Received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
This is a very important book! Combining rigorous academic study with painful personal experiences that challenged her assumptions and pushed her to dig deeper into her research, Beth Allison Barr unpicks the history of the Biblical Manhood and Womanhood movement to show how complementarian theology arose from cultural and historical contexts. Rather than presenting a ‘timeless biblical truth’ as so often argued, it actually was influenced by and promotes patriarchal worldviews that contribute to the oppression of women and even veer dangerously close to heretical theology.
As a feminist theologian and minister in training, this book was essential reading. A few years ago I was writing my MA dissertation on feminist theology, and this book would have been invaluable to me at that time…! Nevermind, though, I am so glad it exists now! And even though it couldn’t help me with my MA, it will certainly be reread in support of my doctoral research into evangelical culture and its effect on women. I have already bought myself a hard copy and I recommend this book to everyone at every opportunity.
Received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Author: Kat Armas
Publisher: Baker Academic
Release date: 10th August 2021
This was a fascinating look at the author’s experience of deconstructing and decolonising her faith. Drawing on liberation, mujerista, feminist, womanist and other branches of theology, she weaves in her own and her family’s stories with those from Latin American history and lesser known biblical texts. She recounts her struggles and her challenges honestly, and emphasises the importance of culture and heritage to engaged faith.
I have read quite widely in feminist theology and a little in liberation theology, so it was really interesting to see this different perspective on both. I picked this up expecting a fluffy, feel-good reflection on faith and family, but this was so much better. It was powerful, deep and challenging. I loved that the Bible stories she picked were not the common ones but the marginalised characters who are often overlooked (including my best girl, Rizpah). I did not know a lot about Latin American history or politics so it was great to learn more about this region and the cultural elements related to faith and religion both within this area and for those, like Armas, with roots there.
I highly recommend this book. I will be buying a hard copy to reread regularly.
I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This fun book contains 42 daily readings that explore the intersection between faith and fandom.
As a theologian and teacher I’ve always enjoyed finding connections between my faith and popular culture – as a way to make it more understandable but also as evidence that God is interested in the whole of our lives. I loved how these authors found parallels between stories in Scripture and in the Science Fiction and Fantasy worlds, from TV shows to video games and manga. Some of the references were to books and shows I dearly love, some were things I’d never heard of. But the eternal resonances were beautifully drawn out and every entry made me stop and think and reflect on the world as it is and as it could be (the essence of all good sci-fi). Regardless of your fandom, if you’re into SFF there’s something for everyone here. If you are a Christian and a geek, then this is a great resource to inspire your faith and to help you to make deeper connections between the spiritual and the imaginary.
The authors are from a range of backgrounds and abilities but largely from the North American continent. They could add a little more diversity by perhaps inviting a British priest-in-training to contribute to the next volume…
In February we had a poetry workshop at college. I wrote the poem I shared at that time for my Nan – Finding Meaning – on that day, but I also created this piece of found poetry from the book I was reading at the time, Unspoken by Guvna B. (Click on the image to enlarge it!)
Published by Harper Collins in the UK on 16th March 2021. I received an eARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Similarly to my last review (of A Rhythm of Prayer by Sarah Bessey) this was another book that I came across unexpectedly at a time when I really needed it. The central theme of this book is grief and how Guvna B came to better understand and express his emotions through his experience of loss.
Guvna B is a ‘clean’ rap artist from London – meaning his lyrics don’t contain swearing, misogynistic or sexually explicit language or references to drugs and gang culture. Although he grew up in London, his parents were both originally from Ghana and Ghanaian culture had a huge influence on his upbringing. This book covers his childhood, getting his big break, his marriage and his life in general, through to the unexpected loss of his father and two of his close friends. He explains how cultural and social expectations meant he didn’t know how to healthily deal with his emotions until he was overwhelmed by grief and he realised he wasn’t able to cope. He unpacks the lessons he learnt about himself and the impact of toxic masculinity to help his readers better understand how to love through difficult experiences.
Guvna B writes in a very conversational tone which I think will appeal to his target audience of teenage boys and young adult men who listen to his music. In terms of the style of writing it was an easy read, although he covers some deep and difficult topics in a sensitively and appropriate way. While I recognise I am not the intended market for this book – I only knew one of his songs before I read it – I still took a lot from it as I was going through a grieving process myself.
I hope a lot of young men get access to and read this book. I hope they find hope within its pages, and a way to improve themselves and their situations by better understanding their emotions and their worth.
