Category Archives: books

Happy Reading: Disquiet Time

(This post is the beginning of what I hope to be an ongoing series on Grace Rules called “Happy Reading” where I write about books I recommend and why.)

cropped-disquiet-time

I love to read and for years I read a LOT of “Christian” books – some “Christian” fiction but mostly “Christian” non-fiction. I was always teaching at least one, usually two, women’s bible studies and leading women’s ministry so I was always in need of “new material” as I was in front of people talking a lot about the bible (which I was digging into pretty much everyday – mostly because of needing to prepare lessons and presentations – once I even memorized the whole book of Philippians for a bible study) and what it meant to live a Christian life.

When Nick came out the thing that “stuck” from ALL the bazillion minutes of time and study and prayer and teaching and reading – the thing that seemed to really matter – the thing that seemed to be the answer … was love. God loved me, God loved Nick, I was supposed to love Nick the same way that God loved me and Nick. ALL the other stuff didn’t seem that important anymore.

I did spend about a year or a little longer digging into the clobber verses and ideas and questions that came from studying those verses. I wanted to figure out what scripture really did or did not say about same sex relationships.

As I’ve mentioned before I was surprised that scripture turned out to be so vague on the subject. There just wasn’t anything ironclad in scripture to condemn a loving, committed same sex relationship … the kind of relationship that my son wanted to find with another guy.

At first it was a real shock to me to realize that I couldn’t find “the” answer in scripture that I was looking for. I cried out to God “what in the world do I do without a clear answer about this?” “who do I believe” “how do I go forward?”

Over and over again Micah 6:8 kept coming up … He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

All the questions I was asking had the word “do” in them and here was Micah 6:8 telling me what to “do” …. I started looking at the different versions … do justly, do justice, do what is right, to act justly, to act with justice, promote justice, do right judgment.

That led to me studying “justice” and how God views justice and what he perceives as justice. And there was plenty in scripture about justice and how passionate God is about justice.

In the end I realized it would be unjust for me to condemn something without sufficient evidence that it should be condemned….if there was no scripture that clearly condemned it and there was no clear evidence that it was harmful then it would be “unjust” for me to condemn it. It would be wrong and God calls me to do right, to do justice.

People often think that I became affirming because my son was gay and I loved him so much that I was willing to disregard what scripture says and go against God. To be honest with you I don’t know what would have happened if I had found evidence that same sex relationships were wrong. I know I would not have quit loving my son or quit being in a relationship with him – that was decided long before I had finished wrestling with the clobber verses. And I don’t think I would have abandoned my faith either. I love God and I love my son. No matter how it turned out I don’t think I would have had to choose between the two. BUT it didn’t even turn out to be a problem. My love for my son did not blind me, it did not make me have to twist anything to fit, my love for my son combined with my love for God sent me on the sincerest search I have ever been on and I am completely at peace with the answers I found.

These days I hardly read the bible and I don’t read very many Christian books. I still read a lot but I read mostly very good fiction which I think holds a lot of truth that God uses in my life …. but when it comes to “Christian” books I usually feel like I’ve read it before if you know what I mean and I’m still working on trying to live out the stuff in scripture that I do understand … like loving my neighbor as myself, doing justice, loving mercy and being humble before God.

Of course there are a few exceptions – sometimes something sends me running to scripture the way I sometimes need to listen to a certain song or reread a beautiful poem and sometimes a good Christian book comes along that is different enough that I want to read it in hopes that it will show me something new that I am ready to know and I try to keep my eye out for those … which leads me to the reason I started out this post in the first place…

I wanted to tell you about a “Christian” book that I just ordered, one that is being praised by some people that I respect and one I am pretty excited about reading.

It’s a book of essays from a collection of diverse writers who wrestle with the challenges that thoughtful faith provokes.

“Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels” is not your average Christian book and I hear that some of the essays might even make some people mad.

I’m excited about reading it because it sounds like it might be written by people who are sincerely searching for answers, people who have allowed themselves to really delve into how their life and scripture intersect, people who are not afraid to ask questions, or to say something doesn’t make sense or to point out the problems they have with something that scripture says.

I like that kind of honest approach to scripture and I like to listen to others who take that kind of approach.

I like what Steve Beard had to say in a review he wrote about the book:

“With nearly 50 different contributors, this isn’t an authoritative text on biblical interpretation. Instead, it is more like a funky theological jam session – no sheet music, brother riffing off of sister, guitar solos, tooting of the horns, banging of the drums, thumping of the bass – testifying about both estrangement and enduring love for the Bible.”

If you are interested in checking DisQuiet Time out there is a whole site of information here

Happy Reading!

Advertisements

A Few Of My Favorite Things in 2011

Wow! 2012 is taking off in a hurry.  

