Saturday, May 7, 2016

"BROKEN HALLELUJAHS" BY BETH SLEVCOVE - WOW!

"Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all."  (I Thessalonians 5:14 New King James Version)

I just finished reading "Broken Hallelujahs" by Beth Allen Slevcove.  It's a brand new book (copyright 2016) published by InterVarsity Press. 

Wow.

It's a paperback of around two hundred pages and in many respects an "easy read".  Yet, it's the kind of book that (in a good way) can "rock your world".  I was unfamiliar with Beth Allen Slevcove, a Spiritual Director and a Lutheran from San Deigo, California.  I'm one of those former Roman Catholics who couldn't get far enough away from liturgical churches and traditions once I "got saved" over forty years ago.  And, after having spent many years in evangelical and classical Pentecostal circles, I'm one of those who is very comfortable with certain spiritual and secular practices and very uncomfortable with certain others.  Lutheran Beth Slevcove is one for whom liturgical services and practices are very imporant and very much part of her world.  In the book, she also speaks positively about the practice of "running with the bulls" in Pamplona, Spain, getting a tattoo, and a few other such practices.  Ordinarily, speaking positively of such matters would make most Assemblies of God ministers and churchgoers over the age of fifty want to run, not with the bulls, but as far away from these topics as possible!   Although, I went back to the practice of observing Advent about twenty years ago and back to the practice of observing Lent about ten years ago,  much about "liturgical worship" and about earthy and funky practices makes me want to say, "thanks but no thanks" and to safely retreat into my own private world.  But God has been stretching me over the past several years in ways I'd never have imagined or chosen.  I often do say I'm a person who is both unconventional and eccentric.  My sense is that Beth Slevcove is unconventional and eccentric, as well.  I'm glad I didn't put her book down when parts of it felt uncomfortable or weird.  I'm glad I read the whole book.  I suspect it's one of those kind of books that I'll read again and again and again over the next few years, and I'll probably get something new and different out of "Broken Hallelujahs" each time I do.

I wish this book was available for me to read six years ago.  It's mainly about the losses we experience in life that often create doubt, anger with God, and loss of faith.  It's about the whole process of trying to cope with disappointment with God and horrific and unfair circumstances.  It's about the ugly pain of grief that well meaning friends often make much worse by some of the inappropriate things they say.  She has real trouble with the Christian phrase, "Let go and let God".  I'll save what she says about it for when you read the book!  I actually don't have any problems with, "Let go and let God" but there are a number of phrases that nearly sent me over the edge after the small church I pastored was closed and I found myself out of the ministry, working a low-paying secular job and feeling very much lost and displaced.  I recoiled at statements such as, "Move on"..."Get over it"..."I did it, why can't you?"... and so many others.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I do understand that friends, relatives, and colleagues who said these things honestly meant well.  I'm ashamed of the fact that in my early days of ministry, I sometimes said very stupid and insensitive things to people who were grieving.  I did receive a "crash course" in how difficult grief is when my brother died unexpectedly in 1983.  Six months later, I went through a terrible depression.  The Lord revealed to me it was grief, and it was normal, and it was something I'd have to walk through. 

Ironically, Beth Slevcove also walked through the death of her brother, which was an enormous loss for her.  I won't spoil the book for you, I'll let you read it.  She shares a lot of her own disappointments, pain, and losses.  She shares what she learned, what worked to get her through the difficult and dark times and what didn't work.  The book is made up of twenty-six mostly short chapters.  At the end of each chapter is homework for you to do, if you like, but she makes it clear early in the book that if you don't care for that sort of thing and want to skip the exercises at the end of the chapters, that's fine.  She admitted that when she reads books with homework at the end of the chapters, she usually skips it and doesn't find it helpful.  Boy, did I like her honesty!


Yes, it's a book about grief and loss, but some of what she writes is very funny!  At times, I was just cracking up laughing!  At other times, I was just very quiet and reflective.  For me, the best parts of "Broken Hallelujahs" were the first few chapters and the last few chapters.  I found the middle difficult and more challenging.  Yet, that even fits something she wrote about "the U-bend of life" and I won't spoil that, either; I'll let you read it.

Listen, this book cost me around fifteen bucks and it was well worth it.  Pastors, it's well worth the read, and it's the kind of book you'd want to give to someone going through a difficult time with grief and loss.  I can't stress enough, get "Broken Hallelujahs" and read it!

2 comments:

Mike Swift said...

Bob,
As you may already know me as "Mikey"- I am one of the fellow members of the "Refuge AG" from "google groups". I know your story, at least the most recent several years Pastor Bob, and have to say you have had a "rough ride on the Rodeo Bull"- and having been tossed to the ground here and there, it isn't easy to pick yourself up and get back at it as if nothing happened, except a few cracked ribs, a broken femur and or, fractured collar-bone. When in that state,the last thing you want to hear is "get on with life". I guess what I'm trying to say is that your commentary is so well written, that I'm going to read that book too. If i may say Bob, i hope you never feel displaced again, because your calling is and will always be-behind the pen and not the plow. You are a gifted writer,and your comments of Slecove's book tell us how much it related to your life and not just in the way others interact with you along the journey, but what they Say as well-hopefully with 'good' intentions, intertwined with a bit of humor to soften the sting of life's painful episodes. Whenever people say the wrong things with 'good intentions'-there are two verses in the Bible= both in the New Testament, in the book of James and the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus said that "It doesn't matter what one eats or, what goes into his mouth, but what comes out of it, for whatever comes out of the mouth-comes from the heart, and also James tells us that "the tongue is a fire, and untamed, sets the course of life and lights the fires of hell upon it, Now, that roughly said, not word for word, I fail miserably in that category of my memory, But i can and will say personally, that in my life, i have failed miserably again and again, but again i say, to all i know and especially to you pastor Bob, another 'secular' quote that remains one of my favorites from Frank Capra's "It's a wonderful Life"..."No man is a failure who has friends, and you have alot of friends out there Bob,- keep writing, i enjoy it.

Bob Baril said...

Mike Swift,

Thank you for those very kind words. Incidentally, I love that message of the film, "It's a Wonderful Life". God bless you.

BOB BARIL