Thursday, May 20, 2021

Book Review: YOU CAN TALK TO GOD LIKE THAT by Abby Norman

You Can Talk to God Like That: The Surprising Power of Lament to Save Your Faith
by Abby Norman
200 pages
Published May 18th, 2021 by Broadleaf Books 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Abby Norman is a pastor and a gifted writer and it shows. The first thing that jumped off the page as I started reading this book was Abby’s pastoral tone. She is not preaching at you about lament. She is coming alongside you to encourage you as she talks about how lament can draw us in closer to God.

Abby tweeted in December of 2020 that she didn't mean to write an increasingly relevant book, but she did! The past year and a half of dealing with the pandemic and the chaotic political nonsense, along with the ongoing violence against Black people by police officers, mass shootings… there is no shortage of things to lament. 

Abby is a great writer and I am sure she is a great pastor. Abby and I have been internet friends for longer than I can remember now, and I even got to meet her in person at Evolving Faith in 2018. She has been such an encouragement to me in ways big and small over the years. And I am so thankful she wrote this book! I think it could encourage a lot of people. I know it encouraged me. I ended up reading it in one sitting but I definitely want to go back through it and take my time with it.

One particularly moving part was when Abby talked about how we can hold hope for each other, and sometimes we need that because hope is too heavy for us sometimes.

My favorite part (if I have to choose just one thing) is the prayers Abby prays for her readers at the end of each chapter and at the end of the book. These prayers wash over me like the ones Sarah Bessey often prays for her readers and listeners. This is the prayer at the end of chapter 1:
“I pray that you are comforted. May the outpouring of your grief be accompanied by the outpouring of God’s love. May you work through the practice with patience and mercy for yourself and your circumstances. May your wounds be covered in balm. May you be close to God.”
And this one at the end of chapter 3:
“I know this can be scary. Not all of us have had a lot of practice talking back to God. As you embark on this exercise I pray that you land in the arms of a God who is good and holy and big enough to handle every single bit of your sorrow and rage. I pray that you would not be afraid of the strength of your own sorrows. I pray that you would land in strong arms.”
And also this one at the end of chapter 5:
“It is not lost on me that continually I am asking you to do hard things. This may be the hardest thing of all. Being wrong can be such a gift to us if only we embrace it. I pray that you will be so grounded in your belovedness that you will be open to the Holy Spirit changing your mind. I pray that you will be open to a bigger God, a bigger grace, a bigger community. May you experience your belovedness together.”
Then, at the very end of the book, she brought tears to my eyes as she prayed for us, her readers, in a closing benediction: 

“Imagine me in my collar and my bright-red lipstick, my eyes shut tight behind my cat-eye glasses and one hand held in the air, hovering over your head, as I cry, 

May you go into the world trusting the God who sees you just as Haggai trusted the God who saw her. May you feel known and validated in your deepest struggles and greatest heartaches. May you always know that you are not alone, that God is with you, that God sees you. 

May you go into the world with the willingness of Ruth, to lament with others, to see their pain, to identify with them. May your heart break for those who are not like you, for those who have been forgotten by the powers and principalities of this world. May your presence remind them that Jesus is Emmanuel—God with us. May you cry hot tears over other people’s suffering. May you be filled with a compassion that will draw you closer to God. 

May you go into the world crying out, weeping like the Holy Mother herself, broken at the sight of her child being broken by the empire. May you weep and gnash your teeth and make a holy scene. May you refuse to get up out of the streets until the ways of the world are changed, until the most vulnerable among us are included, until the church means it when they say, “All are welcome, all are beloved by God.” 

May you go into this world lamenting like Mary Magdalene in the garden, who had been just hoping to bury her beloved rabbi. May Jesus meet you in the places of your deepest grief and invite you into a new and holy way of being, for the kingdom of God is coming, and the kingdom of God is here. Amen.”

What are you waiting for? Go get her book and read it! :-) 

You Can Talk to God Like That Affiliate Purchase Links: (supports local bookstores)

Abby Norman is a writer, blogger, speaker, and licensed local pastor in the United Methodist Church. Her writing has been featured in Huffington Post, SheLoves Magazine, and The Mudroom. Abby lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her college sweetheart, two daughters, and a very bad dog.

Follow Abby on Twitter: @abbynormansays

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