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This just posted and I LOVED chatting with Jayne at Tales With de Sales about the beauty of God’s grace, our need for story and how God weaves his love and grace through our own stories. Check out her podcast library for all manner of intelligent conversations with all manner of authors. Life isn’t easy and story helps us cope, helps lighten our load!

And do check out our interview here!

https://anchor.fm/jaynedesalesgmailcom/episodes/Interview-with-Christian-Fiction-Author-Camille-Eide-e1kehh3

Forgive + Forget

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

It took a 40-years-in-the-armpit-of-the-desert sort of situation, a little like my buddy Moses, for me to get a few things straight about myself and my relationship with God. One of those things was God’s view on forgiveness. I often joke that I have a PhD in Learning Stuff the Hard Way, but the truth is, spiritual growth for me has been quite a journey. It took a while to grasp that I have a 100% right standing with God because of Christ, period, and that I can’t add to or take away from that. I confess it’s still a bit mind boggling.

Complete forgiveness is an amazing, mind-blowing thing. A priceless, undeserved gift.

And yet . . . I still struggle with letting go of the hurtful or offensive things that others do. Offensive people are everywhere, aren’t they? (Or is it just me?) We live in a world of broken, rude, imperfect people who take cuts and accuse and backstab and offend. And some of us are gifted at keeping track of offense while conveniently forgetting our own flaws. But we are all guilty. ALL of us. NO one is perfect (nor should we expect anyone to be).

Colossians 3:13 in the NLT says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

So even though hurt happens regularly, the Christian is told repeatedly in scripture to forgive. And it’s a command, not a suggestion, and not open to interpretation. Not only are we commanded to forgive, but we are to forgive as God forgave us. How does God forgive? Completely. Without hesitation, condition, or holding it over us. He not only forgives our sins and offenses, he also forgets them. File deleted, forever.

Jesus knows how warped our perspectives are and has a LOT to say about it, like the parable of the servant who was forgiven an astronomical debt and then beat up a guy who owed him 5 bucks (Matt 18). Or about how we’re quick to point out the speck in our brother’s eye and ignore the log sticking out of ours (Matt 7). I don’t think his use of hyperbole there was a coincidence. I think that was to help point out how phenomenally flawed and ridiculous our hypocrisy is.

Jesus knows us all too well.

So where does that leave us? Doomed to disobedience, bitterness, and conflict, thanks to our human reflexes, unless we make some choices. We have a choice to keep stumbling over the wounds and offenses of others and deal with the fallout, or we can choose to change the way we respond to offense.

This isn’t rocket science, but there are 3 simple things I’m challenging myself to do daily:

1. REMEMBER daily (hourly?) that I’ve been fully forgiven and to likewise fully forgive, a paradigm shift that will likely take some proactive discipline. Maybe add Colossians 3:13 as an hourly alert on your phone. Maybe hang The Lord’s Prayer on your bathroom wall where you’ll see it each morning (and at other necessary moments throughout the day…). Maybe post a sticky note on the dashboard of your Ford Escape if you’re in the habit of verbally assessing the IQ of drivers making less than ideal choices. Ahem.

2. PRAY. Both for the offender (forgivee?) and for God’s help to forgive them. He gladly enables and empowers us to do what we cannot do on our own, especially when it’s a matter of obedience, which forgiveness clearly is. A prayer (or 70×7 prayers) asking the Holy Spirit for the power to forgive someone is a prayer he is happy to answer. I can testify to that.

3. FORGET. I may forget a lot of things, but sadly, I can remember all the times I’ve been hurt. Forgiving others as God has forgiven us means we must choose to both fully forgive AND fully forget. And like forgiveness, forgetting is not easy, but Jesus will be faithful to help.

According to 1 Corinthians 13:5, love keeps no record of wrongs, and I believe that love is the real goal here.

Because when we 1. remember that we ALL need forgiveness, 2. pray for help forgiving, and 3. choose to forget others’ sins, we are letting another imperfect soul off the hook, we’re obeying the Lord, and best of all, we’re promoting the kind of love that John talks about, the kind that shows the world that we truly are Christ’s disciples. We are helping to pave the way for an amazing kind of supernatural unity, by the power and grace of God, that the world doesn’t recognize and the enemy can’t stand. And not only are we acting in obedience, love, and unity, we are also putting ourselves in a position to grow a little bit more every day.

Or so I’ve heard. 😉

Love & Peace,

~Camille

Beyond the Ashes

Josie, the main character in The Secret Place, often wishes for a “do-over.”

The Secret Place was originally set to take place in the fall of 2020, along Oregon’s majestic McKenzie River. Then in came 2020 like Freddy Krueger. If ever a year needed a do-over, that was the one. Covid-19 changed life as we knew it. And to compound things for my little book, a state-wide outbreak of wildfires destroyed numerous parts of Oregon, including communities along the McKenzie river valley—on the exact same date and at the same place where my story was supposed to happen.

So as the time to publish the book approached, my choices were to either edit the story to include all the harsh realities of 2020—which would have made for a horrific tale. I couldn’t do it, and nobody I knew wanted to read that.

Or I could have left the story as originally written without the harsh realities actually taking place on the dates noted in the book, which would have meant skipping along through 2020 pretending as if a pandemic, riots, and devastating fires never happened. Which would have been a heartless display of indifference to all the people who suffered so much.

I couldn’t do that, either. So as the book was preparing to go to press, I bumped the story year back to 2019 (pre-covid & pre-fires), and adjusted all the dated backstory to match. And because of Libby’s journals, there was a LOT of dated backstory to edit.

If only we could do that in real life. Just edit the date and go back to a kinder time, back to the way things were before the world drastically changed. I wonder if people who lived through world wars longed for such a do-over? Why can’t we go back to the way life was before all this devastation? Why do we have to know firsthand about pain and hate and grief and PTSD and carry around permanent physical and emotional scars? Why do we have to find new ways to explain to our little ones about grief and anger and sickness and dangers in the world?

Those who have lived through world wars must have come through changed, they’d have had no choice. Likewise, we can’t come through trials unchanged. We usually have no control over difficult or trying circumstances. But we can control the way we respond to them. We can always choose anger and put up resistance, or we can let trials make us stronger. We can allow God to purify our hearts, our goals, and our values. We can choose to let pointless, temporal stuff to burn off and leave us packing light, determined, ready to follow him unhindered by useless weight and needless baggage from stuff in life that won’t be going into eternity with us. We can choose to focus on what matters in the bigger picture of God’s master plan. We can choose to let go of anything we worship or cling to that isn’t God.

This is an excerpt of a text exchange from The Secret Place, when Will was on a break from battling a forest fire:

Will – 10:45 p.m. I saw a beautiful creature in the middle of all this destruction. I held my breath, not wanting to scare it away, wondering how she could be there after fire has ravaged the land, and it hit me … Even though forest fire destroys so much, it can’t destroy the beauty and the power of life that God set in motion when he created all this … It’ll take time, but the forest will heal. The trees and the wild huckleberry will grow back, and the deer and beaver and bear will return, and the damage that was done will become nothing more than a distant memory.

Josie – 10:46 p.m. WOW. So beautiful. That you can see the potential for new life and beauty and goodness in spite of the devastation and the danger you’re dealing with right now.

Will – 10:46 p.m. What I see is YOU. You chose to pick up the pieces and make something good from your life. You remind me that beauty can come from ashes.

The Secret Place, ch 28

How you achieve strength from trial is up to you. I am only as strong as my weakest moment, so the only hope for me is in knowing that I have been promised an eternal future free of pain, suffering, and strife, and that promise comes from the One who is faithful without fail, who by his mercy lives inside me, who kindly picks me up when I fall and who carries me when I am weak. One who is undaunted by evil and unshaken by destruction. One who sees and cares.

One who has a plan. A good, perfect, forever plan. And he is determined to see it through.

My hope is entirely in Christ, not in me, no way. I am weak, but his word says that when I am weak, he is strong.

…But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:8-9

His strength shows up in my weakness. When I am broken, when I am scared, when I am sick or faithless or shaken, he is steadfast, faithful, and strong.

This broken world is not going to last forever, and it is not our forever home. A glorious new earth is part of his master plan, and it’s coming soon. All sorrow and darkness will be no more. My hope is on the horizon. My job, my response to storms and trials is to keep my eyes on Jesus and point him out to those who can’t see beyond the haze rising from the rubble.

Q: How are you holding up on the backside of 2020? Where do you place your hope?

A regal Orchid, sent by church friends, arrived for my Dad’s memorial service in January 2021 and then somehow wound up in my “care.” If you can call it that. The fact that it didn’t immediately die on my watch has me quite honestly in awe of this creature. I can keep only one type of plant alive—the kind that thrive on abuse and neglect.

Orchid was in bloom when she first arrived, her dainty blossoms crisp and magnificent in contrasting pale pink and veins of bold magenta. It sat by a window my office at the church for a while, then I brought it home with little hope it would survive. It was such an exotic thing for a clod like me. The blooms were so fragile, yet strong. My granddaughter said she learned that orchids live in tropical rainforests and often grow on trees, sort of like a parasite. That is simultaneously weird and cool. I’ve watched how it grows, its aerial roots groping like bony, green fingers. Orchids are difficult to start, but once they germinate and become established, they’re like a beautiful free-loader too lovely to disturb.

A few months after bringing Orchy home, I was horrified to find the blossoms wilting, then they all dropped like dainty little paratroopers. Noooo!!! Surely I’d cursed the exotic flower by bringing it home to my ordinariness. But the leaves remained sleek and sturdy, so at least I knew I hadn’t killed it. I let the thing be, hoping she would live out the rest of her days as a plain spinster, like poor little Anne Elliot, whom Austen wrote had “lost her bloom.” At the ripe old age of 27.

But to my surprise, after being left in a corner to knit and play solitaire, Orchy suddenly sprouted little buds and then exploded in magnificent color once again. Exotic was apparently undaunted by ordinary!

Sadly, the second bloom didn’t last long. The blossoms quickly fell and my exotic little friend went dormant again. And this time, she stayed that way. I eventually moved the old girl to another room where she could wait out her days near a north-facing window, where a little more light could warm her old bones, where she could watch the cars and joggers and dog-walkers pass by.

Months have passed. She sits between the piles of books I’m studying, in spindly silence, her rubbery leaves still spry, valiant, but past her bloom, barren.

Or so I thought.

Today, I turned her pot see if she might like a little sun on her backside . . . and spotted a new bud sprouting on the stalk. Then I looked closer at both stalks and saw a few more tiny nubs.

Yay!

And I’m not sure what to make of this. That I accept disappointment prematurely, maybe? That I write off hope too soon? That we humans are quick to dismiss/shelve/cancel anything (or anyone) that doesn’t give immediate gratification? That just when we think our season of being fruitful has come to an end a new season begins, or that miraculous things are happening though we don’t see them, before anything is apparent to the naked human eye?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1

It reminds me of how often we forget that God hears our prayers because we don’t see anything happening. We forget that not everything He’s doing is visible, and just because we don’t see what we want, it doesn’t mean He’s not at work.

It reminds me that that dormancy is not death, and that a breathtaking eternity is just around the corner.

And that sometimes, El Shaddai delights in showing you that your ordinary is actually extraordinary. Exotic, in fact.

Last week during worship at church, I was confessing to the Lord about my stingy heart (again). You may remember that I’ve been here before.

In fact, I just went back through old blog posts (links below) and found 2 previous posts on this topic. Clearly, I’ve been dealing with this for some time now.

But, oddly, I’m not beating myself up over it. I’ve stopped doing that. In fact, I’m much kinder and more patient with Camille than I was 10 years ago. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I still believe I need to surrender daily (er… hourly) and ask God to turn my stony heart to playdough and make me more like Jesus. As always and more than ever, and ever, Amen.

Because there’s a distinct difference these days in the way I view my flawed, sinful nature and God’s desire to see me change and grow and produce more of his Spirit in me. After years of despair about my failure to arrive, to “be a better Christian” (compared to her or him or some perfect figment of my imagination), the truth finally sunk in that I can no more lose my right standing with God than I can earn it. I can not earn or lose my righteousness. This has been entirely done on my behalf by Jesus, by his life, death, and resurrection. I can’t undo that by having a bad day or a bad week or even a bad year. I can’t lose God’s saving grace and I can’t earn it. Growing and living for Jesus is always my goal, but somewhere in the back of my little mind, it was somehow attached to keeping my foot in heaven’s door. It was also attached to an age-old fear that some fathers stop loving you and vanish, and others get pleasure from verbally beating you to down.

God doesn’t deserve to be thrown in with deadbeats and bullies.

When he looks at me, he sees holy, which feels weird to say. He sees me fully cloaked in the righteousness Jesus paid for with his life. When he looks at me, he sees his lovely, precious Son.

And because of that, I want to grow up. More than ever. I have a long way to go, but he’s brought me incredibly far. I am no longer driven by fear, but by gratitude, grace, and love. I am encouraged by God’s 40+ year display of inexhaustible love and kindness toward me.

