One Tumultuous July

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)

Can I just share a little of what my July was like? In the space of the previous month, here’s what I’ve faced (in no particular order):

  • My mother’s sudden hospitalization for a kidney infection, with the attendant disruption to our everyday lives of being at the hospital frequently (she’s better now, thanks be);
  • The unexpected death of a coworker, who in the space of a weekend had an accident around the home and lapsed into a coma from which she could not recover;
  • A longstanding friend’s mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, same as my mom; and if that wasn’t enough,
  • Her husband was taken to the ER with a mild heart attack;
  • The utterly unexpected firing of a longtime friend in very, very murky circumstances that leave me worried for what comes next;
  • My boss being taken ill with serious abdominal illness, hospitalized, and only gradually returning to work during a very hectic time at the office that I had to cover (on top of the above list); and
  • Another coworker’s father in law needing emergency surgery for an aortic aneurysm (they caught it in time)

And that’s just within the span of July, all happening to people around me who are part of my love and my life–and who therefore affect me with all of these goings-on. It’s overwhelming! This is a pretty scary list!

hairoutAt times like these, we can hear some pretty horrible theology from people. Well-meaning people, to be sure, but still, what they tell us can ruin our understanding of God if we let it happen. Things like, “It was God’s will.” (God does not will us disease! Disease is an effect of the brokenness we brought into the world from our expulsion from Eden.) Or “God never gives you more than you can handle.” (No! If anything, the Bible tells us, it’s more like there is nothing we can’t handle WHEN WE GIVE IT OVER TO GOD, not when we try to take it all on ourselves!)

And yet through this month of madness, I haven’t crumbled, I haven’t curled up into a ball in the corner. I have endured, and I am absolutely, utterly, completely convinced it’s only my faith in the power of Jesus Christ that has kept me together. I have been strengthened, indeed I have become “more than conquerors” by being able to turn to Christ, by placing myself and each of these situations in his hands, and by trusting in him to help me through. There are certainly days this month when it most certainly did not feel like “overwhelming victory,” yet here I am: assaulted, assailed, buffeted, but not breaking in the force of the storm. For that, I can only give everlasting thanks to Christ.

Come on, August, do your worst. I’ve got backup.

“At The Heart of it All”

Sunday, I had the second set of chances to preach recently. This time, I was filling in for our pastor who was at annual conference, and I spoke on the heart–how absolutely essential it is for the Christian, and how we can protect out hearts. Take a listen, and then let me know what you think!

My last (known) upcoming preaching gig is on July 9 at Silverbrook UMC…come and listen!

Expanding the Kingdom Through Emmaus

I’ve written previously about my amazing Emmaus experience, which was only about a year ago now…how time has flown….

Last weekend, I had the chance to introduce another brother to this experience, when I sponsored my friend Tim from church on his own Emmaus walk. It did my heart such good to see another heart opened to Christ in a whole new way; in so many ways, even just as a sponsor, I felt like I was walking again with Tim at his closing worship.

It’s led me to reflect on the growth I’ve enjoyed over the past year. Before my walk, I knew Christ was after my heart, not just my mind; since then, I’ve seen it over and over, how absolutely central the heart is to Christ’s kingdom. I’ve started teaching a Sunday school class for adults seeking their first steps in a deeper connection with Jesus, and I know I’d never have done that if I hadn’t had this experience of his love last spring.

The point of an Emmaus weekend is not only to grow in one’s own appreciation of God’s love, and to experience him in perhaps an entirely new and fresh way, but also to create disciples: people willing, or even on fire, who will go back to their home churches and help make a difference. In that regard, I’m already seeing changes in me, and I pray I will in Tim as well. At the monthly Emmaus gathering that occurred while Tim was “on the mountain,” I put in my first teaming application, with an eye towards perhaps guiding other men through their weekend this fall: something else I’d never have thought of before.

Who knows what the next set of Fourth Days will bring? Jesus does, and I look forward to seeing what he has in mind for me!

If you’re interested in taking your own walk with our local chapter of Emmaus, let me know!

Surprises Since My Book Came Out

I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by two things since my book came out:

First, that people have actually bought copies! I honestly didn’t know what to expect, and to have had sales (OK, not New York Times bestseller status, but still, sales!) is a wonderful surprise and I am humbled and honored that anyone should put down their money on it. Related: people have actually asked me to sign their copy. Wow, is *that* ever an odd feeling!

book cover

Second: God’s prevenient grace is already at work. Among the sales are two to close people in my life–people who have never, or very very rarely, darkened the door to any church. Yes, yes, I know, they’re buying it just because it’s me. But still: I am hopeful that they are able to enjoy it, and find themselves wondering if there’s really more to this Christianity thing than they’d given it credit for. If at the end of the day even one person buys this, reads it, and it helps them on their journey to come to Christ, then the whole thing will be worthwhile.

So as Jay Sherman says, “Buy my book!”

 

“Waiting For Life”–THE BOOK!

So, it seems I’ve written a book!

Yep! This week I’m thrilled to announce the publication of “Waiting For Life,” a book for the developing Christian who’s trying to push past the basics and learn more about the fundamentals of Christianity and how life in Christ works…even dealing with the setbacks. It’s the result of about four years worth of work, pulling together some of my old sermons, blog posts, and other writing into a set of short chapters that tackle topics the emerging Christian might find helpful. Things like:

  • What’s this “grace” business about?
  • What does faith really look like?
  • Is there really a devil?
  • How can I possibly forgive someone who did something so wrong to me?
  • Is it OK to doubt?

When I was an emerging Christian myself, I didn’t have a guide to help me along the path. I had to learn a lot myself, until I came across some sages–real giants in Christ–who were huge helps in my journey. I wrote “Waiting For Life” so that nobody else has to find their own way along the path–it’s the “trail guide” for the Christian who wants to push deeper into the faith and learn what Christmas is really all about.

If you’ve enjoyed tagging along on the journey with me in this blog so far, you might like to dive deeper yourself. Pick up a copy, leave a comment, let me know what you think! And God bless you in your exploring!

Progress? Oh Yes!

Last time I mentioned that the two of us have started a new diet, and that it felt like a playful nudge from the Lord after we’d made our plans for Lent. So how’s that coming?

Surprisingly, well! We had to fight through the first week or so, occasionally feeling hungry and deprived, but then something amazing happened. I’m needing less food, less often; I’m not hungry in between; and feel more alert, more energetic, than before! Oh, and I’ve lost about 5 pounds.

It’s really amusing to watch this process unfold from a couple of perspectives. One, I had never before imagined how many places to eat are just carbs: out goes just about everything at a mall food court, for instance. (Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, Popeyes, the candy shoppe…)  And two, the up-side of doing this is better than I had feared, if that makes sense: I had expected to languish in horrible hunger, and be cranky from undereating, and in fact the reverse is true. It’s amazing what happens when you get past what’s on easy offer and see what truly can be!

And how much like our faith life is that? How much easier is it to live in what the “easy” offer is–to go to church now and then, couple times a year, to live off the “carbs” of this world. And when someone tells us there’s something better, we recoil: we *like* our Cinnabon and fries and full-strength Coke. We can’t imagine that doing without those things opens up a wonderful new world for us. And yet it’s true–in this diet, and in a deeper, more honest relationship with Jesus.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Amen to that! If only we could not only hear it, but believe it!