Appetizers from Beauty In The Wreckage

cross

Well, I’ve got one more task to complete.  I’m keeping it as promise and covenant with a friend and brother in Christ.  I’ve just finished reviewing Brandon Andress‘s latest book, Beauty In The Wreckage.  I didn’t use any quotes from the book, but Brandon did give me permission to use quotes.  After prayer, much prayer, I decided to share 1 quote from each chapter.  Man, talk about Tension!  After you read his book (to be released October 9) you may or may not think that was the best quote from the chapter.  Honestly, raw honesty, there are too many to limit it to just one.  So each of these are 1 (of my many favorite) quote that touched my heart.  But you must put these favorite quotes in context, and that comes from the book.  And hopefully, will entice you to get your copy of his latest book:

CHAPTER 1

“Despite the wreckage around us, there is another reality surrounding us, immersing us, in unending life and beauty.  It is a reality that longs to revive our broken and wounded hearts so that they may beat again.  It is a reality that washes over our blinded eyes so that we may see again.  It is a reality that is overflowing and abundant in an ever-present completeness and wholeness and harmony in all things.  It is a reality that straightens every path, that stands against and presses into the dark, hostile and oppressive forces of the world, and extends justice and righteousness for all people.”

CHAPTER 2

(from the Miraculous Sign of Jesus at the wedding in Cana)  “Are you standing at the empty jars and only seeing the impossibility of the situation?  Are you standing at the empty stone jars and thinking about the shame and dishonor and regret and pain and suffering that will ruin the marriage and halt the celebration?  Are you standing at the empty stone jars next to others who are convinced that the party is over and who are already pointing fingers at who is to blame–the man who drank too much, the woman who took two glasses rather that one glass every time she got a refill, those who just showed up but who weren’t invited and drank too much, the person who bought the wine but didn’t buy enough?

At the empty stone jars all seems lost.  All seems bleak.  All seems dire.  There may be some anxiety and stress.  There may be some worry and fear.  There may even be some internal pain and suffering.  What do you see? ……

And it is the marriage of heaven and earth and the celebration continues all around us.  Can you see it?

CHAPTER 3

“The Kingdom of God is Shalom.  It is the life we were always meant to live, because that is the only place where life to the fullest is found.  ……  Shalom is not found in a classroom, earned by religious affiliation or practice, received through the proper steps or handed down from one person to another.  It can only be found by the humble, earnest seeker who simply receives that which has been surrounding them the entire time, the Shalom of God.”

CHAPTER 4

“But even in the darkness, if we are still enough to hear it and patient enough to trust it, there is always the sweet song of the Spirit, leading us in hopeful anticipation, surprising us with beauty in the present and giving us a glimpse of the life that’s yet to come.”

CHAPTER 5

“For if we are to begin this upward ascent from the valley of the shadow of death, it begins with the acknowledgement that we do not want to stay in this place forever.  And it may help you to know that this journey does not require you to leave your aching heart behind.

The end destination for a wounded and broken heart is never the valley of the shadow of death.  We carry this wounded and broken heart with us, upward over the mountain.  And we carry it together, brother.  We carry it together, sister.  The truth is that your pain and suffering can be a transformative passageway, even while your heart aches, even while your spirit groans.  It just requires that we begin this journey together with a humble and open heart.”

CHAPTER 6

“The power of the cross is not some cosmic, unilateral transaction done by God to magically erase our spiritual sins that are floating around somewhere in the cosmos, so that we can say, ‘My sins have been taken away, hallelujah!

The power of the cross is mutual self-emptying.  The power of the cross is mutual self-giving.  The power of the cross is mutual self-sacrifice.   The power of the cross is the defeat of sin, or our disunion with God.  The power of the cross is the union of Divinity and our humanity.  The power of the cross is Shalom.”

CHAPTER 7

“And any movement away from Life in the Divine is a movement toward death.  Death in how we begin to think.  Death in how we begin to live.  Death in how we begin to relate to others.  Since God is life, the One in whom we live and move and have our being, then any movement away from the Life in God is a movement toward death.  It is really that simple.  And it is this death that begins to manifest in our thinking and then outward in our actions, in our relationships, and into our world.”

CHAPTER 8

“For it’s not in seeking more and more stimulation or consumption in which we find great depths in this life.  It is only in a regular rhythm of abstention, whether it be through solitude or silence or even fasting, where the Spirit can awaken our sense to discover and appreciate, moment by moment, all that we so easily take for granted.”

CHAPTER 9

“Shalom always moves beyond the single individual, in a deep and abiding love, for the benefit and care and nourishment of every individual and the larger family.  It is the way this life was always meant to be lived, and still can be.  It is a family that cares so deeply for each other that they are willing to go to any length to demonstrate that love, even if it means their lives.  And it is in this place where the Shalom of God begins to extend far beyond ourselves.”

CHAPTER 10

“Shalom is not a passive, isolated state of being in oneself.  It is an active, transformational, communal movement that is changing the world.  It is only peace that can stop the cycle of verbal and physical aggression.  It is only forgiveness that can stop the cycle of resentment and retaliation.  It is only reconciliation that can stop the cycle of fracturing and dividing.  It is only grace that can stop the cycle of judgment and retribution.  It is only love that can stop the cycle of hatred and cover a multitude.  And it is only the Shalom of God that will save us from ourselves.”

It was tough limiting to one quote per chapter, but like an appetizer, it makes us hungry for the main course.  Remember, October 9–get your copy!

And love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM!

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Beauty In The Wreckage–Chapter 10

(This is the next segment in a book I agreed to read and review, Beauty In The Wreckage: Finding Peace In The Age Of Outrage, by Brandon Andress, scheduled to be released October 9.  If you haven’t seen my review of Chapter 1, you can find it HERE;  find Chapter 2 HERE;  Chapter 3 HERE;  Chapter 4 HERE; Chapter 5 HERE; Chapter 6 HERE, Chapter 7 HERE, Chapter 8 HERE, and Chapter 9 HERE. Watch for the rest of the chapter reviews today.  Order your copy starting Oct. 9)

Chapter 10

When Shalom Goes Forth

I’ve mentioned throughout the first nine chapters how Brandon finds eternal truths in analogies using ordinary things.  He has even opened my eyes through these analogies.  But here in this last chapter, Brandon reveals a different side:  that of a Teller Of Parables.  He adds his own unique perspective to a parable that was told some 400 years before Jesus came on the scene by Plato.  He weaves a story and shares a powerful truth like no one, well, except the Master Teller of Parables, Jesus.

Unlike other books on this subject, Brandon brings it home with the challenge for the reader to step away from the old reality of chaos and pain, and into the Beauty of Shalom.  Many other books talks about the problems, but Brandon offers us solutions that undoubtedly lead us into God’s Shalom, provided we take no short-cuts.  Brandon presents no such short-cuts; rather a life long process that doesn’t depend on what we see or feel but depends on the everlasting Grace of God and His unfailing Love.

He challenges us to live out our lives in a new narrative that both acknowledges the pain in our world and how The Healer takes us on a journey of transformation, if we extend to Him the invitation to join in our pain.  It is through this one step at a time that we see that Shalom is not a pipe dream, but God’s Dream for each of us.  But Brandon insists time and time again, that the choice is ours.  God has made His choice and it is for us, not to be against us.

And now it is up to us.  It will not always be easy, this path OF Shalom, but it will be worthwhile, for you, your community, and our culture.  Shalom isn’t what we hold, rather it is what pours our from us.  Shalom is that living water that pours out of our hearts and it spills into the messiness of life as it happens–to us and others.

As much as I have written about Brandon’s raw honesty, I must be honest with you the reader.  This last chapter….it left me in a paradox, a tension (borrowing one of Brandon’s key words) if you would.  I was relieved that this project was about to end…. but now the tension of the paradox….I’m left wanting another chapter, as if I could survive another chapter.  Brandon, know that I meant this in the best way…..and for you who are about to begin reading this book on Oct. 9, you will begin to understand my paradox.  This will be a book you will need to go back to again and again.  I know I will, and I will go back to it again.  And there’s that “Tension” already building up….wanting to read it, but know it will challenge me with the word of Forrest Gump, “Again”!

