Great Books List That are About Great Books


Coming up with a list of great books is, well, great if you subscribe to that particular genre. If I come up with a list of “Top Ten Westerns” and you can’t stand riding in the old west, then it kind of leads you out.

And yet, I love these kinds of lists. Book recommendations are such a healthy, vibrant part of any healthy community. A community that shares books is one that is full of life, thought, and love.

So what to do? Simple. I shall give you a list of novels that are about books. The one common denominator in all novel genre lists is they are about books and those who read tend to love books. So here is a list of great novels about the reading of many, many books:


  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luiz Zafon.

This is a beautiful novel written by Spanish author Carlos Luiz Zafon. In the very beginning, the reader is introduced to the “Cemetery of Books”, an extremely powerful image that not only follows through this book, but it’s prequel and sequel. Loss, love, secrets, meaning, and community all come through as the heroes/heroines solve a family mystery by reading.   The other books in this series are good, but they don’t capture the magic of this first entry. Even though it has a prequel, read this one first.


  • The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco.

I would have sounded smarter and recommended “Focault’s Pendalum”, but I didn’t get half of the references or in-jokes. This novel is his best exploration of memory, death, and integration of ideas. It would make a lousy movie: some old man sitting and reading a bunch of books. However, Eco moves the plot well and holds the reader’s attention at page one.


  • Possession by A.S. Byatt.

This one is an allegory for the love of reading, along with a clever love story. Two researchers from the present day try to figure out the fate of lovers from a long ago.


  • The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte.

Perez-Reverte is able to write almost anything. He can write adventure, romance, loss, and-in this case-a book detective novel. At times, this novel headed in the direction of goofy and that direction seemed on purpose for Perez-Reverte. Still it’s a good yarn and explores so many references (ones that I get this time), that its liking hopping from book to book.


  • If On a Winter’s Night a Stranger by Italo Calvino.

What if the moment you opened a book, you fell into a mystery novel and you were the main character? This is not “The Never-Ending Story” but rather a clever trick of 2nd person narrative that is consistent through the whole novel. In this book, you pursue a rare book to solve a murder mystery and fall in love. Calvino takes breaks, every once in a while, to discuss the nature of story and fiction.


Doug in the Den From High Prairie



I pastored in a small town in Northern Alberta by the name of High Prairie. Between 2004-2011, those were special years because the people of High Prairie and the surrounding communities heard one voice in the morning: Doug in the Den.

The local radio station that could be heard only on airwaves around High Prairie changed styles, names, and even demographics. But Doug Spurgeon was always Doug in the Den, doing his morning show.

A teen from our church once admitted, “I don’t know what Doug looks like. I know his voice. He seems to be a big, powerful man. I mean, he’s Doug in the Den.”

Fortunately for eight years, I knew him as Doug Spurgeon. Sure, he was a town celebrity. But he also was my friend.

It’s with sadness that I learned this past Tuesday that he passed away.

Doug taught me a lot, especially how to love a town.

I got to know him as a radio guest. Doug was always looking for people to fill his “Hot Seat”. It wasn’t as bad as all that, rather it was a chance for community leaders to let everyone know about upcoming events or issues.

He loved controversy and I loved thoughtful questions, so our times in the morning were always fun. He was warm, friendly, and his hospitality took over as I’d sit behind a bulbous microphone, strapped into headphones that belonged to NASA, and tried not to think that I was talking to thousands of listeners.

Soon it became a habit. I’d go on the show for anything related to the churches in area. My friends kidded me, saying I liked pretending to be a celebrity for 90 minutes. Truth be told, it was just neat hanging out with Doug.

Our friendship grew outside of the radio. We’d get lunch sometimes at the “Northern Lights”. I helped him move across the street from an apartment. And when his health began to fade, I was one of the pastors who would visit him.

Doug taught me to love a place as if it were a friend. He loved High Prairie. He fought for it, ached for it, and would his radio show to lift the town up another ten feet.

If you love a place, you’ll praise it.

This attitude came out in his radio show. One morning, he shared a prophetic dream.   The vision was the train would stop at High Prairie, letting out hundreds of shoppers. There would be a promenade that led people to the downtown area. Buskers would play music. People from all over Alberta came to High Prairie to shop, eat, and spend the day. He woke up from this dream and, as he told the story, shouted in his apartment, “THIS.   COULD. HAPPEN!”

If you love a place, you dream about it.

His heart, as always, was the Christmas drive for the Foodbank. His eyes sparkled, his shoulders twitched wildly when it was almost impossible for walk in the radio station because of all of the food donations. Wearing an ill-fitting Santa cap, he’d work long hours to get the donations to pour in.

If you love a place, you’ll work for it.

His health failed and he no longer could do his radio show. Soon he had to leave for Edmonton. I helped him pack and said that if I was ever in Edmonton, I’d look him up. We lost contact, ironically, when I moved to Edmonton, for it is a bigger place than High Prairie.

I miss Doug Spurgeon like a miss High Prairie, for he became the city. In my mind, High Prairie and Doug in the Den are one in the same. He believed in God, but was hesitant to land exclusively on Christianity. And yet he always sought me out as a pastor, never refused a prayer, and loved being around church people. This gives me comfort because I expect, when I die and wind up in heaven, to be on Doug’s Hot Seat, filling him on all of the news he missed after he left.

If you love a place, you’ll miss it.

See you later, Doug.


This is Why Evangelical Republicans Can’t See Anything Wrong with Trump



Years ago, I worked at a Middle School that was part of an experiment concerning teaching teenagers about the Civil War. The US History class was divided in half and spent the next three weeks learning about the Civil War, but only from one side. Half were from the southern perspective; the northern perspective. The other side’s reasons for fighting were taught, but only as straw men arguments and deliberately presented not as complete ideas.

The 3-week experiment ended with a day of water balloon fights against the two classes. The kids fought, but it wasn’t a game. Many of them were really, really angry. Students had to sit out. Insults were thrown at each other. Rude jokes made.

After the water balloon fight, the class was brought in and heard a lesson presented by a local professor. He spoke to them about the danger of ideologies. They could not see this for what it was- a game designed by your teachers who withheld information and separated you from your friends- because you had fallen prey to ideologies.

Enter cultural and political philosopher Slovaj Zizek.

Zizek argues that today our system, our empire, our “state of the union” is kept alive by ideologies. Ideologies sound like belief systems or ideas even, but they are not: they are just hallow expressions kept so that you can fit within the system.

An example of his thinking, found in his book “The Fragile Absolute”, is Caffeine-Free Diet Cola. Cola was originally a medicine, a tonic that helped with digestion. Then it became a substitute for alcohol in the US, then it was discovered to be unhealthy because of calories and caffeine.   The result is a drink that is neither good for you or unhealthy, it’s just designed for it to be consumed in great quantities. It does nothing and changing nothing: just sold and purchased.


This is an example of ideologies: social expressions and groupings that do nothing for you and requires only for you to consume them in mass quantities.

Ideologies, termed by Zizek, ask nothing from you. You can live your life as it is, uninterrupted, but still espouse ideologies. Ideologies require slogans, statements that one says again and again without measuring the worth or reality of such slogans. Ideologies are free from sacrifice, repentance, or service. Just consummation. Just blog them, update them, or speak these slogans again and again, as commercials for the ideological system that owns you (in fact, ironically I am right now a commercial for Zizek by quoting him in this blog).

But then how do ideologies survive? They need enemies, villains, outsiders. In the documentary “A Pervert’s Guide to Ideology”, Zizek uses the film “Jaws” as the power of an unidentified presence, an enemy. The shark, for no or little reason, can strike and attack at any time. It’s up the heroes to keep everyone safe. If the shark wins, we all lose. The heroes may be imperfect, but they are better than the shark. And those worst than the shark are those who don’t think the shark is the problem.


Enemies are sharks.

Belief systems are different. They can be communicated and shared. They require sacrifice or an offering or one altering your life. Zizek would argue that Christianity is an ideology, but I would disagree and say that it can be a belief system once it gets past enemies, slogans, and/or consumption.

Consider Zizek when clicking on this link:


Here the woman identifies herself as an Evangelical Christian, but seeks to destroy her enemy (IE. Crooked Hillary), uses crass language, defends a sexual predator, and is not a harmonious witness to the belief systems of Christianity. Why? She is trapped within the ideology of Evangelical Republicanism. She quotes slogans (“We don’t want a Pope, we want a President”), she has an enemy (all liberals and outsiders), and her message only requires one thing that is to consume (IE. Vote) Trumpism.


This form of ideology is nothing more than counter-dependence. It is not for anything, but establishes its identity on what it is against. Trump is not evil because the enemy, those who disagree with him are always worst. Always.

Some former Republicans are choosing to vote for Hillary because they are now seeing some of her platforms match their Biblical values. This is good because they are stepping out of their previous ideologies, for they are choosing something good/healthy instead of just fighting against Jaws and consuming diet caffeine-free cola. This, of course, will go against the systematic ideology of the Evangelical Republicans. Know this: to them, these people will be voting for Jaws.

Others are voting for a third party candidate because those leaders match their beliefs or, simply, they wish to express a palpable dissatisfaction with a system. Know this: to those trapped in political ideology of the two-party system, you’ll be throwing your vote away. Or, indirectly, voting for Jaws.

Or others won’t vote, choosing to step out of the system that has sought to control through consumption. This option, my guess, would make Slavoj Zizek the happiest.

Many will not vote, quoting the slogan, “Well, I don’t like what Trump said and I don’t like what Hillary did.” When asked what did Hillary do to them personally, there is either no answer or one that is an hour long, referencing several conservative blogs and newsfeeds and…


Ideologies do not have to make sense. In a previous blog, I argued that Trump does not have a single Biblical plank on his platform. (see:

As a Christian Pastor, I see that my belief system is contrary to the platform of Trump. It’s tempting to then see other Christians support Trump and speak with common language (“Doesn’t the Bible call us to love our enemy and take care of the stranger and not hate and…”), but then our conversations will get lost in slogan slings.

Ideologies are there to maintain and enhance and protect what has always done; Christianity, like most belief systems, will always seek to interrupt, challenge, and call to something new.   Why? Because belief systems are about calling people to something greater, higher, and nobler than their present lives; ideologies are based around what one is against and who is their enemy and keeping the consumptive cycle alive.

To be against something is to have a hole. A hole is nothing. It isn’t dirt, it isn’t cement, it isn’t wood. What makes a hole is what it isn’t.

A friend once said, “If a hole in a boat is bigger than the boat than it’s no longer a boat.”

The ideology of Evangelical Republicanism, currently, is no longer about anything and that is why it cannot be challenged or defended. It simply is, existing to maintain and enhance without any vision for change.

2 Corinthians 10 asserts “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” From ideology to belief…

The Black Gong



And little recks to find the way to Heaven,

By doing deeds of hospitality.

Shakespeare’s As You Like,

Act 2, Scene 4, lines 81-82

For six years I was the director of a junior high school department in a church. I sat in my office one year, brainstorming about a particular winter camp.   In my office was a college student whose boundless imagination led him to study film making at a local university, perfect for this kind of dreaming.

“I want everything at camp to be overrun with our Saturday night adventure game,” I said. “It would be as if the whole youth group stepped into a storybook and were transported into another world.”

“Let’s use…” the student lingered in this thought for a while. “…let’s use the game the ‘Black Gong.’ We will play the game, but there will be…quite a bit of set up. Months before, we’ll have skits and a video. The game will take place in the middle of our story.”

“Good,” I said, and we went to the dry erase board in my office, hammering out ideas. We once had made a video about the Black Gong- a Tolkienesqe saga of swords, elves, and dwarves shot in the only patch of trees in Chino Hills we could find. Now we wanted to build upon that, keeping in mind that this game would take place in some grand, big story.

That day we created “Alanna Thunder,” a pulp fiction heroine who explored the wild jungles. We decided to go “live,” having our staff play individual characters who would spring up from the audience and would even use the kids as part of the storytelling. “Alanna Thunder” was to appear in the fall, with four weekly skit installments during our outreach nights. The rule was simple: she’d always face some peril and the kids would have to come back next week to see how she escaped.

Somewhere in the brainstorming, we came up with trading cards. Instead of winning points for the game portion of our night, we would hand out Alanna Thunder trading cards of the individual scenes or characters. Another college student with boundless imagination locked himself in his room for a week, printing off thousands of trading cards.

The outreach nights went off successfully, kids made decisions for Christ, and, for our storytelling purposes, Alanna Thunder was a firm tradition in our little community’s brain as we promoted camp following that first fall. They were going to camp, expecting to hear more of the story of Alanna as she sought out the most sensational of relics: the Black Gong.

Black Gong was a hybrid of Capture the Flag and Outpost, where each cabin (six to eight campers) would form a team, looking for three stations. Each station they’d have to do a task to receive a token; once they had three tokens, they could ring the Black Gong; and the team with the most rings, won. Simple.

However, each camper had a flag in his or her pocket (like playing a round of flag football) and, if it was pulled by another team member, he or she had to stop and go get the flag replaced. So there could be wars, sneak attacks, pacts, armadas, and betrayals, thus, complicated the play of this simple game became complicated. And at the intended winter camp in the fall, Alanna Thunder was going to play the game with the kids.

It was a warm, California night up in the camp with the mountain wind furiously blowing amongst the conifers. Dust picked up, formed ghostly shapes in the night’s meager light. Teenage adrenaline ran high as they entered into the “Black Gong.”

So far the story of Alanna Thunder has been that she was chased by a series of baddies into a mythical, magical (or for those children from strict fundamentalist homes, “Higher Science”) woods. They divided into their teams, got their flags, and sought to collect tokens. Suddenly, the entire cast of Allana Thunder ran by them, in character, continuing the story of the morning’s chapel.

The game lasted three hours, culminating with each of the teams helping Miss Thunder find and ring the Black Gong. The wind, the mountain air, and the trees all became part of the story. Plus, we had a lot of right-brain kids whose imaginations fed the whole game/them/story they were participating in. They ran, chased, screamed, charged, hid, and participated in the story that seemed to even use the dirt and the rocks around them.

At the end of the night, although the kids were tired, all of them found it very hard to go to sleep. One young man announced, “This night was better than any multi-player game on the net!” This was a huge praise, for this kid played about 14 hours of games per week.

A parent who ran a game within this game stated, “It was like I fell into a movie.”

One of our staff, though, captured the dream of that night: “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like one long night game at camp. Everything and everyone is part of the story’s telling!”

It was wonderful that a camp memory could capture the imagination of so many people and set junior high students, now all of them adults, with a vivid memory of seeing, touching, smelling, hearing, and believing in something that may have given them a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.


When I was a young teen, one of my favorite trips was canoeing down the Stanislaw River in California with our Christian Service Brigade. The route began with a large stretch of rapids that was out of place in the otherwise calm, toilet bowl-like levels of the river for the rest of the day. Every year, we were tossed out of canoes when we hit the rapids. After the third time of being thrown own of the canoe, we deemed this part of the trip impossible to cross, as if it was a tall, black knight declaring, “None shall pass! Yet, the head of our all of the Brigades in our region passed through one year with no problem. We asked him his secret. “Don’t try to go over the river or around it or against it. Move your canoe with the river.” We didn’t understand and continued to capsize our boat, spending more time and energy and drama trying to get down the river our way.

Years later, I got the wisdom of his advice. What if your neighborhood (urban, suburban, rural, town, village, etc.) was the very thing God was using to redeem the people of your community? If this was His plan, then all of the sermons, programs, service projects discipleship strategies, and activities of the church would be spent cooperating with God, in harmony with His mission. This reality may not be too far from your reality; indeed, it has been exactly the reality I find myself in as a small pastor in a small, Canadian town up in northern Alberta. As our small church traverses time and river flowing, the season makes a song. And we who live beside her still try to sing along. The virtue needed is fellowship, with not only the saints but the would-be saints; and not just with people, but movements and groups and moments that God is using around the church to redeem the world.

Fellowship within the Church

Henri Nouewen said, “Apart from a vital relationship with a caring community a vital relationship with Christ is not possible.”[1] This is true, yet it is apart from the usual operating systems within 21st century believers. Speaker and teacher for Forge Canada Cameron, Roxborough suggests that the average Canadian Christian’s church attendance has declined from three to four times a month to one to two times a month. This statistic exists because many Canadians find other obligations competing for the coveted Sunday morning time slot.

If one understands that God is on a mission beyond the Sunday morning gathering, then this wouldn’t be a problem. God is alive in the preaching of His word just as He is on the soccer fields. Right? And then what do we do with certain passages (e.g., Hebrews 10:23-24, 1 Corinthians 14) that command Christians to assemble together on a consistent, weekly rhythm? Roxborough argues the difference between doing soccer for the purpose of recreation versus participating in soccer for the sake of God’s mission. One is for fun and the other is by intention.

We must do all things from a perspective of mission. If we engage in soccer we would do well to do it from a missional perspective. If we truly are engaging in these events because of mission, then we would do well to evaluate our times of gathering so that we might celebrate together what God has shown us on mission together. Do not do what works, but what is right.[2]


Being missional is not a cop-out for being in relationship with other believers. Within a church that seeks to participate with God in the neighborhoods, fellowship and worship are essential. If nothing else, gathering together answers the crucial question, “Who is this God we seek to follow?” To deny that God will use other Christians in one’s life is the same as denying that God is using and will use those who are non-Christians to be a part of His mission.

In the American-Korean church, the term “ricing” is used to describe shared or common meals. There is a Korean proverb, “If you eat rice all alone by yourself, you will lose appetite.” (In Korean, it’s a play on words: a taste for rice is akin to a taste for life). In the book “Singing the Lord’s Song in a New Land,” the authors explore the Korean American practices of the Christian faith and an essential one is “ricing.” “By equating the taste and the craving for rice with that of life, Koreans are reminding themselves of the communal responsibility to feed one another. To satisfy hunger is to live, and to eat rice together is to share life resources with others in the Korean culture. It is intriguing to compare the experience of women at the ricing table with that at the communion table. Whereas women function as servers at the ricing table, they are served at the communion table.[3]

The exchange of communal relationships with other believers and the communion God has with His followers are all a part of the mission of God. The church that is in harmony with God’s mission understands this, for people cannot separate God from their neighborhood as they cannot separate themselves from the ecclesia, the church.

Fellowship with the World

            It is easy in this season of Christendom to urge Christians to spend time with other Christians. Even with the increased activities demanding the attention of those of a Christian faith, it still just feels right when one is within one’s own tribe. To illustrate, my wife had taken a weekend trip to get away from our two young girls and I was alone, spending all my days playing princess, drinking imaginary tea, and watching movies about magical, flying ponies. When church came on Sunday, I could hardly wait; I was going to be with other adults! Other adults who wouldn’t want me to play with magical, flying ponies!
It was the highlight of my weekend as I dropped off my kids at Sunday school and preached to a room full of mature people. I needed to be with my tribe!

