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Book Review: “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas

Book Review: “If You Can Keep It” by Eric Metaxas

There’s always a story to how I get a book and why I read it in the first place. You might find this story interesting.

Earlier this year, I reconnected with my friend Don here in Tampa. He’s the one that introduced me to the people at “County Citizens Defending Freedom” and introduced me to “Kingstone Comics.” In all of my conversations with him, he’s been urging me to read this book. Because I currently don’t have an income, I wasn’t looking to purchase anything extra. It’s on hold at the local library with a bunch of people in line waiting for it.

Olivia had spring break a couple of weeks ago, and my friend Gary asked me if I would be willing to drive a car from Illinois down to Tampa for him. Olivia and I took a flight and drove his car down (and that’s a story for another time) stopping along the way to visit my family that I don’t get to see that often. We had a ball.

When we visited my cousin, Jeremy in Tennessee, he took us to his work and we got to see and sit in the fire trucks and visit the rescue squad equipment depot and also tour his church. They had a lending library and I took a couple of minutes to peruse their selection, and there near the top of a pile of books to be sorted, in this Baptist church, in a small town called Camden, was this book. They let me take it.

Mr. Metaxas is a great writer. A few years ago, I read his Bonhoeffer biography and “7 Men.” My first exposure to him, however, was a speech he gave in Ottawa at the National Prayer Breakfast. He talked about abortion. That was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard in my life. I don’t know how Justin Trudeau survived it. He was sitting nearby. As a writer, he makes the rest of us look like we are in kindergarten. His use of a variety of words and interesting turns of phrase I find to be beautiful. His subject matter was engaging.

The basic premise is that the foundation of our country has been forgotten. He was Yale educated and never exposed to the wealth of the thoughts, ideas and even art that produced the United States. In this book, he takes the time to tell some stories that used to be told and haven’t been lately. He also exposes how the founders and their society thought about the US and why it was in their words… “exceptional.” He also gives some historical context that helps us to understand why the US was founded in the first place.

I know now why my friend Don was urging me to read it. It’s needed and necessary and very accessible.

Mr. Metaxas starts with a story of Benjamin Franklin in conversation with a citizen at the close of the Continental Congress. It’s where the line “if you can keep it” comes from. He closes with an incredible story about the Statue of Liberty from his own family’s experience. Within the book is the backstory of Paul Revere, told afresh in the midst of the backstory of Longfellow and his poem, cast in the meilleur of our educational and cultural moment. All of these stories propelled me along, causing me to finish the book faster than I anticipated.

I read the backstory of Squanto to the family over dinner. It’s too good not to tell.

But, the chapter that will leave a lasting impression on me was his recounting of the influence of George Whitfield. He argues that the US would not exist, and would have no national identity without him. I’ve read Whitefield’s biography, I’m familiar with the story. But, this was a story about the US and Whitefield was a character in that story, and to consider the impact he made is quite revelatory.

The other thing I’ll walk away with from this book is another viewing of “Amazing Grace” and the story of William Wilberforce. I haven’t read his biography yet.

Maybe, when I come across that one, I’ll have another interesting story to share. And, hopefully, by that time, my writing skills will improve!

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2022 in Book Review

 

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Book Review “Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You”

Book Review “Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You”

How I get a book is a story I like telling. In this case, when we did “family debriefing” with Compass Ministries last month, I met Roni Lacuesta the Executive Director. He gave me a couple of strong recommendations, and one of them was to read this book.

So, even though I’m currently unemployed, and have no income, I decided to buy the book anyway. Proverbs says to “Buy the truth and don’t sell it,” and “in all your getting, get wisdom” and how wisdom and insight and understanding should be the chief pursuits in life.

The book lists 5 authors: James G. Friesen, E. James Wilder, Anne M. Bierling, Rick Koepcke, and Maribeth Poole. It’s a book written by a group of psychologists and mental health workers from an organization called Shepherd’s House in California. It’s part of a group of resources they call “Life Model.”

The authors are trying to present a vision of how Christian community, specifically churches, can be a indispensable contribution to the recovery of trauma.

In the beginning of the book, they talk about the two major kinds of trauma, bad events happening to someone, and good experiences withheld from someone, and how each uniquely cripples a person’s development. They describe what attributes a person should exhibit in the various stages of maturity and what it looks like when their body grows beyond their maturity.

They also take the time to describe how the two major different types of trauma affect that process of maturity and how expensive and time-consuming it is to bring healing to someone through individual counselling. I appreciated how honest they were in discussing the shortcomings of that model of therapy. It’s not to be discarded, it’s just not sufficient to the task. They plainly state that what’s needed is the power of God and the involvement of key roles in the community, namely spiritual fathers, mothers and brothers and sisters.

It’s compelling. I could see how this would be appealing to all kinds of people, those who are suffering the affects of trauma, and those who have a soft heart. Certainly, it’s obvious, our expectation that involvement in church to be a healing and life-giving experience should go without saying.

Sadly, it’s not common. And, the authors faithfully point out that often our leaders exhibit immaturity themselves. It’s impossible to model maturity if you’re not mature. And, it’s hard to give what you haven’t received.

One of the most helpful things I did early on in ministry was attend the “Rapid Response Chaplain Training” offered by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It gave me some tools and insight into trauma, shock and how to be the hands and feet and presence of Jesus in those situations. I found it very helpful and adopted that posture often in my interactions with people as a pastor over the years.

If you haven’t done something like that, this book would be a great resource to you, as it does a good job of introducing the broad outlines of what to expect. What I found valuable is the explanation of trauma and the time given to detailing the attributes of maturity. It gave me yet another lens of compassionately viewing myself and the people around me.

I’m curious if you have read this book? Or, been to a church that tried to implement it? Or, been involved with Shepherd’s House. If so, I’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences either through the comments or a direct message.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2022 in Book Review

 

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Grief Recovery Handbook, the Grief Recovery Method

Grief Recovery Handbook, the Grief Recovery Method

If we went for a coffee today, we would probably talk about the Grief Recovery Method and the Grief Recovery Handbook.

There are several of us at Calvary that are reading the book together and going through the exercises. My friend Tim has joined our sessions via Zoom to help walk us through and answer questions and so forth. He’s had lots of experience with it.

Last evening, we had an interesting question, because the Grief Recovery Method doesn’t come from a Christian basis, but a science basis, how are we as Christians to interact with it? How much “faith” should we put into the method?

The question was actually a bit more focused. One of the last exercises in the method is to write a letter, and does that even make sense? And, since we are Christians, does the Bible instruct us to do this with our grief?

It’s interesting, the Grief Recovery Method has you start out by examining all the ways that we deal with loss that don’t actually help us long term. And, then the exercises start, where you set aside an hour, and graph the losses you’ve experienced in life, along with how you felt at the time, and even how you feel about it currently. The next exercise is to choose a relationship in your life that has some unfinished communication in it, and graph that relationship, it’s major events, how you felt about them and even how you feel about them now. Next, taking that information, you sort it into categories that require action, like apologies, “forgives,” and significant emotional statements. And, then from that work, you write a letter to that person. The last step is to read that letter out loud to another person. And, it rarely is read to the actual person that it’s written to.

This is the outline of the Grief Recovery Method and it’s helped thousands of people over the last 40+ years who were suffering pain from loss and grief.

So, it’s a good question. As a Christian, with access to the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1), the help of the Holy Spirit, prayer, God’s Word, why would we write a letter?

As we were thinking about that, I realized that the Psalms were an example in many ways of this grief recovery method. Actually, the imprecatory Psalms really illustrate the Grief Recovery Method.

These are the famous psalms were the writer expresses: “Happy is he who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137:9) This is a letter that expresses feelings from an event where there was loss, addressed to the person that is responsible for the loss, read out loud to a different person. I’ll bet these words were never said or read to the person or entities that are responsible for the loss.

Jesus is also an example. Remember when he was standing on the Mount of Olives at the end of Palm Sunday, the day of the Triumphal Entry? He said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭23:37‬‬)‬

Here Jesus is expressing his feelings, about an event, where He’s experienced loss, and it’s addressed to the people that are responsible for the loss, yet, it’s the disciples that hear him say it.

So, for me, I realized, this is one of those situations where science has finally caught up with where Christians have been for centuries.

As you continue reading “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” they describe how life should be lived after using this method to complete grief. The illustration they use is like visiting the aquarium where it’s so big that every once in a while one of the sharks or whales or sea creatures comes into view at the window we are looking through. When that happens we describe what we are seeing as it’s happening including how we feel about it. “Whoa! A shark! Look at those teeth! I’m glad I’m behind the glass!” We do that as it happens. Rather than, later on, or years later, we express our feelings in healthy and productive ways in real time.

This reminds me of Ephesians 4, where Paul writes how we as Christians are to be: “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head…” It’s speaking the truth in and from love, in healthy and productive ways, in real time, processing life as it happens, which produces growth in wisdom and in love and in courage.

Again, from my perspective, science is finally catching up with where Christians have been for centuries.

I highly recommend the book.

And, I’m grateful that my friend Tim gave me a copy this past summer.

What do you think? What’s been your experience with processing loss and grief? How have you managed the pain of loss, disappointment, hurt?

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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