By Susan McMichael
4 out of 5 stars
Different perspectives, interesting times and reliance …
As a long time singer of Church music, both hymns and songs, and as a poet, I was looking forward to this book. Christian poetry’s framework and structures have changed over the past thirty years, in much the same way as secular poetry has: using much more free verse. Following in this heritage this is a book of free verse. I appreciated Change your Perspective's hopeful tone of getting the reader to enjoy their life, to see how God and Christ could make a difference to people's lives. In the poetry in Change Your Perspective: A Collection Of Inspirational Poetry, the reader is asked to take a journey from the physical reality of imperfection to the spiritual view of change for the better through Christ. Despite this emphasis on the spiritual this is not a book of ‘grandiose’ events, but rather of the very ordinary. Following along these lines Poet uses the common, vernacular speech to bring God into these poems: “When your chips are down... you say you want / To be married / You say this will / Make your life / Whole” (Ladies – Give God A Chance).
The book is a series of small recipes for getting your life back together, for changing your ideas. It is divided into three main sections: Broken, The Almighty God and Emerge. It delves into the everyday, including those feelings and actions that we like to deny. In Home Remedies we read: “We have / Jealousy / Hypocrisy / Adultery”. The book’s remedies are equally home-spun and practical, though effective. In Illusions we read: “Be cool / Chill / Relax”. Poet shows God's interaction with us and what can happen for good, when we rely on God and Christ.
Christian poetry is as old as the Bible: the Psalms and Song of Songs come to mind. Christian poetry has been written by a variety of poets around the world, from T.S. Eliot, in England, and W.H. Auden, in America (at the beginning of the Twentieth Century) to John Berryman’s Collected Poems 1937-1971. In the late twentieth century many Churches modernised by modifying buildings, building new, modern places of worship, or using school auditoriums, to allow more people to worship at Church. The proponents of Christian poetry also modernised. Like its secular siblings, in the late 1970s, Christian poetry rid itself of structure and form. Modern Christian poetry, compared to previously, is thus necessarily more diverse and comes from a range of sources, using more free range verse, and a less metrical style. It is in this poetic tradition that Poet's new book, Change Your Perspective, is situated. Brought up in Church, with hymns and music, and having studied poetry, I was glad to read this book of contemporary Christian poetry which continues a long tradition, though in modern form. I was also glad to read this book because, despite the plentiful nature of evil acts in the Bible, good always triumphs: God generally rescues, providing Manna, solace from whales and floods as well as returning to one's friends after three days. Similarly, in this book God and good triumph. It’s a cheerful collection: we know that God works for good and that through the author’s life experiences God will be there: “I need / Understanding / Need / Peace in my heart / Want a little less confusion... I am asking you to / Be my guide / Lord” (I Need You). God is there.
In Christian theology Atonement Theory sees sin as the breaking of God’s moral law. Placing a particular emphasis on Romans 6:23 (the wages of sin is death), Penal Substitution sees sinful man as being subject to God’s wrath with the essence of Jesus' saving work being, as Galatians 3:13 says, his substitution in the sinner's place, bearing the curse in the place of man (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penal_substitution). In poems such as I Cried Out Poet uses this perspective to show God and Christ working in people's lives:
“My life was torn / I was in a rut / I was torn / Deep within my bones....I cried out / He instantly became my glue… / Know that Jesus / is your remedy”.
Change your Perspective also uses the Moral Influence view of the atonement which teaches that the purpose and work of Jesus Christ was to bring positive moral change to humanity. This moral change came through the teachings and example of Jesus, the Christian movement he founded, and the inspiring effect of his martyrdom and resurrection (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_influence_theory_of_atonement - accessed 27/09/2013). Seeing Jesus, and admiring him, we imitate, we obey, we change. In a poem such as God's Will, we learn that: “When the time presents itself / God will let me know / Jesus / Put me on earth for a reason... I will fulfil God's desire”.
The Protestant principle of Sola Fide states that no matter what a person's action, salvation comes through faith alone. Ephesians 2:8–9 reads, "For by grace ye are saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (KJV). According to Protestants, salvation is God's gift at God's sole prerogative and our resulting metamorphoses comes through his power. Were salvation achieved by works, men could take pride in their efforts toward holiness, and God's gift of grace would be diminished in contrast to man's efforts (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_fide - accessed 27/09/2013). In the poem We shall be Y2K Compliant, the narrator tells Mr Millennium: “We are the / Believers... We have God's / Power / Embedded deep down”. It is God’s power, given through faith, which is at work: not simply man’s effort.
This is an enthusiastic collection, full of happy poems where God is present. God's presence is sought, lost and found again. Poet uses everyday experiences (jobs, family and relationships) to bring both questions and answers about God's presence in our lives. In these poems Poet asks God for help, for guidance and for assistance. Throughout the book God and Jesus assist man in daily life and through hard times, making life happier, more bearable, more able to be understood.
As one point of criticism I might have liked a few more poems to make use of different forms. There is a uniformity of style that becomes a little repetitive. Variation would have added more points of highlight.
I enjoyed Change Your Perspective very much. I liked its enthusiasm, the concepts of God and Christ in the everyday, and the book's overall sense of purpose. I am happy to rate this book as 4 stars out of 5.
http://goo.gl/X5SMcL (Change Your Perspective - Book ed.)
http://goo.gl/Ucv71F (Change your Perspective - Kindle ed.)