I've been reading two books side by side for the last few days and finished them both this morning. They are as different in most ways as two books can be, but drew forth similar feelings from me.
NEVERWHERE is a fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman. It's the fairy-tail like story of a nice but very ordinary young man named Richard who accidentally slips out of the normal world of London and ends up in the surreal world of London-Below. He ends out helping a girl named Door on a quest, makes friends, faces monsters, meets an angel, and grows up to a truer sense of who he is and what he wants in life. It's a magical book in a way that few books (even those with lots of magic) ever are. It touched me because it was so good at recognizing that true magic has to do with friendship, and kindness, and unselfish compassion. It does a wonderful job of showing how what we believe about the-way-things-are can beat us down and blind us to the truth of this magic.
It's got some honest, ugly and frightening moments, but the moments of wonder, joy and love are just as honest (more actually) and make the journey more than worth it.
VELVET ELVIS by Rob Bell is a brilliant, unconventional look at Christianity and what it is really meant to be. It does a wonderful job of cutting past the dogma and layers of tradition and striking at the heart of faith, which, even after 2000 years is beautiful, radical and inspiring. For Bell, real faith isn't about following a set of ecclesiastical rules to get into Heaven. It's something that changes us in the here and now, helping us to see the world as God sees it, helping us love the people God loves (which is everyone) and living out that love.
In other words (I'm simplifying here) but true faith has less to do with the beliefs we hold and more to do with things like friendship, and kindness, and unselfish compassion. He also does a great job of showing how what we believe about the-way-things-are can beat us down and blind us to the truth of God.
In the end these two very different books were a great combination to read. I recomment either, or both, without reservation.