Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blue Like Jazz--A review

Here comes my first book review installment!  

I started reading Blue Like Jazz (BLJ) about a week ago after meeting a lady from Rolling Hills Community Church that recommended and then loaned it to me.  She prefaced the book by saying that it would help conservative Christians to love liberals more.  Well, that intrigued me because I am always interested in ways to get conservative Christians to love anyone more.  Of course I lump myself in that group as well.  I decided I should definately read the book.  I'm glad I did.

The author is Donald Miller who is a thiry-something, unmarried, writer/speaker who lives in Portland.  He attends Imago Dei Church in Portland, which is known for being very progressive in it's outreach to our lost and broken world.  Donald doesn't mince words and he doesn't worry too much about political correctness within the Church.  He certainly doesn't come across as a very religious man, although the reader is left with no doubts about Miller's personal relationship to Christ.  His recollections are funny and touching.  I found myself relating a lot to him, as I imagine most Christians would also, if they are honest with themselves.  He uses the term "Christian spirituality" in place of Christianity with the premise that he cannot relate what the term 'Christianity' means anymore in todays world.  I'm not big on renaming things.  Seems kind of trendy, but his essays in the book are so real and down-to-earth,  I was able to overlook the renaming thing.

He touches on a number of subjects ranging from love to tithing, politics to Jesus.  His spiritual journey begins within Christian fundamentalism.  He took some fair shots at fundamentalism without alltogether tearing it down.  Ultimately his journey takes him far....very far from his fundamentalist beginnings.  It is during his time at Reed College (known as one of the most intellectual, yet Godless institutions in the country), where the rubber starts to meet the road with regards to his faith in God.  While spending time in the midst of free-loving, pot smoking liberal geniuses, Miller begins to learn what following Christ is really all about.  Not that those free-loving, pot-smoking, liberal geniuses knew what following Christ was about, they definately did not.  Still, it was in their midst that he began to learn.   This was truely fascinating to read about.  It was eye-opening and convicting.  

Ultimately I have to heartily recommend this book.  For ultra-conservative believers, it is a must read.  Some things are more important than being 'right' and what you will gain from this read is one of those things.   Miller deals with issues that are usually off-topic and taboo in the Church.  There shouldn't be anything we can't talk about in the Church.  We are
 children of the Most High God of the Universe!  We don't need to fear honest conversations...honest questions. 
 Believers have times of doubt.  We deal with crises of belief.  It happens.  God is still God, and if we know Him, we are still His child.  I am reminded of a blog I read recently where a pastor, that will remain unnamed, actually called into question whether or not Mother Theresa was really saved....because she had doubts.  She suffered from the crisis of belief at times.  He pretty much stated that this would not have been the case had she been a true believer.  I had to swallow back the bile that was rising up in my throat upon reading such trash.  It isn't even because I am so sure that Mother Theresa is saved (though if I were a betting woman, I'd say she's probably resting securely in the arms of Jesus right now), it's because who was he, that pastor guy, to say she is or is NOT saved?  What is the point in even discussing something like that about a dead person!?  However, the real problem there was that that pastor, from his place of self-righteous condemnation, was just so un-real.  He was trying to say he has never doubted his faith....never struggled with the crisis of belief.  If that is true, I don't think he is probably a very good pastor.  

Get real.  There is stuff in this book that every believer would do well to read and ponder.  It's a quick read and can most likely be found in any library since it was a best-seller.  I don't know everything about this Donald Miller, but from the bit of research I've done on him, I think he's the real deal.  Does that mean I buy everything he's selling?  No, but I'm a thinking girl and he gave me a lot to think about.  I can appreciate that.

By His Grace,


  1. Kara,
    The subject of 'labels' has been a topic of conversation lately with my son and his friends and myself. One thing I have the day and age it is almost impossible to describe ANYTHING w/o using labels.
    It is rather ironic, to me anyway, that we use labels so frequently and yet spend hours arguing about 'labeling'.
    I am a 'reformed' Christian. This is a label given to and by the 'reformed' camp of Christians. The purpose was to differentiate between the huge variety of 'Christians". I bristled at the thought of using the label when I first found myself aligning with their statements of faith. I continue to dislike it but have found it necessary when sharing my faith with others.
    I am inclined, after reading your lastest blog, to issue you a challenge. One of the statements you made was: "Well, that intrigued me because I am always interested in ways to get conservative Christians to love anyone more"
    My challenge to you is this isn't just in one area...but several. First: is it our place to 'get anywone' to love someone else more? And two: If the Bible states that "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;so that the man of God may be adequate,equipped for every good work.(II Tim 3:16,17)
    On the first issue... I understand that you may see me as splitting hairs here but I have struggled with this same thing and the splitting of hairs was necesary (for me) to come to a place of understanding. And as I understand my responsiblities as a Christian (now) I would have to say that it is impossible for me to 'get' anyone to love someone else more. At least not in 'my own strength'. I do however believe that as God reveals the truths of 'loving' to my own heart.. I will have an impact on those around me. . .either positively, because someone is seeking, or negatively because they are offended by the truth of God because they are not seeking. So the only way I can 'get' someone to love more is to allow God to work that out in my life.
    Secondly....I believe scripture is all I need to learn how to do this. In fact I will say that it is the ONLY thing that will make this happen. I can read books that help me understand another persons view on life.But God is the only one who can teach me how to love more...thus use me to cause others to love more.
    I am a very conservative Christian (another label:) and yet I have many liberal friends. . . whom I love... and whom I know are followers of Christ. I don't know why God has seen fit to allow so much diversity w/in the Body (truly a Sovereign decision on His part) but He has. I strongly differ with my liberal friends in many things... but love is someone I am commanded to do.
    Reading a book like BLJ can give you insight to a particular way of thinking. But in the end we must always compare that to scripture and where it differs we must reject it. This MAY be offensive to the person who holds to those beliefs but we must remain obedient, first and foremost, to Scripture. If we offend, we offend. Our prayer must be that God keep us from offending in a manner that is self-righteous rather than God glorifying.
    I am sorry to go on so long. If you would like to email me instead of respond on this blog my email addres is:
    As i said... I like challenges that make me think about what I truly believe.
    In Christ, Diane

  2. typo edits: "Love is someTHING I am commanded to do" :)

  3. Diane,
    Well said! And your challenges are good ones. It's funny because I did think twice about my wording about making christians love anyone more. I thought twice about it because I believe just like you do that it is neither in my power nor is it my place to "make" anyone love all! So I didnt' really mean it in the literal sense, but in the way that you mentioned as far as inspiring love in others (which I believe can only be done by God's grace working in us...we do no good thing apart from His grace).

    I also agree that the Word of God is the only pure tool in which we can totally place our trust and know that it will never fail as far as teaching us and showing us truth. We can never say this about any other book, or preacher, teacher, author, dream....whatever. That being said, we serve a big and mighty God who cannot be hidden! He is everywhere and His truth permeates everything! Even areas of darkness. His truth can be found in all sorts of religions and philosophies (albeit only in fragmented parts) because there is a universal morality among mankind. Even if people don't live by that morality, or acknowledge that all TRUTH comes from doesn't make truth any less true. So even a pagan can stumble across the truth. Of course all truth comes from God alone.

    So yes, when we are reading any book other than the Bible we must always be filtering it through the biblical filter. What ever is true in what we are reading will pass through that filter. Whatever else is left simply gives us insight into the author....which is worth something too.

    I think Donald Miller states enough biblical truth in BLJ, that it is totally worth reading. And while do not claim to be a five-point Calvinist, I do describe myself as a "reformed" believer. I have only felt the need to describe myself that way when talking with other believers, when we are talking about nitty, gritty, biblical truths, or how I can trust God when the sky appears to be falling....

    Good stuff Diane. You should know, the South is not nearly as diverse as far as liberalism and conservativism within (or without for that matter) the evangelical church as the NorthWest is. They really don't get as much practice in loving people different from themselves as ya'll do here! :)

    In Christ,

  4. Hi Kara,
    I appreciate that while I challenged how you said something (taking it literally) you were not offended but saw it for what it was.
    Your response has intrigued me in many ways... I have read it a few times now and pondered over it the past few days.
    I am a five point calvinist and I have read and listened to many arguments pro and con and am convinced it must be. If one believes in the total depravity of man then the other points just fall in line. So I would have to assume that is the one point you don't agree on. It leads to some very interesting questions I could put to you... but maybe as time goes it could be a very long 'debate'.
    You statement that God cannot be hidden is true. Man cannot be held responsible for their sin if God had not put it in them to know right from wrong. He tells us we are unrighteous and tells us ALL are imperfect...but He also tells us that we all have a knowledge of Him in our being ...that we are created that way. So I would agree that in all men is evidence of their knowledge of God... but this does not mean that they are saved... it is only proof of what God has stated in scripture.
    As far as having a greater opportunity to love others even in great diversity... I am not sure I agree with you. We are people either saved or unsaved... and as far as I can tell that is not something that is geographically unique.
    What I have found is that there is a greater amount of churches that have compromised in the preaching of the Word of God to the point that it is harder to tell the unbeliever from the believer...other than a profession of faith. I find this very sad and very challenging. People in many churches are being fed such a watered down version of God's truth that it is even less than being 'milk fed' as Paul had challenged the believers of his time to stop desiring and push on toward full understanding so they too could go forth and spread the gospel. The gospel I see being spead in these churches is God is Good... period. That is not the gospel. . . and it offers a false salvation.
    No matter what church we belong to we will be refined by the people we call our brothers and sisters just because we are all sinners (saved by grace) but still carrying our sin nature and still in the sanctifying process.
    I look back on my life here and it was challenging because the preaching of God's Word was harder and harder to find. Yes I had to learn to walk in love with leaders in our former church and with the people there even though it became less and less a place where I received God's truth. God used that to strengthen my faith and He will do the same for all his children. But I didn't go looking for that ... it was just where God had us for a while.
    I don't want to be amongst liberal and conservatives just because it could possibly make me a better person. God says that he will refine and sanctify us... and He can do it best when we are where He leads.
    I would venture to guess that Hillcrest is mostly conservative peoples. But I do not see a lack on their part to love those that don't see things their way. Idon't believe one goes with the other but I believe it could.
    I grew up in a predominately white community... but I would never have considered another color less than me. Why? I wasn't taught (on a consistant purposefuly basis) about blacks and spanish and chinese ... but I was taught that God created ALL mankind. And I was taught about God's love. It is what is in the heart that bears or doesn't bear the evidence of Truth as God has set it forth. And that true will shine forth no matter what our geographical setting.
    The world tells us if we don't have any black, oriental or any other friend that is of a different ethnicity than us then we are prejudice. I do not agree I believe that we are only prejudice if we don't have those kind of friends because we chose not to because of their skin color or any other such thing.
    I know that standing for God's truth can be interpreted as being narrow/closed minded... but we are not to concern ourselves about that we are to concern ourselves with LIVING IN the TRUTH of Gods word. But God tells us over and over that the only way we can bring Glory to His name is to live for Him...through Him and to Him.
    This may well be another misinterpretation of what you were saying. I can only hope it will be met, again, by your graciousness and an explanation given :)
    As far as Mr. Millers book goes I have not read it so I cannot say whether I would or would not recommend it.
    I hope you enjoyed the sunshine today. I have my two grandchildren on Wednesday (their Mom 'thinks' I do it to give her a break :) ..but they are joy to have) ..anyway we spent two wonderful hours at the park was lovely!
    In Christ's love, Diane

  5. Diane,
    I do think we got our wires crossed based on your response. Regarding my statements about diversity. I am more referring to diversity within the body of Christ as opposed to outside of it. In the South congregations tend to be very, very homogenous as far as political, parenting, and other views. This is a generalization to be sure, but I am thinking that it may be that in the Pacific Northwest, one may find greater diversity regarding those things within the body of Christ. I am not speaking of spiritual diversity as far as saved and unsaved, which certainly knows no geographical bounds.

    I agree with you about many churches watering down the gospel. Many do. This happens everywhere in our nation and also knows no geographical bounds. I was visiting a church Sunday where I witnessed a lot of diversity (as far as what the eye can behold) and praise God, the gospel was not a bit watered down! I've been telling my friends about it all week, it made that big of an impression on me.
    I do not think all people are saved. That is not at all what I meant in my earlier statements about God being everywhere in all things. I tried to be so careful in writing those words because I did not want them to be misconstrued for universalism. On the contrary, I adhere to orthodox Christian doctrine. That's little 'o' orthodox as opposed to big "O" orthodox to avoid any further confusion.

    As for five-point calvinism, I simply cannot wrap my mind around God's plan of salvation in such a way that I have been able to consistently embrace all five-points. Some days, I think I get it, and other days I know I don't. That is when I cry out to my Father in trust and say "Your ways, O Lord, are higher than my ways". I am wary of doctrines that too neatly wrap up God's infinite ways. When it comes to doctrine, I am especially concerned that I not be swayed by the extra-biblical, and so when I start to get confused, I back away and trust God with what I DO understand. I know that God reached out to me (I did not reach up to Him). I know He opened my heart to Himself and He saved me by His grace and I have not been saved by any work of my own at all. Even my ability to believe upon His name has come from Him. I know I will forever by His child...that my salvation is eternally secure. I KNOW these things.
    I have no problem with total depravity. That one is a no-brainer for me. :)
    I think it may be the irresistable grace point that I get hung up on...although His grace was certainly irresistable to me. But it does seem like some that He calls end up rejecting Him. It's late and I'm sleepy and I don't want to confuse any issues more.
    I hope this clears some of your questions up though. I think we are more on the same page than perhaps you think we are. You are more assured of the five points than I am, but again I am speaking generally.

    I'm so glad for you that you got to spend time with your grandbabies. What a gift you are giving them with your time and attention. They are blessed to have a Grandma who treasures time with them so.

    In Christ,

  6. Hi Kara,
    First let me say that your birthday wishes to your husband are wonderful and it is good to see a happy wife :) I hope you have a great day of celebration!
    Secondly, I apologize for making sound like I thought you were a universalist. I didn't think you could AND be a calvinist ;) I just wanted to clarify a few things.
    I can see how you would struggle with the doctrine irresistable grace. I have also. But then I looked back over my life, I am 55 yrs old, and I see many times where I was in complete rebellion and yet God's wooing was always there...ever present... sometimes (and I do believe this is how it can be for many) I thought it would drive me mad. I saw friends that make amazing professions of faith and were unbelievable in their examples of a Christian...later to walk away and not (seemingly) look back. I believe the parable of the sower of seeds is a great explanation of this doctrine...IF you believe in the Sovereignty of God then you must believe that where each 'seed' falls is NOT by accident Jesus prayed for those that God had given him from the foundation of time...and acknowledge that none were or would be lost.
    My pastor tells me that when Ihave those times of perplexity about these doctrines it is right where God wants me... afterall we live by FAITH ...which means that even though he has given us wisdom and understanding it STILL requires faith. . . because we have not 'seen' yet! I don't get anxious when i find myself struggling with these doctrines over and over...not like I used to... because I have now come to see that God continues to refine us and by doing this we will always come back to the basics as our starting point for reason. I believe this is as God intended. So you will struggle...grapple and God will work it all out in you for HIS Glory. We do serve and awesome God. It is interesting to see how we each have to struggle with these doctrines and sometimes over and over. Irresistable grace is not hard for me... because I was a prodigal daughter and I know what pulled me back and i am humbled and amazed at God's love for me even in my rebellion.
    Not having lived in the south I can't say whether I believe the NW has an edge on diversity or not comparitively. I just think that when you give a reason such as desiring that kind of diversity in your church it make 'me' think that your focus is in the wrong place. I used to struggle with this also... I used to think I needed friends in my life that were diverse ethnically and politically and all kinds of things... and yet it didn't happen. Well... I do have a few Japanese friends don't get me wrong. And by marriage (I have 8 siblings) I have other ethnicities in my life. But what I was 'thinking' was not what has happened. So now I have to say that was is best to have in my life is what/whom God has placed there. Maybe what struck me was that the implication was that IF we have this in our life we will be better Christians... have a greater capacity of loving and caring that if we do not. I do not agree. I do agree it is possible for that to be.. but not necessary. So maybe for me... I took this in a manner you did not intend.
    Have a wonderful day! Diane