Widening the Scope

People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways.

Sometimes people bump into Jesus,
they trip on the mystery,
they stumble past the word,
they drink from the rock,
without knowing what or who it was.
This happened in the Exodus,
and it happens today.
The last thing we should do is discourage or disregard an honest, authentic encounter with the living Christ. He is the rock, and there is water for the thirsty there, wherever there is.

We are not threatened by this,
surprised by this,
or offended by this.

Sometimes people use his name;
other times they don’t.

Some people have so much baggage with regard to the name “Jesus” that when they encounter the mystery present in all of creation — grace, peace, love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness — the last thing they are inclined to name it is “Jesus.”…

What we see Jesus doing again and again — in the midst of constant reminders about the seriousness of following him, living like him, and trusting him — is widening the scope and expanse of his saving work….

Whatever categories have been created, whatever biases are hanging like a mist in the air, whatever labels and assumptions have gone unchecked and untested, he continually defies, destroys, and disregards.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 158-160

Hearing from God

Nevertheless, those of us who value a transcendent dimension to life hesitate to believe that God is silent. Many of us, on some level, in ways we can’t fully articulate or prove, have experienced God’s presence (or what we believe to be God’s presence) and in that experience have found direction, joy, and meaning for our lives. It also seems apparent that even those people who believe God has revealed the divine will in a manner different from that to which we are accustomed have also experienced that same direction, joy, and meaning, despite our claims of enjoying a unique revelation of God.

This lack of consensus suggests that the one thing we are most dogmatic about (divine revelation) should be the one thing about which we are least dogmatic.

Because we are most inflexible about that which cannot be empirically proven, we become defensive and unyielding, believing God is best served by dogged insistence rather than thoughtful seeking. There is a curious tendency I have seen repeated time and again: the more adamant we are about God, the less likely we are to embody the traits we believe God values — love, compassion, peace, wisdom, and patience. All of these virtues are forsaken in our efforts to refute the spiritual perspectives of another.

— Philip Gulley, The Evolution of Faith, p. 17-18

Adrift in Uncertainty

There is another choice: To admit that the best of any religious tradition depends on the choices its adherents make on how to live despite what their holy books “say,” not because of them. “But where would that leave me?” my former self would have asked. “I’d be adrift in an ocean of uncertainty.” Yes, and perhaps that’s the only honest place to be. Another name for uncertainty is humility. No one ever blew up a mosque, church, or abortion clinic after yelling, “I could be wrong.”

— Frank Schaeffer, Sex, Mom, and God, p. 73

Out of Our Control

Detachment is a loving act and quite often a very difficult one. Usually we have to consciously make the decision to let someone else chart their own course and thus define their own life. We mistakenly think that since we are traveling together, we should be able to influence the direction a friend or lover takes, but that’s not the case. Possibly, our opinion will be sought, and in some cases adhered to, but there are no guarantees. We travel side by side because of the lessons we share, and one of the lessons we all have to learn, it seems, is that we cannot control the actions, the opinions, or the decisions anyone else makes.

— Karen Casey, Let Go Now, p. 31

A Life of Adventure

We can take any category of creation and learn a great deal of The Creator through the simplest of surveys. Take dogs: Weimaraners, boxers, Jack Russells, Pomeranians, golden retrievers, Airedales, bulldogs, beagles, Irish setters, whippets, Dalmatians, black Labradors, basset hounds, Irish wolfhounds, Lhasa apsos, Rhodesian ridgebacks. We can see humor and diversity. We can see dignity and grandeur. We can see playfulness and loyalty. We can see beauty, intelligence, curiosity, stamina — more.

Just to drive home the point, let us consider another category, the flower. We have: rose, peony, tulip, lilac, lily, daffodil, aster, delphinium, dandelion, orchid, iris, violet . . . Once again we see infinite diversity and tenderness. We see sheer creative glee. Might not the same tenderness and glee carry over to the creation of humans? Might not human beings bring to God a wonderful opportunity for creation? And how much more exciting, how infinitely interesting when you consider that we, too, carry within us the potential for creation. God just might take a lively interest in our unfolding. God might be easily persuaded to aid and abet us in plans for expansion — after all, God is by nature expansive and so are we.

