God and slaughterhouse-five

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if you’re soooo interested in my life and read this blog every day, you can keep yet another tab on me by checking out my book list. i know, i know, i’m so cool and interesting.

i’ll admit, i do have a somewhat random assortment of books on the list. christian fiction [don’t judge me], christian non-fiction, non-fiction, marriage books, young adult fiction, classic american lit and even an unpublished novel just so you know i’ve got sweet connections [thanks erik].

anyway, i just finished slaughterhouse-five last weekend.

it’s a novel that was on every recommended reading book list i received in my english and history classes in high school. my sophomore year i heard some stupid boys joking about a sex scene in the book and i decided i probably should never read it. then i married a guy who owned the book and after two years of it being on our bookshelf, i decided to give a try.

i was instantly “in.” it normally takes me an average 30-50 pages to get into a story, but i loved the writing style immediately. i asked bryan, is the whole book like this? because i love it.  i was not expecting this book to have such an effect on me.

and somehow, i’m pretty sure vonnegut did not intend for me to be effected in the way i was.

I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.” [pg 85-86]

in the midst of a heavily satirical book about the senselessness of war and violence and hatred, all i could think about was God.

i thought about how God is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. God has been and always will be. time, as we know it, has no effect on Him or His will. God does not change.

we see death, we see destruction, we see foolishness, we see beauty, we see love. and we see those things in these little moments of time, because that’s all we can see. we’re bugs in amber, limited by the small amounts of time before and after us. in the meantime, God is endless. He sees all of these same things, but together, at the same time. He is not bound by time. He sees us as what we were, who we are, and who we will be at the same time. God sees “all time as you might see a stretch of the rocky mountains.”

kurt vonnegut, i believe unintentionally so, helped me immensely to truly understand how God sees us and the world.

slaughterhouse-five, of all books, made me in awe of God and allowed me to understand Him a little more clearly.

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Hinds Feet on High Places

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Love this book. I first read this book when I was young and homeschooled. I think I was in 5th grade. I liked it then, but I think I got more out of it as an adult. I love the older style of writing, but it’s not really the easiest for me to read. I frequently got confused by the unique grammar Hurnard uses as she writes.

But the overall story was true to any woman’s, or human’s heart. We tend to look to the mountains of possibilities and grow desperate for a means to our greatest dreams. And truly, we are all held captive by our own shortcomings and sin until the King sets us free.

It was so refreshing for my soul to read, to simply revel in allegorical truth. If you’re looking for simple, truthful refreshment, pick this book up!

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

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I’m really glad I read this book, well, half of it. Yep, I only read half of it. But STILL, it was a good read. I read through the first 3 habits and though I could have kept going, I made the call to stop and actually work these habits into my life. I’ll probably read the next four habits next year sometime.

Though it’s not a “christian” book, I gotta say, I was convicted. Covey challenged the reader to think about their future, even pressing them to write out their eulogy. He posed the question, “What would you have others say about you when you die?” Pretty serious stuff. It caused me to think about my life and all the things that I have lived for. I want to die living my whole life for God, but I don’t think people would say that about me now.

More importantly, I thought about what God would say about my life. I know He loves me as His daughter, but is my life really living up to that of a daughter of God?

So I’m slowly working on my personal mission statement for my life, another recommendation from the book. Hopefully, I’ll be able to blog about it soon, when I get time to quiet my mind and life.

The Screwtape Letters

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While I was planning on reading Lies Women Believe after I finished Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity, I took a detour from my reading plan for this month. I still want to read Lies Women Believe-does anyone have a copy I could borrow? But as it was checked out at the Library, I decided to pick up another book off of our bookshelf. It’s a little funny, because my unplanned replacement for Lies Women Believe was pretty much a book about lies people believe.

The book is made up of a series of one-way letters written by “Uncle” Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood. Wormwood is a “Tempter in Training” so to speak. He is assigned to a human who becomes a Christian early on in the book.
C.S. Lewis interprets the “other side” of the Spiritual Realm and reveals what I think to be a probable account of the way the Devil schemes against us, trying to “infiltrate our ranks” in any way possible.
There were many things that stuck out to me this book, and unfortunately I didn’t do such a great job at marking my favorite passages and learning points. C.S. Lewis’s after-word to his book is a must-read though.
And I do have one favorite quote for you:

And the truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth.” (pg. 155)
Let me know if you want to borrow this book!

rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity

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As someone who was looking for a helpful read about how we, as 21st century Christians should regard the Sabbath command, I would most definitely recommend this book. The book as a whole is really written toward women, but there was a lot of straight-forward text that could relate to anyone.

