Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality - Donald Miller, 2003
This book came out quite a while ago, and I remember friends reading it and enjoying it way back then, but for some reason I never read it.  Then over our Christmas travels, Justin got it on CD and we listened to it in the car.  We both really enjoyed it, and it impacted us a lot.  (You can read his review here.)  I wanted to read it again in print before reviewing it, though, because I'm more of a visual learner.

It's a collection of essays that aren't necessarily related to the others, so there isn't really a cohesive theme to the book.  It's basically just Don Miller's spiritual journey told in bits and pieces.  But I really enjoyed his perspective, especially living most of his Christian life outside the Bible Belt.  I really identified, though, with a lot of what he knows and believes about God and relating to Him.  In that way, I'm actually really glad I never read this book before now - I feel that after all I learned last year, I am uniquely ready to understand these things now more than I ever have been before.

Since there isn't a plot or theme, though, I can't really give any kind of summary.  So instead I'm just going to give a collection of my favorite quotes.  I highly recommend this book, though, and I'm thankful God led Justin to get it for us to listen to in the car!

"Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.  It is as if they are showing you the way." - Introduction

"I believe that the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time.  This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious.  If he can sink a man's mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God." - Chapter 2

"I can't explain how freeing that was, to realize that if I met Jesus, He would like me.  I never felt like that about some of the Christians on the radio.  I always thought if I met those people they would yell at me.  But it wasn't like that with Jesus.  There were people He loved and people He got really mad at, and I kept identifying with the people He loved, which was really good, because they were all the broken people, you know, the kind of people who are tired of life and want to be done with it, or they are desperate people, people who are outcasts or pagans.  There were others, regular people, but He didn't play favorites at all, which is miraculous in itself." - Chapter 4

"I will love God because He first loved me.  I will obey God because I love God.  But if I cannot accept God's love, I cannot love Him in return, and I cannot obey Him.  Self-discipline will never make us feel righteous or clean; accepting God's love will.  The ability to accept God's unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey Him in return.  Accepting God's kindness and free love is something the devil does not want us to do.  If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bride that the groom does not love her.  This is not the voice of God.  God woos us with kindness, He changes our character with the passion of His love." - Chapter 7

"If I live what I believe, then I don't believe very many noble things.  My life testifies that the first thing I believe is that I am the most important person in the world.  My life testifies to this because I care more about my food and shelter and happiness than about anybody else." - Chapter 10 

Quoting his friend Paul on marriage: "One of the ways God shows me He loves me is through Danielle [his wife], and one of the ways God shows Danielle He loves her is through me.  And because she loves me, and teaches me that I am lovable, I can better interact with God...  I mean that to be in a relationship with God is to be loved purely and furiously.  And a person who thinks himself unlovable cannot be in a relationship with God because he can't accept who God is; a Being that is love.  We learn that we are lovable or unlovable from other people.  That is why God tells us so many times to love each other." - Chapter 13

"Living in community made me realize one of my faults: I was addicted to myself.  All I thought about was myself.  The only thing I really cared about was myself.  I had very little concept of love, altruism, or sacrifice.  I discovered that my mind is like a radio that picks up only one station, the one that plays me: K-DON, all Don, all the time.  I did not understand the exchange that takes place in meaningful dialogue, when two people sit down and tune their radios, if only for a moment, to the other person's station." - Chapter 15

So this is just a few of the really great thoughts and ideas I found in this book.  A lot of it was really challenging, yet affirming.  I definitely agree with his thoughts that being a Christian is about embracing Jesus, not embracing Christianity.  And so that is a challenge to me, to sift through my life and analyze what I do and think - am I representing Jesus or representing religion?  Great food for thought.

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