deep and wide

One of the aspects of my life that I cherish above many others is the blessing I have had to share in the beauty and brilliance of so many other cultures. We are quickly becoming a society where the bonds and links between human beings are stretching beyond borders and into what once was deemed remote and foreign. What a privilege it is to usher in that transformation!

As exhilarating as it is to travel the world and speak face-to-face with those that you only hear about in books and news stories - it is equally exciting to share those insights with folks back home. My world traveling (and start of this blog) began back in 2007 when I visited Tanzania and Australia for a summer. It was the start of a journey that continues each year. And with each year that passes, I have slowly been adjusting better to that shock of returning back home and trying to share my learning with friends and family.

The first few times was hard, and my natural response was to remain quiet and keep my thoughts to myself. And although I still have that tendency, it is changing from a state of frustrated silence to one of selective ramblings. Thoughtful traveling and intentionally placing ourselves to serve others along the way results in lots of thinking, and I can see how it would take a lifetime to sift through all the questions that arise.

One of the threads that has remained consistent on each trip is the deepening of my faith in, and widening of my understanding of, God. I have come to see God's grace shine through every speck of our frailty and illuminate every corner of our dreams and desires. His love is not constrained to the language or laws of any one religion, and he desires for all of us to experience relationship with and through him.

I am beginning to fully comprehend the power behind the lyrics "...and my heart will sing how great is our God"

Along the way, I get lots of questions revolving around why I am still a Christian, if I am still, how my understanding of it has changed, and what I think is relevant or important any more?

Well, there's a lot of answers to questions like those, but the one that has been on my mind the most recently revolves around why I am a christian and why I feel it is so relevant and important for the world.

I believe that God is truly beyond our comprehension and limited understanding. And I believe that he (or she or it or however you'd like to refer to God or a higher power) has revealed himself to us in countless ways. From the aboriginal traditions of Australia as to how their country was formed to the visions and prophecies from countless individuals throughout history, I believe God works through many forms. And in different cultures, God is known in different ways. But in no way have I been able to accept that God is limited solely to the understanding of one culture - such as the one which I have grown up in through the Bible.

Yet I do believe the Bible reveals some incredibly powerful and revolutionary understandings - and it is these primary distinctions which lead me to continually pursue Christ with all my heart.

The sole distinction I find in the Bible is that God is a god of a relationship. He exists in relationship, thrives in relationship, and desires for us to be in nothing but relationship. This is the beauty of the trinity - and it changes everything!

One of the main themes that I encounter while traveling is that the majority of us still believe in the power of love. I've found it in smiles of Jamaicans and the hospitality of Turks. I've found it in the songs of orphans in Tanzania and the wisdom of Bedouins in Jordan. It may sound cliche, but love is what makes this world go round.

And although that belief is sometimes shaded or dirtied over, we still long for the good in situations and for love to shine forth. It is the spark of hope we find deep inside the darkness of each of our lives. And I believe it is this love which is at the core of God, in fact, God is nothing but love. Brother Rogers of Taize wrote that "all God can do is give his love" - he is incapable of anything else.

Yet love can not exist separate from relationship; they are two components of life - and God - which go hand-in-hand. And this is the revelation we find through the trinity.

For God to be nothing but love, he must have others to share that love with - otherwise it is meaningless and with no purpose. Love must exist in relationship. God must exist in relationship.

When we look at the life of Christ and his time with us through the Gospel, his message can be boiled down to one core concept - God is love and he desires to be in a loving relationship with us just as He is in a loving relationship with his son. Christ's life was an example of what it looks like to live in that relationship with God. That was God's message to the world - that's the part that he so desperately wanted to reveal to us and choose to do so by bringing his own son into the world.

Sadly, the religion of Christianity over the years has muddied the message of Christ and misrepresented it to the rest of the world.

What I find to be the most interesting thing to observe now is how so many Christians feel the strong desire to defend Christianity, to defend God. But if I had to guess, their interest is not in defending the message of God, but in defending their individual understanding of truth. We like to appear that our view is the right view - and don't like when others challenge that understanding.

My fear is that for too many Christians, as years tick by they grow deeper in their faith but forget to grow wide in their understanding of God. They feel a need to defend because they have focused all of their efforts on growing deep, without taking the time or effort to notice how wide God's message is stretched. It's like focusing solely on the concept of love without continually placing ourselves in situations to show that love to others. Or it's like spending our entire career to master calculus without realizing how it can be used to better the world.

God needs no defendant. He needs discoverers and followers.

I try to remind myself of that distinction each and every day, and I find these lyrics to beautifully sum it up.
Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me on magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you
We are all called to discover God in our own way and through our own cultures - but may we not let our depth in that discovery blind us to the revelations of others whose understanding may enrich our own journey. God is too great and too creative to restrict himself to one form of communication.

Personally, to help myself grow in that understanding, I am going to be reading through the Bhagavad Gita and the Koran this year, if anyone has other recommendations or would like to share thoughts back and forth among all these texts, feel free to get in touch with me!! I'm looking forward to an exciting 2011!

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