Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mere Churchianity ~ Book Review

Mere Churchianity is one of the most blunt, politically incorrect, refreshing take on the modern American church I have ever read.  The late Michael Spencer, The Internet Monk, wrote this book to address the issues that have pushed many away from the church while looking for Jesus.  I wish I had discovered his blog long ago.

I had no previous knowledge of Mr. Spencer, so I was a bit surprised at the level of honesty and blunt language he used.  I don't have the same level of disillusionment that many have had with the church at large, but I related to many of the issued presented.  I found myself underlining many of it, wanting to say "Amen!" but also feeling a renewed responsibility to represent the church more correctly.  This is not a soft, loving encouragement to live better, but a serious bucket of cold water to institutional Christianity.  To call it critical of the conventional church is to say it mildly.  Refreshing and needed are my personal takes.  

A basic summary of the book is an acknowledgement of the failure of many aspects of the modern, evangelical church to connect to people despite the massive amounts of money poured into the entertainment values that the church seems to prioritize as the connection point.  It clearly isn't working on the broad scale, and Michael then goes on to discuss what does work; a Jesus-shaped spirituality.  His writings clearly defend the essentials of following Christ, but gives a defense to the variety of ways this can be manifested in individuals and groups as well.  

Even though his critique of the church is harsh, he does this in a mildly self-deprecating way, acknowledging that he was part of the problem for many years, never to make it to perfection, but trying.  I felt like when I was afraid he was getting to superior, he would include a story or disclaimer that showed he knew he was a flawed human, too.

I followed the writing very easily and since I resonated with so much of what he wrote, I didn't feel the offense that I imagine those ingrained in the organized church may feel.  I do think, however, that constructive criticism is vital, not just in the secular world, but in the family of faith as well.  I would recommend this book to those who have left the organized church, are thinking of leaving, or like me, just long for a honest approach to growth within the church.  Just be ready for some hard truths and brutal honesty.

I received a copy of this book at not cost by the publishers, and was in no way encouraged to review it with any bias.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012


My husband is so funny!  He seems to be so cautious that he very much hesitates to make anything "official," but since I throw caution to the wind, I can feel comfortable stating that we are now planning on moving to Ghana!

Why the caution?  Well, we have been in a position of making announcements of plans in the past that never came to fruition.  Though this has not been from anything on our part, he still seems to want to proceed cautiously with anything definite.  I understand.  It's hard to go back on what you've told people you plan to do.  There end up being a lot of questions that make it seem like we are the flighty ones.  Fortunately, that label isn't one that I worry about!  I choose to see it that we are always open to God's leading and that includes stopping in one direction to going in another.  We are flexible. I think that will come in very handy in the next year or so.

I am not anxious about moving to Africa.  I know there will be a LOT of things to get done in the next months to prepare to move, but anxiety isn't an emotion I go to often.  Usually, if anything, I get frustrated at the pace of change.  It doesn't seem to go fast enough for me.  I see a goal and I want to get there.  Now.  I'm working on that, or rather, God is working on that in me.  I am learning to see the journey as a valuable experience, not just the destination; literally and figuratively!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Memory Banking

I took a canoe ride and a walk along a back trail yesterday.  It was a good walk.  When I have a lot of time to myself, I tend to get pretty introspective.  I have wondered with increasing seriousness if this will indeed be the last summer I spend in our home here.  This being the 3rd year that our house is for sale, I have wondered this before.  With increasing certainty, I feel this will be it, regardless of whether we move to Africa or not.  I don't know when God will sell our house.  I don't know why He hasn't done it yet, or even if He will in the way we hope.  It probably won't be the way we expect.  God likes to keep us on our toes!

It really is amazing how beautiful something is when you know it won't be yours forever.  Breathing in the cool, clean air that has a uniquely Alaskan scent of moss, spruce, and swamp decomposition, makes me nostalgic.  Walking through the woods with trees covered in lichen and "Old Man's Beard" moss and being surprised by the bright green patches of wood ferns reminds me how much I will miss.  I know it won't be the same to go for walks with defense items in case I run into a moose mama with her newborn red-haired calf.
When will I ever go back to the house in a canoe across my pond?

These are little gifts of memories that I hope I can enjoy until the time God calls us on to our next adventure!

Friday, June 1, 2012


Isn't it interesting how following God's will for our lives rarely results in the rewards we expect?  I'm reading a book titled Plan B by Pete Wilson that basically is talking about navigating the feelings we have when God doesn't work like we thought or hoped.  Then, non-coincidentally, I am reading in 1 Kings where God doesn't work like those who follow Him thought He would or hoped.

For example, the widow who obediently makes the "last" of her oil and flour into a cake for Elijah first (and consequently never runs out of those two ingredients while Elijah is there), has her son get sick and die.  Surely that wouldn't have happened with a God who really cares, right?  That is some reward.  I can't begin to imagine all that she goes through, though the Bible does give us one of her comments to Elijah, "What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!" (1Kings 17:18).  I would imagine that she wishes at this moment to have fed her and her son the last of the bread and just died together from starvation rather than feel the anguish of loosing her son this way.

But then, God reveals Himself in a way that could not have been seen without the tragedy; He raises the boy back to life!  Talk about whiplash!  First she goes through the death of her husband, then a famine, then starvation; Elijah shows up and suddenly there is enough food!  Then her son gets sick and even dies; Elijah prays and God restores him!

Just in the next chapter, God calls Obadiah (who has been faithfully following God under the oppressive reign of Ahab and Jezebel, even to the point of hiding 100 prophets and feeding them during the famine) to confront King Ahab, risking his life, to announce that Elijah is there.  Again, not the reward Obadiah expected for his obedience.  His response to Elijah is recorded in 1 Kings 18:13,14.  Basically he tells Elijah about all he's done and surely he isn't expected to do this.  But he is, and he does, and he lives.

As if this isn't enough, Elijah himself, evidently not immune to this whiplash effect, has a mountain-top experience of revealing God through the contest on Mt. Carmel, only to have Jezebel come after him to kill him.  Surely after such a display of God's power, this evil woman could be dispatched by God.  Elijah runs into the wilderness and depressed, prays for God to take his life.  Instead, God sends angels to give him water and bread and let's him recover for a couple days.  After this sustenance, God takes him 40 days/nights into the wilderness to His mountain and reveals himself to Elijah.  They have a conversation where Elijah shares his concerns, and God tells him what to do and how He will divide the burden to others and will give Elijah a protege/helper.

I wonder if this is what Elijah expected.  After seeing God bring down fire to consume a saturated altar, surely He could just do that to all the evil ones.  But He didn't.  God works in His ways to His purposes.  He often takes us along the long paths because as Pete Wilson puts it, "...we often misunderstand something important about God's will - which is that it's often a process, not a final destination."  Pastor Rick Warren also states that "God is more interested in your character than your comfort."

These statements give me mixed feelings.  The knowledge that this refining will be a likely series of processes is a little frustrating, but ultimately I can rest in knowing that God is refining me.  I want to be used by God and this is how He works.  It doesn't all turn out like we think it should here on earth, but it will ultimately turn out just like it should.