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Rev. M. Bonser (Dunfermline, Scotland)
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Fruitful Leaders
Fruitful Leaders
by Marcus Honeysett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Carefully nuanced language leaves questions unanswered, 31 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Fruitful Leaders (Paperback)
Marcus Honeysett is the founding director of Living Leadership, a network encouraging evangelicals of various expressions to work together in training and equipping leaders. fruitful leaders (why do publishers think something is more enticing without capitals?) is a solid and fairly basic approach to leadership in the local church. The carefully nuanced language of the book, emphasising grace and generally avoiding reference to the active ministry of the Holy Spirit, betrays its bias in the Word and Spirit balance. This is particularly clear in the chapter on relying on the Holy Spirit. The insight about service is valid and helpful, but there is no reference to infilling, anointing, baptism or other language for personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. There is a tacit understanding that leadership is male. Honeysett is fond of the adjective spiritual and uses it as if our spiritual life, leadership, and gifts are somehow separate from the rest of life. We do not have spiritual lives; we have lives which we learn to live spiritually, that are lived in full awareness of the presence of God.


Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays
Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays
by Wendell Berry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Protest against globalisation., 16 Oct. 2012
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'Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community' is the last and longest of eight essays in the book of the same title. Berry sets out a call to community which might be called `localism'. "If the word community is to mean or amount to anything, it must relate to a place (in its natural integrity) and its people. It must refer to a placed people."(168) Community for Berry involves intimacy and belonging by a people in a place. "A community identifies itself by an understood mutuality of interests. But it lives by the common virtues of trust, goodwill, forbearance, self-restraint, compassion and forgiveness."(120) True community therefore is limited to the local because of the scale demanded by mutuality and intimacy.
He draws a very clear distinction between the public, and the community. Public is anonymous and subject to regulation because of the absence of mutual recognition and responsibility. Inevitably, therefore, globalisation, the industrialised economy and public sexual exploitation constantly work against community. "The triumph of the industrial economy is the fall of community." (133)
Freedom cannot exist without discipline in the form of responsibility to others in relationship. Fidelity is therefore essential not only to the life and health of individual couples but also for the community. It is a form of self-discipline which frees the community. On the other hand, "Seeking to "free" sexual love from its old communal restraints, we have "freed" it also from its meaning, its responsibility and its exaltation. And we have made it more dangerous." (142)
In the preface Berry indicates that the purpose of the book is to help us to refuse to buy the future as it has been packaged by politicians, scientists and educators and is being sold to us. In the first and second essays he helps us to understand the way in which local economy protects and nurtures the land, whilst globalisation and the industrial economy rapes and abuses it. The health and sustainability of social and economic practices in a locality is the basis for healthy, sustainable community. "If we could think locally, we would take far better care of things than we do now."(20) This leads into a chapter on the value of meaningful conservation which is more than the preservation of scenic places, the conservation of natural resources, or the limitation of the most flagrant abuses of industrial development.(27) "No settled family or community has ever called its home place an "environment."(35) Our connection to our locality is work, and `good work' protects the locality from the need for conservation.
Chapter four is a short piece on the dangers of changing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in favour of supranational corporations. This and the following two chapters set out the violence that can be done by political and military interventions. Chapter seven sets out plainly Christianity's culpability in sharing the values of globalisation and the industrial economy and its failure to stem economic and political violence.
Together the earlier chapters lay the foundation for the vision I have called 'localism', healthy, sustainable placed peoples and peopled places relating to each other in communal ways.


Bread for the Journey: 19
Bread for the Journey: 19
by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Companion for the Soul, 6 July 2012
I have used this collection of daily reflections several times over the years. Nouwen is one of my favourite writers on spirituality (see my reviews of Reaching Out and Creative Ministry). Henri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, and acclaimed academic, who devoted his later years to serving people with severe developmental disabilities through the L'Arche Daybreak community, near Toronto, Canada. He describes the writing of this book as "a true spiritual adventure"(3) and "an adventure in solitude"(5) . The reflections come from the core of his being, and that core is faith in Jesus. He describes the little note book in which he wrote initially as "a companion with whom I had intimate conversations." Using this book day by day draws one into intimate conversation not only with Nouwen's thinking but with the Lord Himself


Tough Choices: A Memoir
Tough Choices: A Memoir
by Carly Fiorina
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring insights into living life to the full., 28 Jun. 2012
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This is the best book of any category I have read for a long time. It gripped me with the intensity of an intriguing and thrilling novel. It moved me with its insights into humanity and the brutality of which we are capable. It taught me, especially about the purpose and value of both leadership and management, and their differing roles. Carly Fiorina's memoir is exceptionally well written. It is deeply insightful into the way people, as well as industry and corporations, function. It is unfailingly generous, even when dealing with gross betrayal. This book is clear, perceptive and inspiring. It is a challenge to living well and leading others.


Fundamentalism, Terrorism and the Future of Humanity
Fundamentalism, Terrorism and the Future of Humanity
by Leonardo Boff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important challenge to all, 5 July 2011
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Professor Boff explores the roots and causes of, and solutions to, all types of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism of all types is therefore defined as a negative thing because it is perceived as the underlying cause of conflict, terror and war. Fundamentalism may take a religious, economic or political form. The book is in three sections; part one defines fundamentalism and describes its rise, part two introduces the world of politics and current confict issues and part three offers a programme for peace.

Boff describes the rise of modern fundamentalism in the Protestant volumes, 'The Fundamentals: A testimony to the Truth' issued in Princeton in 1909-1915. This form of fundamentalism is a biblical literalism resistant to interpretive methods. Boff claims that the militant and missionary character of this fundamentalism is at the root of all fundamentalism. He goes on, as a leading Catholic scholar, to explore Roman Catholic fundamentalism rooted in the combined authority of church and state, rather than scripture. He makes particular note of Pope Benedict XVI insistence, in Dominus Iesus 2006, (signed by Cardinal Ratzinger when Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church. The second expression of Catholic fundamentalism is in its ethical pronouncements, especially related to sexuality.
This discussion of Protestant and Catholic fundamentalism allows Boff to identify that fndamentalism is an attitude of interpretation and application rather than itself a doctrine. An attitude which favours letter over spirit. This tendency to absolutise belief leads to intolerance, which leads to contempt, which in turn leads to aggression. Boff acknowledges that the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are particularly prone to these trends. The largely historical chapter, Islamic Fundamentalism, is in fact a clear and helpful description of the global development of largely Christian-Muslim tensions. Economic globalisation plays a key role, and especially the increasing disparity between North and South, in providing a seed-bed for the translation of fundamentalism into terrorism. The neo-liberal political ideology has its own fundamentalism, politically democratic but economically dictatorial.

He then explores the significance of religion in defining identity, particularly ethnic, and motivating action, more so than economics, politics, culture,or military factors. Boff describes the globalisation of the enemy as a new risk to humanity. Terrorism, closely linked to fundamentalism, is the major current threat to global order. It is important to note that just before turning to his final section, Peace, Boff acknowledges that fundamenalism in the sense of returning to the roots of a tradition can have its positive side, and he uses the example of St. Francis of Assisi in dialogue with Muslims.

In his final section Boff notes that we tend to honour the military, the banker and the speculator over the poet, the philosopher and the saint. We do not live in a culture of peace, but its development is paramount. Humanity is the only species created creator. We have the capacity to intervene in the processes of nature. Boff declares the first step to peace is to want it.


The Inspirational Leader: How to Motivate, Encourage and Achieve Success (The John Adair Leadership Library)
The Inspirational Leader: How to Motivate, Encourage and Achieve Success (The John Adair Leadership Library)
by John Adair
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Spirituality of Leadership, 5 July 2011
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John Adair is described on the cover as 'the most distinguished figure in the field' (of leadership studies, The Sunday Times), 'the world's leading authority on leadership and leadership development' and 'one of the foremost thinkers on leadership' (Sir John Harvey Jones), so expectation is extremely high as you approach this book. It takes the form of Socratic dialogues between a junior CEO and the author. The book covers, most helpfully, the distinction between leadership and management, and this is perhaps the heart of the book. Leadership requires values and purpose beyond management skills, though the latter remain important.

The book is in nine brief sections, each section is concluded with a very useful 'keypoints summary' and is worth the purchase price for these alone. The author begins with three basic approaches to leadership: qualities, what you are; situational, what you know; and functional, what you do. Later he adds a fourth, values, what you believe. Also important is the relationship of task, team and individual needs, diagramed as three overlapping circles. "Only things can be managed." This statement and its relation to practical wisdom is illuminating. Three great values are introduced; truth, beauty and goodness, in the context of understanding what motivates, or 'inspires' the human essence (spirit). Trust is considered at some length as a key way of drawing out the potential in people. A major motivating force is love.

I have titled this review 'The Spirituality of Leadership' because of the book's extensive use of language such as belief, inspiration, spirit, love, hope, trust, truth, beauty and goodness, purpose and wisdom. It sets leadership in the larger context of life itself, and those who learn the lessons of this book will not only be leaders in business, industry, politics or education, but in the art of living.

On a very minor note it would have been helpful in the notes and references to have sources and not just authors' names.


Love Wins: At the Heart of Life's Big Questions
Love Wins: At the Heart of Life's Big Questions
by Rob Bell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Commendable but unsuccessful, 3 July 2011
Rob Bell is to be commended for his desire to make clear the strength of God's goodness and love. Unfortunately he fails to do so in a coherent manner. 'Love Wins' appears to promote four basic theses: God is all love and goodness and desires no one to be excluded from his kingdom; Heaven is completely free from misery and can be experienced here and now as well as then and there; Hell is the misery of our own making by refusing to join the party celebrating God's love, and is within and intertwined with heaven; We are genuinely free to reject God's love, but God will have his own way and we won't reject his love. These four theses clearly cannot be reconciled with one another.

