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Check It Out

Courier Article by David Locker
Sunday, July 27, 2003

Spiritual Readings Can Provide a Sense of Renewal

After four months of following a healthy diet, I am experiencing not only more physical vitality but also an awakening of my spiritual side. Although I remain a life-long Christian, I have bought a meditation bench and enrolled in classes at the Bikram Yoga Studio in Newburgh.

I have been seeking refreshment, as well, in spiritual reading. Of the many books on religious experience that have crossed my desk lately, the following stand out.

Zen for Christians by Kim Boykin (Jossey-Bass, 2003).

This is the book I am using to learn to meditate. It is the clearest explanation I have read on the basics of Zen and how it relates to Christianity.

Boykin claims that you cannot really compare the two religions, because they are completely different things. She shows how a Christian (or anyone for that matter) can adapt Zen techniques to further their own spirituality.

The Big Bang, The Buddha and the Baby Boom by Wes "Scoop" Nisker (Harper, 2003).

Nisker was in graduate school when the hippie revolution hit, and to say he embraced it with enthusiasm would be an understatement.

He went to Haight-Ashbury and became the news director for a local underground radio station. Eventually, he journeyed east with a stream of other hippie seekers and evolved into a renowned Buddhist meditation teacher and author.

Nisker's advanced study is much in evidence here, as he humorously expounds on the theories of physics and the problems of philosophy, as well as on the sociological impact of the New Age and environmental movements.

Soulguide by Bruce Demarest (NavPress, 2003).

I have recently discovered Demarest and recommend him to my evangelical readers. I like him because his writing benefits from a foundation in the classics of Christian devotion of all denominations.

Here he sets up Jesus as the example of a good spiritual director and uses examples from Scripture to show how he performed such direction in different Gospel incidents. He intersperses these models with examples from contemporary life.

Memoir of a Misfit by Marcia Ford (Jossey-Bass, 2003).

I can relate to feeling like the odd duck out, even in Christian gatherings. Though I am inclined to go my own way, undisturbed if a bit lonely, Ford has been deeply hurt by her lack of acceptance.

Her book is a testimony of her life of Christian faith, from many years as a Baptist and charismatic to her current Episcopalian beliefs.

May she someday find the fellowship she needs.

In Buddha's Kitchen by Kimberley Snow (Shambhala, 2003).

As the title indicates, this book is as much about cooking as it is about religion.

Snow, a part-time academic and reluctant cook, tells us of her life as head chef in a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center.

Not particularly insightful, it is, however, an intriguing glimpse into the kind of place where many of us where would like to spend a week someday.

The Book of Light by Michelle Blake (Putnam's, 2003).

For some lighter reading, try this murder mystery featuring one of my favorite amateur detectives, Lily Connor. She is an Episcopalian priest with as much doubt as faith.

Her faith is bolstered when she comes across copied pages from what is purported to be the lost "Book of Q," the source of Matthew and Luke's Gospels.

The plot gets a little frenetic when she finds herself pursued by a secret society determined to recover the copies before they are published.

The Singular Pilgrim by Rosemary Mahoney (Houghton Mifflin, 2003).

My final recommendation comes from my friend at Oaklyn Library, Becky Browning.

She calls this one of her favorite nonfiction "reads" of the year and reports that this recounting of pilgrimages to shrines in England, Ireland, Spain, France and India is "full of humor, insight and unforgettable pilgrims whose stories will literally spellbind you all the way through the book."

David Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.