Faith & Life

Products of our belonging

Life is not so much of what we make of it, but what it makes of us and what we allow ourselves to be made into.  A great fallacy common to man is that life is for the taking - and it must be taken - and only the strong survive.  We grow to work long, sweat plenty and push hard to be all that we dream we can be.  That is what we are told - work hard and your hard work will pay off.  We, with poor identified hands, long to be more, always.  Instilled within us is the idea that we can be self-sustaining, if only, we put in the hours and make the grade.  These are the success stories that are brandished bold and held high - an ill-descript tale waiting for every man.  This just isn’t so. Not all will live the same story.  In fact, there are many who live through days unbearable, and worse even, unexplainable.  Life does not always bend to our liking.  Circumstance wiggles and writhes into days without announcement like darkened clouds covering the sun.  Then, gone are the glimmer of promises and whispers of life secure as you know it.  You feel unprotected, uncovered and uncared for fully, as if you were dropped in the middle of a desert without rations or way out.

We are products of our belonging, grown into that which has us.  Whether we pledge ourselves to the work of our hands, the promise of our dreams, others’ expectations or best, something better than ourselves, we will fall close to that tree.  So then, it is absolutely important that we remember now, in a moment maybe absent of failing, that we will never achieve lasting self-sustaining.  All changes and fades, but One.

This is a truth my heart was planted into as I learned to live in the wake of grief.  My life was no longer conducive to happiness and promise as I watched my daughters sink in tears and absence of their mother.  Death left me a stranger to all certainty, even God.  But HE being bigger than life and circumstance stooped low to lift me out.  It was in darkness that I discovered true light.

Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming book, Earth & Sky:

I SAW A MAN ALONE, subdued by pain, frightened by all that might someday be. A man stumbling, drunk on why things turned out the way they did, mumbling angrily to himself—a man clinging to fading memories like a thief clutching a leaking bag. I quietly asked not to become that man. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t be him. I refused to be afraid of shadows and terrified of the future.

My daughters will never know that man. They might see me wince and wrestle with life’s haunting questions, but they will never know that man who has a hollowed heart and is comfortable only in isolation. I may not have much more to offer than my courage, but my healing will be an echo that resounds like bells of freedom in their hearts.

And their little hearts will be warm. I couldn’t leave us stranded on the roadside and stuck forever in hurt, loss, and sorrow. I couldn’t let pain unravel the strongest of loves, ours, sewn together by life’s untroubled waters and God’s goodness.

The future man I saw was one clung to life as he could make it.  I will never know that man, for we are not the same.


*My book officially releases June 10th.  I will be offering a pre-sale within the week.  SUBSCRIBE for the latest updates.

A Stroke of Bad Luck that Looked More like Selfishness.

stormhouse The words we held spoke clearer then, on the couch miles apart.  Our eyes turned inward unable to see the bliss which so enraptured us in the months before when valiantly broad words such as‘forever’ and ‘love’ and ‘I do’ rang joyously from our ready to speak mouths.  But then on the couch, as far apart as strangers strangely aware of intimate knowledge of each other, then encased in silent defiance, not so much.  The both of us there in the moment okay with undoing the sacred us.  We’ve been married nearly five months.

She’d never been a wife or mother before.  I’d never been married again before.

Independence dies slowly at the hand of a hesitant love.

I couldn’t understand her frustration with me and my lack of initiative in areas that I didn’t value in the same way she did.  After all, I was busy with a growing to-do list at work, a book being readied to release, managing the projected idea of me always being okay, friends that I couldn’t keep up with and daughters still wrestling with too much change in too little time.  I am a freight train rushing headlong into dreams pushing against the rails that hold me on course, and she can’t understand that?  She can’t empathize with the pressure I put on myself and my lack of time to get some things done?

She’s a strong woman whose chest houses a heart burning to love and unafraid of taking on too much.  Her shoulders are stronger than they should be.  With a delicate touch she came into us caught up in our own little adventure just as she always belonged.  No one small could’ve done so.  She’s not small at all; her heart swallows it all – love and pain.




Where God Exists (and an excerpt from my upcoming book)

Does He know fully well?  In days too undone and nights darker still, where is God?  Busy with the cosmos, waiting for Forever, un-winged by our unbelief or tending to bigger brokenness than we know, perhaps?  There have been times when the cool of swollen waves have swallowed most of me and lost, in the most dislodged sort of way, pushes into my thoughts - my heart apart from my head.  In those times, the question grows emphatically, demanding attention and all of life, from beginning to now, looks diseased.  Good couldn’t have possibly existed here.  Somehow, the goodness in life appears to have always been bad just waiting for the opportune time to strike, and it is as it always really has been.

Suffering has a way of sickening all of life.  Many different faces draw upon suffering - death, illness, divorce, brokenness, abuse - tragedy of all sorts.  There in the moment every fleshed person, whether faith is confessed or disavowed, sneers upward, “How could you?”  Every fairy tale and happy ending is perverted, and we feel tricked by a feeling of good.

Here’s a truth I’ve learned: not every ending is a good one.  At least, not in the way we consider goodness to be good.

In the writing of my book, Earth and Sky, I wrestled with the question.  I wondered if God truly knew how deeply affected my heart really was or if He truly cared.  Fear lurked in life upended.  In grief, something that looked just like security fractured deep within me.  Frailty rushed over faith, and strength was matched by circumstances too big for me.  Here's an excerpt of a chapter entitled, '9 Degrees':


This is the ageless question asked by everyone drowning in painful, uncontrollable circumstance. Where is He? He’s present in dark times, when powerful waves grind against the sides of our faith, when we’re disoriented by suddenly changing conditions. No matter the severity or the suffering, Christ remains aware. When our distress flags wave and we can withstand no more, when we float lost in the frailty of all that we are and have become, we can still be assured that God is good. His power isn’t diminished by changing conditions. His goodness lies in His unmatchable ability to redeem and make uncontrollable wrongs right.

Jesus asked His disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Their feet were soaked. Their hearts still pounded. They still drew breaths deep and out of rhythm. . . . but everything was eerily calm. The threatening wind suddenly was no more. The water was as still and flat as glass. Jesus was wet, too, yet His eyes were calm, as if nothing had happened. He understood why His friends had been terrified. He had seen the waves; He had heard the howling wind. But He wanted them to see something else. Now. Afterward certainly, but even now. “Why are you afraid?” invites us out of the wind and waves, beyond our panic and dread, and into His moment of security.

Afterward. Even then.

We’re just like them—transfixed by the storm, wondering when it will stop (or kill us), waiting for people and love to make sense again. We expected a life so bright, right there at our doorstep. In our sorrow, we try to make it right, but we only make it worse. Finally, we find the One who can still the storm in our souls. That’s grief. Embracing yesterday and wishing it well. Embracing now and holding it tight. Wanting so badly to be whole now.

So what, then? Faith. Have you none?

I realized my life would be ruined if I didn’t let go of fear. I had to endure the storm of what-ifs and hope-nots. Fear consumes us when we can’t let go. We run around in panic and assume the painful present will last forever. Life ebbs and flows, circumstances threaten to swamp our lives, but hope exists even in quiet thoughts. After the darkest of nights, the morning will bring a new dawn. Fear had consumed me and changed me, altering words and perspective. The problem, I realized, was the fear of losing, not the losing itself. Loss is the lasting reality left in the wake of fear.

Grief isn’t just sorrow. It includes faith in the future. It’s releasing what can no longer be and becoming open to new possibilities. I have to trust that Jesus is standing there right in front of me. He is wet, too. He never left me during the stormy moments. His eyes are calm, loving, and patient. He sees my panic, calms the storm, and whispers, “Why are you afraid?”


Your cause for breaking might very well be different from mine, but make no common mistake - we are all broken.  We all reach a point where we wonder just how much the sky separates us from God’s knowing care.  Out of timelessness, He fleshed himself and entered our world to own all pain and abandonment.  And then, He returned to timelessness with it all in His hand.  Yes friend, He knows well the day in which you walk right now.  He knows your pain and your fears and right in the midst of it all, an invitation extends to you, too.  Go his way.

perhaps, this is it.

traces-mountain-wanderer Just when I think life belongs to me, to my holding and control, I discover again that the tide swelling and receding is more than me.  Life is more than I can handle most days.  I’m not wise enough to know better, not patient enough in waiting and not brave enough to win.

No, I’m sinking more than swimming.  Most days, that is.

I doubt myself in quiet moments because I, better than anyone else, know myself - the brooding moods and disdain for all that I am not but think I should be.

The ancients spoke, ‘know thyself’, as a placard upon their heart and a reminder of the actual, true heart within, not the one fought or hoped for.  In the quiet, apart from busy moments when I matter to the whole world and its saving, I hear confession ring in my own heart, ‘I know thee well.‘   The small of heart, the tangle of thought, the twisted, contradiction of declaration and action, all reveal me just as I really am - a man not settled well with faith.  Cracks exist that pull open unresolved pieces of life, and a continuous loop of questions and fears play soundtrack to the tension.

Then comes the regress.

How much faith must my heart own to measure up in difficulty, to guide my kids when they protest to being led at all and trust that good often lies enmeshed in struggle? 

I wonder for the mere fact that it never feels enough.  Even in my brightest of moments, a poverty lurks unaffected by faith swelled higher than the worn marked levels of usual depth.


“Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”


There is no easy resolve in these words which invite us into the impossible.  Still, try as we may, we will never get there, not gripped to faith stored and accumulated.  When faith is a static value measured in our doings, faith will always be mustered, manufactured, and little - ever enough.  You will always come up short gathering little crumbs that never satisfy.  And of course, the gathering of these little crumb moments when we seem to have it all together only to be reminded again of apparent weakness and deficiency in faith absent times doesn’t work well with our culture speak of we’re always okay.  We conclude, faith doesn’t work and neither does God realize or care.

Perhaps, this is precisely the mystery of faith’s function - in the interaction with our frailty, when, in our poor, empty pockets we find no answer strong enough to withstand the stress of storms and frivolity of our selfish hearts.  Perhaps, we find the starting line here, not heralded in the sweetness of life gone right, but in the sour of our weakness.

Faith sounds more like a hushed whisper in a crushing moment than a mighty word on a sunny day.  It is the small confession that we are not in ourselves gods able to sustain.

And this is a good place to find again, weary-pressed against the mountainside with enough trust to ask for movement.

bigger than happiness.

Boat sinking  

Happiness is a lie.

And if you live chasing untrue, you spend your days batting at the wind, pulling for an idea that can’t deliver what you think you need.

Happiness will leave you longing for more in its coming and going.

Life unfolds messily mostly without us knowing quite how things will end up.  At best, we can work hard to create the life we think we want.  My schedule fills and my life tightens in my reaching for better, for more, but more often, I find myself worse off the harder I work for what I think I need - in the restless pursuit of happy moments.

You would think the more happy I gather together, the more satisfied and settled of a life I’d lead.  But still, I’m empty in the in-between and hungry.

This manic going after of life is tiresome and besetting.  In this way, happiness is an absolute lie.

If life is measured in how much happy moments we have together, our family is failing and we are taking on water faster than we can bucket it out.  We live in stiff, isolating  moments between laughter and lighter times when we’re all smiling and having a good time.  When we do fall into happiness together, it’s euphoric and addicting, but it cuts when it’s done and we fall out of it disjointed again.

Happiness is a drug we’re all jonesing for.

But there is a better way.


For me, joy is the result of love decided, rooted and held to in the swell of good and bad.  It is remembrance that life is not about us, but about something so much better and bigger than ourselves, our dreams and desires and our expectations.  Joy undoes happiness as ultimate authority on how our life measures up.  Joy lifts us in the low and enlightens us all the more in the highs.  It is no secret passage or mediative state to reach when you’ve learned to manage and re-architect disappointment with hold-your-breath positivity.  No, joy is an acceptance that all of life is good and waiting to be lived.  Joy is Heaven’s call now flooding through happiness to penetrate our feeble hearts and remind us that all shall be well, both now and in the life to come.