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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Monday 15th July 2013

When I Feel Closest to God (My Activist Faith Story)

Dan King is a writer, an “unlikely missionary” and a man with one of the most genuine hearts. He follows hard after the heart of God. And it’s an honor to have him writing here today — the day of his book launch. In honor of his new book, Activist Faith, Dan is giving away two copies today. Leave a comment in the box for a chance to win.

Here’s Dan:

 

activist-faith-orphan

It’s the same routine… every. single. Sunday.

We rush through the morning drills so we can get out the door on time. I drive faster than a Christian probably should, as most of the family finishes their breakfast in the car. When we arrive, we hastily move through the greetings with everyone so we can get the kids checked into kid’s church before the services begin.

I struggle to settle in as we join in the chorus of worship, trying to leave my rushed pace and the worries of the (new) day behind. Then as the pastor begins to share the Word, I go back and forth between thinking about how to apply the Message to my life, and how to keep myself awake after staying up way too late the night before.

As the service comes to a close, we linger to talk with friends who offer smiles and pleasantries. Then it’s off to lunch, and home for naps.

Don’t get me wrong, church is a beautiful place to be. It’s often where many of us find the opportunity to connect with God and His people. Beautiful prayers and acts of worship are offered up to our King as we gather in these places. The sharing of Communion and the life-changing Word are central to these gatherings of the saints.

But, I’ve often wondered if this is where we go to meet God. Is this the Holy Ground that we should be seeking. We rightly treat church as a sacred place where we can congregate and meet with God. But is it the only place?

I want to be with God. I want to be with Him more than anything else in the world. And I figure there are two ways I can find Him. First, I know we can always ask for Him to come into our presence. We can always call on the Name of the Lord, and He’ll be there. It’s refreshing to know that I can count on Him coming to me when I ask. At the same time, what kind of friend only asks for others to come to them?

So the other way to be with the Lord is to go where He is. This realization has led me to look for where He is already at, and go there.

The Bible is very clear on where we can find God. He is with the broken-hearted (Psalms 34:18), the orphans and widows (Psalms 68:5), the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, and imprisoned (Matthew 25:37-40).

If I want to find where God is already hanging out, then I only need to find these people.

It makes perfect sense, if you ask me. God is all about bringing healing to the sick, restoration to the broken, and hope to the hopeless.

The times I find myself closest to God are when I seek out these people, and being a physical manifestation of God’s Love in their lives.

I experience God in the Thanksgiving Outreach while handing out turkeys and boxes of food to families in our community who can’t afford this special feast otherwise. I experience God when I put my arm around the homeless man after handing him a love bag and listening to his story. I experience God when I hug the child left orphaned after an earthquake killed most of his family.

This is why I believe Christian activism is so important. It’s not about doing things to please God. It’s finding Him where He’s already at, and joining Him so we can experience Him in ways that we couldn’t simply by going to church each week and inviting Him into my presence.

***

Have you ever experienced God while serving “the least of these”? Have you found Him in non-sacred places, and discovered that those places are actually more sacred than you ever imagined?

 

For a chance to win a copy of Activist Faith, add a comment below before Friday at noon. Consider answering one of Dan’s questions, or simply tell us that you would like to be entered in the drawing. Winners will be drawn at random.

 

activist-faith-cover

Activist Faith is an invitation to live out our faith, to be grace in action. Jen Hatmaker calls this book “one of those amazing resources that educate people on the issues and equips them to make a difference. A must-read!”

 

About Activist Faith: “The Bible doesn’t call us to like or tweet about or even vote on human need and social problems. It calls us to act–to feed the hungry, visit prisoners, care for orphans, and bring good news to the poor. Join the co-founders of the dynamic Activist Faith movement as they share biblical contexts, personal stories, and practical guidance for engaging twelve divisive social issues. Written for Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and even those who despise religion yet love Jesus, Activist Faith will guide you toward speaking–and living–the truth in love.”

 

 

  • Oh gosh, am I the first? ok, so for a little while, between jobs, I volunteered at an emergency food bank and rarely left after my few hours a week there without feeling like the people whom I was helping knew the true meaning of generosity…

    • dukeslee

      Yep, Leanne! You’re first. We just went live, and we’re looking forward to the conversation that will unfold here. Thanks for kicking it off with your example about volunteering at the emergency food bank. God bless!

    • I love this experience about the the people at the food bank knowing the true meaning of generosity! I’ve often felt the same way… when I try to pour myself out for others, finding that I learn a great deal from those I’m around. #fistbump

  • Have I found Him in non-sacred places? Oh but yes. I’ve learned that it is all sacred, every breath, every movement and every act is an occurrence of worship-it ALL matters. If there is no Grace when you enter, there should certainly be some when you leave…I’d love to win the book. I’ve heard so much about it.

