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Rethinking, Rebuilding. Love in International Service, a book excerpt

Today I bring you an excerpt from Ryan Kuja’s new book: From the Inside Out. I resonated strongly with his words on wholeness. The world is broken and we are broken. I don’t even have to look outside my own mind and heart to recognize the need for healing and restoration and that reality is amplified as soon as I lift my eyes up to the broader world. What can promote and facilitate healing? Love. Unity. Integration belief and action. Peace.

If you enjoy this excerpt and would like to read more, you can find Ryan’s book here and his website with links to more of his published work here.

Book Excerpt- Chapter 5

Making All Things Whole through Love

“Those who follow Jesus,” wrote Franciscan sister and professor Ilia Delio, “are to become wholemakers, uniting what is scattered, creating a deeper unity in love.” The deepest call of Jesus followers is to be wholemakers— acting in ways that bring about the wholeness that underlies the fabric of the cosmos. We seem separate but in our roots we are part of an indivisible whole. There is an integral connectivity that links us. If this is how reality is construed—through a substrate of love, a fabric of connection and deep unity—than participating in mission as if this were true means looking at our task differently, through the lens of the hidden wholeness that exists in Christ prior to and beneath all things. Jesus followers are tasked with intentionally participating in completing the world; mission is nothing less than action toward the fulfillment of the cosmos itself.

The reconciliation of all things is not only a possibility, human flourishing is not only an idea, shalom not a mere word to be adopted, but realities ingrained in the fabric of creation itself.

Placing ourselves in alignment with the shape of God and thus the shape of the universe itself so that we may be conduits of shalom means bringing together the inner and the outer. It means reintegrating contemplation and action. Our logical Western-trained minds say prayer and work, spirituality and ministry are distinct, autonomous aspects of life, but that is a fairly new invention based on Western philosophy and Greek metaphysics, based on the thought of Descartes and Plato more than Paul and Jesus.

What would happen if we began to reimagine mission as relationship in which we recreate each other through a deep mutuality? Participating in the ongoing creation of the world through mending and being mended, healing and being healed, becoming wholemakers as we are being made whole?

This missional spirituality is radically grounded in materiality while simultaneously oriented toward a cosmological horizon that is coming to us from the future, a future in which “Christ is all, and is in all” (Col 3:11). We experience a foretaste of that eschatological future in the present. From the very heart of reality itself, from within the messes, the brokenness, and the tragedy, Christ redeems, restores, reanimates, and resurrects. The world is being reconstituted, day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath, to reflect the new reality which Jesus referred to as the kingdom of God. It is all heading into renewal.

Every act of peace, each move toward courage, every act of selfless love is an act of new creation, small and often unnoticed perhaps, but powerful nonetheless as it is a participation in God’s being. In this way we don’t merely believe in God, worship God, or work for God, but we participate in God’s life.

(I confess that I have not read the entire book yet, but after I read the excerpt Ryan sent me, the book jumped to the top of my list. If you have read it, share your thoughts in the comments or over on Facebook.)

A global citizen with a background in international mission, relief, and development, Ryan Kuja has lived in fifteen cities and rural villages on five continents. He holds an M.A. in Theology and Culture from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology as well a Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. A spiritual director and writer, he has written for Sojourners, Missio Alliance and several theological journals. His first book, From the Inside Out: Reimagning Mission, Recreating the World, released in June 2018. Ryan is currently serving as the Field Director of Word Made Flesh in Medellin, Colombia. You can find him online at ryankuja.com and on twitter as @ryankuja.

*post contains affiliate links

The Bookshelf, August 2018

(post contains affiliate links)

This month I’m sharing books both my dad and I have loved and one he recommends, which I have not yet read, but its on my to-read list, once he finishes.

Made for These Times, by Justin Zoradi, a book about doing work that matters (fun fact: my brother-in-law is mentioned by name in this book).

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. An inspiring, historical sports story about the Olympics held in Germany before World War II and the US rowing team.

