Organic God by Margaret Feinberg (Book Review) ~ BitterSweetLife

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Organic God by Margaret Feinberg (Book Review)

In the interests of my masculinity, I'll be deliberately up front here. When my review copy arrived, I was put off by the tag line of Margaret Feinberg's, Organic God. It reads kind of like a shampoo ad: "Natural. Pure. Essential."

"Right," I thought. "Should we add something like, 'You've tried other brands, now try Jehovah? Guaranteed not to leave sticky residue?'"

As it turns out, though, the packaging/marketing is the biggest gripe I have with Feinberg's book, which is a sincere, confessional memoir of her faith journey. Feinberg was named one of the "Thirty Emerging Voices" who will supposedly lead the North American church into the next decade. Immediately, this put me in mind of Donald Miller (who failed to make the list, ironically--in fact, I could only identity two of these influential voices who will guide my faith in the next decade). However, Feinberg's measured, descriptive prose has little in common with Miller. Rather than clever, sarcastic, magical reality-type narrative, Feinberg's writing is more down to earth.

As I made my way through the chapters of Organic God (the title never stopped making me wince) I came to appreciate a couple trademark characteristics of Feinberg's story. First, her transparency, and second, her appreciation for the created order as evidence that points back to God's all-sufficiency. This excerpt from chapter .003, "Breathtakingly Beautiful," illustrates both:

Even today when I travel, I find myself lingering for the last moments of a sunset, hoping to get just one more glimpse of the green flash. The unusual beauty is mesmerizing, and like bioluminescence, I feel the same childlike awe whenever I see it.

Such glimpses are reflections of God's beauty. Yet all too often I find myself imbibing the beauty without recognizing God. I celebrate myself for seeing the green flash, and I fail to celebrate the One who created it.

Organic God works in a progressive way to point to various aspects of God's magnetic character. Throughout the book, Feinberg shares life stories and reflections, urging her readers toward personal encounter with the God of the Bible. She aims to kindle and strengthen a Psalmist-like hunger for Jesus. The fact that she grew up Jewish adds a fascinating strand to her narrative (think matzah ball soup, midrash, and Jesus as the fulfillment of Judaism).

Overall, Feinberg achieves an admirable consistency of voice and direction. The book opens with musings about bioluminescence as a window into God's presence as quiet, brilliant, and often overlooked. As the story ends, she sits at the foot of a "luscious blue" glacier and contemplates God's mysterious ways, vital to our lives, and yet past finding out. I like the way she ultimately argues for God's greatness while sending the message that meditative talks with him are nonnegotiable.

Some faddish vocab sometimes detracts from this mission, but I'd recommend Organic God at a solid B- level--especially to women, and especially to those who need to remember that gratefully admiring his handiwork and talking with the Creator are intended to frame to our 80-some years down here.

Yeah, it's on the Master Book List.

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Jamie said...

Organic God? Hmm...I see why you keep catching at the title, Ariel. But I'll take your word for it that the book is not as bad as the name.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife