Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Star Trek Encyclopedia

Author: Michael Okuda, et al

Type: Science Fiction

Shepnerd Rating 4 Stars

I bought this book to write an essay on the Bajoran Prophets for my StarFleet Academy class (no, serioulsy - check out Its a fanstastic resource in encyclopedia form - cross referenced and contains story lines, ship schematics, character explanations and even uniform codes. The whole thing is quite fun and it is very easy to find information in.

Why only 4 stars from the Shepnerd? 2 reasons - the pictures are in black and white (making for a very bleak apprearance, and the book was written before DS9 was finished so there are a lot of unfinished entries for DS9 and none of Voyager. I would love to see this work expanded to include Voyager and Enterprise (eh).

However, if you are wanting info on Star Trek TOS or TNG - its a great book to have.

Sacred Speech: A Practical Guide for Keeping Spirit in Your Speech

Author: Rev. Donna Schaper

Type: Spirituality

Shepnerd Rating - 5 stars

Inclusive language, political correctness and all types of uses of words have leaked into Christianity over the years. What Donna Schaper noticed was that while we are getting better and better at talking - we are not getting better at faith, healing or love.

This book is an outstanding help in learning the difference between being politically correct and speaking the truth in love. It offers many real-world example conversations and points out where they go right, and where they go wrong. Its a great source for Pastors or people who need to learn how to sad hard truths without offending others and a good primer for anyone who wants more God in their words.

And as a plus - there are study questions in the back if you want to use it for small group work. The book embraces diversity, and reflects wisdom.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'll Fly Away: Testimonies from the Women of York Prison

Editor: Wally Lamb

Type: Nonfiction/Memoir

Shepnerd Rating: 5 Stars

Wow. I dare you to read this book and not be changed. In a world where even Christians sometimes lack compassion and argue for longer sentences, or say "well, they are drug addicts, prison is the place for them" - this book is a much needed eye opener. The women in these essays do not deny their crimes, nor to they blame abusive childhoods, battering husbands, or drug addiction for their incarceration (although there is plenty of pain to go around). Yet seeing how the women come from and relate to - drugs, gangs, alcoholism, abuse, molestation and downright no common sense -- shows how very little faith and understanding society gives them.

I was reading this book when Michael Vick's 23 month sentence for dog killing was handed down and listening to commentators talk about the "stiff sentence". I just shook my head because I was reading an essay from a 18 year old girl sentenced to 15 years for accidentally killing a man who was raping her. SHE wasn't complaining about the length of her sentence, but missing the normal things of adolescence.

One inmate sums her faith experience up extremely well - on her first terror-filled night in prison serving 4 years for theft - she prays "Dear God, I know you were with me in the courthouse today, and I know you are with me now. Thank you for your blessings even though I am blind to them at this moment." If we could all be so honest with God.
Its a moving book that reminds us that prisoners are people, and we are not so different than they are. I conclude with a discovery one inmate shares which sums up this book nicely:
"Everyone in prison has a story; a need to be listened to, and a longing to be loved."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense

Author: N.T. Wright

Type: Theology

Shepnerd Rating: 4 stars

I bought this book by N.T. Wright because of his close working relationship with Marcus Borg, whose work I respect tremendously. I was surprised to find a very different voice. The book is much more lyrical (and misses some of the "plain common sense" I enjoy from Borg), and yet intelligent and stunning.

It's a little stuffy sometimes, but profound and uplifting none-the-less. It seeks to answer the questions: why do we crave justice? Why do we desire spirituality? Why do we need beauty. It refers all of that the the echo of God in the world calling the church, the bible and Christians to a high level of living and being. There is a critique of modern culture and Christians who abuse the authority of Christ. There is a pathway for reclaiming the true power of Christianity and bringing justice, faith and beauty back to our world. An excellent, softly-spoken vision of the way things are, and the way they ought to be.