Why this blog? Why Me? Why now?

Recently, after a series of particularly stressful events, I had a day that was full of tiny moments that all seemed designed to push me towards God. As I've never been a regular churchgoer and certainly not a believer, this came as a bit of a shock. I have never felt that I was missing anything, but it was too strong of a feeling to ignore. It is possible that in a month or week or day that the compulsion will pass. It is also possible that it will not.

I started this blog to document the process. I am starting from scratch, more or less, so please forgive me if I get some fact about your church or your faith wrong. I'm a work in progress.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

The first book on my self-imposed, read-about-Christianity plan was Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller.  As the title would suggest, this is more a book of loosely connected essays on Miller's thoughts on Christianity and spirituality. My good friend G suggested that I read this one, and as she is one of my two greatest Christian inspirations, I took her advice.  It was a great book to start with, as it wasn't too serious but still managed to provide some food for thought.

It is hard to pin Miller down to any one organized religion, and the church he belongs to seems to be a homemade,  not particularly organized and full of passion,  and not held accountable by a larger organization, type church. I find this both inspiring (they are so passionate about Christ that they made their own successful church!), and a bit off-putting (passion is good and all, but is this a freaky cult?) There is no doubt that Miller believes in the existance of God and Christ. He seems to have been born with an innate need for a spiritual presence. He does question the details, and openly admits to seeing the complexity and the irrationality of some of the facets of Christianity. Miller ultimately comes through on the side of belief every time but it's really encouraging to see such a steadfast believer voice some of the same problems I have as a newcomer.

The book itself could have really benefitted from an editor. No one uses the other persons name in a face to face conversation as often as they do with Miller. No one.  Once, maybe twice, but not every sentence.  I understand that it lends urgency to a passage, but it really took my attention away from what was really being said. There were also a few chapters that seemed to only barely tie in to Christianity as well. Overall, a good first choice, but as with any books, annoying in places.

I'm not sure what book is up next, I did update my Spiritual Reading List this week with additonal titles already on my shelves.

Quotes worth taking note of:
p 13. I believe that the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. The is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man's mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.

p. 33. (re: the idea that you have to make a decision to follow or reject Christ.)  And, perhaps, I was judging the idea, not by it's merit, but by the fashionable or unfashionable delivery of the message.

p. 51. The goofy thing about Christian faith is that you believe it and don't believe it at the same time. It isn't unlike having an imaginary friend. I believe in Jesus, I believe He is the Son of God, but every time I sit down to explain this to somebody I feel like a palm reader, like somebody who works at a circu or a kid who is always making things up or somebody at a Star Trek convention who hasn't figured out the show isn't real.

p. 87.  Every year or so I start pondering at how silly the whole God thing is. Every Christian knows they will deal with doubt. And they will. But when it comes it seems so very real and frightening, as if your entire universe is going to fall apart. I remember a specific time when I was laying there in bed thinking about the absurdity of my belief. God. Who believes in God? It all seems so very silly.

p.104. And that's when I realized that believing in God is as much like falling in love as it is like making a decision. Love is both something that happens to you and something you decide upon. [Lisa's Note: I keep coming back to this one in particular.]

p. 197. "When we do what God wants us to do, we are blessed, we are spiritually healthy. God wants us to give a portion of our money to His work on earth. By setting aside money from every check, you are trusting God to provide. He wants you to get over that fear- that fear of trusting Him. It is a scary place, but that is where you have to go as a follower of Christ. There are times when my wife and I don't have enough money to cover bills, but we know the first bill, the first payment we make, is to the church. That is most important. If the other bills get neglected, then we need to watch how we are spending money. And there are times when we have found ourselves in that situation. But it works out. We are getting good at trusting God, and we are getting good at managing money."

p. 205. Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little is spent allowing our hearts to feel awe. By reducing Christian spirituality to formula, we deprive our hearts of wonder.

When I think about the complexity of the Trinity, the three-in-one God, my mind cannot understand, but my heart feels wonder in abundant satisfaction. It is as though my heart, in the midst of its euphoria, is saying to my mind, There are things you cannot understand, and you must learn to live with this. Not only must you learn to live with this, you must learn to enjoy this.

p. 229. "Your value has to come from God. And God wants you to receive His love and to love yourself too."

p. 232. And so I have come to understand that strength, inner strength, comes from receiving love as much as it comes from giving it. I think apart from the idea that I am a sinner and God forgives me, this is the greatest lesson I have ever learned. When you get it, it changes you. ...  God's love will never change us if we don't accept it.

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