when God smokes

fire and smoke

Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

June 25, 2013

god who smokes


I’ve started a new book.

Well, I haven’t exactly started to actually read it yet. Like starting at page one.

I’ve been thumbing through it to decide if I really want to read a book with such a scandalous title as The God Who Smokes written by someone named Timothy Stoner. Honestly, my first thought was this might be a book about promoting marijuana.


If you think about it, there really is a lot of smoke when it comes to God. There’s that haze or mist that keeps us seeing dimly. There are smoking sacrifices, smoking pots, and smoking mountains.

Scripture describes a God who is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24) and who breathes smoke (Psalm 18:8).

But we want to focus on a God who loves.

We don’t want to think about a God who gets mad.

In chapter 5, also titled “The God Who Smokes,” Stoner writes:

If God did not get angry, He would not be God . . . If God forever turned His eyes away from the abuse, the perversion, the pollution, the pillaging, raping, spilling of innocent blood, the sexual slavery, the Lord’s Resistance Army conscripting little children to become cold-blooded killers, the decapitating of political prisoners in the name of God Allah, and decapitating forests and jungles in the name of God Mammon, then God would not be just or righteous . . .

I think forever turned are key words here because I have to admit I don’t understand how or why God allows this kind of suffering, except I know God doesn’t live in my time zone .

Stoner goes on:

So God rages and roars and smokes. He thunders, shakes, and burns like this massive forest fire. Because at the core of His being, God is love . . . His wrath is about His love . . . This smoking, smoldering God is holy love aflame . . . There are those who wish to tone down the anger, to smother the fire and smoke on the mountain. If they succeed, they will lose more than an image of a mean God–they also lose mercy and extinguish grace. 

Even His wrath is about His love.


The back cover promises a balanced response to the divisive issues raised by those who promote an emergent theology.”Timothy celebrates the good within Emergent while providing a balanced and thoughtful critique.”

As I page through, I see humor and personal experiences delivered with a lyrical bent and lavishly salted with Scripture. Each chapter ends with a beautiful blessing. Like this one.


May you be comforted by the burning

protective strength of your Father’s strong and stormy love.

May you recline at peace and with veiled face bow.

May you be thrilled and terrified

at the rampaging, irresistible

zeal of this consuming fire who has pledged Himself

to do you good all the days of your life

and who will not hold back even if the good seems bad,

and stings and burns and blisters your skin.

May your heart thrill at the awesome God

who held nothing back that He might hold you close,

who poured on His Son what He never deserved

that you might receive forever

what you would not have desired,

but were created for.

Then may your own heart become an altar

aflame with fiery love and exclusive zeal

to bring Him glory and expand His praise

among all peoples and nations–

among your friends and your enemies, too.

I’m moving this book to the top of my stack.

Have you read it?


  1. Elizabeth Stewart

    This sounds like a must read!

  2. marthaorlando

    Sounds amazing! I’ll have to get hold of this one!

  3. Heather W

    “If they succeed, they will lose more than an image of a mean God-they also lose mercy and extinguish grace.” Love it. I guess I have another book to add to my “read” list. 🙂

  4. Rick Dawson

    Good stuff there – my “to read” list keeps getting longer, I wish my time available to read would lengthen as well 🙂

    • Sandra Heska King

      I hear you, Rick! And I need time for not just the reading but for the soaking in. 🙂

  5. Cara Sexton

    Not yet, but it’s sitting on my bookshelf, too. 🙂 I’m all about scandalous, so I hope to get to it someday soon.

    • Sandra Heska King

      Oh Cara. You’re all about scandalous? I’m shocked!

      You have it on your shelf? I wonder if we should do a book study. Hmmm…

  6. MsLorretty

    I will probably never forget the day I realized that without God’s wrath, his love is impotent. It sounds ludicrous, I know.. an impotent God but.. you are right. We need his wrath and holy justice because they are anchored in His love which is, in turn anchored in his holy justice. Precious and painful.

    • Sandra Heska King

      The thought of all God is–all of His character rolled up into one–being anchored in love… I could ponder that for a long time.

  7. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Sandy I have not heard of this book, but I will say it sounds powerful. I’ve had friends leave our denomination (pastors included) who have been swept up in the Emergent Church movement and it’s grieved me. I’m glad there is a truth-teller out there who will speak to the issue and coax us along to see God’s love in it all.
    The prayer at the end was powerful. Thanks for this.

    • Sandra Heska King

      What I like about this book is that the author seems to present a very balanced and thoughtful approach.

  8. Claire Florine

    Wow, this book looks awesome! I may have to get a hold of it so I can give it to my pot-smoking neighbors 😉 I bet they would be surprised by what they read and hopefully it would spark some evangelical conversations… Thanks for sharing!

    • Sandra Heska King

      Come back and share, Claire–both their thoughts and yours. 😀


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when God smokes

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min