I need to tell you something about me: I am a skeptic by nature. Those of you who know me are not surprised to read this, are you? I have a suspicious streak a mile wide and there are certain trigger words and names that can send me running down that mile-wide road very quickly indeed.
I am not a fan of prescriptive writing, of anything that smacks of “Just 5 Easy Steps to . . . Anything You Care to Mention.” I’m likely to cringe if the language on a blog or in a book gets either too preachy or too syrupy. And I really, really, REALLY resist slogans.
So I will admit to more than a little bit of trepidation when I began to read Kristen Welch’s new book, “Rhinestone Jesus.” There was a quote from John Piper early on. There was some Jesus-y language that made me squirm a little, and I began to fear the guilt trip I was pretty sure was coming at me any minute now.
But I kept reading. Why? Because I believe in the ministry of Mercy House, a home for pregnant young women in Kenya, a ministry which Kristen and her family helped to birth and continue to encourage. Even though it was decades ago, I have lived in Africa. I know the need is great and what I loved about this ministry is that it rose from — and was staffed by — African nationals. For me, that is a huge positive, so I wanted to know more about how it all happened. I was also a blogger and a financial supporter for the wonderful group fund-raising effort for this ministry sponsored by (in)Courage and Dayspring in 2013.
Kristin comes from a Christian tradition and a part of the country that are both very different from my own. She’s a Baptist from Texas, I’m a Covenant pastor from California. She is a more regimented parent than I ever was (although we both agree on the central role of a shared family meal every day), and she is also a dreamer of Big Dreams.
Now I believe in dreaming. I believe in Holy Spirit-planted desire, that thing that gets you moving in a certain direction, that calls your name in the wee hours of the morning, that makes your heart go pitter-pat with both joy and fear. Nothing wrong with dreams at all. But Big Dreams? Sometimes I find myself getting defensive, even resistant, when there is too much talk about those.
It is true that we serve a big God, yes, we do. And sometimes, God calls people to do big things. But most of the time? Most of the time, God calls us to be faithful, wherever we find ourselves. To be constant, to be committed to living out the great commandments, to go deeper in our faith, to walk the talk right here in the neighborhood. So my skeptic-hackles were vibrating a little as this book began to veer in the direction of those Big Dreams.
It was with a huge sigh of relief that I moved into the closing chapters of this book. Because here, it gets really real, really fast. All of the hard work that made this dream come to fruition — and continues to make it grow — has been hard work. Kristen is not afraid to say so and she admits that she feels overwhelmed on a regular basis. She also admits to occasionally falling off that fine edge between obedience and works righteousness — always a danger when we become immersed in the production end of anything.
She also carefully reminds us all that anything we do as an act of worship and obedience can be a way of living out God’s kingdom dreams, right here on planet earth. Tending toddlers, running photocopies, answering phones, providing meals, offering hospitality to the neighbor’s kids — each of these is an opportunity for kingdom work and for personal growth. All that is required is for us to say ‘yes’ to whatever it is we’re being asked to do.
It’s that ‘yes’ that is key.
The ministry of Rehema/Mercy House is a strong and vibrant one, the lived reality of a dream planted in the hearts of the Welch family and their African partners. It really is a Big Dream, and a fine one.
But the ways in which God is working in that place are remarkable precisely because so many people are saying their ‘yes’ to a small act, a small gift, a simple prayer. Big Dreams do not happen without a whole lot of small things coming together in just the right way at just the right time; and I believe that is exactly the way God designed it to work.
Because following Jesus is about individual acts of obedience that are offered in concert with the body as a whole. In truth, there is no small, there is no big — there is the ‘yes’ that is repeated over and over around the globe. And there is the ‘together’ that happens when we each offer our ‘yes,’ no matter what size it is. That is how Kingdom Come happens. This story is a beautiful and moving reminder of that powerful truth.
I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it. You can purchase your own copy at any of these retail sites: