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Saturday, August 19, 2017

"Brain Fitness" by Dr. Aihan Kuhn. A Review

Brain Fitness: The Easy Way of Keeping Your Mind Sharp Through QigongBrain Fitness: The Easy Way of Keeping Your Mind Sharp Through Qigong by Aihan Kuhn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dr. Aihan Kuhn, director and owner of the Chinese Medicine for Health Clinic in Holliston Massachusetts, president and founder of the non-profit Tai Chi and Qigong Healing Institute, and accomplished author, has added another volume to her bundle of books that pull together Tai Chi, Qigong, and personal wellness. “Brain Fitness: The Easy Way of Keeping Your Mind Sharp Through Qigong” is a 160 page softback manual on the “Whys” and “Hows” of employing qigong for mental health and brain stimulation. It is simply written so that anyone can follow along and benefit from her proposed regimen.

Dr. Kuhn’s idea is to “use physical exercises and movements to stimulate the brain and get the brain chemicals activated. By balancing the left and right sides of the brain, upper and lower brain, cross-brain, frontal and back brain through body movements and bringing new information to the brain, we help brain cells communicate with each other” (4). There lies the overall concept that ties the book together in its simplicity. And the program itself demonstrates and explains unsophisticated exercises that incorporate specific movements with breathing and imagination.

“Brain Fitness” unfolds in two parts. Most of the front material is instructive, explaining the rationale behind tai chi and qigong, and how these can help prevent brain aging and memory loss. Dr. Kuhn also clarifies the role Daoism plays in her curriculum, and how it has benefited her patients. The first section is the main part of the book, and is full of personal examples, stories and observations.

The final segment of “Brain Fitness” walks the practitioner through “Total-Body Twenty-Seven-Movement Warm-Up Exercises.” Each exercise is nicely photographed with clear descriptions. Once the warm-up is complete, then Dr. Kuhn demonstrates how to use qigong for three specific areas. She maps out fourteen exercises that are particularly for brain and memory. Then there are thirteen particular movements that help “to relieve anxiety, depression, high stress caused by emotional imbalance, and panic attacks” (113). Lastly, twelve exercises that help with the nervous system and autonomic system are illustrated.

“Brain Fitness” is ideal for anyone interested in a simple set of routines that bring together Asian and American concepts of health. But it is even more specifically beneficial for those who want to be proactive in their long-term cognitive wellbeing. I happily recommend the book.

My appreciation goes to YMAA Publication Center, Inc. for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"The Tragedy of the Korosko" by Arthur Conan Doyle. A Review

A Desert Drama: Being the Tragedy of the KoroskoA Desert Drama: Being the Tragedy of the Korosko by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though the volume was penned at the end of the 1800s, nevertheless some of the descriptions and dialogue seem as if they are being played out in the present. Instead of the culprits being cultural terrorists in the 21st Century Levant, they are 19th Century Dervish Warriors from Upper Eqypt; but the similarities are stunning. The tale chronicles the capture and conveyance of several European tourists who have wheeled up the Nile to Abousir on the Korosko. Their captors are cunning and cutthroat. Yet the captives grow and change through the ordeal, exposing character flaws as well as genuine courage. There are places where old British colonialism shows through the story, along with it's rationale, which will likely surprise North American readers in its prescient description. It is a book ideal for the younger and older. I happily recommend the book.

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"Sir Nigel" by Arthur Conan Doyle. A Brief Review

Sir NigelSir Nigel by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A delightful tale giving the back story to "The White Company" and Sir Nigel Loring. Arthur Conan Doyle pens a historical fiction that covers the years between 1350-1357, an early period in the Hundred Years War. The page-turning, captivating narrative follows the way in which Nigel Loring went from near poverty to Knighthood. It is a tale filled with adventure and daring, overcoming obstacles and impossibilities, and maintaining chivalry and honor. This is a read fit for the young and young-at-heart. I highly recommend "Sir Nigel".

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Monday, July 31, 2017

"Genesis 1-4" By C. John Collins. A Review

Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary
C. John Collins
P&R Publishing Company
P.O. Box 817
Phillipsburg, NJ 08865
ISBN: 9780875526195; 2006; $17.99

Within the Christian family, there are corners where spats and squabbles quickly erupt around several hot issues, one of which is about origins and the opening chapters of Genesis. C. John “Jack” Collins, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, accomplished author, Old Testament chair on the translation committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible and Old Testament Editor for the ESV Study Bible, has several times waded into these roiling waters. In 2006 he masterfully tackled the opening chapters of the Pentateuch in his 336 page paperback “Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary” where he did the necessary grunt work of hammering out a discourse analysis approach of these four seminal chapters. The material is academic, exegetical, theological, apologetic and devotional. Though penned for fellow scholars and serious students of Scripture, the uninitiated in Biblical languages can still gain much from the volume and follow most of the thinking Collins develops. Because there are already numerous reviews that cover the technicalities of the book I will simply refer to a few items that stick out to me.

