Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 1 this year. Do you have special intentions for prayer time during Lent? Will you make an extra effort to serve others? Will you engage in corporate practices, such as attending religious services?

city-of-god2Before Ash Wednesday arrives, I highly recommend finding a copy of City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles. Author Sara Miles is the director of the food pantry and director of ministry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. With this book Sara Miles takes us through her reflections on the meanings of Ash Wednesday, the richness of community, the call to share blessings and sorrows. She reminds us that the call to love one another spills out into the streets, into the shop on the corner, into hospital hallways. We are called on this day to face our mortality together, and to show mercy to one another.

For the church Ash Wednesday offers a particular opportunity to practice repentance. As Sara Miles writes, “Repentance requires paying attention to others, and learning to love, even a little bit, what God loves so much: the whole screwed-up world, this holy city, the people God created to be his own.” I reviewed this excellent book here on my blog, and I invite you to please check out the review.

Your comments about favorite Lenten practices are welcome. Peace be upon you as you walk your path.




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71vtwf4jx0l-e1452271560982The new book from Laura Alary, Make Room: A child’s guide to Lent and Easter, has beautiful, clear writing and gorgeous illustrations from Ann Boyajian. An excellent addition to a home library or church classroom, Make Room will have children feeling enthusiasm for this very special church season.

With language that is both practical and poetic, Alary’s book satisfies the need families have for literature that inspires excitement about faith. The language is simple, leaving space for parents to expand as a child questions and grows. Yet the writing communicates its messages clearly, providing words for experiences that often are hard to articulate.

Why do we observe Lent? What is the purpose of this season? In Alary’s words,

“During Lent we make time to be with God.
Every day we talk with God in different ways.
Sometimes we pray with words.
Sometimes we sing or listen to music.
Sometimes we get out paints and crayons and create many-colored prayers.
Colors are like a different language we can all speak
Even when we have no words.
God understands.”

I highly recommend Make Room for the young people in your life. Whatever books you choose for your family, may this season bring blessings of peace and prayers into your home.

Disclaimer: This review is freely give, based on a loaned copy of the book. No fee was received.

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After encountering at least a dozen references to Madeleine L’Engle‘s book, Walking on Water: Reflections on faith and art, I had to check my library for a copy. A worthwhile read, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a creative pursuit, or who wonders about the place of art in the life of a religious person.

In Walking on Water, L’Engle offers advice to creative people who also are religious. Her recommendations are straightforward, and apply to prayer life as well as to creative work. Stay open to the Holy Spirit. Take time just to be, so that you can listen to the silence. We cannot wake to the voice of the Creator if we are too busy filling our days with noise. We are meant to be obedient to God’s call, but are we making space to hear it? “We must work every day, whether we feel like it or not; otherwise when it comes time to get out of the way and listen to the work, we will not be able to heed it.” We are called to be faithful in our prayers as well as in our work, even when we might feel less than inspired.

Over many years of giving lectures, L’Engle was asked to describe what makes a work of art religious. She explores this question throughout Walking on Water, and her responses made good sense to me. The short answer is that the artist does not have to be religious to make religious art, and one need not intentionally set out to make religious art (in fact, this can easily backfire). Art that uplifts, that is life-affirming, that turns our hearts toward the light rather than the dark—all of these might describe religious art. Also, we are individuals, and what points my heart toward God might not speak to you in the same way. There is space for our diversity.

L’Engle advises us to lay aside the sense that we are in control, that the work is ours to make, in a possessive sense; rather, we can be a vehicle through whom the work emerges, if we can step out of the way enough to let the Holy Spirit shine through. I nodded in affirmation when I read, “I want to be open to God, not to what man says about God. I want to be open to revelation, to new life, to new birth, to new light. Revelation. Listening. Humility.”

Full of stories from the highs and lows of L’Engle‘s own creative life, Walking on Water will bring inspiration, encouragement, and a fresh perspective to artists of all media.

Disclaimer: This review is freely given, and based on a copy from the local public library.

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It is extremely refreshing to read a book in which American Muslim men speak for themselves, sharing about their faith on their own terms. The personal stories in All-American: 45 American men on being Muslim demonstrate the diversity of the Muslim experience in the U.S., free from the problematic limitations of stereotypes. Whether you are Muslim and want to read other Muslim voices, or whether you simply are curious about the American Muslim experience, I highly recommend this essay collection.

If you are Muslim, or have Muslim friends and loved ones, you already know that Muslim individuals are as varied as those of any other religious group. However, for Americans who do not have such relationships, the stereotypes commonly conveyed by the media can create strong misrepresentations. Muslim men get lumped together in a group that includes headline-makers who are not representative of the faith; violence and misogyny dominate. These images, and their accompanying fear and distaste, can get in the way of building real relationships with neighbors and colleagues. For this reason, I cannot underestimate the importance of this book. It provides a rich opportunity to hear the voices of a diverse group of people, shattering stereotypes and opening doors to understanding.

Editors Wajahat Ali and Zahra T. Suratwala have done an excellent job of gathering the stories of men from a variety of professional and ethnic backgrounds. Their stories are personal, direct, and powerful. Reading these essays is the next best thing to sitting across the table and listening in person.

I urge you to read All-American: 45 American men on being Muslim, and to consider providing a copy for your public library. Further, I hope that U.S. mosques will provide copies of this book to visitors, since it provides such a beautiful glimpse of lived faith. May we continue to build bridges across differences, and to grow in love for one another.

Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received for this review. 

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If I Should Speak is the first novel from U.S. author Umm Zakiyyah. The novel tells of three college students, their new friendship, and spiritual challenges faced by each young woman. Tamika, a Christian and a student of religion, has many questions for her Muslim roommates, Aminah and Dee. Her interest in Islam begins as academic curiosity, but to Tamika’s surprise and confusion, she finds herself drawn toward the faith. As Tamika explores, Aminah and Dee also ask themselves questions about what faith means in their own lives.

Aminah is a disciplined young woman, committed to practicing her religion to the best of her ability. In contrast, Dee, who has known Aminah since childhood, has moved away from many religious observances. Often Tamika looks from one woman to the other, trying to determine the best path to follow.

Through Tamika’s questions and Aminah’s explanations about Islam, readers can learn quite a bit about the basics of the faith. There are brief passages of Qur’an, with chapter and verse mentioned in the text or in footnotes. Their conversations are realistic, and readers unfamiliar with the faith may find many of their own questions answered. Occasionally the teaching element feels heavy-handed, but the novel provides a great way for readers to learn about Islam through fiction. This book would be a good addition to high school, college, and masjid libraries, and will appeal to parents seeking clean literature for their teens.

The author’s passion for sharing about Islam seems to shine through Aminah’s voice. We have fewer glimpses into the internal struggles of Dee; since we do not see her as deeply, I connected with her much less.

By the end of the novel, I wanted to know Aminah better, and to see the development of Tamika’s spiritual journey. Happily, her story continues in A Voice and Footsteps. I look forward to exploring themes of faith and self-discovery in Umm Zakiyyah’s other writings.


Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Al-Walaa Publications. My thanks to them for making the book available.

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