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 Shreds a Millennial

porkA few years ago, I stood in my church’s kitchen combing through massive chunks of steaming pork, to be sold heaped between buns as  a mission fundraiser.

As I coaxed the juicy meat into smaller chunks, I was disappointed.

I’d recently been pulled out of a couple ministry opportunities at my church. I’d been assured that it wasn’t about my heart or competence – just other things going on.

The struggle in my heart was real. Sin kept whispering at me, You wanted to do X and Y and here you are in the kitchen, holding a fork. The Spirit in me wasn’t that stupid. I knew it’s not about me. I knew ambition is unholy. And I was more than happy to be doing my part in the mission. But sometimes lies can feel overwhelming, especially in an incumbent climate of fear and self-criticism. A gale against a fragile sapling.

Unlooked for, as I stared down into the pan, God spoke into the gale.

I am shredding you.

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My and Paul’s Longing for a Harvest

pragueI was reading through Romans from the beginning while I was in the Czech Republic. The first thing I ran into? An apostle Paul who very much shares my mind on the desire for a harvest.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. – Romans 1:8-13

For all Paul’s reputation as a man of echoing words and fist-pounding exhortation, it’s a little surprising to see him opening his letters in such a tender and plaintive way.

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Love the Inconveniencers

lineI’m notorious at my church for car troubles.

In two separate cases over the years, I’ve experienced car troubles that forced me to drive markedly slower than the speed limit. One time, I had a engine trouble to where it would stay reasonably cool as long as I stayed under about 55 MPH. The other instance was a weird transmission problem – if I slowed down from fourth gear, there would be a noticeable bump, and then my car would refuse to get back up into fourth gear. Meaning I could not travel over about 55 MPH for fear of over-rpm’ing the engine. (I’m not a car person.)

No doubt this caused consternation for drivers behind me, especially on Montana’s many one-lane highways. Keep in mind that this is the state of “Reasonable and Prudent” fame. I can guess what was going through their minds as they stared endlessly at my tailpipe.

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