Since I personally take the more literal side of the discussion I disagree with Collins’ conclusion that Genesis 1.1-2.3 do not recount seven twenty-four hour days. In the author’s words, “the days are God’s workdays, their length is neither specified nor important, and not everything in the account needs to be taken as historically sequential” (124). Nevertheless the author’s careful analysis of the first four chapters of Genesis is overwhelmingly solid and sturdy. Collins affirms the historical Adam and Eve explaining why they matter and stands against macroevolution of humankind. He points out several times the “priority of the man” at the beginning and how Adam was made the representative head of the human race, without getting side tracked. Collins also unpacks and emphasizes the way in which God sets the paradigm for wedlock, work and worship in first two chapters of Genesis. Additionally, he highlights the goodness of creation and how redemption is not only intended to restore humankind to the creational pattern, but will also heal creation. Likewise, the author builds a robust case for Mosaic authorship of Genesis 1-4, as well as the reminder of Genesis and the Pentateuch. And he resoundingly shows the legitimacy and literary connectedness of these first four chapters. Though written over ten years ago, many of the conclusions the author draws from the initial chapters of Genesis are germane to several of the social flash-points detonating in the 21st Century, plus specific discussions underway in my own denomination. Collins’ evaluation and presentation is extensively solid and sturdy.

In “Genesis 1-4” one of the areas where the author’s perception comes forth beautifully is the place of God’s moral law and its relation to creation. According to Collins, “if we examine the Ten Commandments we see the aspect of restoring creation at work”, after which he gives short samples of how this is the case. Then he explains some noteworthy consequences that come from the connection between the Moral Law and creation. “First, the fact that the commandments are rooted in creation makes it hard to understand how they could ever be done away with…For God to abolish any moral principle whose object was to equip people to live out their creational pattern would be cruelty, not love…Second, this shows why one of the chief attitudes that the Old Testament cultivates toward the law is astonished gratitude at the awesome dignity it bestows…Third, to speak of covenantal ethics as restorative reminds us how moral demands such as the Ten Commandments properly function among the people of God: not as a list of requirements to which they must measure up…but rather as the shape into which they – as individuals and as a body – are to be molded as they cooperate with the love of their Covenant Lord. Fourth, this guides the people of God in their relationships with those outside the covenant” (131-2). Later in the book he puts it this way, “God redeems his people in order to restore them to their proper functioning, and he gives them the guidance of his moral law as a gift to shape them, not as a standard to which they must live up or die. Moral law is a gift of the Creator’s love. This means we do not love people if we do not care to point them to the Creator’s own moral code” (276).

All told, “Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary” is clearly a solid and sturdy work. Collins addresses important arguments against taking these biblical chapters seriously and gives the readers a renewed sense of their authenticity and authority. This volume should be read by Old Testament professors, pastors, Bible teachers, and all interested origins and the opening chapters of Genesis. Even with the few disagreements I have with the book, I enthusiastically commend it.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Redemption at Hacksaw Ridge" by Booton Herndon. A Review

Redemption at Hacksaw Ridge: The gripping true story that inspired the movieRedemption at Hacksaw Ridge: The gripping true story that inspired the movie by Booton Herndon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a biography of the heroic actions of Desmond Doss with a short account of the remainder of his life. The memoir is rather artless and unadorned, and yet the momentum of Doss's actions and character easily carry the reader forward. This account of Private Doss's struggles, stamina and steadfastness is a tribute to his Seventh-Day Adventist faith.

"Redemption at Hacksaw Ridge" is an easy-to-read piece. Preteens, adolescents and adults alike will find it accessible, filled with examples of courage on multiple levels. Here was a Conscientious Objector who stuck to his principles against all odds and against Army brass, while willingly serving as an Army Medic with the 77th Division in the heat of heavy combat. He is credited with saving many soldiers at great risk to himself, even putting others before his own care after he had been seriously wounded. This Medal of Honor recipient modeled commitment, faith and fearless gallantry, and the time spent reading his exploits will be well invested.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"The Light Princess and Other Fairy Stories" by George MacDonal. A Wee Review

The Light Princess and Other Fairy StoriesThe Light Princess and Other Fairy Stories by George MacDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Three delightful stories written for children, and those who are young at heart. If one is well versed in C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams, one will find MacDonald's "The Light Princess and Other Fairy Stories" familiar and friendly. Written in the 1860s, two of these are fairy tales layered under with symbolic meaning grounded in the Gospel and Christian Eschatology, and one is the re-telling of a Norwegian story with a moral.

This particular set of fables will make great family reading, as well as satisfy individual pleasure. And if you chance upon the audio version at LibriVox, Clive Catterall's reading skill, along with his soothing style, will add to your enjoyment. I cheerfully recommend not only this book, but the LibriVox audio version.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

"The White Company" by Arthur Conan Doyle. A Little Review

The White CompanyThe White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Written in 1891, long before the hyper-sensitivities of the more extreme egalitarianism and high-brow "tolerance" of the 21st Century. This historical-fiction about a small sliver of the 100 Years War deftly plays out the rags-to-riches rise of Alleyne, or more accurately, from cloister-to-Gold Spurs. Much of the turns-of-phrase reminded me of Howard Pyle's Robin Hood, penned around the same time.

The major characters - whether men or women - are humorous, noble, brave and gallant. The storyline, action, adventure, successes, failures and dialogue are attention-keeping. There is subtle distaste toward the Roman Catholic Church and the cloister that likely reflect 19th Century England, but it does not detract from the tale. The novel will appeal to teens as well as adults. It was a fun summer read. I happily recommend the book.

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