So while I was having a stare-off with my stingy nature, I asked God to help me be more generous when others have need—through gritted teeth. We’re talking muscle cramps from how tightly my jaw was clenched. I also admitted—might as well since there’s no hiding it from God, right?—that this is REALLY HARD for me to ask.

He knows. He gets that I’m wired a bit off the grid.

Now, there are reasons I tend to withhold giving of myself emotionally, and some might seem justifiable. For instance, I still carry scars from emotional wounds at a time in my life when I was extremely vulnerable. And then I spent decades having no clue what “boundaries” are and why you’re allowed to have them, so I’ve been burned and emotionally drained and have therefore grown resistant to giving. But… I’m also a sinner and admit that I’m selfish, sometimes lazy, and have a powerful aversion to discomfort. (Hey–cut me slack, I’m working on it. Plus Aspies have serious discomfort issues—another topic for another time.)

So as I was admitting to God that needing to be more generous was really hard to ask for, he reminded me of the verse in Matthew 11, when Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Let me pause there a sec. You might have expected the answer to my request to come in the form of a challenge, like Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. A solid truth, and a perfectly good verse. But I find that Jesus really is gentle and lowly in heart, as he said, and this is especially evident in the way he deals with the wounded. I am not afraid of challenge. But the Lord knows me well and knows that a challenge to try harder, do better, is NOT going to produce the results I’m humbly asking him for. He knows that shame has never brought about any good thing in me, only damage. He knows full well that I can accept a challenge, but he also knows that I need reminded–again–that he wants to help me.

Effort is needed on our part, to be sure. But our Father, who knows each one of us intimately—and who has, in fact, wired us all uniquely—has fashioned an easy, custom-fitted yoke for each of us. Not to weigh us down, but to share our load. To ease the burden for us. To do the heavy lifting, actually. I believe his end of the yoke bears like 95% of the weight. Okay, maybe more like 99%. He invites us to come to him, come under the safety and abundance of his provision, lean into his strength. Submit to the power of his Spirit living and working in us. Draw from him, learn from him, find peace and rest. Whatever burden he asks us to bear, he promises to share. He promises to carry the heaviest part. In his grace, he promises to lighten our load.

I so often forget that he will provide whatever it takes to do whatever he asks of me.

I also often forget that the “giving up of myself” doesn’t mean I must surrender to every need or request that comes along. I need only to surrender to the Lord. He will direct me about how he wants to meet the needs of others. When I come under his yoke, he can be FULLY and COMPLETELY trusted. When I place myself in his hands, he does not violate my trust and does not hurt me or take anything from me that I can’t part with. If what is being asked of me costs time or energy or resource, and he is directing me to give it up, he will provide. He can make the sun stand still. He can send rain out of the clear blue. He will provide manna. He’ll turn water to wine. He will multiply a couple loaves and fish to such an overabundance as to leave heaps of leftovers.

His yoke is easy.

His load is light.

His provision is ridiculously more than enough.

“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” -Jesus

“Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours.” -C. S. Lewis

Jesus loves me, this I know. He will never leave me on the road with four flats and an empty tank. He will not let me be overwhelmed. He will provide every last drop of what I need, when I need it, always. Whether it be time, energy, mental focus, resources, the ability to pour out love and care, the space to withdraw and process and recharge when all the cares become overwhelming. He is carrying the heavy end. He’s got this.

see also:

https://camilleeide.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/surrender-brings-freedom/ https://camilleeide.wordpress.com/2019/10/02/surrender-brings-freedom-part-2/

Nip It In The Bud

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God …

For a long time as a believer, I wondered what “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” meant. Somehow, I had missed the fact that this phrase was tucked in between the exhortations to build up others, to steer clear of bitterness and slander, and to be kind and forgiving.

Fact: Unkindness causes God grief.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32

It’s pretty clear that bitterness, anger, slander, criticism, and all such forms of negativity break God’s heart. They don’t belong in the spirit-filled believer. At all. Paul tells us that kindness, compassion, and grace are to be our response to the offenses and imperfections of others.

Before I came to faith in Christ, bitter words spewed easily from me (see THIS post). But even long after I became a believer, I didn’t hesitate to be critical, freely listing others’ faults and flaws to myself and sometimes to others. And then about 15 years ago, I was blessed to work with an exceptional pastor, a man who consistently modeled grace and compassion day after day. Not only did he exemplify positive attributes, he also didn’t engage in negative, critical conversations. I instantly took note. His lack of engagement combined with his unwavering bent toward grace and compassion began to influence my thinking and actions.

