You Can Have Both Questions and a Faith

Kids ask the most interesting questions about faith. The following questions prove it.

“Did Jesus get potty trained as fast as me?” “Did Jesus practice walking on water first? How can I do it?” Having learned that Jesus rose from the dead a child asked, “Is Jesus a zombie?”

We adults can sometimes feel that to ask questions about faith is to call into question whether we have faith. Not so!

Many spiritual giants referenced in the Bible had questions. The Psalm writers often had questions for God as to why He allowed bad situations to exist.

Asking questions is a good quality we humans possess. Scientists ask questions and then set about doing experiments, research, and creative thinking to find the answers. Often, when scientists find an answer, it only raises even more questions.

The same is true with faith. We learn by asking questions about God and how He works. He’s such an infinitely great God that even when we think we’ve found some answers we find we have even more questions!

God’s okay with the asking of questions, we just need to remember that He feels no obligation to always answer them. The truth is that our faith can grow stronger in the face of unanswered questions than when our questions are answered. Find a person of deep faith and you’ve found a person who hasn’t had all their questions answered but has come to a peace about that.

“That’s a good question,” is the affirmation sometimes given to a questioner. What makes for a “good question” for God?

A study of the Biblical record of God relating to people indicates that a good question for God is an outpouring of a hurting, bewildered, questioning but humble heart. A good question for God probes the deep things of God and would like to know Him better. Most importantly, a good question for God isn’t a demanding question, ordering God to explain Himself because our faith is conditional on an answer that meets our satisfaction.

Yes, we can have questions and still have faith too. It’s just that we need to have a faith and trust in God that’s not dependent on the answers to those questions.

“My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” Psalm 131:1

Worship in the Hills

A still image from the video I took that is referenced in this post

I was taking my usual morning walk in the hills above our house in Mexico where we live part of the year to be near our missionary daughter and her family. This morning was different; I heard singing in the hills. I often hear music being blared from speakers (people tend to feel that if they like the music, so will everyone else within a couple of miles).

This was different. This was live music, people singing. Of course, it was in Spanish, but it wasn’t long before I realized it wasn’t secular Mexican music but worship music being sung to God. When I reached the top of a hill I scanned the terrain for the source. Sure enough, there, in the distance, I saw a small adobe house and could just make out maybe a dozen people gathered.

I happened to have my video camera with me to record interesting natural events. This was a supernatural event, so I zoomed in with the long zoom lens to get a better view, recording as I zoomed. Yes, they were gathered in an informal circle, standing, singing, worshiping, a church with no walls, their voices drifting my way, their voices drifting upward, to heaven!

As I turned to continue my trek back home I reflected on how you can worship God anywhere, even beside a rustic adobe house in the hills of rural Mexico. You don’t need arched cathedral ceilings with tall stained glass windows in order to properly worship, nor do you need mega watt amplifiers synchronized with multi-colored lights aiming their beams back and forth across a worship platform to inspire worship. You just need people, whether it be a filled mega church in a major city or a dozen or less people gathered by an adobe cottage in the hills. You just need people with a heart for connecting with God. You can even worship alone, though it’s not meant to be a substitute for getting together with others for worship.

Worship is allowing yourself to be impressed with God, attributing ultimate worth to Him, reflecting on how great He is, expressing a yearning for His embrace more than whatever else we embrace in life. It’s opening the portal between God and His heaven and us and our heart; that’s worship.

We don’t need to be any place in particular for this to happen, that’s what the folks across the valley in rural Mexico unknowingly reminded me. Your heart just needs to be in the right place!

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:24

Influencing the Generations

Actual rose referenced in this post

Alongside the steps of our house there’s a rose bush. Admiring the plant, it occurred to me that it revealed three stages of a rose blossom’s life. There was a fresh, full, blooming rose blossom in all its color and glory. There was also a rose blossom that was older and past its prime, the colors fading, the petals starting to fall. Then there was a rosebud, budding hope, the promise of a bloom yet to be. Three generations of a rose blossom were represented on the rose bush.

I’m like the older, fading blossom, not sure I want to say I’m past my prime, but it’s a real possibility. Am I a few petals short of a full blossom? Not sure I want to admit to that either.

What I do know is that our adult children are more like the rose blossom in full bloom. They’re in what are often considered to be the most productive years of life, in the middle of their exciting and challenging work, the years of raising their children.

Those children, our grandchildren, are like the bud. They’ve yet to blossom into adulthood, full of promise of what can be, budding hope.

All of us have been assigned to a generation, coming after the generation before us and before the generation coming after us. Time designates the beginning of our journey in this world and the ending of our journey, our life but a dash between two dates, our bit of time on this terrestrial ball. We’re related to a countless string of ancestors who came before us, but haven’t related personally to any beyond, at best, our great grandparents.

Generations will follow us (that is until Christ returns, we Christians believe), an unknown number of generations, but we’ll know, at best, only two, maybe three of those generations into the future. We’re an island in the present, the distant past and far future beyond our reach. But we can all reach beyond our grasp!

Past generations have influenced us and we can influence other generations! Living a full life means relating to others of other generations. We can relate to those older than us (not as many options here for those my age and older). They have much life experience from which we can draw. They feel more useful and loved when we “younger” folks pay them attention and give them love.

We can be intentional about relating to and making friends with those younger than us. Contrary to what we oldsters might think, younger people like to know we care about them. We have much we can share with them, in a non-preachy/teachy way. We can also learn from them, gaining their respect when we do.

The three different ages of the blossoms on the rose bush reminded me that God’s intention is for us to reach out to those of different ages. Blessings are meant to pass from one generation to another, an opportunity to be both blessed and a blessing!

“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” Psalm 89:1

Topsy-Turvy Truth

quilt

Topsy-turvy triangle quilt

One of the rare major positive side effects of the corona virus, covid-19, is that it has shown us what’s important and what’s not important. Best selling author, Philip Yancey, puts it this way, “In airports, janitors who clean the banisters and wipe the seats of airplanes are now as crucial to safety as the pilots who fly the jets. Each night, people in major cities honk horns, howl, or shout their appreciation for the health care workers who keep us alive. We’ve learned we can get along without the sports industry that pays top athletes $10 million per year to chase a ball; meanwhile, harried parents of young children have new appreciation for the teachers who earn less than 1 percent of that amount.”

Before the pandemic many of us were so busy that we neglected giving each other a hug or put off visiting that elderly person important to us living in assisted living or a nursing home. But as the social isolation demanded by the pandemic dragged on many yearned for a hug (some people not experiencing a human touch for weeks) and had to be content with pressing a hand against one side of the window while the elderly loved one’s hand pressed against the other side of the glass, so close, yet so far.

Before the pandemic we complained about rushing here and there to do our banking, shop for groceries, get a haircut, go to meetings, etc. But during the weeks of sheltering in place we developed a renewed appreciation for the ordinary dailiness of life that we used to experience and a yearning for its return.

The pandemic turned what seemed important upside down to show us it wasn’t all that important and has turned right side up what seemed unimportant as being important. The pandemic revealed to us the topsy-turvy truth!

Jesus taught this topsy-turvy truth, and lived it! When life returns to something closer to what we remember as being normal, we’d be wise if we remember what we learned when our world was turned upside down. The tendency, however, is to go back to our old ways of looking at things and doing things. It seems to me that the best way to keep our newly found equilibrium on truth is to have a renewed commitment to stay close to the One who’s always known what’s up and what’s down, what’s important and what’s not, who can help us hold on to the topsy-turvy truth!

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:5

Boomerang Blessing — a Faith Fable

FaithFablesBrownLIt was Jesse’s turn to throw his boomerang. His village was famous for the crafting of the best boomerangs. The annual festival of slinging boomerangs into the sky was the way the villagers celebrated thirteen-year-old boys becoming men. The carved L-shaped pieces of wood, when thrown expertly, would spin through the air, looping back to the thrower. It took a finely crafted boomerang and a skilled thrower with many hours of practice to sling it forth into the sky and have it return to the sender. The boy whose boomerang returned nearest his feet would be honored for a lifetime as that year’s champion.

