Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thoughts Along the Journey

I started writing down these thoughts over a year ago now. What originally began as an idea for a book has ended up as much more. I have been posting these thoughts weekly on a blog site, inviting others who are traveling the Crooked Path with me to add in their commentary or, in some cases, the substance of an installment. The changes I have seen in myself during this part of the journey have been remarkable at times and disheartening at other turns as well. The one constant remains our Heavenly Father.

When my brother Mike chose the Ecclesiastes passage as his way of understanding the battle he waged with cancer, I didn't immediately understand. Now, nearly ten years after his season of waiting ended in the arms of his Savior, I still ponder his choice of verses to claim. But, in my heart, I know it continues to speak to the human condition, especially that of the Christian. We are walking toward God on a path that Jesus has laid out for us. Sometimes it is straight and level; sometimes it is rough and crooked.

The only promise we can count on for the entire trip is that God is the Faithful and True Father who loves us beyond all measure and comprehension. He has committed to us to be present at every turn, ready to pick us up whenever we fall. No, the Crooked Path will not always be easy, but it will be worth it. It is ordered by a God of whom C.S. Lewis said is not a "tame lion" but one who is "very good". May that God and His Son Jesus be your very present leader and companion as you walk the path ordained for you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

While We are Away

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, "Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare." For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, "Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them," declares the LORD. For thus says the LORD, "When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."
(Jeremiah 29:4-11, NASB)


If you were going to be relocated for a time because of work or some other circumstance, what would you plan on doing once you got to your destination? To make it a bit more difficult, what if you really didn't want to go where you were being sent? Would you still take the opportunity to make the move (knowing it could provide future advancement), or would you dig in your heels and make the changes necessary to stay right where you are? If you have ever faced this kind of dilemma, count yourself lucky that you actually had a choice in the matter. There were others, a long time ago, who made their move under less than optimal conditions.

While listening to the book of Jeremiah the other day, I was struck by the instructions the young prophet was tasked with taking to the people of the Southern Kingdom. He was being told to carry a fairly harsh message to his people, the message that the Babylonians were about to run them over, break down all they had worked for so many years to build up, and carry most of them off to a distant land. It is a difficult message for anyone to carry and Jeremiah was no exception.

But I noticed a distinct change in the tone of the prophecy when I got to the 29th chapter. Certainly God has in mind that His people should suffer some in their exile and learn the hard lessons of their neglect. In this passage, however, we read some very specific instructions for them to do "while they are away" in this foreign land. And it isn't all weeping, wailing, and repentance. God is instructing them to settle in (albeit temporarily) and get on with their lives. He even tells them to "seek the welfare of the city" where they will be exiled because their own welfare is to be bound to that of the city. We're not talking some misguided promises of prosperity here, either. God is telling them in very practical terms to "bloom where I plant you."

So then, how does this relate to me thousands of years later? I'm not in any danger of the Babylonians overrunning my neighborhood and forcing me to relocate to some place I've never seen. What does this tiny part of God's much bigger story have to say directly to us? I believe, it goes back to a recurring theme from the past couple weeks and, really, throughout all these entries. We are sojourners in a foreign land, but that doesn't mean we are just supposed to sit on the sidelines. We are former orphans, already adopted but still living in the orphanage. But that doesn't mean we sit in a corner and whimper about how hard it is to wait for our Father to come get us.

We are designed for life and for interaction with others. God has chosen to use us as His emissaries on this Earth and we have a job to do. Sure, we may be in our own season of waiting or we may be temporarily relocated to a place we wouldn't have chosen, but the charge to us remains the same … go and preach the Gospel of Life to everyone you see. We are never told to sit by idly and watch things unfold. Just like God's charge to the Israelites to build houses, get married, plant a garden, and get on with life, we are called to action. And we get the same promise God made as well. He told them He had not forgotten them and would be back to redeem them. His plans for their good (not their own plans, mind you) would come about and He would visit them even in that foreign land.

As I continue my journey on the Crooked Path, I do so with the confidence that God travels with me. He has even sent Jesus to walk the path before me so that He can go to the Father on my behalf. This is never a call to inactivity, even when I am walking through a season of waiting. God has a plan for me that will provide His prosperity in His way in His time. My job, as it always has been, is to be active and obedient to His calling. The Crooked Path ends in the arms of my Father … of that much, I am certain.


  1. What are you going to do the next time you are shipped off into exile? Are you going to mope about it, or trust God?
  2. Suppose you are called to be the prophet and carry the difficult message to others. Are you in the right frame of mind to exhort God's people to continue to live and grow even while they are away?
  3. Have you lulled yourself into a period of inactivity, thinking that somehow God has forgotten you? Can you see that He is still very present and that His promise to redeem you is true?

NASB - Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fly Casting or Casting Away?

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 5:6-11, ESV)


I am drawn to certain movies I have seen. Drawn so much, often times, that when I run across one while channel surfing I often end up watching the whole thing. I do this even when I know there is a copy on DVD sitting right on my shelf. One of these movies happens to be A River Runs Through It by Robert Redford. Something about this story of the life and trials of that Montana family just speaks to me, even when I know the story will end the same way as it did the last time I watched it.

One running theme, a thread that holds things together from the main characters portrayed as young boys through to the final scene of the older brother is fishing. And it isn't just any fishing, it's true river-style fly fishing. Now, I'm not really one for fishing myself. I prefer to let somebody else catch mine (plus, I'm kind of partial to the stuff you can't just pull out of a river or lake). But the portrayal of the boys and their father casting back and forth, all the while experiencing each other is just a great story. But it's the "casting" that catches my attention when I think about today's passage. While the big sweeping motions Norm and Paul made attempting to fish those rivers were exactly what they needed for that task, I'm thinking too many of us (myself included) do some fly casting with our anxieties.

When Peter wrote about us "casting our anxieties on Him" I'm pretty sure the old net fisherman was thinking about the word in a context not related to fly fishing. I'd wager that Peter used this phrase the same way he had heard Jesus call from the shore of Galilee, exhorting them to "cast on the other side". For me, it brings a picture of heaving something bulky away from you about as far as you can throw it.

In contrast, many of us will "fly cast" our anxieties to God, making sure we hold on to the line and pole so we can bring them back at a moment's notice and see if He has taken care of things yet. And then we'll cast it back, only to repeat the pattern of yanking it closer for a look at it. This might just be poetry in motion if you are fly fishing a river for trout, but it is not the way to handle your cares and concerns if you are truly committing to let God deal with them in the way He sees fit to do so.

While Peter, James, and John always intended to pull back the nets they cast, they weren't doing so for the same reasons we pull back our anxieties and check on them. They were doing their job and to fail in pulling back the nets meant no fish and no money. Our instruction, based on the 1 Peter passage, is to cast away and leave it there for good. My problem (and I suspect I'm not alone here) is that I hear the message in my head, but I have trouble leaving those cares and concerns where I've cast them. Like our fly fishing example, I haven't really let go of them as I should have.

No, I fear it is my own doubtful pride that refuses to completely cast away. You see, I develop some crazy ideas about this whole concept, like somehow God wants or needs me to check up on Him. Perhaps He needs my advice on how to properly deal with my concern. Or maybe I just don't trust Him fully to do what is in my best interest. After all, I know how to look after myself, right? Oh the lies we are able to tell ourselves at times!

As I travel the Crooked Path, part of the journey (and, frankly, part of this whole season of waiting) is to trust my Heavenly Father with all the details. That includes my worries and anxieties. Yes, He wants me to talk with Him about all that stuff, but He has specifically said to cast it on Him. And He's done that for a reason … He is the one best able to bear it and to deal with it. He has promised that nothing escapes His attention and I need to take comfort in knowing that. In doing so, perhaps I can cast it all a little farther away and leave it alone for once. It is in Good Hands, after all.


