The Physicality of Our Faith

As I continue to sit in the wilderness that has been my faith for the last three or four years, I have had a lot of opportunities to think about the nature of faith itself. The words I’ve hung onto for the last year or so are the phrase, “come anyway.” Come anyway, come regardless. Come anyway, any way that I can, and that’s what I’ve done, over and over… and over, and over again. It’s forced me to examine the ways that I used to engage with God and faith. Did I say examine? I meant throw them all out.

My senior project in undergrad was praying through dance. I did my project and concluded that praying through dance just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t connecting to it at all and found at the time that I could only engage fully mentally when I was still. It didn’t make for a very pleasant senior project, but I had a feeling at the time that I would come back to it. I used to engage with God mentally; I would pray, I would read–I did a lot of Bible reading, I mean a lot. That’s not working so well for me now, though. I think I’ve managed to read my Bible maybe a dozen times in the last year and a half, and that’s being generous.

So I’ve been forced to find other ways to come anyway, and that means being present physically. I changed churches last year and began going to an Episcopalian church, and I’ve found so much refuge in the physicality of their worship. In all the other churches I’ve ever been to, there’s not much physical engagement. Sure, you might raise your hands or stand to sing, but that’s pretty much it. In one church, we came forward for communion, and in another, general exuberance in worship was encouraged (think jumping in the aisles, flags waving, and so on), but by and large, church has been a sedentary activity. It doesn’t even include that many chances to participate, besides listening. In the average service, you sing for a while. That’s probably it, unless you go to a church that does the occasional responsive reading or group prayer. But other than that, it’s sitting and listening.

That’s just not possible in liturgical worship. It’s impossible to get through an Episcopalian (and I presume other liturgical services too, but I haven’t been to those yet) service without physically engaging. You’re constantly speaking, singing, standing, walking, kneeling, sitting, tasting the sweetness of the bread and the bitterness of the wine. I’m fortunate enough to attend a church that’s physically gorgeous, and today I watched purple and pink streak across my Book of Common Prayer page from the sunlight streaming in through the stained glass behind me. Frequently during services I just spend time drinking in the rich blue color of our ceiling, the woodwork covering the altar area handcarved by a member as a many-yeared labor of love, the stained glass windows that are open on nice days to let the breeze and street noise in, the vivid red doors that are open as often as possible to welcome the community. And, of course, we’re Episcopalians, so there’s always delicious smells and tastes at coffee hour afterward.

And in all of that, when I can’t tell up from down mentally, I come on Sunday and I read the prayers of the people, say the Nicene creed, sing the Lord’s Prayer, kneel to receive communion and feel the bread pressed into my palm, dip the bread into a silver cup of wine, and savor the taste and the meaning before walking the long walk back to my pew. It has been a blessing beyond measure to settle into a worship that requires me to act. Then I go home, put on some gentle music, and move, allowing my body to speak when my mind can’t, and letting that be my prayer. Ironically, this has now become my main engagement with my faith–I have indeed come back to my senior project topic, and it’s very precious to me now.

I’ve had two conversations in the last few weeks about how easy it is for us to forget we’re human, we’re physical creatures by nature, not just a soul hanging out in a semi-unrelated body. With the current discoveries made in psychology and neuroscience and the growing popularity of somatic work, it’s increasingly obvious that we, ourselves, are fully physical in a way that is tangled up in our spirituality. It’s too easy to forget that Jesus was human, fully physical, in all the ways that we are, and that our faith therefore can only be human and fully physical. Bodies can be uncomfortable; they get hungry and need to go to the bathroom and all sorts of other things that are inconvenient and even painful, but that’s part of what makes us us. We do ourselves and our faith a huge disservice when we don’t invite our full selves into worship of a full God.

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My Soul Isn’t Finding Rest…

What do you do when your soul doesn’t find rest? What do you do when you’re so deep in reconstructing your faith you feel you have nothing to stand on? Two years ago, I started a process of deconstructing and reconstructing my faith. Oh, it started slowly at first, but those things snowball on you. First it starts with one belief, and then you realize that if that belief is up for grabs, maybe the rest are too, and so it begins. Combine that with a growing appreciation for mistakes and flaws in humanity, and you soon have a recipe for unbelief. It looks like this:

Take one tablespoon of “hm, this seems odd,” and mix it with a cup of “that doesn’t make sense” and you get a recipe for “what the &%$* do I believe, and why would I believe something that sounds so incredible again?”

