February 24, 2009

The Little Car That (Hopefully) Can

“It weighs 3.1 ounces,” the official reported.
“How much should it weigh?” I questioned.
“Five ounces.”
Dismayed at the weight deficit, I asked hopefully, “Do you have any weights?”
“No, but maybe one of the other dads has some extras.”

This evening I found myself in a place completely out of my element—the weigh-in for my son’s Boy Scout Pinewood Derby. See, I did the Girl Scout thing with our daughter and my husband does the Boy Scout thing with our son. It’s the way it works around here. For the most part the arrangement works well, except when Dan travels and I have to fill in—like tonight.

“Just bring the car for the weigh-in about 7:00. You’ll be in and out in no time,” he breezily instructed this afternoon.

Sounded easy enough. Except the car wasn’t exactly finished. Luckily my son knew what to do. He put the wheels on, then spruced it up with some decorations. I added an electrical tape stripe down the center and voila a race car was born. (Although my attempt to help straighten the wheels didn’t go so well. I pray the car doesn’t crash into anything.)

With our underweight car, we joined the other Scouts waiting their turn for the official weigh-in. With no solution to our problem readily available, my son saved our place in line while I ran to the car hoping to discover a clever answer. I located some coins and grabbed tape from the first aid kit to attach them. (Certainly not an elegant solution.) On my way back in, I bumped into a dad who had observed my dilemma. He handed me his supply box, “Here, you can have all my extra weights. There’s double-sided tape to stick them on, too.”

"Wow! Thanks!"I gratefully offered. I headed back to my son, victorious.

In case you don’t know, at the Pinewood Derby, everyone starts with exactly the same block of wood. Within a few specifications, there’s no limit to what kind of car one can create. Judging by the ones I viewed as we waited in line, creating these cars is serious business! Power tools had been wielded skillfully, paint applied masterfully and creativity lavished generously. Many a dad had obviously relived (or created) his own childhood memories. We saw an Army tank, a Batmobile (complete with tail fins), a pink pig with a curlicue tail, a high-tech Formula One race car and more! Extra weights were strategically placed and cleverly hidden in trap doors and recessed holes.

When it came to placing the weights I had no clue where they should go or what was even “legal.” Thankfully, this is Boy Scouts and not the Indianapolis 500, so my son’s leader showed him where to affix the weights. We got busy with double-sided tape and, when that ran out, an unknown person’s glue gun. The finished product was more Franken-car than streamlined racer, but it should get the job done—and the scale confirmed it was a perfect five ounces. The best news is that my son is perfectly happy with the results and looking forward to the race on Friday.

Tonight, I entered an environment where I didn’t know the rules or culture. I’m thankful a few kind people softened the experience, but I felt foolishly out of place—like everyone had received “the memo” except me. Forty-five minutes after we arrived, I was thrilled to head back home to the comfort of the familiar.

The experience got me thinking. What impression do “outsiders” have when they visit our churches or Bible studies? Does our language and culture unintentionally exclude? Do we act like a club for insiders only? Do visitors feel like they didn’t get the “memo?”

In the past I’ve been the outsider and have visited churches and Bible studies where my answer to all these questions was “yes.” I never went back to those places again.

Nothing is more off-putting to seekers and the unchurched than the feeling that they don’t fit in. That somewhere credentials were issued and they just don’t measure up.

Jesus fought against that. Again and again, to all kinds of people, He said, “Come.” (Mt. 14:29)
“Come and you will see.” (John 1:39)
“Come, follow me.” (Mk 1:17)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28)

As Jesus’ disciples, we must extend the same invitation to all who enter our churches and Bible studies. We need to meet people where they are: Come in and you will see.

Are you offering your extra weights or protecting your winning design? In the end, we run the same race. Some may arrive may arrive gracefully and in style. Others of us will haul ourselves, wheels falling off, across the finish line. The most important thing is that we’ve entered the race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

February 19, 2009

Winning. . . and Facing Disappointment

Thank you all for your kind words and encouraging comments on my blogiversary post. I have the best readers! It’s neat to recall how our paths first crossed and how we’ve grown together over the last many months. I love how God's brought together so many like-minded Christian brothers and sisters. Our little corner of the blogosphere is a pretty cool place!

