Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: NIV God's Word for Gardener's Bible

Review: NIV God's Word for Gardener's Bible
edited by Shelley Cramm, General Editor

And who is Shelley Cramm, you might ask? I don't know who she is. If she is popular in Christian circles, I'm unaware of that. Maybe she's popular in gardening, horticulture, and landscape cultures. Funny thing, though: Although she is a total unknown -- at least to me-- this is one of the best study Bible's I've read. I'm really digging it. (I m so tempted to put in a lot of plant puns in this review.)

I thought this Bible study would be sort of homespun and cutesy. It's not. It has some great devotionals, though. Devotionals that touch the soul but which are also incredibly informative. I probably will not look at figs the same way, after the section on the significance of the fig tree in the garden of Eden.

Gardeners who read their Bible are probably already aware of the significants of pests, droughts, watering, planting, pruning, etc. I'm sure gardeners see the Bible through gardeners' eyes, just as scifi writers see the Bible as a book by a creator about worldbuilding, or lawyers see the Bible in terms of legal documents. But do most gardeners know about the plants in the Gardens in Persia?

There are some wonderful insights in this book and some great devotionals. One of my favorite is the discussion of Xerxes going into the garden after Esther had revealed Haman's plot to him. It hadn't occurred to me to see the situation as symbolic of going into one's place of repose to ponder bad news. Yes, I thought as I read the devotional, this rings spiritually true.

The book contains 260 daily readings and 52 weekend readings all arranged in weekly themes. One cannot go a few pages in this Bible without seeing these devotionals. The weekly themes are divided into sections which include Garden Tour, Garden Work, Garden Stories. These sections are further subdivided. For instance, Garden stories include devotionals on Seasons, Sun and Shade, Weather, Pest and pestlence, Jesus' Parables, Israel's horticultural allegories, Away from the Last Supper, Jesus, the Seed, the Root, Branch, and Firstfruit, Harvest of Righteousness, Intimacy with God in the Garden. All these readings are scattered (sowed) throughout the Bible but there is a guide to all of them collected in the Introduction.

Each devotional contains a verse to meditate on, a passage to read, and other Biblical passages with which to compare to the original verse. The devotional follows, which may or may not include quotes from gardening books, and historical and hortological backgrounds. The devotional ends with a prayer. Then a short sentence directs the reader to other devotions in that particular category.

One of the best parts of this study Bible is how the editor shows the thematic flow of certain plants. The fig leaf in the Garden of Eden pops up in the Genesis section. Later, the cursed fig tree closes the metaphor. The meaning and purpose of the olive leaf in the dove's mouth as a symbolic truth to Noah on through to the Mount of Olives. The lentils Esau ate in exchange for his birthright, through the rape of Tamar to Ezekiel's bread to Daniels pulses. Rahab's use of flax and the Proverb 31 woman's use of flax. And now I certainly understand why the prophetess Deborah would sit under a palm tree.  After reading through this Bible I'm tempted to wade through and meditate on all the floral images and spiritual essences that are hinted at in the Song of Solomon.  

The book is hardcover and feels sturdy. It's thicker and smaller than the other Bible studies I've been reading, which makes it handy for one's church bag. The print is normal-sized. I would've liked a large print but that might be asking too much. The translation is the NIV. I highly recommend this book to all Bible readers but especially to folks who love gardening.

I received this book free in exchange for a fair and honest review

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: Celebrate Recovery Bible

Okay, I shouldn't feel so angry. After all, the HarperCollins folks didn't exactly say the Celebrate Recovery Bible was a Study Bible. bad for assuming it was...because the Celebrate Recovery Bible is kind of. . .lacking.

It might be me. I've been reading and reviewing a lot of Bibles lately. And when I see the amount of work put into Bibles such as the NIVintegrated Bible or the Spirit Filled Bible or the Modern Life Study just makes the Celebrate Recovery Bible look pale in comparison.

First of all: what it has:

There are some great testimonies from Christians who have had addiction, abuse issues. Those testimonies are pretty brave because we allknow how judgemental some Christians can be. OR how self-reliant. So kudos for these folks who put their stories out there for readers to identify with.

