Right out of the gate, let me say that I had difficulty choosing a book to continue the Books That Bless series with. Having said that, it is important to note that Erwin Raphael McManus’, Chasing Daylight was selected not only because it is significant, but because I recently read it for the third time while researching an article I published in a Christian magazine.
McManus is pastor of “Mosaic,” an emergent sort of congregation in Los Angeles. Mosaic is somewhat unique in terms of its congregational makeup (highly mixed) and because of its location. Mosaic most often meets in a nightclub. Somewhere I recall McManus saying that congregational volunteers normally arrive early on Sunday morning to clean up the club’s mess from Saturday night.
Let me be blunt: I love this book! I first read Chasing Daylight when I was developing a program at LifeBrook designed to assist student’s ability to be more “mindful” of what was going on around them. Like all programs and practices at LifeBrook, I put myself through the suggested disciplines first. I don’t feel it is kosher to ask folks to partipate in a spiritual practice that I have not experience firsthand. I encountered this book at just the right time and its impact on my life was significant. Further, I firmly believe the Spirit brought this book to me at this point in time because McManus covers several issues that are highly pertinent to being more mindful in our daily rounds.
According to McManus, many of us are so preoccupied with the incessant chatter inside our heads that we are often oblivious to our surroundings. I know this has certainly be a reality in my life. It was only after suffering a major cardiac event and subsequent surgery back in 1996 that I began to reassess my life and my priorities. Due to a fairly extended period of forced time away from work, I was fortunately better able to come to grips with some aspects of my life that needed radical change. One of the issues that God laid on my heart (as it was healing) was the need for more mindfulness and this required a reduction in the hectic pace with which I normally went about my business. The five years I spent in China only deepened this transformation.
McManus spends part of the book discussing the fact that it is in the present moment that we often discover divine activity. He calls these “divine moments” in which God often reveals something of import. We have these moments with regularity but many of us miss them because we are just not paying attention to what is going on. Learning to be more cognizant of divine moments is important, but does not constitute and end in itself. According to McManus, it is in these moments that we move from living a routine and largely monotonous life to finding God’s purpose and God’s passion.
McManus goes on to say that he spent much of his life as a “sideliner,” a person who was a passive observer of life rather than a passionate particpant in the unfolding of God’s dramatic story of restoration. I read this and related deeply to what the author was saying. I am a thinker and have the unfortunate capacity to complicate something as simple as a postage stamp. McManus tells us that the best way to overcome this sideliner sydrome is to seize divine moments and allow them to transform us:
Until our bodies return to dust, there will always be a voice crying within us to move from existence to life. The possibilities that await us in each moment are fueled by the potential God has placed within us. Seizing divine moments is not simply about opportunity; at the core it is about essence. It’s about the kind of life you live as a result of the person you are becoming…..It is in this process of transformation that we find the fuel to engage with confidence the opportunities placed before us.
A related issue covered by McManus concerns our frequent seeking of God’s will. He makes the point that many of us perhaps spend too much time seeking God’s will, when, in fact, that divine will has already been revealed to us is scriputure. In short, the Bible tells us that we are to be Christ’s hands and feet on earth and each divine moment, if we pay attention, will reveal to us how we can carry out that will on a consistent basis. I know this has been true in my own life and in the lives of more than a few of my friends. In years past, we spend much time discussing and debating what it is that God would have each of us do, how were were to do it, and when. The danger in this line of pursuit is that we often became paralyzed into sort of an intellectual game of discernment at best and missional nitpicking at worst.
God’s will, simply put, is to find a need and meet it.
McManus makes the point that it is imperative that Christians understand that simply making choices between good and evil, right and wrong, is not enough when it comes to carrying out our kingdom responsibilities. We are told to go beyond these choices and to live a life of proactive pursuit of doing good.
We must resolve not only to leave the path of doing evil, but also to passionately pursue a life of doing good…..It is rarely counted as evil when we live in neutral. At worst a passive life is only pitied, yet God counts it as a tragedy when we choose to simply watch life rather than live it. Jesus described as wicked the person who leaves his talent unused. When we fail to choose, we choose to fail. You cannot put your life on hold. It moves forward with or without your approval. Choosing not to choose does not put off the problem; it only exacerbates it.
I highly recommend McManus’ book. It is a good read, it challenges the reader’s thinking on a number of key issues, and is highly practical. The author cuts to the chase when it comes to giving a picture of the importance of “divine moments” and, further, how to recognize God’s will in those moments.
I especially suggest this book to those among you who may feel that you are existing but not living; that you increasingly feel finding God’s purpose and your own passion has taken on the character of a greased pig; and particularly if you are squandering precious time and God-given talents while a hurting world is desperately crying out for exactly what you have to offer.
(c) L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved