Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vacation Reading - Lay Encounters of the God Kind

While I was on vacation the last two weeks, I read three books:

1. The Taste of New Wine by Keith Miller - I have always heard about this book and it has been on my shelf for years. Written in the early 1960s, Keith Miller gives us a primer on how a lay person (actually a layman, in a refreshingly non p.c. use of the term "man") encounters God through conversion. His conversion leads to very practical ways of living the Christian journey: in his marriage, his office, his small group Bible study, his church and as an evangelist who shares the Word in word and deed. This book took me back in time on my own spiritual journey, to when the Episcopal Church was rocked by the Holy Spirit in the renewal movement of the 1970s and early 80s. The simplicity of a lay person, converted by an encounter with "new wine," touched me and made me think of the simple ways that the Christian faith is caught, not taught.

2. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel - Susan's book club had read this book and she thought that I would like it more than she did. She was correct. Pi, as a young teenager, has significant encounters with Christianity, Islam and Hinduism in his native country of India. Later, he finds himself shipwrecked, as he tells a fantastical tale of his survival, buoyed by his strange quilt of religious beliefs. I enjoyed the early parts of the book best, especially his personal encounters with God. Once again, these lay encounters taught me that religion is always about personal encounter.

3. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott - this is another book, written in 1999, that has been on my shelf. I have read different chapters of the book at various times, but never read the entire book. Anne is a hippy from the 60s who has recovered from drugs, depression and divorce - and she mixes theological and earthy language together in a very approachable way. Once again, it was a God-encounter at a tiny Presbyterian church in California, lived out in a diverse Body of Christ, that made the Christian faith and life real for her. Her stories of real faith, lived out in a real world, with real encounters of the living God, testify to me that it is the laity who are the backbone of the Body.

My summer vacation of reading was diverse - yet did seem to have a common thread, in my mind. As Anne Lamott quotes Martin Buber:
"All actual life is encounter."

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