Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Imitation of Christ - Thomas A Kempis

If I had to summarize this book in one word it would be "humility."  The author - a monk in the 15th century - wrote what is considered to be the best known Christian work outside of the Bible.  

I enjoyed the first section of the book the most - the "counsels on the inner life."  I am still finishing the last 1/2 of the book.

I have one point of disagreement - if I so dare to disagree with such a classic work!  A Kempis wrote from the perspective of one who was in the midst of the monastic movement - a movement used powerfully by God, but whose role was often to step away from common man rather than to live among them.  I prefer an incarnational approach to sharing my faith and life with others - to live among rather than to separate from.  

Here are some of my favorite "nuggets" -

"It is no great matter to associate with the good and gentle, for this is naturally pleasant to everyone.  All men are glad to live at peace, and prefer those who are of their own way of thinking.  But to be able to live at peace among hard, obstinate, and undisicplined people and those who oppose us, is a great grace, and a most commendable and manly achievement."  

And a whole section - I cannot help but reproduce in its entirety here:

"Do not be concerned overmuch who is with you or against you, but work and plan that God may be with you in all that you do. Keep a clean conscience, and God will mightily defend you; for whoever enjoys the protection of God cannot be harmed by the malice of man.  If you learn to suffer in silence, you may be sure of receiving God's help.  He knows the time and the way to deliver you; so trust yourself entirely to His care.  God is strong to help you, and to free you from all confusion.  It is often good for us that others know and expose our faults, for so may we be kept humble.  

When a man humbly admits his faults, he soon appeases his fellows, and is reconciled to those whom he had offended.  God protects and delivers a humble man; He loves and comforts him.  To the humble He leans down and bestows great success, raising him from abasement to honour.  To him He reveals His secrets, and lovingly calls and draws him to Himself.  Even in the midst of trouble, the humble man remains wholly at peace, for he trusts in God, and not in the world.  Do not consider yourself to have made any spiritual progress, unless you account yourself the least of all men."  

A common struggle - to allow others to expose our faults and to humbly own it and repent publicly of our sin.  Ouch.  I admit my ego still struggles under this injunction.  And yet - I have personally seen in my own life and others the absolute beauty of repentance and restoration as a result of a deep humility rooted in the Gospel-identity we have in Christ.

God...humble me more. Help me imitate Christ.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How the Irish Saved Civilization - by Thomas Cahill

Yes, this is not my normal "read"... in fact, I'm not reading it at all - I am listening to the audio version.

I am not a "history buff" - I have always had a difficult time remembering dates and names.  I love the stories and the lessons learned in history, but have struggled to keep it "filed and ready" in my busy-brain.

I was prompted to read this book because of my preparation for the Perspectives Course and the lesson I am responsible to teach.

I apologize that this is not a very formal or thorough review -but just wanted to say that this book is worth "listening to" - and if you love History, worth reading and noting. The author does a fantastic job of linking the various seasons of history with the preservation of literature and the progress of Christianity.  It is more exciting than I can adequately express here.  

I am coming away from this book with a renewed sense of the power of the Gospel to transform culture, and power of one individual (such as St. Patrick) to express that message in a way that ripples out beyond what he may have ever dreamed would happen!