Private Prayer and the Stupidities of Public Life

Connie and I recently watched Karol: A Man Who Became Pope. It portrays Karol Wojtyla’s life from his late teens, when the Nazi’s invaded his city and nation, through WWII, then through decades of Communist rule (as a satellite of the Soviet Union), up to the day he became Pope John Paul II (1978). I. A Real-life Example: The Future Pope Working Under Nazi and Communist Oppression in Poland Karol Wojtyla, (pronounced something like “VoyTEEya”) was known as a man of prayer, and it seems to me that his life-long habits (and style) of prayer – developed in his late teens – were a key factor in his effectiveness in the real world and in his continuing rise to greater and greater worldly power. He was introduced to “mystical prayer” early in WWII by an older man (Jan Tyranowsky) who became a spiritual mentor to several young adults. I was familiar with the story from previous study, and though this version is a movie, not a documentary, it still rings pretty true. One poignant scene shows him discovering a poster announcing the murder (“execution”) of a good friend, a young priest, by the Nazis. Wojtyla sinks to the ground … Continue reading

Reputation: Portraits in Power [a book review]

This is a reveiew of Reputation: Portraits in Power, by Marjorie Williams, 2008, PublicAffairs. I wrote it for I think this book – or rather this collection of 12 short biographical portraits – is just excellent. Marjorie Williams wrote these for the Washington Post and for Vanity Fair during the 90′s. They are long enough to be substantial and short enough to be easily accessible. I love to find books like this, where you can get a frequently elegant introduction to a certain era or a certain place through the very real lives of very real people. It seems to me to be much more effective than the summary or analytical works that are so much more common. A person must have a lot of depth and profound powers of observation to write so penetratingly and believably, … Continue reading

Pre-Marital Counseling – We Could Probably All Use Some. [a book review]

Through I now and then get review copies of books newly or nearly published, in exchange for writing a review. This is one of those. It’s not very political, to say the least, but it does have a lot to do with humans living in society together. The book is Essentials of Premarital Counseling: Creating Compatible Couples, by Sandra L. Ceren, Loving Healing Press, 2008 I enjoyed reading this book, profited from it, and will certainly use it as a reference, and to help me keep perspective in my own counseling situations. … Continue reading

The Soul of Prayer – Peter Taylor Forsyth on Spiritual Genuis

“Prayer changes things.” It puts us into direct contact with God, and thus brings God into more active contact with our personal lives and surroundings. That more intimate, active presence of God does indeed tend to change things in and around us. Peter Forsyth, a British preacher and church leader of a century ago, wrote a little book on prayer, The Soul of Prayer, that has influenced me a lot the last several years. (It is now included in an omnibus from Wipf and Stock.) Below are some quotes from that book. … Continue reading

“Choose people” says Shane Claiborne in Irresistible Revolution

I really enjoyed Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical (Zondervan, 2006) – lots of fresh but very substantial perspectives on being Christian in America (and the world) in the early 21st Century. Here’s an example: Not too long ago I was speaking at Princeton and some of the students asked me how they were to choose which issue of social justice is the most important. Not a bad question, eh? We could easily answer – … Continue reading

Prayer: Does Intercession “Work”?

Here’s a review of another book on prayer as promised a couple of days ago. [Here's a more recent review of a book on prayer - P T Forsyth's Soul of Prayer] My second acquisition at Pastors’ Seminar was: Scientific and Pastoral Perspectives on Intercessory Prayer: An Exchange Between Larry Dossey, M.D. and Health Care Chaplains. (1998, Harrington Park Press) It does seem to me to have more bite than the book I reviewed two days ago. Larry Dossey has for some years been promoting the idea of the effectiveness of intercessory prayer in medical situations, and continues to publicize research … Continue reading

Prayer: Paying Personal Attention to God

At a pastors’ seminar recently I bought two books on prayer. Another pastor asked me to give him my reaction to one of them when I’d read it, so here goes. (I’ll review the other one in a few days.) First I got Tom Harpur’s Prayer, the Hidden Fire: A Practical and Personal Approach to Awakening a Greater Intimacy with God, (1998, Northstone Publishing). This is a nice-looking book, easy to hold and to read. Harpur’s writing has a gentleness to it and an informed and self-aware humility. The author is an Episcopal priest, so his roots and primary sources are Biblical and Christian, but the book is very open to other religious traditions and other experiences of prayer. To my mind that is a valuable thing. He is a Rhodes scholar … Continue reading

Prince Caspian: Violence and Magic, and the Turning of the Tide

“Violence and magic” – that sounds like the recent American approach to foreign policy. There’s been a lot a violence, considerable fantasy, and hope for, but precious little experience of, magic. The new movie version of Prince Caspian (we saw it Saturday with grandkids) is fairly well done as cinema, I guess. It’s pretty in places, often intense and scary (or pretending to be), and funny or clever in places, and it is reminiscent of Narnia. But a lot of the over-two-hours

“Seven Deadly Detours” – Millions of Christians Derailed at Great Cost to All of Us

A book published in 1996 really nailed this Christian distraction problem. Funny how we never heard of it then or since! Well, I heard of it this week when Connie found an old magazine she’d been saving. It’s “Release Ink,” collecting reviews of and ads for Christian books. We still have it because of the nice article about Jack Hayford. Hayford’s rapidly growing Church on the Way was where Connie spent her formative teen years. Well, get a load of this list! It’s the outline of Bob Briner’s Seven Deadly Detours (Zondervan, 1996), … Continue reading

Retired Army Colonel Asks Us To Watch “Road to Guantanamo”

Colonel Ann Wright is registering strong protest against us keeping our prison operating at Guantanamo. This is a Biblical moral issue. Hebrews 13:3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. “As if you were” there with them! That’s asking a lot. Connie and I watched the movie “Road to Guantanamo” a couple of weeks ago. It is probably one of those necessary movies for Americans – because Guantanamo is being done in our name. And it illustrates, on the basis of the true stories of a few former victims of Guantanamo, what Col. Wright is talking about in this article. I do urge the watching of the movie. … Continue reading