Getting Old: a book review

Aging. Everbody does it,  nobody likes it (after their twenty-first birthday), and most of us like to pretend it doesn’t happen. I’m in my early forties and will milk that ‘early’ adjective as long as I reasonably can. I am still young enough to attack the day with verve, but I am old enough to have seen friends and former classmates pass away. I had my first major health scare this summer, which turned out to not be too serious, but I had to fess up to the fact that I’m too old to ignore these things. Already, my body doesn’t do everything I think it should. We age, and as we age we have to face our own entropic decay as we near our end of days. Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee. 

PictureJennifer Grant is the former health and family columnist for the Chicago Tribune,  and author of four previous books, including editing the devotional Disquiet Time, (Jericho Books, 2014) and adoption memoir Love You More (Thomas Nelson, 2011). In When Did Everyone Else Get So Old? Indignities, Compromises and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife (Herald Press, 2017)she explores our ephemeral existence and what it means to grow old. With good humor and faith, she describes transition—sagging and emptying nests—the loss of friends and loved ones, and retooling vocation.

The nineteen chapters in this book are autobiographical essays on the theme of aging. Grant’s literary voice is reminiscent of Anne Lamott (minus the F-bombs), though her faith and life experience are different. She weaves her observations on life together with biblical and theological reflections.

I find Grant’s reflections on vocation, and wondering if she made her mark wholly relatable. This is a good read. I give it four stars and recommend it to everybody else getting old. I give it four stars. – ★★★★

Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from Handlebar Media in exchange for my honest review.

The Power of Presence: a book review

Neil Anderson, author of Victory Over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker has been a passionate advocate for the freedom we have in Christ. Past hurts, spiritual commitments and brokenness have held people in bondage. Anderson has pointed Christians to the real freedom available to those who are in Christ; however this hasn’t always been an easy road (his autobiography is called Rough Road to Freedom). I haven’t always agreed with Anderson (I think his description of bondage from ‘ritual abuse’ is inaccurate and unhelpful) but I respect the ways he has opened up a way for evangelicals to experience God’s healing for their past. His newest book The Power of Presence: A Love StoryThe Power of Presence: A Love Story tells a story of freedom and struggle.

9780857217318Anderson’s wife of 50 years, Joanne, is in the midst of the long decline of agitated dementia. Her illness has necessitated that she spend her days at an assisted living facility. Neil is with her during the days.Joanne at times feels isolated and alone, longing for Neil’s presence with her. The Power of Presence tells the story of how Neil has learned to love his wife in this stage of life. Anderson also uses his wife’s struggle as a metaphor for our own desperation for God’s Presence.

This is a short, six chapter book. Chapters one and two feel the most vulnerable. Anderson describes the absence of God’s presence and the times where He feels absent (having suspended his conscious blessing).  Chapter describes coming into God’s presence and praying in the Spirit with thanksgiving. Chapter four describes ministry in God’s presence. Chapters five and six describe resting and being fully in God’s presence.

I appreciate this book for the way that Anderson shares the vulnerable and difficult journey it has been for him to internalize these lessons. There are poignant lessons that Anderson is learning in his wintering years. I give this four stars.

Note: I received this book from Kregel in exchange for my honest review.



Midlife Mission, Not Midlife Crisis: a book review

I have a confession to make. I’m forty. I aged out in June and I am forced to face the fact that I’m statistically closer to the grave than the cradle. In many ways I don’t feel forty yet. I feel like I’m still becoming who I was meant to be. I don’t feel like I’m established. There is so much I had hoped to accomplish at this point,  there is security which has eluded me, such as a fulfilling job and  life success.

4434Authors Peter Greer and Greg Lafferty both have successful ministry careers.  Greer is the president and CEO of Hope International, a global micro-finance organization. Lafferty is the senior pastor of Willowdale Chapel in Jennersville, Pennsylvania.  Greer watched Lafferty navigate his forties and decided to learn from him about how he could avoid a midlife crisis and be propelled towards meaningful mission (17). 40/40 Vision: Clarifying Your Mission in Midlife is Greer and Lafferty’s call for us to reevaluate our lives and press into the things which matter.

Lafferty and Greer share vulnerability about their experience of aging. They also engage a third dialogue partner: Qoheleth. The author of Ecclesiastes provides insights on refocusing our life midstream.  Greer and Lafferty (and Qoheleth) address midlife (ch. 1), the meaninglessness of life (ch. 2), disappointment with our life not going how we had planned (ch.3), the lose of  ‘thrill'(ch. 4), facing mortality (ch. 5), growing in generosity (ch. 6), breaking the addiction to go-go-go (ch. 7), aging well (ch. 8),  deepening our relationships in midlife (ch. 9), relinquishing control (ch. 10), finding meaning outside of ‘a job’ (ch. 11), and living a life with lasting purpose (ch. 12).

In their introduction, Greer and Lafferty write, ” Our hope is that this is not just another self-help book loosely based on Christian principles or a list of ways to ease the symptoms of midlife. Rather, we want to address the underlying questions of midlife through the timeless wisdom fo Ecclesiastes. Although many issues in their forties, others face them in their thirties or fifities” (17-18). Sharing vulnerably from their life experience, they delve into each theme, highlighting the wisdom and insights of Ecclesiaties and exploring what it means to live life on mission in life’s latter half.

This book speaks meaningfully to me in a way I wish it did not. I would rather be young, invincible, and immortal. But the experience of forty means I have to face up to life and press forward knowing that reckoning and resurrection await those who fear God  and keep his commandments (183-184).  Greer and Lafferty’s conversational tone draws you and causes you to reflect on what life could be like moving forward.

I recommend this book for those near forty, those who are forty or fortyish, and those who saw forty a long time ago and still pretend they are forty. Greer and Lafferty show how Ecclesiastes speaks to midlife. I give this four stars.

Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for my honest review.


Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night: a book review

Sometimes as people age we watch the fire in their eyes die long before their breath grows cold.  Women of faith falter as they spend the winter of their years alone. Men who were once pillars of their community become empty shells. Thankfully not every one ages in this way, dying before their time. Others find strength in faith and cling tenaciously to life continuing to give and grow.  Robert Atwell, the current Anglican archbishop of Stockport has written a book about the spirituality of aging  which promises to help us make the most out of the last quarter of our lives.

Soul Unfinished: Finding Happiness, Taking Risks & Trusting God as We Grow Older by Robert Atwell

Atwell begins Soul Unfinished with an invitation. In our day and age, we can generally expect to live longer than our parents and grand-parents. So when retirement rolls around, we can choose to not give up but keep on living. Atwell exhorts us to continue taking risks, share wisdom and to go deeper in our relationship with God.  Atwell then describes retirement age, life in later years, memories and the role of elders in nurturing corporate memory, the healing painful memories, forgiveness and reconciliation,  self discovery and becoming and finding happiness, joy and gratitude.

I am not from the demographic which Atwell is writing.  As I am still in my thirties  I hope I am not in the last quarter of my life! Therefore it is difficult for me to evaluate the content; however I have ministered to seniors and can see the wisdom and sensitivity with which he approaches the issues. Seniors need to be told that they  still have something valuable to offer, that their life is not over and that this is the time to deepen their faith relationship.  Nearing sixty himself, Atwell doesn’t write disinterested advice as retirement is just around the corner for him too.

I gleaned from Atwell insights into how to speak meaningfully to people at this stage in life; yet the people who will find this book most valuable are seniors and those nearing retirement.  I think this would make a great gift book for the well loved retiree in your life. At the time of this posting, the e-book of this book is $2.99 on Amazon.

Thanks to Paraclete Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.