Jesse’s father, Magerspun, was known as the best of the boomerang craftsmen of the village. He had put much loving work into the special boomerang his son now grasped, a boomerang uniquely crafted for the left-handed Jesse.

But Jesse had practiced little. He loved his father as a son should love his father, but was embarrassed that his father was only known as a boomerang carver. Other boys’ fathers were great hunters, hut builders, or fishermen.

When it was his turn, Jesse slung his boomerang into the air with everyone watching. It wobbled, turned some, but failed to return to Jesse, dropping to the ground a distance away. The other boys taunted Jesse as he walked the distance to retrieve it, about how his father’s boomerangs were no longer the best in the village. Jesse knew, down deep, that the problem was not the boomerang but him, the thrower of the boomerang.

That evening, around the family’s cooking fire, Jesse’s father said to him, “One week from today we have the final throws of the boomerangs. You have the best boomerang in the village, you can win. They will hail you as the champion and call your father the greatest of boomerang makers.”

Jesse scowled, looking at his father, then said, “You just want to be known as the best boomerang maker.”

His father sighed, put a hand on his son’s shoulder, and said softly, “I do not need for others to look up to me. You, my son, however, have a need to look up to your father. I don’t want your respect for my benefit but for yours!”

Jesse said nothing, not really understanding what his father had said, but sensing what he said was true. That week he practiced hours each day. The week passed and the day of the final throws had arrived. Jesse was the last to compete. He grasped the smooth curved boomerang, paused, focused, and whipped out his arm, slinging the boomerang into the clear blue sky. It spun with a blur, curved, and returned, falling nearly at his feet. “You won! You’re the greatest!” the crowd shouted. They also chanted, “Magerspun is the great crafter of boomerangs!”

Jesse looked at his father who was smiling at him and found himself raising his arms and joining in the chants of praise for his father. It then occurred to Jesse that he was far happier for the praise his father was receiving than for the praise he himself was receiving. He had thrown the boomerang for the glory of his father, and at that moment as he felt the blessings of the praise for his father boomerang back to him, he felt very blessed indeed.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31

A Little Bird Told Me

The bird referred to in the post

On a recent morning I was on our porch putting on my hiking boots for my morning walk. I noticed motion in my peripheral vision, turned my head, and saw a sparrow hopping about on the porch about 10 feet away. No big deal, right? What made the moment memorable was what I remembered at the moment.

I remembered the words of Jesus when He talked about ho w God knows everything and cares about everything and even takes note when a lowly sparrow dies. There are a lot of sparrows in the world, not only in the Holy Land where Jesus lived, nor just in the United States where I’ve made most of my sparrow sightings, but also in Mexico as well where this sparrow sighting happened.

Doing a little research I found out that the common sparrow, the House Sparrow, is actually not a sparrow but is in the finch family. Was the bird I saw a sparrow or not? This is getting too complex for me! Let’s just say that there are a lot of little birds in the world, and God keeps track of each one of them – that’s what Jesus was getting at. His whole point was, of course, that if God can keep track of so many little birds, then He certainly has His eye on you and me, who, being created in God’s image, are at the very top of His list of what’s dear to Him.

There may be a lot of little birds in the world, but there are also a lot of people, over 7½ billion of us! That’s a number that’s hard to grasp. My mind is boggled at how God can keep track of everybody I see on a congested six-lane highway I’m traveling, all the people in a packed stadium I observe on TV, or all the people in the thousands of houses I see as a plane I’m traveling in flies low over a city on its way to landing.

What helps me grasp the truth that God singles me out, singles out each one of us, is the fact that He knows the name of all 100 billion stars in each of the 100 billion galaxies in the known universe. It’s even more amazing than that; He keeps every atom and sub-atomic particle in all of the galaxies and their stars functioning! His keeping track of all the small birds and, even more importantly, all of us VIPs, Very Important People, must be a piece of cake to Him!

We are not lost in the crowd to God. We are found in the crowd by God, and loved and cared for by Him!

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31

Enjoying the Journey

I’m writing a novel, and I can’t wait until I can hold a first copy of it in my hands, gaze upon the cover, flip through the chapters, smell the aroma of the freshly printed pages, and gaze at it again. There are months of work leading up to that moment, hard work of writing and rewriting.

In the middle of this process, I’m having to remind myself that I also enjoy the creative process of dreaming up a story and making it come to life by putting words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters. I need to enjoy writing, not just having written! I need to enjoy the journey of writing.

The same principle holds true for other endeavors, such as gardening. We plant flower seeds and can’t wait until we have flowers that look like the picture on the package. We plant vegetable seeds and impatiently anticipate the time when we can taste the fruit of the planting.

There is, of course, no getting around the putting in of time and the putting forth of effort between the planting of the seed and the enjoyment of the view of the flower blossom or the taste of the vegetable. The plants need weeding, watering, pest control, staking, or whatever. This process is called gardening, and a true gardener enjoys the gardening, not just the rewards from the garden.

The principle of enjoying the journey has countless applications other than writing and gardening. Whenever we envision a goal of what we’d like to see accomplished there’s a process involved in getting there. It might be a goal of acquiring a certain amount of education, landing a better job, getting healthier, finishing a certain home improvement project, overcoming a personal struggle, and we could go on and on with other applications.

God has placed His call upon each of us. Yes, part of that call involves accomplishing what He’s called us to do, but another major part of His calling is how we live during the journey of getting there. Life is much like a long walk; it’s less about reaching a destination and more about enjoying the walk.

What we’re attempting to accomplish is going to involve a significant amount of time and effort. The actual achievement of these goals are momentary experiences spread out over considerable expanses of time. Most of life is lived between the achievement of goals, large gaps of time filled with major significant effort. That’s why we need to enjoy the journey!

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” Psalm 89:15

Light Through a “Clean” Window

The sun-illuminated window referenced below
with all of its streaks, smears, and smudges.

I cleaned the sliding glass door in our home. I did the best I could, I really did. After the cleaning I inspected it carefully from the outside. There were still some streaks. Wipe, wipe, wipe, and they were gone. I inspected it from the inside. Oops! Some more stubborn streaks and smudges remained. Wipe, wipe, wipe. I found a spot that was resistant to my elbow grease. It was on the other side of the glass! Back to the outside I went. Eventually it passed my inspection.

The sliding glass door faces east, so the next morning the sun’s rays came shining through revealing all kinds of heretofore unnoticed streaks, smears, and smudges. Ugh!

Light has a way of doing that, exposing what had been hidden. Not surprising, then, that light is an important subject in the Bible. Jesus called Himself the light of the world. The Bible talks about those in darkness who have seen a great light. People who awaken spiritually are often said to have “seen the light.”

Those of us who have committed ourselves to being followers of Jesus, the Light of the world as He referred to Himself, find He has two opposite effects on us. On the one hand, He brightens up life, brings joy, and illuminates with insight and truth for us. On the other hand, like the light shining through the window, He exposes our imperfections, what the Bible calls sin; some of that insight and truth I just mentioned, particularly about ourselves, isn’t always pleasant to see. But it’s good that we see it!

Ironically, the more we grow in our relationship to our holy God the more we have a growing awareness that we’re not very holy ourselves! The Christian writer of more than a century ago, J. C. Ryle, wrote, “The most eminent saints of God in every age have always been the very last to lay claim to it [of being saints]! On the contrary, they have always had the deepest sense of their own utter unworthiness and imperfection. The more spiritual light they have enjoyed, they have seen their own countless defects and shortcomings.”

That may seem depressing, but it’s really not! Our growing awareness of how far we fall short allows us to have a growing experience of God’s grace and mercy! This in turn results in an authentic humility before God and around others; this is good!

Another benefit of exposure to the Ultimate Light is that we see where we need to still change to be more the person God has designed us to be! This too is good!

