Homeless at Harvard by John Christopher Frame [Book Review]

book cover

Homeless at Harvard is a story about the homeless community at Harvard Square and how the author’s life and the lives of those on the streets were woven together into a special tapestry.

Harvard Square is at the center of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the business district around Harvard University. It’s a place of history, culture, and some of the most momentous events of the nation. But it’s also a gathering place for some of the city’s needy.

Initially, Frame’s personal interest and concern for the homeless began while pursuing a master’s degree at Anderson University School of Theology. His inspiration to know those living on the street came about after spring break trips to Atlanta to serve with a homeless ministry. This experience helped him to better understand how he (all of us) should be concerned for the homeless.

While taking his final course at Harvard Divinity School, John Frame stepped outside the walls of academia and onto the streets, pursuing a different kind of education with his homeless friends. It’s not accurate to say that the author was totally homeless during the ten weeks, even though he didn’t have any dorm or an apartment to stay in that summer, he voluntarily spent time on the streets, compared to those who were truly homeless usually had no other choice.

Rather than judging the homeless for their circumstances, Frame takes time to get to know them personally. He makes the point that if we really listen, we will always end up seeing people in a different, more compassionate light…to show people their strength, and point out the positive aspects of their lives. In this insightful book, the author’s narrative is blended with words from George, Chubby John, Neal and Dane–street companions who share their own stories with an inside look of life as a homeless person experiences it.

Frame wrote this book with the hope and intent that it would make a difference in the heart and mind of the reader for the homeless. By sharing his experiences with homeless people more broadly, possibly it would help others think about building relationships with people on the streets. Helping people with both tangible and intangible needs is important. There’s something inside each of us that needs other people. Really understanding others’ brokenness hurts, and pain includes acknowledging our similarities.

The author is not blind to his own insecurities or ignorance about the best way to help the homeless. You sense the tension he has with wanting to do more and feeling guilty because he didn’t do enough. He is introspective of his own personal motives for helping the needy — to be responsible means being honest and wise about who has the greatest needs, ourselves or others — and then acting on that realization. Frame knows that the needs of the homeless are broad and complex and there are no simple solutions or a set remedy that will fit all. He does not offer a solution to the problem of homelessness nor does he give answers to all of the questions he asks himself.

The book does accomplish the intent to help the reader understand who the homeless are. To help non-homeless people understand a culture and people who might be unknown or even scary to them.

For John Frame, that summer of living on the streets at Harvard Square helped him think about life from a new perspective. I believe he has accomplished his hope that writing this book would make a difference. It is a book worth reading.

When we forget stereotypes and seek to know people for who they truly are, we give them a chance. And in return, we give ourselves a chance — to love, flourish, and truly live. It is in that vulnerable place in life — where we are our true selves — that others can bring change within us. And it’s in that place that we better understand that though people are different from each other, we’re really still the same.  — John Christopher Frame, Homeless in Harvard: Finding Faith and Friendship on the Streets of Harvard Square

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Draw the Circle : The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson [Book Review]

Draw the Circle

This is a review on the book, Draw the Circle : The 40 Day Prayer Challenge, by Mark Batterson, pastor of  National Community Church, in the Washington, DC metro area.

Draw the Circle is a devotional book on prayer, a sequel of sorts based on the New York Times best-selling book, The Circle Maker. I have not read The Circle Maker, but I have read, Praying Circles Around your Children, a good book for parents to read! What I learned from that book is this:

You don’t become a praying parent by default. You do it by design by desire, by discipline and determination. It’s imperative to distinguish between your will and God’s will. God is not a genie in a bottle, and your wish is not His command. His command better be your wish.

After “praying circles” around my children and grandchildren and experiencing God answer many of those prayers, I looked forward to using Draw the Circle as a challenge to establish a prayer habit that would continue on day 41, day 75, day 365.

In Draw the Circle, we are encouraged to make a daily appointment with God by setting a time and place to pray. The author chose the time of 7:14 AM, based on 2 Chronicles 7:14. The “If” at the beginning of this verse convicted him to become a man of prayer and to lead his church through a revival of prayer. Having a set time and place created tremendous synergy and accountability.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Batterson reiterates that there is nothing magical about physically circling something in prayer. Drawing prayer circles is a metaphor that simply means “to pray without ceasing.” It’s praying until God answers. It’s praying with more intensity, more tenacity. It’s not just praying for; it’s praying through. “Praying with the same kind of consistency with which the earth circles the sun.”

I appreciate the exhortation and challenge from Mark in the introduction to “find out about prayer… for each day of prayer to yield a new discovery that will change the way I pray…and when I change the way I pray, everything else changes.” (the quote was personalized)

The book is an easy read, with mini-anecdotes to illustrate the point of each chapter. On Day 4, I was pulled into the story of John and Tricia and their precious son, Eli. You need to read it. “Sometimes the purpose of prayer is to get us out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them.” I can relate to that!

By Day 40, I was in a rhythm of praying very specifically for a number of significant things. The devotional book ended in part with this exhortation:

“It doesn’t matter what you do; prayer is the key to your business, your practice, your career. If you’re an entrepreneur, you need innovative ideas. If you’re a physician, you need the discernment to diagnose. You may sell homes or teach classes…whatever you do, prayer is a critical part of what you do and who you become. Turn your classroom, boardroom, locker room, operating room, courtroom, and conference room into a prayer room!”

It takes watching and waiting to see how God will answer prayers. I recommend that you read, Draw the Circle…read a chapter each day to remain committed to the 40 day prayer challenge. There is scripture woven throughout each chapter. Take time to read the verses and explore the historical facts of God’s word. Engage with God in prayer using the bible verses as a guide. Ultimately, the book is a good lesson in persistent and faith-filled prayer.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

There is an Amazon link on this page. If you purchase the book using that link, I will receive a small stipend.