#Liberation Library, Episode 15: I Am Amazed! Reflections on an Awe-Inspired Life

Welcome to another edition of Liberation Library with Carl McRoy

Title: I Am Amazed! Reflections on an Awe-Inspired Life

Author: Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley and Dr. Ben Campbell Johnson

Publisher: CreateSpace, 2014

One sentence summary: Dr. Durley shares life lessons from his childhood through his “rewirement” years. (The pastor emeritus of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, and current chairman of Interfaith Power and Light says he’s not retired but rewired.)

What are the main concerns being addressed?

Although Dr. Durley’s story is truly amazing, his desire is for every reader to take inventory of their everyday life occurrences and see how amazing they are or can become.

Were these concerns clearly stated?

Yes, Dr. Durley is down to earth about his experiences. His humor is usually expressed at his own expense, as he confesses being stubborn sometimes and naïve at other times. Being naïve and stubborn at the same time when he first moved to the Jim Crow South nearly ended his story when it barely got started. Although he’s served in several leadership roles with large responsibilities and access to wealthy, powerful, and famous people, his story isn’t from the perspective of a guru bragging about what he’s taught and shown others. Instead, he usually provides examples of how he learned lessons from virtually everyone he met. One example is how a teacher who couldn’t control her own stuttering helped Durley overcome his stuttering.

What are the book’s strengths and contributions? I first met Dr. Durley around 2013 at Concerned Black Clergy (CBC), yet I only recently learned about his autobiography. Whenever “Double D” (we didn’t call him that at CBC, but it’s in the book) entered the room at CBC’s Monday morning forum, people paid attention not just because he’s tall with broad shoulders and always immaculately dressed; definitely not because of any airs of pretension. We all knew he was coming with an announcement of something impactful that didn’t need any hubris.

This book tells the many micro-lessons that made him the calm and confident yet humble and approachable person he is. He is an inspiring person to be around, and reflective readers will realize that they too can live inspirational lives. One of the main ways is recognizing what many people refer to as a “calling.” However, Durley demystifies this concept by describing his sense of “compelling.” The distinction he makes between the two terms in the context of his journey really spoke to me.

What are the book’s shortcomings? A couple of times, the book seems to switch genres from biography to self-help to a homily. However, it all works together because it’s like Dr. Durley is having a heart-to-heart conversation with you.

What were some excellent conscience-quickening quotes from the book?

“I had a kind of blind trust in everyone I met because I didn’t know how to listen with my third ear – the ear that hears what is meant, not what is said” (p. 54).

“I learned that everyone has an agenda; I can either endorse their agenda or reject it, but that does not mean that I reject the person” (p. 55).

“I only wanted to learn how to talk to God, how to listen to God, and how God works through people” (p. 98).

“I have met many preachers, both in the divinity school and since, who were filled with good words about a call, but they didn’t seem compelled to make a difference in the world” (p. 99).

“Let’s teach our dollars some sense” (p. 144).

“It [the church] is an organism, not an organization, and this organism must be reaching out and transforming life and culture around it for the good of others” (p. 148.

“Allow someone to help you help yourself” (p. 163).

“God-empowered people never need to impress others” (p. 169).

“Hell is when you meet the person you could have been” (p. 175).

“A smile is a curve that can set things straight” (p. 178).

“I am interested in civil and human rights, but I can’t do anything about those issues if I’m dead from a toxic environment” (p. 194)

“Learning to love your neighbor as yourself is also loving yourself through your neighbor” (p. 217).

What was so liberating about the book? Being reminded that humble beginnings can help develop us but don’t need to define or limit us. We can learn from everyone and will especially benefit from seeking to learn from people who are of different backgrounds than ourselves. When we focus on how to let God work through us to help others, we will be amazed.

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