Made to Move Mountains

“God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Psalm 46 (NIV)

I just finished reading Made to Move Mountains by Kristen Welch. She quotes this Bible passage in her book, but in light of the recent events in our world, perspectives have changed everything. This was going to be a simple book review, recommending Welch’s book to you for your small group study — an inspiration to climb your own mountains and encourage one another to follow your dreams. However, the continuing Covid-19 crisis, long term care lockdowns, political turmoil and racial tensions in the US, have overwhelmed me to look at God’s word and the themes in this book with new eyes. Pride month will start today in my neighbourhood. School is closed for the year and I have no work. I feel like I am sitting at the base of my very own mountain.

“Made to Move Mountains” has been provided courtesy of Baker Books, NetGalley and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Welch begins by reminding us that there are two types of mountains we face: some are our dreams, goals, and personal challenges. These are the mountains we choose to climb. The other mountains are our disasters, crises and personal threats that we don’t choose ourselves, but are forced to climb nonetheless. We need Jesus for both. This book is great at balancing between both types of mountains and reminding us of the end goal — the summit. I love how she starts one of her chapters with this Chinese proverb:

“There are many paths up the mountain, but the view from the top is always the same.”

In other words, each time we climb a mountain… be it a forced climb, or one we are willing to take, we can rejoice in the final view. The paths to the top may be different each time, and each trail will shape the view and perspective of the top. However, we are changed by our accomplishments and driven forward by our joys along the path. This too, sometimes requires perspective. We all have taken a different journey and can add our thoughts to the road ahead because of our unique experiences. And no one should climb mountains alone. You prepare, you intentionally plan and gather equipment, and you often have a crew behind you or ahead of you cheering you on. My family recently watched Free Solo, National Geographic’s award winning documentary about Alex Honnold’s climb of mount El Capitan without a safety rope! It’s both gut wrenching and brilliant. And although he climbs alone and “unaided”, the film crew, his friends, and ultimately the viewing audience is drawn in to see Alex make it to the top — alive. Kristen Welch does much the same thing in her book by focusing our thoughts on our faith in Christ, our community, and our neighbours. Each of the chapters have a “mountain top moment” for personal reflection and/or a challenge. These would be a great start off point for small group discussion too.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

And so I muse this week, about passion, perspective and climbing mountains. I am prompted by Made to Move Mountains to question: Who is my neighbour and what am I doing to love them as Christ does? I mean to really love them with passion and action? Is my faith really deep enough to trust that God will move the mountains in front of me? Or that He will see me to the top? God made each one of us different. Different colours, different sizes, with different gifts and talents. Each of us are geared towards our own sense of justice and passion. Each of us have faced our own personal mountains and have been shaped by our own climbs. For Kristen Welch, it is The Mercy House and a child with a scary diagnosis. For protesters in the US, it is another senseless death of a black man. Perhaps mine is this little piece of the internet where I can share my thoughts. Or maybe it is being a part of raising the next generation to be more kind and considerate than I am. For beyond these mountains we move today, there will be more mountains. But God loves bad odds. And Psalm 46 reminds us that He is in charge. He is our ever-present help in trouble and has given us the power to move mountains! He will give us the faith to climb to the summit. This book has some great quotes scattered throughout it, so I’ll end with one Welch quotes from Solon on justice and simply let it speak for itself:

The Testaments

Well, I figured it is a good time for another book review. These quiet, wintery days of rain and slush have allowed me to finish a new book I received for Christmas. (Actually, I picked it out for myself and told someone to buy it for me — but who’s checking up, right?) The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the continuation of her last book, the Handmaid’s Tale. A continuation? A prequel? A sequel? The reviews say it takes place some 15 years after the handmaid, Offred’s, time. Sheesh. It’s as bad as the whole Star Wars saga. I can’t figure that one out, either. Notwithstanding the timing, I was excited about the follow up, as I had quite enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale. If you’d like to read my review of that one, you can do so here.

Let’s start with basics. I love Margaret Atwood as a writer. Admittedly, I haven’t devoured too many of her books, but appreciate the fact that she includes Canadian content (yeah for us canucks!) and I could have circled a tonne of new vocabulary words in this novel. I really enjoy new words. I should read more. I should encourage others to read more. Words are good. New words are even better.

Anyway… the book is comprised of 3 narratives (or “testaments”). The first being from Aunt Lydia (an elite character from the previous novel), Daisy, a woman from Canada observing Gilead from the outside, and Agnes, a young woman who has grown up in the dystopian Gilead. The plot twists around these three and their unique perspectives on the totalitarian state. Especially unique is their role as women in this theonomy. There’s a good word. It means:

Theonomy, from theos (god) and nomos (law), is a hypothetical Christian form of government in which society is ruled by divine law. Theonomists hold that divine law, including the judicial laws of the Old Testament, should be observed by modern societies. (Wikipedia, 2020)

I don’t really want to give away too much of the book, but rather share my views and thoughts. Like much of the other reviews I read, I was slightly disappointed. This sequel was much anticipated after the Handmaid’s fanfare, and I too, had greater expectations than the book delivered. At first, I found the characters slightly confusing, and it was difficult to follow along. Maybe I just need to read more. Big words and all that. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t as good as the first one.

