Friday, December 17, 2004


God's Coloring Book Has No Lines

Jack Fox, there on the beach in May 2003, could have been a more typical evangelical. He could have dropped his set lines and then turned away in disgust as I rebuffed his speech and continued working on my sculpture. Instead, he started by asking God to help him be sincere.

He could have come to the beach determined to win one more for Jesus, motivated more by guilt or production quotas than anything else. He could have skipped the beach completely, instead hanging out with his pastor friends at the Mosaic conference. He might have gone to a soup kitchen on Skid Row, telling God that Jack himself knew what was best.

Instead of all that, he humbly followed Jesus' urging. Jack might not have known why he was going to the beach, or he might have thought it was just to take a break from midwestern flat cornfields. The Holy Spirit hinted and Jack responded, not at all clear on what would happen, but in expectation of at least a few hours at the edge of God's creation watching the waves come and go, wash and recede.

"Nate is kind of bummed about his 'Little Christmas Tree.' He had some investors interested but they wanted a new ending. It changed the story completely and made it preachy. Nate finally went to them and told them he appreciated their interest but what they were proposing was not his story. We haven't heard from them since." Deb is very animated as she tells us this.
"Good for him," I say. I didn't like any of their proposed endings. "This is exactly why I do only projects I can do myself. You run it through the financing mill and it comes out looking just like everything else from Hollywood."
"Oh, this isn't Hollywood. It's a church organization."
"That has been affected by Hollywood."

Jack could have stepped onto the beach already knowing all the answers. He could have approached someone and pressed "Play" on his evangelical speech circuit. I've seen it, and heard it, before. This kind of behavior is encouraged by churches, even those that know better. It seems there is no other way to get the idea across.

I came to the life group meeting expecting a discussion on another aspect of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the topic is how we need to go out and drum up more interest. Bring in new people. The implication is that we're all supposed to be the same, knowing the ending before we start.

"I had an interesting day at work," Joe says. He's normally quiet.
"Go ahead, bro." Carl invites.
"One of my co-workers, who knows I'm a Christian, asked me some questions. Now the day had been quiet up until then, no phone calls for two hours. As soon as she asked her questions about God the phone started ringing."
I know that, remembering many events. The timing is uncanny.
"I started to answer, and another co-worker started laughing. 'How can you believe that drivel?' he said. But when I finished the phone calls I was able to answer her questions and also talk to the other guy. I stood up to him and gave him the gospel."
Carl, naturally, is ecstatic. "Way to go, bro!"

It is a remarkable event, but not exactly in the way Carl thinks.
"We have an honorable God," I say. "We don't need to be embarrassed at all when talking about Him." Evidence of the Holy Spirit. We grow stronger backbones. "Why is it Buddhists and Muslims are free to talk about their religion and it turns into a discussion, but Christians who present their ideas are preaching?"

Maybe it has something to do with common experience: the unfeeling presentation of set words without any regard for circumstances. It's the verbal equivalent of handing out rocks when bread is truly called for. No wonder Christianity has a bad rap.

Where I make sculptures is as far from the easy access points as possible, but that, while being a bonus, isn't why I'm way out there. My mother gave me a sense of presentation and the flat sand behind the breakwater is a good stage for my performance. People have to work to get out here, walking across a long stretch of dry, loose sand. Jack walked the beach on that sunny day in May and ended up out on the flat.

Later, Deb is sprawled across the big armchair with Winston lying in her lap. I'm stretched out on the couch as midnight approaches. Nate's working late, redoing the work of an editor who screwed things up so royally that he got canned.
"That's why Christian creativity should be better than the world's! We have the Holy Spirit!"
"Yes. I don't know why, but He is just delighted when I'm making something. He loves watching. And helping! The sculptures I've made recently with His hand on mine have been the best I've ever done."

Jack was walking with the Holy Spirit. Several purposes were served. Jack was worshipping the Living God, whose lively ocean was scenting the damp spring air. He was enjoying the day with the sun on his face, letting his mind unwind from the intensity of the conference. And the Holy Spirit was along for the ride, like an old-time whaler ready with a harpoon of love.

God knew exactly what He was doing. He had guided events for years to reach just this confluence. A man from Kansas, a man from Indiana, an idea from Heaven out there in the real world. If any of us had tried to plan this, or force it to happen, the spirit would have died and a few months later I'd have followed. Instead, sensitivity ruled the day. Jack moved and I was struck.

What man could write a script like this? What class in evangelism could have prepared anyone for this kind of encounter? Only the Holy Spirit could have pulled this off, in His years of remaking Jack's soul and letting mine deteriorate under His protection. Each person is unique already, and God intends that we become more so. Throw away the instructions. Listen to the Holy Spirit, who is Life itself.

2004 December 17
#1 in "Real World Evangelism"

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