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When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Obsessive Faith Paperback – 28 Nov 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Bravo Ltd; Reprint edition (28 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1601425457
  • ISBN-13: 978-1601425454
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 702,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for "When We Were on Fire
""Fire provides light and warmth, or it can bring pain and destruction. Addie tells us a story in which her fiery faith sparked both outcomes and how she's worked to contain those flames. She walks the reader through this process with such grace, humor, and utter transparency that I couldn't help but see my own faith journey in hers. A refreshing, hopeful book from an expert storyteller."
"--Jason Boyett, author of O Me of Little Faith
"
"Addie Zierman's unflinching candor and tender vulnerability make "When We Were on Fire" a must-read memoir. I ached for the wholesome, eager young girl seeking to serve God with all her heart, and wept for her--for all of us--who have experienced that particular keening heartbreak of being consumed by zeal. Addie walks through fire and still comes through shining with hope."
"--Elizabeth Esther, author of Girl at the End of the World
"
"Addie Zierman is a poet with a lion's heart. "When We Were on Fire" is a memoir of such sophisticated and witty grace, it reads as the laughing prayer of a vagabond saint. Zierman's words take root in you, grow slowly, and push outward into a ring of endless light. Would that in my own days of fire, youth groups, and See You at the Pole rallies, I had been given this book with the single word: 'Hope.'"
"--Preston Yancey, author of SeePrestonBlog.com
"
"Addie speaks for an evangelical generation who came of age in the American teen ghetto of youth group short-term mission trips and longings for revival, contemporary Christian music, and WWJD. Her journey through the disillusionments and then her rebellion against the false boundary-markers and empty language of an "on fire" faith culminate in her ongoing journey of hope and redemption. There is a wise sadness to her words, a depth that disarms. Addie is a beautiful writer, but she's also bold and honest as she tends the wounds of consumer evangelicalism on her old self, and then bravely gathers up all these disparate pieces of the painful and lovely obsessive faith of her past with new grace and gentle strength to move forward."
"--Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist
""For all of us who found our way while steeped in evangelical culture, Addie has written us a love letter. Hilarious and heartfelt, passionate and poetic, her take on growing up evangelical reveals a classic coming-of-age story with an evangelical twist. Through clean and messy faith, confusion, love lost and gained, she reflects deeply on each experience with enough humility and humor to keep you turning pages through this easy and beautiful read. You will love "When We Were on Fire" from beginning to end, as did I."
"--Grace Biskie, author of Converge Bible Studies: Kingdom Building, contributing author of Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith, and writer for DeeperStory.com and Prodigal & Prism magazine
"
"Reading "When We Were on Fire" was like reading my own story. It's an insightful, unflinching look at growing up evangelical. Addie recounts her misplaced zeal and resulting crisis of faith with humor and poignancy...ultimately discovering that a relationship with God is less about following Christian culture norms and more about following Him."
--Kristen Howerton, blogger at "Rage Against the Minivan, "and psychology professor at Vanguard University
"It's rare that a storyteller comes along with the ability to address important issues of life and faith with strength and profound openness. Addie Zierman is that kind of storyteller, and she does just that with her debut book "When We Were on Fire. "With a keen grasp on the intricacies and absurdities of Christian subculture, Addie bravely tells her story of a real, honest, and vulnerable faith that will resonate with readers of all ages. "When We Were on Fire" is a true pleasure to read."
"--Nish Weiseth, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, and editor-in-chief at DeeperStory.com
""Addie Zierman is a master storyteller whose sharp wit is matched only by her disarming sincerity. "When We Were on Fire" introduces her as one of this generation's most promising new voices. Prepare to laugh out loud and nod along as this book delights, challenges, tickles, and inspires. For those of us working to reconcile the faith of our youth with the faith of our adulthood, it's such a joy to have a friend like Addie along for the journey."
"--Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood
""The best kind of memoir is so deeply personal that it tells a universal story. In Addie's memoir you will find funny, messy, cringe-worthy, and beautiful moments that cut close to home--those experiences that we would like to relegate to youth but in truth lurk not far beneath the surface of every phase of life. If you are weary of sanitized and teetotaling stories, and are hungry for honest and redemptive stories, then this is your story."
"--Adam S. McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church
"

