Thursday, March 20, 2008

Looking for God: an unexpected journey through tattoos, tofu & pronouns

So, still feeling miserable after going home from work last night I curled up on the couch and watched a movie. ( was fun and brainless, what can I say?) After that I decided to read a book I'd been wanting to read, but had been to busy to begin. Last night was the perfect time.
The book, Looking for God: An Unexpected Journey Through Tattoos, Tofu & Pronouns by Nancy Ortberg was a perfect book to read. It moved fast, was easy to understand and articulated much of what I have been thinking for the past couple years. I found myself wanting to highlight vast portions - but it wasn't my book - I borrowed it from Julie. I am gonna buy my own copy though, because I liked it and would find it easy and comfortable to pass along to my friends. Ortberg's reflections are personal, insightful and thought provoking with out being judgmental and harsh. She, in fact is on the journey with us all, and is very open about her faults and mis-steps. Interesting chapters include: The Problem With Quiet Time (finally!), Could We Please Stop Talking Like This? (Amen!), Shoes (wow!) and my favorite considering where I've found myself over the past couple years: Longings, Aches, and Pains.
Here are some excerpts:

"I am applauded when I speak in terms of blessings and power. But people nervously shift and move to change the subject when I mention that things are sometimes difficult and that something might be wrong with me."

"..God is so often the most real to me when I go to those difficult places. Yet I want to avoid them, and quiet them, and pretend they are not real."

"But for most of my life, I have met God most deeply in the middle of the hard stuff. I didn't know much, but I knew that. So instead of burying it, I chose to face it and pay attention to it. I chose to wrestle with it and try to listen. And I chose to live with it and all the tension and sadness it produced."

"Two of the most powerful things that God offers us are His grace and His forgiveness. Yet when we insist on ignoring the difficult parts of life, we are effectively saying that we don't need those two things. So the power of God is lost in our lives. And we wonder why following Him has become predictable and dull."

"...your mistakes are not stronger than God's love for you. That realization builds a strong central core in your soul that is unshakable. If we face them, our longings, aches, and pains take us to an alone place. Perhaps that is why we avoid them. But if we refuse to avoid them, we find what is true about the alone place. That it isn't alone."

"We all have black holes in our souls that keep anything from filling us up for too long. They keep us in a constant state of neediness, always seeking reinforcement through pleasure and comfort and busyness. But if we allow ourselves to experience the longing, refusing easy answers for the aches and pains, we'll slowly build solid bedrock of God in our souls. Those alone places create a foundation that closes up the black hole for good."

"She encouraged him to face the issue, not ignore, avoid, or drown it out. She talked about being willing to wrestle with God, and to take the pain head-on rather than trying to numb it through destructive behaviors. To listen, to search, to struggle, and to wait."

"Henri Nouwen wrote that we have nothing to offer others if we don't know that we are loved by God. Of all the places we go to get love, our longings, aches, and pains are the most powerful and convincing. If we have the courage to go there and to live there in healthy ways, we will surely find that healing awaits us."

So, when I finished this wonderful book of essays, all I could say was - How did Nancy get inside my head???

I will leave you with this final thought from another chapter which pretty much sums up how I look at things these days....

"I am better equipped to live out a faith that is real when I have wrestled and read and thought and prayed about what I really believe. Who is God? How is He different than what I have thought? What is His true nature?"

I appreciate and highly recommend this book - find a copy and read it - you won't be sorry!

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