Every once in a while I get a book list with an offer to pick a free book to review. The listing typically features not just my preferred genres (religion, history, biography, cooking!) but business and management type books, celebrity tell-alls, the works. Once in a while a book looks like it will support something I am working on. Right now that would be a series of retreat talks for the sisters (please begin your prayers now). The theme of the retreat is taken right off the walls of our Pauline chapels the world over: Do not fear...Live with a Penitent Heart.
God's repeated call to “repent” means that not all is completely terrific with us. But it also says that we have a chance to get things set aright. We get a do-over. We get a second chance (and a third, and a four-hundredth). I figured that Mike Foster's book would offer me some insight into the practical side of living with a penitent heart, so when the book review freebie list came my way, I requested People of the SecondChance: A Guide to Bringing Life-Saving Love to the World.
When the book came in, its very format told me that it was the kind of book that came from an experience of working with people, lots of people, who may have been tempted to throw in the towel when it comes to getting things right. It turns out, “People of the Second Chance” is a non-profit organization that uses tools of faith, common sense, and a healthy acceptance of imperfection to help people who feel like failures (and whose lives, in some cases, may seem to bear that out). The book's dedication page reads: “For every broken life becoming beautiful again.” The organization offers leadership training and programs for churches, and founder (and book author) Mike Foster is on the speaker circuit with the message, as well.
All that experience comes out in the pages of People of the Second Chance. Foster begins with his own story, the deep roots of his personal feelings of failure. He looks like a guy who has it all completely together, but his ministry draws continually on the kind of honesty that comes from facing unpleasant truths with the powerful help of grace and humor. “God's love gets in through our cracks and breaks.... I may not like the formula, but God sure doesn't seem to mind.” In the chapter “How to Be an Imperfectionist,” Foster assures the reader:
You will be a jerk. You will let others down. You will make lousy decisions. You will hurt others...mess up your children.... have moral failures [and]...horrible memories...be rejected...heartbroken. Imperfection is a part of this life. …
So if we're going to make life into God's party, we have to ditch this damaging desire to be flawless.
Foster does not limit himself to Second Chance “in-house” language. He draws from a variety of spiritual writers from different traditions (for example, Ranier Maria Rilke, Thomas Merton, Anne Lamott, and St Teresa of Calcutta).
A frank, conversational tone is consistent throughout the book, and it is a book suffused with hope, starting with the forward by Bob Goff: “see who God is turning us into, rather than overidentifying with who we were”; “Each week...we bring friends to talk about a time when they failed. In fact, experiencing failure has become almost a prerequisite.... people who have failed are more generous with their compassion, more extravagant with their love, and less inhibited in their expressions of both.”
Foster's book offers sound encouragement to anyone who is appalled by their own past or their propensity for failure--or who find it hard to accept the wayward past (or propensity for failure) of those they live or work with or minister to.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, I received a review copy of the book mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I am committed to giving as honest a review as possible, as part of my community's mission of putting media at the service of the truth. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”