Connecting With the Soul of the Reader

Connecting With the Soul of the Reader

Every author’s dream is to craft something that connects with the soul of the reader, transporting them into a realm beyond the black and white letters on the page. This type of experience is rare – for both the author and the reader. Hence why it is so powerful when it happens. This past Monday I had the honor of experiencing such an event for the first time as an author. I was sharing a chapter from my newest book with a local writers group when the air in the room began to change. The emotions and atmosphere shifted, moving the five of us on to a different plane of existence. It was quite simply amazing and humbling. wow…. perhaps one day I will be able to share this chapter with you all (hopefully in the form of a new book!!). In the meantime, thanks again for your support and prayers. May blessings pour down on you all....
“The Orthodox Way” by Bishop Kallistos Ware

“The Orthodox Way” by Bishop Kallistos Ware

I was first introduced to Kallistos Ware’s book The Orthodox Way on September 2, 2006 when it was given to me after a chance meeting with an Eastern Orthodox priest. This priest, whose name I do not know, gave me five books about the Eastern Orthodox Church after briefly taking to me in a hotel restaurant in Los Angeles. Of the five books the priest gave me, Ware’s The Orthodox Way stood out because of its spiritual depth and simple prose. Twelve years later I can honestly say that this book changed the course of my life by introducing me to the path of the mystic. The book itself isn’t that long, just six short chapters bookended by a prologue and epilogue. The purpose of the book is to introduce the reader to the “fundamental teachings of the Orthodox Church”[1] without being exhaustive or too technical. Rather, Ware lays out “some of the decisive signposts and milestones upon the spiritual Way.”[2] He does this by addressing six different facets of God as noted by the chapter titles: “God as Mystery,” “God as Trinity,” “God as Creator,” “God as Man,” “God as Spirit,” and “God as Prayer.”[3] Though each of these chapters are packed with amazing gems, the first chapter, “God as Mystery,” was the one that had the most lasting impact on my life. The overall gist of this chapter is that God cannot be known strictly by intellectual reason or as the “conclusion to a process of reasoning.”[4] Rather, knowing God means knowing him as a person who loves and cares for us. Faith in God is, after...
“The Essential Rumi” translated by Coleman Barks

“The Essential Rumi” translated by Coleman Barks

Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (Sept. 30, 1207 – Dec. 17, 1273), better known as Rumi, was a Persian born Sufi Muslim teacher, religious leader, poet, and Islamic scholar. Since the day that they were written, Rumi’s poems have been enjoyed by countless people in multiple languages. In recent decades, his poems have enjoyed a renaissance in America with Rumi becoming “one of the best-selling poets in the United States.”[1] As a Sufi Muslim, Rumi was follower of “Islam’s immensely complex and infinitely diverse mystical tradition.”[2] Though rooted in the core beliefs of Islam, Sufism is a “medley of divergent philosophical and religions trends”[3] with concepts borrowed from Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions. This background allowed Rumi to become “dissolver of boundaries” with poems that speak to the heart of humanity regardless of religious affiliation. This mystical belief in the connection of all of humanity can be seen most clearly in Rumi’s statement that he saw “one altar” and not three when he went “into the Muslim mosque and the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church.”[4] Rumi’s poems are characterized by his usage of “anything human beings do, no matter how scandalous or cruel or silly, as a lens to examine soul growth.”[5] This style, though effective at one level, also tends to drive away some readers due to the crude and unrefined nature of the poems. I, for one, fall into this latter group as I did not find Rumi’s poems to be enlightening, enriching, or beneficial. Rather I found them to confusing and unhelpful in stimulating personal spiritual formation. Part of this, I readily admit, may be due...
No god But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan

No god But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan

Islam rose to the forefront of the global consciousness on September 11, 2001 through the bloody actions of several self-proclaimed followers of Islam. Yet in spite of the almost constant barrage of information since then by news pundits, political leaders, and religious personalities, it seems that most people living in the United States still don’t understand the basic concepts, history, or divisions within the religion. Written four years after the 9-11 terrorist attacks by Reza Aslan, a Sufi Muslim immigrant to the USA from Iran, the book No god But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam seeks to provide the reader with a basic understanding of Islam.[1] Using chronological time as a scaffold, Aslan focuses on telling the theological history of Islam rather than outlining the territorial spread of the religion. This focus on the theological development of Islam allows Aslan to highlight the various reformation movements within the religion. In fact, Aslan goes as far as to say that the book itself is less about the origins of Islam as much as it is “an argument for reform.”[2] Though not widely known in the United States, “Islam has been in a constant state of evolution”[3] since the very beginning. Hence the power and glory of Aslan’s book is that it informs the readers of the struggles within Islam as its religious followers try to adapt their religion to a changing world while remaining true to their traditions, scriptures, and deity. A good example of this struggle is the ongoing debate over the role of human reason in reading and understanding the Quran. The Rationalist school of...
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea

            Though it is common to think that that we who are alive are the ones who are braving new territory, the reality is that we are always following someone else. In his book Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, Thomas Cahill shows that for those of us steeped in Western thought and culture it is the ancient Greeks who got there before us. As Cahill so eloquently states at the end of the book, “whatever we experience in our day, whatever we hope to learn, whatever we most desire, whatever we set out to find, we see that the Greeks have been there before us.”[1] Cahill, however, makes it clear that his book contains “no breakthrough discoveries, no cutting edge scholarship.”[2] Rather his approach is to draw together the various pieces of the past and “try to remain in their presence till [he] can begin to see and hear and love what living men and women once saw and heard and loved.”[3] This method of reviewing history proves to be extremely effective in drawing out the humanity of the ancient Greeks that so often gets buried under the text of their mythology and philosophy. The book itself is divided into seven chapters plus an introduction. Each chapter is preceded by a fragment of Greek mythology that corresponds to the theme of the chapter.[4] The chapter titles themselves summary the concepts explored by Cahill: The Warrior (How to Fight), The Wanderer (How to Feel), The Poet (How to Party), The Politician and The Playwright (How to Rule), The Philosopher (How to Think), and The Artist (How to...