Praise for "When We Were on Fire
""With its luminous prose, Zierman s memoir reads like a novel, threaded with imperfect faith, doubt, deep searching, love and friendship and loss and depression A book to savor to the very last page. Publisher s Weekly (starred review)
Fire provides light and warmth, or it can bring pain and destruction. Addie tells us a story in which her fiery faith sparked both outcomes and how she s worked to contain those flames. She walks the reader through this process with such grace, humor, and utter transparency that I couldn t help but see my own faith journey in hers. A refreshing, hopeful book from an expert storyteller.
" Jason Boyett, author of O Me of Little Faith
"
Addie Zierman s unflinching candor and tender vulnerability make "When We Were on Fire" a must-read memoir. I ached for the wholesome, eager young girl seeking to serve God with all her heart, and wept for her for all of us who have experienced that particular keening heartbreak of being consumed by zeal. Addie walks through fire and still comes through shining with hope.
" Elizabeth Esther, author of Girl at the End of the World
"
Addie Zierman is a poet with a lion s heart. "When We Were on Fire" is a memoir of such sophisticated and witty grace, it reads as the laughing prayer of a vagabond saint. Zierman s words take root in you, grow slowly, and push outward into a ring of endless light. Would that in my own days of fire, youth groups, and See You at the Pole rallies, I had been given this book with the single word: Hope.
" Preston Yancey, author of SeePrestonBlog.com
"
Addie speaks for an evangelical generation who came of age in the American teen ghetto of youth group short-term mission trips and longings for revival, contemporary Christian music, and WWJD. Her journey through the disillusionments and then her rebellion against the false boundary-markers and empty language of an on fire faith culminate in her ongoing journey of hope and redemption. There is a wise sadness to her words, a depth that disarms. Addie is a beautiful writer, but she s also bold and honest as she tends the wounds of consumer evangelicalism on her old self, and then bravely gathers up all these disparate pieces of the painful and lovely obsessive faith of her past with new grace and gentle strength to move forward.
" Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist
" For all of us who found our way while steeped in evangelical culture, Addie has written us a love letter. Hilarious and heartfelt, passionate and poetic, her take on growing up evangelical reveals a classic coming-of-age story with an evangelical twist. Through clean and messy faith, confusion, love lost and gained, she reflects deeply on each experience with enough humility and humor to keep you turning pages through this easy and beautiful read. You will love "When We Were on Fire" from beginning to end, as did I.
" Grace Biskie, author of Converge Bible Studies: Kingdom Building, contributing author of Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith, and writer for DeeperStory.com and Prodigal & Prism magazine
"
Reading "When We Were on Fire" was like reading my own story. It s an insightful, unflinching look at growing up evangelical. Addie recounts her misplaced zeal and resulting crisis of faith with humor and poignancy ultimately discovering that a relationship with God is less about following Christian culture norms and more about following Him.
Kristen Howerton, blogger at "Rage Against the Minivan, "and psychology professor at Vanguard University
It s rare that a storyteller comes along with the ability to address important issues of life and faith with strength and profound openness. Addie Zierman is that kind of storyteller, and she does just that with her debut book "When We Were on Fire. "With a keen grasp on the intricacies and absurdities of Christian subculture, Addie bravely tells her story of a real, honest, and vulnerable faith that will resonate with readers of all ages. "When We Were on Fire" is a true pleasure to read.
" Nish Weiseth, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, and editor-in-chief at DeeperStory.com
" Addie Zierman is a master storyteller whose sharp wit is matched only by her disarming sincerity. "When We Were on Fire" introduces her as one of this generation s most promising new voices. Prepare to laugh out loud and nod along as this book delights, challenges, tickles, and inspires. For those of us working to reconcile the faith of our youth with the faith of our adulthood, it s such a joy to have a friend like Addie along for the journey.
" Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood
" The best kind of memoir is so deeply personal that it tells a universal story. In Addie s memoir you will find funny, messy, cringe-worthy, and beautiful moments that cut close to home those experiences that we would like to relegate to youth but in truth lurk not far beneath the surface of every phase of life. If you are weary of sanitized and teetotaling stories, and are hungry for honest and redemptive stories, then this is your story.
" Adam S. McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church
""

About the Author

Addie Zierman is a writer, blogger and recovering Jesus freak. She studied creative nonfiction at Hamline University and received her MFA there in 2010. Addie blogs regularly at "www.AddieZierman.com" where she s working to redefine her faith one cliche at a time. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Andrew, and their two young sons."

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Format: Paperback
This is a book for the lonely, for the cynic, for the weary and burnt-out Christian. When We Were on Fire is a memoir about Addie Zierman's spiritual journey from being `on fire' to becoming burnt out, and the subsequent restoration of her faith and identity.

In each chapter she takes an evangelical cliché such as `WWJD', revival, `Let Go and Let God', as a prompt for that part of her story, contrasting the supposedly neat `ideal' with the `real'. Anyone who has grown up as an evangelical in the '90s will smile with fond recognition at her story, and I found myself feeling oddly nostalgic for DC Talk concerts, Amy Grant albums, and revival prayer meetings at school.

