conversations with Jerry…

A couple times a year, I get to share a meal with Jerry, a guy that has, through no fault of his own, shaped much of my outlook on the Church, the purpose of Church, & what it means to be a Christ-follower. I say through no fault of his own, because he said that he doesn’t approach any relationship he has as “the mentor” – esp. because he is “looking to learn from” all sorts of people through friendship & interactions… but recognizes that others may see him or look to him in that role. And, he said, tongue firmly planted in cheek, if they do, that is “their problem.”

While sitting in Claim Jumper over monstrous piles of food, Jerry brought up a topic for discussion… something that he said he & his buddy Steve have been kicking around for a while – REPENTANCE.

Both of them have been pastoring almost as long as I’ve been alive – & both of them have noticed a few current ‘trends’ within the Church. It seems that people in Church are struggling, trying to get free from the same sin & sin patterns… clingy, life-stealing stuff. And not really having much success. At the same time, the numbers of people being baptized in the Holy Spirit seems to be shrinking as well. In their discussions, prayers, & wonderings, the same thing kept coming up. REPENTANCE… or actually, the absence of it.

The gospel, Good News, that is being declared in & out of the Church is becoming increasingly a message of the forgiveness of sins… but is missing a (or THE) key component in the good news – repentance from sin. And instead of seeing transformed people living in freedom & vitality, the Church is filling up with ‘reformed sinners’ – people struggling with the same old, same old, basically white-knuckling their way to stopping the sinful patterns & life-traps that plagued their lives pre-Christ…

This topic really grabbed my attention – over the last 4-6 weeks, “REPENTANCE” has been showing up all over the place in my life – kind of how I started noticing all the VW’s on the road when I got mine… I started receiving random emails with questions about it; friends relayed dreams where the main point of the dream was repentance; I’d study a section of scripture & would come across the word 10 times; I found an old teaching series called, “Fruitful Repentance,” & started listening to it, only to have another friend, unknowingly, recommend I listen to the very same series I’d just found.

It was the reformed sinners comment that grabbed my attention – I have an idea of what he’s talking about & what he’s getting at – so I asked Jerry to give his definition of REPENTANCE – he said:

  • Repentance is acknowledging, & even owning my sin – recognizing specifically that I’m a sinner, a wrong-doer. And, on top of that, there is nothing that I can do to deal with & address my sin & sinful behaviors on my own. My own efforts at self-control, rooted though they may be in good-intentions, don’t have what it takes to overcome it.
  • Further, repentance is turning FROM this sin, & turning TO Christ is inviting Christ into my situation – to transform me by the power of the Holy Spirit. And then to show me where & how I can cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in my life. Not to help me overcome it, but for Him to do the transformation. To do it. As a lifestyle.
  • It might just seem semantical to you, but something has clicked, (or at least has started to,) in my head & heart:

    A “reformed sinner” wants the forgiveness of sins, (which the Church is proclaiming,) & to do good, live well. And sees that there are things in how they’re living, thinking, behaving, etc that need to change… & then they set about to change it, asking for God’s help in the matter, with little to no progress, success, or lasting change. And its not because the ‘reformed sinner’ is prideful or holding out on God – they’re just doing what the Church has told them they should do… even getting water baptized, but still wondering why this just isn’t clicking for them. So they try harder.

    A transformed life is marked by steady progress turning away from the sins God has already pointed out in our lives, & an increasing awareness of additional sins He is uncovering in our minds/hearts. There is an increased “spiritual inheritance” (READ: life-giving obedience & relationship with God & others,) trust of God & His ways, (instead of my own plans,) humility, seeing myself as I am, with my God-given identity, knowing I’m not diminished by repenting, confessing sin, but rather am freed from it to live for God & for righteousness…

    The conversation over dinner got me thinking at 110 m.p.h. When I got home, I did some reading in the New Testament, & found that every time the gospel/Good News message is proclaimed, repentance is at the center of it – & that the forgiveness of sins happens as a result of the repentance. A change of heart, mind, & thought follows –> leading to a transformed life.

    Peter replied, “Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God (REPENT), and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 NLT

    …if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that His word has no place in our hearts. 1John 1:7-10 NLT

    I’m still pondering… wondering… reflecting… And I’m thankful for the conversation with Jerry.

    musing about the mysteries of ‘superiority…’, pt. 1

    Yesterday, I took an afternoon nap… meaning I passed out due to a long run of too many late nights coupled with early mornings. Which meant that when everyone else had headed off to bed, I was sitting on my couch musing, even pondering important things, wide awake. Stuff like fantasy football & where I can get a real QB without sacrificing any of my 3 decent RBs. A book I’m trying to outline. The unfortunate disappearance of quality sci-fi TV shows. The consistency of creamy peanut butter (vs. crunchy.) Being on the receiving end of a superiority complex.


