______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Grace (Eventually) May 24, 2010

Reading an Anne Lamott book is like chatting with an old friend. I mean a real friend. Someone you can be truly open and honest with, not having to engage in religious pretense.
I’ve read a lot over the past 10 years that has offered me a new, broader, better and, I believe, more “Christlike” approach to life. I, of course, know there is always more to learn, but I thought my values, my beliefs, and my theology had been challenged, changed and stretched about as far as they could go.
I was wrong.

There are many good stories and insights in “Grace (Eventually),” but there were a couple of chapters that really invited me to address even more of my preconceived ideologies. I won’t go into what those chapters involved. I’d rather you read the book, and see what challenges you.

Anne is amazingly open about her life. She’s not the type you could threaten with the skeletons in her closet. She has plenty of skeletons, mind you. They’re just not buried away behind the coats and jackets. Instead, we read of a real person in the real world, living out real faith in Christ; worts and all. Just like the people in the Bible.  I know, first hand, the freedom in bringing all your skeletons into the sunlight. Like Anne, I have more than my share of them, but no one can use them against me if I don’t try to hide them.

She speaks of her alcoholism.  She talks of her “binge or diet” issues. Her continual battle with jealousy.
Her temper many times gets the best of her.
Some would say she needs to be “set free.” But freedom, in that sense, isn’t an event. It’s a life walk.

She reveals, often, the joys and struggles of single parenthood, and a number of stories involve her son, Sam.

There’s a story of her having to deal with a carpet sales person. He is less that honest. Less than honorable.
The end of the story isn’t what you might expect, but there is a good lesson for all to learn.

There is so much packed into these pages. So many other life-lessons. There is delicious humor, almost cover to cover. Yet, I found some of the “heaviest” reading I’ve ever encountered. Lessons about dealing with death, working through pain, and, yes, victory in life. Not the kind of “victory” we were taught back in the 70’s. No, this is a much deeper victory. The victory of learning to live through one’s own selfishness and baggage. Of learning that it’s “not all about you.” This is the victory of grace. The music of grace.
Grace for others, and even grace for yourself.
— df.

Buy the book HERE.

“She observes her world with honed humor-and without a whiff of deceit or concealment. … This is a Christian even an atheist could still respect in the morning.” – The Seattle Times

What makes Lamott’s writing powerful isn’t her unconventional faith. Rather, it’s the profound message about God’s grace and redemption often lurking underneath all the…brutal honesty.” -Chicago Sun-Times

“Lamott’s self-deprecating stories are refreshingly frank and endearingly fun.” -Washington Post

“There’s no one quite like Anne Lamott. … She manages to suggest that she’s your ally, the funny best friend who knows instinctively that you’ve had these troubles, too. And perhaps that’s why readers continue to find something fresh in everything she has to say.” – LA Times

Some Quotes From “Grace (Eventually)”

“We chewed gum together and listened to the classical station:  instant church.”

“I don’t hate anyone right now, not even George W. Bush…I learned how to unhate Bush the only way people ever really learn things—by doing. It’s a terrible system. If I were God, I would have provided a much easier way—an Idiot’s Guide, or a spiritual ATM, or maybe some kind of compromise.”

“It is hard to remember that you are a cherished spiritual being when you’re burping up apple fritters and Cheetos.”

“My secular father’s only strong spiritual directive: Don’t be an asshole, and make sure everybody eats.”

“You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town”

Buy the book HERE.

“Joy is the best makeup.  Joy, and good lighting.”

“Sometimes I act just as juvenile as I ever did, but as I get older, I do it for shorter periods of time. I find my way back to the path sooner, where there is always one last resort: get a glass of water and call a friend.”

“I have to believe that Jesus prefers honesty to anything else.”

“In truth, everyone is loved and chosen, even Dick Cheney, even Saddam Hussein…God loves them because God loves.”

“God sent Jesus to join the human experience, which means to make a lot of mistakes. Jesus didn’t arrive here knowing how to walk. He had fingers and toes, confusion, sexual feelings, crazy human internal processes. He had the same prejudices as the rest of his tribe: he had to learn that the Canaanite woman was a person. He had to suffer the hardships and tedium and setbacks of being a regular person. If he hadn’t the incarnation would mean nothing.”

“Never give the devil a ride.  Because if he likes the ride, pretty soon he’ll want to drive.”

“Every moment you are freely given the opportunity to see through a different pair of glasses.”

