Summer Reading

What I just finished reading:

This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for over a year now. In fact, I’ve been on hold for the book at the library for about that long. I read her two new books Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana and became fascinated with her story. How did she get here? Vampires to Christ? I didn’t even know she was converted until I read the author’s note after finishing Out of Egypt. It was a book I read in the midst of my own searching into Catholicism – not an accident from the Lord, I know! But that is a story for another time and place.

This book was intriguing for me and made a fast read. In the beginning she talks of her faith as a child and it made me question so many things about reverance and holiness and if we’ve lost that in our culture (not her intent at all, but what I gleaned from her beautiful descriptions of faith learned before being able to read). The middle was a little harder for me to get through. For 38 years she was an atheist, wrapped up in secular humanism and claimed to be ignorant of the feminist movement of her time yet her writing seems to be completely enmeshed in it. What I found most interesting was how she came back after that time period. No big event. No big, “aha” moments, just being constantly pursued by our Lord which you can see throughout her writing career. I think that is how it is for many of us. I definately related to this pursual as that is how it happened to me. God, the great Romantic, only wanting to restore relationship.

The most poignant part of the book was years after returning to the church when she was actually wrestling with God about giving herself completely over to Christ…dieing to herself and living for Him. I think she hit the nail on the head that the particular moment of conversion (or reconversion) is completely different and separate from actually living for Christ by dieing to self.

“One Saturday afternoon everything changed. I was seated in the pew and going through the Great Negotiation—what I would give and what I didn’t want to give and what God wanted me to give…” wrote Anne. This was when she made the decision to only write for Him…that ALL her talents could only be used for His service. Not that her other books were wrong or sinful, far from it as they only reflected her faith journey acted out through character. But now she had to give all of herself. Anything else would be a sham. This hit me strongly in the gut. This is where most of us fail as Christians. We justify our lives and what we are willing to give to His service. What if we actually died to ourselves and only lived for Him? How different would our lives really look? In this interview she mentions,

What I realized was that I wasn’t giving Him everything—that I was holding back. And I felt that I had to be able to give Him everything. If He really was the Maker of the universe—the Creator, the Lord, the Savior—how could I hold back? How could I say, ‘Well, I’m writing these books now. Really it’s not clear that I’m a Christian in these books, but it’s OK.’ I realized that that didn’t work anymore. I had to say to Him, ‘Look, I’m going to put all my gifts—whatever I have—in Your service…I’m going to stop negotiating with what You demand, and I’m going to start admitting it.’

As she was knee deep in intense scriptural study, she was confronted with all of the church controversies of the day and, once again, had to take a stand that it didn’t matter. Her only calling was to the Lord as she again says, “My vocation is to write for Jesus Christ.” This was all she could give and the other issues were for other Christians to deal with, not what her Lord had asked her to do. She mentions how so many of us can lose ourselves…even our Christianity…when getting caught up in the division instead of following what Christ wants for their life. How true, how true!

What I am rereading:

Not the book you think it may be, as it sounds old fashioned, simple, stuffy. It is one of the VERY few books (as I don’t do this often) that I will return to and read again year after year. It’s message is simple yet complex and it is everything, as a stay-at-home mom, that I need to hear (not want to, but need to) from Christ to me. It mainly deals with how to worship and serve the Lord amidst that chaos of motherhood…not in spite of it. This, I personally believe, is one of the hardest areas of giving to Christ that a mother deals with. Time for devotionals? Hardly. Quiet and peaceful? Not with a little one screaming to be held, a toddler drawing on the wall, an older child wanting you to listen to a story and another two fighting at the top of their lungs with scratching, hair pulling, and biting involved. Get involved in small group? Not when daddy has to work and there is no reliable babysitter for five kids. So how do we spiritually participate? This is what I glean from this book. I will give one little snippet to wet your appetite.

Too often we make a mental picture of what we think the service of God ought to look like…Thus the mother of a family will tell you that she would be able to give herself much more to religion if she did not have the children to look after. A factory worker will compare her chances with those of a lay sister. ‘I would be very religious,’ says the girl in the post office, ‘if it were not so impersonal, and if I could serve God in a family.’ Everyone creates an imaginary kingdom of God on earth, and sits outside its walls gazing enviously in its direction. But the kingdom of God is within you…Imagined sanctity is no sanctity. A religion that exists in hypothetical circumstances cannot endure the pressure of actuality. To presume to a service of God that the present framework of life does not allow is sheer pride. What sort of a service can it be that has its only reality in someone else’s vocation? How can obedience to God’s will (which is all that religion amounts to) rest upon a concept that is not being realized and may never be? If the mother looks upon her children as obstacles to the prompt response to grace, she is missing the whole point…Your occupation, associates, material surroundings, health, and strength are there, are real, are the solids, are the substance from which the here-and-now house of God is to be built. There is nothing concrete in the dream vocation…Religion is recognizing God in His own setting. The setting is provided by Him, not by us. ‘In Him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28): we do not find our being in what we would have become if we had made ourselves. We are made in the image and likeness of God, not in the image and likeness of a mirage…The only thing that really matters in life is doing the will of God. Once you are doing the will of God, then everything matters. But apart from the accepted will of God, nothing has any lasting reality. So if God wills that you should be bowed over the sink instead of over the pew in your favorite church, then washing dishes is for you, now, the most perfect thing you can possibly do…If you leave your dishes, your housekeeping, your telephone calls, your children’s everlasting questions, your ironing, and your invitations to take care of themselves while you go off and search for our Lord’s presence in prayer, you will discover nothing but self.

WOW. You must go read this book!

What I will be reading:

I stumbled upon this little gem of a book by accident. Had never heard of it or its author. It was a link to a link sort of thing and suddenly I was looking inside the book at Amazon and reading and reading and reading and I didn’t want to stop. Here is a book that EVERY so-called acclaimed Christian needs to read! I know this book will challenge me and I hope that I can turn it into a small group so that discussions can be had and other lives will be challenged as well. It is a book aptly named. For radical is what it is. Radical is what Jesus is and what we, as “American” Christians, forget everyday. We tend to justify our comforts and constantly look for more. We tend to want a perfect life without toils and tribulations. But that is NOT what being a true disciple…a true follower of Christ asks of us. Again, it reminded me of what Anne Rice said in her book. We think we are involved in the Great Negotiation with God and can do parts of His will and leave others (more distateful, dangerous, uncomfotable) out of the equation. But if truly dying to self and taking up the cross, how can we give anything less then everything? This book delves into that question in the most real and potent way I think anyone has spoken of in a very long time.

I encourage every one of you to go to Amazon, click on the book to look inside and just start reading. I think you, too, will be challenged. We soft Americans all need to be!

holy experience

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