Archives For *Brief Reviews*


Joshua DoležalJourney Before Destination

 A review of

Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging

Joshua Doležal

Paperback: U of Iowa Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Sam Edgin


It may be the case that the highest praise a book can earn within the confines of a sentence is this: “I read it in one sitting.” Six words, seven syllables, and wrapped within them the praise equivalent to mountains of gold. A book that was read in a single sitting, a book that breathed deep and swelled its breast to engulf a person until it was done with them, is special kind of book. Most people know the pull of such a thing, and they chase after it.


So when I say that I read Joshua Doležal’s Down from the Mountaintop in its entirety on a sunny Monday morning, I mean it as high praise. Doležal weaves his words with sincerity, managing to convey genuine emotion in his reflections. He has an uncanny knack for detail, and constantly leaves simple beauty shimmering behind our eyes. Images like him and his father playing catch in their uneven and violently sloped front yard, his mother reading to him and his sister on a blanket beneath a tree and the swing of his mattock as he works trails in the mountains in summer heat stick with the reader. His prose is masterful, and turns the story of his relatively ordinary life into a beautiful adventure.

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Susan PitchfordThe Power of Identity


A Review of

The Sacred Gaze: Contemplation and the Healing of the Self

Susan Pitchford

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Scott E. Schul


Every April 12 I relive the horror of my daughter’s concussion. The head trauma happened the day before, during a seemingly harmless gym class volleyball match, but it was on the 12th when the symptoms fully manifested. That morning in school she began passing out and slurring her words.  She was unable to balance herself and, most terrifyingly, lost a significant amount of her memory. Her brain tried to address the trauma it had suffered by retreating to a safe place in her past. Her voice, tone, and vocabulary took the shape of young girl rather than the high school student she was. In the hospital we reunited her with her beloved cell phone, hoping the many photos and texts would jog her memory. But instead, she looked at me in a mixture of fear and confusion and said in her now-childlike voice, “Daddy, who are all these people in my phone?” In losing her memory, my daughter had lost more than just the identity of her closest friends. She had lost her own identity as well.

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Mark EckelTo Be a Thoughtful Learner

A review of

I Just Need Time to Think! Reflective Study as Christian Practice
Mark Eckel

Paperback: Westbow Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Jennifer Burns Lewis
I’ve had my review copy of I Just Need Time to Think! on my desk for several weeks, and whenever anyone stops by, the vibrant cover catches the visitor’s eye. It is the title, though, that prompts a comment, every time.
“Oh! I need that book!”  “How is that book?  Is it useful? I really need time to think!”  Clearly Eckel has lighted upon a timely, pertinent topic that resonates with many. The cover of the book depicts young people, perhaps students, pensively examining notes or the horizon.  Dr. Mark Eckel is Professor of Leadership, Education and Discipleship at Capital Seminary and Graduate School.  Eckel’s reflections in this helpful book are gleaned from his vocation as a teacher, but they are relevant to anyone who feels overworked, overstimulated or, at the very least, out of the habit of taking time to reflect upon one’s life and decisions.

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James SkillenEngaging Politics Faithfully

A Review of

The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction

James Skillen

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2014
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Reviewed by Tim Hoiland


For decades, James Skillen has been thinking deeply and carefully about politics and public policy from an evangelical perspective. Despite the culture wars raging to his right and to his left, he has managed to maintain a degree of nuance and sanity that is all too rare among political commentators, Christian or otherwise. Needless to say, he has earned the right to be heard.


The founder and former executive director of the Center for Public Justice, a non-partisan think tank that seeks to apply Christian principles to public policy issues, Skillen has long advocated a robust view of civic responsibility, believing that Christians are called to collaborate with others for the sake of the common good.

