On Writing, Reading, and Richard Dahlstrom

So it’s been a very long time since my last post. If it makes you feel any better, I do feel embarrassed about that, and in fact, it has been my embarrassment that has led to writer’s block. My excuse, however, is that I have been busy getting married (May 28), honeymooning (in Ashville, NC, in case you were wondering), and becoming a wife and homemaker in Seattle. Not to mention that exactly three weeks after our wedding day, I was on a plane to Richmond, then, a few days later, on a plane to New York, returning one week later.

I guess it’s fair to say, I’ve been busy.

But I have also been reading, and I am excited to tell you about one of the books that has been riding around in my backpack: The Colors of Hope, by Richard Dahlstrom.

I should backtrack and tell you that Richard and I have never met in person, but I have known of him for a few years. Those of you who read my Conversant Life blog might know that Richard is also a Conversant Life blogger, and it was there that I first discovered the “Rain City Pastor.”

Of course, at the time, I did not know – or really care – what “Rain City” referred to. I had no way of knowing that I would, someday, be a resident of the Rain City myself. Nor could I have known that my then-fiancé and I would find ourselves worshiping at the church Richard pastors in Greenlake on Easter Sunday 2011. We were visiting churches and had heard good things about Bethany Community Church, so we decided to “check them out.” It wasn’t until we were sitting there in the pew reading the bulletin that I realized I (sort of) knew the pastor, and in fact we were Facebook friends. I wrote on his wall as I sat there waiting for the service to start, and that was the slow beginning of a new friendship.

Back in my Conversant Life days, I also received a review copy of Richard’s first book, 02: Breathing New Life into Faith. I read it, enjoyed it, and passed it on, but as I sit here now, looking at the stack of books beside me, I am suddenly wondering which of these authors might become a future friend? I sort of wish I had held on to 02 now, because I would like to go back and read a few of the parts that I can only dimly recall the gist of now.

That said, there is one thing I can tell you without re-reading 02: Richard Dahlstrom’s second book begins where 02 left off, and The Colors of Hope takes us further up and further in to the intense journey of walking with Jesus.

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I should stop right here and tell you that if you are content and happy with where you are in your journey of faith, and if you prefer that your happy little boat not be rocked, steer clear of this book. For some reason, God has decided to give this man a remarkable life, or at least a deeper-than-usual sensitivity to the remarkable aspects of a normal life, characterized by full-frontal confrontations with what the apostle James referred to as “faith without deeds.” For years, like many of us who have been Christians for most of our lives, Richard was marching along happily in God’s army, about the business of saving sinners, when he discovered the things that seem to matter most to God (judging by the attention they are given in scripture), and how the things God seems to prioritize are often not the same things his followers prioritize, if you consider how we spend our time, money, and words.

Using the analogy of art – specifically, visual art – Richard explores what the Lord wants from his people, according to Micah 6:8 (incidentally, a governing passage in my life). Referring to these as the “primary colors,” he explores what it looks like to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Without sacrificing the importance of spiritual salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, Richard provides robust illustrations, scriptural references, and common sense anecdotes to remind the reader that Jesus prayed that God’s kingdom would come and God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven today. Borrowing from an eclectic index of authors, theologians, and artists to support his conclusions, Richard offers a fresh and inspiring commentary on how God’s people can add the color of hope to the world around us by becoming people of mercy, justice, and love as we walk this world.

With a refreshing sense of his own fallibility coupled with a zeal for sucking every last bit of watermelon off the rind of life, Richard strikes me as a middle-aged man who never quite got the memo that he’s reaching the age where he should start slowing down and letting the next generation pick up the slack. Far from it, as I learned on Easter Sunday. Richard is too busy building wells in Africa, teaching theology classes in India (and many other places), and challenging his flock at Bethany to live remarkable lives for the sake of setting the captives amongst us free.

My husband and I had already decided that we wanted to plant ourselves in a church near our house in West Seattle, so we did not join Bethany. However, we left church that Sunday and had a long conversation about how we wanted our marriage to be marked by the things Richard shared about. We discussed how much of our income, beyond the tithe we would give our local church body, we wanted to contribute to ongoing efforts toward justice around the world.

You can’t read a book like The Colors of Hope and then carry on with business as usual. If you are a Christian, you will put this book down and be filled with a fresh sense of your purpose and calling, relieved by the reminder that our faith is not tame, predictable, or comfortable, but it is good – always good. And if you are not a Christian, reading this book just might encourage you to reconsider the glorious invitation to walk with Jesus. For those who do, the world becomes vibrant with the colors of faith, hope, love, mercy, justice, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and – oh yes, did I mention LOVE?

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To that end, I’d like to share the love. Leave a comment below answering the following question to be entered into a drawing for my (slightly dog-eared) copy of “The Colors of Hope.”

What is one way you know of that Christians are coloring the world with hope by embodying mercy, justice, and love? It can be someone you know personally or someone you have heard of, anywhere in the world. Please share, and give us links if they have web sites so we can know more about their work!!

2 thoughts on “On Writing, Reading, and Richard Dahlstrom

  1. Beautiful, thoughtful review written by someone who has a solid grasp on the Christian faith and an almost enviable mastery of the common language. Thanks for sharing, Christy.

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