September 17, 2013

Glimpses of Grace: The Book Review that Nearly Never Was

So, a friend of mine asked me if I could review his wife’s new book some time ago. He even gave me a free copy to sweeten the deal! I promptly lost the copy somewhere between the US and the UK, and so I sent an email and was graciously sent a pdf copy. I promptly managed to delete that email (I have no idea)! Finally, in frustration (at myself) I ordered (and paid for) my own copy through Kindle this week and set about reading it before my iPhone was hit by a freak burst of lightning, or I tripped up the stairs, fell into my bathroom door, stumbled toward the toilet, dropped it into the bowl and knocked my head on the flush on the way down (feasible, I think given my history with this particular book).

As I began this book, I was quietly praying that it was going to be good. Nothing quashes friendship (I imagine) quite like discovering that the book written by the wife of a good friend really sucks, and not only that, you are then obligated to review it in a not so positive light (or lie)! So here it is at last. A review of "Glimpses Of Grace" by Gloria Furman.

The first thing to say, and to my immense relief, is that the book definitely does not suck (and that is not a lie, you’ll be pleased to hear). The byline is “Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home”and Gloria sets her stall out very early on.

“There are lots of half-baked spiritual ideas that masquerade as Christian theology. How can we tell the difference? This book is not so much a critique of these philosophies but a description of the distinctly Christian hope of God’s glory and how it relates to the home.”

The book is laid out in two, clear parts: (1) Your Foundation in the Mundane. (2) Your Miraculous in the Mundane. It is then finished off with a neat conclusion. What I appreciate about this book, particularly in the first section, is its simple, gospel call from start to finish. As she states: “Without clarity on the gospel, how will we know how to treasure it in our homes?” I imagine that anybody looking for a “how to” manual is probably going to be disappointed, because this is a book that constantly (and correctly) points us back to Christ and the gospel in all of our struggles.

The theological foundations that she takes the time to carefully commend in the first section are, to my mind at least, the great strength of this book. It just oozes gospel from every page. At times it felt like a piece of work out of the CCEF department (and I mean that as a compliment) aimed specifically for the homemaker (as she refers to herself) as it deals with the many issues around heart idols and gospel application, to the mundane task of being a mum, a wife, and a friend.

The second half was choc-full of illustrations from home life with her, Dave, and the kids. I was a bit choked up at one point reading about their personal struggles with Dave's chronic pain (but that is because I know them personally). The language was American (obviously) and the anecdotes were all family based, so I am uncertain as to what many struggling mums/carers/grandparents would make of this book in the schemes. I think they would struggle to connect. (Indeed, I have yet to come across an adequate/any gospel book that deals with the issue of single (grand)parenting and the scriptures). That's not the fault of this book, though. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Though the premise of the book may be Christian homemaker with husband and 2.4 (3) kids, there are still enough practical, biblical principles contained within it to recommend it as a broader challenge to the hearts of many of the single parent/carer/fostered/grandma type “families” we minister into every week. Her point is that the gospel speaks into the practicalities of all of life’s circumstances, particularly her family life. We may have to work harder to extrapolate principles in order to connect with our particular context, but they are still to be found by those with an open mind and a generous spirit. I have recommended that Miriam (my wife) read it for some female feedback.

All I can say is that as a family, we spent three weeks with the Furman’s last summer, so I was relieved that I didn’t find any anecdotes on annoying Brits that left toilet seats up, drank all their milk, and left their dishes in the sink.

Clear, concise, witty, honest and, above all, soundly biblical. This is a very good read. Warmly recommended.

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