There seems to be a change within those who come to Christ: their friends slowly are replaced from outsiders to the church to insiders. For some this happens overnight; others, it could take about seven years. It’s the dynamic of religious socialization. The more we grow in our faith, the more we-almost subconsciously- surround ourselves with the like-minded and the same demographic. “A company of fools shall be destroyed,” Proverbs 13:20 commands and so, yes, this a healthy dynamic for our faith.   But if the church is not careful, it can keep the company exclusive. The church must maintain fellowship with believers and fellowship with the world, the community. “Listening to the community,” authors Wayne Gordon and John M. Perkins write in their book Making Neighborhoods Whole, “enables us to build relationships and to uncover the qualities, talents and abilities the community has to address and eventually solve its problems.”[4] To serve the community one must be in fellowship with the community.

Isaiah 54:2 states, “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” It is interesting for this is about Israel’s return to their land, and yet here is this provision for outsiders and for those who will be a part of the future Israel not part of the exile’s return. Within this command, there’s a question that haunts me and I think it haunts 21st century churches: Are we making room for outsiders? Let’s not even think about our churches and programs and fellowship times, let’s think about our own living rooms. Have the neighbors who live on our street ever been inside our house? How many times have we invited someone over to our house? Or more importantly, how many times have we been invited over someone’s house who didn’t attend a church?

A radical moment happened to my family during a particular summer a while back. I was with my young girls and we were walking back to our house from our town’s pool. As we passed by a certain rental house, a tiny voice called out my five-year-old daughter’s name. We stopped and a little boy she had met at the pool ran out. He invited her into his house to play. His mother came out and did the same thing. I shrugged: what was the worst that could happen? So my girls played with this boy for an hour. The family was new to Canada, having emigrated here from west India. I came inside to have juice with our girls and this boy, when I saw in their living room about a hundred tiny statues.

“These are our gods. We are Shinto-Buddhist and this is the place of our worship. There isn’t a place for worship near here, so we’ve made this place our temple.”

I was humbled, for this was an absolutely beautiful idea. No, I hadn’t converted to Shinto-Buddhism, but I was blown away by this hospitality. Within their place of worship and where they experience holiness is where they invited my family in, as strangers. And it was in the heart of their home.

What if Christians exhibited this kind of hospitality? The very essence of our worship was embedded in how they treated strangers, community members, and people outside of the faith? This is the idea behind symbolic action found in hospitality. N.T. Wright, in The Challenge of Jesus, says, “Your task is to find the symbolic ways of doing things differently, planting flags in hostile soil, setting up signposts that say there is a different way to be human.”[5] Matt Garvin explains Wright’s concept further:

Symbolic action is significant, not for what it is but for what it represents. Our actions have meaning, and for us to be agents of the Kingdom we need to make choices about behavior that represents the values of the Kingdom. As we live like this, in a way that is so different to what is ‘normal’ in a self-interested world, people want to understand the meaning behind our actions. Wright suggests that was exactly how Jesus approaching his mission. He would act symbolically, through healing, or speaking to someone other’s wouldn’t, or eating with someone who was not politically correct, and then he would explain his actions through parables.[6]


What is the difference between neighbors who organizes a party because they are an Amway salesperson and a Christian? The difference is that if the Christian is motivated solely by the character of Jesus, he/she does so simply because it is good and the party can be a symbol of the Kingdom of God. Our fellowship need not be self-serving where the bottom line is an invitation to our church services. Let our friendship be the message of the Kingdom of God, obeying God’s leading. If He calls them to our church, so be it; if not, we need not be anxious or feel like we’re wasting our time or needing to “wrap up” the visit with something Christian. When was the last time we invited someone from the neighborhood into our living room? Or farther past our comfort level, when was the last time someone who did not go to church invited us into their living room for coffee or drinks? As Christians we don’t need to tell the world more about our Bible; rather, we need to be more of the Bible to our world. We can do this best through open friendships, without strings attached chock full of moments that propose, suggest, challenge, and embody the Kingdom of God.

This is at the heart of cooperating with the Incarnate God within the Incarnate Word of God. “For me,” Kathleen Norris contends in her book Amazing Grace.

…the Incarnation is the place, if you will, where hope contends with fear. Not an antique doctrine at all, but reality-as ordinary as my everyday struggles with fears great and small, as exalted as the hope that allows me some measure of peace when I soldier on in the daily round.[7]


Hope and fear, ordinary and supernatural, Christian and community: all interact when the church fellowships with the community.

Fellowship with Time and River Flowing

Back to the Black Gong game. I’ve never played the same game twice, which is why I’m always reluctant when campers ask to play it and they ask if it will be a good game. Sometimes it was; other times, it crumbled and broke in front of 100 expectant eyes. This is because we always change the game depending upon the leaders we have, the type of campground, the weather, and ideas given to us by campers.

I brought my neighbor to a junior high camp. He lived with either his nose in a comic book or looking up in the clouds. I drove him and his buddy to the summer camp and I explained the game to him. He wasn’t listening, so when I explained that we were playing with a variety of teams, he said, “Oh, like races in Lord of the Rings. And each race has its own genetic power! And the worlds are divided by racism, where none of the peoples get along and war and fight?” “No,” I said slowly, and then for the next 40 minutes, I turned quiet as I tried to figure out how to make his idea work. That night, we had races.

Once we found a devil’s mask in the prop bin of a camp and created the character of “The Floating Head of Red Death.” It worked so well one year that when we came back the following year, we tried it again and gave the character a lot more energy. It entailed our intern running through the woods and screeching, “I’ll steal your soul!!!” However, that year our youth group was very young that year, fragile, and mostly home schooled. The majority of them were homesick and ended up traumatized by a strange man bursting through the woods of the camp, threatening their eternal salvation.

We ended the game with our intern addressing the group. “I’m really sorry if this made any of you scared or upset. Believe it or not, we were trying to have fun,” he said. Then he added some levity. “Really, The Floating Head of Red Death isn’t such a bad guy. He visits his mother often, recycles regularly, and is involved with the ‘Big Brother’ program in our city.”

The joke didn’t work. So I tried to save the evening by a transition into the evening snack. “Yeah, when I’m chased by The Floating Head of Red Death and my soul is in peril, I like to freshen up with some cookies and milk!” But that didn’t work either. The game was a disaster because we weren’t listening to the camp, just playing the game with the security that had worked once before. At its best, the game cooperated with the mood, the imagination, the terrain, and the story of the summer camp; at its worst, it was a clanging gong in the ears of everyone playing. The game is just a game, being either good or bad. The virtue of the game is how it worked with in harmony with the whole camp, allowing the experience of the playing to be the very shape of the camp.

For the Kingdom of God is like a really big adventure game at summer camp.

When the church cooperates and harmonizes with God’s work in the community is like one working with a river flowing to travel it. This takes a variety of virtues: (a) asking the right questions, (b) knowing God’s true character and then reflecting it, (c) cooperating with the land, (d) influencing those immediately in front of you, (e) blessing your community, (f) listening to the stories around you, (g) incarnating the Word of God to those around you, (h) including the Christian and the secular, (i) sacrificial serving, and, finally, (j) fellowship with Christians and the community alike.

In the Old Testament “The Land” was more than just a place. It was connected to the story of God: an active part of the shaping of plot and character to save humanity. I don’t think it would be too far of a stretch to suggest that God works in a similar characteristic in your land, your setting. The church’s greatest need in our post-Christian, postmodern, and post-everything else world is not for longer sermons, greater speaking, bigger programs, more books, better known celebrities, greater miracles, or even a greater church attendance. I propose this as the greatest virtue and the hinge of the others previously suggested: 21st century saints must learn how to harmonize with the land God has given them according to His mission. The land – neighborhoods, workplaces, coffee bars, community parks, board meetings, etc. – is part of God’s mission of redemption. Will the 21st century church work with or independent of God’s plan for time and river flowing?

[1] Nouewen, Henri J.M. Reaching Out. (Toronto: Image Books, 1986), 24.

[2] Roxborough, Cam. FORGE Canada Axiom Training (2011), 15.

[3] Pak, Su Yon; Lee, Unzu; and Cho, Myung Ji. Singing the LORD’s Song in a New Land, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 89-92.

[4] Gordon, Wayne; Perkins, John M. Making Neighborhoods Whole, (Grand Rapids: IVP Books, 2013), 106.

[5] Wright, N.T. The Challenge of Jesus. (Grand Rapids: IVP Press, 1999), 200.

[6] Garvin, 6 Radical Decisions, 55-56.

[7] Norris, Kathleen. Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. (New York: Riverhead Books, 1998), 30.

A Clownfish Over A Small Town in Alberta


“Of rivers, fish, and men

And the season still a-coming

When she’ll run clear again

So many homeless sailors,

So many winds that blow

I asked the half blind scholars

Which way the currents flow

So cast your nets below

And the God [plural omitted] of moving waters

Will tell us all we know.”

Pete Seeger, Of Time and River Flowing


My mom wanted to give my little girls a large, inflatable clownfish as a Christmas gift one year. It was a three-foot long, radio-controlled monster. The plan was that it would float magically up our stairs, minutes after we unwrapped our gifts, and be the last event of the day. The only problem was inflating the thing. The only helium tank in our town was at our hobby store, only open on the day before Christmas Eve.

So I brought the balloon’s shell to the store and got it filled. Clutching it tight, I headed for my car to sneak it into our house. A strong, Albertan wind grabbed the fish from my hands and took it away from me. A second later it flew up 100 meters in the air where it lingered for about 20 minutes until the wind died and it flew up out of sight. For 20 minutes there was a clown fish floating over our town.   If you lived within a 45-kilometer radius of the town, you could see the fish. For 20 minutes, we all had something in common: we were under the flying clownfish of High Prairie.

I got a replacement fish and, a month after Christmas, my little girls were still spending hours making the fish fly around our living room. But for a brief moment, I was given a clear window as to the area of ministry God had called me as pastor: anywhere that one could see a flying clownfish. This sounds like a simple sell out – minister to your immediate area – and it seems counter-intuitive to the 21st century mind. We live in a “global village;” wouldn’t it seem a betrayal of progress to simplify, to focus just on our immediate, local context? Doesn’t bigger mean a wider influence? Isn’t the heart of all pastors to broadcast their sermons across the world in a video feed? Aren’t bigger buildings a sign of success? In other words, why go from a “global village” to a dinky, truncated, “little village”?

And yet, our local setting is where we can hear the voice of God. It also is where we can cooperate with Him as He seeks to redeem our specific neighborhood. Although we may be shaped our “global village,” the 21st century church must listen and cooperate with Christ in our neighborhoods by developing a “little village” mindset.

It shall be demonstrated that the church must move away from the “one size fits all” message sent out by today’s globalizing mass communication systems. Leaders within the church must learn to become cultural detectives within their own backyard. Based upon this understanding, the “little village” mindset shall be explored: how does a church become aware of those immediately around it? Lastly, these two skills – listening and cooperating- with Christ’s mission is what our 21st Century world needs.

The virtue needed is influence and there can be no greater influence than the neighborhood that is right in front of the doors of your church.


Pimp My Ride versus the Smell of Bears in the Woods

Recently, my family vacationed in northern California to the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. I was excited; this was the first time my landlocked daughters could ever see such things as penguins, otters, and mini sea horses…all in the flesh, all right before their eyes.

Something struck me during this visit and it was the incessant explosions of flash from videophones. The place was packed, yet everything moved twice as slow because anytime someone saw something of interest, he or she snapped a photo or recorded it as a video. “The poor fish,” I thought. “Their entire reality is shaped by a non-stop barrage of flash photography! They’re bound to have a seizure!”

I then watched something redemptive. An old grandfather pulled aside three of his teenaged granddaughters. “New rule,” he said to them. “I want you to look at the wildlife for more than a minute before you reach for your phone.” The oldest protested, “But grandpa, what if we miss something that could be uploaded? To which he replied: “Some things in person are too amazing to lose while trying to shrink it onto your twit page.” The girls missed the point, correcting him that it wasn’t their “twit” page but “twitter.”

A friend of mine recently came back from her “Ethics in Medicine” class. The discussion centered on what physicians should do when patients seek to self-diagnose themselves. “More and more patients are requesting medicine because commercials tell them they need it,” she said. “As well, there are so many websites where you can enter your symptoms and it will tell you your illness. The result is that people trust the ‘net


and television over their flesh and blood doctors. The websites, made in other countries, call the shots as opposed to your local medicine man!”

I could go on, but the point emerges: through mass communication and global media we are losing our localized identities. We are filled up with information that comes from the outside, imported and marketed from places and people who do not know us, have not seen us, and haven’t factored in what we need in the midst of our own story. And yet we believe God to be incarnate, a God who dwells right in front of us. How then can we notice Him amidst the sea of imported, downloaded information around us? As the Evangelical Church laments, North America has lost a belief in propositional truth, as we learn to move past the security granted to us by institutions, and as we’re flooded with messages from media and our global village, we must not lose sight of the question that is at the heart of following Christ: What is God up to today, right here and right now? What if the ultimate success of the church is not in big buildings, multi-site worship spaces, sermons that could be preached simultaneously all over North America, and a “one size fits all” model of church but, instead, success meant that every Christian can answer the question of what is God doing locally, immediately?

This, admittedly, reduces the activity of the 21st century to the simple skill of how well they are following Christ in their lives. And yet, in our 21st century church experience, how many Christians can pinpoint when they felt Christ at their workplace? Is the number of Christians who hear God’s voice in their quiet time increasing or decreasing? Are individual lives being changed or remaining the same, reflective of their Canadian or American culture that surrounds them? Can the millions of Christians who


worship God throughout North America explain why God has placed them in their specific neighborhoods?

Yes, all of these questions are subjective and could be argued in any direction, but what is the intuitive pulse of 21st century Christianity: Do Christians feel they have been equipped by their churches to discern what the Holy Spirit is up to in their localized and immediate world? Perhaps the answer to this question can only be answered locally, the land just under a flying clownfish?

The Little Village Mindset

I want to turn the clock back to when people lived

in small villages and took care of each other.

                                                — Pete Seeger


A community needs a soul if it is to become

a true home for human beings. You, the people,

must give it this soul.

                                                — Pope John Paul


In Canada, there’s a story as to how this country, the second largest land mass, – ever got its name. European explorers came and ran into a group of indigenous people. The tribes folk were friendly and invited these strange-looking, oddly behaving travelers to their village. After a meal and good visit, the Europeans asked the Natives what they called this strange new land. They made several mistakes in asking this question. First of all, they were under the misguided assumption that all Native peoples were connected, citizens of one monolithic nation and that nation had a name. Secondly, they pointed specifically to the place where they were having lunch, but referring to the continent as a whole.

“Canada,” the Natives answered. In their language, Canada meant “little village” and they were referring to their present, small place of gathering; the Europeans took it to mean they were in the Nation of Canada. But the Natives were polite and allowed the name to remain, albeit wrong. It paved the way for all future generations of Canadian understatement, politeness, and miscommunication.

This story illustrates the mistake often made by the present: in the postmodern Canadian church, we miss the little village right in front of us because we’re entangled by the global village standing in the way of the here and now.

Wendell Berry has written much lamenting the loss of community, the loss of living in a “little village”. In his essay “Think Little,” he laments the loss of community as we have exchanged this reality for consumerism, the comfort of labor-saving machines, and the diminishment of specialization:

What we are up against in this country, in any attempt to invoke private responsibility, is that we have nearly destroyed the private life. Our people have given up their independence in return for cheap seductions and the shoddy merchandise of so-called ‘affluence.’ We have delegated all our vital functions and responsibilities to salesmen and agents and bureaus and experts of all sorts. We cannot feed or clothes ourselves, or entertain ourselves, or communicate with each other, or be charitable or neighborly or loving, or even respect ourselves, without recourse to a merchant or a corporation or a public service organization or an agency of the government or a style setter or an expert…We do not understand the earth in terms of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.[1]


Berry’s proposed solution?   Think little:

While the government is “studying” and funding and organizing its Big Thought, nothing is being done. But the citizen who is willing to Think Little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem. A man who is trying to live as a neighbor to his neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it- he is doing that work. A couple who makes a good marriage, and raise healthy, morally competent children, are serving the world’s future more directly and surely than any political leader, though they never utter a public word. A good farmer who is dealing with the problem of soil erosion on an acre of ground has a sounder grasp of that problem and cares more about it and is probably doing more to solve it than any bureaucrat who is talking about it in general.[2]


In order to reduce a local reality into global terms of mass communication, information becomes the great big lie, causing communities and individuals to miss what’s right in front of their noses and seek out “what’s going on in the world.” The cure proposed is similar to Berry’s vision of “think little” and what I call a “Little Village” mindset. For those left brain-dominated readers, let me define the term “Little Village” mindset: it is when a church seeks to influence and be influenced by the small, local radius of the neighborhood that surrounds its congregation. Certainly, there are alien influences to the “Little Village.” Chief amongst them is the Bible, a manuscript written thousands of years before one ever moved into their neighborhood. The Bible is still the primary authority in a “Little Village” mindset; however, the next chief influencer is not global culture with all of its Christian celebrities, experts, and multi-meta-mega ideas, but local people, ideas, and land.

And for those right-brain dominated readers, let me give you another definition: anything below the flying clownfish in your neighborhood. The Bible gives two very stunning mandates for a “Little Village” mindset. First is to bless the immediate neighborhood; this is the Old Testament mandate. We see this in Psalm 103:17-22 (NIV):

But from eternity to eternity the LORD’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him, and His righteousness toward the grandchildren of those who keep His covenant, who remember to observe His instructions. The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. Praise the LORD, all His angels of great strength, who do His word, obedient to His command. Praise the Lord, all His armies, His servants who do His will. Praise the LORD, all His works in all the places where He rules. My soul, praise the LORD!”

There’s a simple progression in this Psalm: God loves those who follow Him and the result is they praise God in all the places where He rules. If God loves my world, He then can be praised in my world, my “Little Village.” This is the command of the Old Testament: bless those from God’s blessing to you (look back into Genesis 12). In the New Testament, Jesus is asked by a young lawyer and his answer is a story: the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Yes, there are tons here about racism and the Law and the need for mercy.

But notice Christ’s answer to whom are we called to care about: the individual bleeding right in front of us.   Those in Christ, in other words, are to be stewards of the Little Village within arm’s reach. This mindset is not exclusively for small churches or in rural, small towns or even Canada, but can be accomplished when churches learn how to make celebrities and experts of those closest to them, and presupposes that God is already at work in the neighborhood, waiting for the church to cooperate with Him in His great story for your setting.

Darren Platt, senior pastor of Steele Heights Baptist Church in Edmonton, was presenting at a denominational meeting, the Alberta Baptist Association, about all of his church’s efforts to be present in the community, to serve alongside the community. He explained:

We have about 250 people on a Sunday morning with about 350 people in our directory that would call Steele Heights their home church. So I would consider us more of a community church that is trusting God for the next step of growing into a regional church (Judea and Samaria) whose first priority for ministry is the neighborhood we are situated in (the 5 km radius “Our Jerusalem).


I asked Pastor Darren my golden question when it comes to new ministry ideas: “How do you say ‘no’ to new ideas? What’s the criteria you use to find out whether or not you should do something?” His answer was befitting the Little Village mindset. He keeps a map in his office showing the three-kilometer radius around his church. They focus on whatever they can be a part of in “their Jerusalem”. Anything outside of the map is greeted with hesitation. However he acknowledged:

We do have a commitment to World Wide Ministries as well and support a number of full-time missionaries in different countries around the world and we send out a short term missions team from our church each year as well. People in our church are very familiar with terminology like “Our Jerusalem” and they are seeing the power of focus as God seems to be the master networker and enables us to build more and more long term relationships with people and agencies in our community.


Echoing this idea, Eugene Peterson writes about St. John and his call to writing (although it matches well for agood deal of other witnesses the church does in other mediums):

What I have come to see and continue to recognize is that if I had to put in a single sentence what I have learned from John regarding the way he wrote what he saw, it is this: god-talk-depersonalized, non-relational, un-listening language-kills. In the land of the living it is blasphemous, whether spoken from pulpits or across the breakfast table. Pastors and their congregations can’t be too careful in the way we use language, this sacred language, this word-of-God language.[3]


Our message must be personalized and relational, and must have undergone a lot of listening before it is ever given to a community. With the Little Village mindset, a church seeks to discover what God is doing within a local radius, announces it in the lives of those in the community through Peterson’s “word-of-God” language, and then cooperates with the Holy Spirit in whatever God invites us to participate in. A message becomes God-talk when it is taken out of a local context. And yet de-personalization is


indicative of the medium of mass communication; in order words, it reduces the Gospel to mere information.

Does the church know the pastor? Would those who live across the street of the church recognize the pastor is he/she went shopping in the grocery store down the street? Is there a trust in the pastor, beyond the fact that their name is on the church’s sign? Does the community know the church is for them (rather than their being for the church, as just another customer and number)? To borrow a question from speaker Michael Frost, “Would the immediate neighborhood miss the church’s building if it suddenly and without warning, was taken from their street?” In order to share the message, Christians must be the message to those around them. Perhaps God’s idea of the local church is not to make them big, multinational corporations, but to be small, residing in the communities and bringing people together in order to fulfill God’s story in their immediate setting. And if the church can be known by the immediacy of the Pastor and even greater impact would be found in the recognition of the people who attend a particular church. The “Little Village” has a greater influence than anything piped into our brain from our global media. Why? The church can be the place where people experience God’s Mission in their Little Village.

What about the present trend of many Christians who commute to the best service? This has grown in our 21st century mindset: we are willing to travel across our cities to find the best deal and the best product, so now many Christians apply this to their church. Few live near the church they worship, often driving past many congregations to get to their best option.   However, Christians who commute to their church can still have


a little village mindset by choosing to live and play and be present in the neighborhood of their church.

Can our Little Village be outside of the cozy area surrounding our home? Certainly, although this is a new dynamic. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls this 21st century dynamic the “Third Place” principle. In his book The Great Good Place[4], he explains that we have our homes (first place), and then our places of work (second place), and finally our third place where we go to unwind, to recreate, and to “be ourselves.” It’s almost always voluntary and is limited by personal enjoyment. It could be a coffee house, the fields where our children play soccer, the ski hill, or any place we congregate for pleasure.

What if Christians chose their Third Places to be near and the church building that is home to their worship? Some ideas could be that (a) they eat out only at restaurants near their church (not which one serves the best food or is the least expensive), (b) they play with their kids in parks near their church, (c) they volunteer in organizations near their church, (d) they give away free bottles of water on hot days around their church, (d) they offer free hot dogs to those around their church, or (e) they spend their days off in the neighborhood around their church. It takes intentional planning, but it can be a rich addition to be a witness near the same neighborhood as one worships. Even though I live in a small town where EVERYWHERE is our Third Place and we have only neighborhood, this concept can be applied to anywhere Christians chose to bless strategically, locally, and “incarnately.”

Last year a government group named Children’s Resource Centre needed a place to run an active play program for the toddlers in our town. Gym space is rare and is greatly needed, as we suffer from seven-month winters and few indoor facilities. So, we allowed them to use our sanctuary and for the last few years, it’s been a lot of fun. I’ll do my office work and, on my coffee breaks, I sit and watch kids chase each other around in our building.

A mom once asked me if having kids play in the church was desecrating our worship. She had a Catholic background, so God’s transcendence was a part of her association with a church’s building. “Sure,” I said. “This is God’s house and it is Holy. But He resides anywhere. Anywhere God is followed.” This confused her. She asked me if God minded little kids playing. “I think things like laughter, tag, and a good chase are within the very nature of God. God loves it when parents play with their kids,” I replied. This was a wonderful moment of witness that I was glad I hadn’t screwed up, for it gave someone under the Clownfish a glimpse into God’s true mission.


Two years ago fires threatened our town and the neighboring reserves as they devastated Slave Lake, a city an hour south of High Prairie. For five weeks the fires raged and hundreds of homes were lost. Our town’s Sports Palace became an evacuation site for the members of the Native and Metis Communities around a town. Three thousand people lived in our hotels, motels, and in their holiday trailers at night while during the day, they waited at the evacuation site for news concerning their homes.

