Saturday, May 11, 2013

Well done, good and faithful servant

It's hard to imagine that Dallas Willard is no longer in this world, that his gentle smile and his brilliant intellect and his warm and loving heart are now part of the past.

Those who were with him at the end have said that his last words were "thank you."  If I could have been there, those would have been my words to him as well--words of gratitude for profoundly challenging my own spiritual formation and for making the evangelical milieu in which I live a kinder and gentler place.

There have been some wonderful tributes online.  This one is my favorite, I think, written by Dallas's dear friend Richard Foster.  It's hard to imagine that without Dallas there might not have been Celebration of Discipline or Renovare or any of the rest.  This one is by my dear friend Matt Rosine, and describes perfectly the gratitude of those of us who loved Dallas from a distance.

People have also been describing their memories online;  I personally have two.  One is from more than a decade ago, when we had all first read The Divine Conspiracy and were still unsure of what we had read.  My father and I attended a Renovare conference together and at the end, we stood in line to have our books signed, something that was uncharacteristic of my dad.  As I handed my book to Richard Foster, I glanced over as Dallas Willard put his arms around my father in a gentle embrace.

The last is especially poignant and is the first thing I remembered when I heard that Dallas had died.  Last year, my friend and I drove to Wichita again, this time to hear Richard Foster and others, and learned that Dallas was recovering from very serious surgery.  Richard said that he had visited with Dallas shortly before the operation and that Dallas had gripped his hand and said with his characteristic gentle smile, "Whatever happens, my friend, it will be glorious."

It seems that God gives every generation of his people a few of his servants they don't deserve.  Usually, it seems, they end up ignored or shouted down or martyred.  For some reason, though, Dallas made it easy for us to hear him even though what he was saying wasn't always easy to hear.  Here is a sampling:

We are becoming who we will be forever.

Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

God does not love us without liking us.

"It is not the rights of women to occupy "official" ministerial roles, nor their equality to men in those roles that set the terms of their service to God and their neighbors. It is their obligations that do so: obligations which derive from their human abilities empowered by divine gifting. It is the good they can do, and the duty to serve that comes from that, which impels them to serve in all ways possible. Women and men are indeed very different, and those differences are essential to how God empowers each to induce the Kingdom of God into their specific life setting and ministry. What we lose by excluding the distinctively feminine from "official" ministries of teaching and preaching is of incalculable value. That loss is one of a few fundamental factors which account for the astonishing weakness of "the Church" in the contemporary context."

"I am thoroughly convinced that God will let everyone into heaven, who, in his considered opinion, can stand it. But 'standing it' may prove to be a more difficult matter than those who take their view of heaven from popular movies or popular preaching may think. The fires in heaven may be hotter than those in the other place." - 

In the United States, of course, he would tell us about the “good Iraqi,” 
“good Communist,” “good Muslim,” and so on. In some quarters it would 
have to be the good feminist or good homosexual.... All of these break 
up pet generalizations concerning who most surely is or is not leading 
the eternal kind of life.  In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus not only teaches us to help people in need; more deeply, he teaches us that we cannot identify who "has it," who is "in" with God, who is "blessed," by looking at exteriors of any sort. That is a matter of the heart.... Draw any cultural or social line you wish, and God will find his way beyond it. "Human beings look at the outer appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart" (I Sam 16:7). And "what humanity highly regards can be sickening to God" (Luke 16:15).

"We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilirating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth an depth and richness." 

Repentance is thinking about your thinking.

Don't ask, "What would happen if you died tonight?"  Ask, "What if you don't die tonight?  What happens tomorrow?"

We are better at making good church members than we are at making disciples of Jesus.

Don't announce the revolution.

And then there's this (Scroll down to the video with Dallas Willard and John Ortberg and watch all the way to the end):

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