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72 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a mind most open
In her other books, Kathleen Norris has written about the life journey that took her away from home, to Bennington College in Vermont and then to New York City, as she became a poet and lived in the eminently secular literary world; then back to the Great Plains of South Dakota, where she began attending her Grandmother's church and gradually found herself drawn to the...
Published on September 13, 2001 by Orrin C. Judd

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reclaiming our vocabulary of faith.
I am so grateful that I found and read this book of outstanding courage. Kathleen takes the thoughtful reader through a wonderful exercise of reclaiming what for her was a lost vocabulary of faith. Much of what she had to say about the Christian words I grew up with has been echoed in my own life, and while I have not gone back to my roots, I do feel much more...
Published on January 18, 2000 by Dave Kinnear


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72 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a mind most open, September 13, 2001
This review is from: Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (Paperback)
In her other books, Kathleen Norris has written about the life journey that took her away from home, to Bennington College in Vermont and then to New York City, as she became a poet and lived in the eminently secular literary world; then back to the Great Plains of South Dakota, where she began attending her Grandmother's church and gradually found herself drawn to the Christianity she had forsaken many years before. In this book she tries to do exactly what she describes above, take individual words that she found, and many others still find, off putting from the Biblical and Christian lexicons and reconcile herself to their meanings, however harsh or judgmental or intimidating they may seem.
She does this in a series of very brief essays--about 80 in less than four hundred pages--covering such words as : Dogma, Heresy, and Pentecostal. Between the number of topics she covers and the very personal reflections they provoke, no one will agree with everything she has to say, and many will disagree with most of it. But she brings two extremely important qualities to the task : humility and skepticism.
....
People of faith are commonly caricatured as people whose minds are closed to all but their own beliefs. Kathleen Norris exemplifies the fact that quite the opposite is often true, that faith often comes to those whose minds are most open, to both doubt and possibility.
....
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the courage to ponder, June 29, 2001
"Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith" is the first book I have read by Kathleen Norris. I'd heard a good deal about her prior to reading it. I was prepared to be disappointed. I was not. "Amazing Grace" is one heck of a book.
Ms. Norris is a rare find. In "Amazing Grace" she combines deep, honest reflection with beautiful, unassuming prose to construct short, sweet, and insightful pieces about words (things like "grace," "judgment," and "hell") that have always unsettled or scared her a bit. She examines each word carefully. Often, she thought of sides of a topic I had never considered. The following is part of the passage on grace...Ms. Norris approaches the subject in a unique and enlightening way (She is speaking in the context of Jacob's flight from his brother Esau as told in Genesis 28):
"God does not punish Jacob as he lies sleeping because he can see in him Israel, the foundation of a people. God loves to look at us, and loves it when we will look back at him. Even when we try to run away from our troubles, as Jacob did, God will find us, and bless us, even when we feel most alone, unsure if we'll survive the night. God will find a way to let us know that he is with us in this place, wherever we are, however far we think we've run. And maybe that's one reason we worship-to respond to grace. We praise God not to celebrate our own faith but to give thanks for the faith God has in us. To let ourselves look at God, and let God look back at us. And to laugh, and sing, and be delighted because God has called us his own."
Kathleen Norris is to be commended for the courage she displays in pondering the questions these often loaded words have left her with. All who read her book will benefit from her thoughts.
"Amazing Grace" was a true joy to read. I recommend it highly.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly Good, December 17, 2004
By 
Randy Keehn (Williston, ND United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (Paperback)
This book impressed me immensely; well beyond what I had expected and I had read two previous books by Kathleen Norris. It is a marvelous format that works like a sort of "Day by Day" series of inspiring and/or compelling theological thoughts. Rather than follow a litergical order of verses, Norris uses different words and terms associated with Christianity to fuel her observations. I honestly was expecting a sort of academic treatise on what various terms meant. What I got instead was an illustration of the essence of the meaning of various aspects and perspectives of Christianity. From the very beginning I was inspired by what Ms. Norris was sharing. She has observed a lot through her years and has a remarkable ability to recall those observations into illuminating stories.

Part of the impression this book made upon me may have had something to do with the fact that I started reading it towards the end of a retreat I was on. It was at the Benedictine Convent and Abbey where Ms. Norris spent much of her time. I hadn't even considered the connection when I took the book along but I was quickly in tune with her comments about her experiences with the Benedictine nuns and monks. Part of the appeal of her book to me had to have something to do with so many events taking place in locales I am familiar with. However, the broader appeal of the book lies in her sincere devotion to the Benedictine Way while equally active in the main stream Protestant Church. She seems intent on exploring ways to find a closer and clearer meaning to her faith. Like Ms. Norris, I had experienced years apart from religion before returning to it with a sincere intention to become a "Good Christian". However, I needed to first understand what it is that comprises a "Good Christian". Kathleen Norris spoke to me in the voice of experience of someone who has gone quite a bit further than I. I say that even though my journey has led me to ordination as an Episcopal Priest. Ms. Norris shares a lot of her experiences as a somewhat reluctant lay minister in the Presyterian Church. I am satified that she has found her vocation.

Ms. Norris is a Poet in the literal sense because it is her real profession. I'm not one for poetry but I have always enjoyed the rare author who can write prose and leave the impression that one has read poetry. Her book, "Dakota" is a masterpiece of that style as is "Amazing Grace". I confess that I was not as drawn into her book, "The Cloister Walk". I think that is why I was a bit shy about starting "Amazing Grace". However, I am very greatful that I took it on that retreat. I would recommend this book to anyone who aspires to know more about the Christian faith. Those even mildly interested will find a voice that speaks in a clear, compelling and informative manner. Too many similar book instruct; Ms. Norris inspires.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting; very interesting, January 19, 2000
This review is from: Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (Paperback)
My response is as much to the other comments about this book. I am currently halfway through the book, and am positively loving it. I am always eager to listen and learn from others' personal relationships with God. I notice that there is a great split in the reviews; people either love the book or hate it. It seems to me, in an extremely simplistic sense, that there are two sorts of Christians reading the book. There are those who are open to interpretation and a rather ecumenical, liberal faith, and those who are so traditional and fundamental that they are unable to appreciate any variance from the mainstream. This sort of thinking can only build stronger walls between "real" Christians and the rest of us. Who is to say that Norris' relationship with Christ is in actuality the "road to hell"? Widen the circle; allow for diversity so the Christian community can truly exist as the Body of Christ. The right hand really hasn't any business slapping the left. The book is elegant and full of spiritual gems; Norris is a modern mystic to be celebrated.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a "comfortable" book, a good book, March 25, 1999
In Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris challenges her readers to take the Christian faith seriously, just as the she has struggled to do. Her book affirms a call I am receiving, at 26, to embrace my tradition. There is exclusivism, I am realizing, in embracing a religious tradition. This is what makes traditions different--they don't agree on certain points. "Amazing Grace" takes as a point of departure the particularities of the Christian tradition expressed in the language of faith. Norris challenges Christians to find meaning in this vocabulary, even in its exclusiveness, which is, as she knows from experience, not an easy thing to do. If you are interested in a thoughtful, intelligent, and poetic interpretation of what makes Christianity a living religion, this book will be a blessing along your journey.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Grace, July 23, 2005
This review is from: Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (Paperback)
Unlike the the Author, Katherine Norris , I have been a Catholic all my 71 Years and She has renewed my faith and spirituality and taught me more about the religion I grew up in then all the catechism classes and college courses in theology I studied.

She is right up there with Henri Nouen and Edwina Gateley.

What beautiful reading.

