Monday, January 30, 2012

Bearing the Blessing

I spent the entire weekend in bed. At first I thought the blasted flu strain I've been reading about on Facebook finally found me. (For the record, the closest I ever care to get to flu strains is reading about them on Facebook.) I wavered between hot and cold and hoped dinner from the day before would stay put.
The longer the weekend went, the more convinced I became that the flu had indeed stayed confined to Facebook and my symptoms weren't anything of the germ variety. Life upheaval had gotten the best of me and I had worked myself into a good old-fashioned tizzy.

In a rare move, I spent an entire day in bed without once turning on the TV. I tossed from side to side, seeking the Face of God - as though He might be more easily seen on one bedroom wall as opposed to the other. I squinted my eyes tightly shut and prayed fervently for direction, for understanding, for forgiveness, for peace, for wisdom...for anything and everything I could think to pray.

After random breaks for reading, scrapbooking, and journaling, I pulled out a Bible study I started writing almost 2 years ago. It's the second volume of the study and the women's group that did the first volume asked to proceed with the second...so I have to finish writing it. (Studies are so much easier to read when they're written, don't you agree?)

In order to get back in the flow of my "voice" for that study, I read through the chapters I'd written so many months ago. I wrote about the "other" wife of Hannah's husband, Elkanah. I'd been writing about how she was surrounded by a houseful of blessings in the children God gave her, but she was completely consumed by what she did NOT have, which was Elkanah's love. My eyes fell on this sentence and I swallowed hard:


We can't bear the glory of what we have, because we are engrossed in the absence of what we lack.


Gulp.


That pretty much summarizes my foodless, rolling stomach, tear-laden weekend. So focused on the absence of what I lack that I can't bear the beautiful glory of what God has poured over my life.

Of course, God is always good, but I have seen His goodness in new ways over this past year. He's been redeeming and healing and restoring at quite a rapid pace...and yet my heart grieves what I still lack in my life. And while I believe with all my heart He understands that grief and doesn't get angry with me for it, I also believe it grieves Him that I look right past the beauty that is right in front of me.
I wish I could write that I found (while squinting at the bedroom wall) a flashing light of an answer. That my anxiety has dissipated entirely and I've fully embraced the beautiful blessing.
But I can't.

I can write that the tears have lessened and the peace that passes understanding has begun to settle over me. That I feel ready to get up tomorrow morning and face whatever blessing He has. That I'm committed to trying to bear the glory of those blessings and not finding myself flattened by the absence of what I lack.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Pain of Sacrifice


Abraham reached under his cloak and took out the knife that he had hidden there.  Isaac, his precious son whom God had promised him, was lying on the wood altar bound and whimpering loudly.  “Father, what are you doing?  FATHER, please look at me and tell me what is happening!” Isaac asked his father.  But Abraham couldn’t look him in the eye; he covered Isaac’s face with one hand and with the other positioned the knife, ready to cut the sacrifice’s neck.  Ready to do exactly what God had told him to do, even if he didn’t understand.

Suddenly a voice spoke…”Abraham, Abraham.”            
   
Abraham pauses, dread filling his heart because of what he is about to do.  “Here I am,” he replied, knife still at the ready.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” the voice says. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham drops to his knees and the knife falls to the ground.  Isaac convulses into sobs and struggles against the ropes that bind him. He slides off the wood and Abraham frees his son. 

Just then they hear the grunts of the ram, caught by the horns in the thicket and, still weeping, they free it and sacrifice it in Isaac’s place.

You can read this story for yourself in Genesis 22.  Of course, I have expounded on the story a little.  Every time I read the story I am SURE there that had to be a lot of emotion on the top of that mountain.  Abraham had told Isaac that God would provide the lamb for their sacrifice…did he doubt when no lamb was found?  Did he keep expecting, even as he tied Isaac’s hands and feet that SOMETHING had to happen soon?

Let’s not forget Isaac, he had come here to help his father make a sacrifice to God, only to find out that HE was the one to be sacrificed.  I cannot believe that he just laid back and joyfully laid there as his own father prepared to kill him.

Only the Lord knew what would have happened if Abraham had said ‘No’ to Him in this situation.  The Bible doesn’t say that he had any doubt about what he was doing, but I can imagine that there had to be SOME fear. And I believe that there was a discussion between the father and son on the way back to the camp that included “Let’s not tell your mother about this.”

