Monday, April 18, 2022

Being There

Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting, Dave Furman (Crossway, 2016)

Are you walking alongside people who are suffering? Perhaps your friend has cancer, your spouse has a disability, your sister struggles with infertility, your work friend has recently lost their parents, or you have a pastoral care role in your church. How do you care for people well and wisely, bringing the aroma of Christ with you?
“The goal of this entire book is to point you to Jesus, who is your only hope, and to walk you through some ways you can love those who hurt with the strength God provides.“ (p. 19)
Dave Furman is a pastor, married with four children, and has lived with intensive nerve pain in his arms for over ten years. He cannot do many things, like hold his children or help with wife with practical tasks, and needs assistance with tasks like putting on his shoes.
“I am writing out of my experience of being helped in incredible ways by others in my disability… This is not another book about suffering for the one who suffers. It’s a book for everyone who knows people who suffer from pain and loss and wants to see the Rock of Ages underneath their feet. I think it’s safe to say that this is a book for all of us.” (p. 18)
The first two chapters give an anchor point. Firstly, he allows the carer to grieve their loss in another’s pain. We can grieve the circumstance, and weep at what we might give up to serve another, yet still have hope that sustains us through it all.

Secondly, Furman encourages the carer to invest in their own relationship with God. Only if we are anchored in Christ and his certain hope can we keep helping, but if we are not walking with God, we will have no strength to help. “Your strength to care for the hurting comes directly from Christ.” (p. 38)

The remainder of the chapters explore practical ways to help those who hurt. These include:
  • Being a faithful friend. This includes being silent when needed, sticking around for the long term, being honest about your own life and challenges, forgiving their failings when they are rude, and finding things to laugh about as appropriate. 
  • Speaking language of hope. This book is aimed at Christians and he gives some excellent practical examples about how to do this, but he does also address how to speak to unbelievers. 
  • Serving like Jesus. Being willing to do the menial tasks, being careful with our words, and analysing our hearts to see if we are serving to be noticed and thanked. 
  • Praying for the sufferer, including prayer for healing, and encouraging the sufferer to persist in prayer as well. 
  • Being able to have hard conversations, for “when you are caring for the hurting, it is inevitable that their circumstances will bring out their sin”. He encourages us to lovingly and carefully rebuke and bring them to Christ. 
  • A list of things not to do. There are similarities here with Nancy Guthrie’s What Grieving People Wish You Knew...  These include don’t be the fix it person, don’t compare, don’t make it their identity, don’t be hyper spiritual and don’t pledge general non-specific help. 
  • The church’s role in graciously pursuing and caring for the hurting. 
I really appreciated his honest conclusion:
"I hope you’re not disappointed after reading this book to discover that I don’t have the perfect equation for loving the hurting. There’s no recipe you can follow that will give you the finished product in the precise way you’d like. This side of heaven there will be pain and sorrow, and we will at times be helpful and at other times we will be hurtful. Only Jesus perfectly loves the hurting." (pp. 144-145).
This is a wise and honest guide about the challenge of being a helper, with the encouragement to find your strength in Jesus, who leads us in the way of service.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Andy Weir

I was excited to discover Andy Weir has written two books since The Martian

Project Hail Mary

The most recent release, Project Hail Mary, is fantastic. Set in space, it’s as intelligent and creative as The Martian. Ryland Grace wakes up from a long coma, with no knowledge of who he is or where he is. It becomes apparent though that he is a scientist, and through the slow retrieval of his memory as well as applying his extensive knowledge base, he establishes he’s a very long way from earth. Woven throughout the current timeline is the history of how he got there. An extinction level event threatened earth, and he became one of the experts on the cause and hopeful solution. Now it seems that entire future of humanity rests on this expedition, yet he is alone, with limited resources. Or is he? 

Not wanting to give more of the story away than the back cover does, I’m hesitant to say more. But I will say this is an inventive and clever book. It’s fun, it’s gripping, and while clearly space fantasy, it also it has a touch of realism. You feel like it just might happen. There’s lots of science, maths, engineering, and language to interest, as well as humour and an understanding of how people work. Proving that Weir can write from the perspective of a variety of characters (contrast below), this one has no swearing.

I couldn’t put it down, neither could Miss 16. I wouldn’t be surprised if this also is turned into a movie, like The Martian.


While still an interesting story, I didn’t think this was as good as either of his other two. Based on the 
moon settlement of Artemis - Jazz is a smuggler. She has grown up there, never having lived on earth. She is asked to pull off a big job for a local high flyer, in the hope of disrupting the monopoly that supplies the settlement’s air supply. Yet Jazz gets more than she bargained for, and finds herself in the middle of a major run in with the mob. Weir has concocted an interesting idea of what a moon settlement could like like, with a stable population, mainly catering to industry and tourists. His scientific knowledge again comes to the fore as he considers the impact of living on the moon on the human body, on industry, as well as the reality of base human nature. For those that like to know: it’s pretty crass throughout with a fair amount of swearing and sexual references.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Secrets of Dumbledore

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore 

Ms 14 and I had a very enjoyable time seeing the new Fantastic Beasts movie, the third in the series: The Secrets of Dumbledore.

