I first came across a book by Greg Paul several years ago. I was new to urban ministry and the stories, people and insights of Greg Paul’s God in the Alley were well worth it, though frequently heartbreaking.
This book was different. It was not about justice and while a few of the stories were about sanctuary and the neighborhood his church is in, this was much more personal. He told the stories of his relationship with his parents, his children, people he was privileged to walk along side. He told the story of God’s relationship with us. The stories of Greg and the people he loves dovetail with God’s story and he sees in them the God he loves and who loves him even more passionately.
Greg Paul uses the framework of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation to tell God’s story (a helpful framework given to him by Rod Wilson of Regent College). At each point, Greg’s life and metaphors converge to tell the story of God’s love. We are created by a loving God. God looks on our sinfulness not with anger and judgmentalism, but with sadness of seeing the pain we are in. God in Christ is our great redeemer. The God of love holds our future.
I would suggest reading this book slowly and devotionally. As someone with ‘pastor eyes’ reading this, I love how Greg Paul is able to share how biography intersects theology. The truth of Grace is not a doctrine, but a lived reality. We all need to know this more.