The Power of Language

Here we have the most essential distinction between books and pictures, moving or otherwise — the way the former gets at the outside from the inside, while for the latter it’s the other way around. Language is internal; it asks us to create our images, our movies, our realities from someone else’s words. This is the source of its power, that it is interactive in the truest sense.

— David L. Ulin, The Lost Art of Reading


Many times when we pray for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out, a notion will come to us that seems too large to be carried out. We will strive to know the next right thing, and we will be shown something that seems beyond our grasp until we try it. The “until we try it” part is the measure of our willingness. Very often we pray for knowledge of God’s will, get a glimmering of something we could try, and then shrink back. “Not that! That’s too much!” we think. But is it too much?

God has unlimited resources. When we are in alliance with God, working in conscious partnership with God, those resources become our own. Many things that seemed beyond our grasp are actually well within our means when we begin to operate in accord with God’s will for us. All we have to do is be openminded enough to cooperate.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 144

Breaking Down Walls

The future of Christianity will rest in our ability to make our spiritual boundaries more porous, welcome the wisdom of other faiths, and borrow the best from other spiritual traditions, even as we share with them the stories and insights of Christianity. This in no way dishonors the contributions of Jesus, but recalls his appreciation for those persons thought to be outside the circle of God’s favor. When searching for an example of faith, he lifted up a Roman centurion. When illustrating compassion, Jesus spoke of a despised Samaritan who stopped to help. His willingness to see the good beyond his own tradition is a clear reminder for us to do the same.

Christianity, from its very start, was an invitation to believe God was at work in the wider world, far beyond the parameters of any one religion. When the church has forgotten the expansiveness of God, it has descended into a narrowness of mind and a meanness of spirit. When the church has remembered, it has been a light to the world and a balm and blessing to hurting people everywhere.

— Philip Gulley, The Evolution of Faith, p. 181-182

Meaning from Suffering

But there’s another possible meaning for that word “reason,” a meaning that together with the word why can liberate us from a determined, mechanistic universe. Instead of saying, “What plan in the past predetermined this suffering and therefore explains it in the present?” we could ask a very different question: “What possible good in the future can be brought out of this tragic suffering in the present?” This question makes no assumption that the present moment is inevitable or intentional. But it also makes no assumption that the present moment is meaningless. It holds open the possibility that some future meaning, some future value, some future good could be wrested from this present tragedy and loss. Ultimately, this is what we all need when we suffer — not explanations or reasons, but meaning.

— Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality, p. 182

Joyous Participation

This is why Christians who talk the most about going to heaven while everybody else goes to hell don’t throw very good parties.

When the gospel is understood primarily in terms of entrance rather than joyous participation, it can actually serve to cut people off from the explosive, liberating experience of the God who is an endless giving circle of joy and creativity.

Life has never been just about “getting in.” It’s about thriving in God’s good world. It’s stillness, peace, and that feeling of your soul being at rest, while at the same time it’s about asking things, learning things, creating things, and sharing it all with others who are finding the same kind of joy in the same good world.

Jesus calls disciples to keep entering into this shared life of peace and joy as it transforms our hearts, until it’s the most natural way to live that we can imagine. Until it’s second nature. Until we naturally embody and practice the kind of attitudes and actions that will go on in the age to come. A discussion about how to “just get into heaven” has no place in the life of a disciple of Jesus, because it’s missing the point of it all.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 179