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3 Stars Out Of 5
April 28, 2014
This was not an easy book to read. I can't imagine writing it. It was raw, it was real. I think it is something any Christian goes through at one point or another. When Addie was explaining her relationship with "Chris" the mom in me was coming out. Where were her parents? They were ok with their daughter as a freshman dating a senior!?!? But the more I read the more my heart just ached for her. So young, so inexperienced. Even when Addie started to find herself after the break up and got older and went to college. So young, so inexperienced. But weren't we all? Weren't we all just exploring the boundaries of faith, testing our limits, and challenging God?
Then Addie meets her husband, gets married, and starts to break. She becomes depressed. Losing her sense of self. The second half of the book deals with Addie's downfall and her slow comeback to the church. It was in this part that I considered the title of the book. She was not on fire in high school, but was going through her refiners fire as an adult. She was having all of the cliches ripped away, realizing no matter how many WWJD bracelets you have it doesn't matter. What matters is Jesus.
Good or bad this book will affect you. I will warn you if you are sensitive to foul language there are a few words you may not like.
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review
Addie Zierman's memoir about growing up in evangelical culture, When We were on Fire, is extremely difficult for me to review because it hits so close to home. My own experience, growing up in an evangelical church and then serving as a youth pastor and senior pastor bears striking similarities to the stories she tells. I am a little more than a decade ahead of her. Much of what she experienced as a student in church youth groups I went through as a wet-behind-the-ears youth pastor. I remember "Acquire the Fire," "True Love Waits," and "See you at the Pole." I did not get involved in all these things, but in some of them, I was taking youth groups through the programs the year they came out. I get where Addie is coming from.
I feel a deep sadness for her. Being an evangelical Christian can be so wonderful. It should be. I grew up as the virgin waiting for marriage. I was, the kid who may have laughed at the dirty jokes, but secretly blushed knowing God saw me laughing. I was the one in youth group who took "true love waits" seriously only to discover my friends in youth group were sleeping with each other.
Yet, I look back on it and my memories are extremely fond. Unlike the author, I became more evangelical as I grew up. I may have gone through seasons of sadness, but most of the time, I reacted by running to God, not from God. So I find the sections of the book disillusion and rebellion exceedingly sad. Her final section, redemption, left me feeling empty and disappointed.
The book also gave rise to a fear in me. I worry that some of the kids in youth groups I led from 1993-1999 may have fallen away as Addie Zierman did. She was always a believer, a Christian. But, she went through a painful, lost season. She came out of it thinking differently about Christianity. I fear that in my inexperience as a young pastor in the early Ã¢â¬Ë90's, I may have led teens in a way that hurt them as much as she was hurt. I fear that I may have driven them away from God when I was trying to help them find Him.
Other readers will not the experiences I did that led me to be affected by When We were on Fire as I was. It is extremely well written. Her ability as a write empowers to make compelling experiences that are not particularly remarkable. Even though she is writing about stuff that is pretty normal for evangelicals, her ability to tell it makes it really good reading.
I don't know how to recommend it. I don't know how many stars to give it. She did some things that made me really mad. However, her writing about it is good, and for that reason, I'd recommend the book. But I recommend it warning you that if you are like me, you might not feel favorable toward the author. The pastor in me wants to care for and protect the author. The evangelical Christian in me who went through high school as an evangelical Christian is mad at the author because I was disillusioned by my Christian peers in high school, and it did not lead me where it led her. I conclude by saying I would read more of her stuff because she is a skilled communicator.
Disclaimer - I received this book for free from WaterBrookMultnomah Publishing Group for this review.
Addie Zierman is the blogger of "How to Talk Evangelical." Her book "When we were on Fire" was named one of 101 Best Books of 2013 by Publisher's Weekly
Addie has been "speaking evangelical" fluently since she was three years old. Like many Christian leaders, she has been a Bible study leader, prayer group founder, Sunday school teacher, worship band singer, and member of Awana. Plus she still knows all the words to the song "Jesus Freak" by DC Talk (who doesn't?)
I am probably just 10 years outside of her target audience with this book, but as a pastor and leader I have seen first hand the struggles that the church has made in recent years. Lots of young people are raised with "fire" all through the young teen and youth group years - Summer camp, sleep-overs, late night rallies after the game, but then as those kids grow older... what happens to their spiritual walk?
I think anyone who grew up in this evangelical bubble, during the entire WWJD craze would indentify with this book - especially youth kids and those who worked in the youth ministry. I watched some of my own students drift away, play with alcohol only to slowly find their way back.
This is a wonderful story about belonging, falling away, addiction and recovery. Well deserved to be one of the year's best books. Pick it up.
I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255
This is the true story of Addie Zierman and how she started as a Christian and then life got in the way. Addie talks of in the 1990's and how she was all in for Jesus and talks about all the details of her years of how she served for GOD. As the years go on she tells of how she lost the drive to keep living for GOD and how she over came the feelings. This is a very easy read and I feel it reaches out to the 90's generation teenager. If you did not live in the 90's then you will not be as touched as those of us that did. Doesn't mean you will not enjoy the book, it means you may not get as much feeling from her story as those that have lived through those years.
Addie goes through the Meet you at the pole campaign, WWJD bracelets, true love waits rings and many more. I lived through these years and was touched by how true her feeling were. When Addie goes through depression and tells how she felt so alone with no church members to help, even though she tries to get them to reach out to her. Her story is heart felt and if you have ever felt these feelings, this story will make you realize at the time you feel alone but you really are not alone.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
This is probably one of the most profound books I've read since I started doing reviews on this blog, because it hit closest to home. Raised in church as a poster child for evangelical youth, Addie Zierman loved Jesus with a passion and lived for Him with a burning purpose. She earnestly desired to please Him and stay within the boundary lines the church had taught her were the biblical pathways to blessing. She even had a poster-child-for-missionaries boyfriend who stayed inside the boundary lines with her. But when he broke up with her, telling her she was a stumbling block to the "call of God" on his life, she was left awash in the foam of Christian cliches she'd surrounded herself with all her teenage life.
Floundering a bit through Christian college, she married young, to a great Christian guy, and they went to China to teach English. While there, Addie realized she no longer fit into the boundary lines. As she began to realize she had nothing in common with the biblically cliche people in the small church they attended, depression began to set in. Who was she in Christ if she didn't fit into the church anymore? Over the next couple of years she struggled mightily to find answers in the church...any church..but couldn't connect. She wanted God answers, but she wasn't getting them through His people. Deep depression and rebellion took hold, until finally God's grace brought her back.
The part of the book that hit me the most was when she took the women from their home church out to lunch, one at a time, hoping desperately that one of them would notice the terrible depression she was in, would ask her, really meaning it, how she was doing--so she could unload, so someone would listen, so someone would let her be real, so someone would help. Not one woman did. They all missed the huge need right in front of them. Because she looked just like one of them, every woman assumed she was "fine".
Who are we in the church if we don't truly see, truly hear those who are right in front of us struggling? Cliches are nothing when hurting people in front of us need real talk. People can look like great Christians and say all the right Christian things and yet feel unconnected.
If you are a Christian reading this review, I challenge you to look around you for people who need you to let them be real with you. Who is right in front of you desperately hoping you will ask in a real way how they are doing? Let them talk real, let them be less than the cliches, and love them. If you are reading this and have been somehow disenfranchised by the church...open your Bible, pray, and keep going to churches on Sundays until you find one that lets you be real. God created us for fellowship in the church body, so He will lead you to one that meets you where you are.
I received this book for free for review purposes from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
For more on Addie Zierman, go here and for her blog, go here.