Sunday, March 9, 2014

Just Jesus

About the Book: 
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Image (January 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307955818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307955814
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces

  Until his death in 2012, Walter Wink was one of the most influential Christian intellectuals of our time. He was a pastor and theologian, a political activist and a writer. He first becme a practitioner of active nonviolence during the Civil Rights Movement in Selma Alabama, and continued to seek social justice for all under dictatorships in Chile and the apartheid in South Africa. Always through the lens of Jesus, Wink's life and work demonstrate just how important the need to understand "the Son of the Man" is in today's modern world.

   Wink shows us that inspiration and insight can come from any source: a Pentecostal Church in Oklahoma, dreams, Buddhist meditation centers, childhood traumas, an empty forest, illness, and the Gospels. Wink's work in social justice and his life as a theologian are inextricably entwined, finding evidence for nonviolent resistance in the Bible and seeing the need for Jesus in daily struggles.
   "An autobiography of my interest in Jesus, perhaps that is too ambitious," writes Wink. "What I have done here is far less grand. I have simply written down vignettes, or excerpts of my life's story that I find interesting. These autobiographical reflections are in no way exceptional. Everyone has a life story. My story may, at the very least, show why I theologically think the way that I do."
   Just Jesus is the jubilant a

Intro by Walter’s wife, June Keener Wink–

The search to cure my husband began as we noticed changes in his personality—darkness, sleeplessness and forgetfulness. Once diagnosed, I became a furious force, blinded by my effort to get us through this stage and get him to perfect health.  It didn’t happen.  For me, this was one of the most difficult periods of his illness.
Caring for Walter Wink brought a new strength to my being. We knew in our hearts that there was no hope for his full recovery, and we often discussed our parting.  It was clear he had dementia. But this fatalism brought a new way of living for both of us.  His first response to hearing the word dementia was, “Thank goodness, now I know I am not crazy!” though I cried out of sorrow.  From that point on, deep within myself I felt, I can do this. That didn’t prevent me from wanting to give up, but it helped me through those moments.

Evenings were the most difficult.  Once his caretaker left for the night, I would crawl into bed with him and read aloud until we were exhausted. Then we’d hug.  His body was so important to me: his warmth, the feelings of closeness sustaining me. Because it was difficult for us to sleep together those last years, I would try to leave his side several times, but he would hold me tight. Once after I’d just gone to the bathroom he said, “I don’t like it when you leave me” as if I had been gone a long time

He understood that he was losing control of his mind. Once after having dinner with all his children, Walter said to me privately that he would like to commit suicide, but could not think of a way to do it. He said, “I just don’t want to lose membership in the world of God.”  I assured Walter that he had been so courageous and still had so much to give. Then there was the time he told me I was a liar, that I did not support his life’s work.  So I distracted him by putting on a DVD.  I was completely drained once I’d gotten him to bed.  I was calm, but had an unhealthy feeling that he was taking my very goodness from me. “I must be careful,” I wrote.

And then later he would say, “Love, you provide for me with such a high degree of fidelity.” Walter remained my rock even while I struggled to be his.  He would tell me to “calm down” when frustration overcame me. And I would laugh.

One of the most helpful things we found was singing the Blues. Sharing quiet time on the sofa together couldn’t lift his spirits when he was feeling blue. Singing and improvising songs about despair transformed despair into positive feelings. Though he knew I could never carry a tune, he would pull me into call and response.  It was so easy to go back and forth with silly responses. However sad he felt when we started by creating such nonsense over and over, fun and joy soon took over.

I could see that he had chosen to die soon, so one night, I made his urn.  As a potter, I felt that there was something beyond my hands forming this vessel.  I made it quickly and I went to bed.  Next morning I saw a bird sitting on the lid, a bird with a broken wing now healed.  Ten days later, Walter flew away.

In the following excerpt from Just Jesus, Walter reflects on the struggle of living with his dementia diagnosis and how “singing the Blues” was a comfort to him during his darkest days.

My Impressions: 

This was a lovely memoir type of book that was deep, thoughtful and inspiring. Walter tests you to go beyond what you feel you know about the word of God and really dig into the rich history that is present and how that really relates to current social issues such as slavery, homosexuality, sexism and the like.  I had never heard of Walter Wink before so it was really interesting to read about his was mostly intrigued by the nonviolent activism, involvement in the civil rights movement  and his humility while seeking Jesus in his daily life. There were parts of this book that were too theologically deep for me to really grasp, but for the most part it flowed without loosing me. The one thing that I thought was missing from this book was a "Contents" section to let the reader know what to expect. The way the book is wrote give you this nice homey feel to it. It presents itself more like a typical conversation you might hold talking about a topic of interest-Jesus, then a memoir.

About the Author: 
Christian theologian, writer, and social activist Walter Wink provides an overview of important events that shaped his life, and ultimately his theology, in Just Jesus (Image/Random House, Jan. 21, 2014), a thoughtful and poignant memoir published one year after his death. Wink, who died from complications of dementia in 2012, was known for his work as a New Testament scholar and as a practitioner of active nonviolence.
 *Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Water Brook 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: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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