Book - Walk On Water

Questioning God

One day some friends of a paralytic man were so intent on bringing him to Jesus that they found out where Jesus was staying and carried the man there on a stretcher. But his house was packed and they could not get in the door. With dogged determination, the paralytic’s friends removed the roof top and lowered the man down through the ceiling! Jesus was in the middle of teaching a lesson when the commotion of it all interrupted his train of thought! “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”1 And I am sure Jesus smiled and probably nodded his head at the man’s good friends.

Isn’t it interesting, though, that Jesus did not heal the man? (Not at first, anyway! 😏) Jesus’ reputation had preceded him. A few days earlier, “the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.”2  Surely the crowd was anticipating that Jesus would restore this man’s legs, which was undoubtedly the reason he came. So when Jesus did not, and instead spoke words about sins being forgiven, I imagine the room got very quiet. The paralytic man was probably a bit perplexed with Jesus’ words—though grateful. 🙂

It was a tense moment. The scribes were darting their eyes at each other and taking mental notes, and “questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’”3 The scribes were pondering, Who does this man think he is! But dared not to speak it aloud! And then . . . after a moment or two . . . Jesus stunned everyone by asking, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?”4

Wow. This must have made everyone sit up straight, don’t you think? The scribes were shocked! How did he know what we were thinking? Did somebody say something? I think it’s a good observation to make—to understand that God knows that we question him! The real question is do we? 😯

Do we realize how often we question God? Are we aware of how many times we doubt him and by doubting him, doubt his omnipotence and omniscience? Every time we question him, we are confessing that we have no faith in him. And you know, God does not require that we work hard for him, or that we understand everything, or that we are perfect or even good. He only requires that we believe in him!  Believe that he exists, and is our creator, and loves us, and, most of all, that he knows what he is doing! Or as Solomon writes, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.”5

We, however, prefer to trust our “own understanding” (intelligence, wisdom, insight)—as if we know more than God! I wonder if one of the paralytic’s friends walked over to Jesus and kindly pointed to his friend’s legs, thinking Jesus had overlooked the obvious problem. 😬 I wonder if the paralytic man might have felt disappointed when Jesus said he forgave his sins, for surely in his heart he was thinking, Yeah, but what about my legs! 😕

It sounds quite heretical to admit it, but God disappoints us sometimes, doesn’t he? And maybe we do not voice our disappointments aloud, but the questions are there.  Even though we know we need “to trust in the Lord,” it is hard.  Let’s face it—just like the scribes, we question God in our hearts. 😞 A lot. The good news is this: he loves us anyway! “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”6

But here’s the best part!  After acknowledging that the scribes did not trust him, Jesus looked at them and said because he wanted them to “know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”7 he would go ahead and heal the paralytic man. And he did! And the man “rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’”8

So. . . to be clear . . . Jesus healed the paralytic man’s legs because the scribes questioned things in their hearts! 🤔 Hmm. How great is God’s love for us? Have you ever seen anything like it? 🙂

1Mark 2:5    2Mark 1:33-34     3Mark 2:6-7       4Mark 2:8    5Proverbs 3:5     6Romans 5:8      7Mark 2:10     8Mark 2:12




Not Understanding

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”1 That is all God asks of us—to trust, to believe, to have faith in him. Specifically, then we are to trust that God (our creator) loves us (because he created us), and he knows what he is doing (because after all, he is our creator)! And so the command is: Trust God! 🙂 With all our heart!  😀 With everything in our lives! 😁 If only we could do it! 😒

Why do we struggle with this one request? Because we like to understand things. 🤓 And although we believe that understanding is the impetus to trusting, it is actually the antithesis of it. 🤪 We think that if we only understood why God did things, then we would be able to trust him more. Nope! Understanding things negates the need for trust! 🤔 Hmm. If we understood everything God did, we would not need to trust him at all because we would know that he knows what he is doing. (Which he does!) Therefore, it is essential that we do not understand things.  🧐 Hmm. I don’t like the sound of that! Not understanding things makes me feel uneducated and unprepared, even simple-minded and foolish. But not understanding is the prerequisite to trust.  Aargh! 😠

Which is why Solomon did not stop with that first thought: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” No. There’s more. He added, “and do not lean on your own understanding.”1  In other words, do not even think you will understand! As a matter of fact—count on it! Bank on the fact that You Will Not Understand What God Is Doing! 😦

But why? Why can I not understand? I am intelligent. I am contemplative. 😏 And what’s more, “God created man in his own image.”2 And “we have the mind of Christ.”3 And we are “predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ.”4  How’s that for quoting scripture at God? 😉 Here’s why. God says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”5  In other words, we do not think like God, and we do not plan things out like God does. And we never will! Why is that? It’s simple: We are not God! 🙄

And although we know that in our heads, we love to pretend we are God! If God were to share with us why he does some of the things in our lives, I am sure we would argue with him on a few points! 🤨 Because we think we know as much as he does. But we don’t! Because we do not think like God!! Paul writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”6

We are, however, not to be discouraged or frustrated by his “unsearchable” and “inscrutable” ways. But rather, this is where we realize that “the depth” of God’s love is unreachable because it is limitless! Paul’s prayer is that someday we may all “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”7

And you know what will happen as we begin to grasp how deep the love of Christ is? We will be able to “trust in the Lord with all our heart.” 🙂

Therefore, even though it makes us frustrated and angry when we do not understand God and his ways, we must get used to it—even become comfortable there! It is the only place we will learn to trust. Trusting is always accompanied with waiting. And waiting is a tricky place. Impatience and doubt hover around us there, ready to poison our thoughts with lies. They are enemies of trust. Here is the perfect scripture to recite when we do not understand God’s thoughts and ways and find ourselves waiting interminably. “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. 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.”8

We need to embrace the times when we do not understand God, for they can become great opportunities to grow our faith, to nurture trust, to discover the depths of God’s love. It is good and right to say to God, I don’t understand! 😠 For when he hears those words, he smiles and says, Perfect! 😉 

1Proverbs 3:5     2Genesis 1:27     31 Corinthians 2:16      4Romans 8:29     5Isaiah 55:8     6Romans 11:33     7Ephesians 3:18-19     8Lamentations 3:24-26



Thoughts and Ways

The most important thing about having faith in God is understanding that we will never understand how God thinks nor will we ever comprehend the purpose of his ways—not until we can see clearly instead of seeing “through a mirror dimly.”1 Not until we reach the place that Jesus is preparing for us, in the “Father’s house,” where there “are many rooms.”2 Jesus promised us: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”3 And in the meantime, he implores us, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”4

But we are troubled! 🙁 It is difficult to “believe in God” when we do not understand how he thinks or understand why he does what he does. Does God withhold from us the purpose of his ways intentionally? Well . . . 🤔 sometimes. Why is that? Well . . . 🤔 let’s just concede to the idea that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God.”5 In other words, in this life we will never know everything we want to know! But why is that? Now, that question I can answer. 😉 Actually, Isaiah has answered it for us: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”6  And let’s just pause right there and meditate on that.

God does not think like we do. God’s thoughts are not only different from ours they are inconceivably better than ours. And I really do mean inconceivably. We cannot even imagine God’s way of thinking for he “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”7 So let me repeat: God’s “thoughts are not your thoughts.” We will never understand how he thinks. It will always be beyond our capacity. And therefore, we must have faith in him.

Having faith in God is not a matter of understanding why things happen, but rather being perfectly okay with not understanding why things happen because we have faith; we “believe in God.” We have peace—we rest in the understanding that God loves us unconditionally and will never stop loving us. We have peace—we rest in the understanding that nothing can separate us from his love and that the best is yet to come! We have peace—we rest in spite of the turmoil in our lives. We, who choose to have faith in God—and it is a choice—even though our circumstances tempt us to be anxious are not anxious because we know “the Lord is near,” and we are never alone. We, who choose to have faith—and it is a choice—will possess “the peace of God” which will absolutely baffle most unbelievers and many believers as well. 😦 They will not understand how we can be at peace in our troubling situation, and, frankly, we ourselves will not be able to explain our peace because “the peace of God transcends all understanding.”8

And that’s why the most important thing about having faith in God is understanding that we will never understand how God thinks nor will we ever comprehend the purpose of his ways. Faith is trusting that the one in whom we have faith will be faithful. For the Lord declares, “For my thoughts not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”6  Isaiah ends his mini-sermon with this encouragement: God’s thoughts and his ways of doing things—regardless of how they appear to us—will always be purposeful. The Lord declares, Whatever happens to youwhether you understand it or not—it “shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”9😀

Faith is not understanding why things happen. Faith is “understanding that the unwelcome change in the plan is the mighty work of the omnipotent hand.”*

11 Corinthians 13:12    2John 14:2    3John 14:3    4John 14:1    5Deuteronomy 29:29    6Isaiah 55:8    7Ephesians 3:20    8Philippians 4:7    9Isaiah 55:11    *McDermet, Deborah. “Big Picture.”