I have almost waited too long to post any kind of reflection about last year!  However, I do want to say something about 2011 so here are a few of my favorite things in 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Adele.  Sure they overplayed her songs on the radio but before that happened there were those times when hearing her sing was one of those “I’m glad to be alive” moments.  So I can’t make a list of favorite things from last year without including Adele.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pinterest.  I heard about it and didn’t think it sounded interesting.  I tried it anyway and immediately loved it.  Pinterest is a place to organize and share online images that you find interesting or inspiring. Once uploaded or shared on Pinterest, these images become known as Pins, which the user can place on customized, themed Boards. You can create Boards for any topic imaginable, from cats to classic cars to cats driving classic cars. The possibilities are endless. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synchroblog.  It’s not new but it remains one of my favorite things year in and year out.  A synchroblog is a collection of similar articles or posts made by a group of bloggers who have agreed to blog on the same topic on the same day.  The synchroblog group that I participate with has a different theme each month – such as “The Devil Made Me Do It“, “Hope” and “Experiences In The Wilderness“.  I love it because it keeps me writing, connects me with other bloggers and gives me a chance to hear a variety of voices.  If you like to blog you should try it out. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Timeline.  Yes, I like timeline.  I have always wished that it was easier to look back at something on Facebook and I also wished for a more visual experience.  I think that timeline delivers both of those things without losing any of the features that I like about Facebook.  I know there has been a lot of complaining but I don’t pay much attention to that as it happens everytime Facebook makes any changes.  Timeline was definitely one of my favorite things in 2011! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Photo Books.  I created some online photobooks for the first time last year, ordered printed copies and absolutely loved them!  I love digital photography but I also love having a printed version of a photograph. The photo books are a perfect was to enjoy a collection of printed photographs! I used Mixbook and liked the process and end product. There were lots of styles/themes to choose from and I had the ability to customize everything.  I already have plans for more photo books this year.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paste Magazine.  Paste is a leading online destination for pop-culture enthusiasts, covering music, movies, TV, books and video games. Each month you get 4 issues, 28+ high-quality downlodable MP3s, exclusive videos, in-depth articles and more for only $2.99. You can pay monthly, cancel at any time, and never miss an issue!  I love Paste Magazine!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson.  The book trilogy (Dragon Tattoo Trilogy) and the movie (only the first one is a movie at this point)!  The characters are rich and interesting, the stories unique and dark.  I was intrigued throughout all three books and for a change I thought the movie was just as good.  I suggest reading the books first and then seeing the movie.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Provoketive Magazine.  It’s like a blog but better. Provoketive Magazine is an online space of rich conversation about life, faith, justice and culture. The desire is to provoke the reader’s imagination through conversation and open up spaces of dialogue, learning, and hope.  It is one of the fastest growing online magazines and has over 120 writers contributing to it’s content. If you would like to contribute to Provoketive, begin here

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Help. I always see a lot of movies and this past year was no different. At one point during the year I had been to the same theatre 14 weeks in a row (at least that is what Foursquare reported to me). As usual I saw the good, the bad and the ugly. The Help was one of the good ones. I had read the book quite a long time before the movie released and had almost forgotten how much I liked the book. The movie reminded me how good the book was and I was pleasantly surprised that the movie was just as good (although the book did have some great story lines that weren’t covered much in the movie). I am glad to see it is getting some recognition and hope to see it win some more awards during the Oscars later this month.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spotify. Oh, how I love Spotify.  Who would have ever believed that there would be an app that was free where you could listen to practically any song you knew anytime you wanted!  On top of that Spotify has all sorts of social networking features that help you share the music you are listening to and discover new music when your friends share what they are listening to with you.  It’s amazing!!!!  And for a small monthly fee you can even take it with you on your smart phone, your ipad or your ipod!  Amazing!!!!!!!!! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Those were a few of my favorite things in 2011.  What were some of yours?

12 Movies and a Novel

This post is part of the August Synchroblog: Summertime, Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime in which we were invited to share our favorite books and/or movies of the summer.  Be sure and check out the list of contributions to this months synchroblog which I will list at the end of this post as they become available.  To learn more about the synchroblog please visit the Synchroblog site.

When hubby and I went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes this past weekend I checked in on Foursquare at our favorite theater (of which I am the Foursquare Mayor) and received a message saying that I had achieved a new record because I had checked in “12 weekends in a row” at this particular theater.  12?  Could it really be 12?  We do love to go to the movies, but I wasn’t sure if I could remember 12 movies I had seen in the last three months.

Green Lantern, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Larry Crowne, CaptainAmerica: The First Avenger, Friends with Benefits, Cowboys and Aliens, The Hangover Part 2, Bridesmaids, X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Bad Teacher, Rise of the Planet of the Apes … it looks like we may have been there 12 weekends in a row!

