The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan — Book Review

I enjoyed this book so much I read most of it in one day! It’s the story of how Andrew Klavan, author and secular Jew, converted to Christianity. It was a long time coming.

As a child, Andrew’s family recognizes the important rites of Judaism (Passover, the Day of Atonement, and so on) but they do this as a way to preserve their culture heritage, not as true believers. When he grows older, he considers himself an intellectual and an agnostic. He is first attracted to the Bible as literature and reads it because he wants to become a writer. Since Christian symbolism is everywhere he thought he should learn where the symbols came from.

As his life progresses, he becomes more and more depressed. He goes into therapy, and over the course of years experiences what he calls “epiphanies.” Later he realizes that each one represented a tenet of Christianity. He explains them this way:

  1. The truth of suffering was the knowledge of the cross
  2. The wisdom of joy was the realization of the soul’s relationship with God
  3. The reality of love was the revelation of God’s personality as seen in Jesus
  4. The possibility of clear perception was a sign that we are made in God’s image, having the ability to understand that His good is our good
  5. Laughter at the heart of mourning shows that we know this life is not what we are meant for

Somewhere along the line, he begins to pray. At first, just a simple prayer of gratitude (Thank You, God) but then more and more. Prayer changes him. He decides to be baptized.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. This book will make you laugh and make you sad, and in the end very grateful that you also have experience the great, good thing.

For more spiritual autobiographies see these posts:

Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey–Book Review

In My Grandmother’s House by Yolanda Pierce–Book Review

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken–Book Review

Recovered by Robby Gallaty–Book Review

Robby Gallaty has quite a story.  He played college basketball, performed as a magician, learned Brazilian Jiujitsu, worked as a bartender-comedian and became a hard-core drug addict.  He and his wife lost everything during Hurricane Katrina.  He’s also (now) a committed Christian and a pastor. He learned through his experiences that “faith was not about my strength, but God’s.”

Rob came from a loving, Catholic family who supported him through all his enthusiasms, and continued to care for and help him when he became addicted to opioids.  However, their understanding of Christ was superficial;  they attended church as a duty, tried to be “good people” and knew little about the Bible.  We all know there are folks like this in every denomination.  When Robby traded in his addiction to drugs for addiction to God, he was eventually able to bring his father, mother and sister along with him into a close, personal relationship with their Savior.

Gallaty’s testimony is authentic and will touch the heart of many readers.  My issue is not with his experience, but his theology.  There was an implication that Catholics as a group, need to be “converted.”  Infant baptism is discounted as meaningless, as all must be baptized as adults in order to “accept” Jesus and be saved.  Sermons include an “invitation” to come forward and pray the sinner’s prayer (sorry, if baptism does not save you, neither does repeating this prayer).  All of these ideas are in opposition to what I have been taught  as a Lutheran.  I believe that I did not choose God, He chose me:  I have been saved by His grace, not through any work or decision of my own.

VERDICT:  I give this book 3 stars, because of the theological issues.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:


If you would like to see other reviews of books by Robby Gallaty and his wife Kandi, see these previous posts:

Disciple Her by Kandi Gallaty–Book Review

Bearing Fruit – A Book Review


I actually enjoyed these books as the focus was on Christian growth, an area where the Gallatys and I have substantial agreement.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255


The Heart of Evangelism by Jerram Barrs–Book Review

This book review was written for our Fanning the Flame team by one of our members, Barbara G.  I have edited it a bit to make it shorter for the blog.

The author of this book truly loves the Lord and is trying to convey to the reader what we, as people who love Jesus, should do with our lives.

This book is divided into sections.  The first stresses the mission of the world.  That mission is Christ’s Great Commission that he gave to his disciples before his ascension.  The Great Commission is for the whole church of Christ and not just the apostles.  Jesus said there were four horizons for the apostles to spread God’s word.  The first was Jerusalem.  The Jerusalem for the church should be the town in which we live, work and raise our families.  What are you and your church doing to draw people to Jesus in your Jerusalem?  The second horizon is Judea.  This is our country.  We send our ministers to all parts of the U.S.A. to spread the word of God as Jesus commanded.  Is your church  doing their part in your Jerusalem?  The third horizon is Samaria.  These are people in our community who are different from us.  There is a lot of hostility in our country today and that is why we must preach the word of God to everyone in our community.  Is your church building bridges in your community to those who are red, yellow, black and white?  The fourth horizon is the Ends of the Earth.  Is your church sending missionaries to countries all around the world to reach those who know nothing about Jesus Christ?  Barr says the last horizon is the original, literal Jerusalem and Judea.  God is not forgetting the people of Israel.  They are God’s olive tree into which we are grafted, if we are Gentiles.

In the next section the kindness and perseverance of God are explained.  God doesn’t give up on us. Our personal history is part of God’s plan. Someday we will meet someone we can introduce to God, and then we will see clearer God’s plan for our own life.  In this section, he gave his testimony and explained the barriers we face when we decide that we want to evangelize to the world.

In the final section, he reveals how we must respect all those with whom we share God’s word, and explains how Jesus did it.  We must learn about the beliefs of other people so that we can see how and why they live the way they do.  We must use much kindness, love and understanding as we clarify God’s good news to those we try to reach.  Lastly he explains how Paul denounced the Greek’s confidence in rhetorical skills, rather than in truths.  Paul said, give God’s truth in your quest to win souls for Christ and God’s truth will be the words that convince their hearts.  Clever words are not necessary.

How To Be A Christian Witness

As Joan stated in an earlier blog, I am going to be speaking on Apostolic Action on an upcoming Via De Cristo weekend.  She asked me to post a few of the things I will be saying.  This post will be about how to witness.  I may follow up at a later date with how I witness.

To be effective in apostolic action we need to develop relationships with the people to whom we want to show Christ’s love.

We need to remember to talk to God about your friend before talking to your friend about God.

1. Pray first, last and always John 17:20 “I am praying not for these disciples but also for all who will EVER believe in me through their message” Please realize that the verse is telling us that John is praying for us in our discipleship
2. Make a friend – Show genuine interest in their lives as a whole not just their spiritual well being
3. Be a friend – Proverbs 17:17A “A friend is always loyal” Be accepting and tolerant NOT judgmental Show them the love of Christ by your loyalty
4. Bring your friend to Christ – It is only after prayer, an initial introduction of yourself, and taking the time to be a true friend that will bring to your friend the knowledge of salvation.

Apostolic Action flows from us
When we put Christ as the center of our lives – John 3:30 “He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less”
From our personal encounter with Christ – John 15:16a “You didn’t choose me I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit”
And our encounters with our brothers and sisters – Matthew 5:16 “In the same way let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”
It is important that we understand that our testimony is not only in the words we speak but also our deeds. “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words. This is a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Is being a witness of Christ easy – NO.  But think about it this way, it wasn’t easy to die on a cross but He did – So we need to face our reservations, concerns, fears, whatever you want to call them and do as commanded by the man who died for us.  It is a very small price to pay for the love He has shown us.  Wouldn’t you say??


As always, remember

God Loves You And So Do I



Joan’s Journey part 3

I thought my life was fine and wouldn’t change much until we retired.  I loved my church and could not imagine leaving it.  Looking back, I see that I loved my church so much I made it into an idol.  I would never have said we were perfect, but I was proud of my congregation and my place in it, and I did think we were really special.  And I had my own version of the prosperity gospel.  I didn’t expect God to make me rich, but I thought He would give me peaceful, harmonious relationships at church and at home.  Didn’t God owe me that … after all the work I put in being a good Christian?

 That is not the attitude God wants in His servants and I see that now. Eventually my self-satisfied life began to dissolve.(Here comes the death and rebirth part). Our oldest daughter hit adolescence and had a lot of problems. We tried all sorts of things, including counseling, but nothing seemed to work.  Years later Beth was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and by then we had all been through a great deal of pain.

At the same time things were going wrong at church.  Some friends were angry at the Pastor and the situation kept escalating.  Eventually they left. I was in anguish seeing the congregation I poured my life into torn apart.  To top it off, Terry decided he was called to the ministry.  I didn’t mind him being a pastor, because that would just be Terry’s job.  However I didn’t want to move to St. Louis and become the primary breadwinner so that he could go to seminary.  I told him this was just too much to ask, with one child in college and one with mental health issues.  He could move, but I would not.

 Terry thankfully, agreed we should stay together, and said if God wanted him to be a pastor He would make it happen.  And He did.  Terry found a Lutheran denomination that offered seminary courses via distance learning.  He kept his job and began the process.  When he came to the point where this denomination would have required him to go on a one year internship, he found another Lutheran group that agreed to ordain him immediately.  So Terry had his wish, or rather God’s wish.  Now what?

 The denomination that ordained him did not have an open pulpit, so Terry decided he would have to start a mission congregation, a daunting prospect. We knew from experience how much effort that took.  Then a friend asked Terry if he would fill in at his church. They were between pastors. We came to St. Paul’s where something clicked for us, and I believe, for the congregation very quickly.  They were small but lively and not afraid to keep the church running on their own.  They appreciated Terry’s gift for teaching and preaching.  They encouraged me, too, and allowed me to participate in the way I saw myself:  an active layperson, not just the Pastor’s wife.

 Terry and I have now been at St. Paul’s for more than ten years.  The church joined the AFLC and Terry is on their clergy roll.  I’ve written articles for the Lutheran Ambassador and a Bible study for the national women’s group.  I serve at church in many ways.  Since retiring, I am a part time caregiver for my granddaughter, Katelyn, and my mother with dementia. Now I’ve become a blogger! Many of these are things I would never have imagined doing.  Life with God is a continual surprise.  I’m humbler now and don’t pretend to know what my future holds.  John Wesley once said,                                                  

When I was young I was sure of everything.  In a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before.  At present, I am hardly sure of anything except what God has revealed to me.”

I don’t know what my future holds, but I know God has a plan and that He will continue to work it out in my life.



































