Thursday, December 20, 2018

READING FOR THE NEW YEAR


Among the readings I’ve been doing to prepare for the New Year is the recently published book, A Resurrection-Shaped Life, Dying and Rising on Planet Earth by the Rt. Rev. Jake Owensby, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana. The book arrived two days ago, and I didn’t put it down until I finished it early this morning.

A Resurrection-Shaped Life arrives at the dawn of the New Year and is a wise, profound introduction to the idea of recovering what Bishop Owensby describes as our resurrected Self. The 110-page book of hope and insight gives Christian readers, emergent and seasoned, a sense of dying and rising again and again, moving from their brokenness and past shame and failures, through Christ’s grace, to become transformed humans. I was reminded of the Scottish preacher George MacDonald’s words in an anthology of his work by C.S. Lewis: “We die daily. Happy are those who come to life as well…”

For those who belong to this “pain avoidant culture,” as Bishop Owensby defines our present-day country, this book isn’t a panacea for sufferers who want to avoid suffering at any cost, but, instead, offers a message of hope for those of us who often forget that the cross is the symbol of our redemption. Owensby suggests that we devote ourselves to a higher purpose, citing Biblical stories, as well as quotations from contemporary authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, the author of The Outliers, a book that reaffirms what I believe as a writer — to master anything (including spiritual peace), ten thousand hours of practice are required to reach one’s higher purpose… and suffering is always a part of that practice!

Bishop Owensby reflects compassion and empathy but does not sugar-coat his spirituality, citing examples in his own life that reveal his humanity. His writing is not dogmatic but easily conveys his faith and transformation from issues of shame and blame to a believer in forgiveness and justice. Owensby shows us that there is a power in the universe greater than we are and greater than the afflictions we're suffering. He also presents a vision of the destiny we want to live out. 

As one who can readily identify with his story of abuse, I especially appreciate his candor about the messiness of our lives and am reminded of reading The Drama of the Gifted Child by the Swiss psychotherapist, Alice Miller. A close friend asked me what the book was about, and I replied: “Grandiosity,” which is not the theme of this book at all! I had subconsciously avoided its true meaning, which was to offer consolation and hope to those who had been abused as children. My friend was astonished and suggested I re-read this book about surviving an abusive childhood to overcome feelings of alienation and to discover a higher purpose.


I’m accustomed to writing reviews in which I cite numerous passages by the author, but in respect for Abingdon’s copyright rules, I have only briefly reviewed this Christmas/New Year’s gift of witness from Bishop Owensby — his meditations, spoken from the heart of his own experience, will help readers achieve transfigured lives of intimacy and resurrection with the risen Christ.


This is an honest and life-changing book by the enlightened leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana.



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