A Life Contrary

living a life out of the ordinary

Archive for the month “March, 2016”

Confessions of a Liturgical Failure

Liturgical Living

So, I failed Lent.  Again.  I know that Lent isn’t really something you can fail.  I know the intentions of Lent are for personal reflection, humility, and prayer.  And I know that I failed.

My goals for Lent were pretty simple, or so I thought.  I have gone all out before and then that causes pressure and problems because you spend so much time on the things that you forget what it is really supposed to be about.  I’ve done it that way before so I have tried to keep it super simple in the last couple of years.  And I have failed.

My goals this year were to spend some time each day or as often as I could in reflective prayer, read 2 chapters a day of a gospel, and family readings from Thomas Merton’s Lent & Easter Wisdom.  There were a few other things, but these were the main focus.

I did well on the reflective prayer for a week or so.  I used the time that I commuted to work to just sit in silence and listen to whatever God had to tell me.  More often than not, I got distracted.  When I wasn’t distracted, our current one-car-family status and the fact that Nathan often had to drive me to work precluded the practice.

I slipped up on the family readings.  Our lives just haven’t been conducive to this kind of regularity and I didn’t plan and wasn’t intentional.

Reading the gospels was probably the one I was most successful with, but that was marginal, too.  I did make it all the way through Luke and Mark and over halfway through Matthew.  There were a few days where the reading was just something to do because I knew I was supposed to.  However, there were many days where I was thoroughly blessed from the day’s reading.

So, since Lent for me was such a spectacular failure, what did I learn?  Well, a lot of grace.  I learned that I need to be okay with failing something.  Not that I never fail, but, man, I am NOT good at it.  At all.  I tend to beat myself up repeatedly.  But not this year.  I failed.  I did not accomplish the goals that I set out, but that’s okay.  I’ll move on and try to do better from here on out.

I also learned perseverance.  After almost two weeks without doing our Merton reading, I still picked up the book and read a couple days’ worth.  Then tried to make it through the Holy Week readings.  Neither one caught, but I didn’t give up until the end, even though I still failed.  But that’s okay because now we can use the Merton book next year and I can save a little money.

Because I will still work toward observing Lent again next year.  I may have failed a bit this year, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll just throw up my hands and relent.  No, I will keep going.  I will continue to try to observe spiritual disciplines and to observe the Liturgical Calendar where I can.

What about you?  Did you do anything special for Lent or Eastertide?  Are you a #liturgicalfailure just like me?  Let me know!

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A Holy Pause and Reflection…

Holy Week

Last week was Holy week.  I know that I’ve mentioned before but I’m a non-liturgical so my church doesn’t really observe anything formally.  Our pastor enjoys the liturgical calendar, but there’s not much in the way of corporate liturgy.  However, in a blessed coincidence, our denominational conference was last week and we were in church almost every day.

I didn’t do well on Lent this year.  I’ll speak more about that on Wednesday.  However, I did notice that I felt like my intentions were pulled in several directions.  I had all of these great intentions, but very little follow through.  Yet that wasn’t true for Holy Week.  I actually had little by way of intentions and so follow through wasn’t a problem.

It didn’t help that we had an abnormal amount of friends in town for the conference and we had decided that since we now live so close, we’d just commute rather than spending the money on a hotel room.  So, basically, I functioned on around 3-5 hours of sleep a night.  It was a difficult week, but as I sit now I can see how blessed it was.

But to really do a reflection justice, I have to go back a bit further.  Specifically to Tuesday, 15 March.  You see, on this day, our pastor and his dear wife gave birth to their third child.  Because of this wondrous, miraculous event, my husband was asked to teach on Wednesday, 16 March.  He decided to do a lesson on a brief history from Luke leading up to Palm Sunday and Holy Week.  It set things up nicely for our friend who was the guest preacher for that Sunday, 20 March (Palm Sunday).

Both of these lessons together brought out a few great aspects of the passion that I hadn’t spent a lot of time on (mainly the crucifixion as a coronation for Jesus’ Kingship).  With this in mind and heart, we went into our conference.  There were missions reports on Tuesday, but the real classes start on Wednesday, which also happens to be “Holy Wednesday” or “Spy Wednesday.”

For our conference, the preachers, pastors, and missionaries meet and have classes and the spouses will meet and have a fellowship and a few classes as well.  The main impetus for Holy Wednesday is the celebration of the anointing of Jesus’ feet by Mary.  I’ve spoken a bit about how I’m learning to worship like Mary, giving my all and my most valued to Jesus.  Our class on Wednesday was about being still in a world of noise, so I decided then that I wouldn’t worry about blog posts or social media or anything outside of what I was doing right then.

Our theme verse for the Ladies' Fellowship

Our theme verse for the Ladies’ Fellowship

Thursday night is always special at our conference because they have a large worship service that night and the ministers elect the speaker.  This year we had a brother who was native Jamaican speaking.  Yet, I kept thinking about the fact that it was Maundy Thursday, the day that commemorates Jesus’ last meal with His disciples.  We were blessed to have a meal with a dear brother that evening and we also had several hours of fellowship that evening.

Good Friday marked the end of the conference and I’ll admit that we were pretty tired.  It was definitely bittersweet.  The classes were great all week, but the ending prayer and benediction for the week was blessed above and beyond.  That evening we met friends for dinner and then went back to the church to fellowship with a few of the families that we rarely get to see.

On Saturday, the conference was over.  We were done and most of our friends were leaving.  We had to get up early and go pick up our son from his grandparents.  Life as normal was to return after this wonderful experience and mountaintop time.  Added in was the fact that I had to work that evening.  We were doing a special event to spread awareness about the Persecuted Church.  Sorrowful Saturday, indeed.

Resurrection Sunday, we met at church for a special breakfast, but there was a heaviness that seemed to permeate the event.  It carried all the way through our communion service and didn’t quite break until after our pastor declared with fervor, “He is Risen!”  To which those of us who knew replied, “He is Risen, Indeed!”  It was a wonderful service.  I truly enjoyed walking through the entirety of the gospel from a fellowship of brethren to crucifixion to the resurrection to the Kingdom all in one morning.

So, in the end, I didn’t quite observe in the traditional ways.  I did let the world and busyness get in the way of focusing on Jesus.  But I did take a bit of time on Sunday and reflect on what all had gone on this week and how even when I wasn’t looking, Jesus permeated my life.  He showed Himself and His values throughout my week.

What about you?  How were you blessed this past week?  What does Holy Week mean to you?

Five Friday Favorites: Bible Stories

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I love a good story.  My beginning as a writer started with me writing down the stories that I would create.  It’s always been a favorite pastime to lose myself in a really good story.  I think everyone yearns for this a little bit.  It’s why a good book or movie or tv show will draw us in.

I think this is one of the reasons why God chose to reveal Himself in stories.  Even though the Bible is full of real accounts of real people, they are still sometimes told in narrative format.

My favorite stories are always changing, usually based on what attribute of God I need that day.  However, I do have a few steady candidates that hold special places in my heart.  Here are just a few of the ones that I wanted to share today:

1.)  The Seven Sons of Sceva, Acts 19:11-20 – Never heard of this one?  Well, you’re probably not alone and it probably won’t make many people’s lists of top bible stories, but it’s a notable one in our house.  When my son was little and adults at church asked for the kids favorite bible stories, most children would say Noah or Jonah, but not our little one.  No, he preferred this exorcism-laced story from Acts.  To paraphrase the story, there were 7 sons of a high priest named Sceva who were casting out demons.  Unfortunately, one day they happen upon a demon that talks back.  After they command the demon out “in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches,”  the demon replied, “Jesus I know and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”  Then the demon leaps on them and bad things happen.  Not exactly a heart-warming children’s tale, but I think the combination of the strong admonition of not invoking the Lord’s name in vain and the Hubs using his vocal skills made it a favorite for our little guy.

2.)  Mary Anoints Jesus, John 12:1-8 – This is a favorite among many.  There are songs and stories about it.  There may even be a movie about it.  I haven’t felt a particular affinity for it until my pastor recently preached from this text last Sunday leading into Holy Week.  Though other gospels tell the story, too; this one is especially sweet to me.  Pastor spoke on the different types of worship (there are 4 in this passage).  But I love the beauty that is shown in Mary’s worship as she smashes the bottle containing the most expensive, important thing she owns and pours it onto our Lord, wiping the excess with her hair.  I cannot imagine this scene and do it justice, but when I think on it, I am greatly moved by this act and can only hope that I am following in this example.

