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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

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

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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?

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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.

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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/

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“Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”

Psalm 55:6-8

I have heard people say, “If I could just get over this health issue,” or “If only I had more money.” If only I had less stress, more help, less pain, more support, etc, etc.

 

Have you ever been there?

If only . . .

If I could just . . .

 

Between these words, I hear a cry for relief. Not only relief from difficult circumstances, but also from hopelessness. What if I become so sick or anxious or overwhelmed or so deeply in debt that I can’t function? What if my circumstances never change? What if it gets worse?

 

Thanks to our Adamic inheritance, we live in a fallen world, full of sin, disease, dysfunction, injustice, abuse, brokenness—the list is endless. You may be dealing with something that could wreak more damage than a hurricane. Whether from external circumstances or personal struggles within, the weight of constant suffering can be unbearable and make us hopeless for a way out, no end in sight. No hope for relief.

 

I am blown away by my pastor. For too many reasons to list here, but for one in particular: He suffers terrible migraines. These are horribly painful to the point of making him physically sick. He can’t think or do anything but lie still. With a family and a loaded plate of pastoral responsibilities, he doesn’t have time to be sick, and yet he somehow presses on, with the diligence of a faithful, caring shepherd. He asks God for healing and asks others to pray, and yet the headaches continue. When a migraine strikes on a Sunday, we’ve seen God answer prayer many times by giving Pastor enough strength and relief to deliver his sermon. What amazes me is that in spite of this suffering, this man is absolutely unwavering in his faith in Christ. His life is an inspiring example of steadfast confidence in and obedience to God. The fact that God has not yet healed him doesn’t stop him from serving the Lord with his whole heart, with truth and grace, every minute of every day.

 

He continues to ask God for healing. And we should keep asking God to relieve us and others of suffering. I know he can. And many times, he does. But what if immediate relief isn’t part of his plan for us right now? What if God is more interested in how we weather a storm (or an entire hurricane season) than he is in rescuing us from it?

 

The Apostle Paul talked about his “thorn in the flesh.” I think Paul came to terms with the fact that relief for him would not be coming. I also think he became grateful for the thorn, because it drove him closer Jesus.

 

How does being closer to Jesus help when we face difficult circumstances?

 

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

So I’ll never fail to bear fruit. Awesome. But what good is fruit when I’m suffering?

When we turn our lives over to Christ, his Spirit moves in and begins the work of making us more like him. God’s word and presence feed, sustain, and transform us. This transforming work is evident by such “fruit” as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Not a pretense pulled down over us like a goody-hoody, but a God-kind of gentleness and peace that springs from the place in our soul where Jesus lives and works on us. This fruit not only lets others see God in us, it reminds and assures us of his sanctifying power and love. This assurance comes from experiencing God in a way that teaches us we can trust in his goodness, his provision, and his constant faithfulness.

 

If storms feel endless and unbearable, maybe we need to stretch our roots deeper in God’s stream. When we make him our Source, nothing can destroy us. No drought, famine, wildfire, (debt, depression, cancer) can steal our love, joy and peace when we are nourished by The Stream. Yes, storms may shred our bark, and our fruit might be knocked off and crushed, but we will never wither. We will sprout new leaves and blossom again. What tremendous hope we have!

 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Romans 8:35-39

We might be battered for a season, but God will be our strength and sustenance. If he is allowing us to go through difficulty, he will provide what we need. And he won’t let us weather a storm alone! He is a “friend who sticks closer than a brother” and will stay beside us all the way to the other side, whatever that may be. He will never leave or forsake us!

 

Sometimes, the response we get to “If only” or “If I could just” isn’t the relief we desperately want. I know, not very comforting, I’m sorry. Relief from suffering may come soon, later on, or it may not come at all—in this life. But even if we suffer the sting of some particular thorn for the rest of our lives, we won’t suffer forever. An entire earthly lifetime doesn’t even compare to forever. It may feel like eternity, but no matter how long our suffering lasts, God promises us it will not last forever. He also promises to be with us, strengthening and providing. Let’s set our hope in him, and look forward to a joyful forever yet to come, where all difficulty, sorrow, and suffering will be forgotten.

