Three worthy new books: 7-8-11
One with the burned land: 7-11-11

Gaining insights from waiting: 7-9/10-11

We've all been there -- in the waiting place.

The waiting place We've waited to be not seven and a half years old but eight.

We've waited to finish school and begin "real life," as if school had been something else.

We've waited for love, for success, for progress, for prayers to be answered.

Eileen Button, a columnist for the Flint, Mich., Journal, has been in all those waiting places, too, and many more. (She's pictured below.)

In her charming, kicky, surprising and moving new book, The Waiting Place, she lets us wait with her and learn what she has learned.

Eileen understands that truth often gets communicated by way of story telling. And she's a wonderful story teller.

You may wonder why you would care about the stories of a Michigan columnist, stories of her childhood, her pastor husband, her three children (one of whom almost didn't survive infancy), her mother, her father, their divorce. But the truth is that these stories really are about you and me.

They hold up a mirror into which we can see ourselves more clearly and begin to understand that faith is not about having all the answers. Rather, it's about being able to live confidently with the questions.

EileenButton Eileen grew up Catholic in the Rochester, N.Y., area and today is married to a Free Methodist pastor. She takes her Christian faith seriously. Which means she sometimes raises an eyebrow at God, sometimes asks God what in the world he thinks he's doing, sometimes says she just doesn't get it. And sometimes she even buys into shallow bumpersticker theology, as in, "I know he doesn't give us more than we can handle."

And yet what is precious and moving about this book is its honesty, often made tender with humor.

Now and then she settles for an easy phrase, a cliche that was fresh once but now has lost its freshness. But it doesn't happen often and she offers enough fresh images that I soon forgave her for that.

There is a certain richness and rawness to Eileen's writing, and you will want to know how her baby boy survives being born with a condition in which his upper and lower esophagus failed to connect. You will care about why her husband, half naked, is racing down the street at 4 a.m. in a van trying to stop a girl who, he thought, swiped a chair out of that van. You may even recognize yourself in some of the church members who can be cruel to others, including to a pastor who is on the edge of professional burnout. And you will have ah-ha moments when you find out why she calls the church her husband pastors his mistress.

This is a collection of essays that will change your heart after it complicates your thinking.

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A top Kremlin official says God sent Vladimir Putin to lead Russia. Dang. Whatever happened to all those godless Communists there whom everyone here loved to hate? Come on, God, enough with the whiplash.

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Transitions: Leading Churches Through Change, edited by David N. Mosser. (Yes, more than one book here today.) Every Christian church is either changing or dying. Sometimes both. But if they aren't changing in response to the needs to people both inside and outside the congregation, they aren't long for this world. This collection of helpful essays gives pastors and other church leaders some good insights into how to manage change, how to guide it and not let it run amok. The essays by experienced pastors, theologians and others tackle issues having to do with clergy in crisis as well as congregations that have run into chaos or simply are trying to adapt to changing circumstances. Anyone seeking to understand transition in congregations and the lives of their leaders will be wiser once having digested these essays.


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