love in a hurricane.

I was almost thirty years old when I received this message:

“Hi, you don’t know me but I believe that I am your half sister.  If your older brother is John Rutter and your fathers name was John Paul Rutter, than we share a father.  I would love to talk if you are ok with that, let me know.  Thanks.”

Life comes to a screeching halt.

I could write about my sister and the other half-brother I learned about that day. I haven’t built much of a relationship with either of them other than some minimal contact on Facebook. (If either of you are reading this, please know it’s nothing personal: I’m just as bad about keeping in contact with the family I’ve known about for thirty years longer.)
I could write about the confusion of hearing my father had passed away after a fight with cancer.
I could write about the tinges of jealousy I felt toward two people I had never met — through no fault of theirs — that whatever their relationships with him, they got to meet and know our father in some way.
I could write about so many things that I felt that day, but I don’t want to, and the one person that I truly wish could read this, never will.

A while back there was a letter making the Facebook rounds to “the man I never knew,” or something of that sort.  The author wrote about forgiving his/her father for not being there, even though he missed this/that/the other. It felt honest and raw, but it felt somewhat snarky as well. I couldn’t help but wonder, has the author REALLY forgiven him, or have they mistaken forgiveness for acceptance and moving on?

This is not that post.

Because I want to thank him.

I want to thank my father for partnering with my mother to create myself and my brother. Make no mistake, his relationship with my mother was not a healthy one, but I thankfully acknowledge that I would not be here without him. One half of my genetic code is his: I wouldn’t be ME without him.
I want to thank him for leaving: not because my life is better off without him, but because so many things could be so different if he hadn’t. I have two half-siblings to be thankful for. Regardless of my relationships with them, there are at least two people on this earth that might not exist had he stayed. My mother is now remarried, and while my parents’ relationship may not be perfect, they are growing daily and I am blessed with an abundance of family to love (and still not keep in touch with).
I want to thank him for making me stronger: for giving me the opportunity to pursue wholeness out of a broken place, to prove myself better than I ever should have been, and to recognize even more the grace of God that sustains me daily. I learned to fight for the things I want, and while the methods with which I fight are (mostly) no longer of this world, I am a fighter nonetheless. He helped make me fierce.
I want to thank him for giving me the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of love and forgiveness. It would be easy to be angry, to express my hurt and frustration with an absent father. But those are far outweighed by the peace of being able to forgive the person who has perhaps hurt you most, to “love your enemies” so to speak. The truth is, he was never my enemy. He was just a man as broken and in need of forgiveness as I am.

I don’t know my father’s position in regard to his faith. Honestly, I don’t know that I need to know. Does it make a difference to my own? Would it validate or void any call to forgiveness that I have been given? I don’t remember Jesus teaching us to forgive seventy-times-seven times, except “that guy.”

I am not going to pretend to speak for my brother, my half-sister, or my half-brother (whom I was also surprised to learn about that day). I have no right to invalidate their feelings toward myself or my father. These thoughts are my heart and mine alone. I hope that they are not misunderstood. I very much recognize that my father hurt me emotionally in a way that it would take thirty years to recognize, and God only knows how many more it will take to unpack it all. He abandoned me.

But from the deepest wells of my heart, I am grateful for him. I hope that he eventually found the happiness, joy, and peace I believe God wanted for him. Unfortunately, he never got to hear it from me, but I would want him to know he was forgiven. I hope he knew it.

I hope to see him in Heaven one day, perfect, healthy and whole as he was created to be. I don’t believe that the memories of this life will have faded, but instead, the glory and magnitude of God’s forgiveness in the face of the hurt, pain, and sin will be shown all the greater. I really do hope he’s there.

I really want to tell him I love him, and that I’m glad to meet him.


what to do when God tells you to do nothing.

A quick note: three days in and I’ve already missed a day in my attempt to write every day of February. Oh well. I’m not going to beat myself up over it. It’s about challenging myself to write, not a legalistic obligation. I had a busy day and chose to spend the evening with my family rather than writing. I have no regrets.

And we’re walking…

How do you respond when God tells you to do nothing?

I struggle with taking rest. I realize the value and necessity in it, yet I am inclined to work myself to exhaustion, and when I do finally stop, I am still easily overtaken by thoughts of what needs must be met and what awaits when I am finished “resting.” In Western Christianity, the “Protestant work ethic” is a term used to describe, in essence, the mentality that we must work hard for the Lord’s purposes. Sloth is dreaded as one of the “seven deadly sins,” and our culture and society constantly tell us that we need to work harder, to do more.
Don’t get me wrong, laziness is something that none of us should hope to achieve. It is rooted in selfishness and does nothing but unjustly create a burden for those who must pick up our slack.

But what about rest?

There’s small story in the Old Testament where God speaks to the leader of Israel, some guy named Moses, and gives him a list of ten (not so) small suggestions. Heard of it? You can read about it in Exodus 20.
The fourth commandment reads a little like this: ““Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…”
(Exodus 20:8-10 NIV)
James (sounds like a handsome, uber-masculine dude) writes that, “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10 NIV)
Do we realize that by resisting a rest (oh yeah, I went there), we are committing just as much of an affront to God as killing someone else? Let me say that again: God sees our refusal to rest and MURDER on the same level!! Part of that truth is, by not resting, we’re killing ourselves; physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Let me say it this way: Jesus summed up the law as, “Love God with everything you have.” (Commandments 1-3) and, “Love others (5-10) as much as you love yourself (#4).” Our love for others can only healthily pour out of a place of resting in God.
God is calling us to rest so that we can then bring the Kingdom of Heaven to others out of a place of wholeness and peace. The world is feeding us the lie that we must minister out of our own strength and then (typically at the end of the week) be filled back up.

The point of this isn’t legalism. It’s not about following the Law perfectly and being righteous by our own accomplishment.
The point is that God wants us to rest. He wants to bring restoration, healing, and comfort through those times of abiding in Him, and out of that rest empower us to live as citizens of His Kingdom.

Rest: is it the end or the beginning of your journey?

solitaire-y confinement.

Sum totalled, there are four games on my phone. Two I voluntarily installed, one is the hidden Lollipop game available on certain Android operating systems, and one is the Google Chrome Dinosaur. The two games I chose are a crossword puzzle collector, and solitaire. Yes, the card game.

Please take a moment to envy the wild life I lead.

I chose those two for several reasons, but mainly because they help quiet my mind of various distractions and stressors.

For those who know me fairly well, my personality may give fair insight as to my choice of digital entertainment, but for those who don’t, allow me to elaborate:
I have a love/hate relationship with puzzles. I’m good at them. VERY good at them. They stimulate my mind and push the logical boundaries of my brain. They challenge me.

I hate them for it. I obsess over the solution until I find it. I HAVE to know the answer. My mind churns with fury and fire until I have proven myself better than the obstacle in my hands. I cannot stop until the solution has been found.

Which leads me to solitaire.

I play Vegas style, which, for those of you who aren’t digital card sharks like this rogue of the interwebs, means scoring is done on a “monetary” scale (no actual financial transactions occur) instead of a point system. Also, you are limited to three turns through the deck, as opposed to limitless tries. This combination of limitations creates an event where the unstoppable force of my obsessive logic runs headlong into the immoveable object of one simple, yet unavoidable truth of the game:

There is no guarantee of a solution.

While there are strategies that may positively or negatively affect my potential within the game, I am completely helpless against the deal. I must reconcile myself that no matter how hard I strive and struggle, there may not be an answer.

And it is within that moment, that reconciliation, that I find peace. When I can accept the fact that there are things beyond my own control affecting the outcome of the scenario, I let go. I don’t have to work harder, think differently, or attempt to manipulate the situation to bring about a desired outcome.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”
(Proverbs 3:5-8 NIV)

I am no longer a slave to the lie that I must have the answer.

I have to remind myself that life is sometimes like my simple card game. I am free to choose and implement my strategy, but also must rely on discernment to show me when there are simply factors beyond my control. Many times those factors include the choices and actions of others, circumstances beyond my abilities, or situations that I have no business being a part of in the first place.
This is not to say I find complacency acceptable. Not at all! Rather a call to discernment and wisdom; to recognize the situations upon which we have no bearing, and to find peace in those moments rather than strife.

There are certainly times in which we must put forth our best efforts. There are, simply, others in which we must realize that the game was never ours to win.

And I’m learning be OK with that.

noodle soup.

“Tigress: It is said that the Dragon Warrior can survive for months at a time on nothing but the dew of a single ginko leaf and the energy of the universe.
Po: I guess my body doesn’t know I’m the Dragon Warrior yet. Gonna take a lot more than dew, and universe… juice.”

“Is God’s grace enough?”
A friend asked this recently in a group discussion, and hand-on-my-heart, honest-to-God, this scene from Kung Fu Panda was my response.
Paul writes about his own struggles (the thorn in his side) and of his hearing  God’s assuring voice, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
Jesus went into the desert and was tempted to turn a stone into bread. His response? “Man shall not live on bread alone but by every word from God.”

That’s all well and good, but I guess my body doesn’t know it’s the Dragon Warrior yet.

Sometimes we may find it easy to get discouraged on our journey, especially in our faith. Healing doesn’t come; breakthrough always seems just out of reach; we (or those we love) seem to constantly be in the midst of pain and suffering. Or maybe it just seems like others are getting and we are not.

Two things to be cautious of: 1) covetousness, and B: idolatry.  Focusing on your neighbor’s blessing takes your eyes off your own, and will cause you to miss out on what God has in store for you. Idols are made when we begin to form our identities on the basis of our pain; it defines every aspect of our lives and becomes the lens through which we view everything else. It is nothing more than a lie about a false identity.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians carried encouragement and hope. He writes, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (1:18-19 NIV) His reminder to the church not only brings a message of hope, but also of identity and power, and reminds us that all these are available to ALL believers.  He even let’s us know that it’s OK if we’re not quite seeing them yet: “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory.” (1:13-14 NIV)

I know that sometimes it can be difficult to hold hope and faith when we don’t see immediate results, but by His very nature God cannot break His promises, and He has promised much to His children. You are who He says you are, Dragon Warrior.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

fear and loathing in a snowstorm.

In the wake of Snowpocalypse 2016 (aka Snowmaggedon), I’ve had many thoughts on my mind this past week, many of them also weighing heavy on my heart. Having grown up on the Outer Banks, and having spent a good portion of my adult life living in Boone, North Carolina (two of the most beautiful, peaceful pieces of Heaven on Earth that just so happen at times to have some of the most hateful weather you could ever experience), I am no stranger to extreme weather. I have driven through hurricanes and blizzards and floods and walked to school uphill both ways in the snow. The raw power of nature, while surely a force to be held in awe, doesn’t frighten me. I admire it, respect it, and pay careful attention to it, but I do not fear it. But this past week, something happened:

I was afraid.

As the storm began, I worked through the various scenarios that typically come along with it. I made the choice to stay at work overnight to guarantee that I could be at work the following day as my responsibilities necessitate. I received word early in the evening that we had lost power at home. Not uncommon in situations such as this, and our home is well insulated, I did what I could to stay informed about the situation from afar. I slept on an air mattress in my office, and while it wasn’t quite a summer night on the Florida coast, it was warm enough. While I slept in my reasonably warm office, my family was sleeping at home, in a house growing slowly colder every minute. By the time I finished work the next day, every store I could think to check in three counties had sold out of non-electric heaters. I finally arrived home to a house at 47°. By the time we woke up Sunday morning, it was down to 40°. We made plans to drive to my wife’s family an hour west to retrieve a heater and take hot showers. Of course, by the time we got there, they had returned power to our neighborhood for good. (Much kudos to Duke/Progress Energy for their response time and diligent work restoring power to the region!)

And this is where the fear began.

It wasn’t a fear that I would get in trouble (I had my family’s blessing/understanding), or that I was scared of the weather (I’ve camped in equally cold temperatures. Real camping. Outside. In the woods.), or even honestly that my family was in danger (we have plenty of options for safety/emergency situations).

I was afraid I wasn’t doing enough. That even though I had done everything I could think of, I feared that maybe I missed something, or that I made the wrong decisions, or that I was selfish in staying at work. I was afraid that I had failed in my role as a provider for my family: I believed that I had let them down.

I. Wasn’t. Good enough.

A pastor friend of mine once spoke that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s fear. For me, fear of inadequacy facilitates my self-loathing. It feeds the gluttony of my hate toward myself with lies and condemnation. It tells me I’m unloved, that I can only hurt others, that I will never be any good. And many times, I believe it.

But it’s not the truth. The truth is that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” My worth is not defined by my own actions (or inaction), but by God’s redeeming work in my life.
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba , Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:4-7 NIV)
This is by no means an invitation to act as a spoiled prince, but the realization of who we are in Christ — that we are who God says we are — enables us to act, not out of fear, but out of love.

“I know you. I created you, and I have re-created you. You are a new creation in Christ. The old you is gone, the new is here. The enemy of your soul DOES NOT KNOW YOU anymore. Everything he wants you to believe is a lie, but this is MY truth: that you are mine, not because you’re good enough, but because I AM enough.”

I sat down with my family and confessed my fears to them. It wasn’t easy, and I won’t pretend that I magically felt better instantly. But they responded in love and comfort, not anger and condemnation. They reminded me of who I am, and many times, that’s all that we need.

What happens when we stop believing what the world says about us, and start believing that we are who God says we are?

one month later, and thank you.

I’ve been struggling with what to write lately. To begin, I started this blog with the intention of just getting my thoughts out of my head, and sharing parts of my heart. I really only ever expected some of my friends and maybe a few random others to read what I’ve written. Not really expecting much, I was thrilled to have fifty or sixty views on a post.

Then I wrote “an open letter to my non-Christian friends.” I sat awestruck as the wave of notifications flooded in from Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. 700+ views. While I am quite aware that I am a very small dot on the map of the world wide web, that’s about as close to “viral” as I’ve ever experienced. I very quickly lost track of who was sharing it, and couldn’t help but wonder, “Who are all these people reading my thoughts, examining my heart?” And almost as quickly, I was overcome with anxiety and a deluge of questions: “What do they think?” “Will it have an impact on anyone?” “How am I supposed to follow this up?”
What followed next is simply said as this: the river dried up. My mind, which is usually a torrent of questions and debates and imaginings, couldn’t piece seemingly piece together even the simplest of cogent thoughts. It was as if my mind became a wilderness full of disorder and stress. So, I did what my knee-jerk reaction has been for quite some time: I buried myself in work, in ministry, and the busyness of the Christmas season. One month later, I finally feel like the river of my mind has returned to a normal level. If anything, I feel as if the river is going to continue to rise, and more thoughts and passions are going to come flooding out than ever before.

So this: to everyone who read and/or shared “an open letter,” thank you. I am honored and humbled that so many people considered my thoughts worth reading. I hope that perhaps someone, somewhere, is grateful that you shared it. I will gladly continue writing and sharing my thoughts as I’m led, regardless of how many readers they reach. Everyone is welcome to read and share my writing as they wish.

What lies ahead? I don’t have a firm answer for that question. There is one challenge to which I believe I am being called: twenty-nine days (it’s a leap year!) of sharing in February. I’m not quite sure what to expect out of it (perhaps no expectations are the best), but I believe that God is going to dig into my heart and mind in a new way to show me things I’ve never imagined, and I am excited to share them with everyone. I hope to share some before then to though, so stay tuned.
If you or anyone you know is impacted by anything I write or have written, any and all feedback is welcome. I love hearing what others think, and would be glad to engage in (civil) discussion. Feel free to contact me through my blog,  Facebook, or Twitter.
Again: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! To everyone who read “an open letter.” You made me feel like a rockstar! I don’t do this seeking fame or attention, just an opportunity to express myself and welcome others into my heart and mind. I look forward to getting back to this grand adventure, and hope that maybe some of you will join me along the way.

an open letter to my non-Christian friends.

Dear non-Christian friend,
I’m writing this because I feel like it needs to be said. It’s been on my heart for some time, and I believe, in our current social and political climate, that it cannot wait any longer. Before it gets any worse.

I love you.
I love you because I believe that I am created in the image of God. And regardless of the differences in our beliefs, that means I believe you are also created in His image. “Fearfully and wonderfully made,” the Psalms say. I love you, not because I see you as some ministry token or trophy: we may never have discussed things of the spiritual realm, and may never still, and I’m ok with that. Because you’re my friend. Because we have sat together and shared stories and life and memories with one another. Because we have done good together; because we have gotten into trouble together. Because you are and have been a part of my life and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I don’t expect every conversation or interaction to be about faith. If we are talking, or hanging out, (or raising a little hell) know that I’m there because I enjoy those times with you. I am not Jesus-stalking you, waiting for just the right moment to pounce on you and denounce your sinful ways.
I love you because my faith calls me to love with abandon, without question or cause or agenda. Because that’s how I believe God loves me. And that’s how I believe He loves you.

I value you.
We have, obviously, different opinions. However, I am not insecure in my beliefs, and I welcome any questions, comments, and/or criticisms regarding my faith. I value your insights, your opinions, your heart; because I believe that they can help me grow, and because if they are valuable to you, they are valuable to me. Even if they are contrary to my own convictions, I am willing to hear them.
I do not have all the answers. I promise to be honest with you when I don’t. I will also do my best to explain why I believe something, rather than simply saying, “The Bible says so.” Sometimes, there are things I believe, simply, because the Bible says so.
I am willing to offer my spiritual perspective, but only if you ask. I will not force it onto you, nor will I expect you to conform to my religious and spiritual worldview. You may be skeptical, or perhaps even angry or hurt by myself or some other Christian, or the Church, or even God Himself (and yes, I realize the paradox of being upset with a god you may not believe in).
I am neither afraid of nor offended by your views. I want you to know that I believe what I do, not because I have blindly accepted the teachings of others, but because I have tested it and will continue to test it (There have been several instances in which my willingness to question authority has caused me some conflict within the Church). I have witnessed things of a miraculous nature and experienced things beyond that of my natural understanding, but please trust that I don’t just accept without question. If you ever want to hear about my experiences, feel free to ask. If not, that’s OK too. I understand, and admire, your skepticism. You want the truth, and for that I will never hold you at fault.

I’m not perfect, nor will I ever expect you to be. I want nothing more than for you to be yourself, to be the person I believe God created you to be. I promise to look for the best in you, and I hope you would draw out the best in me. I’m sorry when I screw up. I hope that nothing I do causes you pain or grief, but if/when I do, I hope you can find the grace to forgive me. If you don’t, that is your choice, and while it will sadden me, I will not hold it against you. I truly hope it never comes to that.

I’m not afraid of our differences. I find joy in our similarities.

I pray for you. I pray that you are blessed and healthy. I pray when you are troubled, sick, or hurting. I celebrate with you in times of joy, regardless of our differing opinions on the roots of such joy. If you are happy, I will laugh with you. If you are sad, I will mourn with you. I hope I can bring a spirit of levity into the good times, and comfort in the bad.

I sometimes wonder, if God could show Himself as real to you, what would it take? (Don’t worry, I’m not planning to go all Elijah and the prophets of Baal on you.) Just a curiosity I’ve had for some time. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

But most importantly to me, I don’t consider you some prize to be won; you are more than a tally mark on a checklist. You are my friend. I am blessed to know you, to count you among my memories and the treasures of my life.

And I am glad that God made you.

Love always,

house of pain.

Pain comes in many different forms: physical, emotional, spiritual. I don’t have to be a doctor, psychologist, or pastor to say with an expert opinion this: pain sucks. And I definitely (as definitely informal and with lack of proper credentials as I can) say I have an expert opinion:
As a teenager, every day for about a year, a tendon would pull a piece of bone away from the rest of my knee on both legs ( Mine is a Type 2 diagnosis. Warning: includes big words that may cause headaches).
In college, I dislocated and tore a ligament in my shoulder playing football. (Seriously, who gets injured playing flag football?! Also, I contend to the medical and scientific community that the shoulder is necessary for standing up, because I definitely collapsed when it dislocated).
At thirty-four years of age, due to the aforementioned injuries, as well as a culmination of various other events that usually began with the words, “Hey, man! Watch this!” my body is hardly a fine physical specimen of a healthy, active lifestyle, and more a walking advertisement for Rice Krispies.
Many people that I know within my Christian circles encourage me to seek prayer for healing, and believe me, I have (which in itself has led to several interesting anecdotes, but that is for another post, perhaps). I do believe that God wants to see His Kingdom manifest here on Earth, and I deeply encourage others to seek out prayer for healing as encouraged by the Word (James 5:14-15).

But what happens when healing doesn’t come? What happens when we take the leap of faith and get no results? What happens when our pain aches don’t vanish, or our depression doesn’t leave, or cancer takes the life of someone we love dearly? What then?

In my experience, the result is usually one of two things: a miracle or an idol.
Not miracles in the same sense as the power of the Gospel demonstrated by healing, but in the sense of the supernatural gift of faith that wells up deep inside and overflows the spirit. I’ve been witness to amazing gifts of a prophetic nature when being prayed over, and while my physical body was not healed in those moments, I am quite confident that the God of All Creation knows me and sees me; all as a direct result of that time of prayer. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
And then there is idolatry. I don’t mean it in quite the same sense as the Old Testament, golden calf form, but it is idolatry nonetheless. We build identities around our pain. It becomes the lens through which we now view our very existence. We worship it, having conceived in our minds that it is greater than the God of the Universe, that He stands powerless against it. And we believe the lie that somehow the pain of having it removed is even greater than the burden we live with daily. Idolatry is formed out of the lies: that our faith wasn’t enough, or we must deserve it, or worst, that God simply doesn’t care about us. Lies. (Jeremiah 1:5).
I live with pain every day of my life. Most people never see it; some days I try very hard to keep it covered, other days I am so accustomed to it that I barely notice it, if at all. I don’t hide it to build a wall or a lie; there are trusted friends that hold me accountable to honesty and there is freedom in that. However, if I never see healing on this Earth, I’m ok with that. Not because I think I deserve it, or that God doesn’t love me. But rather quite the opposite: I know He has a plan for me, for this. (Also, I have a strange hope that maybe when my time comes they’ll examine my body and wonder how I made it that far!)
God isn’t just working in spite of the pain; He is working in and through it also. We can learn to worship Him earnestly and honestly in the midst of our pain. God sees you. God wants the best for you. He has plans for you, and when we break down our idols and pursue Him from that place of honesty, you’ll hear Him say,

“Hey, man! Watch this!”

finding Hope.

To say this week has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster is an understatement. Chaos seems to be the order of the day lately, both around the world and in my own life.
I generally refrain from making political statements in the social media realm, and this will be no different. Attempting to reduce complex issues to zero-sum statements does a disservice to everyone in the discussion.
But I see so much pain. Pain in the eyes of survivors of terrorist attacks, pain in the tears of people displaced from the homes that they love, pain in the eyes of those who wish to protect their loved ones, pain in the shivering cold of the homeless (many of whom have served within the armed forces of our nation), pain in the prayers of people trying to figure out where God is in their life and why they can’t see Him.
And all of these things hurt my heart: because there seems to be so little that I can do, because fear has replaced compassion, and because in so many avenues, I see the humanity of mankind failing.
Yet, somehow, in the midst of all this, I have hope. My hope is not in any government or law or even in my own righteousness (which really isn’t worth much at all anyway), so where does it reside?

Matthew 6:25-34
What if I put myself aside? What if I am honest about my problems in my prayers, and believing that God, by His very nature, has to keep His promises. I won’t pretend that that’s always easy; in fact faith plays a huge role in being able to do so. But the promises of God say that He will provide for me, and this is where I find hope. And where does hope lead me?
To freedom. Freedom from the worry and stress of the day-to-day. Freedom from the fear that something bad is lurking around the corner. And once I’m free from those burdens, the freedom to reach out to others in compassion, mercy, confidence, and love. To stop being afraid about my own life, and care for others. For orphans, widows, our young adults at church, veterans, refugees, my neighbors, my pastors, strangers, my friends, my enemies, and so many others that can be named; I am free to love them as I believe God loves me.

My hope is not in any power, ruler, or authority of this world. I don’t expect everyone to understand that. But my hope gives me courage.
I am not afraid; and that, my friends, is true freedom.

lake life.

I love water.
More specifically, I love water outdoors. If I could be on or in it every day, I would be. I grew up on an island, and while it wasn’t quite the endless summer, there was no shortage of time spent in the water.
When I went to college, I chose the mountains: it was as far from home as I could get and still be afforded in-state costs.  But I was never more than a short drive and hike from moving water.
There is peace in water, but there is also power. I find it amazing how something essential to life can just as easily take it.  It’s a fact you never take for granted growing up around water, whether surfing, swimming, fishing, or boating.
And few things take water from potentially dangerous to deadly quicker than a good storm. Storms overwash beaches, flood rivers, destroy homes, and, most unfortunately, take lives. Especially when on or near water, storms are nothing to take lightly.

And then there’s Jesus.

Matthew 4:35-41

I love this story. After a long day teaching parables, Jesus decides that he and his disciples should cross the lake for the night.  A surprise storm pops up, and here we get our first real glimpse of Hero-Jesus: steely eyed, clenched teeth, his face cut by the razor-sharp rain, single-handedly steering the boat through the wind and waves while the disciples struggle to hold onto the railings and their dinners.

Nope. That’s not what we get at all. We get Bro-Jesus: “Yo, Peter! John! We good? I’m gonna go snag some ZZ’s in the back. Wake me up when we get there.” And the disciples are freaked. Several of them are fishermen. They know how dangerous a situation they are in. And where is their fearless leader?! Sawing logs with his head on a cushion.
So they wake him up. “Jesus! We’re gonna die!”
Then, in typical Jesus fashion, he does something amazing, says something confusing, and walks away (presumably humming a Gordon Lightfoot tune as he did – Happy November 10!): he calms the storm, challenges the faith of his disciples, and then probably went back to sleep, leaving mouths wide open in wonder.
We get caught up in the power of the moment just like the disciples did. We’re left standing there in amazement at what just happened, but what is the real truth of this story?
I don’t imagine Jesus yelling angrily, either at the storm or his disciples. I imagine him calm, but firm in his rebuke of the storm. “Quiet. Be still.” Then again to his friends, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” He doesn’t affirm their Kingdom authority over the storm (even though they had it), and he doesn’t even try to utilize what so many pastors call, “teachable moments.”
The truth of the situation is one that many people miss: Jesus was never worried about the storm. He didn’t wake from his slumber surprised and terrified.
We miss the grace in this story: the storm was never the threat to their faith, their fear was. He didn’t calm the storm to sleep better, he did it to show his love to the disciples. If the storm was the problem, they would have been filled with a supernatural peace and comfort, maybe celebrated a little bit, and gone on their way, probably hiding their insecurities along the way. “Yeah that wave was huge, but I wasn’t afraid, not like John over there.” “Shut up James! I wasn’t puking, I was leaning over the railing to check for barnacles.” But no. They were still terrified, just of something, someone, different. Someone stronger than the strongest force they could imagine. They didn’t trust him.
Which is our problem all along: we don’t trust Him. We know more about the storm we’re facing than he does. Never mind that He knows that the ship is solid, and her captain capable. He’s sleeping! He’s not even paying attention! What the hell is wrong with Him?! Jesus, DO SOMETHING!

He will. He’ll calm the storm, or send provision, or whatever else grace you may need or think you need. Because it’s what He does. His grace is sufficient, and He sees you where you are.
But what if, instead thinking we know exactly what we need, and trying to occupy ourselves making it happen, we look to see what God is doing in the midst of our storm? Maybe He is calling us to do something about our situation. But, maybe, just maybe, He’s not worried about the storm. Maybe He’s encouraging us to see what it is He’s doing at the moment and join Him in it.

I think I’d like to go take a nap near some water.