 

Paul could say this with full assurance, thorn and all.

 

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing
with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Are you in a season of suffering? Can you share a time when circumstances felt too unbearable? Have you “reached your roots” into the stream of God’s provision and strength?

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My friend lost her husband without warning. She kissed him goodnight, and in the morning, he was gone. Her single-parent (of 8) life quickly became an overwhelming nightmare, and anger became her solace.

broken

And so did alcohol.

Grief and anger sent her into a dark, vicious downward spiral of addiction. Though she loved Jesus and tried to put on a brave face and cope with every bit of strength she had, my friend was shattered beyond repair. She tried, but didn’t have the strength to give God all the pieces.

I think it was one of the hardest things she’s ever done, but my friend agreed to enter a Christ-focused residential rehab program. It took more than a year for her to crawl out of the bottle and into the light of day, the kind of day that dawns one at a time, wrapped in God’s fresh, new mercy. The kind of day that slowly, carefully, and sometimes painfully, restores the broken shards of hopes and dreams that at first seemed utterly impossible to put back together.

God has been restoring my friend’s heart and life one jagged piece at a time, and the new woman emerging radiates grace, humility, precious surrender, and most beautiful of all, hope. Some people might call her a recovering alcoholic.

I call her incredibly brave.

I have seen broken. I have been broken. And maybe you’ve been broken at some time or another. Maybe you’re broken now.

Maybe you’ve looked at a person failing to hold it together and wondered why they can’t just dust off, grow up, and fly straight. But my friend’s experience reminds me that everyone’s brokenness doesn’t look the same, and we should avoid passing judgment on what we think we see. We should remember there is much we can’t see, whether it’s well-hidden, or a matter of our own short-sightedness.

My friend’s experience also reminds me that I need to extend the same grace and understanding to someone else’s brokenness that I would want shown to me.

We have a tendency to see through the filter of our own experience, the grid of what’s familiar. But this limits our ability to understand when it comes to the struggles, challenges, and pain others face. What wouldn’t phase me might give you PTSD, and vice versa. We may judge someone whose brokenness drives them to drink. Or to walk away from their spouse. Or into deep despair. Or debt. Depression. Anxiety. Food. Rage.

We are all breakable. Fragile. To be handled with care.  And none of us can fix our own brokenness any more than a cracked pot can fix itself.

But there is Someone who can.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

shattered-cambion-artAuthor Roseanna White posted about Broken Vessels on her blog today, and I found myself nodding as I read it. She said, “…our Lord is described as a potter. He knows all about these fragile vessels He’s made. He knows how easily we break. Shatter. Fall to pieces. And He knows how to fix us. More, He knows how to take the pieces and make something new. Lord, use us in your mosaic. Fix us where you can, filling our cracks and holes and empty places with you.” [Read the rest of her post HERE.]

This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 

Isaiah 43:16-19

Maybe in your life, you’ve faced overwhelming struggles or unspeakable horrors. Or painfully unmet expectations. Whatever brokenness you’ve suffered—or are suffering, I hope you have someone caring and strong to turn to. If you haven’t yet, cry out to Jesus. He cares more than you know. And he can make you whole.

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p-rugrats-christine-cavanaugh-chuckie-finsterWhen my kids were little, they watched Rugrats on Nickelodeon. Not a fan? That’s ok. I didn’t care if they watched it, as long as they didn’t pick up Angelica’s bratty behavior and attitude. But while I folded laundry or cooked dinner and listened to the show, I found myself rooting for timid little Chuckie, the one who was always afraid. Because somehow, Chuckie often summoned the courage to be brave and face his fears. I think Chuckie was the character written with the five year old in mind, the one kids could identify with.

I marvel at those who seem fearless. Do you know anyone like that? Aren’t they amazing? But what amazes me even more are those who are terrified and somehow summon courage even when they’re scared spitless.

