Book Notes #1 – Blue Like Jazz
July has been the busiest month I’ve had all year. Now that I’ve got those deadlines and activities behind me, I can blog again! Yay! I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I adore books. In fact, my very first post, which was almost a year ago (Wow!), was about a book that I read.
As a service on this blog, I plan to write book reviews and highlight interesting books periodically that you (my readers – hopefully I have some 🙂 ) may find interesting and helpful. When I rededicated my life to Christ in 1996 and thus tried to remember that I was a Christian on a daily basis, I was at a loss at how to conduct myself. I knew some of the basic commandments – 1. You should probably not get drunk – at least in front of other Christians. 2. You should probably not have sex unless you married. 3. You probably shouldn’t gossip – unless you are praying for someone in a prayer group and you’ve just got to tell their business. 4. You should stop listening to any music unless it features a choir – preferably a gospel one with a ridiculously loud soloist. 5. You should probably wear shorts that come to your knees instead of booty-tight short shorts….and on and on. Anyway, I wanted to live as as a Christian but NONE of the basic commandments I knew about appealed to me.
I realized that I could talk to pastors, deacons , Bible study leaders and other people in positions of authority to get some perspective, but they would probably reinforce the commandments that I knew about and add others. So I decided to talk to other regular ole Christians and read books about the Christian experience from other people. My rationale was that God would speak to me through regular people, books and my own life experiences. And He has…but along the way, I have lost my fear of many pastors, deacons, Bible study leaders and other people in positions of authority. And most times, I no longer mind all of the commandments although I can’t say that I obey all of them…teehee…seriously though, God has spoken to me in a variety of ways about how to live the Christian life…And even today, one of my favorite ways to know more is read the experiences of others…so after my long intro, below is my review of the book Blue Like Jazz – Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller.
So this book is a about a Christian who has unusual ideas about his faith….And by the way, this is going to be an unconventional review…I just plan to recount some of the interesting passages of this book and give my thoughts…I don’t necessarily plan to break the book down sequentially or anything. In the chapter Faith : Penguin Sex, the author decribes his faith in God…
The goofy thing about Christian faith is that you believe it and don’t believe it at the same time. It isn’t unlike having an imaginary friend. I believe in Jesus; I believe He is the Son of God, but every time I sit down to explain this to somebody I feel like a palm reader, like somebody who works at a circus or a kid who is always making things up or somebody at a Star Trek convention who hasn’t figured out the show isn’t real.
When one of my friends becomes a Christian, which happens every ten years because I am such a sheep about sharing my faith, the experience is euphoric. I see in their eyes the trueness of the story.
I feel the same way…when you decide to become a Christian and you tell others, it kind of feels like you’re saying that you believe in the tooth fairy or Santa Claus or something. (I think I read a similar line somewhere in some book…Ha,ha a similar line is in this book p. 55) It does sound a little silly to say that you believe in a God that you can’t see and that you even pray out loud to a God that has never spoken back audibly- at least to me…And so, it’s hard to to tell others even though that is what Christians are supposed to do – spread the good news aka gospel of Jesus Christ…I remember in my early ’20s, I used to hang around this dude Reggie…I met him through a column he wrote in Essence magazine (it’s a long story — ask me if you are interested…it is a pretty interesting story)
Anyway, me and this dude were obsessed with celebrities and we would go to various celebrity events around town and compare notes…back in the day, I even met a few (Diddy, Faith, Usher, Andre 3000, Jeru the Damaja etc.) Anyway, Reggie desperately wanted to work at LaFace Records back when it was headquarted in the A…every other word out his mouth was how he made a contact with someone who worked at the record label and it was only a matter of time before he would be working there…Simultaneously, I was trying to live my life as a newly rededicated Christian, and I wanted to tell Reggie about it…But I couldn’t figure out how to slip in the Good News in between his high octane rants about bum rushing folk until they let him work at LaFace. All of a sudden, we were talking one day about something off the wall I’m sure and he announces that he has decided to become a Christian and that he believes in Jesus Christ. I was so surprised I wanted to curse, but I’m reasonably sure that wouldn’t have been the right response just then. As he talked, I wondered who got to him before I did…I felt like I was a recruiter for Christ and someone had infringed on my territory. I invited him to my church after that, but it felt really anticlimactic at that point…He even came too…I don’t know what happened to Reggie…I hope he’s doing okay and is still a believer…I’ve gotten a little better about sharing my faith but not much…y’all pray for me…
Here is another interesting passage from the book:
I had become a Christian so why did I still struggle with lust, greed or envy? Why did I want to get drunk at parties or cheat on tests?
When I first rededicated my life to Jesus Christ, I stopped going to clubs for a while…I felt like God wanted me to do that…but after a while, I began going to clubs again with my friends…not on a regular basis but just to hang out every once in a while…some of the time, I decided to have drink…I would say to myself as I was drinking that first drink, this will be it…but another drink or two later, I would find myself laughing hysterically in some dude’s face and trying to coerce him to give me a piggy back ride in the club…not cool…The next day, I would wonder what my friends and God thought of my behavior…
Here is the author’s solution to this dilemma:
Our “behavior” will not be changed long with self-discipline, but fall in love and a human will accomplish what he never thought possible. The laziest of men will swim the English channel to win his woman. I think what Rick said is worth repeating that by accepting God’s love for us, we fall in love with Him, and only then do we have the fuel we need to obey.
That’s true…but it also helps that I’m getting older…being tipsy in the club at 35 ain’t cute…
Here is the another great line from the book that describes me I think:
So much of me believes strongly in letting everybody live their own lives, and when I share my faith, I feel like a network marketing guy trying to build my own down line.
Here’s another great passage from the book. This passage comes from the chapter Church: How I Go Without Getting Angry:
The churches I attended would embrace war metaphor. They would talk about how we are in a battle, and I agreed with them, only they wouldn’t clarify that we were battling poverty and hate and injustice and pride and the powers of darkness. They left us thinking that our war was against liberals and homosexuals. Their teaching would have me believe I was the good person in the world and the liberals were the bad people in the world…The truth is we are supposed to love the hippies, the liberals, and even the Democrats, and that God wants us to think of them as more important that ourselves. Anything short of this is not true to the teachings of Jesus.
I really despise that us against them mentality in Christianity that is highlighted every presidential election. It seems like some Republicans believe that they are the only ones qualified to call themselves Christian and if you don’t agree with all of their views, you are a sinner doomed to hell…
Anywho, I could say more about this book, but I feel like this post is long enough…If you’re looking for an incredibly insightful and humorous book about Christian faith, read Blue Like Jazz…