Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book Giveaway! Three excellent books by Nicole Baart

To celebrate great friend and author Nicole Baart's newest book release, and because I won a great big prize pack from her, I'm going to be giving away three paperback copies of her books to some lucky winners! (One book per winner).

To enter, choose as many or as few of the options below in the Rafflecopter giveaway. It will be open for 24 hours beginning May 1 at 12:00 a.m.

*please note, this page contains Amazon Affiliate links

Rafflecopter giveaway

My prize pack!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book Review: Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I've enjoyed Rachel Held Evans' previous two books, Faith Unraveled (originally released as Evolving in Monkey Town) and A Year of Biblical Womanhood, so was excited to read the newest release, Searching for Sunday.

As always, I think Evans is a talented writer. She has a way of weaving words together that, quite frankly, I'm a little jealous of. In Searching for Sunday, there were parts that made me laugh, parts that made me teary, and parts that made me feel thoughtful. I loved how she structured the book around seven different sacraments.

What I appreciated most about the book, however, was that although it is a memoir of her journey of "loving, leaving and finding the church," there really is not a definitive destination. At the end of the book, I didn't find that it was "oh, here I've arrived, end of story." It was more like, "this is where I've come from, this is where I am now, and there's a lot of journey left in my future."

While there is much about the book I really can't relate to--I don't have the Evangelical background that she does--I certainly appreciate the journey she has been on and how she wants to be able to appreciate and love the background she came from even if she has many disagreements with it.

As someone who would love to see the different strands of Christianity be able to stop fighting all the time and start loving each other more, I enjoyed this paragraph:
But the gospel doesn't need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, "Welcome! There's bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk." This isn't a kingdom for the worthy; it's a kingdom for the hungry." (p. 149)
In a world where celebrity and power are highly valued (yes, even in Christianity), these are words that we all need to take to heart. We need to welcome each other and talk to each other and break down the walls between us instead of building them up.

Special Announcement about a free gift you get with Searching for Sunday.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Yay! It's Good Friday! Let's Celebrate!

For some reason, today, on the darkest of Christian holidays, we still post our pretty Bible graphics and show the world how happy we are. We talk about it being Good Friday, even though the origins of calling it that are murky.

Are we really happy? Do we really see this day as good

Acting as if life is always happy is something we Christians are very, very good at. We don't get a lot of instruction in the difficult passages of scripture, such as Lamentations, or the Psalms of Lament. We gloss over them, thinking, surely, nobody feels that way anymore.

But people do.

People who are in church every Sunday with their hands raised and singing the upbeat songs might be collapsing in despair and grief the moment they are alone. The weight of having to put on a good face so that their faith or commitment to Jesus won't be doubted is a lot for some people to bear. Because we do this, don't we? We judge people's devotion by what we see in an hour or so, once a week. We judge people's devotion by what political stands they take or if they forward or post trite stories and sayings so as to prove they aren't embarrassed by their faith. 

Sometimes, we are trying to prove to ourselves that our faith is secure.  

We don't acknowledge that having doubts and asking hard questions could be a measure of great faith.

We don't acknowledge that sometimes, belief is hard to come by, and that trusting despite having unanswered questions could be greater than never thinking through faith at all.

On this day, when Jesus was crucified, I'm going to guess that all of his followers doubted. After all, he was dead. A dead person couldn't be the Messiah after all. All of their hopes and dreams for a Messianic overthrow of Rome were killed at the same time that Jesus took his last breath. 

"It is finished," Jesus said.

And so everyone else believed it was finished too. The Messianic hope had come to an end. 

We forget--or don't even realize--that. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus and so we pay little regard to the cross and his death other than "he died for me."

We read that we are supposed to "weep with those who weep," yet, too often, we try to get people to stop weeping instead. To weep with others, or to bear their burdens, is to take on the pain that they are feeling, to enter into it and suffer with them. Why not use Good Friday to acknowledge this? Why not read from those Psalms or from Lamentations and let people who need to know they are not alone actually know they are not alone? 

People suffer in silence. They think that God has forsaken them

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?  
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. 
 --Psalm 22:1-3

We think the words from Psalm 22 that Jesus quoted were only about him. But in reality, many of us experience this.

Rather than celebrating Good Friday, let's spend time reflecting. Let's spend time acknowledging the pain within us and entering into it and into the pain of others. 

Let's stop putting on our Sunday best, and instead, use today to put to acknowledge the fear we feel about admitting our doubts and questions and brokeness.

Because only when we put something to death can we have the possibility of new life.