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Archive for the ‘Makes sense’ Category

There is probably a perfectly reasonable for everything that seems miraculous.  I mean, we may look at a sunrise in sheer awe at its splendor, maybe even congratulating God on a job well done, while another may consider the science that went into it and dismiss any attributes of faith altogether.  Or, in seeming answer to prayer, a cancer patient may be declared cancer-free while God’s people proclaim His faithfulness, and all the while we know that chemo therapy can do wonders.  And when the wandering child returns home after months or years of rebellion and familial aloofness, we say God is good and credit Him with the reunion.  Did the child just grow up and gain a new, adult perspective?

Are we naive?  Are we gullible?  Have we been so indoctrinated in the church that we have lost our senses?  Come on.  Think!

When I go to a movie, and I’m talking about a really well-done movie, the kind that takes you to another place and causes you to forget where you are and who you are…  When I go to that kind of movie, I come away thinking of all the creativity that went into it.  Writers, actors, directors, cinematographers, make-up artists, set decorators, costumers, foley artists – everyone executing their craft with excellence.  Where did that come from?  I come away thinking about that.  It’s amazing — the talent, the teamwork, the human capacity.

When a teacher is able to reach a child, to get her to understand a principle, to gain her trust and build confidence; when a businessman takes an unpopular stand, one that will cost his business and his colleagues profit, but one that will take care of their employees and customers; when a friend is able to forgive; when a father provides for his family despite the long hours and hard labor required, these are noteworthy.

All of these things, from the sunrise to the sacrificial life – all of these things are what God has put into creation, into humanity.  There are explanations.  There is chemo therapy, there is education, there is human decency.  But dig deeper.  Don’t stop there.  Look behind it all.  Where did it come from?  Who is behind it?

I think, by the very fact that things can be explained, that what some would attribute to God others would call natural phenomena – (how can I say this?) – to me, that is just another demonstration that God is in it.  He is so involved in all of life that we are accustomed to things as they are, things as He made them to be.  The very fact that some deny Him is the reason I believe.  He is behind everything, and we are so used to seeing Him that we no longer recognize Him.

May our eyes be opened.  May we all have eyes to see.

 

 

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If you’re like me, you try to make decisions, especially the big ones, according to what you think God would like.  That, we reason, is where the safety is.  After all, He loves us, has a wonderful plan for us, and everything will be OK in the end.

So we pray, we ask others we trust, and we do what seems right to us.  Of course, we’re sure wisdom is in there somewhere, because after all, we’re pretty smart and God wouldn’t let us make a mistake now, would He?

So we venture into this big decision.  Maybe it’s a new job, or a move, or school, or marriage.  These, after all, are the biggies.  Things are often rocky in the beginning because it’s new, there’s a learning curve, relational adjustments must be made, we’re living in the unfamiliar, and schedules are completely different.  Things get better after the initial transition settles down, and we feel at peace.  Yes, indeed, God is good.

But if our view of God is contingent upon the outcome of our situation, we are in serious trouble indeed.  Difficult times will come in anything, some temporary, some final.  People die.  Marriages end.  Careers end.  Regret can be crippling.

So where is God in all of this?  What does this say about faith?

Here’s what I want us to consider:  We were never meant to trust in the outcome; we are asked only to trust in the God who loves, leads, and sustains.  I may make the decision He had in mind, or I may not.  I may be following Him every step of the way, or I may get off course at some point.  But He is the one who deserves my trust, not my prayer.

Do we make mistakes?  You bet.  Do we choose wrongly?  Often times, yes.  Will God give up on us, accuse of not listening?  No.  He will make adjustments.  There is always a Plan B.  Don’t we see it all around us?  You can’t tell me this world or the people in it were as God originally intended.  But He loves us.  He is still working.  And following Him is something that we learn.  We get better with practice.

So put your faith in God alone.  That means to trust Him, to lean on Him, to rely on His good intentions.  No matter what, He’ll be there to catch you – or to cheer you on.