But have you ever had one of these experiences?  Has God ever asked you for the thing that you loved most, or that you had prayed for forever?  Have you ever come up on a situation that would change your very existence?

Have you ever been faced with the possibility of losing your own life, or the life of a dear loved one?  Have you said to yourself exactly what Abraham did?   “God himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.”   Have you ever believed that “surely God couldn’t be asking for my life, or their life?”

Fortunately, there have been times when I have been spared the pain that I am dreading, but sometimes God has lead me to sacrifice what I believe that I love so much and give them up so that He can do what His will is, whether it be healing or heaven.

Like Abraham, I hope that when my next moment of sacrifice comes, I can find it in myself to do EXACTLY what the Lord is asking me to do, and not to hesitate until He calls out to me and says, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Peanuts

What do you think of when you hear the word “peanuts?” Quick, without thinking about it, what do you think of? Perhaps you think of dry roasted or boiled peanuts. Maybe you like them in a shell like I do (I especially like them in restaurants where you can throw the shell on the floor). Some people like them salted (me) and some unsalted (my wife) so sometimes we compromise and get “lightly salted.”

Or maybe you think of the cartoon character “Peanuts.” I have a Peanuts calendar on my desk. I love the whole Charlie Brown gang and so if you asked me I might say Snoopy or Linus or Lucy.
Then there are those of you who thought about money as in, “they don’t pay me peanuts!” And one or two of you might have even thought about Mr. Peanut or Jimmy Carter.

My point is that the same word can mean lots of things to different people. For example, what do you think of when you hear the word…church? A little white building with a steeple and cross? The Crystal Cathedral? A European Roman Catholic castle-like structure? Stained glass, pews, kneeling rails? 

Now, dig a little deeper. When you hear the word church what kind of emotions does it bring with it? Excitement? Dread? Fear? Boredom? Disappointment? Or apathy? Does the word bring a smile to your face or a frown? Perhaps, no emotion whatsoever, like a shrug-your-shoulders, who-cares kind of response. As sad as it is, that may be the most disturbing reaction of all…none!

I was doing some consulting with the pastor and his wife of a new church plant last week. We were discussing a variety of church issues for a new church and we started discussing the name they had chosen. The name does not have the word “church” in it anywhere. I asked them why. Their answer reinforced what I already knew to be true…the word “church” has so many negative connotations that they felt it would be better to avoid the word altogether. 

For those of us raised in and around the church, that may seem odd. We’ve been around the church with all of its warts so long that we have become accustomed to its hypocrisies and inconsistencies. We’ve gotten used to the gossip and politics. We’ve become calloused to the fact that long ago the church parted ways with its Founder’s intentions. We’ve been lost from The Way so long that we’ve stopped looking for the path back. 

Is it any surprise that when we invite people to “church” they politely decline? Probably not, but we continue to invite them, hoping that we’ll run across someone who doesn’t know our history or our track record. 

What are we to do? Well, we could continue to do what we’ve always done, expecting different results, or we could be bold enough and courageous enough to begin being the church Jesus called us to be. We could lay aside the institutionalization that has caused us to “do church” like we “do business” and start “being the church” by following Jesus’ example. The truth is that most will not have that courage, but for those who do, it will lend a new meaning to the word “church.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Uncomfortable Space Between the Lines

It was a cold winter night in Wisconsin, over a foot of snow covered the yard of our old, rented farmhouse, and the countryside was quieting down for the night. Rich and I sat at our kitchen table, talking about his classes for the upcoming semester. He needed three more credits for some sort of history or sociology class, and we were having a hard time finding one that would fit with his senior EE class schedule. Finally, after almost forty minutes, Rich said, “What about Introduction to Anthropology?” I scanned his schedule twice and said, “Yes! That will work.” It seemed like such an innocuous decision at the time, an uncared-about class that would complete his requirements for graduation, a step that would bring us one step closer to his completing the education that we worked and toiled around the clock for during those first 4 ½ years of our marriage. I look back at that time and wish that our lives could have had a soundtrack, a big, ominous Da-Da-Dah that would have sounded a warning. One little class taught by an anti-Christian teacher led my husband into a crisis of faith that has now lasted almost six years. It veered our lives off the path I envisioned us heading down, and it’s still difficult for me to accept.

