Gifts from the Church

I am not certain my change of heart would have occurred outside the context of the church. For as I sat on the town-square bench, my mind was filled with stories and examples of forgiveness I had learned at the church’s knee. While I belong to a number of organizations and institutions, only the church has given me the language of reconciliation and has concerned itself with my human growth and betterment. When I have been angry, it has taught me to forgive. When I have been lonely, the church has provided friendship. When I was happy, it celebrated with me. When I was sad, it shared my grief. When I was egotistical, thinking only of myself, the church corrected me and taught me to consider others. When I was stingy, it taught me generosity. And when I was fearful, it taught me courage. In short, the church let me practice what it meant to be human. Not just any kind of human, but the best human I could be.

It is also abundantly clear that what the church has provided for this Christian has also been provided to the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist, and others by their spiritual communities. All of them, in their own contexts, have been taught what it means to be human. To be sure, I and others have not consistently lived up to the ideals of our spiritual communities, but those ideals are no less important and imperative.

— Philip Gulley, The Evolution of Faith, p. 185-186

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

Asking for Help

People might think helping is hard, but really that’s the easy part; just look how good it makes people feel. Look how happy all those Red Bend ladies were about chipping in. It’s the asking that’s so painful. It takes real courage, real strength, to say you’re not strong enough to do it alone.

— D.J. Schwenk in Front and Center, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, p. 196

An Allelujia Chorus

Being with real people who warm us, who endorse and exalt our creativity, is essential to the flow of creative life. Otherwise we freeze. Nurture is a chorus of voices both from within and without that notices the state of a woman’s being, takes care to encourage it, and if necessary, gives comfort as well. I’m not certain how many friends one needs, but definitely one or two who think your gift, whatever it may be, is pan de cielo, the bread of heaven. Every woman is entitled to an Allelujia Chorus.

— Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD, Women Who Run With the Wolves, p. 348

Forgive and Pray

And therein lies another law of forgiveness:

If you believe that someone you know
is behaving in a way that may be harmful to himself or others,
you have an obligation to pray for him.

This law is not about passing judgment or infringing upon someone else’s free will. You are simply praying that this person will gently find his connection to God and fulfill his own promise. The rest is out of your hands. How he does that is really none of your business. But this type of prayer, toward someone else’s highest good and happiness, is extremely effective. It has the power to save another human being from experiencing something truly terrible, and the whole world benefits each time someone awakens to his higher purpose.

This is part of your service commitment. It is part of everyone’s promise to bring about a more peaceful and harmonious earth through forgiveness and loving thought, even toward those who hurt us. Especially toward those who hurt us.

— Kathleen McGowan, The Source of Miracles, p. 159

Reading the Bible in Community

Reading the Bible with others does not mean only that we read together in a small group, or that we read commentaries to benefit from the wisdom of great teachers, or that we listen to the Bible read and reflected on in worship or other gatherings.  It also means reading the Bible through the lens of others’ experiences, in the knowledge of others’ stories, in the midst of immersion in others’ lives.  For all this is in the service of loving God and loving one another.  It is not to make us more knowledgeable about the Bible’s text, although that is helpful.  It is not to make us more culturally sophisticated, although that is a benefit.  It is to plunge us deeper into life with God, and therefore deeper into life with one another, that we might take one more step toward the beloved, all-inclusive community centered in Christ.

— Richard J. Foster, Life with God, p. 105-106