However, I don’t know that I could really write a whole post about any of those movies.  There just isn’t that much substance in summer movies.  They are fun and entertaining but they don’t create a lot of conversation afterwards.  Sure Larry Crowne was a sweet story about the importance of community and second chances; and Rise of the Planet of the Apes could be considered a wake-up call; and Julie Clawson did write a full length post about Cowboys and Aliens which was very interesting … but the most I can really say about my movie experience this summer is that for the most part it was fun and entertaining.  (For the record, I guess my favorite summer flick was Super 8).

That is why I really needed a good, long, epic sort of book to read this summer.  I needed something that I could dive into, live within, immerse myself, connect to, reflect upon, struggle with … but it had to be fiction!  because I am mostly drawn to fiction these days.  I seem to learn more, get more insight, experience more transformation, find truth more in a great novel than in anything else I read these days.  It is something about “the story” that connects me in a way that stays with me.

So that is what led to me reading the novel Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

You probably heard all the hype when it came out last fall … “The Next Great American Novel”  “The Most Over-Hyped New Novel”  “A Poignant Indictment of Contemporary American Life”

It is long (over 500 pages) and covers a span of more than 30 years in the life of a family who is in a sort of free-fall as they try to figure out how to live in the world they find themselves in.

It is almost impossible to give a brief description of the plot as it includes so many things … fidelity, infidelity, politics, war, war profiteering, depression, marriage, friendship, personal liberties, social responsibility, environmental issues, teen rebellion, betrayal, capitalism, regulation, sex, love … even rock ‘n roll.  It tells a lot of stories and it spreads them out over a few decades and continents.

The closeup story centers around a love triangle between Patty and Walter Berglund and Walter’s lifelong best friend/competitor, Richard Katz, who is also a rock star.  The broader story examines life and the stresses of life in our post 9/11 world.

It seems to me that the theme or question that keeps coming up in the story is “how to live with the freedoms we have without destroying ourselves, others, what we care about and the world in general.”  As it turns out, freedom is more than a right or a privilege or an opportunity … freedom is a responsibility, a chore, a problem … sometimes even a curse.  It’s complicated because one person’s freedom often seems to infringe upon another person’s freedom.  Freedom doesn’t really translate into “let’s all be happy and get along” as much as us Americans would like to suggest that it does/can.  I think Walter frames the concept of how freedom isn’t all it is cracked up to be when he says, “…the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to.”

If you can’t read a book unless you are in love with the characters then this book isn’t going to be that enjoyable for you. None of the characters are cuddly … but they do come off as real people with many layers who are often living contradictions of who they think they are and strive to be.  Franzan is a genius at creating characters that are so real one thinks about them even when not reading the book.  He describes them so thoroughly that it is as if he has actually created a life … someone you might run into at the grocery story or see in the car stopped next to you at a red light.

Although this book is about serious stuff, it does not lack humor (just like real life). It is actually billed as a comedy-drama and Franzen is quite good (astute even) when it comes to witty descriptions of real life predicaments that are roll on the floor funny.  One of the most hilarious moments is when we find Joey (Patty and Walter’s rebellious, mixed-up son) in a hotel bathroom digging through his own poop trying to find his wedding ring that he accidentally swallowed while the girl he is cheating with bangs on the locked bathroom door because she needs to pee.

In the end, I came away with the feeling that I had read something important, something I wanted to talk to others about, something I wanted to ponder.  I also came away with  a few new ideas about freedom:

Freedoms are best enjoyed when they exist with imposed limitations and structure, whether that is in the world at large, a city, a neighborhood, a family or a friendship.

True freedom cannot really be found in any form of autonomy because we are only content when we are in a right and healthy relationship with others and the world we live in.

Can it be called freedom if it leads to depression, loneliness and/or destruction?

If you haven’t already done so, I recommend that you read Freedom by Jonathan Franzan.  Although only time will tell if it truly is a Great American Novel, I think it will be a book that is talked about for years to come.

What would you consider a great summer read?

Check out these other synchroblog posts:

Three Things Tuesday: LOST, The God Imagination and God Is Not Male

First Thing:

(the promotional photo of the Lost poster belongs to ABC/Touchstone TV)

Being a big, huge, humongous, gigantic, colossal, enormous, monumental, epic fan of the tv show LOST, I have to mention that the final episode of the series aired this week.  I personally thought the finale was fantastic, but some long- time fans don’t feel the same way.  Some feel there were too many questions left unanswered – others feel the finale revealed that they had been duped for six years because they were under the impression that the show was about the mystery of the island and the finale was all about the characters, their lifes and their relationships with each other.

