Tag 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!

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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:

Year In Review: Because I Knew You

The holidays are over and another year has flown by.  As I look back on 2009 I am reminded of videos, blogs, articles, poems, music, and books that have touched my life – in response I’ve laughed, cried, ranted, been silent, learned, struggled, loved, given, received, hoped, tried, been fearful, inspired, courageous, challenged and changed.

Behind all of the blogs, music, books, poems etc are people, mostly people I don’t know personally, but who, never the less, are having a significant impact on my life. It’s really pretty amazing to think about and I am very grateful for these people.  Like the song “For Good” (from Wicked) says …I’M WHO I AM TODAY BECAUSE I KNEW YOU.  

So, in honor of these people and 2009 let me say some “thank yous” with a few shout outs.  Feel free to share your own 2009 memories and shout outs in the comments.

I thoroughly enjoyed the blog Stuff Christians Like.   The posts make me laugh and teach me lessons about myself and others.  If you aren’t familiar with this blog check out Lady Gaga, Rum and Thinking Your Naked which lists the top posts for 2009.  Thanks Jonathan Acuff – for the laughter AND the lessons!

They were on ABC News, written about in The New York Times and tweeted about by Ashton Kutcher.  If you haven’t heard of them you are missing a real treasure … “they” are the PS22 Chorus, a childrens choir from a Staten Island elementary school … their secret: Gregg Breinberg, their music teacher.  Mr. B (as his students call him) has a heart for helping kids learn to love music.  One of Mr. B’s students said this:  “At first, when I sang, I had no emotion,” she says. “I didn’t move. But Mr. B taught me to sing with feeling. With feeling and heart.”  Watching these kids brings tears of joy to my eyes – for some reason their collective voices and moves to the beat give me hope.  Thanks, Mr. B and PS22 Chorus, for the joy and the hope!  Here’s  just one of the many videos on youtube of the PS22 Chorus:

Adele Sakler (author of the blog Existential Punk and one of the few people in my blogging community that I have met F2F) started Queermergent in Jan 2009 as a safe place for those who identify as LGBTQ to engage in mature discussions regarding the LGBTQ community of faith.  It was through Adele’s acceptance and encouragement that I did my own coming out as an ally of the LGBTQ community by telling my story through a post  that Adele published on her site Queermergent.  Thanks for the encouragement and acceptance, Adele! 

I discovered Spoken Word poetry in 2009.  It inspired me to write my own spoken word poem  (a fun, creative experience) and eventually led to me discovering poet and activist, Andrea Gibson.  She’s a pretty amazing artist.  Be sure and check her stuff out – two of my favorites are Ashes and I Do.  Thanks Andrea, for your brave, inspirational poetry!  You have me thinking about things I never knew.

Synchroblogging (a group of folks blog on one topic on the same day) was still close to my heart in 2009.  There hasn’t been much going on with it in the last part of the year but it still could rise again.  I like it because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and gets me to reading, writing and posting about stuff that I might not think of on my own, like quantum physics.  And I like it because the people who participate are great thinkers who are kind but not wimpy. My synchroblog post, Mary and Martha: A Story About God’s Radical Hospitality, which was associated with International Women’s Day (initiated by uber-blogger Julie Clawson), still gets more traffic than any other post I have written.  And my post for the Bridging The Gap synchroblog  tops the charts on my blog for the most comments and best conversation.  I even received the Bridge Builder Award because of it.  So thanks to all the synchrobloggers out there, you know who you are – I am learning a lot because of you! 

I want to give a shout out to Eugene Cho, author of the blog beauty and depravity.  I love reading his blog because Eugene is so transparent and open.  He is a courageous and compassionate person who is an inspiration to me.  I have to admit that I sometimes feel bad about myself after reading his stuff as he is one of the most altruistic people I have run across…but he is so full of love and grace that I never feel that he is pointing a finger at me.  I really admire his endurance and gumption when it comes to the charity he started, One Day’s Wages, and on top of everything else, he has a great sense of humor.  I don’t know if he and I agree on everything theologically but it really doesn’t matter to me, because I like him as a person!  Thanks Eugene for challenging and inspiring me.  (for more great blogs check out my blogroll)

I love to read books as well as blogs so I can’t reflect on the last year without thinking about the books I read. I usually choose books because of someone’s recommendation or review.  Some great books I read because I heard about them through blogs and social media this year (many were published before 2009 but I read them last year) include Pete Rollins new book, The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales; Samir Selmanovic’s book It’s Really All About God; Don Miller’s book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years; Drops Like Stars by Rob Bell (I even went to the tour); The New Christians: Dispatches From The Emergent Frontier by Tony Jones, The Help (a novel) by Kathryn Stockett; The Twilight Series  by Stephanie Meyer, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and a children’s book by Douglas Wood called The Old Turtle and The Broken Truth (which prompted a post from me).  So…thanks Pete, Samir, Tony, Rob, Don, Kathryn, Stephanie, Khaled and Douglas for making my life richer!

I can’t reflect on 2009 without thinking about Twitter.  I actually joined Twitter in 2007 (I’m so cutting edge:>) but it took a couple of years for enough others to jump on the bandwagon to make it fun and worthwhile.  I’ve met so many amazing people through Twitter and discovered an online community that is fluid, diverse and for the most part, friendly.  It was December of 2009 before I realized just how real this community was.  A fellow twitterer, @Gideony, who was prominent among a particular group of peeps that I follow and interact with, took his own life.  Several hundred of us were shook to the core over the loss of our friend.  As we shared our grief we realized that through our tweets, replies, DMs and retweeting we had begun to know and care about one another.  The virtual had become real for us.  So I say to my fellow twitterers – thanks for the community that you have helped form and for allowing me to be a part of it…and to @Gideony: I miss you and remember you with fondness and love.  (P.S.  I’m on twitter @lizdyer if you want to connect)

Of course I could go on and on but I think that is a good sampling of 2009 so I will stop here and wish you a Happy New Year to you and yours.

