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Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Still Read Books - Part 2

The summer reading continues... while my first book took me (a few) weeks, I knocked down the second book in two days! I do not believe that indicates that this second book was WAY easier, but I will be the first to admit that I did not have to look up any words in the dictionary for this book. It also helped that it's summer and my schedule is nice and slow. So I had several uninterrupted hours to devour this book -- and let me tell you, it was a delight from start to finish.

The title, as you can see, is The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Jonathan is a friend of mine. He married a former student from my youth group, his lovely wife Leah, and I even assisted in their wedding. So I cannot promise a completely objective perspective.

That being said, I will tell you that I believe Jonathan is a very gifted writer and a prophetic voice in the kingdom. He is wise beyond his years, and I am still stunned over how many books he has already written!

I hate it when book reviews just give a Spark Notes version of the book, so I will not reiterate a laborious listing of quotes. I'll just share what spoke to me...

I was a kid who moved a lot. I went to 3 kindergartens (in one year, thank you very much), then moved after 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 5th grade. I made a commitment deep in my heart as a child that when I grew up, I would live in ONE PLACE. I was jealous of the kids who had known all their friends throughout elementary school, and who had teachers who knew their siblings. My experience of elementary school was mostly about being the new kid, spending the early months of the school year eating lunch alone, getting picked last for kickball and having my teachers mangle my last name over and over... and over.

Lest you think I'm just looking for your sympathy, I have come to discover that living in one place isn't always what it's cracked up to be. Even living in beautiful Santa Barbara has its downsides. And more than once I've really wanted to relocate and have a do-over.

But I had vowed to stay in one place and figure out how to make it work. Especially because I have no real extended family, I have wanted to have a family here. But as I have stumbled and tumbled through the bumps and bruises of that process, I have yearned for direction at times. And that is the beauty of this book. And Kathleen Norris says in the book's Foreword, "Committing to stability is never easy, but it is always worth a try."

Jonathan takes the practice of stability to a new place to me -- no longer is it a personal point of stubbornness, but instead, it is a spiritual discipline. He sums it all up so beautifully in his opening sentence: "This is a book about staying put and paying attention."

As I consider what it means to be an active member of the kingdom of God, hopefully persevering in faith and service as I seek to encourage others to do the same, it is easy to get discouraged. It feels like the divorce culture in America has obliterated this millennium's understanding of commitment. The threats of terrorism, tsunamis and a troubled world economy overwhelm us and make us want to withdraw and focus on ourselves. The internet puts the world at our fingertips -- then blinds us with such an endless parade of options that we can't stay focused on anything more than 6 seconds. How can anyone pursue "a long obedience in the same direction"? Jonathan says it this way: "Staying, we all know, is not the norm in our mobile culture." But he refuses to accept that, because "I am convinced that we lose something essential to our existence as creatures if we do not recognize our fundamental need for stability."

He then goes on to describe how we find this stability, this rootedness, in God... as expressed in committed community life.
Life in the house of God is life with other people who are every bit as broken and messed us as we are. We learn to dwell with God by learning the practices of hospitality, listening, forgiveness, and reconciliation -- the daily tasks of life with other people. Stability in Christ is always stability in community... Stability demands that we do the long, hard work of life with other people in the place where we are.

There, I've said enough. I promised I wouldn't just regurgitate a bunch of quotes. I've seen this book on sale with Amazon for $6... try to track it down and read it. It will force you to think about the trajectory of your life in some profound ways.

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