I don’t know what Chuckie based his courage on. But as I thought about this character (yes, I like to analyze characters and I love to learn from them), what really struck me was the fact that Chuckie’s courage wasn’t based on an absence of fear. The poor kid was always afraid. There are those who just don’t get scared—like Navy Seals, maybe, and they’re awesome, of course, but they’re not much help to me, you know? So maybe you’re a Navy Seal who is totally in your Zen zone hanging out underwater in a 300lb diving suit with oxygen being pumped down to you by some guy topside who might sneeze and trip over your air hose and accidentally rip it loose, or fall asleep or get distracted by puppies on facebook. And I’m glad you’re at peace with that guy in charge of your oxygen. But for the rest of us who are petrified of drowning or suffocating, the idea of mustering the courage to do something like that, for me, is huge.

In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faced a frightening situation when he and his people were surrounded by an enemy too numerous and powerful to withstand. I love that he didn’t posture bravado. He was Freaked. Out. And was not afraid to admit it. In unabashed humility, he uttered this prayer to the Lord:

“For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

Which was great, but even better, the Lord answered and said,

“Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”

The battle belongs to God! That’s so cool! And, somehow, so easy to forget.

One of my earlier novels gives a nod to the Old Testament story of Daniel’s young friends as they face the fiery furnace, and the main character (Emily) is reminded that if she has to face a fiery trial, the Lord will be right there with her, standing with her through it all. A wise book reviewer (Carrie of Reading Is My Superpower) made this lovely meme quoting a line (inscribed in a fictional children’s book) from the story.

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Courage is not an absence of fear, or enemies surrounding our camp, or trials, or taxes, or fiery furnaces. Courage is stepping out in faith in spite of fear. It may help to remember that the battle is not ours, and is already won (YES!!) and that the Lord stands with us, right beside us, and will never leave us. Or accidentally trip over our air hose.

Personally, I admire the timid soul who summons the courage to trust God when afraid. I think taking a step of faith and trusting God in spite of fear is incredibly brave—maybe even more brave than a Navy Seal in the 300lb diving suit.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. -Psalm 27:14

Question: Care to share a moment when you were afraid and had to summon the courage to jump or step out in faith?

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At Easter this year, I heard several sermons on the Resurrection that reminded me that those who had spent significant time with Jesus were heartbroken and scared by his death, and were later confused by the disappearance of his body from the tomb. The people he had forewarned about his death and resurrection were shattered by his death, and when his body disappeared, they didn’t even consider the possibility that he had risen from the dead as he had promised.

In the last few years, I’ve made more of an effort to be in the word and in biblical teaching daily, starting each day in an atmosphere of worship and the word that helps me focus on the Lord. But though I’m more focused on God and on seeking his presence, I still have moments of doubt. Will he ever answer my prayer? Does he even care? Is he even there? Is this all a joke? What if I die and there’s nothing?

We don’t like to admit it, we believers. After all, we’re distinguished by the fact that we, unlike others, believe. Do other believers ever doubt? I mean real serving, committed, bible-quoting believers? And if they do, do they ever admit it? I rarely ever hear anyone speak of doubt. It’s like a four-letter word to Christians. I think we’re too ashamed to admit it. Some might look down on our faltering faith that we’ve professed it to the world, after all. If we admit we have doubts, people will think we’re hypocrites, frauds, or worse, suckers.

Do you ever experience doubt? If so, what do you do with it? Are you disturbed, unsettled by it? Wonder if there’s something wrong with you, or with your faith?

Doubt Is Understandable

The Bible is FULL of people who doubted. People who should have known better. People who made choices we would never make… hello, Golden Calf? Moses hasn’t been gone five minutes on the mountain of God and they’re already melting earrings and making a new god to worship. A cow, of all things. Were they abysmally stupid? Or were they humans who by nature have a hard time really listening to God?

Those closest to Christ suffered some seriously egregious doubt. These are men who walked with Jesus, ate with him, listened to him teach and watched him heal and forgive and deal with people. Saw the miracles, the power firsthand. Saw the one person on the planet who never slipped, never sinned, never missed a chance to obey his Father in heaven.  We know they followed him constantly, heard him teach, believed him and believed in him. And yet, there are so many instances of them quickly forgetting what he had just done for them and responding to unpleasant or difficult situations with worry and fear, hiding, even lying.

