Category Archives: Books

A Break

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Just for tonight. I'm tired, I've been reading all day [which is dumb, I know, but they were really good books and I couldn't stop myself… more about that tomorrow] and I need to turn the computer off now, so this is it for tonight.

I'll see you all tomorrow, friends.

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[Drum roll] The Final Installment of Where Do We Go From Here?

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Okay, I’m pretty much done with this, but there was one more thing that struck me about “The Story We Find Ourselves In” by Brian D. McLaren. [If you’re interested, previous posts about this book are as follows: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.]

The episodes of the story of God and humans are:
Ep. One: Creation: God creates the universe

Ep. Two: Crisis: Humans decide they don’t need to keep the boundaries God has set and sin[evil] enters the world.

Ep. Three: Calling or Conversation: God calls Abraham into a relationship with him and then speaks to the Israelites through priests, prophets, poets and philosophers.

Ep. Four: Christ. The most important part and the one I’ve spent the least time on. [something not quiet right there, I know] Jesus came to earth to show us, through his ministry and teachings, how to live. He was betrayed by the human race, who cared more about their own selfish desires than what he was trying to teach. He threatened their self-righteous, self serving beliefs and they killed him for it. But in the end, he won, because three days after he was buried, he rose from the dead, whole, healthy and real.

When we choose to follow Jesus, we become his disciples, which is just a fancy word for student. Then we become apostles [although I think a lot of people forbid use of that word for people today… Not sure why, which probably means it’s some tradition started umpteen hundred years ago..*rant off*] apostle is just a fancy word for teaching student.

It’s like Jesus is a master violinist. People come to him wanting to learn his method of the violin. He teaches us, then he sends us out and we begin to teach others. We’re teaching others to play the master’s music in the master’s way. But what if he expects us to also become composers, too? Then we would still be creating music in his tradition, but adding our own flair and style to it.

Isn’t that what happened with all the writers of the Bible? I mean, they were inspired to tell the story by God, but they were allowed [even encouraged] to use their own words, their own style and personality. And that’s kind of what we’ve done with Christianity today, what with all our denominations and stuff. You’ve got Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Nazarenes [and a bunch of others I don’t know how to spell!] they’ve all got a different spin on the same story, don’t they?

But ultimately, we’re all pretty much the same at the core.

Ep. Five: Community. Here is something I have secretly thought in my heart of hearts for years, but was afraid to talk about because I just knew someone would think I was a heretic. God is not enough. Holy crapoly, Batman! Here comes the lightning! But really, He isn’t. I know we all [Christians, anyway] talk about God’s grace being sufficient and how we don’t need any one but God, and all that other gobbledygook that has crept into our language.

I think it got there partly because when you really find God, He changes your whole life. Turns it upside down sometimes. So it makes sense that, with that kind of overhaul, and that kind of natural high, you feel invincible.

And, unfortunately, it also crept into our collective belief system, because at the core, we all want to feel special, to feel like we’re better than other people. So when I look at someone who is grieving and floundering without their loved one, or another person who hangs out with a group of friends that isn’t good for them, but they can’t seem to get out of the situation, I can say to myself [and a lot of us say it to the person in trouble] “I have my God and He’s all I need. You just need to give it to God, and He’ll make you strong.”

The fact is, we need each other, too. God does give immeasurable strength to those who need it. But most times, he uses other people to give us that strength. Me and God against the world isn’t enough. I need friends to prop me up when I can’t stand on my own. If you’re alone, reach out to God, but also reach out to people. And if the first person you meet is a big fat jerk, reach out to some one else. It’s too important not to.

Oh yeah, Episode six is called Consummation. That’s when we die and go to be with Jesus. And that part, my friends, is truly just the beginning of the adventure!

Blog ya later!

Where Do We Go From Here part 4

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Yes, it really is part four, but the end [of this tangent, anyway] is near, I promise. If you’re interested, parts one, two, and three are here, here, and here. The next part is the Calling. Specifically, when God called Abraham into a covenant with him. In essence, God promised Abe that he would make a great nation out of Abe’s seed, and Abe promised to obey God and follow him [you know, I wonder if this is like the red and blue pills in Matrix, and if Abraham ever wished he’d chosen to stay in the matrix…er, you know what I mean! I know I would have about the time God said “circumcision.”]

God says,

“I will make you into a great nation

and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,

and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth

will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3

“I will bless you, and you will be a blessing.” Hmm. McLaren says in his book:

“When religions assume that their adherents are chosen only to be

blessed, and forget that they are blessed to be a

blessing, they distort their identity and they drift from God’s

calling for them… when they see themselves as blessed to the exclusion

of others rather than for the benefit of others, they become part of the

problem instead of part of the solution.” [McLaren p64]

Later, they talk about the part that says He will bless those who bless Abe’s people, and curse those who curse his people. McLaren defines blessing someone as expressing love and support for that person. Cursing is defined as withdrawing that love and support. So God isn’t saying that He’s gonna destroy anyone who stands in His way, just that if anyone doesn’t support and love Abraham, then He will not support and love those people. The book goes on to say:

“Anybody who opposes the general direction of creating good, of helping the world become

better not worse… would be working against God, kind of unmaking

or uncreating the world that God has been making, [or] destroying God’s work… and of course,

God would be against that.” [p67]

This is so fascinating to me, because this definition of good encompasses everything positive, not just trying to preach the gospel and convert people [like Christians sometimes believe], and evil is everything that damages or destroys part of God’s creation, including the plants and animals, but also the people in it. And we each have to choose whether we will help God create His world, or whether we will work against Him and try to destroy it.

Another thing that is so exciting to me is that we are co-creators with God. Artists, musicians, and writers are the most visible about this, but we all create things in our own lives, whether consciously or not. This is profound for me because I’ve always been led to believe that God is the Creator and we are just His creation. Maybe not puppets, but certainly not anything worthy of the title creator. I thought that ideas only came from God, and He only gave them out to ‘special’ people, and that He was the one who controlled everything that happened to me. But I’m thinking that maybe we really do create our own destiny. That maybe the only choice we have to make is whether to serve Him [by co-creating the world He dreamed of when He made us], or to serve evil [aka Satan] and destroy it. And once we choose to serve Him, where we go from there and how well we do our job is up to us.

It’s up to us, but we are not left to muddle through alone. I think He is there to help us every step of the way, if we ask Him to. I think He’s more than happy to help us figure out what we want to create, maybe helps us see our potential in a given area. But ultimately, how far we go to reach that potential is up to us.

So, we are all called into a relationship with God. When we enter this relationship, we become co-creators with Him, creating the world of His dreams [which I can guarantee you is far more wonderful than we can imagine!]

Woo Hoo!! Okay, I’m done for now. Blog ya later!

And Now, Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program or Where Do We Go From Here part 3

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You know, when I thought of the title for this post [part 1], I had no idea I was gonna have so much to say about one book. If you’re new here and wondering what I’m talking about with this post, part 2 of my thoughts about “The Story We Find Ourselves In,” is here.

Just so you know, thanks do my beloved eighties-hair-band-metal-head husband, every time my brain hears ‘where do we go’ it starts playing Sweet Child of Mine by Guns-n-Roses. Ugh. Not my favorite song, in fact, I can’t stand GnR at all. Axl Rose just bugs me. His voice, and the way he does that freaky microphone dance thing. Just makes me want to hurt somebody.

But I digress. We were talking about the book “The Story We Find Ourselves In” by Brian D. McLaren. One if the main characters, Neo, is telling his friend the story of God’s relationship with humans throughout history [as it is in the Bible]. Episode one is Creation, and episode two is Crisis, or what we Christians commonly refer to as the Fall. The book brings up the fact that a lot of ‘post-modern’ people laugh at the whole ‘Adam & Eve and the Apple’ scenario, and then puts forth an interesting take on the story.

Which got me to thinking [which I do too much, but I can’t help myself]. What if the writer of Genesis condensed the story down to one event [Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, see their nakedness, hide from God and then refuse to take responsibility for their actions by blaming each other] when it was really a much more gradual process?

What if Adam and Eve and their children… You ever notice how we always think of A&E being alone in the garden with no children until after they get kicked out? What if they did have children, lots of them, before death came? God walked around with them in the garden. What if childbirth was painless because in the garden there were special foods/herbs/etc. That prevented pain, or that being in the Presence of God did? I wonder if He attended all the births before A&E got too big for their britches. I don’t know, of course, it’s just a thought.

Humans started out as hunter-gatherers, they wandered around and got what everything they needed from the earth [in the beginning, I imagine that food was abundant and plentiful, and it wasn’t hard to stay well-fed]. The early humans were peaceful, and lived in harmony with the earth.

Then, they learned more, developed language, and began domesticating animals. With herds of animals, they let them eat whatever they wanted and when the food was gone, they moved on. You can’t let animals feed on a certain spot too long, or they will destroy all the plants, bushes, and trees in the area, making that spot barren. Maybe some of the early people didn’t know that or didn’t’ t care, thus destroying vital plant life. It got harder for those still hunting and gathering to find food.