Towards the end, she writes this:

"Here's how metaphor becomes cliché: it is overused until it becomes the name of a national movement. The Born Again movement of the 1970s for example." P 211

This book is doing exactly the reverse of what she describes in the quote above: she takes the tired clichés of evangelical culture and delicately unravels them through her own story, until you are left with something more life-giving and true: metaphor. It is artfully, gently, beautifully done. Her writing is engaging and vibrant, with wispy and dreamy threads.

She writes her own story of the transformation from Super Christian to feeling burnt out and full of doubt, but I found myself in those pages: that yearning to be extraordinary and perfect, and the loneliness that accompanies it:

"I wanted her to feel what I felt, to understand that I had been fighting for so long to prove myself, and I was tired. I was just looking for a little rest." p.
Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just spent an entire afternoon reading this from start to finish. It is a raw and real story full of pain and truth but told from out the other side. I related to SO MUCH despite the many differences in our stories. Loved it!!!
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I really enjoyed reading this - by sharing her story with all the highs, lows and everything in between, Addie challenged me to think about how I give out/take on Christian cliches/sayings and what effect that has on my life and others. It was also a wonderful testimony to the power of God's grace and community and trying again one step at a time in the knowledge of being unmeasurably loved. Thank you, Addie!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8d32d474) out of 5 stars 144 reviews
168 of 190 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d34500c) out of 5 stars Well-written book about problems that aren't really problems 20 Nov. 2013
By Colleen Schwenger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Okay, so it's hard to review a memoir. After all, you're basically assigning stars to someone's life experience, which doesn't seem fair.It's also hard to review this book without debating the subject matter. I have a feeling I am going to get a lot of negative/hateful comments about this review, but here goes:

The book was really interesting. It's well written, lyrical and poetic without getting tedious. It held my attention and kept me up reading late at night, wanting to know what happened. Part of the reason for that is the similarities between my own life and Addie's. From the dates given in the book, I figure I am about a year older than she is. We listened to the same Christian bands, attended See You at the Pole, grew up in Sunday School and attended conservative Christian colleges. My experience was actually a little more uptight than hers. I went to a church and Christian school that believed women should only wear skirts. You were never, ever to drink alcohol, dancing was forbidden, and even going to the movies was frowned upon. In college, I got demerits for not making my bed. On Saturday. I wore my True Love Waits ring, Kissed Dating Goodbye, and was strung along dating-but-not-really-dating a "missionary boy" all through high school. Like Addie's romance, he criticized my walk with God and told me what I should and shouldn't be doing.

All that to say, I KNOW exactly where she is coming from. I was there. This was almost my life story. Almost.

At first I was kinda laughing/commiserating with the shared experiences. As an adult, I have to shake my head at some of the man-made church rules. But then, the book takes a really self-indulgent turn. Addie starts struggling with adult life, as we all do.She starts getting drunk and emotionally involved with a man who isn't her husband. She starts dropping F-bombs (I only mention that because she REALLY wants you to know she uses the F-word now) But it's not really her fault. She blames it all on her evangelical upbringing. Really? Not-dating dating missionary boy in high school is making you drive drunk now? Seriously? The Church People not "seeing" you is leading you to almost cheat on your husband? NO. I totally get that some crappy things happen within evangelical circles. But guess what? They happen every where else, too. It's called life.

But Addie is too damaged to deal with life, and starts getting light therapy to help process her bad memories about missionary boy and form new connections in her brain. She wants us to see just how bad she had it, how horrible it all was, what she survived! Her therapist mentions the word "cult". But from what I can gather, she grew up in a loving, middle-class family. She went to a nice church. She had good friends, and several boys who liked her. She had the opportunity to attend college, and she married a great guy. Are you seeing what I'm seeing? I'm seeing a woman who needs some REAL problems to make her realize how many of these issues are non-issues.

When it comes to the "starting over" portion of the book, she has much less to say. She had kids, stopped drinking too much, attends church again, although unenthusiastically.It's great she worked through her "problems" and was able to move on, but I didn't get the feeling that it was because of renewed faith. Although she seems to maintain her faith, she didn't have much comment on it now. From the title of the book, I was expecting an epiphanic moment where her faith would be restored and she would feel close to God again. Instead it was just like, Oh, by the way, I'm ok now. With the whole point of the book being about faith, I felt we deserved more of an explanation as to where she was now.

