The Sacred Overlap by J.R. Briggs

Yet another book that my husband and I listened to on a road trip. This one also had a lot of pauses in the audio followed by lots of conversation. Briggs definitely struck a cord with us because of some challenges our church (and I would expect many churches) is currently facing. Challenges brought on by disagreements, differences, and division. As we listened to Sacred Overlap, we realized how relevant and needed the book is for our churches and ministries today.

In a country where many believers hop from one church to another or churches split because of dispute over doctrine, worship style, teaching, or any number of other reasons, Sacred Overlap provides a much needed reminder that often it’s in the space between our differences where sacred community is found.

In our culture, we frequently think of things in the either/or mindset. Something is either this or it’s that. It’s one thing or it’s another. It couldn’t possibly be both.

But Briggs introduces another way of thinking. The intersection between two things. The overlap. He submits the idea that there’s the possibility of both/and.

He opens with the reminder that when Jesus came, he tore down either/or thinking and lived out both/and. Jesus is both God and man and when he entered into our world, he brought the sacred overlap of both heaven and earth. He hung out with both saints and sinners. And he preached/embraced both justice and faith. Briggs talks about the many and/also activities Jesus engaged in, crossing cultural, social, political, and religious boundaries. He spent time in Judea and also in the hostile territory of Samaria. He dined with filthy lepers and also the filthy rich. He comforted the disturbed and also disturbed the comfortable. Just to name a few of his examples.

Briggs doesn’t leave us there. He then walks us through the many ways we can be both/and, the opportunities we have to engage in the and also. Places where we can join God in the sacred overlaps. If we truly want the Kingdom of God to invade the empires of the earth, if we want to be effective in ministering to and bringing hope to a hurting world, then we need to be willing to step into the space in between.

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Holy places: in sickness and in health

Finding the holy in places others may not see.

In a world where divorce is the easy way out, where one spouse abandons the other because he or she is no longer in “love” or isn’t “happy,” where broken marriages have become as common as throwaway containers, we can still find the holy places in a lifetime of love and commitment.

In the cozy living room of his Colorado home, the man’s eyes glisten as tells another story of his sweet bride. Married for over fifty years. A lifetime with each other. Raising their children, working hard, struggling through difficulties, building dreams, loving grandchildren, traveling, and enjoying life. Together.

Until.

She could no longer do so.

He continues to love her. When they stopped traveling and sold the RV. When he allowed her drive, but followed at a distance to make sure she didn’t get lost. When he installed locks on the doors so she wouldn’t wander out without him knowing.

He continues to love her. When they stayed in their home in the city because going back and forth to the mountain caused too much distress for her. When they consolidated their two homes into one because he could no longer safely care for her and she needed full time care.

He continues to lover her. When her conversations become a bit muddled, confused, distracted. When she forgets visiting family and friends. When she sometimes forgets who he is.

Never once does he blame her for the things he’s had to do. Instead, he says, “well, we decided it best to make this change.”

He loves her for better, he loves her for worse. He loves her in health and loves her in sickness. It’s definitely not what either planned or wanted. But he does it all for love. The most Christ-like love I have ever seen.

Finding Christ in places others may not see.

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Be Still Series – Wonder: Contemplating the Mysteries of God

A couple of years after moving to Texas, I began attending a Bible Study. When I first met Dawn, the one teaching the Bible study, my first thought was, I want to be her friend. She’s the type of soul that women are drawn to because she has a listening heart, a word of encouragement, and wisdom she’s gleaned from God’s Word and Spirit.

I say all this because the second book in our Be Still series was conceived at that Tuesday morning Bible study, which I still attend today (in fact, much inspiration for my writing comes during this time).

Dawn has a passion for the Word and for teaching and one thing we know, when she teaches, we’re going deep. In the spring of 2018, she led us through the book of Isaiah and I filled half a notebook. During one of our morning times together, as she has often done, she released us to spend time with the Lord. She lives on a lovely piece of property with plenty of live oaks providing shade from the warm sun. I took my notebook and Bible and found a quiet place at a picnic table. As I listened for the Holy Spirit and reviewed my notes, I began highlighting verses from Isaiah I had written down. Soon I had a long list that inspired the twenty-four devotionals for Wonder, that I later wrote during an upcoming road trip.

In April, my husband and I took said road trip from west Texas, through Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado, visiting state and national parks along the way. Before we left, I asked for prayer at my Monday writer’s group, and our sweet leader and friend prayed for the Lord to “show up and show off” during this trip. I shared the prayer with my husband and it became our theme for each day. Lord, how will you show up and show of today. Flipping through many of the photos we included in Wonder, it’s easy to see how He answered.

The book can be purchased on Amazon at Wonder: Contemplating the Mysteries of God.

See all the books currently available by visiting my Be Still page.

All the books in the Be Still series are available on Amazon. Visit my author page Jill English Johnston.

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Dear White Peacemakers by Osheta Moore

If only I had time to read all the books recommended on the podcasts I listen to. So many books, so little time.

But Peacemakers is a must. I heard Osheta Moore on Jen Hatmaker’s podcast, For the Love, last year and I immediately put her upcoming book on my “too read” list. Moore was still working on her book at the time and it released this past spring.

Our country has been wrestling and continues to wrestle with the reality of racism, prejudice and inequality and I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t paid much attention until recently. Maybe it took a pandemic to make me pause long enough. Maybe I’ve reached a place in my life where I have time to consider. Maybe the events of 2020 brought clarity to these issues for me. Or maybe enough people in my “circle” were talking about it.

Whatever the reason, I started noticing, listening, and asking questions. I wanted to understand. So I started looking for books and podcasts that would inform me, challenge me, and impact me.

Moore meets each one of these. In Peacemaker, she invites us in to take a seat, enjoy a cup of coffee, and engage in a conversation about racism and what it means to be a peacemaker. She draws on the words of Jesus in what is know as the Be Attitudes, the “blessed are those…” and weaves their wisdom and conviction throughout her book.

Moore shares her own personal experiences of racism, draws on her own reactions to violence against black men and women in our country, and calls her white sisters to become part of peacemaking. In her opening chapter she says, “peacemaking is partnering with God to create shalom and the greatest calling for peacemakers in this moment is to practice anti-racism.”

Being a peacemaker, practicing anti-racism, and speaking out against oppression and prejudice isn’t easy, especially in a world more concerned about protecting personal rights and comforts rather than defending the rights of others. But Scripture tells us to not only look out for our own interests but also the interests of others. It also says that since Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Jesus said, “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

We have others who need us to look out for them, brothers and sisters and sisters who need us to step out of our rights and comforts and step up. And if you don’t have friends with skin a different shade than yours, than I encourage you to find them, listen to their stories, and seek to understand.

There’s so much in this book that I’ve already decided to read it again. And I’m hoping to read through it with others this time, in order to discuss, listen, understand, and grow. Anyone interested in reading Peacemaker with me?

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Holy Places: the table

Finding the holy in places others may not see.

Tucked under the pines of Colorado is a mountain home with a large wooden table. The table has seen many family gatherings, has been cluttered with many projects, and has been a place of temporary storage as the owner sorts through a life that once filled two homes and an RV.

One evening, the table was cleared once again for a meal. With plenty of food to eat, the owner invited a neighbor couple over to share at the table. Over the simple meal, conversations flowed about children and grandchildren, stories were told of memories the two couples shared, and discussions were held about the events of the world.

There was no talk about God or Jesus. But if generosity and hospitality are part of God’s character, than isn’t he present when those virtues are?

The Gospel narrative makes meals shared together a holy and consecrated time. Jesus sharing meals with the irreligious. Jesus breaking bread with the outcasts. Jesus passing the cup of wine to a group of unlikely people he called friends.

And when Jesus, with his audacious generosity and abundant hospitality, is at the table, the table is holy. The kingdom of heaven among us. In the meals eaten together, in the time spent around the table together, in the conversations, the stories and the discussions.

Finding Jesus in the places others may not see.

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