Posts Tagged ‘trials’

sprout in asphaltBe careful what you ask for. That’s the old saying when people ask for patience. . . . you know what you get? Trying and irritating situations that give us patience practice. Well, here’s another one, be careful about asking God to increase your faith, because it’s dire circumstances that build faith.

Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
[Mark 4: 37 – 40; CEB]

They were nearly drowned. Despite having walked with Jesus and watched him heal hundreds of people (see verse 3:10), when they were in their own cataclysm, the challenge to “keep the faith” was much more difficult.

Perhaps they even tried. I can imagine the guys debating whether or not to wake Jesus up (who apparently was so unfazed by the situation that he slept like a baby). Did they know this was some kind of test of faith (after all, it was Jesus’s idea to cross over the lake)? Which of the twelve finally caved in and woke up the master with fear and trembling and even challenged Jesus, “Don’t you care . . .?” (Reminds of the character, Martin Udall, in the film, As Good As It Gets, who says, “I’m drowning here, and you’re describing the water!”)

We are driven by our circumstances. Despite knowing in our heads that the world does not revolve around us, we still tend to view the world from center of the universe. Look, what is happening to me! Where is God? Where is Jesus? This can’t be right! I’m suffering here, like another movie character, Ratzo Rizzo in MIdnight Cowboy, “I’m walkin’ here; I’m walkin’ here.” The implication, again, is that circumstances need to adjust to our presence.

But faith walks in the face of circumstances. Faith moves in a straight line no matter what is happening around us. Faith is the tortoise, undaunted by the wily hare or the long, long road.

Faith is not built on the easy life. In Matthew 5:43-48, we are reminded that it’s easy to love those who love you, it’s loving the enemies that becomes a challenge. So it is with faith. You want your faith to grow? Give thanks for the difficult days.

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Photo by Bill Dickinson

Photo by Bill Dickinson

Joseph had the dream as a young man, his brothers and family bowing down to them. It was a true dream. But never did he imagine the journey that would bring him to the reality of that dream. Isn’t this so often the way? Betrayal and sorrow often bring the dream.

Genesis 42:8-9Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

If the brothers hadn’t sold Joseph into slavery, then he couldn’t be in Egypt when Pharaoh had his dream to interpret it. If Joseph hadn’t been there, Egypt would not have prepared for famine in the same way that they did. And not only Jacob’s family would have been lost to famine, but scores and scores of people would have died.

Some will say God turned a bad thing into a good thing. And surely, that does happen. But on the grander scale, the big big picture that God sees, it appears, in hindsight, that achieving some goals (or dreams) have an arduous path. Peter Rollins wrote a book, “The Fidelity of Betrayal” which examines and expands on this concept of loss/death/betrayal preceding joy/renewal/transformation.

Some of us are lose the dream when the going gets tough: that would be me. I see myself so clearly now in this loss of confidence and direction. I look around and there is absolutely nothing that appears valuable in my quest for the dream. I am broke or caught up in a band of busyness. How could any of this end up at the dream? And the longer it goes on, the more doubt I have in the dream at all.

Oh sorrow.

I gave so many dreams because they didn’t come to fruition soon enough. I judged the time and found it lacking. So I’d build another dream and another dream and yet another. Looking for hints that one or the other dream was coming true. I was getting there. I was reaching it.

But no, the dream (the picture in my head of what the dream would look like) kept moving further away.

I am sorry now. I ask forgiveness of God for my lack of faith and fortitude. I didn’t trust the Way. I didn’t want to be a Joseph who had to be sold into slavery, wrongly accused, thrown into jail, and languish there until the moment was right. I wanted to create those moments. I wanted to control the timing. I wanted the dream my way or no way.

And so, I got my way after all. I got none of those dreams.

That’s sad except for one truth. There is another dream before me. I am, at the least, that resilient. I am not dreamless. But now, even at this age, after so many years, I can understand the importance of keeping on toward the dream, of trusting God no matter my circumstances, of believing in a future that holds the moments God creates.

I will believe.

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Michelangelo's Pieta

Since the Sundays in Lent are generally excluded from most Lenten rituals, I decided to do something a little different on Sundays as well. I looked up the Lectionary for today, Year B. A Lectionary (a list of scripture readings appointed for a given day or occasion) is generally used by denominations that follow the church calendar such as Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or Episcopalians. Judaism also has a lectionary of Torah readings.

Today, the readings are from Genesis 9:8-17 (Old Testament); Psalm 25:1-10 (Psalm, usually read responsively); I Peter 3:18-22 (New Testament); and Mark 1:9-15 (One of the Gospels).

The phrase that captured my imagination is from I Peter 3:18b “He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

It is through the transformation that Jesus endured from his 40 days in the desert to his death and resurrection that his Christ-ness is revealed to Human and the Holy Spirit is given to Earth to dwell with us and in us. It is the ultimate integration of the covenant God made with Noah for the sake of all life on earth which he signed with a rainbow. Jesus began his three year ministry after his trial in the desert; his first message was straightforward: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” [Mark 1:15] Christ=Kingdom of God.

And lastly, I had a secondary serendipitous experience. For the last 6 months or so, I have started my morning devotion time with a single scripture, to prepare my heart and mind. This is what I wrote on the top of every page: “Guide me in your truth and teach me for you are my God and Savior and my trust is You.” [Psalm 25:5] To find the same passage in today’s Lectionary confirmed the rightness of choice and serene presence, as though, I too was being made alive in the Spirit.

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