Friends' Testimonies

Book Reviews

The Great Courses: The New Testament

taught by Bart D. Ehrman
reviewed by Roena Oesting, Spring 2014

A total of 4 DVD disks, 24 half-hour lectures by Bart D. Ehrman, who teaches at University of North Carolina. He is a knowledgeable scholar and the approach is historical/critical rather than theological. That is not to say that his theological point of view doesn’t creep into his lectures—it does. But if you’re looking for a good, basic look at the New Testament from a scholarly point of view, this is a great starting place.

A Force More Powerful

reviewed by Phil Moheno, Winter 2014

A Force More Powerful is a video chronolog of the use and power of moral authority during the course of six historical episodes (movements) during the 20th century. These episodes are characterized by leaderships and organizations committed to strategic, ethical non-violence, ultimately leveraging popular economic power primarily through boycotts and strikes. In the cases portrayed, underlying dissatisfactions with social injustices cry out for rectification which become unstoppable through the persistent non-violent struggle by the aggrieved, underdog populace. The moral authority is victorious in these recounts by virtue of the organic nature of their non-violent strategies which create an unmistakable larger than life force – one more powerful.

The Road That Teaches: Lessons in Transformation through Travel

by Valerie Brown
published by QuakerBridge Media of Friends General Conference, 2012
pages: 152
reviewed by Roena Oesting, Winter 2014

As most of you know, I love to travel. In Valerie Brown, I found a kindred spirit. I really liked this short book. She describes her journeys to the El Camino de Santiago in Spain, following Gandhi's footsteps in India, a spiritual pilgrimage to Japan, walking in New Zealand, and a very short piece on pilgrimage to nearby places.

She's a great writer, with a gifted turn of phrase. Some samples:

"I learned that the pilgrim's path is pockmarked with unpredictability. I had planned and trained for hardship...What I had not planned for was unforeseen happiness."

"I realized that courage in its deeper meaning is not just about persistence, though this is useful, but about love."

I've learned to travel lightly, which is not just about what I pack for a trip, but also recognizing those things that lead me away from what really matters."

"I was suspended in the simplicity and complexity of being. A door opened within me and I walked through it."

"Paying attention to transitions brings life fully alive, and I learn an important traveling lesson: focus on the small, ordinary moments, not the destination."

"I live with a pilgrim's faith: the faith required to begin, to continue, to finish, and to share."

Each chapter has a follow-up of some sort: queries, a practice lesson, a prayer. I thought that the queries were not especially pertinent to my life; maybe they will be to yours.

I highly recommend this book! Check it out from the meeting's library.

Music of Silence A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day

by David Steindl-Rast and Sharon LeBell
reviewed by Gwyn Enright, Spring 2013

Tina Shriver blessed us with a wonderfully inspirational little volume, Music of Silence A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day by David Steindl-Rast and Sharon LeBell with an Introduction by Kathleen Norris.
After Kathleen Norris warns us gently about the perniciousness of getting caught up in monitoring every second of our work time, Steindl-Rast introduces us to the monastic life by explaining how chants and prayers from Vigils to Compline follow the natural rhythms of the day. Two of the delightful parts of the book are the humor drawn for several different sources and the application of the hours to our own lives. I was especially amused by Steindl-Rast's setting his clock to chime on the hour, thus providing him with a "portable monastery," which he writes he takes wherever he goes.
For Friends planning to attend the 16th Annual Friends' Silent Retreat at the Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, these 116 pages are sure to enrich your time there.

Mind the Light: Learning to See with Spiritual Eyes

by J. Brent Bill
published by Paraclete Press, 2006
pages: 152
reviewed by Roena Oesting, Fall 2013

I rarely find anything in these “inspirational” books. But this one is wonderful. Brent Bill has a way of writing that brings his own personality, quirks, and life story into the text. Example: he brings in his tie with the teeny dogs all over it (and its equally teeny fire hydrant at the bottom) and makes it into a sensible discussion of paying attention to detail.

Every two pages there is a little box with suggested meditation that ends with a question. My favorite: How have I found light in the darkness?

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