Against them.

“And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them . . .” Mark 6: 47-48a

I have a deep respect for storms.

Living in the Midwest, I have nurtured a wariness for weather’s fury: the power of sudden, golf-ball sized hail in a summer thunderstorm, the screaming wind that announces the arrival of an F-4 tornado overhead, the smothering white-out of a winter blizzard rolling over the the frozen prairie land of Illinois . . . mountains of powdery, dry snow . . . and the deafening silence after.

Storms have a way of commanding our attention. Sometimes, too much.

Read the story of Jesus walking on water in the middle of a huge storm, and see this picture: the night’s blackness, the pitching waves in the Sea of Galilee, the growing unease with what may be coming, the small group of men in an open fishing boat terrified of it all.

But focus too much on the storm, and we can miss one of those, ” wait a minute. . . ” moments that signal something . . . astonishing.

Continue reading “Against them.”

In between

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” John 16:16

These are the words of Jesus to His closest friends, hours before His betrayal, arrest, trial, beating and crucifixion. They were having supper together. The mood of the room was serious. Passover was underway. As if with a riddle, He prepares them for what is to come.

Soon, He would be gone, but then He would be back.

Their eyes locked on His, the disciples fill with silent questions.  Continue reading “In between”

The great sequence

At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the Lord they remained in camp; then according to the command of the Lord they set out. And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses. Numbers 9:18-23

In our culture today, the epitome of success is the driven person who is the “go-getter” who dreams big dreams and sets out to climb every mountain to make them real. We are taught from a young age that we can do anything we put our minds to.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

“We need a plan for work and we need to work the plan.”

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”

Whole industries of motivation and coaching are built around telling us that we are the powerful, self-motivated centers of the universe. It is aspirational, captivating and sells lots of books and self-help programs, but there is (at least) one problem with this teaching:

It. Isn’t. True. Continue reading “The great sequence”

Urgent pleas

“The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant men who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, 44,760, able to go to war. They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. And when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him.” 1 Chronicles 5:18-20

This passage is full of crazy names: crazy names of real people long, long dead. Their homes are gone. Their families and farms, livestock are gone. All that we have of their walk on earth are a few historical records that speak to a people’s experience with ancient tools of battle: shield, sword and bow.

They were men of valor, experts in the ability to wage war. Quite an epitaph, don’t you think?

But there’s more.

Continue reading “Urgent pleas”

Lessons in the silent meadow

“And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.” Leviticus 25:20-22

Early in the days of Israel’s birth as a nation, God set out a system of government for them that was ordered around one, central theme: “Follow me, and I will provide for you.”

Though the text above is ancient, it is not unusual for God to call us today to tasks of obedience that test our rational minds and ask for more faith than sight. How do we react to this?
Continue reading “Lessons in the silent meadow”

Double blind in Shiloh

“At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. And Jeroboam said to his wife, ‘Arise, and disguise yourself, that it not be known that you are the wife of Jeroboam, and go to Shiloh. Behold, Ahijah the prophet is there . . . He will tell you what shall happen to the child.’ Jeroboam’s wife did so. She arose and went to Shiloh and came to the house of Ahijah. Now Ahijah could not see, for his eyes were dim because of his age.” 1 Kings 14:1-4

We live in a culture where truth is becoming vague.  More and more people are finding it less and less problematic to be false when it is inconvenient to be honest. Can we trust anyone? How do people of integrity navigate in the thickening mist of intentional deception? Continue reading “Double blind in Shiloh”

Heavy choices

“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:30-33

When you think about how God provides for you, is it your experience that He is generous and delighted to give to you or do you see Him as stingy and reluctant with His care?  How does that perspective affect your idea of how He loves you? Continue reading “Heavy choices”