I mean, let’s put this bluntly. We believe that a being that we can’t see, can’t touch, can’t hear, and won’t be able to see, touch, or hear for as long as live, somehow created the universe, plus us. All this was fine and dandy until we screwed up, cue every horror ever perpetrated in history, which is only our fault, not the being’s. Said being only talks to certain people at certain times in certain ways, and then we get to the central part of the story, where said being hops down to earth, becomes human, dies, rises from the dead (!) and disappears, leaving a couple hundred people to put together a religion and travel all over the world with it.

It sounds like a highly convenient fairy tale, which is great when you have the little-kid gloss over your eyes. But what happens when you get to be an adult and the response changes from “Wow, that’s so cool! How’d he do that?” to “What the #$*!”

That’s when you get to the frantic slipping foundation stage of it all. Apparently, after doing some reading, this deconstruction thing is actually a thing, by which I mean to say that it’s considered a legitimate stage of faith over a lifetime. Roughly, you have the little-kid stage of total acceptance, then the mid-stage of blind acceptance, then the next mid-stage of @#$&, then the last state of total acceptance. I’m paraphrasing and condensing, but that’s basically it. The problem is that the church glorifies stages one, two, and four, without accepting (although this is changing) that there’s a stage three in there, and that stage four can’t be reached without going through stage three. The usual timeframe for stage three is early adulthood, so it’s not like I’m going through something weird or unusual. In fact, it’s a good thing… it just doesn’t feel like it in the moment.

However much of a good thing it might be, I’m still stuck here, now, fighting it out. Which brings me to my original questions—what you grab onto when you feel there’s nothing left? Whatever is graspable is different for everyone; for me it’s the fact that the world is just too perfect and too beautiful for chance, and that I’ve been friends with the Lord for so long I can’t imagine leaving my best friend. Some days that really feels like all I can grab, and that’s okay. I staked my path to His years ago, and He’s gently reminded me He’s staked His to mine too. That’s why He said He wouldn’t leave us alone, that He would come to us, because this walk is much too difficult to do without help.

I confess I debated writing this for a number of reasons; one, doubt is still considered weakness in the church instead of a pathway to belief, and two, it’s just my own journey, and to blog about it seems pretty self-centered. But I chose to write it because it’s those voices online who have been my solid foundation recently, the ones who write of the same doubt process, the ones who aren’t afraid to say that faith is hard work but they’re slogging it out. It’s rough not being at rest, but Proverbs says that the first side of the story always seems right, until the second comes along and questions it. Truth can survive any amount of questioning, and so I hang onto the fact that despite all my fears and questions and doubt, and yes, unbelief, that the truth will out. Like murder, the truth will out, and this isn’t forever—rest will come again.

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May Book Musings–Jesus Feminist

In keeping with my “women in the church” theme from last month, this month’s book is entitled Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. Jesus Feminist is a kind of manifesto for both men and women to recognize and understand that “women are people too.” This, she says, is the heart of feminism (p. 13), despite the current baggage and connotations the word can carry. Throughout the book she weaves from subject to subject, from her own story, to very basic exposition of common Scriptural texts on women, to stories of those women (and men) around her in Canada, Haiti, and elsewhere. She ends with a beautifully written commission to the reader to go and bring the Kingdom of God on earth.

A key point of this book is how Bessey writes. I can summarize, but without her expressive and poetic language it won’t read in quite the same way. At first, I found her poetic prose odd, because it isn’t something I’m used to, but by the end I grew to really enjoy it. It made me feel as if I was reading a work of art and worship, instead of reading “normal” prose.

Another key point is the personal stories she relates. In doing studying feminism in school this year, I’ve begun to respect the place of stories in academic literature; something that before made me skeptical. Stories have a way of making you question previously held beliefs. I definitely used to be traditional, and believed (for example) that women shouldn’t preach at all, but that belief has been steadily unraveling this school year through Scriptural exposition, logic, and yes, many stories. It’s difficult to encounter a godly woman preaching the gospel and teaching people… and still believe she’s living in sin. Bessey’s point with the stories she relates is to demonstrate the power that women have to witness to and for the Kingdom, and the harm it brings to the church when they are silenced. When the harvest is great, why bench half your workforce? And the stories stir the soul—it’s hard to read about need and injustice without wanting to do something about it (or it should be, anyway).

Bessey does an excellent job of encouraging readers to put aside foolish arguments and denominational differences to do the work that we are all called to do—bring the Kingdom of God on earth. It is a book more than worth the read, even if you end up disagreeing with her on some things. It is a book whose message asks, and gains, respect… and hopefully changes those who read it.

To order the book, click here:

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April Book Musings–A Year of Biblical Womanhood

The April book of the month is Rachel Held Evan’s A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master.’” It’s a thick book, but an accessible—and quick—read. Evans has an informal, humorous writing style that’s quite enjoyable. I wanted to read this particular book for two reasons. First, similar to what I mentioned for her Evolving in Monkey Town (now retitled Faith Unraveled), I had heard a lot of bad press about Biblical Womanhood, especially saying that her hermeneutics was horrible and even that she made a mockery of the Bible. I wanted to see for myself if that was true (it’s not, by the way). And second, the question of biblical womanhood is something that keeps coming up in my odd juxtaposition of graduate school feminist readings and being in a serious relationship. What is it, really, and how can I achieve it? Is the place of a woman in the home? How does that relate to getting my Master’s degree?

Rachel Held Evans begins her book by explaining her reasons for her year-long experiment—the recent upswell of ultra-conservative “biblical womanhood,” by which she means the belief that a woman’s place is first in the home, that a woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and mother, that the domestic arts are much more important than a career, and so on. Evans points out that technically, it’s biblical for women to do a lot of different things, some of which today’s culture looks aghast at, and that putting the label “biblical” on something doesn’t make it actually biblical. So she had a radical thought—what if she did it all? What if she took everything the Bible says about women literally, and did it? Here is her quest in her own words:

“This quest of mine required that I study every passage of Scripture that relates to women and learn how women around the world interpret and apply these passages to their lives. In addition, I would attempt to follow as many of the Bible’s teachings regarding women as possible in my day-to-day life, sometimes taking them to their literal extreme. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, from Genesis to Revelation, from the Levitical code to the letters of Paul, there would be no picking and choosing. A year of biblical womanhood would mean, among other things, rising before dawn (Proverbs 31:15), submitting to my husband (Colossians 3:18), growing out my hair (1 Corinthians 11:5), making my own clothes (Proverbs 31:21-22), learning how to cook (Proverbs 31:5), covering my head in prayer (1 Corinthians 11:15), calling Dan [her husband] ‘master’ (1 Peter 3:5-6), caring for the poor (Proverbs 31:20), nurturing a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4), and remaining ceremonially impure for the duration of my period (Leviticus 15:19-33). Some practices I would observe just once. Others I would try to observe all year. Each month I would focus on a different virtue—gentleness, domesticity, obedience, valor, beauty, modesty, purity, fertility, submission, justice, silence, and grace” (xx-xxi).

Each month/virtue has its own chapter detailing Evans’s experiments for that month and their results. I won’t go through each and every one of them, but will say that the key moment of the book comes when she has befriended a Jewish woman named Ahava, who is instrumental in helping Evans understand the cultural context behind several passages. The most notable of these is Proverbs 31. From what I have heard (and apparently from what Evans has heard!) is many women feel discouraged trying to live up to the “impossible” standard that the “Proverbs 31 woman” sets out. They feel that it’s basically a to-do list, and a good women should be doing everything on that list, preferably all at once. Ahava reveals that in Jewish culture their term is eshet chayil, or “woman of valor.” The term is used in praise of godly women, as in, “Look what a good dinner my wife cooked tonight! She’s an eshet chayil for sure,” or “Look at how smart she is! What an eshet chayil.” It’s a phrase that blesses women who bless others with their gifts and service, not an impossible to-do list to live up to.

Throughout the rest of the book Evans develops the concept of being an eshet chayil, and concludes that there is no single way to be a good woman. I will again let her speak for herself from her conclusion.

“The Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth. Among the women praised in Scripture are warriors, widows, slaves, sister wives, apostles, teachers, concubines, queens, foreigners, prostitutes, prophets, mothers, and martyrs. What makes these women’s stories leap from the page is not the fact that they all conform to some kind of universal ideal, but that, regardless of the culture or context in which they found themselves, they lived their lives with valor. They lived their lives with faith . . . Far too many church leaders have glossed over these stories and attempted to define womanhood by a list of rigid roles. But roles are not fixed. They are not static. Roles come and go; they shift and they change. They are relative to our culture and subject to changing circumstances. It’s not our roles that define us, but our character. A calling, on the other hand, when rooted deep in the soil of one’s soul, transcends roles. And I believe that my calling, as a Christian, is the same as that of any other follower of Jesus. My calling is to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Jesus himself said that the rest of Scripture can be rendered down into these two commands. If love was Jesus’ definition of ‘biblical,’ then perhaps it should be mine” (294-295).

