Memoir of a Misfit: Finding My Place in the Family of God. Marcia Ford.
First place in the autobiography category in the 2004 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards
Jossey-Bass, $18.95 (166p) ISBN 0-7879-6399-2
Publishers Weekly Forecast /Starred Review / January 27, 2003
People have always looked at Ford funny. “As a child,” she writes, “I blamed my family, that odd, five-member cast of cartoon characters that always walked along the sidewalk in single file so that real families could pass by intact.” The older she got, the more often she blamed herself—for the death of three grandparents in six weeks; for harassment from a trusted counselor; for humiliation in a succession of controlling churches; for feeling ignored by God. Dulling the pain, she spent her young adult years in an alcoholic haze. Eventually her friend Eileen, who “always, always puts her verbs at the beginning of a sentence,” ordered her to “give it up. Tell God you’ll never have another drink again.” Ford obeyed, but she continued to feel like a misfit despite a good marriage and professional success as a writer and editor. Then a sudden health crisis jolted her out of constant attempts to meet others’ expectations. During a subsequent retreat, “I found the courage to look at myself and…hear the cry of my own heart.” Ford’s story, though serious, is not dark. Introverted, self-deprecating, perfectionistic and depressive, she is Woody Allen pursued by Jesus Christ. If there is a flaw in her captivating account, it is her leap from God-haunted despair to cheerful eccentricity in just one chapter. That chapter is full of clues as to what made the difference, but from a self-described “overthinker,” it is not quite enough. Let’s hope she is leaving room for a sequel.
MEDITATIONS FOR MISFITS By Marcia Ford
Second place in the inspirational category in the 2004 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards
Jossey Bass, 165 pp., $12.95
Episcopal Life /art&soul/In Review / October 2003
Marcia Ford wrote in Memoir of a Misfit about finding a home in the Episcopal Church, the roundabout way.
In a semi-sequel, Meditations for Misfits, she builds on her self-image as a non-belonger. She has learned to embrace that part of herself that didn’t fit in her “cartoon” family, her “safe” charismatic church, her society—although she tried to the point of drinking and working too hard. In the Episcopal Church, she said, for the first time, “no one looked at [her] funny.
On the theory that she’s not the lonely only, Ford constructed meditations comprising a rigorous quote, followed by her reflection, a bit of Scripture and a short prayer. All four parts encourage acceptance of the child God made.
Each of the more than 50 meditations is unified. The headnotes quote everyone from Whitman (“Do I contradict myself?”) to Tolkien (“Not all those who wander are lost”). Then each entry extends the quotation to mull over the topic, such as “The Yearning Within,” “Falling in Holy Love,” and “In Hot Water.”
Ford’s meditations are personal. She uses humor as a defense (as in her memoir), and she leads with the vulnerable “I.” She rehearses some of the autobiographical material covered in Memoir of a Misfit, but exploits the anecdotes for a purpose.
That purpose lies in the concluding prayers, each a variation on the one in her introduction: “May God give you the courage and tenacity to hold on not only to your faith but also to every idiosyncrasy that makes you the person you are…”
Reviewed by Martha K. Baker © 2003 Episcopal Life. Reprinted with permission.
The Sacred Art of Forgiveness: Forgiving Ourselves and Others Through God’s Grace
SkyLight Paths / Spirituality/ Self-Help /ISBN: 1594731756
Autographed Copies Available
Almost all of us have a person in our lives that we’ve refused to forgive. Here, FaithfulReader.com reviewer Marcia Ford, the author of numerous books (including MEMOIR OF A MISFIT, GOD BETWEEN THE COVERS and TRADITIONS OF THE ANCIENTS), offers practical help for facilitating forgiveness and reconciliation. She also makes a convincing case that forgiveness is essential for our own happiness and peace of mind.
Why do we need another book on forgiveness? Because forgiveness is in such short supply, Ford writes, and we must keep preaching the message, hearing the message, and living the message. In the introduction, Ford says she has become convinced that learning to forgive is one of life’s great lessons. Mixing personal experiences and practical know-how, she takes the reader, step by step, through a basic understanding of what forgiveness entails, why it is important, and what will happen after forgiveness takes place. God, she notes, forgives us relentlessly. And, of course, there’s the catch — God expects us to forgive relentlessly also. Often this won’t happen under our own power — we’ll need supernatural power to do it.
Why should we forgive? Ford begins with this question. “It’s about you letting go of your past, changing your present, and protecting your future. It’s about making a better life for yourself, and in some small way, making a better world as well.” Forgiveness makes us healthier people and gives us a better quality of life, she writes, adding that prolonged unforgiveness is associated with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, lowered immunity and stress-related disorders.
Not only do we need to forgive those who have personally wronged us, we also need to forgive more abstract groups of people — those who fight for causes we are against (think the abortion/homosexuality/war debates among Christians) or who espouse ideas different from our own. We have to put away our desire to be better than others and to be right. Of course, what Ford is driving at is that we have to deal with our pride. I was afraid of that!
