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Hidden In Plain Sight Paperback – Jul 24 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A book on virtue may seem a thing of the past, but pastor Buchanan (Your God Is Too Safe; Things Unseen) puts a modern twist on its study and practice. "How do I get more of God in my life?" he asks himself. The answer has been obvious since the Apostle Peter, a follower of Jesus Christ, reputedly penned the words of the Bible's 2 Peter 1:1–9 nearly 2,000 years ago. Peter, who Buchanan describes as "by turns rash, dithering, cocky, [and] cowering," lists in that passage seven virtues faithful Christians must seek to grow closer to God: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. Buchanan first digs deeply into the faith that undergirds these virtues, then studies each one in depth. He defines, explains, details and applies each virtue to the Christian life, building one upon the other with the expertise of a master. Buchanan's creative and image-filled writing brings life to what could be a dry subject, and his spiritual depth reveals Peter's heart: "Possess [these virtues] in increasing measure, and the life of Christ can flow unimpeded through you" (2 Peter 1:8). This is a startlingly honest, newly revealing look at both Peter and these virtues left unmined for too long. (Mar. 13)
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About the Author
Mark Buchanan lives on Vancouver Island, Canada, with his wife, Cheryl, and their three children, Adam, Sarah, and Nicola. He is a pastor and the author of five other books, Your God is Too Safe, Things Unseen, The Holy Wild, The Rest of God, and Hidden in Plain Sight. Some days he is restful or playful without shame.See all Product Description
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Buchanan states up front that this book is about practicing virtue. However, he quickly sidesteps Victorian stereotypes and invites us to explore dark, haunting, beautiful, and life-changing truths contained in a few verses from II Peter. He leads us through these precepts, connecting the dots of virtue, building one upon the other, until we have a clear picture of what it means to have godly love. Along the way, Buchanan gives us insights into this outspoken disciple. Peter is more human than we remember--and more godly than we might assume. Peter shows us an example of what to do and what not to do.
Buchanan uses this example to great effect. He offers hope for those who feel discouraged in their Christian progress, as well as correction for those who have lost their focus, or become spiritual workaholics. He raises questions. He deals honestly with life's difficulties. In a deceptively light 200 pages, he gives meaty bites of practical theology, bites that require thorough chewing to produce the most efficient nourishment. Don't rush through these pages. Mull them over. Enjoy each savory word picture. These concepts are ones to live by.
The life we've always wanted, Buchanan reminds us, is already here. It's not later, like after the kids are grown, or we've gone to counseling, or gotten a degree. It's now. We have everything we need. And there are seven virtues that, according to the Apostle Peter, if we add to our lives will make us more fruitful and productive. But first we have to search out these virtues and apply them.
What are the virtues? We need knowledge, the key to efficiency and productivity, and for it to be detoxified by goodness, which renders knowledge beneficial and not impressive. Add self-control; learn to pray. Persevere. Become Godly (Godliness, he notes, is "beautiful when it is authentic, and revolting when it's pretense.") Be kind. Love each other. Virtue's "groundwork" is faith, he writes. Its lifeblood is the Spirit.
As in his previous books, such as THE REST OF GOD and THINGS UNSEEN, Buchanan crafts lovely prose and careful word choices to get his message across. "...the Spirit is a wind. I'm learning to run with his gentle pummeling on my back, keeping me from growing weary. Some days, I spread my arms like wings and catch that wind beneath them, and for moments I fly. I fly."
Buchanan's vulnerability, often poignant personal stories, careful incorporation of scripture, illustrations and quotes from such diverse writers as Annie Dillard, G.K. Chesterton, and Pat Conroy enrich and illuminate his message. Every page is a challenge if we take it to heart. And we can't be proud of these virtues; rather, each virtue must come with an underlying humility.
In one interesting passage of the book, Buchanan wrestles with a concept that I've always struggled with. When we know that whenever we make a decision, the fallout of it might have negative consequences, how do we move forward? For example, we send care packages with toothbrushes in them to impoverished children in Africa, and the local toothbrush vendor loses his business. Or the church decides to invest in new choir robes, and the local food pantry can't feed 30 families because they are short on funds. It can make you crazy! Buchanan's advice, riffing on Martin Luther's "sin boldly," is helpful: "Don't anguish over every little thing. Do what needs doing and leave the outcome to God."
Something different: Buchanan integrates "The Petrine Diaries," 11 entries drawn from the life of Peter plus three short fictional stories that are tagged onto each section of the book, which he includes to "stir up your imagination." Although his nonfiction is stronger than his fiction, these short stories help flesh out the person of Peter on which the book revolves.
This is a message that will go straight to your heart if you let it, make you ask yourself questions about the way you are living, if you are risking enough, if you really want enough of God. I love Buchanan's hope for his book: "May it disrupt us, turn us upside down in order to live right-side up.... May it help us live with such holy vigor that when we're gone, our epitaph will be, "They really lived." May we say, "God, I want more of you." Amen and amen.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby