Monthly Archives: March 2016

Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain

Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain by Matt Bays

Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain by Matt Bays

Is your life perfect in every way? Then you probably won’t like Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain.

Do you have absolute, unwavering, all-the-time, no matter what faith and confidence in the perfect plan of God? Then you probably won’t like Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain.

Do you prefer a perfectly linear book that moves systematically from start to destination, you definitely won’t like Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain.

But if you’ve ever wondered, “Where are you, God?”  or “Where were you, God?” you’ll appreciate Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain.

If you’ve ever wanted to shout, “God, you’re doing it all wrong!” you’ll love Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain.

Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain by Matt Bays is a raw, gritty, irreverent, meandering look the experience of one man – and all of us – as we question God and his ways in the face of pain and doubt. Bays’ story is one of childhood emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, but he weaves into his story those of suicide, cancer, disability, and unanswered prayer. The story he shares with us is a long journey of authentic questioning. In fact, he took a hiatus from God, inviting him to prove himself. Or not. Bays says, “Unexpressed doubt can be toxic.” And so, he went on a quest to express, explore, and challenge his doubts, inviting God to show himself. Or not.

In the process of this meandering journey, Bays’ subplot is that of his journey toward healing. Again, he is in no hurry, exploring his memories, his feelings, and truth. One critical concept that is so often underestimated is that whatever happened to us can’t be undone. Only healed. Yet we all too often blame what happened and who did it to us, as if we could rewind our life and make it better. And since we can’t rewind, we decide we can never be healed. Bays says that while the offense can’t be undone, it can be rewritten from this point forward. That is the best we can expect, and it can be enough.

This is an uncomfortable book. It doesn’t tie up our faith into a neat bow. In fact, it doesn’t tie up much of anything. But it’s well worth the read and will become required reading for many of the women I mentor. Especially those who believe that they are forever beyond healing because of their past. And those who believe God doesn’t play fair.

 

 

 

Addiction: A Thought for the Church

In all likelihood you have someone in your life with an addiction. Maybe even yourself. Addiction issues came to the forefront during my high school years in the 1960s, with the Viet Nam war, the war on drugs, and the Summer of Love. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, eating disorders, gambling, internet, porn… the list has grown as we have become more aware.

Need a Hug?

Need a Hug?

But the common denominator, especially within the Church, has always been, “Addiction = weak person.” We look down on those who need a crutch to get by (because of course, we don’t need that crutch and let’s not talk about my crutch, ok?). We judge. We offer recovery programs to help those people. I know. I’ve been there…

So I was intrigued by an article entitled The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think.  Author Johann Hari offers another explanation, backed up with some fascinating research on both rats and humans. It’s a long read, but well worth the time. Bottom line, he says that both rats and humans need love and a stimulating environment. That the chemical addiction (and I would argue, non-chemical addiction) is less compelling than the loneliness, the boredom, the lack of connection. OK, that might be simplistic. But is it?

I’ve seen people with serious addictions heal rapidly when they finally understand God’s love and see it demonstrated in the people around them. That’s what did it for me. I called it a miraculous healing, but was it or was it that I was finally safe? Finally loved? Finally seen?

Sure, sometimes people need prayer, accountability, and discipleship. I certainly did. But is it those factors that change them or the fact that someone finally sees them for who God created them to be. That someone is bold enough to debunk the lies they have believed, often since childhood or even infancy. That someone is willing to speak Truth to their wounded spirits. Over and over, as needed. Is that why “hire a friend” (aka therapy) often makes a difference?

So what does that mean for the Church? For you and me? Maybe we need to judge less and love more. Criticize less and speak Truth more. Shun less and hang out more. We have the words of life, and we can share them, even with those struggling with addictions.

What do you think?

 

 

 

I Want it All!

I Want It All! Exchanging Your average Life for Deeper Faith, Greater Power, and More Impact by Gwen Smith

I Want It All! Exchanging Your Average Life for Deeper Faith, Greater Power, and More Impact by Gwen Smith

Do you want ALL God has for you? Would you like to exchange your average life for deeper faith, greater power, and more impact? Then you’ll love I Want It All: Exchanging Your Average Life for Deeper Faith, Greater Power, and More Impact.

Did you know that there are certain kinds of greed that God applauds? I believe that he jumps for joy when we refuse to settle for less than ALL he has for us. When we pursue him with such fervor that we are willing to leave it all on the field, as they say in sports.

If you’re tired of ho-hum, mediocre Christianity, you’ll enjoy Gwen Smith’s spunky, conversational style as she challenges us to increase our faith, exercise our power, and increase our impact. Her girlfriend approach gets real and doesn’t hide behind perfection. Rather, she shares her story, warts and all, and engages us at all levels.

Smith’s writing voice is clear and fresh. She uses alliteration and poetic language skillfully. Her appeal will be primarily to the 30-40-year-old female audience. As an older woman, I didn’t find much new. But that is not to diminish the value for the Gen X and Millennial generations. The content is good and valuable. Would that we would all take it to heart. Would that each of us would cry out, “I Want It All!”

Synced: Living Connected to the Heart of Jesus

Synced: Living Connected to the Heart of Jesus by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

Synced: Living Connected to the Heart of Jesus by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

Author Jennifer Kennedy Dean believes that the way to live synced to the heart of Jesus is to understand and base our lives on the model prayer Jesus gave us—the Lord’s Prayer. As a nationally respected writer, speaker, and executive on prayer and spiritual formation, she should know. And Synced: Living Connected to the Heart of Jesus is indeed a well-researched, easy-to-read book on this popular topic. Using the model prayer as an outline, she ventures far and wide with a combination of some good scholarship and some interesting stories.

And yet, as I read this book, I continued to feel uneasy. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem, and wondered if I’ve just read too many books on the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps. I have read many. Unfortunately, this book didn’t rise to any level of significance. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the book; it’s just tired. I didn’t see much that was new, much that rose to a level that made me want to share the book. To quote the book. To teach the book. And most of the book focused on “what” rather than “how.” I didn’t come away with an increased ability to sync to Jesus.

In fairness, if the promotion on the book had indicated it was focused on the Lord’s Prayer, I probably would have passed on the blog tour because I recognize that the topic is so overdone that such books need to rise to a high level of excellence to stand out. So if you haven’t read a lot on the Lord’s Prayer, this book is well written. But if this is a topic you’re familiar with, you won’t learn much new in this book.