Oh friends, have you read this book yet? Or do you follow the author anywhere online? He offers plenty of encouraging, challenging stuff in highly digestible format, on Instagram for example. In fact, I think that Bob Goff once wrote a study series for the You Version Bible app, which is what put him on my radar, long before I knew about his books. Love Does is next for me to read, though it was first for him to write. Okay. I have been meaning to talk to you about this for several weeks. My friend Kellie and I read it at the same time, just after Christmas, and now every time we see each other, at least one of us makes an excited reference to something in the book. Our husbands haven’t read it yet, but after so many weeks of summary and discussion they have a pretty good idea of its contents.
The book is just 223 pages long and divided into 23 stand-alone chapters that read more like parables from the author’s own life. Sometimes the stories connect, as is bound to happen when they are true; but as Kellie once noted, you can drop in and read a chapter here and there, sporadically and not necessarily in order, and still glean plenty of richness, without losing any sense of continuity. It’s neither a serious nor a studious book, though I took lots of notes and highlighted with abandon. Goff’s style (oh heck let’s be on a first name basis with the guy… I am pretty sure he wants it this way…) Bob’s style is folksy, affable, and casual, though he is highly educated and worldly enough. He refers to characters in is life over and over again as his friends, so much so that by the end of the book I was wondering how he qualifies that word.
Is it a Christianity book, or a spirituality book? I would say without a doubt, that Everybody Always is written with a Christian teaching but is approachable enough for readers from any discipline. It’s not so much about declaring right and wrong as it is about inclusion. About embracing and showing love to, well, everybody you see, all of the time. Bob presses us with bear-hugs into God’s extravagant grace (page viii) and powerful Love, and he shows us through his own life experiences how Jesus is Love and how Love is a verb and how all people in the whole world need and deserve it, no matter what. Kind of the opposite of tribalism, unless you are of the mind the entire human race is one big tribe.
One of my favorite themes from Everybody, Always is the recurring phrase, “People who are becoming Love…” Bob uses this to illustrate all kinds of messages. He starts one sentence after another with these words and finishes with examples of how humans can make meaningful efforts for transformation, for generosity, for greater openness. And it got me to relax deeply. It takes the pressure off, that old expectation for absolutes, that we are either good or evil, all at once; and it affirms the opportunities we all have for being, sort of, “in process.” I really, really groove that. Bob never lowers standards for Christian excellence or for good, basic human citizenship; he just acknowledges that some changes, especially the permanent kind, are gradual. Becoming Love. How beautiful. Here are just a few such turns of phrase…
People who are becoming love experience the same uncertainties we all do. They just stop letting fear call all the shots.
People who are becoming love want to build kingdoms, not castles. They fill their lives with people who don’t look like them or act like them or even believe the same things as them. They treat them with love and respect and are more eager to learn form them than presume they have something to teach.
People who are becoming love are with those who are hurting and help them get home.
Let’s spend some of our abundant energy on spiritual evolution and on growth, and let’s abandon the weird need to be perfect, both for ourselves and for each other. Let’s see our shortcomings, remember that God meets us there, and chase after solutions with Love.
So many anecdotes stand out to me, all these weeks later.
One is the chapter about Carol, the neighbor for whom Bob and his family threw an actual parade that became a . She was also at the heart of a fantastic walkie-talkie story. Carol made a brief appearance in the book but made a deep impact on me. The same must have been true for the Goff crew, that Carol was only in their life for a short time but in their hearts forever: “We found ourselves in the blast radius of her stunning love and kindness.” Wow.
And then there was the airport terminal employee who was so loving to all strangers and passersby and with whom Bob learned to cultivate a friendship in a series of just three minute interactions. Kellie and I had a lot to exchange about this!
Bob’s dad and the pickup truck that needed oil and then the homeless man who slept in it. Such a layered parable!! I cannot tell it better than the author does.
The witch doctors. Man. If you read this book (please do) and have the heart to discuss, I would really like to hear your thoughts on how this particular story goes.
Handsome and I, together with Kellie and her husband Mickey, have been working privately on some exciting projects these past several months. Along the way we have socialized and eaten dozens of amazing meals together, talking deeply with each other about things God has brought to our attention. Some of it has been difficult. Most of it has been unbelievably beautiful. We have prayed deeply with and for each other and our loved ones. We have enjoyed some clear and vibrant direction from God along the way, too, in addition to innumerable answers and unexpected refinement.
We are trying, in our own ways, to build a little community. And after reading The Book of Joy mid-winter, then watching The Kindness Diaries, this book’s appearance was well timed. This sentence soaked into my bones regarding our tiny little community:
Our friends do things like this for us. They help us see the life Jesus talked about while giving it to us in smaller pieces- sometimes just a teaspoonful at a time.
The book is not only about human relationships, either. Everybody Always also points the reader continuously back to God, over and over again back to the true source of Love and grace. Extravagant grace, let’s remember. And it edges out our human tendency for punitive judgement. “Shame makes us leave safe places. It mutes our life and our love. It’s the pickpocket of our confidence.”
Something new in my faith walk this year has been flexibility and trust, on a daily basis, not only with the mammoth, sometimes abstract feats. I have felt God urging me to relinquish control over comfortable routines and lean into the tiny unknowns with more joy, like He wants me to be open to surprises. Toward the end of the book, a chapter about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro really spoke to me. And the messages were all linked intimately back to my many visits to Colorado with Jocelyn. I will never forget climbing those Estes Park mountains and scrambling up giant rocks as she gave me verbal cues and as we both gulped in nature’s beauty. “When you’ve got a guide you can trust, you don’t have to worry about the path you’re on.” And this… “We’re all going to trip as we try to follow Him through the difficult terrain of our lives. But when we do, we’ll bump into Him all over again. Faith isn’t a business trip walked on a sidewalk; it’s an adventure worked out on a steep and often difficult trail.” Yes!!
Ok I am gonna wrap this up. I hope this has sparked your appetite to read Everybody, Always. If you do, or if you already have, please send me a note with your thoughts! Or comment below! It is all such great food for discussion. Thanks so much for reading this alongside me, Kellie, I love you!!
“When joy is a habit,
Love is a reflex.”