Lila by Marilynne Robinson. Extraordinary.

Behold the work of her hands

“I believe in the grace of God. For me, that is where all these questions end”

and then this:

“then there he would be, fresh from the gallows, shocked at the kindness all around him.”

I can’t remember the last time I cried while reading a book. I could feel the sobbing welling up inside. It was doubly embarrassing because I was lying next to a pool in the Cote d’Azur on a brilliant blue day, and my wife was reading Bill Bryson.

Perhaps it was post-traumatic stress speaking after my coma and paralysis three years ago. The book I was reading had the weight of an old hymn, suffering graced in music.

Or perhaps it was because God was beautiful and humans, like mathematics, need infinity to make the sums come out right.

Either way, Marilynne Robinson’s Lila is extraordinary.

 

Lila

by Marilynne Robinson [Virago Press Ltd]
Price: £6.99 EUR 8,38 EUR 6,99 EUR 12,25

What just happened?

Somebody sat on the Fast Forward button

Storm Damage, June 21, 2011, Skokie and Morton Grove
Oh my goodness.

And yet:

  • It’s always good to bet on the goodness and mercy of God. This political crisis is his doing.
  • Blessed (still) are the peacemakers.

I voted to remain and felt like I’d been punched.

Paradox, and what to do with it.

stormy photo
Photo by Karsun Designs Photography

Paradox can be a happy place, and leaving it for a simpler place just leads to trouble, I think.

Paradoxes are like the edges of our known world. We sail out to them. But however far we continue to sail, we realise we aren’t getting any further.

Is it true that in all the big questions, if you keep asking long enough, you reach paradox? Suffering and a God of love. Free choice and fate. Healing and sickness. Success and failure. Knowing things and not knowing things. Death and life or judgement and mercy. How can they both exist together? What happens at the place they meet?

This is the place of paradox, where we stand in the cross-winds. Or perhaps the cross-hairs. Or perhaps just in the shadow of the cross itself, where Christ resolved paradoxes by becoming one.

I think the place of paradox is a bleak, empty place, or a full, contented one, depending on whether we stand and complain, or fall and worship.

 

The amazing growth of new Christians from an Islamic background

New figures count around ten million new Christians from an Islamic background.

A recent academic paper by Duane Millar and Patrick Johnstone (disclaimer: Patrick is a colleague of mine) has tried to put numbers on this recent, but widely-observed phenomenon. Indonesia leads the way with a well-established Christian movement that has lasted since the 1960s.

More recently, Christ-followers from an Islamic background have started to appear in large numbers in parts of Africa, in South Asia and Iran and some Western countries. The study claims that even Saudi Arabia, home of Islam, is home to 60,000 Islamic-heritage followers of Christ.

The study dovetails with a recent book by Southern Baptist researcher David Garrett A Wind in the House of Islam, that counts no mass movements to Christ at all in the Islamic world’s first 1000 years, two in the mid-twentieth century, a further 11 in the final decade of the twentieth century, and 69 more since then. Proof, as Garrett claims, that ‘something is happening.’

Here is Millar and Johnstone’s list of the countries that have 10,000 or more or more followers of Christ with an Islamic background. Their figures are based on 2010, and will have increased in most cases since.

Country Christians of a Muslim heritage
Indonesia
6 500 000
Nigeria
600 000
United States
450 000
Ethiopia 400 000
Algeria 380 000
Burkina Faso 200 000
Tanzania 180 000
Bangladesh
130 000
Iran
100 000
Cameroon
90 000
Saudi Arabia
60 000
Ghana
50 000
Kazakhstan
50 000
Bulgaria
45 000
Canada
43 000
Benin
40 000
India
40 000
Uganda
35 000
Sudan 30 000
United Kingdom 25 000
Australia 20 000
Kyrgyzstan 19 000
Germany 15 000
France
12 000
Russia
10 000
Uzbekistan
10 000