Now to the important news: the giveaway winner.
The winner of my blogiversary giveaway is…Susie Merchant. (Cue cheering crowds) Susie’s a non-blogging friend (you know the ones with flesh that we can actually see and touch and hug ;-) She rarely comments, but has faithfully followed my blog since the beginning. Thanks, Susie…your constant support has been a real source of encouragement.

But, since Susie’s local, I also want to share Tastykakes with someone who can’t get them anytime. So I changed the rules of the giveaway (it’s great to be the boss!) and picked a second winner to receive an assortment of Tastykakes. The winner of this yummy prize is. . . Lori. Lori’s new to my blog (and new to blogging), so I’m thrilled welcome her this way. Congratulations!

A long-time reader and a new reader. I think God orchestrated this perfectly.

Plus for you comment-shy readers, there’s a message here for you: God will bless you with baked goods and valuable prizes if you leave a comment. :-) (Really!)


That’s what my 13-year-old daughter said I should write about. See, she’s in the midst of it. And tonight I had to put on those thigh-high waders they issue moms of teenagers and trudge right in.

For months she’s been preparing for the play at school. She’s not a lead, but she is in several “feature” scenes. This weekend she’s scheduled to go on a youth group retreat with her friend and she’s sooooo excited. Since the play is next weekend, the timing of the retreat seemed perfect.

Turns out there’s a mandatory dress rehearsal tomorrow (Friday) until about 8:00pm. The bus for the retreat leaves at 4:00pm. The director said there would be “consequences” (i.e. exclusion from one of the performances) for the kids that left before the halfway point (about 5:30pm).

Long story short, we scrabbled together a plan for a later ride that seemed a way to accommodate everyone. But, tonight the ride fell through. I was in my daughter’s room when her friend called to tell her. As tears welled in her eyes I knew the news wasn’t good. She hung up the phone and I sat with her as she sobbed, bitterly disappointed.

She had a choice to make. Go anyway and suffer the consequences or stick to her original commitment to the play and desire to experience it fully. On paper the choice seems easy. In reality it wasn’t. When I was younger, youth group retreats were some of my favorite experiences. I know how much a weekend enmeshed in Jesus and fun and friends can do for a young teen trying to sort it all out.

In the end she chose to stay home and stick with the play she’s worked so hard preparing for. The choice isn’t the one that offers the most fun, but I think it’s the right one. I took her out for a Chik-fil-A milkshake to soften the blow. (They're a wonderful balm for the soul. Try it sometime!)

Tonight when she went to bed, we both had a peace about us knowing she made the right decision. After I tucked her in, she popped out of her room and called down, “When you write tonight, talk about when things don’t go your way, another door opens. And sometimes you learn something new.”

We all have times when things don’t go as we expected or planned, and we cry bitter tears. Sometimes we need to make the tough choice to do the right thing and other times we need to accept what is.

In the end we just have to trust that God holds it all in His hands and when a door closes, He’ll open a window.

“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.”
~ (Jeremiah 29:11)

February 17, 2009

So My Soul

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?

Shouldn’t I be better at this by now?
Or at least see it coming?
But I’m not and I don’t.
Every time, I’m caught off guard
Astounded by my fragility
And the limits of my sufficiency.
My mind knows “it’s not about me,”
But the fleshy parts inside say otherwise.
How did I find myself here?

One at a time they add up
A rejection
A perceived slight
An expected response that doesn’t come
A glance that speaks more than it intends.
The accuser comes at night
Always at night.
Stealing what is good and true
Offering “evidence”
Delighting to lend a hand
Building a tower of condemnation
That blocks out the light.
All the while testifying
“You’ve been fooling yourself.
See, you’re a bunch of nothing!”

The dawning day brings confusion
And isolation.
The taunts of the enemy
Turning firm ground into shifting sand.
I reel in my weakness
Until I remember
For whom my soul thirsts.
I recall who has brought me this far
And will bring me yet again.
I turn from the lies to the truth
To find refuge and my strong tower
Against the enemy.

