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.

Born (Again) to Rewild: a book review

Environmentalism and Jesus both call us to oppose the dominant cultural mode of consumption and affluenza. However most of us Christians  are not all that radically different from our neighbors in what or how much we consume. Some of us deny our world is in an ecological crisis where most of us respond to the inconvenient truth of global warming, the destruction of ecosystems, and rising tides with just a little bit of green washing. We care. So we recycle our plastic bottles, drive electric cars, buy organic food™ but our consumption rages on.

9948Todd Wynward is both a Christian and an environmentalist. He is a wilderness guide, founder of a wilderness-based charter school, a member of an intentional community and a leader in the Mennonite denomination. In Rewilding the WayWynward borrows the concept of ‘rewilding’ from conservation biology (the idea of turning land back to nature, to allow the ecosystem to be restored). Rewilding the Jesus Way means bringing the Christian faith back into connection with the earth and allowing vitality come back to a faith that has been tamed by technology and corporate industrial culture (11). Wynward hopes to steer the way between total reunification of the world and conspicuous consumption and paint a picture of watershed discipleship (discipleship that responds to this watershed moment in history, cares for our watershed, and treats our watersheds as Rabbi).

Rewilding the Way unfolds in three parts. Part I describes our current predicament of affluenza, distance from nature, and the lack of outrage for the current cultural malaise. Part II describes seven paths to wild your way: (1) steer by inner authority, (2) rely upon radical grace, (3) embody enoughness (4) lead through meekness, (5) cultivate a divine insecurity, (6)embrace the unraveling and (7) trust in the service. Part III outlines the work ahead and highlights some of the initiatives that are bringing together faith, radical discipleship  and creation care.

Wynward points to church initiatives and ecological activism to unfold these practices. The book teems with stories from both spheres, as well as drawing lessons from the Bible. I found a lot to chew on in this volume. Wynward simultaneously calls us towards a holy discontent with where we are, and trust in God and contentedness with what we are given (embodying enoughness). I am in a moment of in-between-ness wondering what God has next for me an my family and Wynward’s words and practices touch  something in me and make me hunger for more of God’s Kingdom and the redemption of all of creation.

I really liked the way Wynward re-imagines the words of the Lord’s Prayer, taking them from a passive voice to this:

Father of Everything,

Your presence fills all of Creation.

Again today, your kingdom has come.

Again today, I join my will to your will to make earth as in heaven.

Again today, you’ll give us the bread we need for your daily work,

and you’ll show mercy to us just as much as we show mercy to others.

Again today, as we face times of testing, you’ll be with us in our trials. (63).

He doesn’t offer these as a scholarly, literal translation, but as meditation of the meaning of Jesus’ prayer for us as we pray this and follow him. The book is full of other fresh reads of scripture and insights (Wynward regards Ched Meyers and Richard Rohr as mentors in the way, and their insights can be seen throughout). I give this book four stars and recommend it for anyone frustrated by where the Christian faith fails to intersect with care for the physical world. Wynward is one of the good guys who sees the intimate connection between the Jesus way and the rocks and trees, and skies and seas of this, our Father’s World.

Note: I received this book from the author or publisher through SpeakEasy in exchange for my honest review.