When I am asked if I would like to receive a book for review on behalf of RevGalBlogPals, I say, “Yes!”
I don’t say, “Yes, but I already have a lot to read and I don’t know when I’ll get to it.” (That’s not really a ‘yes’.)
I don’t say, “No. I don’t want to learn new things or get free books with simple strings attached.” (That’s not at all a yes.)
I don’t say, “Yes, and I promise a glowing review.” (That’s a promise I can’t deliver.)
I say yes to the offer and then I do the best I can with how things unfold with life, publishing, requests, and my own attention span. I am improvising what it means to be a book reviewer and doing the best I can.
Improvisation is at the heart of what it means to live faithfully, according to RevGalBlogPal MaryAnn McKibben Dana in her new book: God, Improv, and the Art of Living. This is book functions as a kind of DIY improv tutorial on how to embrace the unexpected prompts of the Divine and of life and how to respond with the classic, “Yes, and…” Dana is revealing a way to refuse to be stymied, but to keep putting down puzzle pieces, responding to openings, owning one’s gifts, and reframing stories, resources, and actions.
The book is divided up into sections named after principles of improv. As Dana sets out early, improv isn’t typically about the biggest laugh or the wildest idea. Good improv, working together to reach the goal of completing a scene, is about listening to others, being open, thinking creatively, and saying ‘yes’ by building on the contributions of others.
If I had a church council in a congregation that was more artistically-oriented than business oriented in terms of organization and responsiveness, I can imagine using this book as a tool for gaining a new set of skills and re-working how to function well together. If I was trying to figure out how to jumpstart a group of adults who were leery of “traditional” Bible or book studies but wanted something to discuss together- this book would be a good a choice. If I had a parishioner who was into theater but wrestled with how to speak about her faith in her community, I might slip this book into her mailbox at church.
Consider Moses’s mother improving how to save her son. Ponder Nathan improving how to speak to David about Bathsheba and Uriah. Sit with Mary’s improvisational praise at Elizabeth’s greeting. Think about God’s improvisation to people who attempted to nail down Jesus. A faith that is about deeds and living, not merely intellectual assent, is a faith that requires improv skills- ability to move, shift, listen, and be moved. Dana has written a handbook for living that faith.
A word about price: authors do not set their own price points. In my thinking, this book is a little high. It is likely currently out of reach if you were planning to purchase more than one hard copy for your church library or personal use or to share. I, personally, would like to buy 3 copies. I will be making a note in my own calendar to check in 6 months for a paperback release. I recommend that you do the same. Remember do NOT punish an author for the price point of their book. They do not set them.
The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit.
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