On that morning when I stood back and gazed at the sun-illuminated window, with all of its streaks, smears, and smudges, it got me to thinking about what I’ve just shared with you. I thought it would be good if you thought about it too, because it’s all good!

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Well of the Heart — A Faith Fable

Max, his wife Izzy, and their son, seven-year-old Theodore, lived in a cabin nestled in rolling hills among a stand of pines. Their large garden and small fields provided most of their food, including feed for their milk cow, several pigs, and a flock of chickens. Fresh, drinkable water came from a deep well, protected by a round rim of rock. The well was covered with a small roof from which hung a pulley and rope with a bucket attached to the rope by which they drew water.

For several days the water from the well had tasted foul, possessed a slight odor, and was cloudy rather than crystal clear. Max had a theory as to why their water had turned bad.

One evening he discreetly followed his son Theodore as he headed down the path from the house with the daily pail of table scraps and other garbage. It was his job every evening to serve the contents of the pail to the pigs. The pig pen’s location was quite a distance down a steep path, thus preventing the odor of the pen from reaching the family’s cabin. The last few days Max had noted that it had taken his son less time than usual for him to make the round trip with the pail.

Max, staying a distance behind Theodore, watched as the boy approached the well on his way to the pig pen. Instead of passing the well the boy stopped and tossed the garbage from the pail down the well, turned, and started back toward the cabin.

His father stepped out from behind a tree, startling his son. “Why did you throw the garbage down the well?” the father asked.

Theodore, red-faced with embarrassment and hanging his head in shame, mumbled, “Because it’s so far to the pig pen. It was easier to toss it down the well.”

“How long have you been doing this?” the father asked.

“A few days,” the son replied.

“We drink from that well,” the father explained. “You can’t put garbage down the well and then expect to get fresh water from the well.”

Theodore nodded his understanding. “I’ll never do it again,” he said.

After the passing of much time, the well once again produced fresh clean water.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

A Fresh Path to Prayer

A fresh view when I took a different path.

We’re such creatures of habit. For instance, we usually take the same route when we go from point A to point B. I do this when I take my morning walk. Occasionally I reverse the route; it’s amazing how you see things differently when you approach everything from the opposite direction! Why I got in the habit of going clockwise instead of counterclockwise is beyond me. Then, too, I’ve decided to sometimes alter part of the route, walking a way I haven’t taken for awhile.

These morning walks are when I pray. My praying can be as routine as the route I take! I can catch myself praying familiar words and phrases while thinking of things far removed. It’s multitasking at its worst! Mindless praying is a first cousin to heartless praying, and both are relatively easy to fall into.

Physically changing my walking habits while I pray helps prompt a refocusing of my praying, making it more fresh. You may not pray while you walk, but no matter how we pray, when we pray, or where we pray, it can become routine, easily becoming a rut. How can we take a fresh approach to praying?

There are undoubtedly countless ways to put new life into praying. It just takes a bit of creative thinking and intentional application. If we only pray in short, quick, sentence prayers when we’re troubled or in trouble, then maybe scheduling a few minutes to talk to God each day would be a good first step, making an appointment with Him. If we pray regularly in a certain location, perhaps it can help to change location, at least once in awhile. If we pray through a regular list of requests, maybe telling God “ditto” on the regular requests and moving on to something we don’t usually cover could be refreshing on occasion. It can be helpful to focus on giving thanks during a particular quiet time with God. It can also be good to praise God for who He is, not just thank Him for what He’s done; any relationship is helped when affirming who the person is to us and not just what they do for us. If we get distracted while praying, then talk to God about the distraction; it’s obviously on our mind and He wants us to bring to Him that which is on our mind. These are just some suggestions.

Prayer shouldn’t be routine or boring. After all, we’re communicating with the Creator/Sustainer God of this vast universe! He can name every one of the hundred billion stars in each of the hundred billion galaxies. He tracks every subatomic particle in every piece of matter in the universe. So He certainly has no problem singling each of us out and lovingly giving us His full attention! He’s willing to listen; are we willing to talk? Let’s climb out of our religious rut and seek a new path of prayer!

‘”For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'” Jeremiah 29:11-13