Content warnings: alcoholism, death, grief, mental illness, suicidal thoughts, suicide, racism, violence, references to gang culture.
Ebook received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
A Rhythm of Prayer edited by Sarah Bessey, published in the UK by SPCK, released 8th February 2021
I am a firm believer that sometimes a book appears in your life right when you most need it. I joined NetGalley in December and was browsing the Non-fiction theology/Christian titles in early January and saw this book. I put in a request, and being new to the site I am always surprised when my requests are granted. With a busy start to my university term I thought it unlikely that I would have time to read it before it came out.
Then my Nan tested positive for Covid and was taken into hospital. The prognosis was poor, and I found myself unable to find the words to pray. I was nudged towards this book, sitting waiting on my Kindle app. For the first few days I managed to read one prayer or reflection, and the words resonated deeply in my soul and helped me find my way through the grief and despair that threatened to become overwhelming.
The prayers and reflections on prayer are drawn from real life, in all its beauty and confusingness. As I put my roots down deeper into the Anglican church, I am growing more familiar with the power of liturgy for when you can’t find the right words yourself. This book for me is already being incorporated into my ministry as an ordinand, and will be a resource I return to repeatedly through the course of my ministry. One of the reflections – ‘A Reminder’ by Sarah Bessey – I have already used in a church service I was leading and with my tutor group (I also heartily recommended the book on both occasions).
I love the diversity represented by the authors of the prayers. Although I believe they are all cisgendered women, they represent many different cultural backgrounds, sexualities and several are people with disabilities. They also come from a number of different church traditions, although predominantly from America and a fair number are from evangelical denominations. For me it was powerful to read these reflections from a range of different voices, whose experiences may be very different from my own, yet they resonated with me. These are also voices that are not always given enough time and space within our churches.
I really loved this book, so much so that I have already bought a hard copy. It came at a time when I really needed it, and I know I will frequently return to it and by nourished by it throughout my life and ministry.
there are five stages of grief
But what I now know
is that it is not a linear path
Yesterday, I knew she was gone
Today it does not quite feel real again
Some days, I can laugh and find joy
Others, sadness wraps around me
Like a blanket
And I sit
I do not want to move
Because a world without her
seems less bright somehow
I’ve heard there is a sixth stage
I know I’m not there yet
Because how do we find meaning in this?
The weight of all the world has lost
Seems too heavy to bear
The numbers ticking ever upward
and she is not just a statistic -
The hopes and dreams
Can there be?
Can we find meaning in such dark times?
I don’t want to trivialise
or anyone else’s
with trite phrases
But I do know
I am not alone
I do somehow have hope
Despite everything that’s lost
I will not be overcome
The other week I shared a poem I had written whilst on a retreat/conference in France. I have lots of other takeaways I want to write about following on from that conference, but for now I want to unpack the imagery that helped to create that poem.
The conference was called Blesstival, and was a gathering of friends of a wonderful charity called The Bless Network, or Bless. Many years ago when I was an undergrad studying French at university, I interned through Bless at a French church. Since then I had not been greatly involved with the charity, I would read the newsletters and think to myself: It’s been a while, I really should sign up to one of their events. This time I stopped thinking about it and booked myself on. I am so glad I did.
The theme for the weekend was “un chant s’élève” – a song is rising – and the teaching was all around the ideas of worship and prophecy, how God sings over us and gives each of us a message to share with the world. At the end of Saturday morning’s session, one of the organisers, Chrissie, came over to me and said she had been given a picture for me of God sewing together the tapestry of my life, and sewing bright sequins into the work. After this session I spent some time in the prayer room reflecting on this picture, and others that had been given to me over recent years. A yearning was rising up inside of me to write again, something I have loved over the years but keep putting on the back burner, making excuses about not having the time or the head space. I was listening to an IHOP worship album on my phone while doodling, and I jotted down some lines from one of the songs that jumped out at me:
Just put me anywhere
And put Your glory in me
I’ll serve anywhere
Just let me see Your beauty
(IHOPKC & Corey Asbury – All Is For Your Glory)
and then it the words just spilled out of me, inspired by the song and the picture I had been given.
But there are references within the poem to other pictures, words and images given to me over the years, that seemed to align with the new one.
I’ll start with perhaps the most obvious, to those who have been with this blog from the start…
When I was thinking about how sequins reflect light, it was easy to link in with the poem I wrote several years ago which inspired the name of this blog: May I Be the Moon. In that poem I thought about how it is better to reflect the glory of God, as the moon reflects the sun, than to believe the world revolves around me.
Similarly, I wanted to include the image of the mirrorball, which again reflects the light around it. Back in the days of my Bless Internship, one of their conferences had the theme of ‘Mission as a mirrorball’. The idea here was that by serving others in the name of God, we are drawing His light in and reflecting it back out onto those He made and loves, just like a mirrorball. The moon, the mirrorball and the sequins all unite around this idea of reflecting the glory of God in our lives.
Next, the arrow. While in this poem it represents a kind of road sign pointing the way, it also for me has connotations of the arrows used in archery. These have to be pulled back before they can be released into flight. The work of weaving our lives together includes pain and setbacks, bad times as well as good. But in all things He works together for our good. The setbacks we face will ultimately lead to greater freedoms. (A no now means there is a better yes to come). Likewise in the work of the weaving, we will not see the full picture until it is completed and all the colours are sewn in.
Finally, the phrase ‘see what I am building in your life’. A few years ago I was on the way home from an evening service at church. We had visiting speakers who I knew had a gift for the prophetic, and I was hoping for some insight into a situation I was facing. I was disappointed not to have received any words during the service, but my route home took my past a building site with a massive crane standing tall over it. The building was still in its early stages but you could already begin to see the shape it would take, and the size of the crane bore witness to the eventual height of the construction. In that moment I heard God’s whisper ‘see, what I am building in your life’.
The construction of my calling, my learning, my relationships, was (and is) still in its early stages, but the process of constructing the building, the process of weaving the tapestry, points to the genius and majesty of the creator as much as the finished product ever will.
And the worst part is I don’t really have a reason. So many times I’ve said to myself, I’ll sit down and write something this evening, or this weekend, or whenever and it just never seems to happen. The intention is there but nothing materialises.
I could blame so many things, time, energy, the fact that my desk has a pile of paperwork I need to sort through and my study is currently a junk room… and all these things have had an effect, it’s true. But mostly I have lacked motivation. I’ve found myself with nothing to say, at least, not that I felt able to express in writing. I have found other ways of expressing myself, but journaling and writing blog posts have required a concentration I have not had for a couple of months.
In all honesty, I let myself get lost in the rush for a few months there. After finishing my MA, I was a bit at a loss with what to do with myself, so I started to fill my time with all sorts of things that packed my hours and left me drained. While some things were stimulating and fulfilling on some levels, deep down my soul was striving and I did not find rest in these things. I kept pushing on and piling on the activity, and I completely overlooked the still, small voice, whispering to me to slow down, take time.
I just looked back to see what word I picked for myself this year, because I had forgotten. And it was such a simple word:
How could I forget? To live my life by this simple rhythm of in, out, in, out. How different could my year have been if I had just slowed down. Not that it has been a bad year – there have been lots of great things – but my enjoyment could have been deeper if I’d allowed myself pauses for breath.
But God is faithful. Even in the rushing around, I knew he was leading me and calling me. Even through all the stress and worry and anxiety, I knew he was holding me and loving me.
He led me to Ukraine, where for two weeks I served and loved a group of orphans, who reminded me of the beauty of simple things. The days were long and hot, but I found a peace there that had been missing from my life for so long. And I heard the whisper again.
I came back with quite a severe case of flu, which forced me to actually rest for a week. (I need to learn to do that for myself, without illness or injury being necessary. Maybe I will learn this lesson one day.) But in that week I reflected on my time in Ukraine and gained a better perspective. One I am trying dearly to hold onto as life’s waves begin to crash around me again.
And though I have faced a few disappointments in the month since I have been back, I am reminded that God is sovereign. While I don’t think that means the things that have happened were his plan, I believe that He will bring good things out of them. I pray for this, and hold onto hope. I have also been learning to hold lightly onto the things I have been given. I have been so blessed in so many ways, that I cannot allow myself to be bitter over the things I have been denied.
This is not what I thought I was going to write tonight, but the words have flowed so I believe this is what has been waiting in my heart to be written. I have more things to say over the coming weeks, so I expect you will be hearing from me again soon.
One final thought I want to leave you with. I sponsor a couple of children through a charity called Compassion, and tonight I realised that I have not written to them for a while. I was looking back over the last letter I received from my little boy in Colombia (I say little, he’s become a teenager without me noticing) and he shared with me a Bible verse which hit me right in the feels. Here it is for you now.