Four Gifts, by April Yamasaki. Exporting the Rapture, by Donald Harman Akenson. The Pilgrim Year, by Steve Bell. Becoming, by Michelle Obama. Face the Waves, music by Chelsea Amber. Art by Philip Mix.
Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength
By April Yamasaki
Herald Press, 2018. 192 pages. $22.99 (e-book $11)
IN OUR fast-paced, obsessively driven culture, who has time for self-care? Who needs it? The answer to the first is in the second – everyone.
We often advise others to "take care of yourself," but ironically are not good at doing so ourselves. Abbotsford pastor, writer and speaker April Yamasaki admits she struggles like so many of us: "because I know I need self-care, yet can’t get there; because I’m tired of seeing self-care as just one more thing to do; and because I need a bigger vision of caring for myself that also embraces caring for others, and surrendering myself to God’s call and care."
Her search leads to what she describes as "four gifts drawn from the words of Jesus to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ "
From that Mark 12 passage she develops a great resource for both personal and group study, organized around total well-being (heart) – spiritual (soul), mental (mind) and physical (strength). She explores all four using personal stories, biblical and theological insights, and suggestions for self-care. Questions for reflection are provided at the end of each of the 16 chapters.
This compact, very personable book is a great treasure for those in search of a practical and resourceful guide for the self-care we all need, but which so often eludes us.
–R. WAYNE HAGERMAN
Exporting the Rapture: J. N. Darby and the Victorian Conquest of North American Evangelicalism
By Donald Harman Akenson
McGill-Queen’s/Oxford University Press, 2018. 520 pages. $52.99 (e-book $35.99; audio CD $36.99; audio download $26.99)
ALTHOUGH THIS book is described as the history of John Nelson Darby’s role in bringing dispensational premillennialism to North America, it primarily covers Darby’s vice-grip on the creation and growth of the Exclusive Brethren movement in the British Isles and Europe.
Darby’s arrival and influence in North America isn’t addressed until the book’s conclusion where Darby’s North American work is referred to as "essentially a prospectus of future historical scholarship."
Queen’s University professor Donald Akenson provides a ringside view of theological and ecclesiastical politics within the Brethren movement. It is a story of betrayed friendships, theological disputes and organizational consolidation.
Through a series of shrewd, calculated moves, Darby precipitated an irreconcilable split among Plymouth Brethren, resulting in two branches – Open and Exclusive. He ultimately became the de facto leader of the Exclusives. In that role, despite professing an aversion to theological systems and ecclesiological organizations, Darby nurtured an international network of assemblies, facilitating the spread of his dispensational theology.
This is a copiously footnoted story of the birth, growth and maintenance of a tight-knit fundamentalist Christian sect whose influence grew well beyond its closely guarded borders. Much of North American evangelicalism finds its DNA in Darby’s theology.
Despite the challenge of deciphering and recording the history of a movement averse to keeping records, Akenson’s historical research is thorough. Some Evangelicals will find his descriptions and explanations of biblical and theological themes deficient and sometimes condescending. Nevertheless, this is an important contribution to understanding the rise and development of dispensational premillennialism within the worldwide evangelical community. –DAVID DANIELS
Face the Waves
Independent, 2018. Digital download $9. ChelseaAmber.com
JUNO-NOMINATED singer-songwriter Chelsea Amber has been offering her pop-soul music since her debut album in 2007. Over the last decade her music has earned many accolades including female vocalist and pop album of the year at the 2015 Covenant Awards. She has performed with the likes of Mercy Me and Avalon. She also did a duet with Rita MacNeil when she was based on the East Coast, but her address is now in British Columbia.
The music on her new full-length album, produced by Fraser Campbell and Adam Sutherland, calls to mind the vocals of Natalie Grant, the engaging lyrics of Steven Curtis Chapman and the worshipful heart of Chris Tomlin.
Highlights of this album are the ballads where her vocals are given room to breathe. Her songwriting – she has credits on eight of the ten songs here – stands out on "Waters May Rise," "Praise Your Name" and "Beautiful Mystery." In this last song she writes, "You are patient, You are kind, You are matchless in Your love / There’s no fine print, No hoops to jump, No points to earn, You just say come."
