I had limited time online yesterday, so I missed this week's random link. I have a good one waiting in the wings, but I'll hold off on it until next week. Below will be a bunch of links to make it up to you, though.
First, I'm super excited about this.
Second, at least four other blogs that I frequent have given new life to this older article by my friend and pastor Greg Johnson, and I've been meaning to join the party. It's called "Freedom from Quiet Time Guilt" and about the tendency Christians have to base our relationship with God on how we're performing, rather than on the work He performed for us in Christ on the Cross.
Third, if you're a St. Louis resident like I am, and if you haven't been to the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis yet, then I'd encourage you to go, as this will be the final weekend. This year's offering is Julius Caesar. One of the things I've enjoyed about the SFSL over the past several years is that the performances have always been top quality from top to bottom. I don't think I can say that this year; some of the smaller parts and maybe one or two of the larger parts didn't do much for me. However, several of the main parts are played outstandingly. And, Julius Caesar might be one of my favorite of Shakespeare's dramas. I studied a LOT of Shakespeare in college. Well, I should say, I studied a little of Shakespeare a LOT. Somehow, JC escaped my focus, but it was worth the wait.
Fourth, and finally, I had the amazing experience yesterday of reading the illustrated novel Blankets by Craig Thompson. At 582 pages I still read it in one sitting. Yes, it's a comic book, but it is also literature--great literature. Here's a review worth checking out. The book is essentially a love story, told autobiographically in the first person, about Thompson's early life raised by "fundamentalist" Christian parents and his first love as an adolescent. It is an oppressively sad book. I read it while at Kayak's Coffee and I had to stop a couple of times so I wouldn't cry in public. Thompson has acute, personal insight into the brokenness that ravages our world, but also the brokenness that ravages the church.
As a skinny, socially awkward, poor kid, Craig was rejected by his peers. Early on, he sought solace in the faith that he learned from his parents. That is not to say that he found acceptance in the church. Craig's gifts and interests were in art from an early age, and as an artist, Craig was rejected by the church too. Here's an exchange Craig has with his 5th grade Sunday-school teacher, from pages 136-138.
Teacher: Does anyone have an idea of what we might be doing in Heaven?
Craig: Drawing [looking hopeful]
Teacher: Oh, Craig...DRAW? For all eternity?
Craig: It's a perfect place, right? Wouldn't we be doing what we LIKE to do?
Teacher: HA HA Well, INDEED we'll be busy, and INDEED we'll enjoy our labor, because we won't FATIGUE or grow distracted like we do on earth but our NEW LIVES in Heaven will be devoted to PRAISING & WORSHIPING GOD! --bowing to Him, singing Him songs, and EXCLAIMING His name for all ETERNITY --And we'll love every SECOND of it, because of all He's done for us!
Craig: But...I can't sing.
Teacher: In Heaven, you'll have a beautiful voice!
Craig: But I don't LIKE to sing. Couldn't I praise God with my DRAWINGS?
Teacher: I mean, "COME ON, CRAIG." How can you praise God with DRAWINGS?
Craig: --draw His CREATION --like trees and stuff...
Teacher: But, Craig...He's already drawn it for us.
The one place Craig finds acceptance is in his relationship with Raina, a girl he meets at a church youth retreat. They connect in all ways: socially, emotionally, etc. But first loves are FIRST loves. And when they are teenage loves, they normally bring as much pain as joy, especially in this broken world.
The book has great writing, real dialogue, and real characters. And though I'm no artist, and I don't have much experience with graphic novels, the illustrations are a huge asset to the book; they help tell the story. Blankets deals with Christianity and Christian themes, but it is not a "Christian" book. The conclusions Craig comes to from his experiences are not the ones that I would hope for him to have. But Christians should read this book. It is a critique of the church, but it is not an endorsement of "the world". It forces Christians to ask whom the church will accept. Who is worthy to be among us? Who will we love? Why will we love them? What is worthwhile for us to pursue? How can we serve/praise God? What vision of Christianity are we passing on to our children? I can think of few questions more important. And there are many more raised in the book. But, it's not a book of answers. And I think one of the things I learned while reflecting on what I read is that, if we think we know the answers (and I think I have some ideas toward some of them) we must not let our convictions or insistence on those answers repulse others from our company. That is not the same thing as saying there are no answers, or we cannot know the answers. What it is saying is, for the Christian, our answers ought to lead us to love and serve others rather than debase and reject them. I want to say more, but I'm finding that it's a book that invites questions and discussion, rather than pronouncement and monologue.
One more thing, though it is a comic book, Blankets is not a children's book. It contains mature themes, mature language, and mature content (including the graphics). But it is especially a book for adults who have any dealings with children--parents, teachers, youth ministers, aunts & uncles, people who have friends with kids, people who go to churches that have kids in them, etc. Click on the title below the picture of the cover below to buy the book from Amazon. Or, if that's a bit drastic based merely on my reccomendation, at least get the book from your library or through inter-library loan (that's how I got mine).
Another one more thing, in the review I linked to above, the reviewer mentioned that he read the book in one sitting, and so did a couple of his friends that he loaned the book to, as I did. So, if you do get the book, make sure you have a little time to spare because you won't be able to put it down.
Blankets, by Craig Thompson
boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.
"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."