And into the heart of God

Dear Ann:

You must get thousands of notes in response to your book One Thousand Gifts. So when I concluded my (slow) read of it, and wanted to express my deep appreciation, I thought, ‘Oh, she get so many letters I will not bother.’ But as the days have gone by, and as the gracious effects of your book not only continue to linger in my soul but actually blossom (!), I decided I would write you.

Thank you for sharing your journey. You are a courageous woman. You are also uniquely gifted; keen observer of reality, willing to enter into the pain of life, seeker of God, one who presses into the heart of God in such a way I want to follow on your heels.

Two things I especially wanted to share with you.

1. I have been on a similar path for a number of years. In 1981 I hit my first encounter with depression; very severe that year. I was pastoring the fastest growing Presbyterian church in Los Angeles at the time, had just welcomed our first son (adopted), married to a beautiful woman who lives servanthood as few I know, in demand as a speaker … but deeply depressed, spiraling into a dark pit. Two graces that enabled me to keep moving through the tunner toward the light. One, preaching through Paul’s letter to the Romans, taking Karl Barth’s great phrase “Total Help for Total Need” as the series title (I have not yet been able to preach Romans again because the feelings are still so tender around it). And two, learing to write down in my journal 20 things I am grateful for every day. I have been doing this everyday (with a couple of expections) for 32 years now; it has kept me going through the years of infertility, typhoid fever in Manila, the agnst of pastoring churches, a son falling off a 120 foot cliff in a hiking accident suffering severe brain damage and a few years later taking his own life, a heart attack 10 months ago, anguishing with a church going through much needed change, and more. Your work adds fuel to the fire, faning the passion. Your articulating the seqeunce – remembing graces with thanksgiving, builds trust, leading to joy – is so right. You have been on my “20” list for some time now!

2. I would imagine that by now someone has told you what the NT Greek word for joy is. It is chara, the root of charis, grace; and thus eu-charis, good-grace; and your blessed word, eucharisteo, I give thanks for good-grace. Leading to chara, joy. Or is it joy leads to grace, to thanksgiving? That is, the Joy that the Trinune God of grace enjoys from all eternity, the Joy the Joy-God (to quote you) has in giving grace, charis, to us, the Joy the Joy-God then finds in our euchariisteo. Anyway, I thought you might, if you do not already know it, find joy in the linguistic connection. (You can find all the exegetical data in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. IX, 359-415).

May grace-charis and joy-chara be multiplied to you in ever fresh ways,

In Christ,

Darrell W. Johnson

(Preaching Pastor for First Baptish Church, Vancouver; former Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, Regent College; author of a number of books; father of four adopted children from four different countries of the world; and now lover of eight grandchildren!)

By: Darrell W. Johnson

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