I buy books. And sometimes I read them. This blog is for the times when I do more than just store shelf candy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

BLUE LIKE JAZZ by Donald Miller

“I don’t think you can explain how Christian faith works either. It is a mystery. And I love this about Christian spirituality. It cannot be explained, and yet it is beautiful and true. It is something you feel, and it comes from the soul.”

I wish I had read this book sooner in my Christian walk. It would have spared me so much guilt and anxiety for thinking the way I thought, feeling the way I felt, as somebody who was still working out how this faith thing works out.

“The goofy thing about Christian Faith is that you believe it and don’t believe it at the same time. It isn’t unlike having an imaginary friend. I believe in Jesus; I believe He is the Son of God, but every time I sit down and explain this to somebody I feel like a palm reader, like somebody who works at a circus or a kid who is always making things up or somebody at a Star Trek convention who hasn’t figured out the show isn’t real.”

Blue Like Jazz is the coolest Christian book I’ve read; and it didn’t have to use edgy fonts; skate and surf jargon; and Bono to make it cool. It’s not religious. It’s not fire and brimstone. It is not hard sell. Not like how I could be when trying to “sell” the idea of my faith, as if I were selling Amway. I want to be like Miller’s friend, Nadine.

“The thing I loved about Nadine was that I never felt like she was selling anything. She would talk about God as if she knew Him, as if she had talked to Him on the phone that day. She was never ashamed, which is the thing with some Christians I had encountered. They felt like they had to sell God, as if He were soap or a vacuum cleaner, and it’s like they really weren’t listening to me; they didn’t care, they just wanted me to buy their product… To Nadine, God was a being with which she interacted, and even more, Nadine believed that God likes her. I thought that was beautiful. And more than that, her faith was a spiritual thing that produced a humanitarianism that was convincing.”

Miller is not a theologian so this book offers no dissection of the faith or deep biblical analysis. What it has to say about the Word is just a description of Miller’s own experience:

“I would lie on my bedroom floor, reading my Bible, going at the words for hours, all of them strong like arms wrapped tightly around my chest. It seems as though the words were alive with minds and motions of their own, as though God were crawling thoughts inside my head for guidance, comfort, and strength… The truths of the Bible were magic, like messages from heaven, like enchanting codes that offered power over life, a sort of power that turned sorrow to joy, hardship to challenge, and trial to opportunity… I seemed to have been provided answers to questions I had yet to ask, questions that God sensed or had even instilled in the lower reaches of my soul.”

This book has the feel of Catcher in the Rye when it talks about weird Christians with their bigotry, their parroted slogans, God infomercials, and Democrat-bashing ways that incite anger among and outside the church. He offers alternatives to these attitudes: First to pray that God shows you a church filled with people who share your interests and values, then to go to the church God shows you, and then not to hold grudges against any other churches because God loves those churches almost as much as He loves yours. In other words, Miller endorses God’s message of loving others, taking God as our model of love.

“To be in a relationship with God is to be loved purely and furiously.”

Miller talks about life, purpose, persecution, salvation, Savior:

“I know a little of why there is blood in my body, pumping life into my limbs and thoughts into my brain. I am wanted by God. He is wanting to preserve me, to guide me through the darkness of the shadow of death, up into the highlands of His presence and afterlife. I understand that I am temporary, in this shell of a thing on this dirt of an earth. I am being tempted by Satan, we are all being tempted by Satan, but I am preserved to tell those who do not know about our Savior and Redeemer. This is why Paul had no question. This is why he could be beaten one day, imprisoned the next, and released only to be beaten again and never ask God why. He understood the earth was fallen. He understood the rules of Rome could not save mankind, that mankind could not save itself; rather it must be rescued.”

Of evangelism:

“I could feel God’s love for him. I loved the fact that it wasn’t my responsibility to change somebody, that it was God’s, that my part was just to communicate love and approval.”

Of God’s love:

“Jesus didn’t love me out of principle; He didn’t just love me because it was the right thing to do. Rather, there was something inside me that caused Him to love me.”

But with this caveat:

“God’s love will never change us if we don’t accept it.”

Don says of our love for God:

“I think the most important thing that happens within Christian spirituality is when a person falls in love with Jesus.”

Of faith:
“My belief in Jesus does not seem rational or scientific, and yet there was nothing I could do to separate myself from this belief.”

Why Jazz?

“Christian spirituality is like jazz music. I think loving Jesus is something you feel. I think it is something very difficult to get on paper. But it is no less real, no less meaningful, no less beautiful. The first generation out of slavery invented jazz music. And that is the closest thing to Christian spirituality. A music birthed out of freedom.”

Miller talks about a decision that the human heart needs to make. It’s a decision that would determine how the rest of one’s story turns out. I think this book, in the hands of somebody with an open mind and ready heart, can help people make that decision.

“Your life is not your own, but you have been bought with a price.”

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