Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Getting "eyes" for what you really need

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, religion, spirituality

This'll be briefer than usual. Mark Buchanan's new book Hidden in Plain Sight: The Secret of More is a wonderful book, but I've been able only to give it a rapid run-through. I'll need to go back and re-read and ponder. This one will stay in my "ready" area.

Mark Buchanan is a Baptist pastor living near Vancouver. Though I am no fan of the pastoral system, I do recognize the value that can result when a man or woman of God must produce regular, inspiring messages for his congregation. The flip side of "90% of everything is junk" is Bradbury's dictum: "Write every day. Finish one story a week. I defy anyone to write 52 bad stories in a row." Meaning at the end of the year you'll have something worth the effort.

I have come to realize that the true "evidence" of the holy Spirit is persistence, or what is called in the New Testament "endurance." Jesus said, "Whoever endures to the end shall be saved," not talking about eternal salvation but rescue from temptation or the world's allure: practical, daily salvation.

Such endurance, such persistence, such perseverance is right in the midst of the author's message. The book is an exposition of the first nine verses of Peter's second Epistle:

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he's nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

The analogy used to explain the seeming dichotomy—"he has given us everything we need" and "make every effort"—is like delivery day at a building site. You have the land and the plan, and now you have all the materials. It is time to start building. If the plan calls for a hotel, and the materials delivered correspond, then build a hotel, not a bungalow. Don't sell yourself short.

Buchanan's genius is the apt analogy, the telling insight. We are a bundle of contradictions. We need to see. To see the building materials lying ready to hand, and to see the plan showing what goes where, will grow us beyond the contradictions. When Jesus said, "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect," he meant it. Peter's few sentences, and Mark Buchanan's practical explanations, help us to see and to build.

To explain my title...when our son was a pre-schooler we frequently went rock collecting with a club. The fossil hunts were the best. The first time we went to a quarry, where lots of little shelly fossils were "floating" out of the deposits, the trip leader opened a box to show us the kinds of fossils we could expect to find. He held up one particular brachiopod (similar to a clam, but of an extinct order) and said, "This one is quite rare." Our 4-year-old looked at it, trotted off, and came back in ten minutes with three of them. This sort of thing happened on every trip. Once he saw what the target was, he "had his eyes on" for that pattern, and could always find some. Hidden in Plain Sight helps be "get my eyes on" for the virtues I am, every so slowly, gaining.

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