Not to misrepresent myself, I think it’s important to say that back when Rich and I were dating I wasn’t living a sold-out-for-God life. I never gave up my belief in Him, but I got disgusted with some Christians while dealing with some personal and family issues and I decided to figure it out for myself. So during our dating years, Rich’s level of belief was enough for me. We had certain standards for morals and ethics, we attended church, but ours was definitely a “feel-it-on-Sunday” faith. But all too soon, even that was gone. When I wanted to recommit and get more serious, Rich wanted to walk away altogether. It was a slap in the face, one that still burns.

My husband is a wonderful man; he’s giving of himself, he’s kind, and he works his job with integrity and a dedicated work ethic. He is a loving, present father to our girls; he is a wonderful husband to me. He is funny and sometimes irreverent, but he is also an attentive, empathetic listener when I need him to be. He is my best friend, and he is largely supportive of my giving our girls a spiritual education. But there’s a dividing line when it comes to faith, and that is hard (in both big and small ways) every day. Rich has made great strides coming back to a place of belief, but he still has a long way to go. He is back to believing in God – but he doesn’t put much stock in the Bible as Truth. He is enamored with our girls’ pure hearts and how they love Jesus with their whole being – he just doesn’t want to give over himself. He is supportive of the girls attending church, Sunday school, and AWANA – but he doesn’t come with us. He is willing to sacrifice so that our daughters can go to a Christian academy here in town, but that’s more because it’s a school of academic excellence and individual attention for our children. And I often feel at a loss for how to navigate these murky waters.

But, no matter what, I am proud to call Rich my husband and to have the family that I do. He is no less of a man because he doesn’t hear the Truth yet, but it stings when people imply otherwise. I will never be embarrassed by him because of it. I hold tightly to Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that God causes all things to work out for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.” My aim is to become the kind of wife, mother, and Christian who inspires Rich to open his heart. I feel tremendous pressure in that area; I often beat myself up when I know that my actions have not lived up to Christ’s expectations. Who sees us fail more often than our spouse? I am inspired by Joseph who was living in a pagan land, serving a pagan master, and married to a pagan woman yet he still lived as God wanted him to. Joseph was an amazing representative for the Lord. I long to be as well but I fight that battle in my home almost as much as I do in the world. I constantly pray that I can live my life in such a way that others, most importantly my husband, can recognize the Spirit of God in me. That is my prayer today and every day.

I firmly believe that God has a plan to prosper me, that He knows the best path to hope for our future (Jeremiah 29:11), but the in-between time is difficult. Who likes the pain that comes from being stretched and molded? I know that God is working on building my character because I am aware that I still have much to learn. Don’t they say, “When we have a lesson to learn, then God sends a teacher”? I wonder what my husband would say if I told him he’s an accidental professor -- he'd probably get a kick out of it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

In The Moment

Hello Friends!

In the midst of a very busy season for myself and my family, I came to a realization recently.  Quite a long time ago, I resolved that, by the grace of God, I was going to live my life with purpose and intentionally.  Most of the time, once I got in the habit of doing this, it was easy.  Sometimes, of course, I felt rushed or hurried or overwhelmed, but most of the time, things were good.  Then life started to happen.  It was easy to live intentionally when I didn't have a million things to get done every day!

And this is where I am today.  I realized that my harried and hectic schedule is not an excuse for not living purposefully.  Yes, a busy pace does make intentional living more difficult, but I've done it before, so I know it isn't impossible... it is just EASIER to not do it!

This morning, I was in the process of getting some work done.  My husband is a political consultant and I do my best to keep up with the myriad of things that need to be done for the business while he is on the road.  Today's "lineup" included the task of scanning data sheets, printing off walk lists for our crew of folks walking door to door, and figuring out expenses.  We were also expecting a bit of a snow storm, so things like making sure the chickens have food and water, making sure the boys didn't leave snow shovels in a place where they'd get buried under snow and other details were on the ever growing list of things to accomplish.

Then the phone rang.  Right as I was taking the dog outside, scarf secured around my face... I took the scarf off and uncovered my head from the hood and hat and got the gloves off... and answered the phone.  It was my dear hubby.  He only had a minute to chat before running off to a meeting but he had just long enough to tell me that an existing client needs us in another state in a couple days.  I did that thing I do... thinking as quickly as I can in my head, trying to remember in a flash upcoming commitments, appointments and the schedule.  I came up with... "OK... the boys and I can be with you until Tuesday, at which point, we'll have to leave and come home because we're traveling with Grandma and Grandpa on Wednesday."  We said our "OK, love you, goodbyes" and then the hamsters in my overworked brain started running at full speed.  To my to-do list, I added all of the things I would need to do before packing up the children, myself and the dog to spend all week in hotels.  Medicines, dog food (and since she just had her second surgery in 3 weeks, dog medicine and medical supplies for not only 3 epileptic children... but the special needs service dog as well!), clothes, snacks... but... no problem. I've already scratched many things off of the to-do list, still working on others, but it hit me that when I am so busy, other things suffer.

