Friday, August 26, 2016

People of the Second Chance

Within the past week, I received in the mail an advanced copy of People of the Second Chance by Mike Foster. He didn't ask me to write this, and he hasn't seen what I'm about to write, but there are a couple of reasons that you have to know about this book/organization.

Anyone who's been around awhile knows some of my story, and so it should come as no surprise that I have read a lot of books and been through a lot of curriculum for broken people. It comes with the territory of being broken. One of the things that's always troubled me about these curricula is that they seem to want us to drag our stories around with us in suitcases, albatrosses around our necks, and "unpack" them at various points in our journey, spreading them out like treasures at a garage sale, inviting others to pick through the unwanted trinkets of our lives. It's a burden that, to be quite honest, I just got tired of toting around. 

But People of the Second Chance, in the language that it uses, in the general tone that it takes, does things different. I haven't had a chance to go through the group curriculum yet (Freeway), but it's on my list. Still, every sense I get from the snippets I've had here and there tell me that with POTSC, your story isn't a burden; it's a person. It's a buddy. It gets an invite to the party, too. You come together, sit down on the sofa next to one another, chat like old friends. You don't unpack your brokenness; you introduce it. And you let it make friends.

That's the way we ought to be doing it. That's what I love about POTSC.

So when the book came out, naturally, I wanted to read it. A teaser chapter popped up in my email, and I had to read more. When the print copy arrived in the mail, I couldn't wait to devour the book.

But it's not a book you can eat in one sitting. Not if you want it to mean anything to you. It's so nuanced, and yet so plain, that if you just read through it, you're going to miss something. You've got to chew on it a bit. You've got to take it slow and really consider the truth of what Mike Foster is feeding you. Otherwise, you may come away with the idea that this was a good book. 

And you ought to know so much more.

At first, I thought the book was a bit schizophrenic, as though Mike didn't know what book he was writing. At times, it speaks straight to the broken in every one of us, a balm for the wounded heart. He speaks about our woundedness with such truth and tenderness that we can't help but be drawn deeper into our stories. At least, I couldn't. But then, in what almost feels like the same breath, he starts talking about what we do to get others to the same place. 

He invites you to the party, then he tells you how to throw one. 

All through the text, there's kind of this back and forth between words that are meant to be for your heart and words that are meant to be for your hands, messages that are supposed to help to heal you and invitations to do some healing of your own. A few times, there's a bit of this detached general information about grace and second chances. And for the first few chapters, I didn't know what to make of this. What is this book even about? 

It's about grace. It's about love. It's about second chances.

So much of our lives are spent in projects. And so many books like this define so clearly what the project is: it's either us or it's other people. We're either broken or we're helping the broken. We read books like this to "get better" or to help others "get better," but we rarely think it could possibly be both. We rarely consider what we're doing.

And what we're doing is making people projects. I'm either working on me or I'm working on you. That's what most of these books call us to do. At some point, I realized that some of my frustration with the unsettled nature of this book was that it wasn't real clear to me who the "project" was. Am I a second chancer or do I create second chances? What do you want from me, Mike?

But the more I sat with my discomfort with this, the more it started to grow on me: the answer was both. Not that everyone was a project. That would be too much to bite off for anyone. No, the grace itself. The project is love. The project is second chances. By making these stories about you and then about me and then about others and then about us and then about grace and then about love and then back again, it becomes clear that it's not about fixing you, it's not about fixing me, it's not even about fixing us. It's about doing grace. It's about doing love. 

Second chances are the first things. I love that. 

I cannot recommend this book, and this group, strongly enough. I support them with my AmazonSmile account, follow both POTSC and Mike Foster on Twitter (@POTSC | @MikeFoster) and Facebook, and receive regular email updates from what's going on. (Fun fact: Mike is the guy behind XXXchurch, a project I stumbled upon more than a decade ago as a freshman in college. I still have the t-shirt that says "#1 Christian Porn Site" emblazened across the front. I didn't know it was the same guy until he told me in chapter eleven.) The book drops on September 20, but don't wait. Put it on your Christmas list now, then don't wait for that either. Pre-order a copy. Pre-order ten. Give them to your friends with a little note that says, "Let's do this." 

You'll understand when you read the book. 

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