Don’t we all suffer from short-term memory loss when it comes to God? Although I have seen God answer more prayers than I can ever count, I still forget his faithfulness, his attentiveness, his provision. He has proven himself faithful time after time after time, and yet I struggle to hope and trust he will provide or take care of or resolve something. Why?

I think doubting God is not as strange as we may think. It’s not strange that we read the Bible and pray and share our faith and still forget about his goodness, still wonder about his eternal kingdom and plan and preparations for us, still wonder and worry that he won’t answer and do what we believe and say he will.

The Israelites quickly forgot all the miracles, provisions, promises, lessons, kingdom declarations, and presence of God.

The disciples quickly forgot all the miracles, provisions, promises, lessons, kingdom declarations, and presence of Jesus.

The women at the empty tomb and the eleven disciples quickly forgot what Jesus had told them about his death and resurrection repeatedly, and recently. And audibly. And in the flesh.

What I’m wondering is this: If the people closest to Jesus had such a hard time believing him, how can we expect to never entertain some doubt?

…And have mercy on those who doubt. Jude 1:22

Doubt is Forgivable

The Israelites in the days of the Kings had lost sight of God and turned to idol worship, and this had gone on for so long that the people eventually forgot the Lord and his decrees. When young king Josiah ruled, a copy of the Law was found during the repair of the temple. When it was read aloud, Josiah was grieved and moved to make changes.

The pair on the road to Emmaus had quickly forgotten what Jesus had said. We notice that Jesus didn’t show them who he was. He had done plenty of miracles; clearly those weren’t enough, and actually, miracles weren’t the point. Instead of proving them wrong, he took those sorrowful, distraught men to the word of God, to the scriptures. And he didn’t just quote a couple of key verses, he took them back through all the scriptures that told the story, from the beginning and up to this point in history, about the Messiah’s coming, about what the prophets had said, up to the necessary fulfillment of all these things. He patiently addressed their doubt by taking them back to the perfect plan of God, from the Word of God.

So why hadn’t these men seen it? Perhaps they had heard Jesus speak of God’s coming kingdom and latched onto the parts they wanted to hear or their interpretation of what they wanted it to mean and tuned out what he was really telling them. They had been looking for a political hero, an immediate fix to their unpleasant situation, their discomfort, their discontent. They had allowed their daily, earthly difficulties and challenges to cloud their understanding of God and his bigger, eternal picture.

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Either we are just short-sighted in our desires, or our heart wants to hear only what we want to hear. We can’t imagine what he’s telling us, so we focus on what’s in front of us. We seek him for help, and he answers, but we aren’t really listening to what he’s saying. Thomas had heard, as had the others, that he would rise from the dead, and even with a resurrected Christ standing before him, his doubt was so huge that he insisted on touching Christ’s wounds.

Jesus said, “You believe because you see, that’s good. But blessed are those who believe without seeing.”

Doubt is Treatable

The people in Josiah’s day had been without the Book of the Law for 57 years. Josiah was only 26, and had likely never even heard of it.

2  Kings 22:11-13  When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

They fell into idol worship and disobedience from a lack of God’s law, his word. I think some disobedience is marked by defiance, but sometimes marked by disbelief.

So, what do we do? How do we combat doubt?

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:17

We can combat doubt with faith, which comes from hearing. Reading the Bible, listening to truth. And with prayer. Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer is doubt’s destroyer, ruin’s remedy, the antidote to all anxieties.”

In addition to attending church and hearing excellent biblical teaching, I hear (read, hear on audio) the Bible daily. But perhaps I need to be a better hearer. Perhaps I need to dig more deeply into God’s word, and learn to really listen.  Be willing and open to hearing his voice, his truth, his love, his nature, his plan, his word. Be more willing to allow it to speak to me, to be more open to understanding what it means. And maybe to take it a step further and put myself in a position to apply all that it says, not just the parts I like, and to see his truth, power, and love in action.