  1. So which is your style of casting? Are you a "throw it far away" caster and able to leave it there? Or are you a "fly caster" and just have to keep bringing it back to look at it?
  2. If you are a fly caster, what is holding you back from truly casting your cares away? Are you afraid God won't deal with your issues, or do you just lack enough trust in His plan?
  3. Is the waiting beginning to wear on you? Do you think that God should have eased your worries by now? What will it take to bring you to the place where you see God is infinitely good in a way that we just sometimes don't comprehend?


ESV - Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

At the End of the Wait, God Speaks

Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy. If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that's why you're worshiped. I pray to God — my life a prayer — and wait for what he'll say and do. My life's on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning. O Israel, wait and watch for God — with God's arrival comes love, with God's arrival comes generous redemption. No doubt about it — he'll redeem Israel, buy back Israel from captivity to sin.

And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. (Psalm 130 & Job 38:1, The Message)


I had two events come across my life this week that represented the end of a season of waiting. The first event pretty much pales in comparison with the second, but it had me thinking so I'll share both of them anyway. My trusty, old 4-Runner clicked over 200,000 miles this week. I was stopped at lights at just the right intervals that I could take pictures with my phone at 199,999 and 200,000 on the odometer. It has taken the better part of fourteen years for this to happen. My daughter commented that there would likely be a whole lot more miles on it when she gets her first chance at driving some three years down the road. And, no, God did not speak to me at the traffic light on this one.

The second event truly does embodies much more closely the kind of waiting season we talked about last week. My sister-in-law's father passed into the presence of his Creator. Don had been less than healthy on many fronts, and the waiting had been not so much his season, but the season for many others. As I chatted with a niece, she reflected how the day had been filled with times of tears and times of joy. Another niece posted a fairly recent picture where her Grampy had donned sunglasses just like the two girls in the frame with him. The grief for those left on Earth will continue, but for Don, the ultimate waiting is now over. And it ended with the voice of God welcoming him to his new home.

Anyone who has studied the Bible to any extent at all will likely turn to Job as the most accurate portrait of waiting and patience. Most of us know the story very well, but we don't always get a clear grasp of just what Job went though during his season of waiting. Job was after answers ... he wanted specifically the answer to the question "Why, God?" His friends (if we can call them that) had plenty of answers ... read the whole book to see what God thought of them when He ended Job's wait ... but Job wasn't satisfied. Somehow, deep in his soul, he knew that only God could tell him what was going on. And so God did ... beginning in what we have as the thirty-eighth chapter, God rises up and speaks out of the center of a huge storm. Job gets in only one more brief phrase, and that is to wish he had never spoken word one in the first place. God explains, in so many terms, that Job is in no position to ask "why" as he doesn't understand the most basic things God has done to set the world in motion and keep it there. And then, when He is finished speaking, God restores Job and rebukes the "friends" who chided him.

Back to the Psalm (which a couple translations note as one of pilgrimage, specifically one to Jerusalem), the Psalmist is crying out from the depths of his discouragement. He is acknowledging his time of waiting and what he has learned from it. He knows it isn't over yet, but he triumphantly clings to the promise of God to step in, speak, and restore once the waiting his over. He knows he hasn't acted perfectly, but he also sees that "forgiveness is your habit" and trusts in God to redeem. The lessons of the season of waiting have found their root and the promise of a word from God is imminent.

I need to view my travels on the Crooked Path as a classroom of waiting and seek out the lessons God wants me to learn. Like Job, I can ask "why" but I must be ready to hear answers I may not like or even understand. Like the Psalmist, I can rest assured that God has not left or gone to sleep. He is still very active and will speak on a moment's notice. And, like Don, when my full season of waiting is over, I will find the Crooked Path ends in the arms of my Father who will speak to me like the son I am. For me, it's a vision ... for Don, the wait is over and it is now his reality.