After a while, I grew to sense a check in my spirit whenever criticism or negativity spilled out of my mouth. Sometimes the check was heeded. Other times, it was noted and promptly ignored.

Stop. Don’t say it.

Okay, now you’ve let that ugly criticism out of your mouth. You’re slandering someone God loves. Time to stop. Don’t continue.

STOP TALKING NOW.

Paul says we are to get rid of all bitterness. All.

ALL.

Bitterness is a weed with roots that go a lot deeper than the critical, judgy words about to leave my tongue. If I have to slap my hand over my mouth in order to not grieve God’s Holy Spirit, then I have a lot of work to do. Critical words are a product of stinky attitudes which are products of thoughts. Thoughts I am prone to feed and entertain if allowed to sprout and flourish unchecked.

If slanderous words grieve my Lord, then slanderous thoughts are every bit as heartbreaking.

Get rid of all bitterness. Get rid of malice.

Get rid of things that break God’s heart.

Fact: If you are in Christ, then God has forgiven you for all the things other people could be critical about that you’re still working on.

Uh …

Just as God has forgiven you for not having it all together, forgive others the same way.

Be Compassionate. Don’t pick at others’ flaws, faults, weaknesses.

Have Mercy. Show grace.

Remember that we are all a work in progress and all need God’s cleansing, renewing, and empowering. Remember that we all struggle with unseen things, with pains and fears, with quirks and tendencies and bad habits we need God’s help to overcome.

According to Ephesians 4, our words have the power to build others up according to their needs—even when we don’t understand what those needs are. And our words have the power to tear people down. Our words have the power break God’s heart. This is some serious power.

But my negative words are not the real issue—they’re simply evidence of a deeper problem: a bitter attitude in my heart. And what goes on in my heart matters to God.

I pray that the Spirit of God would not only stop me before I speak an unwholesome word about someone, but to stop me even as the negative thought begins to germinate in my mind. I pray he gives me a repulsion for such ugliness. I pray he enables me to immediately recognize seedlings of negativity, pull them by the roots, and hand them over to him. I pray he makes me ultra-sensitive to resentful thoughts and critical attitudes that so deeply pain him. I pray he makes my heart grieve over the things his heart grieves over. I pray Ezekiel 36:26, that he transplant my bitter, stony heart with a heart like his—a heart overflowing with compassion and grace. Soft, not stony. Full of light, not darkness. Full of love, not malice.

Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. -Hosea 10:12 (NKJV)

Oh, to have a heart like God. Make it so, Lord. Please make it so.

My dad passed away recently, and I was reminded that the Lord truly is near the broken hearted.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on that nearness at first: the warmth I felt as we gathered around Mom at her place a few days later and just leaned on each other, talking and remembering Dad, watching as my sister offered to tackle the tall pile of accumulated random stuff that was years overdue for sorting. Bless her heart and her poor aching back, she sat there for hours, patiently sorting through things one piece at a time, things my grieving Mom didn’t have the energy to deal with.

We had just spent the morning with our pastor planning Dad’s funeral. My sister hadn’t felt well, but came to the meeting anyway, and then decided to stay and attack the monster pile in the corner. So for the next several hours, Mom and I and my brother and his wife and my brother in law all looked on as my sister pulled things out of the teetering pile one by one, laughing about some of the items, crying over others, marveling at photos and artwork from grandchildren who are now grown with kids of their own. As we laughed and cried and marveled, I couldn’t help but feel a distinct warmth, a feeling of peace and softness in the room. It was like a warm, sweet, comfy blanket. I’m not sure if the others felt it, but I just wanted to stay and bask in it.

What could have been a difficult time of planning a memorial turned into a very sweet, simple time of just being together. And not that we don’t usually enjoy one another’s company, but we don’t often spend time together due to distance and other life stuff. When Mom and Dad met and married, we “kids” were pretty much grown. It took time for us to really connect with each other at the heart level, but even then, we are still a crazy quilt of frayed, mismatched pieces. We’ve grown into a real family who truly care about each other, but I wouldn’t say we necessarily feel warm and fuzzy by just being together.

So to feel so much warmth and sweetness that day was definitely unique, and I couldn’t put my finger on that the reason for that feeling for the longest time. I called it a gift of grace, which I believe it was. But then today, when I heard a friend was struggling with a loved one’s scary illness, I began to pray, and was instantly reminded of the verse that says the Lord is near the brokenhearted.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

I believe without a doubt that this is not a platitude, it’s a promise, it’s true, and even more, it’s palpable.

We don’t like to be reminded that eventually, death is a given for us all. Of course we always pray for people whose lives are threatened by all manner of terrible things, and I’ve heard of many miracles and have seen countless prayers answered. But I am often reminded that a reprieve from death is not the most important thing we need from God. We have an amazing eternal life guaranteed to us if we’ve placed our trust in Jesus, but our earthly life is a breath, our time on earth is limited.

So what I seek first from God, before I ask for a miraculous healing or intervention that I fully trust he is able to bring, is that his perfect peace that passes understanding will be with the person I’m lifting up in prayer. That Christ’s sweet presence will be felt and that he will guard their hearts and minds from fear, that she or he will be able to look to him and trust in him and feel the safety and strength of his loving, capable hands. He is so caring and so full of compassion. I think he would want us to look up when we are in the midst of struggle, to remember his great love and trust his goodness rather than placing all our hope in the resolution of our present difficulty.

Of course, looking up and remembering his love and goodness is not our first impulse when we suffer difficulty, illness, or fear. Our impulse is to cry out for help, hearts pounding, emotions high. He understands. He is near. He cares deeply. Though he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead, he wept along with the mourners, his heart moved by his own love for his friend and his compassion for the family’s anguish.

He understands our pain, our fear. And he is not bothered by it. Though we are at times faithless, he remains faithful. Whatever we suffer or fear, he doesn’t leave us, but he joins us. He himself suffered and knows all manner of pain and heartache, in order to bring an end to these things once and for all.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

He is Immanuel, God With Us.

He is so much nearer than we know.

And he promises especially to be near the brokenhearted, and I am reminded that he means it.

May you sense his nearness today. ~Camille

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is rl-montgomery-54-1.jpg

A few days after Christmas 2020, my dad went home to be with Jesus.

Anyone who knew him would agree that even at 86, Robert L. Montgomery was bigger than life. He was no gentle breeze you had to look around for, but more of a gale force. If he was anywhere in the vicinity, you couldn’t miss him.

My first memory of Dad was hearing his voice above the crowd in a noisy pizza parlor. I was 15.  From across the restaurant, Mom and I heard someone up front hollering, “Hey, Joe—how’s your wife doing?” Followed by more boisterous greetings for the rest of the staff. At our table, Mom hid behind her hand and muttered, “Oh no, it’s that R.L. Montgomery.” Because of the crowd and his height (or actually, his lack thereof), I couldn’t see who belonged to the voice, but apparently Mom didn’t need to see him to recognize her co-worker.

I soon found out that EVERYONE knew R.L. He may have been small in stature, but he had a big voice and a big personality and an even bigger heart. In fact, everything about him was bigger than life. And he liked only the best of things: The prettiest girl. The choicest cut of meat. The top of the line cookware. He often drove a Cadillac. He had good taste for high quality, which my sister Tandy inherited, and which he tried, unsuccessfully, to instill in me.

When I was 16, my brother Stephen was in the Army and it was just me and Mom. She was going through a hard time following a rough divorce, and I, punk that I was with problems of my own, had just become a brand new Christian, so I asked her if we could find a church to attend. She said “that R.L. Montgomery” had been “bugging” her (I think was the phrase) to come to his church. They began dating and were married the following year.

Which was great, but for me, dads had been a major disappointment, to say the least, and the term STEPDAD was a foul word on my tongue. By the time I was 17, I was completely self-reliant and had ZERO use for a dad. Any childish wish for a daddy had long been abandoned. So when Robert and Mom married, I told him I was moving out to give them space. I didn’t want to be a third wheel.

His response? He laughed hysterically (a sound I can’t tell you now much I wish I could hear once more…) Then he talked me into staying, but I kept my guard up. He kept telling me I was special and said things like “You’re so NEAT!” and “I sure love you!”

Great, my mom married a nutcase. I did NOT need sweet-talking from some hyper red-head who was absolutely going to let me down. I’d been too hurt and disappointed and I was hard. I didn’t need a dad. I was way over it. So I kept him at arm’s length. Pushed him away.

Or… I tried.

