Why I Must Buy the Books

“Here it is,” she said. “This is the book I’ve been telling you about! It’s the most amazing book ever! It’s just incredible. I just know you will love it too. It will seriously change your life. I can’t wait for you to read it!!”

Now excited, I replied, “Well thank you for letting me borrow it! Can’t wait to read it! ” 

“Oh, just one thing,” she added, “Make sure you don’t bend the cover or any of the pages or write in it or anything. I NEVER fold the pages or write in my books,” she scoffed. “That’s just crazy.” 

*BLINK*BLINK*

You guys. I have this love/hate relationship with books. 

Well, that’s not exactly true. 

I have a love/hate relationship with buying books. 

Sort of.

You see, the minimalist/debt-free evangelist in me leans toward the end of the spectrum where my mind says things to me like:

-You don’t need to own something to enjoy it. You can just get books at the library.

-What about all that de-cluttering you’ve done over your lifetime? Remember how freeing that was? You don’t really want to fill your space up again with a bunch more stuff, even if that stuff is books, do you? 

If you love books so much, just buy them digitally. They’re a fraction of the price and you can carry a whole library anywhere on your phone! That’s better, isn’t it? 

Every time you spend $7.86 at Amazon on that new release, you could have donated that money to {insert worthy, well-researched organization here} Imagine how much money that would be over a lifetime? 

I know, I know. And all those things are logical and even accurate. 
But y’all… Guess what’s at the other end of that spectrum? 

My heart. And my heart loves books like it’s my flippin’ J. O. B. 

Real books. Real, printed words, on real, amazing-smelling paper. Real, creatively designed covers with carefully chosen images and fonts. Real, actual pages to dog-ear and flip. The very reason bookmarks exist. Exhilarating. 

But my absolute favorite part of the books? (Besides holding them and turning pages and smelling them? Okay. It’s possible I have issues.) 

My favorite part is the margins

The beautiful, blank margins. 

The margins are the place where the books come alive to me. Because that’s where I document the difference they make in my life. The connections they make with me. The ways those words on paper are making me think and question and wrestle with new insights. 

Those margins allow the book to come to life. To come into my life. 

As I add my words and thoughts, the book becomes part of my life. If I read a book that doesn’t make me highlight and scribble in the margins, it’s likely a book I won’t at all enjoy or even remember. 

The margins make that book a living, breathing, changing thing. A story to connect to and journey with. The margins make that book part of my very own journey.  

That book lent to me, so pristine and museum-quality? I should have handed it back to her right away, but I didn’t want to seem rude. So I took it straight home, sat it carefully on the top shelf of my bookcase, and ordered my own copy from Amazon. And she was right. It was an incredible book, and my copy was full of life in the margins. (Her copy was returned to her “unharmed,” of course)

Do you, like me, love the margins, the notes you scribble in them, the ways you connect with real, live books? Then we get each other. 

I’ve been reading (and scribbling/circling/highlighting in) some wonderful books this summer. I’ll be sharing some of them here soon, in hopes you’ll be inspired to go out and get  your own real, actual copies and make them come to life too. 

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Monkey Town Read-Along: Week 1

The back cover of the book states, in bold print at the top:

KNOWING ALL THE ANSWERS ISN’T AS IMPORTANT AS ASKING THE QUESTIONS

For some things, this statement doesn’t sit very well with me. For example, if I’m going in for surgery, it’s not a motto that I’d like to see hanging on the wall next to my surgeon’s med school diploma. I’d kind of like him to know the answers when it comes to the why and where and when and how of cutting me open. Because surgery is something that must be precise. There’s not a lot of room for doubting and questioning, you know what I’m sayin’? I like my surgeons to have lots and lots of definitive answers…not questions.

But faith is not surgery. No matter how hard we try to make it so, it’s really not exact and precise. In fact it can get pretty messy and even uncomfortable at times. That’s why it’s faith.  Scripture, the scripture that I believe to be wholly inspired by God, even tells us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we cannot see.” (Heb 11:1) I think that in almost every way, our entire lives are spent pressing toward the place where we become content with that exact definition of faith.

Last week I started a new summer read-along that I’m doing with some folks over at my new friend Marla’s blog. The book is called Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans. It’s about one woman’s journey through the questions we all (likely) ask of our faith. She just had the cojones to ask them out loud, on paper, through thousands of copies out in front of the world. If she can be so bold, can’t we??

Part of the reason it’s taken me a week to write this post is because I felt the need to establish a bit of context for my comments about this book. Much like Rachel, I felt like I needed to tell my own personal faith story in order for anyone to know where I was coming from in reference to this book or my own questions about faith. So I took the time to go back and piece together story of how my faith was born. If you’re interested, check it out here, but be warned, it is looooooong.

Okay so let’s get on with it, shall we?

This week’s assignment was only to read and comment on the preface and introduction to the book. Lemme tell ya…that was plenty for me. Here are some things that stood out to me:

  1. Deep breath…..I forgive you, Rachel, for referring to apes (via Koko the Gorilla and Dian Fossey references) as monkeys. It’s a common problem and a personal pet peeve of mine. I am going to assume you did so on purpose so as to keep up the clever reference to the Scopes Monkey Trial throughout the book. Enough about that.  Deep breath….
  2. The introduction is actually entitled “Why I Am An Evolutionist.” I thought this was a very good use of this sometimes-dirty word. I don’t really get what the big deal is. To evolve means to change into something new… evolution is actually defined by the good folks at Merriam-Webster as “a process of change in a certain direction.” By that definition, all of us are evolving, either into something more and better than we are now or something less that we hoped we’d be. The direction is what matters. As Christians, we are called to constantly becoming more Christ-like every day. That is an evolution if I’ve ever heard of it, and certainly in one specific direction. So if our actual being is changing to become more like our Savior, then wouldn’t our understanding of that process (our faith) constantly be changing along with it? It would have to. I know that because of God in my life, I understand more about Him, myself, and others around me that I ever have. Therefore my faith itself has changed. For example, I love my husband. He is one of the most important parts of my life. But when I learned, through studying the Word and prayer, that he could not be THE most important thing in my life, the way I interacted with him changed. I no longer looked to him to give me my identity or my worth. That’s a job he couldn’t do. Those things only come from God, so I have to go to Him with those needs. When I do, my foundation is firm and I can live confidently and love my husband better because I am not expecting him to do things that he cannot do. My faith in God is actually bigger because that understanding has changed…it has evolved into a faith that allows me to put God before my husband, which enables me to honor both. So I am not scared to say that indeed our faith evolves. In fact, if it does not…are we living fully and growing at all?
  3. My faith began with lots of questions. I have a feeling it will always include and even end with questions upon questions. That doesn’t scare me either. I feel like if I had everything all settled and felt like God was figured out and I could explain every miraculous event and I had a quick, neat little response for everything God-related… then how big could God really be? Isn’t the fact that we humans cannot figure him out and explain his reasoning and all that just more proof that He is in fact, God? God is enigmatic, and if He weren’t, then what would about him would be worth worshipping? I have experienced many cool things in my life, but none of them were worth reshaping my whole world around. God is. And the sheer fact that he is so awe-inducing and beyond my tiny understanding is what makes Him worth giving my whole life to. I know there will always be things about Him and His decisions that I do not understand. But if I allow them to produce anxiety and fear and doubt in me, then really I think He’s keeping something from me that I need and I question His motives. If I do that, then do I really trust Him? Not so much. If I believe that God is good and loves me and knows what is best for me, then I’ll understand that He gives me knowledge about what I need to know (and what I can handle) when I need to know it. I trust that whatever I don’t know yet is just because I have what I need to know right now. He gets to call the shots when it comes to tell me more details. I am okay with that because I know that He gives me only good things.
  4. What about monkeys (APES!!) and evolution and old earth vs. new earth and evolution and all that stuff?? I do not believe science and faith to be mutually exclusive at all. The bible says that God created everything in 6 days. It also says that a day in the Lord is like a thousand years. So does that mean He created everything in 6000 years? Hmmmm. I think this: God created everything. All I have to do is look at a newborn baby or see the Fibonacci sequence in nature to know that there is a rhyme and reason to all things. Things like the way food chains work, the way that our body heals itself, and the vast diversity of species on the earth and deep in the sea… those incredible things don’t point to a happy accident that resulted in a long line of events leading up to the birth of human beings to me. No way. There is purpose in everything, everywhere. Those things point to a Creator who knew what He had in mind when it was created. It doesn’t matter how long it took for Him to create it. The point is…whether is was 6 days or 6000 years or 60 billion years, humans couldn’t have made it happen. A couple of molecules and some heat couldn’t have done it. It’s beyond our understanding…it’s an unfathomable task, regardless of the time it took. I am not dismissing the discussion about it, but again, I love the wonder it creates in me….it’s not going to shake my faith in any way shape or form. God chose men to breathe his Word into. Therefore, when they penned the writings that He knew would eventually be the compilation of what He wanted to say to us in that way, He had to allow those scribes to put it in language that we could wrap our minds around. So whether he had allowed the scribe who penned Genesis to say “6 days” or “6 billion years” we would still question it. It’s amazing that God created everything and He still loves and cares for us. He is outside of our complete understanding, outside of time and space. The fact that He’s let us in on even some of His big story is amazing.
  5. On page 18 of the introduction, Rachel uses this sentence: So fearful of losing their grip on faith, they squeeze the life out of it. She is referring to fundamentalists, or people who “think God is pretty much figured out already” and He’s “done telling us anything new.” (pg. 17) I’ve known a few people like this in my day, haven’t you? Those churchy folk who refuse to allow their children to participate in science class for fear of what they might learn. Those people who don’t believe in healing because that only happened “back in bible times.” Those church leaders who insist their congregants dress a certain way and cover any tattoos and cut their hair because by golly, that’s what Jesus would have looked like if he’d had the modern conveniences of a suit and a shave. Um, yeah…those folks. Don’t they just seem to drain the life out of everything? If that’s what people want to believe, then that’s fine…but don’t go slapping a Jesus fish on it. Because that’s not what Jesus was like. He questioned things. He rebuked the folks who looked like they had it all together. He shot straight to the heart when people came around wanting to look cool on the outside. He didn’t have time for all that. He was busy trying to bring life to people. And I would rather do that too. I’d rather focus on bringing life to people around me rather than holding tight to the way someone should dress or act or think or whatever. I’m perfectly okay with asking questions. As long as they inspire wonder and awe for God, rather than causing us to simply grasp for knowledge just for the sake of feeling like we know something more than the next dude.

Okay then, there’s a lot more that I could say about this, but I need to get started on my next reading assignment anyway. If you’ve made it through this long-arse post and you have another sec, why not leave a comment telling me a faith-question (or maybe an anti-faith question?) that makes you a little uncomfortable. It may end up being one of the same question asked in this book later on. I can’t wait to find out.

Can you hear me now?

So, I finally took some time tonight to catch up on an amazing little blog that I can’t even recall how I discovered, written by a local author by the name of Marla Taviano, who seems pretty darn amazing herself. I’ve been reading one of her books lately, entitled Is That All He Thinks About?: How to Enjoy Great Sex With Your Husband (way more on that later!) and I must say, I am enjoying the way that through her writing, this lady just brings it —the truth, that is— in a way that is  gentle but also a little bit in-yo’-face when it needs to be. Now I don’t know her personally, but she just seems very….real.  That’s my kinda gal.

Anyway, she’s decided to invite folks to do a read-along of the book of James, starting this week. Now, I mentioned to her once through a comment on her blog that I was a little freaked out by how timely some of her posts have been for me recently. You know that weird feeling when you’ve been thinking of something for a while and all of a sudden the whole universe  seems to confirm your thoughts and point you in the direction you need to go? Well that’s happened a few times recently through this little lady’s blog, among other things, and seeing this invitation to read through the book of James, it’s happening again.

I’ve been pondering what to read next in just about every way.  I’ve been shuffling back and forth through the pages of my bible lately, not really giving myself to one particular book or topic. I have several professional books that I’ve recently purchased and I’m trying to figure out which one will give me the most bang for my buck, since my personal reading time just got slashed by about a million percent when school began a couple of weeks ago. (FYI: A workaholism post will be following soon…maybe.) My book club just finished up an awesome novel and we’re looking for a new book to read…should we do another novel or try another book that is more life-application-ish?? The decisions…

Well, at least one of those decisions has been made for me. Whether or not this will be a book club pick or not, I know I’ve got to do this read-along. Because all these little road signs and nudges have been pointing to something to do with this verse, what I like to call the second scariest verse in the bible:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Guess where it hails from? The book of James. Mmmmm-hmmmmm. Anyone joining me?? If so, check out the details and introduce yourself over at Marla’s blog here.  

I know I’m not good at it, God, but You’ve got me listening, and that’s a start, right?  I am listening.