3.)  The Commander of the Lord’s Army, Joshua 5:13-15 – It’s a short story, just a few verses, really.  But it is one that I have come back to time and again.  Joshua has just led the people into Canaan.  They have just been circumcised and observed the first Passover in Canaan.  They were about to take Jericho when Joshua sees someone with his sword drawn.  We don’t know if Joshua was scared, but we do know he was bold as he asks, “Are you for us, or for our enemies?”  And I LOVE the answer.  The commander simply says, “No.”  The commander was for the Lord.  Shouldn’t that be our answer for everything?  What is your opinion on this hot-button political issue?  No, I’m for the Lord.  What is your opinion on this divisive cultural issue?  No, I’m for the Lord.  Is the dress blue and black or white and gold? No. No. No.

4.) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel 3:8-30 – This is another common Sunday School story of standing up against idolatry, right?  If you’re into the VeggieTales version, it’s about standing up against the Bunny.  And I do love this aspect of it.  We live in a world of idols; indeed, John Calvin said that our very hearts are idol factories.  However, there’s a little piece to this story that is often overlooked.  Specifically verses 16-18.  Nebuchadnezzar has just asked the young men about their failure to bow down and worship.  Then they answer.  “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Italics added)  They are facing a king (little ‘k’) and they flat out tell him that they don’t have to answer.  Furthermore, the King they do serve, well, He is able, but that’s not what’s important.  No, what is important to them is that they are going to serve Him regardless.  Whew!  It doesn’t get much better than that.

5.)  Jesus, the WHOLE of Scripture – You can call this a copout, but I can’t help it.  It’s something I’m learning, even more, every day.  There is not one single part of this entire work where I can’t see Jesus.  How amazing is that?  How amazing is our God?  I love the fact that He asks us to meet Him and learn about Him in this way.  Jesus called His followers disciples, students, and gave us a book to learn about Him.  For a book nut, life-long learner, and word nerd like me, that is the most awesome thing ever!  If we don’t look at the Bible as a whole, then we will often miss things like this.  And that would be a real tragedy.

So, what about you?  What is God showing you through Scripture?  Don’t forget to head over to Mrs. Disciple to check out what others are sharing as their favorite bible stories/characters.

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Spring: A Reminder of the Life Abundant

I’ve always been a fall girl.  I love the clothes and the weather.  There’s just something about sitting around a bonfire with friends that just moves me.  Hoodies and hot chocolate are my jam.  Pumpkin spice everything + apples = my happy place.

So imagine how excited I was when I found out we were moving to New England (this was around 7 years ago?).  I’ve heard about fall in New England my entire life.  When people look at fall pics they are almost always from the Northeast.  And we ended up moving around the end of November.

We’d missed the fun season.  We got snow almost straight away.  It was a difficult winter.  There was so much snow.  We had two trees in our yard that were beyond dead.  Pretty much everywhere I looked was just dead trees and bushes.  I don’t mean dormant for winter, I mean dead.

So imagine my surprise when the cold weather blew away and we began to see the first signs of spring.  There were a few bushes that got a few light green buds, then a few trees that started to sprout some little leaves.  Day by day I saw these things that I thought were beyond gone show life.  Day by day I saw that life continue to grow and become vibrant.

Those early light green buds turned into gorgeous golden blooms.  Those little leaves continued to get bigger and bigger and turned into the most beautiful deep green I’ve ever seen.  As spring progressed, almost everything that I had written off during the winter sprang to life.  And it didn’t stop.

It continued to evolve throughout the entire season.  What may have started out as white flowers on a green bush quickly went through various stages and ended up as pink flowers on a pale green bush.  It was amazing how the colors never stopped.  It was such an amazing sight to see after a long hard winter.

It was such an amazing thing to see life, abundant, beautiful life, spring from these items that I once had thought were completely dead.

Daffodils in Spring

Daffodils making an appearance in the park in TN last spring.

It will always stay with me as a reminder of what God can do.  And has done in me.  He took me from a completely spiritually dead place and gave me life, abundant life, in Him.

So now, even though I’m still a fall girl, I look forward to spring and that beautiful reminder of what God has done and continues to do in me.

Five Friday Favorites: Easter

  

Ham. Hats. Family photos. A new dress. Pastel colors. Bunnies. Baby chicks. Brightly colored eggs. Special church services. Baskets toppling over with goodies.

These are just a few ways that we celebrate Easter in America. My earliest memories of the holiday are of getting a special new dress, often with a matching hat and gloves. My mom and dad would go to church with us and then we’d go to my grandma’s for a special dinner with all the family. Perhaps you grew up celebrating in the same way?

All of the things I listed above are commonplace in most of the churches that you will go to on Easter Sunday. You may even already be planning for it. Buying your egg dye and shopping for matching outfits for the kids (or in my case, color coordinating clothes for me, Chas, and NGD).

What I find interesting is that you may also find these celebrations outside of the church as well. There are a lot of people who don’t go to church who may be celebrating in much the same way. Special dinners with family and new clothes. They may even have an egg hunt.

The difference is that those of us who go to church first will hear the Truth before we go have our ham dinner and watch the kids run around the yard seeking their goodies. Some may even hunt for Resurrection Eggs (special plastic eggs that contain items pertaining to the Passion of Christ) instead of the traditional colored hard boiled ones.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing these festivities. Whereas most of them do have their beginnings in paganism, there are many who still celebrate in this way with the best of intentions. If your kids are counting down the days until the Easter Bunny visits, please do not feel condemnation here. You haven’t doomed your children to the fires of hell simply by buying them a hollow chocolate bunny.

However, I would like to ask you to think about a few things this Easter season:

1.) Mind – What are you thinking about as this holiday approaches? Are you consumed with dressing up your kids in adorable outfits? Are you thinking about the perfect side dish to take to your in-laws for Easter dinner? Are you thinking about what you are going to fill up your littles’ baskets with?

Instead of being consumed with this part of the holiday, spend a little time in the Word and read about Jesus. It only takes a few minutes to read the last week of Jesus’ life in most of the gospels. Only a few more to read it from each of the gospels. Look to God’s Holy Word and see what He has new for you this Easter. And then share it.

2.) Heart – Where is your heart concerning Easter? Do you look at it as just another holiday on the calendar? Is it something special?

Spend some time as Easter approaches and think about the resurrection in your own life. Think about Jesus dying on the cross for YOU, but don’t forget the victorious nature of His resurrection.

3.) Soul – Do you know Jesus? Know Him personally? Do you know Him as Savior? Does his resurrection fill you with hope?

If you don’t know Jesus personally then this is a great time to meet Him. If you do, then you may want to take some time and assess your spiritual life. Are you living an abundant life in the victory of Jesus’ resurrection or are you just barely getting by?

4.) Strength – How are you worshipping? Are you merely going to church because that’s what you do on Easter? Or are you actually going to celebrate the victory of the resurrection?

We’re blessed every day that we draw breath. So, what are you doing with that breath? Every moment we should be glorifying God. Don’t waste the day with the busyness of tasks that don’t do that.

5.) Grace – None of us are getting this perfect. And Jesus didn’t die to condemn us but to give us life. Ultimately, He is what’s it’s all about. That’s what we have to keep in perspective. So, no matter what you do to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, just keep it about Him. Remember to give yourself grace for your failings and to give other’s grace, too. We’re all just trying to do the best we can wherever we are in this walk of faith.

Now it’s your turn. What does Easter mean to you? How do you celebrate? Don’t forget to head over to Mrs. Disciple and check out what everyone else is saying about this special holiday.

Homesteading Update: March

slow down

Every so often, I like to give a bit of an update on what’s going on with our house/homestead.  It’s both a way to track progress and keep a running log of this crazy journey that we embarked on 11 months ago.

I have been pretty down about the house here lately.  I’m just not seeing the progress that I had hoped for.  We were really wanting to be in the house by spring.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like it will happen.  However, we have seen some progress on the actual homestead.

Nathan was able to work on our garden plot and began to get it ready for planting.  We hope to get that going soon, but just like with everything else, it seems to be just another line on a to-do list.  He’s also got a good portion of the fence around our property done with the help of our neighbor.

As for the house itself, it is still slow-going.  And will continue to be for quite some time.  Nathan has a couple of jobs coming up that will be very good for our pocket book, but they won’t exactly further getting the house ready to move in.

Right now, we’re doing what we can as we can.  Nathan is trying to get the foundation for the fireplace finished so he can start laying floor.  But as I’ve said, it is a long and slow process.

As for me, I am learning patience and trying to trust that it will all work out.  It is a tough road and I’m not always handling it correctly.  Actually, I am failing more often than I am succeeding, but I’m still trying.  With lots of prayer and a lot of trust, I am trying.

I hope that one day I will look back on this whole process and see what I’ve learned.  That is little comfort while going through the process, however.

