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.

3 Things NOT to Say to Someone Suffering.

Morning would always arrive too early, and in each minute a thousand days were lived. My feet would shuffle along while the world spun by, a regular blur of normality and happiness alien then. Everyone seemed so okay and days just kept going on. People spoke and I smiled and that was all. Suffering isn't something we're akin to talking about. We hide. Often, we suffer silently due to the shock of loss, of something missing, misaligned and broken. The face of suffering looks like divorce, abuse, abandonment, loss of a career, injury and even death. We feel alone. Many drown in the confusion of just why or how this - whatever 'this' is for them - happened to them.

We who watch life pull apart in those moments have all opportunity to outlast suffering in the lives of those we love - not with our words or enlightened ideas, but with our hope. Hope always blooms in the harshest winds and darkest nights. Just as morning too early arrives overcoming night, hope in a new day owned by our faithful Creator usurps suffering.

Here are three things not to say to someone suffering: Time heals all wounds. (Not true; healing belongs who mourn. Matt 5:4) I know how you feel. (This only serves to diminish the reality of the person's suffering.) Be strong. (Lasting strength begins with our need and dependence on our Savior.)

Rather than offering quick words to those suffering, let us offer lasting Hope and suffer well with them.

"Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good." 1 Peter 4:19

In the moment life breaks.

roadnottaken Something wrong will happen.  Count on it.  There will come a time when life will not add up or line up just as it should, or you anticipate it should.  There in the gap of life as it should be and as it actually ends up being, when your feet feel disorientation in what was expected and what is being experienced, something will be amiss.  Maybe you’re like me and faith will recoil in the surprise of life not adding up.  I remember after my first wife unexpectedly died despite prayers and pleas for death to not win out.  Not only did faith fade into my circumstance, but betrayal and anger seeped into place.

Things were not as they should be.  Often times, life lands just in this way and breaks more than our expectation.  We are broken in moments when reality separates from our expectation or hope. I think it is there when life breaks from our expectation and what we wanted, hoped for or thought doesn’t add up with how things end up being that we discover the greatest transaction aside from God’s love for us.  It is the trading of what we want for what actually is.  Healing while hurting transcends all that can ever possibly be wrong for the acceptance of all things always good for the heart belonging to God.

Those who learn to live well don’t learn to dance in the rain, make lemonade or smile through tears, but feel the bruise, wince and swallow the goodness of life that is rather than wander through thoughts of why things went wrong.

Life will break, friend. and so will you.  Things will not always add up and you will be disappointed.  Pain will threaten your security in life.  You may even feel dislodged by the unfair way life moves unconcerned of your needs, your identity or achievement.  Many a good men have lost it all here in their inability to heal while hurting and see beyond the day burning into the next.  There is always another day for the heart belonging to God for it is He who knows them all, and it is He who knows best the way brokenness.

He was despised and rejected by men;
 a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
 he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs
 and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
 smitten by God, and afflicted.
 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; 
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-5, ESV

(*image credit:

10 Habits to Break (and NOT live by) :: routine.

Antarctic-Plateau We live in circles and lines defined more and better each day in routines, in habits.  The habits we tolerate shape our pace through life and weave together the perspective in which we gaze out at the world alive around us.  In similar fashion, we fail to perceive or even recognize the panorama of what could be when we become hemmed in by habits.

If we always return home the same way everyday, we may never become aware of a shortcut, a better way home.

There comes a time when ascent flattens and pace slows to life less than extraordinary.  In youth, we excitedly run with risk absent of consequence as we pursue dreams unhinged to plausibility.  Call it youthful exuberance or recklessness, but there is an invigorating vitality in running through each day with a hunger for more and a thirst for tomorrow.  As a result, we grow exponentially in youth, not because of the mere pace of our going, but our openness to new experiences and investigative curiosity in all surrounding us.  Naturally, we slow in our lean into adulthood as we take on responsibility and schedules.  The pace of yesteryear cannot be maintained in the same way as we draw circles of priority and lines of direction.  

But plateauing should never be our resigned position; learning and experiences are necessary to our growth and development as professionals, parents, spouses and friends.

When each day fades into undisturbed routine and the rush of wind pushing against our face as we pursue life more calms to barely whispering breeze in our halted stance, we reach stasis - the point where things will be as they will be and dreams are excused as insubordinate and unwise fantasies.  In our circles and lines, we drown in deadlines, goals and schedules and the panoramic disappears leaving only what’s immediately in front of us.

