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Book Review: Beatitude by Matthew Paul Turner

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If you only read one sentence, let it be this one: buy this book, read this book, and pass it along. For those of you who like to read a few paragraphs in before skipping to whatever other site is on your RSS feed reader right now, let me tell you what book I'm writing about. Matthew Paul Turner's Beatitude (copyright 2006, Revell) is one of those books that just begs to be read slowly and passed along.

In sharing his journey as a Christian growing up in a Christian home, going to Christian schools and Christian camps and having Christian jobs and Christian goals and ambitions – and then also finding something mysterious and profound and meaningfully transforming in the midst of it all – it's the story we want to have, the story we hope begins to make sense for us on the Christian hamster wheel running the Christian race.

Accessible through his anecdotes and insights and overall writing style, Turner lays out things he's learned from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. And what I like about it is that he's sharing the twists, those things that aren't obvious, the other side of the coin, the new perspective that fleshes out the truth. Like in the chapter titled "Salt", where he goes beyond the ideas of salt being a preservative and a flavor enhancement:

… I've learned too much salt overpowers all the other flavors. It takes over. Sometimes I have a tendency to bring my own version of Jesus into a situation, instead of recognizing he is already there. Consequently, instead of my actions enhancing Jesus, my words end up being too much, and it ends up making a potentially sweet piece of cake gross and bitter to the taste buds of others. / Sadly, too often, I'm guilty of being a spiritual salt lick. On so many occasions, I have worn my faith so obtrusively that, when people see it, the idea of following Jesus is gross and unimaginable. (p. 52)

With all due respect – if you think you don't fit into the paragraph above, it means you really do, that you're the salt lick I'm trying to avoid. And if you see yourself all over that "salt lick" reference, welcome to the club. That's what I like about Turner's writing: it's encouraging to read my thoughts somehow coming out through someone else's words. Another chapter that smacked of "wow, been there, lived that" is titled "Truth":

I so wish doubt were a place – like a retreat center where addicts go to find rehab or therapy. It would be great to have a place where, whenever you felt doubtful about Jesus, you could simply check yourself into the facility… / But I found out quickly that doubt isn't a place. Doubt ended up being more like a companion to me. Just one day out of the blue, doubt suddenly popped into my life unannounced. (p. 125)

When Turner talks about doubt, I read about my own doubts that have prodded me to something deeper, something that's somehow more real to me now than before. Much of what's in this book has been lived out in my life, and I recognize it in the lives of friends around me as well. I think that's why I synched with this work so quickly – in sharing his story, Matthew's become a distant friend as well, with the shared experience of just living out the Christ-life as Jesus leads and we follow alongside.

So pick up this book – read it – and pass it along. Maybe you'll find someway to finally explain your own struggles and heart-search. Or at least, you'll find someone who's gone along the narrow road a little bit, too – and you can compare notes.

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