Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Remarkable Ordinary by Frederick Buechner

Buechner's book is sort of an ungainly mixture of subtle teaching and memoir. I initially thought the stories from his life were included as illustrations of his teaching but it later became clear that was not the case. While some of his recollections did seem to bear directly on his topic for this book, others just seemed to be rambling accounts of segments of his life. At one point Buechner writes, “And then there came this one particular Sunday, which I've often written about like everything else, but I'll tell you about it again.” (84) If you make it your work to write books, I suppose you do have to repeat yourself from time to time.

Buechner indicates that this book is an encouragement to live in that holy, inner place, where we have the image of God in us. He wants us to stop the chatter and be more mindful. He wants us to really notice those around us. “To love your neighbor is to see your neighbor,” he says. (39) He wants us to recognize each person we see as a peculiar treasure. He encourages us to experience others by telling our stories so he tells his. He suggests we pay attention to what is holy in our daily life, those moments where we realize life is a treasure. He advocates trying to live in the present even though the stories he tells reveals he is still trying to understand his past.

Today's evangelical Christian may find Buechner's work disturbing. He does not seem to understand being a new creation in Christ nor being born again. “I'm no saint,” he writes more than once. (106,107) “I can't really imagine what it would be like to behold the Lord and not as a stranger,” he also writes. (107)

I really don't know to whom I would recommend this book. If the Lord is a stranger to Buechner, I am not sure what he has to offer evangelical Christians. Those who want to read about a man struggling to understand Christianity and his own life may enjoy this book. “I am better than I used to be,” he declares, “but far from well.” (105)

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Frederick Buechner is the author of more than thirty books. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, he has been awarded honorary degrees from several institutions. You can find out more at

Zondervan, 128 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Handlebar. My comments are an independent and honest review.

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