Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Never Thought It Would Happen to Me

First of all, this book Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar—and therefore this review—is not for everyone. It might not be for you. If you click here, go through the list and can’t identify with any of it, and none of it makes sense, or even sounds ridiculous, then please, by all means, click away from this blog and go back to Facebook.

Thing is, I can identify with most of this “list,” and it makes total sense to me. I grew up in a strong Christian fundamentalist home in the 1950s. I was taught to have a very sure faith. And I did. I think I did. I really wanted to in any case. If I had theological questions I kept them to myself. If I had problems with my faith, it was me and not God.

But I still had questions. Some things didn’t make sense.

In the tradition I grew up in, it was permissible to question fairly unimportant things, like “should Christians drink alcohol?” but to question an important tenet of “truth” was not permissible. It was never okay to ask how a supposed loving God can send the majority of people who have ever lived on this planet to a place of eternal torment of fire forever and ever for which there is no escape. When I would ask, how is that loving? I was met with “tut tuts” plus the catch all verse which is meant to shut down every question a kid has - “God’s ways are not our ways.”

So, I started being quiet.

Outwardly questioning anything about the faith led to the pronouncement that we would be “put up on a shelf,” which meant we were of no use to God. He was basically turning his back on us, and wouldn’t use us until we got our act together. It’s odd. Up until yesterday when I was researching for this blog, I could have sworn that the “shelf” reference was in the Bible somewhere. It’s not. I even asked a group of trusted Christian friends who know everything about the Bible. Nope. Not there.

Why am I not surprised?

Shifting “away” from the faith of one’s youth is a scary thing. It feels like just as I’m about to sit down, someone pulls the chair out laughing. I land on the floor. And everyone still laughs. I am bruised, but people still laugh.

My faith was subtly shifting. Because over the past few years I’ve started to see a different Jesus. I’ve started to see a Jesus who is more loving. Even Bible verses that I was sure meant one thing, are now meaning something else to me. And they make total sense meaning something else.

For this reason, I’m overjoyed that there are books out there like Faith Shift. In future episodes of this blog, I will be featuring more of these authors and podcasts and blogs. I will introduce you to these “friends” I’ve never met and yet who might just understand my path. I’m talking about Rachel Held Evans’s book, Searching for Sunday, the Free Believers podcast, blogs such as Jesus Without Baggage. All of these have been so helpful. I discovered Faith Shift, by listening to an interview with Kathy Escobar on the God Journey podcast. (I so related that I bought her eBook on the spot.)

Faith Shift was so helpful to me that I emailed the author and she and I have had several email conversations. (She seems like a lovely person!)

As you will know from reading my previous review blogs, that it’s the beginnings of books which draw me in. Her first chapter is entitled, “You’re not crazy and you’re not alone.”

I wasn’t alone! And I’m not crazy! I’m really, really not crazy! There are other people like me.

According to Kathy, a shifting faith goes through various stages. The first is “Fusing.” This is the honeymoon stage where all is well and right and good. Faith hasn’t “shifted” yet.

Next comes “Shifting” when the faithful find themselves shifting slightly, ever so slightly away on certain issues.

“Unravelling,” the next stage, is when everything falls apart. There are simply too many issues that the believer questions.

Like its name, “Severing” is the stage which is a cutting off and away from any kind of early faith.

Finally comes the “Rebuilding” phase, where faith is rebuilt, but often bears little resemblance to the early “Fused” faith.

If this isn’t you (in other words, you didn’t move on over to your Facebook page when I told you to), be aware that many people are going through this. A few years ago now, ABC ran a news special about Baptist pastors who no longer believe in God. click here for that story.

Of course they remain anonymous, their jobs depend on this. If you Google "pastors who no longer believe," sadly, you will be rewarded with many links.

What do I believe now, and where am I on Kathy’s spectrum? My answer today might be different than my answer tomorrow. I know there’s a God. I know that God is a god of grace. I’m not an atheist. I think that God is way more wider than I was ever taught to believe, way more full of love, way more kind, way more full of grace, way more inclusive than I had ever imagined.

I grew up wanting God to “use” me, that's the prayer and goal of every Christian. Even in the writing of this now, it sounds weird. Does a parent “use” her child? Is that a parent’s biggest goal? No. God doesn’t want to use us, God wants to love us. And he wants us to reflect this love to others. That’s about all I know. And maybe it’s enough for now. 

I will end with what an anonymous person quoted in Kathy’s book: “I am left with fewer truths, but they are clearly deeper.” Which sounds like a sort of cop out, (Seriously. If you think it’s a cop out, why are you still reading this? This isn’t for you.) but I understand it.

This is a book I will read and re-read.

Next time "I Like It" will take a slightly different turn when I write about all things kayaks and kayaking.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Like my last recommendation (Ordinary Grace), my “I Like It” pick for today is another “coming of age” novel. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is a book which will leave you thinking and pondering, wondering and speculating.

What happens when the very fabric of our existence goes haywire? What happens when the very planet we live on betrays us? That’s the theme of The Age of Miracles, which has been called a YA speculative story. But I’m not sure that is a correct description. I believe it is a story everyone can read and enjoy, and the speculative part? That's just the setting.

Ordinary Grace is about a boy and a summer in the early 1960s and a death and the mystery surrounding it. The Age of Miracles is about an 11 year old girl who happens to be living in a very strange, but contemporary time. The earth is slowing on its axis. It’s this hook that draws you in immediately, and yet this setting is really only secondary.

The story is told through the eyes of eleven year old Julia. Her parents are having their problems, the best friend she’s had forever is cool and distant, and there is a boy—there always is a boy—who she has a crush on. All of these normal, growing-up events would be challenges enough, but add to that, the slowing of the very planet on its axis, and you have a haunting and compelling novel.

I love first lines of books. It’s the first paragraphs that draw me in as a reader. Consider these opening lines:

We didn’t notice right away. We couldn’t feel it. We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.

We were distracted back then by weather and war. We had no interest in the turning of the earth. Bombs continued to explode on the streets on distant countries. Hurricanes came and went. Summer ended. A new school year began. The clocks ticked as usual. Seconds beaded into minutes. Minutes grew into hours. And there was nothing to suggest that those hours, too, weren't still pooling into days, each the same fixed length known to every human being.

As the planet’s slowing becomes more noticeable, politics gets involved. Should civilization live by the clock, or live by their own light/dark body rhythms? It becomes a hotly debated political issue and roundly debated on talk shows. (Sound familiar?) As life becomes more and more disrupted and the stretches of daylight and darkness stretch to thirty hours or more, the very food supply is affected. Health, is of course, impacted, and many new diseases spring up. The “naturalists” who want to live by their body rhythms end up moving away from the mainstream of society which still “lives by the clock." I love the name of the camp - Circadia.

But what happens when you're living through this and you're just a kid? It is really Julia’s story that we are reading. No spoilers here, but her relationship with her boyfriend goes through some very real trauma as the book unfolds.

The comparison to our own climate change—which some still deny—is unmistakable, yet don’t confuse this book with a story that might “have an agenda,” or seek to “make a statement.” Like any good writer, I think the author set out simply to write a good story. 

Yet, I couldn’t help but see comparisons. As I read through this haunting, compelling book, I wondered - could this ever really happen? Well. Maybe. Here’s an interesting CBC article about that very thing. Click here.

Our Canadian north seems to be the barometer for the entire planet. Click here to read about the changes our own Inuit elders have seen. People are finally believing them, it seems. It's about time.

I’m not one of these "elders" who lives and hunts and exists by the seasons, but I’m old enough to remember iceskating every winter on the canals in New Jersey where I grew up. These canals have not frozen over for many years.

I find all of this science quite fascinating - here’s another article for your reading pleasure.

And another.

Couldn’t happen here? Maybe not the kind of dramatic slowing that is evident in The Age of Miracles, but maybe something else?  Or maybe when climate change reaches some kind of tipping point, it will happen with growing speed. Personally? We are humans. We are smart. We are creative. I would love to see us quit fighting and set about trying to manage to live within the new parameters of our planet. 

In the meantime, pick up The Age of Miracles, or download it onto your ereader. I guarantee you will not be able to put it down until you have read to the end.

NEXT TIME: Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar.