Friday, February 05, 2016
Me, and Lent, and God For Us
Whether or not the church of my youth really believed in "the holy catholic church" is not as obvious to me as was our repetition of that phrase in the Apostles Creed at every Sunday evening worship. We were--as most churches and most denominations were back then--quite thoroughly sure of where we stood in God's favor but a whole lot less confident about where anyone else stood. We were in--that was for sure. Whether or not others were was not ours to judge. Which didn't mean we didn't.
Knowing darn well what you stand for almost always means knowing darn well who certainly doesn't. Good stout definitions keep people together--and, sadly, apart.
When Greg Pennoyer sent me a note asking me to contribute to God For Us, I was literally speechless. A few of the other contributors are friends, but they're all big-time, and none of them are cut from the same Calvinist cloth I am. What's more, in the church of my youth, most of the champions of orthodoxy considered Lent a practice just on the other side of "foreign," even, well, Roman Catholic, something akin to fish on Friday or bingo (gambling!) at church picnics. Lent belonged to them, not us.
But I wasn't about to turn down the opportunity Pennoyer was offering, so I went to Amazon the same day and ordered half a shelf of Lent devotionals (second-hand), and started in. I mean, I knew what "Lent" was, but I could hardly be judged a devotee, not because I was a'gin it but because it was something that congregations I'd been a part of had only recently--maybe a couple decades ago--begun to edge into the conversation about worship.
Whether or not my contributions to God For Us are worthy is not my determination to make, but I was and am deeply honored to be a part of this collection, not simply because of the prominence of the other contributors but because God With Us, in the original, is a book that is devotional in every sense of the word: gorgeous art work combined with thoughtful and rich meditations. The book is itself a work of art, a blessing created by the writers, the editors, the artists, and, finally and perhaps most bravely by Paraclete Press, who took it upon themselves to create it, to publish it, and market it.
God For Us is not for everyone. But if you, like the Schaaps, have trouble finding devotional literature that moves you, that makes you grow, that asks you to bring your mind and heart and soul to what's there on every page, then trust me, God For Us belongs beside the toaster or the salt-and-pepper or the napkin holder, during this season especially.
Paraclete has now released a Readers Edition of God For Us--same text, less visual art, which makes the collection more affordable and more user-friendly. It's still a work of art, but in both price and style maybe just a little more homey, something that fits in a purse or pocket.
You can find it here.
Hurry. Even this old Calvinist knows that Lent is upon us.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:30 AM