“And while I do love that great teacher of peace who was called Jesus, and while I do reserve the right to ask myself in certain trying situations what indeed he would do, I can’t swallow that one fixed rule of Christianity insisting that Christ is the only way to God.” p. 14
I say “refreshing,” because it is frustrating when a person insists they are a Christian, but they refuse to accept this and other very fundamental principles of the Christian faith. And just in case you’re wondering where that fundamental belief comes from, here’s a start…
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6
I was thankful for this disclaimer of sorts at the beginning of her book, because it enabled me to continue through the pages and simply enjoy hearing about and learning from her experiences without the anxiety that accompanies a misrepresentation of your faith.
(And now my own disclaimer: This is in no way a complete review of this book – just my own thoughts about and take on a few parts that stood out to me personally.)
Another thing Ms. Gilbert gets right is her summation of the status of the Protestant churches in New England…
“My mother used the church as a headquarters from which to organize good works of volunteer service for the community. But even in that church I don’t remember there being a lot of talking about God. This was New England after all, and the word God tends to make Yankees nervous.” p. 152
Her statements tickled me, because not only do I live right in the middle of that wacky dynamic, but my husband and I were called here to plant a church that actually does talk about God.
And we talk about Jesus, too. (“Horrors!” as my grandmother would say.) He makes ’em really nervous.
By now you probably already know that Eat, Pray, Love is a book about travel writer, Elizabeth Gilbert’s, one year adventure in Italy, India, and Indonesia. She is on somewhat of a spiritual journey after a nasty divorce and hasty, codependent, rebound relationship; a journey of self and god discovery. Recently, I have read a couple of reviews of the book and movie that suggest that Elizabeth Gilbert is nothing but a white, wealthy, self-absorbed narcissist using the beauty and spiritual aspects of each country she visits – aloof to the problems and poverty – to soothe her restless soul. I did not have those strong reactions, but rather could relate in several ways to her inner struggle. But then I, too, am a self-absorbed narcissist at times – longing purely for personal comfort and peace. In reality, I think we all may be. Yes, even the missionary to those foreign lands. And even you, Ms./Mr. Social Justice/World Peace/Human Rights crusader.
When Gilbert described her depression and melancholy temperament, I understood it. Yes, she seemingly has everything one could want – talent, career, money, recognition, public accolades, friends and more, but still she couldn’t shake her companions: “Loneliness and Depression track me down after about ten days in Italy,” she admits. (p. 46) I know that feeling. I’m much better now, but in the last year and a half, I also battled those two guys intensely. One friend I confessed some of my struggle to said, “But I don’t understand. You have the perfect life.” And I knew what she meant: health, home, happy marriage and family, wonderful husband, great kids, fruitful ministry – things my friend didn’t even have at that moment, but still my own tears and sadness prevailed. I guess you could call that self-absorbed, but I am very thankful the few around me who knew of the struggle didn’t accuse me of that. My enemy was doing a pretty good job of it already – which didn’t help things at all. Feeling bad about feeling bad is a very BAD cycle.
“Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night.” Revelation 12: 10
And he is so convincing.
I was amazed, though, that Gilbert and I share the same thoughts on the use of anti-depressants:
“I’d never wanted to be on the medication in the first place. I’d fought taking it for so long, mainly because of a long list of personal objections (e.g. Americans are over-medicated; we don’t know the long-term effects of this stuff yet on the human brain; it’s a crime that even American children are on anti-depressants these days; we are treating symptoms and not the causes of a national mental health emergency…) (p.48)
She does eventually see a psychiatrist and take medication for her depression, but only after she had tried everything else, only when getting sunshine, spending time with good friends, a new haircut and cute dress were not helping anymore, only when she “could not walk another step,” only when she was beginning to be tempted to commit suicide. I think she was both wise and humble in this situation, but even then she “always felt conflicted about it,” and “wanted to be off them as soon as possible.” (p. 51)
Several folks who knew of my struggle suggested the use of anti-depressants, often so forcefully that I began to feel both unwise and immature for deciding to try other things: rest, more focused and extended prayer times, reading Scripture, working through two Bible study workbooks that addressed some of my battles, exercise, healthy foods, better boundaries with time, etc. Also, there were contributing factors – extended family crises, lots of travel/time away from home, and my own sin of unbridled perfectionism among other things. Depression and sadness are God-designed emotional responses to bring about awareness of need or maybe needed change. I have no interest in numbing those natural responses. I’d rather press in to Jesus and allow Him to help me “take on depression like it was the fight of my life…” to use Gilbert’s words. I did decide to see a wonderful, godly Christian counselor who, at age 70, was able to help me get some perspective and make connections to reasons for this depression. She was a gift and just the perfect balance of nurture and truth. (And may I just mention that it seems you can count the number of Christian counselors in New England on one hand. Yes, a miraculous gift – and just 45 minutes from my home.)
Now I feel like a lot of other disclaimers are in order here, (I can almost hear your “buts” and “what ifs”) because I do think there are those who desperately need the medication, but I also think life is hard. Jesus promised it would be hard, (it’s a fallen world) but that He would be our hope. Depression is literally all over the Bible. “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” (Psalm 42) or how about, “We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life…” (I Cor. 1:8) What concerns me is when, Christians especially, are quicker to take the medication than to press in for real help and healing in Christ. I once lived in a place where nearly every Christian minister’s wife or ministry staff woman I knew was on anti-depressants. Something is wrong with that picture.
Larry Crabb is a prominent Christian counselor that many love to hate, but I tend to like him, because I’d much rather (usually!) hear it straight up than sugar-coated. Here’s just one great quote from his book Shattered Dreams that was a great help to me in years past:
“It’s hard to hear, but it is important to know that God is not committed to supporting our ministries, to preventing our divorces, to preserving our health, to straightening out our kids, to providing a livable income, to ending famine, to protecting us from agonizing problems that generate in our souls an experience that feels like death. We cannot count on God to arrange what happens in our lives in ways that will make us feel good.”
“We can count on God to patiently remove all the obstacles to our enjoyment of Him. He is committed to our joy, and we can depend on Him to give us enough of a taste of that joy and enough hope that the best is still ahead to keep us going in spite of how much pain continues to plague our hearts.”
That’s what I want – to not have anything in the way of enjoying Him. Oh, depression and melancholy were and are not fun. More than I have ever let myself before I crave comfort, peace, and ease these days, but I know there are no such things apart from Him.
Whom have I in heaven, but you? And besides you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever….As for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works. Psalm 73: 25, 26, 28
Recently, a Christian friend wrote to me to see what I thought about Eat, Pray, Love – spiritually speaking. I think she hesitated reading it, because after only a few chapters she said, “I am already realizing what a messy, religious mishmash it is.” Yep. But what to make of Ms. Gilbert’s spiritual experience – especially during her months at an Ashram in India? Because she definitely has an experience in which she describes being “suddenly transported through the portal of the universe and taken to the center of God’s palm.” (p. 198)
Well, if our enemy is “the great accuser” to those diligently seeking the one true God in Jesus Christ, then he is also “the great encourager” or “the great leave-r alone-r” to those who are not. The Christian must be “sober of spirit” and “on the alert,” because our “adversary, the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter5:8) Think of Job, whom Satan was confident would reject God after he was finished with him, or Peter, whom Satan demanded to “sift like wheat.” He did not demand this of, say….. Jezebel or Judas. They were on his team. He could rest in their loyalty to him (though they didn’t even know that’s the team they were on) and go after those who threatened his power and authority on earth.
Missionary friends returning from cultures that engage heavily in the meditative, Buddhist, and other practices which Ms. Gilbert describes, tell of the great oppression and attacks they experience there. Some we know have had to return home because of it – for the safety and health of their families. These Christians are on his territory, and he wants them off. On the other hand, he’s thrilled that millions are devoting themselves to a human guru, to “emptying themselves” through meditation, and to surrounding themselves with little graven images and idols. It pleases him to no end.
And as my husband summed it up, “Satan is cooking up counterfeit experiences left and right.”
But I certainly admired Gibert’s earnestness and devotion to her spiritual practice. And here is where I think many Christians (including myself) are sometimes missing the mark and wondering why they are not experiencing Christ in their daily lives. We are also called to meditate – on truth, on His Word. We are also called to surrender and release – everything to Him and His will. The experiences of peace, forgiveness, grace, and love that Gilbert described having at times are available to Christians all of the time – in even greater abundance, with deeper meaning and truth. We are filled with the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. What could be better than that? And as Robert mentioned in last week’s sermon, this filling of the Holy Spirit automatically unites us with divinity – the Trinity.
“In that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” John 14:20
“That day” being the one in which believers would be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Yes, constant intimacy with the divine is available to us at all times. Unfortunately, we often prevent this intimacy by our own sin and selfishness, by our seeking of other gods; gods more comfortable and less demanding. Ms. Gilbert was in search of this very thing, and she was willing to get it at nearly any cost – denying herself, waking up early, sitting in meditation for hours, etc.
How often do I make myself available to the Holy Spirit in the same manner? It is my desire, though, and the place of healing and hope that I am in need of. So, I have to say that although I think she was misguided and even deceived, she inspired and exhorted me in my own practice of biblical meditation, surrender, faith, and trust – in my devotion to the spiritual practices that allow the Spirit to move within me.
“Devotion is diligence without assurance,” Gilbert declares.
Thankfully, for this perfectionist – diligent in all things small and large – I have assurance.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
“…show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:11-12
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us…” Hebrews 6: 19-20
At the end of the book, Ms. Gilbert describes an earlier getaway to a remote island on which she rents a beach cabin and vows to not speak at all, to retreat into silence and solitude until something changes inside of her. Reading this experience, I thought she might finally come to realize the Truth that Christians claim, and the gifts of pure love and forgiveness that they experience in Christ. On her ninth day of silence she calls to mind all past life episodes of sadness, anger, and shame. After hours of recall and acknowledging even her worst moments of selfishness and arrogance, she experiences freedom and forgiveness – at least temporarily, she says.
The words she describes as coming from her own heart in that moment are these:
“I love you, I will never leave you, I will always take care of you.”
And this is exactly what the Lord says to His followers…
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” (Jeremaiah 31:3)
The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
So yes, that is what God does and is, but there’s just one problem. After all of this was over she states, “I looked into my own heart, at my own goodness, and I saw its capacity….I knew then that this is how God loves us all and receives us all, and that there is no such thing as hell…” (p. 328) She credits herself. She says that her own goodness was always there, and God just gently led her to realize it. And according to her, He does this for everyone, whether or not they credit Him or acknowledge Him for exactly who He is. But it is He that takes upon Himself all of that anger, sadness, and shame – on the cross. It is not our own heart that does that. She understands her need for redemption, but seems to conclude that she is capable of that in and of herself.
So…she doesn’t quite get there. And for me it was a bit agonizing to see God revealing Himself to her so graciously at times, but for her to continue to reject who He is:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
God cannot be limited by our comfort level and ideas of political correctness. He is who He is and lovingly demands acceptance as such. Just like if you want to be in relationship with me, I’d like that relationship to be based on who I really am and not someone you create in your own mind – someone who fits better with your ideas and experiences.
So again, I’m thankful that Ms. Gilbert at least acknowledges this fact – that she is not a Christian according to Jesus’ own definition of Himself as God, and the only way to God. Also, I’m comforted by her similar struggle with all things internal and emotional, and I’m spurred on by her devotion to her god. (Just like Barbara Mouser says we ought to be inspired by Jezebel’s!) But I’m still left frustrated at her rejection of God for who He really is, and pray her journey continues to that end.
The disciples, of course, thought (hoped) that He meant power to reinstate Israel and dominate the Romans, but Jesus was talking about a power and mission much grander than that. He was talking about being witnesses for Him – doing even greater things than Him – locally and to the ends of the earth. Jesus was saying that those 500 people would be the catalysts for a worldwide movement – and they didn’t even know what “ends of the earth” entailed.
This is Kayla’s interpretation of that. One neighbor telling another. That neighbor telling a friend and so on, which is how her Daddy kept describing as the process by which the mission was and is accomplished – those friends and neighbors all empowered to do such witnessing through the Holy Spirit who is available to all believers at all times.
(Via obedience, though, which was the point of the sermon – which you can actually listen to here.)
Much more powerful than a drawing of the beach.
One that I’m happy to have as a reminder in my little grocery-list spiral notebook.
After that we headed downtown for some browsing through our town’s weekly farmer’s market. The only things we bought there were three garlic bulbs, a quart of jalapenos, and get this….some fresh ginger! ($16 per pound! Look in front of the tomatoes.) Oh, and one very gluten-ful pecan sticky bun for the only gluten-eater in our family. Usually, while eating some glutinous goodness, he will say something like…”This is really terrible. Just awful – you are not missing anything.” Which is always a lie, of course – to ease my jealousy, but after devouring this treat, he admitted it was the best sticky bun he had ever eaten. I didn’t mind at all, especially since I was able to indulge in a grass-fed-cow’s milk yogurt and peach smoothie while cruising through all of the absolutely beautiful vegetable displays. (Yes, made fresh, on the spot.)
And then we got busy washing, chopping, and eating!
Kayla had her friend Maddie over, and since the weather couldn’t have been more perfect, Robert worked on a campfire out back, (while simultaneously polishing off his sermon on the laptop) so that we could have campfire meals or “Hobo Meals” which is what we always call them. (Pretty sure I obtained that term from my Girl Scout camping days.)
Seriously, I want to give a disclaimer at church each week: Warning! This church has unusually talented musicians. PLEASE do not expect this same level of expertise in other congregations. You are sure to be disappointed.
Wonderful day of fun and favorite things…. a needed encouragement.
Kayla’s Sermon Interpretation Drawing
Eat, Pray, Love book/movie review
First Days of School
I’ve already posted one kale recipe this summer that even the kids could admit was tasty. (It has sauteed pepperoni and honey in it, so what’s not to like?) I’ve also been putting a lot of the kale I get from the farm on a weekly basis in smoothies. But here is another fun and tasty way to get this superfood into your diet: Kale Pesto!
It really doesn’t taste too much different from basil pesto, and it comes out an even more rich and beautiful GREEN!
¼- ½ cup chopped walnuts
1 ½ -2 teaspoons salt
½ pound kale, stems removed, coarsely chopped (1 medium bunch should do)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
ground black pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend well. Toss with pasta or use as a spread or pizza topper! Freeze in ice cube trays if you can’t use it all at once.
I was pretty sure it wasn’t the groundhog family. (Yes, Mommy, Daddy, and 5 – count ’em 5 – kids!) I never found any tunnels dug under the fence, and they’ve become so bold now that they freely range in the backyard. They never go near the garden. But one day one of them got close, so I ran out with my apron on and spatula in hand to scare them off. (So scary!) They all scattered except one who not only stood his ground, but actually lunged for me – hissing! (The rebel of the family? Defiant 5 year old?) I threw pine cones and then rocks. He was unfazed. When he continued to lunge at me, I was the one who scattered – back to the kitchen window lookout! How DARE he!?!
Beware the shrew.
And then sometime last month I noticed a few things that looked suspiciously NOT like weeds, so I went out to investigate. There were tomatoes growing on the ground, the basil was getting full and taller, three rows of zinnias were trying to make their way up through the jungle, and there were a few vine-y looking things with huge leaves and squash-like blossoms.
I couldn’t help but think of the parable of the sower that Jesus tells – the struggling plants being choked out by the worldly weeds, as I went out to try and give them some growing room. I staked and caged the poor tomatoes, and pulled (and even cut with scissors) the mass of weeds that surrounded some of the survivors.
And then this morning, I opened up my computer wanting to post these photos of semi-garden success, and decided to do a little research on voles at the same time. The photos and descriptions were not matching up to the thing I saw floating in the water bowl.
So, I Google “small critter with elongated nose.”
Just guess. A SHREW!
Not next year. Not in my yard.
But I won’t be trying to scare them off with my flying spatula either after what I learned from AskTheExterminator.com….
“Whatever you do, don’t try to catch a shrew yourself. They are vicious and aggressive when angered. These feisty little creatures will not be afraid to take a chunk out of your hand with their sharp teeth. Some shrews even have toxins in their saliva.”
Turns out I need some coyote or fox urine.
