Posts tagged “Faith

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

It’s not you, it’s me.

That’s what I keep telling my blog. I don’t want it to feel bad.

But the truth is, we need to break up. It’s time for me to move out.

Writing here has felt complicated to me the last couple of years. I don’t have good words to explain that, and maybe you don’t need me to.

I started blogging here in 2008 after 20 years of not writing. I had walked away from pen and paper in order to pursue a big ministry thing I thought was my destiny, and I wanted to be my destiny, which turned out not to be my destiny at all. It’s taken me a good while to sort it, but it seems that when I started again, I put this spiritual cape over my writing shoulders, believing the only way I could be allowed to do so was under the auspices of a “call” of sorts. That the only way to legitimize a writing habit was to dress it in obedient clothes.

The truth is that writing my spiritual process has been good for me, has pushed me to areas I’d not otherwise explored, brought me to new depths in my faith that I’d been unable yet to fathom. It gave me a place to have conversations I wasn’t finding elsewhere, and I needed that. I’m exceedingly grateful for the way many of you have walked that way with me.

But it has also been bad for me, and some of you will understand that without me explaining it. It has kept me in a shallow place, has fooled me into believing something existed within me that may not have, simply because I could write about a difficult biblical text with depth and intensity or see something powerful in a passage others may have missed. It is too easy to measure a writer by the depth of a blog post, thrive on the most raw, trade in the currency of vulnerability without the protections of intimacy.

I set up an internal conflict every time I wrote in any way off the path of explicit spiritual edification. Sometimes, particular external feedback reinforced that. And I’ve found myself in the midst of a dynamic in which the end of spiritual practice was not greater joy in the presence of God, but what might make a compelling piece of writing.

And so it is my writing here has waned. I’ve taken it off-site, which has revitalized me in many, many ways, but has made it difficult to come home at night to A Different Story and its expectations, real or imagined.

I’d love it if you crossed the street with me to my new place, www.LylaWillinghamLindquist.com. I can’t tell you what my writing is going to look like there, or even if I’ll write any more often. I only know that I need a new space to try. One where I can write about God if I feel like it, or about anything else if I feel like it, and in any way that seems to work at the time. Maybe I’ll even use a bad word if it’s called for.

If you’re wondering, I still love Jesus. But in my non-writing life, I talk about other things. I’d like to write about them, too.

Some of you will prefer me the way I am right here. I’m good with that. I have some work in the archives that I’m pretty proud of (and some that, honestly, really sucks). Maybe one day I’ll delete it altogether, but for now I’ll leave it sit and we can grow old here together like Miss Havisham and her wedding cake.

Thanks for your love and encouragement while, like a petulant teenager, I’ve tried to find myself. Join me?

(Note: I am not moving my RSS and email subscriptions, so you will need to resubscribe at the new place if you wish to receive updates. While that might sound like an inconvenience, it’s really for your own good.)


Letters to Me: Book Launch

Twenty-twenty hindsight is a wondrous thing.

I’m happy today to announce the launch of Letters to Me: Conversations with a Younger Selfa collaborative project in which nearly twenty authors (yes, including me)  from a wide range of backgrounds explore a significant event from young adulthood, then talk to a younger version of ourselves with compassion and wisdom about what happened next, and how it mattered. I think most of the contributors would agree: being able to have a candid conversation with our older selves at what felt like such a critical moment would have been priceless.

This book is perfect for new graduates, college students, young adults making their way into the tenuous world of independence. But even at around two-times-ish the age of the intended audience, I have to tell you I was encouraged by these stories and reminded again that even with all its crazy ups and downs and twists and turns, life has a way of working itself out, albeit unexpectedly. God still knows how to make the most difficult of our stories redemptive.

Letters to Me is available on Amazon in paperback and for your Kindle.

What some folks are saying about this book:

There is something maddeningly compelling about this book. You want to leap into its pages and shake some sense into the characters just like you’re reading a page-turning novel, except that it’s real life and if you could somehow grab them by their shoulders, you would realize you were staring yourself in the face. The talent of these storytellers is revealed in how universal their personal stories are. In their stories you will experience agony and joy, pain and healing, fall and redemption. –Adam S. McHugh, author Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

This is so needed. I’ve often wished I could go back and have a strong talking to with my younger, more idiotic self. These stories are funny, heartfelt, and important. Reading them will make you think and imagine a better life — maybe even give you the courage to live one. —Jeff Goins, author, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life

One of the most unnerving, unsettling things one can do in life is stare at themselves in the mirror – eye to eye. Letters To Me is the sacred chance to witness person after person pause their present as they stand naked in the mirror, facing everything they’ve been and everything they’ve done. To listen to what they hear in their souls, to see their past as they truly do. Oh, how I wish I’d been given this collection of stories earlier in my life. The entrance into adulthood would have been painted with so much more grace. –Lauren Lankford Dubinsky, founder of Good Women Project


Giving Yourself Away: A Story of Friendship

This is not the type of writing  I normally do here. But this was a story I thought needed to be told, and asked my friends Kathy and Mary to sit down with me a month or so ago and tell it. A modified version of this article appears in this week’s Grant County Review.

::

Kathy Madsen knows how to celebrate a birthday.

On her birthday next week, Kathy will tie a bright red ribbon around her name and throw it into a five-state pool to match up with someone who needs a kidney.

That’s some party favor, let me tell you.

Last spring, Kathy was on her back porch in her pajamas drinking coffee when her friend Vangie called. Vern and Vangie Heupel’s daughter Mary, living in Sioux Falls, had just been released from the hospital after and ICU stay due to kidney failure.

Kathy reassured her friend that she would do everything she could, thinking that she might drop off a box of chocolates or offer to mow the lawn. But before she knew what she was saying, she heard herself tell Vangie, “I’ll test for you. If I can give Mary a kidney, I want to give.”

:: (more…)


Jackie

When my adult class one Sunday morning considered how one of the byproducts of living in community is that by the time we all get mixed up with one another, we see Jesus. We see maturity. We see wrestling with our own demons and we see getting through. We see grief and grace and joy and pain.*

I asked them to consider some of those marks in our community, ones that might even look like the Spirit’s fruit, like love and joy and peace and patience. Or joy. What about joy?

When you think about the kind of joy the Spirit births in our depths, who among us comes to mind? Who do you see walking around that makes you stop and say, Joy?

That was the question.

In the time a breath might take, I heard a single name. And a murmur of whole heart agreement around the table.

Jackie.

Of course. Jackie. She is Jesus out walking around. She is joy with legs. (more…)


When Jesus Creeps You Out

 John 6

He didn’t bill the hillside seminar as a Lunch ‘n Learn, but when the crowd approached at mealtime, he divided up rations sufficient for just a small boy into portions enough to feed around 5,000 folks and still send doggy bags home with the twelve.

The people let full bellies do their thinking, and thought then to make the Miracle Man their king.

He slipped away to the hills before they could get a good grip on His robes.

::

(more…)


The Things I Don’t Know

Why had no one ever pointed out those brilliant instances of literary intercalation in Mark? Why had I never heard about Athanasius? Why had I never recited the Nicene Creed? How could I have attended church for two decades and never learned about the Babylonian exile? (Andrew Byers, Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint) 

I laughed and answered out loud as I underlined the writer’s lament at discovering, upon his arrival at seminary, the many, many things he did not know.

Come on, Byers. What rock had you been living under? I learned about the Babylonian exile in Sunday School. 

But the Nicene Creed? I did not encounter it until college. And even then I wasn’t sure I was permitted to recite it. I discovered Athanasius just last year, though he played a crucial role in the history of Christendom, standing contra mundum some seventeen hundred years ago to defend the truth of Christ’s deity and incarnation when its very core was up for grabs.

And the Gospel of Mark’s literary intercalations? That one I had to look up the other day.

Just to find out what the word even meant.

(more…)


Flat Window Glass

The same trees stand in my yard and wave in the warm South Dakota wind every day. They don’t change, save for the occasional leaf that pulls itself away and dribbles to the ground. Or the branches that must be clipped and burned now and again because the worms weave their cottony capsules in them and threaten to take over the neighborhood.

Really, they’re the same trees. Day after day.

In the same grass. Against the same sky.

But some days, I step out and the warm air is just so, crackling dry after humid days that made walls and grass sweat and gasp for air. The sun sits just right overhead, laying down crisp shadows against flashing emerald.

On those days, I see something that most days I miss.

(more…)


Fanned into Flame

2 Timothy 1:5-7

The kindling burns quickly enough, orange and yellow teeth crunching through small tapers of wood. But it’s not long before they’re all chewed up and the thick logs cradled in the embers struggle to get themselves going.

It’s been tough to get the big ones to dry out and stay dry this year.

Not one to give up where marshmallows are at stake, I get down on the brick pavers, pebbles grinding into my knees, and meet face to face with the ash.

It can be deceptive, the inside of a fire bowl. Layers of white that may as well be snow.

The way summer’s been in these parts, it’s not past the scope of imagination, even in July.

I blow long and slow into the dark, smoke and ash swirling back and catching on the perspiration dripping off my cheeks.

My eyes sting.

Occasionally as I work my way on the ground around the bowl I have to turn aside to find air.

But with each steady pump of the bellows in my chest, the white glows red.

Like a child twisting the dimmer switch on . . . and off . . . and on . . . the embers glow  . . . and fade . . . and glow . . .

And then orange curls reach out from the dark and grab the side of the charred log until finally, it’s burning again.

(more…)


We Remember: Love, Adrian

Pulling this from the archives . . . 
because I know no finer story for this Memorial Day 
than that of our very own hero.


“I bet Hitler is getting the quivers in his backbone if he has any left. I’d like to get at his mustache with a pair of my tweezers. Would I ever pick souvenirs.”

It goes without saying, I suppose, that somewhere along the way when sorting through the belongings of an aging parent, somebody’s going to stumble onto it.

Tucked away in a closet, or stacked behind the dusty crates in the attic, or even mixed in with bottle caps in an old cigar box in the bottom drawer, there is hidden the prize that no one even knew their parents had.

A few years ago while rearranging some of Lane’s mom’s things, we tripped over the treasure that left us all sprawled out on the floor laughing and weeping and learning and knowing.

We found every letter that Adrian ever sent to Estrid, most of which were written between 1941 and 1946 while he served as an Army Staff Sergeant in World War II.

(more…)


One Thing I Know

One Thing I Know
John 9:10-15, 24-25

One Thing I Know

We followed a long, twisted path, the plumber and I.

He raced down one hill, and I forced him around tight curves and back up the other side.

By the time I slammed on the brakes and lurched into the seatbelt, I may have even felt a little motion sickness.

I let my head hang between my legs a little as I reached under my desk for the pen I’d thrown to the floor in bewildered frustration and looked at the mess of scribbled notes and looping arrows connecting one event to the other. The page was splattered with question marks and sad faces that were starting to collect angry eyebrows. (more…)


When the Blind See, the Seeing . . . Don’t

When the Blind See
John 9:8-9

When the Blind See

We walked the seven blocks from campus to the house with her hand resting lightly on my forearm. We said little as the snow began to cover the sidewalk. Me, still young and so oppositional* and she, always provoking — we’d learned it was just better that we stay quiet on our walks home and save the spirited discussions for later when the coffee brewed and buttery popovers, well, popped over in the oven.

I spoke only when needed.

Curb.

Stopping.

Ice. Move right with me.

Crossing left.

(more…)


Another Bottle of MJ Water

“Didn’t you play any sports, Mom?” JP stood ankle deep in the clover across the yard and released the ball again toward my head.

“Nope.” I stuck out my gloved hand and nabbed it, thankfully without any awkward dance steps to retrieve it before I let it sail through the kitchen window. “Not a single one.”

He already knows how I established once and for all that height and ability are not doled out in equal portions, the single time I reported for basketball practice in my high school gym. We concluded that day that it would be best for everyone that I continued to keep my talents hidden.

“Not even softball? You could play first base you know,” he laughed, as I stretched to pluck another ball out of the air and narrowly avoided a face-first confrontation with the earth.

He was kind, calling out “My bad!” whenever I would miss and have to jog to collect an errant ball, opting not to make all the jokes that might have come quite easily.

And he was concerned, cautioning me to “Throw it over the top, Mom, or you’re going to have to get the Tommy John’s!” I’m sure that as soon as he turned his back to chase down the wild curve I didn’t mean to throw that he was really muttering, “You throw like a girl.”

He soon tired of my girl throwing and went to work on his pitching instead. We tried out his new iPod app to clock the speed of his pitch. When he ribbed me over my slow reflexes in tapping the screen, I asked him how that MJ water was working out for him.

::

We’d been talking about the MJ water for a while at our house, recalling the scene in Space Jam where Bugs Bunny slapped a “Michael’s Secret Stuff” label on a water bottle and shared it with his struggling team, hoping that if they believed that bottle contained the stuff that made Michael Jordan great, then they would play like they too were great.

It worked. At least on the screen.

And we wondered if the same was true of the titanium necklaces made popular by MLB players. Is there really a therapeutic quality to them that restores battered muscles and improves performance? Or does the belief that they do so inspire the athlete to push through pain and resistance and perform better on their own?

Is it just an pricey version of MJ water?

Look good, feel good?

We’re still running tests.

::

Somewhere past my bedtime the other night I went to pick up JP from the ballfield. He and a friend wandered aimlessly around the grounds and I wondered if I’d somehow tripped into that invisibility cloak again. Turned out his friend had parted with his cell phone sometime during the evening and they were on the hunt.

At my house we’ve made an art form of phone loss and destruction. We know how to launder them in the permanent press cycle, lose them, run over them, lose them, fall on them, lose them, drop them, and lose them like nobody’s business. We’ve made a lifetime deal with the devil in our wireless service contract.

So like any compassionate parent (who wants to go to bed) would do, I parked the car and started looking with them.

They checked the men’s room. The concession stand. The press box. The grass.

We checked lots of grass.

I pointed to the bleachers, and they assured me that they had already looked. I hoped they were right. I crouched and glanced in from a safe distance, and shuddered. Seeing the piles of spit-soaked seeds on top of spit-covered tar made my mouth water in that I’m-going-to-vomit-on-this-sea-of-saliva way and I jumped back.

Despair started its slow creep as we ran out of places to look. The two began a long walk to the water tower a full football field away as I made one more scan in the blue glow of the flood lights on the lawn outside the stadium.

Show us the phone, God. Do this thing. Please.

Show us the phone.

I took a few more steps, wondering aloud how much longer I should allow them to look before I took the young man home to face his own parents. As I debated, the sod lit up in front of me, a beautiful LCD glow winking from between blades of grass.

I bent over to pick up the phone, buzzing wildly in its muted vibrate mode as JP dialed from across the field one last time. I stretched the phone high in the air, waving the digital glow for the boys to see.

As tired and relieved bodies bundled into the car to go home, they asked how I found it. I told them I asked God to show it to us. And it looked like He did.

When it was back to just the two of us in the car, JP looked sideways at me and said, “Really? You prayed about it?”

“Sure,” I said. “God cares about stuff like that.”

He thought awhile, and reached his conclusion. “Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe it wasn’t God.”

I wondered, did he think I was drinking the spiritual MJ water? That praying was like a titanium necklace? Since I prayed and we saw a good outcome I’d mistakenly associated the two?

I smiled, strangely comfortable that I didn’t have to convince him of anything he wasn’t quite ready to buy. “Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t,” I told him. “But even if He didn’t, He could do it. He could if He wanted to, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

And I remember. Faith is never a given. It doesn’t come naturally, and often not easy. As much as sometimes I just want them to take my word for it, I know that even kids will have to pounce on the mat and wrestle down doubt and belief too. And when they do, that faith they claim will become truly theirs to hold.

Meanwhile, it seems I set off to quietly grappling anew over the “if He wanted to” part.

::

Photo: JP at pitching practice in the back yard

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We Remember: Love, Adrian

“I bet Hitler is getting the quivers in his backbone if he has any left. I’d like to get at his mustache with a pair of my tweezers. Would I ever pick souvenirs.”

It goes without saying, I suppose, that somewhere along the way when sorting through the belongings of an aging parent, somebody’s going to stumble onto it.

Tucked away in a closet, or stacked behind the dusty crates in the attic, or even mixed in with bottle caps in an old cigar box in the bottom drawer, there is hidden the prize that no one even knew their parents had.

A few years ago while rearranging some of Lane’s mom’s things, we tripped over the treasure that left us all sprawled out on the floor laughing and weeping and learning and knowing.

We found every letter that Adrian ever sent to Estrid, most of which were written between 1941 and 1946 while he served as an Army Staff Sergeant in World War II.

The letters began arriving in Estrid’s mailbox shortly after the two met at a Lutheran youth convention in 1940. They really didn’t live too far apart, just a little over a hundred miles by car from Strandburg to Claremont. But in the days before highways and when getting a new tire to replace that always flat one took months, they didn’t see one another often even while Adrian remained stateside.

Take away internet, texting, even private phone conversations, and that left two smitten youths to tuck their dreams, thoughts and hearts into envelopes and entrust them to the trains that carried mail to the countryside.

I spent the better part of a year after we found them blanketed in those thousand letters, learning a man I knew all too briefly. I compiled the pages into two volumes, often calling Lane to the computer as I typed through eyes misted blind to share another tattered leaf of this beating heart.

In his eighth-grade educated hand, he revealed himself in sometimes tender, sometimes bold, sometimes comic words to the woman who made him feel like the luckiest and most alive man living.

After Adrian shipped out, the letters continued seemingly without end, back and forth from tiny South Dakota towns where Estrid taught school to “somewhere in France.” The two turned to handing over their soul-words to V-mail and the Army censors.

::

Our community nears completion of a new memorial to honor our local veterans. But it seems the heroes don’t get much more local than a dad and granddad. I thought to honor his memory this Memorial Day with some of his own humble, faithful words.

On love, home and family:

“You ask what I would like for Christmas. I tell you a little box of cookies would be the real thing or some little thing to eat. This is my first Christmas away from home. It’s a lot different than the ones I’m used to.”

“Don’t get me wrong now that I’m homesick. So far I don’t know what that is. We would all like to be home but there is a job to do first.”

“I’m feeling o.k. I always mention this and I’ll always tell you the truth.”

“The night before I was to leave I found him crying alone, in secret. My Dad is a big strong man, ‘He’s my Daddy you know.'”

“I feel like I have a job to do here with the rest of the boys. And then again I’d like to go back home and see Dad and help keep the farm going, which I had a lot of hope in continuing after the war. I hope my prayer that I may see Dad again will be answered. If it is God’s will. Mom and Curt want me to come home. If the Germans would quit I’d surely try and see if I could do something about it.”

“The Telegram of my Dad’s death took 21 days to get to. I never wanted to be home so much in all my life as I do now.”

“I had a letter from Alice today and she had sent a clipping about some Estrid Franzen and a troop of girl scouts.”

“Now the war is over for sure this time they tell me. It’s a beautiful night out. I still wish I was somewhere else.”

“I could see home and we fought all the harder to end it sooner.”

“Sometimes I think I’d like to be a city dude for a while. Maybe after I get home I’ll decide farming is too much like work and start selling prunes and vinegar.”

“It seems so long since I heard from you. These cold blizzard days are so long without mail or anything. Boy how I need to hear from you again!”

“I told Mom about our engagement this morning and she said ‘Well.’ I could tell she was pleased.”

On the war:

“I am ready to go any time my Uncle Sammy calls.”

“The people of England really know what war is. The children 5 and 6 years old have not seen street lights yet.”

“I see some front line action once in a while. All I can say is that at times it is terrifying. I think I prayed almost all nite a while back, even in my sleep.”

“I wonder if Hitler rests well at night.  . . . One of these days he may rest in pieces if he don’t hibernate some place where he won’t be found.”

“But the American soldier can really take it. Call it bravery or as we say ‘guts’ when a U.S. soldier was wounded or shot we never heard them cry or groan or yell for help.”

“While I was on my way westward ‘limping’ a French Crouix De Guerre with palm had arrived at home. I don’t see where I deserve it. I guess me and Patton had good press agents.”

“I’ve groaned within myself over one incident.  . . . It’s a story I’ll tell every time anyone talks about war as being glorious and being a hero.”

On the Army:

“I made expert at the machine gun today in record fire. I can say I feel a little proud over this. Mostly to think that the folks will be pleased. I drove a tank for the first time yesterday. It sure is fun to sit at the controls of those big babies.”

“We sure are having a stepped up training so maybe we will go over the pond sometime this summer or next fall. We surely are not ready to go yet.”

“This land looks almost worthless to me. I suppose that’s why they have Army camps in places like these.”

“Tomorrow I’ll try to whistle or toot like a train. Then maybe I’ll get a medical discharge for being nuts.”

“Seven days to get the discharge papers ready. It sure did not take them that long to get in the Army. According to hospital records, I’m not here anymore. Where I went nobody knows.”

On his faith:

“They have nicknamed me ‘Reverend.'”

“Love someone even if you don’t like them.  . . . They are all my friends. There are some fellows I don’t like. But they don’t know it.

There is a Pentecost . . . also a Seventh Day Adventist. They try to convert me.  . . . Better come down here Estrid. It’s two to one and I’m outnumbered and need some help.”

“Rev. Vick was right when he said the greater the danger we are in the closer God is to us. Us boys up here know that very well.”

“The suggestion you made to pray together at nine o’clock every Eve. is a good idea. So at nine tonite we will meet together in prayer.”

“God has a reason for keeping me here. I know I’ve had the experience of a lot of things concerning sin, faith, hope, trust, and surrendering self. These past three years have been hard and I did not realize how much so until recently.”

::

Surely the handwriting was Adrian’s. But so often as I read I heard the voice of another red-headed tenor. Through corny jokes and deep-root faith and tender words flowing from a God-softened heart, I recognized the familiar language of his son, the one I hear echo in the walls of this home every day.

Adrian and his bride taught their men that language of faith and love.


Of the thousand and some letters Estrid carefully returned to their envelopes and secreted away, only one was penned in her elegant hand. While she clearly wrote as often as he, Adrian faced the limitations of austere Army life and could not carry with him what was not necessary for survival and battle.

But one letter he carried. And he came home from war with that one letter: tattered, wrinkled and sweat-smeared. The date was torn off in case he’d be captured. And in that letter he and Estrid shared the bedrock faith that carried them for a lifetime.

“Whatever comes, dear Adrian, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that you are not alone. God is right there with you every minute of the day and He’ll never let go . . .

::

Photos:
Top: A thousand and some letters from war
Middle right  & left: Army microfiched and censored v-mail letters
Middle right: A "battle weary" SSgt. Adrian Lindquist
Bottom: The letter from Estrid that he carried into battle

Don’t Duck

brainstormI admit it.

I’m a poor brainstormer.

It’s not that I don’t ever have ideas.

I do. But I tend to overthink them.

The packing tape of my mind is just a little too sticky sometimes and I can’t get them out of the box.

And I’m even worse with somebody else’s ideas. They hardly have them out of their mouth and onto the table — or the whiteboard if you’re one of those — before I’ve figured out why they won’t work.

I’m a lot like Philip, not so much like Andrew.

:: (more…)


Bringing Down the House

pillar

Samson.

The world was not worthy of him.

So says the writer of Hebrews, bringing me back around to consider just how it was that Samson found himself amongst the honorable mentions in that great Hall of Faith.

For all the desire to which his eyes wandered, for all the rage that rushed through his veins, for all the destruction his vengeful hands wrought, and for all the self he was content to worship, Samson at last found his moment.

And then we see.

We see how this prodigal, shaved and shamed, unearthed faith before he buried the Philistines.

There came a day, Samson’s last, when in faith he brought the house down. (more…)


Jephthah and His Merry Men

Jephthah.

robinJust typing his name sits wrong with me. Too many Hs.

Saying it sounds a little like spitting. And I have an gag-inducing aversion to saliva.

Yet for the past two weeks or more, Jephthah has been with me daily, following me, teasing me like Judges does, daring me to make sense of his story.

Would that I were like that writer of Hebrews who could simply name him in a list and claim he lacked the time to say more.

But I do have the time. I must have the time. For the longer I look at him, the more I can’t look away.

Folks who think the Book of Revelation is hard haven’t spent nearly enough time in Judges.

:: (more…)


Honorable Mentions

Jephthah is one of the guys that the writer of the Hebrews didn’t have time to write about. There was plenty to say about him. But the writer simply didn’t have time.

stadiumJust like he didn’t have time to write about Samson and Barak, and David and Samuel.

And Gideon. Of course, Gideon.

He sits in some good company, Jephthah, there in the cheap seats in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith. (No disrespect toward the honorable mentions here. The place is like the Orpheum: there are no bad seats in the house.)

But to tell his story, well, there just wasn’t time.

:: (more…)


Lights Out

 

Suddenly, GOD, your light floods my path, 
      GOD drives out the darkness. 
   I smash the bands of marauders, 
      I vault the high fences. 
   What a God! His road 
      stretches straight and smooth. 
   Every GOD-direction is road-tested. 
      Everyone who runs toward him 
   Makes it. (2 Samuel 22:29-31, The Message)
::
I work in a local landmark. 
Here on the South Dakota prairie you can see for miles and miles and miles without standing on your tip toes. In an almost startling way, a seven story building rises against the horizon in the middle of nowhere. A virtual skyscraper in a humble farming town of 3,500.
A traveler approaching from any direction sees the tower, stretching out to the sky, a beacon by day and night. 
And the lights never go out.
Well, almost never.
::
I start work before daylight. A week ago when I pulled into the lot, it seemed darker than usual. Instead of the dreamy midnight blue that surrounds me most mornings, it was thick black. It took a moment before I realized there wasn’t a flicker of light anywhere. 
(Memo to my company: The week following the announcement of significant job cuts is not a good time to lose power to your building.)
The lights had gone out. 
Baby, it was dark. 
::
A few of us wandering outside in the dark and cold finally ventured inside to find out what was happening. The doors were unlocked and there were already a few brave souls inside the building.
(Memo to self: Consider the half-baked wisdom of entering a vacant, dark building not knowing how long the security system has been inactive.)
A couple of folks were trying to figure out why the power was out and the generator was not working. A few others were trying to figure out how long it would be and whether it was worth the trip back home. And some, to my amusement (and admiration) were in their cubicles, diligently trying to match incoming mail with open files. 
In the dark. 
By the light of a cell phone.
::
Before I turned around to go home I did walk down the long row of blackened matchbox workstations and around the corner to my own. I hung just a bit toward the far wall, a safe distance from what now just seemed to be cold, square caves with spiky shadows and hunched shapes in every stack of paperwork. It seemed a wise precaution, just in case some unknown person or being lunged out unexpectedly. 
I knew no such thing would happen, but who wants to be caught unprepared?
Oddly, I had no difficulty marching straight to my desk, though there was no clearly lit path. I couldn’t see my way. And there was really nothing to hold to grope my way there. 
I just walked it. 
Straight in.
::
I thought about that today as a friend and I visited over lunch. We talked about the uncertainty of the future. Our circumstances are different, but we both face some crazy uncertainty in the days, months, even years to come. 
Don’t we all?
We talked about the assurance that God has a plan. And that God is good. 
But just what does He mean by good? Will it be the same as what I mean by good? We’ve seen Him work His plan before, and though we could both see such clear examples of His unexpected workings in our lives, so far beyond our wildest imaginations, we wouldn’t trade what He’s done for anything in the world. Though we may have questioned Him at times, we’ve could agree that we’d come to see that what He’d done was good. Good by anyone’s definition.
But it took trusting Him to lead in some dark places.
::
I found my way effortlessly to my workstation in the pitch black because I’ve walked that way so many times before. I know how many cubicles stack up down the row. I know where the doorways stand. I even know where the cabinets jut out so I didn’t smack right into them. 
Because every day, I walk that same way.
Only I walk that way in the light. 
::
Walking that way daily, in the light, prepared me to walk that way one day in the dark. 
Who God is didn’t change a few weeks ago because somebody flipped off the lights in my otherwise bright and secure future. God didn’t stop being good because I can’t see my hand in front of my face at the moment. 
Things sure look different when the lights go out. But spending time with Him, at His feet, knowing Him deeply while it’s still light gives me what I need to trust Him to show me the way.
Even when the way is dark. 
::

Suddenly, GOD, your light floods my path, 

      GOD drives out the darkness. 

   I smash the bands of marauders, 

      I vault the high fences. 

   What a God! His road 

      stretches straight and smooth. 

   Every GOD-direction is road-tested. 

      Everyone who runs toward him 

   Makes it. (2 Samuel 22:29-31, The Message)

 

I work in a local landmark. 

Here on the South Dakota prairie you can see for miles and miles and miles without standing on your tip toes. In an almost startling way, a seven story building rises against the horizon in the middle of nowhere. A virtual skyscraper in a humble farming town of 3,500.

A traveler approaching from any direction sees the tower, stretching out to the sky, a beacon by day and night. 

And the lights never go out.

Well, almost never.

::

I start work before daylight. A week ago when I pulled into the lot, it seemed darker than usual. Instead of the dreamy midnight blue that surrounds me most mornings, it was thick black. It took a moment before I realized there wasn’t a flicker of light anywhere. 

(Memo to my company: The week following the announcement of significant job cuts is not a good time to lose power to your building.)

The lights had gone out. 

Baby, it was dark. 

::

A few of us wandering outside in the dark and cold finally ventured inside to find out what was happening. The doors were unlocked and there were already a few brave souls inside the building.

(Memo to self: Consider the half-baked wisdom of entering a vacant, dark building not knowing how long the security system has been inactive.)

A couple of folks were trying to figure out why the power was out and the generator was not working. A few others were trying to figure out how long it would be and whether it was worth the trip back home. And some, to my amusement (and admiration) were in their cubicles, diligently trying to match incoming mail with open files. 

In the dark. 

By the light of a cell phone.

::

Before I turned around to go home I did walk down the long row of blackened matchbox workstations and around the corner to my own. I hung just a bit toward the far wall, a safe distance from what now just seemed to be cold, square caves with spiky shadows and hunched shapes in every stack of paperwork. It seemed a wise precaution, just in case some unknown person or being lunged out unexpectedly. 

I knew no such thing would happen, but who wants to be caught unprepared?

Oddly, I had no difficulty marching straight to my desk, though there was no clearly lit path. I couldn’t see my way. And there was really nothing to hold to grope my way there. 

I just walked it. 

Straight in.

::

I thought about that today as a friend and I visited over lunch. We talked about the uncertainty of the future. Our circumstances are different, but we both face some crazy uncertainty in the days, months, even years to come. 

Don’t we all?

We talked about the assurance that God has a plan. And that God is good. 

But just what does He mean by good? Will it be the same as what I mean by good? We’ve seen Him work His plan before, and though we could both see such clear examples of His unexpected workings in our lives, so far beyond our wildest imaginations, we wouldn’t trade what He’s done for anything in the world. Though we may have questioned Him at times, we’ve could agree that we’d come to see that what He’d done was good. Good by anyone’s definition.

But it took trusting Him to lead in some dark places.

::

I found my way effortlessly to my workstation in the pitch black because I’ve walked that way so many times before. I know how many cubicles stack up down the row. I know where the doorways stand. I even know where the cabinets jut out so I didn’t smack right into them. 

Because every day, I walk that same way.

Only I walk that way in the light. 

::

Walking that way daily, in the light, prepared me to walk that way one day in the dark. 