What I did find interesting, was the idea of faith in the book. Now, bear in mind, the novel is written in this idealized world of Theonomy, and from Atwood’s own perspective, of which I don’t want to judge her views of faith, God and feminism… but I did muse about one particular passage in the book:

“The truth was not noble, it was horrible. …Up until that time I had not seriously doubted the rightness and especially the truthfulness of Gilead’s theology. If I failed at perfection, I’d concluded that the fault was mine. But as I discovered what had been changed by Gilead, what had been added, and what had been omitted, I feared I might lose my faith.

If you’ve never had a faith, you will not understand what that means. You feel as if your best friend is dying; that everything that defined you is being burned away; that you’ll be left alone. You feel exiled, as if you are lost in a dark wood….Everything was withering.”

1. Atwood, Margaret, Chpt.50 “The Testaments”, Penguin Random House Canada Limited, 2019, page 303.

I found this thought quite provocative. Especially coming from the character who grew up in the idealistic view of Gilead’s “right and true” society. What she believed to be true, nobel and just, was, in fact, the opposite. What she was told about the Bible, and what she actually read in the Bible, were very different. And so, I leave you with that thought. Consider it as you may. On what is your “truth” based? How will you define “faith”? Jesus often condemned the religious leaders of His time for their lack of “truth” because they twisted and added and subtracted to the texts. Do we do the same? As usual, I don’t claim to have the answers. I simply probe your thinking. As a good author should. As a good reader should. Hmmmn, I should read more.

Taste and See

Can you believe July is almost gone?! Here we are, half way through summer, and I have been completely lazy! So much for cleaning, organizing and purging the house. And you, my friend? Have you accomplished all your summer time goals? Have you enjoyed the fruits of your labours? If you follow along on my social sites (please do!) then you will see our garden tour and the little harvest we have been enjoying. The rest? Not so much. However, such is the journey, so I will not fret.

Recently, we have also enjoyed a few backyard bar-b-ques with friends and family. It’s a good, Canadian thing to do in our short summer months… burgers on the grill, potato chips and watermelon. Which makes me wonder: Why do we enjoy shooing bugs off edibles all in the name of celebrating scorching heat? Whole other muse, I suppose. But. We have indulged in our fair share of shooing this summer already.

Which brings me to this week’s muse. A book review for “Taste and See” by Margaret Feinberg. Hoping to “discover God among Butchers, Bakers and Fresh Food Makers”, I devoured the book in about 2 days straight. It’s a quick read. Margaret takes us on her journeys (literally — she travels) to discover more about six of the foods Feinberg says have “spiritual significance” in the Bible: fish, figs, bread, salt, olives and lamb.

I quite enjoyed the journey, and each chapter brought on a whole new appreciation for the basic biblical staples. I especially loved the bread baking tour… my adventures with sour dough have given me a whole new appreciation for the art of baking and how complicated bread actually is! It would be an excellent small group study. Especially if you are a foodie! I encourage you to visit Feinberg’s sites (here) should you wish to see more about the book.

I love food. Which can be a curse and a blessing, but that, too, is for a different muse. I was eager to slice open the book and taste the adventure of the Israeli staples, and Feinberg’s insights into how the Bible uses food as a way in which God nourishes us… more than just physically. He wants to “…nourish our souls with transcendent joy and supernatural community and divine presence.” (pg. 22). Plus, there are recipes!

I’ve been learning and growing and thinking about this whole idea of “wholistic” spirituality…mind, body, soul, community. I often don’t take the time to consider how great food is a part of this. Can you image what a piece of chocolate is going to be like in heaven? Or what it will be like to have a cup of coffee with Jesus? Or bar-b-ques with the master priests of old? (okay maybe not that one… they tended to burn everything).

But you get it… God gave us this wonderful commodity and diversity of tastes to enjoy ! And sharing meals with others is a way to bond us in community, in conversation, and in care. I am reminded that we should always be thankful for such blessings. I am learning to take a deeper look at the bounty before me and the things it represents. Land, weather, growth of tiny seeds. Hard work, passion, patience. We take it for granted and mock His blessings with our “God is goods” and “Johnny Appleseed” prayers.

I’m about to clean out our fridge. My son just informed me the last bag of milk has curdled. We are having leftovers for dinner. I am not the next home cook about to be drafted for Master Chef … but this book has been a good reminder to “Taste and See” that God is good, His mercies endure forever, and He is the master of my world. I pray that you, too, will be welcomed to his banquet table with others and share in the community of Jesus followers, as we shoo a few flies away together at the picnic table this summer!