Hear my cry
And listen to my prayers.
Forgive me for forgetting
The source of my strength
And the name of my deliverer.

For I will yet praise you,
My Savior and my God.

Inspired by Psalm 42

February 12, 2009

Blog-iversary Giveaway...and a Look Back

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I entered the land of blogging. I’ve enjoyed reading as others have celebrated this milestone in their own unique way. (I just loved Peace for the Journey’s blogiversary party last week!) But, my celebration will be like me, understated and reflective. Plus, my husband tossed in his idea, “I think it’s time you did a giveaway.”

Before I go any further, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining me on this journey. To my friends and family, many of you have followed since my first post. Some have joined in somewhere along the way. Others may be reading for the first time. Thank you for your encouragement, support and prayers. While your sweet comments bless my socks off, some of you read faithfully but never comment. I appreciate your presence.

For years I sensed God prompting me to write. Life got in the way and the best I managed was some journaling and a few articles in my church newsletter. On New Years’ Eve 2007 I felt God give me a nudge, “What are you waiting for. I’ll help you, but I’m not going to write for you.” (My paraphrase) So I made a promise, “Lord, this year, I'll to stop talking about writing and actually start doing it—for You.”

A few days later a story idea popped into my head. A few days later another. God certainly didn’t waste time providing the inspiration! I started jotting things down.

At the beginning of February I told my friend Debbie, “I think you should start a blog. It’s not for me, but I think it would give you a great way to write about all the crazy things that happen in your life. I’ll help you.” That night I Googled “how to start a blog.” I clicked on a link and followed the instructions. To help Deb, I decided to try it out for myself first. An hour later, I’d created my very own blog. And to my surprise I loved the idea. Ninety-four posts later, I’m still at it!

I thought I’d share Ten Reflective Ponderings and Lessons Learned from this past year (in no particular order):

  1. I certainly kept true to my promise to God to write more. In 2007 I wrote about 3,000 words. Since starting my blog in 2008, I wrote over 75,000!

  2. Along the way I know God’s used some of those words for good: to help others to see a new facet of Him, know they’re not alone or take a step further in faith. Friends have told me they’ve shared things I’ve written with their Bible studies. I marvel at our awesome God and am eternally grateful for this privilege and honor.

  3. While blogging is a solitary act, I’ve been surprised to see it’s really about relationships. It’s helped me deepen my relationship with God, reconnect with old friends and distant relatives, stay in touch with loved ones and meet so many beautiful, godly women who I now call “friend.”

  4. Thank you to my wonderful husband who graciously pre-reads many of my posts, gives editorial input and allows me to spend entirely too much time on the computer, with little complaint. Although I’m pretty sure he thinks there’s something going on with me and Mr. Linky!

  5. Blogging can easily get our priorities out of whack. First is the time drain. I’ve had to really evaluate how much time I spend in the blogosphere. Between writing, commenting and visiting others, one can get lost here for days! I have to accept the reality that I can’t visit and comment as much as I’d like (Sorry!).
    Second is the comparison trap. I already struggle with comparing myself to others. With all of the statistics and ratings, blogging takes it to a whole new level. I've often fretted, "How many readers/comments/witty stories/deep insights do I have vs. other bloggers?"
    As a result, I have to continually re-center myself on my purpose: why do I blog? Bottom line: To bring glory to God, not to me.

  6. If I strive for the above purpose and end up looking or feeling (which is more often the case) like a fool, so be it. It’s in God’s hands. (It's taken a lot of anguish to be able to say that.)

  7. It’s gotten to the point where I simply have to write. Ideas pop into my head all the time. (If you want to write more or learn to listen for God’s voice, blog!)

  8. Probably since I keep them mostly out of it, my family is incredibly patient, supportive and proud of my blog. (I know my daughter shares my web address with others, even her public school teachers. That’s high praise coming from a teenager!)

  9. A dream of mine is to go on a cross-country road trip to visit my blog friends.

  10. The words of my blog have traveled to 45 states, 34 countries and 6 continents. Who says we can’t be international missionaries!

Whew! I have much more to say, but I’ll stop here. Thanks again for joining me on this journey. I don’t know where I’m going, but it’s been a heck of a ride so far.

Now for the giveaway.

I wracked my brain for an idea that was meaningful, but I hadn’t seen done anywhere else. And I want it to be something you can share with your family and friends so you can tell you them, “See, I’m really spending all that time on my computer so I can win free stuff for you.”

So in honor of Valentine’s Day, marriage and baked goods I’m giving away the newly-released Fireproof DVD and a selection of Tastykakes (a Philadelphia specialty). Let me tell you, if you haven’t eaten a Butterscotch Krimpet or Peanut Butter KandyKake, you haven’t fully lived! Also…did you know Fireproof was produced for just $500,000 and earned more than $33 million at the box office? Even if you don't win, rent it and make a date to watch this inspirational movie with your husband, friends and even your older children. (If you aren’t married, I have another gift for you, if you’d prefer.)

To enter, leave me a comment with a way to get in touch with you. I will pick a random winner next Thursday evening and post the winner on Friday (2/20). For my technically-challenged friends, if you can’t leave a comment, you can send me an email at lightbulblab (at) comcast (dot) net.

With thankfulness,

February 10, 2009

When Two or Three Gather

I planned to put up my anniversary/giveaway post, but a.) It's not finished yet and I want to get to bed soon, and b.) I just got from our worship service in prison and I wanted to share that experience with you.

Our God is amazing indeed and He does powerful things through those who say, “Here am I, Lord. Use me.” Our rag-tag prison ministry team can testify to that!

While the chapel was filled to capacity this evening, a restlessness settled among the inmates. As usual, the men gathered in the front enthusiastically sang and participated, but those in the back seemed more content to disrupt and disrespect. The officer in charge escorted a few out early in the service. But still, the cohesiveness I’ve witnessed seemed absent.

I was a little disappointed because selfishly, I’ve come to expect a certain level of spiritual oomph to replenish my stores. (Even as I type this, a voice in head shouts, “It’s not about you! Don’t you get that yet?!” I do, but I’m a slow learner.)

Tonight when we arrived, our leader Bob asked me if I’d lead the prayer. (Me, who would rather go to the dentist/babysit triplets/bathe a cat than speak in front of a crowd?) Apparently my predisposition to say, “No!” hadn’t crossed his mind. I saw no way out, so I agreed—surprisingly with little trepidation.

During our time of singing, I chuckled because between the out-of-tune keyboard and worshippers, never have songs of praise been offered up so joyfully off-key. But I know God heard them in perfect-pitch. Throughout the night I looked out on the sea of faces and prayed, Lord, use us to show these men You, the answer they’re looking for.

Soon enough it was my turn. I stepped up to the podium and grabbed the microphone. You can do it. With bowed heads, together we came to the throne. I had jotted down a few thoughts to use as a guide but much of my prayer came from within, words brought to my lips by holy prompting. The men responded with calls of “amen,” “Thank you, Jesus” and “Yes, Lord.” And in those moments, in those voices, among those broken souls, I encountered Jesus. His power. His love. His grace.

Lord, you used ordinary me for something as glorious as this. Thank you for the honor and privilege.

That’s what so cool about our prison ministry group. By ourselves each of us isn’t that remarkable. But when we show up and join together, each doing his or her part, God takes our offering and makes it extraordinary. It’s not a fluke, it's a promise. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Mt. 18:20 NASB)

Despite the foolishness and chaos of the evening, God had great plans for the night—over twelve men accepted Jesus as their savior or recommitted their life to Him. Praise God.

I want to share one of the verses Bob preached on tonight. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)

Rest in the confidence that once you accept Jesus' invitation to “Follow Me,” your hope of salvation is assured.

Have you encountered the Living God? Is He calling you to follow Him somewhere new? Or to do something different? I'll tell you from personal experience, if the voice causes you to tremble a bit, you’re probably heading down the right path.

Come back on Thursday when I’ll host a fun anniversary giveaway…my first ever!

February 9, 2009

Mid-Winter Glory

I’ve heard it said that God uses the splendor of nature to bring healing to a hurting world. Its beauty breaks through our pain and our brokenness, giving our soul comfort and connection with something far greater. Since the beginning of time, man has gazed upon creation and known, “I am not alone.” As Paul told the Romans, God has made his presence clear. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (1:20)

Certainly there exist places that have received their portion of beauty in greater measure—like the Grand Canyon, the Swiss Alps or the entire island of Maui (all of which I’ve seen). We may travel to and yearn for glimpses that inspire, but most of us live among scenery far more ordinary and much less breathtaking. While the “eternal power and divine nature” of God may not barrage our senses every time we venture outside, it’s there nonetheless. Sometimes, we just have to look a little harder.

No matter what struggles hinder us, what oppression crushes us, what brokenness shatters us, God continually reveals Himself in the everyday—through the shooting stars that streak across the night sky; the sun’s rays as they visibly split through distant clouds; the purple-pink radiance lavishly painted by the setting sun; tender buds emerging from long dormant branches; waves crashing onto the shore; birds chirping their pronouncement of spring. I could go on and on. Certainly you could as well. Pause to think of the little reminders you’ve encountered even in the past few days.

For me, I recall the snow. Last Tuesday the snow started in the morning. The weathermen forecast an inch or so, basically a non-event—good news for some, a major disappointment to my snow-loving, still-waiting-for-a-BIG-snowstorm self. But throughout the day flakes continued to gently fall, gradually accumulating on the ground. As I worked at my computer, I delighted at the picture-perfect scene developing outside my window. When the kids got home from school, they quickly traded backpacks and lunchboxes for snow pants and boots.

The next morning we awoke to find our world covered in a blanket of fluffy, white flakes. My winter wish was granted (and with a delayed school opening, so had the kids'.) Whether you find snow a major inconvenience or a glorious gift, one simply has to soak in such a scene to marvel at its splendor and feel the embrace of the Almighty.

To all of you, especially my warm-weather friends in places like Florida or the desert, I want to share my winter gift with you.

The snow gathers.
Gradually building.
Awakening us to a world that invigorates, celebrates and glorifies.
Transforming the overlooked into the overwhelming.


. .

But this weekend brought temps in the fifties.
As quickly as it came, the snow melted into a fond memory.
Leaving behind scattered reminders.

Today I will look for new evidence.
Lord, where will we find you?

Note: This week marks my one year anniversary as a blogger. Stop back this week for my mini-celebration that will include a giveaway or two!

February 5, 2009

Book Review: The Word of Promise Next Generation - New Testament

A while back Thomas Nelson Publishing made an offer I jumped at: receive a free book in exchange for writing a review on your blog. My skeptical side said, Surely there must be a catch. But there wasn't/isn't (at least none I've discovered). The first book I received, Billy, arrived days after I signed up. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and after writing my review, I returned Thomas Nelson to request a new book. Well, this time the book selection was WAY more limited. (e.g. They offered only three choices.) Doors one and two revealed books that didn't interest me at all. I'll go with what's behind door number three.

Days later I received an audio Bible. Correction: "a dramatic audio Bible with an all-star cast." Without further ado, here's my review. . .

Shopping for a Bible today reminds me of the Burger King commercial: “Have it Your Way.” With 3,256 choices on CBD.com, you can have your Bible just the way you want it: compact, amplified, annotated, chronological, devotional, parallel or topical to name a few. And for those who want their Word to go, audio Bibles have made a big splash recently.

Perhaps following in the successful footsteps of The Word of Promise New Testament audio Bible, comes The Word of Promise Next Generation New Testament aimed at tweens and teens. It features some of today’s hottest young stars like Corbin Bleu, Cody Linley, Alyson Stoner and Emily Osment. (If you don't know who they are, ask your kids.)

Typically I prefer to read the Bible, but since I’m participating as a Thomas Nelson Publishing blog reviewer, I thought I’d give the TWoPNGNT a listen. The three MP3 CDs provide over 23 hours of listening and are divided into books, just like a regular Bible.

