This past week I was looking for something in a closet and came across a box of old handwritten letters. They were still in their original envelopes, held together with rotted rubber bands. I pulled them out and the next thing I knew, I had lost an entire afternoon.
What a kick to read stories from my then-25 year old sister gushing about the new job she had come to love. To revisit my mother’s fretting over her upcoming nursing board exams and hear again, at the end of every letter, how much she loved me. Priceless.
Jesus has been called the master storyteller, and with good reason. His parables were compelling and oh-so-relatable. His illustrations from daily life immediately drew people in.
I always imagined He must have used humor and dramatic flourishes when He was telling His stories. Sometimes I even pictured Him singing parts of the lesson.
Think about it. The people were so enthralled, they crowded around Him constantly to hear more. Would they have done that for a dry lecture in the hot sun, surrounded by other sweaty humans? I didn’t think so.
And then I went to Alaska.
It’s been some years now since my daughter and I took this trip. We joined my parents for a cruise organized by our denomination down the Inside Passage from Seward to Ketchikan. The scenery was spectacular, of course, and the weather unseasonably perfect.
Frankly, as I stood on the deck of the ship, I fully expected to see Jesus return at any moment through those amazing cloud formations.
I have several, shall we say, complicated relationships in my life. The identities and details aren’t important here but my struggle to resolve friction and find peace with them, is.
Relational meltdowns leave me reeling. As weird as it may sound, I experience what I imagine suffocation would feel like: desperation turning to panic, then helplessness, hopelessness, and finally, defeat. I know, how dramatic. But perhaps you can relate on some level. Continue reading Breathing Jesus→
You remember the story, right? How God kept the Israelites from starving in the desert by sending them free food straight from the sky, every single day? They called it manna which, loosely translated, meant “What is it?”
That’s just cool. And it actually doesn’t sound bad, does it? “The taste of it was like wafers made with honey” – kind of makes me think of Honey Nut Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies with sugar.
It settled on the ground along with the dew every morning. All they had to do was gather it up and prepare it in any one of a number of different ways and they’d have nutritious, filling food. No worries.
In the beginning, the Israelites tried to save some from one day to the next, just in case God didn’t come through. (They were worry warts just like us.) But that didn’t work. If they hoarded it, the manna would get wormy and start to reek overnight. They had to rely on God and scoop it up first thing every day or go hungry.
Theoretically, through this process, not only would they not starve, their faith in God would grow. They would learn to trust Him as their Provider and they would realize that no part of their survival was their own doing.
Of course, if you’ve read the Biblical story, you’ll recall the people got tired of a steady diet of the stuff, especially when that was all they had to eat for forty years. They started griping and complaining and it got ugly. Continue reading Looks like you could use some manna→
When I was a kid growing up in Key West, there was a young guy in our church, Charlie (not his real name). Every time someone greeted him with, “How you doin’, Charlie?” his response was always, “I’m tired.” Maybe he had a legitimate reason to be constantly exhausted, I don’t know. All I can tell you is, to this day the only thing I remember about that guy is he would always say he was tired.
I shake my head at that now, but I have to wonder, how many times do we – all of us – refer to ourselves in ways that are negative and, over time, allow them to become part of our very identity?
“Tired” seems minor compared to some labels we allow. We accept certain traits about ourselves as unchangeable or certain troubles as inevitable and we miss the truth that we often have a choice.
This morning, my pastor made this specific statement: “God is hard at work in your hopeless situation.” And I started thinking, “What in my life seems hopeless? And if God is hard at work, is it really?”
There’s so much water under this bridge between God and me. He and I have been in a relationship for a very long time. And this praying? I’ve been doing it for decades. I still can’t fully explain how it works but I can tell you, it does. And it feeds my soul.
Entire books – complete with spiral-bound study guides – have been written about prayer so plenty of deep theological scrutiny has already been done. I just want to share a few reasons I personally include you in my prayers: Continue reading This Is Why I Pray for You→
We laugh at that because it rings true. Sometimes we can feel like the only place to find a “stable” relationship is, well, in a stable. That’s especially true if we’ve been burned relationally more than a few times. We start to yearn for settled, reliable, safe. But stable relationships are few and far between, as much as we may wish that weren’t so.
Here’s the thing: My sister has horses; four of them and she loves them like children. But she will be among the first to tell you, the only thing stable about them is where they live.
They’re beautiful and unpredictable, thrilling and a little – or a lot – dangerous. (Ask her sometime about dislocated shoulders, torn ACLs and loosened teeth.) To watch them run with wild abandon is to be inspired and awed. (Even the old guys.)
I’ve always loved how God calls attention to the horse’s power and beauty in the Old Testament book of Job: “Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?” (Job 39:19) At the final judgment, we are told Jesus will ride in victory on a majestic white horse (Revelation 19:11). That’s just cool!
Which brings me to this: When we get right down to it, is a “stable” relationship really what we want out of life?
Recently I was going through a workbook/journal I had kept in connection with a book I read about 10 years ago. I came across something I had written then that not only reminded me of where I was at that time, but how far I’ve come. Here it is (don’t laugh): Continue reading If you want a stable relationship, get a horse→
I like to think I’m a fairly flexible person. I can soldier on in the face of change and adjust my expectations to most any new reality. I can even resign myself to misery if I have to as long as I know there’s an end in sight.
But I found myself really churned up about a change at work not long ago and I was mentally mapping out my exit strategy. I wasn’t going to adjust this time; I was checking out. Two weeks, three max. It was a matter of respect and honor and I wasn’t comprising.
Oh, yeah. I was all righteous.
And then the morning after this change was announced, I read an Oswald Chambers devotional based on John 15:12, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Chambers noted:
“God loved me not because I was lovable, but because it was His nature to do so.”