But he wouldn’t let me push him away. He kept up the encouragement and the compliments and the bone-crushing hugs, day after day, week after week after week. He just wouldn’t let me get away with avoiding a relationship with him and eventually, the man wore me down.

What I didn’t know about Dad until many years later was how loss during his childhood had shaped him. He’d lost his mother as a young boy, and his dad wasn’t around. His grandma raised him, but he missed the real nurturing he needed. I think a lot of people respond to loss of this kind by becoming bitter or hard, or falling prey to addiction. Not Dad. His response was to double down and love others with every tool had, which included endless words of affirmation. And of course, chocolate.

Early in our relationship, I don’t think even Dad realized that his refusal to let me push him away was not only changing my heart, but impacting my eternal life. I had come to faith in God with a wary, deeply damaged view of fathers. In my experience, dads were unreliable, abusive, or indifferent. When you needed protection, they vanished. When you needed affirmation, they criticized. When you needed to know you had worth, they demeaned you. This was the baggage of insecurity I’d brought into my relationship with God.

But Dad’s persistent love gave me hope in the possibility of a father who won’t abandon you or stop loving you, even when you make him mad.

Oh, and I’ve made him boiling mad over the years. Many times.

Robert Montgomery was a big personality and he was far from perfect. He was THE most stubborn human I have ever met. Don’t even get me started on his backseat driving and his volatile relationship with traffic. He was a professional driver—and he made sure you knew it—but he had a red-headed temper on and off the road. He and I argued at times, and he’s gotten so mad at me he didn’t talk to me for a week—on more than one occasion. But he ALWAYS got over it and he ALWAYS welcomed me back and he still loved me every bit as much.

He could get frustrated with you, but it never affected the depth of his love for you. Relationships were far too important to hold a grudge.

If I could ask to inherit one thing from Dad, it would be his tenacity to love.

Dad didn’t model perfection, but I didn’t need that. What he modeled for me—of far greater worth—was persistence, both in the way he loved, and the way he followed Christ.

Dad gave me a daily reminder that the Father’s love NEVER fails. If not for Dad, I don’t know if I would have gone on daring to trust that God really wants a forever relationship with me, or that I could approach God again and again for help, strength, and forgiveness.

For me, Dad’s stubborn love and persistent faith was a priceless, life-changing gift.

There’s a lyric in his tribute video that says,

There is no life without its hunger;

Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;

But when you come and I am filled with wonder,

Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

Thank you, Dad. I owe you so much and I’ll love you forever. See you soon. 

-Camille

What usually gives you a sense of real, lasting peace? It is calm seas? Things going smoothly?

For me, lasting peace boils down to one word. HOPE.  Not hope like, Oh, man! I sure hope it works out.  But the real, LIVING hope I have in Christ.

Funny story about the origins of the phrase living hope. It was actually penned by the very guy who had some of the highest highs and lowest lows of anyone in the Bible, and some of his greatest triumphs and worst failures came within minutes of each other.

The Apostle Peter is one of my favorite people of the bible. He was an all or nothing guy, which I can totally relate to. In his early days with Jesus, he could be pretty erratic. For example, he went from walking on water with Jesus (!?!) to sinking only moments later.

“Hey, Jesus! Check this out—I’m walking on the water too! Whoa…. Wait… is that… a tidal wa—HEEEELLLLP! I’m DROWNING!!!!!

It wasn’t the waves that sank Peter, it was his loss of focus. Peter had a lot of passion, but many times, Good Old Pete’s passion did not serve him well. And passion certainly wasn’t what he needed in the middle of a stormy sea. What he needed was steady focus and self-control, which is something an older, wiser Peter teaches later in 1 Peter.

So back to hope—which, in the bible means Confident Assurance. What gives me that confident, assured kind of hope?

My hope comes from 2 things:

  1. WHAT GOD PROMISES to do in his word, and
  2. WHAT GOD HAS ALREADY DONE in my life

I have HOPE because the Bible is full of God’s promises, like the promise of forgiveness and salvation by his grace, the promise of eternal life, the promise of the Holy Spirit, and so much more. God has proven to be faithful and true to his word, so we can believe his promises.

But I also have hope because God has shown himself real to me over the years.  I’m not perfect and I don’t have all the answers. But I do have 40 years of witnessing God’s love, power, and faithfulness in my life and the in the lives of others. He’s answered more prayers than I could ever count. And he’s been working in my life—changing, challenging, and enabling me. He’s protected, healed, and provided for me. I can’t encapsulate all that he’s done in my life.

