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.

Lent, Suffering, and Bonhoeffer

“Only the suffering God can help.”  Dietrich Bonheoffer.

1208573_69660271This is brilliant, true and full of hope for us during Lent. During Lent the disturbing reality is that we focus on a God, who in the person of Jesus Christ, was beaten, broken, and buried. This is the God we follow, one who died. Is it any wonder Paul said preaching the cross was foolishness…The world follows power, display, and strength; our God demonstrates sacrifice, weakness, and a willingness to enter even into death.

This though is why only the suffering God can help. We do not follow a God who is above suffering, empathy, and distantly removed because of his power. Instead, we follow a God who knows what it is to be beaten. We follow a God who knows what it is to be broken. We follow a God who knows what it is to be buried.

So if you have ever felt beaten down by life…have hope. If you feel broken in body or soul…have hope. If you have lost someone, or feel like you yourself are being buried under darkness…have hope. Because our God felt all those things, but broke through them to show us the way. Our God didn’t stay in heaven removed from the muck and mire of humanity and our struggle. Our God chose to enter into our struggle, to empty himself of all power and privilege to join us. This is why only the suffering God can help, because only the suffering God can understand what we go through. So you are not alone. God knows what it is to feel betrayal. He knows what it is to look forward and see darkness. He knows what it is to die. But the message of Easter is he also knows about resurrection. He is the resurrection and the life. It is through him that all of the world is changed, in a blinding moment of new creation, new life, and a new future. He enters into suffering to lead us out…so may we reflect and remember that this Lenten season. Let us not rush past the suffering to the resurrection of Easter. Let us remember that only the suffering God can help…

The Depth of Love: Family, Faithfulness, and Hesed

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about love. And not so much the gooey, lovey-dovey feeling of love. Instead I’ve been thinking about love in the faithful, committed, covenanted, never give up, type of love.

In our church family there have been new babies born recently and each group of parents talk about how quickly they love their new little ones. Not just a “feeling” but also a firm resolve to protect them, care for them, be with them, guide them, and walk alongside them. I know that feeling from when Hudson was born, and I look forward to that experience again with our new baby due any day.

The amazing thing is that this idea of love as, deep loyalty, unending commitment, patient endurance, faithfulness, is what is found in the Bible. The idea of love in the Bible isn’t just a feeling but a commitment and a covenant – that never ends.

In the Old Testament when the Bible often uses the word “loving-kindness, mercy, steadfast love.” The word is “hesed” in Hebrew. It speaks of God’s commitment to his promises, to his people, and his plans because of his deep love, commitment and fidelity.

The idea is simple: love isn’t simply a feeling or a contract. Love, or Hesed, is a covenant promise that cannot be broken. This is why when the Bible speaks of God as love (1 John 4) the point isn’t just that God has loving-feelings towards us. No, it is so much more than that. God being love means that he is defined by a passionate commitment, unfailing fidelity, a covenant of mercy, and a faithful promise to keep choosing to love you each and every day. This gets to the heart of God, and the scandal of God’s love. God’s love goes beyond just feelings and moves into action and deep commitment. So when we speak of God’s unconditional love for us, it isn’t just never-ending, good feelings about his people. God’s unconditional love means that his posture to us is one of faithful grace, active commitment, purposeful mercy, and consistent care because that is his promise to us.

In 1 John 4:8b – 9 we read, “God is love. God showed us how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have true life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to rescue us from our brokenness”

This is love. Love that is about action. Love that is about commitment. Love that is about sacrifice, fidelity, and a decision to reach out and give while we don’t deserve it. And this is what makes God so beautiful.

And this is also what makes me excited, because soon I will have a new son or daughter. That deep connection and desire to be committed to them for life I now know isn’t a biological evolution thing, it isn’t a psychological phenomenon thing, it isn’t even a socially prescribed thing. That deep desire for life-long love and commitment is a God thing. It starts with God, comes from God, is modeled by God, and is given by God.

And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing….