I don’t do vision boards

I have it on excellent authority that they’re more New Agey than is appropriate for a Christian to be messing about with.  I asked a witch.   She was gobsmacked to think Christians were doing that, the whole “setting intentions” thing.  It’s pretty close to what she does to cast spells.   The idea that pasting up pictures can change your reality is … uh, yeah.  It’s not Biblical, kthx.

Now, I don’t mind a good New Year’s resolution.  After all, what can we change?  Ourselves!   Goals, desires, hopes… all good.

I even like vision.  I mean, I have a vision… everyone has a vision.  But to put it on paper and then stare at it and focus, it feels kinda idoly to me, y’know?  Or, again, spelly.

I feel left out though.  Everyone’s doing it!  That’s how you get where you’re going!

Unless… you don’t.

1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness

I am in this super weird space where I have total confidence in God’s plans for this year.   GOOD STUFF COMING.   But I don’t know exactly where.  I definitely don’t know when.   The flesh would like an explanation, and the spirit isn’t giving one.

Goals are the awesome.   But for 2020?  I have dreams, entrusted to God.

I’m  not going to put those dreams on paper, though a few minutes on my pinterest would give you a hearty clue.   I choose not to do that.   I don’t want to cast a spell.  I don’t want to “create a vision”.   I rejoice in trusting my future to God.  I’m excited about what He has for me (us) next.   And I think that He has something better than I can imagine – so why limit Him?

It feels weird to not have the structure.    But maybe “weird” is exactly where I need to be….

 

 

Book Review: Wild – From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail

Another Birthday Book Review… this time gifted by Mom.

Mom doesn’t know that reading books from Oprah’s Book Club is a bad plan.   Her intentions were good… pre-celebrating the results of the foot surgery I’m having next month, she got me a book about hiking the PCT.   Good thoughts, I embrace the hope and the idea, even if I didn’t like the book – except the part about the actual hiking.

To summarize my review of this book, I’d say that this work is:

  1. A novel of the modern type, where the subject matter is interwoven with autobiography, heavy on the autobiography.
  2. A feminist novel.  I could have read this in college.   Stereotypical Oprah’s Book Club.

I’ve hiked a bit of the PCT with my folks as a teen.  Living in California, if you go camping much (which we did), you’re bound to hit this famous trail and do a few miles.   It’s well worth the effort – I have walked the path winding along the top of the mountain, overlooking the desert below, the path that meanders between the two climate zones.   Glorious.   I’ve walked, similarly, some of the bits in the Sierra.  Amazing.

When Wild talks about the experience, I feel utterly at home and simultaneously homesick for the wilds of California.   I admire her tenacity, pushing through hardship to reach a goal.  I identify with that kind of heroine.

But the drug addiction, the divorce, the abortion… they make this a story about Ms. Strayed, not about the PCT, and not about hiking.   Sixty percent of this book is written about her life off the trail, and though I’d be happy to hear about “I worked through this on this climb”, it’s too much.  I want to read about the PCT.   I want to read about the rigors of hiking.   I don’t want to read about casual sex.   Trite.  Meaningless.  I know the modern feminist novel makes much of these events, but to me they’ve become tropes – yes, yes, you’re exerting your independence.   Shall I pat you on the head?  The hike exerts her independence, her perseverance, her strength!  The other stuff is detritus, best left behind forever.

This winding together of 70% autobiography 30% subject has gotten dreadfully common.  This is far from the first book I’ve read written in this style.  It must be the new non-fiction format.   I’ve read books by nice Christian ladies in the same style – books about houses and gardens, theoretically.    If I pick up a book about making a house a home, I want to read about making a house a home.  One doesn’t have to erase oneself as the author, but I didn’t buy the book to read your autobiography!!   Some is good, a sprinkling.  But all together?  No.

And so.  If you’re stuck in Oprah’s Book Club, this isn’t a bad book, and Strayed does have a solid backbone.   But that’s the nicest thing I can say about it.

Book Review: Dressed – The Secret Life of Clothes

Continuing through the pile of Birthday Books, we come to the dud in the room.   Beauty was such an incredible read that it’s only fair that one of the others would utterly fail to be palatable.