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There is a very romantic notion which says that there is one and only one life companion, spouse, soul mate, for each of us.  If we are people of faith, we might say there is one person God has in mind for us, and we ask Him to lead us to that one.  Granted, that places a very high value on that one we find, and we cherish that person, believing they were created especially for us and we for them.

What I want to do is disassemble this belief, and for very good reasons.  Please hear me out.

Let’s live in this scenario for just a moment.  I have married the man of my dreams, and believe he is all God has intended for him to be.  He believes the same of me.  Somewhere along the line, sooner or later, my vision will clear – probably about the time he regains his clarity as well.  At that point, and it most likely will progress slowly, we will begin to blame someone.  Usually it is the other spouse, because they did not measure up to what God certainly wanted for each of us.  After all, doesn’t He want the best for us, and isn’t He able to choose well?

Or let’s take it to the next level.  I think we will weary of blaming our spouse and believing he or she will improve with time.  Now it’s time to blame the One who brought us together:  God Himself.  What was He thinking?  Does He even care?  Is He even there?

I’m sure you’ll agree that neither of these scenarios is helpful.  I believe the only logical and healthy perspective is one that takes responsibility for one’s own choice.  This is the one I have chosen and I will love, no matter what.  I will be the best spouse I can be so that he will be satisfied with his choice in me as well.

And from the logical standpoint, all it takes is for one person in the history of humanity to make the wrong choice and the whole thing is off kilter.  From then on, the rest of us are having to settle for less than perfect.  It’s the old domino effect, once again.

My point is not to take the romance out of marriage, but to have a healthy perspective of who we are and who we married.  We are real people who married other real people.  We are capable of life-long love if we take the time to nurture and cherish that which we’ve chosen.  Soul-mates are more often made than found.

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I hear it from people of all faiths, from various worldviews and religious traditions.  We all seem to want God’s will, by whatever name we may call it.  Admittedly, some hold a more fatalistic outlook and say things like, “If it’s meant to be…”  (Do you ever wonder who it is that’s doing the “meaning?”)  Others see a more direct correlation between our actions, past or present, and what happens to us.  This is karma.

But what I want to consider is not what lies behind us, but what we’re seeking on the path ahead.  Like I said, we all seem to want God’s will.  We believe that’s best, don’t we, because we really do believe God is good.  And who wouldn’t want what’s best for ourselves?  We want to know who to marry, where to live, and what career to choose.

I’ve asked God many, many times, in many situations.  Sometimes I’ve gotten clear answers.  Other times I’ve heard nothing and did what seemed best.  What I really want is a blueprint.  I want clear instructions so I can follow them.  Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it, Lord.  Lay out the plan for my life.

Lately I’ve been thinking, though, that God’s plan is not detected so much in the blueprint as in the footprints.  How often have I looked back and realized, “Oh, so that’s what You were doing!”  I was in His will all along and didn’t even know it.  But now, looking back, I can see where I’ve been, where He’s taken me.  And it makes sense.

Should I have known sooner?  Could I have?  I think faith realizes that.  After all, we’re not asked to believe in the plan; we’re asked to believe in Him.  If I trust that He loves me, even if the journey is unpleasant, I know He will bring about good things.  And that good includes me, but is not exclusive to my own interests.  That is better than good.

I like looking back every now and again.  It makes sense of the present, and I can see that God makes sense out of the senseless, and makes the pain worth it when we see its outcome.  And the best part?  It helps me trust Him for the future.

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It’s been said that we’re all in a war, we’re just not all fighting.  I think that’s true.  We’ve all got things we’re struggling with, and that’s not bad, as long as we’re continue to struggle and not give in.  We may realize that our speech is unpleasant, or food may have become more than “our daily bread” to us, or we may neglect to do good when it is in our power to do so.  If we know these things and try to do better, then we’re struggling.  Bravo!

But how often do we see others as our enemy?  “He makes me so mad!” Is that true?  Can another person really have that kind of power over us?  I suppose he can if we let him.  But then it seems to me it’s our choice and not really him that is the source of our anger.

