Why do we ask God for anything?

Someone I read one time said you don’t really know what you believe until you’ve toiled to write it down.  So in this spirit, I’ll start writing in an attempt to get my thoughts worked out.

For quite some time I’ve been struggling with prayer.  I see prayers falling into one of two categories – praise and petition.  The praise part I get.  When I am lucky enough to find a quiet moment or intentional enough to focus, I see blessings all around me and I am thankful.  For me, the morning sunrise has always represented my blessings.  A new day breaking over the horizon, the sun’s orange and yellow rays piercing though cotton clouds in such a way as to shimmer across their edges and cast distinct lines across the sky.  To breathe that morning air, its freshness.  It is a New Day… these feelings about the morning symbolize the acuteness I feel about God’s blessings for me.  I offer Him prayers of thanksgiving for these.

But that tricky other side of prayer, the petition, is what boggles me.  Why do we ask God for anything?  Why do we ask God for it to rain? Or for healing? Or protection, or favor, or grace, prosperity?  Why anything?  At this point you’re probably thinking that I’ve lost it because it so obvious why we ask God for stuff.  However, just because everyone thinks the reason is obvious, it’s not obvious to me.

Follow me on this.  God is good.  I mean He is Good with a capital ‘G’.  He is the the definition of good.  If anything is good, it is a reflection of God because he is the author and source of goodness.  Also, God is Love to all the same extremes, completely and utterly [redundancy intended for emphasis]. Additionally, God wants good things for us.  This “will for good” is at the very center of God’s plan of redemption and restoration.  Many times the experiences we have that we interpret as bad are actually from God and meant for our good.  This is the “furnace of affliction”, “trial by fire”, whatever you want to call it.  But it is meant to help us grow from those who are merely “born” of the Spirit (babies) to those who “live and move and have our very being” in the Spirit (mature). So, God is good.  He loves us and wants the very best for us. Moving on…

God is all powerful.  What does this mean really?  It means that nothing, I mean absolutely nothing happens outside the will of God.  Let’s define will.  When I speak of will I’m not talking necessarily about desire. To me, will is very close to purpose and authority, perhaps even permission.  God holds the universe together with His power.  Without his power holding it together, the universe would fall apart.  Think about that, God knows about every galaxy, every star, all dark matter and anti-matter, every black hole, solar system, planet, person, cell, and molecule,  atom, and quark.  He must know about all this in order to hold it together.  Let’s take this another step.

God knows all this about everything in the universe in this moment – in this one second of time.  He knows in this second, where every electron is in the universe even though they move at the speed of light.  Fast-forward another second.  Now God knows where every electron just got to and every other atom in the universe.  Let’s go another step.

God knows the location, function and condition of every atom in the universe for every second across the span of the universe’s entire existence.  And God knew all this before he even created the Big Bang.  Let’s keep stepping.

Not only did God know all this from before the creation of the universe, God knows every possible outcome of every change in atomic direction, human decision, every interaction between gravitational forces, interactions between wind and cloud particles… I’m talking about reality and the infinite possible realities that might have been or could still occur.  There is only one true reality.  We never know reality, only our interpretation of our infinitesimally small perception of our experiences of it.  We experience incompletely and interpret imperfectly.  Nevertheless, there is one reality encompassing every atom and substance in the universe.  This one reality we can never know.  Not even one second of this reality.  Yet God knows every aspect of every second of this reality.  Additionally, God understands every aspect of every second of every possible reality 99.9999999999% of which will never occur.  Top this off with the fact that God didn’t go through some process to learn this information.  He simply knows it.

So, to review, God is good and love.  God wants goodness for us.  God knows absolutely everything and absolutely nothing happens unless God not only authorizes it, but actually makes it happen with His power.  Next step…

God is outside of time.  Stay with me on this one.  God is not a temporal being like you and I.  We are born, grow , live and die.  Our perspective of life is defined and inseparable from the concept of time.  We can’t even speak about anything without time being a context. Try it.  Simple phrases like, “I woke up.” or “I’m going to work.” or even, “I love you” all have time as their backdrop.  Even, “My name is Andy” implies time because of the word “is”.  For us, everything has a beginning, middle and end.  Nothing falls outside this rule, except God.  Because our language itself is time-bound, we can’t even describe God without falsely attributing a sense of time-ness to God.  Yet, to God time itself does not exist.  Time only exists for God’s creation.  Time, after all, is a creation as well.  So what does this mean?

Well, God’s non-temporal nature implies a paradox in His perspective of reality.  For God, everything happens and nothing happens and both of these statements are true simultaneously.  What?  From one angle God sees or has seen(?) everything in the universe happen even before it actually occurred.  This is because of His omniscience and omnipresence.  However, since for something to happen it must happen within a span of time, and since God is outside of time, it can also be argued that from another angle, God witnesses nothing because time does not exist for Him.  Perhaps this particular point is a bit divergent, but I believe it’s important because it illustrates God’s utter different-ness from us.  He is so unlike me, that my brain physically hurts trying to think about it.  I suppose the point to take away here is that God knows everything that is is knowable.  That includes every aspect of our lives: every decision we face, every destination where those decisions could lead, and every thought, emotion and concern we have. And he knew all this before we existed.

So, if my friend is sick, and I pray to God asking for his healing, what am I really doing?  I’m asking God to focus on somebody he’s already focused on.  I’m asking God to change a situation that He caused. And I’m either accusing God of not knowing what is best for my friend because he caused him to be sick or I’m accusing God of not being powerful enough to control all things in the universe with his will and power.

But wait, the bible is filled with petitions.  Jesus himself said, “Give us this day our daily bread”… “forgive them, for they know not what they do”.  Doesn’t “the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”?  What do these examples mean?

Here’s what I think, but first let me say in full disclosure, that I’m wholly undecided on this issue, yet I’m struggling to find a way to dismiss all the logic I’ve stated above. Onto my conclusion.  The human race has advanced significantly since the time of the bible.  Education is far more available and the commoners of society can think abstractly because of it.  Whereas, in centuries past, education and critical thinking was in short supply even among the fortunate.

Saying it straight, people with less education have less exposure to ideas and less ability to deal with those ideas.  Therefore, they need more crutches.  If someone cannot possibly conceive of a God who exists outside of time, then he must believe that God is affected by time.  This person can conclude nothing other than the conclusion that God reacts to stimuli – that God is a subject of cause and effect just like the rest of us.  Certainly this simpler idea of God is more easily grasped and welcomed because it is easier to relate to due to its commonality to our own human experience.  Yet, if there are aspects of God that we can relate to on a human level, there are for more ways in which God is wholly other from us.  But this is inconceivable to perhaps the majority of the human race – or at least unacceptable.

So, I’m struggling to decide if it is right to petition God or whether it is an insult to Him when I do so.  Is is not a greater faith to trust that God will work the best path for me without praying for course corrections?  Of course, God doesn’t need my petitions.  He already knows what I’m going to inform him of anyway and better than I know it myself.  He already knows what is best for me.  He already loves me and controls literally everything in existence.  So, if God doesn’t need to hear my petitions, does He want  me to make my petitions for my own benefit?  If so, what benefit do I get asking God for something, when I know he already knows what I want, what is best for me and loved me enough beforehand to direct my path toward the best outcome?  To me, it just feels like a lack of trust when I petition God knowing all this.  It seems like the height of pride to think that my small petition will change God’s mind away from His chosen path to something different.

So I’m stuck and this is my struggle with prayer.  While it may feel insulting to me to petition God, I have no qualms about petitioning you for advice.  Got any?

Deliverance from Legalism

The Hebrews in Egypt were enslaved for hundreds of years.  They cried out for a deliverer.   Generations later, the Israelites in Babylonian captivity prayed for a deliverer.  Years after that, the Jews under Roman occupation hoped for a deliverer.  Today, legalists are enslaved by fear, ignorance and conceit.  Yet they do not cry out for a deliverer.  The Jews before them knew they were enslaved and needed a deliverer.  Yet the legalist doesn’t know or understand his need.  Should deliverance be brought to the legalist even though he does not ask for it?