So what does this living hope have to do with our need for lasting peace in difficult times?

The Bible says peace is ours when we keep our minds & hearts focused on God. Remember Peter? He was walking on water …. Until he took his eyes off Jesus. He took one look at the waves and BAM, he forgot Jesus. Forgot who had him. His passion to walk with Jesus turned into panic. But Passion is not a bad thing. If properly directed, Passion can also bring Peace.

Isaiah 26:3 says You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.

Psalm 112:7 says He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.

Phil 4:7 says And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The Hope I have is not based on how things are going or how I feel—it’s based on Jesus, on knowing him personally. It’s based on the confident assurance that I have in both the promises AND the presence of God in my life. I have confidence in what he’s done and what he says he’ll do.

The Word of God is alive, the Son of God is alive, so the hope we have in him is also alive.

So Instead of focusing on the waves around us, let’s focus on God, and on the living hope we have in him. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and keep our hearts and minds focused on all that he has done AND all he has promised to do for us.

One last verse: Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

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Do either of these statements describe the way you see God’s love for you?

1. God loves me, but (or as long as) _______.

2. God loves me, period.

Is God’s love for us something we control by our actions or behavior? Is his love contingent on what we do or don’t do?

In the biblical parable of the Prodigal son, Jesus tells us the story of a young man who thoroughly insulted his father by asking for his inheritance or “death benefit” early and leaving home to do as he pleased—to go hog wild, so to speak. After he partied all of his inheritance away, he found himself destitute and starving. He came to his senses and realized he’d been a wretched fool and his only hope for survival was to return to his father and beg to be made a slave. But as he neared his father’s estate, his father saw him from a distance and ran to meet him, embraced and kissed him, overjoyed at his son’s return.

Was the father’s love for his son based on the condition that the son return to him? Or did he love him all along?

I wonder if some of us see God’s love as conditional, based our actions, strivings, and obedience to him. I wonder if some of us need to see that God’s love is not like human love; it is not capricious or waning like that of humans. He doesn’t give the silent treatment when insulted or hold an offense over our head. His love does not tire like a discontented mate and send him in search of someone new.

I have often despaired of ever being good or pleasing enough. I struggle with the constant challenge to do better, to be better, to try harder. Yet I fail. I am inherently flawed and prone to mistakes. I can only follow Christ and serve him with his help, and even then I fall short of my aims.

But . . . then I read the story of the prodigal son and am reminded this represents the Father heart of God. Jesus paints a very touching picture of a father’s love, and more importantly, our heavenly Father’s love. I am so moved by this story, straight from the mouth of Jesus himself, which describes the holy, righteous God of the universe as an incredibly loving father.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not moved by the fact that the son got away with reckless sin and was forgiven without question, as though I were looking for a way to justify or excuse sinfulness. I am just awed and touched by picture of the Father’s steadfast love. The father didn’t lift his chin and turn to his friends and say, “Well. At least he’s back where he belongs, that takes a load off my mind. Lucky for him he came to his senses. But he has proven himself a disappointment and won’t soon forget what he did, I can guarantee that.”

No. He celebrated his son’s return to him. Wholeheartedly, with exuberant joy. He was so moved to emotion that he ran, breaking cultural codes of propriety. He not only ran, he embraced his son and kissed him. Couldn’t contain his joy at his son’s return. Unreservedly expressed his love before his son had a chance to speak a word of remorse for his sin. Showed lavish grace and forgiveness without another word about what the son had done.

I wonder if those of us who grew up either fatherless or with dads who were unloving or abusive have a particular need to be reminded of the “Father heart” of God. I am not suggesting that we should ever forget that he is also God of the universe, the absolute holy, righteous judge. But those of us who have lived under the thumb of someone who rules by cruelty and intimidation may have a harder time understanding how so good and loving a father can be at the same time so exacting in his judgment and so thoroughly demanding of holiness. It’s simply who God is (and more than can be addressed in a blog post.)

We must do our best to keep in mind the big picture perspective of all that God is, and not pick and choose our favorite attributes. He is fierce both in his love and his holiness. His love is everlasting—to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:17) Not fear him in the same way I once feared a stepdad’s return home from work every day, but a reverence for him in all his righteousness and holiness. AND his love. Embrace the total truth of who God is and allow Him to embrace you in return.

And don’t forget: he is running to embrace you long before you’ve even arrived.

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