Saturday, June 23, 2018

Book Review: The Most Beautiful Thing I've Seen

I've been on a ride for the past few days. I have eagerly awaited the release of Lisa Gungor's new book for a few months now. Her blog post a few years ago about the birth of her daughter Lucie absolutely slayed me. It was thoughtful, reflective, and did not hide from the extreme emotions that she was feeling. As someone who spends his living walking people through the difficult parts of their lives, I wanted to know what Lisa had learned, and what she'd experienced since that blog post.

What I got, instead, was a greater reflection on everything that has shifted her thinking and understanding of the world since childhood. And it's powerful.

Lisa has written a book that speaks to me in the same way that When Bad Things Happen to Good People and Stumbling Toward Faith did. It forces the author and the reader to ask the difficult faith questions. "Where is God when things fall apart?" "How can a good God allow evil and pain and suffering in the world?" "Is God even real? Can God be real if such horrors exist in the world?" These are important questions of faith, but are questions that are often stifled by Christians.

Lisa doesn't shy away from these questions. And many of her answers come through great suffering. From Christians turning on their band, to being asked to leave their community of faith, to the death of a loved one, to finding out that her child has Down's Syndrome, Lisa and Michael have suffered greatly. However, through it all, Lisa has found beauty and joy in the present.

She walks the reader through her evolution of faith. She mentions near the end of the book that this isn't a "how-to" guide for the reader. But no book about an evolving faith could possibly be a "how-to" guide, because faith evolves differently for different people. What is helpful for the reader is watching somebody else's faith stretch, change, and at times fall apart, and realizing that this is what faith is supposed to do. It's okay for faith to stretch and change. It's healthy.

I loved this book. I needed this book right now. Highly recommended.

A warning, though: be close to a box of tissues. It's an emotional ride.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Interview with The Thoughtful Gamer

The Thoughtful Gamer spoke with me about faith, mental health, and my card game ANXIETY. You can check out the interview here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Book Review: Inspired

I have followed Rachel Held Evans' work for years. Many of her books and blog posts have helped me through my own faith, doubt, and wandering over the past few years. Searching for Sunday in particular helped me through an incredibly low moment in my faith journey. So I was especially excited to receive a copy of her new book, Inspired.

Having read recent works from Peter Enns, Rob Bell, Greg Boyd, Brian Zahnd, and others, I assumed that this might be a re-tread of these works. Namely, I thought Inspired would look at the human side of the Biblical authors, and re-interpret many long-held understandings that Christians have about the Bible. Inspired does this, but the writing is what makes this work differ from those listed above. Evans writes in a memoir style, helping the reader through her own struggles with scripture over the years. In addition, she looks to major themes of scripture, instead of focusing on the overarching story or individual themes. She spends time on the law, the violence, the gospels, and Paul. Her personal writing style and the conclusions she reaches about the Bible will help many who have themselves wrestled with scripture. Below are a couple of ideas that I greatly appreciated.

Evans re-frames the "law" portions of the Old Testament (predominantly the second half of Exodus through Deuteronomy) by showing the reader that God plans to remain with his people. Normally Christians seem to put this section of scripture under two headings: 'boring' and 'troubling.' This section of the Bible is not only a dry read, but there are pieces of the law that have been used to hurt the marginalized. Evans finds hope in the law, however. She writes: "We don't tend to think of law as liberating, but for the people of Israel, these divine instructions helped forge a unique national identity, one wholly distinct from the cultures around them, including the Egyptian empire that for so long oppressed them. It reminded them, too, that the God who parted the Red Sea and conquered Pharaoh's armies was sticking around for the long haul. This is not a God who liberates, then leaves." The law shows us that God intended more than merely saving his people. God intended to be with his people.

Evans' book is worth it for pages 216- 223 alone. She says that since making peace with the stories of genocides and violence and misogyny, she still had to make peace with Paul. I, too, struggle with much of what is found in Paul's letters, and I know that difficulty with Paul's letters is common for many Christians. They seem, at times, to make points that could be taken as anti-women, anti-LGBTQ, pro-slavery, etc. Evans, in ten pages, makes the best pro-Paul case that I've heard. She admits that some of his writings are troubling in a modern context, saying, "Was Paul a man of his time? Of course. But that's exactly the point. God meets us where we are, as we are. The Spirit shows up in the thick of it. We don't have to embrace everything about Paul's culture in order to embrace the good news he preached within it."

Rachel Held Evans has given the world yet another book that will help many Christians, doubters, and many others in their faith walk. I'm grateful to have read it.

I received an advance reader copy from the publisher