcome to a deeper, healthier faith journey.”

All submitted names will be placed in a hat for a random drawing at 5:00pm eastern on Sunday, June 4th. I’ll contact the winner for a mailing address to send the free copy of Healing Spiritual Wounds. None of the email addresses received as a result of folks entering the book giveaway will be shared, and you won’t receive unsolicited emails from me after the giveaway has ended. Send me an mail to enter the drawing!

Kids and Prayer (DVD Giveaway)

Here it is: the biggest value of my giveaways this month: a free copy of the Kids and Prayer DVD (Protestant version) by Paraclete Press, in which I host four kid-friendly episodes about the basics of prayer. A $50 value! Enter to win by sending me an email with the subject “Prayer DVD” by Sunday May 28.

Even better: this week I’m blogging a series of program outlines with ideas on how to use Kids and Prayer to get your church praying this summer!

Many prayers and deep appreciation for the ways you will encourage a prayer-full summer in your faith communities. Be sure to enter this week’s drawing for a free copy of the Kids and Prayer DVD! All you need to do is drop me an email with the subject “Prayer DVD” and I’ll put your name in the hat. The drawing will be held at 5:00pm eastern on Sunday, May 28.

Book Giveaway: Bible Sisters

Looking for a new daily devotional?

Seeking an introduction to lesser-known women of the Bible?

Hoping to resource a Bible study group in your church?

bible-sistersThe newly-released Bible Sisters: A Year of Devotions with the Women of the Bible by Gennifer Benjamin Brooks (Abingdon Press 2017) might be an excellent book for you, and I invite you to enter this week’s book giveaway to win your own free copy. Simply drop me an email with the subject “Bible Sisters” before 5:00pm eastern on Sunday, May 21, at which time all submitted names will be placed in a hat for a random drawing to win Bible Sisters.

I received Bible Sisters from its publisher for the purpose of reviewing and giving away the book, so let me turn to the review itself:

It’s important for our bookshelves to make substantial room for and give voice to women of the Bible, and I celebrate Bible Sisters for adding its attention to their stories — especially to the less familiar & unnamed women of scripture. Hopefully Bible Sisters will inspire you to dig deeper into your Bible and to research other retellings & histories & commentaries on these women, not only for your encouragement in faith but for your understanding of ancient & present-day experiences of women.

Gennifer Benjamin Brooks gives a fresh hearing to some scripture passages that have historically been injurious to women: Bathsheba is not blamed for her own rape, for example, nor is the violence against her romanticized. First Corinthians 14’s admonition that women should be quiet in church is rightly called out for its inspiration of sexist doctrines against women’s leadership, and Brooks shifts the question instead to ask what value silence in worship might have for all of us. And I’m glad for the attention given to Anna the Prophet, the Daughters of Zelophehad, Hannah, and so many others.

If some of the devotions are fresh & refreshing, however, others make me wince. The entries about Lot’s Daughters show no effort to question the mischaracterization of homosexuality as Sodom & Gomorrah’s sin (rather than the sin of violence against strangers and the poor). The moralistic assessment of single motherhood as the result of women settling for “a secondary role” in their relationships with men (based on the story of Esau’s son Eliphaz’s second wife Timna, who receives two nearly identical entries in what must surely be an editorial oversight) is a tired stereotype, speaking as a single parent. And Brooks’ overarching theological bent in favor of personal responsibility can seem to overlook injustice and abuse beyond individual control.

As a whole, the more I read Bible Sisters, the more I remember why I dislike 365-day devotionals: For the sake of printing a book of manageable size and marketable content, inevitably each day’s scripture reading cannot be fully examined for its rich complexities … each day’s reflection must likewise simplify & generalize its perspective on modern life for the sake of a daily nugget for readers … and each day’s prayer is compelled to function as a tidy “The End” bow on it all. Inevitably I find 365-day devotionals unsatisfying, and I regret that Bible Sisters doesn’t break this mold.

Still I affirm that Bible Sisters: A Year of Devotions with the Women of the Bible can be a useful starting place, and its well-organized indices are a great resource:

  • for preachers brainstorming a summer sermon series on women of the Bible: skim the index of names and start with the women you know least;
  • for small groups seeking a new approach to Bible study: have group members take turns presenting the full Bible story and corresponding devotional about biblical women they don’t know well;
  • for personal encouragement, especially if you’re struggling to claim confidence in & hold fast to your identity in Christ or if you’re striving to clarify God’s call within you in contrast to life’s chaos & complications — themes that are strong throughout Bible Sisters.

Women of the Bible are pillars of our faith stories and essential to our understanding of the salvation narrative. If you’ve not yet found an accessible book for diving into their stories, let Bible Sisters get you started — even better, enter for a chance to win a free copy! Send me an email with the subject line “Bible Sisters” before Sunday, May 21 at 5:00pm eastern.

(None of the email addresses received as a result of folks entering the book giveaway will be shared, and you won’t receive unsolicited emails from me after the giveaway has ended.)

Book Giveaway: Love Never Fails

Just in time for a Mother’s Day gift.

