Meeting for Reading is a column that offers reviews of new and forthcoming books intended to nurture spiritual deepening among Friends. The books selected are particularly useful to Meeting book discussion groups.
Beauty, Truth, Life, and Love: Four Essentials for the Abundant Life by J. Brent Bill. Paraclete Press, 2019.
“I don’t claim to have arrived at the perfectly abundant life. I am human and continue to make mistakes…or downright failures. Yet, in many ways, I have a deeper sense of life satisfaction, contentment, and happiness since I’ve sought to live a life of beauty, truth, life, and love.” — Brent Bill
Review by Ellen Michaud
Every one of us knows that an “abundant life” is not one of Prada handbags, summers on Martha’s Vineyard, winters in Vail, or season tickets to the Washington National’s opening game.
But, as Quaker author and Indiana minister Brent Bill points out in his new book Beauty, Truth, Life and Love: Four Essentials for the Abundant Life, what we simple-living Friends may have failed to realize is that a truly abundant life is, in fact, a life packed with the kind of beauty, truth, life, and love that nurtures the soul and leads to both spiritual transformation and the continuous experience of God.
Beauty, as Brent writes “…can break open our hearts and spirits and give us new insights” that bring us closer to God. Looking for truth by continually questioning and testing leadings, vocations and relationships can reveal if we’re living the right way. Looking for the holy in that which makes up the ordinary in our lives can bring wonder and joy. And love allows us to “…feel complete and cared for. We breathe deeply and live easily. Our striving ceases and we soak up the light of that love.”
When we align our daily existence with the life-giving things that God created us to have, we find that we have lives that are more than full of fun. Our days, good and bad, easy or rough, will be quickened by the presence of the Spirit with us. The things we do will give us energy instead of draining us. Our relationships, including our one with the God who loves us more than we can imagine, will renew us.
In this deeply personal book, Brent shares many of the trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows that have shaped his own life—a tendency toward self-centeredness, a failing heart, bouts of occasional depression, and the death of his mother, balanced, he might say, against walking in the woods at his farm, screaming around an Indiana racetrack at 180 miles an hour, holding the very first copy of his very first book, and the heart and soul of his beloved wife Nancy.
Throughout the book, these revelations reveal to us the process of discernment in which Brent discovers that beauty, truth, life and love are each a transformative element that “…frees us to live fully into the people God created us to be.”
Together, Brent concludes, these elements are each an individual thread that can be woven into the tapestry of life—a life that is lived with God.
Ellen Michaud is an award-winning author and editor who has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, and Prevention Magazine, where she was the editor-at-large for six years. Her book Blessed: Living a Grateful Life (Readers Digest) was named the #1 Spiritual/Inspirational Book of the Year by USA Book News. Ellen was also the 2012 writer-in-residence at Earlham School of Religion.