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM!

 

Beauty In The Wreckage–Chapter 9

(This is the next segment in a book I agreed to read and review, Beauty In The Wreckage: Finding Peace In The Age Of Outrage, by Brandon Andress, scheduled to be released October 9.  If you haven’t seen my review of Chapter 1, you can find it HERE;  find Chapter 2 HERE;  Chapter 3 HERE;  Chapter 4 HERE; Chapter 5 HERE; Chapter 6 HERE, Chapter 7 HERE, and Chapter 8 HERE. Watch for the rest of the chapter reviews today.  Order your copy starting Oct. 9)

Chapter 9

Life As Community

Of all that is missing in our culture which has produced this ad nauseam stream of chaos, fear and hate, Brandon makes no excuse for what is needed to experience Shalom:  Living in community TOGETHER, not apart.  And though I’ve said it multiple times, his use of analogies continues to reinforce this powerful message found in page after page of this book.  He reminds us how much we need to learn from the trees.

Community is found in relationships and those fractured relationships in our lives serves only to further fracture our communities.  Brandon realistically share that while not all broken relationships can be restored, it should not keep us from trying to restore our sense of community.  Shalom IS personal, but it is also communal.  Thanks, Brandon, for reminding us of this.  Brandon also reminded me that God longs for restoration of our relationships with each other more than He longs for our worship of Him.

Brandon presents the need for Community Shalom through Jesus’ own words about who was His mother, brother and sisters.  Can you image the change that would happen across communities if people we focused on Shalom through restored relationships.  But, alas, it seems so many would rather remain broken–yet they wonder what happened to Shalom.  If this is you, then you need to read this book–WITH an open mind; otherwise the truth will never resonate with you.

And to keep us aware of our present reality, Brandon interweaves personal stories of how Shalom is threatened and how Shalom can still exist in spite of these interruptions.  I would call Brandon a Spiritual Realist; he sees with clarity the God Shalom but he also sees what gets in our way of Shalom.  But he is never defeated by those things that happen, those things we do, that disrupts Shalom; and neither should we!  There is comfort in numbers, as Brandon reminds us, when our roots are deep in God and connected with each other.  Even when that “other” person falls and falls hard.

And Shalom in our culture as a reality?  It looks messy–and it is messy.  But Brandon never gives up on the hope and TRUTH, that Shalom doesn’t depend on what’s happening around, to us or in us.  It does depend on the faithfulness of God, and the readiness of His People to act with and in SHALOM!

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM!

Beauty In The Wreckage–Chapter 8

(This is the next segment in a book I agreed to read and review, Beauty In The Wreckage: Finding Peace In The Age Of Outrage, by Brandon Andress, scheduled to be released October 9.  If you haven’t seen my review of Chapter 1, you can find it HERE;  find Chapter 2 HERE;  Chapter 3 HERE;  Chapter 4 HERE; Chapter 5 HERE; Chapter 6 HERE, and Chapter 7 HERE.  Watch for the rest of the chapter reviews today.  Order your copy starting Oct. 9)

Chapter 8

Living As The Presence

Rather than going on and on with images of brokenness and then restoration, as so many books and blogs do today, Brandon reaches out to us with the hope that comes from making our own decision to invite Shalom into our lives.  So many people waste time focusing on what’s wrong rather than focusing on what is present right now among us, but what so many choose to ignore:  Shalom.  Shalom is all around us.  Argue with that truth or disbelieve this truth–it’s still Truth.

And if this book wasn’t personal enough, Brandon challenges us to not only invite God’s Shalom into our hearts, but also to share God’s Shalom in this angry, distrustful, and fearful culture.  (If you doubt my description of our current culture being angry, distrustful and hateful, have you not been listening to the U.S. Senate confirmation hearing?????)

In the first subsection of this chapter is a powerful heading of 2 words:  Human Doings.  Not human “beings” but human DOINGS!  He brings to light that people measure life by what they do or what is happening around them, rather than accepting the Shalom that surrounds us.  Busyness has replaced consciousness is the truth Brandon carefully paints with his words.