    • You are SO right Chelle! I love finding the sacred in the everyday, redemption in the ordinary places. And we do take Grace with us when we go… #fistbump

    • dukeslee

      Yes, Chelle! Agreed. I think the most sacred is linked to the simplest, the smallest. One need only look to a lowly manger, a simple loaf of bread, water of baptism, a flickering candle.

  • Oh my how I love these words – it just makes it so very simple doesn’t it! I recall the day I was prompted to give my favorite bracelet to the checker at the grocery store (not a place where I expected to encounter God – silly me!) when she commented on how lovely it was. I had just found out she too had been widowed and actually “felt” God’s love for her. She beamed as I put it on her wrist – and so did I.

    • Wow! I’m beaming (and nearly in tears) just hearing about this event! It’s obvious that God was in it! And I love it! Thanks for sharing that experience! #fistbump

    • dukeslee

      Beautiful story, beautiful YOU, “His Sparrow.”

  • Rachel

    I read an article recently that made me think ‘church’ might be an idol for me. It’s so ingrained in me that I need to go to worship on Sunday, but I fail miserably to put forth effort and time into a relationship with Christ otherwise. I am a complacent and prideful pew-warmer and want badly to experience God outside of a church setting while caring for others – and to learn how to humbly accept the hope and healing He brings. (The Unlikely Missionary sparked something in me and I would love to read this book too.)

    • Yeah… And I don’t think you’re alone in the church being and idol thing. But that doesn’t mean that church is bad or wrong. I think that we need to put it in it’s proper place in our lives, and just realize that we can meet God in many more places than just inside that building. Glad to hear that The Unlikely Missionary sparked something in you… and I think this book will kick it up to a whole ‘nother level for you! #fistbump

  • Oh good, I’m not the only one eating breakfast in the car on the way to church on Sunday mornings. 😉 This is a wonderful post and the book is now on my “to read” list. In the past, I’ve been too busy serving AT church to have time to meet God away from church. Thanks for the reminder to hang out where God hangs out.

    • Ha! For me it’s usually a granola bar (or two) that I’m chowing down in the car. I almost always walk in to church with at least one granola crumb on my shirt…

      I’ve always tried to serve AT church a lot too. And that stuff is good. But it’s definitely nice to get out and meet God hanging out with “the least of these,” no matter who and where they are.

      #fistbump

  • To some, my daughter suffers from Down Syndrome, this suffering would qualify her as one of the ‘least of these’. To others, she qualifies simply because of her cognitive challenges. But I have found that I am the one who suffers; we are the ones challenged. Her pure heart and spirit of kindness, her grasp of relationship, and her love of others shine through her life; she has blessed me beyond measure. God’s all-encompassing purpose includes blessing us when we share our lives with ‘the least of these’.

    • I totally get where you’re coming from Janet! It’s ironic when I go on mission to help the “poverty-impacted people,” and discover that they have so much more than I. With my (comparative) riches, I often find myself more poor than they are. That’s part of the beauty of it all… that we can sit and find healing, redemption, and hope together. I love it… #fistbump

  • Erin Littleton

    I’d love to read this!

    • Cool! It’s good, I promise!

  • Libby

    Thanks for the insights, Dan. I have met Jesus in some very remote villages of Ghana in West Africa, first in 2007 and again in 2011. I am blessed to be taking a team there later this year.

    • Yes! I would love to get to West Africa sometime! I am however looking forward to a trip to Uganda and Rwanda coming up in January. I’m already broken and expecting to see Jesus again when I get there. Be blessed on your return to Ghana! I’d love to hear more about it sometime!

  • Deborah Bohland

    Speaks to my heart and brings tears to my eyes. Praying for a servant’s heart.

  • I am so excited about this book (you know how I love The Unlikely Missionary) and to see how God uses it to change lives. I love what you say at the end, Dan: It’s finding Him where He’s already at, and joining Him so we can experience Him in ways that we couldn’t simply by going to church each week and inviting Him into my presence. Wow. That’s it, isn’t it? Praying for an activist kind of faith. And you are a great mentor in that endeavor 🙂

    • Thanks Laura! I remember you doing something related to planting trees in Haiti after you read The Unlikely Missionary, is that right? I can’t wait to see what this book challenges you to do next! Praying for the same heart along with you! #fistbump

  • Holly C.