Who God is didn’t change a few weeks ago because somebody flipped off the lights in my otherwise bright and secure future. God didn’t stop being good because I can’t see my hand in front of my face at the moment. 

Things sure look different when the lights go out. But spending time with Him, at His feet, knowing Him deeply while it’s still light gives me what I need to trust Him to show me the way.

Even when the way is dark. 

::


The Post I’ve Been Trying to Write

 

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)
::
The last several times I’ve settled down to write, I’ve been surprised by the result. Not that it was necessarily good or bad, but it wasn’t what I intended to write. I finally concluded after considering the father in Mark 9, twisting and turning in the turmoil between belief and unbelief, I just wasn’t going to write this post after all. 
What I’d wanted to say wasn’t going to be said, and what I’d said instead seemed sufficient.
But then my good friend Dr. Schamu came back from her Christmas hiatus and returned to challenging me with her comments. And with her latest, I knew I wasn’t done. 
At least not quite.
::
In response to Truth vs. Turf she says this: “That is really the core issue isn’t it??! I want to protect [whatever] and thus in any practical way deny the truth! What am I thinking when I do that? At least the Pharisees were consistent with their words that they were threatened and hated Jesus. How often do I claim publicly (and believe privately) that I love him and trust him? Then, in a stressful situation, my core beliefs come out and are opposed to my profession! Nothing like a little heat to bring the true beliefs to the surface.” (Emphasis added.) Read her whole comment here. There’s a lot to it, as I’m sure you find there always is.
The difference between what we really believe and what we say we believe is often stark. It seems to me that we profess to believe one thing, but in our innermost being, we believe something else. 
We want to believe one thing, but our hearts run to something else. 
We want folks to think we believe one thing, but if we lift the curtain, that just isn’t what’s there.
This is hard territory for me. 
::
You know I’m a fan of Ted Dekker. I spoke once before about a character of his, Caleb, who was trying to return to the faith of his youth. Part of his journey he spent at the feet of a desert wanderer, Father Joseph Hadane. As Caleb wrestled through his own crisis of faith, he told Father Hadane that he was trying to “live up to” his beliefs. 
Father Hadane countered with a painfully difficult answer. “We always live up or down to our beliefs,” he said. “Beliefs are the rails which govern our lives. Our trains roll on them whether we like it or not. If your train is not rolling on the set of rails which you claim are yours, it’s because you have diverted your train to a different set of rails — these are your true beliefs now, not the rails you left.”
::
Saying I believe something is not the same as believing it. How I live will reflect what I truly believe in my innermost core. 
My life, whether I like it or not, will reflect what I, in fact, believe.
Do you see why this is hard?
::
I can say anything I want. But is it what I truly believe? Does my train roll on the rails I claim are mine?
The most critical thing for me to believe, to fully accept as mine, to make both my professed belief as well as my deeply held core belief, is that abiding belief of which Paul spoke to the Philippian believers. That I do not have a “righteousness of my own that comes from the law,” but rather a “righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Access to God that comes only through Christ, and not the slightest bit through me. 
“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” 
These bold things that Paul says here, I want them to be what is truly true for me. 
I want this to be the set of rails I roll on every single day.
::
But I’m not convinced that my life reflects that this is it for me. I’m not convinced that my train hasn’t become diverted. I’m not convinced that when the heat is turned up, as my friend points out, that this will be revealed as my deeply held, authentic belief. 
It all boils down to something as simple as this: Do I live what I say I believe?
And if I don’t live it, then do I really believe it at all? (Ouchie.)
And if I don’t believe it, then why do I say that I do? (Ouchier.)
::

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)

The last several times I’ve settled down to write, I’ve been surprised by the result. Not that it was necessarily good or bad, but it wasn’t what I intended to write. I finally concluded after considering the father in Mark 9, twisting and turning in the turmoil between belief and unbelief, I just wasn’t going to write this post after all. 

What I’d wanted to say wasn’t going to be said, and what I’d said instead seemed sufficient.

But then my good friend Dr. Schamu came back from her Christmas hiatus and returned to challenging me with her comments.

And with her latest, I knew I wasn’t done. 

At least not quite.

::

In response to Truth vs. Turf she said this:

That is really the core issue isn’t it??! I want to protect [whatever] and thus in any practical way deny the truth! What am I thinking when I do that? At least the Pharisees were consistent with their words that they were threatened and hated Jesus. How often do I claim publicly (and believe privately) that I love him and trust him? Then, in a stressful situation, my core beliefs come out and are opposed to my profession! Nothing like a little heat to bring the true beliefs to the surface. (Emphasis added.)

Read her whole comment here. There’s a lot to it, as I’m sure you find there always is.

The difference between what we really believe and what we say we believe is often stark. It seems to me that we profess to believe one thing, but in our innermost being, we believe something else. 

We want to believe one thing, but our hearts run to something else. 

We want folks to think we believe one thing, but if we lift the curtain, that just isn’t what’s there.

This is hard territory for me. 

::

I’m a fan of Ted Dekker. I spoke once before about a character of his, Caleb, who was trying to return to the faith of his youth. Part of his journey he spent at the feet of a desert wanderer, Father Joseph Hadane. As Caleb wrestled through his own crisis of faith, he told Father Hadane that he was trying to “live up to” his beliefs. 

Father Hadane countered with a painfully difficult answer.

We always live up or down to our beliefs,” he said. “Beliefs are the rails which govern our lives. Our trains roll on them whether we like it or not. If your train is not rolling on the set of rails which you claim are yours, it’s because you have diverted your train to a different set of rails — these are your true beliefs now, not the rails you left.

::

Saying I believe something is not the same as believing it. How I live will reflect what I truly believe in my innermost core. 

My life, whether I like it or not, will reflect what I, in fact, believe.

Do you see why this is hard?

::

I can say anything I want. But is it what I truly believe? Does my train roll on the rails I claim are mine?

The most critical thing for me to believe, to fully accept as mine, to make both my professed belief as well as my deeply held core belief, is that abiding belief of which Paul spoke to the Philippian believers. That I do not have a “righteousness of my own that comes from the law,” but rather a “righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Access to God that comes only through Christ, and not the slightest bit through me. 

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” 

These bold things that Paul says here, I want them to be what is truly true for me. 

I want this to be the set of rails I roll on every single day.

::

But I’m not convinced that my life reflects that this is it for me. I’m not convinced that my train hasn’t become diverted. I’m not convinced that when the heat is turned up, as my friend points out, that this will be revealed as my deeply held, authentic belief. 

