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Relevant Magazine

Relevant Magazine talks to pastor and author Richard Dahlstrom about his new book, passion and intellectual vs. active faith.

Too often, Christian books merely amplify the culture war, settle for shallow optimism or regurgitate spiritual platitudes. In contrast, pastor Richard Dahlstrom’s new book, The Colors of Hope, visualizes a life with God that is more creative adventure than what he calls “private morality.” Dahlstrom sat down with RELEVANT to talk about finding our voice, non-Christian influences and what the colors of hope look like in motion.

What inspired you to write The Colors of Hope?
I don’t think we’ve ever lived in more polarized times. Theologically, politically, economically, socially, in every way, it feels like the middle ground is disappearing. Boredom and cynicism are ripe among God’s people, and I have the strong, passionate sense that it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to spend our days arguing about who’s in heaven, who’s in hell, Neo-Calvinism, Emergent, all these categories. Not only do we not have to spend our days arguing about it, but we don’t have to let that stuff disillusion us. We can set it aside and get on with our calling, which is actively being a blessing in the world.

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Burnside Writers Collective

The Colors of Hope, by Richard Dahlstrom

May 26, 2011

Richard Dahlstrom is the first to admit that his story is not one of those faith-making tales of abuse or addiction and God’s eventual redemption.  It’s the story of growing up in the proverbial healthy Christian home where the norm was baseball games, good grades and Saturday night spaghetti.  But his new book is anything but saccharine.  It’s a call to action, a nudge, and at times (thankfully, I think) a bit of a roadmap for stepping out into the world in the spirit of Micah 6:8 to become people of love, mercy, and intimacy, using the metaphor of the artistic life.  As Dahlstrom says, “Colors of Hope calls us back to the conversation that the prophets of the Bible called us to, a conversation that challenges us to make the invisible God visible in this world through acts of mercy, justice, and love.  He does so by sharing “stories of people who’ve found their craft and are doing it – faithfully, in the midst of setbacks, slowly over time becoming a voice a hope in their world.”  I was moved and challenged, especially by the honest reflections on developing the discipline and stamina to keep coming back to the canvas.

I got the chance to sit down and speak with Richard about some of the themes and big ideas in the book.  Richard has been my pastor or nine years (not to mention a contributor to this site), so some of the stories I have heard before.  Still, I found hope and clarity in his encouragement to paint beauty onto the canvas that is our world.  I hope you do, too, and that you enjoy the conversation.

Penny:  You start the book by talking about how you originally thought the walk of faith was a calling to be a lawyer and now you see it as a calling to be an artist.  Can you talk more about the identity of a faith artist?

Well, it speaks a little to why I was motivated to write in the first place.  I’ve never – and I’m old enough to say this with some authority – lived in such polarized times, in every way: politically, theologically, economically.  It feels like middle ground is disappearing, and more concerning than that, that discourse is disappearing .  And I think that one of the contributing factors is that if I view the scriptures as a legal document it becomes this grid used to assess guilt and innocence, moral high and low ground.  So we end up with people who, I think, are in God’s eyes, on the same team, arguing all the time about nuance, interpretation.  Meanwhile, the glaringly obvious message of justice, mercy, and intimacy goes almost unnoticed.  There’s this obvious calling that has been historically expressed in every revival in history, that changes cultures, that ends apartheid, that restrores the envoironment, that ended slavery.  Tragically, that conversation isn’t happening enough right now.  What’s happening instead is, “I’m emergent, and I’m better than you because you’re neo-Calvinist,”  or “Oh yeah, well, I”m a neo-Calvinist and I’m here to tell you that you’re going to hell.”  And I want to stand up and say, Stop!  This is absurd.

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I Could Learn From Richard Dahlstrom

by Larry Shallenberger

The Colors of Hope is a manifesto that invites Christ followers to reclaim its mandate to be agents of redemption through our relationships, work, and hobbies. Richard’s pastoral eye provides him with a unique vantage point that sets his book apart from the rest literature on Christian living. Here’s three things I caught my eye in “Colors” that made me pause, think, and reconsider my perspective: Those who wish to paint with hope must be observant. Dahlstrom writes about his friendship with a master painter and art teacher. One of the first tasks the painter needed to accomplish with her students was teaching them to see the detail of their subjects. It wasn’t enough to notice a shadow, the students needed to see the rich gradient of shades that made up the shadow. In the same way, we need to be sure that we’re actually seeing people as God sees them. Richard offered practical and wise ways to  notice how we label, judge, and categorize others. For me, the book provided me with a fresh challenge to see and enjoy people for who they are.

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