The Celebrate Recovery Bible also has Bible character studies. For instance. I am Eve. And you can imagine what insights can be drawn from the whole Eve, temptation, and forbidden fruit thing. There are also other characters such as Moses, the Demoniac, the Syro-Phonician woman (whose daughter was oppressed by demons...or as some would say addictions. The mother is shown as the archetypal suffering parent of a child who should be in recovery.)

Like all Bibles, it has Book Introductions, Lesson Studies, Recovery-Related Scripture Ties, Topical Index, Daily Devotionals, Subject Index, the Eight Principles and Twelve Christ-Centered Steps of the Celebrate Recovery Program.

The Celebrate Recovery Bible has a foreward by Rick Warren and is a "purpose-driven recovery resource with devotions and articles by John Baker." It is designed for Christians in Recovery. The Twelve Step groups such as AA, Alanon, OA, NA, etc began as Christian organizations. However now they have become places where figuratively one's Higher Power could be a chair or a rock. This book seeks to return the twelve steps to its moorings and to show the Bible verses that are behind those "Christ-centered steps."

A good goal, I think. So I really can't fault the Bible. Except I was kinda expecting more.  The way the Bible uses the Scripture "ties" seems a bit facile and the commentary about some of the Bible characters seems a bit old hat and sometimes forced into the recovery motif. For instance, Martha of Mary/Martha/Lazarus fame is depicted in a way in which the Bible never depicted her. In the Bible we get a snapshot of her reaction on a particular day, a particularly busy day. Jesus says nothing about her recovery "issues" and Martha is shown in the Bible as being very spiritual but somewhat harried about having new guests suddenly show up at her house: cultural hospitality issues and requirements of women etc. But in this the character study says Martha is "spiritually-barren," "a people-pleaser," someone who wanted to "impress people"  whose "self-identity revolved around identity." Really????? Jesus is depicted as "confronting Martha's non-productive habits and emotions." Seriously?

I'm all for folks getting insights that suit and touch their lives but sometimes I had to roll my eyes because of the over-reaching. But there is also a part of me that thinks they could have been more involved in all the Bible verses than they are. They really don't comment on the Bible chapters, books, stories, etc as much as they c ould have. And they hit all the typical Biblical stories, which gives me the feeling that these folks don't read their Bibles themselves. They just work with Bible stories they know.

So a part of me thinks they should've really been more in-depth with the Bible study...and another part of me feels "heck, I'm glad they didn't do to other Biblical passages what they did to the Martha section."

I guess I can recommend this Bible. It will no doubt bless many people. And it does tie-in the Scriptures to the twelve steps. But it wasn't particularly impressive as a study Bible.  

I got this book as part of the Harper Collins booklookblogger review program

Monday, July 07, 2014

Review: A Floating Life

Floating Life
Tad Crawford
ISBN: 978-1611457025

Tad Crawford’s A Floating Life is ostensibly fiction. The nameless narrator is adrift, not knowing where he is, where he will end up, and why he finds himself in disparate places. As fiction, the plot revolves around his confusion about his sudden dislocations, the breakup of his marriage, and his new job as assistant to someone who is trying to harness the energy of the waves.

But that is only important if one accepts the story as fiction. The story, however, is not fiction. It is not even surreal fiction, although the situations that happen to our narrator are all quite dreamlike. Rather, this book is almost like a literary rift on change, fluidity, and confusion. The thematic question is: “What is change? What is energy? How do we drift with life? How do we control our drifting? And will our hero learn to change and to accept change, come what may?”

The book is philosophical, speculative psychology. Therefore those who buy this book expecting anything like a story will be very disappointed. But those who like books that symbolically explore the human psyche will find this book very beautiful, odd, fantastical and profound as it rifts on existence, change, goals, and cosmic and human energy. Those who like Jonathon Livingston Seagull and Carlos Castenada might like this. Some of the images used by Crawford will lodge in and haunt the psyche for a long while.        

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