It all boils down to something as simple as this: Do I live what I say I believe?

And if I don’t live it, then do I really believe it at all? (Ouchie.)

And if I don’t believe it, then why do I say that I do? (Ouchier.)

::


Inconceivable!

 

Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. (1 Corinthians 1:7-9 MSG)
::
You know Inigo and Vizzini, right? 
Please, tell me that you do. You have to know these guys from The Princess Bride. If you know them, then what I’m going to say should make pretty good sense. But in case you don’t, let me fill you in. Not on the whole story — you really should rent the DVD for that, and do it soon — but just a little bit about these two fellas. 
Vizzini’s favorite word, it seems, is “inconceivable.” He says it all the time. Anything that doesn’t happen to fit into his construct of reality is simply “inconceivable.” The problem is that as often as he says something is “inconceivable,” it turns out that it is not only quite conceivable, but it is also quite possible. Even probable. Very likely. 
In fact, the inconceivable has probably already happened.
It was inconceivable that anyone from Florin could have caught up with their ship, it was inconceivable that the Dread Pirate Roberts wouldn’t fall off the Cliffs of Insanity, and it was inconceivable that he could be beaten in a battle of wits (he was a Sicilian, after all, and you never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!). Yet, all those very inconceivable things…happened.
And so, after hearing his companion repeatedly insist that completely conceivable events are inconceivable, as the hero does successfully scale the Cliffs of Insanity, Inigo finally tells Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Vizzini acts like the word means one thing. But reality keeps making it look like it means something completely different.
::
I think many times, it would be very reasonable for the Inigo’s in my life to say to me, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” When you line up the things I say I believe against how I live my life, does it look like the words mean what I say they mean? Does it look like I believe they are true? 
Words like…grace.
   Words like …faith.
      Words like…redemption.
If I really believe these words mean what God says they mean, if I really believe what Jesus says is true, why is my life characterized by so much doubt and striving?
::
If I really believe that God extends His grace to me — that I can do nothing to earn His favor because He gives it to me for free — why do I work so hard to convince Him to like me?
If I really believe that God will do what He says He will — if I really have faith in Him — why do I second guess and make contingency plans just in case He doesn’t come through? (And why am I surprised so often when He does?)
If I really believe that Jesus paid the price to redeem me — that His blood was substituted for mine and that He paid the price to buy me back — why do I still act like I’m a slave to sin and that He doesn’t own me?
::
It seems inconceivable in the face of all He’s said and all He’s done that I would have trouble with this. 
But I do. 
What about you?
::

Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. (1 Corinthians 1:7-9 MSG)

You know Inigo and Vizzini, right? 

Please, tell me that you do. You have to know these guys from The Princess Bride. If you know them, then what I’m going to say should make pretty good sense. But in case you don’t, let me fill you in. Not on the whole story — you really should rent the DVD for that, and do it soon — but just a little bit about these two fellas. 

Vizzini’s favorite word, it seems, is inconceivable. He says it all the time. Anything that doesn’t happen to fit into his construct of reality is simply inconceivable. The problem is that as often as he says something is inconceivable, it turns out that it is not only quite conceivable, but it is also quite possible. Even probable. 

In fact, odds are the inconceivable has already occurred.

It was inconceivable that anyone from Florin could have caught up with their ship, it was inconceivable that the Dread Pirate Roberts wouldn’t fall off the Cliffs of Insanity, and it was inconceivable that he could be beaten in a battle of wits (he was a Sicilian, after all, and you never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!).

Yet, all those very inconceivable things . . . happened.

And so, after hearing his companion repeatedly insist that completely conceivable events are inconceivable, and as the hero does successfully scale the Cliffs of Insanity, Inigo finally confronts Vizzini.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Vizzini acts like the word means one thing. But reality keeps making it look like it means something completely different.

::

I think many times, it would be very reasonable for the Inigo’s in my life to say to me, You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

When you line up the things I say I believe against how I live my life, does it look like the words mean what I say they mean?

Does it look like I believe they are true? 

Words like . . . grace.

   Words like . . . faith.

      Words like . . . redemption.

If I really believe these words mean what God says they mean, if I really believe what Jesus says is true, why is my life characterized by so much doubt and striving?

::

If I really believe that God extends His grace to me — that I can do nothing to earn His favor because He gives it to me for free — why do I work so hard to convince Him to like me?

If I really believe that God will do what He says He will — if I really have faith in Him — why do I second guess and make contingency plans just in case He doesn’t come through? (And why am I surprised so often when He does?)

If I really believe that Jesus paid the price to redeem me — that His blood was substituted for mine and that He paid the price to buy me back — why do I still act like I’m a slave to sin and that He doesn’t own me?

::

It seems inconceivable in the face of all He’s said and all He’s done that I would have trouble with this. 

But I do. 

What about you?

::


Anti-Lock Brakes

 

We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
::
We’re in full blizzard mode here in South Dakota. We had a few days of respite this past week, just bitterly cold temperatures but not so much falling and blowing snow. But now we’re right back at it. A thick new layer of soft white powder is blowing around now, leaving mountainous drifts and obscuring visibility. And it’s so blistering cold that a person really wouldn’t want to be out in it. I realize blistering is usually associated with heat. But this is the kind of cold that burns.
Nevertheless, we were out in it. We had to go out to collect children at the theater and take care of a friend’s cat. As we drove down the ice packed highway, the stoplight turned yellow. Lane applied the brakes. And then we cringed and listened to that excruciating grind. And felt the Tahoe keep sliding. And sliding. And grinding. 
Grinding. 
Sliding. 
Intersection growing closer.
And then, the vehicle stopped. Right at the edge of the crosswalk. Just like it was supposed to. 
Antilock brakes make me crazy.
::
All the way through driver’s ed, at least in my part of the country, they hammer into your head that you never just hold down your brakes when you are stopping on ice. You pump your brakes. 
Don’t hold ’em. Pump ’em.
But not antilock brakes. Once you put ’em down, you just hang on and wait for the vehicle to stop. You fight every urge to let up and pump the brakes. And remarkably, the vehicle stops. 
You’ve got to trust the ABS. And nine times out of ten (remember, I’m a claims adjuster — I’ve seen too much to be able to say 100 percent), they come through. 
But only if you trust them enough not to pump the brakes. 
Only if you trust them enough not to take matters into your own hands.
Only if you trust them enough to let them do what they were made to do.
::
How many times do I act like God is the old fashioned brake system? He tells me to apply the brakes and hang on. He’ll stop the car. But it doesn’t feel like He’s going to come through. I can hear the grinding and I can see the sliding. I want to pump the brakes. I want to make sure I maintain some control. 
I can’t turn it over to a brake system I don’t understand. 
We live by faith, not by sight. This is what Paul stressed so earnestly to the Corinthian church. What we see can throw us off. It can make us think God is not coming through. It can make it look like we’re going to crash right into that car coming into the intersection. It can make us only hear the grinding and see the sliding. 
But faith, faith is something different. The Message translation puts it like this: “It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going.” It’s our trust that the antilock brakes don’t need to be pumped that keeps us holding the pedal down. When we rely only on what we can see, we’re surely going to pump the brakes. And in all likelihood, crash.
::
We live by faith, not by sight. Our trust in what we don’t yet see (oh, but one day we will) keeps us going. 
Don’t pump the brakes. Fight the urge to take things into your own hands.
Hold on through the grinding and sliding, and trust the brakes to work like they are supposed to. 
No matter what you see.
Let what you don’t yet see keep you going.
::