“There [are] also the “pro-life” matters of capital punishment and the war in Iraq, poverty, and HIV.”

“Sober people taught me that a willingness to help clean up the mess we’ve made is a crucial part of adult living; that our scary, selfish, damaging behavior litters the planet.”

“You want to know how big God’s love is?  The answer is:  It’s very big.  It’s bigger than you’re comfortable with.”

“And I realized once again that we’re punished not for our hatred, for not forgiving people, but by it.”

“If you have an idea after ten p.m., it is probably not a good idea.

“I prayed, the great Helping Prayer, which goes: “Helphelphelphelp.  Helphelphelphelp.”


Buy the book HERE.


Rich Mullins Quotes May 17, 2010

“It never fails. God will put people in your path that irritate you, especially if you’re prone to be irritated.

And this is what I have come to think: That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, whom I claim to be my Savior and Lord the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved.

You guys are all into that born again thing, which is great. We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you just have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too.  But I guess that’s why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest.

It’s just that for so many people that I know, Christianity’s this matter of … it has everything to do with morals. Christianity is a religion about morals. And they will even talk about Jesus. And they will say kids need to know about Jesus so they won’t smoke, drink, or chew, or go with girls that do, and all that kind of thing. And I kinda go, “That’s not why people need to know about Jesus. The only reason—the only possible excuse for talking about Jesus is because we need a Savior.”

The secret of rock music: “If you can’t be good, be loud.”

I can understand why people would have doubts about the Bible. It’s a weird, strange, goofy book!”

I don’t think you read the Bible to know truth. I think you read the Bible to find God, that we encounter him there. Paul says that the Scriptures are God’s breath and I kind of go ‘Wow, so let’s breathe this as deeply as possible.


Bert Gary and the Funny Video May 14, 2010

My wife and I laughed out-loud at this “Jesus Loves You” video.

It takes an awful lot of back-peddling and double-talk to even try to
explain away the holes in a lot of theology.

Watch the video, then read some comments (below) by the ever insightful Bert Gary.


“…many [people] have not thought through the inherent contradictions in modern evangelicalism’s fundamental claims—specifically, Jesus and the Father are different and have a different mind about you, God’s default setting for all people is not love and grace but eternal torture, and Jesus is bound by a rule more powerful than Him that forces him to torture you forever if you don’t knuckle under and say “the magic Jesus words.”

What is ironic is that an atheist, cartoon comedian sees so clearly what is wrong, and most [people] don’t see it or are in various stages of fuzziness about it. It makes me want to start a class, show the cartoon, and then walk through the contradictory theological assumptions in modern evangelicalism’s message, contrasting it with the biblical message:

1. Jesus loves me but I will be tortured forever if I don’t love him back, so there is a “love” that not only allows torture, but requires torture.

2. Jesus has to torture me if I don’t love him though he doesn’t want to, so there is a rule more powerful than Jesus that forces him to do what he doesn’t want to do.

3. Jesus and his Father are very different and are of two different minds about me, so Jesus loves me but his Father’s hate of sin and sinners overrides the Son’s love.

4. Jesus was sent by the Father not to change me, but to try to change the Father’s mind about me and his plan to torture me by threatening me with his Father’s torture-plan, so I must love him in order to stop him from torturing me.

5. Fear then is supposed to make me love, making fear more powerful than love and making love dependent upon fear.

This theology is fundamentally founded on hate. The Father hates sin, so he is required to hate sinners. The hate of sinners requires that the Father punish sinners. But apparently there is another “side” of the Father that wants to offer sinners a loophole. So he sends Jesus, his Son, who is very different from him, to say “I love you, but my Father hates you and plans to torture you forever if you don’t love me back.” This “loving threat” is intended to frighten you into loving him in order to save your own soul.

Modern evangelism by and large begins with this fear of hell. It’s their foundation. But if fear is the opposite of faith, and biblically it is, then how can you lead someone to faith with fear? Fear cannot lead to faith. Fear and faith are mutually exclusive. How can we label religious motivation and manipulation of people using fear as “faith”?

