A (Kind Of) Book Review: Beginnings

First, let me confess that this is not an “objective” book review. Not by any means. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t accurate or that I’m making stuff up.  It’s just that if you read my blog, you should already know that Steve Wiens is a good friend whom I’ve talked to about this book throughout the process. So, yes, those facts will color my perceptions. I won’t post this on Amazon or Goodreads or anything like that. But let me tell you about this book.

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After I spent a couple days in California with Steve in California in May – rising early in the morning to run the coastline, attending a conference together, eating and drinking at great restaurants in Laguna Beach along with another friend of mine and even taking a surfing lesson together, he sent me a .pdf of the manuscript.

At the time, I was struggling with my own “stuckness,” the kind that Steve described here when he guest-posted on Monday:

“I was stuck, but I was only beginning to realize it, and it was a sickening kind of feeling when I finally did. My life seemed to be drifting away from me, like someone was using a pair of bellows all wrong, extracting breath from me instead of adding it.”

I read the first chapter, called “Light.” And when I got to the last paragraph I sighed, closed the file on my computer and didn’t look at it again until I got an advanced copy in December.  Even though the writing was as beautiful as I’d expect it to be, in my “stuckness” I just couldn’t read anymore.

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The book is called Beginnings because it’s about the creation story. But it’s not just about the creation story recorded as a poem in the Hebrew Scriptures. (Because, in my experience, that makes a rather boring book!) Rather it’s about how creation is always happening, it’s about how God is always inviting us into starting over, and it’s about what that looks like in each of us.

Steve uses the seven days of the creation poem as a template for exploring our transitions by exploring his own with vulnerability and humor. Okay, that sentence sounded too much like a real book review. Here’s the lowdown: Steve is a great storyteller both in real life and in his writing. He writes beautifully, and I would think – even if you don’t know Steve like I do – his earnestness, vulnerability and warmth all come through his writing.  

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Here is the paragraph that made me put down the book in early June:

“What new beginning is dawning in your life these days? What darkness is blinding you? Can you see it and name it? Can you hear the Ruach whispering in your ear, calling you into a new beginning?

Welcome to Day One. Let there be Light.”

At the time, my own darkness was at about a 3 a.m. level. And while I could feel it oozing out of my pores in nearly every conversation and every interaction and churning in my head every moment my mind wasn’t otherwise occupied, I couldn’t name it. I couldn’t even bear to face it. So I was just going, going, going, refusing to stop lest it catch up to me.

And a promise of a new beginning even from a good and trusted friend felt too-good-to-be-true, too much hope at 3 a.m., when the sunrise seems so far away.

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On the last day of 2015, I got my second tattoo. It’s a sunrise with the words “Do it Again” in a banner underneath. Originally, I got the idea for it from this quotation about wonder, joy and living in the now, by G.K. Chesterton,

IMG_5537-1It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that
makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

But as the day got closer, it became even more significant to me, because I’ve come to believe in sunrises. No matter how dark the night, the sun always rises again. (I wrote about this idea in my NYE post.)

To say it Steve’s way: there is always a new beginning. There’s always an invitation to look towards the sunrise, even when the night feels dark. Don’t they say it’s always darkest before the dawn?

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When I picked up the book this time around, I was in a different place, it feels like there’s movement in my life again. I don’t feel stuck like I did for much of 2015, and conversations about light breaking in (chapter one), an expanse being created in us (chapter two) and seeds (chapter three) all resonated with the conversations I’m having with myself and with those whom I talk about these kinds of things.

And through this book Steve is challenging me to “create the future simply by being who we are and bringing forth what is within us.” This is what I’m about, trying to authentically be who am I and offering my gifts to the world. It’s energizing and good.

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Here’s what I think about Steve’s book: Steve is a great writer. But this book will be best if you read it with friends. If you read it and think about your own beginnings, your own transitions, your own journey and then share those ideas in safe, vulnerable places, with the kinds of people who love the prickliest parts of you.

As for me, next Sunday night, I’ll begin discussing this book with my closest people, hearing their journey, sharing my own, as much as I dare. I can’t wait. It’s Steve’s hope that this book is a midwife, that “this book helps to give birth to what needs to emerge from deep within you.” And I think it will, if you let it, and even more so, if you do so in community.

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Two last notes: Steve will be in Peoria at Imago Dei Church on Sunday morning, January 24th. And if you want more interaction with Steve, there will be a limited, ticket-required event on Saturday night where he will perhaps do a little reading, talk about his book, answer questions and sign. Details will be coming soon; check my Facebook.

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