I liked this book because it answered several questions/thoughts I had about the Sabbath; One being the seventh-day vs. first-day Sabbath issue. Kent historically referenced how days and weeks have changed over time (pg. 82).

It also inspired me not only to begin practicing Sabbath but also to practice many of the historical and biblical Jewish celebrations such as Advent and Lent. (pg. 150)

I did feel the author had a sometimes harsh view of the Church’s need for servants during the weekend services or the Sabbath but later noted that she herself was serving in the Nursery at her church.

I’m still going back and forth myself on my view of serving the Church on the Sabbath. While I do think that I needn’t fill up my entire day with Church-related activities (as I wouldn’t exactly consider those things restful) I know I need to serve my Church, whether I really want to or not…hmmm…still wrestling! : )

Here are some golden nuggets:

“’We are every day becoming aware of the costs of a life without rest. Increasingly, social workers, courts, and probation officers are raising our children, rescuing them from the unintentional wasteland of our hyperactivity.’”
–Wayne Miller (pg. 27)

“Sabbath invites us to stop and to rest. To leave the ‘unintentional wasteland of our hyperactivity,’ if only a while. To be content, even if things are not exactly as we’d hoped they’d be. There is power is stopping…” (pg. 28)

“Just as you would prepare to have guest in your home by doing errands and chores before they arrive, you have to do some work ahead of time to simply enjoy God in Sabbath.” (pg. 52)

“In our culture, we tend to be too hurried, too busy, because we are deeply committed to a belief in our own importance…But the children of Israel may have had the opposite problem. They didn’t know how valued they were. They didn’t think they were allowed the luxury of a day off, because for years in captivity, they had not been allowed that.” (pg. 59)

“But just because we are no longer bound by the law doesn’t mean Jewish practices or other historic interpretations of Sabbath are inherently wrong. The practices of God’s people expressed, or at least were meant to express, the people’s love for God through their obedience to God.”
(pg. 78)

“‘The rest of God—the rest God gladly gives so that we might discover that part of God we’re missing—is not a reward for finishing. It’s not a bonus for work well done. It’s sheer gift. It is a stop-work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we’re allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of all our obligations. It’s the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than that God told us we could.’”

–Mark Buchanan (pg. 80)

“God loves you the same when you work hard and when you do nothing. But if you never do nothing, if you’re always doing something, how will you really know, experientially, that God loves you when you’re not working and when you’re not busy?”
(pg. 149)

“This is what prayer is—enjoying the attention of God. God watches and listens—what an amazing privilege…But also, prayer is giving our attention to God. It is a conversation of mutuality, of paying attention to God and reveling in the attention God gives to us.” (pg. 182)

“[Prayer is] noticing where God is at work and then–and this is a critical part—joining in that work through service, through giving, through loving.” (pg. 182)

“Sabbath prayer is a prayer of presence, rather than intercession or supplication. Sabbath prayer brings us into simply resting in the presence of God.” (pg. 186)

“Therein lies the difference between Shabbat and mere leisure. Sabbath is not a day just to chill out and relax, although that may be part of it. It’s a day to cultivate gratitude, which should lead us to generosity.” (pg. 197)

If you are interested in learning how you can practically apply the Sabbath to your life, let me know if you want to borrow this book!

You can check out the author’s blog at Deep Breathing for the Soul

Blue Like Jazz

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I have never been brainy. But I have always been the perfect student in whatever situation I find myself in. I easily got good grades in school. My sunday school teachers and small group leaders loved me. If I were graded in those situations, I would have a 4.0. Math was a my worst subject by far, but I always got A’s in my classes.

Do you want to know my secret? I never questioned authority. I couldn’t question authority because I never once thought outside of authority. I did what my math teacher told me to do. I was shocked when my classmates would ask why y=ax+b. I didn’t care why, the teacher said it was true and I simply solved the equation in the way my teacher asked us to. Why do you need to know the reason behind something when you can just solve it and move on?