Ford tackles the sticky problem of forgiving someone who has died (it’s important to take care of unfinished business) and some ideas about when you should remember the offense even as you forgive the offender. Forgive and forget isn’t always the best motto, especially if abuse is involved. While forgiveness can be offered, remembrance helps us set healthy boundaries. Ford reminds us that we also need to remember acts of horror –- the Holocaust, Rwanda — to prevent atrocities from happening again. In other words, sometimes we have to remember the offense, even as we forgive the offenders.
Ford also makes the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. They are not the same, she points out. “Sometimes reconciliation is simply unwise; other times, it’s downright dangerous.” Or, as she quotes the late Lewis Smedes, “Reunion can happen only if we can trust the person who wronged us once not to wrong us again.” You don’t have to reconcile with the person you forgive, especially if abuse is involved, she emphasizes. “Attempts at reconciliation are both risky and challenging,” she says in a later passage. Proceed with caution.
In other chapters, Ford notes that the forgiveness of God toward us is transformational. Forgiving others helps us move toward maturity. It puts us back on the path to spiritual growth. But perhaps the most difficult forgiveness is this: We have to learn to forgive ourselves. “Forgiving ourselves becomes a work of self-restoration; we’re putting ourselves back together again, making ourselves the whole person we are meant to be.”
Ford seasons her book with plenty of humor and vulnerable anecdotes, stories of forgiveness from the news and from the Bible, and questions at the end of each chapter to help us reflect on and practice forgiveness. There are quotes from a variety of faith traditions, from Buddha to Francis Schaeffer to the Dalai Lama; Russian monks to rabbis. Most chapters are short, making them perfect for devotional reading.
If you’ve ever said something like, “I could never forgive him!” Ford writes, then you’re probably right. Not by ourselves. But she promises us that with God’s grace, we can be empowered to forgive and to be set free from bitterness.
— Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2006, FaithfulReader.com. All rights reserved.
Finding Hope: Cultivating God’s Gift of a Hopeful Spirit
SkyLight Paths, 2006. Trade Paper, 160 pages. ISBN: 1594732116. List Price: $16.99
Publishers Weekly Forecast / Starred Review / September 11, 2006
Starred Review. In a time when cynicism seems to reign, a book about finding hope is refreshing. Ford, a religion writer (The Sacred Art of Forgiveness), PW freelancer, and hospice worker, has hope to spare. Writing in the midst of a chronic illness and the aftermath of an electrical fire that damaged her home, Ford manages to communicate the essence of hope with intelligence, humor and grace. Her premise is that “when your ultimate hope is in God, your underlying philosophy of hope is based on the unshakeable belief that no matter what happens, God will see you through it.” She illustrates this with stories from her own life, popular culture, history and the Bible. At the end of each chapter, Ford offers short questions to ponder along with simple practices to restore hope. She suggests some typical things, like journaling, meditating and decluttering, but also ventures into unusual recommendations, like blogging. Ford’s gift is not only her accessible writing style, but also her life experience as a Christian. She has obviously spent time with different facets of Christianity and possesses an understanding of other spiritual paths. What results is an inspiring, broad-based look at sound theological, spiritual and practical principles to cultivate hope.
© 2007 Publishers Weekly. Reprinted with permission.
Traditions of the Ancients: Vintage Faith Practices for the 21st Century,
B&H Publishing, 2006. Trade Paper, 215 pages. ISBN: 0805440763. List Price: $14.99
Summary: What was old is new and relevant again. For many Christians today, the growing desire for a deeper faith experience is being met in the study and application of ancient worship practices. Traditions of the Ancients is filled with candidly informative looks at such themes as mysticism, praying for the gift of tears, reciting the Jesus prayer, and asking God for the gift of bereavement.
God Between the Covers: Finding Faith Through Reading
Crossroad Publishing, 2005. Trade Paper, 224 pages. ISBN: 0824522907. List Price: $19.99
Summary: Marcia Ford presents a zesty guide to the essential books, ideas, and spiritual insights from today and yesterday that she thinks all postmoderns and moderns should know about. She takes readers on a literary romp through two millennia of spiritual writings that will enhance and encourage personal transformation.
Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan (with Scott Marshall)
Relevant Media, 2002. Paperback, 196 pages. ISBN: 097145762X. List Price: $13.99
More about truth than a struggle for Dylan
July 5, 2003 / Michael Miller /Peoria Journal Star
Christians and Jews fruitfully co-exist, but there’s still one piece of culture some in each camp are reluctant to surrender: Bob Dylan.
Reform Judaism magazine’s summer 2003 issue features the final installment of a series on Jewish songwriters. The article by Paul Zollo leads off with Dylan, retracing his oft-told rise to fame from Hibbing, Minn., to New York City and then going on to his conversion to Christianity.
