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"As we behold him, we become like him.

I experienced this principle firsthand when an opera singer visited our church. We didn't know his voice was trained. You couldn't have known by his corduroy coat and loafers. No tuxedo, cummerbund, or silk tie. His appearance raised no eyebrow, but his voice certainly did. I should know. He was in the pew behind me.

His vibrato made dentures rattle and rafters shake. He tried to contain himself. But how can a tuba hide in a room of piccolos?

For a moment I was startled. But within a verse, I was inspired. Emboldened by his volume, I lifted mine. Did I sing better? Not even I could hear me. My warbles were lost in his talent. But did I try harder. No doubt. His power brought out the best in me.

Could your world use a little music? If so, invite heaven's baritone to cut loose. He may look as common as the guy next door, but just wait till you see what he can do. Who knows? A few songs with him might change the way you sing.

Forever."
(Next Door Savior, Lucado pg 6)

I probably could quote something from each page of this book. Choosing this one passage, not so much for what it says, but because it is indicative of his style of writing. I was literally hooked on Max Lucado's writing style from the first page I read of this book. It's his voice. He teaches religious text in a manner that doesn't preach. He's not dictating. He's sharing. He speaks to the reader without condescending to them. Not once in reading any of his works have I ever felt like I'm less of a person for any decisions I have made in my life. Of course, I've made mistakes. I'm human. The key Next Door Savior imparts is that while we aren't perfect, our Savior isn't out of reach. Comfort and strength are very close at hand. We just have to look around to find it.

The opera singer he mentions in the above passage is the perfect illustration. There was a time in my life when I would have missed that opera singer. (Now, those who know me know I do NOT like opera at all! But the point for me isn't the type of music the man was singing but that the beauty of his song was so uplifting. That there are moments in life where beautiful and amazing things happen, if we just open ourselves up to them.)

"We are given a gift similar to the one Billy Joel gave his daughter. On her twelfth birthday she was in New York City, and the pop musician was in Los Angeles. He phoned her that morning, apologizing for his absence, but told her to expect the delivery of a large package before the end of the day. The daughter answered the doorbell that evening to find a seven-foot-tall brightly wrapped box. She tore it open, and out stepped her father, fresh off the plane from the West Coast." (Next Door Savior, Lucado pg 113)

Really, I wasn't exaggerating when I said I could turn to any page in this book and find 'something' that makes me smile. How surprised this little girl must have been to receive her father as a gift?! I know what I would have felt. The message in that one paragraph spoke to me.

I think there's a text out there like that for all of us. A book, article, something that you can pick up and read anywhere and it's just... right. The message 'speaks' to you from the pages. The author is able to take you along on this incredible journey that fills something in you.

I have very diverse tastes in my types of fiction. Like so many other people out there, I love to express myself through writing. I can lose myself in either reading or writing and I'm content with it. Max's books are very different from my choices in fiction. I like Stephen King (who's Under the Dome will be my next book recommendation). I like Jeanne Kalogridis and Dean Koontz. I enjoy reading books that are fantastical and take me on an incredible journey. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis is perhaps my favorite collection of all time.

So when I present Next Door Savior as a favorite of mine, it is very out of the norm. I'm just so thankful that this book was given to me. The ease of his prose. The way he presents his religion, his beliefs, lured me in instantly and touched me.

And this last passage, I think, is one of the ones that comes to my mind the most...

"Why did you fall so often after your first birth? Did you exit the womb wearing cross-trainers? Did you do the two-step on the day of your delivery? Of course not. And when you started to walk, you fell more than you stood. Should we expect anything different from our spiritual walk?

But I fall often, I question my salvation. Again, we return to your first birth. Didn't you stumble as you were learning to walk? And when you stumbled, did you question the validity of your physical birth? Did you, as a one-year-old fresh flopped on the floor, shake your head and think, I have fallen again. I must not be human?

Of course not. The stumbles of a toddler do not invalidate the act of birth. And the stumbles of a Christian do not annul his spiritual birth."
(Next Door Savior, Lucado pg 68-9)

An unknown opera singer, a pop icon, and a newborn. These are just a few of the examples of the diversity in the examples he uses to tell his story... to share the point he's making. There's something in the book to which we can all relate.

Kind of what makes a great book great to me. (Ok, one of the things, but it's an important one. I have to be able to relate to it on some level.)

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angelsgracie

March 2011

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