    I know that any place can be a sacred place – just hearing the excitement as my teenage daughters describe how their youth group helped fold laundry, clean bathrooms, talk with the residents at a homeless shelter – during a time of fasting to raise money to feed children in another country…it is humbling. Church is a good thing, God calls us to fellowship, but “in as much as we have done to the least of these”…I have much to learn from God (and my girls…)

    • Wow! I love it! I bet that was an amazing experience for your girls! And I agree… church is a VERY good thing. And we all have much to learn… I’m not sharing here as an expert in this, but as another who is on the same journey. Be blessed! #fistbump

    • dukeslee

      Holly, One of the most beautiful parts of my parenting life, so far, has been to watch how our children are growing into their own “activist faith.” How wonderful for you to witness that in your teenage girls.

  • Yes indeedily, sir Dan –

    These days I find Him at the Farmer’s Market where I work eight hours every Friday in trade for produce. When I look folks in the eye and ask how they’re doing today, it’s amazing how many will tell you if they know you are willing to listen and ready to care.

    I’ve cried many times and hugged many strangers in my small town park… And God is right there, smack-dab in the middle of it.

    Blessings.

    • Yes! I love it! He is right in the middle of all of that! #fistbump

  • Dan, it sounds like an important book for all us church attenders to read!

    I have met God in the eyes of Nicaraguan farmers as they tell their stories of being able to secure their own plots of land with no interest loans through an organization called “Farmer-to-Farmer”. We share joy in the journey out of poverty; economically for the Nicaraguans, spiritually for us North Americans.

    • That is SO awesome! And I know that this is gonna sound crazy, but would you be interested in writing up something about that Farmer-to-Farmer org for ActivistFaith.org (and maybe add them to the “poverty” resource list)? That’s exactly the kind of story that helps us fuel the movement!

      #fistbump

    • dukeslee

      Intriguing, lynndiane. I’d love to know more about “Farmer-to-Farmer.”

  • Beautiful post – the heart of many put into words. There was a time in our lives when we were doing everything inside the church from printing the bulletins and cleaning the toilets to teaching classes. These are all good and important jobs. The problem was we were doing nothing OUTSIDE the church. Our faith was not being put into action. Our hearts have changed through the years and my heart beats a little faster when I think of the challenge and encouragement this book may bring.

    • Awesome! I love to see that kind of transformation happen in people! And I like that the idea of the book made your heart beat a little faster! #fistbump

  • Yes, I have found while working with special needs children. And when I went to serve in an orphanage in Namibia, Africa for 2 weeks. I’ve also found Him while reading some special books, the latest being “Running for My Life” by Lopez Lomong.

    • Very cool! It’s cool to know that you’ve found Him in several places like that! And I hope many find Him in the pages of this book too! but I’ll have to check out that book you mentioned… #fistbump

  • I would love to read this book, looks great!

    • Thanks! I think it’s definitely worth a read!

  • Patti

    Yes, I have recently found Him as I reach out to love my 88 year old neighbor who recently lost her 97 year old husband. I feel His prompting to give her a call several times a week just to see how she is doing or walk a few houses down to give her a rose from my garden and visit for a few minutes. Last week, I went out to lunch with her and another neighbor who lives across the street from her. During that time, I learned that the other nieghbor’s adult son and grandson, who live with her, both struggle with addictions. God’s calling to love our neighbors seems to expand with each contact. May we be His light where we live and work and play and serve. I look forward to reading your book!

    • I love this kind of neighborhood focus… so often we look for opportunities everywhere else, but then forget the hurting and needs just a few doors down. You rock! #fistbump

  • My brother has been given months to live ….he has lived a broken life….years of addiction….a heart hardened by life…I am asking God to lead me as I am His hands and feet….serving my brother…that my brother would taste and see God’s goodness and grace… And as bob goff says….that I would leak Jesus and leave a puddle of grace when I am with my brother…

    • i’m praying for you and your brother. may the Lord soften his heart, and open the door through your serving to minister to him during his last days/months.

    • dukeslee

      Oh Ro … Praying with you. You leak Jesus, always. And He continues to fill you with more of Himself.

  • Yewande

    “The times I find myself closest to God are when I seek out these people, and being a physical manifestation of God’s Love in their lives.”
    I tell myself sometimes that I don’t want to be a ‘closet’ christian- wear the nice sunday clothes, go to church, come back home and that’s it. That is not all Jesus called me to do as a christian . He called me for more and He said so in Matthew 25 v 31-46.
    On Sunday my church Youth group visited a girls’ correctional facility to have service with them and it was phenomenal. I thank God for the opportunity He gave me to be a part of that service

    • that. is. awesome.

      i love to see that kind of stuff happening! and i’m glad to see God working in your life through it! #fistbump

  • Teresa

    I find that when I listen to that constant pulling that won’t let go of me is the place I find God. We became licensed through foster care and it was something that seemed impossible. We jumped through a lot of hoops. After about 3 years, at the time we were ready to “hang it up” God worked things for a girl to come into our lives.

