Appreciation for a bridge builder

SmedesLewis B. Smedes, the late professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, wrote fourteen books in his lifetime. I’ve read only one, his last, My God and I : A Spiritual Memoir (Eerdmans, 2003), which is a rather backwards way of doing things. Still, if this book is a good indicator of the quality of his prior work, I’ve got some more reading to do!

Professor Smedes sums up his outlook on life in a succinct paragraph (p. 64):

I was, from the start, a Christian of the bridge. I liked bridges that I could cross over to drink from unbelievers’ goblets, to feast on their wisdom, and to admire their good works. I also liked bridges that I could cross over and, with God’s blessing, be a blessing to the people on the other side.

Though he joined the Christian Reformed Church as a young man, it is apparent that Smedes over time grew increasingly uncomfortable with parts of the Calvinistic creed, particularly the doctrine of absolute sovereignty, that “God is in control” of the most minute details of what transpires on earth. In response to this idea, he pens one of the most moving chapters in the book. Recounting the death of his newborn son, only a day old, Smedes observes (p. 121):

On the day that our baby boy died, I knew that I could never again believe that God had arranged for our tiny child to die before he had hardly begun to live, any more than I could believe that we would, one fine day when he would make it all plain, praise God that it had happened.

Smedes’ honest remarks resonate with me. We concur when later he applies the same logic to the events of 9/11/2001, seeing in the terrorist attacks not the hand of God but the pure face of evil. He concludes: “God, we hope, will one day emerge triumphant over evil, though, on the way to that glad day, he sometimes takes a beating” (p. 125). I am happy to affirm that God is far more powerful than anyone, but cannot ascribe evil committed by others to a good God, an inescapable conclusion if one believes that God has ordained all that happens.

On the negative side of the ledger, My God and I does not read evenly. The earlier chapters are slow, so the reader should be persistent since the second half of the book moves at a quicker pace.

My God and I is a good snapshot of one who combined the life of the mind with a warm heart for people. It’s a rare combination. In our polarized world, one can pray that the Lord will raise up more conciliators like Lewis Smedes.

Advertisements

God and Coffee: A Story

Newlyweds Kevin and Naomi Nye
Newlyweds Kevin and Naomi Nye

For the next 2 Saturdays, I’ll be featuring guest voices here at Theology in Overalls. Today, I’m pleased  (with permission) to repost  “God and coffee: A story,” from the weblog of Southern Nazarene University alumnus, Kevin Nye.

Kevin is a writer who gently shakes up  your unexamined assumptions. Even if you’re not a coffee connoisseur, you’ll enjoy how Kevin uncovers God in everyday things.

————————————————————————

GOD AND COFFEE: A STORY

In this, my first “meaty” post about God and Coffee, I simply want to tell a story. It’s a story you may know if you know me personally, or might have a connection to in some other way. It’s nothing more than a personal story about how coffee, and a small little world made possible, changed my life. This felt like an especially poignant story to tell because of all the news and opinions about mental illness surrounding Robin Williams’ death.

This is only a story, and you may wonder, “What does this have to do with God and coffee?” Well, this story has coffee in it, and it has God in it, so that’s my first qualification. But mostly, I tell this story because I think this whole situation was made possible because coffee is something that most of the world shares in common. It’s something that almost all of us drink, young and old, and unites us with the rest of the world: where coffee drinking, farming, and distributing take place. It’s a shared experience, and I think God is in it.

In 2005, an espresso and smoothie catering company called Dirty Water Coffee Co. was started in Oklahoma City by an ambitious, but driven 20 year old named Taggart Dertinger, affectionately known by the name Tag. From scratch, Tag developed a fully mobile coffee and smoothie shop that could be set up in 15 minutes or less, and offer everything from espresso shots to Busted Bean Frappuccinos, or the classic Snozzberry smoothie. By the time I joined the company in 2011, Dirty Water was doing upwards of 20-25 events per week, with four full setups that could be in different places at once.

Continue reading