Joan’s Journey continued

My husband and I met while I was in college. By this time I had stopped calling myself an atheist but I wasn’t going to church and had no real interest in God. After several years of marriage we went through a rough patch in our relationship. Terry wanted to go to graduate school, while I was anxious to buy a home and start a family.  Our short term goals were different and this caused a big conflict. We finally decided that Terry would continue in school, and we moved to Montgomery County, midway between my job and his college. At this point, Terry suggested we join a church.  I guess we both felt this might put our relationship on firmer ground. Terry’s family church was large and I felt disconnected from the service. All we did was sit in the pew and listen to others speaking or singing.  The way I had learned to “do” church was Lutheran, so I told Terry that’s what I wanted to be. After some research he settled on the Missouri Synod because they believed in Biblical inerrancy.  Any Lutheran church was fine with me –I didn’t know there were different kinds of Lutherans.  We joined a church nearby and I was happy to be back in worshipping in a familiar service.  We attended church regularly, but weren’t active in other activities.

A year later we moved back to Frederick because we found we weren’t close to anything or anyone important to us.  We bought a house. Terry had a long commute but at least we were close to friends, family and my workplace.  The only Missouri Synod church in Frederick was a small mission congregation meeting in a Community building, so we went there.  I wasn’t too thrilled.  I preferred the big Lutheran Church downtown with it’s beautiful facility.  But God knew what I needed.  I was quiet and shy.  Had we joined that large, established church, I would have become a pew sitter.  In a mission congregation, you can’t do that.  Everyone is needed, everybody knows you and you can’t hide.  If Nancy was my soul friend, and Terry was my soul mate, Peace In Christ became my school of spiritual formation.

I was elected church council secretary at my first voter’s meeting.  How terrifying!  For months I hardly opened my mouth, and I tried not to miss a single word in my minutes! Finally, I relaxed, realizing that nobody was out to judge my job performance.  In fact, a friend there once told me that “church is the best place to try something new.  If you fail, they’ll still love you.”

Our pastor became a friend.  He knew his parishioners well, and encouraged me to use my gifts and stretch my comfort zone.  After we had children and they started Sunday School, we went too.  For the first time, as an adult, I studied the Bible regularly and found that knowing Sunday School stories from childhood, and bible history from college courses, did NOT mean I knew it all.  I met Christians who applied the Bible to their lives and I started to do that too. I can’t begin list the activities that helped me grow spiritually, so I’ll mention a few “high spots.”

Terry and I read the entire Bible in a 2 year program called Crossways.

We went on Marriage Encounter weekend and a Via De Cristo Christian retreat weekend.  Both had follow up small group meetings in which we participated.

.We taught Sunday School, I worked on the church newsletter and wrote VBS programs, and Terry was an elder. We were busy with church and our friends there constantly.  I began to see myself as a mature Christian and a congregational leader.

to be continued further …..

Joan’s Journey of Rebirth, part 1

I read a book once (and those who know me well, know almost anything significant I want to tell you will start that way) about some of the saints and their experiences with God. At one point, the author asks an Abbot in the catholic church how he had met God in his life. “After . . . embarrassed silence the Abbot admitted he had never had a direct experience of God. Yet, he said, there was nothing surprising about that. God himself said to Moses in the book of Exodus, ‘you cannot see my face.’ But God also taught Moses that he could see God’s back as he passed by, so looking back over his many days, the Abbot could see clearly God passing through his life.


My experience is like that Abbot’s. I had no road to Damascus conversion experience. But looking back over my life I see God’s fingerprints everywhere. He has molded and touched me through people and churches and my life circumstances over and over again.


When I was a child, my family didn’t go to church. However, I was baptized in the Lutheran church when I was three years old. My baptism was due to the influence of my great-grandmother. By the time I knew her she was elderly and did not get out much, but in her younger days she had been a devout Lutheran. I remember being baptized and going to her house afterwards. She asked me if the pastor sprinkled water on my head.


Then when I was in elementary school, a co-worker of my grandmothers’ took me to a Lutheran church with her family. I don’t know why Mrs.Stitely suggested it. She had no children my age; she and my grandmother were not close friends; she had no reason to take me to church other than a desire to see a child get to know Jesus. If she were still alive I would thank her because there I learned the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, Bible stories and Christian songs. Neighbors took me and my siblings to Vacation Bible School each year also.


As a teenager, I stopped going to church regularly and was never confirmed. Now and then I would attend a service, or even go to Luther League meetings because I had school mates who belonged to the church. Eventually, influenced by what I was reading, I decided I was an atheist. Looking back on my behavior I see a relatively obedient teenager trying to shock. In spite of my professed disbelief I continued to attend church sometimes and even read the Bible. I remember daring God to do something to make me believe in Him.


And He did. I said I was done with God but He was not done with me. I went off to college. I was assigned to a roommate based on two things we had in common: we were nonsmokers and undecided about a major. Despite the purely “negative” reasons we ended up together, we are still friends after over forty years. And guess what, Nancy was a serious Christian. She never tried to argue with me about my beliefs. She just became my friend. Nancy has been a big influence on my spiritual life. Other than my husband, she is the first person I go to for prayers, encouragement and spiritual advice. Nancy is one of the greatest blessings God sent to me.

to be continued ….