Growing Faith

The disciples cried out to Jesus, “Increase our faith!”1 But he did not! 😲 Instead, he rebuked them for having a faith so small that it was almost impossible to see! (Read the August 10th blog for more information.) The question is, then, if Jesus does not give us faith, or even help us grow our faith, where does faith come from? Are we born with it? No, but the writer of Hebrews says “without faith it is impossible to please [God].”2 Therefore, if we are interested in pleasing God, we should pause and ponder the concept. 😬 That verse tells us, actually, what faith is: “for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists.”2 It sounds quite simple, really. Faith is believing that God is real! But since God is invisible and intangible and mysterious, we, who live in a finite world, struggle with it! We demand to see evidence of God, even though we read that faith is “the conviction of things not seen.”3  For the sake of time (and writing space), I will bypass the fact that the evidence of God is . . . well, it’s everywhere! 🙄 Let’s just focus on faith: its definition, its benefits, how to get it, and how to grow it. All in a few paragraphs!  😏 What a deal!

     Faith is so simple that most people do not believe that all we are required to do is believe! Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews and a very learned and respected religious man was amazed and impressed at what Jesus was doing. He told him, “No one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”4  And then Jesus told him that he needed to be “born again” before he could “see the kingdom of God.”5  Which confirms the fact that we are not born with faith! Nicodemus was totally confused with the idea, and they had a great discussion about spiritual things.

     And then Jesus drops this little nugget into the conversation: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”6  Eternal life!!  And that’s only one of the benefits (albeit, the best one! 😉)  for “whoever believes” (whoever has faith). Wow!

     Okay then! So. We are not born with faith. God does not give us faith. Jesus will not increase our faith. Where do we find faith? 🤔 Here it is: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”7 That’s the answer: “hearing through the word of Christ.” Listening to Jesus. Reading the Word of God. Faith begins there. And then if we want our faith to grow, we must continue reading and listening. Take a look: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all he does, he prospers.”8

     Faith takes root “like a tree” as we meditate on his Word and ponder its truths and apply its lessons. Faith only grows if we feed it, like watering a tree.  Therefore, we are in charge of our faith growing or not! And this explains why most people have little faith! They do not meditate and ponder his Word. Oh, they may own a Bible, read it occasionally, even go to church faithfully—but they depend mostly on others to study and explain God’s Word to them. As a former English teacher, let me report that few people in our world actually read. They skim; they scan; they scroll; they read SparkNotes! 😠 And they justify that they are just “not readers.” Really? 🤨 Okay then. Don’t read novels, or biographies, or history, or poetry, or newspapers, or magazines, or textbooks. Stop learning from the written word, if you wish. 🙄 I am aware that we can learn “stuff” in other ways. I get it.  🧐

     However . . . However, if we want our faith to grow, we must read and ponder and meditate on God’s Word. And let me add something else to my unpopular list of things to do: we must memorize and recite God’s Word as well. It is our protection and guide for life. The psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”9  God’s Word will show us the way (the way to live and which way to go) and our faith will grow when God proves his Word can be trusted over and over again. However, we can only learn what God’s Word teaches, if we read it! 😕 If we practice what it teaches, we will be able to withstand the storms when (not if) they come. But don’t take my word for it. Jesus told his followers: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”10

     Jesus is our rock! The foundation of our faith! He is God’s Word in the flesh. How strong our foundation is, how grounded our faith is, how much our faith grows—all depends on us. Not God—although we love to blame God when things are rough for us! (It’s usually our fault when things are rough, by the way! 😒) When the storms come, we will be able to determine the strength of our faith. If we are “like a wise man” and have prepared ourselves for them, we will “not fall.” Guess what happens if we are not wise?

     I’ll let you read that one for yourself! 😉

1Matthew 17:5   2Hebrews 11:6    3Hebrews 11:1   4John 3:2   5John 3:3   6John 3:16   7Romans 10:17   8Psalm 1:1-3   9Psalm 119:105   10Matthew 7:24-25

Your Faith

One time “a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years”1  touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment believing that if she did, she could be healed. And she was!  Another time a blind man approached Jesus and said, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight!”2  And he did! And then there was the time that ten lepers cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”3 And they were all cleansed! 😀

     What was it that prompted Jesus to grant these folks’ request and heal them? Their faith. Jesus’ response to each of these suffering souls was the same. He said, “Your faith has made you well.”4 Note that it was not the faith of Jesus that healed them—it was their faith, their personal faith. 🤨 Faith that was not given to them, but faith that they brought to Jesus. So, kudos to these folks for two reasons: 1) their faith was in Jesus—not another god, not in themselves, and not in pharisaic righteousness, and 2) their faith was something they chose to exercise. They took a risk—a chance, a gamble—which included the possibility of being disappointed. They expelled their energy. They had hope—when probably most people they knew had advised them to simply accept the life that had been given to them, the hand they were dealt, so to speak, and stop expecting things to change.

     So it was their faith in Jesus, along with the power of Jesus, and his decision to heal them, that healed them. And we must note that they believed that God could heal them—not necessarily that he would heal them. You see, if they were sure that God would heal them, it would require no faith. And just to complicate this concept a little bit more, we must understand that Jesus has the power to heal (or not heal) whomever he wishes, even those who do not ask for healing. Consider the man in the synagogue who had a withered hand. He did not ask to be healed but Jesus told him, “‘Stretch out your hand.’ And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.”5 And we must understand that Jesus has the power to do miraculous things for people who never ask him to.  When Jesus fed four thousand people with seven loaves of bread, he did so after the disciples asked him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”6 It never even crossed their minds that Jesus could resolve their dilemma! But also remember the time when Jesus was at his home church and people refused to believe that he was who he said he was? He “did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”7

     Hmm. 🤨 How’s that for a simple and clear introduction of what it means to have faith? 😉  It prompts me to ask the question—What kind of faith do we have? I daresay, for most, it is mere lip service. To say we believe in God is not the same as to actually have faith in God. The unbelieving world demands proof that God exists and questions how a loving God could permit so much evil in the world. Is our faith any different from the unbelieving world? Do we not demand signs from God that he is present? And do we not often question why he permits certain (bad) things to occur in our lives? 😦

     Some people are grateful to God that he meets their needs; they feel blessed by God. But that’s not faith, that’s being thankful—which is right and good. Faith in God, however, is trusting that God can meet our needs when he does not. Faith is believing God loves us when we feel unloved by him. Faith is being confident that God can fix an impossible situation when he does not. Our faith is not measured by our church attendance or our generous nature or our thankful hearts or our positive attitudes. It is measured when we are suffering and are disappointed and are bewildered at our unsuccessful attempts to serve him. We discover how much faith we have in God only when he appears to be silent and absent. 🤔

     And one more thing! Many faithful church goers pass part one of the faith test—putting their faith in Jesus. But few pass part two—exercising their faith. Most of us never step out into faith—do something that requires risk. We, in fact, thwart the need for faith by living a very safe (mediocre) life. We settle. We dare not hope for a different (abundant) life because it is so uncertain. So, what kind of faith do we have? We will never truly know until it is put to the test, i.e. until we suffer. Which is why I love James for writing, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”8  If we do well on the test of faith, we will become steadfast (faithful, steady, unwavering, resolute) because of our suffering. But doing well is not guaranteed. It will depend solely on our faith. And we can shout to Jesus all day long, “Increase our faith!”9  but that, my friends, is entirely up to us.

     Wouldn’t it be lovely to go through a trial and to hear Jesus say to us, Your faith has made you well!”😁

1Matthew 9:20    2Mark 10:51    3Luke 17:13    4Matthew 9:22; Mark 10:52; Luke 17:19      5Matthew 12:13    6Mark 8:4    7Matthew 13:58    8James 1:2    9Luke 17:5  

Guarded Hearts

     The disciples responded to Jesus’ instructions on temptation and forgiveness by crying out “Increase our faith!”1  and a little later, Jesus healed the ten lepers and told them, “your faith has made you well!”2  So, my question is this: Did the lepers have more faith than the disciples? 🤔 Perhaps. Because after the leper incident, Jesus told the disciples “a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart”3which you can read about on the August 10th blog!)

     Jesus questioned his disciples’ faith on several occasions. One time, the disciples were on a boat and a great storm arose and they woke Jesus up out of a peaceful nap and cried, “‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing. And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’”4

     And remember when Jesus beckoned Peter to walk on the water?—which he did! But then he saw those big waves and began to sink. Jesus grabbed his hand and asked, “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”5 Another time, the disciples could not heal a man’s son and the father complained to Jesus. Jesus slowly shook his head and rolled his eyes 🙄 (at least I think he did) and said, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you?”6

     One more story. One day Jesus yelled at a fruitless fig tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”7  A few days later, the disciples saw the same tree and Peter said, “‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered!’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God.’”8  and told them that “whoever does not have doubt in his heart”9  could cause a mountain to be thrown into the sea! 😲

     And this is where I must pause 🤨 . . . and say what’s on my heart 🧐 . . . which is . . . really? I mean, really? I seriously doubt I could ever have that kind of faith! Which, ironically, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. 🤪 So, what am I doing wrong? How do I get to the point where I do “not have doubt in [my] heart”9? Which, by the way, is the point today. And my pondering about it all makes me conclude that our hearts need guarding. And wouldn’t you know it? God has given us this protection! So, here it is: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”10  It makes sense, doesn’t it? That peace would stave off doubt. This peace is a result of prayer, by the way, which also staves off anxiety, doubt’s cousin.

     But there’s more to obtaining “the peace of God” than praying. 🙄 (I knew it.) In order to not be anxious and not have doubt—direct orders from Jesus—we must practice being at peace. Paul says we must meditate on things that are true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and commendable and excellent and praiseworthy, AND we must “practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.”11 And practice is a discipline. Practice is something we do despite how we feel, or what we think, or what the circumstances are. But please don’t believe that practice makes perfect. 😠 No! No! No! 😫 Practice makes permanent! If we practice it wrong, it will not be perfect—it will be permanently wrong!  Instead, we must not practice until we get it right, but we must practice until we cannot get it wrong! Then, and only then, have we mastered whatever it is we were working on!

     Sorry. 😕 I obviously have strong feelings about practicing things. After all, I am a musician and a writer and a former athlete and know a thing or two about practice! Let me just conclude by saying that to “practice these things” is an absolute prerequisite to receiving “the peace of God.” And now we see that “the peace of God” carries with it the all-important task of guarding our hearts and minds from becoming doubtful and anxious.

     Paul’s practice list is quite lengthy and challenging. It might be best to take one idea at a time. For example, spend one day concentrating on being “true,” which includes being steadfast, loyal, honest, just, truthful, legitimate, rightful, accurate, and fitting. 😯 Okay, maybe spend a week practicing this one. 😬 The result of practicing being “true” will be to receive “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding!”10  Then, of course, we would look to the next thing Paul tells us to practice: being honorable. And then after that: being just. And then the next thing and then the next . . .  😟 As you can see, it’s a process! The end goal is for that same “peace of God” to protect our hearts from becoming doubtful and anxious. Which it does!

     Ultimately, when we “Let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts,”12 we will “not have doubt in [our] hearts”9  and our faith will be unwavering. And there’s no telling what we can accomplish when that happens! I’m hoping that one day Christ will look on me and say, “Your faith has made you well!”2

     Just like he did with the lepers! 🙂


1Luke 17:5      2Luke 17:19      3Luke 18:1      4Matthew 8:26      5Matthew 14:31     6Matthew 17:17     7Mark 11:14     8Mark 11:21-22      9Mark 11:23     10Philippians 4:7     11Philippians 4:9      12Colossians 3:15

Sad Stories


Sad Stories

I taught English for 25 years, and I loved teaching the tragedies of Shakespeare and the great novels of Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters. I loved teaching the short stories by Melville, Tolstoy, Poe, Hemingway, James Joyce, Kate Chopin, Raymond Carver, Shirley Jackson, James Baldwin, Flannery O’Connor, and  . . . 😬 okay, I’ll stop. These writers are some of the greatest of all time, and students knew that if they were in my classes, they would be exposed to some serious works! I loved it! They, on the other hand, mostly complained about it. 🙄 Reading is boring. It’s too long. It’s too hard! Why do we have to read this? So, in order to please my students, I told them they didn’t have to read, that I would change my curriculum to something that interested them, and I was so thankful that they helped me realize I was asking too much from them. NOT!!! 😏 (I was just checking to see if you were really reading this. 😉)

Yeah, they complained about reading the great classics. But the most common complaint in all those years was that the stories were depressing! None of them had happy endings. And they were right about that one. They were all sad stories! And what was my response to their question of why they all ended in heartache? Simple. Sadness is an emotion everyone relates to. Suffering is universal. It’s what binds humanity together. It’s the one thing we all have in common.

We all suffer. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines suffering as “the state or experience of one that suffers,” to which I say, Duh! 🙄 The second definition simply defines it as “pain,” which still leaves me totally unsatisfied. I like Elisabeth Elliot’s definition better: “Suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.”* Now that’s a great definition!

So here is a sad story for you, a brief summary, and certainly not the details, of my most recent suffering. Due to a car wreck, for six months and seventeen days (at this writing) I have been unable to take one step without pain, even with the help of a cane and heavy medication. This disabling state that I find myself in leaves me absolutely exhausted most days. It has affected my energy, my attitude, my weight, my work, my social engagements, my daily chores, and my vacation plans. My surgeons tell me they thinkfeel pretty sure—they can fix my knee on their first effort!  But they also have Plan B ready!  And Plan C is in the hopper (but will be used as a very last resort).  So.  I have been hobbling in agony and awaiting my surgery date (which is next week) and can only look forward to the painful ordeal of recovery after which I am reasonably—but not totally—hopeful the pain will eventually cease. It wears me out just to write it down!

But in the meantime, I have learned a little bit about suffering. Ironically (this will become ironical as you continue to read), I hesitate to write even briefly about my sad story because I know some of you have experienced (and are still experiencing) much greater suffering than I. And I know many of you have an incredibly sad story describing your own journey of pain, but since I happen to be the one writing, I’d like to share just one thing about suffering that I think is extremely important. So here it is: Do not compare your sad story of suffering with others.                 

That’s it.

Why is that lesson the one that I believe to be so important? Because comparing your sad story of suffering will either cause you to minimize, disregard, and even dismiss your pain as not as significant as your fellow sufferer’s pain or it will cause your fellow sufferer to minimize, disregard, and dismiss his pain as not as significant as yours. When the truth is, although there certainly are degrees of suffering and pain, suffering is still suffering and pain is always painful. Comparing suffering leads many people to offer these “encouraging” words: It could be worse!  But really—how is this helpful? It causes the one suffering to feel bad about mentioning their very real pain. Of course, it could be worse! And the one suffering is usually thinking Yeah, and it could be a lot better, too! Sharing our sad stories too often leads to comparing our sad stories. However, it is important to share sad stories! Suffering needs to be shared because it is heavy. And we who suffer also need to share the suffering load of others. It’s one of the main purposes of our afflictions—that we might “be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”1  We, who have suffered, are called to comfort others. The act of it helps us to begin to see the reason for our own suffering.

That being said, we should be very careful with whom we share the details of our sad stories because once the sharing starts, comparing is almost inevitable. There is always someone who has suffered more than you have. And after hearing someone else’s horrible story of pain and suffering, you might feel ashamed that you even brought up your story because it pales in comparison. You might conclude that you just need to get over your pain and suffering and stop whining about it! And that is mostly an incorrect conclusion about our suffering. And, by the way, I have learned that most people love to compare their sad story with yours, even if you don’t ask them to! They honestly believe that you need to hear their story and will lure you into a competitive conversation! You think you’ve suffered? Let me tell you my story! Or My sister’s husband’s uncle suffered exactly the same thing as you did and he didn’t have any problems recovering!  And that’s why sharing sad stories is so tricky.

Therefore, even though I may choose to withhold the details of my sad story with most people because I really do not want to compare my pain with theirs, what do you do with those who feel compelled to tell you all about their suffering? (And here is the backdoor lesson for our lesson.)  You need to listen to those sad stories with both ears and all your attention. You need to sympathize with those sufferers with all your soul. You need to love those well-meaning story tellers with all your heart. And if their suffering is currently ongoing, you need to listen for clues as to how you could alleviate their suffering. Never underestimate the power of a simple note or word of encouragement! Their suffering is real. Their story is important. They are probably . . . probably telling their sad story because they think it will make you feel better somehow. And if they ask you about the details of your sad story—which they might get around to—my advice is to share very little. Because most people just can’t help comparing their suffering with yours. And you never want them to question the gravity of their own suffering. It is so true: minor surgery is surgery on someone else!

That being said, it is important for you to share the details of your suffering with one other person—maybe two—for one reason: We all need to be comforted by others. No one is exempt from this—not even you! Or me! But choose the person with whom you share the details of your suffering very carefully. It needs to be someone who will not minimize nor amplify your sad story. It needs to be someone who loves you genuinely and will walk beside you no matter how long your suffering takes. And that second part is probably the most important one because most people will grow weary with your suffering if you do not recover quickly!

So, if you are looking for one thing to share with those who share their suffering with you, share this: As believers we are to eventually learn to “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”2  So . . . suffering leads to hope! 😀 That’s great news! But, of course, this does not occur without learning the hard and long and painful lessons of endurance and character first.

If you happen to choose me as one of those rare people with whom you entrust the details of your sad story of suffering, I would be honored. Tell me all about it. Together we can help each other with that endurance and character stuff we will have to go through before we see the hope of it all.

In the meantime, if you need ideas for some good reading, let me know! 😉

12 Corinthians 1:4     2Romans 5:3-4   *“The Terrible Truth.” Suffering Is Never for Nothing, by Elisabeth Elliot and Joni Eareckson Tada, B & H Publishing Group, 2019, p. 9.


Got Faith?

“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”1 The parable is simple. A widow had an enemy and went to court to get justice. The judge probably considered her case insignificant, not worth his precious time, and ignored her requests. But she kept coming to court. Day after day. Until finally he said, “because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”2 And that’s the end of the story! 🤨

Hmm. 🤔 So . . . are we supposed to bother those in authority (including God) until we get what we want? Is that the lesson? Not exactly. If that’s all we get out of it, we will all just become annoying self-absorbed demanding people. The first lesson is that the widow’s request was not a selfish one; she was asking for justice, that the “right” would prevail. It was a godly request. The second lesson is that she kept going back to the judge, knowing he was the only one able to right the wrong that was done to her. In summation, the widow was relentless in her righteous petition; she was not going to quit. And the judge saw that and finally rewarded her.

After telling the story to his disciples, Jesus explained that, contrary to the judge “who neither feared God nor respected man,”3 our God cares about us and hears those “who cry to him day and night.”4  And so, the lesson for us is that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” We are to be persistent in our prayers.  Or as Paul puts it: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.”5  But these are rare traits—hope, patience, and faithfulness, which are the attributes of persistence. Our western culture loves quick fixes, waits for virtually nothing, gives no thought to quitting, and mocks patience as a complete waste of time. We are mostly a hopeless, impatient, and faithless people. Oh, we may start out strong but it is not long before doubt sneaks in and we “lose heart” and quit. 🙁 Quit what? Just about everything! We quit believing in justice, quit believing in God, and quit believing we can make a difference. We just give up. Jesus saw that tendency in his disciples because after telling the story, he looks at them and asks, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”6

Wow. 😕 That’s a sad question to ask his followers! But it’s a legitimate one because earlier when Jesus was talking about temptation and forgiveness “the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’”7 And we might think that Jesus would respond with something like Of course, fellows! Voilꞻ! And abracadabra!  😀 You now have faith! But he doesn’t. You see, that’s something Jesus cannot do for us—give us faith. That’s something we must bring to God. So, for all of you who hear yourselves crying out with the apostles, “Increase our faith!” note that Jesus was not happy about that statement. 😲 Not at all.

Instead, Jesus rebuked his followers for that confession. He said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’”8  What I hear Jesus saying is this: Increase your faith? What faith? Your faith is smaller than the tiniest seed in the world. You don’t have any faith at all that I can see!

I think many folks surmise that faith is something God gives certain people. Not so. Faith comes from inside us. If our faith is weak, it is our fault. Faith in God only grows when we have reason to doubt him—but don’t! Times of doubt are our opportunities to trust. It’s a choice we make—to trust God. Those who have strong faith are simply people who are assured and have convictions of things not seen—which by the way is the very definition of faith. (Read Hebrews 11:1) If we want our faith to increase, we need to be persistent during times when God seems to be silent or absent. Persistence is, at its core, hopeful.

Which brings us back to our parable. The widow was a powerless woman whose only hope for justice lay in the hands of a mighty judge. Persistence was all she had. Perhaps we are not persistent because we are not quite as desperate as this poor widow. It is easier, after all, to just give up. And go on with our disappointing lives. Or maybe place our hope in something else—which, by the way, is an absolute guarantee of being disappointed. We settle. And never hope for justice and quit believing that God even cares about our insignificant troubles. We don’t believe God will or even can help us. We just give up believing. We lose heart. But “he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”

In other words, “Be joyful in hope, be patient in affliction, and be faithful in prayer.”5 How’s that going for you? Got faith?

1Luke 18:1     2Luke 18:5     3Luke 18:2     4Luke 18:7      5Romans 12:12      6Luke 18:8     7Luke 17:5     8Luke 17:6



The Lord’s Great Love

Let’s face it. Today’s headlines are yesterday’s headlines. And chances are they will be tomorrow’s headlines, too. As Solomon states, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”1 😒 Solomon’s world view is quite depressing. He exclaims, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”2  Other translations render it: “Everything is pointless.” and “Nothing matters!” and “Everything is futile!” and “Life is useless.” and “Everything is meaningless!” And after reading the newspaper headlines day after day, year after year, we realize how prophetic this preacher was!

It would be quite easy for us to say the same things about the state of our world today, don’t you think? How do we not become overwrought, obsessed and consumed with the “meaninglessness” of it all? How do we have hope in a hopeless world?

There is only one way that I know of, and that is “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”3  God’s love for us exceeds our greatest understanding and actually “surpasses knowledge,” but if we seek to understand his love, we will “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”4  And as we are being “filled to the measure,” our lives are no longer empty and pointless but begin to take on meaning.🙂

The prophet Jeremiah figured that out, too. As he despaired over the destruction of Jerusalem and the hopelessness of his situation, he wrote this encouraging thought. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.”5  What is “this” that he remembered? What is the reason for his hope? “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.”6  “The Lord’s great love” has the power to save us from being consumed by all the vanity in life. How does this happen? Every day God has compassion on us. “For his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.”7 Or to put it another way “His mercies have no limit!”

God’s mercy—his grace and kindness, his understanding and tenderness, his forgiveness and love—is available to us every day. God’s mercy is never ending. How do we get this mercy? It’s pretty simple. We ask for it! 🙂 Once there was a blind man who discovered Jesus was passing by him and realizing that this was his opportunity to be healed, “he cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”8 And so he did! God’s mercies are there for the taking. His mercies keep us hopeful because we know God sees our suffering and hears our cries. And so we who believe live with hope in a hopeless world. 😀

However, it is not easy to sustain this hope. It is a battle. 😕 That’s why God offers his mercies “every morning.” The only way to not be “consumed” by the world’s hopelessness is to stop hoping in the world!🙃  Because Solomon is right, you know! Everything is meaningless! And that realization will consume us unless and until . . . until “the Lord’s great love” enters our hearts and “we are not consumed.” We can receive his new mercies every day. And “because of the Lord’s great love” we can confidently live life the way it was meant to be lived—even in this hopeless world! 😊

“The Lord’s great love” transforms us and gives meaning to a meaningless world. And while Solomon cries out “vanity of vanities! All is vanity,” we counter with No! 🤨 In Christ, nothing is in vain. “Our preaching is not in vain.”9  “Your faith is not in vain.”9  “Your labor is not in vain.”10 But most of all “His grace toward me was not in vain.”11 The world cries out that everything is pointless, futile, meaningless, and useless. We who know “the Lord’s great love” understand that nothing is for nothing!