I've also realized that the hectic busy-ness numbs me.  There is a comfortable buffer that is placed around me if I'm always moving, always on the go, always rushing.  The buffer is a busy, occupied mind.  Emotions, other than the feeling of being overwhelmed, are rare.  I'm doing well in the grieving process, continually telling myself that I'm where I need to be, but I've realized that I'm pushing grief to the side in favor of keeping busy (and therefore not allowing myself to go through the process).  To be certain, the grief today doesn't look like what it did 7 months ago, and at the very beginning of the grief process, this schedule wouldn't have been humanly possible, but today... the raw and jagged edges are smoothing and so the busy-ness is filling in a void.

And so today, I re-commit to slowing down.  I can't very well stop working right now, but I can, even in the mild chaos, take the time to thank my Creator for the blessings we have.  I can take the time to think things through and be in the moment with my children.  I can be alert for the cues and clues that I'm not allowing myself to deal with things that need to be dealt with.  I can be aware that needs around me are going unmet because I don't take the time to see the needs.  Even in busy-ness, it is possible to be on the intentional journey.  Our lives are busy, our schedules are full.  I can still take the time to sort out the priorities and am re-committing to doing so.  It isn't the easiest way to do things, but I know that it is the most fulfilling way to live.  Be blessed, Friends.  Take time to breathe.  When we take time to breathe, we ALWAYS have time time to bless others.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Recommit to the Journey

So…I was asked to write for the Intentional Journey, and for several days, I’ve been struggling about what to write. Not because I didn’t have anything to say (lately, I find myself with quite a bit to say about many things); but because I struggled deeply about what to say exactly.

As a preacher, reflecting upon the amazing opportunities that come my way, I've found myself being forced to ask, “Are you sure that I’m the Shaun Marshall you wanted?”  I have become very sensitive to the notion that when you are given an opportunity to speak to people in any forum, you should give careful thought to what you say to them.

For that reason, I haven’t been able to finish one single thought that I felt good enough about to share with you. Started several new writings and scrapped them. Revised several old writings and scrapped them. At first, I really didn’t think I would make the deadline…until I was reminded of a thought that I shared with some friends.

You see, when I hear the words Intentional Journey, I think immediately of our walk with the Lord. Sometimes, it feels great. Sometimes, in all honesty, it feels terrible. Sometimes, we hope significantly, and other times we hurt terribly. Sometimes it makes sense, and for me, MOST TIMES, it simply doesn’t. What makes this journey different from any other journey we might be compelled to take is that it is INTENTIONAL.  This means that at any point along the path, it is one we are committed to; one that we walk even when we’re not sure; a road we take even when we can’t see the next step, a course we follow even when everything in us fears it. The journey compels us to preach, write, sing, act, serve, shepherd, counsel, parent, love and obey—in season and out of season; when we feel like it and when we don’t, when it seems good to us and when it doesn’t. Why? Because our commitment to this journey is not about the comfort of the ride, but about the companion. We are compelled to live this journey not because of what it gives us, but because of who travels the journey with us.

Jesus is both our company and our destination. With Him, our lives our complete. With Him, we experience joy, sorrow, victory, loss, peace, pain, hope and fear in ways we never could without Him. Through Him, we overcome it all, and to Him goes all of the glory produced in our lives along the journey. That is the Intentional Journey in my own words.

It is with that realization that I am now overwhelmed with the clarity of a mad scientist, strongly compelled with an unusual conviction of the thought I must share with you. And perhaps next time (should there be a next time); I will attempt to be a bit more intellectual and philosophical and a lot less prophetic. However, at this very moment, I am certain that my fingers are typing that which my heart screams must be said: “It’s time for you to recommit to the journey.”

Some may read this now and feel as if you are no longer fit, or worthy, or able to travel this journey. As your fellow passenger, let me encourage you: get up and keep going. You were born for this.

