Book Review: Traveling Mercies



Hey friends,

As mentioned a couple of posts ago, I have been blessed with some extra free time lately to read anything I so choose. And so I've got myself a Goodreads account (at my librarian wife's suggestion) and a summer reading list, and started going to town. Let's see if we can beef up the book reviews section of the J-Blog here!

I wanted to start with some books that I read a long time ago, and haven't come back to since. Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies hopped right off the shelf, begging for a second go around. I read it in college actually, in my introduction to religions course. This was how our professor introduced us to Christianity (something I was at least a little familiar with), and I am eternally grateful that he did!

If you're like me, and you grew up in the kind of rigid mindset that Christianity has to look like it does on TV or in the news or how everyone thinks that Christianity is going to look, then Traveling Mercies is like drinking an incredibly refreshing glass of water. For starters, Lamott writes in the same voice/style as what's going on in my brain, and for that we should pray for her! But I can relate, and that's half the battle when reading isn't it?

I don't think Lamott's upbringing was standard for most Christians, or at least certainly not for me. But I love it anyway. I loved to read lilly pads and see how Jesus was hard at work in Lamott's life, trying to find his way in like a cat that followed her around for days. I love that Jesus can heal and refresh all of us, including the drug addicted alcoholics who struggle with eating disorders. Those, he can turn into a great spiritual voice in our generation.

What I can appreciate is that this book isn't quite as controversial today as it probably was in 2000, and by that I mean I think the Church as an institution has grown up a bit in America. Or at least I hope it has. The things that caused my college classmates to bristle at this book when we read it seem like every day occurrences now, as though we're trying to adapt our way of thinking to what Jesus is asking from us in this time and in this place. I hope we're always ready to adapt our way of thinking to what Jesus is up to. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when the 7 year old Sam (Anne's son) leans his head out of their broken down car to curse at the people who are cursing at them. Life is real. Sometimes cars break down and the F Bomb is the only appropriate word to hit your tongue. Jesus is real. I think he wants to meet us where our life is at its most real, difficult, and challenging. It only makes sense that we try not to be fake around Jesus.

Anyway, if you're new to Christianity, this is actually a great place to start. And if your particular stream of Christianity could use a bit of a refresh, it's equally awesome. Pick it up today!

I love my job.


I've seen this done with a lot of things, but I like this video a lot. Enjoy it youth workers!


Recovery Part Two: The day of silence


Tow02xwaves of silence ii posters

Hello friends,

The day of jubilee was amazing. What followed, however, was downright refreshing. I had been saying that I would enjoy spending time after this first year in Seminary reading whatever I felt like, whatever I wanted, whatever I felt would be helpful/inspirational to my own spiritual growth and to my ministry.

Now, this is actually earth shattering personal growth. If you look at the top of the blog here, where I post the four categories that get the most attention, you will notice that book reviews are in dead last. I don't typically choose to read. I actually hate reading most days. But all the same, after this first year, with well over 3,000 pages of material that professors were requiring me to read, I wanted to read a few thousand of my own.

And so Saturday, I accomplished only two things. I read almost an entire book (book review tomorrow if I can get my act together!) and I bathed myself.

That was it.

It was glorious!

Sometimes you have to just put the breaks on. The danger of course (if you're anything like me) is that once the breaks go on, they never come off. But this feels different. I feel ready to go next term in seminary where I'll be taking two classes a term instead of just one. But before you can jump into that, you have to leave some room for regeneration and recovery. And that's exactly what I did.

It turns out that God was the same way. He made the idea of a Sabbath a law. You have to rest. You can't work all the time. It's not good for you. You need to take a brake. And yet, at least in our culture, we have the easiest time in the world ignoring the voice of the Shepherd, even if he's leading us to still waters. We want to be productive. We want to have meaning in our lives. And we feel that our self-worth comes from all that we do. It doesn't. Our self worth comes from his love in us.

So if you haven't done so in a while, take a day of silence. Take a day where absolutely NOTHING gets accomplished, other than your own spiritual/emotional fulfillment. I promise, the to-do lists will still be there when you get done. Turn off the TV. Turn off the phone. Don't even think about looking at e-mail. Just relax. And while you do, thank God that he not only allows all of this, he commands it of you!



Recovery Part One: The Day of Jubilee



Hello everyone!

Before we dive into things, if you still read this blog in spite of my near constant leaves of absence, then you deserve a medal. By all means, download the image above, print it out, and hang it on your refrigerator!

The reason for such an extended absence of course is the work load of seminary in the third term. By this point in the year, I had spent about as much energy in school as I think I could handle, and was literally struggling to keep afloat. The reading load for this last class was intense. The paper that was due took me through familiar feelings of self-loathing, followed by lightbulbs, followed by a cutting room experience, followed by submitting the paper and walking away from it all. The problem this time was that after submitting the paper, there was another final coming. This term felt like being at the ocean after a hurricane. The waves just wouldn't stop coming.

But all of that said, Thursday, it all came to a close. As I walked away from the final exam, I was fairly convinced I could probably have done better. But it didn't matter. It was done. Thursday I drove home and felt at least 35 pounds lighter, crawled into bed, and let the break begin.

The break begins with a concept that I've talked about before here on the J-Blog, the day of Jubilee! I actually stole it from the great Television show The West Wing, where the white house staffers throw a day of jubilee after accomplishing a feat of tremendous effort and accomplishment. You can't have a day of jubilee because you summoned the strength to vacuum the carpet. No, this event can only follow completing an event that would have killed a lesser person. It seemed uniquely suited for the end of a term of seminary.

It's not really different than any other day. Yesterday, I started by going to work. But I went to work with a bounce in my step, because it was the day of jubilee. I met with folks and taught them how to use the new video cameras we got, but I did so with an extra dollop of gratitude because today was the day of jubilee. We hung out with the kids at Chick-Fil-A and got into a spitball war when we got home, but I didn't let it bother me when they soaked my shirt with cups of water (man, what a weird job I have) because it was the day of jubilee. Yesterday was made even more special by family who had come in from out of town. We celebrated at my parents house on the patio with way too much food. It was a great day of jubilee.

My message I suppose in all of this is to remember to take the time to celebrate big accomplishments. I think too much in our culture we're moving on to the next event in our mind before we've really stopped to think about what we've accomplished. So don't let that happen to you. Take a few moments and have yourself a day of jubilee, celebrate the accomplishments in your life by even just having a normal day highlighted by celebration. It does wonders.

Tomorrow, we'll break down the day of silence!

Welcome back!