Just in time for love that’s in need of encouragement.

Whatever reason you need to reach for a new book to bless your spirit: Love Never Fails: A Journal to be Inspired by the Power of Love.

Love-Never-FailsAs I wrote in an earlier book review, Love Never Fails is a touchstone of love to hold fast in a landslide of fear; a stimulus toward generosity amidst the temptation of selfishness; a reminder to be faithfully diligent in the work the changes the world: listening, caring, connecting.

Give yourself (or someone you know) the gift of this beautiful book! To enter this week’s drawing for a free copy of Love Never Fails, simply drop me an email with the subject “Love Never Fails.”

All submitted names will be placed in a hat for a random drawing at 5:00pm eastern on Sunday, May 14. I’ll contact the winner for a mailing address to send the free copy of Love Never Fails. None of the email addresses received as a result of folks entering the book giveaway will be shared, and you won’t receive unsolicited emails from me after the giveaway has ended.

So take a chance that you might be inspired to greater love-filled living, and send me an email to enter the drawing!

Deliberate Acts of Kindness

Meredith Gould’s writing and wit — combined with her overall brilliance — produce books that are relevant, purposeful and compelling, including the newly-updated and re-released Deliberate Acts of Kindness: A Field Guide to Service as a Spiritual Practice.

deliberate-acts-of-kindnessBeautiful to hold and easy* to put into action, Deliberate Acts of Kindness is a resource for such a time as this, equipping a new generation of socially-conscious-and-eager-to-change-the-world folks with discernment tools for spiritual grounding & a hearty dose of wisdom for guarding against burn-out.

For those who have already burned out once (or twice or thrice) in their commitment to serve others, Deliberate Acts of Kindness offers a knowing head tilt and a friendly raised eyebrow to encourage deeper, more honest self-examination about one’s engagement in service:

“How will you know your call to service is … not merely something your ego deeply desires?”
(DAK 21)

“Got trust issues? These may need attention…”
(DAK 19)

And this reality check:

“You’ll need to learn how to deal with the jerks, scoundrels, incompetents, and frauds you encounter along the way.”
(DAK 74)

Personal testimony: As someone in a helping profession (hello, ministry) my copy of Deliberate Acts of Kindness is highlighted, margin-scribbled and dog-eared every time Gould prods — I mean, prompts — my self-candor and clarity. Which pretty much means that every page of DAK is marked up.

Cover to cover, Deliberate Acts of Kindness provides concrete guidance and frames important questions for engaging service as a practice of faith: starting with the whys that compel kindness (Chapter 1), attending to the Spirit of discernment (Chapter 2), scoping out opportunities and ideas for kindness-in-action (Chapter 3), emphasizing the importance of serving well (Chapter 4), and preparing for inevitable disappointments and disillusionments (Chapter 5).

In addition to Gould’s own wisdom, especially useful throughout Deliberate Acts of Kindness is the wisdom she invites each reader to find on their own through contemplative writing exercises. I’m a great believer in the pen’s honesty: when we don’t write for perfection or worry about words, writing or journaling often has the result of putting truth on paper before our brains have the opportunity to reconsider it.

The writing exercises, assorted prayers and sayings from varied wisdom traditions, and Meredith Gould’s practical expertise make Deliberate Acts of Kindness a rich resource for volunteer veterans and humanitarian hopefuls alike — not just to be read once, but to be returned to again and again.

Deliberate Acts of Kindness is a book well worth your time and practice, for the sake of a more equitable, more kind world.

Bonus tips:

  • When reading a book by Meredith Gould, always read the endnotes. Seriously. Always.
  • Consider treating Deliberate Acts of Kindness as a devotional tool, not just a practical guide. When you find a quotation or question that resonates with you, hold onto it, take your time with it, meditate over it. Your spiritual groundedness for service will benefit your works of kindness.
  • Don’t assume that Deliberate Acts of Kindness is only a book about helping others. Chapter 4 is basically a guide for interacting with any human system/relationship (familial, professional, religious, romantic), demonstrated through the lens of service organizations. If people are driving you up a wall, whether generally or specifically, take a deep breath and read DAK. See also: adulting.
  • In addition to recommending Deliberate Acts of Kindness for your personal involvement in goodwill, I highly recommend DAK for those considering a profession in service. For example, my current job relates to folks who seek to become ministers, who are ministers, and (sometimes) who need to no longer be ministers. I would gladly put DAK into the hands of many a candidate & minister and require its study (along with therapy) for the work of collective discernment.

*If we call soul-searching, gifts-testing, energy-draining, pouring-life-into-love, burning-out, soul-reexamining, compassion-into-action-converting, giving-a-damn, and praying-to-God-to-save-the-world-from-itself work “easy.”

P.S. Meredith, I might totally steal/borrow/use “ad majorem Dei gloriam” (to the greater glory of God) with my next book, because it’s true, because it’s beautiful, and because I’m not adept enough with Latin to have thought of it myself. Thank you for your commitment to a more just & generous world.