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Monday, January 26, 2009

RevGalBookPals: Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous

Welcome to our RevGalBookPal's discussion of Joy Jordan-Lake's book, Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous: Ten Alarming Words of Faith.

Milton Brasher-Cunningham of Don't Eat Alone recommended this book a few months ago--he and his wife, Ginger, know the author--and because I found the title captivating, I ordered it.

(I'm puzzled about this book cover from Amazon, which uses the world "Challenging" in the subtitle rather than "Alarming," but like the cover image of standing on a diving board, ready to jump or dive off backwards.)

Though short, this book runs deep. Each chapter explores an alarming word of faith. At the end of the chapters you'll find a section of discussion questions (entitled "Living into Those Alarming Words"), four to ten for each word, which would be useful for personal reflection or for use by a group. I could certainly imagine designing a retreat or a ten session class around Jordan-Lake's material.

I will share with you quotes from selected chapters, as well as sample discussion questions to go with them, but the real riches of the book come in the longer stories from Joy's life, which I cannot excerpt fully here. A Southerner by heritage, she had the experience of living in the Boston area as a graduate student and pastor, and now lives outside Nashville. Having shared her experience of being a stranger in a strange land (in my case a Virginian moving to Maine), many of her thoughts have particular resonance for me.

From the chapter "Resurrection"--

There are ends, but also beginnings.
I believe in all the cracks in my own plaster and the rotting it hides, the moldering holes in my heart.
I believe fair-haired saints can become addicted to meth.
But I also believe in gluttonous worms who gorge themselves drunk on my garden's best leaves, bed themselves down on tree twigs, then wake up in spring with bold, bright-colored wings.

And from the questions for that chapter:

Thinking about your own past, what is appealing about a death of the old life and starting over? Is anything about that idea disturbing?

From the chapter "Abundance"--

It helps me to think of all money as Monopoly tender. As if it's play money, only mine for the course of the game, and not necessarily to be used for buying Park Place, then annihilating other players for daring to set their metal dog on what is mine. Very, VERY mine, as my three-year-old might say.

And from the questions for that chapter:

Read the parable of the rich man with his bigger and better barns in Luke 12:16-21. If you were to set this story in a contemporary context, what would replace the barns?

From the chapter "Holiness"--

Some of us learn about holiness through what we know about the sullied state, learn about purity through shame. It makes no sense that we could come to know holiness, the living God, by excavating the dead, carefully hidden parts of ourselves. Yet Jesus calls out to what's been forced on us, and the fires of goodness, of holiness, burn away the lie we'd put on and belted and buckled: that we're ruined, sullied, worthless.

And from the questions for that chapter:

Does the word holiness have positive connotations for you? Along these lines, if holiness were a person, what would he or she look like?

And finally, from the chapter "Blessedness"--

What are labels for if not to designate and divide and point out? Our mother's linen closet bore labels every eight inches on every shelf: fitted single bedsheets, baby blankets, flat queen bedsheets, pillowcases. Labels were how you knew what you were dealing with, weren't they? A fitted twin sheet or a first-cabin redneck. It was helpful to know.

And from the questions for that chapter:

Describe a time when someone else made assumptions about you that were wrong, and perhaps offensive. What about a time you made assumptions about someone else?

If you've had a chance to read the book, I hope you'll share your responses in the comments, and if not, I highly recommend it. If you click on the title link above and purchase the book through, RevGalBlogPals will receive a portion of the sale.


  1. I bought this book and have started reading it. However I had to put it aside for other work situations. Dadgumit, I liked it.

    I appreciated her openness and honesty about her struggle with Jesus' sayings. I am a Southerner by birth and life,and can relate to some of the things she says.

    Now, as soon as I get these new ministry situations started, I'll finish the book.

    Buy the book, read this book.

  2. I know, I was reading merrily the first part of January while on vacation, and then I came back and got bogged down. but today I have a relatively free day, and I'm hoping to actually finish this before too long.

    so I'll be back.

    I am liking this; the chapter on REsurrection, for some reason, didn't quite hook me. But when I got to wisdom: that's when I really started going in.

    I like the idea of doing the book with a retreat.

  3. I have the book, have started reading it and will check in later with more comments. For now, I have a busy day ahead which includes a consult with a new doc re: occasional re-occurrences of the headache monster, followed by yoga (which seems appropriate somehow).

    Anyway - I am planning to use the book through Lent. Two words per week. I'm only at the very beginning of planning, but I like the book so much that I want to share some of the best parts in sermons during Lent. Again, appropriate, because really - Lent is intended to make us a bit uncomfortable, unsettled, and maybe even a bit nervous. the book couldn't be timed better.

  4. Sue, that is a great idea.
    As I read the first chapter, "Resurrection," I felt discomfited--was this really a book that spoke to me, I wondered? But it did, it did. And we do need to be unsettled by the gospel.

  5. oh, I like Sue's idea of using the book through Lent!

    my book, by the way, is "alarming" not "challenging", and the questions are at the very back, not the back of each chapter.

  6. Hmmm, I thought that's what I said, Diane, but perhaps it was misleading. Yes, they come in a separate section after ALL the chapters.

  7. Well, poo. I bought this book weeks ago with a Christmas gift cert to Amazon and have not read it! I've had a number of Interlibrary Loan books come in, and they have a shorter checkout period, so I've been reading madly through them. And this discussion sneaked up on me.

    BUT. I will read this SOON, and I will comment over here when I do.
    I am particularly fascinated about the Abundance chapter and the parable of the barns. Maybe that'll be my lunchtime reading?

  8. I did go home and read the Abundance chapter! I am struck by how timely this is for me, given the Sunday School talk I gave yesterday. I wrote about it
    here. I'll be finishing this one soon. I'm glad for the idea of using it during Lent, too.

  9. I finished this book this morning and spent the day traveling...

    I sort of liked the approach, and also thought it would make a good Lent devotional book.

    I want to think more about these questions but can't right now...i'll be back tomorrow. thanks for hosting, SB!

  10. Teri, I think it would make a good Lenten discussion book or a good Sunday school discussion book.

    Probably my favorite chapter of the book was community. It rang so true for me and gave me great comfort as well as put thoughts into words that I have thought all along but couldn't articulate quite as well as the author.

    Sorry I am a day late to the discussion.


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