I’m sure I enjoyed this book so much because I can insert myself right in with the mix of characters. Our small town church is right in the middle of calling a pastor and the vacancy pastor we are lucky to have makes it obvious how he cares for those around him. I noted and highlighted throughout this book (as usual). Love Big Be Well fits perfectly as the title and summary of this book by Winn Collier. I found little nuggets of goodness about:
the role of a pastor,
the role of church,
the role of congregation members,
enjoying/living/achieving/doing life with the people you share a pew with or the people you share breathing space with,
the role of emotions and the church,
The nuggets of goodness flow from the pen of a fictional pastor, Jonas, as he writes to his congregation. The congregation, after drowning in a sea of resumes, is desperate to find the right candidate. The congregation pleads with the candidates “Or might we hope that our church could be a place where you’d settle in with us and love alongside us, cry with us and curse the darkness with us, and remind us how much God’s crazy about us?” A few letters down the road Jonas writes:
The role of the church, pastor, and congregation members
Through these fictional characters the author has identified and clearly articulated frustrations in the church that can not be communicated through statistics. In fact the reliance and obsessions with statistics and numbers instead of a focus on people is a problem addressed so tenderly, sometimes humorously, and accurately in the book. The character of Jonas, the pastor, later speaks of his struggle with congregations who emphasize numbers instead of member well being. Jonas writes:
“But it didn’t’ take long to figure out that lots of churches don’t actually want a pastor. They want a leadership coach or a fundraiser executive or a consultant to mastermind a strategic takeover (often performed under the moniker of evangelism or missional engagement). In these scheme, there’s little room for praying and gospel storytelling, for conversations requiring the slow space needed if we’re to listen to love. All the things I thought I had been called to do were now ancillary. They barely registered on my job description.”
I have this quote about living/loving/achieving/doing life on my kitchen chalkboard right now. It especially rings true because we just moved and are searching for our little part of the world to love on. Jonas writes about a group who has gotten together in a coffee shop and walked through the high points and the dark valleys of life together.
“While it’s important to locate good coffee it’s essential to find good people whose love for their little nook of the world leaves you wanting to love your little nook better.”
Good Coffee and Good people make life a little sweeter. I learned that lesson around my great-grandmas kitchen table where there was always coffee, sometimes cheese cubes with pretzel sticks, usually (hopefully) homemade bread, sometimes heavy whipping cream or sometimes half and half, always chatter, and always color crayons in a cool whip container. In her way she made her little nook of the world better.
Throughout the whole book their are nuggets about how to love the people we share air with. The illustration of a momma bird and her baby is beautiful and makes me wish I could paint so I could have a visual reminder of it on my wall.
“Eventually, I walked on. I don’t know the fledglings fate, bt I do know that momma blue did all she could manage. She couldn’t return her chick to safety. She could only circle near, watch with care, and offer the best she could give, no matter how meager. So she stayed close and hoped favor would bend their way. I think this is how it is for most of us who love someone or carry concern for this world. We will never be able to right all wrongs or heal every wound. We cannot keep harm from those dearest to us. To love is to do our best and then hope, to have faith. Often, love means simply circling and staying near-trusting that this will somehow prove enough.”
We wish we could right all the bad in the world for the people we love. But we cannot. We can circle around those we love even if it doesn’t seem like much it is what we can do. It’s messy, it’s hard, but there is beauty found in it.
Emotions and The Church Year
The author also writes about emotions and the church. As someone who has a hard time finding women’s ministries that I can engage in this is near and dear to my heart. Emotions play to large a role in people’s faith. Emotions are important. Emotions are given by God but emotions should not have the final say.
“the gifts of the church year that we often overlook: how it gives us a way to practice our faith even when we don’t feel our faith. We are not asked come Feb or March whether or not we’d like to repent and make room for God. Lent simply instructs us to get to it. No one asks us whether or not we are feeling up to celebrating Easter. Were not asked to peer deep inside to see if our souls feel like throwing a drain-the-bank party. No Easter simply hands us a fifty-day feast and says, Go do joy.
Yes, our feelings are important, essential, but we give them too much say. For many of us, our feelings have gotten a little big for their britches.”
I know we should do it. I know it’s good for us. That’s pretty much all I know about prayer. I don’t know how it works. I don’t know how to do it well. I know the Lord’s prayer. Prayer is a mystery of the church. In our results soaked society this is an idea to ponder:
“To borrow Luther’s words, ‘Even if we don’t catch anything, we come back different than when we left’. Mainly what I’m saying is this. Relax. Prayer is not something we accomplish; it’s something we enter. It’s pretty darn hard to do prayer wrong.”
By no means is this a comprehensive book review. I hope it makes you want to go and pick it up, read it for yourself, message me your thoughts on the ideas brought up.
ps. this really isn’t a book review. I’m not skilled at reviewing books or calling them good or bad. Good or bad I like to flesh out, highlight, or think through ideas presented in writing.