Friday, August 10, 2012

On Transformations

Ever since reading Voskamp's book and writing these reviews, I've been pondering the idea of transformations, or changing something into something else.
I've been rather hard on Voskamp, as she describes her efforts to change the bad things in her life into good things. Inasmuch as she's simply re-labeling things in her life, I've gone so far as to state I think that's an ungodly thing to do. Those are strong words. I've called her "thanks list" a silver bullet, a magic wand, as if using it mysteriously alters the bad into good, just by uttering some words. She herself says that eucharisteo always precedes the miracle.

That's what magic does.

Magic changes Ron Weasley's normally land-locked vehicle into a flying car and instantly alters the house flag colors draped over Hogwarts's dining hall. Magic transports Dorothy from Oz back to Kansas instantly, and turns Gandalf's staff into a weapon of power in Theoden's court. Magic changes things in super-human ways. We love to put magic into stories, don't we? We're longing for the supernatural to act.

Because when God acts, He transforms things. He makes a mute donkey speak. He makes blind people see. He changes water into wine -- instantly. He turns dead to living. Every day, He enters dead human hearts and makes them alive to whole new spiritual realms. Transformation is magic, and we love to see it. It's the stuff of Heaven, and we really want to see it on Earth.

That's why Voskamp's book is so exciting to readers. She's promising miracles!! She tells us, if we offer a prayer of thanks, the painful, bad, fallen things in our lives will be transformed by that thanks, into healing, good, unfallenness. Into a state of wholeness. In essence, she's claiming to transfigure this poor planet, in small ways, into a little bit of heaven. Is it bad to wish that? No. Is it bad to claim to do it? Maybe.

Why does Proverbs 17:15 tell me, "He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD," and then also describe God Himself as "Him who justifies the ungodly"? Why does God get to do the very thing He says we're not allowed to do?

Because He's God. He actually does really justify me, the sinner. He has the magic. He has the power, or as Scripture calls it (I love this term!!), the "attesting miracle." Attesting to what? When Jesus heals disease and drives out demons and stops storms, what does all that attest to? His supernatural status as Creator, as King, as The Boss.

I'm not He. I have no attesting miracles. And it would be very wrong for me to claim such powers, when I don't have them. It would be very wrong for me to say I'm transforming anything from one state to another.

And here's where I wish Voskamp would be more precise. I do not think she's taking on God's role and putting herself on His throne. I just wish she were more clear about exactly how her own transformations take place. Only God transforms. Her prayers are not magical. Thanks isn't magical. Even a thankful heart is not magical. Only God transforms anything evil into anything good, and He does it on His own terms. He rarely transforms as we'd like Him to (i.e., remove this thorn in my flesh, please Lord!), but usually in unexpected ways (Ah! He'll leave the thorn but give me strength instead - how bizarre!)

Mystics (and I do think Voskamp is a Christian mystic) often take one piece of theology and make it the absolute centerpiece, and ask everyone to realize it as such. They get their perspective a bit skewed. They are essential in the church because they take things we've often pushed to the periphery (like thanksgiving) and bring it back into a prominent place. Dry theologians limit the faith down, always paring away, and mystics broaden it again and encourage us to embrace the things we've mistakenly tossed aside. Both are so useful.

Thanks for listening. I hope this made a bit of sense. I do not think Voskamp is far afield, but I do think she's a little afield. Mostly, I wish she'd be more clear, but mystics don't tend to do that. Oh how we long for heaven, with all its magic -- all its "signs" -- and as my Bible teachers often said, Heaven is "now" and "not yet." We must keep both in balance.


  1. Thanks for all this MK. I'm taking the book back up to the coast with me this weekend!

  2. I agree...thanks for the post. I've had my own cautions about her writing.

  3. now, i didn't read ALL your comments, but thought since this was the last, i'd see how you'd come around. thanks for your thoughtful response to your reading. :)

    though we differ in our judgment, i do acknowledge that you've given her a fair chance.

  4. ~ Oh how we long for heaven, with all its magic -- all its "signs" -- and as my Bible teachers often said, Heaven is "now" and "not yet." We must keep both in balance. ~

    Oh how true. Thank you ~ FlowerLady

  5. I am looking into good/sound Christian women to follow and I thank you for your review on Ann Voskamp. (I am not a blogger but started a blog for my own journey- so I can look back on my pregnancy) The mainstream "Christianity" today is very hard and time-consuming to sift through so I thank you for taking the time to not only read but post. :)


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