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Various ramblings

March 5, 2012

I want to try to finish two books in the month of March and possibly provide reviews of both.  Hopefully, the reviews will provide some value to the readers.  The first is The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott, who left his body to be present with the Lord just this last year.  My father-in-law gave me this book several years ago and it’s been on my “to do” list ever since.  I’ve started it more than once, but my goal this month is to actually read through the entire book.  I think it will be an excellent choice as we approach Easter Sunday.  I’m not sure I can even begin to be qualified to write a useful review of this book, so I’ll let you know as I read through it.  My plan is to provide occasional updates on my progress.  Here is one short comment about the book (from the book jacket):

“As relevant today as when it first appeared, The Cross of Christ is more than a classic.  It restates in our own time the heart of the Christian message.  Like John the Baptist, John Stott points us away from the distractions that occupy so much of our energies in order, announcing, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'”

Michael Horton, Professor of Systematic Theology & Apologetics at Westminster Seminary in California

The second book that I have decided to read is a completely different kind of work and is called The Book of Mary: Diary of an Addict, edited by Anthony Zurlo.  This is an e-book from Cruciform Press ( and is dramatically different from anything that I have ever attempted to read.  It is an actual diary that was discovered in the bottom of a box at a rummage sale, written by a single mother, drug addicted, sometimes homeless, lost & seemingly hopeless.  It’s not a light read and it’s not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for young readers.  Here is an excerpt from the publisher’s preface:

A box of miscellaneous items, contents unknown, is purchased at an estate sale. At the bottom of the box are journals covering the period 1986 to 1993. They have been written by a woman named Mary living in the northeast United States. Mary is 32 at the date of the first entry. She has a very young daughter, with health problems, whom she is raising and loves dearly.

During the roughly 6.5 years covered by the journals, Mary struggles with drug addiction, has a few brief part-time jobs, periodically works as a prostitute, has her fourth abortion, maintains relationships with several men, and is HIV-positive. The writing is raw and honest and profane and vulgar and full of tragic, fleeting, unfocused hopes and tissue-thin plans to improve her life.

After the last journal entry, dated April 1993, we have no more information about Mary, except this: Social Security records reveal that she died in 1997, her address at time of death listed as Unknown. Her parents are dead, and her daughter cannot be located.

Anthony Zurlo was at that auction. As he later read Mary’s journals, his heart was broken at the hopelessness he saw in its pages. Your heart may be broken as well. But Anthony also saw a version of his own life in Mary’s challenges. It is, in fact, a version of all our lives as we struggle daily to resist the habits, desires, and thought patterns that come so easily but do such damage. Anthony has transcribed the journal writings faithfully—including misspellings; various errors and oddities; and entries that are undated, misdated, or were apparently written in random blank spots and thus appear out of order—with the following exceptions:

•    Names and initials in the journal have been changed, except for Mary’s first name. •    Profanity and vulgarity have been replaced with ____. •    Accounts of sexual encounters have been omitted, with the omissions noted.

Also not reproduced here are many clippings pasted or slipped into the journals, mostly from magazines and primarily pertaining to fashion, drug use, sexuality, movies, and TV.

Anthony has also written an introduction and a conclusion, and at three points in the journal has added observation and commentary on Mary’s life, the nature of hope, and the many ways in which all our lives are not so unlike hers.

My hope is that God will use this book to help me develop a more compassionate heart and to more consistently see people like Mary as a an opportunity for God to be glorified by the revolutionary, life-changing power of the Gospel.

  1. Hey bro, thanks for following the blog at over at… Nice article btw. I like reading thought provoking books also. Though I am not much of an avid reader I am captivated from time to time by one book or another! Anyways, do you have a twitter account or anything because I’ll give a shout out to your blog, and what not… Let me know… I have a facebook page dedicated to reformed theology called Full Tulip – Go like the page if you dig it man…!/pages/Full-Tulip/137895266332821

  2. I haven’t been an avid reader the last few years, but it’s definitely a discipline that I would like to establish in my life. As far as twitter, I haven’t been able to embrace that means of communication. It seems to me to be more of an annoyance than a way to truly express thought with any significant substance, but maybe I’m just too old school. 🙂 Thanks for following, look forward to reading your blog.

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