Looking Through Faith-colored Glasses

We talk a lot about walking by faith and not by sight. Paul the Church-planter said it just like that, in reference to living here and looking beyond to our Home-with-Christ: “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

But I think we mostly are talking about having faith to accomplish things. Faith that moves mountains. Faith that changes hearts and lives. Faith that takes risks and steps out to do impossible things. Faith that carries us through difficult times. And it’s pretty easy to understand that in all these pressing situations my own abilities fall short and I need to reach out to the power of God. Faith is more like trust in that context, and that makes sense to most of us, because we have experienced childlike dependence that reaches arms up to Someone Bigger Who Can Help. When we are looking for that kind of faith, it has more to do with convincing ourselves that He really does love us individually and personally. Or maybe, if we are utterly honest with ourselves, it’s about figuring out how to get His power to work out the circumstances we desire (and cope with it when He doesn’t). It’s not that I doubt Who He Is…just that I need to experience it for myself, prove to my heart and my senses that He is present, and interested in my small world.

But when the writer of Hebrews is reminding us of all the great people who lived by faith and what they accomplished by God’s power, he defines faith in a somewhat surprising way. It sounds more like poetry than fact, and I have read it for years as one of those beautiful sentences you just accept without understanding: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for….” (Hebrews 11:1) The substance– the nature, the very essence– of things unseen. Which, if you are talking about faith to do, or faith to receive what you desire, might lead you to conclude that faith produces substance– as if by believing something hard enough you can will it into existence. Of course many have gone down that road with all its spiritual and emotional gymnastics, until they inevitably meet big-enough circumstances to defy any amount of positive powerful thinking.

No, these ancient people of faith weren’t trying to create what they desired. For the most part they were listening to the bewildering instructions of God about what He wanted, and struggling to listen and obey. Faith is that act of latching onto what God says, in full confidence that He knows what He is doing, reaching out for something He says is Real and True, even though we cannot experience it with our senses. It reminds me of something I read recently in a random book summary: “Life lived for sensory input alone cannot deliver the spectacular promises that each sense evokes.” And my spirit resonates with the truth of that sentence: there are unseen worlds that we glimpse only briefly here, and the glory of God flashes like sunlight through the thin places….what the Oxford Christians saw as inklings of immortality, and Amy Carmichael called “the edges of His ways.”

The Letter-Writer of Hebrews helpfully specifies what exactly those ancient heroes were holding onto: the universe formed entire at God’s command, worlds and suns hung in space in an instant….the knowledge that God exists and wants to interact with His people, inspiring worship and obedience in their everyday lives….that death is not the end, but the beginning of a different kind of life….that righteousness is the proper condition of mankind….that all God’s promises are true and faithful. This is grand overarching Truth beyond the reach of physical senses. The old heroes were looking at the Reality beyond ours, the invisible world where God lives and moves and works out His plans, with a host of created beings at His command, where stars sing and the heavens bow before His throne.

This is a faith that goes beyond accomplishing things in my little world, and making life better in some way, with God’s help. Because that’s still all about my interests and my concerns. It is a good start, at least, and Heaven knows I need all the help I can get, to live here. But let’s recognize what the author of Hebrews is talking about: a larger, bolder faith that opens its eyes to God’s world and what He is doing– the Real World, you could even say, with Jesus in the center, “For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16) In this context, faith is more like opening your eyes to see what has always been there. “Faith is… the evidence of things hoped for.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is our spiritual eyes and ears, gathering evidence of the unseen world and witnessing to the truth of what God tells us.

And when the unseen realities become as near and tangible to us as the physical world, we’re not just wishing for a better life any more and reaching out to God to help us. Faith literally gives us the substance of an unseen world beyond the tangible experiences of this earth, and Hope along with it. Not a daydream sort of hope, but a foundation-to-build-life-on sort of hope… an assurance of what is to come that is as dependable as the sun rising and the seasons changing….the kind of thing you can only know for sure when the eyes of faith are open. So open your eyes, and run well in this New Year. Because we understand what is lasting and real, and what is fading away. Because we have the evidence of the Unseen, alive and powerful within us. Because faith witnesses to God’s Truth every day. Because everyone is watching, like it or not. “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)


“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”  (Hebrews 11:13)


“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.” (CS Lewis)

What the Birds Already Know

A watercolor of a single bird hangs on my bedroom wall, a lovely study in blues and browns floating almost without context in its frame– no leaves or world beyond, just the huddled bird perched quietly on its branch, the way they do when they settle in. I saw the canvas in the window of a gallery in the southwest, while we were on vacation, and immediately the words of Isaiah 26:3 came to mind: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.” It always strikes me how in the big wide world of winds and storms and predators and limitless skies, the songbirds fly fearless: fragile creatures of bone, and feather, and beating heart that live in simple trust.

Jesus said that all His creatures can live that way, because they know the Creator and trust His care of them. Lilies and sparrows alike have everything they need under His watchful gaze. Jesus even uses their total trust as evidence that we are needlessly worried for ourselves. He lays it out there as if the logic should be self-evident, as if our lack of understanding borders on the absurd: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” (Luke 12:28) 

Could it be that much of our stress and pressure and complex lives is self-inflicted and utterly unnecessary? Jesus stands firm on a simple theological truth that God is the Creator and takes care of all His creatures. Indeed, it is His job, as the Ruler of all, and the glory of His Name depends on it. That sounds so very basic and sensible, almost too simple to be true. But Jesus is reminding us of something that we actually once knew, a truth we lost long ago in the Garden: that our job was to work well for Him and be satisfied and fulfilled, and His job was to take care of us. Way back then, the Enemy planted in Eve’s heart the small fear that God had some hidden agenda, that perhaps He did not have our best interests in mind after all. That one small idea burrowed its way into the heart of us and grew the bitter fruit of mistrust, crowding out the simple dependence on the Creator that had once come naturally. And so we headed out into the world in all our blustering self-sufficiency, determined to prove we could do life on our own and maybe do it better…who knew what a weight of stress and striving and worry we were also claiming.

By now the contrast between those who truly know their Maker, and those who do not is quite evident. Jesus says it shows up clearly in what we are chasing after.  “…Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.” (Luke 12:29) Those who do not live trustingly in a good Father’s care run and chase and build and fret. But if we know the Father is taking care of our needs, that frees us up to pursue His Kingdom with our whole hearts, a much more rewarding endeavor in the long run. Jesus emphasizes His promise “…seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12:31)

As we pursue simplicity then, we are being called back to  an understanding of ourselves as creatures under the Maker’s painstaking care. The Great One who “counts the stars  and calls them all by name” (Psalm 147:4) is fully aware of my needs for today and quite capable of providing the resources to fill them. And I can choose whether to live in trust that whatever He gives me today is enough, or to worry that He won’t provide and run around to find more. This daily minute-by-minute choice to trust is a spiritual exercise, a habit we are building, a peace and simplicity we are discovering. Every time I see that bird on his branch, I remember.


“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” (Matthew 10:29)


“So I will call upon Your name,
And keep my eyes above the waves;
When oceans rise,
My soul will rest in Your embrace,
For I am Yours and You are mine…”
(Oceans, Hillsong)

How We Run

As we study our purpose as women, and understand better how to fight as ezer-warriors in the circles that are ours, a couple themes keep surfacing: Inner stillness. Intimacy with God. Perseverance. Dependence on our Maker. Focus. Intentionality.

It will be a lifetime’s exploration to discover how to be God’s image-bearers in this world: in this season of life… in the hard things we face… in these particular relationships… in the changing currents of opinion. We all know that Everyday gets complicated and that it is way too easy to lose sight of how Jesus would handle this situation, or how He would love. But perhaps we can go on from here in the pursuit of these basic themes? If we can embrace these simple values as we run our Faith-race, the rest will become clear as we step forward.

Of course they are not simple in the sense of being easy; none of these inner practices were part of our old lives, so as new creatures we often feel like we are learning to walk all over again. Jesus said it would not be easy. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:14) The broad easy way only leads to death, and who wants to spend a precious short life running there? No, these practices are simple in the sense of being foundational… basic first steps that everything else will depend upon. The ancient church called them spiritual disciplines– a good term, but one that makes us a little wary in the modern world. We are not entirely sure what it means and discipline tends to make us think of correction and punishment that we would rather avoid. Distressingly, the dictionary agrees that we have lost the valuable meaning of the word; the definitions pushed to the end of the list are the ones that bloom rich with benefit: “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character….self-control…orderly conduct or pattern of behavior.” It sounds like the tough training of an athlete or a cadet, but the cost is worth it when we are looking for a Life-lived-well, that leaves something meaningful behind. After all, if we are running without direction or guidance, we are expending a huge amount of effort to get nowhere.

So these foundational themes that we desire may not come naturally, but with some practice they can become new pathways of growth, new habits that can break through our familiar comfortable routines and thought patterns, to help us focus on spiritual things. We can choose to cultivate new routines that will nurture our spiritual growth and lead us closer to Jesus. Any athlete can tell you that the success of the race depends on building good habits, and staying focused; since our race is one of faith, it should not surprise us that our own success will depend on training spiritual muscles and growing inner health as new creatures in Christ. Jesus went so far as to say that we are useless if we are not remaining connected to Him. He spoke a word-picture of a garden, saying to His followers “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We want to look beyond what is evident to our senses, and strengthen our spiritual perceptions– learn to depend on the loving presence of our Savior and grow up into the women He created us to be.

Fortunately, it is fairly obvious that these simple habits will need to be fueled by our relationship with Him. Even such basic practices as simplicity and silence and focus will require the strength of the Holy Spirit moving in us, because they go against the current of the large, loud, distracting world we live in. These disciplines will have to be repetitious actions that are driven by spiritual force into the physical world. Not because we are so capable and determined, but because we are so captivated by our Savior, so humbly broken by our need for Him. It will be an outpouring of spiritual longing like the Musician-King expressed: “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)

Perhaps it is that simple, that the more we want of Him, the less we will depend on what we can see and touch in this world, and our daily habits and choices will begin to reflect those values. There’s a reason Jesus said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) Filled not with a momentary comfort of the here-and-now, but with the eternal Bread of Life. Only those who are truly hungry are willing to do what it takes to seek Him. Let’s start with the simple spiritual disciplines that shape the soul.

May our hearts be hungry for God and His ways, and may we ever be filled with more of Him.


“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)


“He is the one who can tell us the reason for our existence, our place in the scheme of things, our real identity….He will whisper it to us not in the mad rush and fever of our striving and our fierce determination to be someone, but rather when we are content to rest in Him, to put ourselves into His keeping, into His hands. Most delightfully of all, it is a secret He will tell us slowly and sweetly, when we are willing to spend time with Him: time with Him who is beyond all time.” (Emilie Griffin)

The Biggest Question of All

It’s the question we all are all asking inside, when we are standing by a grave. Whether it is the resting place of a dream we were holding onto, or saying goodbye to a season of life, or the wrenching physical loss of someone we love. We are all wondering “Where is God?” Our minds can inform us of the fact of His presence, but what we really want to know is if He cares how we feel. Is He near when I need Him? Will He help me? And even when Faith steps up to proclaim the promise, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Romans 8:28), we can’t help but wonder how soon that good is going to surface.

God knows us to the core, and so He plays out a story for us– lets us see the two sisters Mary and Martha ask the same questions, as they watch their brother die and wrap him for burial, and Jesus still does not come to rescue them. They grieve and wonder about the One who said He loved them. But some productive wrestling can happen in the dark, when it is just your heart and those big questions, and by the time Jesus finally shows up the sisters are holding onto faith with all their might. Martha can say “…if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:21) We can hear her faint wild glimmer of hope that death may not be the end of the story, regardless of everything she understands. And Mary comes running when Jesus calls for her, not ashamed to bare her heart to Him because she trusts His love. We watch Mary and Martha and find the answers to our own questions in living color.

Where is God when we stand at a graveside? Does He really care how we feel? He listens to our hearts, enters into our story. He comes when we call, and stands beside us, weeping with our broken hearts.

Is He near when I need Him? Will He help me? He calls out and does the impossible right before our eyes. Relationships beyond hope get second chances. New opportunities rise out of dreams laid to rest. Comfort and peace lift up the aching heart. And Martha and Mary’s brother walks out of his tomb in front of the assembled mourners– a story none of them will likely forget. Jesus does not do what they want Him to do, or even what they could reasonably expect Him to do, and it is easy for us to get bogged down there in our own frustration and confusion. This is where our perspectives and emotions wrestle with faith, and we get to decide whether we will trust in what we can understand… or believe what God says. I am glad the sisters’ story tells us the “Why?” of it– God’s larger purpose at work in their story. “…it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (verse 4) But I see how their relationship with Jesus is what makes them trust that He knows best. They know Him and His love for them, even when they don’t understand what He does.

Jesus tells Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.” (verses 25-26)  It is the answer to her questions– the message of her story that speaks to all of us if we will be still and listen. There could be no better answer to the graveside questions than this: Death is no longer the end we have always feared, because God has come to rescue us.

Here at the beginning of our preparation for Easter, we can understand how Jesus “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” (verse 33). This is the crux of the matter, the very reason He has taken flesh and stepped down into our story. Jesus is facing our Curse, seeing it in all its strength and oppression; He is seeing it affect the people He loves and weeping for their sorrow; He is standing up in anger and doing something about it, because we can’t. This is only a skirmish, a foretaste, but the climax of the story is coming when Jesus will walk out of His own tomb and overcome Sin and Death once and for all. This is the larger purpose He is working out in the world, that stretches over all our smaller stories.

The question He asks of Martha (and any of us who stand by a grave) is ” Do you believe this?” (verse 26)


“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him….The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
(Psalm 34:8,17-18)


“Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
Every fear is gone
I know He holds my life, my future, in His hands

Amen, Amen
I’m alive, I’m alive
Because He lives
Amen, Amen
Let my song join the one that never ends”
(Because He Lives– Amen, Matt Maher)

Of Stepping Stones and Open Spaces

A friend remarked at the beginning of the week that she had taken down all the Christmas decorations already, because by the time the holiday is over she just wants to clean her house and be rid of the clutter. I feel the same way, only not about the tree and the ornaments. For months I have had the thought that my life was pressing in, getting smaller and more chaotic, and I seem to be constantly busy, even though I am accomplishing less. It’s the kind of sense that can run along underneath everything else, just a faint hum in the background that you can ignore most of the time, until you lay down at the end of the day, or sit still for a minute, and there it is– like the warning light on your dashboard that you really have to pay attention to eventually.

We sit around the dinner table on the first day of the year, as we always do, and share our hearts over dessert and coffee. Usually it’s one of the pastor-dads that sets the theme– something provocative like “How have you seen God working in your life over the past year?” and “What are some of your goals for the coming year?” It is a way to celebrate and connect as an extended family, a well-loved tradition that stirs up both laughter and tears in the sharing.  As we listen around the room to young adults reaching naturally into the next big thing, maybe I envy (just a little) that stage of life when goals and plans are more like stepping stones. But I see their hearts to hear God’s voice and to seek the plans He has for them, and see how that is what will last, long after they pass these milestones of rings and dates and diplomas.

So I share too about the hopes for the coming year, but inside there is still the insistent knocking that I can’t put into words yet, and I know it will take time to resolve and find a direction to go. No big changes in store, no visible major goals to reach, and yet sometimes the best goals are more internal than external, and sometimes the ways the spirit grows are more life-changing in the long run. It could be that the biggest question at the start of a New Year is What does God have in store for me, and am I prepared to walk through that door when it opens? Is my heart in the right place to even recognize His leading, out of the myriad of voices in this world? These kinds of answers only come in the quiet spaces, and I can hear Him knocking at the door.

So here at the beginning of a New Year, I will set to cleaning out the piled up places in closets and lists and thoughts. I will create uncluttered margin in life… to read the unexpected… to focus… to think, now that the busy-ness of the holiday season is stilled. Make time to listen to God’s priorities for me in the next twelve months. And I will not be quick to fill in the lines of my new calendar with projects and plans and other people’s ideas for my time. Because the Church-planter said “…I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1) I know I will live my best this year if I live in worship; we are always at our best when we are responding to the One who offered Himself as a sacrifice for us.


“Oh what amazing love–
We need Your cleansing flood;
Jesus I come, Jesus I come.
In every broken place,
You are my righteousness;
Jesus I come, Jesus I come.
Thank You, Jesus;
Just as I am I come.
Oh what amazing love.”
(Jesus I Come, Elevation Worship)


“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20)

When You’re Feeling Stuck

It’s definitely a day for the Chicago blues and a wailing guitar, with the snow coming down, and waiting for family to come home, and pies laid out on the kitchen table. After all these years, the prayers come easily in the kitchen: stirring over the stove, and checking the timer, and washing up the dishes yet again, mixing and measuring out…these daily movements have become the choreography of my prayer life. The medieval Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence, had it right when he said “We might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with Him with freedom and in simplicity. We need only to recognize God intimately present with us and address ourselves to Him every moment. We need to beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have completed them.” (The Practice of the Presence of God)

So I work in my kitchen and offer it up to Him, and I pray for Him to work in all the situations that need His help, ask yet again for Him to do the things that would surely be best for everyone, and suddenly it occurs to me that I only get impatient with waiting because I want to be able to do something to fix this. I wonder how many times my prayers are no more than a begging for Him to move this obstacle or open that door, so I can get to work, an expression of frustration in my own helplessness. With that personal observation under the spotlight, it’s easier to see why He often does something entirely different, way out of my reach, so that the glory is all His own. Immediately Paul’s words from his letter to the Ephesians come to mind, “And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” We are used to hearing that in reference to salvation (which of course is what Paul is talking about) but there is a wry fact of life there too, that we would usually so much rather do things on our own and feel good about it. And more than a hint of feeling we know what is best, as well.

But I see how self-sufficiency sets itself against trusting, and how our stress-filled figuring-it-out could be laid to rest in the knowledge of the Father’s love. I can wait quietly, in total assurance that whatever God is doing will show itself to be very much bigger and way better than anything I could work out. I can be content to trade the stress and hurry of my efforts for the promise that all will be well for the people I love, because the Giver loves to pour out undeserved favor for the sake of His glory. It’s what He does best. In the space of waiting that often seems empty and unproductive, maybe there is an unseen wind of earth-shaking power that I don’t know about yet. Just ask the ancient prophets watching their people being hauled away into slavery by the conquering Babylonian armies, who are laying waste to the Promised Land. Yet during that time, Jeremiah could claim “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25-26) And Isaiah could write some of the most beautiful and comforting words the world has ever heard: “Why do you complain..? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom….those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:27-28, 31) Wait, O Israel, because God is at work, and the silence will not last forever…only until the Savior is born, “And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.” (Isaiah 40:5)

Some things God does give me to work out, with His strength to help, and this too is a gift. As Brother Lawrence reminds, the key is knowing what is mine to do and not fretting about the rest of it. There is a simplicity in that kind of trust that only comes through the habit of constant inner conversation with God. The humble monk in the kitchen was living out what Paul explains simply and practically in his Ephesians letter: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” (Ephesians 4:6-7) Work on the things that are in your circle of influence; wait for God to take care of the things that are not; and pray about all of it, trusting Him to show you which is which. I need the reminder that this is how to live in the presence of God; my heart turns, and the prayers change, deepen here, looking for what He is doing in the waiting spaces, listening for the whispers of His Spirit. And the world waits in the stillness, waits to see His glory.


 “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)


“God’s putting together all the pieces of the puzzle and He’ll fill what’s still missing with His peace.” (Ann VosKamp)










Of Pearls and Building Blocks

What you believe matters most of all. It will affect the way you live, and the way you love, and the way you work, and the way you die. Just ask the little boy who is afraid to go to bed at night in the dark. Ask the mama who is sending her youngest off to college, and the woman who is giving up her career for health reasons. Ask the young adult wondering if there is someone else out there who wants to spend the rest of a life building a home together. Ask the wife sitting with her husband during chemo treatments. Ask all of us, in the stillness of our hearts if what we believe about ourselves and our experiences doesn’t make all the difference in the world. Because how we see life is how we will react to it, and what we think is who we are becoming. Beliefs are the building blocks that will make a life, and some of us don’t even see it until we turn around at the end, and wonder what we built.

The funny thing is that we pay so much attention to what is going on around us– what we are doing, and how we are feeling in the moment– and rarely spare a glance for the beliefs that drive us, underneath it all. The Wise King told his sons to figure that out first, before they wasted their whole lives with meaningless moments….to find solid faith-footing that could guide their steps: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10) I guess desperation drives some of us, because when you are caught in a storm you start sorting through what you can hold onto, pretty quickly. And what good are beliefs that just fill your head and can’t anchor down Real Life when the winds howl and beat against your house? Maybe it’s okay to find yourself weak if you find out how sturdy God’s Words are when you lean hard on them. Like the Wise King says, “My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble….for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:21-23, 26) And if we believe something less useful, the storm will show that too, and maybe there is a severe mercy there somewhere. Because we all believe something, and it will play itself out in our lives, even if it all falls to ruin. Honestly, often the biggest obstacle between what I know about God and living it out in the real world is Myself– thinking I can do it on my own, hanging onto old hurts and misconceptions, finding it hard to trust, my own needs/ fears/emotions drowning everything else out– and I know there are some building blocks that need to fall like sandcastles.

It seems we keep coming back to this one theme of knowing God and living out our faith, so far this year. Whether we are still in grade school or have been here for decades, this is something all Christ-followers need to know, that what we believe matters most in this life. “Yes, when you get serious about finding Me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” (Jeremiah 29:13) So we keep on pursuing knowing God and His ways, learning to listen as if our lives depend on it, because in the end, they really do. This is the pearl of great price that is worth everything.


“You can have as much of God as you want, and no more than you are willing to pay the price for.” (Rob Reimer)


“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)




For The Bible Tells Me So

Before my eyes opened this morning someone was on my heart, the weight of need fully present even before my brain was awake enough to put words to it, as if it had been sitting there all night waiting. Except that it hadn’t, and there was nothing I could do to make a difference in this person’s life except direct the burden of my heart, and the half-formed words toward the God who does not stop listening. For this I know, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He … who watches over you will not slumber….” (Psalm 121:2-3) God’s attention on His loved ones never wavers, and His concern for them never falters, so I can give Him the cares of my heart in confidence that He knows exactly what to do about it. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6)

Theology applies to everyday life in surprisingly small ways, in places you would never expect such a lofty word to connect. But we’ve been seeing how theology is just a matter of getting to know God, and the more I get to know Him and understand His Plan working out in the world, the more I see how relevant and practical His truths are. It feels like turning back the clock to the simple basics of childhood, the first declaration of truth that I learned to sing and believe: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Except that life is so much more complicated now that sometimes it surprises me when the Truth remains so straightforward. Maybe that’s one reason why it can get hard to apply theology to our everyday circumstances; it is hard to believe that the Bible means just what it says and speaks so clearly to how we think and feel. When I look out my kitchen window at God’s creation, and see the complexity of its working– every detail fully attended to, and just as much care put into the ant as into the largest of creatures– I can see that each part serves Him by doing what He created it to do. If I accept that as true and turn its lens toward my home, it lends dignity to the every-morning act of making coffee and wiping off counter-tops, the daily tedium of cleaning and serving a household, for such working is neither small nor insignificant in His eyes, and I can do it well, as loving service to the King who arranged it so. I can find joy in creating a beautiful, welcoming sanctuary for my family, a place where we can be ourselves and be nourished by love and laughter. The Bible tells me it is a worthwhile aim that gives glory to God. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

Already before lunch there is an appointment forgotten and a need for gracious apologies, a plan misunderstood and the call for gentle and clear communication, and several questions for guidance. But Older Brother James is saying “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) I can take that instruction quite seriously and in the moment I can ask for clear thinking and for wisdom in how to answer. I can feel confident that the Holy Spirit lives with me, guides my responses, and is glad I asked…instead of barreling through it all, on my own.

In all the ups and downs of my day, there is real Truth that speaks to real life about sorrow, about loneliness, about fear, about being able to forgive, about being loved and accepted, about the things that go wrong in the world, about the things I long for, about how to love difficult people, and how to love God.

I’m beginning to see why the Church-planter Paul told his readers, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…. (Colossians 3:16), because we need to be saturated in this Truth before it can come out our pores naturally, as we live and move and breathe. We need to speak Truth fluently in order to help each other run the race. And the sobering realization follows quickly, that sometimes it is not so much a matter of ignorance as it is of careless resistance…that I know what the Bible says about this matter but I would rather do something different, prefer to see it more as a suggestion than anything else. But there is Paul again, acknowledging the need for honesty and commitment, saying, “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

In many ways this learning to put into practice what we know to be true is a getting back to the simple basics of simple faith– stripping off the religious ideas, the self-deception, the church customs we have learned through the years, and accepting what God says– like a child again. There is so much that is still mystery… but maybe we can understand enough simply to run today, and that’s all we need to know for now.


“Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself but because it contradicts them.” (E. Paul Hovey)


“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” (Philippians 3:14-16)




Step By Step

Paul’s practical advice on how to live well keeps coming back this week: “…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) And I used to be a runner, so I understand that the way to run any course is to put one foot in front of the other– just one more step, then another, and keep your eyes on the path ahead of you, keep breathing steadily, and don’t give up. I guess it never occurred to me that the simple mechanics of running could be applied so literally to a complex life.

But the metaphor comes to mind over and over this week, to just take the next step. Do the right thing in the present circumstances. In each present set of circumstances. Because in that moment I have the power (the will, creativity, energy, freedom) to choose and to act. Dedicated Christ-followers of previous centuries called it “sanctifying the moment,” recognizing that in our present circumstances lay the power of free will: submit this to God, or seize it for self….listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit or do it my way….trust His goodness and His Plan, or let worry and fear drive my thoughts….do what is right to glorify God, or do what is comfortable/easy/pleasant. And in this present moment is where the power of God meets me, where His presence surrounds me, where I can hear His voice if I listen. Some days it is the only way to “run and not grow weary…walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31), but I suspect all of us runners would benefit from the application of simple running mechanics in the everyday.

Do the right thing, right now.

My kids used to wear these wristbands that said WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). At the time it was a whole movement, the letters cropping up on the backs of trucks and the fronts of shirts. For a literal-minded person it could be mildly irritating and at times downright stressful, because apart from the principle of imitating a good example, it was simply too difficult to say for sure what vehicle Jesus would drive or what foods He would prefer. (My son’s utter practicality and good humor pointed out that Jesus would eat whatever was put in front of Him.) But the crux of the matter, and what we really need to consider, is what Jesus wants us to do in any situation. What is the right, God-honoring thing to do, in this set of circumstances? Just do it. And then take the next step.


“The only thing you can really control is the present– the actual moment that is passing by. Sanctify that from hour to hour, and you sanctify your whole life….The little act of obedience, love, self-restraint, meekness, patience, devotion, offered to you actually, is all you can do now, and if you neglect that to fret about something else at a distance, you lose your real opportunity of serving God.” (H.L.Sydney Lear)


“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
(Philippians 4:13)

When You Are Tired of Running

You would think that running for a long time meant you had learned how to overcome most of the obstacles in this Race. But sometimes, in a moment of eye-opening, I look at the mental landscape I have been growing used to and realize I am still toting the same baggage I’ve had for years. Different shapes and labels according to the various stages of life, but basically the same issues, same ugly tendencies and negative thinking patterns. And I wonder if I am really growing up at all through the years, wonder if running ever does get any easier, or if the terrain just changes. Sometimes it is hard to see the change you are longing for, the transformation God says He is working in us as we run.

Sometimes the Race seems very long, and it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose in all of this. There are whole days-on-end that I wish I could just lay down and rest for a bit, not feel life’s weight quite so heavily. It gets downright discouraging some days. No wonder the author of Hebrews gave us a How To guide: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) I am not the first one to run here, by any means, and many have traversed a path much more difficult than mine. They persevered and they ran the whole way Home– proof that it can indeed be done by mere mortals. More importantly, I am not alone in the Race even now. The Champion who has already won the race is by my side helping me; I couldn’t ask for a better personal trainer. To run well, I’ve got to face up to this baggage, these weaknesses, the constant lies and attacks of the Enemy. I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, and not give up, trusting “that He who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion.” (Philippians 1:6) I must fasten my eyes on the Champion Runner ahead of me and follow hard along this narrow way, till one day I’ll turn a corner and find the finish line waiting, and Him there smiling. His approval is something to look forward to, and it will all be worth it.

So we will keep running, and remind each other how to run well, where we are heading, and the Truth of why it all matters.



“Never have I lived with anything as bewildering my own soul.” (Ann VosKamp)


“So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:12-13)