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I can t get enough of Jonathan Merritt s thoughts, mostly because I find myself on the same page with him, 1000% If you find yourself needing to redefine certain sacred words, his book is a must read Loved, loved, loved it. With clear and thoughtful language, Jonathan Merritt tackles a deeply personal subject belief in God and how we communicate about that His premise is that our language about God has become distant, stilted and full of what feels like ticking time bombs and it is time for us to rethink hope fully how we can reengage with authentic words about God and thus invite anyone into the conversation What resonated with me was his discomfort with the language of evangelicalism from his childhood charged words like blessed, mystery, grace and brokenness Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, he thoughtfully examines different ways to look at the language of Christianity and thus invites all of us into the conversation about a God who has withstood the test of time, who is trustworthy and about whom we don t have all the answers I especially loved the stance he took regarding openness and bringing the language about faith under a bright light of examination finding joyfully, that God is bigger than our questions about him Our past hurts over the language of faith that may have left us hurting and confused can withstand examination and growth until we find a way through leaving us with a deeper, richer view of God and not a fear based distance Well thought out book and I really hope many read it and the conversation begins I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book. Merritt the Younger Again Proves He Is His Father s Equal Jonathan Merritt and I grew up in roughly similar church traditions at roughly the same time in roughly the same geographic area His father would eventually become President of the Southern Baptist Convention, my pastor would later become President of the Georgia Baptist Convention Growing up, while not knowing of Jonathan specifically, his father was among the most respected men I had ever heard As in, there was a deacon or two in my own small church, there was Charles Stanley, and there was James Merritt.I began reading Jonathan s own work a few years ago with the release of A Faith of Our Own, and both it and the next book Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined were as though Jonathan was in my own head, even while speaking as he does here of lessons he has learned in his own life.In this particular book, Jonathan again teaches us using lessons he has observed over the last few years of his own life and winds up touching on many issues of our day even while speaking to eternal truth At the end of the first part of the book, when he specifically tellsconservative thinkers that they may not like all that is to follow and brings up the Hebrew concept of midrash, my fears were raised I just read another ARC of another contemporary that grew up a couple hundred miles away from our home region but in a similar background and time who had used the concept quite a bit in her new book, and let s just say I wasn t impressed with that effort.Jonathan quickly dispelled the fears though, and actively sought to explain his own new understanding of the various sacred words we use in religious speak, particularly among Christians He never claims authority, he just claims conversation and what he has found the words mean for him, and invites the readers to consider for themselves Yet again, it turns out that he largely sees them exactly as I have come to even without me realizing I had been on my own similar journey over the years In one particularly poignant moment, he speaks to a word he used around the time of the publication of his last book and what he now thinks of it In another, he uses Fred Rogers to explain the concept of neighbor And in another, he exposes a revolutionary concept for thinking about a word that Christians have used far too long as a divider between the righteous few and the pagan hordes My words in quotes there, not his In the end, Merritt the Younger winds up finding a truth that I had tattooed on my own skin nearly a decade ago, and he exposes it in a new, fresh way for things that I had never considered That truth Jesus didn t define our words so much as redefine them in revolutionary ways Ways that still speak to us 2000 years later, if only we will consider them anew.Won t you join us in unpacking, examining, and rediscovering the ancient sacred words all over again Finally, a thinking book for people of faith to open a dialogue about why we use the words we use when it comes to talking about what we believe Well thought out and artfully written, Learning to Speak God from Scratch combines data driven research and memoir to trace the how and why sacred words are slipping from the lexicon or have lost their original meaning If you are fearful about opening a conversation about God with a friend, coworker, acquaintance or neighbor, this book coaches you through understanding words often misused or rarely used at all If you re confounded and confused by words often associated with Christianity, Merritt traces their origins and original intent If you ve long spoken and sang words you didn t understand, Learning to Speak God undergirds and refreshes what may not be fully understood Humorous and touching storytelling mark every page of this book What could be a stale or boring topic springs to life in Merritt s hallmark style of crafting narratives.I received an advanced copy of this book However, I ordered one for myself after reading it because I know I ll want to revisit its concepts. As America Rapidly Becomes A Pluralistic, Postmodern Society, Many Of Us Struggle To Talk About Faith We Can No Longer Assume Our Friends Understand Words Such As Grace Or Gospel Others, Like Lost And Sin, Have Become So Negative They Are Nearly Conversation EndersJonathan Merritt Knows This Frustration Well After Jonathan Moved From The Bible Belt To New York City, He Discovered That Whenever Conversations Turned To Spirituality, The Words He D Used For Decades Didn T Connect With Listeners Any In A Search For Answers And Understanding, Jonathan Uncovered A Spiritual Crisis Affecting Tens Of Millions In This Groundbreaking Book, One Of America S Premier Religion Writers Revives Ancient Expressions Through Cultural Commentary, Vulnerable Personal Narratives, And Surprising Biblical Insights Both Provocative And Liberating, Learning To Speak God From Scratch Will Breathe New Life Into Your Spiritual Conversations And Lure You Into The Embrace Of The God Who Inhabits Them Read this in one sitting Easy to read through and thought the words chosen were great to explore As Bob Dylan sings The times, they are a changin and as they change, so does the vernacular If anything, this book should encourage those that read it how they would define Christian words when talking to non Christians I largely appreciated Pain and Disappointment This is the kind of book we need right now Jonathan Merritt delivers a thought provoking and yet incredibly practical work that any person of faith would benefit from reading I loved the organization of the book, exploring each religious term in its own chapter By doing this, he proves that a simple definition fails to capture what religious words really mean Instead, he explores them with stories, illustrations, and metaphors, which bring so much color to the conversation I absolutely loved this book and I know that Jonathan s thoughtful writing will offer readers a lifeline to reconnect to the practice of speaking God Plus, I believe the chapters on The Fall and Sin are worth the price of the book A great read through and through I was given an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher. I love the main idea of this book That is to say, I think we need to use sacred wordsoften andoften in the right context I had some dissenting opinions about a few points A flag is always thrown up for me when someone uses the word mega church to describe a church in a negative context Page 152 There is no offer in the text to define a mega church, so one is led to believe it is the stereotypical very large church with a pastor who makes a very large sum of money to serve himself And that is what the author said Mega church pastors are used here in the same sentence as flashy televangelists Not all little tiny churches are created equal Meaning, they don t all act the same, believe the same, or serve the same They are not all tiny churches because their faith is miniscule The same is also true of large churches, those the author has rashly thrown into the same category, by assigning them the not so nice name mega church Not all large churches are shallow, or exist only to support televangelist preachers who are only pursuing their own interests For instance later on that same page page 152 he names a flashy televangelist, Kenneth Copeland My point about all mega churches not being the same at all is illustrated here Clearly Copeland is not nearly in the same league as Godly leaders like Levi Lusko, or Craig Groeschel for instance But when we throw that word around, mega church without clearly defining who and what we are referring to, the names and character of sincerely Godly men and women are thrown into the mud I would love to shop talk with the author about sacred conversations Anytime we gather around a table with friends for dinner or our families, and talk, those conversations are sacred And so, every word spoken, every if, and, and but is also sacred Every time I take time to have coffee with my young adult daughters and we share and disclose, laugh, and maybe cry Those conversations are sacred When someone shares their heart with me regarding what they are going through in their marriage or parenting, yeap, sacred When my husband takes time to share his dreams of the future as we power through this life together, sacred Sacred words are important But how can we possibly know and speak anew the traditional sacred words of God, when we don t slow down and take the time necessary to have revealing and valuable conversations Those conversations are also sacred If we learn to love and communicate with others in healthy conversation, I think we will belikely to find renewal in sacred words Sacred words are not only the ones we commonly know of in the context of religion They are any word that is aptly spoken Proverbs 25 11 to one another in all the spaces and places of our lives.I love the author s heart in this book I can tell from reading it, that heart was hurt by the church at one time It comes through loud and clear Yet, I am glad he didn t desert his faith or calling when that happen I am glad he wrote this book. Jonathan is stellar in his ability to bring questions, truth, and myths to the table in a way that invites rich conversation rather than polarity and excommunication This book is beautifully written with thoughtful and thorough research, insightful interviews, and authentic personal stories to show the reader the book was written with the reader s heart in mind As a theologian, lover of language and nuance, and one who has been studying semantics and the positive or negative impact culture can leave on our words, I loved this book and am grateful it was written at this point in history This is a must read for anyone who has been looking for a way to embark on meaningful conversation with strangers, neighbors, friends, and so called enemies Jonathan s bravery in exploring and excavating some of the sacred words of belief is much needed With fear and siloing driving our culture and so much shouting, and silence, in America s landscape right now, Learning to Speak God from Scratch, is a white flag invitation to an inclusive table where engaging and sacred conversation is allowed to unfurl.His words offer oxygen to people who have been suffocated in their American Churchianity but have never lost hope that a good and loving God exists in spite of our cultural context.I m looking forward to gathering several groups this fall at my own table, in person and on line, to read and engage and excavate this book together This book will also be one I give to friends as a gift, knowing how the words within the pages rekindled some hope I had lost in our polarized state.I received an advanced reader copy of this book. Why Words Are a Holy Gift We re Called to StewardHave you ever taken the time to reflect on the depth and wonder of vocabulary Or imagined what life would be like without words As humans, we have the power to wield elements of speech for both destruction and encouragement, education and deceit, praise and desecration Quite a supernatural superpower one that sets us apart from all other living things God spoke us into being and then passed the torch of language, entrusting us with its care In doing so, the gift of words became an unseen force pushing, pulling, and shaping the shores of humanity like lingual gravity Jonathan Merritt s new book, Learning to Speak God from Scratch Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing and How We Can Revive Them, reminds us that our responsibility to steward such an inheritance is profound and sacred, and challenges us to self reflect on whether we understand our role Which begins with understanding the genesis of words in the first place, Godspeak in particular.The realm of possibility when it comes to interpreting and extracting meaning from sacred language can be an infinite pursuit which Jonathan points out is a blessing He shares a quote from Sally McFague who says, The figurative language of the Bible beckons us into a larger conversation It forces us to stop and pause to engage our imaginations, not just our brains Like nature varied, expanding, life giving, creative, words offer us a glimpse into the all encompassing wonder and complexity of God They have buoyed us for millennia as a medium for exchanging information via storytelling, parables, recorded history, etc The evolution of mankind and the passing on of all things Divine would be impossible without human language Words are how we define our existence and make sense of the world around us Jonathan begins Learning to Speak God from Scratch by sharing statistics on how and why faith talk is on the decline in our country, while stressing the urgency for a revival of Godspeak if we want the Good News to continue filtering down to future generations Much of our problem when it comes to the language of faith is misuse and misunderstanding of certain words We ve also allowed many sacred terms to remain static, thus preventing deeper insight into what God may be trying to communicate So, Jonathan pulls several from our sacred vocabulary and invites us to ponder new and imaginative connotations He helps us along by weaving Biblical narratives and vulnerable personal stories which help draw out the richness and beauty of our spiritual vernacular.We all love to talk and yammer away often without second thought about what we re transmitting from our mouths But Jonathan points out that when it comes to how we speak about our spiritual heritage, the words we use and intention behind them matters.Slung around improperly, sacred words can destroy a person Uttered carelessly, the gift of speech can send a neighbor down a wayward path Maybe the most damaging of all is choosing to stifle our Godpseak altogether Choosing not to talk about faith and spirituality out of fear, ignorance, or worry over rocking the Titanic isn t healthy for humanity The risk is allowing all things sacred to become obsolete or ordinary, which diminishes the luster of the miraculous and extraordinary Jonathan will wow you with his extensive research about language He will challenge you to lean into words like family, blessed, creed, pain, grace, sin, and neighbor with an open heart and spacious mind As C.S Lewis said, As everyone knows, words constantly take on new meanings Truth be told, I wasn t a legit member of the everyone knows group until reading this book Jonathan encouraged me to consider words as living elements and to give these God given gifts the attention and respect they deserve.Learning to Speak God from Scratch opened my eyes, stretched my heart, and renewed my passion for Godspeak I m confident this book will do the same for you.