(Sounds like a Bones episode, don’t it? Anyway…)
Some devotional books are dedicated to helping you feel better about your life each day…. My purpose here is to embrace the mysteries of God and then proclaim by faith that, despite my selfishness and lack of understanding, God is worthy of all praise. If that encourages you, then good. You can thank God for that, too.
Sound like your cup of tea? Then read on….
John Van Dusen. Standing By the Sea: Stretch Out Your Hands, Walk Into the Mystery. A 52-Week Devotional. 188p., $6.92 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle), CreateSpace.
Although John Van Dusen’s stated intent elsewhere is to get you deeper into the Word of God (and there’s ample sections in each weekly devotional to help you do that), what it’ll accomplish more is to get the already-existing Word of God deeper into you. To realize that in the messiness of life, all our emotions, all our bewilderment, all our failures, there God still is. And that’s a message worth sharing.
You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly that John’s a worship leader; there’s a creativity here (and yes, flakiness — but that’s not a bad thing) that’s hard to miss. In his best moments, John’s style reminds me more than a little bit of Shane Claiborne — winsome, disarmingly informal, insightful, sometimes meditative and/or sensory. Other times, I think, “He really could’ve/should’ve stopped there.” But that too is part of the charm here.
The meditations themselves are each a modest length — two oversized pages, as a rule — and each closes with a few “questions of mystery,” again ranging from the profound to the goofy but all of them intended to get you thinking about God’s place in each part of your life and to help us remember that we’re all in this together. And with that, one more sample to give you the flavor:
The plain truth for all as we walk out our simple faith is this: That nearly invisible Sunday school teacher struggling to write yet another lesson for a class suffers the same ups and downs that Eugene Peterson has. No matter how bright the star, we’re all made of the same stuff. And that stuff is characterized by missteps and tipped halos….
Take heart. Despite personal failure we more often than not reflect the handiwork and artistry of God…. We are beautiful, undone, planned on but free to blossom in the most unlikely places…. Reflect on that.
In short, Standing By the Sea is a very human book. And if you’re a human, too, you’ll enjoy it — and likely get pulled up short a few times by the Spirit in the process.