Here in this chapter we are faced with a choice:  remain busy but unfulfilled or be still in the presence of God where abundant life, and even more abundant Shalom is found.  Brandon reminds us of both the importance of the power and the hope found by being still and in solitude with God.  His real life experiences bring this truth into focus.  We may not be able to go to Alaska or the Grand Canyon, but we can find those places where solitude with God overwhelms our busyness in life.

His challenge of using all of our physical senses to experience the Divine, well, Brandon has hit the center ring.  I’m left feeling that this is where I am missing Shalom and why I fail to bring Shalom with me in too many places where life happens.  May I learn to practice what Brandon has discovered.  May it be so, oh Lord, may it be so….

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM!

Beauty In The Wreckage–Chapter 7

(This is the next segment in a book I agreed to read and review, Beauty In The Wreckage: Finding Peace In The Age Of Outrage, by Brandon Andress, scheduled to be released October 9.  If you haven’t seen my review of Chapter 1, you can find it HERE;  find Chapter 2 HERE;  Chapter 3 HERE;  Chapter 4 HERE; Chapter 5 HERE; and Chapter 6 HERE. Watch for the rest of the chapter reviews today.  Order your copy starting Oct. 9)

Chapter 7

Shalom As Transformation

One of the many consistent themes throughout this book has been Brandon’s raw honesty with his personal feelings and emotions.  This chapter continues that theme.  Personally, I will read what a person writes that comes from those feelings and emotions and set aside any book written in the sterile library environment.  Nothing sterile here in this chapter but an honesty that we would all benefit from if we practiced in on ourselves.  It is this raw honesty that assures the reader that the possibility, no, THE ASSURANCE THAT SHALOM will indeed happen to them–even if they can’t see how.

In this chapter Brandon invites the readers on a journey to transformation, NOT a quick-fix-for-whatever-ails-you.  He doesn’t define the journey in number steps, such as 1-12.  Instead he points us in the direction of where Shalom is more than a concept; and more that an occasional experience.  He gives us the GPS markers that take us closer to what we, the wounded, need most of all:  Shalom/Peace.  He makes room and gives us the freedom to be the unique person created by God in this journey to transformation.

Brandon invites the reader to admit that we are all on some journey.  And journey is moving either in the direction of death or in the direction of life, life that produces Shalom.  He clearly points out what I perceive as the root of the fear and hate in our current culture which is, that we place our perceived worth in the hands of how many like or follow us.  We have mistakenly made social media the same as our identity and worth as a person, and as Brandon points out, it only leads us to more wreckage.

He brings this truth home with a chapter subtitle:  See Differently, Be Differently.  He brings this point to light with his connection to Jesus’ parable of the Seeds and the Sower.  I’ll leave it at that so that you can read his words without my words influencing how you see if Jesus’ parable fits what you are facing.

And there’s more, so much more I could say, but I need to refrain in order for each reader to hear the message that God has for them.  This is one of the things that I find in this chapter which is so powerful–the guidance to experience, meditate, and think about where you are in your journey.  However, I would encourage you to spend more than one reading on the section, Rethinking Repentance.  He shatters the stereotypical image that many have about repentance and brings home the true meaning of Repentance, the kind of repentance that Jesus called forth from His listeners, and from us today.

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM!

Beauty In The Wreckage–Chapter 6

(This is the next segment in a book I agreed to read and review, Beauty In The Wreckage: Finding Peace In The Age Of Outrage, by Brandon Andress, scheduled to be released October 9.  If you haven’t seen my review of Chapter 1, you can find it HERE;  find Chapter 2 HERE;  Chapter 3 HERE; Chapter 4 HERE; and Chapter 5 HERE .  Watch for the rest of the chapter reviews today.  Order your copy starting Oct. 9)

Chapter 6

Prayer As Breathing

The analogies that Brandon finds bring both focus and reflection on the part of the reader.  Chapter 6 is no except with his imagery of breathing.  He uses this analogy of breathing is a unique way that is clearly Brandon’s heart and mind. I know I will not think about my breathing the same way.  And again it comes down to recognition–of the presence of The Healer smack dab in the middle of life, and especially our pain and wounds.

