Book Review: ‘Finding God in the Waves’ By Mike McHargue

Do you ever want to read a book not because you don’t know the story, but because you actually already DO know the story and you simply want to know more of the details?

This was the case for me with Mike McHargue’s book, Finding God in the Waves.

Finding God in the Waves

Finding God in the Waves is a memoir, a book on the Bible, and a science book all in one. It is a book in which Mike shares his story of falling away from his faith and then finding it again.

I was very familiar with Mike’s story before reading his book. I follow much of Mike’s other work in which he is better known as ‘Science Mike.’ I am an avid listener of The Liturgist Podcast, which Mike started with Michael Gungor. I also really enjoy listening to Ask Science Mike, which is Mike’s solo podcast in which he answers life, faith, and science questions that his listening audience submit for him to answer. I highly recommend both of these podcasts.

Mike has shared his story of being a strict Southern Baptist, losing his faith and becoming an Atheist for a few years, only to have an incredible mystical experience during a Rob Bell two-day conference that awakened his faith in new and exciting ways.

Wild story, right? Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler. Again, Finding God in the Waves, should not be read to learn the story.

It should be read to learn the details.

The how, the when, and the why.

His story is incredibly intriguing. If you didn’t just read, “A strict Southern Baptist, losing his faith and becoming an Atheist, only to have an incredible mystical experience during a Rob Bell two-day conference that awakened his faith in new and exciting ways,” and think, “Hmmm…I really need to read this book,” then something is wrong with you! Ha!

I still remember the first time I heard Mike share his story. I was listening to The Liturgists Podcast episodes 6 and 7 “Lost and Found” as I was driving home. His story had me laughing, thinking, and crying. It had me moved. It gave me goosebumps and made tears come to my eyes as I felt a flow of spiritual energy run through me.  I was shook. I don’t know of another way to describe it.

Since then, I have heard Mike tell his story many times on other Podcasts or interviews. I was able to see Mike talk in Minneapolis at a conference about Faith and Science called “Jesus Rode a Dinosaur.” (Awesome name right?! Ha!)

Again, I was very familiar with his story. Yet I still wanted to read his book.

I needed to read his book. 

I was not disappointed.

Mike’s writing holds depth and while he tackles incredibly complex concepts scientifically and spiritually, his writing is approachable and understandable.

You don’t need to be a scientist to read this book. You also don’t need to be a professional theologian.

All that you need is an open mind, a little curiosity, and a willingness to allow yourself to question.

If you come to Mike’s book, Finding God in the Waves, with those few things, then you just may find God within the pages.

Get Finding God in the Waves HERE.


What are you currently reading? Anything that is waking you up? Let me know in the comments.

May the peace which surpasses all understanding be with you all.

©Derek Harkins 2018

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Book Review: ‘Falling Upward’ by Richard Rohr

Do you ever walk into a book store or a library and are immediately overwhelmed by the vast amount of literature and information collected there? Does it make it difficult to pick out something to read? Or if you are anything like me you will want to grab them all. I live by a philosophy, “No Cover Goes Uncracked.” However, because of the vast amount of reading to be done, I often get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

I have always been an avid reader, however, as life has gotten busier that has been one spiritual practice I have continually let slide. Throughout my process of deconstruction/reconstruction, especially this last year, I have made reading a priority again. I have read some amazing, life-changing books and I want to share them with you.

I will be starting a new ‘Book Review’ series on my blog where I give reviews of the books that I have recently read. Hopefully this will help you sift through the vast amounts of reading material and help you narrow down that search for the next book you will read. Or perhaps I will save you some time reading a book that isn’t very helpful (But so far I have read some amazing works that I will be fully recommending). I will start with the book that I most recently finished, Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward.


Falling Upward: A Spirituality of the Two Halves of Life
By: Richard Rohr

Falling Upward

Many people are mistaken in thinking that Rohr’s book, Falling Upward, is a book for those entering the later half of life, meaning that is for those “Over the Hill” on the back end of life.  This book really has nothing to do with age. It does not mean your first half of life is from age 0-40 and your second half of life is from 41-80+.

This book is about the two spiritual halves of life.

There is the first half of your spiritual life where we work so hard to build up our ‘false selves’ and we are so worried about power, structure, and institutions. This half is far more concerned with ‘Me, Myself, and I’ than it is about God or serving the other. This half is about the building up of yourself, your individuality – it is about creating your identity.

Then there is the second half of life, where you find your true self and are able to finally and fully live into who you were created to be. It is only in this ‘second half’ that you are able to let go of the illusion that we have built up in the first half and begin to swim in the deep waters of spirituality. According to Rohr, this is where the mystics of every faith tradition find themselves. It is the path of contemplation.

Rohr is a Franciscan monk and has practiced deep contemplation and taught it for many years.  Falling Upward is Rohr imparting his lifetime of knowledge, but it is also his encouragement for our own spiritual journeys.

Interestingly, Rohr emphasizes again and again that we need the first half in order to get to the second half. So we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for all the work we did building up our false selves. In fact, he talks about the first half as ‘building up our container’ that will hold our second half.

Rohr also makes very clear that almost universally, if one finds their way into the second half of their spiritual life, people must undergo great challenges, struggles, and suffering to reach the second half. One cannot simply read Rohr’s book and will themselves into the second half. It can help guide their journey, but each individual must walk their own journey.  The struggle of climbing the mountain and journeying the depths of the valley is actually the very thing that will allow one to let go of their illusions and allow themselves to live into their true self. If an individual finds themselves in the comfort of dwelling on the beach by a lake, well, what reason do they have to question or wonder if there is something more or deeper.  They don’t. And they won’t want to let the comfort and security go. Finding our way into the second half is difficult work.

It should be made clear that not everyone actually makes it through the valley and into the second half of their spiritual journey. Some people choose to be stuck in the first half forever. This can be for many reasons, but mostly it seems to be that the individual chooses to hold onto the reality of perceived power, wealth, and security that they have created for themselves in the first half. They cannot let it go. Much like the rich man that Jesus told to go sell all of his possessions and give it away to the poor before he could follow him, the man was unwilling to let it all go. (Luke 18:18-23)

Regardless of where you might feel you are at in your journey, I recommend Falling Upward. It might help you gain clarity and insight into your own journey and where you have been. It might jump-start some questioning and pondering for you. It is not an answer book or an easy fix or a handbook towards finding God. It is a gentle prodding to those on the beach of their first half telling them that there is far more to be found if they just start walking. It is also a word of encouragement to let you know that you are not alone if you find yourself on that journey now. The transition can be incredibly difficult from the first half to the second. To know that there are others who have gone before us is helpful.

You can purchase Falling Upward HERE


Let me know in the comments if you have read Falling Upward and what your thoughts are. Also please share with me what you currently reading and if you recommend it.

Wherever you are in your journey, may the peace which surpasses all understanding be with you all.

©Derek Harkins 2018

Why are you afraid? – Part 3 of 3 on Fear

(The following is a poem I wrote while reflecting on Fear and Jesus’ response to the disciples in Mark 4:35-41 when Jesus calmed the storm. It is the final post in the 3 part series. You can find post 1 HERE and post 2 HERE)

Why are you afraid?

Why are you afraid of change?
Do you not know that I, the one who can calm even the sea, will be with you through it all?

Why are you afraid of giving up your privilege and power?
Do you not know that the last will be first and the first will be last?

Why are you afraid of ‘Those people?’ People of Color? Women? LGBTQ people? Muslim people? Atheist people? Immigrant people? Refugee people?
Do you not know that they are your sisters and brothers, my children, whom I love deeply?

Why are you afraid of losing your present life, your possessions, your money, your security, your lifestyle?
Do you not know that in me you will find real life?

Why are you afraid of failure?
Do you not know that I have already forgiven you?

Why are you afraid of death?
Do you not know that I conquered death?

Why are you afraid?

I am with you.

I love you.

You are mine.

Peace. Be. Still. 

©2018 Derek Harkins

 

 

Stepping Forward – Part 1 of 3 on Fear

I am learning to step into my fear – to move forward through it.

My initial instinct when I begin to feel fear is to stop whatever is causing the fear – to move backward away from it.

Maybe if I bury it deep enough, it will just go away and disappear. This is what I hope anyways…that the fear will dissipate into nothingness, and I will be free to go about my business. I just need to ignore it and wait it out – wait for it to subside.

This is how fear paralyzes.

We won’t allow ourselves to engage it – to step forward into the fear. Instead we retreat and hope that it will just go away. Retreating gives us the desired result. The fear does subside. It is the quick, easy fix.

Ahhh…but it isn’t a fix, is it, sisters and brothers?

No.

When we retreat from our fear or bury it, we actually become imprisoned by it. By trying to control it and manage it, we actually are the ones who are being controlled and managed by the fear. It prevents us from moving forward where we feel we are called to go. It holds us bound where we are, or worse yet, it drives us backwards where we came from.

I am convinced that we are called forward in life.

The movement of life should always be forward – it should always be growth. Life is a movement forward…forward in personal growth and development, forward in faith, forward in questions and knowledge, forward in our relationships, forward in maturity and depth, forward continually. Each day should be a day of growth and learning.

Fear prohibits growth and questioning. Fear constricts. It builds walls. Fear chokes life and makes us small. It makes our minds small. It makes our hearts small. It makes our spirits small. It makes our very being small. When we shrink from our fear and retreat, we retreat inside of a box – a fortification that we think might keep us safe. In order to keep the fear out and at bay, we build our walls higher. We reinforce the gate so that it might not be breached. We may even dig a moat around our box, entrenching ourselves even more. When we really allow fear to take over we not only build defenses, but we start building offenses – tools to attack with. Tools we use to attack our fears. Tools we use to attack those whom we fear. Anything that will help keep our fear at bay.

“What is my greatest fear?” you might ask.

Nothingness.

I don’t know when I first started having the thoughts…I must have been 5 or 6 years old, maybe younger. I remember lying in bed trying to go to sleep as a child. I remember the thoughts would creep slowly into my consciousness.  I would begin to wonder what would happen if I went to sleep and never woke up. What would happen if I died in my sleep? I would feel the fear begin to creep into my stomach. And then my mind would imagine what death would be like. My mind would start to race and doubts would creep in – doubts that would not go away. What if I don’t go to heaven? What if I am not worthy to be in heaven? What if there is no heaven? And then the big question would drop upon my being like an anchor pulling me down into the depths of the ocean struggling for oxygen…

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What if God is not real? 

What if there is no God? This question would fall upon me and suffocate me. I could feel the panic start to rise into my chest as I lay there thinking about dying, and how all that I am would in an instant be…

Nothing.

Writing this, I can feel that familiar fear creep into my being as I allow myself to confront this fear…to step into it. A fear that I kept buried deep inside for years. A fear that I have kept secret for my entire life. I grew up going to church. Faith and believing in God was important to not only my family, but to my community, the society and culture I was raised in. It is still a societal expectation to not only believe in God, but to be a Christian. 30 years ago, it was simply a given. I sensed from a very young age that such questions or thoughts would not be welcome in the community, or at the very least they would be brushed off and not allowed to have space. And honestly, I was lucky. I grew up with some amazing pastors and a church that loved me and cared for me deeply. This is not a knock on them. The reality was that you are to believe what the pastor says at face value. You are to believe what your Sunday School teachers teach you at face value.

Why?

Just because.

No matter how old you are, whether you are 5 or 95, we all know that “Just because…” is not a sufficient answer. “I don’t know,” is a far more satisfying answer than “Just because…” or “Because the Bible says so.”  At least being honest and stating, “I don’t know, that’s a great question,” keeps the conversation open and allows for more seeking and greater depth to be found.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I love scripture and have grown to love the compilation of books, stories, letters, songs, and poetry that we call The Holy Bible. At times it has been a love/hate, hate/love relationship. It has been a struggle and a journey for me and continues to be so. Honestly, I think that is a healthy relationship with scripture…

Scripture is something to be wrestled with.

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That is my problem with the argument, “Because the Bible says so.” It ends the conversation and discussion. Just like answering a question with “Just because…” ends the conversation. There is no engagement. No conversation. No learning. No creativity. No relationship or dialogue.

And so, I wouldn’t engage. I would not step forward into my fear, but I would retreat within myself. Yes, I feared the conflict that would arise if I openly confessed my doubts and fears. There is no doubt about that. But even more than that fear of being judged or condemned by my community, honestly, I feared engaging my fear, because…

It might be true.

So, I began to build my box. I built and fortified it by saying and doing the right things. By pushing my doubts down – by trying my hardest to bury them.

There have been moments where I stepped into those doubts and fears. Looking back on my life I can see them. Subconsciously, I think following my calling into ministry may have been a way I was trying to ease the fear, or perhaps God was calling me into my fear. I sought answers. I wanted certainty and truth. What better way to find the truth than to immerse yourself in the study of God? (This is incredibly funny to me now, in a sick sort of way, as my experience has taught me that the more I seek the more questions I have.) I went against some advice I received while discerning my call, that if I wanted to be a pastor, maybe I shouldn’t major in religion for my undergraduate studies, because I would get enough religious education at seminary. Instead, I moved forward majoring in religion, mostly because I needed to continue to engage my questions, and to know whether I could fully step into my calling as a pastor or not. Is there a place in the church for me as a leader? What in the world do I actually believe?

It was the best decision of my life, simply because of one book that I was assigned to read in a Christian Theology class. I mean there were other amazing things about my undergraduate experience. It changed and shaped me in ways I am still finding out and I am incredibly grateful for that experience. But all of it would have been worth it just for this one book…the rest was a bonus! (An expensive bonus! Ha!) I remember vividly, sitting in the basement of Luther College’s Preus Library, at a cubicle reading through a book for an assignment.  The book was Paul Tillich’s Dynamics of Faith. In that book, I remember reading the section where Tillich explains that doubt is not only good, but that it is necessary for faith. That doubt is a necessary component to our faith being able to grow. As I read that, something unlocked deep within my being…a sigh of relief. I could breath. Perhaps there was a place for me.

I found some peace within myself at that point. However, I still would not allow myself to fully engage my fear. I still kept my deepest questions buried and secret. I tried not to engage them with all of my being. And now I felt the added pressure of being on the path towards becoming a pastor, and a few years later I was now a pastor. A pastor should not have these questions or doubts? And if they do, they certainly shouldn’t be open about them, right?! As a result, the moment I would feel that old feeling creep up into my heart and throat I would shove it back down, and move in another direction.

You see, that’s the thing with fear…It never goes away.

Unless you step into it. You have to face it. Engage it. Dwell in it. Burying our fear, or ignoring it keeps us stuck. It imprisons us, and holds us back.

So, even while I feel the fear clenching at my heart and choking my breath, I will step forward. I will engage it. And that means being open about it. Being honest about it with myself and with others.

And while that scares me – actually terrifies me – it also gives me life. I am energized and excited about the journey. It is liberating, quite literally, to unbury the fear and not let it control me anymore. Honestly, I feel healthier spiritually and stronger in my relationship with God, now more than ever before. God can handle my questions and my doubts.

So, I step forward.

What is the fear that imprisons you and keeps you from living the life you desire? Can you take a step forward into your fear, no matter how small of a step it may be? Step forward, sisters and brothers. Step forward into life.

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(This is the first of a three-part series on Fear. You can find part 2 HERE)

© 2018 Derek Harkins