Firstly, I now have a new computer at home and all set up and on the internet (thanks Dad!) I imagine that will mean more posts than have happened in recent months.
But what I really wanted to write about was the book that I finished today: Brian McLaren's The Last Word and the Word After That. I found it a bit hard to get into: mostly because in many ways I couldn't be bothered with the discussion about hell that it discussed deeply. Not that I don't think that it's an important discussion (and done really well) - it's just that where I am meant that the discussion was a bit ho hum - but a vital one nevertheless and I'm sure that at other times it will of great significance and no doubt will be something I point many others toward. And I do love the way that the discussion, theology and thoughts are weaved through a very natural process of relating. Definately worth a read (although I suggest you read the two others first: A New Kind of Christian and The Story We Find Ourselves In).
But the second half of the book, what is known as Book Two: The Word After That, I loved. I wanted to share a few thoughts with you all from this section of the book.
Talking of the a group of people who are important to him, one character says to another (who he is inviting to join this group of people):
"Truth be told," he said to me one afternoon that June, "these are the people I know with."
"'Know with'?" I asked.
"Haven't you noticed how learning and knowing are ultimately communal experiences, social experiences?" he asked in reply.
"I can see how learning is communal - like learning in a class or small group", I replied. "But knowing?"
"Think of the word consciousness, whose components mean know with. I've found I can only know so much until I find a community that shares my knowing. If I begin growing very far beyond what my community allows me to know, I need to persuade my community to think with me or else find or form a new community. These people I'll be meeting with are the group that I've been knowing with for many years", Neil replied.
I loved these words, they gave me some words for some of what I've been grasping around for words for for the last while. I have some ace people who I "know" with (you know who you are!) and I love being with and having these "knowing" contexts and relationships, unfortunately though with many of them physical distance is great.
The fact that these guys met once a year though reminded me of how rare this kind of depth of "knowing" together really is and how much this "knowing" together, even at a distance of time and geography, can and does sustain us and this is so true for me.
So while I do long for more of this kind of "knowing", it actually helped me be really content and thankful for the fact that I have ace people who do "know" with me.
For that - thanks God and thanks to you guys too who I "know" with.
When these guys get together they have 5 "queries" they ask each other:
How is your soul?
How have you seen God at work in and through your life since we last met?
What have you been struggling with?
What are you grateful for?
What God-given dream are you nurturing?
Great questions, some of which mirror exactly the questions I've asked a group of people meeting in our house recently and most of which are the kind of things at the fore in many conversations I have with the people I "know" with. But I found the questions brought together like this really helpful - and thought that some readers of this blog might too.
I won't talk of the context in the book (will take too long and give too much away) but someone in discussing the different way they were beginning to understand the gospel writes:
In my way of telling the gospel, what you call the Western way, there were always thwo key questions:
1. If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain that you'd go to be with God in heaven?
2. If Jesus returned today, would you be ready to meet God?
Jesus is important because he paid for your sins when he died on the cross, so if you die tonight, or if Jesus returns today, you'll be forgiven and can enter heaven.
But in this new understanding of the gospel, two very different questions come to mind:
1. If you were to live for another fifty years, what kind of person would you like to become - and how will you become that kind of person?
2. If Jesus doesn't return for ten thousand or ten million years, what kind of world do we want to create?
Here Jesus is important because he leads you and forms you to become a better and better person, and the kind of people who truly follow his way will create a good and beautiful world.
I'm realizing that both sets of questions have their validity ..."
I got quite excited by these questions and find them really helpful.
So what kind of person would you like to become - and how will you become that kind of person? And what kind of world do you want to create and how are you taking part in that?
Partly from the book, but mostly just because of a range of different things, it's a very content night tonight.