You haven't failed. Do not quit. If you feel like you have become the worst version of yourself, its time for a new version of yourself. It is possible. You have not failed so badly that you don't deserve to be here, you have not gone so far that your life no longer has a purpose. Your life means something even and especially when you sit up late wondering if it does...wondering who cares that you take the next breath. It doesn't matter what relationships in your life have ended, what you've lost, how many people dislike you or what you feel like in this moment. There is a better moment coming for which you must strive.

DO NOT STOP HERE. Very seldom do lives well lived travel down comfortable paths. This moment in your life is not a dead end, rather, a TURNING POINT along this journey. Reposition yourself for the next course your life must take. NO LIFE goes past the point of redemption unless it chooses to; the place at which you have come to is not one of conclusion, but of choice. You still have choices. You still have a future. Things that you might believe to be dead are still possible--love, joy, peace, happiness, safety, stability, boldness, confidence, resolution, connection and acceptance are still very possible for you.

If this is your darkest moment, and you feel like you have nothing, I'm telling you that you have two things: hope, and your next breath. If you choose to do something with it, I promise you that you will be glad you did. Your life adds value to the world and I want you to live it. Live it to the fullest. Live it without apology. Fight past this dark place in your heart—however you may describe it: frustration, pain, depression, anger, boredom, hopelessness, disappointment, fear—whatever...and choose to resume the journey. Stop judging the value of every minute, wondering if someone cares; I cared enough to stop and write this for you…and I hope that you will read it, and decide that you will give this Intentional Journey just one more try…

…see you there…

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Letter To Heaven

I went to the movies last night with a group of friends. We went to see Joyful Noise. If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing this movie, I would highly recommend it. I cannot imagine who wouldn't enjoy a movie with Dolly Parton and Queen Latifa in it. The music was so good. Not only that it was quite funny.

After the movie we went to Starbucks and sat and talked. When I arrived home after a pleasant evening out, my family was all in bed. I sat my things down and went to the kitchen to clear the table when I noticed an envelope. The envelope was addressed to “Heaven.” The return address said only “Me.” Where the stamp would go is a smiley face. It is in my son's handwriting in crayon.

While this shouldn't surprise me, it isn't every day you come home and find a letter addressed to Heaven on your table. My son is this kindhearted, loving, warm, open, sensitive child. He hates conflict of any kind. He says his prayers. He talks to his friends about God. He has this faith that is pure. He openly believes. I call him my little peacekeeper. He has talks with his sisters that lead me to believe when he is a father himself, his children will be quite lucky to have him. His wife will be lucky to have him as well.

This afternoon he asked me if I saw his letter. I told him that I did in fact see it on the table. I asked him what it said. He just shook his head and didn't want to tell me. I asked him if he asked for different parents. He said no. I asked him if he asked for different sisters. He said no although it was tempting. It is taking a great deal of restraint not to open it to read it. He wants me to mail it on my way to work.

How does one go about mailing a letter to Heaven? God already knows what it says I'm sure. He knows my son's heart. I'm not sure if I should open it or not. Do I open it so I can pray for the things he is asking for along with him? Do I not open it and just keep it in my bible? Has anyone else ever encountered this situation before? I'm not sure of the protocol here. My boy is nine. I'm not sure he fully understands the postal system. What would be the postal rate to mail a letter to Heaven? Would the postmaster just throw it away? Would the postmaster open it and read it?

I'm curious have you written letters to Heaven? A prayer is free. No postage necessary. It's a toll free call. You can call any time day or night. God has many houses and you can visit the closest one to you. How are your letters coming?

I don't write out letters and put them in envelopes addressed to Heaven. I know my son prays. My letters are more conversations with a Father. He is my guidance counselor, he is my therapist, he is my parent, he is my everything. But there is something about this letter. As his mother I want to see him happy. I want to know what he struggles with, what his hopes are, what he dreams about. Mostly though, I love to watch him explore the world. I like to watch how his mind works. I am curious to see what God is planning for him. This beautiful gift to my life that I have been trusted with the care of. I can't wait to see what God uses him for. Maybe he will be a pastor, or a missionary, or a doctor, or a teacher. He could become anything at all. But for now, I love that he is just a little boy who is good at being a little boy who loves Jesus, loves his mom and dad, and most of the time his sisters. A little boy who writes letters to Heaven.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th, Faith vs. Superstition


It's Friday the 13th! Lock the doors, pull the shades, and put away any sharp objects! Something bad is bound to happen! Right? As ridiculous as it sounds when written in black and white, even as Christians we are prone to dabble in the superstitious.

