Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: My God and My All


As a Protestant, I’ve been a little leery of the word.

As a child, I never learned much about the “saints.” I did hear of Saint Francis of Assisi, particularly in reference to quotes such as his peace prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

So I found it interesting, and all brand new, to hear about Saint Francis’ life in my 8yo daughter’s history curriculum. I could easily see him as a saint in the biblical sense of the word. And I was ready to take on a more in-depth look into his life with this book.

Synopsis of Book

mygodandmyallENPerhaps more than any other figure in Christian history, Saint Francis of Assisi has captured our imagination, for his is a story of extreme self-sacrifice, of love to God and man. How could this wealthy, handsome youth cast away all the advantages that were his by birth and choose instead a career of poverty and humility? How could he attract members of all strata of society to his mission? And how, when his order became established throughout Europe, could he renounce great personal power and humbly continue his life’s work?

Here is Francis, from his twelfth-century boyhood to his life as a missionary roaming the very boundaries of the known world. Here too are the men and women who followed him – Bernard de Quintavalle, the rich businessman; Peter Cathanii, the lawyer; Brother Giles, the farmer’s son; Lady Clare; and so many others – all drawn together by the personal magnetism and humble faith of their leader, all re-created by bestselling novelist Elizabeth Goudge against a rich medieval canvas.

Of Saint Francis, Goudge writes:
It is as a Christian that he matters to us, as a humble, poor man who set himself to tread as closely as he could in the footsteps of Christ, perhaps as closely as any man has ever done, and by so doing he shames us. Looking at him we see what it means to be a Christian and what it costs. His story is not only endearing, it is terrifying. Yet without the fear and shame he would not have so much power over us, for we know in our hearts that what is worth having costs everything. And so his power lives on and we cannot measure it because it is nowhere near its end.

About the Author

Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge (1900–1984) was one of the most popular British novelists of the twentieth century. She had two #1 New York Times bestsellers: Green Dolphin Street (1944) and Pilgrim’s Inn (1948); the first was made into an Academy Award–winning film.

Goudge also wrote many acclaimed children’s books. The Little White Horse, whichHarry Potter author J. K. Rowling has said was her favorite book as a child, won the 1946 Carnegie Medal as the most outstanding British children’s book of the year.

Elizabeth Goudge’s Christian spirituality pervades all her work, but nowhere as explicitly as in her books God So Loved the World: The Story of Jesus Christ and My God and My All: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi. The New York Times wrote of her work, “Elizabeth Goudge’s novels, long or short, have always been distinguished by a quality of lyrical joyousness more usually associated with poetry than with prose and, perhaps, with music than with writing.”

Genre:  Christian classic 
Physical Description:  Paperback, 310 pages, 5.5”x8” 
List Price:  $16.00 paperback; $10 Kindle (currently $12.69/$8.49 on Amazon)
To Buy:
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Mom’s Review:

This is not a quick read. With 310 pages of small print, it can feel a bit overwhelming at first. For someone who does a lot of skim reading, this was a struggle to begin reading. There is little dialogue. I got lost and had to backtrack and re-read over and over, since every word had its place in setting the context and moving the story along.

So I started reading it aloud to my 8yo, and the words just flowed, almost like poetic prose. She didn’t stick around long, to be honest, but oral reading made me start to fall in love with the writing style.

Wow. What a story. Anecdote after anecdote, each one as inspiring as the last. Like the one about his “son” Ruffino, who struggled with public speech. After refusing a command to preach at Assisi, Francis, in a temper, ordered Ruffino to go speak without his clothing. And he did, much to the mirth of the townsmen. Francis, feeling remorse, listened patiently to Ruffino stumble through his sermon. And then, taking off his own clothing, he joined Ruffino at the pulpit, quieting the crowd’s laughter with a sermon on Christ’s poverty and nakedness.

The author gives an underlying desperation to Francis’ story – a fear and determination not be be lost. However, the overwhelming joy, of the privilege of taking up the cross with Christ, is by far the dominant theme of his life. I love that blend of humility and joy – and the story makes me want to model that!

Francis’ story of humility and service is set in the historical context of a gluttonous church – full of power and wealth – and the details of history the author gives makes the story that much more meaningful. It is clear in my mind that, in spite of the flaws Francis was quick to admit to, God used him in a miraculous way to shift the course of Christianity upward from its downward spiral.

If you’re a history lover, if you want a story that will inspire you to greater faith, this book is for you.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Handlebar Central for coordinating this book for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.