Come boldly, O believer, for despite the whisperings of Satan and the doubtings of thine own heart, thou art greatly beloved.  -Charles Spurgeon

Do you struggle with doubt at times on your faith journey? Don’t despair. While I too struggle at times, I also believe that God can handle our doubts, strengthen our faith, and remind us of the truth and relevance of all that we have come to believe and understand. Let’s come boldly ask and allow our loving God to do just that.

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In Wings Like a Dove, Thomas speaks of the kind, old man who took him under his wing as an orphan, a Norwegian man of faith whose quiet humility inspired Thomas to seek his own relationship with God. Thomas credits his own faith to Gabriel’s simple, lifelong devotion to God, even as his life was slipping away.

Have you ever known someone whose simple, steadfast faith inspired you in some way? Someone whose unwavering relationship with God bolsters your faith, increases your hope? I have.

The fictional Gabriel was inspired by our own real-life Gabriel—my father in law, Osborn Gabriel (“Al”) Eide, also a Norwegian.AL (34.0)

He was a man of simple, unwavering faith, a simple, hardworking son, husband, friend, father, and grandfather, whose love for Jesus was always evident all throughout his adult life and right into his nineties, even long after his mind was muddled by dementia. At that point, he couldn’t fake his faith, couldn’t put on a “religious” act. He had zero filters and zero “self-awareness”.

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His love for God and the spirit of God so visible in him even during those final years bolstered my faith. Even when he was confused and his conversation made little sense, he still exuded humility, kindness, and solid faith in Jesus, right up to the very end.

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He was a special favorite of his caregivers at the home where he last lived, people who never knew him in his strong, sound-minded prime, and yet still loved his grateful, kind demeanor and appreciated his gentle encouragement to “find yourself a good church.”

 

Have you ever known anyone with a faith that long and unshakable? To what do you attribute this?

 

Here’s the video tribute we made for Al Eide, for those who knew and loved him.

 

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The grace of God is difficult to understand. The idea of granting favor to people who don’t deserve it is so foreign to our small, justice-wired minds. His mercy is equally confusing: to be pardoned from the consequences our blockheaded behavior deserves.

I understand that I am to be a conduit of God’s grace, I really do. But even when I am willing to show grace or mercy, my sense of justice keeps rearing its score-keeping little head.

I don’t fully understand how God’s grace operates. Grace, like lasting love (because let’s face it—if it isn’t lasting, it isn’t love), isn’t an emotion, but a choice. Grace sometimes means thinking outside the box.

In fact, true grace often means throwing out the box altogether.

The Lord has been showing me that I need to stop wishing people would change when they don’t line up with my list of Things I Like in a Human. I not only need to stop wishing they would change, but I need to change the way I see others and be more accepting of our differences. I’m trying, truly. And yet, no matter how hard I try to change my attitude toward those who see and think differently, it occurs to me that I can never change enough. There are always going to be things about people that I just can’t reconcile. I need to be more open minded, and yet I can only open my little brain so much.

Ah, the limitations of being human.

That’s where grace comes in.

I don’t understand people. Shocking, I know. Christ says I’m to love people as he does, without condition (conditions include wishing they would stop being so anal/boasting/dramatic/verbose/needy/etc). So, in order to love as He loves (and commands), I must rely on grace—that mysterious spiritual blanket that falls on me and everyone around me like snow, coating us all until we are a bizarre collection of snowmen, mismatched in size and shape and yet oddly uniform, suddenly similar. His grace, like snow, puts a hush in the air, quiets the clamor in our judgmental minds, and blinds us to one another’s annoying quirks and all those other things we just don’t understand or—let’s be honest—like about each other.

They say love is blind. This doesn’t mean love turns a blind eye to destructive behavior. But I do think blind love means that with the help of the Spirit and grace of God, I could be far, far, far easier on others in the privacy of my heart.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Don’t secretly demand that people measure up to some standard that you and I, if we were to be honest, don’t always meet ourselves. Do you want a friend? Show yourself friendly. Do you want more attention? Be more attentive. You want more respect, show more respect. Not because giving is a magical formula for getting, but rather because wanting to receive what we’re not willing to give is selfish and hypocritical.

Wait, was that a snowflake…?

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