Good Reads: Faith, Hope & Books

By: Diane Parfitt

 

There are all kinds of faith – faith in our parents, our country, our religion or an ideology. Faith can provide us with the support and comfort we need to get through the day-to-day experiences of life and the various turmoils we all face. Faith centers on the feeling, conviction or belief that something is true or real, without having physical
evidence. We often seek affirmation that our faith in something is real. We can do this by immersing ourselves in the study of our own and other beliefs, then seeking out others who are of like mind. When our faith in something is questioned, we may feel threatened or challenged to our core. In such cases, it is reassuring to know that there
are numerous books that can help us re-center our beliefs. For some, this recentering may involve religious beliefs, while for other it addresses a need to sort out conflicting thoughts about life and our place in the universe.

1. “WHEN FAITH FAILS: FINDING GOD IN THE SHADOW OF DOUBT” BY DOMINIC DONE
Many of us struggle with doubts that can leave us feeling lonely. We may think we cannot talk about it without being judged or criticized. Pastor Dominic Done provides us with a safe way of wrestling with questions about our faith. Utilizing his own journey and incorporating scripture, literature, and stories from others who have doubted, he argues that questioning one’s own beliefs is normal and can often help us realize a richer and more vibrant faith. No subject is off-limits, and Pastor Done guides us through a journey of questioning while growing closer to our faith.

2. “HAVE A LITTLE FAITH” BY MITCH ALBOM

Mitch Albom, author of “Tuesdays with Morrie,” offers a beautifully written story of a remarkable eightyear journey between two worlds – two men, two faiths, two communities – that will inspire readers everywhere. This journey begins when Albom’s childhood rabbi reaches out to him to deliver the eulogy when the time comes for the rabbi›s funeral. To do this, Albom sets about getting to know the 82-year old rabbi better. During this quest, he meets a pastor who is a reformed drug dealer and ex-convict who preaches to the poor and homeless. Between these two worlds, Christian and Jewish, African- American and white, impoverished and well-to-do, Albom learns how these two very different men of faith are able to use this faith to help others in their own personal journey.

3. “MOTHERS IN ISRAEL EARLY ENGLISH METHODIST – WOMEN PREACHERS/LEADERS”
BY REV. DR. DONNA FOWLER-MARCHANT

We often learn more about ourselves by reading about others who have set themselves on a journey of faith. The Methodist Church has a history of women preachers and leaders who have done that, but many have been forgotten over time. Fayetteville’s own Rev. Dr. Donna Fowler-Marchant has brought together stories of some of these “Mothers in Israel,” a term referring to Deborah, the judge in the Old Testament. Eighteenth-century women like Susanna Annesley Wesley, Sarah Ryan, Mary Bosanquet Fletcher, Frances Mortimer Pawson, and Sarah Crosby played an important role in Methodism from the beginning. From these women’s stories, we can see how they grew in their own faith as they shared it through their roles as class leaders, visitors to the sick, devotional writers, teachers and even preachers.

4. “ALL OUT OF FAITH” BY WENDY REED (EDITOR)
Most people have heard the South referred to as the “Bible Belt,” a term first attributed to H. L. Mencken in the 1920s. Even those Southerners who don’t think of themselves as particularly religious recognize that religion has shaped and defined the region. Wendy Reed has brought together the works of Southern women writers who represent a wide variety of faiths – Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, Buddhist and others in between. Their essays and stories reflect the faith and passion of women from the South. The importance of place in Southern literature is discussed, along with the transformative power of art, religious fervor and the excitement of being saved, the relationship of faith and sexuality, and the role of women in southern religions. Over a dozen of the best known Southern women writers have contributed to this book including Barbara Kinsolver, Pauli Murray and Lee Smith.

5. “WHY DID JESUS, MOSES, THE BUDDHA, AND MOHAMMED CROSS THE ROAD? CHRISTIAN IDENTITY
IN A MULTI-FAITH WORLD” BY BRIAN D. MCLAREN

Can you be committed to your religion without trying to condemn or convert those of different faiths? Is it possible to affirm other religions without being unfaithful to your own? Author and speaker Brian D. McLaren proposes an alternative construct that is built on “benevolence and solidarity rather than rivalry and hostility.” As a Christian, he believes one can be strong in their own religion while still reaching out to those of other faiths by showing an interest in theirs and even collaborating on shared concerns. This can allow us to view other religions in a positive light and at the same time strengthen our commitment to our own.

6. “THE EPICENTER” BY DR. JIM MARTIN

What would this list of suggested readings on faith be without the inclusion of a novel? We can learn a lot from well-written fiction, even
when the plot centers on religion. Local writer Jim Martin, Director of Camp Rockfish, has written a story about two very different men on their separate but intersecting journeys of doubt, fear and conflict. When Tom Morris, the seasoned pastor of a local church, faces unexpected challenges, he finds himself about to leave the ministry. Even his faith in God hangs in the balance. As he seeks answers to his crisis of faith, he meets a cynical, wounded veteran, William Jackson, who has his own set of questions and struggles. As they begin their journey toward friendship, growth and faith, they encounter Emily Little, who may just help them say “Yes” to God’s call. With her help, their own faith in God is restored and a faith in each other is born. “The Epicenter” has been described by one reviewer as a journey “on someone else’s faith pilgrimage into a holy experience.” Martin blends humor with the struggles of faith and a few amazing twists along the way on a roller coaster ride to an inspiring conclusion.

Whatever your own personal faith, we can all benefit from examining and questioning those beliefs, especially when we feel challenged,
incomplete, or lost. Whether you do this alone or with others, one of these books may help guide you on this journey.

Diane Parfitt can be contacted at citycentergallerybooks@gmail.com.