Find reviews from Issue 54 for Cup My Days Like Water, Future Forever, Everyday Conversations, and 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager
Cup My Days Like Water by Abigail Carroll
Book review by Deborah Phillips
There’s poetry all over Scripture, and so other poetry can help us enter Scripture in a different light. Abigail Carroll’s Cup My Days Like Water (Cascade Books, 2023) does that with a volume of 83 poems each matched with one line or phrase from the Psalms. She dedicates her poems to all who pray and to those who have yet to find their prayer.
The titles are first lines tipping readers right into the poems, which are mostly contemplative panoplied with surprises. Words are carefully placed with creative figurative language that, if you take the time to linger, can lead you into a set of kaleidoscopic impressions. The detail and texture of the poems leaves me mulling over associations between things I would not normally connect.
For example, “When I swallow the word it sings / a warble in my chest tuning me to new scales / fluting the song of universe, which is also the song of who I am” (from the first poem “The Word Tastes like Sun Crammed Plums”).
Or these lines: “A gallery of taped up cards / memoir in small art / and script” (from “Our Prayers as an Assemblage of Souvenirs”).
Some mornings when you cannot pray, take a page of Carroll’s book; start with the poem or the suggested psalm and pause in between and soak it in. In the evening, when faith can feel empty, repeat the exercise. If you latch on to the concrete details, these poems offer a surprising angle on prayer.
“If you do not yet love poetry, get this book and you will learn to love poetry,” writes theologian Walter Brueggemann of Cup My Days Like Water. I would add: If you struggle with prayer then get this book.
Future Forever by Jonathan Ogden
Album review by Robbie Down
Are we too caught up in the apocalyptic nature of Revelation, and missing out on its poetic beauty? Jonathan Ogden isn’t. In his new record Future Forever, he invites us into new but familiar reflections about our current state of longing to be restored by Christ while we experience the aches of an already-not-yet reality.
Future Forever is steeped in Scripture and biblical poetry, particularly that of Revelation. We hear of Christ holding the stars in “Be Like You,” and walking in heaven with crystal-clear rivers in “When I’m Home.” Throughout the record, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses singing “Holy!”
The record mirrors the combination of personal and communal poetry found in the Psalms. There are tender personal moments of connection with God followed by declarative truths about our rapturous final resting place with God.
Ogden’s music production and creative structure don’t fit into any boxes. Future Forever, like Ogden’s debut album Twenty Four, is lo-fi (a musical style known for its soothing imperfections).
The record has two main themes: hope and longing for the Kingdom and joy of Christ. We hear the ballad “Don’t Lose Heart” declaring the promise that Christ is making all things new over and above the aches we experience. In “Everything New (Rebuild / Restore),” a stark electronic beat expresses these themes with a mixture of joy and sorrow.
The album is enhanced by the diverse perspectives it reflects. A quarter of the record consists of featured vocalists and almost all the remaining songs have co-writers.
According to Ogden, the vine and branches analogy should dictate our openness to creating together. If each of us recognizes we are part of a whole and reliant on Christ, we are freed up to set aside our popularity or credit to better focus on the Subject. Ultimately, he says this record of joyful hope can act as a reminder of our Shepherd King’s imminent return.
Everyday Conversations by Faith Beyond Belief
Podcast review by Ruth Marie Paterson
Faith Beyond Belief’s “Everyday Conversations” podcast (on Spotify and Apple Podcasts) exists to educate Canadian Christians on apologetics and help them reason through difficult issues in our culture.
The topics range from high-stakes issues like abortion, euthanasia, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, gender identity, etc., to commentary on things like movies and celebrities. Conversations about the resurrection of Jesus, deconstruction, worldviews, why the Bible is true, and differences between religions are interspersed in between.
The format alternates between long-form interviews with experts on cultural or theological topics and short-form episodes called audio blogs, which are readings of blogs that have been posted on the Faith Beyond Belief website (faithbeyondbelief.ca).
One downside is the podcast does not always offer a very nuanced perspective for Christians who might have different political views than the hosts. Discussions of highly sensitive topics like abortion or the pandemic do not present or explain opposing viewpoints to the extent I would like.
However, a positive of the podcast is that the longer-form episodes offer in-depth windows into the viewpoints of experts—who are usually Canadian. Since most of the Christian media and podcasts I consume are made in the U.S., it’s nice to listen to a Canadian one, where the cultural references are more relevant to my life and country.
3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager: Making the Most of Your Conversations and Connections by Kara Powell and Brad M. Griffin
Book review by William Dmytrow
Drawing from interviews with over 2,200 teenagers, Fuller Youth Institute has identified three big questions youth today are asking: Who am I? Where do I fit? What difference can I make?
Three Big Questions (Baker Books, 2021) is a response to that study. The authors explain the book’s premise this way: “First, identity, which means our view of ourselves. Then, belonging, defined as our connection with others. Finally, purpose, or our contribution to the world.”
The book begins with defining discipleship and then moves into the three questions, how teenagers currently understand the topics behind those questions, and ways of finding Jesus-centred responses.
The book ends by stating: “We believe all people are created to flourish. This is God’s ultimate hope for humanity. And we believe the identity, belonging, and purpose journeys of young people direct them toward flourishing, even when the road is paved with adversity.”
Overall, this is a well-thought-out, well-researched, and well-written book that is worth the read for anyone who works with youth or seeks to understand them better.
As a pastor who serves youth myself, I found this book extremely valuable in my own thinking of what this generation is thinking and working through. My church worked through a series on identity, purpose, and belonging, and this book was helpful in the development of that series.