Book Review: The Knowledge of the Holy

The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer, belongs on every Christian’s bookshelf.   It’s a very short book, less than 150 pages, but it is dense.   The book is about the nature and attributes of God, and Tozer makes the excellent point that we spend too much time thinking about how God affects us, and not nearly enough time thinking about God Himself.

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Some excerpts:

p. 78 “If He is unchanging, it follows that He could not be unfaithful, since that would require Him to change.”

p. 18 “Secularism, materialism, and the intrusive presence of things have put out the light in our souls and turned us into a generation of zombies.  We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper, ‘mystery’.”

p. 69 “God is spirit, and to Him magnitude, distance have no meaning”.

In other words, it’s clear thinking about God.   The author starts out by saying that he is standing on the shoulders of giants, and bemoaning the Modern’s lack of interest in chewing their way through Anselm and Aquinas.   Fair enough, I’ve been lectured thoroughly on my lack of reading classical theology and philosophy quite a bit of late, and as I dip in, it is all pleasure to do so.

But the reader should take note – this may be a much shorter (and perhaps easier to read) work than that of Aquinas, but it is by no means an “easy” work to encompass.   I took notes, and I’m glad that I did.  This is a book that rewards a thorough chew, and would reward many a re-read to fully digest.

Five stars, if we’re keeping track of that sort of thing… if you haven’t read this, and you’re serious about your Christian faith, you should do so.

The Pain of Duration is not a Failure of Faith

Not a long post.  Just a rush of brains to the head…

I’m very good at beating myself up.   I’ve been waiting for some stuff to come down the pike for years.   Even as I see things lining up (finally!) the duration *still sucks*.  And I was blaming myself for a lack of faith.

But it’s NOT a lack of faith.  It’s a plain statement that walking through the distance from point A to point B is not fun.  It’s that feeling you get that the workout will NEVER end, and that you’re not going to finish this mile.  You *know* you can run a mile, and you’re not planning on quitting, but you’re at the end of your strength and it sucks and you don’t want to be in this moment…

As for other self-flagellation, gilded cages are still cages.   It is possible to appreciate the place one is in while simultaneously wanting something other.

Spiritual Gifts: Why?

I’m writing about this to sort out my own thoughts, to leave this here for anyone who needs it, and to open a discussion on this with my dear friend  over at Dark Brightness who is still in a cessationist church.

I grew up in a cessationist church.   We didn’t discuss the spiritual gifts much, if at all.   When I moved to my current church, the spiritual gifts were taken for granted, but because we’re a very orderly church, unless you went to certain services, the more supernatural gifts weren’t on display.   But you were encouraged to figure out what yours were, and gradually I met people who had the more … interesting… gifts.

It was comfortable to do the tests and say, “I have the gift of counsel!  I have the gift of organization!” – they aren’t very woo-woo.   Pretty normal, everyday “things I’m good at”, really…   But any life that is truly alive grows and changes, does it not?  And you *are* exhorted to ask for more gifts, more of what the Spirit wants to see in you.   We are supposed to be walking the path of sanctification, not sitting in the pews of complacency.

1 Corinthians 14: 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.

And eventually… something pops up that can’t be explained by natural means.  And then you have to deal with that.

“Dealing with that” isn’t a simple matter.  *Would that it were*.    There are charlatans to the skies, and I neither wish to be deceived by one of them nor do I want to become one.  God forbid.  Literally.   I am HORRIFIED by the idea that I might be out of sync with God.

What I learned from the folks who have the more supernatural gifts, back when I was just talking to them, is that, one and all, they were uncomfortable with sharing them – especially at first, and most especially with strangers.   (First test:  Is the person who is talking to you brash and overconfident?  Fishy).   And I heard them say that the experience was that you would get an assignment from God, and usually you’d argue until it didn’t get done… about that time, you’d see someone else step forward to do what you’d refused to do.   And OF COURSE I thought, “well, I’d not do that!”

Until I did… until it was my turn to have a Word for someone and (since it was God’s word, *not* mine, and I didn’t know anything whatsoever about what I was called to say, I didn’t want to say it – especially not to a stranger I happened to be praying with) I argued in my head for a couple of minutes and the woman sitting two places down from me opened her mouth and gave that word.  The Word I was supposed to give.    And then the shame comes – I was commanded, and I disobeyed.

But you still have to DEAL with the mess that is this fallen world.   Words (and other supernatural gifts) can come from God – or they can come from the enemy (read your Bible – he does have power).   Words can also come from one’s own fevered imagination and not be supernatural at all.    Of course one’s commitment is always and ever to follow Christ, but how do you KNOW when it’s God, and when it’s not???

I’m very much still working this out (please leave any input), but I have hints:

  1. Did I go looking in the crystal ball?   Highly Fishy – and the “crystal ball” is metaphorical here.   God’s Words come from Him, not me trying to sort something out – except when I ask and get an answer much later.  They’re also not MY answers – they come from Him, not me.
  2. Did I get a date/time?  At least for me, super fishy.
  3. Anyone who acts like a medium between you and God can go jump in a lake.
  4. Would I *really rather not* but I’m feeling pressured, and it’s outside my comfort zone?   Ah, that sounds more likely…

So why, with all the effort and headache of discerning truth from falsehood, what’s the point of the more supernatural spiritual gifts?  Why do we have them, and why do we have them today?

  1. I think it is good for us to be reminded that we serve a God of miracles, to be reminded that this bread-and-porridge world is not all that there is.   That yes, our lives can – and will – be interrupted by the miraculous, and we should open our eyes.  This keeps us humble and awestruck.  “My help is from the Lord”.   I, at least, need frequent reminding that I am NOT supposed to be doing this life thing on my own (entirely natural) strength – and that I CAN and SHOULD ask (and expect) help on the daily.    The attitude that “God’s got this” is helped along when you see His -unmistakable – hand.
  2. Encouragement.   A little bit of “God hasn’t forgotten you” can go a long way when you’re in a desert place.  Even knowing that it can happen to someone you know is very encouraging.   A close relative has been granted miraculous relief from some things that should be quite painful, and is developing Healing as a gift.  Praise God!
  3. Confirmation.  “I’ve been praying on this, and reading my Bible and I think this is what’s going on but… Oh Hi Susie, what?  Oh.  Wow, yeah, that’s helpful!  Thank you”.  (I’ve heard many the time that people can hear God well enough on their own.  I sure hope so!  But see the list above – sometimes you’re pounding hard on something and you can really use a backup to your own research – or am I the only one who questions herself constantly?)

Now if all this hasn’t been sufficiently clear – TEST THE SPIRITS.   Test, test, test.   Go through all of my tests and test again with your own.   Do *not* just accept what anyone says to you or does for you or..  But having tested – let God be God, and accept that He gives gifts as He will.

It sure does look like things on this planet are about to get “interesting”.   I think we’re going to need all the gifts, active and working, to get through.   Not just the “gift of service” that unflinchingly cleans the church bathroom for 20 years – but the stuff that looks right weird to the outside world.

Anyway.   I am dealing with this, and it’s not especially comfortable, but I figure God’s got a reason for what God does.  I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with your own walk and your own giftings.

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.