In the first week, our community ran the evacuation site. The Children’s Resource Council provided games and activities for the kids as their parents waited; the library brought books; and our local movie theater ran free movies at night. Our church, Bethel, was asked to provide breakfast every day for the thousands coming in and out of the center; while lunch was done by our town’s food bank, and our golf course did dinner. My job, during their first week, was to arrange musicians and local talent to play in the parking lot. The evacuees weren’t destitute; they just were anxious and bored as they waited for news. Our local liquor store donated money for jumping castles for the kids and soon we were setting them up inside. Mistakes were made, certainly, but we all came together and after four long weeks the fires were eventually put out and these communities were mostly saved. Still, the end of the evacuation days didn’t end with any celebration or thanksgiving or meaning; we just all went back to our normal lives, life returning to normal.

Two years later, the Chamber of Commerce all voted on doing a street festival. I would come to the meetings, every now and again, and help out. I was appointed to run the event. Luckily, our denomination had formed a partnership with Fusion International, a ministry with the purpose of linking churches with their communities through the street festival venue. We invited Fusion to help us with the training of our volunteers “for free” because if they came expecting payment, our chamber might have had second thoughts working with a religious organization.” There would be nothing sold, there would be no recruiting, and everything given would be for the purpose of kids having fun at the festival.

We joined with other community groups as they would run games and booths. Our local firefighters gave out free barbecued meet with food donated by our local grocery store.   Our Latter Day Saint Church offered free genealogical studies. And our HOST team (our school wellness coaches) greeted people at the door. The festival was held in our Sports Palace due to rain. After the festival was over, we had well over 1,000 people who attended, a huge total of a town just under 3,500 population. The event became bigger than any one group – our Baptist Church, Fusion, or the Chamber of Commerce. When asked who put it on, most would say “High Prairie.” For those who knew better, Christ had shown up and brought folks together. The curse of postmodernity, with it outside sources who do not know us seeking to shape ours thoughts, was not a part of the people of High Prairie, who were working together for the sake of making their “little village” a better place. I watched many Christians listen and cooperate with those around them, in order to make the event become successful.

Personally, it was a vivid foretaste to the Kingdom of Heaven. For on that rainy day, literally almost two years from the day the Sports Palace was an evacuation center, people came together for joyful reasons and somewhere above, I imagined a clownfish looking down, grinning.

[1] Berry, A Continuous Harmony, 73-74.

[2] Berry, A Continuous Harmony, 77-78.

[3] Peterson, Eugene. The Pastor: A Memoir. (San Francisco: Harper One, 2011), 243.

[4] Oldenburgh, Ray. The Great Good Place. (New York: Paragon House, 1989).

Maxwell’s Resolution

Exhausted by Relaxation


Maxwell Bradbury’s troubles began when he resolved to live a relaxed life.

On January 1, he did not renew his day planner. He sold his blackberry, threw out his calendars, and quit planning anything in his life. His resolution was simple: whenever someone wanted or needed something from him, he would respond. He would never call anyone directly, never plan to do anything, and would sit, waiting for a call or a prompt, and then act.

He told his family and friends he wanted to be more relaxed, but many of them didn’t believe this to be the only answer as to why he did what he did. Yet this resolution to be relaxed was a mystery as to what he was genuinely trying to accomplish.

At first, his resolution produced a slow, almost non-existent life, which he enjoyed. He would sit on his couch, watch cartoons.   In between the cartoons, the commercials would tell him to buy things. He would leave his comfortable couch and go shopping.

While at the market, he noticed newspapers full of stories and images telling him he needed to be frightened. They told him to be frightened of outsiders, of teenagers, of gangsters, of terrorists, of politicians that disagreed with him, and of religion. He obeyed and resolved to shop fearfully.

Maxwell returned home to find two messages: one from his employer asking him to work on the weekend and a telemarketer selling a time share in Las Vegas. He said yes to both, figuring this was fate because he would have to work extra hours to afford a time share in Las Vegas. Later, it occurred to him that he hated Vegas and all he wanted to do was watch cartoons.

At work, every project that came up, Maxwell volunteered and earned respect and excitement from his boss. “I like the new, relaxed you,” he said as Maxwell wondered when he’d ever see his time share in Vegas that he didn’t really want.

Maxwell applied his resolution to his job: anytime someone needed something, he would do it. In fact, work became a series of interruptions: as he ran to do one thing, someone would ask him to do something else causing his to run in a different direction. Soon, he gained a promotion for all of his activities requiring him to work more hours and obey more voices.

When at home, he quit watching cartoons because he felt they were too demanding. So he went on-line, following every single pop-up add and clicking every link recommended to him. He replied to an e-mail asking for his SIN number, doing what it told him even though it was from a bank he’d never heard of. At midnight, he collapsed from exhaustion: his relaxation was getting too much for him.

The days turned into weeks as Maxwell ran from opportunity to opportunity. He lost weight, he had no sleep, and his found himself irritable to friend and stranger alike.

One day, he overheard one his coworkers call him the name “echo”. Maxwell asked why they nicknamed him this and the coworker explained, “You don’t have a voice of your own, but you’re just an echo of someone else’ request.”

All Maxwell became a conflict of intentions.

He originally feared that if he ever made plans or took responsibility for his dreams, he’d be busy. So he did what he was told by the world. He resolved to be relaxed, but found a reward in people being pleased with him because he did what they asked…so he continued obeying everyone. It seemed simple because he simply didn’t know what to do for the day and he didn’t have to think.

The result, though, was he was that he no longer was Maxwell Bradbury but just a mere echo of the world around him.

A mentor of mine once gave a remarkable quip: “The opportunities of man will always outnumber the callings of God.”

This matches what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all who are tired and I shall give you rest. My burden is easy, my yoke is light.”

These two quotes seem counter-intuitive. How can following God be easy and living a relaxed life apart from God be stressful?   Because God’s ways are what we need, what is good for us, and gives us rest. And when we live apart from His calling, we will either obey our own selfish whims or the high demands of the rest of the world.

God created us to do His will, so His will involves us, the real us, and not just us to echo the requests and demands of those around us. Our lives become easier, satisfying, and joyful when we do God’s will and only His will. It’s when we try to be selfish, do other people’s wills, react to our world’s demand, AND God’s will that things become stressful, hard, and complicated.

Yet God’s will is what truly matters in life and it’s what He will be ultimately looking for when our lives are finally measured.

When we come to the end of this world, promised to us by the Bible, what will our answers be when God asks if we followed His will?

Will we be able to say, “I heard your voice as you called me, the real me with all of my dreams and true desires, and I said yes. I followed you and my life was very fulfilling. You called me to be so much. Not too much, but so much.”

Or will our voice sound like an echo?