I Didn’t Know What to Post Today, So Here’s an Awesome Video

Sometimes, we just need to worship.

Something brushes past me when I watch this – a chill, a whisper of God’s enormity, over the horizon and around each corner.

The universe bows.

I hope, in the midst of Monday’s renewed chaos and noise, that this will remind you of God’s infinite reach and beauty.

 

A Contentment Story that Won’t Stay in Vegas

You know the saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?”

Not this time. You’re hearing it.

Don’t worry, it’s not tawdry.

A couple years ago, I was acting as chaperone for a senior trip. My students had chosen Las Vegas for the destination, and despite their penchant for mischief, the week had gone well (i.e. nobody arrested or kicked out of the hotel). Perhaps it was just the desert heat sucking all the energy out of them; after all, they were northern kids. But whatever. They’d had fun, seen things they’d never seen before (water park, amusement park, strip, restaurants, taxi rides), and there we were at the Vegas airport ready to fly home. My trip leader’s only regret was that she hadn’t been able to see the “Old Strip”; apparently there was a former Strip before the current one we’ve all heard of.

But a problem struck. One of our students was not being allowed past airport security. Vegas TSA was apparently deciding that his ID wasn’t sufficient – even though Montana’s TSA had found no problem with it.

So one of our students was stuck in Vegas.

And since the student was male, and I was the only male chaperone on the trip, guess who had to stay with him?

This guy.

The trip leader handed me a benjamin and an apologetic grin. I had to escort an antsy, somewhat reckless 18-year-old back home, across the country, by bus. And to make things better, it was 7 in the morning and the next Greyhound north to Salt Lake City didn’t leave until 10:15pm.

Did I mention that I was already missing the wedding of two good friends – including a former student I’d mentored for four years – to go on this trip?

Sigh.

So the student and I grabbed a taxi to the city Greyhound station, plunked our butts firmly down in some highly uncomfortable seats, and settled in to wait. For 14 hours.

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Act in Faith, or Stand Still?

turtleYesterday, our youth group discussed faith in action.

The Scripture was from James 2. We discussed how true faith is not created by action, but will create action. If you want a job, you don’t just sit around and pray; you get proactive, take a shower, send out applications and resumes, network. If you want to help the needy, you don’t just sit around and pray; you get creative, volunteer, brainstorm, sacrifice. There’s a part that’s God’s to do, and there’s a part that’s ours; God’s will is a collusion of the two.

I was also careful (after having given a poor impression at first, like I seemingly did above) to tell my teens that prayer in itself is action. We sometimes say of a situation that “All we can do now is pray.” All we can do? That is the greatest possible action! The fact that we resort to prayer after exhausting all our own resources tells us how backwards our view of the world is. Prayer does stuff. If you’re sick, you don’t just lie on the couch and post miserable Facebook memes; you get intercession, call some believers to lay hands on you and pray for your healing, as if you believed James 5:14-15 is actually true(!). Like heat from a flame, real faith will be given away by the action it generates.

But this morning, I got to thinking.

There are times when faith means no action.

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“Everything Beautiful in Its Time” – and Only Then

winterI’ll never forget that May snowstorm a few years ago.

It was only a couple inches, but with the snow sopping wet and everything in full bloom, the trees didn’t have the strength to withstand even that much. It looked like a hurricane had blown through. Branches littering the streets, trees sagging into yards and onto power lines…my mother, out for a walk, had a branch come crashing to the ground only feet away from her.

Things aren’t beautiful outside their time.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Or try the other side. Ever hoped guiltily for a winter that would dart unexpectedly out the door in February and leave us with an early spring? I have. A good friend once said that spring “feels hopeful.” Certainly more so than winter. I don’t enjoy the brownness of the earth in winter, the gray skies, the inability to smell anything. Some people feel more alive in the crispness of winter air, but not me. Winter is a season of dead. The long, dark nights offer depression, like I’m living on Mars. Give me one month of winter to snowboard and make Christmas look right, and then we can be done. Coming up at eleven: What my car thinks of winter – uncensored! (Why do I live in Montana again?)

And sometimes, spring indeed comes early. A sneaky glee springs within me in those years.

But it’s not beautiful outside its time.

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God Will Keep Giving You Chances

catchIn January of 2015, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse had probably the worst game of his life.

During the championship match to decide the participants of Super Bowl XLIX, Seahawks quarterback Wilson threw four interceptions, all of them intended for Kearse. Most of those passes themselves were accurate; two of them bounced off Kearse’s hands, and two of them he just didn’t seem to fight all that hard for. Not the kind of stat line that wins you games.

