Reviews



Lessons in Longing: A Review of Blue Flower by The Gray Havens

By Mark Geil

In his autobiography Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis writes of the distant Castlereagh Hills outside his nursery windows. “They were not very far off but they were, to children, quite unattainable. They taught me longing-Sehnsucht; made me for good or ill, and before I was six years old, a votary of the Blue Flower.”

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Joy on the Journey: Chasing Sehnsucht in Zhao’s Nomadland

By Jeshua Hayden

“Home, is it just a word? Or is it something you carry within you?”

In the opening minutes of Chloe Zhao’s film Nomadland, we see these words inked on the arm of an Amazon employee named Angela, who is showing off tattoos to her new friend, Fern. It’s a quick scene that may not seem particularly noteworthy, however, nothing in this movie is extraneous or insignificant. The words of this tattoo present us with both a portent of what’s to come and the central tension of the entire film.

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Faith & Contingency in J Lind’s The Land of Canaan

By Drew Miller

I heard it said once in an interview with Michael Pollan that, when it comes down to it, every writer only really asks one question with their entire career. I can’t decide whether I agree with that assessment. As with all aphorisms, part of me straightens up in my chair with that feeling of eureka! It really is that simple! while another part of me sits back, scratches my chin, and bitterly mutters, That is entirely reductive and unfair to all writers. But, for the purposes of this review, I’ve managed to persuade my skeptical half that this observation is valid, because as I listen to J Lind’s songs, I find that they all ask one existentially rattling question: Where and how are we to find meaning given our inescapable condition of contingency?

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Encanto and the Miracle of Empathy

By Shigé Clark

One of the reasons I love fantasy as a genre is because of the inclusion of magic. In fantasy stories—the good ones anyway—magic can reveal the spiritual realities that we all sense in life but can’t see, and have no material frame to express.

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True Testimony: What Makes It Through by Sara Groves

By Drew Miller

As I listened to Sara Groves’s new album on repeat, my mind grasped for the best way to describe what makes her songwriting so special. And as I grasped away, a moment from one of my favorite movies kept stubbornly arising in my head. It’s a scene from towards the end of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a special moment of understanding that unfolds between the story’s eponymous protagonist and his elusive, enigmatic idol, Sean O’Connell.

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In the Song A Love That Sees You: A Review of Becca Jordan’s Becoming Ordinary

By Janna Barber

The other night in bed, I told my husband, “I’m sad.” That’s not a statement I allow myself to say out loud very often, and never without being prompted first; but something about that dark space felt safe, so I risked it.

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A Review of Taylor Leonhardt’s Hold Still

By Drew Miller

I think my wife, Kelsey, said it best: “Find me in twenty years and I will still be listening to this warm, rich album.” Everything about Hold Still is a slow burn—even down to the process of making it, from what I’ve gathered. Begun before the pandemic and finished just a few months ago, Taylor Leonhardt sure had to hold still in order to make it. But the result of her patience is an abiding work which is sure to stand the test of time.

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Reading with Open Eyes & Hearts: A Review of Steeped in Stories by Mitali Perkins

By Carolyn Leiloglou

Mitali Perkins is the author of many wonderful books for children ranging from picture books to young adult novels. But I first heard of her not through her books but through this article she wrote for Christianity Today in which she claims the classic books she read as a child paved the way for her to later accept Jesus. When I learned she’d be discussing these classic children’s novels in more depth in her new book, Steeped in Stories: Timeless Classics to Refresh Our Weary Souls, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

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The Heart of a Child: A Review of Hand to Hold by JJ Heller

By Carolyn Leiloglou

When my kids were little, they loved when I read to them—they still do—and they especially loved when I sang to them, even though my voice is nothing special. But putting those two activities together, a book you could sing, that was a favorite that they would beg for again and again.

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Old Favorites: Arthur Alligood’s One Silver Needle

By Jonathan Rogers

[Editor’s note: This piece is the second in a series begun by Mark Geil called “Old Favorites,” where various contributors to the blog reflect on some of the most beloved, well-worn albums in their collections. Today, we hear from Jonathan Rogers about Arthur Alligood’s album, One Silver Needle.]

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God Above, God Below: A Review of the Faithful Project

By Leslie E. Thompson

As a rule, I don’t take well to the separation of men and women in artmaking. I don’t think that individual sexes hold the keys to a certain set of artistic or personality traits, nor do I believe either have a creative advantage over the other. While this is true, I’m often struck by the impact of women in my life and marvel at the particular perspective they provide that so deeply relates to my own. Perhaps this is why Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter left me with tear-dampened cheeks and a soul-shaken spirit at each reading, while Jayber Crow was simply an enjoyable (albeit, uniquely enjoyable) read.

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Old Favorites: Clear to Venus

By Mark Geil

A treasured album is like an old friend. Any longtime music listener has them: those well-worn albums you come back to, not every day but every so often, when you need them. They become more than just a collection of songs. They’re a tangible set of memories. They might evoke a particular place and time when they first connected with you in such a personal way. You turn back to them to revisit those memories, or to seek the wisdom in the songs, just like calling a friend. And each time you say, “We should do this more often.”

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