February 6, 2007

Great Books

I've been reading two books lately that are shifting my life perspective.

The first one is Shattered Dreams: God's Unexpected Pathway to Joy. I heard about it in Ireland, bought it right away, and couldn't make myself work through it. Back in December I called a friend in Rochester and asked if she wanted to read it with me. We've talked and prayed together once a week since then (except when my busy-ness or flakiness gets in the way).

Much of modern American Christianity centers around an idea that if God loves me, life circumstances will work out nicely. Obviously, no loving God would ever let his child suffer. Shattered Dreams contends that God's definition of fulfillment, growth and love involves letting lesser dreams (health, prosperity, easy relationships) shatter in order to create a hunger in us for the greater dream of His presence and reality. The author claims that God really does satisfy our longings, but as long as we are content with smaller things, we'll never know that. It's been HARD to wrestle with the author's ideas and my own places of disappointment with God's methods. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting glimpses of Bigness, of Joy and of ways that Who He Is are completely amazing. It's making the Bible come alive in a most satisfactory way. With the American Christian perspective of the Happy Life, the Bible doesn't work. It's too full of things that seem cruel or confusing. But with an understanding of God's relentless passion, it starts to make sense and humble me with it's beauty and integrity.

I guess technically, that means the Bible is the second book, but I've also been reading Velvet Elvis during my work commute. (I figured that busting out a book called Shattered Dreams on the train might make people nervous I would go postal...) The layout of the book was off-putting to the designer in me.

He likes to have one sentence paragraphs.


The whole book is in quick snippets that can get a bit aggravating.

Visually speaking.

Yet he goes into cool random facts about Jewish culture, rabbis, and how Jesus as a Jewish rabbi was addressing all the current hot topics. For instance a rabbi's interpretation for how to apply the law, or Torah, was called a yoke. A disciple would try to take on a rabbi's yoke, to live by those teachings. So when Jesus says, "take my yoke, it's easy and light" he wasn't talking about an oxen analogy. That one has dovetailed into the other in how the Bible holds together. He also blows apart Happy Christianity and talks about having real Hope instead.

What have been your life-altering books? Previously for me they were mostly novels like Narnia, or Francine Rivers books, I'm feeling all grown up reading non-fiction and letting it change me.


k. said...

I think it was Bonhoeffer who did me in. The Cost of Discipleship was the first book I read as a convert that didn't reassure me my life was going to be just swell now that I was a Christian, and Life Together was the first book I had read that spurred me on to true accountability without telling me that Christian community was all unicorns and rainbows and cupcakes. I still go back to Letters from Prison when I need a spiritual kick in the butt.

Also, his paragraphs are so chock-full of stuff that it's like swimming through blackstrap molasses. That, too, did me in.

scarp said...

Ironically enough, one of my life-altering books was the one you gave me to read (and I took years to return, because I read it multiple times - and then bought it for myself when I did return it) - "The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God", by Curtis & Eldredge. (sorry - I don't know how to italicize or underline..) When I let it, or am concious of it, this book's premise makes me see the Bible and life from a very different perspective. Have you read that one recently at all? I wonder how it would line up with the 2 you are currently reading.

Inkling said...

Shattered Dreams saved my life after a broken engagement. I can't remember how I heard about it, but reading it kept me from going off the deep end. As for Velvet Elvis, I LOVE the author's way with words and how he has shaken up my understanding of God's love for me. I actually have not yet gotten my hands on that books, but have benefitted greatly from his videos. Very cool reads, indeed.

Ah...just reading the other comments and book titles mentioned takes me back to such incredible times when God used human words to point me to Him time and again. The company of good books is more valuable than gold.

Snickollet said...

I can't wait to check out both of these books. Shattered Dreams sounds like it could be particularly helpful to me right now.

While not life-changing on a spiritual level, I just read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and found it very thought-provoking. There are so many "beware what you eat" books out there now, but I found Pollan's writing and perspective to be well worth the read.