Friday, November 24, 2006


I met a young friend at a coffee shop last week and our conversation turned to some of the many paradoxes of our faith. Specifically, we spoke of how married couples often turn on each other, becoming bitter and mean-spirited, always trying to “win” in any particular conflict. But Jesus says that we must humble ourselves, and I’ve discovered in my marriage that when I do so, we both “win.” And when my husband humbles himself, I love him more, not less. I don’t want to take advantage of his humility, but match it with my own.

Sometimes I wonder how these kinds of “backward” thinking work. When Jesus says to love my enemies and bless those who curse me, it really is the best way to live. When he says to trust that he will provide for me—despite what my bank account looks like—I can trust him. When he says I’m strongest when I’m weak, I can believe it’s true.

God’s paradoxes don’t make sense to us, and they don’t have to. They just have to be true. And the thing is, we won’t know if they’re true unless we believe they are and live them out.

Rob Bell writes in his thought-provoking book Velvet Elvis, that “It’s not so much that the Christian faith has a lot of paradoxes. It’s that it is a lot of paradoxes. And we cannot resolve a paradox. We have to let it be what it is.”

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.

If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

. . . do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

If [someone] sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

A paradox is a seeming contradiction, an illogical thought, an absurdity. And, frankly, so much of what God asks of us is absurd. By human standards, that is. We’re all about self-preservation, getting ahead, winning. He’s all about transforming us into his likeness. And we can’t keep on functioning by human standards and expect to become like our Father.

That would be absurd.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Hard Work

I had a good conversation with some folks the other night, including my friend and brother Brian Mashburn. I began to connect the dots between our discussion, my previous posts, and some prior teaching from Brian, and came up with a simple answer for those who’ve recently asked questions that begin with “but HOW do you . . . ?” Questions like:

“How do you let God be enough?”

“How do you feel the presence of God in your life?”

“How do you think in terms of being on a spiritual journey?”

“How do you surrender to God?”

Granted, my answer is only a first step and will probably be frustrating to a number of people. But it really does begin to explain my experience on this faith journey.

In a sense, this simple answer requires hard work. Very hard, sometimes. But, praise God, it’s the only work truly required of a disciple. So, what is it?

To believe.

In John 6:28-29, John records an interesting and often-overlooked exchange between Jesus and his disciples: “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”

When I read that, I almost want to say, "Are you kidding me?" I mean, seriously, I've put an awful lot of effort into works during this life of mine. What about the whole "faith without deeds is dead" argument proposed in James 2?

But, honestly, my first step toward growth in any spiritual concern has been to believe it is true or possible or the best way to live. To believe God really is enough, no matter how I feel. Or to believe that He is present at all times in my life. To believe that I am on a spiritual journey that He’s constantly speaking into if only I will listen. To believe that surrendering anything and everything to God will produce peace, joy, completeness, and satisfaction in the deepest places of my soul.

When I choose to believe these things are true, then I consciously decide to try them out through practical experience. I know everyone’s used the example of Indiana Jones in the “Last Crusade,” but I can’t help it. You most likely know the scene where, in order to save his father’s life, Indiana has to cross an invisible bridge spanning a deep and deadly chasm. He agonizes between the desire to save his father’s life and his fear of stepping off a cliff onto nothingness. In fact, he can’t even imagine an invisible bridge is there; he seems to have no idea what will happen when he takes his first step. But he knows this: his father’s life will be saved only if he’s willing to step out in faith. So, he swallows, closes his eyes, and moves forward.

And even though I’d like to tell you it’s different for me, oftentimes it’s not. I’m just as nervous about what my life will look like—what ground I’ll lose or what pain I’ll suffer—when I choose to act upon my belief. Because really believing can be hard work.

But I can testify to this: believing and moving forward in faith really is the best way to live.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


I learned this week that I let down some of the people I respect and love most in this world. That I didn’t mean to and didn’t realize I had done so is irrelevant. That I truly made mistakes that led to their disappointment only worsens my pain and regret. I spent three days crying--my eyes turning purple and plump as grapes--before we could meet, and I could ask their forgiveness.

I hate being wrong. I hate being wrong to be complicated by being misunderstood. But, mostly, I hate being out of a right relationship with someone.

I have to admit that during those three days I got progressively more irritable with my family. I even snapped at Bob one night—something ridiculously absurd like "I'll think less of you as a person if you don't turn out the light," even though I was the last one in bed and had just walked past the lamp.

I had to apologize to him, too.

So, I couldn’t help wondering if I really meant what I’ve said about God being enough. If I believed it, why was this circumstance so painful? And then I realized it was because I craved forgiveness. Or, at least, I craved the opportunity to apologize, to do my part in restoring the relationship, human forgiveness never being something we can secure for ourselves.

Staying connected is what I crave with God, too. When my relationship with him is damaged or distant—and that’s ALWAYS my fault, never his—I’m all out of sorts. I can try to ignore the issue by pretending something else is bothering me, but there are few things that truly get me worked up when I’m in a right relationship with my Heavenly Father.

And the glorious thing is that his forgiveness is guaranteed. He draws me close, soothes my troubled heart, and lets me know that we’re going to be just fine. That’s good news for the journey.

Friday, November 03, 2006


I’ve been trying to figure out what I did to finally let God be enough for me. But the truth is that I simply gave up on all those other things I unwittingly wanted to take His place.

When I say I simply gave up, I don’t mean it was easy. It was like giving birth—painful, difficult, exhausting. Agonizing, even. And then it was over, and I held this precious new thing in my arms: peace.

I see people who are so fretful and unhappy and agitated and angry. They’re disappointed, depressed, and discouraged because, frankly, no one around them is cooperating with their idea of what life was supposed to be. Not even God.

It doesn’t seem to matter how hard they try, how desperately they pray, how unwavering their commitments to their goals and dreams are, things just aren’t going as planned. Their jobs are unfulfilling, their kids are screwing up, their spouses are disappointments, their friends are lukewarm, and they never seem to get ahead. And then they realize they’re blessed in every regard, so the problem must be rooted inside themselves. Perhaps if they were just more talented, lovable, organized, spiritual, diligent, worthy of respect, wise, attractive, things would be better.

I know, because I felt all those things. At any rate, I grew tired of being unhappy for no good reason, so I finally told the Lord, “Forget it. I don’t even want to want those things anymore. I give up. I’m weak, I’m incredibly imperfect, and I’m going nowhere, anyway. I surrender.”

“Now, you’re getting it.”

“I am?”


“Oh.” I had my doubts. “Okay, so will You be enough for me?”

“Just watch Me.”

As I said in my previous post, at first I begged God to be enough for me every time I felt discouraged or disappointed or hurt or insignificant or incompetent. Which was often. Sometimes, when I take my eyes off Him, I have to ask again.

But mostly, I’m just learning to trust that He is enough. That no day has to look like what I expected. As a result, I’ve had some amazing days.

I’m learning that no person has to act or react the way I want them to. And you know what? That’s removed a lot of unfair expectations, frustration, and disappointment because I know the people in my life are ultimately in God’s hands anyway. Not mine. They never have been.

I’m seeing that God’s use of the gifts He’s given me is more creative, more rewarding, more true—or “truer” as my brother Brian Mashburn would say—and more effective than anything I had in mind. Besides, it’s simpler to let God use my gifts as He sees fit . . . I was working awfully hard trying to be impressive with them.

Surrender. People ask me all the time how to do it. It’s hard for us to really get our minds—our wills—around this concept. We’re just so dadgum sure we know what we or our loved ones or our church needs, and we’re so dadgum afraid God won’t agree. And He probably won’t. Because what He has in mind is so much better.

Letting God be enough is like living on the wild side: wonderfully unpredictable, delightfully challenging, deliciously satisfying, and unexplainably peaceful.

That’s enough for me.