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Category: Fear

A tale of two miracles

There are two occasions in the Bible when God miraculously parted the waters:[1] the more famous Exodus account (Exodus 14:21ff), and the lesser known Joshua account (Joshua 3:7ff).

The Exodus account gets all the acclaim, primarily because it was none other than Charlton Heston standing at the banks of the Red Sea majestically holding his staff over the water. Thus far, the best we have come up with to portray Joshua is a cucumber from Veggietales.

Still, both miracles fall into the category of “something that doesn’t happen every day.” Both go against the laws of physics, Both defy explanation. And both result in making a way for God’s people, sending them from the old into the new. read more

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Battling demons and finding God on the ash heap

2017 finally comes to a close, and I am ringing in the new year firmly ensconced upon a pile of ashes.

This is definitely not the place others flock to when welcoming in a new year. Dusty, bleak, a place of exile and uncertainty. You don’t count down the final seconds of 2017 on the ash heap; instead, you wrestle with endless questions about how you got there with a God who seems more interested in the annual ball drop in Times Square. You wait, trying to understand the rationale of another who is infinitely above your pay-grade.

Kind of like Job after the Accuser chopped him off at the ankles. As part of what looks like a mysterious cosmic bet, Job loses his children, his livestock, his wealth, and eventually his health over a short period of time. He retreats to the mound of ashes where he sits quietly with friends, saying nothing for a week. Then the characters engage in a misguided debate about the cause of suffering and its relation to sin before God himself finally enters the discussion with one of the most beautiful and frustrating responses to humanity’s suffering in the entire Bible. read more

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Being thankful when the storm comes

God has an infinite number of ways he answers our prayers. There’s the gentle nudging or the still small voice whispering in our ear. Personally, I prefer God uses these methods to answer my prayers: it is more pleasant and, frankly, has less drama. Then there is the prophetic word uttered from a loved one—more confrontational yet still tolerable enough.

But then there is a catastrophic method of answering prayer. This is exactly how it sounds:  prayer gets answered, but it takes the form of a broadside where God kicks our wheels out from under us until we find ourselves completely out of control, sliding sideways across the road toward a retaining wall. Everything becomes blurred. there’s a lot of screaming and shrieking. Occasionally, someone breaks out in a chorus of “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” Eventually, everything rocks to a stop, leaving behind a trail of bent metal and shattered glass. Clearly, this method is my least favorite, although I have a sneaking suspicion it is God’s preferred go-to. read more

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Living in the ‘now’ not the ‘what if’

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25–26.

I don’t run marathons; the only running I do is from the couch to the fridge during Super Bowl ads. But I have a friend who does. And he says that in a marathon, he can’t focus on the finish line lest he get overwhelmed by the size of the task. Instead, he must stay in the moment and focus just on the current mile, one step at a time.

 Writing a book is like that. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon—a long, exhausting, brain-cramping marathon. If I focus on the finish line, I’ll  get overwhelmed and never make it. Instead, I must stay in the moment and focus just on the current chapter or paragraph—one sentence at a time.

 The writing process can be rich and inspiring, but it can also be slow and grueling. Frustratingly tedious. Mind-numbingly painful. Sometimes the ideas come in rapid succession; other times, the brain is a dry lakebed. Times of writer’s block—when my fingers desperately want to tap-dance their rhythms across the keyboard, but the hand-to-brain connection is frozen—are more common than rare. Even if ideas are flying around in my head, sometimes my fingers just can’t get them out. read more

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“Hosanna!”: The presidential election, terrorism, and the state of the world

Last Saturday in Arizona, protesters tried to silence a presidential candidate while supporters retaliated with fisticuffs.

Hours later, on Palm Sunday, Christians commemorated Jesus’s kingly entrance into Jerusalem.

The next day, in Brussels, terrorist attacks killed over 30 people and injured at least 200 more.

This year has been that kind of surreal.

The elections, the unrest, the terror—all of this craziness makes me feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed and afraid.

I can’t quite describe my feelings, but they include anger, horror, frustration, numbness, bewilderment and more, depending on what’s in the news each day.

I am distressed and heartbroken over the terrorism, crying out to God for the victims. But I can’t stop it. So I focus on something closer to home: election year, and how our next president might respond to terrorism and all of the other problems facing us, both here and abroad. read more

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Walking through the valley of terror … then and now

2005 Paris-England 159
The Eiffel Tower. Photo by Daniel Hochhalter.

The last—and only—time I visited Paris was in the summer of 2005.

I was studying in England over the summer, and had taken the Eurostar to Paris to meet my wife and sister-in-law for a wonderful couple of weeks exploring Paris, Normandy, Mont Saint Michel, and the Loire Valley. We had a glorious time—a dream vacation.

On July 7, I dropped off my family at Charles de Gaulle airport, then returned to Paris and boarded the Eurostar to go back to England.

But during the train’s stop at Calais—the last town before crossing into England—the doors opened and the PA system announced an unexpected delay, followed by the strange recommendation that everyone deboard and be transported back to Paris, free of charge. The announcer gave no explanation, nor any estimation of the length of the delay. read more

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Asleep in the boat, part 1: When God is the cause of anxiety

What if God, who comforts my anxiety, is also the cause of it? I don’t want to feel broadsided by him again…

As I sat down to write about anxiety, almost immediately I began to experience it. I couldn’t think how to approach the subject, so I started worrying. My struggle led to mental paralysis, which led to more anxiety. The harder I struggled, the darker things looked. I froze (“Come on, brain!”). I spiraled (“This blog is going down the crapper”). I globalized (“The universe sucks!”).

Finally I saw the irony – I was anxious about writing on anxiety! – and I had to laugh.

Good thing I hadn’t planned to write on serial killing.

stormy-oceanThe problem of anxiety reminds me of a story in Mark 4. Jesus, sleeping soundly in a boat almost overwhelmed by high waves (Mark 4:37-38a) is accused of indifference by his terrified disciples: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (v. 38b). But Jesus simply quiets the storm and asks: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 39-40) read more

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Facing down fear with faith

4f0115cde03fb27ee24be46deda8454fThe holidays are over, and the new year is here. Traditionally, the masses welcome it by drinking champagne, singing “Auld Lang Syne,” watching the ball drop in Times Square, and kissing or getting kissed by total strangers. There’s a sense of relief in having made it through the old year, and a sense of hope in anticipating the new one.

As for me—well, I am usually in bed by 9:00 p.m.

It’s the classic head-in-the-sand approach: if I can’t see something coming, it’s not really there.

While I absolutely love the Advent season, I always seem to face the new year with apprehension. What I am trying to understand is why. Actually, I am pretty sure I already know why, though I am reluctant to admit it: I think the reason is fear. And part of that fear is not having any choice, any control—because I don’t have any choice or control over the new year; I must go forward into the future, even if I’d rather not. read more

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