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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Glorious Mess" (Mike Howerton)

TITLE: Glorious Mess: Encountering God's Relentless Grace for Imperfect People
AUTHOR: Mike Howerton
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012, (208 pages).

There is an energetic plea in this book, a five-sided plea to let God take care of us, no matter what conditions we are in. The author, a young pastor previously associated with the famous Saddleback Church, is now pastor in charge of a thriving West Coast congregation in Redmond, Washington. Based on the messed up life of Jonah who found God's grace, and more importantly God Himself, Howerton shares with us his take on how all of us in various ways are in a mess. If we try to handle our daily mess on our own strength, we are in for a gory and sorry end. If we learn to let God take care of us, accept our condition, and receive God's grace, it becomes a 'glorious mess.'

In Act One, Howerton proposes the need to listen to God's voice via two main ways. Firstly, we need to learn to listen to the way God speaks. In this he gives 7 guidelines on how to hear God. Secondly, and more importantly, we need to cultivate a listening disposition. Here, Howerton gives practical tips on avoiding the barriers to hearing God.

In Act Two, we are all tempted to run away from God just like the biblical character Jonah. He tries to convince us that such running is futile, and only increases our need to have a 'theological chiropractic' exercise. Without God, our mess remains a mess, even a greater mess.

In Act Three, Howerton shows us the way out of our follies. Firstly, he helps to identify the four major messes in our lives, like relational, family, silliness, and spiritual messes. Secondly, he gives us two ways to get out of this, through recognizing the cost of the things we need to leave behind, and through embracing the rewards if we do so. Lest readers think it is a me-initiative, this act of rescue is more often than not, initiated by God.

In Act Four, we listen and notice God on how He rescues us. We marvel at how God gives us a second chance. We learn to go beyond mere happiness to holy joy. We embrace the wonderful grace of God in our ordinary life.

In Act Five, we enter into the promise of God, and the promise of what this book tries to lead us toward: Seeing the glory of God despite of our messes in life.

Closing Thoughts

This is not a difficult book to read, but for some people who feel they are living a messed up life, it is deeply encouraging. Howerton's use of the Jonah story is the framework that pulls the whole book together. The book is riveting through the many stories Howerton shares, just like pastors tells stories during their sermons. It is humourous too, although some of the quips that are funny to some may not go down well with others, especially the part about his ex-girlfriend he called 'Gelda.' The things he wrote about this girl is unnecessary. Howerton could have been more gracious about the whole thing. It is nice to be humourous, but not at the expense of 'Gelda.'

More importantly, this book reminds us that in God, we are never alone. We are all writing our own stories whether we feel we are in a mess or not. The book is more than simply a book of our mess. It is a story of life within the greater story of God's purpose. It is a calling to individuals to participate in the greater story of the Kingdom of God. It is a story of a relentless pursuit of people by a heavenly Father. Relentless love. Amazing grace. Eternal love.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

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