Thursday, May 20, 2010

‘O Me of Little Faith’ by Jason Boyett – Book Review and Giveaways

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Being humans and being Christians, there are going to be times when we question our beliefs about our faith in Jesus.  I admit that I have those doubts on occasion.

Jason Boyett, in his latest book, ‘O Me of Little Faith,’ addresses the tough questions of faith in Someone who is not always visible.

Here is the biography of the author:

Jason Boyett is a writer, speaker, marketing professional, and the author of Pocket Guide to the Afterlife, Pocket Guide to the Bible, and several other books.  He has been featured on the History Channel and National Geographic Channel and his work has appeared in a variety of publications including Salon, Paste and Relevant.  Jason blogs regularly at www.jasonboyett.com.  He lives in Texas with his wife, Aimee, and their two children.

Here is the ‘blurb’ on the back cover of the book:

True Confessions
I am a Christian
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.  I said it.
From this unconventional profession of faith, Jason Boyett sets off on a journey down a sometimes painful, often hilarious, always honest road of inquisition, searching for a God who occasionally seems to disappear.
An earnest seeker who clings to faith even as he explores the hiddenness of God, Boyett asks uncomfortable questions – the questions many of us have but dare not say aloud.  His willingness to ask these questions have made him immune to over-spiritualized church talk, suspicion of public prayers, and annoyed by too-certain believers who seem to get “personal promptings from Jesus and detailed directions about even the most trivial aspects of their lives” (Boyett has his doubts).
Written for doubters by a doubter, this is not a tidy, 5-step solution for fixing spiritual uncertainty.  Nor is it a cynical, anti-religious rant.  Instead, it’s a hopeful and confessional exploration of the relationship between faith and doubt.  It’s a book loaded with grace, encouragement, humor, and – for what it’s worth – an inordinate number of references to turtles and French daredevils.

After his “There. I said it” comment in the Introduction, Jason goes on:

So now you know, and we can both relax and talk about it.  Confessing the presence of spiritual uncertainty in my life is a relief.  I can breathe easier now because I don’t have to pretend.  I don’t have to hide my conflicted feelings when we talk about Jesus and the Bible.  I don’t have to feel like a jerk if you, or anyone else, look to me as some kind of spiritual expert or teacher.  I don’t have to tiptoe around the word most of us in church or around Christian friends because it freaks us out so much.
Doubt. (p. 9)

Jason explains the one thing that most doubters have in common:

Those of us on the doubter’s road are constantly good at one thing: asking questions.  Whether we ever find the answers or not, the questions are always there – and not just questions about whether or not God exists.  Have you ever asked any of these questions? [this is a sample of the list of questions]
·         What if religion and our longing for God is just the way our brains are wired?  Could spirituality just be the product of chemistry or electrical impulses?
·         Are the New Testament stories about Jesus trustworthy?  How do we know it’s not some big Da Vinci Code hoax or cover-up by a power-hungry church?
·         Why do Christians seem more interested in participating in a social club than living out the basic teachings of Jesus?
·         Why do evangelical Christians emphasize making a “personal decision for Christ” and getting people to pray a “Sinner’s Prayer” when the Gospels don’t really show Jesus doing either of those things?
·         Why do some Christians focus so much energy on policing the culture and so little on producing it? (pp. 14-16)

These are valid questions.  I personally have a sometimes skeptical worldview, so I have had similar questions over the years.  But, again, the Lord welcomes these questions.  He is big enough to handle them!

I have to admit that, at some points, I was highly uncomfortable with some of the questions Jason brought up in this book.  Then I remembered that King David’s doubts were immortalized for time immemorial in the Bible.  If God didn’t like the questions, I don’t think He would describe David as ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:13-14).  That fact made me feel more comfortable about what Jason had to say.  I did appreciate his candor and honesty; most people would know what to air that dirty laundry!

Jason makes the point that one’s world view is tied in with the way one is wired:

My mother worries that I think too much.  She knows I struggle with these questions, but she doesn’t understand where they come from.  Most of the questions I ask have never occurred to her.  To her my faith must seem ridiculously complicated, filled with challenges and arguments and skepticism.  And she’s right.  We have different personalities.  Our brains are bent in different directions.  She has had the same religious upbringing that I had…, but we are not alike.  For some, faith is a direct line between them and God.  For me, faith is a tangled, knotted rope. (p. 55)

A subject of great import to me over the past couple years – grace – also found its way to Jason, through the person of Rich Mullins, a contemporary Christian Music singer and songwriter popular in the 1980s and 1990s (until his tragic – for us - death in 1997).  Through Rich’s writings, Jason was introduced to other Christians who lived the concept of grace.  Jason elaborates:

