If you ask me, a lot of Christians worship the idol of “Positivity.” They’re afraid to grieve and are self-medicating on happiness. Though I advocate no grim view of God or the practice of sour spirituality I just think that in our effort to avoid despondency, we have mislaid the healthy art of lamenting our losses. We pretend they’re not losses after all or that God’s perfect will is always done or that if we just wait long enough we’ll see the good in everything.
Mourning is nonnegotiable. It can’t be avoided in any life fully lived. The healthiest thing to do after losing something – and we all lose things – is to grieve. Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge and grieve their losses – the small ones and the large – is drowning in a river of denial, and you can’t dance while drowning. Continue reading →
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” Job 38:4
I left off in a previous post on “Stuck in Traffic” with a description my near apoplectic plight while stuck in an interminable San Francisco traffic jam. If I’d been driving a Sherman tank I might have been able to clear a path and get to my appointment on time. As it was, in order to keep from getting out of my tiny economy car and leaping atop the cars like they do in the movies, I was forced to stay belted repeatedly reciting “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want!”
That sinking feeling of, “What the *&%$ is going on up there?!” gives way to the point when you don’t really care what’s causing the holdup. You just want it to clear up so you get where you’re going! Nevertheless, I’m the sort that requires, if not a solution, at least some kind of explanation for what’s holding my life up. Where is God when I’m trying to get someplace, especially a place he told me to go? Continue reading →
“We are not intended to understand life. If I can understand a thing and can define it, I am its master. Logic and reason are always on the hunt for definition, and anything that can’t be defined is apt to be defied…” Oswald Chambers
I don’t believe Christians – even real good ones – are exempt from suffering. Neither do I believe that God plans all our trials for some sovereign purpose of his. I’m not saying that he never providentially prevents our sufferings or that he never miraculously intervenes to alleviate them. There’s no doubt that he does those things – sometimes. In the following post or two (or three) I propose to illustrate my point with a simple metaphor.
I was stuck in some jaw-clenching urban traffic recently. It looked more like a parking lot than a street and I had places to go and people to see. The traffic is always bad in the City. Just in case you ever visit, that’s what we call San Francisco – never “Frisco” or “San Fran.” But this day the traffic was beyond bad. It wasn’t just that everyone in the City decided at the same time to take the same route to Target. There was something more going up ahead. “What’s the hold up here?” I screamed loud enough to make own my ears ring, but with all my windows closed, no one answered back. I’m not usually one of those manic horn honkers, but the connection between my brain and my honking hand was temporarily severed. I joined in the fruitless, albeit emotionally satisfying, chorus of horns, as though the guy ahead of each of us were at fault for the jam up. Continue reading →
No, I’m not converting to Catholicism, praying to Mary, or going to confession; but for the last year or so I’ve been going down the street to Mission Dolores Church during the week to pray and read the Word. It’s a peaceful refuge from the din of my crowded urban neighborhood in San Francisco and a great place to meet with the Lord. I absolutely love being in the cavernous stone and stained glass sanctuary for relative solitude and quiet. I seldom have the place all to myself, but when I do it’s like being in the Holy of Holies – well, sort of.
I’ve often been accused of being quite verbal (though other words have been used to describe it), so quiet or silent prayer has never really been my forte. When I pray, my lips are usually moving and sound, sometimes a lot of it, is projected out into the air, and I hope also into heaven. Nevertheless, I’ve found that words are less important in some places at some times. Maybe that’s why the Spirit has drawn me to this place, so he can get a word in edgewise, which I might take into consideration in the things I reflect back to him in prayer. (I really only say this as a preemptive strike against a barrage of “Amens” from any of you who think I talk too much.)
Anyway, I was at Mission Dolores the other day wondering, besides the serenity and solitude of it, what it is that keeps drawing me back to the Catholic Church. Three things came to mind: A sense of history, a concern for poverty, and a theology of suffering. Continue reading →
Are deeper joy than smiles.FREDERICK WILLIAM FABER
I confess that out of all the worship songs I’ve written, not one of them could be considered a lament, you know, of the book of Lamentations sort. It’s certainly not because I’m an incorrigibly cheerful guy and never have anything to cry about. I guess it just never occurred to me that sorrowful songs fit very well into my worship experience. But if you think about it, the Bible’s longest book – a songbook no less – is replete with hymns a significant portion of which tilt toward the mournful. Continue reading →
I used to think my best testimony was when I told someone that God did this miracle or another in me or around me. I supposed the best way to introduce people to God were stories of divine intervention and deliverance . While those are good, I’d say that if he always took all my suffering away I’d only have a testimony of a God who makes things better for us; not in itself a “bad” testimony, but one which has a shorter shelf life. Continue reading →
This is chapter 2 in my “Learning Leadership Lessons from 2 Corinthians” that you can find here.
2 Corinthians contains more references to “trouble” and “tribulation” that any other book in the New Testament. But it also contains more in it about God’s “comfort” than any other. While the term “tribulation” is used 9 times, the term, “comfort” appears 29 times! There must be at least three times as much comfort available to us as there is trouble awaiting us!
The first thing we learn about comfort is that God doesn’t comfort us in order to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters! This is particularly true of spiritual leaders. It is crucial for a leader to model and teach how a person receives comfort from God in the middle of difficulty. Paul is telling us that the leader has to suffer so he can access the help of God, and thus be able to mentor others in how to access that same help for himself. The leader whose closest contact with personal pain is what they read in a book won’t very well be able to help the hurting!
I recall a painful rejection of a very close friend and colleague. I went out to one of my favorite prayer spots along the railroad tracks among the broccoli fields overlooking the ocean. At one point I just sat down on the tracks and wept over the experience. Prior to that, I hadn’t ever really taken particular note of the Psalm that says, “God is close to the brokenhearted.” But at that moment of pain, the Holy Spirit brought those words to me, and I took comfort in them. How often, when consoling other brokenhearted people, I’ve drawn on that verse, and the experience that brought the truth of it to my attention. He comforted me in my troubles, so that I could comfort those in trouble with the comfort I myself had received from Him! Continue reading →