'Dusting for God’s Fingerprints’ reveals love and loss'
Somewhere between jazz riffs, poker games, chemo wards and the daily routines of our lives, God is at work in us and for us, writes George W. Baum in “Dusting for God’s Fingerprints” (Outskirts Press, 2015).
Baum’s debut collection of sermons is an exquisite amalgam of memoir, teaching and reflection that echoes the likes of Fredrick Buechner and even C.S. Lewis.
Baum, who lives in Torrance and is the former associate minister at The Neighborhood Church in Palos Verdes Estates, looks into the stories of the Bible and shows readers a universal story. After a poetic prelude conveying Baum’s spiritual journey, he takes us to the Garden of Eden via modern day Palos Verdes and Dear Abby. Baum’s Adam writes: “I live in a garden paradise here in Palos Verdes... Part of my work is to take care of the garden. There are so many interesting plants and flowers and trees — one in particular intrigues me, but I’ve been told to stay away from it.”
Later, Adam checks his email and finds a reply — along with Eve. Baum interweaves our present-day experience with the Bible, thereby creating accessible and often humorous teachings that reveal how God intersects in our lives. Baum’s genuine and personal approach reveals a walk in the Christian life, complete with love and loss, sickness and healing, and even “redemptive winks,” or understandings with God. Baum’s work also contains poignant imagery and creative metaphors: “Grace is a place like a blues club in Watts where I have hung out from time to time. There you’ll find an older gentleman, eighty years young, sporting a fine derby, decked to the nines and announcing, ‘I am the host!’ — greeting each guest warmly. Grace is welcoming, and most hospitable.”
Baum’s considerable talent as a writer and theologian culminates in the chapter “Playing the Hand You are Dealt.” Here, he likens cards to circumstances and offers encouragement grounded in the Bible. Baum’s blend of anecdotes, scripture and insight superbly illustrates his ideology that God’s fingerprints can be found on all our cards. With that, Baum concludes, “It’s your deal — ante up!”
Greg Levonian is a professor of English and Theatre Arts at Marymount California University.