I still don’t know exactly what “biblical womanhood” looks like, but I am beginning to get a clearer concept. It’s not about mastering the art of canning and preserving (although I want to do that) or getting my degree (I’m doing that too), but about living my life, whatever that is, with valor and grace. I guess I should stop stressing about what I should be, and allow myself to become who I should be—another faithful follower of Christ.

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March Book Musings–Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed

This (last, at this point) month for my March book I chose a book on a topic I was not expecting to choose: free-will theism and Calvinism. But I saw this book on Amazon and instantly wanted to read it, so there you go. It is called Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism by Austin Fischer and describes, aptly, the author’s journey towards and away from Calvinism. Calvinism is a topic I’ve tried to straddle the fence on for a while, pending further study, and I expect that’s a position I will keep for a while, since both free-will theism and Calvinism have issues I can’t quite reconcile. To be honest, even after reading the book, I don’t feel that I can write a good critical review or essay because my own thoughts are still so much in flux. I know that if I tried to put out any arguments on the subject with my thoughts so muddled the arguments would be rightly critiqued and torn to shreds, so I think it’s better to let them coalesce for now. Instead, I will highlight some areas Fischer writes about in hopes that writing them down will clarify my thoughts.

Fischer’s book is an interesting read and made me think about several of the logical underpinnings of Calvinism. He writes how, as a young man, he accepted unconditional election kicking and screaming because he didn’t see any other scriptural option. But as he matured and continued wrestling with some of its issues, he encountered some logical difficulties he couldn’t overcome, especially that of what some call double predestination—that God elects some to heaven and some to hell. He points out that some Calvinists wiggle their way around that by instead saying God “passes them by,” but that a choice to not choose them for heaven is, in fact a choice against them. Fischer uses a marriage analogy to prove his point—sure, a man chooses a woman to marry, so he loves her in a special way as opposed to his love for other women. But as Fischer says, we would at least expect him to have some basic compassion for other women and help them out of horrible suffering if he could. So it’s no good to say that God just loves the elect in a higher way—how is condemning someone to hell loving them in a “lower” way? How is that love at all? And how is it just to condemn someone for sins God ordained they would commit, if they didn’t have a choice to commit them? Fischer also questions what he calls the “black hole” of God, in which the materialistic black hole of self that many Christians critique becomes a black hole of God’s glory, in which “everything circles around the supermassive black hole of God’s desire to show the world what being God is all about” (15).

Fischer argues that Jesus, while not the exhaustive revelation of God, is the exclusive revelation of God; there can be no picture of God that does not mesh with Jesus. Then the glory of God is the glory of love; they are not separate or opposing ideas. God is the only being in the universe that loves freely, absolutely, and gives His power away in some measure—because He wants to. Then the black hole of God’s glory becomes the black hole of God’s love, which isn’t a black hole at all, but a sun—the Son.

There are definitely some areas of this book I either disagree with or wish Fischer had covered more fully. It’s a pretty short book, just over one hundred pages. I think that for the ideas he is discussing, even double the length would have been appropriate, because ideas this weighty deserve the fullest possible consideration. That being said, it is a unique perspective on Calvinism and I appreciated Fischer’s honesty about his own journey. I also appreciated his footnotes; coming from a scholarly perspective it was nice to see a book that is accessible but also well-documented. His book certainly made me think, and he brought up many, many excellent points. Whether you call yourself a Calvinist or not, it’s worth a read.


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February Book Musings–Evolving in Monkey Town

Evolving in Monkey Town—Thoughts and Reflections

evolving-in-monkey-townContinuing with my goal of reading and critiquing a book each month this year, I chose Rachel Held Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town for the February book. I have wanted to read her books for a long time (her second book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, will probably become a book of the month soon). When I first heard of her, it was in a negative context, and she was portrayed as a flaming liberal who had little sense or discernment. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued. But when one of my professors mentioned her love and respect for Evans, I thought, I need to investigate this woman further! I couldn’t possibly hold a valid opinion of her, positive or negative, until I had read her books. Thus my decision to read Evolving this month.