1 John 4:18-19 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.

We love him and have faith in him because he loved us first. Using fear, on the other hand, is a faithless, loveless act. Basing everything on fear of punishment drives out faith! Love, however, both compels faith and is the fruit of faith (Galatians 5:22).”
— Bert Gary


Iron Man 2 May 8, 2010

My wife and I just saw “Iron Man 2”

This is one of those sequels that I actually liked even more than the original.
The effects were, of course, great.  But effects alone do not a good movie make.  Where this installment succeeded, like the first, is in the writing and the acting.  It has the human element.  It has heart.  It has emotion.  And, ever important, it has humor.  It has characters we can have fun with, and care about.

Downey, as expected, totally delivered.  He really is perfect for this role.  Paltrow, Johannson, and Jackson were all fine.
There was question as to whether Don Cheadle could fill the roll that Terrence Howard had in the first film.  Frankly, I didn’t miss Howard at all, and thought Cheadle was better.  Clark Gregg, always funny in “Christine,” didn’t have a lot of scenes, but he may have more in “Iron Man 3.”

Sam Rockwell gave a standout performance as Justin Hammer.  His arrogant, self-centered, spoiled brat of a man was a joy to watch.  I’ve enjoyed his nuanced performances ever since “Galaxy Quest.”

One of the biggest reasons I found this movie better than the first was the Mickey Rourke villain, “Ivan Vanko.”  In the previews, I thought his character would be one of the reasons I would like “2” a little less than the first.  Quite the opposite was true.  And Mickey fleshed out the role beautifully.  Don’t get me wrong.  I Like Jeff Bridges.  Maybe more than Rourke.  But the writing, and even the effects for this bad guy seemed more interesting, and even more believable.  (OK.  “Believable” is not a good word to bring to a discussion of a movie like this.  Nevertheless…)

Two ACDC tunes, along with one from Queen, helped the soundtrack really rock.  Hey, good music is always a plus.
And finally, let me say that just like the first movie, you’ll want to stay through the credits.


A Million Miles In A Thousand Years May 2, 2010


My review of Donald Miller’s
“A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life”


This is the 4th book I’ve read by Mr. Miller. I’ve learned from all of his books. I found his latest by far his best work since his huge best seller “Blue Like Jazz.”

This book was birthed out of his interaction with Steve Taylor and Ben Pierson, after they approached him about making a movie based on BLJ. Steve and Ben are in much of the book, but there are also many other stories and life experiences.

This book takes a look at what goes into a good story. It looks at what it takes to make an interesting movie. It looks at what it takes to write a interesting book. It looks at what it takes to live an interesting life. Don asks us to look at the story we are in. He asks if we’re living the best stories we can live. He shares many events that are a part of his life, all the while seeing what in those events makes his story, his life, worth sharing. Sharing in a way that will interest others.

Through this process, we’re given many great insights into life. Insights into how our story affects the stories of others. Insights into how our stories are just a small part of the greater story. Of how life isn’t just about “our” story. “I’m just one tree in a story about a forest.” At the same time, each tree matters.

I found this book a very easy read, especially compared to much of the kind of reading I enjoy. But, easy doesn’t mean superficial. It certainly doesn’t mean shallow. There is some deep stuff here. This book is one I recommend. I recommend it for fans of “Blue Like Jazz.” If you’ve never read that one, check it out first. But, this book is also for fans of good story. It’s for fans of learning a little more of what life is all about. And, of course, it’s for fans of Steve Taylor.

To buy the book, or read more about it, Click HERE.
Buy the KINDLE version. Click HERE.
Some quotes from the book:

“Life has a peculiar feel when you look back on it that it does not have when you’re living it.”

“If you use this dishwashing liquid, people will want to have sex with you.”
(NOTE: You’ll have to read the book for the context.)

“We get robbed of the glory of live because we aren’t capable of remembering how we got here…
you could easily believe life isn’t that big of a deal, that life isn’t staggering…
I think life is staggering and we’re just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given–it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm…just another child being born, just another funeral.”

“But fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living boring lives.”

“She wondered why it mattered if Jesus hung on a cross and died. Since the world went crazy anyway…
‘See,’ she prayed, ‘you created us only to let us march around in our misery. You’re supposed to be good. What are you good for?'”

“You get a feeling when you look back on life that…all God really wants from us [is] to live inside a body he made and enjoy the story and bond with us through the experience.”

“Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.”

“Life itself may be designed to change us, so that we evolve from one kind of person to another.
…humans are alive for the purpose of journey…
the point wasn’t the search but the transformation the search creates.
…we’re designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us.”

To buy the book, or read more about it, Click HERE.
Buy the KINDLE version. Click HERE.


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