Over the past week I’ve had some awesome-kind-of-reading list. A book my pastor is recommending everyone in our church reads by Marvin R Wilson, and some soul-enriching Frederick Buechner.
If you’ve never heard of either of those individuals, then I would definitely suggest you give them a try. Truth and challenge and beautiful reminders. And truth and challenge and beautiful reminders that first of all affect me and my heart, and then affect how I relate to everyone else’s.
Thinking about my story. About how if I told you my story, you would hear of Hope that wouldn’t let go. Thinking about our stories. About how God has called us to do this life-thing together, in community, in the messiness of it all. Because He is the Hope that doesn’t let go.
The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. (Frederick Buechner)
I believe that for me. I believe that for you. I believe that for us.
But when life falls apart, or when the world crumbles, or when humanity just seems to be on a quest for slowly-killing itself, it can be hard to remember that we’re built on the stronger-stuff-of-Solid-Ground.
The person of faith was one who was so committed to God that, like Abraham, he ventured into the unknown with the full expectation that God would meet him there. (Marvin R. Wilson)
The full expectation.
The rising above our doubts and moving forwards decisions.
In the knowledge that God is always going to meet us, hold us and come through for us.
Because although Jesus told us that this world would bring an abundance of both beauty and suffering our way. He also said to not-ever-be afraid. Because He promised that He would be with us in it. That we should take heart, because He had overcome the world and whatever it had to throw at us.
And so, in the places that we are in, and the places we are called to, wherever that may actually be, may we always remember that we are loved more than we can ever comprehend of imagine, and chosen with an unshakable certainty, and called out as lights of the world, to be a community of people that love Jesus and love each other.
It’s not as complicated as we often like to make it. As I often like to make it.
The place God calls you to is the where your deep gladness and the world’s deeper hunger meet. (Frederick Buechner)
If we are to love our neighbours, before doing anything else we must see our neighbours. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in. (Frederick Buechner)
I read those words and I remembered really clearly a guy that I met a couple of years ago when I was studying at Bible College. He headed up an organisation that worked with the poor. And he was an amazingly talented artist. He brought one of his drawings to the meeting and he was talking about the deep meaning contained behind the image.
His words really struck me, because I am also an artist, and art resonates somewhere deep inside of me.
He showed us one of the most intricate pencil drawings that I have ever seen, and that my description will never do justice to.
A black and white pencil drawing of a slum in Saigon.
Broad. Detailed. Strangely beautiful.
In the image, there was a striking helicopter hovering over the slum. Below, hanging from the helicopter by bindings, was a white, clean statue of Jesus.
Stone. Bound. Dead. And above the slum. Not touching the slum.
But the statue-Jesus didn't have relevance for the slum. It didn't even come into contact with the slum.
If you looked closely at the drawing, there was a small girl standing in the edge of the picture, and the helicopter hanging above couldn't even see her.
But, in the picture, Jesus, the real Jesus, was nailed to the reality of the slum.
He’s wasn't floating abstract in the air. He was on the ground. And within the picture this was shown through hundreds of subtle hidden crosses in the landscape.
There was such a beauty to this storytelling process.
And such a challenge to how we live as Christians.
We often want to save and be safe at the same time. To believe but never wrestle with doubt. To go but never be afraid. To connect but never be uncomfortable. We want to be at an altitude. Like the helicopter. We sometimes want easy, distant, non-committal relationships with non-Christians, which hold out a bound, stone, irrelevant Jesus.
But, Jesus is nailed to the reality of life. To the slum. To our communities. To the places we are called to do life each day in.
That we see not just faces, but the life behind. Not just from a distance, but up close. Living as subtle, hidden crosses within the landscape that we find ourselves in.
And realise that the party isn't complete without us. Any of us.
Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.
And with that, here are some pictures from my tribe this last week 🙂