The next step was farming. Now, instead of depending on foraging/hunting expeditions for food, they could grow their own food [and not have to depend on God to provide?]. With farming, came trouble, I imagine. The farmers wouldn’t appreciate the herders coming onto their land and letting their animals feed on the crops. Can you guess what happened? Yup. Cain killed Abel. The world’s first murder probably happened over a land dispute. How many wars in our history have started the same way? History really does repeat itself, doesn’t it?

This is how McLaren’s character Neo explains the Fall:

“When I read Genesis… I don’t see just one crisis. I see an avalanche of crises. And they all relate to a disintegration of the primal harmony and innocence of creation. In a sense, they all involve human beings gaining levels of intellectual and technological development that surpass their moral development– people becoming too smart, too powerful for their own good.”

“So what do Adam and Eve do? They say, ‘We don’t want to have to answer to anybody. We want to be at the top of the food chain. We want to be like gods ourselves.’ And they go beyond the limits they know they should keep. That’s what taking the fruit is about. It’s about experiencing evil, tasting evil… And as soon as they do, they lose trust in one another. They feel shame, fear, because human trust is based on respect for limits.” [The Story We Find Ourselves In pp 54-55]

We became independent in that we could grow our own food, settle down and live in one place. Is it possible that when we became independent, we lost our connection to God? When Adam and Eve gained knowledge, they turned their backs on God, and without God, there can be no life. But God, being the good and merciful being that He is, didn’t destroy the stupid humans. Instead, He limited their lifespan, and separated Himself from them. He went into the heavens, and the garden went with Him.

Okay, that’s episode two of human history. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about episode three: Calling.
[by the way, all the Cs came from McLaren, who borrowed them from a pastor friend of his.]

See you tomorrow.

What I Did Today, or Why I Didn’t Get the Laundry Done

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It’s 8:46 pm, the kids are in bed, finally. Hubby is at work, so the bedtime routine is up to me. The chaos in this house is amazing sometimes. It makes me wonder how Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar manage to stay sane with 16 kids! One of the great mysteries, I’m sure. I actually watched the show on Discovery Health Channel when they had number 15, and I was really impressed with them. There’s no doubt that they love each other, and have a strong and sincere faith. Seems to me that’s a pretty good combination.

Anyway, I spent a large part of my evening playing with the settings on my blog. I’ve never messed with html or blog templates, so it was a bit of a nightmare getting stuff to work right. I’ve given up for the day. I’m not cut out for that kind of thing. I’m a plug and play type person, technical stuff irritates the crap out of me. But, I finally got it to work, and you see the results to your left, labeled “Blogs I Read.” Not many so far, but like I said, I gave up for the day.

No Rules. Just Write. is Brenda Coulter’s blog. I read her because she just cracks me up. She’s a very funny lady and she writes inspirational fiction for Steeple Hill, which is owned by Harlequin [you know, the romance publisher?] I found a copy of her first book in the library after I found her blog on the web. Romance [especially inspirational romance] usually irritates the crap out of me, but I really enjoyed Finding Hope. It was laugh out loud funny in spots, and I can never resist funny. Which is why I also love her blog. Did I mention that already? Oh.

Paperback Writer is another favorite of mine. It’s written by Sheila Kelly, who writes as… Well LOTS of people. Let’s see if I get everybody. S.L. Viehl, Lynn Viehl, Gena Hale, Jessica Hall, and Rebecca Kelly. There may be others, but I think I got ’em all. She writes several novels a year (I think I read six somewhere) and, well, half that many is considered prolific. And her novels are good. Really good. She’s published like 31 novels since 2000 or something, but I’ve only read six or seven, and I haven’t found one yet that I didn’t like. [Sheila also writes science fiction, which I usually hate, but I really like her stuff.]

Holly Lisle is an amazing person. She started a writer’s forum called Forward Motion and ran it for about seven years [if you go there, you’ll notice the sheer size of the thing… I joined several months ago and have yet to post because it’s just too overwhelming. Makes me laugh when I think of the troubles I had trying to get a frickin’ blogroll to work on my sidebar.] She also has a website which has so many articles on writing, it’s just amazing. If you have any interest in writing novels, I highly recommend Forward Motion and Holly’s website. Oh yeah, did I mention it’s all FREE?

