Tag Archives: God

How to Step Into Brokenness

A Trafficked Boy (Exodus Road)

A Trafficked Boy (Exodus Road)

We want to believe our God is big. He is the Creator of the universe, after all. He came up with the idea of clouds, the mechanics of a blinking eye, and the creative humor of the duck-billed platypus. But we struggle to see Him as big when the world is so broken.

I am just now starting to understand our view of God is limited because we do nothing but sit on the sidelines. We feel overwhelmed by the need in the world and our own smallness, so we do nothing.

We believe God is uncaring toward the broken and the enslaved, but we miss our part in the present redemption of this world.

Each of us should pray about where to make a difference, and then start doing it. This is what Matt Parker the Executive Director of Exodus Road did at the Indian Rescue Mission in Mumbai. Read how it changed him:

Victims of human trafficking are not lost forever, unless the very last one of us gives up.

And till the day they are free, I choose to hope and set my eyes on the horizon. There I see freedom coming–  freedom for victims of human trafficking and freedom for me as I seek it for them.  Freedom is the very aroma of God and love is his firm step.  I have never known joy as I know it today, as I too take up the smell and step of God.  Justice is the mix of these two elements, freedom and love.  When both are present, the Kingdom of God is realized.

Last night I witnessed the slavery of over two hundred women.  On my left sat a young virgin and on my right a young girl maybe twenty years old. Both for sale. All for sale. And I wanted this justice fueled by love for them so very badly.

This work that we are doing is a powerful thing in my own life. It stretches beyond my comfort, calls me to be courageous in the face of fear, costs me greatly and has shown me the face of God in ways that have surprised me.

Many people claim to know God.  If the work of rescue has taught me anything, it is that I know very little about God and am a fool to claim that I do.  I now believe that he is so much bigger than I will ever comprehend and his love, justice and mercy are equally unfathomable.

This is a big story, after all, that we are living.  A story of impossible odds, brokenness and courage, passion and justice.  It is the best story I have ever read, and I still do not know how it will end.  

I am forever changed, and we are only at the beginning.

I am inspired by Matt and the way he chose to step and join God in giving literal freedom to the slaves in Mumbai. He refused to pout and blame God for not freeing them, and instead acted.

He continues to do the same thing, every day. If you are not sure how to step into this world’s brokenness, please consider helping Exodus Road as they rescue those enslaved for the sex trade and manual labor every day. Learn more about how to make a difference here.

Not Always Hope, Not Never Hope, But Sometimes Hope

Photo Credit: blmurch (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: blmurch (Creative Commons)

I have had a few people ask me why the name of this blog is Sometimes Hope. “If we are called to trust God all the time,” the question starts, “why isn’t your title Always Hope or maybe Keeping the Hope?” I even struggled with this a bit myself. After some thought, here are three reasons I can only Sometimes Hope.

Sometimes I Fall Down the Stairs

Recently I was going upstairs to get my oldest son. I wanted him to clean up the kitchen. I was about halfway up, and then I had a seizure. Not that I remember the seizure. I recall walking up the stairs, then a second later being on my back with intense pain on my shoulder and back.

Having a seizure in such a dangerous place was bad enough. My kids’ response was even more difficult for me to handle. They all apologized to me like it was somehow their fault I had my seizure. As if they could have prevented my pain somehow.

To know that my children feel guilt about any seizures I have makes me sick to my stomach. My kids have enough pressures in their lives. They don’t need to feel responsible for me having seizures. But they do.

In moments like this, I want to curse God and die, like Job’s wife suggested. Questions of His faithfulness rage in my soul, like Asaph in Psalm 73:1 – 2:

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.

In this moment, I have a choice: to trust the past faithfulness of God, or to view my current circumstances as evidence of His character. 

Sometimes I Let Myself Slip

There are days when I choose anger and resentment. Once in a while, that choice lasts a week or longer. I just let go of my kind thoughts toward God. I rage and allow my hatred to fester.

If this is how God is going to treat me, screw it! I may as well live my life away from Him. It’s so much easier to just walk my own path. No worries about this Getcha-God bringing sorrow into my life for some unknown reason!

My anger fuels this desire to step away from the God I have known for over twenty years now. Because my life is not working the way I think it should work. Because I have pain and my children have guilt. So I walk away and make my own path, in small ways.

I go through the motions of my faith without allowing any connection to my spirit. I don’t sing the worship songs. I don’t pay attention to the sermons. I let my Bible gather dust. I refuse to pray to God for any reason, even if it’s just to thank Him for our dinner. Slowly, I slip away from God and reassert myself as the master of my own domain.

What I eventually discover terrifies me though. I was not created to walk the Never Hope life. It is a land of confusion with no signposts to guide the way. Some may call this weakness, but I am not able to make my own path without the guidance of my God. Put differently, the antagonist from The Avengers movie Loki had it right:

You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

I Remember Whose I am

The moment always comes. Like Samson, who shook himself and realized he was without strength because his hair was cut. Like Peter, who heard the rooster crow and realized Jesus knew the denial would come. Like Asaph in Psalm 73:23-26, I realize what a fool I’ve been:

Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.

I belong to God, and He is mine forever. Even when I fall down the stairs and curse God, I am still His treasure. When I consciously avoid any smidgen of goodness dropped down from heaven like rain in my life, I am still His chosen one.

So I hope again. Not always, because I slip and lose my way. Not never, because I am my Beloveds and He is mine. But sometimes hope.

The Reason I Write

Photo by emagic (Creative Commons)

Photo by emagic (Creative Commons)

Why do I write? I get up at 5 am most days and spend an hour pecking away at my keyboard, so that maybe 100 people will read it. Why not sleep in, enjoying the body warmth from my beautiful wife? I have to start with why I DON’T write.

I don’t write to be famous. Fame is a fickle mistress – adored for a moment, and then yesterday’s news. I am not interested in being the ice cream of the month.

I don’t write because I feel better than others. If you read my blog regularly, you already know this. I share my weaknesses and my shameful moments as much as my triumphs. I have no artistic arrogance that leads me to believe my blogging makes me a better human being.

I am not writing to get a book deal. If am ever able to write full-time for my career, that would be amazing. Truly, my dream job. I would not say no if I had the opportunity to walk away from my CPA license to be a Creative all day. But this isn’t why I write.


I write to find myself. When I write, I learn more of who I am and why I think how I think. When I write, I force the busyness of life to slow to a simple rhythm, the sound of letters on a keyboard. CLICK-CLACK-CLICK. There is peace and clarity from the simplicity of the moment.

I write to connect with others. My greatest hope is my words will extend beyond me and touch another person. It makes my day when my words inspire someone to be creative, or live courageously. Not because I am great, but because I have been the one crying out for help. Some days, I still am.

I write because I am called by God. This is no mystical experience, but rather a deep knowing in my soul. When I write I am aware of being in the center of God’s will for my life. I don’t have a good sense of where this journey will take me, but I am walking the path God has laid out for me.

Why do you create art in your life?

What About That Dead Dream?

Photo Credit: cyanocorax (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: cyanocorax (Creative Commons)

What do you do when your dream changes? When it just withers and dies unexpectedly upon the vine of life?

For twenty years, I ‘knew’ I was called to full time pastoral ministry. I went to school to gain the training to support this dream. I got an internship in my senior year as a first step. I was even offered a full time position at the end of the internship.

Something felt wrong, so I rejected the offer. So glad I did. I found out later the youth pastor I would be replacing had caused great wounding to his young followers. I didn’t have the maturity to lead a church through this terrible event. But I assumed another job would come along.

It never did. Twenty years later, I find myself no closer to full-time ministry. For many years, I struggled mightily with this disconnect between my vocation and my calling. As i have started writing over the past few months, something unexpected has happened.

The dream of full time church ministry has melted away. Like ice on the sidewalk on a hot Phoenix day, it is just gone. I have no passion for the idea of full-time pastoral ministry anymore. Don’t get me wrong.

I still want to be engaged in serving in my church. I love my church, and I am committed to being involved in the ministry to our community and the world abroad. Just no longing to work full time as a pastor at a church.

I am finding the same passion that was filled by the idea of pastoring now presently filled by writing. By loving others and serving them with my words. So there is no lack of dreams. The dream is just changed.

I feel both an emptiness and a peace as I come to grips with this new reality. There is life birthing in the remnants of this newly dead dream.

Have you ever found a long-time dream suddenly dead in your heart?

When God Sucker Punches You

Photo credit: leunix (Creative Commons)

Photo credit: leunix (Creative Commons)

I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. The medical diagnosis was shocking. Something I was not prepared for emotionally. I’d just been sucker punched. I could look back on the last few years and see how the symptoms fit what had been happening in my life. That didn’t mean it made sense for me today though. Beyond confusion though, I was angry. At God.

How could you do this to me God? I thought you loved me? Where is the love today – did you forget it at home?

I know I am not alone in this feeling. You’ve been there too. We all have. It might be a medical situation, like it was for me. Maybe it’s the death of your child. A divorce. The overwhelming darkness we see on the evening news every day. Unemployment.

This is a big moment in our faith. When things get serious, and we have to decide what we really believe, because what we know and what we see don’t reconcile.

What we see is…well, it’s a disaster. Life is ripping apart at the seams and we just don’t know how to make sense of it. Hope is a distant memory, and things just gets worse when we try to reconcile our reality with what we see in the Bible. James 1:2-4 is a perfect example.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Yes, JOY is exactly how I want to consider my trials. Sheer and utter joy. A trip to Disneyland without lines. And yet, that’s what it sounds like the Bible is telling us to do. What God expects from us, when He’s the one who sucker punched us in the first place. But maybe there is more going on than we realize in the moment.

God has the long term view of who we are becoming in the pain we are experiencing. He sees the end from the beginning and rejoices over the maturity we arrive at through the sorrow we go through now. It is from this place of eternity that God calls us to rejoice in trials, and it is the ultimate test of trusting Him. It comes down to a single question:

Do you trust God more than you trust your circumstances?

Answering this question is perhaps the key to writing the story of our life. As we learn to say yes, we are able to walk into a place of greater favor with God. To see life through His eyes, with His perfect vision. Our wounds get healed. We find hope. We discover the courage to move past our pain and into the destiny God has for us. We get unstuck.


We Did More Than Survive

Photo Credit: Photography by Julia (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: Photography by Julia (Creative Commons)

Fifteen years. Fifteen. Years. I repeated the words slowly to myself about 10 am yesterday, as I realized it was our anniversary (insert pithy comment about a typical male here). Two thoughts come to mind when I ponder the last fifteen years with my wife: Boy have we grown up, and has it ever been eventful!


Our first year of marriage was nearly an unmitigated disaster. We were so convinced we knew how to communicate that we wouldn’t listen to the other speak. Now we have taught classes and mentored couples on effective communication techniques in marriage. We have seen marriages rescued by using these strategies.

We have grown in comfort with one another. In the first few years of marriage, there was a great deal of uncertainty and insecurity:

Does she really love me?

Will he be drawn to her – she is skinnier than I am?

What will he say if I make THAT purchase?

Will she defend me THIS time against her family?

Now, we are mostly past those insecurities. We know each other. We are known by each other. Fully accepted. Fully loved. Moles, farts, body odor, and everything else are nothing compared to this love.


Over the last fifteen years, we have gone from wide-eyed twenty one year old babes, just trying to figure out the world, to now having the privilege of sharing what wisdom we have learned with our children and others.

I was working at a bookstore, and Barbara was decorating pies at Marie Callender’s. Now, I am a CPA consultant and Barbara is an RN. I was skinny, now I am comfortably filled out.

We were a family of three, with our oldest a toddler. Now we are a family of six, with our oldest nearing high school graduation and our youngest in third grade.

I hope our next fifteen years is just as eventful. One of the most wonderful things about being married to my wife is that she is always willing to jump into a new adventure. At times it is with a bit of trepidation, but she does it any way. I love that about her!

After fifteen wonderful years together, I finally start to understand what Paul spoke of in Ephesians 5 when he compared the relationship of Jesus and the church to a husband and wife. When Jesus looks as us, He sees only love. Moles, farts, body odor, and everything else are nothing compared to His love.

How do you see the love of Christ reflected in your marriage?

There is No Plan Q, Not Even a Plan B

I have been dealing with epilepsy for 4 months, averaging 2 seizures a day. I expend energy every day trying to find the imaginary pattern to my seizures.

 Do I have a seizure when I sleep less?

Does it happen when I sleep in too late?

What if I drink too much milk?

What about coffee in the afternoon?

Does stress produce seizures?

How about flashing lights?

 The list goes on indefinitely.  Each day I come to the same conclusion – there is no discernible pattern right now. My epilepsy is a part of who I am and is not going away. I can stay up late. I can sleep in. I can drink coffee. I can be stressed. I can watch flashing lights. Or I can avoid all of these things, and it won’t matter.

Until we find the right medication mix there will be seizures. This goes against my natural inclination to be the fixer. I want to solve the problems that are placed before me. My personality is to identify multiple solutions to a scenario and plot the best way forward.


Photo Credit: Pfly(http://flic.kr/p/hELVX)

Most people have a Plan B. I have a Plan Q for everything. But not with my epilepsy. There is not even a Plan A. I just survive, relying upon my God to get me through each day. Relying upon my family to keep me safe. Relying upon my friends to give me encouragement when I need it.

There is no Plan Q. I am learning each day to be more okay with that. I am growing to understand what it means to trust my God more. I am learning how to lean upon my family and friends more deeply. I am learning this is a good place to be.

2013 – The Year to Overcome

Wish I could tell you that I am big into New Year’s resolutions, but I am not.

Wish I could tell you that I choose I key word or phrase to define what I want to accomplish for the coming year, but that would be a lie.

I usually view life more as a continuum, and see each moment as a chance to become someone better (or worse) than I was. But this year is different.

This year, my diagnosis of epilepsy in November has put me and my family in a bit of a crisis mode. The normal way of doing business just is not going to cut it. Something has to give.

I am not foolish enough to sit here and tell you that 2013 will be the year that I conquer my epilepsy, because that is not up to me. There is too much guesswork. The right medication. The right dosage. The right timing. The right positioning of Saturn in comparison to Venus.

I can decide how to respond to my epilepsy though, and starting today, I am not going to be overcome by it. I may continue to have 3 seizures every day for the rest of 2013 (God, I pray it’s not so). These seizures will not rule me.

I will not be overcome by this circumstance, no matter how much it just plain sucks.

Many years ago, God used Romans 8:31-39 to draw me into a saving knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ, and tonight He is using it to draw me back into a full assurance of His good intentions toward me. It’s a long passage, so here is just a snippet of it:

If God is for us, who is against us?…But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Won’t you join me? What do you need to overcome this year?

Now Comes the Hard Part

We’ve been talking about thinking small to respond to the enormous tragedy that happened in Sandy Hook a few weeks ago. I took a break to focus on a few other topics, but wanted to finish that series tonight. If you thought sincere love and hospitality was a challenge, wait until we read what the Apostle Paul tells us next in Romans 12:14-21 –

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Lots of words here, but there are two themes here to tease out: how to respond to evil & how to respond to what others are experiencing.

How to Respond to Evil

Of the two themes, this is by far much more difficult and unnatural for most of us. Quite simply, Paul says that our response when others sin against us should be to love them.

To bless them.

To feed them.

To clothe them.

To give them a drink.

To shower them with the favor of God, that same favor we don’t deserve either.

Some days, I wish Paul wrote a different passage. Or I think he didn’t understand what I was going through. Then I remember his experiences:

He was stoned.

He was whipped thirty-nine times, five times.

He was shipwrecked, three times.

And yet he is the one who told us to bless not curse those who persecute us. He who understands far better than nearly all of us what is means to experience evil, and what it means to be persecutes. Perhaps it’s time for a gut check?

How to Respond to What Others Are Experiencing

Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep. I believe he was just giving us some examples, and that list could go on:

Laugh with those who laugh.

Mourn with those who mourn.

Be confused with those are confused.

Be hurt with those who are hurt.

The big idea is to stop insulating ourselves and living separate lives. We were never meant to live apart from community. All the way back in the garden, we see God saying “It is good…It is good…It is good.” Then He sees Adam alone, and “It is NOT good.” We were not meant to be alone. This speaks not only to marriage, but community.

Three questions to respond to:

1)      How well do you respond to evil?

2)      How well do you live in community?

3)      How can I help you respond better with either one?

God Doesn’t Really Mean…Wait, What Does it Say in the Greek?

As a Bible college graduate, I learned early in life that sometimes the best way to gain deeper understanding of Scripture was to review it in the original language. It’s also a nifty way to try and avoid obedience. “What does it say in the Greek?” then was a commonly heard phrase in my dorms, as we young men tried to establish God in our own immature image rather than allow the Holy Spirit to mold us. This phrase comes back to me as I consider Thanksgiving. As is often the case, it seems that God expects more of us than American culture would lead us to believe. We are not expected to be thankful for one day, while engorging ourselves on turkey, pumpkin pie and sundry wondrous foods. See what I mean here in I Thessalonians 5:16 – 18

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Surely you understand why it would be wonderful to hid behind a poor translation with these verses. Always doesn’t really mean always, does it? I wonder if continually is in the imperative voice, because that would make it mean something different that always? All circumstances sounds a bit difficult – could it be this actually is mistranslated, and means something more like most circumstances?

Alas, I know enough Greek to be dangerous, and here’s what I know: always means always; continually means continually; and all circumstances means all circumstances. So then, the question becomes a different one – how in the world are we supposed to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances, and pray continually?  In honor of Thanksgiving, I want to focus on rejoicing and giving thanks. I have a few ideas that I am going to list below that are sure to stir up some rejoining and thanksgiving in your heart, but I’d really like to hear your thoughts here too. Please comment on this post, so we can encourage each other to live lives that are honorable to God.

  • Remember back-handed grace
  • Read Ann Voskamp’s blog religiously
  • Recognize how rich we all are as Americans, even if you don’t feel that way
  • Look very deeply at your children and see them as the gift from God that they are
  • Step outside, look up, and consider how creative our God is, that He came up with the very idea of clouds, and sky
  • Two words: Tim Hawkins
  • Look at old family photos, especially when you or your kids were young

Okay, now it’s your turn – what are the best ways for you to find thanksgiving and rejoicing in your life?