Given that this carbuncle took place during a time of frustrated prayer for me, I assumed it was an answer from God and started looking for a spiritual application.

‘Cuz I’m like that.

At first, in that all-too-common stage of putting words in God’s mouth, I figured his lesson to me was something like this: “You’re Russell Wilson and I’m your coach. Stay in the game; keep fighting like Wilson did.” After all, Wilson is epic, and he’s the one in the trenches while his coach does the thinking, planning, observing, and instructing from the sidelines. Perseverance is a tool of the kingdom. Made sense.

But God broke in and reshaped my thoughts.

I’m Russell Wilson. You’re Jermaine Kearse.

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Six Things I Told My Past Self

timeLast week, on a roadside after a delivery, I found a small, unmarked box containing a time machine.

Weirdly, it didn’t appear in any pictures or videos I tried to take with my phone. It wasn’t a huge device, either, closer to the size of a toaster. Unlike the ones in movies and TV shows, it seems you can actually only do so much with this kind of technology, no fitting in a whole person or any such. It would, however, accommodate a small letter. 

The instant I realized that, I knew what to write.

I had to drive down to Phoenix to take the exact GPS coordinates of my old Union Hills apartment, so the device would land when and where I wanted it. I set the sequencer to place it there in late 2004 (the dial wouldn’t go further into the past than 15 years), hoping that my younger self might find it and. at the very least. face the next few years better equipped. Then I pressed the big red button. Thank goodness for big red buttons.

The device vanished soundlessly. Nothing in my life appears to have changed. Either it didn’t work, or it did work and the result was a separate branching timeline with which we can’t interact. I guess I have no way of knowing.

But I can share what the letter contained. Maybe, if you’re further back on the trail God once assigned to me – well, I just thought it might be of help.

 

 

I know things are tough right now. Man, are they tough. Everything feels like a suffocating mattress of isolation and confusion. That “amazing plan for your life” you heard about isn’t materializing, and you’re struggling to readjust to adult life away from home. You feel hurt, helpless, and hopeless.

You are under attack.

That’s how you need to see your present circumstances. That’s the lens you need. Things are actually going okay for you, but the onslaught of lies and fired-up emotions is making it hard to see – and threatening to sabotage it all.

There are six things you really need to hear. I hope you will be willing. Part of you doesn’t want to hear anything except “things will change tomorrow”. But if you will listen, you could find a much better life for yourself in the next few years.

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Hillary Can Only Persecute the Church. Trump Could Destroy Its Witness.

caricatureI’m sorry.

I don’t want this blog to become political. Every other post is about my journey to become more like Christ and share my discoveries. To that end, I solemnly swear that his will be my only Trump-related post this year.

But after last week, I had to say something.

I can’t pretend the following thoughts are my own, though the pieces were. What snapped my scattered thoughts together was an article by Erick Erickson of The Resurgent. His work was much more eloquent, but pack-a-lunch long, so if you want the cliffs’ notes from a blogger with a parallel journey, read on.

Throughout this election cycle, I’ve been disgusted by the choices laid before us. Most of you can relate. It’s the culmination of a political system designed to reward ambition and sectarianism. Yet I felt compelled, by both duty and my fellow man, to make a choice. And the refrain generally foisted upon me has been, “It’s your Christian duty to keep Hillary Clinton out of office. The church will not survive her. Vote for Donald Trump.”

Yet I seethed against this argument.

I admit, it seemed to have merit in one sense. I certainly will not vote for Hillary Clinton. I have to embolden that sentence before I get dismissed as a liberal plant. Hillary is not even in the same universe as trustworthy to be president, and her agenda, typical of the political left, carries the threat of eroding our religious freedom and heritage.

Yet my conscience fought against the idea of supporting Trump, because by doing so, I would be endorsing a track record that I do not see as any more Godly – quite the opposite, in fact. You can scroll to the bottom of this post for my concerns on Trump’s character – it goes beyond just “saying mean things”, or even the lewd revelations of last week – because I’d rather just get to my point right now.

Which was…how could I look an unbeliever in the eye, after endorsing this sort of man, and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ with any credibility?

I sat on my concerns for a long time. I stayed quiet as Trump pulled even with Hillary in the polls. The voice inside said, Don’t bother. You’ll be labeled one of those panicky rabble-rousers you’ve learned to avoid. Jesus wants you to be tranquil and gracious about things. Let it go.

And maybe I was overthinking things. Maybe I was being too young and idealistic. Maybe some of these sins were fabrications of the liberal media (doubtful). And…just maybe, that conversion that Trump allegedly experienced a few weeks ago, in the presence of several well-respected evangelical leaders, was genuine and would lead to a change in his ways.

Then, last week, three things happened.

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