Divine Applause – Jeff Anderson

God is interested in you.

In fact, a good father is interested in everything his children do.

This is a fantastic way to start a wonderfully introspective book. Jeff Anderson captured me as a reader quickly with the story of his own childhood vulnerabilities. He continues to weave a web of intricate and fragile life stories into a strong as steel framework that should compel us to consider what real relational growth with God looks like.

There are moments in Jeff’s writing that are easy to agree with. “Even though God remains invisible, you realize He’s not distant.” (41). There are also moments that make you uncomfortable. “Your Father is waiting for a sign from you.” (58).

There is something compelling in the way he writes. I began to champion this author as he describes life as a young boy with a hearing problem. I found myself cheering for him and understanding his desire to see God differently. I’ve had that desire too, my guess is, so have you.

The first of three sections of the book are dedicated to seeing God differently. I was deeply compelled in these seven chapters to ask questions of my own life. Have I taken risks to grow? Do I allow Jesus to speak to me intimately as a friend (John 15:15)? Do God and I share any secrets together in our relationship?

God desires to share private moments with us. Jeff Anderson reminded me of my Grandpa Kinner sitting and winking at me as he handed me a Coke. It was to be our secret (My Mother restricted my caffeine intake). Grandpa took joy in our relationship, we had secrets. My two year old daughter likes to hand me small toys. She tells me to put them in my pocket and keep them safe for her. She trusts me to keep her treasures safe.

Do you and the Father have secrets? Does a relationship exist just between the two of you?

The second section of of this book also consists of seven chapters. It is titled “Bold Steps”. Here there is outward movement. This is where the author tackles the mountain of living differently after we see differently.

I just picked up a new prescription at the eye glass shop, by the way. My left eye is feeling the strain of adjustment even as I write this review. My new bifocals will take a while for me to get used to, but now that I can see differently. I can only hope I will take full advantage of them by using them to see the smiles of my children in even greater detail this week. I’ve had some headaches lately. That’s no way to live. Changing our perceptions for the better, sharpening our view of what matters is important. Even more importantly keeping the glasses on and living in new ways shows the impact of your improved sight.

In this section Jeff highlights the patience of God as he encourages us to consider taking bold steps in how we handle everything in the physical world around us. The author digs in to our money, need for recognition, diet, need for approval and even our doubts. He states the obvious that “Giving is for everyone.” (83). But surrounds this fact with a vision and stories that are very compelling. Well they were to me. The most compelling portion for me was his utilization of John the Baptizer as an example of a man who took extreme risks in pursuit of his relationship with God.

I’m not sure I have ever looked at John’s story like that.

He’s a prophet, right? He was to set the stage for Jesus, right? This was just his lot in life, his place, he had no say in the matter…  But what if John did have a say? What if everything he did and became, all that he fulfilled, came from his deep love for and intimate relationship with God.

The outcome of his life was because he saw God differently than everyone else. John saw the Father and the Father spoke to him. They had secrets and it compelled John to do what was crazy to us, but very normal to him. John saw God clearly speaking to him and took bold steps.

Once we see God clearly, how does that impact how we spend our money, eat our food and in all practical ways live our lives? The author explores these areas with determination and narrative that displays both balance and life experience. He is reflective and not preachy. I appreciated that.

This leads us to the third and final section of this book. It contains only four chapters. They are really about the future of where the other two journeys take us. Walking Upward.

As I began reading through this section I came to the realization that this is not the first time I have come across a three part journey forward.

Perhaps I missed it in this author’s work, but the three part dynamic of intimacy with God he is laying out with slightly altered wordings was first laid out by Henri Nouwen in his integrated approach to spiritual formation. Will Hernandez wrote a book titled “A Spirituality of Imperfection” whereas he built on Nouwen’s notes and study. He listed the same ‘Three Journeys’ as he probed the depths of what it means to be a ‘Wounded Healer’. He lists these Journeys as follows. 1. Journey Inward, 2. Journey Outward, 3. Journey Upward.

I could not help but see these three clearly reflected in the outline and intention of this book. To be fair I enjoyed this book greatly, but I have also enjoyed this walk before with other authors such as Terry Wardle, Henri Nouwen and Will Hernandez.

It seems they should be mentioned somewhere here. Building on and making the three journeys contemporary is a great endeavor. Believe me I appreciate it and enjoyed it thoroughly. I do however feel that if you are going to build on and promote the scholarly work others have given their lives to, they should at least get a nod.

One final thought. The reflective journey inward to hear God speak and reveal Himself to us followed by the outward actions that He calls us to, leads to a life lived in an upward direction. Drawing us ever closer to the future, our eternity with Christ. We become drawn together like magnets. It is a true thing of beauty. We may fear the proximity and collision, but we must not stop in our attraction to the heavenly Father and His attraction to us.

I completely recommend this read to anyone who wants to grow in relationship with the Father. I also recommend that this author site his sources and give credit where it’s due.

Everyone will be the better for it. * **

*I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for this review.

**The three Journeys were utilized in the founding documents and logo of the church plant I lead, Journey Church.