Doubt Your Doubts

You’ve got to see this video. A powerful shot of faith, straight to the heart. That is all.

Never Assume

When I read that Robin Williams had died of suicide, a thought went through my mind that is probably shared by many.

“I had no idea”.

Perhaps at some point I’d fleetingly read that Williams was in rehab from substance abuse, but I had no idea that his addictions were an attempt to fight off depression.

I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest people-reader, and 99% of what I saw of Williams was a performance of some kind. But I have trouble connecting the manic, happy-at-all-the-wrong-times boom of “Aladdin”‘s Genie to a depressed soul. The man’s calling was to cheer people up. He was so gifted at it. He had so much admiration from people. It was hard to guess what was under the surface the whole time, that the great well of humor and compassion from which he enriched others belied a different internal reality. I so wish I’d known him; I wish I’d had a chance to build him up.

It’s a reminder to me that we must never assume.

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The Unmoved Rock

Once upon a time, there was a man sleeping in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared.

The Lord told the man He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might.

This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture placing thoughts into the man’s mind such as: “You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it.” Thus giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure.

These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man even more. “Why kill myself over this?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And that he planned to do until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.

“Lord,” he said, “I have laboured long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock a half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My child, when long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push.”

“And now you come to me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewed and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition, you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. This you have done.”

“I, my child, will now move the rock.”

– author unknown

Just Around the Next Switchback

hikers“I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” I panted.

Below us sprawled the Flathead Valley in its pristine summer beauty, seemingly close enough to touch, the houses and trees like playthings from our vantage at 7,000 feet.

But I barely noticed the view. My friend and I were sitting, gasping for breath, on Columbia Mountain on Friday with 30-pound packs – an elevation gain of 4,500 feet in 6 miles – and I was more exhausted than ever in my life. Seriously. This beat even my black belt test.

I don’t know whether it was the altitude, being out of shape, or both, but my arms were going numb, my legs shaking, and a deep pain starting in my chest. The scorching sun beat down (seriously, moon, you couldn’t eclipse three days sooner?); sweat beaded and dripped off our necks. Everything was dust (the trees having long ago gotten smaller due to altitude).

It had become switchback, switchback, five minute rest, repeat. The summit was in view, but stubbornly refused to grow closer. Was the mountain growing as we hiked?

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Airborne on the Fourth: Why the Cynic Can Still Love America

cityThe timing of our Czech Republic mission allowed us a unique and rare experience: being at 35,000 feet over the continental United States on the evening of the Fourth of July.

As you might guess, the view was spectacular.

At first, I had guesstimated that we’d be both too early and too far north to see holiday fireworks. But as the sun set a couple hours out of Chicago, I opened the window and glanced down, and my breath caught. Pinprick flares of multicolored light against the dark land in every direction, as far as the eye could see, intensifying around a small town just to the south.

I alerted the others and we stared out with delight. I briefly wondered if we actually were over Canada and maybe they have their own Fourth fireworks just for the heck? But after consulting the onboard computers, we realized that the town to the south could only be Albany, NY. We were seeing the Fourth from the air after all!

Then we looked ahead of us and beheld a massive web of light terminating along a solid line: a coastal city. It was Boston. Where it all began. The tea party, the Boston Massacre, the first clashes at Lexington and Concord. The city obviously knew its history that night (or they were celebrating because I was leaving, I dunno). The only comparison I can draw to the view that night is Star Wars space battles: Boston was ablaze with tiny flashes of light. And as we flew over the coastline, still more fireworks: cruise ships off the coast were hosting their own professional displays. It was a sight I’ll not soon forget.

I must confess. Over the years, I’ve grown a bit cynical about the whole America deal.

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Pizza Lessons #5: Down the Barrel of the Gun

pizza4Every once in a while, on a pizza run, I’ll catch a glimpse of a future that worries me.

It’ll be some older male customer who’s living alone, in a tiny, isolated trailer way out on the edge of our delivery range, without a vehicle to his name. Some of these guys have a way of sharing a bit much about their lives, so I know they aren’t getting any visits from people. Just alone, filling their later years with television. Some of them by choice, some of them because of past choices.

I’ll just be real vulnerable for a second: that’s a future I’m afraid of.

I often worry about ending my life alone and broke, driving people away through advanced curmudgeonry. It sounds like overthinking, but my personality does tend that direction, and I worry about it a bit. I’m putting quite a bit of effort these days into avoiding that future.

Now, your typical response might be, don’t worry, Brandon. That won’t happen.

But maybe there’s an even better response.

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This Could Really Be the Last Day You Fail

Stop struggling with your sin and kill it!We all have something dogging us.

And we’ve had so many go-arounds with this particular enemy – some weakness, some vice, some habit seemingly iron-wrought or seemingly genetically hard-coded – that it’s turned the idea of victory into distant foolishness…even though you know that victory is God’s will, and that with his commands comes the power to obey.

Perhaps victory seems attainable during moments when we’re in the clear, when temptation is at bay. Or at church, or after the prayer of repentance, when you’re bowled over by God’s grace and power.

But once the bell rings again, and you’re standing in front of the refrigerator or the computer or that person at work who needs your patience rather than your anger, the optimism fades fast. A deeper layer of doubt is revealed in your heart. I can’t do it. If we succeed for a little while, it switches to, I can’t possibly keep this up forever. Or the urgency fades after a week and our treacherous minds convince us that one surrender won’t hurt and…it ends up being more than one surrender.

Don’t you sometimes just wake up and want to be free of all that? For good?

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