Friday, December 07, 2012

A "Must Read" New Book - Review of "Love Does" by Bob Goff

Wow! I have just finished the roller coaster ride that is "Love Does - Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World" by Bob Goff I need to take a breath; I need to wipe the tears from my eyes; I need to give my rib cage a chance to recover from the belly laughs that erupted at several points along my journey of reading this wonderful memoir.

I first learned of Bob Goff and his whimsical approach to living his life and his faith when I read Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." Bob and his wife and kids come off in many ways as the heroes of Miller's story about "Story." After reading about the Goffs, I wanted to kayak to their place in British Columbia. I wanted to join their New Years' Day parade in San Diego. At the urging of his friend and fellow author Miller, attorney Bob Goff has written an extraordinary book. This little gem captures in 31 wonderfully self-deprecating and self-revealing chapters his approach to living life to the hilt - taking risks in the name of love - and of Love. The format is simple and profound. Goff shares an anecdote from his life or from the life of a family member or friend and then uses that simple vignette as a metaphor to illuminate a spiritual truth. Each chapter also follows the format of Bob sharing a truth that he has learned as he has grown and undergone many "paradigm shifts." "I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I am more afraid of succeeding at things that do not matter." (Page 25)

While Bob is a follower of Christ, those who do not embrace the Christian faith need not fear that this book would be a turn-off. Unlike many "Christian" writers whose unbending orthodoxy makes those who do not share their particular views want to break out in hives, Goff is guileless and gentle in the ways in which he lives out and shares his faith.

While the book is quite West Coast-centric, (Bob and his family live in San Diego and have a vacation home in British Columbia), the author reached out to the die hard Bostonian in me with this account of the advantages of him having been asked to serve as the Consul for the Republic of Uganda: "At this point,someone told me about the perks of being a diplomat. First, I would get some really good license plates. With those, I can literally park anywhere. On the sidewalk, on the grass, on second base at Fenway Park . . . " (Page 64)

Each chapter packs a punch. In the chapter entitled "Wow, What a Hit," Goff shares the lifelong impact of a note that his Little League coach mailed to him after one of the only meaningful hits of his baseball career. "I used to think that words spoken about us describe who we are, but now I know they shape who we are." (Page 84)
A chapter that touched me deeply dealt with the Goff family's decision to save money to purchase a very expensive painting - a work of fine art by a well known European artist. The picture depicted an old man surrounded by family as he entertained them with a puppet. I will let Bob Goff describe what happened when he came by the fancy gallery to pick up his long-anticipated purchase:

"When I walked into the gallery, there were two paintings waiting for me, two exact paintings of 'The Puppeter.' I didn't understand 'Why are there two paintings?' I asked the guy with the muddled accent. 'Well,' he said, managing with absolute ease to sound condescending and slick, 'ze one on the left is ze real one. It's museum qualeetay. It's very expensive, almost priceless. You don't want to hang ze original where it might get damaged, so you put ze original in a vault. Zis other one, however,' he said as he slapped the identical painting irreverently, 'iz ze fake one and iz ze one you put on the wall for everyone to see.'" (Pages 146-7)

After wrapping up the story of how the real painting subsequently got damaged when he and his kids engaged in a game of rubber band wars, the author frames his argument beautifully in making the spiritual application:

"There have been times in my life when I've tried to do good and it hasn't worked out the way I thought it would. I've gotten into a lot of mischief and taken chances and even taken some big risks. In the process, sometimes I've let people down or things I've done didn't go well and I've taken a rubber band or two to the head. We all have. But after the Puppeteer painting got shot, I realized that God doesn't think any less of us when things don't go right. Actually, I think He plans it. What He doesn't plan on is us putting a fake version of ourselves out there to take the hit. God is the master artist and made an original version of us, a priceless one that cost everything to create. A version that can't and won't be created again.
He asks us to hang that version of ourselves for everyone to see. Despite our inherent beauty, each of us is tempted to hide the original so we won't get damaged. I understand why, I really do. And the fake version of us, it's not worthless. It's just worth less because it's only a copy of the real us, a version we don't care about as much. When we hang the fake version out there, it's not the version God created. In that sense, it's like an imposter, a poser, a stunt double is standing in for us and telling the world that this is the best we've got, or the best we'll risk. And when we put the cheap, fake version of ourselves out there, most of the time it probably comes across to God like a bad Elvis impersonation." (Pages 149-50)

I read and review a lot of books, most of them quite good. Only about 1-2% do I label "must read." Add this small masterpiece to that category. Buy it, read it, act on it and pass it along.  Read about a vibrant kind of love and then go out and do some love.


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