- Paperback: 220 pages
- Publisher: Brazos Press (June 17, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1587433419
- ISBN-13: 978-1587433412
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 39 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #622,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness Paperback – June 17, 2014
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From the Back Cover
"A rich blend of theology, devotional, and memoir"
"An extraordinary debut from one of today's most promising new authors. In the tradition of the prophets, Marlena Graves sings a wilderness song, seamlessly connecting her own story to both the biblical narrative and the questions, struggles, and joys of all who travel the wilderness road. With a voice that is gentle and strong, passionate and mature, Graves invites the reader to pay attention, to be still and know God."
--Rachel Held Evans, author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood
"Marlena Graves explores the spiritual wilderness with a host of fellow travelers, from biblical personae to the ancient church to present company. She mines their wisdom about getting through life's deserts and eloquently shares lessons she has learned through her own brokenness."
--Dennis Okholm, author of Monk Habits for Everyday People
"To move through brokenness, we need to be both gently reflective and boldly courageous. Marlena Graves combines this unusual blend of necessary pursuits so that we don't simply 'get through it,' but move into a transformed life of flourishing daily in the kingdom of God."
--Jan Johnson, author of Invitation to the Jesus Life
"Marlena Graves's gentle wisdom, pastoral tenderness, and graceful conviction strengthen my soul. Meditating on Scripture and the wisdom of the desert mothers and fathers, she offers a balm to the hurting and hope that our dry and weary times will, with God's help, bloom into something beautiful."
--Rachel Marie Stone, author of Eat with Joy
"A Beautiful Disaster offers up a rich blend of theology, devotional, and memoir--and at times breaks into sheer poetry. Marlena Graves is one of the most gifted thinkers and writers of her generation."
--Karen Swallow Prior, author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me
"Marlena Graves writes with freshness and a clear, cool sense of authority as she guides us through Christ's wilderness, one metaphor at a time. She speaks as one who knows the consoling, challenging presence of God firsthand."
--Emilie Griffin, author of Wilderness Time and Souls in Full Sail
"Marlena has experienced God's promise of making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert to comfort and train those he loves. There is hope, help, and encouragement for each of us in these pages."
--Joe Moore, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
About the Author
Marlena Graves (MDiv, Northeastern Seminary) is an op-ed writer for Christianity Today's popular Her.meneutics blog. She is a member of Ink: A Creative Collective, the Redbud Writers Guild, and the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Institute and has written for Christianity Today, Relevant, and the Conversations blog. She has also worked in college residential life and speaks frequently to students and congregations about spiritual formation.
Top customer reviews
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Marlena writes about the desert wilderness of the spiritual life. Dorothy Greco rightly refers to Marlena as a "wilderness guide", one who has spent time learning the lessons of the desert and now leads others through their own spiritual deserts.
In A Beautiful Disaster Marlena writes powerfully about her dysfunctional childhood. "I lived in a world of turmoil.... I needed God to show me his path through the desert wilderness of poverty, DUIs, adultery, mental illness, prison, a house fire, the death of loved ones, and my own bad decisions." Marlena found God in the wilderness of her childhood and learned lessons there that served her well as she grew. In her adult life, she encountered more wilderness experiences. Yet instead of despairing in these deserts, Marlena found God there. She discovers that "desert land is fertile ground for spiritual activity, transformation, and renewal."
Rather than being preachy or platitudinous, as many writers tend to be when discussing suffering, Marlena's tone is consistently gracious and humble. The book is brimming with wisdom, intertwined with stories, Scripture and quotes. The result is a thoughtful, serious, and beautiful guide.
After just one reading, my copy of A Beautiful Disaster is marked up with notes and scribbles throughout. Each chapter seemed better than the last. I will certainly be revisiting this book many times in the future and will be giving copies away as well. Out of all the books I've read on trials and suffering, this will definitely be the one that I recommend to others.
Finally, it seems impossible that I write any endorsement of A Beautiful Disaster without also endorsing its author. As I said before, Marlena is a friend and a mentor. I can attest that Marlena's life matches her message. She is sincere in her pursuit of Jesus and is constantly encouraging others towards him. Marlena reflects Jesus in her writing as well as in her life.
*Originally posted at www.calliegloriosomays.com
There's much to praise in the book. Too often, stories like Marlena's are understood but are then moralized so quickly that the narrative -- and, perhaps most importantly, the person whose narrative it is -- are lost in quick generalizations. (I say this as an ethicist in the Analytic philosophical tradition, where I'm all too happy to abstract a point from a thought experiment.) In my view, such an abstraction would be less worthwhile with this book, as it seems to seek not to give simple theological lessons for those who are down on their spiritual luck (in fact, Graves is extremely cautious to distance herself from quick fixes to theological problems, such as the problem of evil), but rather to let a song of desperation be heard.
In singing that song, Graves, while obviously erudite, does not come off as a theologian here to heal our wounds with quick patches for our ills, but rather as someone who struggles, someone who shares the disease of theological lostness. In that, she meets her intended audience where they are. Better still, Graves is in fact a trained theologian, and it's all the better that her training does not fully repair her wrestling with God and with life. She does not appear to 'have it all together', but it's doubtful many truly honest spiritual persons do.
Marlena Graves, like the Christ she represents and adores, dwells among us. As her wilderness song is found in harmony with our own, we know we are not alone, and that is something. Maybe everything.
between page 1 and page 204. I especially liked
Grave's views on the need for silence and solitude.
She says we cannot live our whole life in
full view of others and that solitude is where
we find ourselves and it is a soul-soothing time.
I also liked the end of the book where she
discusses being fully alive. There are lovely
passages about laughter, play--- and God's
acceptance of play and fun. One thing that
bothered me about the book is how often
Graves refers to her unhappiness,
poverty, sin and the wilderness in her life. The
reader is lead to believe that her life was hard,
however we are never told much about these
hardships. We are left to wonder whether it was abuse,
drugs, alcohol or sex. We probably picture her life worse
than it was in reality. The story would be stronger if the
reader knew what obstacles she had to overcome.