The Contemplative Life

Finding God in family, work, reading and relationships

Your true trust is elsewhere.

From a post by Pete Enns:

Eschatology means: “We have brought you to where things are as they should be. You are at the place where you can now–finally–have reason to hope. Trust in us. Fear not.” Eschatology means the pinnacle of true humanity, where wrongs are righted, all is at peace, and the human drama comes to its fullest expression.

They all say that.

When we fear, or rage, or are depressed about politics, it means we have invested something of our deep selves into an “eschatology”–into a promise that all will be well, provided you come with us.

Join me, as I just don’t get that into politics.

Book Review: Still–Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis

You’ve been around the block a few times. You’ve read Eat, Pray, Love. So you understand what I mean if I refer to a post-divorce memoir.  Oddly enough, I started a different post-divorce novel recently, called Life From Scratch. It turns out it only looked like a memoir – it was really a novel. I gave up on it, because, bless her heart, I didn’t care about the main character.Still-Winner-Lauren The point of a divorce is not a new man, honey.

But back to the actual point. Lauren Winner has written a post-divorce memoir, a book called Still.  And while I liked Eat, Pray, Love, I REALLY liked Still.  I’ve decided anyone can be honest.  Fewer people can be honest and funny. Only a subset of them can be those, plus have something meaningful to say.  And a very tiny fraction of THOSE seem to speak from your other heart- the same personality you have, or almost have, or would have if you’d picked a different family to be born into.

The book is framed about the result of a divorce. But it rests almost comfortably in a place where there is no plot. There’s no determination to fix things, or recover, or find a new man. Or even find God. Except that Winner wishes she wanted to find God, and the book is about that time in the middle- after a strong beginning, but during the aching grey that life drags us through.

I probably can’t get much closer to my own voice than Lauren Winner. Over-educated, a reader who doesn’t mind being alone. Deeply spiritual while also a skeptic. And I read this while I am also in the midst of a Middle, a place between enthusiasms in the faith.

So, I’m not sure I would just recommend this to anyone, as I consider myself a bit.. nontraditional. But if you’re the sort of Christian who doesn’t feel as secure as those around you, or you’ve lost the voice of God, or you are stuck in a Hard Place in life, and it has carried you far from God and the approval of His cheerleaders –
You will like this book.

Later that night, I find myself thinking, maybe this is a way of inhabiting faith that is, indeed, faithful; that is generative. Maybe God has given some people belief like a pier, to stand on (and God has given those people’s steadiness to the church, to me, as a reminder, as an aid), and maybe God has given others something else: maybe God has given to some this humming sense that we know nothing, this belief and disbelief a hundred times an hour, this training in nimbleness (and maybe that is a gift to the church, too).

Book Review: Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son by Anne Lamott and Sam Lamott.   20bookYes, I’m the type of Christian who likes Anne Lamott.  She’s the sort of author who polarizes – either you are the sort who thinks she really gets it, or the sort that doesn’t even think she knows the same Jesus.

Having said that, Some Assembly Required isn’t my favorite of her books.  In concept, it is about her first grandchild, and how this baby affects her life and loves, and the life and loves of her son.  In execution, it feels like a free-flow recording of Anne’s journals and emails with her son. Themes emerge, but almost in spite of the organization of the writing.

But since hanging out with Anne is always very interesting, I didn’t mind much. We are completely different personalities, so I don’t get the eternal worry and the meddling.  But I do understand the struggling to grow and trust, and I admire her honesty and willingness to let it all hang out there and give it a good airing.  You can trust Anne to come to the conclusion that life is good, life is hard, and life is better in community.

“Life is mostly okay right now, sometimes lovely and peaceful; and when it’s not, it’s hard and weird for my nineteen-year-old son to have a baby, and the scary parts feel like they could break you. But then those parts pass, against all odds, and things are mostly okay again, temporarily. Until they get hard and weird again and break your heart. It’s not a great system. If I were God’s West Coast rep, I’d come up with something easier, whose outcome you could bank on.”

Some Assembly Required was co-written with son Sam Lamott.

Thinking Christianly on July 4

Your—our—overall social vision, our values and theories about government, our views of the role of the state, the relative goodness of taxes, the need to work for the common good, the confidence in the legitimate calling of the government, by God, should be rooted and grounded and driven by Holy Scripture and the unfolding drama of thoughtful Christians trying to fruitfully and faithfully work it out over time.   reminds-fortunate-live-country-independence-day-ecard-someecards

When we weigh in on the issues on facebook or speak out at a local forum or chat over beer in the backyard, we obviously should be humble and civil–please!—but, also, we should try to align our views with the historic, Christian understandings of the nature of institutions in society, the role of the state, and the Bible’s call for public justice for all.  In other words, we give witness to new angles of vision that may not be typically right nor left nor centrist and that might appear insightful (or idealist, if your conversation partner doesn’t have a vivid imagination) and might offer fresh ways out of our impasses; moving forward by looking backwards a bit, perhaps. 

At least it should be clear that we are non-conformed to the ideas of the ideologues, independent thinkers with our loyalties to the Christian tradition as it points us to God’s will for shalom.  And part of God’s desire is illustrated by Psalm 72:1,  a plea and a prayer, for an ancient ruler that still resonates down through the ages: "Give the King thy justice O Lord." 

Byron Borger
Bookseller and essayist. Books offered to further this journey on sale here.

Apparently I should read more Wendell Berry


Let’s see… Maryilynne Robinson, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Barbara Kingsolver, Annie Dillard, Eugene Peterson…

Yep, that about describes me.

Jesus likes the lucky 10,000

Love is patient.
Love is kind.


Seriously. This made me choke up.

Book Review: Love Does

Love_DoesThere are some people who are determined to fling themselves into life with purpose and power. There are some people who are excellent writers, and can describe their lives and feelings with clarity and depth.
Some people are both exuberant companions and great writers.

Unfortunately, Bob Goff isn’t one of them. The book “Love Does,” by Goff’s own admission, is the result of his decision to write down all the major events in his life, and think about how each has taught him more about Jesus. And wow- there are major events. Getting into law school by, basically, refusing to leave it. Freeing child slaves in Uganda and India. Sailing to Hawaii with a box of chili and a compass.  Climbing Half Dome with his 10-year-old son in a snowstorm… because his son wanted to. Deciding to ride a skateboard to work after his car gets stolen. Having a “Bible Doing” group instead of a “Bible Study” group. Bob is a great story-teller, and I would love to sit on a porch with him. He would get me off my butt and into life and Jesus’ kingdom.

The book is arranged into 31 chapters, and each one is an event and a lesson. Each one of these events makes a marvelous story – like a short testimony, or sermon. They’re written in a casual, entertaining, authentic style. The problem is that they keep coming, and coming, and each one is short, and just not very deep.  Occasionally, they are painful, like his equating “leaking” the character of Jesus like the way his jeep leaks oil after the big accident.

There are also a couple of completely fabulous stories, particularly the one about his children contacting each head of state in every country of the world, asking if they could come visit and be friends. And I would love nothing more than Bob Goff sell a trillion of these books, because he’s donating all the profits to his work educating children in Uganda (Restore International). And because he’s a completely awesome guy who would give you his car (or skateboard) if you asked. Maybe Tracy Kidder will be free, soon, and can write up Bob Goff’s story in a way that adds “literary” to his story.

For now, I recommend this book if you like to read small bits of things over a long period of time. Or if you want to read about a guy who loves Jesus but demands action. Or if you like Young Life. Or if you are a huge fan of whimsy.  This is a book written by a great guy, but it isn’t a fabulous book.  But hey – I can’t write a book either. And it feels like throwing stones when all I did this week was sit at a computer all day.

From the book:


Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through BookSneeze®.

Lent 7: 40 days is a long time


Illustrations by Simon Smith

Lent Day 5: God crowds our feet


God bestows three blessings on man: to feed him like the birds, dress him like the flowers, and befriend him as a confidant. Too many take the first two and neglect the last. Sooner or later you figure out life is constructed specifically and brilliantly to squeeze a man into association with the Owner of heaven. It is a struggle, with labor pains and thorny landscape, bloody hands and sweaty brow, head in hands, moments of severe loneliness and questioning, moments of ache and desire. All this leads to God…

Life is a dance toward God, I begin to think. And the dance is not so graceful as we might want. For a while we glide and swing our practiced sway, God crowds our feet, bumps our toes, and scuffs our shoes.  So we learn to dance with the One who made us. And it is a difficult dance to learn, because its steps are foreign.

Donald Miller, “Through Painted Deserts

Through the church God will announce

“According to the early Christians, the church doesn’t exist in order to provide a place where people can pursue their private spiritual agendas and develop their own spiritual potential. Nor does it exist in order to provide a safe haven in which people can hide from the wicked world and ensure that they themselves arrive safely at an otherworldly destination. Private spiritual growth and ultimate salvation come rather as the by-products of the main, central, overarching purpose for which God has called and is calling us. This purpose is clearly stated in various places in the New Testament: that through the church God will announce to the wider world that he is indeed its wise, loving, and just creator; that through Jesus he has defeated the powers that corrupt and enslave it; and that by his Spirit he is at work to heal and renew it.”

N.T. Wright