I have been reading the book "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell the last couple of days. Lisa and Evan gave it to me for Father's Day. (By the way, they made sure that I had a great Father's Day. Of course, because I am so very blessed with them in my life, every day feels like my day!) Rob's book is an interesting read. Maybe it's because of his hair and glasses or because he used to be in a punk band but I feel sort of hip reading Rob Bell. Hip by remote association I guess. He's not really as much younger than me as it seems he should be though. I think I have aged prematurely.
I enjoy books that offer a challenge to how we "do" Christianity -- books that make us think about how we live as Christians. I am only up to page 80 but, a few pages ago, there was a sentence that really made me think -- "We have to embrace the Bible as the wild, uncensored, passionate account it is of people experiencing the Living God." Wow. I never thought of it quite that way. Part of what Rob goes on to say is that, as God's people, we are still writing that story, learning lessons, attempting to discern what He wants us to know.
It got me to thinking about the times when chapters have been written in my own story of trying to follow God. There have been several times recently, in fact, when my soul seemed to cry as God reached me in a special way. I know that He is always there -- everywhere -- but certain events can make me feel very close to Him in an incredible way ... times when I sense that He has important things to tell and teach me.
One time was the recent and untimely death of one of my co-workers. He was only 44 and, for more than 20 years, I'd known him well. He was single and is horribly missed by his family, as well as by his friends and co-workers. My soul cried at this -- in sadness I think but also in the painful reminder that life is short, whether it's 44 years or 84. Our time on earth is such a fleeting moment yet it is a time when we are called to important work and loving devotion to our heavenly father. God reminded me of that when Jeff passed away.
My soul also cried when the mother of John, one of my best friends in junior high and high school, died. In her case, she actually was about 84 but that made her death no less significant than my co-worker's. Actually, I had not seen John in over 20 years. He moved away shortly after high school and we quickly lost touch. He was an only child and his dad had passed away about 30 years ago. I had a hunch there would not be many people at visitation or the funeral so I went to see John. He didn't recognize me, of course. But, for me, out of this came God's reminder of His fifth commandment -- a reminder of how He calls us to loving devotion to our earthly parents as well as to Himself.
Then, during Father's Day worship service, a gentleman spoke from our church who pretty much grew up without a dad. His dad passed away of cancer when he (the guy who spoke) was just six years old. He talked about how hard it was on his mom to raise three boys without a father. He talked about how he got headed on the wrong path in life. Yet, you could tell that God had been there with him all along, until he did eventually get his life turned around. For me, this story was a marker of God's unending devotion to us. Even if we stray, He is there for us, seeking us, crying over us, calling us.
And then there has been the story of a good friend of ours who has worked countless hours this spring to put in a new yard for his family to enjoy. He tore up their old grass, worked long, hot hours to even out the dirt, and then planted a new yard. Just as it was starting to come into its own and actually get close to needing mowed, somebody in a big truck turfed his yard in the middle of the night, destroying his hard work. My soul cried for a fellow Christian who had been so affected by one uncaring individual -- God's reminder of how we are to treat each other with love and care.
These are just recent chapters in my book of times when God has taught or reminded me of important things.
Back to Rob Bell ... I am really not far enough into "Velvet Elvis" to draw any firm conclusions but it has certainly been thought-provoking as it has caused me to take a look at how God is always with us, in a purposeful but loving way, always creating new chapters of His story of faithfulness and teaching to His people.