“Happiness is Up to You”

celebrate2I entreat you for a respite from our usual Christian talk about how joy and happiness are different things.

Joy is possible in any circumstance, generated by intimacy with God and hope of heaven, not our earthly trappings. I fully embrace that as a central and crucial tenet of our faith. I even embrace the idea, without flinching, that God will withhold happiness if it makes us holier. That is well and truly believed on this blog.

But since I also believe that God does not exactly hate our happiness, let me share a verse from a poem that I ran across yesterday…

I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said, “No”,
He said, “I give blessings,
Happiness is up to you.”

– author unknown

Wow.

Yes, I know…I took this from a larger poem containing a few other ideas that some might differ on. That’s why I only reproduced this paragraph, because…wow.

How many blessings have we received and not made the most of?

Now, I hate that the previous sentence (and others like it) tend to come across so watery, wispy, and commonplace. Sometimes a little jolt is needed to really make a thought come alive. So let me offer a question I once read, one that truly exploded my contentment and easily counts as one of the top five most mind-blowing things I’ve ever absorbed:

What if God were to announce tomorrow that he would remove from your life everything for which you failed to thank him today?

ACK.

duck

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It Can Come Out of Nowhere

God's miracle can come after decades of nothin'.“I haven’t given up hope, but…”

I was catching up with a friend. She and her daughter have seen a rough stretch. Death in the family, countless unanswered prayers. Though my battles were different, we reached the same conclusion: the last fifteen years had not gone as we’d hoped.

When you go that long with something wrong, your mind finds ways to deal with it. The most common is to assume that this is how things will always be. This is how God operates; this is his modus operandi for you. Every year offers hope. But it always ends with disappointment. The last go-around didn’t bring any breakthrough, you reason; why would this one?

“I haven’t given up hope, but…”.

We know in our hearts that we shouldn’t throw in the towel. Still, our hope features a “But”. We’re not sure we want to put our hearts out there. Not again. It might just be easier to Gethsemane this one and move on.

And yet…

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Adventures in Overthinking Prayer

thinking(This ended up becoming a series. Here’s Part 2 and Part 3.)

I have no guarantee that God will grant my prayers.

Disruptive statement, no?

This is not me fishing for reassurance in your comments, by the way. I’m trying to speak honestly about a stark reality. Except for a handful of explicit promises in Scripture (salvation, peace, heaven, etc.), there’s no guarantee that God will grant any prayer of mine. Like the missions opportunity I’m currently examining, or the kidney healing for a friend.

First, to be perfectly frank, my very audience before him is an undeserved gift.

Second, it’s hard to know whether certain prayers – for myself or others – are optimal for the person being prayed for. That can be a huge hangup to prayer confidence. Why invest months or years of heartfelt prayer in something when you don’t yet know God wants it?

Third, I know my theology of suffering too well. Christianity is a call to come and die. If you think it’s about getting your dreams actualized, you’ve got another thing coming. Even Jesus didn’t get all his prayers answered – and there was glory in that (Matt. 26:39). Dare we think that a servant is greater than that Master?

Finally, Scripture gives us every reason to think that God might deny our prayers for our spiritual benefit (2 Cor. 12:9). I wholeheartedly believe that he leaves to each of us at least one lingering heartache, a thorn, a cross to carry all of our days without resolution (do you not have yours?) so we’ll remember that this isn’t our home. Denied prayers transform us; they provide opportunities to allow God to become our all; they lift our gaze to heaven. There is no greater treasure. So why would God grant a lesser one by answering my prayer?

You might begin to suspect that I have an overthinking problem.

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Praying St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I wasn’t planning a reblog today, but I forgot I did this post a year ago. So…enjoy!

Brandon J. Adams

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Religious holidays tend to get so buried by superficialities that we forget their meaning. We have to fight for the meaning of Christmas. But there is a rich history and tradition behind almost every holiday, one which can breathe new life into our reach towards God.

Take March 17, or St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not about luck, beer, the color green, or mischievous small legendary para-humans.

You know the handful of pioneering saints who carried the name of Jesus on such vast scale that we sit envious in church hearing about them? St. Patrick was one of them. Enslaved for six years by Irish pirates, Patrick returned years later to Ireland as a missionary. Through him, God transmitted his gospel throughout that island nation, making Patrick one of the pivotal figures in the Christianity’s spread to Europe.

There is a prayer that’s attributed to this fifth-century saint. Though this prayer is often recited by those who follow the…

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What God Doesn’t Heed

snowMore snow?

It makes me want to interrupt Job 38:22, if I dared. “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or…” “YES.”

I admit we were overdue for a solid winter since 1996’s snowpocalypse. You’d be surprised how relatively dry and warm winter can be in the valleys of the Rockies, so hey, if you’re going to interrupt my high country hiking and lake boating for nine months, at least go for broke. And it’s not like our plucky firefighters won’t be happy for the coming snowmelt.

But…come on.

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5 Tips for Christian Bloggers on WordPress

The sequels to this post can be found here and here.

Trying to draw more traffic to your WordPress blog, Christian? For those trying to build a larger audience (say, to snag a potential publisher), here are five things I’ve found helpful.

1. Go to them

So you start a blog. What then? Drop it in front of Facebook friends and sit back, counting on them to bring you newcomers? That might not work. Your friends are loyal, but not necessarily doctrinally compatible, voracious readers, or oozing spare time out the ears. To widen your base, you’ll need to find new “regulars” who are. And you aren’t going to find them by waiting for them to stumble upon a blog they don’t know exists. You’ll have to go to them.

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The God of Winks and Lost Wallets

walletThe Neurotic Self-examination Department sent me a memo today: I haven’t been very personal on my blog lately.

So in the interest of shoring that up, I’m postponing my last Prodigal Son installment. I want to take time to get the theology right anyway.

Besides – I have a story in the meantime. If you want to know the delights of walking with God.

Last summer, I had an illuminating conversation in Subway with an old youth group friend I hadn’t seen in fifteen years. I linked to the story here, but basically, it was me and him ironically discovering we’d both envied the other’s gifts in high school and dismissed our own. It was the kind of talk that blows the lid off your assumptions about your story, leaves you madly reevaluating.

God’s message in it for me: “Stop envying, and stop resenting yourself.”

Like everyone, I’ve got attributes I wish I could change (not sin, just personality), and I’ve not administered those areas a lot of grace. I’ve not always appreciated myself for who God created me to be. I’ve resented myself.

I filed it under “huh…interesting…maybe God wants me to think about this” and moved on with my life.

Fast forward to last month.

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