Evolving, despite the unfortunate connotations that word has for many conservative Christians, has little to do with science or the creation/evolution argument. Evans grew up in Dayton, Tennessee, home of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial about teaching creationism versus evolution in public schools. She describes her conservation Christian upbringing, immersed in apologetics and theological knowledge. It wasn’t until her college years that she started having doubts about Christianity, and began a several-year process of working out her faith. Her premise? That faith, if it is to survive and thrive, needs to be flexible. It needs to evolve. No one human has all the answers, and it is the height of folly to stake your own beliefs as the equivalent of perfection, and to become rigid in knowledge. By this, Evans doesn’t mean the basic tenets of the Christian faith, such as the incarnation, resurrection, atonement, and so on; she means the gray areas, the areas hotly debated by Christians for thousands of years (baptism by immersion or sprinkling? grape juice or wine? evolution or creation?).

I think here the book needs to speak for itself, so here is a segment taken from the final chapter. This passage really captures the central key themes of the book, and quoting it is going to do far better justice to it than my attempts at summarizing it. So here it is.

“With the best of intentions, the generation before mine worked diligently to prepare their children to make an intelligent case for Christianity. We were constantly reminded of the superiority of our own worldview and the shortcomings of all others. We learned that as Christians, we alone had access to absolute truth and could win any argument . . . As a result, many of us entered the world with both an unparalleled level of conviction and a crippling lack of curiosity. So ready with the answers, we didn’t know what the questions were anymore. So prepared to defend the faith, we missed the thrill of discovering it for ourselves. So convinced we had God right, it never occurred to us that we might be wrong. In short, we never learned to doubt. Doubt is a difficult animal to master because it requires that we learn the difference between doubting God and doubting what we believe about God. The former has the potential to destroy faith; the latter has the power to enrich and refine it . . . If I’ve learned anything over the past five years, it’s that doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves. It helps us cast off false fundamentals so that we can recover what has been lost or embrace what is new. It is a refining fire, a hot flame that keeps our faith alive and moving and bubbling about, where certainty would freeze it on the spot. I would argue that healthy doubt (questioning one’s beliefs) is perhaps the best defense against unhealthy doubt (questioning God). When we know how to make a distinction between our ideas about God and God himself, our faith remains safe when one of those ideas is seriously challenged. When we recognize that our theology is not the moon but rather a finger pointing at the moon, we enjoy the freedom of questioning it from time to time . . . I sometimes wonder if I might have spent fewer nights in angry, resentful prayer if only I’d known that my little systems—my theology, my presuppositions, my beliefs, even my fundamentals—were but broken lights of a holy, transcendent God. I wish I had known to question them, not him.” (pp. 218-220, emphasis mine).

Obviously, as Evans points out, unhealthy doubt can destroy faith, and it requires discernment to walk that line between healthy and unhealthy. But faith that cannot grow and change with time—in short, evolve—is in danger of becoming rigid, and rigid means brittle. At some point, because we are fallible, something isn’t going to fit into our perfectly set up theology. When that happens, that thing has the potential to crumble our entire faith. But if we hold our understanding—and I don’t say our faith, but our understanding of it—loosely, then when something doesn’t fit into our box, we can shift and acquire this new information or event without posing danger to the entire structure. As I pointed out earlier, I’m not advocating we go out and throw away all our beliefs or any such thing. But I strongly encourage you to first, read the book, because it will make you think a lot, and second, to start the journey with me of identifying places we hold convictions tightly out of fear we could be wrong, rather than firmly out of thoughtful faith… and of course, growing in humility to admit we can be wrong sometimes (read: a lot).

P.S. If you would like to buy the book, here is the link:


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January Book Musings–A Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life

Well, here begins the book of the month challenge of 2014. So far so good. Let me restate my purpose for these essays; they are not meant to be exhaustive, or formal (although some of them may wind up being so), but rather be a way to hold myself accountable to truly digest and process through what I’ve read (think a sort of “monthly musings”). With that in mind…95b69833e7a0ff26793b1110.L

This month’s book is perhaps less controversial than some of the other topics I will tackle, but then again, maybe not. I read Hannah Whitall Smith’s book, The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life. I discovered my dad’s old copy of this book almost ten years ago, and thought it was the most profound non-fiction book I had ever read. So I thought that a good way to begin this year was by allowing it to be the January book, and by seeing if I still considered it as profound as I did the last time I read it.

