Stormy Faith

Here’s what I know:

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this move that is right now set to happen between Tuesday and Wednesday.

I don’t know where we are going to live because we haven’t found anyone who will rent to us due to our current circumstances.

I don’t know how there can be so many people praying for us and yet I know nothing about what happens next.

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Here’s what else I know:

I know God’s ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts.

I know nothing is impossible for God.

I know God created the heavens and the earth and the oceans and he placed the stars in the sky.

I know God cares deeply for me and will never abandon or forsake me.

I know my faith does not depend on my feelings or my circumstances.

Even so.

Fear battles faith with every flaming arrow the enemy has in his quiver and doubt swirls like a storm only Jesus can quell as He did for His disciples on the Sea of Galilee.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

The storm is fierce and my faith is not only little, like the disciples, it is shaky at best.

Even so.

God is faithful even when He seems silent; and I will trust Him and I will wait on Him. I will say yes, even when He says wait a little longer. I will say yes, even if He says no.

Though every ounce of my limited, broken, bone-weary, and fear-filled humanity cries out, “No!” and, “I can’t!” and, “I won’t!” and, “Where are you?” and, “Why, God, why?!” I will trust Him. I will look back at the places from which I have come and recall the ways He has provided and that He has always met me where I am. I will remember His faithfulness.

I will say, “Yes.”

I will.

No matter what, I will say, “Yes.”

No Dishonor in Dishonor

My mother tells the story of when I was four and I worked and worked and worked at signing my name so that I could get a library card. That moment when the librarian handed me that blue card with the small metal etching in the corner and my name proudly scrawled on the back was the moment my world changed.

Not only could I now check out as many books as my four-year-old arms could carry, I had access to a great wide world of adventure and discovery. It was then that I fell in love with stories.

That is a love affair that continues still. I have been known to stay in my pajamas in bed all day on a Saturday with a new book while my husband graciously brings me food and drink until I’ve finished the whole thing. I have been guilty of navigating the streets of Boston with my nose in a book because it held me rapt in its unfolding story. I have been known to stay up into the wee hours because to put down a compelling, page-turning story was not a choice.

dishonor bookStories have the ability to change our lives, inspire us, encourage us and share with us deep truths. And none of this could be truer than in David Mike’s new book, Dishonor: One Soldier’s Journey From Desertion to Redemption, which releases August 30th. With incredible honesty and raw emotion, David chronicles a journey laced with drugs, deceit and desertion that leads eventually to him behind bars in Leavenworth prison.

But his journey doesn’t end there because his story is one of hope, redemption and, more importantly, freedom. Not only freedom from a physical prison, but from the prison of shame and of his past; freedom in Christ. For anyone who’s ever messed up – and, who hasn’t? – Dishonor is a beacon of hope that shows us life doesn’t have to end with our worst.

Equally as moving and perhaps even more powerful than his story is Mike’s candor and style in bringing us into the narrative. He writes as though he were the biographer of someone else’s life. He shines a bright light into the darkest corners of his life, where he pulls skeletons out of hidden closets, and pulls no punches, but writes with complete candor and absolute transparency.

David MikeIn other words, he leaves everything on the page; so much so we can almost smell the blood, sweat, and tears that comprise every word, every chapter. And the result is compelling. Though every word is true, the book reads like a fiction suspense thriller wherein the main character is on the run from the army and the law until at last he is captured, convicted and incarcerated.

But then, at last, there is forgiveness, grace, and freedom. His chains are broken and he is set free, truly free, from who he was.

Because like my favorite stories, what truly captivates me about this book is the redemption that unfolds around this humble protagonist, David Mike. He is the prodigal son who has tried to make his own way, but is welcomed home unconditionally by his father. He is Jean Valjean who has stolen the silver place settings but receives even more gifts rather than condemnation from the bishop. He is the thief on the cross beside Jesus who sees the Truth,  seeks forgiveness, and receives grace.

For the greater good of us, his reader, Mike bares his brokenness and provides us with wholeness. He allows us to see inside the cracks of his soul and glimpse not only what God can do but what a life lived with Jesus and grace can look like in this messy, messed up world.

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Faith on the Move

We’ve lived in this rental house for just about four years, and, the thing is, from about the first three months, I vehemently disliked it and began thinking about moving. It’s poorly insulated and an oil-fueled furnaced (which was expensive to fill and when it ran, because of the poor insulation, barely kept us warm enough without space heaters; the landlord has since had to replace the system), it had a leaky roof (that the landlord replaced), several windows whose cranks didn’t work, and a laundry list of other things, including an uneven gravel driveway upon which I broke my leg and no backyard in which our now 6.5 and 8.5 little girls could play.

imageThe location was not ideal for homeschooling because the co-ops were at least 45 minutes away and the autism-related therapists and other resources for our 8.5 daughter were a 45-50 minute drive each way. We felt isolated and my husband was driving an hour each way to work for the first two years we lived here.

We talked about moving. Often. Still we put it off. We made the best of things. Even so, it’s never been a good fit for us, for our family and what we desire, like community and fellowship and friendships. We knew this. In fact we were completely convicted of it, and, yet, we stayed put. Until now.

Sometimes, you know what you need to do, even what you should do; but you don’t do it. Maybe because of fear. Maybe because of lack of resources. Maybe because it’s too much work or too hard. Maybe, just maybe, because of shaky, wavering faith.

And, sometimes, in light of these things, if you are so wildly bold as to ask God to increase, strengthen or otherwise grow your faith, you may find yourself walking on water despite your every inclination to stay in the boat.

Because, sometimes, unlike Peter, who immediately stepped onto the waves at the invitation of Jesus, when Jesus bids us to join Him on the water, we choose to sit and stare out at Him. Maybe we’re hoping to work up the courage it requires. Maybe we’re waiting for the storm to subside. Maybe we’re hoping He’ll change His mind and not ask so much of us.

Yet all the while we know this is our moment. Even so, we sit idly in the boat.

And so sometimes, rather than waiting on you to climb out on your own, Jesus allows circumstances to swirl into chaos and life’s storms to grow fiercer until you’re tossed out of the boat and into the raging sea.

Faith Like Peter

Then, you have no choice but to make a choice: walk on the water like He’s been calling you to do, or sink under the weight of your fear and doubt and uncertainty.

For us, walking on water looks a whole lot like moving to Wilmington, North Carolina. The storming circumstances have demanded we walk on water or sink. Those circumstances include a job layoff for my husband and the unexpected sale of the rental house we’ve been in for four years. Moving is no longer something we can talk about or consider; it’s a reality.

Walk on water or sink.

We’re choosing to walk on water. We’re choosing to keep our eyes on Jesus in spite of the swells that surround us. We’re choosing to trust Him even when everything inside us screams with doubt, even panic. We’re choosing faith over fear.

WHAT FAITH LOOKS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

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We have stacks like this all around our dining room and in several other spots. We are living in chaos now even as we cling to the supernatural peace that passes human understanding (Philippians 4:7).

WHAT FAITH SOUNDS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

I have two playlists that are in constant rotation right now. The first, Life is Hard, includes songs that remind me to hope in the face of struggle, with titles like, Breathe by Johnny Diaz and Worn by Tenth Avenue North and Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman and several selections by Andrew Peterson and Sara Groves and Sidewalk Prophets.

The second, Balm for My Soul, includes several hymns covered by some of my favorite artists, including Sara Groves, Mark Schultz, Casting Crowns, Chris Rice, and Bart Millard. These songs are rich in tradition and hope and faith and they keep my eyes, my mind, and my heart turned toward Jesus.

WHAT FAITH FEELS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

Faith in the midst of a storm tends to feel like a hundred things at once. The “right now” moves through myriad emotions, but even so, one thing remains true through this roiling rollercoaster: faith is not based on how I feel in any given moment. Faith is a choice, and it’s one we sometimes have to make from moment to moment. And I believe God appreciates and understands and even honors that.

Faith feels like truth. It feels like solace. It feels like an adventure. It feels like a whole lot more God and less me. Faith feels like walking on waves that swell, crest and trough. But mostly, faith feels like the hand of Jesus reaching down to pull me back out of the depths whenever I misstep.

Prayer For The Weary

(note: The Faith Like Peter image is a print of my words on a gorgeous photo taken by a fellow writer, David Bouchard, during one of his mission trips to Brazil. This print, and the one above, Faith for the Weary (my words also over one of David’s photos), are for sale for $15 and you can contact me about them on Facebook. More information to come in a separate post.)