For me, walking outside the lines of routine holds high priority and considered an absolute necessity to continual growth.

Across the board, I violate lines appropriated safe by responsibility.  This is how I escape routine reigning as sacred in my life.  My violations are subtle, but transformative to how I value life and what really matters.  As an example, my schedule isn’t allowed as much value as what I’m actually doing.  So if one part of my schedule requires more time to do it well, the schedule bows to the activity.  Common within my scheduled writing time are moments when the words don’t fit together like they should in order to give proper voice to what I’m writing - in other words, writer’s block.  Instead of moving on for the sake of sticking to the schedule, I push through the block and closer to mastery.

Even more important than writing and routines, family holds a much higher regard.  Just last night, I sat up an hour later than my oldest’s regular bedtime to hear her heart and set right insecurities festering within her emotions.

I believe we develop far deeper and much more stable in our pursuit of life in moments outside the lines rather than holding to patterns and routines boasting safety.  And I believe God invites us to run outside the lines and deems it befitting of His immeasurably sufficient, unconcerned with safe grace alive in each of our days.  Sacred and safe routines are means of preservation and reek of a me-centric attitude void of God’s leading as primary.  Regularly, I remind myself that God rarely seems to be concerned with safe, but instead provokes curiosity and ideas of ahead within us.  Consider the apostle Paul’s positioning of God in Ephesians chapter 3:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

In every opportunity, may we reach outside the lines to grasp life well strengthened by a power alive and at work within us, and may we resign routine a lesser priority unable to threatened what really matters.

*(image: Ross Anderson)

10 Habits to Break (and NOT live by) :: worry.


"What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted."


We wake to find what we don’t have, what we wished for not waiting dream-freed in existence.  What to do, or say about what to think now?

We keep checking and there never seems to be enough, and so, worry becomes us.  In fact, the average person invests hours worrying about a variety of circumstances - finances, relationships, career, health, future, past, decisions made and to be made, etc.  Worry is a response to life uncontrollable or unavoidable.  Sometimes we are the cause for worry in life painted with our mistakes or irresponsibility, and figure we should do better; worry binds itself to our movements and decisions.  Other times, worry elevates in our hearts as life swings unyieldingly and the outcome seems all but favorable.

At some point along your way in life, you will worry your brains out and fret for hours, maybe even days piled on top of days, and your viewpoint will cloud a grayer hue as worry shrouds possibility of good and better.

While worry is certainly unavoidable, the holding to worry absolutely is.  Here’s something telling to consider: what is your initial reaction to adversity, large or small?

In honesty, my response echoes a hollow, worry.  There are times in my life when worry jumps from my heart.  In those times, I don’t think well.  My thoughts anemic to trust.  And so, worry leaves me floating neither in the here nor there, but somewhere in the vague middle, clothed in fear and undone in anxiety.

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”

No matter how you make your way through life, what you do or don’t do, the opportunities you seize and the ones you let lie, all is vanity, worthless.  Years from now, no one will remember you or much of what you did, if even anything at all.  A common mistake made by those sunk in worry is the idea that life depends on effort birthed from our hearts and resolve.  That’s just not the case.  No matter the size of the life you build, it is all vanity.

We reach for what cannot be had by our own hand while seeing past simplicity.

I worry about making it to successful to appease my value and worth in this space of life I’m in.  I couldn’t possibly keep accurate count of how many hours I’ve stayed up sleepless, worrying about how my book will be received, what I will write next and if it will even matter.  Compound this worry about my career with the worry I invest in regarding my daughters and who they will soon be in life, and I span periods of months when I worry with more consistency than anything else.  One day, it simply will not matter in the grand scheme of things.

Life moves on; we must decide if we will live it or worryingly watch it pass by.

What’s larger and more founded than the fading details of our lives in years to come is right now.  If you are to quiet worry’s ringing and overcome it’s weight, you need to devalue your footprint in this life and cling to what really does have lasting weight.

Eternity will forever overshadow time, no matter its steep drops and treacherous, momentary climbs.  That is what the wisest king to grace this life, referenced as the Preacher, found at the ends of the Earth - all is vanity and meaningless in this life outside of God in eternity.

And so the striving and wriggling in days sinking as a boat swallowing water can be abandoned for a greater Knowledge.

In moments of worry, I must turn, not stare.  Worry is my friend when it causes me to pause and turn helpless to Christ who owns all I need.  I arm worry as my enemy when I sit and stare holding it as habit.