Book review: The Ironic Christian’s Companion by Patrick Henry

 

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In the unlikely event of a gun being put to my head in order to discover my true and final opinion on Patrick Henry’s The Ironic Christian’s Companion, I still wouldn’t be able to offer an answer without some sort of qualifier. Did I like the book? I did; Henry is clever and I appreciated many of his insights; one or two of them made me sit back and go, “Huh” in an impressed way. Is it a good book? Sure, but I don’t think it will be to everyone’s tastes. Would I recommend this book? Maybe, depending on who was asking for the recommendation. Do I like Patrick Henry? Eh, I’m not sure; there’s more than a little self-importance there, tempered with (what I’m hoping is) genuine reform. You see? It’s complicated.

I picked up the book on sale; that and the title was the deciding factor for the purchase. I’m vain enough to think of myself as an “ironic” Christian (someone who is Christian but not as Christian as the obviously stupid people who are also Christian, in essence). The book is a series of ten essays, all loosely connected to the theme of being a Christian who has doubts and reservations about their religion, if not always their faith.

Henry’s writing is an interesting mix of memoir, theology and academia, with keen insights and the patience to let you discover them for yourself.

So, what’s the verdict?

Title: The Ironic Christian’s Companion: Finding the marks of God’s grace in the world
Author: Patrick Henry
Publisher: Riverhead Books (1999)
Rating: 4/5 (Goodreads rating, for comparison: 3.41/5)
The best feature of the book: It’s eminently quotable.
The worst feature of the book: It errs on navel gazing at times.
Trigger warnings: Mentions of suicide (Henry’s father killed himself).
You’ll like this if… You, like me, are stupid enough to think your faith is “ironic”.

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Book review: Friendship with God by Trevor Hudson

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While still in the middle of it I knew I’d be returning to Trevor Hudson’s Friendship with God. It’s a great book. Its length (it’s under 200 pages) belies its wisdom. Hudson has a pastoral heart, and the book is warm, empathetic and concise. It answered a lot of as-yet unasked questions of mine; not offering novel answers as much as practical insight.

Title: Friendship with God (republished as “Beyond Loneliness: The Gift of God’s Friendship” by Upper Room Books in 2016)
Author: Trevor Hudson
Publisher: Struik Christian Media
Rating: 4/5 (Goodreads rating, for comparison: 3.88/5)
Best feature of the book: Its wisdom, accessibility and practicality.
Worst feature of the book: The monastic influences won’t appeal to everyone.
Trigger warnings: N/A.
You’ll like this if… You have questions about having a relationship with God or if you’re looking for a practical starting point.

Wednesday #CoffeeTimePrayer #devo

CTf

Knowing God

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NRSV

Last night I read the above passage in Second Corinthians and it made me wonder why we so often experience our faiths as limiting rather than freeing. Why do we experience faith as burdensome, as hard work? Could it be that what tires us out, what weighs us down is not our faith, but our resistance to believing more fully? We know that we are not of this world – but do we know it? Do we understand that there is a tension between who we are, whose we are, and the world we’re living in?

A few weeks ago, I borrowed John Burke’s book Soul Revolution from a friend. The book is structured around something Burke calls the “60/60 experiment” – a challenge to think about God at least one minute out of every sixty, and to do this daily for at least two months. Burke’s experiment is a fresh take on Frank Laubach’s “the game with minutes” (where the aim is to think about God one second out of every minute), which was itself based on Brother Lawrence’s habit of practising the presence of God. The basic idea is to spend more time engaging with God, to involve him in every aspect of your life and not just “restrict him” to quiet time, prayer, Bible studies, small group meetings or church.

Laubach noted that we can hardly expect the world to change when we – the Christians – are more preoccupied with it than with God. I think this is true of our spiritual lives as well: we can hardly expect to be changed by God if we don’t know him. Perhaps this is the root of this exhausting tension; perhaps the problem is simply that we don’t spend enough time with God. How quickly a day flies by; how often you find yourself at the end of it, muttering a short conciliatory prayer before collapsing into sleep. If we are called to live for Christ, to follow him (Matthew 16:24), we will never be able to “get by” spiritually with a half-hour of Bible study here and an hour of church there. That’s why we’re so tired – not because we do too much, as the enemy would have us believe. but because don’t spend enough time with God to experience his peace, his riches, his mercy, his friendship. We’re losing out!

In that spirit, why don’t we try the 60/60 experiment or the game with minutes? We can literally start right this minute – all we really need is the perseverance to try and to keep trying when we fail. Today, wherever you go, whatever you do, keep your mind on God as often as you can. Once a minute; at least once an hour. You don’t have to stop and offer a formal prayer, although you could do that; just remind yourself, Hey, God’s here. I’m doing this with him. We’ll check back in with each other in a few weeks and see how it’s gone. But I think it’s safe to say that we can expect the goodness and fullness of God – and isn’t he worth it?

Let’s pray:

For you are great and do wondrous things;

you alone are God.

Teach me your way, O Lord,

that I may walk in your truth;

give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

(Psalm 86:10-11 NRSV)


Here are a few resources:

There’s an app for the 60/60 experiment to remind you to “think God” once every sixty minutes.

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.scimsoft.soulrevolution

App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/soul-revolution/id550338708?mt=8

I encourage you to check out Frank Laubach’s insightul booklet on “the game with minutes” – you can download it here, in .pdf format: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/469660/frank_laubach_-_the_game_with_minutes.pdf

A collection of his writings is also available, also in .pdf format: http://www.dunedin.elim.org.nz/uploads/1/2/7/8/12786940/frank_laubach_-_letters_by_a_modern_mystic.pdf

Brother Lawrence’s book is available for download here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/lawrence/practice.pdf