And he faithfully stands by a theme repeated many times over.  Finding the beauty, experiencing the Shalom, is neither automatic nor is it easy every time.  Truthfully, I can agree with him that there are times, moments, circumstances, situation where not only is it a struggle to pray, but it feels impossible.  But Brandon guides us away from what I call “formal-King-James-praying-only-in-certain-settings-and-praying-the-same-prayers” to the king of praying that pastor, writer and teacher Maxie Dunman writes about:  Prayer As A Life, Not A Separate Function.

At this point, I am going to insert something that struck me with Brandon’s words.  It may or may not have been the lesson he wanted to teach, but it struck a chord with me.  Shalom doesn’t come to us without an invitation from us.  I think our culture, especially religious culture, believes, expects and demands Shalom to just come upon us.  Not to say it doesn’t happen that way sometimes–that Shalom just dumps upon us like an unexpected summer rain storm, but when we are in the wreckage, Shalom must be invited to come because, truthfully, most want the pain and the wound.  I say this because they cling to it and refuse to offer it up to The Healer.

Brandon reminded me of something that serious bass fishermen/women do called “Catch and Release.”  He calls by a different name:  Release and Receive.  Here is the message for those who go through life holding on the pain and disappointment.  It takes more than naming our wound, but releasing it to The Healer and consciously receiving what He offer us:  Deep, intimate and faithful communion with us.

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the Glory goes to Him!

Beauty In The Wreckage–Chapter 5

(This is the next segment in a book I agreed to read and review, Beauty In The Wreckage: Finding Peace In The Age Of Outrage, by Brandon Andress, scheduled to be released October 9.  If you haven’t seen my review of Chapter 1, you can find it HERE;  find Chapter 2 HERE;  Chapter 3 HERE; and Chapter 4 HERE.  Watch for the rest of the chapter reviews today.  Order your copy starting Oct. 9)

Chapter 5

The Possibility of Joy

Immediately in Chapter 5 Brandon strikes the chords of hope for all of us in this wreckage.  The imagery and analogy are inspired:  an iceberg!  I have never thought of an iceberg as an image of hope.  I guess my thinking is still tainted by April 15, 1912.  If you’re not a fan of trivia, that’s when the Titanic sank.  I now see that I allow myself to be defined by the 10% seen, which is suffering, and not the 90% that lies beneath the surface, wherein lies much more.  What is unseen is the hurt and the pain.  But Brandon reminds there can be more beneath the surface than just the pain, if we open our eyes to Shalom.

Brandon carefully and thoroughly brings to light so much that wounds and creates the wreckage in our life.  But he does not offer the empty promise that acknowledgement is the beginning of healing.  He is very clear that it takes more than an admission of the pain.  And he holds us accountable to how we respond to the pain–do we hold on to it and consider it final or do we release it to the One who has both the skill and power, wisdom and compassion, to restore the beauty of Shalom?

I also was blown over in this chapter by Brandon’s insight about transformation.  He points out that somehow religion has asserted and taught that transformation cannot begin until the hurt is over.  Brandon liberates us from this chain by reminding us that the transformation begins in the middle of our pain, not at the end of it.  And as he does throughout this book, he let’s us see that 90% of his life that is like the iceberg.  His insights, as I’ve stated before, are not born in a sterile library, but in the messiness of life as it happens to him….and to us!

 Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the Glory goes to HIM!

 

Beauty In The Wreckage–Chapter 4

(This is the next segment in a book I agreed to read and review, Beauty In The Wreckage: Finding Peace In The Age Of Outrage, by Brandon Andress, scheduled to be released October 9.  If you haven’t seen my review of Chapter 1, you can find it HERE  find Chapter 2 HERE, and Chapter 3 HERE and apologies to Brandon for getting behind.  Watch for the rest of the chapter reviews today.  Order your copy starting Oct. 9)

Chapter 4

A More Beautiful Suffering

For me, this chapter contains a forgotten truth that will become the beginning of the turning point for those who find themselves amidst the wreckage of life as it happens.  The forgotten truth is that pain and suffering does not spell the end to beauty in life.  Rather it is the portal through which we can begin to see beauty.  Notice I did not say “See beauty again.”  Brandon clearly delineates that suffering is NOT beautiful but how we view our suffering, ultimately determines if we can see not only “beauty”, but the greatest of all beauties:  the living Presence of our Heavenly Father.

