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Guest Blog by Melissa McCreery
I recently read New York Time’s bestseller An Invisible Thread — the true story of ad executive Laura Schroff and her unlikely friendship with Maurice, an 11-year-old homeless boy panhandling the streets of Manhattan. I was on one of my frequent excursions into the Barnes & Noble labyrinth of shelves when I stumbled upon Schroff’s book. The title caught my attention as it reminded me of the 2012 Justice Conference theme, Love is a Thread.
We’re here for a common purpose,
United by a common cause.
Artists, scholars, activists, writers, musicians.
Everyday folks who are making justice a priority.
Feed your soul. Grow your mind. Share your heart.
Raise your hand. Ask the question. Introduce yourself and join the conversation.
The stage is set. It’s time to begin.
Justice is a garment.
Love is a thread.
– The 2012 Justice Conference Program
Indeed, justice was the garment and love was the thread that drew Schroff to Maurice after initially passing him on a busy Manhattan street corner in 1986. While Maurice had been utterly invisible to thousands of passersby that day, he was not invisible to Schroff.
As I’ve read and Schroff and Maurice’s story unfolds, and their unique friendship develops, I couldn’t help but think about the hundreds of people like Maurice I’ve passed in my life — in Los Angeles, in Boston, and right here in Bend. I had to ask myself, “How many people have I made invisible outside the local Starbucks? How often have I walked past a person (maybe even a child like Maurice) in need, not even seeing them?” It’s not an ill-intentioned or malicious decision as much as it’s neglect. Pure and simple. Neglect to take notice of the vulnerable and the hurting. As An Invisible Thread points out, when poverty and the degradation of human life become visible, we typically don’t wish to think about it so we ignore it.
I’ve challenged myself to walk through life with my eyes (and my heart) wide open. To never lessen the hurting of others by making them invisible.
As much as An Invisible Thread is a story about Schroff, about Maurice, about poverty and the drug epidemic plaguing this country, it’s also about everyday people and everyday experiences. At its core, it’s a book that heralds the beauty of the human spirit; the significance of intentionality; the transcending power of hope.
“The truth is, we are all giving our lives away…”
Pursuing Justice showed up in my mailbox sometime before Christmas, and then sat on the workbench in my garage for a few months. I’m not sure why I put off reading it for so long – maybe because the idea of reading and reviewing books still reminds me a little bit of college, and it’s much easier to spend the evenings watching Netflix on my oversized TV. Or maybe it’s because I knew from the title that this book, like Red Letter Revolution, would walk right up in my face and smack me and leave me questioning my entire lifestyle (especially my oversized TV).
But once I finally picked up Pursuing Justice, I had a hard time putting it down. I read most of it in one night, circling and underlining paragraphs like an over-eager freshman, turning pages at a rate that would make Good Will Hunting proud. And now, on the day of the book’s official launch, I am here to break it all down for you so that you don’t even have to read it yourself. Just kidding. I’m gonna tell you just enough about the book to make you want to order it on Amazon, and then leave you with a fistful of quotes that you can feed into the Twitter machine and spray out across the interwebs for the good of the people whilst waiting for your very own copy to arrive in the mail.
As Ken Wytsma notes throughout the book, “social justice” has somehow acquired a sort of political designation over recent decades. For a while, it was the nearly exclusive property of the “liberals”, whilst the “evangelicals” focused on, well, evangelism. Now, “justice” is making a comeback in popularity amongst the trendy Scripture-tattoo v-neck Christian generation (a group which includes me and my sadly ink-free skin). However, Wytsma digs into the Bible and emerges with a pile of Bible verses which make a pretty compelling case for “justice” at the heart of all Christian faith and expression. (see: the book of James). Throughout Pursing Justice, he answers some basic but important questions:
What is justice? Why does it matter? How should it affect my life?