Pros:  It’s a beautiful book.  The pages are thick, turn well on nice stitching, and the photographs are interesting, well-labeled, and plentiful.

Cons:  In short?  This is written by a feminist philosopher and … that’s what this is.  Now, I could manage that if it had a point.  I remember (back in the day) enjoying Naomi Wolf.  (These days I’d disagree in the main, but again – she had something to disagree *with*).

One should listen carefully to ideas with which one disagrees.  Sometimes there are pearls in the muck…. and at any rate, your own thinking is sharpened.  “Why is this wrong?” is an *excellent* question to ask oneself.   It’s an even more excellent question to give oneself as an essay prompt.  Reason it out!

But Bari didn’t have an argument to chew on.  I got through half of chapter two (suits) before I had to give up.   The text (past the introduction, which did have some pearlettes) is a discussion of the symbolism of popular culture, bit after bit, with no cohesive argument to be made – just the understanding that the argument has already been won, and the author is only piling evidence up.   Frankly, I got bored.  “Are you still piling up evidence for an argument you’re not planning to make?  Okay – I’m out.”

Bari spent very little time talking about CLOTHES qua clothes.  Clothes in art.  Clothes in cinema, yes.   But then she mentioned clothes in contexts with which I am extremely familiar… and she told 2/3 of the story, missing the point entirely.   Or was flat wrong.   Besides which, reading symbolism into every.single.thing gets old.  It’s pretentious.  Certainly there is symbolism to be found in most stories – particularly old ones.  But feminist symbolism in every object, five layers deep?  Um.  No.   K.I.S.S.   Wisdom is found in simple truths.

I’m having good fun reading for research, it’s extremely inspiring – even when the books aren’t much use for anything except decor.

Book Review: Beauty – The Invisible Embrace

 

Beauty – The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue  Ten stars out of five.  😀

I instagrammed a picture of this book when I was in the first chapter, remarking on the fine sweet pain of reading the book that you wish you’d written.    More on that later… but suffice to say that I took *pages* of notes out of this book.   Written by a man who’s about to become my new favorite non-fiction author, this work covers Beauty from stem to stern – very nearly every aspect of beauty other than those popularized by the beauty industry.

A philosopher, once a priest, O’Donohue goes DEEP with his analysis of beauty.    He goes wide.  The list of works referenced alone is a trove of riches.   Well, it is for those of us interested in the philosophical and theological aspects to beauty.

Now to besiege you with quotes…

p. 193 “Beauty shines with a light from beyond itself.   Love is the name of that light.  At the heart of beauty must be a huge care and affection for creation, for nowhere is beauty an accidental presence.   Nor is beauty simply its own end.”

p. 127 “Architecture is one of the most public and permanent stages on which a culture displays its understanding of beauty. ”  [I found that statement both true and excessively depressing].

p. 67 “The soul is never fully at home in the social world that we inhabit.  It is too large for our contained, managed lives”.

p. 3 “Perhaps, for the first time, we gain a clear view of how much ugliness we endure and allow.   The media generate relentless images of mediocrity and ugliness in talk-shows, tapestries of smothered language and frantic gratification.   The media are becoming the global mirror and these shows tend to enshrine the ugly as the normal standard.   Beauty is mostly forgotten and made to seem naive and romantic.

That last… that last is where my fine sweet pain was born.  This … boxing up of beauty as naive, as weak, as romantic – that’s what I wanted to put to death.  Beauty has power.

Beauty touches all aspects of our lives, at least it does if we don’t deliberately wall ourselves off from it.   Sometimes we do, in the name of mediocrity, in the name of anger, in the name of intentional numbness.

I have spent the past few days (I read quickly) walking around my house forcing my family to listen to me read passages out loud to them.   One might say I’m excessively fond of this book.   It *will* be influencing my future work.

If you are at all interested in Beauty in any of her forms, this book will be a song in your heart.   Go.  Read it so that I don’t have to find you and follow you around and read it to you.   Because I might……. I might indeed.

