God Bless the Whole World — No Exceptions

I started listening to NPR a few years ago because I had entered a season of needing to hear a different voice, of wanting to listen to viewpoints and encounter opinions that I did not share.  In these days of challenging conversations around politics and race, it’s important for me to remember that I am called to love, to trade my litmus tests for conversations with real people.  In navigating the deep divides within the church on everything from immigration and the role of women to worship style and the definition of family, more than ever the body of Christ must be the force that passes through our differences all the way to grace.  Deidra Riggs reminds me in ONE that Unity in a Divided World must be an intentional thing, something that we pray for and work toward.  Jesus modeled this focused attention in His prayer recorded in John’s Gospel:

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

This begs the question for this middle-aged, stodgy, and opinionated soul:  Can I love my neighbor “without being concerned about whether [my] neighbor is right?”  King Solomon and Parker J. Palmer invite me into a Third Way in which my soul hears well and is, therefore, enabled to choose the God-honoring, others-serving path that may go against the grain.

Ambassadors of Unity

Deidra traces the path of reconciliation that leads to oneness, urging readers:

  • to ask challenging questions about our motives for living toward the homogeneous and the “safe”;
  • to offer and to seek forgiveness;
  • to continually remind one another that we are one.

The Two Chairs

Whenever people come together, there are two chairs in the room.  One is the seat of justice, and the other is the seat of mercy.  “Only God has the credentials to sit in both of those seats and perfectly administer both justice and mercy,” (64) and while we may crave justice, it is critical to recall that God “does not ignore our broken hearts” when He invites us to sit in the seat of mercy and to view life from the perspective of someone who has wronged us.  (75)

When Jesus prayed for his followers (present and future), He would not have been blindsided by the fact that an outcome of His magnificent creativity would be uniqueness — manifested in differences of opinions.  It would be alarming if we all walked in lockstep on every issue.

“Oneness is not about conforming.
Oneness is about transforming.”  (97)

The oneness that Jesus prayed for us is bigger than our position on an issue or our political affiliation.  The challenge is to love well — especially if disagreements make love an unlikely thing, for then the radical love of God is put on display.

Going to Ferguson

Because her heart was broken, and because she needed to see the fallout from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Deidra boarded a plane and spent three days in the sweltering heat, living in the midst of the tragedy and joining in the lament.  Two years later, when Alton Sterling was killed, she used the internet as a virtual gathering place in which the “Prayers of the People” became an invitation to come together around shared grief.  Looking squarely at tragedy, acknowledging together that we live in the space between what is and what will be can be the starting place for God-initiated transformation leading to oneness in heart and in mind.

Spiritual Integrity

Like Deidra, I am the bologna in a generational sandwich.  Mine comprises an elderly mother on one side, and on the other, a range of adult and teen sons.  Add to this a quest for a vibrant marriage, ministry, blogging, and the occasional cup of tea with a friend, and the tendency is to fragment, bringing only part of the self to each aspect of life. Unity in a divided world requires personal and internal oneness which brings a screeching halt to the sacred/secular dichotomy and nullifies the “requirement” that I be all things to all people.  Only Jesus can do that, and it turns out that His prayer in John 17 is a prayer for integrity, a heart’s cry from the Son to the Father against the “massive fault line that runs through the center of my soul.” (156)

The unity that Jesus prayed for among those who believingly follow Him is a product of the “oneness within each follower.” (157)  Spiritual integrity de-emphasizes lines of division, assuring our hearts that all of life is sacred.  We care for and respect our one-and-only heart through radical practices of grace, going home to our roots for restoration, and recalibrating our perspective through regular observance of Sabbath (which Eugene Peterson defines this way:  “Take nothing for granted.  And do it every week.”)

Gathered under God’s loving wings, may we look around us at all those within His vast circumference and find, to our great surprise, that this is what it means to be One; that this shared protection and provision is proof that God loves the whole world and delights in each one of us — no exceptions.

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This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Invitation to Adventure

I may possibly have rolled my eyes a teensy bit as I glanced at the 3×5 card from my pocket:

“Sing praise to the Lord for He has done gloriously.  Let this be made known in all the earth,” Isaiah 12:5.

It’s not that I disbelieve the first clause; no, it’s the scope of the second clause that triggered the response.  However, today, pushing a lawnmower, hair like Medusa in a wild autumn breeze, my eye-rolling response went immediately into auto-correct, because I had already turned the final page of Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs, and her words were still singing quietly under the injunction of that ancient prophet.  The truth is that I am a small-platform kind of person, and if I want to make something known even  “in all the house,” I’d better say it at the dinner table on an evening when everyone is home — and then hope that everyone was listening!  It’s easy to feel insignificant, even obsolete, but I am learning that God has a different message to share:

“Most of us will make a difference in this world, but not because of some grand or large-scale initiative.  No, most of us will change our corner of the world and make an impact that stands the test of time through the small and seemingly insignificant [to us] interactions and decisions and conversations of our average days.  We make a difference where we live, and incrementally, that place begins to shift.”

What a relief to be reminded that my sandwich-making, mini-van driving, vegetable canning days are not inconsequential.  In our culture of “go big or go home,” it is a gift to hear that faithfulness to God’s daily assignments in a particular time and place can make breathtaking changes — first of all, in me.

A skilled story teller, Deidra starts us out in her little yellow childhood home on Sycamore Avenue or soaring over the earth in a stylish parachute, but before we know it, we’re in New Testament era Palestine, witnessing a close call with an impromptu execution.  The strands of a tale twine like DNA, infusing the life of a lesson into the weaving, and straightening out the crooked fibers of the lies that we tell ourselves:

  • We feel small when we focus on our sin and forget grace.  Instead of helplessly watching the parade as your record of wrongs struts itself before your eyes, claim the truth from Romans 8:1!  No condemnation!
  • We feel small when fear stops serving us and starts controlling us.  Every Little Thing unfolds the road map revealing that “trust is the pathway through fear.”

I suspect that the reason Deidra’s words resonate with encouragement is that her high view of God translates into a high view of His people:

“The voice of God breaks through the chaos, and the excellency of the power is of God and not of us, and it is so magnificent that it slips through and into the very fiber of our beings so that we have to still our hearts and catch our breath and trust that light scatters the darkness every time.”

Every Little Thing trumpets the power of the timeless Gospel.  We add nothing to it by all our goodness, and we take nothing away from it in all our brokenness.


Visit Deidra’s blog, Jumping Tandem, and read more about Every Little Thing, as well as a wealth of other encouraging words.


This book was provided by BakerBooks, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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