For years, I’ve read through the book of Psalms every month. It got so that the day of the month became synonymous with me for the first few words of, or a verse from, a corresponding Psalm.
But this year, wanting to mix up my reading a bit, I took a break from Psalms for a few months. It’s hard, though, to leave such a well of worship, so I’m back to reading through Psalms monthly. (I’ve include the schedule I use at the bottom of this post.)
As I reentered the daily intake of Psalms, what surprised me anew was the intensity of David’s emotions. Whether it was in his longings for God, adoration of God, cries of fear, resolve to praise, or any other expression of his heart, he articulated them with acute intensity. Continue reading
You and I both know that faith is more than a feeling. It’s action. Steps. Moving forward. Progress.
Wait…is it all that?
And are all of those so easily defined without feelings? After all, how do you know if you’re making progress? And what if it takes more faith to wait than to act?
I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit that faith and feelings get pretty tangled in our hearts. And that sometimes we don’t really do faith at all; we are content to simply feel faith without changing our actions.
So what does doing faith look like, with or without feelings?
Think of the great faith heroes of the Bible and history. I’m pretty sure Abraham wasn’t “feeling faith” as he climbed Mount Moriah with Isaac. And I’m going to guess that Gladys Aylward wasn’t “feeling faith” as she led one hundred children across Communist territory while she was burning with fever.
Not only is faith more than a feeling, but it isn’t defined by feelings. Will you read that sentence again?
Faith isn’t defined by feelings, and they aren’t required for it to be faith.
So if faith isn’t a feeling, what is it? Or more specifically, what does it do? Continue reading
Sometimes I imagine a conversation between an Israelite woman and a foreign guest in the Promised Land. The Israelite woman (whom we’ll call Sarah) was among those who spent four decades in the wilderness, and her new companion (we’ll call her Fatima) has recently trekked the same territory. They are eager to swap stories and compare experiences:
Sarah: Remember the sandstorms?
Fatima: Yeah, there’s nothing like being sand-blasted by hot, wind-driven sand. We had some days we couldn’t journey at all until the wind died down.
Sarah: Exactly. We had to watch for when the cloud or the pillar of fire moved from over the tabernacle.
Fatima: What? (She gives a suspicious glance and wonders if Sarah is okay.) We didn’t have a tabernacle. And we definitely didn’t have pillar of fire with us.
Sarah: That’s too bad. I mean, there were days I wanted to go forward when we couldn’t and days I wanted to stay when we had to move, but all in all, I was thankful for God’s presence with us.
Fatima: And you say this…this presence was in a pillar of fire? Continue reading
It was Hudson Taylor who famously said, “God is not looking for men of great faith, only some common souls like you or me…willing to trust in His great faithfulness.”
If you want a front-row seat to a modern-day example of that quote, you need to pick up the newly-released autobiography by Dr. Edgar Feghaly, Forward in the Face of Fear: My Life for Christ in the Muslim World.
I first read this during the pre-publication editorial process, but only after two of my coworkers had already read it. They described stories to me that were over-the-top unbelievable. When they told me they had barely scratched the surface in what they had relayed and that the book was full of such stories, I held private doubts. Continue reading
I almost drowned once. It was at a friend’s birthday party, of all places. I think I was six. Thankfully, I was rescued, but I still remember that sense of helplessness as I was engulfed in the water and knew I couldn’t swim.
(Days later, I remember telling my sister, “I should have just gone down to the bottom and walked back to the shallow end of the pool.” Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy when you’re drowning.)
Do you know what it feels like to drown?
I’m guessing you do. Maybe you didn’t slip into the deep end of a pool, but you’re over your head in responsibilities. In grief. In fear. In need.
How do you even pray then? Continue reading
Do you ever feel that God has hidden His face from you?
Probably not. I don’t either, of course. (I don’t think respectable Christians feel that way.)
But sometimes the psalmists felt it. Their words describe it as an experience with a pain scale ranging from desperate to terrifying: Continue reading
One of the most shocking biographies I remember reading was that of William Cowper.
Even if you don’t recognize his name, you’ve probably sung his hymns (including “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”) or used the phrase he coined, “God moves in a mysterious way.”
It’s been years since I read his biography, but in recent research, I came across his name and reflected for a few minutes on some of the most extraordinary and meaningful aspects of his life.
Cowper’s salvation testimony is remarkable because he was saved as a direct result of admittance to a mental asylum after failed suicide attempts. The doctor who treated Cowper was a born again Christian who shared the gospel with him. The night and day difference in Cowper’s life after his salvation is undeniable.
Most of us would be very comfortable with Cowper’s testimony if it ended there. But it didn’t. Although he didn’t struggle mentally to the same degree after his salvation as he had before, he did battle mental illness (including severe depression and two more mental breakdowns) for the rest of his life. Continue reading
When I was in second grade, I read a children’s biography of Benjamin Franklin, and in the depths of my heart, I knew what I wanted to be—a printer.
It must have been a picture in the book of Ben Franklin’s printing days, because somewhere I got a firm mental picture of my future. In my picture, which I can still see in a clear black and white drawing (yes, it must have been a picture in the book), I was settled back in a comfy chair with my feet propped up on a workbench. To my left was a printing press rolling out new pages, and in my hands were the first pages of the freshly printed manuscript.
What a life! Relaxing, printing, and getting paid to read. A little girl’s dream.
Fast forward several years—twelve years ago this weekend to be exact. I’m driving three boxes with five hundred copies of a brand new magazine for its first distribution. Continue reading
Have you ever read a fictional or biographical book minus the first chapter?
I remember as a young child sitting in the book closet of our home (I never realized until I just typed that phrase that we had a “book closet” rather than a “linen closet”! I’m thankful my parents cared that much to keep us stocked with good reading!) and reading Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John.
The book so profoundly affected me that as seven year old, I determined I was going to be a wood carver…and for several years saved money to purchase carving tools. In hindsight and judging by my decidedly un-artistic abilities, it’s probably good that this dream never materialized into mangled pieces of wood. But I digress.
One aspect I remember most about reading Treasures of the Snow was its missing cover and front pages. The story begins with a Christmas Eve scene in the Alps of Switzerland. In the first chapter, the main characters and their relationship both to one another and to the plot of the story is set…but I missed some of these pages. Without these important details, I struggled to make sense of following pages.
It’s too bad to miss the beginning of a book you’re reading. But what if you miss the beginning of the story you’re living? Continue reading
I saw a date in the margin of my Bible this morning that made me start—2/26/04. It wasn’t just the date that took me by surprise, but the realization that it has been exactly ten years since that day.
I remember where I was when I wrote that date—on the top bunk in a guest room in Bowie, Texas.
I remember the verse I read just before I wrote that date. (I don’t actually have to remember that one—it’s right there in the margin of my Bible. But I remember it anyway.) Psalm 86:4, “Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”
I remember what I did after I read that verse and wrote it in my journal. I stepped outside the guest house with a spiral notebook and sat on the back stoop to write an article for the magazine I was editing at the time. The article appeared in the June/July ’04 issue of Stepping in the Light, and it was titled “Sing, Little Bird!” The article provides some insight into that day: Continue reading