My first instinct (and the instinct of many others I’ve talked to) says No!  Deliverance must be desired.  There is truth in this.  Yet, there is also truth in the fact that before I could accept Christ as my deliverer, He had to first show me that I was enslaved to sin.  I did not know it.  I was ignorant.  Jesus shone his light on my life and revealed my darkness.  Only because of this revelation was I aware of my slavery.  Adding another dimension… when Jesus initially cast his light on me revealing my sin, was that light complete?  Did it display the entirety of  my corruption once and for all?  Or did the light, like the creeping rays of the sun, only illuminate the first aspects of my guilt – those that I was ready to see at that time – not revealing all on my life’s depravity, but only the portion needed to germinate my infant desire for Him?

The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and imbalance with God, not in one great sweeping revelation, but in degrees and moments of revelation.  We’ve often heard people say life is a journey.  Our initial conversion is the first step of that journey – the beginning of God’s working within us to reveal, through his ever-increasing light, the dark spots on our souls.  Throughout our lives, God engages us in a process of renewal and reclamation, encouraging and convicting us to increasingly surrender more and more of ourselves to him.  He continually shows us that we continually need a deliverer.  God did not intend for our initial deliverance through the new birth to be the goal, the end, the destination.  Our first trusting of God resulted in our being born again, but for the rest of our lives God spends his energy building greater and deeper trust of himself in us so that we increasingly rely on him.  With great patience and love, God casts more light on us revealing our need.  With this light, he also whispers his promises and works his wonders to continuously assure us throughout this process that we have our deliverer.

If we consider God to be acting mercifully toward us as he walks with us through this process, should we not also show the same mercy to our legalistic brothers (as they walk on their own journey)?  Or should we, unlike God, abandon them to their slavery?  In spite of the people who say there is no hope or that it is a waste of time to approach the legalist, I simply cannot reconcile the idea of abandoning my brothers who are trapped in legalism with the gospel message of Jesus.  Jesus came to set men free.  Consider these scriptures:

John 8:31-36

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Rom. 6:6-7

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Gal. 5:1-10

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

2 Cor. 3:17-18

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Perhaps rather than abandon our legalistic brothers because we view their plight as an insurmountable obstacle, we should recognize their situation for what it is – enslavement.  Perhaps our response should be one of holy discontent.  Rather than be apathetic, perhaps we should grow angry at their imprisonment.  Perhaps we should commit ourselves to their rescue – finding ways to scale the walls of their prison and deliver them from bondage.

What was Jesus’ response to the Jews screaming for his blood, “crucify him, crucify him!”  He showed them mercy – rescuing and delivering them.  He laid down his life for them.

* All scripture quotations from the NIV

You Are Never Ready

My wife and I had always had a vague plan that we would wait to have our first child until we had been married five years. As we got closer to that mark, we’d talk about whether or not we’d be ready for a child. From these discussions, I could tell Tara was more easily able to reconcile herself to having a child. I was not. I told her I wasn’t ready yet. Not only were there things I wanted to do with my career – I wanted to hit my target salary mark achieving a level of security and safety before committing to the responsibility of a child. But greater in my mind was that I had to work out a few things in my head before making such a commitment. I was unsure of my ability to make a dependable living and provide for my family. I was unsure of my own abilities to be a father. I felt I needed to be certain that I was capable before committing to a child.

Well, all these considerations ended up being for nothing because in our fourth year of marriage, my wife announced she was pregnant. That first night after hearing the news I was a basket case. I felt very unprepared. Yet over the course of that night, I began to accept that my carefully planned life was not going to happen the way I expected it to.

Of course, now four years later I am grateful that everything happened as it did. We have a beautiful boy who is glorious to be around (most of the time).

About a year ago, Tara and I began talking about having a second child. This time I was much more certain in my ability to provide and care for my family. Yet I still didn’t feel ready. Tara was sure she wanted another baby. I admitted I’d never be truly ready, but agreed we should go forward. Now we have our second son and again I am very grateful.

I’ve just read a book called This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley. It has been harder for me to get through this book than any other I’ve read (and I read a lot). It’s not that the grammar was difficult (it’s an easy read in that sense) or that it was very long (only 180 pages). Rather this book describes what living life in Jesus’ kingdom can look like from a practical perspective – not in a far away heaven, but right here and now.

The book has opened a new perspective for me and described my responsibility to a hurting world in such a way that frightens me.  It makes me shudder to think of what living this way might do to my life. I am afraid of giving up what I consider to be mine – my money, my belongings, my time, my plans, my privacy and safe seclusion from the world.

This book paints a picture of the gospel that calls me into to world where injustice happens, people are hurting, and many are without hope. I am seeing that my sitting on the sidelines in my comfortable suburban home, or at my plush corporate desk is not what I am here to do because those settings, by their nature, separate me from the world Jesus came to redeem and reclaim.

I don’t believe that Jesus is calling me to explicitly sell my house or quit my job (someday he may), but I am certain he is calling me to get unselfishly involved in people’s lives – forming real relationships full of the beautiful and the ugly, listening to and meeting their needs. This scares the pants off me and I am not ready for it.

I’m not ready because it requires that I view my possessions in a truer light – that they are not mine at all. Each dollar I spend is not mine. Each moment I spend can be used to either serve this calling or to serve self. I’m not ready because this is a call for total and complete surrender of every part of myself.

When I think back on the story of my children I think that God was using those times to tell me that I will never be ready, but that I should just dive in head first anyway. In fact I picture God saying that it is His purpose that I never be ready.  If ever I was ready to serve, perhaps in my human arrogance I might claim my readiness for myself and strip God of that glory.  God, in his infinite wisdom, was teaching me an important lesson – that the way I order events in life is wrong. I don’t have to first be fully prepared and ready before committing. Rather, I should be fully committed in spite of not being ready or prepared.  Doing life in this way honors God and brings glory to him because it becomes clear that He makes the successes happen not me.

This is the natural order.  God acts and we respond. My action is a responsibility in that I have an obligation to respond to God.  What carries more weight with me is not the obligation.  Rather, I am awed by the image of my potential future evolution – being  entrenched in the mess of this world, forming authentic relationships in order to meet needs and show what living in the present kingdom of Christ can be like.  This image of this possible future feels natural, like the way it was meant to be.  Yet, it is also so counter-cultural that it scares me to think of myself living this way.

I’ve thought it through and understand it.  My heart feels drawn in this direction.  Now what? Does this picture of me serving the world motivate me enough to walk out the door and work, or do I stay in my Lazy-boy?

We Were Created… to Create

C.S. Lewis stated the following in his book, Christian Reflections,

“In the New Testament the art of life itself is an art of imitation: can we, believing this, believe that literature [or art] which must derive from real life, is to aim at being “creative”, “original”, and “spontaneous.”  “Originality” in the New Testament is quite plainly the prerogative of God alone. If I have read the New Testament aright, it leaves no room for “creativeness” even in a modified or metaphysical sense. Our whole destiny seems to lie in the opposite direction, in being as little as possible ourselves, in acquiring a fragrance that is not our own but borrowed, in becoming clean mirrors filled with the image of a face that is not ours.”

This last sentence is a reference to 2 Corinthians 3:18.

“We with unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the glory of the Lord.”

I agree with Lewis in that our motivation for our art (our lives) should not be to glorify ourselves and that we should not think that we possess any sort of creative power that is unique and distinctive to ourselves. However, I believe we do have creative power within us and that such power is one of the gifts God endowed us with when He created us “in His image”.

Lewis uses the term “image bearers” referring to mankind as not only containing the image or signature of God as a part of our inherent properties as creations of God, but also as call to duty. Being an image bearer means that our purpose and our obligation is to act in such a way that God is glorified by our lives – that God’s goodness is manifested by our choices.

I believe that God endowed His own creative power within us and that we each have a choice to exercise that power in a way that points to God or in a way that points only horizontally to and about the world.  Taken as a whole, our lives can be distilled down to our choice to either fight against our created purpose – to struggle against the current that is trying to pull us to God – or our choice to surrender to that spiritual current and allow God to take us safely to the place He has prepared for us.

When we choose to exercise our creative power in such a way that points to God, projecting and reflecting to goodness of God, we act as partners with God in His on-going creative process. God finished His initial creation at the end of the sixth day, but by no means was God finished creating. The whole of history manifests God’s continuous process of creation – to make what was dark and sinful into something radiant, pure, a redeemed reflection of Himself for His glory.

When we exercise our creative power vertically we yield to the stream that carries us and reveal to the world “pictures of God” that point to His goodness, mercy and grace. We add new beauty to the world casting forth a light that brings joy and awareness.  As such, our creations are balanced with the divine creations God made and thus, reflect the same holy and sacramental quality that God’s does.

Our awareness of the endowment of creative power God gives us should put us in awe of His grace. To think that God would give us the same ability, like Him, to bring something into existence out of nothing should give us pause and be amazed at his generosity and faith in us. God past to us this spiritual genetic marker and this power connects us directly to Him as His offspring.

When we exercise our creative power vertically glorifying God, we do so not as ourselves, but as those who are redeemed and being ever transformed into the image of our Creator. What honor God gives us.  What great responsibility as well.

God is an Alien

“The God with whom I had become familiar while growing up fundamentalist, then evangelical, in a Baptist college and seminary was a God very much like us. The God I thought I knew made sense. He played by the rule – ours. I had to do some serious unlearning.”

– Timothy Stoner from his book “The God Who Smokes”

We humans have a tendency to create for ourselves an image of God that is likable. A God who always forgives – suggests, but never demands. A God who is always patient with us and supports us like a good therapist.  However, though this may be the God we want it is not the God we got.

The God we have is likable and kind and patient. He is soft and comforting like a lamb. However, he is also a lion and is anything but safe. We do not get to make God into our image. Rather, God has purposed that we be made into his. While God may give us comfort, we should not become comfortable with our image of Him. He is ever unpredictable. The moment we think we understand Him he will turn the tables and show us a different side of Himself. He will not allow Himself to be contained within a box of our design.

A few years ago, when God was guiding me through my own unlearning process (which will always continue), I was very confused. I didn’t know what or how to think about God. The image I inherited of Him growing up no longer made sense. I was distraught and in turmoil because I felt that if I didn’t have an image of God that I could wrap my brain around, then I didn’t know how to live. For a long while I was depressed by this thought.

When I was a kid, I loved sci-fi movies. Some of the aliens in them resembled me, while others were completely “other” and unrelatable. I began to consider what God would look like if I considered him an alien. Thus began my re-imagining of God. I began to see that while God displayed kindness, compassion, patience and all the other traits I was comfortable with, I also began to realize that God was also very unrelatable and unpredictable.

Strangely, thinking of God as an alien was comforting to me. I began to accept that God was so much bigger than I could understand. I realized that the emotions and traits I valued were definitely a part of God because he created them as a part of the universe. However, I also understood that the Creator would, of necessity, be a being “beyond” and greater than his creation. A created being has no ability to understand his creator unless his creator imbues him with that ability. And the God we have has chosen to remain a mystery.

All of this left me with a strong comfort knowing that God as creator could have done anything he wishes with his creation, but chose to setup a system whereby we can live joyfully with him forever. Yet, my understanding also created in me a greater respect and even fear of God because I now know that God, being sovereign can still choose to do whatever he wants and be justified in that decision.

God has chosen to bring me and the rest of the world to himself by refining us in his image. This refining process can be slow and gentle, but it can also be shocking and brutal. In either case, it is God’s will and we have no control over it.

Knowing this, I welcome God’s refining in my life, but with hesitation. For I fear what he has in store for me. Therefore, my challenge and the challenge for everyone else is one of submission. In order to be refined into God’s image, in order for his will to be done (with positive consequences for ourselves) we must continually surrender pieces of ourselves to God when He makes it known to us that they are obstructing his purpose for us. We must incrementally surrender our will and trust that the One who promises our salvation and life will be faithful and handle our lives with the love and gentleness (and sometimes harshness) that we need.