Well, did I? The answer is uncategorically YES. I found myself constantly amazed by Smith’s writing and content. She writes clearly and concisely, and every sentence is packed with nuggets of truth—I was tempted to facebook quote them, but I decided to spare my friends since I usually wanted to quote something at least once a page. So I refrained.

Smith’s basic premise is that many Christians are not living a happy life; they’re living a ho-hum daily life full of failures and they don’t realize there can be more. Are there going to be failures and problems? Of course. But we are more than conquerors through Christ. It is clear to me that Smith is one of the forerunners of the modern Word of Faith movement, and I know some of my readers will instantly dismiss the entire book just by reading that. Please don’t. Go and read the book. There are many, many paragraphs where she just quotes Scripture after Scripture after Scripture… and then she quotes more Scripture. I mean, whole paragraphs, filling up whole pages. My personal copy doesn’t have all the references footnoted like some of the recent editions probably do, but it’s easy enough to find the references with a google search if you don’t already recognize some of them.

In addition to actually reading the book, I did a little bit of research on it, and I was surprised by what I found; namely, how strongly some people disapprove of it. Consequently, I want to address three major critiques I discovered, because I don’t believe they’re well-founded.

First, the critique that Christians aren’t meant to be “happy” all the time. Okay. I grant you, permanent feelings of happiness are hard to achieve, and I hear you on the theological implications of that. But we also need to remember that this book was written in 1875, and the “happy” vs. “joyful” debate wasn’t a fad then. Happy didn’t have the same connotations it does now, and what Smith describes is much closer to our current definition of joy than happiness. Second, that of Smith’s own life. It is true that she had some family troubles, and her own life was far from easy in many ways. However, I am confused as to how an author who preaches about the value of finding joy throughout life is disqualified from preaching that message because her life is hard. If you can figure that out, please enlighten me. Finally, that of Smith’s orthodoxy… or lack thereof. Later in life she became something of a Universalist, and fell into what I believe is heresy in that matter (that all people will become saved eventually).  However, from what I can ascertain, her writings on this matter are from much later in life (that book was published in 1903, almost thirty years after A Christian’s Secret), and while it is valuable information to have as one reads, I did not see any evidence that she believed in universalism in 1875. In any case, it doesn’t show up in her writing here.

I will admit now that I went into the book with my perspective colored by those critiques, and if I must mention it, a fair bit of skepticism. I haven’t read the book in ten years; was it really as good as I thought as a teenager? But page after page, Scripture after Scripture, Smith weaves her points together. Her writing is so straightforward and logical it’s hard to argue with. There are one or two things I disagree with her on, due to a different interpretation of several passages, but overall I highly recommend the book. And if you live near me, I’ll gladly let you borrow it, so you have no excuse not to read it!

There’s the review portion. I want to end with several quotes so that you can see for yourself.

“All of God’s children, I am convinced, feel instinctively, in their moments of divine illumination, that a life of inward rest and outward victory is their inalienable birthright. Can you not remember, some of you, the shout of triumph your souls gave when you first become acquainted with the Lord Jesus, and had a glimpse of His mighty saving power? How sure you were of victory, then! How easy it seemed to be more than conquerors, through Him that loves you! Under the leadership of a Captain, who had never been foiled in battle, how could you dream of defeat? And yet, to many of you, how different has been your real experience! Your victories have been few and fleeting, your defeats many and disastrous. You have not lived as you feel children of God ought to live. You have had perhaps a clear understanding of doctrinal truths, but you have not come into possession of their life and power. You have rejoiced in your knowledge of the things revealed in the Scriptures, but have not had a living realization of the things themselves, consciously felt in the soul” (pp. 1-2).

“A sudden failure is no reason for being discouraged and giving up all as lost. Neither is the integrity of our doctrine touched by it. We are not preaching a state, but a walk. The highway of holiness is not a place, but a way. Sanctification is not a thing to be picked up at a certain stage of our experience, and forever after possessed, but it is a life to be lived day by day, and hour by hour. We may for a moment turn aside from a path, but the path is not obliterated by our wandering, and can be instantly regained. And in this life and walk of faith, there may be momentary failures that, although very sad and greatly to be deplored, need not, if rightly met, disturb the attitude of the soul as to entire consecration and perfect trust, nor interrupt, for more than the passing moment, its happy communion with its Lord. The great point is an instant return to God” (p. 130).

Stay tuned for next month’s musings!

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