Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: O Me of Little Faith

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you might notice that I don’t offer a lot of overly critical book reviews. Let me tell you why. I only really bother to post about books that I like and that I think you might like to read. So, if there is a book that I think carries a lot of literary or theological flaws, I usually just don’t post anything about it. There are plenty of places on the internet to read thorough, critical reviews. Just not here.

That is my preface to writing another glowing review. I just finished Jason Boyett’s, O Me of Little Faith. And as you might expect to hear, given the preface, I loved it. I ordered this book when it first came out but my wife stole it from my amazon box and drove me a little crazy as she lay in bed reading it and laughing out loud. She was laughing because this is indeed a funny book but it is about a most serious topic: doubt. As a pastor, people speak to me about doubt in tones more hushed than the ones that they use for speaking about breaking commandments. Boyett does us all a service by loudly proclaiming that doubt is at the core of his struggle to be a faithful disciple. Right on the back cover of the book, he proclaims, for even the bookstore browser to see:

I have been a Christian for most of my life. But there are times – an uncomfortable frequency of times, to be honest – when I’m not entirely sure I believe in God.

There always seem to be a caveat in my reviews and recommendations. Here is one for this book. If the above quote offends you or makes you nervous, you can skip this book. (Though it might actually do you a lot of good to read it.) However, if it leaves you thinking to yourself, “Oh thank you! I am not the only one!” this book might be worth a little bit more than the $10 you will shell out for it. (Unless you pay $12.99 for it. But really, you are still paying full price for books? But then again, it really would by worth even that.)

I just can’t say enough how much I enjoyed the book. As a man who spent 27 years as a seeker and spends his time helping people to grow as disciples, it was refreshing to hear an honest account of one who has some serious questions about God, scripture, prayer and the life of a Christian – but still does his best to take that “leap of faith” and trust that he doesn’t have to have it all worked out in order to live a life with God.

You can read more about Jason Boyett at You can follow him on twitter: @jasonboyett.



Thursday, September 2, 2010

Heartbreak and Discipleship

My wife and I recently experienced what was likely the most heartbreaking moment of our lives so far. We have been fostering two very young children for about 8 months and a couple weeks ago we dropped them off with Child Protective Services to be cared for by a member of their family. While we pray that this setting will be good for them, there is still a giant hole in our home and family. Even in the midst of my own grief, I can’t help but look at things theologically and analytically. I have noticed three basic types of reactions from people when they hear about this.

One is to not see it as that big of a deal. After all, they weren’t really our kids and we knew that they might go home someday, right? And, perhaps, this is what is best for them, right? To that I respond, try pouring all our love and care into two human beings for eight months, changing their diapers, rocking them to sleep, convincing them they are loved, reading them bedtime stories, comforting them when they wake up screaming, living with them 24/7 as a part of our your family… and then say “it is not that big of a deal.” Truly it is heartbreaking. It is like losing a family member.

The second response comes from those who get that. Their response is somewhere along the line of “That is why I could never do that. I just couldn’t handle the heartbreak.” To these folks I am grateful that they understand. However, I also respond to “I just couldn’t handle the heartbreak” with “Either can we.” We are not wired in some way that enables us to process grief any faster or easier than anyone else. We are also not wired in a way to just “be okay” letting them go. But despite this, we entered into this life of possibly temporary parenthood fully aware of the possibility of heartbreak. Why?

I center my morning prayer around a little book called This Day, A Wesleyan Way of Prayer by Laurence Hull Stookey. Stookey writes on the first day of the month order:

Jesus told his followers to take up the cross daily. Contrary to common belief, the cross is not just some burden or challenge in life we cannot escape and simply must endure (such as chronic disease or being unable to find work.) Rather the cross is something we can evade, but nevertheless take it up willingly, even amid misgivings. In Gethsemane Jesus reluctantly yet willingly accepted the cross that was presented to him; thus he defined his own instructions and set the pattern for discipleship. (Stookey, This Day, Abingdon Press, p. 27)

Sometimes we decide to do something even if we can’t handle it, even if it will break our heart.

There is a third response. There are a number of people who sort of get it or realize that they don’t actually get it at all. They know it is a big deal for us but maybe they don’t understand the motivation or reasoning behind it. Those are the friends who look us in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry.”

I am getting close to the end of 39 years on the planet. I have spent only about 12 of those as a Christian. One of the most profound lessons I have learned as a follower of Jesus is that things that hurt are not necessarily bad. That is a really counterintuitive lesson. We are taught from birth to avoid pain. Pain is sometimes a signal that something is bad for us. But Jesus turned that around. He tells us in Luke Gospel (Chapter 9 vs. 23-25)

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?

A number of people have asked me already, “Would you do it again?” Of course we would. We need time to heal and assess but, in 2009 there were nearly 16,000 children in foster care in the state of Texas. Another 9,000 were placed outside their homes but with relatives. ( These children cry out of a safe, stable, loving place. When children cry out, God hear them and so should we. Thousands of children in the state are awaiting adoption, waiting for a family to call their own, waiting for someone to convince them that they are worth loving. Their hurt is clearly more than mine.

In the midst of my own sense of loss, I ask you to consider, what is God calling you to do even if it might hurt, even if it might be frightening, even if you are not sure how you would handle it?

Much grace and peace,