Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Making A Mess and Meeting God: Review and A Giveaway

**Note From Erin: I recently read an inspiring book that discusses worship through the arts, and I thought that many of our readers might appreciate it as well. As such, it includes my perspective as a practicing Christian and will perhaps be most relevant to readers who share that perspective. **

A Review of Making A Mess and Meeting God, by Mandy Smith

I feel like I should confess, upfront, that I am not a person who typically looks for alternative forms of worship. If the minister says something like, “Okay, we’re going to do something a little bit different today…” my husband and I automatically look down at our little nursery buzzer, silently (or not) begging it to start buzzing. We console ourselves with, “We’re just a couple of introverts,” to squash any guilt we may feel over just wanting to avoid the uncomfortable situation that is rapidly coming our way.

Ironically, this is one of the reasons why I loved this book. If an author can make my grumpy, foot-dragging, introverted self feel inspired to step out of my comfort zone, then this author is obviously very talented and has some good things to say. Such is the case with Mandy Smith.

Mandy is an Associate Pastor at University Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. She did her BA in Biblical Studies at Cincinnati Christian University, and was Valedictorian. She and her husband are originally from Australia, and currently reside in Cincinnati with their two children and one dog. She is in charge of the worship service as a part of her current role, has served on worship teams in the past, and was the creator of “The Collect,” a citywide trash-to-art project that took place in Cincinnati in 2007.


Mandy's sets out to help readers discover the potential that ordinary activities and daily life have to teach about God in a new and deeper way, and much of this discovery is done through various forms of art. She hypothesizes that, “If we explore new opportunities to find the divine in the ordinary, and through a little artful play, then we will discover new depths in our comprehension of and communication with God.”

Mandy leads the reader through a collection of object lessons for grown ups. Each of these lessons is explored in two main forms. First, there is a purposeful effort to find God in the everyday moments and activities. Second, there is exploration through art. Each chapter has a different set of themes that it explores, culminating in a re-evaluation of what one thinks about God, shifting from a working toward him mindset, to working out how to realize that he is already there.

My Highlights:

Introduction of “Recipe Cards”

In the first chapter Mandy describes a time when her church was exploring the topic of spirituality. They agreed that spirituality wasn’t necessarily about going on a quest to find God, but about being aware of his presence in their every day lives. The ministers invited the members of the congregation to submit the ways that they experience God through the ordinary. In light of churches often putting together recipe books by compiling the members’ favorite recipes, they called these their “recipe cards for spirituality.” These recipes are peppered throughout the book, and I found them to be engaging, encouraging and often examples that I really resonated with.

Biblical Teaching

Each chapter begins by introducing the themes and passages that the lesson is based upon. What follows is poignant teaching, thoughtful investigation of these themes and really practical means of application. Admittedly, with a professor for a husband, I hold education and knowledge to a very high regard; So I was encouraged to read a good balance of biblical teaching and creative challenges. Neither was slighted in favor of the other.

Awareness of Potential Awkwardness

This was a bit of a big one for me, because of the stress I described at the beginning of this review. Mandy obviously knows that there are hurdles when dealing with a subject as personal as finding God, particularly when looking for alternate means of doing so.

She discusses obstacles such as opening oneself up to creativity, how to deal with the dynamics of group settings, helping introverts to feel comfortable, varying skill levels, people who are tied to their traditions, distractions in a group setting, the “cool factor” involved in being non-traditional, just to name a few. She addresses these issues head-on and with helpful suggestions for moving beyond them. Furthermore, in each experiment, she provides possible adjustments to make it work for an individual, for small groups or for corporate worship settings.

Challenging and Relevant

Though the topic of finding God is not a new one, Mandy’s perspectives are unique and very relevant.

The ideas are refreshing; much like talking to a friend with the rare gift of insightfulness and thoughtfulness. It is written with such clarity that I found myself underlining sentences periodically, thinking, “Yes. She put that perfectly.” The experiments are applicable and interesting, and sent me rushing out to the store and scrounging around the house for supplies so that I could try them out.

Addressing the Big and Small Picture

When I originally looked at the book, the title Making a Mess and Meeting God made me think that it would be full of various creative projects to help a person become more aware of God’s presence. I was right, but there are also broader applications. “The mess” also is in reference to the mess of our world or the various messes in our lives, and Mandy leads us to find God in those as well.

Who is This Book For?

I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for encouragement or new ways to think about the Christian life. With each chapter as an object lesson, it’s a good choice for ministers or small groups.

Though it may naturally appeal to people with some interest in art or creativity, the applications are relevant to all.

For more about this book, including the option to purchase, click here.

How do you find God in your every day experiences?
Leave a comment below for a chance to win a free copy of Making A Mess and Meeting God.


Kate July 28, 2010 at 6:58 AM  

This sounds wonderful!

~Kristen~ July 28, 2010 at 7:13 AM  

Thank you for introducing this book to us. I would love to read it!

