Dear Katie, Claire and Andy,
Your grampa’s column-writing has hit a little milestone of sorts, and I wanted to share it with you. This column begins my 21st year of writing faith-and-values reflections for The Spokesman-Review. Amazing to me (and maybe outrageous to some of my more reactionary readers)!
I tell you this because you kids have been an important part of this whole adventure. Since Katie was born, I’ve written occasional letters to you all. They have been part of my legacy to you. Fortunately, you’ve told me you enjoy them.
One of the first “sample” columns I wrote that got me noticed by the newspaper’s features editor was about Kara, a 5-year-old sweetheart who was born with AIDS. She stole my heart at a retreat I helped lead in 1993 for people living with AIDS. She and her mother were there. The first column I wrote “for real,” in March 1996, was “God Shows Us Hospitality in Radical Ways.” It began with a story about your daddy when he was about 7 years old and really tested my patience. My basic theme in the column was about how we (everyone!) all live in the same metaphorical house even if we are in very different rooms. The last words of that column?
“I’m eager to dialogue with persons who live in different rooms from me, from other persons. Friends, we all live in the same house! There is room for us all to explore, experience and act out God’s Radical Hospitality in our common and specific searches for truth. So let’s get on with it!” Kids, the fact I’m still writing after all these years suggests that readers took me up on my invitation. I have heard from so many people during these years.
Most are thankful for the kind of inclusive, radically hospitable God I try to portray. Others honestly wonder if I’m even a Christian because my view of Christian faith is so strange, and maybe fearful, to them. Yet we all still live in God’s House together, just in very different rooms. Another adventure your daddy and I had together became an example for my June 1996 column. When your dad was 14, we shared an overnight canoe trip on a river with a pastoral friend of mine and his 14-year-old son.
Much of the river was shallow, so we adults sometimes got out and moved the canoe along. Just by our campsite, the river became narrow and the water deep. The mini-rapids filled our canoe and it sank beneath us. All was well with us, and the canoe, but it was scary for a bit.
The column finished like this:
“Drifting only in the shallow water makes us shallow people. And God didn’t make us to live in the shallows of life.
That may be a safer place. But God knows that the more abundant life is in the deeper, faster water where live the real adventures awaiting our souls. Come on in, the water’s fine! Just fine!”
After these many years and more than 300 columns, kids, I still write about God’s radial hospitality. I also challenge myself and other people to live our lives at deeper levels every day. When we live shallow, we are still pretending to be in ultimate control. That doesn’t really take faith/trust. Faith/trust is when the water is too deep for us to stand up in, and we need to learn to swim. After 20 years, I’m still learning. Please join me!
The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is the founder of Elder Advocates. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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