Now don’t get me wrong – I loved all of the mysterious stuff, all the theories and how when one question was answered I was left with 6 new ones … but I’ve known all along that this was a character driven show and that in the end it would be about the characters.  IMO enough questions were answered and the ones that have not been answered are a gift – in that we can still have many great and passionate conversations about our theories.

In the end LOST was about people, their struggles, their flaws, their fears, their guilt, their failures, their hopes, their successes, their dreams, their progress, their relationships, their redemption and the part that community or the lack of community plays in the life of people.

I feel that the writers, the actors and the producers have been true to that idea from the beginning to the end of this series and I think they created one heck of a backdrop that kept me coming back week after week as they told the story of some very dark, personal journeys.

I will definitely miss the show and all the community that was created around the show.  Thanks for the good times, the good lessons and the good memories.

Second Thing:

Jonathan Brink has just announced that his book “Discovering The God Imagination, Reframing Suffering, Justice, and Reconciliation in the Gospel Story is now available for pre-order.  The book offers a new conversation about how we understand the gospel, the problem that God is solving and how we can participate in the solution to the problem.  I’m really looking forward to reading this book and have already placed my order.  Go here today and pre-order one for yourself.  (I also recommend that you take a look at Jonathan’s blog which always has interesting content)

Third Thing:

Tony Jones is currently exploring an apophatic approach to God.  His first apophatic statement is:  “God Is Not Male”.

I have no idea how many statements Tony will share with us but several interesting things came out of this one post. One thing that I found interesting was that people were showing up to argue against the statement – I don’t really know what to say about that because even in my most conservative “the bible says it and so it is true” days I never thought the Bible said anything at all about God having a particular gender or even that God was both female and male.  I have always understood scripture to indicate that God was beyond gender.

Another interesting thing that developed out of my interaction with the statement “God Is Not Male” was that I was reminded that I naturally and unconsciously put God in a box all the time and that I must be very intentional to struggle against limiting God to my own imagination in hopes that I will recognize any divine revelation if God sees fit to lay one on me.

What do you think about the statement “God Is Not Male”?  What apophatic statement would you make about God?

Three Things Tuesday

It’s Three Things Tuesday (well, it’s actually Wednesday and I’m running late but there’s no cute name to go along with Wednesday, so…it’s Three Things Tuesday) again.

Thing #1  The Real @DaliaLama


Believe it or not the Dalia Lama now has an official twitter account.

You can catch his tweets @DalaiLama.

Thing #2  Criticizing Church, Defending Church


Scott McKnight defends the church against her critics with arguments about the church being made up of a bunch of imperfect people therefore no one should expect her to be perfect…blah, blah, blah.

I think that is a poor defense…just because we (the body of Christ) are all imperfect and prone to make mistakes doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be criticized when we do harm to others or that we should expect people to stick around while we do harm to them or those they care about.

But, in case I missed the point or read something out of context read his post at Jesus Creed (and the comments) for yourself and see what you think.

Thing #3  Billy Coffey


Maybe I’m out of the loop and everyone already knows about Billy Coffey, but I was pleasantly surprised to run across him in the blogosphere recently.  There is something raw and honest about his style – his writing really draws me in and I come away so glad to have read what he wrote.

For instance, check out a recent post he wrote called “What Happened To My Kindness”

Oh, and he has a book called Snow Day coming out later this year.

The Selfless Gene by Charles Foster

I just read The Selfless Gene by Charles Foster. Foster says that neither natural selection nor creationism can explain everything in the universe and that we don’t have to choose one side or the other – that there is a better way.

Parts of the book were a little hard for me to get through as it was a little like reading a science text book.  The information presented was correct and even necessary but the delivery wasn’t always compelling and so I found it took me a long time to get through the book.  In the end I was glad to have read the book – I appreciated the way that Foster laid out arguments for and against both sides – encouraging both sides to come out of their corners and engage in a civil and intelligent dialogue in order that they may learn from each other.

I think Foster’s ideas will be upsetting to some (maybe even to many) but I appreciated his idea of these two opposing camps being able to dialogue intelligently and respectfully with each other in order to find more of the truth together than they have been able to find apart and separate.

In the interest of full disclosure, this review is being written for Book Sneeze, a project of Tommy Nelson Publishing House. They send me a book for free, and in return I agree to review it. You can sign up to do the same!

Does Your Religion Objectify Humanity?

I can’t be a part of a religion that will objectify humanity as a target – as somebody who is just there to be reached. – Samir Selmanovic

Samir Selmanovic, author of “It’s Really All About God” offers a new way to embrace each other’s religious traditions while maintaining our own. Watch this compelling video by Samir:

Check out the book here.