Being called to give up so much, isn’t it reassuring that God spent several thousand years enacting the stories of the Bible to convince us of His faithfulness? For He is faithful and true and will deliver on His promises.

Blessed be the name of the Lord
He gives and takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

The last Adam’s blood

As the first Adam’s sweat embraces my face may the last Adam’s blood race through me with grace.

These are song lyrics that I heard on Air 1, Christian radio.

I am amazed by the brevity of this statement. It encompasses so much of the story of redemption. It expresses the arch of God’s story. Because of Adam’s sin in the garden, sin entered the world. I recently re-read the first chapters of Genesis and realized that God’s response to Adam and Eve’s sin was not one of anger and vengeance. When God spoke to them about the consequences of their sin, he was not threatening or pronouncing judgment upon them. He was lamenting the fact that their actions had changed the very nature of the world. They had introduced corruption. And God lamented. They had brought pain into existence. And God lamented. They had ushered in death. And God lamented.

Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:22-24

God had given man free will and as a result, he knew they possessed the power to take from the tree of life and live forever. This would have violated the nature of the universe. For if they had done this, they would have been like God, yet harboring darkness and corruption within them. Sadly, God could not allow this to happen. He was forced to banish them, thereby removing their opportunity to live forever. Had they not eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve would have lived forever. The fruit of the tree of life had not been banned from them. Only the fruit of the other tree. But darkness cannot abide with light. Therefore, they could no longer be allowed to eat the good fruit. This was their separation from God – their separation from the life of God.

Being a father, I know that God regretted having to banish them. But there was no other choice in order to maintain their free will. The amazing thing was that God foreknew that all of this would happen. It purposefully arranged events and the created environment so that it would happen. It was the only way. So what must it have been like for God before their sin, to anticipate it all the while being in happy fellowship with his innocent children? Even though God is not a temporal being, it his joy still must have been bittersweet. Yet, also through his ability to be outside of time, God also must have been experiencing the lasting joy of his permanently redeemed children through Christ.

I pity God in this moment and I praise him for his plan of reconciliation. For he knew that even in the moment when sin began it corruptive work on Adam, tainting him throughout his being, he had already begun the cleansing process. It’s almost as if God had left a remnant of himself inside Adam – untouchable by sin. This being a dormant property of life-giving power that would only be activated when Jesus uttered his last words, “It is finished.” And this is, in fact what he did. God left the back door open a crack. Open just enough to whisper through, to communicate his love and thus allow all men everywhere a chance to hear his voice and see glimpses of his divinity.

To me, this remnant seems like dormant cells in our bodies. No, more like DNA at the atomic level. Every fiber of our being possesses these remnant atoms. They wait within us. They course through our blood. They do no harm to the surrounding tissue. But at the new birth, they come alive. In fact they are much like Chi – undetectable energy. When they are quickened, they cleanse us and give us balance. This life-giving Chi re-connects us with God and it races through us with grace.

Reflections on our miscarriage

King David committed a terrible sin against Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba by sending him to the front lines of a war for the purpose of having him killed to get him out of the way. He did this because he lusted after Bathsheba and wanted her for himself. The prophet Nathan came before David and revealed to him that he knew of David’s sin. He told David that his punishment would be for his new son, his child from Bathsheba, would die. David’s response to this is in 2 Samuel chapter 12.

David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them. On the seventh day the child died. David’s servants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, we spoke to David but he would not listen to us. How can we tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.” David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked. “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate. His servants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!” He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Though I do not believe the recent miscarriage in any way occurred due to some sin that Tara or I committed, I do strongly relate to David in his response. David was very sad and pleaded with God to spare the child. I was the same. I fervently prayed for the deliverance of my child. But God, in his wisdom, had another plan. I do not spite God. I hold no ill will toward him or anyone else. Though I miss and want my child to be with me, I trust in the will of the Lord. He directs my path.

