Thursday, February 21, 2013

Learn to Kneel with Giants

Does your prayer life need a boost? Does the ACTS prayer acrostic just not seem like enough? Do you feel like you are a prayer neophyte instead of a prayer giant? Gary Neal Hansen’s book Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers published by InterVarsity Press introduces readers to ten prayer practices as taught by several prayer giants.

Kneeling with Giants is divided into four sections each focusing on a particular type of prayer including written prayers, using the Bible in prayer, communing with God, and asking God for help. Within each section, several different prayer types are described. Hansen succinctly introduces the spiritual giant associated with each prayer type and then describes how to practice that prayer model. I found it interesting that several of the prayer models mentioned are ones I had been exposed to previously but I was not familiar with the prayer giant associated with the practice. Hansen frequently references various primary sources related to each prayer type and encourages readers to investigate for themselves. In fact, the e-copy of Kneeling with the Giants includes a companion volume titled Kneeling with the Giants Reader which contains primary sources related to each of the prayer giants discussed. Although I had the printed copy, the primary sources contained in the companion reader enticed me to purchase the e-copy as well. I truly wish the companion reader was available in a printed option as well and hope InterVarsity Press and the author will reconsider this decision.

Hansen emphasizes that each type of prayer or prayer style is not for everyone. Some people will resonate with one type of prayer rather than another. Some seasons of life may lend to a particular giant’s prayer practices. Hansen’s approach was quite encouraging as some prayer books tend to emphasize one prayer model to the exclusion of others or insinuate that truly spiritual people follow a particular prayer practice. However, Hansen does encourage readers to spend a few weeks practicing each type of prayer rather than dismissing it out of hand. As prayer must be practiced rather than simply read about, readers will wish to dip in and out of this book rather than read it straight through. Hansen provides an appendix describing possible ways to use this book in classes or small group studies. Due to the emphasis that prayer must be practiced, he suggests selecting a few of the prayer giants to study and practice at a time rather than tackling the entire book in 12 weeks. To assist with this, a second appendix provides suggestions for how to begin each prayer practice.

Kneeling with Giants is recommended for multiple venues. Hansen’s book would make a marvelous addition to a college or seminary course on prayer or the spiritual disciplines. However, even in such a class it would be difficult to adequately explore all ten practices in a sixteen week course. A small group may find this a wonderful resource to dip into from time to time. For example, a group could select one prayer practice to read and discuss as a group and then to practice individually for a determined amount of time such as a month. An individual would find Kneeling with Giants a useful resource for jump starting a prayer life that has become stale or to focus on a particular prayer practice for a period of time such as during Lent.

If you enjoy Kneeling with Giants, you may enjoy following Gary Neal Hansen's blog as well and watch for future books by this author. Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review and feedback. Quite honestly, my library had already purchased a copy and I had this on my "to-read stack" prior to receiving a review copy.

Mean Girls Aren't Just in High School

Sometimes, even though high school and the associated cliques are long ago memories, you feel like you are fighting the same battles about what is the right thing to do or wear based on others in your sphere of influence. In her insightful book Mean Girls Grown Up, Dr. Cheryl Dellasega describes how these same relational agression (RA) issue still confound adult women. Using the imagery of queen bees, middle bees, and afraid-to-bees, Dellasega share real life stories from women across the country who have dealt with these situations as adults. The scenarios depict a variety of situations ranging from the office, the playground or play group, and even religious institutions. For example, the bees depicted range from bullying bosses, the office mate who tells stories about everyone but always edited to present herself in the best light, and the mean moms who exclude moms who don't fit their social club. There is some discussion on how mean moms may use the children as pawns to hurt other mothers as well.

In addition to the wealth of stories which will have you nodding in agreement and identifying various bees in your own life, Dellasega utilizes a variety of quizzes to help you decide if you are a bee and what kind. But she does not stop there. Over half of the book focuses on helping readers build the necessary skills to deal with the queen bees and middle bees in their own lives in a relationally healthy manner. She also encourages women to take the higher road and not fit into any of the bee roles but focus on mentoring and encouraging other women. Many readers will find they resonate with many of the stories shared and that some hit awfully close to home.

Although published in 2005, Mean Girls Grown Up is highly recommended to all women. Readers will find the real-life examples included allow you to read the book quickly. This book would be an excellent choice for book clubs and for young women to read. This book is not from a religious publisher and the stories included have not been sanitized for a specific audience. However, I can not recall any objectionable content. Someone who is wishing for a Christian perspective on this issue may wish to consider Hayley DiMarco's published in 2005 by Revell/Fleming. I am unable to comment specifically on this book as I have not read it. Regardless, I wish Mean Girls Grown Up had been available to me about 20 years ago when first entering the work force.

Disclaimer: I am writing a review on this book because I happened across it and thought it sounded interesting. After reading it, I felt others might enjoy and benefit from this book as well.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Are you a mean mom?

I came across a reference to the book Mean Moms Rule by Denise Schipani in a book or another blog within the last month or two. As an oft heard phrase at our house is "You're the meanest mom/dad/parents ever," I decided I really ought to read this book. It did not disappoint and while I may not be the "meanest ever," it is reassuring to know that we seem to be doing OK.

The premise of Schipani's book is that parents today are too soft and not mean enough. Along the way she lambasts helicopter parents and parents who desire to be their child's friend rather than parent. Schipani outlines 10 Mean Mom Manifesto's. Several of these are geared more towards new parents or at least those whose children are still fairly young. As my children are both in elementary school, I'm a bit past her target audience but was still able to enjoy her book. As I read the book, I found myself nodding along that yes, these were statements I could agree with and my husband and I are doing alright. There were a few times where I found myself thinking we need to shore up that particular area and be meaner. Not all of these manifesto's will be popular with everyone, yet not everyone's cut out to be a mean mom either.

My children were not excited to see this particular book on the top of my stack from the library. They frequently exclaimed "Oh no, she's going to be meaner!" and threatened to dispose of the book. All in all they probably aren't going to see a huge change in our parenting style but it was fun to tease them. I would recommend this book to anyone who is beginning their parenting journey or still has little ones in the pre-K set. Young mothers (and fathers) may find this book useful to read and discuss together.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Reaching Across Borders

I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish is one of those rare books that grabs you from the very beginning, will not let you put it down, and stays with you after you are finished. This heart-rending memoir shares the story of a Palestinian doctor from Gaza. Sadly to many Americans, Gaza is little more than a strip of land that the Israelis and Palestinians fight over which is mentioned on the nightly news regularly. After reading I Shall Not Hate, the people of Gaza and their issues are real.

Abuelaish's story depicts his childhood growing up in incredible poverty and the necessity of working even as a young child to simply eat. As he matures, readers follow his growing interest in the field of medicine and his journey to college and then medical school. His ambitions and desire to succeed provide the opportunity for Abuelaish to partner with Israeli doctors in an Israeli hospital. This partnership is very rare due to his background as a Muslim Palestinian from Gaza. Throughout his story Abuelaish emphasizes that medicine does not see race or creed but only a human being who needs medical care.

As his medical practice and reputation grows, so does Abuelaish's family. His family eventually numbers 8 children. On several occasions in order to seek out further education or work opportunities, he endures lengthy separations from his family. Yet, his love and commitment to them shows clearly throughout the book. A family tragedy requires Abuelaish return to Gaza and his partnership with the Israeli hospital. However, politics soon keeps him from practicing the medicine he loves and he endures another family tragedy. Rather than wallowing in grief as most individuals would be prone to do, Abuelaish instead utilizes his Israeli contacts to share his heart-wrenching story with others. Even as the book draws to an end, Abuelaish is seeking to use his tragedy for good.

I Shall Not Hate is highly recommended for a variety of readers. Individuals who are interested in current world affairs and politics will find it very interesting. Students of modern religion will also find this work very readable. While Abuelaish does not dwell on his religious faith, his faith and ethnic heritage are crucial to his story. Book clubs and reading groups would have a great deal to discuss after reading this memoir. I Shall Not Hate will simultaneously cause you to marvel at the tenacity of this particular individual and wonder how there can be such cruelty in the world. This book also serves to remind readers that every story, particularly news stories, have multiple viewpoints and all views must be considered. Readers in high school up will appreciate this work. Motivated junior high students may also benefit from reading this with guidance.

Disclaimer: I reviewed this book because I found it to be an engaging and totally engrossing story that others will enjoy and benefit from reading. I did not receive an advance copy. I'm pretty sure this title was a free or very low cost Kindle download.