Once again Brandon does not over simplify the pain that the wreckage produces, nor does he offer simple platitudes and Facebook’s cute sayings.  But through his insights and words, he does reveal the simple truth that is liberating for everyone who finds their life in the midst of this wreckage.  Brandon presents, in his own words, “another reality”.  When you finish reading this chapter you WILL be at a defining moment in your life:  Will your reality be your pain, or will the reality be with the Healer of our pains?  The challenging way he writes leaves the reader no escape when it comes to answering this most important question.

He speaks and writes out of his own experiences.  He does not write from theories and hypotheses, but makes himself vulnerable to the reader with his raw honesty.  There’s only one other writer that presents honesty more raw than Brandon–Solomon and his book Ecclesiastes.  The Goal is Shalom, but with kindness and compassion, reminds us all that there can be no Shalom until we bring the hurt, that “wound”, to the Healer and then allow The Healer do what HE does best:  Setting prisoners free!

Here is what I would consider yet another great profound yet forgotten truth in our culture.  Not in a condemning way, Brandon points out that our current culture doesn’t understand suffering.  It is indeed often trivialized and this only leads to that deeper despair when real and deep suffering occurs.  Our culture’s obsession with avoiding suffering has resulting most people seeing suffering as an end and destination, rather than a means to something better.

A closing thought:  Brandon does not encourage us to seek suffering; but to seek the one who is THE Expert in redemption and transformation.

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

Beauty In The Wreckage–Chapter 3

(This is the next segment in a book I agreed to read and review, Beauty In The Wreckage: Finding Peace In The Age Of Outrage, by Brandon Andress, scheduled to be released October 9.  If you haven’t seen my review of Chapter 1, you can find it HERE and you can find Chapter 2 HERE)

Chapter 3:  You Have Been Invited

This chapter is no different from Brandon’s other chapters in that it begins with the cold, stark reality of both our world, and the organized church.  And he does so, not with an accusing, finger wagging “Shame on you, church”, but a necessary confrontation for each of us to examine our attitudes; especially when it comes to those living in that wreckage, and moe especially in helping us recognize the wreckage in our own life.

One cannot read this chapter in the Presence of the Holy Spirit and come away thinking,
“How dare Brandon accuse us of failure!”  Instead, I found myself hanging my head down in shame that this powerful mirror is indeed telling us the truth about church when it becomes a religion.  I am being overwhelmed by this thought:  We, the church, have replaced “God’s Shalom” with “Shame On You”; and this is not good, not good at all.  And I weep for my own participation in this and my failure as a leader to call the church away from this spirit of judgment.

But as Brandon as consistently done up to this point, he doesn’t leave us to our shame.  He lays out a way to transform us into instruments of God’s Shalom.  He brings back into focus for the reader the real message of Jesus when This Creator walked among His Creation as the creature He participated in creating.  Creator becomes Creature.  In this chapter Brandon drives home a radical truth and a refreshing voice in our current culture.  Shalom begins by being born again.  Not in the way our religious world tells us, but in the way Jesus tells us.  In a world of “John 3:16 Sign Holding Folks At Athletic Games”, here is the prophetic voice calling us away from the hype, and into the true hope that comes only from being “born above”.

Brandon also brings back into focus the word and concept of “sin”.  He lays out a seemingly little known fact that in the Greek, the word for sin is us as a noun, not a verb close to eighty-nine percent of the time.  However, in the churchian culture of today it is used almost exclusively as a verb–to describe something someone did rather than the condition we are all in–thus leading to the misconception of various “degrees” of sin where one is not as bad as the other.  As with the writer Paul’s letter to the Romans, he points out that we cannot fully understand grace and redemption without first understanding the true nature of sin.  In a rarely seen clarity, Brandon lays out this foundational truth–that sin does more than alienate us from God–it divides us from each other.  Thus, this culture of hate and suspicion.

