Snow and Suffering Can Melt Fast

evergreen-1802157_1280The last two winters have been brutal.

More specifically, this last one was mild and forgetful of its job right up until February and then got brutal to catch up (reminds me of the Seahawks offense). Constant negative temperatures, almost daily blizzards. Considering my fifteen-mile daily commute, this was immensely tiresome. I’d say something melodramatic like “I nearly died three times a week in this weather”, except frankly we Montanans are so used to roadside near-death experiences that they’re routine now.

But I was amazed by this: weather can change awful fast.

Theoretically, fall and spring are transitional seasons. That’s not really how it works here. It’s summer, summer, summer, then BOOM maybe a week or two of something in between before the snow comes. It’s winter, winter, winter, then BOOM it’s pretty warm and the flowers start blooming.

All of a sudden, this week, the brutal cold just evaporated. The sun was suddenly shining, the average temperature jumped by twenty degrees, and not even the highest heaps of snow in parking lots are withstanding the healing radiation. It is melting swiftly, and soon the world will look as if winter never happened.

God can do this, too – with suffering.

Jesus heals people whose winter of discontent has lasted over a decade. It just comes out of nowhere. Long after they’ve exhausted every avenue and come to the end of themselves, these people find Jesus on their doorstep and dive for the hem of his robe. BOOM. No gradual change, just…sudden wholeness.

In Acts 3, Peter heals a man crippled from birth. The man had never even known how to walk, yet there he is after his encounter with Peter, leaping and praising God like he’d never missed a day of ambulation.

How surreal, how stunning such sudden transformation must have been!

God does not always bring such whiplash-inducing changes into our lives, but these stories serve to teach us that sometimes he does. And it needn’t be instantaneous to bring whiplash. Change that comes in weeks or months can be just as dizzying, just as joyful. As some say, “once God does move, he hits the throttle.”

God makes up for suffering. These people had remarkable faith to remember it, to dive for Jesus’ robe even after years of disappointment. May their example teach us.

When God is in a Simple Camping Trip

If you’re wondering where I was Thursday when the time came to do a blog post…what? You didn’t notice. Oh, well. That’s ok.

Anyway, I was camping. Took four guys and hiked eleven miles into a nearby wilderness area. It’s a terrific wilderness, really, compared to the nearby Glacier Park; far fewer regulations, far fewer tourists, bigger group sizes and no campsite reservations required. (Also, it’s not currently on fire.)

But the fun part was seeing God in it.

There were all kinds of little blessings. For one, there was practically no smoke in the drainage we were inhabiting for three days. The double-cliff bluffs above us were there for the eye-gazing in all their God-given glory, and there were no breathing problems.

For another, I already knew the area because circumstances two weeks earlier had redirected a friend and I to camp there. (That, too, was an excellent trip.) That ended up being an enormous benefit when our original hike (in the park) was snuffed out by evacuation-worthy fires.

We saw a bear and a moose; the moose was trotting across the road as we drove out, but the bear we saw on the trail, darting across a mere 100 feet ahead. It’s unbelievable how something that size can move so quickly. I’d like to say it was a grizzly because that’s a cooler story, and I did get the impression of a humped back, but I couldn’t really tell.

A couple of hiking mishaps (broken pack straps, etc.) were averted by the engineering knowledge of two of our guys and the screwdriver that I’d happened to bring. I initially started packing it to make sure my gun holster stayed tight instead of spinning around on my belt leaving the barrel looking up at me, but it came in handy for different reasons here. Funny how things end up working.

Did I mention the trip happened to come at the tail end of the Perseid meteor shower? We spotted a few great fireballs as we retired to bed for the evening.

But I think my favorite part was the answered healing prayer. My right knee was acting up the entire time, leaving me reliant on Advil, which had the ability to knock the pain down from a 7/10 to a 2/10 but still didn’t leave me very trustworthy of the knee. The four guys said a prayer for me and in the morning, the pain was entirely gone. Even the 2/10 was gone. I didn’t feel a twinge the rest of the trip.

This really blew me away, honestly. I’ve been on a lot of trips and outings where I or someone else had a bugaboo, we’ve prayed, and nothing improved. Seeing my knee healed this time (though the Advil was enough to control the pain) was another reminder of the cynicism I’ve developed towards seeing God come through, of how my “theology of suffering” (the very good Biblical philosophy of how not all prayers answered and we shouldn’t be focused there anyway) might be a little too well-honed.

Perhaps the positive answers to prayer (there have been others lately) is because my attitude towards God has hit a new tier of improvement lately. I posted a while ago about getting past that “mad with God” thing. It’s a hard thing to get past, partially because it’s so hard to diagnose; we don’t dare walk around being consciously and openly mad at God because we know it’s blasphemy. Yet when life “bumps” us, it will surface. Often only then.

So I’ve focused on releasing annoyance towards God over the bad things that have come my way in this life (my family, for instance). It makes a difference. Not just answers to prayer, but levels of daily peace. I recommend it.

Anyway. Just a quick tale on how good even a simple camping trip can be when God gets involved. I’d been worried about it. It felt opposed. Fire activity in the area has made everything uncertain, and several guys I’d invited had been forced to drop out. But we went with the company we could, and it was an absolute blast. Praise God.

The Many Shades of Singleness, Part 3: Hating Marriage

CALLEN_PHOTOS-21.jpgFor this particular shade of this series (here’s Part 1 and Part 2), I felt it best to turn to someone from the “never marry” side of the singles’ world, someone with a different story and perspective, who could speak credibly to those with a reluctant view of marriage and a, shall we say, greater enthusiasm for singleness.

To that end, I’m excited to introduce my blog’s very first guest poster, Sarah J. Callen. 

When Brandon first asked me to share about singleness, I began racking my brain for the best way to communicate about this topic. Then a simple solution hit me: share your story. I hope my story will leave you encouraged if you’ve been hurt in the past, give you compassion for those in a different stage of life than you, or just give courage to share your own, even if it’s messy.

Growing up, I never wanted to get married. The entire institution of marriage was wholly undesirable and having kids was completely out of the question. I met Christ when I was 16 and dove into church culture, but my hatred of marriage remained. I was certain I was just going to be like Paul and choose singleness so I could serve God, not realizing the depth of hurt I was trying to cover up using this Christian justification.

Some of my friends got married right out of high school and I had plenty of weddings to attend all through my college years and, while I was happy for them, I still didn’t understand their desire to marry. Why on earth would you want to put up with another human being for the rest of your life? Why would you sign up for something that had a high probability of leaving you in worse shape than when you entered it?

You see, at a young age I decided that marriage was a bad thing.

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