The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month

For full reviews, visit the Brussats' Web site, SpiritualityHealth.com.

Give to Your Heart's Content ... Without Giving Yourself Away
by Linda R. Harper explores authentic giving, which the author believes is an expression of the soul. She organizes her explanations around qualities in each letter of GUIDE: Give wholly to yourself; Unconditionally choose to give; Integrate your unique gifts; Delight in the act of giving; and Experience the expanding capacity to give.

Outcome-related giving is the bane of three character types: traders, martyrs and controllers. The first type gives expecting something back; they always keep score. The second ignore personal needs to please others; they are often annoyed when their sacrifices go unheralded. The final group gives to see certain results and often feel like failures when the world isn't changed by their efforts. Each of us, Harper says, has a bit of the trader, the martyr and the controller within.

Authentic generosity is a no-strings-attached way of operating. It can never be depleted because there is a boundless reservoir in each of us that can be channeled into the world for good. We like Harper's ideal of giving "recklessly," never holding back or waiting for the optimum conditions. Of course, the perfect model for this way of living and giving is Jesus Christ (Innisfree Press).

Signs is a supernatural thriller written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. This young director has already helmed some extraordinary films about faith, love and meaning with Wide Awake, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. His dramas are built around ordinary individuals forced by circumstances to take a hard look at who they are and what they believe.

In Signs, the lead character is Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), who lives on a farm with his two children (Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin) and his younger brother (Joaquin Phoenix). Six months ago his wife was hit by a car and died. Graham, an Episcopal minister, lost his faith in God and resigned from his parish. Now he even refuses to pray. However, when a gigantic pattern of circles and lines appears overnight in his fields, made out of bent-over crops, he and his family are forced to confront their fears and beliefs.

In the unfolding of further strange and powerful events, Graham is challenged to come to grips with synchronicity, which Phil Cousineau, one of our favorite writers, defines as "an inexplicable but profoundly meaningful coincidence that stirs the soul and offers a glimpse of one's destiny." Even more important, the ex-minister is brought to a place where he can trust once again in God's movements of grace. This deeply spiritual film could be seen as a meditation on a poignant phrase by minister and writer Frederick Buechner: "By grace we see what we see, to lose faith is to stop looking."

We have prepared a discussion guide for Signs, which is available free at www.SpiritualityHealth.com. (Touchstone Pictures, PG-13--some frightening moments).


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February issue


Embracing diversity