Reviews of Books/Essays

God Draws Near Me

“The living God draws near me, in such a way as to draw me near to Himself, to draw me into the circle of His knowing of Himself.” (Experiencing the Trinity. Darrell w. Johnson. Chapter 3) Johnson continues in his book describing God drawing us to Himself in such a way that the Holy Trinity Himself draws us “into the inner relatedness” of the divine relationship. (Johnson is actually quoting the work of Thomas Torrance, from Trinitarian Perspectives.) The living God, Father, Son, and Spirit, grants us entry to His inner fellowship, into His very own presence. Johnson also quotes Galatians 4:4-6 describing redemption (God’s salvation and our adoption into God’s family) as the work of the Trinity. We are “co-lovers of God.” Even this description is another quote from James Torrance’s Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace.

There is so much treasure in this little book. One thought that stood out for me is Johnson’s application of the Trinity in the area of Christian love. With so much simplicity (and profound truth), he explains our love for each other as founded in the Trinity. He quotes 1 John 1:3 that our fellowship is first with God and second only to each other. He continues. “I am to love you not as much as He loves, but with Him as He loves you.” (Emphasis mine.)  This simply means that we love the brothers and sisters as we participate in God’s love. He explains that this is what is meant by “co-lovers of God” and the implications of our friendship with the Trinity. 

Simple, right? And yet, it is theologically deep. As the Triune God moves and acts in this world, we also move with Him. Not moving the way God moves, but moving with God in this world. Not acting like God, but participating in God’s action in our communities and through this world. 

Saying a Blessing from our Core

Henri Nouwen shares a blessing he gave to Janet, a member of his Christian community. He states: “Janet, I want you to know that you are God’s beloved daughter. You are precious in God’s eyes. Your beautiful smile, your kindness to the people in your house, and all the good things you do show us what a beautiful human being you are. I know you feel a little low these days and that there is some sadness in your heart, but I want you to remember who you are: a very special person, deeply loved by God and all the people who are here with you” (Discernment. 2013:134).

Currently, I am finishing a three-volume set of Nouwen’s work: Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Formation, and this book, Discernment. I am not doing book reviews here. I just wanted to highlight the call to our identity as God’s children, which permeates through Nouwen’s writings. The above quote is a simple yet beautiful blessing one could give to a brother, sister, or a friend. 

Currently, I am working on an opportunity to say this blessing to a dear brother of mine. I definitely need to reword the quoted blessing above, so that it comes out natural and personal to the person. I still have not gathered my courage to speak this blessing. Praying that it will come soon.

As children of God, “our core identity is secure in the memory of God” (Nouwen. 2013:135). What an amazing reminder of God’s love for everyone. 

Adventure, Pilgrimage, Vacation

"This is an adventure!" Jacob, my 8-year old son remarks. He is sitting with his mom, at the front seat of a tow truck, The tow truck driver is generous to offer them a seat. We are on our way back to Kaohsiung. Carmen and I are back inside our car, while it is securely fastened to the back of this tow truck. Three hours of riding on a tow truck, and all Jacob could say is "Fun! fun!" Carmen is sitting on the driver seat pretending to drive our old 2000 Nissan Cefiro. It just died, gasped its last breath, and breathed out hot air indicating a dried up carburetor and a broken engine. No more driving this old missionary car. Carmen looks happy holding the steering wheel. She feels like she really is driving, since the car is moving on Highway No. 3. Just don't remind her that our car is riding on the back of this tow truck. I am glad the children are taking this predicament with enthusiasm and treating it as a time of adventure.

The only downside to this dilemma is that the break down of our car came while we were on our way to a Holy Light seminary retreat. We were all looking forward to this vacation. It would have been our first time to go to a seminary retreat and vacation as a whole family. Last year, we could not go because the children were sick. The year before . . . oh well, I could not remember why we did not go that time.

We decided as a family to go without a car, at least this whole year. We will be using public transportation for everything. We are blessed that Kaohsiung city's MRT and bus transportation system are excellent. It will be a challenge. I will definitely miss our car. I did not know one could get emotionally attached to a physical object like a car. But, it is another time of letting go, another opportunity to downsize and to live a simpler life.

This week, I have been reading Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart. This is my fourth time to read this wonderful book. It explores the many lessons of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and the way Christian pilgrimage is applied to modern times. Nouwen's main tenet is that it is in pilgrimage that a Christian appreciates solitude and experiences compassion to its fullest extent. I feel like I am in some kind of pilgrimage. Not only because I am here in Taiwan, a beautiful country different from what I am familiar with. Not only because I am away from our families in the Philippines and the USA. But mainly because I sense God's call for me to let go of my tendency to take control of my life. Just like this Nissan Cefiro car is going away, I need to let go of this desire, this convenience, of structuring this missionary life and ministry here in Taiwan. I should stop searching for certainty and leave my trust in God alone. Even if things do not go as planned, I need to say to my God: "This is an adventure with You, my Lord!" Only then can a vacation become a pilgrimage, and my spiritual pilgrimage a time of retreat with God alone.