Quite Contrary…

Stacey, Stacey,Quite Contrary...

I LOVE grocery shopping.  It is so much fun, seeing all the different produce items and what’s fresh.  I like talking to the butcher about all the different cuts.  Looking through the bakery and spanning the aisles, crossing things off my list.  It’s a culinary wonderland and I love it.

Recently, I was in a discussion with some friends about grocery stores.  We’ve been blessed to live in several different regions of the country, so we’ve experienced several different grocery store chains.  From Albertson’s to Publix, Meijer’s to Walmart, Super Stop & Shop to Kroger, we’ve seen them all.  Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi’s.

A couple years ago, we joined a CSA – Community Share Agriculture.  It was pretty cool.  What I lost in traversing the beautiful aisles of a carefully arranged, beautiful produce, I gained in knowledge and freshness.  This was stuff that was straight from the farmer.  Not only did I get to talk with those who were actually growing the food, but the prices were pretty great, too (seriously, if you have access, you should check out CSA’s).

That’s one of the cool things about having a 5-acre farm, I get to grow my own stuff!  There’s only one problem – I don’t really know how to grow anything.  Have you ever tried to figure out how to garden?  There are just about as many gardening books, theories, blogs, and youtube videos as there are for parenting.

I will say that we’re narrowing down.  We’re in the planning phase, which from what I can tell is on track.  Unfortunately, we’ve not moved much beyond that.  The hubs spent a couple days preparing our garden area so that’s done.  And I think I have a list of what we want to grow.  We’re wanting to start small since I’m still trying to figure all this out.

Here’s what we’ve got going on our list right now:

Vegetables and Herb list

I may add a few things to my herbs and I want to add a few flowers.  But this is it right now.  We still have to narrow down the kinds that we’re going to grow.  I’m also reading Carrots Love Tomatoes which is all about companion gardening so that we can learn what to plant with what.

 

Also, on our agenda is our orchard, but that’s another post for another day.  Are you a gardener?  What tips of the trade can you share?

Five Friday Favorites: Obstacles

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“You seek a great fortune, you three who are now in chains.  You will find a fortune though it will not be the one you seek.  But first… first you must travel a long and difficult road, a road fraught with peril.  Mmm-hmmm.  You shall see thangs, wonderful to tell.  You shall see a… a cow… on the roof of a cotton house… ha.  And, oh, so many startlements.  I cannot tell you how long the road shall be… but fear not the obstacles in your pathfor fate has vouchsafed your reward.  Though the road may wind, yes, your hearts gone weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation.”

– Seer’s speech, O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)

 

I’ll admit.  This is one of my favorite movies.  Also, I can’t think of obstacles without thinking of this speech from the beginning of this interpretation of Homer’s Odyssey.  As the seer tells the travelers that they will face “ob-sta-cles.”

It’s pretty much a given that we’ll face obstacles.  Just as we clear one, another gets moved into our path.  It’s enough to knock us down on the regular and if we aren’t careful, then those obstacles can actually keep us stuck in the same place.

So, the question then becomes how do you overcome these obstacles?  As a part of this week’s linkup at Mrs. Disciple, I’d like to spend a little time talking about 5 Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles:

1.) Being Self-Aware and Introspective – There are times when we are encountering obstacles and we don’t even realize it.  We’re so busy battling other things that we don’t even notice what is right in front of us.  The best way to deal with that is to know yourself.  After all, that is who you spend most of your time with.  It’s not always easy to be introspective; sometimes there are hurts that run deep and make it difficult to really be open.  However, if you can’t be honest with yourself, who can you be honest with?

2.) Know Your Enemy and their strategies – Not all of our obstacles are of the natural variety.  Sometimes they are custom variety, made especially to knock us down.  The adversary and our natural flesh will seek to destroy us if we aren’t careful.  I love the part of the Armor of God Bible study by Priscilla Shirer where she encourages you to gain “actionable intel” on the enemy.  That is the best way we can battle.  We must be aware of ourselves, but we must also know what is going on outside of us.

3.)  Pray – This one is pretty obvious, but it is still one that is worth mentioning.  The best way we can gain strength is by calling on the one who is our strength.  Prayer is great for changing our hearts, but it also lets us tap into strategies #1 and #2.  Through prayer, we are able to know ourselves better and we are able to gain knowledge and help to defeat those obstacles that are put in our path by our adversary.

4.)  Ask for help – It is tempting when we see an obstacle in our path to believe the lie that we must overcome it on our own.  I’ll admit that this is one that I especially struggle with.  I hate asking for help.  But God has continually been working on me and helping me to see that He has put people directly in my life to help with certain obstacles that are popping up around me.  And when all else fails, we know that He is our biggest help in times of need.

5.)  Persevere – It’s easy to get knocked down in this life.  It’s even easier to stay knocked down.  That isn’t what we’re called to, however.  We are called to run our race with endurance.  We can’t let getting knocked down from time to time (because that will happen) shut us down.  We also can’t grow weary in running.  If we weary running with men, how will we run with horses? (Jeremiah 12:5)  We have to be diligent and intentional so that we can persevere to the end.

By way of accountability and also in the vein of obstacles, the hubs and I are considering signing up for a mud run, which is basically a 5K full of muddy obstacles.  It doesn’t just work like a normal 5K though, you aren’t just trying to get a phenomenal time, you are working through the obstacles in a quick pace.  The idea is that you get a team together and your work together to overcome these obstacles.

There are some mud runs that are so tough that all of the participants work together to overcome them.  If this works out and we are able to compete, I will be employing these strategies to help because they don’t just work with spiritual obstacles, they also work with the real physicals ones, too.

What obstacles are you facing?  How are you coping with them?  Make sure to stop into the linkup at Mrs. Disciple and read what others are saying about obstacles.

  

February Book Report

Unfortunately my reading has been slow as of late.  I only finished one book in February and I’ve decided to take a little break from my list during Lent (I’m reading through the gospels).  However, the one that I finished was phenomenal.

Help my Unbelief

I read Barnabas Piper’s Help My Unbelief:  Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith.  This is the first book of Piper’s that I have read, but I have enjoyed several of his articles and listen to his podcast, The Happy Rant, regularly.

This book deals with doubt in an open and honest way.  As the subtitle suggests, it proposes that doubt is natural and not the enemy of faith, but rather a tool to be used to deepen and grow your faith.  Doubt can be a healthy thing and if properly interpreted can be a great help rather than a hindrance.

The premise of the book is set upon the idea that our faith isn’t mean to be blind.  We aren’t called into an ignorant faith that is weak and fragile.  Our faith isn’t baseless.  We are called to a reasoned faith in God, one that is founded in who He is and what He does, both in our lives, those around us, and those that we learn about in God’s Word.

Most of the time, the word translated as “belief” in Scripture is more accurately “trust.”  So, as we are called to believe, we are actually to trust.  Faith can be defined as belief and trust.

I love that Mr. Piper tears down the ideas that we must have explanations and answers for everything.  We often fail to see the beauty in the mystery and forget that “I don’t know” doesn’t mean that we are idiots or that we are mindlessly following a myth.  Through his work, Piper shows that if we knew all of the answers about God, He wouldn’t be much of a god.  Resting in this mystery doesn’t make us dim or fearful of knowledge, but rather shows our maturity in that we understand that we cannot always explain everything.

As I shared after reading Rachel Held Evans’ book Searching for Sunday, doubt is a major factor in the life of the believer.  We have to wrestle with this and if we do it open and honestly then we are much more likely to have success and grow as believers rather than to continue on in darkness where the smallest stone can fracture our faith.

Unlike Evans who approaches the topic in a very personal way with literary flourish, Piper approaches doubt and faith in a very practical way.  Though he does still use his personal story as a backdrop, it is more of a “proof text” rather than a major plot point.  Piper looks at belief, and conversely doubt, in the broad sense and then brings it down to the level of how it should look in our everyday life.  If Evans asked the important questions, then Piper took it a step further and answered them.

Though some may not like where he ends up, you cannot deny its validity.  There is a very real sense in which we, as Christians, must rest in the unknown and embrace that which we cannot see.  We must be able to settle into those places that don’t have the clear  lines drawn so that we may better understand when we do arrive at the answers we seek.

We are not the first to doubt.  Even John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was actually the Messiah (Luke 7).  He sent his disciples to ask Jesus.  What better an example for when we doubt?  Go and ask Jesus.  We will have doubts; this is a given.  But what are we to do when those doubts arise?  Go and seek the answers from the one who has them.

Even though this book does get a little academic at times discussing belief and doubt in the abstract (and is missing a bit of the snark that I’ve come to associate with Piper), I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is struggling with unbelief but also to new believers so that they can arm themselves when the doubt comes.

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