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Bookworm Sez: Audiobook is ‘best, most helpful sermon you’ve ever heard’

“What We Talk about When We Talk about God” by Rob Bell, read by the author

c.2013, HarperAudio $14.99 / $16.99 Canada 4-1/2 hours, 4 CDs

For most of your life, you’ve had a good relationship with God.

He’s a close personal friend, in fact, and you talk to Him often. He even lives nearby; so close, that you visit Him often. He’s a good listener, too.

But is the God you know the same God your friend knows? Can the reality of God mesh with science, nature, and culture? In the new audiobook “What We Talk about When We Talk about God,” written and read by Rob Bell, you’ll see how we’re at the very edge of a whole new way of answering those questions.

Turn on any news channel or pick up the paper, and it seems like everybody knows what God wants. The thing is, says Bell (a pastor for more than twenty years), “we have a problem with God.” That is, two people who talk about Him are talking about “two extraordinarily different realities while using the exact same word.”

When we talk about God, “we are all over the place.” And yet – people want to talk about Him: what they were taught, what they believe, and what makes them hopeful. Even when in a group of atheists, Bell was asked about the miraculous.

And how can there not be miracles? Bell points at the universe, its size, and how the miracle of you (“a phenomenon that simply didn’t exist here for billions of years”) leads to holism, which leads to God – who defies analysis and description. We talk about God using words, but He goes beyond words.

Still, God is with us. He’s there when we realize we’re seeing something our soul wants us to remember: the big moments, and the small ones. He is for us and wants the best for all of humanity, whether they believe in Him or not, whether we know we need help or not. And He is ahead of us, “pulling us forward” for greater and greater understanding, rights, and peace.

Talking about God, says Bell, isn’t so much about the words said, as it is about being open in heart and mind while you’re saying them. It’s about recognizing that spiritual life isn’t separate from regular life. It’s about knowing that “we are loved and we belong and we are going to be just fine.”

Written and read by author and pastor Rob Bell, “What We Talk about When We Talk about God” is packed with grace and goodness. There’s also a lot of thought provoking here, which is why I enjoyed this audiobook so much.

In meshing evolution and science with Bible teachings, and atheism with Christianity and surfing, Bell brings God to modern readers. Along the way, he questions his own faith and uses anecdotes from friends and family to illustrate God in his life.

That adds up to what will be the best, most helpful sermon you’ve ever heard, in an audiobook you’ll want to share. I think, in fact, that “What We Talk about When We Talk about God” is definitely something you’ll shout about.

“Memoirs of a Hamster” by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers

c.2013, Sleeping Bear Press $15.99 / $16.99 Canada 32 pages

So, how’s it going?

How’s life treating you? You’ve got things to do, plenty of toys, food and treats, and it’s all good? Bet you’re a happy kid.

Or maybe you’d like it better if you lived in Paris, Mars, or another house. If you’re thinking that’s true, then read “Memoirs of a Hamster” by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers, and be careful what you ask for…

Seymour Q. Hamster had a pretty good life.

He had a brand-new home filled with wood shavings, and room to run. His bowl was full of seeds and he had a new fast-as-lightning exercise wheel that really zoomed. Seymour was the luckiest hamster in the world!

It took awhile for him to learn how to use his water bottle without getting splashed, but he even liked that. And he loved that his Little Girl gave him yogurt drops, although he hated that she liked to kiss him on the nose. That was just nasty.

Then one night, after about a week of living the good life, Seymour had a visitor. Pearl the Cat came around, and told him that she was going to the sunroom.

Sunroom? That was something Seymour had never heard of.

He thought about the sunroom all night. When Little Girl cleaned his cage, he tried to look for a sunroom but the house was much bigger than he thought. Then, two nights later, Pearl told him something he could hardly believe: the house’s staircase was made of sunflower seeds and the sunroom was packed with yogurt drops. Even Buck the Dog said he loved the sunroom.

So Seymour plotted.

And he thought.

And he plotted some more, until he figured a way to get out of his cage. Operation Tasty Treat was set. He jammed his wheel with his bowl, climbed on top of it, popped the lid of his cage, and he was free! It wouldn’t be long before he’d be eating his fill of yummy yogurt drops!

But Seymour learned some important things on his adventure: cats are “big, fat liars.” There were no yogurt drops in the sunroom. And sometimes, being happy with what you’ve got is a very, very smart thing.

Have you ever discovered a book for your child that you eagerly anticipated as a bedtime story? Yep, because it’s funny and unbelievably cute, “Memoirs of a Hamster” is going to be that kind of book.

Seymour Hamster is one of the sassiest characters you’ll ever meet in a picture book. Even when Seymour is in big trouble, author Devin Scillian gives him plenty of cheek (sometimes literally) and enough spunkiness to further the tale and create laughs. Add the adorable, wide-eyed illustrations by Tim Bowers, and this is a story you and your 3-to-7-year-old will both want.

No, this book won’t help you squash the “I Want a Hamster” blues. Yes, it’s going to be a quick favorite around your house. For you and your child, in fact, “Memoirs of a Hamster” will be a real treat.

(The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.)

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