It’s what has happened after that “gospel period” circa 1980 that has been controversial over the years. Did Dylan leave the fundamentalist Christian faith he espoused on “Slow Train Coming,” “Saved” and “Shot of Love” and in concerts during that period?
After those albums, the seminal singer-songwriter departed from explicitly Christian lyrics. He also showed up at a son’s bar mitzvah celebration in Jerusalem and appeared a few times on Lubavitch Chabad telethons that raised money for the Jewish Hasidic group.
The Zollo piece in Reform Judaism correctly points out that Dylan’s music has traditionally had biblical references – 61 on 1968’s “John Wesley Harding” alone – but it ignores biblical references and specifically New Testament allusions in Dylan’s music since his alleged “reversion” to Judaism.
Actually, Zollo reveals an ignorance of Dylan’s music in what is a fairly shallow analysis. He misplaces “Every Grain of Sand” on the “Saved” album – it was on “Shot of Love,” the album after “Saved” – and claimed it “led some Dylan watchers to speculate that he was returning to the Jewish fold.” That would be surprising since a song called “Property of Jesus” was also on “Shot of Love.”
But Zollo correctly points out that Dylan’s song writing is faithful to a long line of Jewish poets. Where he and many others stumble is in their insistence that Dylan’s conversion to Christianity was an either-or proposition, and that if he showed up at Yom Kippur services or attended his son’s bar mitzvah, that meant he had abandoned Christianity.
“Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan,” a 2002 book by Scott M. Marshall with Marcia Ford, goes much deeper. The thoroughly documented book reveals a Dylan who continues to perform key songs from his “Christian period,” songs like “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Solid Rock” and “In the Garden,” as well as old-time gospel tunes like “Rock of Ages.” There also have been hundreds of biblical references – both New and Old Testaments – in the songs on his “post-Christian” albums.
Though written from an admittedly Christian perspective, “Restless Pilgrim” honestly makes the case that Dylan not only hasn’t abandoned his Christian faith, but has comfortably retained his Judaism. In fact, he appears to be more involved in Jewish causes and observance since his Christian conversion. If anything, that conversion may have awakened him to his Jewish roots.
That’s something many people, Christian and Jew, are unable to imagine or accept, despite the common roots of both faiths and the fact that the foundation of Christianity, Jesus, was himself an observant Jew.
Probably the main reason that Dylan hasn’t been as outspoken about his faith of late is that he quickly learned the difficult fact of Christian matinee-idol worship; born-agains love to hold up celebrity believers as trophies. Dylan, always a private and independent individual, probably got tired of that quickly.
If anything, his music over the past 20 years has increasingly tried to point people away from himself and themselves and toward God and others. It’s as if he’s been saying, “Don’t focus on me. Worry about the state and destiny of your soul. Use my music as a vehicle if you need to.”
The struggle for Bob Dylan should instead be the struggle for truth.
____ Michael Miller covers religion for the Journal Star. Write to him in care of the Journal Star, 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call him at (309) 686-3106, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may be published.
© 2003. Peoria Journal Star. Reprinted with permission. No further reproduction by any means permitted.
We the Purple: Faith, Politics, and the Independent Voter
Mar 5, 2008
by Marcia Ford
Author Observations: “I am every partisan politician’s worst nightmare—a registered independent,” says journalist Marcia Ford. “Wildly unpredictable in my voting habits over the last three decades, I have cast ballots for Democrats, Republicans, independents and assorted loose cannons.”
In We the Purple, Ford describes and interprets her fellow “Purple” voters—independents who are neither Republican red nor Democratic blue. Through dozens of interviews with independent voters and candidates, politicians, political observers and activists of many stripes, she explains how these citizens eschew partisan politics, guided instead by their core values, their faith, and their experience.
Purple voters won’t settle for the one or two issues identified for them by politicians, lobbyists, or religious leaders. It’s a slippery voting bloc for politicians and pundits to get a handle on—they have no allegiance to party and no partisan ideology to uphold. If officeholders they help elect don’t do something to fix what needs fixing, independents have no reason to ever vote for them again.
Many Christians, like Ford, are independent voters, and she examines how faith influences their unaffiliated political stance. Many Christian independents feel disenfranchised and unwelcome at churches if they are not in agreement with the prevailing political views. “As paradoxical as the image may seem, if Christians remained morally centered, their votes could swing all along the political spectrum. And that include the votes of prominent Christian leaders,” Ford says. “If religion is to play a prophetic role in the culture and in the political process, then people of faith need the freedom to speak prophetic words openly, without fear of repercussion or losing face,” Ford says.
Marcia Ford is a seasoned journalist, editor, and author. She was a reporter and editor at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, editor of Christian Retailing magazine, and associate editor at Charisma and Ministries Today. In addition to editing nearly one hundred books, she is the author of twenty books, including Finding Hope, Traditions of the Ancients, The Sacred Art of Forgiveness, Memoir of a Misfit, and with Scott Marshall, Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan. She lives with her family in Colorado