But what would it look like if we recognized that we all have a common enemy?  I can say with confidence that we’d be more compassionate, less judgmental, and more reasonable.  If I am angry with you, but realize that there is another trying to come between us, I’m much more willing to seek reconciliation than if I see you as my enemy.  In that case, I want revenge – or at the very least, I want distance.

If we think of others as our enemy, then guess what – we become their enemy.  After all, the counterpart to any opponent is the opposition, the other team or player.  And what do people do when confronted with an enemy?  Well, we’ve got a fight on our hands.  And it’s a war neither can win, because the real enemy is allowed to triumph as he remains totally undetected.

I have a favorite Bible verse for marriage:  “We war not against flesh and blood…”  This perspective makes all the difference in a marriage, and the principle holds true for any human relationship.  When there is conflict, there is a tendency to let destructive things enter in:  ego, selfishness, jealousy, bitterness…  All these things are killers, and they are prime motivators, if we’re willing to admit the truth.

Did you ever stop to think that every person who ever lived, every person you come into contact with, was made in the image of God?  If we really believed that, I think it would make a difference in how we treat people and what we want for them.  It’s true that we’ve fallen far from that original design, but He has a plan for restoring us.  It’s not going to happen by fighting with one another.  It happens when God rescues us, snatches us out of the mess we’re in, and we invite others to come along.  That’s what puts us all on the same team.

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Have you ever has seasons of doubt?  I mean, I know very smart people who don’t believe in God, or who believe in a “higher power” without getting specific about what to call it.  These are people I respect, and I’ll admit that sometimes they seem to have good arguments.  So, yes, I admit to doubt at times.

Let me first explain why I believe in the first place.  To me, it just makes sense that there would be a Creator who started all of this.  He doesn’t have to have a creator.  He just IS.  Somehow I don’t think I would need the Bible to tell me that, but I can’t say for sure because it already does.  I just believe it.  It makes sense to me.

During those times of wondering, though, I think maybe there is a more “reasonable” explanation for all of it.  Science has some stuff to say, and philosophy, and even the fatalistic “oh well” folks seem to have a level of satisfaction.  But then it doesn’t seem like all of these beliefs have to conflict with the biblical one.  It seems to me it can all still originate with God.

There’s another source of doubt for me, and that’s when my experience doesn’t line up with my expectation of how life should be.  At those times, I have to examine what God really said, like I mentioned in my last post, “And I Quote…”  I do believe the Bible is true, but there are times when my false interpretation of it has skewed my sense of justice or has not satisfied my immediate desires.

One day a thought, a mental image, flooded my soul, and it was not pretty.  It was a picture of what life would be like without God.  Let me tell you, it brought me to tears as I almost experienced the utter purposelessness and hopelessness that His absence produced.  Nothing made sense and I felt worse than empty.  I say “almost” because in the next moment I knew that none of what I just saw was true!  My doubt had turned to certainty and I once again knew what I’ve always known.

What is my point?  Don’t be afraid of doubts.  They help clarify what is real.  Don’t deny them.  Face them head on.  Ask questions.  Stubbornly pursue the answers.  I once raised my fist in one of those moments when God wasn’t doing what I thought He should.  I attempted something like a break up, telling Him I couldn’t hold on to Him anymore.  His response?  “You never were.  I’ve holding on to you, and I’m not letting go.”  That was 30 years ago.  He never has.

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Does God ever invade your thoughts in such a way that it stops you dead in your tracks?  It happens to me every now and then.  He mostly corrects me, but I don’t care because I’m just so glad to hear from Him.  And really, when you think about it, it shows He cares.  It also shows He believes I can do better.

Let me tell you about one particular day.  I was walking to my office, thinking about the day ahead of me, asking Him to do those things He does.  You know – fix some impossible situations, give hope where there is none, provide resources when there just aren’t any…  He’s good at those things.  I was praying in faith, I was.  I believed He could do those things, and I told Him so.  I told Him I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t believe in His power and His love.  Yessirree, I believed God for the big things.