Addie mentions throughout the book wanting to live an extraordinary life. Wanting to stand out, wanting to be seen. This book is her way of making that happen. She wants there to be a story where there really wasn't one.
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8dd0f780) out of 5 stars So much judging of the judgmental 31 Mar. 2014
By H. Laack - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am going to guess that this review will generate a lot of "not helpful" votes. In the end, reading Ms. Zierman's account left me both sad and frustrated.

Basically, her story is that she grew up in an extreme end of what is sometimes called evangelical culture but that more verged on fundamentalism--and yes, there are differences. Unsurprisingly, the legalistic lifestyle she was surrounded by caused her to throw off much--most?--of her faith and dive full bore into some of the very things she had been warned about. This overreaction ended up almost costing her her marriage and appears to still impact her relationships with anyone who might not share her own beliefs.

Zierman uses both first and third person perspectives in telling her story, and this is sometimes effective and sometimes disconcerting, but in the end it does seem to point out how her strict upbringing ended up fragmenting her views on life. Somewhere in the process of getting free of all the judgmentalism she felt herself surrounded by, she seems to have absorbed a pretty healthy dose of these attitudes herself. Now, however, it seems like Zierman is searching for ways to be offended by those still holding to traditionally conservative faith.

Granted, she does have some sense of what she is doing. "The house church is full of nice young couples and nice young singles, but their politeness has a sort of empty quality to it, a hollowness that echoes in their words. And once I decide I don't fit, nothing I do seems to reverse that self-fulfilling prophecy. Once I'm aware of their faults, I can see nothing else, and I hang on to slights--real or imagined--with a firm grip." (p 145)

The sad part is that, even with this awareness that she may be holding on to even imaginary slights, the author continues to make one judgmental comment after another about people of faith. It would appear that she never met an evangelical Christian who cared one whit about the poor, about the environment, about welcoming the stranger into their home; it seems only Zierman and her friends are the ones who have these enlightened views.

There are few, if any, of us whose parents were perfect, whose childhoods were handled completely "right,' but it is sad to see someone so bitter about their experiences that they close their minds to "good" people who just might be a little different than they. When the person making these judgments is trying to make the case that the people they are judging are too judgmental....well, that is just too unreasonably tangled to recommend reading their story.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d845048) out of 5 stars Un-Learning the Bad Stuff, Hanging onto the Good 15 Oct. 2013
By Diana Trautwein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Why is it, I wonder, that the church, and so many of its subsidiary organizations, get and give such a garbled message? We too often complicate the beautiful simplicity of the gospel of grace, add on layers of dogma that were never part of the design, and insist that others see the same rigid, box-like faith that we see. There's a lot of un-learning that needs to happen for many, if not most of us, who were raised within the confines of an overly conservative, mistakenly zealous version of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Addie Zierman has been a lyrical voice for that re-learning for a couple of years now. Her blog, "How to Talk Evangelical" has been on my top 10 list for about as long as she's been writing on it. And her book is, in many ways, an extension of what you find in that lovely space.

It is also more. This is a memoir, a spiritual memoir. But it is also a story of love gone wrong, a sad tale of how "Christian" relationships can sometimes slip into abuse, and how hard it is to recover from the garbage theology we too often absorb in our `on fire' years.

Slipping between 2nd and 3rd person narrative, Addie tells a beautiful but painful story. She writes movingly of adolescent earnestness, life-long friendships, moving into a healthy relationship, then fighting to save it as depression and churchianity take their inevitable toll.

She speaks honestly about using alcohol to numb the pain, about stepping into therapy and finding Jesus there, about her frustrating search to be at home in community.

Addie's story is not my story, but there are pieces of it that I know. Something about my own family system made me wary of catch-phrases, excessive cheeriness and simplistic recipes for anything. Also, I did not have a boyfriend in high school, a fact for which I give heartfelt thanks after reading about the boy who manipulated and tried to control Addie during those tender years.

But I do know all about trying to please. I do know all about wanting to be the good girl. I do know all about following the rules, giving a testimony, playing the role, being on fire.

And I now know that there was much good intermingled with the less-than; there was joy mixed in with the angst; there was redemption, there was hope, there was. . . and there is. . . JESUS.

And so does Addie.

