Thursday, July 14, 2011

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:29-31

I am a gal of reason.  I love finding out more about life, the universe, and everything (a quick shout-out to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans)-- discovering the ins and outs to how things work, why things happen the way they do, what is changing, what's staying the same, and so on.  I want to know the facts of the matter.

Maybe you are like me, looking for proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  That's the crazy thing about faith.  It's mysterious, miraculous, not always defined by the five senses or a logical equation that explains exactly how X plus Y equaled Z.  Sometimes it seems irrational, completely illogical.  But reason and faith are both on the same pursuit - the pursuit of truth.  I cannot explain the mystery of this grace, this forgiveness, except to share my experience and show the evidence of the hope that I have, to tell you that yes, it is true!

I can imagine Peter staring out across the water at Jesus.  A reasoning human being would argue the laws of physics.  Of course Peter doubted!  That's what a reasonable person does in those circumstances.  "Sure, Lord, I'll come... how about by row boat?  It's windy, Jesus, I think I'll stay here in my boat.  Don't you think you should be wearing a life vest?  Hey God, don't you see the waves?  Don't you know anything about the physical properties of H2O?"  I don't know about you, but I don't even want to go out on a lake in a boat when it's windy, let alone step out of the boat and try to walk on the waves.  Talk about seasickness. 

Reason looks at the circumstances through the lens of reality-- my eyes tell me there's water out there, what I know about water is that I can't walk on it.  But faith, faith asks you to trust in something, or someone, in spite of our instincts, to know and trust this guy because he has proven himself trustworthy and faithful.  He's the kind of guy that has proven to be so good and real and true that you'll obey him, even when he asks you to step out of a boat and walk on water.

That's faith.  Faith beyond a reasonable doubt.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Direction and Instruction

I've approached the Bible many different ways since becoming interested in Scripture and God. My first attempt at reading the Bible began in Genesis and ended shortly thereafter in Leviticus. As a teen, I tried without success to find the section of the Bible where Thanksgiving prayers were located. In college, someone finally gave me a little direction in Bible reading and suggested I start in the New Testament.

I have often approached the Scriptures like a roulette wheel - I wagered that if I flipped open to a random page in the New Testament or landed somewhere in the Psalms, I probably would find something that spoke to me.

During more challenging seasons, I have been taught to read specific books and characters for encouragement and guidance and to read the Bible with purpose for the valley I was in or the mountain I was on. Now that we have kids, I've occasionally revisited stories in the Bible with them over breakfast.

It's tempting to let Bible reading happen more sporadically or to abandon reading altogether when things are going well, and when you feel like you've read it all before. Stories that used to inspire or that spoke deep truths to you once begin to lose their luster. It's hard to imagine miracle stories becoming old hat, but it happens - ho hum, big deal, water to wine.  When this happens, I know I need to find another way to enliven my spiritual life through the Word.

In order to keep my reading, and by extension my faith, more vibrant and alive in this current season, I need two things: direction and instruction. I need a goal or a plan to direct me through passages of Scripture that I might not otherwise visit when I spin the roulette wheel of Bible readings. After reading, I need instruction, which varies in its appearance - instruction, for me, involves dialogue with my husband or conversing with small group members and friends about what I've read. It includes instructing others, specifically my kids, in what the Bible says. 

I recently started using the Book of Common Prayer, available through's Bible app, for daily devotional reading.  YouVersion has a bunch of different reading plans available through their app, but this one appealed to me because of its historical roots.  I am a big fan of it because the app pulls daily readings from all over the Bible, helps you track daily readings, and both the plan and the Bible verses are on my phone.  I've been at it for about a week now, and each day has included psalms, a prophet, an epistle, and a gospel reading.  The plan is 808 days long, so I won't be running out of readings anytime soon.  Because the plan spreads out its Scripture references, I am able to start in praise and worship (psalms), move to conviction and confession (prophets), jump over to instruction (epistle), and end in example (gospels).  I don't know if that's how the whole plan will go, but that's the way it is looking right now.

It's hard to make a regular, purposeful commitment to direction and instruction, for myself and for my family, but the rewards are immeasurable and substantial.  Whatever method you choose to bring the living water of the Word into your life, I hope that you are able to do so regularly, so that you may experience in yet another way how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mamas and Daddies, Don't Drive Your Kids Crazy

There are days in our household when our patience with the kids has worn so thin you can see straight through it to burning rage and frustration, and about the time the sun starts to set, that weather-worn sheet of patience just isn't enough anymore to spare our over-stimulated children from the wrath of bedtime.  Oh, the sun doesn't set on our anger-- I'm pretty sure the kids know we're not happy with them after the fourteenth time climbing the stairs.

I don't think we're alone in our strife; there's a new book out for adults right now, written in the spirit of bedtime stories, called, Go the %$#@ to Sleep, that in spite of the language captures the essence of bedtime for many families.  We're all tired, and somewhere, our kids have picked up a manual on classic manuevers to manipulate Mom and Dad out of going to sleep.  Every kid has figured out that going potty, asking for a drink of water, requesting another book, hunting for the one stuffed animal, tucking in, begging for another hug and kiss or song or prayer, etc. will delay the inevitable shutting of the eyes.

The "Battle at Bedtime" boils down to one thing: thy will be done vs. my will be done.  I want you to go to sleep, and you want to stay up.  One of us is going to lose, and it isn't going to be me.

Your will vs. my will infiltrates every day life, but because of the Super Cape of Patience being sucked away in the tornado of the day, the war is especially heated at bedtime.  When that cape disappears earlier in the day, parents everywhere find themselves exerting their wills over their kids whenever they have a chance.  Being firm sneaks across the line to force.  I know I've crossed the line from firm to controlling when I say no to requests like, "Can I take this toy with me in the car?" or "Can I put on this dress?"

I probably say "this is one of the hardest things about parenting" every time I talk about parenting, but I do believe this is one that ranks high on the list.  When we ask for obedience from our kids, is it with their best interests in mind or is it simply because we want them to do what we want them to do?  Why are we asking for obedience?

Ephesians 6:4 is explicit about how parents should instruct their kids.  Here are two versions:

"Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord." (Amplified)

"Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master." (The Message)

The Sarah version says something like this, "Mamas and Daddies, don't drive your kids crazy.  Love on them, guide them in the ways of Christ, but don't beat them into the ground with your rules."  We say over and over again that we want to rear our kids up in the Lord, but I don't think we know what we're talking about.  Jesus didn't lay out a bunch of rules, after all, and he didn't guilt his followers into obedience.  He didn't beg for love or deny them love because they screwed up.  He taught them, disciplined them when they screwed up, and then gave them grace upon grace.

Honestly, it's easier to yell and scream than to follow Christ's example with our kids, but in terms of effectiveness, I think Jesus's way wins.  Shocking news.  Oh there are times I'd like to yell, Go the $#@% to sleep, for sure, yell instead "GO TO SLEEP!" but nope, surprisingly, that doesn't work either.

So, mamas and daddies, together let's hunt for our Super Capes and do what we can to conquer our own wills and try to do the will of our Father.  God help us.