Book Review: Life Together

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of those books that “everyone” has read – unless of course everyone includes me.   Somehow I missed memory-holing that it’s one of El’s favorite books – for every reason!

In my search for more wisdom, the first book out of the gate was a great choice.  It challenged me, it educated me, it enlightened me.   This book made me wonder why people talking about Christian community don’t … you know… read it?  It seems like most efforts to form/maintain Christian communities (either full-out, living together or just as a church body or part thereof) are stepping right onto the mines that Bonhoeffer points out in this (short) work.

I’m spending a lot of time thinking about community right now, so this was amazingly useful.

Some quotes:

“But it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.”

“The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners.   The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.   So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.   We dare not be sinners.”

“The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous will be his isolation.”

I recommend this book heartily to anyone who wants to be challenged and grow wiser.  It’s counter-cultural and uncomfortable.

 

 

Book Review: Hinds Feet In High Places

I decided I needed to spend a bit more time getting serious about taking in good Christian writing and my pursuit of wisdom.   So, I’m starting a bit more serious reading … but while I was trying to make my list, I realized I’d already read a good many of the books.  So, for as long as it amuses me and you… here’s a series on Christian classics.

..

Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard is a classic allegory of the walk of sanctification specifically aimed at women.  I expect a man might make use out of it – there’s good to be taken – but it is an *explicitly* feminine take.

If you haven’t read this, and you’re a Christian woman, it is worth your time.  It is a short read, and intense.   Yes, it is emotional.   However, it’s not sticky and inappropriate.  It deals with the real emotions that we have to conquer to walk forward in the Christian life.

The protagonist must repeatedly make choices – painful choices – in order to continue to follow Christ.   He is always ready to help, and sends her daily helpers, but He also asks her to take a journey that winds through some strange and perilous ground.  As she continues to walk, she grows stronger, until she is finally transformed into the woman Christ had planned for her – and … well, I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s good.

I’ve read through this numerous times for my own benefit and enjoyment, and I recently worked through it as a devotional with my mentee (if you’re interested, this is the link to the study we used).   I don’t agree with every word in either the book or the devotional, but it took me through a good solid soul-searching, and helped both my mentee and I grow spiritually.

Again, this book is *short*.   It’s sweet, written for a woman’s heart and understanding.  And it is challenging.    I find all too many modern works about as strong as watered milk.   Hinds’ Feet is strong – especially if you allow yourself to see your own weaknesses in the protagonist’s struggles, and the areas of choice you’ve avoided (or been stuck on) in hers.

It’s not about marriage, it’s not about children, it’s about becoming strong in the Lord.  And it’s for women.

Five stars.

Take It For Granted

We use the phrase “take it for granted” as an insult.   As something that we shouldn’t do.  “Oh, she takes that for granted”… meaning, “she’s an ingrate”.   But that’s *not* what the words mean.

Take it for granted.  Granted.  Granted is GIVEN.  “I take this as given”.  As it has been given to me.

Who gives?  God gives.   He gives richly.   Should we thank Him for His gifts?  YES.   Can we possibly thank Him for all of them?  No.  Should we make an effort to thank Him for everything all the time?  No.   Because in so doing, we’re being Pharisees.  We’re practicing a sensible discipline to help us develop gratitude and humility and sitting in it ad infinitum, never moving forward.

We should thank God.  All the time, because He gives so richly that there’s always something new to appreciate.     But put reverse this – do you want your kids to get up every day and thank you for the shoes on their feet?  Every day?  Every.Single.Day?  No.  If they came up to you and said, “you know, these shoes are so comfy and I really appreciate you taking me to the good shoe store so my feet don’t hurt – thanks, Mom!” randomly three months after you bought new shoes, that would make you warm and squishy.   But as a ritual?  “Thank you, dear mother, for the shoes on my feet”.   Bleh.

We need to accept the gifts we’ve been given.   To TAKE them as granted.  To say, “Thank you, Lord Father” and not pretend He does take-backsies.

Sometimes rehashing old ground is … rehashing old ground, and not useful at all.