I started reading their books like a crazy person.  And it was crazy.  I was in high school, a time when my friends were partying and preparing for college and doing teenager stuff, and here I was, reading religious books.  But these writers – [Rich] Mullins, [Brennan] Manning, [Henri] Nouwen, [Frederick] Buechner, [Robert Farrar] Capon, and others – were speaking to me of an alien Christianity.  It was unfamiliar and new, and it was like nothing I’d heard before.  It was deeply spiritual.  It was encouraging.  It was unconcerned with the Sinner’s Prayer but drenched in Jesus all the same.
They wrote about grace…
I’d sung about amazing grace.  I’d surely heard the words before.  But the grace of Mullins and Manning and Nouwen just exploded in my psyche, leaving the best kind of mess.  God loved me.  Period.  Nothing I could do would make him love me more.  Nothing I could do would make him love me less. (pp. 73-74)

I agree with Jason 100% on the importance of understanding grace.  Understanding the grace of God directed to us will revolutionize our lives, and will change how we see and treat others as well.  And I also agree with Jason; Rich Mullins was an amazingly gracious artist!

With many experiences of the Christian life outside of the USA, Jason has seen the USA version of Christianity with new eyes:

My American evangelical Christian religion doesn’t always allow God to be great, and occasionally the less-than-great God is the one I doubt.  He’s the deity who always backs a certain political party, or a particular social issue, or who never fails to side with us.  He’s the God who always smiles proudly upon the dedications of our multimillion-dollar church building and rejoices when a teenager gets “saved” for the third time.  He’s the God who showers us with financial blessings but never with poverty, who rewards us with business success but never with failure, who’s totally cool with the money we spend on concert lighting in the worship center while the widow down the block has a hole in her roof.
I don’t believe in that God.  If I’m going to draw close to God, it needs to be a God who’s greater than that. (p. 127)

It also needs to be the God who is biblically sound.  The God who describes is not to be found in the Bible, and I don’t blame Jason at all for not following that false god…  

I was particularly struck by the point Jason makes (and the way in which he makes it) - that we need to expose our wounds to the world:

Without authenticity about our failures and secrets, Buechner writes, we eventually lose track of who we really are.  Instead, we come to accept the glossier public version of ourselves because we think the world will like that image better than the real thing.  But fake Jason is never preferable to real Jason.  Unless your spouse asks you whether or not she looks fat in a certain outfit, dishonesty is never an acceptable alternative to the truth. (p. 161)

Trying to come across with this perfect façade is a “lie from the pit of hell,” as my friend Linda might put it!  We need to expose our weaknesses in order to allow God to do His refining work and to help others who are – or are going through – the same issues.   Jason goes on to tell us what self-deception does:

Self-deception does the opposite.  Hiding our doubts pulls us further from God and denies us the blessing of real community.  It prevents us from taking the next step toward faith.  Like Moses, we need to declare that we’re overwhelmed.  Like Peter, we need to confess our humanness.  Go away from me, Lord.  I’m a sinful, doubt-ridden faith-challenged man.
When we do that, we can trust that God is not going to smite us with the shipwrecks and snakebites and scourging that Paul endured.  Instead, God will respond to us the same way Jesus responded to Peter: by not going anywhere, by reaching out his hand and telling us not to fear by inviting us to follow him, to take the next step along the narrow road behind his Son. (p. 162)

Jason makes a proclamation near the end of the book:

There is nothing to be gained by having too little of God.  And if we have too much of God…we wouldn’t need faith.  As a doubter, I’m discovering that life in the margin between these two extremes is not such a bad thing after all.
I suspect my travels on the doubter’s road haven’t been entirely my choice.  My skeptical personality seems predisposed to doubt.  I’m sure the religious environment of my childhood contributed to my uncertainty, despite the well-meaning people behind it.  My passion for history and theology are also culprits.
But I’ve become accustomed to this road.  Its twists and turns no longer seem so surprising or its potholes so jarring.
On the doubter’s road, I’m driving under the belief – possibly hopeless, but hopefully possible – that it leads me somewhere.  Somewhere holy.  Somewhere shot through with grace.  Somewhere near my eternal home, where I’ll hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things… Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21) (pp. 219-220)

What could be a better ending than that?!!

I really liked this book.  As noted, I was a little disturbed by a few issues he addressed, but the truth can be uncomfortable sometimes!  Then I remembered God’s big enough to handle our concerns.  Jason’s style is full of truth, wit, wisdom, and humor.  This is the first Jason Boyett book I’ve had the pleasure to read, but it won’t be my last!  I recommend this book to believers and non-believers alike.  Believers will quite likely recognize themselves in these pages, and non-believers may be comforted to know that a believer with thirty years of faith under his belt has the same questions they may have, but he is making the conscious decision to believe in the midst of his doubts.

