Frustrated with Normalcy

Cover image of Never Settle for Normal by Jonathan Parnell

Normal. It’s something we at once don’t want to be confined to and at the same time wish to obtain. Some think it’s a mirage. Others believe it’s what we make it out to be.

Jonathan Parnell believes “normal” is something we shouldn’t just accept. In his book Never Settle for Normal, readers are encouraged to consider that there is more to life than just the usual and that it isn’t wrong to want for more.

After several chapters of chipping away at normal concepts about life, God, and the human appetite for glory, Parnell turns readers over to the Gospel story. He walks through the basic elements of the grandest truth: creation, the fall, sin, Jesus, and Christian hope.

Smattering the story with philosophical insights from the likes of Augustine and C.S. Lewis, Parnell’s approach to telling the good news is atypical. He also includes ideas from stories like Moby Dick and movies like Nacho Libre.

Several themes rear their heads occasionally throughout Never Settle for Normal, making it difficult to pinpoint a singular thesis of the book.

In the end, normalcy and living beyond it is only loosely related to the main ideas. Some themes include:

  • The human bent toward glory-seeking
  • Happiness as what everyone wants to attain
  • That sin confuses worldview
  • We are searchers by nature
  • Idols won’t really satisfy
  • God’s story is true and it matters

Quote from Jonathan Parnell's book Never Settle for Normal

Examples of the sort of thought-provoking statements Parnell makes include:

“You don’t have an inner champion. You have an inner brokenness that desperately needs to be healed by Jesus.”

“Prominence and popularity are temporary means to satisfy an eternal appetite.”

“Sin is both the act and disposition beneath, before, and after the act.”

“If gospel messengers were meant to merely blast out information, Jesus would have told his church to go make subscribers, not disciples.”

Parnell’s style reads a bit like stream-of-consciousness writing. It’s almost as if he is imagining a conversation as he writes, but readers only hear his side of it.

For those who enjoy casual contemplation and mulling over philosophical concepts in relation to God, the book will likely prompt discussion or lead to personal pondering. Study questions are included in the back of the book for this purpose.

While I personally found Never Settle for Normal had little to say about normalcy and what we can do with that concept, readers may find the book valuable for exploring various philosophical topics related to the human tendency to seek happiness and God’s answer through Jesus Christ.

For more information about Never Settle for Normal and related resources, click here.

<I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.>


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6 Replies to “Frustrated with Normalcy

  1. Love your book review, Bethany. It’s nice to see how you pulled some good things out of it, despite it being a little less than stellar about staying on topic. Here is a truth I discovered the hard way in my life, by the time I graduated from high school: “Prominence and popularity are temporary means to satisfy an eternal appetite.” Oh yeah! I wish I had learned that sooner! I also loved this one: “If gospel messengers were meant to merely blast out information, Jesus would have told his church to go make subscribers, not disciples.” Yes, yes, yes. It’s what the church needs to know today.

    1. Thank you, Linda! Reviewing books is stretching me because I want to be clear and honest, but also fair. This book definitely had great quotes. You beat me! I was graudating college before I really started to believe that : P

  2. Powerful quote from Jonathan Parnell for the Christian blogging world… we’re to make disciples, not gather subscribers. Discipleship so often is done one by one and not in mass. Great concept to remember. thanks!

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