Friday, May 30, 2008

Review: "The Sacred Echo"

Yes, I am an unrepentant bibliophile.

I have even been known to read on the toilet (as have you; confess!)
But I have also been know to read in the car...
...usually at stoplights.

But sometimes, like this time, I read while..

....on the freeway!

Yes, I was that stupid.

And yes, the book was that hard to put down.

Sometimes you just know that you have read a line that will echo for the rest of your life.
(And in this case, maybe even beyond).

You can underline it, circle it, draw three stars by it...whatever your preferred mode.
(Preferably not while driving).

I was tempted to do all three, but I didn't have to.
I will still have this sentence memorized in twenty years, and will still be quoting it, and drawing from it:

"Some prayers you don't need to write down to remember, and others you don't write down lest you remember."


With that kind of raw and passionate honesty/confession, Margaret Feinberg laces her book "The Sacred Echo."

One more.
I warn/promise that you have never said this, but you have felt it. THAT is a sign of a great writer; she is gifted with giving expression and outlet to something already in you:

"Though I pray repetitively, vehemently, I hear the thick silence, like that which follows the dropping of a heavy, leather-bound book onto a hard, wooden library floor."

If you have every truly and vulnerably prayed and listened prayerfully and carefully;
I make the case you have truly heard that silence.

Jesus did.

But by God's sacralizing grace; even (especially?) the silence is sacred echo.

The book's title deals with the way our prayer is a repeated/resonating offering; as is God's voice/Word to us. The "real beauty of prayer is not just in the request but in the repetition...
try to hear the echo--those moments when God speaks the same message again and again."

She addresses all the questions you are now asking (How about vain repetition? Why should we keep on praying when God knows all and has heard the first time?). What I love about Margaret is she doesn't always answer these least in tidy formula.

And the way she does submit a possible answer to the classic "Why does God repeat himself?" moves beyond the cliche and stereotyped answers you have heard (as true as the may be), and alone is worth the price of the book.

Just don't drive off the road.

Another quote such as "Surrender is not an exploit---something we do--as much as renovation---something done in us.

I knew that before I read the book.

Or did I?

I guess I really needed an echo. And that quote is part and parcel of an amazing story about Steve Saint (son of Nate) that will stretch you.

Repetition? Wouldn't that bug or bore God? Not if God is as "nudnik" as the bothersome nudnik widow in Jesus' parable who teaches us to pray.

Uh, read the book.


Feinberg's writing style is delightful and dovetails in and out of Scriptures and stories masterfully. In microcosm, she even unassumingly models and beautifully embeds her book with the same sacred pattern she detects in God's "repetitive" way with us; once she even begins a chapter in the exact same way she began an earlier chapter. It punched home the point like no other method could have; and was a huge hearing aid for me.

It came to me that God's loving repetitions, like Feinberg's chapters, are repetitive in a helical (helix-like) and concatenatory way; each repetition reverberates with new tones and nuances; all the while building on the original Voiceprint.

The chapters are so effectively titled by very short phrases that after one reading, I can recall and rejoice in most of the content merely by reading the table of contents page! (Such will greatly assist my freeway reading's safety factor).

How about more healing honesty:
"After years of prayer (for James), things only seem to get worse."

Can one say that...on an evangelical publishing house's paper and dime?

Thank God for Zondervan.

And she can be downright prophetic without an ounce of bitterness or namecalling:

"It saddens me that at times, this rich, powerful commission (The Great Commission) is reduced to nothing more than convincing someone to sign a prayer card, dunking them in water, and handing them a stack of self-help books."


Thank God for Zondervan,
and Margaret Feinberg, who is...

Honest without hubris;
real without being rude...or really fake;
transparent without being see-through;
vulnerable without being voyeuristic and tacky.

Perhaps her chapter "How Long?" was most moving.
In reading it, I think I recognized the full impact of the juxtaposition of that same biblical phrase into U2's song "40". The song begins with Psalm 40:1, "I waited patiently for the Lord.."; yet the chorus ineserts an ironic and sacred impatience: "How long to sing this song?" Anyone who has been to a U2 concert can testify to the sacred and literal echoes of fans singing/praying/echoing this question long after the band has left the stage.

Hear Bono's comments on this phenomenon is his "Introduction to the Psalms"
excerpted below. I had forgotten he even used 'echo' language and calls attention to the power of repetition. How Feinbergian(:

I hear echoes of the holy row...and Psalm
40 became the closing song at U2 shows and on hundreds of occasions, literally hundreds of thousands of people of every size and shape t-shirt have shouted back the refrain, pinched from Psalm 6: "'How long' (to sing this song)". I had thought of it as a nagging question - pulling at the hem of an invisible deity whose presence we glimpse only when we act in love. How long ... hunger? How long ... hatred? How long until creation grows up at the chaos of its precocious, hell-bent adolescence has been discarded? I thought it odd that the vocalising of such questions could bring such comfort; to me too.

It is Bono's/Feinberg's /God's subversive daringness to "vocalize the questions" that was "oddly (and deeply) comforting" to me. The bottom line message/echo for me in "The Sacred Echo" is:

"When you find your mind awakened by a Scripture that won't let your heart go, know there's a good chance God is speaking to you."

Without a hint of suggesting or selling a formula; but by the conversational laying bare her life, soul, and prayer journal; Margaret Feinberg was able to let God affirm the parallel but different ways I experience that awakening Echo.

That is sacred indeed.

So much so that I may hear God saying...again...that no matter how great a book is, I shouldn't read while driving.
Since I am still bibliophiliac, and always "pushing towards the unobvious,"
here are two other great books ...and very different from each other;
as well as from "The Sacred Echo,"

that also in some way deal with the Voice/Echo.

They re-sonate:

The Divine Voice: Christian Proclamation and the Theology of Sound
The Divine Voice: Christian Proclamation and the Theology of Sound by Stephen Webb

Summoned to Lead
Summoned to Lead by Leonard Sweet

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