Monday, December 30, 2013

Hearing God by Dallas Willard

Ah, it's been some time since I typed entries on a keyboard. Perhaps I should do this more often. Anyway, I chanced upon this book at a friend's house. Meiling had dozens of interesting titles on her shelf and this one caught my eye. I'd always wanted to know if I was hearing from God or if I was hearing from myself or from Satan, so I promptly asked if I could borrow it and she was so kind as to lend it to me.

Well, it did not disappoint.

One of the things that first hit me was this: that God doesn't speak to you on every single tiny detail of your life. He certainly can, but he most probably wouldn't. I am reminded of the analogy from a sermon Sy Rogers preached years ago. A father would be happy to see his child play with a doll. But when the child starts asking him, "Daddy should I play with the doll for 5 minutes or 15 minutes?" or "Daddy, should I braid her hair or change her clothes?" or "Daddy, should I make pretend to drink tea with her or pretend to go shopping with her?"

You get the idea.

Somehow along the way I'd gotten used to the idea that God does "A message a minute" like Dallas Willard puts it. When I read in the third chapter that He doesn't, I wrestled quite a bit with that. But I had to grudgingly accept the fact that it was probably true after checking in with God. *Wry smile*

What was especially helpful were the lectio divina exercises that were interspersed throughout the book. For those unfamiliar with it, the term is Latin for "divine reading" and in the book you would be guided on how to meditate on a portion of Scripture to receive what the Holy Spirit like to speak to you.

Finally, Chapter 8 proved really helpful. It talked in length about 3 ways we could know that God is speaking to us which are namely, circumstances, impressions of the Spirit and passages from the Bible. I'm reading through that chapter again to better understand it.

All in all, I would say that the book helped me realise that a conversation with God is first and foremost about knowing His heart. Perhaps this is best summed up by this poem from Frances Ridley Havergal that was in the book:

Silent in Love
Love culminates in bliss when it cloth reach
A white, unflickering, fear-consuming glow;
And, knowing it is known as it doth know,
Needs no assuring word or soothing speech.
It craves but silent nearness, so to rest,
No sound, no movement, love not heard but felt,
Longer and longer still, till time should melt,
A snowflake on the eternal ocean's breast.
Have moments of this silence starred thy past,
Made memory a glory-haunted place,
Taught all the joy that mortal ken can trace?
By greater light 'tie but a shadow cast―
So shall the Lord thy God rejoice o'er thee,
And in His love will rest, and silent be.

I would recommend this as a must read to every Christian because hearing from God is such a vital part of Christian living and neglecting it would lead to a much duller walk with the Lord.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Shack by WM Paul Young

I just finished this book after borrowing it from my friend Daphne yesterday. She was telling me so many good things about it as we were on our way home after a Christmas potluck. I then remembered how I wanted to read it a couple years back after hearing so many people gush about it. So I dropped by her house to pick up the book before heading home. 

This is such a beautiful book. I feel like a better person after reading it and it certainly deserves a re-reading or two. That's the only way you're able to glean the essence of the story. 

The book is about Mack, father of five, whose youngest daughter was murdered at a shack. A few years later, God invites him back to the same place, incredible as that sounds. 

He meets 3 people, Elouisa, Jesus, and Sarayu who are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit respectively. The first is a great cook, the second a carpenter and the third a gardener. 

The story is about his experiences and conversations with them, individually and corporately. If you're like me, this book will upend your views about God and how we are to relate with Him.

As cliched as it sounds, the greatest thing I took away from this gem was that God desires to have a living and loving relationship with us and He only requires us to be open to this possibility. 

I'd recommend this book to everyone. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller

I'd wanted to purchase this book a year ago, but told myself that I'd too many books to read (and I still do). However, the very day before I bought it, my pastor had preached about working in the marketplace and coupled with the fact that I felt like work was rather pointless at that point in time, I thought I'd encourage myself with this book. So it was off to Kinokuniya that Monday morning. 

I was blown away by the book and it helped me so much that I'm reading it a second time through to make sure I didn't miss out anything. 

It was really a word in season. There was even a chapter titled, "Work becomes pointless". Imagine that. 

Well, Keller begins with an introduction on the purpose of work. He points out rightly that God had created man to work and that that was even before the fall. So contrary to popular belief, work is not meant to torture nor simply to make a living. It is something holy. In fact, work is something we can take in large quantities without suffering any harm. 

Here's an except of one of my favorite parts of the book, one that impacted me tremendously:

"To take up work that we can do well is like cultivating our selves as gardens filled with hidden potential; it is to make the greatest room for the ministry of competence. 

Second, because the main purpose of work is to serve the word, we would want to choose work that benefit others. We have to ask whether our work or organization or industry makes people better or appeals to the worst aspects of their characters. 

Third, if possible, we do not simply wish to benefit our family, benefit the human community; and benefit ourselves - we also want to benefit our field of work itself. In Genesis 1 and 2, we saw that God not only cultivated his creation, but he created more cultivators. Likewise, our goal should not simply be to do work, but to increase the human race's capacity to cultivate the created world."

Isn't that brilliant?

I also learnt that bringing God into the workplace doesn't simply mean evangelising in the office, but to do our work to the best of our abilities to make the best use of the talents He has given to us in order to glorify Him. 

Finally, I must say that as a Christian book, this tastes rather different from the regular fare. Although easy to read, his writing is peppered throughout with references to notable authors and thought leaders. It is interesting to hear what they have to say about work. 

I would recommend this firstly to the Christian who is wearied by work, it is a tremendous source of encouragement. Secondly, I would recommend it to anyone desiring to know why God created work and what His intent for it was. Finally, I would recommend it to non believers as well, for there are many useful things to be learnt simply as a person living here on earth, having to make a living. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, adapted by Nancy Butler & Hugo Pertus

I was chatting with my colleague Jayashree the other day and we were talking about our hobbies. Turns out we both enjoy reading. And that we both ADORE Jane Austen's classic - Pride and Prejudice. 

So it would come as no surprise that I was intrigued when she related how she'd found a comic book version of that awesome novel. Now this is the first time I'm reviewing a comic book, but hey, it is a book nonetheless. So there. 

I think this is a great book to introduce the classic to teenagers, young adults, or to anyone who might not otherwise spend the time to go through the entire book. It can be pretty intimidating to start on a novel that length. Comics, on the other hand, are non-threatening and appeal to the general public. I found my sister picking up the book (I'd left it on my bed) and before the night was over, she had finished the entire story. 

I must say that it stays faithful to the original story, period style speech included. It is beautiful. It's so good that my heart still skipped a beat the moment Darcy professed his love for Elizabeth, just like before. 

I suppose the only gripe I have is that it could have been prettier. But that is pretty subjective I must admit. 

I would recommend this book to everyone, young or old, male or female, Jane Austen fan or not. Everyone should
be given a chance to experience the power of this marvelous tale.