Through this experience I have realized to a personal degree what it means to be refined by fire. I feel that God has blessed and honored me by taking me through this crucible. I am not in control. He is. And I trust that he leads me in paths that will enrich and prepare me to fulfill his plan for me. I don’t know what that plan is. As with all things in God’s plan, it will be revealed in the fullness of time. So I wait patiently on the Lord and I allow him to mold me and make me ever greater into his image.

These moments have made me more aware of the what many believers before me have understood. The Lord is to be praised and trusted no matter what happens.

One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. – Job 1:13-22

The day we found out that Tara had miscarried, we came home from the doctor. She went to sleep and following the example of David and Job, I took a shower to cleanse myself. I went into the office in our house and I worshiped God. I prayed for an hour, then I sang praises to him for another hour. I ran my tears dry and I could cry no more.

I felt redeemed. I felt cleansed. I felt honored. Of course, I miss my child and I will always mourn his loss, but I know as David did, that he cannot come back to me. However, I will one day go to be with him and all of us will be a family together forever with the Lord. This brings me contentment and hope.

More so, I feel connected to the past. I feel that my story is a complementary chapter in God’s story. Other chapters are about David and Job and I share the story with them. They are not just people from long ago. They are my family, my forefathers. We are all sons of God. This is why I feel blessed – because I am part of God’s ever-unfolding Word. I am nothing except what the Lord makes me. I have nothing but what the Lord gives me.

He gives and takes away. But in all things, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Harper needs to be exposed to evil

Harper needs to see the darker side of the world to appreciate the good and to know the plight of many people. In Anne Rice’s book, Christ the Lord, seven year old Jesus witnesses the terror of running from bandits and people intent on robbing and perhaps killing he and his family. He sees the destruction of cities and the many displaced people and is saddened. He is also frightened by this. But in all this Jesus is “sensitive”. He recognizes it as evil even though his child mind doesn’t understand it. I think in reality Jesus did witness similar atrocities and it helped form his compassion for others and refine his message of salvation – a salvation not based in this world, but as a deliverance from it. Or perhaps a transformation of the world by God’s power to be something better. A new earth.

I need to shelter and protect Harper, but I also need to allow him to see some evil in doses he can handle, so that he can have a realistic image of the world he lives in so that he will develop a genuine compassion. I was sheltered too much (with all good intent) by my parents and, consequently, do not have a potent compassion for the plight of others. If harper is to change the world, he needs to understand this…. As do I.

You are not your own

1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “You are not your own, you have been bought with a price.”

Lord God,

I read this sentence today and, being honest, I must say that I do not like it. Right now, the thought of surrendering myself to you means that I will be losing my identity – who I am. It doesn’t seem like I will be gaining enough or more to replace “me” if I give myself over. Who am I left with if I give myself up? What happens to “Andy”? Am I just like everyone else? I want to be unique.

Knowing all this, still, where is the profit in keeping my identity if I don’t have you? But the promise of having you seems like it won’t fill up the void of losing myself. If I have myself on the last day and the end of the earth is before me, where will I be if you are not looking upon me? But I don’t want to be just another one of your children. I want more. I want something special and unique. I want there to be an extra twinkle in your eye when I see your face the first time. If I don’t get this, then I’m not sure it’s worth it.

But that’s the point isn’t it? It’s not about me and it’s all about you. I admit that I still don’t like it because it makes me feel equal, less important, average. So how do I become humble enough to allow you to take over? I think I have struggled with this root issue my entire life though I’ve rarely realized it. Perhaps the next phase in my growth is the realization that not only are you responsible for my salvation; not only is it solely through your power that faith itself lives in me; but perhaps, you are also the source of my humility. Maybe even humility is a grace. Maybe I can’t even do this on my own. This must be, else I could claim it for myself.

So at the end of this prayer, I ask you O Lord to impress upon that I am not my own even though I’ll struggle against it. Create in me humility since I cannot create it myself. Use your sovereign power to rule over me and transform that which I have not the power to transform. Be thou still my strength and shield because I have no other and cannot do this myself.