JRF's #24 - Visit the Sick by Brian Croft

Do you consider care for the sick an essential activity for Christ followers?  Do you have a theology that is sturdy enough to shine even in the darkness of those on the brink of death?  Do you think to pop a few breath mints before you go and pray with someone on their sickbed?

This book presents a concise, Biblical and practical guide for caring for the sick in Christ's name and strength.  While Croft's many years of experience as a pastor as well as being the son of a doctor provide ample material for practical advise, it is the Biblical foundation that Croft lays prior to discussing the practical implications of that foundation that is the real strength of this book.  Too often books either expound on Scripture and theology but never make practical demands from that theology, or even worse, start with the pragmatic and then search for prooftexts in Scripture to give weight to opinions.    Croft does an excellent job of letting his practical exhortations flow from the Word of God, both from specific texts on caring for the sick and dying and from the metanarratives of Scripture.  Above all he shows that caring for the sick is about the Gospel.

This book was a great reminder of the essential ministry of caring for the physical needs of people as well as a great tool for accomplishing that task.

Jim's #22: Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Die by David Crowder and Mike Hogan

A few very interesting events led up to the reading of this book.  First of all, I bought it at a David Crowder Band concert last week because 1. I love their music and 2. they're hilarious, so naturally the book would be as well.  More on that in a second.  Then, last Friday, as I was getting my oil changed, I read the prologue of the book and then forgot it at the register.  I finally came back yesterday to pick up the book only to notice that one of the employees of Jiffy Lube was already a good chunk into it and wants to borrow it when I'm done.  Well, I'm done... 24 hours later and 257 pages.  Just an idea of how captivating this book is. Yet surprisingly, it is not primarily funny.  I was sure it would be (and the footnotes are still), especially after reading the hilarious prologue, but the book took a turn for the worse?/better?... both I suppose.  The tone became a mix of melancholy and hope, of pain and healing.

It's a book about death, bluegrass, and the soul.  It's part academic in their analysis of the history of the soul and that of bluegrass, presented in a way that makes you wonder how it will all tie together in the end (which it does).  These parts help break up the weightiness of the rest of the book.  Death is the resounding theme, something that is very real to both authors, David Crowder and Mike Hogan, and a difficult topic to handle with care and sobriety without losing a reader's interest.  In particular, they recount the story of their pastor and friend, Kyle, who died unexpectedly by being electrocuted in the baptismal of their church.  The pain of this instance resonates throughout the book, focusing much more on the hard realities than the eventual hope offered.  One of the most unique and genuine parts of the book are the 7 IM (instant messenger) conversations printed between the authors.  This is the area where it all ties together and where we see the unplanned thought-processes of the authors.  Toward the end of the book David reflects again on Kyle's death with resounding hope through one of these conversations:

What we want is rebirth.  We want something beyond what we are currently experiencing.  We want new life.  And there Kyle was, standing in it [the baptismal]!  The whole weight of his person immersed in a metaphor, chest deep in burial; the Christian representation of movement from mortal death to the residence of God.  To follow Jesus leads you to the grave; it leads you to death.  You must follow him up the hill, and there was Kyle, standing in a metaphor, and became it.  And it was what he said at the end, the very end that was so simple and profound. "Someone help me. Someone, please help me." The supplication of humanity.  He enunciated our plea while standing in the figurative response to it.

Amazing insight and all that on the fly.

Their album, A Collision, is an album about death (and my favorite of theirs to date); I had no idea until I read this book, but it makes sense now.  Shortly after the album release, Kyle died.  David wondered if they wrote the album as much for them as for anything.  Then in another IM conversation, he comes across something incredibly profound.

Well, hallel consists of 6 Psalms that are recited at the Jewish celebration of passover.  A group of songs really. You know, the recitation of "His love endure forever..." well that's part of it.  So you get the tone.  Now this might be a little crazy but follow me... ok?  So the night of the last supper, we can, with a fair amount of safety, assume that Jesus recited the hallel with his disciples the last night they were together.  So if we believe that scripture is inspired by God, that it is God-breathed, and if we believe that Jesus was divine, that He was God-incarnate, then would it be unreasonable to wonder whether God breathed out a song that he knew he would need later in his human form?  Did He know that something as simple as a bit of art could help shape the reality He saw with His human eyes and heart? That in a moment of such weight and enormity it could make all the difference.

This ended up being one of the heaviest books I have ever read (which is kind of funny because my mom just called me and told me I need to do some lighter reading) :), but one I will probably read again when the unfortunate reality of death strikes nearby.  It's difficult, but helpful, hopeful, and makes me want to listen to some bluegrass right now.  I guess I need to return this to Jiffy Lube now!