On Miracles + This Season

As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently reading Miracles by C.S. Lewis.  The book is more – I don't know how to describe it... perhaps critical or technical is the word?  Critical as in dealing with the subject of Miracles from the context of society and how unbelievable they are to people who view the world in a explicitly scientific way.  Therefore, there wasn't a lot that spoke to me in the first half of the book; Miracles is the sort of book you focus on with highlighter in hand and your apologist hat on (???), and honestly, I just don't think I was in the mood to read it.  I kept getting distracted.  I've heard from too many people I respect, however, who say that Miracles is their favorite of Lewis's books.  So I was determined to give it a fair chance.

All that said, before I get to the particular page that blew my mind, I'll give some context.  (long-winded journal entry ahead...)

It's 5 weeks since I left for Japan.  It's 3 weeks since I left Japan for home.  And it's hard.  It's hard not having that focus, that dialed-in, purposeful work.  I miss it and I want it back.  I don't want to stay, I want to go.

And I've wrestled with God on this.  I've wrestled with this season of life and with staying.  And outside on a heavy summer night, I laid it all out bare and open.  Because you know, when I told God I'd say yes this year, I really, deep down meant I would say yes there.  I really deep down meant I'd say yes to things I desperately wanted to do.  When I promised that I'd follow Him to the ends of the earth, I really deep down meant anywhere but here, anywhere but right where I am.  And when I begged God to use me, cried on the floor about the grief of the world and said I would do anything, go anywhere, I really meant, deep down inside, that I wanted to be used there, not here.  I wanted to be used where cities are bombed, where children lose their families to anger and violence, where there are too many babies for arms to hold, where the earth groans loudest for redemption and the saints must be bold.  I want to be used there, not here in this land of plenty, where we see the pain of the world and do nothing but talk.

And I hear the hypocrisy of my wild-sounding promises, of the banner I wave of bravery and trust.  I see the foolishness of promising God what I will and won't do.  I had put Him in my pocket, hung Him on a string around my neck, made Him small enough to fit Him into my dreams.  I know that's wrong, and I never thought I'd make the mistake of serving a God in my head I'd made small.

 But thankfully, God refuses to be made small, and so He used the words of a man to wake me up, just like He's done countless times before.  I was reading Lewis's book on miracles, and nothing was jumping out at me like I had expected.  And then I hit this page.  And I'm going to write it out here, because it's so beautiful and so desperately important.
"So here; the shock comes at the precise moment when the thrill of life is communicated to us along the clue we have been following.  It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. 'Look out!' we cry. 'It's alive.'  And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back - I would have done so myself if I could - and proceed no further with Christianity.  An 'impersonal God' - well and good.  A subjective God of beauty, truth, and goodness, inside our own heads - better still.  A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap - best of all.  But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband - that is quite another matter.  There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall?  There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion ('Man's search for God!') suddenly draw back.  Supposing we really found Him?  We never meant it to come to that!  Worse still, supposing He had found us?  So it is a sort of Rubicon.  One goes across; or not.  But if one does, there is no manner of security against miracles.  One may be in for anything." - C.S. Lewis, Miracles
Right here at home, in this season I'd rather not be in, I suppose I'm going to have to trust Him more.  I don't want to waste this time; I want Him to use it.  I'm going to let Him have His way, be the alive, powerful God that He is, and step back.  I'm going to get Him out of my pocket, untie Him from around my neck and worship and serve and follow the God who refuses to be made small.  I'm going to follow Him right here.  I'm going to let Him be my big God who will have His way with me, even here.  I'm going to stop trying to fit Him into my dreams and start fitting my dreams into His.

There it is; that's it.  If I've chosen to believe in this God who performs miracles and who keeps this earth spinning on its axis and the planets suspended in space, I can't limit His plans for me to what I feel in my heart or think in my head.  I gotta be up for anything because I could be in for anything.

I'm not finished with this book yet, and I'm sure I'll have more to say about it before it's over, but that's what has hit me the hardest so far.

Lewis does have some incredible ways of explaining miracles, how God performing miracles isn't contrary to nature - take this quote: "Thus, as we accept this doctrine of the higher world we make new discoveries about the lower world.  It is from that hill that we first really understand the landscape of this valley.  Here at last, we find...a real illumination: Nature is being lit up by a light from beyond Nature.  Someone is speaking who knows more about her than can be known from inside her."  I mean.  Let that sink in.

That's our God.


Five Things

Random-just-want-to-write-about-stuff-post coming attcha.  Woo!  Five things in my head/life lately ahead:

1.) In my quest to finish all of C.S. Lewis's main works of nonfiction this year, I am currently reading his book entitled Miracles.  Oh man, it's good.  He is the one guy God consistently uses to blow my mind and teach me something, and this book is no different.  You know something's up when you copy a whole freaking page from a book into your journal.  Read it.

2.) Summer is over officially for me this week as I start up college, and honestly, I'm having a hard time letting go.  Normally I cannot wait for the fall, but this year summer just felt gloriously precious.  I'm trying to get pumped for fall, though.  Pumpkin!  Birthday!  Cooler temps!  Sweaters!  Christmaaaaaassss!  But seriously though.  Summertime rocks.

3.) PSA: All my favorite artists are dropping new records in September, which means it's going to be an extra fantastic birthday month.  Check these cool people out: All Sons & Daughters are releasing "Poets & Saints," JOHNNYSWIM are coming out with "Georgica Pond," Colony House are dropping "Only The Lonely," and Sandra McCracken is releasing "God's Highway."  SO PUMPED.

4.) COFFEE !!!

5.) I am kinda crazy about a new-to-me podcast called "Overdue."  It's hosted by two guys who read books each week and talk about them.  The point of the podcast is for these dudes to read all the books they've been meaning to read by haven't gotten around to yet.  One of them reads the book and tells the other one about it.  They are absolutely hilarious and the books they read are varied and interesting.  If you want to laugh, but also feel like you're learning something (?), then give this podcast a listen.  I would highly recommend the episodes entitled "Casino Royale," "The Two Towers," "The Return of the King," and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall."  Pretty sure I laughed till I cried with almost all of those.

I'm kicking around the idea of doing a completely different post next about something related to the page out of Lewis's Miracles that knocked my socks off and some things God's been teaching me lately, but we'll see if I wanna completely bare my heart. :P I want this space to incorporate some more personal writing, and I think that topic would be appropriate since it relates to a book.  With college starting, though, who knows if I'll have any time at all.  Anyway, happy Monday and bye!


Update + My favorite book of 2016 so far

Well.  It's been awhile.

About 7 months, in fact.  I don't know how this year has flown by so quickly, what with summer nearly over and my first semester of college looming in the distance.  The last half of July I spent in Toyko, Japan, helping out with a VBS and exploring the city with a couple friends.  It was an incredible experience and opportunity, and saying goodbye was rough.

Anyway, my reading this year has consisted mostly of nonfiction and lots of audiobooks.  This summer I got back into fiction, which usually happens when I spend a lot of time at the lake getting sunburnt and doing nothing.  Summer is just the time for fun books.  Naturally, I had hoped to post some summer reading recommendations, but it didn't happen (*see above reference to rapid passing of time).  That said, I did read a book while I was in Japan that was just so good I couldn't help but talk about it as soon as possible.  I'm thinking it's the best book I've read so far this year.

The book is called SURPRISED BY OXFORD and the author is Carolyn Weber.  It has been on my wishlist forever, and when I was thinking of books to take/buy for my trip, I chose this one.  And let me tell you, it kind of blew my mind.

SURPRISED BY OXFORD is a memoir, which initially put me off, as my experience with memoirs has been mixed.  But man, I am so glad I picked this one up.  In this book, Carolyn arrives at Oxford as a graduate student of literature.  She is a skeptical agnostic from a loving but broken family, waving the flag of feminism, suspicious of men, and intellectually hostile to all things religious.  As she attempts to grapple with big questions, she meets classmates and professors who struggle with the same God-shaped longing, and one friend in particular, who lovingly draws her to the Father she never knew she needed.  In this memoir, Carolyn writes about faith and conversion with the same honesty and depth of the writers and poets she was studying, and tackles issues of fatherhood, feminism, doubt, and love in ways that surprised and captivated me.  There is such a depth of theology and honesty of doubt and love in this book, and it felt real and relatable, despite the Oxford setting.  I finished it on a crowded train in Tokyo, the crazy white tourist trying not look like she was crying and failing miserably.  I immediately wanted to reread it.

Maybe it was the tear-jerker of a love story in here, maybe it was the Oxford setting, maybe it was the fact that Carolyn was studying literature, maybe it was the writing (which is amazing), maybe it was the romance of reading it in another country, but I totally fell in love with it.  I just want everyone and their mother to read it.  It is achingly beautiful.  It is full of theology and literary connections and insight that feels very C.S. Lewis-esque to me, it is an incredible conversion story, it's an awesome perspective of the Gospel, it's a very honest look at doubt.  It blew my freaking mind, and I cannot wait to read it again and again and again.  I desperately want to go to Oxford now, and I am convinced the man in this book, affectionately referred to as TDH, is the most perfect member of his species alive.  I just basically want to be Carolyn Weber.

This book is so great, and please just read it.  Whether you do so in the waning weeks of summer (you'll fly through it, trust me), on vacation, or on a train in Toyko, just do it.  And thank me later.  Also, if you are like me and listen to music while you read, I would suggest Alanna Boudreau's new album, "Champion."  It's what I listened to through most of my trip and while reading this book, and it is fantastic and seemed to correlate in lots of ways.

College begins for me in a couple of weeks, and so I don't know when I'll be back, but I just had to talk about this book, since I've already gone on about it IRL.  Just read it, and thanks for sticking around.  xo, Ella