Theolo-Story

Screen Shot 2016-10-15 at 9.10.12 AMBook Review: Love Lives Here
By John Frye

When Maria Goff writes you feel like you’re near a crackling fireplace and you want to move closer to the warmth. Each chapter in her book, Love Lives Here: Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want, is a fresh chocolate chip cookie and a glass of cold milk. If you’re like me, you can’t get enough. Maria confesses at one point, “I get amazed pretty easily. I think an oatmeal cookie is amazing” (115). What’s not to like about that? Truth be told, I am amazed by Maria’s book. Yes, Maria, is the wife of Bob Goff who wrote Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World. I liked Bob’s book a lot, but not as much as Maria’s. Both Maria and Bob are tremendous storytellers. All their stories lead to some expression of “the Jesus Creed”—loving God and loving others. I call it theolostory: a story saturated with the theology of God’s immeasurable and practical love.

What I like about Maria is that she does not speak about her spirituality. She writes honestly about her humanity. Her wounds, fears, failures, and need for faith in God. While many like to tell us how to be spiritual by describing their devotional practices and earnest study of the Bible (and I have no doubt Maria could tell us that stuff), Maria takes real life stories and exegetes them for the presence, purpose and love of God. The way she describes her response to the moment when all three kids came bounding in announcing “We’re running away!” is fascinating, funny, and incredibly pedagogical. Describing her sorrowful sifting through the ashes of their burnt-to-the-ground lodge—her safest place on earth—is revelatory to human fragility in the face of life we really do not control. Maria’s transparency about adjusting to and admiring a husband who is so not like her will encourage any husband and wife. Too many couples try to do the impossible by trying to become someone the other will like. Bob is a happy, floating helium balloon; Maria is a string. Bob knows and likes hundreds, if not thousands of people; Maria chooses a few. Bob likes to blow his eyebrows off with fireworks; Maria likes to make cookies. Maria writes periodically that she wants “to keep it real.” Both Maria and Bob are fascinated with people and live to give their lives away for God and others.

We are sometimes urged “to think outside the box.” Most of us get that. Bob and Maria Goff live outside the box. On purpose. Maria writes about the fear she felt for her family in the face of 9/11. For days the Goff family at dinner would talk about that tragedy and what it meant. The children came up with the idea of writing to world leaders asking them what lessons the world could learn from 9/11 and how it could be avoided in the future. The kids wrote and mailed the letters. Some letters were answered and world leaders wanted to meet the Goff children! The Goffs were in a position to make that happen. The Goffs also created their own neighborhood New Year’s Day parade which became a big hit for the whole neighborhood. Even though the Goffs have moved away, their neighbors still celebrate the annual parade. You will have to read about “good manners [at the table] night” and “bad manners night.” I like the Goff family.

Maria’s stories remind me of this word from Paul: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6b αλλα πιστις δι αγαπης ενεργουμενη). Notice the verb is the one from which we get terms like “energy” and “energetic.” The NIV translates it “expressing itself.” Energetic love demonstrates faith. Maria Goff’s warm, simple, down-to-earth storytelling is a good commentary on Paul’s explosive idea. Theolostory.

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