  1. Have you been asking for God to answer but aren't really prepared to hear what He has to say? Do you believe that your seasons of waiting will end with a word from God?
  2. Are you in the same desperate state the Psalmist reflects, waiting through the night yet with a great hope for the morning? Have you sat in the quiet and contemplated the lessons God is teaching, all the while trusting in His goodness?
  3. How's your level of confidence doing? Can you say you really believe that God has "bought you back" and will do so again and again? Do you understand that all your "little seasons of waiting" are just a part of the bigger plan that ends in the arms of your Savior and Lord?


The Message – Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Season of Waiting

After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but "must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon." When they were together for the last time they asked, "Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?" He told them, "You don't get to know the time. Timing is the Father's business. What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world." These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky.
(Acts 1:3-9, The Message)


We've all been through those times. Some of us handle them better than others, but it's almost as universal as death and taxes. At some point in our lives, we find ourselves waiting. And the waiting will take many different forms. I have a young, teenage daughter, so my waiting often takes on those characteristics. But the waiting spoken of in this passage is one directed by God and it has a very specific purpose in mind. Oh, and thanks to my pastor Sam for the inspiration behind this one.

The three-and-a-half years ended in the most confusing fashion for the twelve disciples. Their Master had been taken and killed. Judas was dead, and the rest of them were either scattered in hiding or lurking on the outskirts of what was going on. He told them explicitly that He was going to be taken and killed, but they just couldn't seem to wrap their minds around the concept ... until it actually happened. Then, a mere three days later, He defeated death and began appearing to them once again. The next forty days were filled with excitement and, I'm sure, planning on the part of the eleven. Maybe this wasn't so bad after all.

Throughout the course of this period, Jesus is preparing them for what comes next. On the day from the passage above, Jesus has given them His final instructions - to go back to their place in Jerusalem and wait - and then He disappears in a cloud. Their jaws hanging open, they gather themselves and go back to the city as He had instructed them. They have begun a short, but definitely intense, season of waiting. And they are going to need it, because in just ten short days, they will set the world on fire!

We often perceive the season of waiting as "down time". Nothing could be further from the truth. God is always working, just as he was during the disciples' ten-day wait. And it isn't time going to waste either. It is, instead, a time for us to commit to community (the disciples waited together, and I would imagine it wasn't just the eleven of them either). It is a time to talk to God in prayer and hear what He has to say. He certainly isn't obligated to tell us what is going on, but if we keep connected to Him during the season of waiting, how much more will we be in tune with His Spirit when it ends? We are always supposed to be seeking His heart, and the waiting time is no exception.

God may be using this time to shape and enhance our understanding. He may well use His Spirit to teach us and prepare us for something new. He is definitely at work and we should be also. But one thing we shouldn't do is go on some mental or spiritual vacation while we plan, scheme, and look for the "next big break" in our lives. We are called to serve where we are and when we are. We can't neglect our community or our communion just because we feel like God is going to bring something bigger to us. He may or He may not ... but we must not overlook our immediate situation even if it is a season of waiting. We really can't afford to miss what He is saying even in the silence.

As I travel the Crooked Path, I will encounter many seasons of waiting, of that I am certain. Some will be easy and bring rest; some will bring growth through struggle; some may never even be explained to me. My commitment needs to be the same - connect with God, listen for the Spirit's teaching, and do not neglect what is around me while I am waiting. God is active and He has a plan. My job, once again, is to trust and obey.


  1. How well do you handle your seasons of waiting? Are you anxious or relaxed? Do you wait patiently on God or try to make things happen?
  2. When the next season of waiting comes (perhaps it is here now), are you willing to commit to learning and working for God while you wait? Is it just "down time" for you or do you see it as something else?
  3. Are you in a season of waiting and looking for "the next big thing"? Have you taken your mind off your current ministry opportunities because you anticipate something else is on the horizon? Can you see this is causing you to miss the chance to bless others now?


The Message – Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.