Category Archives: Books and Articles

So the big question starts to be asked again

Where is God when the tsunami’s of the world occur?  One reporter asks.  Afraid the answers are not very satisfying if we are looking for a God that would always intervene to prevent disasters.  The reporter obviously struggles with the lack of satisfying answers.

I ask the same questions even though I know the “right” answers.  I hang on to the fact that I have experienced God’s presence and know him to be real.  Even caring.  Even omnipotent.  I hang on to these facts of my own experience even when I can’t understand with my intellect what God is doing.  If Jesus wept over Lazarus, how he must be weeping now.

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Disappointment With God

There are some books which affect me so much that I have to go back and reread them again; usually more slowly the second time.  They are like a fine liqueur; sweet and strong, appreciated in small amounts, savoured.  Phillip Yancey’s book, Disappointment With God, is one of these books to be read slowly; to return to over and over again. 

I suppose the book is so meaningful for me because the situations he addresses fit the circumstances of my life. It came at just the right time.

I have been struggling with the fact that my father has Alzheimer’s disease.   As I watch my father’s illness advance, I feel as if I am watching a preview of my own future.  I have been fighting the whole idea that this may be what life dishes out for me.  This makes me angry.  It makes me want to be able to decide my own fate.  I want God to take this disease out of my picture. 

I think mostly I am just expressing some very selfish feelings about wanting to maintain my mental capabilities above all else. I don’t like the scenario I see playing itself out in my Dad’s life.  So I have spent some time protesting, begging for a better way to go, an easier route to the end.  Instead God helps me find this book.  In it I see a different point of view as Yancey explores the story of Job. 

In this book, my attention is directed to the promise of God’s constant presence as we struggle through life.  Nowhere does God promise us a trouble free or painless life. The world is a flawed place; something has gone terribly amuck with his perfect plan for it, so these things happen.  Is there a reason for this kind of suffering?  God only knows.   He doesn’t give me some good sounding reason nor does he promise me that I will be spared.  God does tell me that he feels and understands the pain a disease like this causes.

Life was also painful for Jesus – God himself.  He has lived within the limits of our humanness and knows what it feels like to be hurt and seemingly abandoned by God. It is comforting to me to know that God knows our condition.  He’s been there and he will walk with us through our dark days. 

As I read this book, I began to understand a bit more of what Christ’s coming to earth really means.  He chose to experience the limitations of our humanness so that we could see and know how much he loves us. Maybe that is my part in the struggle going on in the cosmos – just to trust and not lose hope.  To stand firm in my faith no matter what comes knowing that God does care and that I never have to endure life all on my own.

Funny how when I get to the end of my ability to understand, when I rebel at what life dishes out for me, when I begin to cry out in agony to God with my fears; that is when I sense God’s provision for me the most.  That is when I begin to know with more certainty that he is God and that he cares.  That is when I feel my quest to know God has maybe gone one tiny baby step in the right direction.

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Donald Miller's new book

Donald Miller writing in his newest book, Searching for God Knows What, (p 45 – 47) said some things that seemed to make a lot of sense.  It explains a lot of why I need God and his people.  It goes beyond the surface of my search for human love and acceptance to the mystery of those deep longings within me that are hard to express. He says:

You go walking along, thinking people are talking a language and exchanging ideas, but the whole time there is this deeper language people are really talking, and that language has nothing to do with ethics, fashion, or politics, but what it really has to do with is feeling important and valuable.  What if the economy we are really dealing in life, what if the language we are really speaking in life, what if what we really want in life is relational?…

Now this changes things quite a bit, because if the gospel of Jesus is just some formula I obey in order to get taken off the naughty list and put on a nice list, then it doesn’t meet the deep need of the human condition, it doesn’t interact with the great desire of my soul, and it has nothing to do with the hidden (or rather, obvious) language we are all speaking.

Having a relationship with Jesus now, is so far from being a formula thing.  It has nothing to do with following a form of behaviour, rules or living up to other peoples standards.  It is so much more complicated than a set of rules and yet, at the same time, so much simpler.  There is something built in to me that needs that acceptance and love that he offers.  I don’t have to earn that acceptance – I can’t. 

I cannot go back to anything less than an intimate relationship with Christ where I am secure in the fact that he loves me and he actually gets pleasure out of my little attempts to show him love in return.  So all my actions become attempts to love him back, to please him, to allow our relationship to develope.  This relationship can’t be limited to rules.  Rules are binding and hedge in.  They put limits on behaviour but also limit the possible expressions of love.  Rules create fear – fear of slipping up on some small neglected item that was on the rule list.  Perfect love casts out fear.  He has freed me.

So this deeper language of relationships can only be learned as the relationship with Christ frees us from having to meet the worlds standards of importance, fame and influence.  Christ also frees us from these same standards which creep into the instituation of the church where adherence to sets of rules may confer importance, admiration for pious behaviour and influence.  These are generally religious perks that Jesus warned us against seeking.

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Church as it ought to be?

I followed a few links tonight from Bob Smietana over at God of Small Things to The Parish.  Came across a story about a church.  Maybe one could say the church as it ought to be, where it ought to be. 

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 Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk,  An Expedition to the Pole,  p43  

    God does not demand that we give up our personal dignity, that we throw in our lot with random people, that we lose ourselves and turn from all that is not him.  God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars.  It is a life with God which demands these things.

     Experience has taught the race that if knowledge of God is the end, then these habits of life are not the means but the condition in which the means operates.  You do not have to do these things; not at all.  God does not, I regret to report, give a hoot.  You do not have to do these things – unless you want to know God.  They work on you, not on him.

     You do not have to sit outside in the dark.  If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.  But the stars neither require nor demand it.

And from page 52,

      Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the absolute? …

      On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions.  Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke?  Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?  The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.  It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.  Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.  For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.   

I really should have saved this one for the cruise – I am finding this one mentally stimulating.  I admire the way an author like Dillard works with words, forming with them all forms of art, almost visual in the way it leaves it’s impression on me.  Sometimes I find I have to go back and re-read portions as if I was moving in closer to a painting to catch some detail or moving around a sculpture to see it from yet another angle.

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Reading over at the Ooze – an article by Jeff Dyer.  Here’s an excerpt.  Read the whole article here

“Perhaps my abysmal, hurtful experiences of a lack of community have shaped my outlook, but I fully believe that formation of a community is an integral part of the Gospel. As Paul said, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (I Thes. 2:8). The Church needs that kind of aggressive community, led by transparent pastors willing to lead by sharing our very lives with others.”

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Picked this off a site I visit every now and then.  It fits where I am right now.

A prayer from Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Let nothing disturb you;
let nothing dismay you;
all things pass:
God never changes.
Patience attains
all it strives for.
He who has God
finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

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