In the summer of 2017 she says she felt lost and unsure of God’s purpose in giving her a voice to sing. "In the midst of my search for musical meaning I felt affirmed in my calling to be an encourager. Music is the means to that end. I began writing songs and devotional blogs to encourage others in the ups and downs of life, and in their walk with the Lord. Those songs and blogs led to this new album."
The Pilgrim Year
By Steve Bell
Novalis, 2018. 7 booklets × 80 pages plus 2 CDs, $49.95
CHRISTIAN DEVOTIONAL materials abound, but there are few which invite us to enter into what singer-songwriter Steve Bell calls the pilgrim year. In this unique and beautifully designed set of seven booklets and 2 CDs, Bell takes us thoughtfully through the liturgical calendar. His gift of storytelling and attention to church history will help readers enter the mystery and drama of our faith in a fresh way.
Each booklet contains 8 to 10 reflections based on specific dates in the Christian calendar (Easter Sunday, Christmas Day), the feasts of saints (St. Valentine, St. Stephen) and themes that reflect specific church seasons (Advent, Lent).
The result is not a daily devotional. While the booklet for Ordinary Time (the period between Easter and Advent) could be used over a period of several weeks, the booklet for Holy Week is intended specifically for the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.
Bell, one of Canada’s most celebrated Christian singer-songwriters, also includes song lyrics from his impressive 30-year career. They pepper his reflections like modern Psalms. Indeed, the 2 CDs, also arranged according to the church year, are a wonderful companion set to the booklets. Together they showcase Bell’s gift for words and help us experience a timeline of grace.
This devotional resource will bless those who already appreciate the richness of the church calendar while at the same time inviting those unfamiliar with these ancient traditions to experience their value for our spiritual lives today.
"I have been guilty of seeing God’s creativity through a lens that narrows His compassionate outreach. Migration of race is more prevalent today than any time in human history. This can breed either an attitude of fear and protectionism, or alternately an awareness of the opportunity diversity brings with it. If we embrace the new tapestry God is creating through immigration and intercultural marriage, we become part of His intentional design to spread the truth of His divine love to all peoples and nations. Lately I have been trying to express this message through the framework of portraiture."
Chihiro Visits Her Grandparents in Bonn (oil on linen, 36″ × 28″) by Philip Mix www.PhilipMix.com
Reading THE BESTSELLERS
By Michelle Obama
Crown/Penguin Random House, 2018. 448 pages. $21 (e-book $18.99; large print $39.99; audio CD $41.99; audio download $39.99)
"I WAS A child of the South Side," writes Michelle Obama in her compelling memoir. The book tracks the life of the former American First Lady – from her roots in a tough and crumbling Chicago neighbourhood, the grit and determination that earned her scholarships to Princeton and Harvard Law School, her years at a prominent law firm where she met her husband, and finally to their journey together to the White House.
Obama’s humanity shines throughout the book. She recalls the strong sense of values she learned from her parents, and confesses a lifelong wrestling with what other people think – as a young girl pouring energy into "dutifully collecting gold stars," her growing awareness that she didn’t enjoy law, but staying on out of a sense of performance, and during the White House years, the challenge of being thrust into public life where scrutiny and criticism are everyday occurrences.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is its recounting of the story of Barack Obama’s White House victory through the lens of family. It is a view from the inside – her doubts an African American man could actually win, her concerns for her daughters and the cost it would exact of them, and the behind-the-scenes account of life in the White House.
From time to time she touches on the family’s connection to church and faith. While she and Barack were part of an African American church community in Chicago, during the White House years they "made the choice to exercise our faith privately and at home," though the decision meant they missed "the warmth of a spiritual community."
Regardless of your views on American politics, Becoming is well worth the read, providing a fascinating view of one woman’s journey of challenge, resilience and opportunity. This book is poised to become one of the bestselling memoirs ever, having sold almost 10 million copies. –MARLA KONRAD