Rob Bell draws heavily on C.S. Lewis for his understanding of heaven but goes beyond Lewis's imagery. I believe he is also dependant on George MacDonald for his understanding of hell as a final withdrawal of God to encourage acceptance of his love. He makes extensive use of the story of the Prodigal Father (Lk 15) and The Rich Young Man (Matt 19). In each of these the central actor is allowed to walk away from the love of God, the son from the father, the young man from Christ himself. Rob Bell concludes his book with three parables that speak about being left outside, even though he has argued strongly that there is no inside and outside, trying to substitute engagement and refusal in their place as if this solves the problem.

Rob Bell's motivation is completely laudable but in attempting to avoid the real possibility of any kind of inhabited hell, he has removed the reality of human freedom which gives us our god-like character.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2011 1:33 AM GMT


Keeping Faith
Keeping Faith
by Jodi Picoult
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Motherhood and God, 29 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Keeping Faith (Paperback)
This is my first Jodi Picoult book, but it will not be my last. My wife and one of my daughters, mature Christians, couldn't finish it, even though they are Jodi Picoult fans, and one of my reading group found it disturbing. So there are challenges.

The New York Daily News says, "Picoult is at her best when she is writing about motherhood." This is essentially a book about motherhood, but by the end it is not clear who is mother to whom. There are four main characters, Faith's friend (God as mother), Faith, Mariah (Faith's mother) and Millie (Mariah's Mother). It is signficant that Millie's name doesn't appear until she is addressed by Colin (the schmuck). Until then, in relation to Maria and Faith, she is mother, Grandma, Ma and Mom. Maria is always 'Mommy' to Faith, . This is Faith's first word on two key occassions. The prologue introduces the main themes, Maria's fear of reality expressed in her OCD, "I don't like surprises", and her attempts at completely ordering and controlling of life, (of which there are hints in Colin's new love, Jessica; "At the departure gate Colin watches Jessica check the tickets for the hundredth time"),and the possibility of death, Millie's "coffin-table". The key men are predominantly unpleasant characters, Ian the atheistic protagonist, with the heroic past and vulnerable secret, and Colin,the serial betrayer, but both experience growth in their humanity over the course of the novel. Joan Standish, Dr Keller and Kenzie van der Hoven are portayed much more positively.

Picoult handles the Judeo-christian traditions well on the whole, although the Catholic figures are possibly a little charicatured. The ambiguity of Faith's unseen friend is completed with the twist on the final page. This I found the least satisfying part of the book. The extent of the miraculous healing, and the character of Faith's vicarious suffering, make it clear that God is around, but would she behave as she does in this book?


Creative Ministry
Creative Ministry
by Henri J. M. Nouwen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.32

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Going beyond professional competence, 22 July 2010
This review is from: Creative Ministry (Paperback)
Nouwen is one of my favourite writers on spirituality and I am delighted that this book is in print again. It is far from a 'how to' manual on ministry in a narrow sense. Any thinking human being who is engaged in nurturing others or interested in social change, be it in medicine, education and training, social work, relief work, personnel or parenting, as well as Christian leadership, would benefit from insights in this book. The chapter headings themselves challenge to deeper living; Introduction:Beyond professionalism, teaching:beyond the transference of knowledge, preaching:beyond the retelling of the story, individual pastoral care:beyond a skillful response, organising:beyond the manipulation of structures, and celebrating: beyond the protective ritual.
Many people achieve a high level of competence without really connecting with their work. Some would argue that to be professional is to remain detached and to avoid any hint of vulnerability. While service of any kind should never be less than competent, Nouwen demonstrates how it can be so much more human if the 'servant' is focused on creativity rather than power and control.


Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life
Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life
by Henri J. M. Nouwen
Edition: Paperback

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply thoughful, spiritually sensitive, 20 July 2010
I have given or loaned out more copies of this book than any other during the course of my pastoral ministry. It was given to me during a period of real difficulty and helped enormously. The description of the spiritual life as three movements: towards ourselves, a movement from loneliness to solitude; towards others, a movement from hostility to hospitality; and towards God, a movement from illusion to prayer; is helpful in itself. The book also builds from one section to the next, showing that each movement is dependent on the other. We can't move towards others if we are still struggling to meet our own loneliness because we will then use others rather than giving to them. Loneliness is a universal human experience and I would warmly commend this book not only to Christians, but to anyone with a sense that there is more to life than the material world. Nouwen's treatment of Psalm 4 in section three, illustrating that very often true prayer is about knowing ourselves before God is superb.


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