But Brandon does not leave us in the despair of our sin.  The message he shares is the one that our culture today needs to hear.  It’s the message of hope, Hope that produces Shalom.  Here is a word that gets back to the heart of the message that Jesus proclaimed that day in His home synagogue at Nazareth.  He breaks through this misconceptions and misinformation that I would say comes from the UNholy one, our real enemy, Satan.

I do not know because I’ve never asked Brandon if he has been nurtured in the Wesleyan understand of Grace, but as I read him as he write about Grace, it is as if I am reading a modern day John Wesley.  Understanding how the Grace of God is given to us, I mean, really understanding that Grace, will, as Brandon asserts, will begin changing how we see others.  Thus, we become instruments of and for God’s Shalom!  Help it to be so in me, Lord, help it to be so!

Beauty In The Wreckage–Chapter 2

(This is the next segment in a book I agreed to read and review, Beauty In The Wreckage: Finding Peace In The Age Of Outrage, by Brandon Andress, scheduled to be released October 9.  If you haven’t seen my review of Chapter 1, you can find it HERE)

Chapter 2:  The Unity Of All Things

Brandon describes what I consider to be the shame of many fellow evangelicals in ways that are sharp and clear.  Personally, I suspect that some conservative evangelicals may want to tar and feather him.  I would say “Amen” to his descriptions, but I am more compelled to hang my head in shame; for he describes the sad truth about much of what is done today in the name of Jesus.  And I suspect that Jesus might shake His head in disgust with the ways people throw His name around in political, social, and even religious circles.

He paints a painfully true picture of both American politics and the American church.  I do not sense any self-righteous smugness on Brandon’s part.  Instead he paints a picture of his own participating in the paradigm and parasite that is ripping the fabric apart in this thing called relationships and community.  He brings into focus that we have become guilty of something that God refuses to do and Jesus never did:  that of dividing people into…..well, you name it.  Much of the wreckage of our culture lies within the “us and them” mentality.  Brandon both describes and addresses this issue with a calm clarity that is nonjudgmental but truthful.

Brandon draws us a new paradigm of the causes of this brokenness that permeates our culture, and even our churches.  He sets aside typical and stereotypical causes and manages to dig deep to expose the real roots of this cultural clash and chaos.  If you can read this chapter and still put labels on any person, then you need to go back and read this chapter again; and keep reading it until you see the wisdom that he lays out for us.

He doesn’t cut himself any slack, and he doesn’t the reader when it comes to the first step in bringing beauty out of this wreckage.  It is in our own personal admission that we have contributed to this ugly wreckage.  We use politics, social issues, even the name of Jesus to divide people.  And a divided people are not a wreck waiting to happen; it’s the carnage from the wreck that has already occurred.

As with that first chapter, Brandon does not paint a doom and gloom picture for us.  I sense to do so would go against his heart, mind and spirit.  Once he gets to the root of the wreckage of relationships, families, politics, churches, culture–he leads us through the fog and haze to a solution, a solution that begins to truly create beauty out of this wreckage of life.  This God-Breathed solution is simple, but not simplistic.  It is both easy and it is difficult–thus the tension that he brings out near the beginning of this chapter.

Brandon is adamant with his firm conviction that only as we come back to the real Jesus, not the Jesus of politics, church or our fanciful imaginations.  He presents with a clarity unseen since the ancient writers put their experiences and understanding on those ancient scrolls have I seen a clearer image of the real Jesus.  Jesus is the answer but most will not understand that, because they’ve been asking the wrong questions.  Brandon asks the right questions and gives us the right answers.

Brandon is right that the chaos and the Shalom exists together, in a very real tension.  Our problem is that we focus on one OR the other.  Moving into God’s Shalom means we see both, but have the strong confidence that God’s Shalom is stronger, much stronger, that the wreckage.

And love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him.  Until I finish chapter 3…….