Barking to the Choir by Gregory Boyle. Excuse the multiple mentions in the past few months of this book. I bring it up again because of how deeply it impacted my dad. He stopped every chapter or so to wipe his eyes and read several paragraphs to my mom and I. It is a book that will change the way readers live and love.

The Day the Revolution Began by NT Wright. This had been on my to-read list but my library didn’t have it. Turns out, my dad has it and had filled it up with notes and thoughts. It is taking me a while to get through because I’m reading both the actual book and his notes.

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I love all of Larson’s work. This book is about the Chicago World’s Fair and an unsettling series of murders.

 

And here are the books I read this month.

Out of Sorts, by Sarah Bessey. It is about time. Finally, got my hands on this book and I love it. I love how she makes loving Jesus so beautiful, even in the middle of great, big questions.

The past few months have been rough for me and these words carried me through a challenging moment in the middle of August. I took Sarah’s words out of context and pasted them over my own wilderness. They birthed a sliver of hope, a hope I desperately needed and am still clinging to:

Set out pilgrim. Set out into the freedom and the wandering. Find your people. God is much bigger, wilder, more generous, and more wonderful than you imagined. On the other side of your wilderness, you may even find yourself reclaiming it all – the tradition, the habits, the language. You may be surprised someday to find yourself right back where you began, but with new eyes, a new heart, a new mind, a new life, and a wry smile. Now, instead of being whatever label you preferred, perhaps you can simply be a disciple, a pilgrim, out on the Way, following in the footsteps of the man from Nazareth. You aren’t condemned to wander forever. Remember now: after the wilderness comes deliverance.

Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of less, by Greg McKeown. This is a helpful, challenging read, especially for Enneagram 3’s, which (coming clean), I believe I am. Making choices, cutting back, saying no. You know, easy stuff, like that.

You’re a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. Mostly, I read this because it was available from my library and I’ve been on the waiting list for her other book: You’re a Badass, for so stinking long. I thought it might be a kind of preview, but it was also really interesting. (I’m not great at making money, hence, I read the book. I’m still not, but maybe I’m less scared of talking about money. Maybe.)

Grounded, by Diana Butler Bass, about finding God in nature, in humankind, in our daily mundane and average, stunning lives.

Two Hours, by Ed Caesar, about the work of trying to break two hours in the marathon (written before Nike’s attempt this past spring)

What are you reading?

What I’m Reading, July 2018

Or, what my 12-year old daughter is reading, for the young among us, and the young at heart (personally, I still love books for this age), some classics and some new-ish books. She’s a reader, keeping mom happy.

The Giver

The Westing Game

This Island Isn’t Big Enough for the Four of Us. Oh man, I still just love and love this book. I can’t read it out loud to the kids without laughing. I must have read it a hundred times as a kid.

The Inquisitor’s Tale, Or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. Could barely tear her away from this one.

The Scourge

I have a hard time reading much while we are in the US, there is just a lot more to do here. Things like axe-throwing events, frog-chasing, mini golf, multiple graduation open houses, and so much more. Plus, I have a massive stack of magazines that piles up while I’m away, because yes, I still prefer to read magazines in hard copy format rather than online. So I’ve had a lot of Runners World and New Yorker to catch up on.

The Day the Revolution Began, by N.T. Wright, about the meaning of the crucifixion of Jesus. The particular copy I’m reading is full of my dad’s underlinings and notes, which is fun and adds another perspective to the book.

Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd, about spirituality and femininity

The Destiny Thief, by Richard Russo, about the writing life

The Bookshelf, June 2018

Summer reading seems to be a popular blog or podcast topic. For me, summer reading is no different than winter, fall, or spring reading. I read a lot and don’t make changes based on seasons. I read based on what books come up in my library queue.

Here’s what has been in my head lately:

This is Where You Belong by Melody Warn This is a wonderful book for anyone moving, graduating, starting over in a new city. Where you live and how feel about it, how you interact with it, how you find meaning in your place, matters. Warn offers practical tips for forming a connection with where you live. Even though I’ve lived for fifteen years in the same city and even though I have to modify some of her suggestions based on my specific location, I found it encouraging and challenging.

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. Put simply, LOVE.

Inspired by Rachel Held Evans I actually purchased this book as a preorder and I became the publisher’s biggest pain in the ass. I couldn’t download the bonus content. So I wrote to the publisher and asked for a different format. It took almost aw eek and about six different attempts before I was able to finally access the materials. I have no idea why. But I was incredibly impressed with this woman’s patience and willingness to keep trying. That has nothing to do with the quality of the book, just sayin’. The subtitle, “xxx and loving the Bible again,” fits me pretty well right now, so I was excited to dive into this. Plus, she has a few paragraphs about what it means to us evangelical children to be named Rachel. For her, she was upset to hear it meant, “Ewe,” which she first took as “eeewwww,” and thought she had perhaps been an ugly newborn. For me, the name Rachel made me horribly embarrassed every time the story of Jacob and Rachel and Leah came up. There was a Jacob in my grade at school and on my bus and people teased me. I didn’t even like that Rachel was the ‘beautiful’ one. She was also nasty.

The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright. Don’t read it if you can’t handle her language. I was hoping for a little more insight into the issues she takes and didn’t really care about her pets, but that’s just me. I’ve read her blog for a long time, so I was able to fill in a lot of the blanks and I appreciated hearing her personal journey of discovering the God who is always, ever, Immanuel, God with us. Her voice is an important one in helping the North American church examine, critically, its actions in the world and she has very valid concerns and issues.

What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney. Modern life protects the body from our physical, natural environment, maintaining a constant temperature, pursuing comfort, etc. Unless you live in Djibouti, where things like dust and heat force the natural surroundings on us…This book talks about why putting our body into contact with our environment can make us stronger and healthier. If you’re the type inclined to take ice cold showers, you’ll enjoy this book. If you aren’t that type, you’ll enjoy reading about other people doing that.

The Dream of You, by Jo Saxton. “Let go of broken identities and live the live you were made for.”

Scary Close, dropping the act and finding true intimacy, by Donald Miller Ever since Blue Like Jazz, I’ve read Donald Miller. I have a bit more trouble getting into his newer books but I appreciate watching him grow and change and adapt as a writer. It encourages me, to realize I don’t have to only write about one thing.

Scream, chilling adventures in the science of fear by Margee Kerr Why do we like (or if you are like me, hate) scary movies? Why do we choose to do something we know will terrify us?

Deep Survival, who lives, who dies, and why, by Laurence Gonzales

Educated by Tara Westover

Longing for Home by Frederick Buechner

What are you reading?

The Bookshelf, May 2018

I had a minor crisis earlier this month. I read all the books on my Kindle.

I had no more new books to read.

It was terrible.

Thankfully after a few days, my library queue caught up with me and I now have way too many books to read again. Here’s a few.

What I’m Reading

Barking to the Choir, by Gregory Doyle. Do I laugh? Do I cry? I do both. A Jesuit priest working with gang members in LA. “We find ourselves on the lookout for moments of spaciousness and calm, when our hearts can be restored again to a place of beauty, innocence, and wholeness. Then we can hear what the Sufis call, “the voice of the Beloved.”

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins, about valuing our creative work as writers

Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic by Nora Gallagher

Riverine by Angela Palm

Home, James, by Emily Steele Jackson, a novel about a young Third Culture Kid

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers (mentions Djibouti!). I loved this book, a fun, informative read on coffee and a riveting ride through Yemen just as the war broke out.

No Man’s Land by Eula Biss (finally, this showed up in my library but I highlighted so much I should probably just buy it)

A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf. I get bored sometimes, reading other people’s diaries, but I really appreciate how honest she is about the issues of pride and of receiving criticism well, or not.

Voices in the Air, poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. “Reading and writing poetry gives us more yutori – a place to stand back and contemplate what we are living and experiencing. More spaciousness in being, more room in which to listen.” (Yutori is a Japanese word meaning essentially, life-space)

Original Blessing, by Danielle Shoyer. Another book in which I highlighted something on nearly every page. “Original blessing is the stubborn assertion not that we are perfect, but that we are loved. And this love has the power to transform even our shadows into light.”

 

What are you reading?