Saturday, January 12, 2013

Trust fall

Let not your heart be troubled.  (You) trust God; trust also in me.  John 14:1

I started this year with the question, "What does it mean to trust God?"

I didn't mean that I wanted to learn HOW to trust God--I'm not that stupid.  I just wanted to figure out what we mean when we use that phrase.

Does it mean that we trust God for a specific outcome?  To heal our friend, for example, or to keep us safe?  To answer our prayers the way we pray them?

Do we mean that, whatever happens, we can be confident that it was God's will (general, specific, permissive, whatever) and that he intends it for our good?

Are we trying to get ourselves to a point of surrender that can accept whatever comes?  Do we trust that God will be present and grieve with us if what comes is evil and not good?  When that happens, are we trusting that God will redeem it, eventually working it for our good?

I struggle with the concept of trust, in part, because I don't understand what exactly it means.  What does it mean in the light of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Sudan and schizophrenia and, for God's sake, the Cross?

When you say, "I trust God," (if you have the audacity to say that), what do you mean?  I really want to know.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Second annual wonderfully flawed book awards for 2012 (memoir, poetry and professional)

As long as we're still on the subject of storytelling, we might as well move on to memoir, one of my favorite sections of the bookstore.  And we'll start with A Million Miles in a Thousand Years:  How I Learned to Live a Better Story.

Donald Miller isn't the first person to talk about our lives as narrative but something about this book really shifted something in me and the way I was drifting through life on autopilot.  I read it practically in one sitting on one of our getaways to San Antonio and promised myself that I would reread it right away, then loaned it to someone and then forgot who (so if you have my book, please tell me!)

My own story couldn't be more different than Miller's in most ways but I'm completely in sync with his realization that we each write the stories with our lives and we get to decide much of how the story goes, what kind of story it is, and whether it is interesting or boring, character-driven or plot-driven, beautiful or a waste of space.  The challenge to write a better story has stayed with me.

I also want to include Richard Stearns' book A Hole in our Gospel in this category.  Though not technically a memoir, the best parts of the book are the chapters in which Stearns becomes painfully aware of the tragedy of global poverty and decides to radically change his life in order to be part of the solution.  (Stearns is the new-ish CEO of World Vision.)  The stories made even this cynical do-gooder cry and some of them are unforgettable.  I'm hoping that a group of us will show up to study this book together at church this year.

You already know that I was captivated by Jen Hatmaker's books this year, especially 7 and Interrupted.  I've written about them already here on the blog.  I have never finished a year with more books that I want to RE-read as I have this year and these are both on the list.

For the first time, I'm giving an award for a poetry book.  It wasn't a hard decision, since I only read one poetry book this year, but the award goes to . . . drumroll, please, The Gift by Hafiz, the 14th century Sufi master.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Dropping Keys

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the 

Covers Her Face With Both Hands
We speak
Becomes the house we live in.

Who will want to sleep in your bed
If the roof leaks
Right above

Look what happens when the tongue
Cannot say to kindness,
"I will be your slave."

The moon 
Covers her face with both hands

And can't bear
To look.

You wouldn't mind if I posted a few more of these from time to time, would you?

And now, last but not least, the professional books I read this year that made an impact.  I know that most of you who read this aren't interested in this part, but some are, so here goes:

I actually read 4 or 5 of Ronald Richardson's books this year and could nominate any of them as a favorite but the one that I keep going back to, still on my desk, unshelved, is Couples in Conflict.

Richardson brings a family systems approach to all aspects of ministry; in this case, he addresses the work we do with couples.  While even experienced marriage counselors could easily be challenged by the approach he describes, the book is readable and easy to understand and is a great reminder that couples work is less about telling couples what to do and more about forming a therapeutic triangle and then managing that triangle well.  This is especially helpful since forming the triangle is inevitable and I was really appalled at the realization that I sometimes do not manage it well and when I do, it can be in spite of my best efforts, not because of them.  

One really brilliant thing I did this year was to find a counseling supervisor to work with.  He recommended the book Depth Oriented Brief Therapy.  

Oh, man, I. Love. This. Book.  I'm still not proficient at this way of thinking and doing therapy and I'm planning to do some continuing ed on it this year but the techniques he offers have already been helpful not only to my clients but to me in some of my own personal work.  

So, that's it.  You're welcome to browse the list of books on the sidebar of this page to see what else I read this year.  I'll take the list down in a couple of days and start over.  Just because it didn't get an award doesn't mean it wasn't a good book (although not all were).  Right this minute, there are 51 books sitting beside my desk in a stack, waiting to be read in 2013 and obviously that's not going to happen.  I'm going to sign off here and start culling through that stack and find a good home for about half of them.  

So . . . and I mean this . . . what have you read this year that I should read?  And what are you planning to read in 2013?