Her books are amazingly well-written, but not for the faint of heart. She goes into some seriously dark places with her writing. Her characters go through hell and back, and you go with them. You can’t help it, the characters are so real. [embarrassing admission, I got so into her books once, I found myself praying for the characters. I know, I know. Pitiful. I stopped when I realized what I was doing and prayed for Holly instead, but that gives you an idea of how good she is with characters. Or maybe it just tells you a little too much about me!*sheepish grin*]

Anyway, these women are all very different in every way imaginable, but they have a lot in common, too [besides being published authors]. They are all strong, funny, smart, and generous, and those are things I aspire to be each day [oh yeah, I’d like to be published someday, too].

Okay, this thing grew way too big. Sorry ’bout that.

Where Do We Go From Here [part 2]

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Okay, so we were talking about “The Story We Find Ourselves In” by Brian McLaren. In it, he explains the story of humans and God and how we’ve interacted over time. He starts off with Creation. I think most people fall into one of three categories of belief about how the world came to be. On one side, you have those who believe that God created the world in six days [each lasting 24 hours] and then rested on the seventh. On the other, you have those who believe that there was a big bang and out of the resulting chaos, the earth [solar system, galaxy, universe] evolved over millions [maybe billions?] of years. Then in the middle, you have people who believe that God created the universe, but he did it by using the principles of evolution.

I used to be a ‘six days and a rest’ kind of girl, but with all the symbolism we find throughout the Bible, I’m wondering if maybe it was more of a way for non-scientific humans to explain the unexplainable. Does that mean I believe all of the Bible is symbolic instead of literal? Nah, I wouldn’t go that far, but I am wondering about some parts that I used to accept at face value.

Now, for some, that kind of thinking would send their whole belief system into a tailspin. [If it affects you that way, then don’t give it another thought. This is just some rambling of a curious housewife who thinks too much… Please disregard this post and have a nice day.]

But for me, I don’t doubt the truth of the Bible, or the relevance, or that it is God inspired, so this is just interesting thinking material. It doesn’t worry me in the least to think that the Genesis account of creation is not exactly how it happened. It’s still a cool story, and the point is the same, regardless.

What’s the point, you ask? Simply this: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” God created something out of nothing. He made something real and beautiful and good. He started with nothing but a dream of how he wanted the world to be. He imagined a world, and then he started the process of bringing that world into being. And whether it took him six days or six billion years to do it is completely irrelevant. The point, my friends, is that it was God who made it, and that was just the beginning.

Okay, it’s late now and I need sleep, but I’m having a ball writing about this stuff, so I think we’ll continue tomorrow [many apologies if you’re bored to tears… Maybe I’ll write about some other stuff, too, but after sleep… must lee…………………………..

Where Do We Go From Here?

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I just finished reading “The Story We Find Ourselves In” by Brian D. McLaren which is a fictional account of conversations McLaren has had while exploring the postmodern world and how the Christian church fits into the current culture. Parts of the story take some serious concentration because McLaren goes into some complicated stuff, scientific and theological theories that most of us don’t think about every day. I’d give examples, but I’m too tired right now.

The main thing that I got from this book is that a lot of the ‘religious’ aspects of Christianity don’t seem relevant to many people who have never been exposed to ‘church things.’ Many people are offended when they think of God as being a great engineer who controls everything, deciding ahead of time what our lives are going to be like, and knowing in advance who will be saved and who won’t. To be honest, that irritates me too, and I’ve been a Christian for over ten years now.

It seems like we have been taught that God pushes us from behind, or from the past. Like he created us and then began pushing us forward into the future. In essence, forcing us to move ahead with our only choice being to turn left or right, heading inexorably toward death, judgment, and heaven or hell.

One of the interesting things this book brought up is a shift in this theory. What if, instead of pushing us from behind, God is beckoning us [from the future] toward him. The analogy used in the book that really resonated with me was a couple with a child who is just learning to walk. Suppose the father has the child in one corner of the room and the mother goes across the room to another. The mother kneels down, holds her arms out and says, “Come to Mommy!” The child wants her mommy, so she takes one step, then another, and falls. That’s when big brother comes and helps baby up, encouraging her to keep going. Mommy is still calling, and waiting, Daddy is watching and hoping, and big brother is standing guard, encouraging and helping when Baby stumbles, falls, or gets distracted by the big red ball that rolls into her path.

What if that’s how it is with God, only in our story, he is mommy, daddy, and brother all rolled up into one? He began by creating something out of nothing, coaxed it into something that was good, even very good [note that the Bible doesn’t say perfect? What if he created the universe as a ‘baby’ so to speak, and it’s been developing, changing, growing, and dare I say it, evolving ever since?]

Sheesh, there’s so much in my brain, and I’m struggling with how to get it out and be coherent at the same time. I think I need to sleep on this and come back tomorrow. Join me for part 2, won’t you?