    I flashed back to John, Phil, & Dan – three guys that had ‘correct’ theology – correct being the operative word, theology meaning the study of God, along with the understanding of His purposes, ways, & the things He does & doesn’t do. They knew which translation of the Bible was correct (KJV IS called the Authorized version, but the NKJV will do in a pinch) & which ones were not (the rest of those.) Had nailed down each passage of Scripture, using correct Biblical hermeneutics – They spoke with authority to anyone who would listen (& a few who didn’t) on these & many other topics – with the authority coming from the sure-ness of their position, which was as fixed as was their picture of a Sovereign, though often capricious & temperamental God, a God that was/is looking for things to wipe out, people to judge, & punishment to mete out… People (& their belief systems) fit into boxes – & depending on what box you were placed in, depended on the level of superiority-flaunting one was subjected to.

    To the brave soul that dared enter a conversation with them would be reserved a stinging condescension – one that was tangible, one that was couched with high-sounding spiritual & academic phrases, with barbs stuck in to remind one of their place of inferiority to the knowledge that they had gained, had worked for, had achieved.

    It was a theological, intellectual superiority complex. They had the special knowledge that God, in His infinite wisdom, had chosen to reveal to a limited few. And to those who God had not revealed this wisdom, (aka: those that disagreed with them) they sent waves of scornful disdain. And spoke, with spiteful ‘pity,’ about those “unenlightened, so called Christians” who were so much obviously less than/inferior to them, people that must not have been ‘chosen’ by the ‘limited atonement’ of Christ’s death on the cross. They were the self-appointed heresy hunters within the body, the defenders of the Scriptures, the watchdogs of the true Christian faith, those that called into question the salvation of those that disagree with them.

    Hmmm. Good times at 1 a.m.

    To be continued…

    Musings on a Saturday…

    My Saturday evening routine is well under way…

  • I sit at my computer in my room at the little card table I call “The Office” @ Home – (by the way, Mr. & Mrs. H. You’ve got 4 weeks to master the theme song before we go live. I can’t wait. I want to practice it as well…)
  • If/since I’m doing worship tomorrow, drink an extra glass or 10 of water (for the hydration & the froat…)
  • Read over my notes for the teaching I’m doing – tomorrow, I’m up for Learning Community on the topic “Praying for Just About Anything” – it brings me comfort & peace to renew & review my notes… usually, something will “POP” into my head to be added or a particular section will become more clear as the area I should focus on.
  • I’m not doing the ‘Speech’ tomorrow – Shawn L is – on the topic of his blog – so I’m praying for him, as well as our desire to ‘take it where it goes’ (to cop a phrase from my Delirious? brothers…)
  • I vacuum the room, & meander out into the hallway. Usually I take the opportunity to then empty the canister in the trash can as I seem to be the one who finds that the canister is full each week at this time.
  • Look into the mirror – wonder if I really, truly have to shave… I hate my facial hair – it itches, & yet the act of shaving is painful, & usually leaves me with a wondering if I’d made the right choice… to shave or not to shave? That is the question…
  • Read a bit of LOTR
  • Miscellaneous quirky behavior…
  • Feel a bit inadequate – wonder if I’m in the right profession.

    That leads to some introspection – tonight’s thought has been swirling my brain all week at the monastery… I’m pretty sure that I don’t know what I ‘need’ God to do in me. Sometimes I think I have an idea – now, no. Clueless. A bit foggy. Dim. Makes me wonder in the times that “I Know” if I really have a clue, or if I’m really just proud, delusional, or both…

    I just know I need Him. So I can keep standing. To be my sufficiency in weakness & inadequacy. To be faith in my fear.

  • Abbey Trip, #2 – Crackers w/PB & J

    4/15 p.m.
    After lunch, we decided that we’d participate/attend the afternoon & evening “Divine Office” prayer – the 1:55 “None” & the 5:45 “Vespers”.

    We entered the chapel through a ‘visitors door’. The monks of the Abbey of St. Clairvaux are cloistered, which means that their living & work areas, as well as their grounds are set apart from the rest of the property, separated by a large shrubbery (hedges if you’re not a Monty Python fan.) There is even a separate entrance to the chapel for the monks. The retreat-ants get to sit in a sequestered, set apart set of benches, with the prayer books, kneeling rail, & other accoutrements common to the chapel.

    The “None” (Noin) for Tuesday consisted of the singing of several portions of the Psalms – actually a selection from Psalm 119 – followed by the Alleluia & Amen singing – which is all done following the leader (Cantor) & in the familiar, sing-song that I have experienced before while attending Mass on the Gonzaga campus in Spokane for my brother’s law school graduation. It’s the kind of sing-song that if you hear it once, you could participate if you so desired – & could take any sentence you’d normally say & put it into the rhythm of the cadence. It was about 15 minutes long, & I really enjoyed praying the Psalms – its something that I’m familiar with from the Daily Office (Office meaning the “work devoted to God,”) that I follow (see Peter Scazzero’s book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” for more on the Office.) It was a great reminder that we are set apart to God – & was a great break in the middle of the day.

    It became evident that we needed a trip to Starbucks – Monday on our way to the Abbey, we’d seen one in Corning while picking up our supplies for the week, so we navigated our way into town & parked at Starbucks. The beans were roasted by AJ, by the way – a sticker on the beans we were enjoying said, “Proudly roasted in Carson Valley, NV” – Woohoo. BTW: we told the manager that we knew the man who was in charge of roasting the beans… she didn’t care, but we did, because we’re proud of that guy.

    You know from reading the blog yesterday that we also ended up horking onto the bandwidth in one of the shops next to Starbucks – Ben got onto the Quizno’s network, & I was on something like “Zylnex” which sounds an awful lot like a prescription for something that I don’t want to know about. It brought great joy to “liberate” bandwith for free – to post & go. We hung out in the Starbucks for about 90 minutes, & were treated to a couple of free refills by one of the baristas that was eager to show his manager that he is capable of some great customer service. Of course, we egged him on, & played the role of sassified customers – the coffee was excellent, & tasted much, much better than normal after our steady diet of Taster’s Choice Freeze-dried specials.

    Our curiosity got the better of us, & we left to explore Corning – we went to a couple of 99c stores, & meandered through another couple of mini-mart-type places looking to see what we could see. All the while, we were on the topic of discussing what we’d experienced in “the None”, & also talking about the incorporation of Mary into worship, & the theology that presents Mary as an (the?) integral piece (center?) of Catholic worship & practice. We postulated a bit about how a great woman (Mary, Jesus’ mother) chosen by God to be the woman who gave birth to Immanu’El, God with us, is transitioned by church traditions from ‘great woman of faith” to one that is worshiped, revered, honored, venerated, & is recast as divinity (or at least right next to divinity.)

    One of the things we talked about is the title “Queen of Heaven” that is spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah (Chapter 7 & Chapter 44) in referencing a particular idol worshipped by Israel – in direct opposition to God’s instruction not to. This title has popped up throughout history, attributed by various peoples to the god/goddesses they worshipped – Canaanite, Babylonian, Roman, & Greek peoples assigning worth & worship to an idol that manifests in the name/image of the “Queen of Heaven.”

    So, we came back to the ASC in time to get some dinner (crackers w/PB&J for me) & headed off to vespers. Our sing-song for vespers (evening prayers) came from Romans 6 & Psalm 116 & 117. Then a couple of hymns were to be sung – in the same sing-song voice/chant of course. Except the hymns were an “ode to Mary, the Queen of Heaven” – this line was repeated a few times in the hymn. On the heels of the discussion we’d been having all afternoon, we were hyper-attentive to the title ascribed. Hmmm.

    The rest of the evening involved more crackers, lemonade & Fiddle-Faddles that we’d liberated from the Dollar store earlier in the day – with lots of deep thoughts & discussions. Our thoughts & talks turned to Hillside, & the changes that we’re going through …

    Change & the results of change don’t make themselves visible right away – sometimes it takes months –usually years – for the effects of change to appear, to surface. And it seems that that is too long ☺… we want to see the changes happen, to not just be modified, but to be transformed by Christ… & the longer the time that passes, the more possibilities we have to become impatient. Our discussions were heated & strong – not out of control (we were having them in the Peace Room, after all.) Moe commented that he was suddenly reminded that his desire to see the results of change NOW might, just might reflect the need to have patience developed in him & his character. And in us. To submit to God’s timing for ourselves, but also to allow it for others – to not grow weary of doing good, to not give up or surrender, but to keep on. And to believe in other people, & the work that God is doing in them. And to look for that work, & not the junk – because we’ll find what we’re looking for.

    I was sitting in a white molded plastic chair tonight, & broke it.The whole back leg came off. Oops. I’m trying not to take it as A Sign that It’s Time to be the Biggest Loser, but I am feeling a nudge every time I rub the bruise on my hip… did I mention all the floors are cement? I dropped my Mickey watch on it as well (DOH!) & broke the crystal – need a new one now. Any idea if I can get a crystal fixed on a watch I have a sentimental attachment to?

    Today has been a slow day – rehearsing yesterday… more crackers w/PB&J – a nap (after crackers, 1 hour after waking up for the day) to clear my fuzzy head. Recording thoughts here – processing joy. Watching nature. Laughing at the boys. With the boys. Drinking my gallon of Crystal Geyser because I’m thirsty. Lots of wondering. Not a ton of answers; just a determination to keep on, to look for Joy, the joy that God gives in the middle of where we are, the joy that is not circumstantial or fleeting… to have Peace. Patience. Joy.

    Abbey Trip, #1, @ St. Clairvaux…

    Warning – long post ahead – you’ve been warned… :)

    We’re at Starbucks in Vina (with a long “I” sound, so its VI-nah.) Found a place to boost the net for free – no paying Howard Schultz & his empire for me…

    Enjoy! I am.

    4/14 p.m.
    The drive from Reno to Vina took about 3 ½ hours, including the stop in Oroville for a Taco Bell run… walking into a Taco Bell in Oroville is like walking into a Taco Bell in any town – yay franchising…

    The access road to the monastery, actually the “Abbey of New Clairvaux” was a single lane road with a blind curve that had to be navigated at about 3 mph. To my surprise – the road around the was covered in water. When I say “covered” I mean that it was deep enough that I stopped. Couldn’t see the road under the water. Didn’t know if it would be safe to take my valiant & trusty Jetta, the car that will soon be turned out to pasture as its lease expires, through the turbulent & rushing stream.

    Turns out that the ag-creek had been rising, & the workers in the vineyard/olive/walnut grove had pumped the water to aid in their irrigation, as its been something of a dry spring… we entered the water & it got no higher than 6 inches. Fortunately for us, an obstacle navigated.

    When we arrived at the Abbey, we stopped at the “Guest Masters” quarters – more of a “Welcome Hut” or a ‘lobby’ than an actual quarters – there was no one around – no one to be seen anywhere on the grounds. So we got out of the car & walked, slowly of course (we’re at a monastery for retreat, Hello?) looking for any signs of life. About ¼ mile down the road, Ben pipes in with how this actually reminds him of a scene in a particular “Twilight Zone” episode. I know what he’s talking about, but I don’t want to go there right now – esp. to the end of that episode.

    Finally, I see a guy on a golf cart heading for a maintenance shack – I head in his direction – he heads to the shack, not really avoiding me, but definitely not making himself available. He’s a dead ringer for the Amish meets car mechanic look that I became familiar with in a trip to Philadelphia – I explained to him our situation: we just arrived. No one was in the Guest Masters qtrs to meet us, we’re looking for help. He replied: “Ok. Well go back to the Guest Masters qtrs & wait. Someone will be there eventually.” He smiled & went into his work shack.

    We all had a good laugh – of course we wait. That’s part of the point to this place with no ‘useful’ point – time functions on a different clock here, & the waiting is a part of the process. So we walked, (Slowly. Of Course) back to the Guest Master’s, & eventually we were met by a man, probably in his late 70s or early 80s who introduced himself to us as the Guest Master, Brother John. He wore tattered blue jeans & a college sweatshirt pullover – a little bit of an absent minded guy, he gave us a tour of the grounds via a map in the office, & as they came to his mind, offered up a stream-of-consciousness commentary on various topics:
    • The origin of the Abbey – came from Leland Stanford’s family
    • The building project, started in the old days by William Randolph Hearst, & picked up again by his Order (the crew he rolls with) – with a timeline of 50-75 years for completion.
    • The chapel, the meditation room – two places for retreat-ants (that’s what we’re called) to go & hang out if we need a building to do that sort of thing. He called the meditation room a “Zen sort of thing” – which means a sand pit, a couple of candles, no chairs, & a cassette player with a collection of Zamfir’s greatest hits.

    We toured the kitchen – its more of a community kitchen with no staff – the food from the Abbey kitchen, all vegetarian, is delivered a couple of times a day for all of us to eat & enjoy – lots of saltines & peanut butter to go with homemade jam. Looks like plum jam. A loaf of bread. Swiss cheese. Some tofu-based minestrone type soup. With tomatoes & mushrooms.

    We arrived at the guest rooms – two ‘wings” of about 4-6 rooms each – (Matty, we’re in the West Wing. Woohoo!) each very cozy with a cement floor, 2 ½ x 3 ½ throw rug, a single simple bed with Spartan bedclothes (don’t think “The 300” here – think we don’t need much Spartan…) a little built in desk (ala small hotel rooms everywhere,) & a small, personal bathroom. Walls made from cinder block, vaulted ceilings. And plenty of quiet to go around.

    Each of the rooms we were assigned has a placard next to its number – with a corresponding “Room Name” or “blessing” over each room – I’m in #2 – Joy. Ben’s in #3 – Peace. Moe is is #4 – Patience.

    We spent a good portion of the evening talking & laughing, & internally wrestling ourselves about the appropriateness of the room names that we were assigned to – with me desperately needing Joy. Bean & I had talked on Sunday about this very topic – & her prayer, her hope for me is that I would be joyful – & happy. And en-joy my life – because when I’m having a difficult time, when I can’t find my joy, it’s a tough one for all who get to be around me. So joy it is. That transcends circumstance – that goes beyond difficulties. That is based in contentment. That is my strength, regardless what else is going on.

    Later, we congregated in the Peace room, & talked deep talks about life & death, hopes & fears, hiding behind facades, & other joyous things like that. We headed for bed about 11 –

    I had forgotten that there are 5 prayer times a day, the Divine Office, that happen in the Abbey church – & that the call to prayer for all who want to come happens with the clanging of the church bell 5x/day. So I was woken up a few times. At these times.

    Prayer Schedule:
    • 3:30 a.m. Vigils
    • 6 a.m. Lauds & Mass
    • 8:55 a.m. Terce
    • 12:15 p.m. Sext
    • 1:55 p.m. None (prounounced Noin”)
    • 5:45 p.m. Vespers
    • 7:35 p.m Compline –

    The Compline is followed by “the Grand Silence” where all retreat-ants are asked to go along with the monks practice of being silent – or at least providing a place where the rest of the people at the Abbey grounds can be quiet if they want to. Which means that Ben, Moe & I sound like 3 jr high girls whispering & giggling on the grounds. In our room. In the field next to the “West Wing”

    4/15 a.m.
    So now it’s the morning, & I’m debating what to eat – I think it will be crackers with peanut butter & jam again. I love that, & haven’t had it since… I can’t remember. Since my kids were small & I’d eat their left overs? Perhaps?

    At noon, we have a wine tasting for the 3 of us set up in the New Clairvaux Vineyard.

    We’re back from the tasting – we had a full tour of the facilities too – very cool to see the barrels of wine, the press, the ‘crusher’, & the filling station – all of which are manned by the priests from the abbey – they do all of the work under the supervision of Amy the Vintner…

    They took one grape, a Zinfandel, & planted it in two different sections of the vineyard, the “Poor Souls” block & the “St James” block – this gives them a ‘control’ wine to be able to tell what’s happening in the soil in each block. It was amazing how different the same wines in different blocks 300 yards apart smell, taste, & feel. (No, we didn’t have a freak wine tasting accident…)

    Very enjoyable – & pasta for lunch, w/homemade pudding for dessert – fruit cocktail (by Sysco!) mixed with Vanilla Pudding (by Sysco!) Hooray!

    Why Do Bad Things Happen? #2

    Warning: rambling, incoherent post ahead – I’m writing this while I have “the Funk.” Not the Bootsy Collins, Parliament Funkadelic Funk, but the “Why is it I exist again?” Funk.

    Indirect consequences are hard to understand – bad things happen every minute of every hour of every day in every village, town, city, state, nation, region… sometimes they make ‘sense’ to us through whatever lens we use to interpret life’s happenings, good & bad. A lot of the time they don’t. When bad things happen for which we see no ‘direct’ cause, especially to people that don’t ‘deserve’ it (as though there are some that really, truly should be afflicted with cancer. Loss of loved ones. Freak accidents. Bad news. you get the picture.) we want to know the WHY. Why is this happening?

