Posted in Books, Real Life

Spiritual Health Month

I’ve been on a health kick recently (and not just because my antidepressants are making me fat.)

After reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I retooled her basic premise: What if I pursued not happiness, but health?

In June, I worked on my physical health, prioritizing yoga, meditation, and meal prep.

In July, I focused on finding comfortable, work-appropriate clothing that looked good on me.

This month, it’s time for spiritual health. I’m spending the month of August growing closer to God by asking big questions.

I initially balked at my own imposition. I dreaded doing “intense” Bible study involving maps of Israel and historical commentaries. I despised most of the theologians my friends and family loved. What else was there for me to do?

Read books. Obviously.

Instead of forcing myself to read “spiritual” tomes (C. S. Lewis is great and all, but he’s not for me), I checked out books by authors I respect on topics that interest me. For once, I’m excited about theological exploration. This never happens.

Here’s my August book list, with brief explanations behind each choice:

  1. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee
    Justin Lee fascinates me. He created the Gay Christian Network as a space where those who believe in monogamy and those who support celibacy can dialogue. In my experience, genuine dialogue between different camps has been rare. I’m used to Christians “standing up for the truth” by digging their heels in and refusing to listen. I’m excited to hear Justin’s story and learn more about his mission.
  2. Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found it Through Science by Mike McHargue
    Many of the churches I’ve attended believe that faith and science are incompatible. In college, it was a shock for me to meet dedicated science-lovers who called themselves Christians. I’m more inclined to encounter God in art instead of science, so I’m interested to see Mike McHargue describe his experiences on the other end of the spectrum.
  3. Rising Strong by Brene Brown
    So…apparently Brene Brown is great. I’ve seen her quoted in plenty of depression studies and namedropped by Liz Gilbert. Her writing process is pretty unique – she records brainstorming sessions with friends, then writes her books using the transcripts. THAT’S NUTS. Also, SHE ARGUES ON BEHALF OF QUALITATIVE RESEARCH. THAT IS A DREAM COME TRUE FOR ME. This book explores vulnerability and failure, two areas I struggle with. DON’T LET ME DOWN, BRENE.
  4. Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and His Gay Son by Brad and Drew Harper
    How do one’s beliefs change when a family member comes out as gay? I WILL FIND OUT.
  5. Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell
    Confession: I chose this book because of its controversy. At some point during my college years, my then-church deemed Rob Bell a Bad Christian. My crew nervously accepted this idea without knowing exactly what Bell had done. At the time, I heard that Bell no longer believed in Hell. Just recently, I read the perspectives of several pastors (including my boy Greg Boyd) who came to Bell’s defense. I want to see what all the fuss is about.
  6. The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage by Rob and Kristen Bell
    A marriage book about give and take written by a husband and wife team; in other words, an egalitarian’s dream. Gimme.
  7. The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright
    A few years back, I had a traumatizing experience with some traveling missions recruiters that put me off missions for good. I bristle when missionaries return home and demand their fellow Christians move with them to rural Mongolia. It’s hard to express these feelings when many of my friends dream of sharing the gospel overseas. I want to see if Jamie Wright feels the same way I do.
  8. Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber
    I love punky little misfit churches that don’t fit the nice, religious image of what a church “should” be. I want to read about the places freaks and oddballs call home.
  9. Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction by Caleb Kaltenbach
    I’ve wondered how new Christians deal with this exact scenario many a time. In the past, I’ve asked a number of specific questions about the LGBTQIA community that no pastor has felt comfortable addressing. CALEB KALTENBACH TO THE RESCUE.
  10. Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
    The aspect of my former Bible study that really rankled was its adamant focus on history. Other interpretations and lenses were dismissed or ignored in favor of yet another examination of ancient warfare. Calling attention to writing style or poetic language (WHICH I HAVE A DEGREE IN) prompted hardened, “NOPES,” and hasty returns to Pre-Christian Jewish culture. I thought, If this is the only way to read the Bible, I’m no longer interested. That Evans wrote an honest examination of the variety in Biblical texts gives me hope that my interpretations are valid. If what she says is true, I’m not limited to poring over maps of Israel or cross-referencing historical events. Thank God for that.

 

Update: I couldn’t wait for Spiritual Health Month to start, so I dug into my book pile four days early and ended up finishing two (going on three!) books. Luckily, the authors recommended additional books for my ever-expanding list.

New books include:

  1. Sex God by Rob Bell
    A look at the relationship between sexuality and spirituality. I can’t find a print copy at my local library, so I may have to PURCHASE this one. Desperate times, fam.
  2. Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono
    My friend Stacia, knowing how much I love personality tests, recommended this one. In it, De Bono describes the six roles small group members can play (I already know I’m the red hat.) I’m a little skeptical due to De Bono’s cheesy website (it takes a special kind of Christian to make a website that lame), but I’m trying to keep an open mind.
  3. The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr
    A liberal theologian explores the advantages of a scarily-accurate personality assessment!? OH. HELL. YES.
  4. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill
    Hill details his experiences as a celibate, gay Christian in an effort to encourage other gay believers. I’ve heard good things and I needed a wild card.
  5. Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin
    Apparently this is THE book to read on relations between the church and the queer community. Andrew Marin seems both passionate and sincere concerning this topic, so I’m on board. Also, this book won awards, and that fact has never once betrayed me. Never.
  6. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero
    Come on, it’s IN THE TITLE.
Posted in Books

Lauren’s Go-To Reads: Actual Influences

I have books from childhood that I love and books that I constantly reread. This list consists of books that have impacted my actual life in big ways. Continue reading “Lauren’s Go-To Reads: Actual Influences”

Posted in Books, Real Life

I Hate Romance

I keep by my bookshelf a pile of books I plan to sell at Powell’s. This time around, the victims include Lena Dunham’s memoir, Tillie Walden’s first graphic novel, a poorly-written account of a transgender teenager, and three YA romances I couldn’t finish.

This shouldn’t be a huge deal – I stop reading books all the time. I find it freeing to give up on something I’ve struggled to get through.

Quitting on romances, however, is new…and it bothers me. Continue reading “I Hate Romance”

Posted in Real Life

How to Talk to Women in Their 20s

Church people hate me.

At least, it’s hard not to feel that way as a single woman.

For over a year, I’ve watched people panic when I show up without a partner. I’ve been asked, “Soooooo hooooooow’s wooooooork?” more times than I can count. I’ve had others explain things to me that I already understand.

I thought I was the problem. I doubled-down on small talk, asked lots of questions, brought wine to Bible study.

Still I got panicked smiles, questions about college, the dreaded, “Hoooooooow’s work?”

I thought, Maybe these people are uncomfortable around singles.

Enter Tim. Continue reading “How to Talk to Women in Their 20s”

Posted in Books, Real Life

The Truth About Sex After Marriage

The church I grew up in taught a lot about sex.

The intent was to help (I think.) Sex is a big deal and the church SHOULD be talking about it.

By “talk,” though, I mean “dialogue,” and no such conversation existed at the time.

Adults told teens “DON’T HAVE SEX” without telling them how or why. They squeamishly avoided listing potential consequences of unprotected intercourse, making high school Sex Ed look competent by comparison.

More embarrassing was a series on married sex taught by the three senior pastors. They lauded their bravery for talking “openly” about the subject without using medical terminology or addressing the “how” of how to improve your sex life. They discussed sexual pleasure with extreme discomfort, transmitting their shame to the rest of the congregation.

I learned that porn is a fantasy without learning about the reality of sex.

I heard over and over the gender myth that men like sex and women don’t.

College proved worse; Christians shut down honest conversation with red faces and whispers of “inappropriate.”

Finding Debra Fileta’s website in 2014 came as a huge relief.

You mean to tell me Christians can honestly discuss sex?

Debra posted an excerpt from her newest book about why we save sex for marriage. I find it helpful having a reason aside from “JUST DON’T” or “WOMEN DON’T LIKE IT.” It helps, too, that she’s honest, ratcheting down the expectation of the Super Awesome Pinnacle of Experiences many Millennials were promised in youth group.

I so appreciate an author willing to tackle lies and point to Scripture instead of bolstering false teachings.

Debra Fileta’s new book drops today at Amazon or your favorite book seller.

Buy it. Borrow it. Learn. Dialogue. Enjoy.