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Rosario PicardoThe Cultivation of New Churches

A Review of

Embrace: A Church Plant that Broke All the Rules

Rosario Picardo

Paperback:  Resource Pubs., 2014
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Reviewed by Christopher Brown
Rosario Picardo’s thin book Embrace tells the story of his call to ministry and the planting of Embrace Church in Lexington, KY. With refreshing honesty and candor, Picardo gives an account of his church’s life which should embolden other leaders of new worshiping communities both to venture into uncharted territory and to persevere when they encounter unexpected challenges.


The beauty of Picardo’s story in Embrace lies in its messiness, which in turn reveals the wisdom which can be gained from Picardo’s example. To write a book which so openly shares not the successes but the apparent missteps of a new church requires a level of humility that is rare among church planters.

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Daniel RobinsonRepairing Imaginations

A Review of

Myself and Some Other Being: Wordsworth and the Life Writing

Daniel Robinson

Paperback: U of Iowa Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Amy Gentile
There’s this odd phenomenon that happens from time to time, where you hear a word, a name, or an idea for what feels like the first time—or at least the first time you really noticed it—and then you start hearing it everywhere, as though you can’t escape it. And it’s so prevalent that you begin to wonder if you really never heard about it before, or if it really is as it seems—that this word or idea is suddenly haunting you, following you around for some purpose.
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Leah KostamoLeading the Way.

A Review of

Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community

Leah Kostamo

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2013
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*** The Kindle ebook is on sale for $3.99 for the remainder of May!

Reviewed by Kurt Armstrong

Leah and Markku Kostamo established Canada’s first Christian environmental center more than 12 years ago, an A Rocha site on ten acres of vulnerable land on the Little Campbell Watershed, 30 minutes south of Vancouver, BC. A Rocha (no, not Almond Rocha) is an international Christian conservation society working in 19 countries around the world. Similar to 4th century monastics or today’s New Monastic communities, A Rocha works within abandoned or vulnerable ecosystems, where people give their lives to a particular vision for a particular place. A Rocha uses the tagline “Environmental Stewardship” instead of the more-honest-but-less-professional-sounding “Because We Love This Place.” But Leah Kostamo’s book, Planted, is unmistakably a love story, complete with dreams, romance, frustration, heartache, and fidelity.

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Glynn YoungSpeaking With Poetic Precision

A Review of

Poetry at Work

Glynn Young

Paperback: T.S. Poetry Press, 2013
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Reviewed by Micheal Hickerson


This book, the first of T.S. Poetry Press’s Masters in Fine Living series, is intended to be read slowly and reflectively. Poetry at Work consists of 20 short, practically poetic chapters, each offering a few pages of thoughts about a specific area of work, along with a poetic exercise and, in many chapters, a few lines of Young’s own poetry about his work. The chapters largely deal with Young’s own experiences with turning to poetry for encouragement, inspiration, and comfort during his career in speechwriting, public relations, and social media. He wants readers to share his discovery that poetry can be used to discover beauty and purpose in the everyday.

Key to the book is this passage:

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Timothy WengertA Fresh Encounter With Jesus

A Review of

Reading the Bible with Martin Luther

Timothy Wengert

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2013
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Reviewed by Douglas Connelly


If you are a Lutheran, you will find a lot of encouragement in Timothy Wengert’s book on Martin Luther’s view and approach to Scripture.  The book will challenge you to undertake the interpretation and proclamation of the gospel with the same passion and care as the original Lutheran.


If you are not a Lutheran, Wengert’s explanation of Luther’s view on Scripture will force you to re-think some of the things you thought you knew about Luther.  Most of us outside the Lutheran camp know only two things about Luther and the Bible: first, he called the New Testament book of James a “real strawy epistle,” and second, Luther championed the position of sola Scriptura, the appeal to Scripture alone to define Christian belief and practice.

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Gandhi's Printing PressOn the anniversary of Gandhi’s death, I thought I would post my recent review of

Gandhi’s Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading
Isabel Hofmeyr

Hardback:  Oxford UP, 2013
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[ FREE Ebook of Gandhi's

This review originally appeared on the Books And Culture website, and was later shared on Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish.

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