    It becomes a focal point for us to work through what we believe about God – & often our ideas of who God is & what He should be doing… because we view God as the One who saves us from bad stuff. We obey Him, we serve Him, because its like a ‘get out of trouble’ card or an exemption from the suffering that plagues the rest of humanity. We see it as “we do our part, obey, & then He does His part: provide, protect, avenge, heal, restore, etcetera.” When life doesn’t happen like that, we wonder what we’re doing “wrong.” Or what others have done wrong. Or why God is seemingly sleeping on the job, allowing, or even worse, causing bad stuff to happen. Or at least not intervening when He could have.

    This is where indirect consequences come in. And a misunderstanding about God & His nature. And the temporary, finite world that we live in. And what love is.

    Here’s my take on the WHY or origin of Bad Things:

  • God created everything – then He formed Adam & Eve.
  • God gave to Adam & Eve the dominion (the power or right of governing & controlling; being in charge of) over the Earth.
  • When He did this handoff, there were no disasters. No death. Destruction. Suffering.
  • At a most crucial & inopportune time for humanity, Adam & Eve handed off the God-given dominion of the Earth through their sin & disobedience, to the enemy, the adversary, the devil – referred to in multiple places in the Bible as the “prince of this world” the “ruler of this world” & the “prince of the power of the air.”
  • The result of sin? Death. Every time. Millennia have gone by, with the sin & the consequences of sin, sin done to self, done to others, piling up like the world’s biggest garbage dump – spewing its filth & spreading its tentacles, permeating every layer of humanity.
  • The Earth is cursed because of sin – & what God created & called “good” & “very good” now is filled with earthquakes, floods, tornados, hurricanes, pestilence,(all of which are referred to, interestingly, as “ACTS OF GOD;”) famine, all kinds of sickness & disease…
  • The enemy, the one who was a murderer from the beginning, who has come to steal, kill, & destroy, continues to do that… in the dominion he was handed by humanity.
  • Bad things happen because of sin. Consequences received directly & indirectly. Because of the enemy. Because of millennia of the crud of sin piled up.

    And in the middle of it, God did not & has not abandoned us – from the beginning, He has been the solution to our sin – & He purposefully intersected humanity with the Cross of Christ – which changes everything, not just in the temporary finite world we live in, but for eternity.

    He never leaves or abandons us – He stays with us even when we’re in the middle of what seems to be the pit of despair – He is our Comfort, our Shelter, our Rock, our Fortress, our Hope, our Inheritance. He has placed Himself squarely in the middle of life’s bad things – God WITH us. Immanu’El.

  • Why Do Bad Things Happen…? #1

    For the last couple of months, I have been planning on teaching on the topic above at our Sunday, 3/30 – 9:15 Learning Community. I had no idea that we’d be experiencing tragedy, crushing loss, & this kind of pain so up close & personal within our church family.

    “Why do bad things happen?” is a tough question – one that usually gets answered with one of the trite statements or religious cliches that are so infuriating to the people that they get bequeathed to. Things like:

  • Well, the Lord moves in mysterious ways…
  • God took (fill in the blank with a loved ones name) because He must have needed (loved one’s name) more than we did..
  • God is trying to teach us to depend on Him in hard times…

    My personal favorite, which was passed on to me by several well meaning people after my 17 year-old brother had died from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer that starts out in the lymph system.

  • God must have known that your brother was going to fall into some terrible sin in the future, so He decided to take him now…

    Huh? What the fat? Are you serious?

    These & other statements have caused me to spend a lot of time pondering – to me, here’s what some of the above statements are saying:
  • Mysterious ways? What does this mean? That God is unpredictable & just might SNAP when we least expect it, killing loved ones in the process. “Sorry. My bad.”
  • God kills our loved ones because He “needed” them more than we do? Hmm. I read in the Bible that 2 people were ‘translated’ into heaven by God: Enoch & Elijah – He wanted them with Him, & He didn’t kill them to get them.
  • God is trying to teach us something by killing our loved ones? The lesson today will be “you need me.” I’m going to illustrate this by killing your brother.
  • God killed my brother in a preemptive strike to prevent his future falling into sin? Hmm. I had always thought that God dealt with our sin through the cross…

    God is good – & is predictably good – everything that we need to know about the person & nature of God is wrapped up in Christ Jesus – not just the “good” stuff. All of it. (Check out Colossians 1:19,20 & Colossians 2:9,10 He thinks good thoughts towards us, likes us (not only loves us,) & is dependably the same yesterday, today, & forever. We can rest assured that He is & will be our ever-present help in time of trouble, & is not the one capriciously causing our pain to drive us to Him.

    Next time – we’ll examine the cause of all things bad…