A year ago I spent a weekend with Diana Butler Bass at Rock Springs 4-H camp. Bass is a religion scholar and author of nine books on American religious history. She is also smart, insightful and tells delightful, thought-provoking stories of faith and hope.
During that retreat she was deep at work on her latest book, a project bringing together social research, theology, science, and deeply personal storytelling. In and through this rich mix rises practical guidance to finding God’s presence in the ordinary stuff of Earth.
“Grounded: Finding God in the World — A Spiritual Revolution” encourages the reader to see the world around with new eyes.
“I have learned to love the dirt,” said Bass, “The dirt is a miniature universe. When I scoop up dirt in my hand I immediately think that I’m holding a universe.”
Grounded is her prayerful determination to take on the challenge of changing perceptions of God and church; God who is no longer only “on high” but among and with us. She tells of hearing Louis Armstrong sing “What A Wonderful World” on Sept. 12, 2001 and in tears asking “Where was God?” in the midst of all this devastation. “Grounded” was her attempt to flesh out what she calls a spiritual revolution and spiritual awakening.
“Millions of people are experiencing God as more personal and accessible than ever before. This is not a romanticized greeting card divinity, but it is a God who is robustly present in the chaos, suffering, and confusion surrounding us, the Spirit who invites us to save the planet and make peace with the whole human family, and who is a companion and partner in creating a hope-filled future. This is the God that many are reaching toward, realizing that a far-off God will not do.
“A God who is not with us cannot be for us. The only God that makes sense is a God of compassion and empathy who shares the life of the world.”
I find myself coming back to the question “What grounds me?” What grounds us as people of God and followers of Jesus? Is it our buildings, our denominational affiliation, our worship style, our traditions …? What grounds us when Sunday becomes just another day of work and the traditional habits and answers no longer satisfy?
I know there are many faithful people who are asking those questions. I found this book provocative in its questions and insights and yet offered from a place a deep and abiding faith in the God who became flesh in Jesus the Christ. She concludes the book with “Seek and find.” “God is with us. Here.”
The Rev. Celeste Lasich is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Hays.