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Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places Paperback – September 9, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Far from didactic, his style of writing is experience-based, conversational easy reading. Poignant anecdotes illustrate and emphasize gems of wisdom gained and offered. Though simply stated in this straight-forward presentation, his words can be mined and treasured for their contents' depth, immediacy, and practicality.

—Frances O'Dell, OSF, Catholic Library World

About the Author

Joe McHugh is a spiritual director, retreat leader, writer, and workshop facilitator with a unique blend of experience in religious, educational, and business environments. Based in the Twin Cities, McHugh is the former executive director of the Loyola Spirituality Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He runs Spiritual Direction Twin Cities and teaches in the spiritual direction certification program at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology. He conducts workshops and retreats across the country.

After graduating from the University of Detroit Mercy, Joe earned a master of arts from Columbia University, where he also did doctoral work in organizational development, and received a master of divinity from Woodstock College in New York. McHugh is a regular contributor to the “Soul Matters” column in the National Catholic Reporter, and also writes for America magazine, the Twin Cities Business Journal, and Presence magazine.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 134 pages
  • Publisher: Franciscan Media (September 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616366850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616366858
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,254,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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In his introduction to “Startled by God”, Fr. Jan Michael Joncas cautions the reader that he or she not “read the book in one sitting”, and he is right; it is not that kind of book. That being said, I have to admit that I didn’t follow his suggestion either the first or second time I read what Joe McHugh had to say. Oh, I intended to, but I would take just a little peak at the beginning of the next chapter and before I knew it, I had devoured that one as well. And so it went, through all forty-one chapters. (Don’t be alarmed; the chapters are only about two and a half pages long at their longest.) One sitting later, I had finished the book.

But actually, finished is the wrong word to use here. I had consumed McHugh’s incredible insights like a very hungry person consumes a good dinner, and I found that I had not “finished” the book at all. Indeed, I had only just begun, and so I opened it again about a week later and began to read, a little more slowly this time. Once more, I was pulled inexorably through it -- although this time, it took me a sitting and a half to get through all 122 pages.

The third time – and yes, I’ve already committed to a third time – I plan to take Fr. Joncas’ advice and read just a chapter at a time, “do(ing) the homework Joe suggests in many of the essays to become a partner in the conversation.” That’s because this book is indeed a series of conversations with a warm and gentle spiritual director, one who invites the reader into a deeper, richer relationship with a God who is truly, thoroughly and lovingly omnipresent.

The premise of the book is disarmingly simple: that God is present to us most often in places that we don’t expect to find him.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Joe McHugh’s vocation is helping others grow through spiritual direction, workshops, and retreats. He learned his craft as a Jesuit priest of 20 years and continues to reach out to others through Spiritual Direction Twin Cities and the spiritual direction program at Southern Methodist University. He has written for National Catholic Reporter and America magazine and is the author of the recently released book Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places. McHugh defines spiritual direction as reflecting and praying with another to uncover God in our everyday experiences. The structure he favors centers on how God is active in our lives, the meaning of that activity, and ways we might respond.

The book features more than 30 short vignettes, many of which show God turning up unexpectedly in the lives of those who are open to faith, hope, and love. The stories are grouped under three headings: (1) What? Dilemmas of Perspective; (2) So What? Dilemmas of Discipleship, and (3) Now What? Dilemmas of Discernment. McHugh offers specific exercises at the end of many entries and suggests that readers construct their own activities for others. He recommends not just reading through the book for information, but using it with another person or a group, an approach that will demonstrate the special presence of Jesus among those who gather in his name.

In an early story, McHugh explains that he suffers from “binocularity,” (using only one eye at a time) and relates this physical condition to the spiritual. He notes that some see only grace or guilt, but not both; likewise death or resurrection, loss or gain, and self-giving or self-fulfillment. Instead of this one-sided view, he writes, we need to “see ourselves as God sees us: a loved sinner.” He encourages those prone to either/or thinking to pray frequently for healing and to meditate on Scripture passages in which Jesus opens the eyes of the blind.
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Totally unfamiliar with this writer, I was intrigued by the title and the description. It will, no doubt, be on my shelf as a go-to source for my own spiritual growth for a long time to come, and I've already shared it with friends. Pick it up, read something short but spot-on insightful and stretching, put it down, ponder, go back to it ... then move on to the the next few pages.
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McHugh writes in a humble, simple style that gently draws the reader into exploring their own relationship with God. While McHugh suggests some practices and offers guidance; he neither espouses nor emphasizes one particular practice over another. His stories of seeing God where we live emphasize a God who wants a relationship with us. Startled by God is designed to be savored and returned to again and again. It is a most unique expression of God as a living, active being and is well-worth your money. This book is for everyone;from the seeker to seasoned disciple; if savored, it offers new possibilities and fresh insights for all.
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I ordered this to give to a friend and she is very pleased with the content. It arrived on schedule. So we BOTH are very happy about this transaction.
Joan Bogle
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