    The one thing I know from this experience is that God doesn’t lead us to “comfortable”. Often, he leads us to the hard stuff, the gritty stuff, and the “I don’t know if I can do this” stuff, but that is where the glory to God is. There are other places I meet Him that are, on the surface, coincidences, but are really God things.

    • “God doesn’t lead us to ‘comfortable.'” Umm… that’s the truth right there! And in those places when we feel like we’re not enough, we are… because He is enough! Amen to that!

  • dani lacy

    I’ve been to Haiti once… left my heart there with the kids… 🙂

    • Ha! I’ve been there tree times now… left my heart, so I go back to try to find it again, and end up leaving more of it each time. Love that place! Love those people! They inspire me SO much!

  • Jen

    I love seeing God in nature. From sunrise to sunset, and all the stars in the sky, to the everyday beauty we have around us. His creation is something to be marveled every day. If only we could see what He sees when we look at one another. I’m adding your book to my reading list. thanks!

    • Yes! I wrote a little bit about that in my first book, The Unlikely Missionary. We had some downtime and hit a safari… God was so evident in everything I saw out there… just, wow.

  • Jillie

    Well Dan, this is very good. But as soon as I started reading, I was reminded of the book I’ve just finished reading–“Your God Is Too Safe” by Canadian author/pastor Mark Buchanan. He stresses the same thing. It’s not so much asking God to enter OUR presence, as it is being where He is already. And He’s everywhere. Buchanan says there should be none of this secular/sacred divide. All IS sacred, as all was made by Him and all belongs to Him. I haven’t been to church regularly in about 4 years, and I now see God everywhere. He is so holy, and I am so not…I think I need to ask to enter HIS presence, not the other way ’round. What say you?

    • That reminds me of another book, Present Perfect by Greg Boyd. It’s kind of an expansion of his thoughts/experiences from Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God (another GREAT book). And I agree completely… God is in a lot more places than we tend to recognize, huh?

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for being here, Jillie. I love the holy way you approach God, with a reverence for His presence, rather than demanding He just sort of “show up” when we want Him to. I’d love to talk to you in more depth sometime, if you’re willing to share, about your church experience. I’ll privately email you… Take care, friend.

  • Peg Fury

    The first time I went to Haiti, I thought I was going to witness to the Haitians, to encourage them and to tell them how great God is. It makes me laugh now, when I think about it. What happened, of course, is that they witnessed to me, they encouraged me, they showed me what a great God we share. The first time I was in church at Cite Soleil and heard all the prayers going up–“Mesi, Mesi, Mesi””–thank You–I was blown away. I thought, thank you for WHAT? No food, no potable water, no safety, no decent shelter for so many. But they knew what they had–they had Him, in a way I didn’t.

    • Yes! I can totally relate to that! I’ve experienced the same thing in several places. That’s a powerful thing to experience, huh?

    • dukeslee

      Peg! My experience was much like yours. I was in awe of the thankful spirit in those houses of worship. My heart was changed for good and for God.

  • I just know this book is going to be so awesome.

    • At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging… I think it’s pretty awesome! LOL! Seriously though, for me this book wasn’t ever about writing something I think other people needed to hear. It was more about writing something that I would want to read, and that would challenge me to be a better Christian and make a bigger difference in the world! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have!

  • Alana morgan

    I see God in so many places….all around me in my early morning city walks, as I type up prayer requests from weekend services, giving and receiving support from a friend over lunch, reading a good book! Thanks for the chance to win one of yours.

    • I love it! He is definitely in all those places!

  • Peggy K

    I experience the love and peace of the Lord is so many places, at so many times, and sometimes when I least expect it. I pray that I bring glory to God as I serve in ministries that bring great joy to my heart. I am thrilled that I get to be a small part of the bigger story.

    • Oh there you go… you started talking about “the bigger story”! Yep, I’ve been studying and writing a bunch about that too. And I’m glad to hear that you see your role in it! #fistbump

  • I haveb’t volunteered at our food bank, but I have taken food there as well as to our mission. Also collected warm clothing and shoes for the winter months. We don’t have a supply of shoes that are servicable to give away, so I searched our local thrift shops for men’s shoes whice are needed badly. This was just my way of being a part of the whole.

    • Sorry about the spelling – (no spell check on comments.)
      I usually copy and paste to my word document, my problem is also my fingers help me type the words wrong 🙂

    • I love it Hazel! You’re doing some #goodwork!

On a spring night in 1995, Scott asked me to sit down on this bench, beside the Iowa State Campanile. He got down... fb.me/8SZP09JRB