As many of you know, I’ve been reading a series of books by James Bryan Smith. First, The Good and Beautiful God; next, The Good and Beautiful Life; lastly, The Good and Beautiful Community. Everyone at Church on the Hill has been reading these books, as Pastor Brandon has been preaching from them in a nine-month series entitled “The Disciple’s Pathway”. All the small groups are working through them in unison as well. The series has had a tremendous impact on my life and I heartily recommend them.
I’ve enjoyed them so much that I’ve searched out more books by the same author and I’ve found two more: Embracing the Love of God, and a piece of fiction, Room of Marvels. I’m reading these two books a little bit each day.
James Bryan Smith is a chaplain and theology professor at Friends University in Kansas. He was a close personal friend of singer/songwriter Rich Mullins, who died in an auto accident in 1997. In fact, when Rich was at Friends University, he spent two years living in a makeshift apartment in Smith’s attic. The two became very close friends.
The book, Room of Marvels, chronicles a period of time in the life of a man who is a spiritual leader in his church and his community, but who has reached burnout and despair after the death of his toddler-aged daughter, his mother, and his best friend in an auto accident — all in a span of a couple of months. After reading a short while, it seems to be more of an auto-biographical piece of fiction than anything else, recounting Smith’s own struggles in life, and with death and tragedy.
This past week, God has brought a tremendous intersection of… well, I don’t even know what to call it. I’ve been training a gentleman named Tom, who answered a Craigslist Help-Wanted ad to do some property evaluations. We’ve spent several hours together this past week, and one thing led to another, and I asked him about his background – where he went to school and so forth.
He answered, “I went to Friends University.”
“Huh?!? What? Really?” I replied.
“Did you know… do you know… of an author, a teacher/professor named James Bryan Smith?”
“Well, there was a chaplain by the name of Jim Smith.”
“Oh my goodness.”
“And he was best friends with Rich Mullins when he died in that car wreck.”
“Yeah, I knew Rich, too. That was so tragic. In fact, I played with Rich in the last concert he played at Friends.”
“Wow,” was about all I could mutter, trying to figure out what God was trying to do here.
I explained to him all I’ve been reading, and he didn’t realize “Jim” Smith was such a respected and prolific author. We finished our work together that day and I mentioned that I didn’t want to miss what God was trying to do or trying to teach me with this divine “coincidence”. Tom then said, “It probably is more for me than for you.” Not knowing what to say, I just let that hang there in the air, and we continued to finish up the work for the day.
The next day, in the midst of our work, I mentioned that we should have coffee together, and he eagerly agreed. We meet a little later today.
I’ve been in prayer ever since we agreed to meet, using the prayer my friend Donna taught me this week: “I want your will, God. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.” I don’t know what to expect or where this might lead but I’m going in with my eyes and ears wide open.