I highly recommend this book to all who are struggling through re-learning what they believe. I highly recommend this book to all who have done most of that re-learning for themselves, but want to know what it feels like to those who are younger. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves lyrical, thoughtful, honest writing. I highly recommend this book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d345444) out of 5 stars Telling our stories saves us 21 Oct. 2013
By Kim Waggoner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was born the same year as Addie Zierman. We grew up a few hours from each other in the Midwest and came of age during the heyday of the American evangelical machine. I could barely have written my own story with more accuracy. The nostalgia factor is high - Christy Miller books, hours in the Christian bookstore with a cheesy name, Jars of Clay, and always, always wanting God to "do big things" in your life - but this is no simple trip down memory lane. This book is a heartbreaking account of a woman learning to navigate the grey when life ceases to be black and white. Anyone who has ever tried to believe and come up short will relate to Addie's story. She writes a love letter for cynics and doubters of all kinds, to those of us still burning up with rage and those of us whose anger has long ago burned out.

Readers of AddieZierman.com might find themselves handling this book gently, turning the pages with extra care, because these feel like the words of a good friend. She writes here the same way she writes on her blog: with a powerful intimacy.

When I reluctantly finished the book, I texted a friend: Telling our stories saves us. It seems like telling her story helped save Addie. I think reading her story might be helping to save me.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d7cf228) out of 5 stars A beautiful memoir for the lonely, the doubting, the cynic 16 Oct. 2013
By TMPlym - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a book for the lonely, for the cynic, for the weary and burnt-out Christian. When We Were on Fire is a memoir about Addie Zierman’s spiritual journey from being ‘on fire’ to becoming burnt out, and the subsequent restoration of her faith and identity.

In each chapter she takes an evangelical cliché such as ‘WWJD’, revival, ‘Let Go and Let God’, as a prompt for that part of her story, contrasting the supposedly neat ‘ideal’ with the ‘real’. Anyone who has grown up as an evangelical in the ’90s will smile with fond recognition at her story, and I found myself feeling oddly nostalgic for DC Talk concerts, Amy Grant albums, and revival prayer meetings at school.

Towards the end, she writes this:

“Here’s how metaphor becomes cliché: it is overused until it becomes the name of a national movement. The Born Again movement of the 1970s for example.” P 211

This book is doing exactly the reverse of what she describes in the quote above: she takes the tired clichés of evangelical culture and delicately unravels them through her own story, until you are left with something more life-giving and true: metaphor. It is artfully, gently, beautifully done. Her writing is engaging and vibrant, with wispy and dreamy threads.

She writes her own story of the transformation from Super Christian to feeling burnt out and full of doubt, but I found myself in those pages: that yearning to be extraordinary and perfect, and the loneliness that accompanies it:

“I wanted her to feel what I felt, to understand that I had been fighting for so long to prove myself, and I was tired. I was just looking for a little rest.” p.111

I write as someone who has grown up in and loved the evangelical culture (though admittedly the British culture looked slightly different from the US one), and at times its fences and boundaries have protected me and given me clarity, and at times they have made me feel trapped. Addie writes about this paradox, not with a consuming bitterness, but with grace and humility and the kind of nuance and generosity of spirit that makes this book so outstanding, and so healing. It’s the kind of book that could have been an angry rant, but she rescues it from this by her self-awareness and recognition of her own flaws and mistakes. Grace and forgiveness whisper throughout her story.

Here were four elements I especially loved:

I loved it for the love story. She writes so well the intensity and heartbreak of teenage love, and the unexpected and messy ways that real love makes itself known. This book had me tears in several places, and the grace and love revealed in her marriage was profoundly moving.

I loved it for truth-telling. She captures so perfectly that longing to be understood, and the loneliness of being in a church where you are the only one feeling lost. She writes the listlessness of Depression poignantly and artfully:

“But the longer we stay here, the more I feel myself disappearing. I need God to reach out of the sky and grab hold of me with one big, invisible hand. It needs to happen now, before I lose myself in this sadness.” P 131

I loved it for the writing. Addie once said she never set out to write a ‘Christian book’, she wanted to write a ‘book’. And this is a book that stands up as art in its own right. The writing is so graceful and the story told so vividly that I could see the flagpole in the rain, feel the white face paint in the evangelistic drama, and hear the M&Ms bouncing off the minibus window.

“I was not getting the steps right… I wanted to go back to dance when it was not about steps but about life. Tango as gospel. Tango as faith – as reaching for something in the dark. Moving because we are moved…” P 89

I loved it for the conclusion. This could have been a very angry book, full of hurt and bitterness, but although she is honest about the damage that we can do to one another in Christian community, it is full of light and grace. She digs into the superficial ways that we tie up our faith, and tells something that feels more raw and real.

“Yes, faith is like being born again. But it is also not like being born again…It is not Before and After, a clean split, dark and light. It is gradual illumination, fireflies moving slowly toward you, softening the edge of the darkness so that you can see the beautiful mystery around you.” p. 122

It’s the best Christian book I’ve read so far this year.
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