May 17, 2012

Simply Pray - Erik Walker Wikstrom

After an overall negative experience with the last book I read for the Lay Worship Leader course, it was a relief to pick up this one.  While the last book felt very prescriptive, this book felt very liberating.  I couldn't wait to pick it up, each time I had a few minutes to read.

The author is a Unitarian Universalist minister, but this book draws on a wide variety of faith traditions from Christianity to Wicca to Judaism to Buddhism to Islam to Hinduism.  He focuses on what is common between the different religions when it comes to prayer rather than what divides them.

The book is about prayer, but it encourages freedom in prayer and argues (if that isn't too strong a word for a gentle book) that there is room in anyones faith for a wide variety of prayers - from spontaneous prayers to recited prayers to breath prayers.  No one way to pray is more right than any other way, and there is a time for every type of prayer.  Even in the chapter that outlines a more specific prayer practice using beads, the book doesn't prescribe the words to say - the beads only gently guide the overall structure.

I'm glad that I read these last two books in the order that I did.  This book calmed my spirit after a difficult go with the last book.  Now I just need to visit the local craft store to pick up some beads.  I may just try the bead prayer practice suggested in this book.

And with this post, I'm caught up on the books that I have been reading in the past month.  I'm just about finished another book, so watch for more posts next week!

May 12, 2012

Christianity: A New Look at Ancient Wisdom - David J. H. Hart

Continuing with catching up on books that I have finished in the past month...

This is the next book that I read for the Lay Worship Leader course that I am taking, and the first book for the course that really challenged me.  I actually ended up stopping reading part way through, and only picked it up again 3 weeks later.  If it hadn't been required reading, I probably wouldn't have picked it up again; and it was with a real sense of relief that I finished it.

It wasn't all bad.  I enjoyed the author's personal stories that he interspersed through the book.  I liked the emphasis that religion and spirituality have to be balanced - that religion without spirituality is hollow, and spirituality without religion is unfocused.

But I didn't like the author's tone at times.  He seemed very prescriptive and restrictive in his approach, and that is really what turned me off.  "You should pray this way because it is the best way to pray." (I'm paraphrasing a bit!)  And at times, he passes off his own speculation as fact.  How can anyone know what the soul/spirit experiences after death?

Let me end on a positive.  I loved the chapter on healing and the emphasis on holisitc healing.  I am a physiotherapist, and have known ever since school about the difference between curing and healing.  I have also done some work in palliative care in recent years, and know about the importance in hope for healing.  But I currently work in home care, and one thing that has often bothered me is when a client tells me something like, "I feel better just because of your visit."  My (internal) response has always been along the lines of "But that's not physiotherapy!"  This book helped me see that maybe this is OK - so many of the clients I see are house-bound and lonely and having someone come to their house will likely contribute to healing.  I just won't tell OHIP (provincial health care plan, for anyone outside of Ontario) what they are paying for...

So I guess that I'm glad that I read the book, and I'm even gladder that I'm done!

May 9, 2012

Believing the Lie - Elizabeth George

I am a big fan of the Inspector Lynley books - every time a new one comes out, I rush out to buy it!  I picked this one up back in January, but unfortunately wasn't able to read it until April (yes, I am a bit behind on my reviews).

I enjoyed it, as will all other fans of this series.  All of the favourite characters are here - Lynley, Havers, Deborah and Simon St. James, Hadiyyah and Azhar...  The characters that carry over through the series have their stories develop.  And the mystery develops slowly but surely, like a ball rolling down a hill, until the momentum of it can't be stopped.

My one complaint is that I found that the book could have used better editing.  My hardcover weighs in at a hefty 608 pages; and as I was reading it, I thought that it could have been pruned significantly.  She has a new publisher with this book, and I suspect that there may have been a new editor involved as well.  The story was there, but it wasn't as tight as her previous books.

I will stick with the series though, if for no reason than this book ended with a major cliff-hanger.  No more to say on this here, since I don't want to include any spoilers!  Based on the cliff-hanger though, I have great hopes that the next book will focus more on Barbara Havers, my favourite character in the series!