I’ve done this, and do this with most things in my life. I don’t question anything. If that’s the way it was when I first discovered something, that’s the way it will and should always be. In this way, I am very black and white. This is not an admirable quality. Sure, it makes me incredibly easy to get along with because I have no backbone and everyone likes to have someone who agrees with them.

But this morning, as I was finishing this book, all these conversations started running through my head that ultimately, ashamed me. So many times I’ve been in conversation and the person opposite the table from me makes some offhand remark implying an opinion that I in no way agree with and yet I jump to say, “yes, of course, totally”. I have no idea what I’m even saying! I think I’ve been calling it love and reassurance all these years. I just don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or make anyone feel stupid.

I loved this book, first of all, because Donald Miller is incredibly human. He really lets you see into his soul, even though it means you’ll like and dislike him throughout the book.

Often I found myself judging Mr. Miller completely. Thinking to myself, I would have never done that. But ultimately, I found myself loving the true person that he was, one that was “cranky” sometimes, “selfish” and “immature” sometimes (his words, not mine).

This book taught me to think about my surroundings. To think about what I say, what I agree to, what I have opinions on. I’m convinced Donald Miller thinks more in one day than I ever have in my life.

As I read this book, story after story of his thoughts about the events, people, and institutions around him, I was so convicted. I have always been one to follow someone else, without fuss. I don’t challenge anything about my leader, because I simply haven’t thought enough to have an opinion different than my leader.

If I had to guess Mr. Millers purpose in writing this book, it would be that he wanted us, the readers, to experience the journey he’s been on with God. To experience his frustrations, his questions, his joys, his victories. And to that I say, bravo.

This book challenged me not because it made feel guilty or like I needed to change my life in a very specific way, but it challenged me because throughout the story the main character, namely Donald Miller, was challenged.

The English teacher that changed the way I looked at literature and writing always told me, “Show. Don’t tell. Show.” This book is best example of that lesson I’ve ever seen. He simply laid his life (and his friends’) before the reader and showed me what God has to offer.

breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life

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First of all, I would just like to celebrate the fact that this may very well be the first non-fiction book I’ve ever finished. Seriously. And I’m hoping to improve on that record.

Paige (and Todd) got me this book, breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life (along with another similar book, rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity) for Christmas. I stuck these books on my amazon.com wishlist after Paige and I had dialogued a bit about the Sabbath and it’s relevance in today’s culture.

It took me about a month and a half to get through all 250 pages. The book mostly consisted of stories about women trying to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” from their lives. I found a lot of golden nuggets (as I like to call them) and really enjoying reading about different women with different situations trying to slow down their lives in different ways. However, the same things I liked about this book are the things that made it generally long and arduous to get through. As I mentioned above, it took me a month and half to get through.

All the same, if you’re looking for a good read on simplifying your life, I would recommend this book. Here are some golden nuggets:

“She seemed to be the epitome of unselfishness-always doing for others. Looking back, Laura says, no one really knew the anger and resentment that bubbled below the surface. ‘I wanted to give people the perception that I was available,’ she says. ‘I said yes mostly to validate my importance.’ In other words, she was bearing burdens she was never meant to bear. And doing it because she thought it would please God.” (pg. 64)

“‘…I would get these leadings…maybe leave them a gift, or send them a note, do something nice for them.’ She still does these things, but lately, ‘I’ve been practicing secrecy…it really tests what drives me: God’s approval or other people’s.'” (pg. 72)

“The opposite of simplicity is not complexity but duplicity. Duplicity means we are divided-we have a split personality. We don’t have a singular focus but rather multiple focuses, which create a feeling of being pulled in a thousand directions.” (pg. 75)

“If I say I would ‘like to’ spend time alone with God, but I don’t actually do it, there’s this disconnect, this duplicity, in my heart…When we actually take steps to live out the things we say that we value, we are moving toward simplicity.” (pg. 145)

My personal favorite quote:

“‘The Sabbath command is especially relevant to contemporary life. How difficult it is for people in our achievement-and-production-obsessed culture to rest. Keeping the Sabbath means trusting God to be God, recognizing that we are not indispensable. When we refuse to take a single day a week for genuine refreshment and rest, we try to outdo even God! In the light of God’s rest, our anxious, compulsive activities may be exposed as little more than efforts to stay in control, or to fabricate life’s meaning out of constant activity.'” (original quote from Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson, pg. 164)

Check out Keri’s blog at Deep Breathing for the Soul!