And that was His point.  He stopped me in my tracks and said, “Your faith is not big.  Your faith is small.  You’re waiting to see Me do the big things, so you can revel in your big faith.  I want you to see Me in the little things.  That’s where the big faith is.”

So, I’m happy to say, I have faith looks smaller now.  I’m willing to stop waiting for big things and look at the small things He’s already doing.  And by small, I don’t mean insignificant; I mean ordinary.  They just seem natural.  We don’t think of God as having anything to do with them.  They very often have an explanation.  We learned about those things in school, or they’re just a coincidence, or they’re a natural occurrence.  Of course the sun rises.  Of course we’re going to eat dinner again today.  Of course, of course, of course.

What we need to do is back up.  Why does the sun rise?  Where does our food come from?  Who gave us the ability to earn a paycheck?  How do doctors know what they know?  It can all be traced back to God!  Big faith risks ridicule.  Big faith looks small.  Big faith is a place of rest.

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We like to put things into categories, don’t we?  It makes us feel safe and comfortable.  It makes us feel like we are in control if we can identify where something belongs or where things come from.  We don’t like to think of anything as random.  That’s awkward and poses too many unanswerable questions.

We have a category for friends and another for family.  We have one for work and one for play.  Some things are important while others are trivial.  Some movies are dramatic and others comedic. We have free time and we have schedules.

So I pose the question:  Is there also room for a distinction between sacred and secular?  Some things are a matter of faith while others are scientific, right?   The manger is religious and Santa is fun.  Praying is sacred and playing is secular. Sunday morning belongs to God and Monday ushers us back into the real world.  Or so we think.  But how do we categorize kindness or beauty or celebration?  Are they done by reason or by inspiration?  How does work fit into these lists?  Or money?  Or our homes?  Where are we to draw the line?

Let’s imagine for a moment that the categories have different names.  Or better yet, let’s imagine there is no line at all.  The first thing we have to do is take a careful look at our columns and then – erase the line between them.  There is no secular.  There is no sacred.  It’s all one category.  It’s called life.

Now admittedly, not all things in life are good, and much of it is downright evil.  There is regret and there is slander, there is injustice and arrogance, hatred and greed.  What do we do with these?  Are we to call these life as well?  Certainly they are within the experience of each one of us, but there is a very important distinction which must be made:  there is a category called sin and it is not to be minimized.  But here’s the liberating thing – if it’s not sin, it’s life, and life is OK!

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I had a really big decision to make.  It was life-changing.  It was the kind of thing that, once it was made, there would be no going back.  It would change everything.

Most days, I was very enthusiastic.  Everything pointed to YES .  It seemed everything in my life had been building up to this very thing, yet there was a nagging sense at times that perhaps I was reading too much into circumstances.  Perhaps this would be a diversion that would end up in disaster.  After all, my life at present was very satisfying and purposeful.  Why change all that?

It was during this quandary that I encountered a stranger who came to change the way I think about decision-making.  We were seated next to one another on a flight from Buffalo to San Diego.   He had no idea the dilemma I was facing when he began talking about the will of God.  Imagine!  He introduced himself as a Christian counselor in San Diego, and for some reason began telling me how he thinks we Christians drive ourselves nuts trying to make perfect decisions. 

He said that we put these choices into the wrong categories.  We think of them as “right or wrong,” when we should in fact think of them as “good or bad,” or even ”good or better.”   His idea is that we stop looking for that one perfect choice, and just use wisdom and go with what seems to be a good choice.  There will be adjustments along the way, as circumstances and further information come into play, but we will be moving in a good direction.

Now, God says a lot about wisdom in His book.  Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are all through the Bible, as if He expects us to learn them and use them.  Understand this:  He won’t bless us because we made the perfect choice, (hooray for us; we’re smart) but because we belong to Him and He loves us.  His intentions toward us are good!  We can walk in freedom, freedom to choose well, freedom to make adjustments, freedom to learn as we go.  We can rest in that.

So what did I do?  I carefully but wholeheartedly made that decision on which there was no going back, the one I was tending toward in the first place.  It was not perfect, but it was very good.

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