A Gentle Thunder is book of meditations consisting of short, encouraging passages that can be read in one or two sittings, or studied in a more leisurely and prayerful fashion. It consists of 30 short chapters, so pretty much one a day for a month.
Each chapter of A Gentle Thunder offers a supportive short story or homily which develops life enhancing insights into God’s unfailing love. Each chapter is accompanied by a short Bible verse which is then amplified by reference to the author’s personal experiences, or through the development of a short fictional narrative in the form of a parable, allegory or sustained metaphor.
Max Lucado is a good writer and preacher who can communicate through dramatic examples and images, as you can see from the title and subtitle, which is Hearing God through the Storm. Whilst a cynic could argue that these images are cliches, that would be very unfair on Lucado who goes out of his way to find modern analogies and approaches to ideas which are expressed in the Bible through such dramatic and powerful natural imagery.
For example at one point Lucado compares himself and the apostle Peter to the cartoon Roadrunner to show Peter’s impetuosity, and in another example he contrasts an American cowboy with a Hebrew shepherd in order to draw out the intimate caring love of the Father for his flock. He uses the metaphor of dancing to explain the intimacy of the Holy Spirit, and to suggest how He can bring our walk as Christians to life. He describes a middle aged father failing to ascend a climbing wall in order to show how God is always there, ready to rescue us should we fall.
Lucado questions whether a cat can be taught to be a gentleman in a short tale in which two sons compete with their father to make a philosophical point. The cat, whilst able to serve at table and handle a full tray of food, only does so until the mice arrive at which point chaos breaks loose: the message of course is about original sin.
Sometimes Lucado focuses more clearly on the Bible passage itself, using his imagination to help the reader step more closely to the passage and to the biblical event and its theological significance. He looks at the crucifixion and considers God’s viewpoint about the different participants, and describes the feeding of the five thousand and the wedding at Canaan focusing on the reaction of the participants and the story of their faith. At Canaan the servants take the jugs of water to the wedding host in a spirit of faith, and Lucado insists that we should do that too with our daily concerns and issues: listen to God, and act in faith. With the feeding of the five thousand he focuses on the disciples’ lack of faith; they advised the crowds to go home, as they saw no solution. But Jesus broke the bread and blessed it: his grace did not depend on their faith. He cannot be false to himself.
That last example was typical of the way Max Lucado communicates a real sense of God’s love for us and explains through all kinds of examples the lengths that he is prepared to go to for our salvation. It’s hard always to keep God’s love in mind, or to give sufficient time to prayer and reading and we all have doubts and fears. Max Lucado has a stunning and inspiring vision of God’s love and I can certainly recommend this book for individuals to read or study, or for groups to read together: for the latter there are questions attached to each section, though I did not read these!!