Perhaps when we say “Thy will be done,” we are committing ourselves to a life of adventure. Perhaps God’s will involves expansion and not constriction. Perhaps we will be asked over and over again to commit to becoming larger and more generous. Perhaps God views us as capable of endless growth and renewal, endless diversity and creativity. Perhaps God expects us to fulfill our fullest potential and will actually cooperate with any plans that make of ourselves that which we dream of being.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 137-138


We know that resilient people rosewash, looking for and focusing on the positive aspects of a situation. Well, here’s another thing they do when something goes well: they juice it for all it’s worth. Resilient people anticipate pleasure, enjoy it in the moment, and reflect on it afterward. They savor.

Two researchers at Loyola University, Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff, have dedicated their careers to studying savoring, noting four key elements: basking, accepting congratulations and admiration; thanksgiving, in which we acknowledge the ways we are blessed and communicate our gratitude; marveling, reveling with wonder and awe, and luxuriating, deriving protracted pleasure from sensory experiences.

So the term “savoring,” when used in the world of positive psychology, isn’t just about slowing down to enjoy something — although that’s part of it. Instead, it’s something you do in the past, present, and future….

Can you create a protracted moment that is about how great something is? Remember, savoring has three parts: a past, a present, and a future. You don’t have to wait for something good to happen. It can be as much of a joy to recollect something good that has already happened or to plan something to look forward to: grab a photo album and reminisce, or plan a brunch with a bunch of friends you don’t get to see enough of.

Why is it so hard to savor? Part of it, I believe, has to do with that cultural bias against positive feelings. But a lot of it has to do with a strongly puritanical vein embedded in our culture, which manifests in a disapproval of pleasure. I strongly believe that we must challenge the idea that it is somehow hedonistic, dangerous, or recklessly irresponsible to value, seek out, enhance, and bask in that which is pleasurable in life.

— Alicia Salzer, Back to Life, p. 179-182


When we are caring for ourselves, we discover that there is actually plenty of time and energy to care for others and the world too. It is not negatively “selfish” to care for yourself brilliantly and exquisitely. In fact, as you fill your own well from the inside and tend to yourself with great love, it will naturally and effortlessly “spill over” for others to appreciate and utilize.

When you see someone who radiantly glows from within, you are seeing a self-caring soul. This kind of self-care is a living example to be inspired by, so that you can live that way also.

— SARK, Glad No Matter What, p. 56

As Wide As the Universe

John remembers Jesus saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (chap. 14).

This is as wide and expansive a claim as a person can make.

What he doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore the world is happening through him.

And so the passage is exclusive, deeply so, insisting on Jesus alone as the way to God. But it is an exclusivity on the other side of inclusivity. . . .

This kind insists that Jesus is the way, but holds tightly to the assumption that the all-embracing, saving love of this particular Jesus the Christ will of course include all sorts of unexpected people from across the cultural spectrum.

As soon as the door is opened to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that then Jesus doesn’t matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter what you believe, and so forth.

Not true.
Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true.

What Jesus does is declare that he,
and he alone,
is saving everybody.

And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 154-155

Not Having the Answers

We are in some sense better off not having satisfying answers to vexing intellectual questions about why suffering, evil, and pain exist in the world. If we can say, “Oh, there’s a clear reason for this,” we can remain aloof, safe in the cool and lofty realm of impersonal logic in relation to human suffering. We can explain instead of empathize, theorize instead of pray, and answer instead of act. But in the absence of a satisfying logical explanation for human suffering, we must descend from our brains into our hearts and respond to the suffering of others with tears and action, not just words and more words.

So, we practice compassion and intercession not because we have fully satisfying answers to explain the suffering of others, but because we don’t. The practice of compassion or intercession, in this light, is not just a response to the agony of another in pain; it is also the response to our own agony of not having answers about why anybody is in pain. It is a way of saying, “For a fellow creature to be in pain and without help in God’s universe is simply unacceptable to both God and me. So I will go in between the two. I will grasp the hand of God with one hand and grasp the hand of my neighbor in pain with the other. I will join God in willing comfort, blessing, peace, and grace for my sister or brother in need.”

— Brian D. McLaren, Naked Spirituality, p. 126-127