I find God in so many ways: the love of my husband, the laughter of my nephew, seeing my dog run happily through the lawn, in my parent's warmth, my brother's strength.

Kim July 28, 2010 at 7:32 AM  

Sounds like a good and thought provoking book. It always amazes me how when we actually take the time to stop, and think, and talk to God throughout the day, how much he really has woven himself into the small details of our lives.

Kindra-At Home With K July 28, 2010 at 8:08 AM  

This looks like a wonderful book! I'm part of a women's Bible study and would love to share this with the "girls"!

Julie Kay July 28, 2010 at 8:36 AM  

Sounds like a great read. Thanks so much for sharing!

Becky July 28, 2010 at 9:57 AM  

OMG this sounds wonderful! I'm going to have get this book.

Anna July 28, 2010 at 10:15 AM  

Sounds like a great read!
As a new mama, I find myself experiencing God in so many ways with my twin boys. Because He is Creator, I also have a desire to create. I always get so excited about new projects, and I think that's how He feels about each one of us (only infinitely more strongly).

Lisa Vale July 28, 2010 at 10:29 AM  

This book sounds great. We go through our lives a such a fast pace remembering to find God in each moment sounds good to me!

hzgrace July 28, 2010 at 10:47 AM  

This book sounds WONDERFUL! I lead women studies at our church and this sounds like a book I need to read. Thank you for sharing!
Blessings on your day!

Jeanmarie July 28, 2010 at 11:11 AM  

This book sounds so interesting. I have always found during the peacefullness of crafting that is is a good time to pray for those I love & to consider the God of all creation. Now that I have also begun scrapbooking I find myself incorporating scripture verse in the design. I really like the results of being able to express spirituallity thru creative expression in my scrapbook pages.
I can't wait to read the book!

Becca Ross July 28, 2010 at 11:50 AM  

Your story about, "We're going to try something a little different" sounds very familiar! I'm also a introvert Christian. I've recently been listening to my local Christian radio station (which I've never done before). There are two songs, Your Hands and Follow You, which really remind me of what being a Christian is all about. As a teacher in a public school, I can't discuss my beliefs but I can lead by example and help those kids in broken homes and times of sadness. The book sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.


Denisa July 28, 2010 at 12:03 PM  

Sounds like a great book. I find God throughout my day as I look upon nature, in my children, in the opportunities to love and be loved, in prayer, in reading my Bible, and even in the time I spend creating. I think we have to try really hard to not find God in our daily walk.

Amber Noella July 28, 2010 at 1:22 PM  

From not wanting to attend a baseball game with the family, clean the house (& my room) to starry nights & sunny pleasures -- I can & do find God through it all. Through every pleasant and unpleasant experience, I feel Him!

This book sounds so amazing! I'd love to read it. :) Thanks for the opportunity!

Carolyn July 28, 2010 at 1:45 PM  

Thanks for reviewing this! It sounds like a book I could use right about now.

Patti July 28, 2010 at 4:45 PM  

I really enjoyed your book review. I just finished a 12 week study with some Christian friends that involved unlocking the creative gifts God has given to us. It was a divine appointment for me, as I have recently begun a journey in self discovery now that I am an empty nester. God's timing is always good. This might be just the perfect follow up book for me.

thesleepyknitter July 28, 2010 at 8:11 PM  

Thanks for the great review! I would love to read this book and share it with friends.

RAE July 28, 2010 at 9:52 PM  

I would love to read this book and share with family and friends. I have been going through a tough time because I recently lost my dad, but I have faith that God will get through this. I am new to your blog and so far I love it, have been going back and checking out all the "older posts." Great giveaway.

SIBlain July 29, 2010 at 7:30 AM  

Sounds interesting! Our bible study is looking for a new study to start in the fall, so I will suggest this book. Thanks for the recommendation and review!


Sam July 29, 2010 at 8:24 AM  

Thank you for introducing this book. Now that I'm a SAHM, I experience God in many new ways...when I begrudgingly do housework, He's there. Or when I watch my daughter sleeping, He's there. Or when I see her laugh and get tickled by something, He's there.

Unknown July 29, 2010 at 10:26 PM  

My husband came home from the National Worship Leader Confrence last week and said he talked with Mandy about her book and throught I'd love it. Since then I glanced at it at the book store and thought it looked good. I'm looking forward to getting it and going through it sometime soon.

Jane July 30, 2010 at 7:51 PM  

Very interesting. I'm hoping to win this more than any other giveaway yet! :)

Ashlyn August 2, 2010 at 9:07 AM  

I see God in everything, little miracles all around me...the sun rising, shining brilliant light on the morning dew, the pitter-patter of children playing, a sweet smile, a friends loving words, an unexpected's miracles are everywhere and I thank the Lord for the little things every chance I get. :)

This book looks WONDERFUL! I took a look at your link and the "Look Inside" pdf there. Its exactly what we need to foster our creative spirit and get closer to God!

Thanks so much for sharing! :) Even if I don't win, this book will be on my wish list for future purchases!

Hugs, Ashlyn

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