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I don’t debate creation vs. evolution, because I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, which doesn’t teach that they’re mutually exclusive, either (one of many things I’m thankful for from that church). When I received my first grown-up Catholic Bible, I devoured the introductions and additional material, which included information on literary genres and forms used in the Bible.

The Allegory: A figurative story with a veiled meaning. Read Genesis 2, 3; 4, 1-16; 6-8; 11, 1-9. For centuries, these chapters have been misunderstood as inspired lessons in science. The Bible does not teach science; it teaches religious values. It uses these folktales to teach a lesson.

So it kills me when people are upset about something really cool like the confirmation of the Higgs boson particle because it doesn’t line up with what they think the Bible tells them.

For instance, here’s a cool article I read about the Higgs boson and the concept from the Standard Model of physics that the visible universe only constitutes four percent of the actual universe (The Missing 96%” –Higgs Boson Will Help Unravel Mystery of the Invisible Universe). Whoa! I think it’s really cool that our universe is more complex than we are able to currently comprehend. But look down at the comments, where people start the God vs. science debate. Argh!

First, one without God:

It’s all made up. 96%, 99.9999%… It doesn’t matter because how can you say how much of UNDETECTABLE stuff is actually missing?

That’s just someone who doesn’t understand science, I think. And it’s answered by another commenter:

…we can detect dark matter [the missing 96%] through gravity, which is how we know it’s there.

Then we have

That’s an awfully big statement to be made if you don’t bring the word God into the calculation.

The origin of matter has been solved? Put all your theories together and then ask, where did that come from?

Good question. I think God is part of it. I think these theories can be valid AND God can be behind it all. Not everyone agrees, though. And this is a science article, not a religion article, so…no discussion of God! That doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist.

Then there’s  guy who posts a short BASIC program which I think is some kind of Bible fortuneteller program, and then he uses it to post Bible quotes. Parody, I think. And there are even a couple of people who appear to be actually discussing the science.

Oh,  here’s one I really like:

What if there never was a beginning at all, and things have always existed ? We make a huge assumption — a hidden one so big it is like the elephant in the room — when we ask how things “started.”

This is a great question to ponder, both in relation to science and to God. After all, Christian doctrine (I’m not sure about other religions) says that God at least has always existed. Is everything that exists a separate creation by God, or is it all a part of God and has therefore always existed? And if E=mc2 means that matter and energy are equivalent and neither can be created or destroyed, does that mean that everything has always existed, too?

ANYWAY, why can’t we all just get along? Why is science so threatening to some believers, and why is religion so threatening to some non-believers?

I got a free PDF of this book for blogging purposes, but I liked the first chapters so well that I paid for the actual ebook so I could finish reading it on my phone (which is where I seem to do most of my reading now).

I also told my husband that this book could have been written specifically for him. And then he read it and agreed!

Being Jesus In Nashville started off as a bit of a gimmick – Jim Palmer was going to do a modern version of In His Steps, the 19th century classic that first asked, “What Would Jesus Do?” He was going to apply the question to his own life and write about his experiences. Simple enough, right?

But it turned into a book that his publisher declared “outside the bounds of biblical, orthodox Christianity.” And he suddenly found himself without a publisher. So this book is now self-published.

What happened? It’s hard to explain quickly – but really, it’s right there in the title. Jim asks whether a person, like himself, can BE Jesus. Not just be LIKE Jesus — BE Jesus. That’s the controversial part. But he’s not saying I’M GOD, WE’RE ALL GOD, either.

It’s worth reading just to try to make sense of it all. Palmer’s written a couple of other books, which he refers to during this one. I rather wished I had read them before, but I don’t think its necessary, either.

Find out more about Being Jesus in Nashville (and how to buy a copy on Amazon) at Palmer’s blog.

I guess I didn’t notice that this is really a book for pastors. I am neither a pastor, nor currently a church leader, so it didn’t exactly speak to me. It is full of good information and ideas, though. The first section is about power; how power has traditionally been used (or in some cases, abused) in the church, and how pastors can change that. The second section deals with servant leadership, and the third is a practical section about prayer, scripture reading, following the ancient monastic vows of povery, chastity and obedience, and becoming a servant leader.

I found the practical information most helpful — it was a good reminder to add some structure to my spiritual life, with concrete ideas for doing so.

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to change the way you pastor.

Before reading this book, almost everything I knew about Justin Bieber came from Glee. Or secondhand from Twitter (I don’t follow Bieber, who’s a fairly prolific and honest tweeter). And maybe a little bit from my kids, but they’re not huge fans either.

So Bieber’s story was completely new to me anyway, but reading it with a spiritual twist, and from the point of view of a woman my own age, put it into a good context for me.

Cathleen Falsani (author of The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers) admits that she was only minimally aware of Bieber before writing this book. She became interested after seeing a February 2011 Rolling Stone article titled “The Adventures of Super Boy: God, girls and boatloads of swag.”

And indeed, Justin was open about his faith in the interview. This is the one where he talked about homosexuality (he thinks it’s none of his business) and abortion (he’s against it, but also says “I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that”).

But faith is part of his overall story, too, especially from his mother’s point of view. Much of the book really discusses Justin’s mother’s faith, rather than his own.

Falsani takes us through Justin’s history starting from before he was born to a teenage mother, through his childhood and into his current teen years. She recounts events that are probably familiar to the true Beliebers, like how he became a YouTube sensation, and how he ended up with a record deal.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to directly interview Bieber or people close to him for the book. So the information is coming from other interviews, and from Twitter. In fact, the advance copy I read includes several pages of tweets by Justin and his mother.

What’s clear is that Justin Bieber has grown up surrounded by faith, and that it’s part of who he is. I’d also say that’s he’s still very young, and his faith is still developing. Right now, he’s got the faith he’s grown up with; the faith of his family and friends. Like other young people, he’s still going to have to figure out whether this faith is authentically his own, and something he can live out as an adult.

ADDENDUM: I had my 11-year-old daughter read the book, too. She said that a lot of it was things that she already knew from Bieber’s movie. She also didn’t like reading pages and pages of tweets. She thought some younger people and teens might be interested, but that this book was geared more toward adults.

 


This book has a SQUIRREL on the cover. I have no idea why. Somebody should figure that out. [update: my husband reminded me that there’s a story about a squirrel in the introduction. I was too busy thinking “SQUIRREL?!” and thinking about this.]

The subtitle is The Art of Not-Evangelism. I love this. I have never felt like traditional, getting-people-saved evangelism was an effective tactic. Actually, I’ve never felt like the whole philosophy of “let’s convert people and get them to attend our church on Sunday” was a good one. So this book is right up my alley.

According to Medearis, “making disciples of all nations” doesn’t mean we have to get everyone to go to church on Sunday, subscribe to a certain set of theological beliefs, or recite a certain prayer or prayers. It just means helping people to develop a relationship with Jesus and to follow Jesus.

And that’s it. It’s about Jesus. Not about Christianity or any other religion.

I loved it. It’s well-told and easy to read.

Here’s a sample:

Visit Carl Medearis’s blog.

Buy this book from Powells.com

We went to see the movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last weekend, and while it was often quite different from the book, the Christian messages included by C.S. Lewis were definitely still there.

Not everyone sees this, though, so if you’re interested in knowing more about the Christian themes in the book, Carl McColman’s book The Lion, the Mouse, and the Dawn Treader: Spiritual Lessons from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia is a great place to start. McColman goes through the book chapter by chapter, tracing the lessons. It’s a good analysis, especially for those who are new either to Narnia or to Christianity.

We chose the Beatitudes as one of the readings at our wedding, because my husband felt it was a meaningful passage for him (although we really weren’t even churchgoers at the time). Today, we heard it once again at church.

These are all ideas from the pastor’s sermon — I didn’t come up with this myself! But it made a lot of sense to me, so I wanted to share it.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12, THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I’ve seen the Beatitudes interpreted a couple of different ways. First, they are often seen as prescriptions for how we should live — we should be poor in spirit (humble), pure in heart, merciful, etc. We should be OK with being persecuted; it just proves that we’re doing all the right things!

Or, we think that Jesus is saying “It’s OK if you’re broken-hearted, or if people persecute you, because you’ll be rewarded later, so don’t worry about it!” Yay, pie in the sky!

Both of these are lacking something, I think.

So, in the sermon, Dustin suggested that perhaps the Beatitudes are an invitation, and a message of inclusiveness, instead! Jesus is saying that everyone is welcome in the kingdom — the broken-hearted, the meek, the mourners, those who are persecuted by society, as well as those who are already pure in heart, hunger and thirst for righteousness, etc.

Jesus didn’t exclude anyone from the kingdom — and neither can we.

Life with three kids is full of noise. And so is my head. Sometimes it’s because of the noise around me, and sometimes it’s my own fault. Sometimes I’m constantly on the computer, looking for something, anything, to keep my brain busy.

And usually, my brain is happier when it’s busy. I don’t like having to sit and wait and do nothing. I want to at least have something to read.

But sometimes, I recognize that what I really need is some quiet, and I’m seeing that right now.

I have a lot to do tomorrow. I don’t have to work, so I’m planning to take care of multiple errands and household tasks. But maybe I can carve out a time and place for quiet; if not tomorrow, then maybe some evening soon.

One place I like for quiet is The Grotto, also known as The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother. It’s a Catholic sanctuary on Rocky Butte in Portland, Oregon, with 62 acres of gardens and chapels. It’s peaceful and beautiful, with indoor and outdoor spaces, and it’s much less expensive than the typical spiritual retreat (free to visit the lower level; $4.00 to ride the elevator to the upper level).

Just thinking about it makes me smile.

Today was a difficult day. Did I get through it? Yes. Did I use coping strategies to get through it? Yes. I took some deep breaths, took myself offline for a little while to eliminate stress, and went for a two-mile walk. I also reached out to a higher power. Did this connection help me get through today? YES.

Part of the difficulty today was an encounter on Twitter with a couple of people who have a problem with me believing in this higher power. In the past, I’ve been more likely to get upset about encounters with religious fundamentalists who think that everyone MUST believe as they do, and practice religion as they do. But today it was atheists — who also think that everyone should believe as they do. And today, they were insisting that Christianity is evil, and encourages people to kill, and what kind of God allows children to be killed or molested, anyway?

And it got to the point where it was simply not a healthy conversation any more.

For now, I’ve unfollowed them on Twitter. That just means they won’t show up in my timeline while I’m on Twitter. I haven’t blocked them from my life. I’ve actually known one of them for several years, and I don’t want to do that. But I can’t take a daily barrage of what I’m starting to feel is hate speech.

Other than that — I’m hoping to move forward with a loving attitude, and without entering into potentially hurtful conversations.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. (First Thessalonians 5:16-18a)

Paul gives this advice to the Thessalonian church, and it’s a list that transcends time; I certainly find it as useful in the 21st century as it presumably was in the first.

But how? OK, maybe I’m not literally CONTINUAL about it. But I do reach out often for a hand, a rope, a presence. And if I don’t know what to say, I fall back on a couple of short prayers that are easily memorized and repeated.

One is similar to Paul’s advice above.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 118:29, paraphrased from the NRSV)

This phrase appears in many of the Psalms and in other books of the Bible; I can imagine people throughout the ages repeating these words.

And the other is the Jesus Prayer, a traditional prayer of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I got this one from Madeleine L’Engle, who described especially falling back on the Jesus Prayer when waking up with middle-of-the-night anxieties. I’ve read about it elsewhere since then (and even seen it on Twitter), but that was where I first heard about it.

In times of joy, anxiety, grief, or any time at all, this is where I go.

This post was triggered by my reading of the daily devotional from The Upper Room; reading this is a great daily practice and I urge you to check it out if you’re interested.