And, in conclusion, she shall watch all night,
And, if she chance to nod, I’ll rail and brawl,
And with the clamor keep her still awake.
This is the way to kill a wife with kindness.
And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humor.
He that knows better how to tame a shrew,
Now let him speak; ’tis charity to shew.”
Conclusion: Shrews can make a shrew out of ignorant gardeners. (and even informed ones.)
And like a good parent, I am sure to remind my children each year just how blessed they are to live in such a beautiful part of the country and not have to dodge jellyfish and tar on the beach like I did growing up going to the less-than-lovely Texas coast. (Better shells in Texas, though!)
The kids could hardly wait to join us in Ogunquit after our three nights alone in Bar Harbor. Lois drove them up to meet us, (and took them out for ice cream, because we were really late in arriving!) and they were super excited to engage in all of our traditional Ogunquit, Maine activities….
(And this would be another way the Texas cost gains some points over the north Atlantic coast: you can actually enter the water without suffering from hypothermia in a matter of seconds. Honestly, it HURTS to just stick your feet in.)
However…the native Texans and perpetual tourists are always up for a road trip.
6 hours? That’s just to Dallas and back. Easy day trip.
Robert had planned this trip to Bar Harbor, ME in the early spring as a way for us to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. We stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast – possibly one of the nicest in the area. The innkeepers there – Jeff and Catherine, blessed us beyond measure with their hospitality. They have thought of every imaginable detail down to pre-programmed GPS’s to several more difficult but local destinations available for guests to take and use at their convenience. There were two choices for breakfast each morning, afternoon tea at 4pm, and they even made me some gluten free pancakes on our final morning there.
The Primrose Inn is not only a business for them, but also a ministry. They actually advertise on their website that they would like for pastors and wives, and others in ministry to come and stay there for a very special discount. This, coupled with their friendliness and attention to every possible need or want, made for a very special gift to us.
Another place we frequented was a cute cafe/natural grocery store called Tamarind. I saw this sign upon walking in and got so excited. Honestly, I don’t eat a lot of gluten free bread-y products or baked goods, but it just makes me happy to find places that understand and accommodate, so of course I have to indulge in order to support their efforts! I had one of my first ever restaurant GF pizzas for lunch at this place.*
So thankful the Lord provides gifts like this for us. Praising Him for His constant provision in our lives and also for the provision of 18 years of marriage!
Next up: Part 2: Family Beach Vacation!
Sadly, the one downside to the evening was the gift Bible. A very sweet, young salesgirl had talked me into the NIV True Images Bible for Teen Girls. I did flip through it in the store and saw some inserts about dating, flirting, etc. But I thought it might be OK since she will have this Bible into her teen years hopefully. And it is really an adorably designed Bible that is very appealing to tweens and teens. Kayla was thrilled when she opened it.
When we got home later that evening, I decided to do a little more research about the Bible online. Oh my goodness. Suffice it to say that it touches on some very mature and even would-be disturbing topics in the special insert sections. Now, each is addressed and taught with the truth of Scripture, but they are WAY too much for my sweet little 10 year old homeschooler. (You can email me if you want to know more…. or you can just Google it!)
That said, I am fully aware that these are the precise topics that nearly every teenage girl is coming face to face with on a daily basis amongst her friends, at school, the internet, and on cable television. And the Bible is marketed to teenage girls. I would be less reserved in giving it to a 16 year old who has already encountered these issues personally or socially. But I’m thinking Kayla will probably get hers back when she’s about 25!
As I researched, she was upstairs getting ready for bed. I left the computer and ran up the stairs just in time to see her climb into bed with her precious new Bible. I gently told her that I thought we would have to get another Bible, as this one contained things that are inappropriate for girls her age. She very soberly and sweetly said, “OK, Mama.”
So this week we ordered another Bible that she even helped pick out! It is actually a kids Bible, but with teenage-y looking purple swirly design. (And yes, I know that the content is what matters, but if “cute” is available, why not?) And I just got an email from Zondervan today that says its on its way!
Happy 10th Birthday to my sweet, helpful, tree hugging, animal loving, aspiring GF pastry chef, and earnest about Jesus little/big girl!