Rita Peters
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reclaiming our vocabulary of faith., January 18, 2000
This review is from: Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (Paperback)
I am so grateful that I found and read this book of outstanding courage. Kathleen takes the thoughtful reader through a wonderful exercise of reclaiming what for her was a lost vocabulary of faith. Much of what she had to say about the Christian words I grew up with has been echoed in my own life, and while I have not gone back to my roots, I do feel much more comfortable with the old language after having read her book.
Bringing the words of faith to life in our everyday living is certainly a struggle for most of us. Kathleen shows us some of the ways her own struggles lead her to at least temporary states of grace. This interesting and useful approach to defining her own theology was lively, engaging, and compelling in the sense that she faces her many shortcomings, celebrates her successes, and continually strives for meaning in her life.
Personally, I find today's organized religion lacking any real meaning. But Kathleen has shown me how I can at least reclaim some of the vocabulary of faith that I had long ago thrown out with the other religious baggage of my early years.
Thank you Kathleen.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Trying to reach a state of grace...as are we all..., March 25, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (Paperback)
A very thought-out book from a very thought-provoking lady. Kathleen Norris' reemergence as a Christian continues, but this time she's out of the monastery and back in the real world--where, one is tempted to say, her stories make a little more sense--I liked "The Cloister Walk" but found it hard to relate to given its setting. This book is a bit more accessible...she speaks quite frankly of the struggles both she and others have had with religion, and especially Christianity. Hearing her thoughts on such matters is at the very least entertaining and at the most rather insightful. Make no mistake, though--she's a no-bones wordsmith and can be quite acid-tongued in some of her more pointed observations. I would suggest that she intended this book primarily for a Christian audience, particularly an open-minded and road-worn Christian audience. She's quite open to other ideas and experiences, but she's got a burr under her saddle about quick fixes and what she perceives as warm, fuzzy, fake spirituality--hates 'em like the plague! However, one gets the impression that her opinions are well-meant; she seems to care more about self-honesty than anything else, and her pet peeves are those she considers to be spiritually and emotionally dishonest. That bizness about the Republicans...mmm, Kathleen, got any more wormwood to spread around? If you're a sporting person willing to listen to how the author dealt with her own "religious heritage" then it can be quite an enlightening book. When you get Kathleen Norris, you get all of her--both her redeeming qualities and those you might disagree with. True to her style, however, she does give the reader a complete picture of herself and a candid account of her own shortcomings. To the spiritual seeker, she will no doubt shed some light on Christian spirituality and why it can sometimes seem so obtuse.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From one pilgrim to another thank you for journeying., December 4, 1999
By 
After reading Kathleen Norris, "The Cloister Walk", I was delighted to see the sequel "Amazing Grace". I am always searching for those persons who are willing to trust and take the risk of sharing their faith with others. It is not easy to go into the depths and find the simplicity of the heart and hope that others can recognize that this simplicity, this place of vulnerability is God communicating with us. You have to leave the cerebral for awhile to get to the heart of Christianity. There is far too much intellectualizing in this day and age. "Amazing Grace", comes not so much from the head as from "listening with the heart". I believe, this is where Kathleen Norris is taking us, on her journey. To the depths, sometimes of despair but with faith and trust that this is temporary and we will overcome the temptation to enter into the darkness. We have choices, Christianity is not a place of euphoria. We cannot box God into our way of thinking "Give me only your love and your grace, that's enough for me".If only I could believe and live these words each and every moment, I would be at peace forever and ever. Amen.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, just lovely, May 7, 2001
This review is from: Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (Paperback)
Just when you wonder where the next generation of good spiritual writers is coming from, along comes Kathleen Norris. This is a wonderful read. Norris is intelligent, honest, and writes with such a poetic sensibility that you end the book craving more. She is deeply thoughtful, is in tune with all the contemporary concerns, doubts, questions, and yearnings about religious faith and experience, and writes with such warmth that I could easily imagine myself bumping into her at a retreat house and approaching her as if she were an old friend. She isn't sure about everything so if an author voicing her doubts bothers you, you may want to move on to another volume. The rest of us will get much from this. At a time when the spiritual sections in the bookstores seem to be flooded with new age feel-good tripe, it is so refreshing to read someone who realizes there is more to faith and spirituality than getting a "feel-good" fix every now and then that demands nothing from us in return and, consequently, holds no possibility of growth. Bravo! to the author.
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Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith
Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris (Paperback - April 1, 1999)
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