Archives For May 2013

Late this afternoon I stopped at a coffee shop to finish up my work day.  It seems that a lot of Christians like to meet a coffee shops to discuss and discover deeper aspects of their faith.  Today was no exception.  It’s not that I was trying to overhear their conversation, because I wasn’t.  I was trying to concentrate on my work, but their voices kept breaking into my reality.  In fact, their conversation was inescapable for anyone in the shop  — including those of us seated on the other side of the room.

Two men met up just as I was arriving.  One appeared to be a recent college graduate who was looking for a job.  The other appeared to be around 30.  There was a bit of banter about C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia as they stood in line — even the barista joined in with commentary of her own.  They continued to discuss Lewis as they sat down but soon branched out to cover other authors of religious writings.  From there they moved to Scripture and theology.  There were three things about their interaction that I found interesting.  Early on I noticed the role that each individual took.  The older took on the role of wise mentor guardian to the younger.  The younger implicitly accepted anything and everything that fell from the lips of the guardian.  Second, any author whose writings fell outside outside of the guardian’s fairly narrow evangelical view was deeply suspect and to be avoided.  Third, the guardian was very sure of his Biblical interpretation and his theology.  From time to time he would wax eloquent with great passion correcting and then instructing his young charge on how he should believe.  There was no doubt or question, he knew the truth — and the truth is seen in black and white.

I remember when I was that sure.  When it was all so simple, when I had all the answers and the truth was black and white.  A time when I parroted the truths I learned from my guardians to the proteges that were under my tutelage.  A time before I really began to wrestle with God, with life, with the harshness of the world within which we live.  A time when I thought I was living by faith, but truth be told, was more likely living by someone else’s faith.  A time when I shied away from authors who were not aligned closely enough with my faith for fear that their influence might somehow “corrupt” my belief system and turn me away from God.  A time when my God was too small.  A time when my God was hemmed in by the boundaries of a specific theology of a specific subset of a subset within the universal Church.

But life broke my theological boundaries and God escaped.  And when I went to find him, I found riches untold outside the borders that I had constructed.  I found that instead of providing protection, those boundaries had stunted my spiritual growth.  That God had endowed men and women from other faith traditions with a wealth of wisdom, knowledge and insight through which I could draw into closer relationship with him.  I also learned to not be so sure of myself, of my answers, of my understanding.  And I learned to be patient in the pursuit of truth.  To allow time for God to speak, to lead, to guide.

I am glad I now live in a world of uncertainty, for it is a world where God can be God.  A world where God can go exceedingly and abundantly beyond anything I could ever ask, hope, wish or think.  A world where he can work in me and through me in ways that I could never imagine.  All I have to do is say “yes” to the journey.

Yes.

On to the  journey.

For those who are not familiar with Dallas Willard and the Divine Conspiracy, this collection of videos is a great place to start.  I have been listening through a number of these over the past couple of months.  I just plug my ear buds into my iphone and pull this up on youtube and listen while I’m on the go.

And while I’m loading up the links on Willard, you must check out this article by Richard Foster.

After listening/reading, please leave me a note in the comments section, I would be interested in your thoughts.

Today I became aware of the passing of Dallas Willard.  I’m struggling a bit to wrap my mind around this event — which means I must write.

I first become aware of Willard through The Spirit of the Disciplines and some of the papers he wrote as a philosopher at USC.  I was encouraged to learn that it was possible to be a Christian in the upper echelons of academic philosophy and I was struck that he appeared to have a spirit of humility.  A few year later a somewhat eccentric new friend of mine insisted that some of us who were in church leadership at that time read a particular book.  He purchased copies of The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God for each of us and begged us to read it.  I did read it and felt as if I had been bumped off balance.  I wasn’t really sure how to respond to what Willard had written.  It didn’t seem heretical, yet it was a far piece from my Sunday School learning.  He challenged me to re-think the meaning of The Sermon on the Mount in ways that had never occurred to me.  I was fascinated, yet fearful.  In truth, I was not yet ready for the fullness of what Willard was wanting to say.  As I often do, I neither accepted nor rejected.  I just let it be.  I let it sit upon my mind and ruminate.

A bit more than ten years of time have passed since I read that book.  In the meantime life has had numerous twists and turns.  There have been times of great sadness and times of great joy.  My own spiritual journey has bounced between peace and despair.  Through these times my understanding of who God is and what he is about has been inexorably changing.  A few weeks ago our church began a brief series on The Sermon on the Mount.  I knew I had to read The Divine Conspiracy again – because now I have the ears to hear the words that he spoke.  But sadly, my copy missing.  Both the author, as well as the one from whom I received it have passed from this life.  Yet some vestiges of his understanding of the kingdom of the heavens remain in my mind.  And I have discovered that over these years of trials, troubles, joy and grace my understanding of “the kingdom among us” has begun to look an awful lot like his.

Sometime back I wrote a post about Giants on the Journey.  And while I never met Dallas Willard or knew him personally, I think I am only beginning to realize the impact that he has had and will have on my life through his writings.  And I wish that I would have had the opportunity to talk together in gentleness and humility about the Kingdom of God, the teachings of Jesus and how we live out the kingdom in our own lives each day.  For I think that he knew something deep within his spirit — something that is difficult to articulate in words, which can only be learned through experience with the living God, is manifested in humility and is found when one willingly loses themselves.

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.

Dallas, thank you for helping me understand that the Son of God came that the kingdom might invade this earth.  That God’s will might be done on earth now, just as it is done in heaven.  That the kingdom is not just a future possibility, but that it should be a living, active, present agent of change within our world today. For that and for so much more, I thank you.

Oh, and that eccentric friend of mine?  Maybe he wasn’t so eccentric after all.  Perhaps he was just on to something we hadn’t yet figured out — the Divine Conspiracy.