Uniquely Suited for a Rich Life

One of the things that you will be asked to do in the pages that follow is to abandon a mind-set in which you live the remainder of your life as if you are still experiencing your trauma. You may argue that given what you went through you are permanently damaged or scarred, that your baggage will be with you forever. I’m not here to tell you to get over it. I’m here to help you get past it. I will make the argument that you’re richer now — stronger, more empathic, and more in touch with your core values — than you were before you were challenged by what you went through. I don’t just believe that trauma survivors can go on to live rich, happy lives; I believe that they’re uniquely suited to do so.

— Alicia Salzer, MD, Back to Life, p. xxiv-xxv

The Terrible Thing

“But you must allow that God hates and punishes sin — and that is a terrible thing.”

“It would be ten times more terrible if he did not hate and punish it. Do you think Jesus came to deliver us from the punishment of our sins? He should not have moved a step for that. The terrible thing is to be sinful, and all punishment is to help deliver us from it, nor will it cease until we have given up being sinful. God will have us good; and Jesus works out the will of his Father.”

I myself do not believe that mere punishment exists anywhere in the economy of the highest. I think mere punishment is a human idea, not a divine one. But the consuming fire is more terrible to the evildoer than any idea of punishment invented by the most riotous of human imaginations. Punishment it is, though not mere punishment, which is a thing not of creation but of destruction: it is a power of God and for his creature. As love is God’s being and a creative energy in one, so the pains of God are to the recreating of the things his love has made, and sin has unmade.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 148

Books as Mirrors

A living work of art actually possesses a bare-bones practicality, indeed a utility, that we need to recover: it helps us toward a richer grasp of our own estate. What you find inside this mirror of life stories is an inexhaustible treasure house of “might-have-beens” and “might-bes,” a repertoire of scenarios showing how one moves through time, how one is made up of forces beyond one’s control and ken, how events form and deform us, how one becomes oneself, how that self responds to its pact with time and conducts its pas de deux with entropy and death. This is precious. A novel of two hundred pages may package a life of seventy years; yet a novel of two hundred pages requires a day or so to read, while a seventy-year life requires seventy years. Isn’t this one profound reason we read novels? Art makes life visible.

You might ask: How can a work of literature, especially one written centuries ago, possibly shed light on me: my experiences, my formation, my running story? It is a good question, and it has some good answers. Great art lives in a way that transcends its moment, reaching something more universal, gesturing toward life experiences that are at once time-bound and timeless. The proof behind this (ahistorical) assertion is embarrassingly simple: every time you read a book that speaks to you, that engages your mind and feelings, you are encountering the truth of art. This is an exchange of inestimable value: testimony of the past traveling across the bridge of time into you the reader, hence becoming, at some hard-to-define level, your own lived experience. We are a far cry from websites and databases. We are tapping into living scripts that are big with life, into a mother lode that will nourish and grow us.

When a friend of mine was once asked, “Do you know much about Shakespeare?” she answered, “Not as much as he knows about me.”

Arnold Weinstein, Morning, Noon, and Night: Finding the Meaning of Life’s Stages Through Books, p. 6

New Hearts

Jesus and the prophets lived with an awareness that God has been looking for partners since the beginning, people who will take seriously their divine responsibility to care for the earth and each other in loving, sustainable ways. They centered their hopes in the God who simply does not give up on creation and the people who inhabit it. The God who is the source of all life, who works from within creation to make something new. The God who can do what humans cannot. The God who gives new spirits and new hearts and new futures.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 36

The Pleasure of Reading

The sheer luxury of reading and reveling in the world I live in is something I treasure. Life is more than meat and potatoes and duties. Learning to see, to laugh, and to enjoy encounters with others is reason enough to read. The world has comedy built into it; the ridiculous is but to be explored. Every reader knows the pleasure of being transported to another world in books.

— Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Woman’s Heart, p. 26

God’s Story

But this is no fairy tale. Naturally, given that the story involves real people, it’s messy. Also, since it involves God, you get the sense that the story is not so much about how to simply clean up the mess, but how creative you can get with the mess you have. This is what God seems to be up to — creating good, mysterious things out of messes.

— Curt Thompson, M.D., Anatomy of the Soul, p. 141


But how many of us are ready to abandon ourselves “utterly.” It takes courage to make such a surrender, and without the courage born of desperation, many of us balk. What will become of us we wonder if we give our lives utterly to God. We often have images of what a godly life means, and very often it means giving up things that we hold dear. We may have many ideas about God that say “God does not do business,” and so there goes our career. Or we may believe “God does not do sex,” and therefore there goes our love life. Very often our idea of God is otherworldly. We think of God as a monkish sort, disapproving of our involvement in the world. In short, we forget that God made the world and that nothing in it is really foreign to God. We forget that God is worldly.

God does do finances. In fact, turning our finances over to God’s care has often been a route not to poverty but to prosperity. God is an expert at husbanding resources. God is an expert at increasing the worth of what we hold. To involve God with our finances is to ask the source of all abundance to have a hand in our affairs. This is not folly. This is wisdom. But how seldom do we see it that way. For many of us money is somehow “dirty” and not something we think God can attend to. We think that ambition is something to be ashamed of, a secret that we can keep from God. We forget that there is no secret that we can successfully keep from God. God knows our worldly dreams and desires. Is it possible that God can help us to have them? That seems too good to be true. Instead, we act as if any success that we may have achieved has somehow been achieved behind God’s back and that the last thing we want to do is draw God’s attention to our finances. Our finances are nearly as secret as our sexuality. Most people have a hard time talking about God and money or God and sex. There is God, and then there is the rest of it. But where did the rest of it come from, if not also from God?

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 123-124

Owning Our Stories

Shame is about fear, blame, and disconnection. Story is about worthiness and embracing the imperfections that bring us courage, compassion, and connection. If we want to live fully, without the constant fear of not being enough, we have to own our story. We also have to respond to shame in a way that doesn’t exacerbate our shame. One way to do that is to recognize when we’re in shame so we can react with intention.

— Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 46

Which Jesus?

Some Jesuses should be rejected.

Often times when I meet atheists and we talk about the god they don’t believe in, we quickly discover that I don’t believe in that god either.

So when we hear that a certain person has “rejected Christ,” we should first ask, “Which Christ?”

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 9