How faith and community make us better humans- two book reviews

John Pavlovitz in If God is Love, Don’t be a Jerk, looks at how we act toward others. In Better Together Rusty George considers how we see ourselves. I think they end up at the same place- a good life as better humans.

What is a good life? An article in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, answered it this way.

“everyone seeks a good life. Health is an essential component, but a good life also involves productive work, emotional and spiritual well-being, supportive social relationships, and a clean and safe environment. “

The Good Life-Working Together to Promote Opportunity and Improve Population Health and Well-being JAMA, April 26, 2016

How faith and community make us better humans

In these books , two pastor authors make a case for Christians to follow Jesus and his teachings more authentically and intentionally, as individuals and with each other . By doing so, we can have more satisfactory relationships while nurturing our own emotional and spiritual well-being.

John Pavlovitz in If God is Love, Don’t be a Jerk, looks at how we act toward others. In Better Together Rusty George considers how we see ourselves. I think they end up at the same place- a good life as better humans.

If God is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk :Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Humans

by John Pavlovitz

I was intrigued by the title of John Pavlovitz’s book, If God Is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk. A book about love sounded innocent enough. Many Christian living books want to make us feel better about ourselves. Not this one, rather this book’s message may leave you feeling worse about yourself.

Most of us don’t want to be “jerks”, we want to be “better humans.” John challenges us to examine our assumptions about God, Jesus, church, and love- especially love for those who look, think, believe, and behave differently from us. In his view, most of us in the evangelical, conservative Christian world act like jerks.

John spares no group or dogma; he calls out racism, homophobia, misogyny, nationalism, and Trumpism. He names the “greatest sin of the American evangelical church”-parochial self-centered existence.

John deplores self-righteousness while sounding self-righteous himself at times. He admits he is angry but seems to believe it is a righteous anger on behalf of those who are marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against.

John shares his own rocky faith journey which led him away from traditional mainstream Christianity into a belief system that interprets the Bible more liberally and emphasizes strong commitment to social justice issues.   

Initially I was irked by his attitude but eventually came to recognize his anguish over what he sees as the failings of the Church and individual Christians-lack of genuine love. The book’s tone changes as he concludes by pleading with us to be more tender hearted, empathetic, merciful-in other words more like Jesus.

I wished he had said more of this at the beginning, as some of his earlier chapters were strong enough in their rebuke to turn away the very people who most need to read them. But if readers are willing to stick with him, and hear his heart as well as his head, it might cause a revolution in the Church as well as the nation and the world.

John Pavlovitz’s words may not change your mind but may just move your heart if you are open and willing.

Listen to an Audible sample here.

You can also find John at his website

JOHN PAVLOVITZ- Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Better Together: Discover the Power of Community

By Rusty George

Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in-between, Rusty’s book Better Together: Discover the Power of Community will have something that speaks to your heart.

Rusty George is the Lead Pastor of RLC-Real Life Church in Valencia California. The church, founded 15 years ago, has now grown to 6000 attendees over three campuses.

Drawing on his personal experience as an introvert, husband, and father to two daughters, as well as his experience as a youth pastor and then lead pastor, he makes a case for living, worshipping, and serving in community; we cannot make it alone he teaches. In a non-threatening, easy going style, he encourages us to abandon a “selfie” existence to instead partnering with others.

Rusty outlines three major benefits of community life- to connect with God, overcome weaknesses, and  leave a legacy- by drawing  from The Bible, especially the books Psalms, Hebrews, James, Revelation.

He explains how major Bible characters-Nehemiah, John, Esther, David, and especially Jesus-lived by these principles.

Rusty admits his mistakes trying to do life apart from community and shares the times where his attempts to overcome his introversion were successful.

“In every instance where I wanted to run from, I decided to run toward community. “

Throughout the book he sprinkles quotes from noted Christian authors-C.S. Lewis, Eugene Peterson, Tony Campolo, Max Lucado, and Dallas Willard.

At the end of each of the twelve chapters are discussion questions suitable for a class or small group study. Notes and references for each chapter appear at the book’s end.

In Better Together, Rusty George hopes you will learn to  

“Let people in on your “impossible” dream. They just might help you achieve it.”

Learn more about Rusty at

Pastor Rusty George

exploring the HEART of spiritual health

The books links are affiliate links and if you shop through them this blog receives a small commission used to fund blog fees (not to make me rich.)

I received complimentary digital copies of these books from NetGalley in exchange for writing a review.

I’d love to hear from you if you read these or any other books that I review on this blog. You may leave a comment here, or use the contact form if you prefer to share it privately. I may use your comments on my social media pages too (anonymously, of course.)

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

sketch of a stack of books with an apple on top

Dr Aletha

How two dying women teach us how to live

Here are two books I have reviewed about two women who died, one old, the other young. Both of them struggled with illness a long time and both families “kept hoping that she was just a corner away from getting back on her feet.” And both families were grateful for the time they had with her.

I subscribe to Dr. Alicia Britt Chole’s newletter where she recently announced the passing of her mother. I savor obituaries because I feel like I have made a new friend, like this woman-

“My Mama went to be with Jesus on April 4th. She was among the most generous, loving, and sacrificial souls I’ve ever known. Mom’s been struggling with illnesses for the past five months but she’s such a fighter, we and the doctors kept hoping that she was just a corner away from getting back on her feet.

But she was a corner away from dancing with her Savior. Oh the ache. I can’t express the ache. I am grateful for every moment with my Mom, for the millions of memories, for being so well loved.

In her last 24 hours she was able to say “I love you” to each of her grandchildren and several dear friends and her sister. Keona sang Amazing Grace for her. Louie kissed her and told her he loved her. Jonathan played Amazing Grace for her on the violin and read Psalm 23 to her. ⠀

Mom helped anyone she could in any way she could. Her hands were constantly serving through cooking (her love language), bookkeeping (her profession), petting her puppy, taking care of her chickens, and loads of hugs for all of us.

If you knew her, you felt seen and loved by her. I’m so grateful we’ll have eternity together. Please pray for our family in between here and there.”

P.S. Mom said that if anybody wanted to send flowers, to instead ask them to, “please buy a toy for a child and leave it in a park.”

Here are two books I have reviewed about two women who died, one old, the other young. Both of them struggled with illness a long time and both families “kept hoping that she was just a corner away from getting back on her feet.”

Each woman’s family was grateful for the time they had with her and for how she faced death taught them how to live.

I hope you savor my reviews and maybe find the books and read them too.

Grand Canyon , USA

Driving Miss Norma- why saying yes to life matters

When faced with death, Norma chose living. And in doing so, she and her family learned what really matters at the end. Through this book, they share what they learned with us.

man and woman holding the letters L O V E

To Joey, With Love- a movie review

Although I cried throughout, I’m glad I watched To Joey, With Love, and recommend it to you; it is an extraordinary love story that demonstrates the power of love and faith to get ordinary people through the worst life can throw at them.

exploring the HEART of health at the end of life

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Please don’t leave without visiting these pages to learn more about me and other ways this blog can help you. And I would greatly appreciate your sharing this post whereever you are social.

The next time someone I know dies, I’ll think about buying a toy and leaving it in a park. How about you?

Dr. Aletha
a toy castle and shovel in the sand
photo by TheRealFindo at LIGHTSTOCK.COM, an affiliate
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