What follows isn’t from my new book, but it articulates the theme: We‘ll be at our best and get on with serving our world as people of hope when we see that Christ spirit is what animates and sustains everything. The book’s available on Amazon (beautifully illustrated by a good friend, and including practical exercises by another friend to make the principles active in daily life). For those of you choosing to read it (64 pages short!), thank you!
The book, and this post, isn't about joining a church or being religious. I'm trying to find a way to help people live out from a place of hope, joy, and gratitude rather than the fear and cynicism that prevails. Here's what I mean:
The word “all” is absolute, so when it shows up in the Bible we‘d be wise to pay attention.
“From him and through him and to him are all things.” Romans 11:36
“He upholds all things by the word of his power.” Hebrews 1:3
“He is the first born, the head over all creation.” Colossians 1:15
”The summing up of all things in Christ.” Ephesians 1:10
I woke this morning after a 30 hour relentless rain from the skies, pouring out much needed gifts for our thirsty forest. As the sun hits the saturated soil, water vapors slowly rise amongst and between the trees, shining in the fresh sunlight against the backdrop of deep dark soil. It looks like a fog machine at youth group, only without the noisy music and preaching. And yet, preaching is happening, as surely in this cathedral of trees as anywhere else - perhaps even more clearly than anywhere else. It’s God’s glory, unfiltered.
I can’t describe what happened inside me at that moment, at least not accurately, but I need to try. Perhaps because of personal circumstances and lots of reading about God’s immanence (a word that simply means God is intensely present everywhere) I was able to catch a glimpse of the deeper realities that, while ignored most of the time, are nevertheless at work 24/7. In the midst of a news cycle that would lead anyone to despair, a deeper truth is always at work. God is always providing, sustaining, saturating the world with displays of glory, hints of goodness, and punctuations of beauty. I saw it this morning, and a flood of hope came pouring in, evicting the cynicism that so easily takes root. I’ve known such moments before, and will know more again in the future, if I’m fortunate. This time, though, I was baptized:
In Joy - What a beautiful world! Every breath extends our time to receive the lavish gifts of beauty, abundance, provision. They’re everywhere for those with eyes to see, and hidden from those who are consumed with the very real cares of this world and the pursuits of security, power, and pleasure that drive us so often. Stepping away from all of it, though, we come to discover that it is possible to know joy, because real joy is rooted in the beauty displayed and gifts offered by the One who is everywhere. Just seeing, really seeing, begins a joy infusion.
In Confidence - Remember that famous phrase from Julian of Norwich? She wrote it at a time of profound political and religious upheaval as England, France, and the Papacy were all in the thick of power grabs and various wars. Her words were part of her work, “Revelations of Divine Love” in which she declared that she’d received revelations from God, “… and I saw full surely that ere God made us he loved us; which love was never lacking nor ever shall be. And in this love he has made all his works; and in this love he has made all things profitable to us; and in this love our life is everlasting." Those with eyes to see that God’s love is infinite, irrevocable, and relentless in pursuit of us, will also see the goodness in the world as that which is most real and enduring. This gives someone with consciousness of Christ a sense of profound gratitude, even in difficult times. This leads her to the profound conclusion, in the midst of times as troubling as our own, that "all's well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well". People who believe that display various colors of hope!
In Gratitude - Knowing that God loves all of God’s creation, that God is for us, that Christ’s finished work on the cross means that God, though heartbroken over our insistence on going our own way, is not mad at us. The light is always on. The invitation is always there. Return is always possible. Gifts are still pouring down. Christ’s love is still relentless. Lives of confidence and joy are possible. All of this makes me grateful!
This is a gospel that lives up to the meaning of the word gospel, which is “good news.” It stands, though, in contrast to much of what I hear and see in the church today. We’re perceived as driven by political fears and power-grabbing. We’re perceived as declaring that God’s love is predicated on human performance and as a result, we ourselves aren’t sure that we’ve done enough, prayed enough, given enough, served enough, worshipped enough.
There’s no "enough" because there are no conditions. Those who grasp this, find themselves falling deeper into a confident love of Christ. In such a place, we can stay the course, ”even though the mountains (or your political party, or market share, or stock options) should slip into the depths of the sea.“ In days such as these, that’s a gift more precious than gold, or even bitcoin!
I welcome your thoughts!