Please note – the above quotations were taken from the Advanced Reading Copy (ARC).  The pages and quotes in the final edition may be slightly different.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Zondervan Publishers and provided by the Blog Tour Stop for review purposes.  I am proud to be touring this book with these other participating bloggers.
_________________________________________________

I have TWO copies of this book that I would love to send along to TWO of you! 

There are several ways to gain entry:

1) Leave a comment here on the blog, giving your thoughts on this interesting book.  Please make sure to leave your email address in this format – sample[at]gmail[dot]com.

2) Follow me on Twitter; I will more than likely follow you back!  If you are already a Twitter follower, that counts, too!  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

3) Follow me as a Google Friend on this blog; if you are already a Friend, that counts, too!  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

4) Become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

5) Follow this blog as a NetWorked Blog Follower after you’ve become my Facebook friend.  Please leave a new comment to that effect.

So there are five chances to enter!  Please limit one entry per option.

This giveaway is for U.S. residents only.  The deadline for entry is Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  A winner will be chosen via the Random Number Generator on Thursday, June 3, 2010 and will be contacted via email.  The best to all of you!

31 comments:

Diane said...

I think we all have those moments of doubt. I am appreciative that he has an open and honest conversation to address it.

estrella8888 at roadrunner dot com

Diane said...

I am your friend on facebook also! :O)

Linda said...

I think the author wrote what most of us think and probably don't mention to others. Would love to read this one. Please enter me.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

I follow you on Twitter.


desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

I'm a friend on FB.


desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda said...

I follow by Google reader.


desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Andrea Schultz said...

Jason is brutally honest about his feelings in this book. Thanks, Diane and Linda, for your comments!

Blessings -

Andrea

Esther Y.M. said...

Finally someone who is honest about how they really fee...

Brutal honesty :)

Enter me please.

estherym[at]yahoo[dot]com

Esther Y.M. said...

I am already a google follower

estherym[at]yahoo[dot]com

Anonymous said...

what an inspirational story...

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Nicholas said...

I've been in this vein of thinking as of late... and really want to read this book!
my email address is

nicksho3[at]gmail[dot]com

cheers!

Anonymous said...

I'd love to read this book - I've read some of Boyett's Pocketbook Guides, but this book sounds so personal, relevant, and necessary.
Jeff Partain
jeffpartain@msn.com

Andrea Schultz said...

Thanks to everyone for swinging by -and I'm glad Jason and I aren't the only skeptics out there!

Andrea

lotus82 said...

This book looks wonderful, heartwrenching but wonderful, just the way I like them.
I thought it was funny when he said his mom gets mad at him, whose doesn't?? lol


~Steph
soklad@hotmail.com

lotus82 said...

I also follow you on facebook as stephanie christmann

~Steph
soklad@hotmail.com

Carman sent me.

lotus82 said...

I also follow you on friend connect.

~Steph
soklad@hotmail.com

LaTawnia said...

Finally someone like me! I would love to receive this book from your drawing! This man sounds like me! Or maybe I am like him. A doubter for sure that has made my walk with God interesting to say the least. Please enter me.... I am doing/following all of those things!

Patsy said...

Looking forward to reading Jason's book. Count me in on the giveaway. Carmen sent me.
plhouston@bellsouth.net

Atypical Girl said...

Wow, this sounds like an excellent book! I would love to read it!


Amy
artsyrockerchick at aim dot com

Atypical Girl said...

Google Friend Connect!


Amy
artsyrockerchick at aim dot com

Linda Kish said...

A little extra push in faith would be great.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Debbie F said...

I can so relate. there are days that I think we all doubt.

dcf_beth at verizon dot net

Debbie F said...

I am a new follower!

dcf_beth at verizon dot net

Anonymous said...

Seems like a great read!

true_sheila at yahoo dot com

Steve Capell said...

I think a lot of people doubt ... including me! I found your review to be intriguing and one that I think I would take pleasure in reading.

Thank you so much for hosting this giveaway.

steven(dot)capell(at)gmail(dot)com

Renee G said...

I love that the author is exploring the relationship between faith and doubt. Would love to read this.
rsgrandinetti@yahoo(DOT)com

Renee G said...

I'm following as rsg on GFC.
rsgrandinetti@yahoo(DOT)com

Sara @ Embracing Destiny said...

Very interesting! I'm talking with a friend now about her doubts and her teenage daughters, so this would be very timely to win. I would love to pass it on to her as she struggles with her spiritual journey. Thanks!

Sara @ Embracing Destiny said...

I'm following your blog now!

embracingdestiny at yahoo dot com

Wanda said...

Andrea i really enjoyed your review. It seems that Jason has the guts to put in writing what many of us would be afraid to admit crosses our mind at times. I agree that God is big enough to handle any question we throw at Him. I'd love the chance to read this book.

Wanda said...

I'm now following you. BTW I forgot to leave my email address on the previous comment.

bnredeemed (at)gmail(dot)com

 
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