Jenna and Max Lucado introduce each book with insightful, interesting teaching that provides the audio Bible's high points. Narrator Sean Astin’s (Lord of the Rings) pleasant voice deftly handles the text. But, the rest of the young voices simply don’t convey the heft, passion or character to adequately bring to life the Living Word. Most egregious was Linley as Jesus. While he may cause young girls to swoon, as Jesus his soft, whiny voice caused more irritation than inspiration. The voicing of the apostle Paul, probably the most charismatic and influential preacher of all time, also fell flat.

Bottom line, most of the actors distracted me from the message and I didn't feel they really believed (or understood) what they were saying. Even the most impassioned passage didn't deliver much more emotional depth than an episode on the Disney Channel. (However, watchers of that channel are exactly this audio Bible’s target audience, so maybe this will speak to them in a way they can relate to.)

That said, my 13-year-old daughter quickly snatched the CDs from my desk for her own listening pleasure. Her verdict so far: she wants to hear more. While it's not for me, if TWoPNGNT causes media hungry teens to turn off their iPods for a bit to listen, surely that’s a good thing.

February 3, 2009

Surprise Blessing

Thank you for your comments and emails on yesterday’s post on suffering. I thank God that even though we will never fully understand “Why?” we don’t tarry alone. God provides fellow believers to help carry the load, each of us shining a glimmer of light as darkness encroaches. I know some of you currently live in a season of suffering. God’s ways may not be our ways, but know He sees you and has engraved your name on the palm of His hand. (Is. 49:16)

When I started this blog less than a year ago, I had no idea the ride that lay ahead. Certainly I didn’t expect I’d meet (and reconnect with) so many of you—sisters and brothers in Christ—many of whom I now gratefully call “friend.” I didn’t realize I’d grow to love tap, tap, tapping away on my keyboard, trying my best to honor the Almighty with my words. And I didn’t expect how hard at times the enemy would attack, urging me to quit. But, with every roadblock thrown in my path God used circumstances or one of you to reaffirm my call to press on. Still at times the journey feels solitary.

Imagine my surprise/shock/disbelief when I turned on my computer on Monday and found an email in my inbox that read: “I just wanted to come by and say congratulations for being one of the Internet Café’s Top 100 Christian Women’s Blogs of 2008!”

Me? Really? Certainly someone made a mistake.

Incredulous I followed the link to Internet Café’s listing to see for myself. Unbelieveable.

Thank you, dear readers for nominating me. You delight, honor and knock my socks off! The thought that anyone (let alone several anyones) would nominate my blog in the first place astounds this ordinary girl. The reality that our awesome God uses my words to bless others leaves me at a loss. (Although, sharing this honor with some of my blog friends brings me joy. Next year I will make it a point to nominate some of my favorites, excluded from the listing!)

The list puts my blog under the category: “Pouring Proverbs 31 Blog. This blog exemplifies the principles of a Proverbs 31 woman and it comes through on her blog.” Again I ask, “Me?”

God’s timing never fails. Lest I get even momentarily puffed up by my recent success with writing or my Proverbs 31 titling, God brought to mind my actions over the weekend. While I will try to blame my bad behavior on hormones, I promise of all the things my husband may have wanted to call me over the weekend, “blessed” did not make his list.

How God vividly reminded me of the weakness of my flesh. And that if I write with the voice of “men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corin. 13:1) Oh, how far I still have to go. Thankfully the Lord extends much grace and patience. Lucky for me, my husband does too.

I want to share one other piece of writing good news with you: Last week I learned that Proverbs 31 Magazine will publish my first-ever story in July. (Insert happy dance here.)

So, today I proceed, humbled in my weakness and affirmed in my call. I will trust God’s plan for my life and try to obediently follow. As Nicole C. Mullen says on her Live from Cincinnati CD, “I stand before you, not because I’m qualified but because I know the One who qualifies the called.”

Note: I did it! Today’s What’s on Your Mind in ’09 topic at Heart Reflections challenged us to write an entire post without using any of those dreaded “be” verbs. (You know, the ones that find their way into almost every sentence: am, is, are, was, were, be, been, being.) Try it sometime. Writing more dynamic prose is not easy. See!

February 2, 2009

He Gives and Takes Away

My thoughts today are fighting for position like preschoolers clamoring to be line leader. I suppose I’ll go back to Thursday and start with the one that’s pressed on my heart the hardest. Refresh your coffee and get comfortable, this one is going to be long.

I find comfort in the image of God as a Father who blesses abundantly. Who protects and rescues. Who provides us our portion in full measure.

When circumstances align with our desires, I often hear others say, “God is so good. He blessed me with healing/ professional opportunity/good marriage/win for my football team/green lights while driving.” When things go our way it’s easy to offer it back to the Lord in praise and Thanksgiving.

But, how do we respond when the diagnosis is not what we hoped? When our job is eliminated? When our marriage hits rough seas? Our children rebel? Our friend betrays? When the bread falls peanut butter side down?

In the Bible, Job tells us the Lord gives AND He takes away.

“Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:20)
When our circumstances look bleak and we experience a “taking away” do we proclaim the goodness of God and meet Him with praise?

Late last Thursday morning, Dan took the dog for a walk and phoned me, “Check the news. There are two helicopters hovering near the neighborhood. See what you can find out.”

I turned on the TV and saw the ladies from The View chatting it up with Condoleezza Rice. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then the noon news came on and led with a breaking story: a three-car collision had just occurred. A police officer making a routine traffic stop had been hit and pinned under his car. He’d just been rushed to the hospital. The accident took place about a mile from our house—hence the helicopters.

The officer was from our local police force. He could be someone we, or the children, know. A chill enveloped me, covering me in gooseflesh. Dan and I watched the news together, praying for the officer.

That afternoon our 13-year-old daughter came home and told us the father of one of her classmates had died that day. “Was he a police officer?” I asked. She replied, “Yea, he was.”

In the blink of an eye, 37-year-old Chris Jones, a devoted son, beloved husband, loving father and respected police officer was gone. Only days before he’d received the news of his impending promotion to detective. This honorable man with an impressive past and promising future was the first police officer in our township to be killed in the line of duty—ever.

Even though tragedy fills the news every day, when it hits this close to home, especially when it touches the live of our children, the hurt cuts deeply. Though I don’t personally know the officer’s family, as I read the many articles in the paper the next day I wept. All I could think about was his wife and their children. How will they begin to fill the gaping hole his life occupied and not fall in? So sudden. So unexpected. So unfair.

God, why?

Suffering is probably the hardest thing for us to come to terms with as Christians. Through our fairness-seeking eyes we wonder, “If God is all-powerful, why does He allow suffering?”

I’m not going to try to answer a question that has piqued theologians through the ages, but I can point to what I know: God is sovereign. He is unquestionably righteous. In order to unpack the concept of suffering, we must believe this to be true.

In the book of Job, God allowed Satan to strip Job of EVERYTHING: his material security, his family, his health, his reputation. Understandably, Job was devastated. He cried out to God, “Why? I have done nothing to deserve this. Why do you make me suffer so? I wish I had never been born!” (My paraphrase.)

We find Job, in chapter 19, still struggling to pin down the ever-elusive answer to the burning question, “Why me?” On the verge of being consumed by his suffering, Job finally grabs hold of the one truth that keeps him from falling into an abyss of self-pity and rage: his Redeemer is faithful.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,” (v.25-26, NKJV)
In the end, Job realized God was beyond his comprehension. As a result, God’s judgment was also incomprehensible. He didn't understand, but he chose to trust God's judgment over his own.

Like Job, at some point in our lives, we have or will need to acknowledge the complex, yet simple truth: God is God and we're not. When the seas of life threaten to capsize and consume, God's sovereignty is the only rock onto we can confidently cling.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:9)

I lift up the Jones family and pray that despite their deep sorrow, the love and comfort of a God who has not forsaken them illuminates their dark night. Pray for them.