Joseph looked at his brothers who had thrown him into a pit to die, which resulted in his living years of his life as a slave and a prisoner, and said to them, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”12 That’s what God can do—turn bad things into good. Only “the Lord’s great love” can keep us from becoming consumed by hopelessness and instead have hope in this hopeless world. 🙂

1Ecclesiastes 1:9    2Ecclesiastes 1:2     3Ephesians 3:18-19    4Ephesians 3:19    5Lamentations 3:21     6Lamentations 3:22     7Lamentations 3:22-23     8Luke 18:38      91 Corinthians 15:14     101 Corinthians 15:58     111 Corinthians 15:10   12Genesis 50:20





Disappointment and Expectations

We read in Proverbs, “A hope deferred (unrelenting disappointment) makes the heart sick.”1 Langston Hughes, the great African American poet of the Harlem Renaissance, wrote about it. He asks the question, “What happens to a dream deferred?” And concludes, “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”*  I concur. Disappointment is a heavy weight and sometimes absolutely devastating. 😢

     Jesus knew disappointment. Once as he was enjoying an intimate dinner with his closest friends, he casually announced, “One of you will betray me.”2 😦 This unexpected statement, of course, made everyone “sorrowful.” And as they were digesting (forgive the pun! 😬) that information and wondering who would do such an unthinkable act, Jesus added, “You will all fall away.”3  At that, Peter jumped up and “said emphatically, ‘If I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And they all said the same.”4  But a few hours later when Jesus was arrested, “they all left him and fled.”5  

     So, to conclude: life disappoints us; friends disappoint us; we disappoint others; and we even disappoint ourselves! 😞

     How disappointing!  

     So much of life is about expectations, and one way not to be disappointed is to have no—or very low—expectations! If we do not expect much from people or life itself, we are not disappointed at all when they fail to deliver because we expected as much. And it might come as a surprise to you to discover that this philosophy is quite biblical! Isaiah writes, “Don’t put your trust in mere humans. They are as frail as breath. What good are they?”6 😯 And we cannot forget what John writes about Jesus: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”7  

     Hmm. 🤔 This is a bit disconcerting. So, what are we to do? Live this life without expecting any good thing from people? Surely not! The problem is that we have things upside down (as usual)! We expect way too much from people and expect very little from God!  We blindly expect other people to be perfect. We arrogantly believe that we are nobler than all others. And we foolishly place our hope in those flawed ideas. We have (to borrow a title from the greatest author of all times, Charles Dickens) great expectations in people!

     But it feels right to have great expectations, doesn’t it? To maintain a positive outlook, to desire noble things from honorable people? Didn’t Paul implore us: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”8  Yes, he did! And, yes, we absolutely need to “think about these things” and “practice these things.”9  And encourage others to do the same! 🙂

     However, it is quite naïve of us to not expect that often, things fall apart in this fallen world. People will let us down; therefore, it is quite ludicrous to blame people for being human! So, when we are disappointed by the disappointments of life, we should remember this: “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”10

     When life disappoints, we need to readjust our expectations. We should expect less from humans (including ourselves) and expect more from God. Humans are sometimes faithful; God is always faithful.

     When life disappoints, and we find ourselves shaken by it, it is because we have placed our hope on others rather than on the rock. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.”11

    I am thankful that “a hope deferred” is not the end of our story. A “hope deferred” is merely hope delayed, not eliminated.  The second part of that verse reads, “but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”1  For our hope is not in this fallen world at all, frankly. Instead, our hope is in Christ, who lives in us! Our hope is in “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”12  And “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint.”13

     And there is no disappointment in that! 🙂

1Proverbs 13:12    2Mark 14:18    3Mark 14:27    4Mark 14:31    5Mark 14:50    6Isaiah 2:22 NLT    7John 2:23-25  8Philippians 4:8    9Philippians 4:9    10Psalm 56:11    11Psalm 62:5-6    12Colossians 1:27   13Romans 5:2-5    *Hughes, Langston. “Harlem by Langston Hughes.” Poetry Foundation, Accessed 2 July 2023.