How to Survive a Shipwreck: Help is on the Way and Love is Already Here - Jonathan Martin

How to Survive a Shipwreck: Help is on the Way and Love is Already Here - Jonathan Martin

Purchase your copy here

"The waters that drown you are the same waters that will save you; and the same sea that is pulling you under is the sea that will make you new." 

I don't remember when or where I was introduced to Jonathan. Somehow, I stumbled across a copy of his first book, Prototype, and was forever changed. I won't go into too much detail, but there is a passage where he imagines John the Baptizer meeting Jesus for the first time, and it took my breath away. Like I threw the book across the room in tears because it was too good. It was too much for me to handle at the time .

It took me a few months to finish that one, and after I finished, I did the only thing that seemed fitting: I took it to the beach with me, wrote a note inside the front cover, and buried it in the sand for someone else to find. I still have no idea who found it, but I like to imagine them having the same reaction as I did. 

So back in November, when Jonathan's new book went up on Amazon, I immediately ordered it. 

This book is not for the faint of heart. It's one of those books that I recommend, but I hate recommending, because it means that the person reading it likely is in the midst of their own shipwreck. Their life is coming undone. The job is gone. The marriage is over. The cancer is spreading. Whatever it may be, their ship is running aground, breaking apart, splintering, tossed about by waves bigger than they ever imagined possible. 

You hope you never need a lifeboat, but when the ship is breaking apart, you are eternally grateful to have one. You hope you never need a book like Jonathan's, but when your life is crumbling around you, you will lash out and grab hold of anything that can help. 

This book is one of those things. 

I've read so many books by so many pastors who talk about the trials and tribulations of life. The problem is, you look at their lives, their ministries, at their huge megachurches, lucrative book deals, millions of twitter followers, and their celebrity status within the Christian subculture, and you can't help but be a little cynical about it all. Self help books are a dime a dozen, and they all pretty much follow the same pattern. They lay out a series of steps that you can take to get your life back together. To get over the hurt. To move past the divorce, or the cancer diagnosis, or the pink slip. 

Do X and your life starts to turn around.

Thank God this isn't one of those books. Thank God that Jonathan decided to write out of a place of pain. After he had left the successful church plant, after the marriage had crumbled, after the smoke had faded. He doesn't claim to have all the answers. 

"I am too young and inexperienced in this business of inviting God into my depths to be an expert on any of this. I do not think there is a one-size-fits-all answer as to how God will deal with the monsters within. What I do know is that all true desire has its origin in God and can open us up to God. Even if the desire gets misplaced or misappropriated, even if we attempt to fulfill the desire where it cannot be fulfilled, the desire itself, the primal energy, originates in God himself. Even the chaotic ones." -Pg. 132

This book is medicine. It is hope. It is mercy. It is grace. It is the permission to be screwed up, drowning, taking in mouthful after mouthful of water until you feel as if your lungs are giving in, only to have the hand of God scoop you out of the waters, trembling, and begin to bring you back to life. 

This book is for anybody who has had their ship run aground. Who has had the wind knocked out of them, the rug pulled out from under them, and felt like they didn't have the strength to get back up. Because I think the point is, on our own strength, we can't get back up. It is only when we begin to recognize the monsters that have seemingly defeated us, that God will reach down into the despair, and begin to right the ship. Begin to reassemble the pieces, and reassemble them in a way that only he can. 

If you're shipwrecked today, there is hope. 

*Disclaimer: Though I was given an early copy of Jonathan's book for this review, the opinions are completely mine.*



The Dusty Ones: Why Wandering Deepens our Faith - AJ Swoboda


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"Preaching Jesus is best done behind the pulpit of our broken lives." 

This was one of those books that, right from the start, you know is going to reach into the deepest parts of you and stir things up. AJ is a pastor, professor, and writer here in Portland. I've met him a couple of times, and we have some mutual friends, so when he asked me if I wanted to read an early copy of his book and write a review, I jumped on the chance. He's written a handful of other books that are quite good (head to amazon and check them out) but this one, for me, was the one that meant the most. 

As Christians, specifically Christians who find themselves in a position of leadership, we're the ones who have it all together. We have the answers. Pastors (and I feel like I can say this, as a former youth pastor) tend to be thought of as the ones with all the answers, right? After all, they're the ones paid to study and figure this stuff out. Whether it's right or wrong, they're seen, in most churches, as the "professional Christians." 

I remember coming to a fork in the road in my faith journey while I was a pastor. I was teaching upwards of 50 teenagers every week. I was leading camps, retreats, and eating untold amounts of Taco Bell with them, and they were opening up to me with all sorts of questions about Jesus, faith, life, and everything else. I remember hitting a point where I would teach, hang out, play Xbox, then lock up the church and drive home, wondering if there was any truth to any of the things I'd told them. Was any of it legit? Did God really exists? Did he really love them? Did he really answer prayers? I wasn't so sure. 

And that terrified me.

There was no safe place to talk about it, and oh how I wish AJ had written this book 12 years ago when I was dealing with all of this. How I wish someone had come along side of me and gently whispered in my ear, "It's okay to wander. This is not the death of your faith." 

Because for so many leaders, wandering feels like a signal that they've been defeated. By doubt, by intellectualism, or whatever. 

I won't take all the time to quote AJ's book here, because I'm fairly sure I highlighted and underlined about 70% of the book. Nuggets that I wanted (needed) to remember. Lines that felt like someone putting their arm around my shoulder and saying, "I know this feels like defeat. I know it feels like you've lost. You haven't."

AJ is brilliant. He's got a PhD, and often times writes like it. This isn't a bad thing, but for me, this book was more academic than the previous two of his that I read. Both were brilliant, but in their own way. For me, the academic nature of this particular book was part of the journey. It fit right along with the notion that, in order to find what is truly important to us, sometimes we have to roll our pant legs up and wade into stuff that might be deep, thick, and uncomfortable. 

Maybe you're in leadership at your church. Maybe you're a pastor, maybe you run a small ministry, or maybe you work at Starbucks (though this is Portland. Stumptown. Maybe you work at Sumptown.) As a disciple of Jesus, it often feels like we need to have all the answers, and when we don't, or even worse, when we may not believe the answers we have, it feels like drowning. It feels like you've wandered so far off the path that you'll never find your way back home, and if you can't find your way home, how will you ever show anybody else the way home? 

But you will. You will find your way back home, and if you'll let it, maybe the journey there can teach you more than you ever dreamed possible. 


*Disclaimer: Though I was given a free copy of AJ's book for this review, the opinions are completely mine.*