We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

We’re in full blizzard mode here in South Dakota. We had a few days of respite this past week, just bitterly cold temperatures but not so much falling and blowing snow. But now we’re right back at it. A thick new layer of soft white powder is blowing around now, leaving mountainous drifts and obscuring visibility. And it’s so blistering cold that a person really wouldn’t want to be out in it. I realize blistering is usually associated with heat. But this is the kind of cold that burns.

Nevertheless, we were out in it. We had to go out to collect children at the theater and take care of a friend’s cat. As we drove down the ice packed highway, the stoplight turned yellow. Lane applied the brakes. And then we cringed and listened to that excruciating grind. And felt the Tahoe keep sliding. And sliding. And grinding. 

Grinding. 

Sliding. 

Intersection growing closer.

And then, the vehicle stopped. Right at the edge of the crosswalk. Just like it was supposed to. 

Antilock brakes make me crazy.

::

All the way through driver’s ed, at least in my part of the country, they hammer into your head that you never just hold down your brakes when you are stopping on ice. You pump your brakes. 

Don’t hold ’em. Pump ’em.

But not antilock brakes. Once you put ’em down, you just hang on and wait for the vehicle to stop. You fight every urge to let up and pump the brakes. And remarkably, the vehicle stops. 

You’ve got to trust the ABS. And nine times out of ten (remember, I’m a claims adjuster — I’ve seen too much to be able to say 100 percent), they come through. 

But only if you trust them enough not to pump the brakes. 

Only if you trust them enough not to take matters into your own hands.

Only if you trust them enough to let them do what they were made to do.

::

How many times do I act like God is the old fashioned brake system? He tells me to apply the brakes and hang on. He’ll stop the car. But it doesn’t feel like He’s going to come through. I can hear the grinding and I can see the sliding. I want to pump the brakes. I want to make sure I maintain some control. 

I can’t turn it over to a brake system I don’t understand. 

We live by faith, not by sight. This is what Paul stressed so earnestly to the Corinthian church. What we see can throw us off. It can make us think God is not coming through. It can make it look like we’re going to crash right into that car coming into the intersection. It can make us only hear the grinding and see the sliding. 

But faith, faith is something different. The Message translation puts it like this: “It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going.” It’s our trust that the antilock brakes don’t need to be pumped that keeps us holding the pedal down. When we rely only on what we can see, we’re surely going to pump the brakes. And in all likelihood, crash.

::

We live by faith, not by sight. Our trust in what we don’t yet see (oh, but one day we will) keeps us going. 

Don’t pump the brakes. Fight the urge to take things into your own hands.

Hold on through the grinding and sliding, and trust the brakes to work like they are supposed to. 

No matter what you see.

Let what you don’t yet see keep you going.

::


Pushing the Promise

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps then I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to what Sarai said.” (Genesis 16:1-2)

I really love the Old Testament. Would you permit to to take one more crack at Genesis 16? 

Now, I’ve said a couple of times already that this whole mess started because Abram and Sarai decided not to trust God, not to wait on Him, not to take Him at His word. Instead, they took matters into their own hands. To recap very briefly (read the last two entries for more), God had previously promised to make Abram a great nation — descendants that would outnumber the stars. He’s an old man, and so far he and his wife remain childless.

The dream looks like it’s vanished.

At the end of their rope, they try to force the promise into being. They take control, they grit their teeth and they try to make it happen on their own. 

So Sarai gives Abram her maidservant as his wife; he sleeps with her and she conceives a son. And from then on, it’s all about the train wreck. 

::

Three parts of these two short verses are most troubling:

The Lord has kept me from having children.

God made a promise to Abram — his descendants would be many. Had He yet failed Abram? Or Sarai for that matter? It’s not in the record. He has not failed them.

Not ever.

Yet Sarai’s impatience consumes her. And here she not only accuses God of not keeping His promise, but also of actively preventing the promise from becoming reality.

God, she says, You promised it, and then You prevented it.


Perhaps I can build a family through her.

Impatient with God, believing He promised and then reneged, she concludes it’s up to her to make this happen. If God is not to come through, then I’ll just take care of it.

I will fulfill God’s promise myself. I can build my family without God. I am in control.

I am on my own.

 

Abram agreed to what Sarai said.

Sarai suggests this monumentally foolish course of action, but Abram goes along with it. He agrees to what she said. This is the part where Abram is supposed to sit her down and set her straight.

He had every reason and every right to stop her.

But he did nothing.

Well, he did something. But this is a family friendly site.

The thing is, Abram knew God to be faithful. And if Sarai forgot, he had to remind her. He knew God, he’d left his home to follow Him. He talked with God. God showed him the very stars his legacy would rival.

God revealed His plan, His promise, His heart to Abram.

But instead of remembering that, he followed Sarai’s impatience and unbelief. 

And that’s when that train wreck happened. 

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Who’s the God you know?

The One I know doesn’t promise and then prevent it. He doesn’t ask us to force His promise to play out on our own. He doesn’t want us to forget His faithfulness and instead follow doubt straight off the edge of a cliff.

He asks me to put my faith in Him.

He asks me to leave Him in control.

And He asks me to resist efforts to be dragged into doubt. 

Believe. Surrender. Stand up.

That’s what He’s asking of me.

He does the promising. He does the fulfilling. 

He’ll do the heavy lifting.

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