Unpredictable

For most of my growing up years, I planned on being a meteorologist when I grew up. Living on the Gulf Coast, many of our summer days were spent plotting the courses of whatever storms were out at sea on the free hurricane map that came out every year in the local newspaper. A few came close, and I remember that we “hunkered down” for one that passed nearby. Still, these didn’t scare me away from the study of weather, but stirred my interest in it. Even today, I enjoy keeping tabs on what’s going on in the world and understanding what I can about the science and art of weather planning and forecasting.

Because there is one thing about the weather: it’s always changing. And it rarely changes exactly the way we are told by meteorologists to expect. Now, they’ve gotten pretty good at forecasting sunny or rainy days. And they are really good at knowing pretty much what tomorrow will look like. Some of the major weather events of recent memory have been predicted nearly a week in advance. But just as often as these successes are the things that they get wrong: like the rainy day that was forecasted that turned into a late season snow and sleet storm.

This season of joblessness has been just as unpredictable for me. Now, I’m not longer actually jobless: I’m holding down a part time job that will keep my resume active but won’t pay many bills. What has surprised me has been the changes in my attitude from day to day.

One day, the world is mine to be conquered, full of hope and possibility. It is ready for all of my dreams, which seem tantalizingly attainable. Fatherhood is wonderful. I enjoy the pleasant conversations with my wife. Gardens are planted, with expectations of the bounty they will bring. God is close and working and fully reliable and trustworthy.

Fast forward five minutes, give or take four.

Then, the world is terrible and horrible. There are no rooms for dreams. All seems lost. There are no ways out of our situation. God is distant, too busy with all of my happy friends who are successful in their careers and life goals. Every one I see – 99.9999% of them total strangers – have purpose and plans and intentions that they are accomplishing. Me? Life has no joy. Bitterness, anger, and fear are my constant companions.

Then something happens, and I’m back in the happy-world-is-mine-to-conquer phase. And so the oscillation continues with intensity and speed. And with it goes my faith, and one time fully relying on God, at another knowing at the deepest part of me that it is all up to me.

And so I scream with the helpless father of Mark 9, “I believe, help my unbelief!”

And, you know what? Despite all of my biblical studies training, seminary, worship leading, and preaching? Something I didn’t predict: even in my doubts and lack of faith, God remains faithful. And for that, I am grateful. He continues to guide me, even when I feel that He is absent. He continues to work for my good (Jeremiah 29:11), even when it seems that my life has nothing going for it. And on the darkest, bleakest days, when everything seems lost, you’ll turn a corner. And there God will be, doing something astoundingly amazing.

Go ahead. Try to abandon God. You will find that, unpredictably, God has no interest in abandoning you.

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Packages so Neat

My first job after college was for one of those large mall anchor stores. I worked in one of the clothing departments, eventually making my way to one of the specialty shops that focus on a certain brand. Part of working that section of the department involved being able to fold the shirts a particular way, every time. I learned.

A few years later I was working for a different retailer in another state. This retailer offered their customers gift wrapping. It turns out that in addition to folding shirts the right way, I can wrap a gift well, from small boxes to awkward large framed prints. Using minimal tape, I could make sharp and even lines with the paper. I came to be the go to wrapper when I was on shift.

Ten years later, I was still folding my shirts the way I did for those two months in that specialty shop. And I am the gift wrapper in my house. My wife can’t figure out how I can start with a new roll of tape and not have to ask for a new roll halfway through the first gift.

The thing is, we like to have our stuff neat and presentable. Well-wrapped gifts give the aura of luxury. We like that. And it doesn’t just go for gifts. We want our books, magazine articles, television shows, and life events to all wrap up nicely. I have never watched Lost or The Sopranos, but I know plenty of people who were less than satisfied by their finales. They didn’t wrap neatly.

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Approaching the Kingdom

Text: Matthew 25

I don’t really fly all that much, especially now with kids. Nevertheless, there is something that always happens every time I do fly. If you have ever flown, you know the routine. You check in and leave whatever bags are being checked at the counter. You maze through security and go to the particular gate listed on your boarding pass. Now, occasionally, the gate will change – even after getting your boarding pass. Therefore, it is imperative to continually check the gate signs to make sure the flight you want is the one that will be serviced at that particular gate.

Occasionally, I’ve had to make a mad dash from one gate to another to get to the plane that I really needed to be on. Those signs are helpful.

After a waiting period that is either always far too short or far too long, but never anywhere in the middle, the gate opens and the attendant starts boarding passengers. They scan my boarding pass, I make my way through the gate onto the plane and down the aisle to my seat. I settle in my seat and get my carry-ons arranged in a satisfactory wait.

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God Made Known

Text: John 1:1-18

We have arrived at the halfway point of our 100 essential readings through the Bible. As we embark on our journey through the second half of the readings, we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The entirety of the Old Testament concerned the work of God for and through His chosen people, Israel. The New Testament transitions this work from a certain group of people descended from Abraham, namely Israel, to the work of a certain person through whom God would reach out not to just one race, but to the whole world.

The question each of the first four of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament seeks to address is who is this person? Matthew, Mark, and Luke each answer this question by giving a largely biographical examination of the life, teachings, ministry, and work of Jesus, dwelling on the three years of his public ministry between his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist and his death and resurrection.

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