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Terry Pluto
Gray & Company Publishers
Christian Living
ISBN: 1886228817

In the name of full disclosure, I need to confess that I am a huge Terry Pluto fan. For those of you who have never heard of him, he is an award-winning faith and sports columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal and the author of nineteen books. Among readers of the Beacon, he has a legion of fans. On a personal note, Pluto is the reason I subscribe to the Akron Beacon Journal, even though I am a major contributor to the Beacon's competitor, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. Journalists like myself subscribe to the competition to know what they're up to. Not me. I buy to read Pluto. There, I've said it. With that out of the way, I can get down to business and tell you about his latest book EVERYDAY FAITH, a collection of fifty-seven of his "Your Faith" columns, published Saturdays in the Beacon's Religion section. I'm very familiar with each of the essays contained in this latest anthology. In fact, most of these columns I've clipped, saved, copied and shared with distant friends. They're that good.

They're good because he asks the questions we ask of God in the middle of the night, when we can't sleep. They're good because Pluto realizes that faith and living are inseparable and that it's faith that oftentimes makes living more understandable. They're good because he seeks answers on how it all fits together as we tuck our kids in bed at night, are called on to discipline an employee, deal with a sibling, handle grief or the death of a dream, or when we don't feel like praying. In his writing, Pluto works out his faith with "fear and trembling," like the Good Book suggests, and we, who have the privilege to read him, are the beneficiaries.

In one essay titled "Clergy: Your People Want To Know What Happens to Their Prayers," he challenges pastors, rabbis and imams to talk to their congregations about prayers that don't seem to get answered. Pluto writes: "Your people…want to know they are not alone, that others also have had a feeling of dropping off God's radar screen. They're not so much angry as they are seeking hope. They want to know they still matter to God, and the trials they are facing will end and there is a purpose behind it." Pluto also tackles --- no, wait, tackles isn't the right word; he doesn't "tackle" issues, he merely leads the discussion.

Another essay is titled "Where Is God When People Die?" and brings out questions so many of us asked after 9/11: "Where is God among the rubble and bodies? Where is God in the tears, the blood, the agony? Where is God when innocent people die, when it seems the world no longer makes sense?" In less than 200 words, Pluto untangles evil and assures us that when we weep, so does God. He's not a preacher. He's a searcher, just like us.

Pluto weaves universal truths from simple questions, using down-home stories about people like you and me, pulling in quotes from area clergy to round it out and make his point. Scripture is quoted liberally. The biggest criticism I hear of his work among some of my Christian friends is that his columns are too basic and simplistic. But I say, "Viva le Simplistic!" Pluto doesn't pretend to be a theologian (though what he writes is theologically correct). He's real. He struggles. He questions. He ponders. And then he writes his heart out.

And we are so blessed because he does.

   --- Reviewed by Diana Keough

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