Melinda's Reviews > Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris
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's review
Jun 10, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: biography, christian, church-history, liturgical, poetry, 2010, worth-owning
Read in June, 2010

As I have said earlier, I am on a kind of Kathleen Norris roll here...... Reading her books is kind of like peeling an onion. She is telling much the same story in every book, but from a different perspective. "Dakota" had to do with understanding her geographical roots. "The Cloister Walk" had to do with her discovery of the Liturgy of the Hours as practiced by the Benedictines. This book has to do with the underlying "language" that she had to examine upon her return to the Christian church and her Christian faith. Having walked apart from the Christian church for many years, when she returned there were many words and phrases that she had difficulty with. These words and phrases are the backbone for "Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith".

Each chapter is an examination of a particular word of phrase that is part of the Christian vocabulary. Some have taken on lives of their own that were never intended, some have had extra layers of "meaning" slapped on them like extra mortar on a brick.

Inbetween chapters on words like "Exorcism", "Bible", "Faith", "Chosen", and "Unchurched" are vignettes of conversion stories. These are not the evangelical type of conversion stories, but instead are instances where the author and others are exposed to some aspect of God's truth. The sum total of the conversion stories is that God has been at work all along in Kathleen Norris' life, whether through an understanding of her own family heritage or through a firm examination of her feminist tendencies. I found these vignettes very worthwhile, and thought provoking.

What strikes me most positively about this book is the way that "an outsider who becomes an insider" can look at the words of the Christian faith. The words really mean the same thing, but an overfamiliarity with them can breed a certain amount of disinterest. I found myself caught up in each chapter as she examined the root meanings of "righteous" and "incarnation", "trinity" and "hell" (among others) and then drew out of them an understanding that was both familiar to me and also new.
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