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July 8th, 2009

TURNCOAT ATHEIST

I must stop buying books. I should take more advantage of our library and interlibrary loans. My library has always provided any books I’ve asked for so far. So why did I order Not the Religious Type: Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist? The author, Dave Schmelzer, appeared on the 700 Club last week and explained that he had always been an atheist but had friends who not only believed in God but had a “relationship” with him. He couldn’t understand what they were saying but when things were not going well in college he decided to try praying. “And I prayed for the first time in a long time along the lines of, ‘God, I don’t believe that you’re real. But if I’m wrong this would be a terrific day to show me.’”

He decided to go to a movie to forget his troubles and took a wrong road returning to campus. While looking at a map and driving he hit a post. “I realized that what I’d hit wasn’t a post. Filling my windshield was a giant flood-lit cross….Normally this wouldn’t have been a big deal but I had, in fact, prayed that day that if there was a God he’d show himself to me.” Again he tried to figure out how to get back to campus. He pulled into a parking lot to check his map. “As I pulled out something odd struck me. I had parked right underneath a giant flood-lit cross. So that was two giant flood-lit crosses in about a ten-minute span.” At that point he sensed something “which I can quote to this day: ‘Dave, you always thought that if there was a God the good news would be that he cares about humanity. I’m here to tell you that there is a God and I care about you.’”

This is not a long book, or a deep book – only 175 pages. Over time Schmelzer is convinced that there is a God, God is good, God answers prayer, and Jesus is God. And joy is to be found following Jesus. As a single man he asked God if there were any women he should keep an eye on. “Faster than a blink I sensed God saying, ‘Have you thought about Grace Coltrin?’” At that time he was 28 and Grace was 23 and though he knew Grace he thought she seemed very young.

Of course, he and Grace get married and do exciting things together. At the time he writes this book he is 44 and Senior Pastor at Vineyard Fellowship of Greater Boston, with an M.A. in Theology from Fuller Seminary. His book invites one not to a belief (in a religion) but to a relationship (with Jesus). Religion, he says, divides; Jesus unites.

One chapter heading indicates that everyone has two options: we can go with the flow and be bored, or follow Jesus and be terrified. Stepping out in faith can be a scary thing.

I have written before about how to hear God.   Mr. Schmelzer thinks that God wants to be in touch with us. Revelations 3:20 reads: Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.

This book is one man’s story of what happened when he opened the door. Not a bad place to start. One never knows where that might lead!

~~~

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. — Hebrews 10:31

April 23rd, 2008

BEING THERE

Sometimes I get ready for Mass and just sort of automatically settle into a pew, look around to see who’s there, follow along in my missalette, responding on cue, and never really say “hello” to God. It may suddenly hit me that I’m just doing a rote thing and have not really lifted my heart or mind even once to Jesus present in the tabernacle and on the altar. I will say, “I’m sorry,” and “Have mercy on me,” and “I’ll try to do better.” And then I go back to responding on cue.

A mother gets up in the morning, gets the kids dressed and fed and off to school, goes about her motherly duties, cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping. She usually does not wake up and say, “This day I will be the best mother ever. This day will be all quality time. This day my children and my husband will really feel my love.” More than likely, she just responds on cue, doing what needs to be done. There is a deep commitment, but it’s not on her mind. She is expected to be there, and she is.
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