And instead of providing easy answers to these difficult questions, he leads us into a conversation that is just the starting point for a justice-oriented life. A righteous life requires more than just the avoiding of sinful actions; it demands that we labor along with Jesus to heal the brokenness in the world because of sin. I love that his reference for justice is shalom. “Injustice and sin”, he writes, “tears the fabric of shalom. The astonishing reality is that we are also part of God’s plan for meding the fabric of shalom.” This is his starting point. All the details – the specifics of a justice-centered life – are shards in the mosaic of justice that God is creating.
God has given all of us a deep desire for happiness. Sadly, we usually try to find happiness by piling up wealth and comfort around us. But Wytsma suggests that the desire for happiness is only fulfilled when we live for something bigger than ourselves, when we live for justice.
“The truth is, we are all giving our lives away – the only question is, to what?”
That’s all I have for now. Buy the book. Read it. Let its words sit with you. Underline some stuff. Let Jesus whisper into your heart about what you should do. Listen to his invitation to join Him in the big, beautiful work of justice.
And now, as promised, here are a few words from the pages of Pursing Justice for your copy/paste pleasure:
“Pure religion, then, is a reflection of God’s love.”
“God’s heart beats with justice.”
“He is greatly concerned with how we treat each other, our use of material wealth, and the extent to which we care for the marginalized.”
“All too often, we fixate on the static study of God at the expense of participating in what God is doing in the world.”
“God’s love in us should compel us to be tangibly involved in the needs of the world.”
“Justice has no finish line.”
“The way we consume directly affects the lived realities of other people, whether we want it to or not.”
“God never asks us to choose between doing justice and loving Him… He asks us to do both at once.”
“Grace allows the unjust to stand next to a just God as if we are just. It covers our sins and reconciles us to God.”
“Justice is a thread running throughout the gospel.”
BONUS: If you buy this book, you’ll learn the dark history behind “eenie meanie miney moe.” Spoiler alert: It’s about slavery and rape.
Leave a comment below or share the Book Landing Page or Promo Video on Facebook and tag me to be entered to win a free copy of Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things!
(Winner will be chosen at random on Sunday, February 17th)
Complete the form below to be entered in the giveaway and be added to the official Pursuing Justice Book Launch Team.
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I loved reading the Facebook Post below from vocal artist Peter Satarseh. Peter was hired by Thomas Nelson Publishers to do the voice recording for the audiobook version of Pursuing Justice.
Give it a read and follow the image at bottom to view on Amazon.com.
Friends! I had NO idea what God had in store when I was asked to lend my voice to record a new book that Thomas Nelson is releasing next month!
Initially, recording this project came from my desire to help Joshua Goggans, a friend-of-a-friend. But what an unexpected gift from God!
[Many of you are aware of my passion for “justice” ministry and building bridges across social divides. I felt so strongly about OUR obligation to build relationships rather than joining weekend teams that blow in and out of town, checking off our “outreach scorecards,” that several years ago I began writing “Don’t Dry Their Tears. Kiss Them. called to compassion.” My prayer was to inspire and mobilize people to live life intentionally, serving others and “pouring it all out” for the sake of Christ.]
Well, today we finished recording and my heart is Full, and yet very much at rest. This IS the message…Nearly all that was in my heart has been harolded loud and clear in this manuscript.
I haven’t yet met Pastor Wytsma, but I can tell you that this work is balanced, backed-up, bold, and gets to the heart of the matter! I promise you-it is Imparative for you to read and share. I have ZERO material incentive to say this, but please hear me: pre-order, purchase, and buy a second as a gift for someone! And if you want me to read it to you, buy the audio version!
May God inspire a deep work in your heart.
His Peace+ Peter
Click on the image below to hear the recent interview with FUEL RADIO on Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things.
I just received the Advanced Readers Copies of Pursuing Justice.
The book is set for a February 12th Publication Date.
Writing a book is the biggest and longest sustained task I’ve done in as long as I can remember. (I’m dreading ramping back up this Spring for the second manuscript!)
If you’re a blogger or writer willing to do a review of the book for when it releases, let me know and I’d be happy to get you one of the readers copies!
Just e-mail me at ken (at) antiochchurch.org