I’m so thrilled to introduce you to my friend, Preston Yancey. Preston and I have known each other for years now, initially writing alongside of one another at A Deeper Story, but then developing a true friendship. He’s like a younger brother to me in some ways. When we finally met in person a year or so ago – along with his then-fiancé-now-wife Hilary – it only solidified what we suspected: we were friends and would do life alongside of each other even from far away.
I finished an early version in a dingy filthy airport motel preparing to fly to Haiti in a few hours. I read it on the flight from Dallas to Miami, absolutely devoured it and gulped it down. Preston did good good work. It’s just so honest. He didn’t shy away from his own pride or even arrogance, but he deals so tenderly with his old self, too. It’s like a whole world I can’t even fathom because I didn’t get to go to school like him and his world is so different from mine, and yet I saw myself in his words. So much richness and goodness. Preston is never the hero of the story, the Spirit and the Church is, and I love that he had the guts to do that.
I loved this conflicted, honest, and beautifully written book. In some ways, it’s a glimpse of a foreign world for us non-academics and yet it’s a universal story of heartbreak, growing up, community, pride, friendship, and the disruptions and pursuits of a not-safe-but-good God. If you’ve tucked your version of God or Church or love into a stale airless room with three point manifestos, prepare for the free wind of the Spirit to sweep in and open up the doors. There’s a whole world outside.
Preston: When Sarah offered me the chance to talk a bit about my book with her readers, it took some time to figure out exactly what I wanted to say. I considered a Q&A, an original post, something that was an excurses on the themes in the book. Each fell short, each did not quite feel right.
In the acknowledgements of my book, I mention Sarah as my first spiritual director. A fleshed-out explanation of that would be that her blog was the first one I read that I can say formed my faith, reformed my faith, and made me lean hard into Jesus. So while I jump at the chance to share something in her space, I can’t imagine doing so without in some way paying tribute to the significance she has been in my life and I imagine yours as well. So I have chosen here an excerpt from Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again that is in no small way inspired by Sarah.
This is my story, but I imagine it rings true of yours too.
Walk about Zion, go all around it,
count its towers,
consider well its ramparts;
go through its citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will be our guide forever.36
From the Psalms.
I think about this verse often, about the edges of Zion, the city where God’s glory dwells. The command of the psalmist is to walk about it, to go to its edges, to examine all of its facets, its points, the intricacies of its construction. We are to know this city so well that we may pass on to the next generation what we have seen, what they shall go and see for themselves so that they too may pass it on.
I think of the walls of this city, I think of the walls as orthodoxy. The edges of Zion are the minimal foundations of our belief. Our confessions that Christ is Lord or that the resurrection is literal or that in the beginning God created. The side questions, like whether that creation was by six days of literal work or the miracle of theistic evolution, are not the point. The point is that God is creator. The point is that stepping beyond that basic step, that wall, puts us beyond Zion.
My time at The Church of No Windows was spent mostly testing the soundness of the walls that they believed were in place, or perhaps, more accurately, I was walking around the fields of disbelief trying to bring back survivors to edges of the city. And here I stop, because I must admit that what I did most of the time was bring them back to the walls of my own construction. I had built my own small city within Zion, and I was critical of anyone who tested the walls I had made.
Our God is bigger than our walls. God has God’s own, but I’m not sure we’ve found as many of them as we think.
The action of grace in our hearts is secret and silent.
We bring heaven in.
Some of you know that one of the ways I connect most deeply to faith is by baking, so instead of the usual book giveaway, I was hoping to go one step further. Three commenters on this post will be chose to receive a free copy of the book, but one of them will be further chosen to receive my favourite bread book in the world, Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads, which I began to learn from over a decade ago. It’s my most-recommended, most-referenced text in my kitchen and it feels right in Sarah’s space, where we are so often reminded to do the good work in front of us, to share it here.
To enter for a chance to receive a copy of Tables in the Wilderness and maybe Bernard Clayton’s collection of bread making genius as well, simply leave a comment on this post answering this question: what is a wall of orthodoxy, of right belief, that you used to have that God has begun to challenge in your life?
Comments will close next Saturday. Winners will be contacted by email.