Thursday, October 29, 2015

In a Class All Their Own.......

The Printer and the Preacher. That would be Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield, of course, Written by Randy Petersen and published by Thomas Nelson Books, it's good to be reminded that these two busy men shared a surprising but close friendship for over 30 years. And Randy thinks they "invented America." I don't know if I can go that far, but they certainly jumped in and had important parts in all that was going on. Franklin sparked so many important "social structures" in Philadelphia: the library, a fire brigade, a hospital, the militia, the college, and more. And Whitfield saw hundreds, maybe thousands of people listen to his preaching and come to believe in Jesus.

Ben Franklin grew up in Boston but moved to Philadelphia with his printing business. George Whitfield was from England, but he was so enthusiastic about America that he crossed the ocean 13 times. A well-known preacher in both nations, Whitfield traveled up and down our east coast, preaching indoors or outside, wherever he was invited.

When Franklin and Whitfield first met, it was over a business project and eventually Ben became the "primary printer" for Whitfield's sermons, articles, and books. Ben was already known and appreciated for his popular Poor Richard's Almanac as well as his newspaper called the Philadelphia Gazette. These two busy men kept in touch with each other, as Randy writes: "meeting on both sides of the Atlantic." Whitfield often encouraged Ben Franklin to "believe in Jesus," but Franklin was not interested. He said he believed in God, that was enough. But they did support each other often. As George traveled, Ben provided coverage in the Gazette for the news of what was happening where George was preaching. They were both finding success with what they wanted to do.

During some of his visits through New England, George was invited to Northampton, a guest of the pastor-scholar Jonathan Edwards. In the 1660s and 70s there were "glimmers of revival in the American colonies." In the 1740s the so-called "Great Awakening" spread throughout New England. Cotton Mather was one of the early preachers, followed by George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards. and John and Charles Wesley. All of them had a place in those important years. I found it a pleasure to read and find out more detail about their lives and circumstances. Maybe you would like it, too.

Lois Sibley, ireviewreligiousbks

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Living the Last Chapter...

Here are two touching books from Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, just published from Eerdmans. A Faithful Farewell, living your last chapter with love came out last April and A Long Letting Go, meditations on loving someone you love came out in July of this year (2015). They go together and I will certainly keep my two together as I think and pray about those last days that we all must face as we journey on toward our Lord Jesus Christ and "those we love but see no longer."

Marilyn is not about to die, I think, but she offers A Faithful Farewell for those who are now facing death. With her experience by "the bedsides of those who are living their dying" and with her own "reflection about my own aging and death," she offers these pages in the hope that they "will affirm a solidarity that makes every dying an opportunity to awaken and open the heart." Each short meditation concludes with a prayer "to lean into when finding your own words requires more energy than you have." And after the prayer, you may find a few lines from a favorite hymn to remind you "of the many ways songs and hymns have sustained the life of faith, especially in hard times."

In the second book, A Long Letting Go, Marilyn says "At some point in our lives, most of us will become caregivers." It may be for a short time, or for a longer period of chronic illness. Either way, it will involve us in another's preparation for death. It is preparation for "a letting go that draws upon our deepest spiritual resources in ways impossible to fully anticipate." Marilyn offers her "harvest of experiences and reflections that may provide some direction, hope, or consolation in a time when generosity, imagination, patience, and love may be stretched in unprecedented ways." Her suggestions are written in four sections: Accompanying, Stories of Letting Go, Mourning, and Words for Keeping Watch. She reminds us that we have only promises to help us imagine the next life, but they are a sound basis for hope.

In the section on Stories.... I found one of my own experiences: my friend Jessie, in her 90's, said: "Why? I'm ready. Why doesn't the Lord call me?" she asked me. "Jessie," I said, trying to comfort her: "the Lord must have a few more things for you to do while you are here." She laughed. But she probably will be helping and encouraging others as she has been doing for years, as she waits for the Lord's call. And we will miss her when she goes.

These two books are very helpful. I recommend them. And I think that those who are feeling the pain of loss will find comfort and encouragement here.

----Lois Sibley