Poetry for the Darkness

stairway-to-wilderness-hiking-1400435-1280x960Wilderness Prayer:

I am not asking you

To take this wilderness from me,

To remove this place of starkness

Where I come to know

the wildness within me,

where I learn to call the names

of the ravenous beasts

that pace inside me

to finger the brambles

that snake through my veins,

to taste the thirst

that tugs at my tongue

But send me

Tough angels,

Sweet wine,

Strong bread:

Just enough.

  • Jan L. Richardson

Finding God in a Dark Bathroom

601631_10152708652060643_280127811_nHudson had to go pee last Sunday. So we ran quickly at church to the bathroom. The lights were off because we were closing up and leaving, so he said “Dad I scared”. I of course turned on the lights, but I thought while using a urinal would be a good time to have a little talk.

So I told him we don’t need to be scared with mom and dad around. Then I told him that even better than that, you always have God with you. He loves you, and is with you even if things are dark, so we don’t need to be scared.

I thought I had done a great job explaining things, but little did I know Hudson would do an even better job. He said to me, “Oh yes daddy, God, I know him. We have him at our house, I do devotions with him” and he ran out of the bathroom.

Nothing as a dad, or a pastor makes me happier than little moments like that. In case though you are picturing me and Hudson sitting down and reading the Bible together having deep prayer moments, that’s not what it’s often like. It’s often like what every interaction with busy boys is like: loud, sometimes difficult, and sometimes frustrating. Hudson is often jumping around, getting out of the covers, singing, making car noises, playing with a car he snuck into bed, and most often not looking at our devotional book. But we press through and do it every night in spite of the ups and downs.

And as Hudson ran out of that bathroom saying, “I know God, we do devotions” I realized something. That the very rhythm and action of trying to lead him into a deeper relationship with God is in fact leading him into a deeper relationship. The point isn’t perfection, it’s perseverance. We might not get it right every night, but the very act of trying is leaving an impact.

I tell you this, because I don’t know if you’re at all like me, but sometimes faith is tough. Sometimes following Jesus isn’t easy, and sometimes it’s a struggle. Sometimes our nighttime routines are beautiful and wonderful. Sometimes they seem like an utter disaster. Sometimes I wonder if me reading our devotions to a jumping boy making car noises is having an impact – if it even matters. But what I realized on Sunday was that sometimes just sticking it out is succeeding. Sometimes the very act of us not giving up leaves a bigger impact than we might imagine.

So even if tonight goes rough, I’m not going to quit doing devotions, praying, and following Jesus with my little boy because it’s making a difference. Because on Sunday after months of up and down devotions, I’m so proud to share with you that Hudson told me that he knows God, he’s at our house, and we all do devotions together.

Struggling with Speaking of Sin

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Through the past few weeks I’ve started to notice something about myself. There are certain Sundays where I come away from speaking and don’t feel that I’ve done my best. I feel like I’ve missed the mark and messed up. And then I started to notice a pattern. The Sundays where I felt like I struggled, and where I lost confidence were all sermons related to conviction and challenge. The sermons where I lost confidence and left feeling a bit shaken were all related to sin, sacrifice, and conviction. Through some reflection I realized that I find it easy to preach a sermon on grace and gift, and difficult to preach a sermon on sin and challenge.

The struggle I face is maybe one you face in your own relationships. I know it is important to talk about sin. I know it is important to challenge people and let the Spirit do his work of convicting. I know this is important because I need it personally. I need to be challenged to give up greed, hate, unforgiveness, lust, and all sorts of sinful things. The struggle I have is in how to do it. How to share in a way that is convicting but not condemning, that is challenging but not judging.

What is even more disturbing to me is a growing realization that I may not feel confident in this type of sharing because of a lack of practice. What I mean by that is perhaps I struggle because I am unaccustomed to sharing about sin. This is concerning to me because Jesus talks about sin, the Bible talks about sin, and sin, we are told, leads to death. Therefore, sin isn’t something I should avoid or struggle speaking about. I should share honestly with the dangers of consumerism, violence, greed, and lust. I should share openly with the temptations and struggles I face. And I shouldn’t ever shy away reminding people that sin leads to death while following Jesus leads to life. And this is something we know deep down. We know that hate kills relationships. We know that lust destroys marriages. We know that unforgiveness wrecks families. So we need to learn to speak about sin in such a way that it leads to life not death.

So I’ve made a personal decision. I will grow and learn in how to share about sin in such as way that conviction without condemnation happens. To share about it in such a way that challenges someone, but doesn’t lead to damnation. To share in such a way that, like Jesus, people who are broken and struggling feel freed; and people who are haughty, prideful, and oppressive to others sees their need.

In essence, I’m going to work on struggling to speak of sin a little less…

Dealing with Doubt

On Sunday we talked about doubt and how it’s a part of our lives, and a part of faith. We talked about how you get through it by acknowledging it, naming it, and bringing God into it. We first must acknowledge we are having doubt. We then need to radically and in a raw fashion, name the doubt and struggle. And lastly, we need to bring God into it, and bring to God our doubt. This is how the Psalmist in Psalm 23, Jesus, and Mother Teresa all deal with their difficulties. And I believe that’s the path for us as well.

 

I also wanted to just list some of the quotes that I mentioned here for some further reflection for you. At the bottom I’ve also included some of the books that have helped me to understand this important topic. I hope it’s helpful!

 

Os Guinness:

  • “We do not trust God because he guides us; we trust and then are guided, which means that we can trust God even when we do not seem guided by him. Faith may be in the dark about guidance, but it is never in the dark about God”
  • “If faith does not resolve doubt, doubt will dissolve faith”

Father Neuner (Mother Teresa’s Confessor)

  • “The sure sign of God’s hidden presence in this darkness is the thirst for God, the craving for a least a ray of his light. No one can long for God unless God is present in his/her heart”

Flannery O’Connor:

 

  • “I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when, of course, it is the cross”

 

Books that Were Helpful to Me:

 

  • Come Be My Light – Mother Theresa
  • Dark Night of the Soul – St. John of the Cross
  • God in the Dark – Os Guinness

 

Lastly, what has been helpful for you in getting through doubt? Was it a friend, book, song, movie, or something else? Leave a comment and let us know what’s impacted and helped you to deal with doubt…

 

The Darkness of Doubt

Have you ever doubted?

I have. I have doubted in God, his faithfulness, and his plan for my life. I’ve doubted whether it will come to pass and whether it’s good.

The truth is that doubt is a part of our lives more than we’d like to admit. We go through dark times, struggle, question, and wonder where God is. On Sunday that’s what we’re looking at: how to deal with the darkness of doubt. Because if you notice doubt is part of the Bible. Half of the Psalms are Laments expressing doubt and longing towards God. Job is a book that centres on doubt and questioning. Peter doubts. Thomas doubts. David struggles and wonders where God is. And even Jesus himself struggles in anguish asking God “Why have you forsaken me?” and “Is there another way?”

So doubt is a part of life and it is also a part of faith. On Sunday I want to look at how doubt can actually be a process through which your trust in God can be deepened. But before we get there I want to ask two questions. What do you do when you experience doubt in your life? How do you actually deal with it? And secondly, what has caused the deepest doubt in your life? My guess is that you’ve gone through doubt and dealt with it one way or another. So what causes you to doubt, and when that happens, how do you deal with it?

These are important questions to think about because whether or not you are currently in a crisis of faith, doubt can sneak up on us. So it is worth discovering how to deal with something that, while it can threaten our faith, it can equally deepen it as well…