May Y☺ū have Peace ♥ ¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Health ♪♫•*¨*•. Wealth .•*¨*• Success ♥¸.•*¨*•♫♪  Love  ♥ ♥ ♥   and  A Happy New Year! ♪♫•*¨*•.¸♥

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.

The First Thirty Pages Of Don Miller’s New Book : A Million Miles In A Thousand Years

The first thirty pages of Don’s book is available for free and you can read them right here on my blog at the end of this post.

Full of beautiful, heart-wrenching, and hilarious stories, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years details one man’s opportunity to edit his life as if he were a character in a movie.

If someone tells you they’ve read this book and they “enjoyed it” or they “liked it” or they think it’s a “good hook” then maybe they didn’t read it – it’s well written and funny and interesting and all that, but it’s also disturbing. Really, really disturbing. Don is into provocative territory here, wrestling with The Story and the role each our stories play in it . . . this is very convicting, powerful, unsettling writing. I felt like this book read me more than I read it. —Rob Bell, author of Velvet Elvis

In the first few chapters of Don’s new book, Don got me thinking about Don and his interesting life. Then for several chapters, he got me thinking about my own life. And then for the rest of the book, I couldn’t help but think about God and other people and the kind of future we’re creating together. That sounds like solid evidence that this uniquely talented and sagely writer/thinker/storyteller has given us another wonderful and life-enriching reading experience. —Brian McLaren, Author, Speaker, Activist, brianmclaren.net

You can preorder the book here, follow him on twitter @donmilleris, find out about his tour dates here, and read his blog here.

The Last Supper Parable by Peter Rollins

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I am so excited!  I have ordered Peter Rollins’ new book The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales and should be receiving it in a few days.  I ordered the book from Paraclete Press here.

This book is a series of parables that Rollins has written.  In Pete’s own words, this collection of original parables, “represents my own attempt to explore and testify to the impossible Event housed in faith. In that sense they are deeply personal and relative to my own life.”

These parables ask questions that often seem impossible to answer. But the questions themselves are worth living in and exploring, and offer a faith that is alive, fluid, and authentic.

Here is one of the parables from The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales

THE LAST SUPPER

It is evening, and you are gathered together with the other disciples in a small room for Passover. All the time you are watching Jesus, while he sits quietly in the shadows listening to the idle chatter, watching over those who sit around him, and, from time to time, telling stories about the kingdom of God.

As night descends, a meal of bread and wine  is brought into the room. It is only at this moment that Jesus sits forward so that the shadows no longer cover his face. He quietly brings the conversation to an end by capturing each one with his intense gaze. Then he begins to speak:

“My friends, take this bread, for it is my very body, broken for you.”

Every eye is fixed on the bread that is laid on the table. While these words seem obscure and unintelligible, everyone picks up on their gravity.

Then Jesus carefully pours wine into the cup of each disciple until it overflows onto the table.

“Take this wine and drink of it, for it is my very blood, shed for you.”

With these words an ominous shadow seems to descend upon the room – a chilling darkness that makes everyone shudder uneasily. Jesus continues:

“As you do this, remember me.”

Most of the gathered disciples begin to slowly eat the bread and drink the wine, lost in their thoughts. You, however, cannot bring yourself to lift your hand at all, for his words have cut into your soul like a knife.

Jesus does not fail to notice your hesitation and approaches, lifting up your head with his hand so that your eyes are level with his. Your eyes meet for only a moment, but before you are able to turn away, you are caught up in a terrifying revelation. At that instant you experience the loneliness, the pain, and sorrow that Jesus is carrying. You see nails being driven through skin and bone; you hear the crowds jeering and the cries of pain as iron cuts against flesh. At that moment you see the sweat that flows from Jesus like blood, and experience the suffocation, madness, and pain that will soon envelop him. More than all of this, however, you feel a trace of the separation he will soon feel in his own being.

In that little room, which occupies no significant space in the universe, you have caught a glimpse of a divine vision that should never have been disclosed. Yet it is indelibly etched into the eyes of Christ for anyone brave enough to look.

You turn to leave – to run from that place. You long for death to wrap around you. But Jesus grips you with his gaze and smiles compassionately. Then he holds you tight in his arms like no one has held you before. He understands that the weight you now carry is so great that it would have been better had you never been born. After a few moments, he releases his embrace and lifts the wine that sits before you, whispering,

“Take this wine, my dear friend, and drink it up, for it is my very blood, and it is shed for you.”

All this makes you feel painfully uncomfortable, and so you shift in your chair and fumble in your pocket, all the time distracted by the silver that weighs heavy in your pouch.

Commentary from Peter Rollins:

This reflection was an outworking of my first interaction with the enigmatic figure of Judas. Here I wanted to play with our tendency to identify with the favorable characters in the Bible. For instance, when reading about the self-righteous Pharisee and the humble tax collector, we find it all too easy to condemn the first and praise the second without asking whether our own actions are closer to the one we have rejected than the one we praise.

Judas here is a symbol of all our failures, and Christ’s action to demonstrate his unconditional acceptance. Judas helps to remind us of Christ’s message that he came for the sick rather than the healthy, and that he loves and accepts us as we are.

Lifeway Knows Best (?)

I can’t believe that Lifeway Christian Stores have decided to put a warning label on certain books that cautions “read with discernment”. I didn’t know there were any books that were to be read without discernment! I guess as long as we agree with a particular opinion we can just go wild and read with pure abandon. I hear that Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and Don Miller are among some of the targeted authors.

It cracks me up:>) It’s so silly I can’t even get mad.