You definitely want to have seen the first two to know the story and characters, and it picks up soon after the second movie left off, where Grindelwald has gained power, enticing Queenie to go with him, and the revelation that Credence is a Dumbledore.

As we open, Grindelwald (now Mads Mikkelsen, rather than Johnny Depp) is trying to gain power of the wizarding world, building a support base mainly through Germany. The allusions to the Third Reich here are not subtle.

Dumbledore (Jude Law) gathers a slightly odd, unlikely team together to try to stop him. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) returns in his slightly baffled, endearing way, accompanied by his brother Theseus, assistant Bunty, and Muggle baker Jacob. They are joined by a new American Charms Professor Lally, and wizard Yusuf.

Fans who love the creatures will appreciate the return of Niffler Teddy, always gathering up shiny objects; and Pickett, the Bowtruckle who lives in Newt’s pocket. One key addition is the Qilin, who is said to be able to identify a pure heart. The magical creatures aren’t as prevalent in this movie as in previous ones, although they do provide some fun entertainment along the way.

It’s your standard Wizarding World good vs evil story, and it’s an enjoyable one. People have to consider the actions of their past, and what it means to make the right choice rather than the easy one. There have also been rumours circulating for years about Dumbledore’s sexuality, and it is made more clear in this movie.

It’s a satisfying ending too. While it’s rumoured there will be five movies all up, this didn’t leave you hanging. 

A solid addition to the series, one that fans are likely to appreciate and enjoy.

I was a guest of Universal Pictures Australia.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Who am I and why do I matter?

Who Am I and Why Do I Matter? Chris Morphew (Good Book Company, 2022)

If you spend time with nine-to-thirteen-year-olds, you know they are asking big questions. Sure, they may not actually verbalise them—but there is a lot they are thinking about: Am I loved? Do I matter? Who can I trust? Does the world make sense?

Although, let’s be honest, these are questions we all ask. That’s why Chris Morphew’s Who Am I and Why Do I Matter? is so helpful.

Morphew dives right in, acknowledging his readers have valid queries and important things to ponder. While aimed at tweens, this could also be appealing to older teenagers, and helpful for parents and youth group leaders. I certainly appreciated it.

He begins by considering the usual ways people try to answer these questions:
  • Perhaps I matter because of what I have, or how I look, or what I do;
  • Maybe I just need to be true to myself and do what makes me happy; or
  • I should just listen to what others say about me.
Without being remotely condescending, he then clearly exposes the faults in each of these myths. The reader is led to wonder where they might go for answers:
[W]hat we really need is something bigger than ourselves, bigger than people, to lead us and guide us. Which brings us to God. (38)
From here, Morphew winsomely explains the gospel message—God loves us personally:
God doesn’t just say people matter.
He says you matter.

God doesn’t just love people.
He loves you.

God doesn’t just invite people into his incredible, glorious purpose and plan for the world.
He invites you.” (49)
Whether we think we’re pretty good, or we despair at the ways we mess up, Jesus came to die for us: “Without Jesus, everyone is lost. But with Jesus, anyone can be found.” (58)

Morphew explicitly names the challenges young people face today and provides the clear solution in Jesus:
The world is full of voices telling you who you are, and who you should be.
Voices telling you that you don’t measure up.
Voices telling you that you need to prove yourself.
Voices telling you that if you just buy this new thing, or have this new experience, or … maybe then it will all make sense, and you can finally be that happy, fulfilled self that the world keeps promising you.

And it’s exhausting, right?
And, more than that, it’s a lie.

But the incredible news is that Jesus offers you a better way. (65-66)
The remainder of the book considers what it looks like practically to believe in Jesus, to trust him, and to let him shape you. Morphew discusses forming good habits, reading God’s word, and resting. As he does so, Morphew manages to balance honesty with humour, and challenging words with comforting truths. Rather than talking down to his audience, he openly addresses questions, and is frank about some of the challenges of following Jesus. He has a clear desire for his reader to know Jesus—to grasp they have purpose and value because they are loved and precious to him. Readers will sense he actually cares.

Morphew is an Australian author and chaplain, and clearly understands tweens. Perhaps an extra drawcard for younger readers is Morphew authored some of the Zac Power books. It is probably pitched more at the upper end of the nine-to-thirteen-year-old age group, because of the vocabulary and comments about social media. Or maybe it’s just that I hold out hope that under 12s aren’t on social media platforms. Who Am I and Why Do I Matter? is one of four in a “Big Questions” series. I am now keen to read the others.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 
Review first published on TGCA