Friday, June 23, 2006

Through Painted Deserts and Messy Spirituality

Jesse's leaving for Louisiana tomorrow, and I don't think that it's completely sunk in to me yet. I baked about six dozen muffins for him to take on the trip, but it still seems unreal. In our 6-1/2 years together, we've never been apart for more than 48 hours. Nine days is a long time to be apart from each other. It's going to be hard on Mia too. This week she didn't see Doogie and Molly as much as usual, and her short temper has shown the results of that. I don't know what a long separation from Daddy will do. Keep praying for us, and pray especially for Jess and the crew's safety.

Through Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller is not the book I was expecting. Miller puts a caveat at the end of the book explaining that he wanted to get away from heavy theological content for this book; I wish he had put it at the beginning so I wouldn't have been so disappointed. Reading the book in comparison with his previous two entries: Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What will let down the reader. Reading it knowing that it is a book about a road trip and a journey to something more makes it a much better book and thoroughly enjoyable. It takes Miller awhile to get started and at times he waxes a little too poetic, but the rapport between him and his traveling partner Paul is honest and refreshing. Miller's honesty is a bit disconcerting during the course of the book. He shares his thoughts and actions openly, even when they portray him as less thalikeablele. This is really the story of two men relying upon God to take them from Houston, Texas to Black Butte Mountain, Oregon with side trips to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas in a beat up VW van, and trust me, relying upon God in that van is necessary. The book closes with one of Miller's usual beautifully written piece about the majesty of God and the smallness of man as the two men watch a sunrise over the mountains of Oregon. Most journeys are more about the trip than the destination. In this book, I would say that the book is all about the destination: it's about the peace and faith the two find after their journey.

Messy Spirituality by Michael Yaconelli is the antithesis to many Christian books on the market today. The majority of those books contain a formula or plan to help you straighten out your life to get closer to God or alternatively, get closer to God so you can straighten out your life. While those books are well-intentioned, Yaconelli makes a good point for keeping our spirituality messy. Only by getting stuck can we get unstuck, so sometimes it's good for us to be in a bad place. Yaconelli embraces the ups and downs of faith and encourages the reader not to beat themselves up for the times they feel distant from the Lord. He makes some excellent points about how Jesus himself was wild and out of control in his spirituality based on the mores of the day. And the people Jesus chose for his followers weren't straight-up people. These were people who had serious messes, and Jesus embraced them anyway. Toward the end of the book, Yaconelli tells some very moving stories about how it's really the small decisions we make every day that determine who we are and where we are with God, far more than the big decisions. He definitely gave me a lot to think about. His words will stick with me for awhile, and I'm glad of it.

I was up late last night finishing Waking Lazarus by T.L. Hines. This is definitely a book everyone needs to run out and buy. It isn't available until July 1st, but you can pre-order it from here I'll be doing a full review of it on June 28 to help promote its release. Enjoy the weekend!