Would I encourage my daughters to choose a wedding date for Friday the 13th if another date was equally likely to work? Probably not. If you asked me why, I would come up with the incredibly intelligent response of: “it doesn't seem like a good idea.” Reading your horoscope in the newspaper is fun and innocuous, right? Oh, oh, read mine, I'm a Gemini! Or, it can't be pure chance that those specific numbers made their way into my fortune cookie. I must have the winning lotto numbers right here! The Bahamas and sipping girlie drinks on the beach, here I come! I'm sure my “lucky” exam sweatshirt was responsible for all of my amazing performances on my exams in college, and ah, I guess for the not so amazing performances as well (though let's forget about those unpleasantries, shall we?).

But what is “superstition,” and how is it different than “faith?” Both seem to require a belief in something that has not yet been fully revealed. So are they the same thing? Is there an overlapping gray area? A blog posting on Friday the 13th seems like the perfect time to consider this matter, though my offerings on this vast topic will be much more succinct than the term paper analysis that it deserves (thank goodness).

Is there a difference between “superstition” and “faith?” Simply put, yes there is. The Cliff Note version would be something like this: a person adopts “superstitions” in an effort to control a future outcome even though there is no (or contrary) evidence that whatever actions or things required by the “superstition” will actually have any effect whatsoever on the outcome, while those of us in the Christian faith rely on the evidence in our relationship with Jesus Christ and the fruits of that relationship as a basis to believe that God will continue to care for us and exhibit his power in our lives. The Israelites believed in God because he exhibited his hand in their history. Christ’s followers while he was here on earth had faith in him because of the miracles done in their presence.

If I was going to write a scholarly paper, I'd start with the definitions from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines “superstition” as: “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation." Merriam-webster.com(emphasis added). Merriam Webster defines “faith” as: “belief and trust in and loyalty to God.” Id. Furthermore, the Bible states: “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” Heb 11:1 NIV(emphasis added).

David Gidson, eloquently compares “faith” and “superstition” in his article: Is One Man's Faith Another's Superstition. He states: “The difference between superstitions and religion is not only the difference between meaning and randomness, and between faith and anxiety, but also the difference between belief in a personal, benevolent God and fear of a pitiless Mother Nature, waiting to be appeased -- or exploited -- by mumbo jumbo.” David Gidson, Is One Man's Faith Another's Superstition March 27, 2009, @ online.wsj.com. He goes on to say: “Superstition offers the illusion of control by manipulating nature or revealing her occult intent. If the spells are recited properly, all should be well. It's a big "if," however. Religion gives the promise, rather than the illusion, of hope.” Id.

C.T. Russell, compares a faith in Jesus Christ to a relationship with a friend that has developed and strengthened to the extent that one has faith that she can always rely on this friend: “Such a faith is not mere surmise, imagination or guesswork: it has a sound, logical basis. You have drawn certain positive conclusions from a logical argument based upon an infallible and undeniable premise; and consequently you have full faith in those conclusions.” C.T. Russell, Faith Verses Superstition, pages 372-73.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reading Corrie Ten Boom's amazing account of surviving a Nazi concentration camp: “The Hiding Place.” Ten Boom, Corrie. The Hiding Place. Bantam Books, 1974. Ms. Ten Boom paints the difference between “faith” and “superstition” quite clearly. During Ms. Ten Boom's agonizing imprisonment, she relies on her faith in Jesus Christ, even in the most awful circumstances. In an interview with Pat Robertson in 1974, she stated that her
imprisonment taught her: “I always believed, but now know through experience that Jesus' light is stronger than the deepest darkness.”

Ms. Ten Boom documents in great detail her close relationship with Christ and his presence in her life. Based on this strong foundation, Ms. Ten Boom is able to have faith that God will always be there for her, even while experiencing one of the most tragic circumstances in history. Jesus' love during those trying times was proof to Ms. Ten Boom to what she already believed through faith. She goes so far as to say that it was “good” that she could experience that the Lord could get her through such a horrible circumstance.” Id. Ms. Ten Boom's strong faith in Christ is juxtaposed against a story she tells quite early in her account. When she is first imprisoned, out of boredom she creates playing cards for herself to pass the time while in solitary confinement. She soon finds herself making superstitious, illogical leaps about her card playing, thinking that if she won certain games that it must be a sign that she'd be released soon. She quickly realized that she had gone from her faith in Jesus Christ to deliver her from her circumstances, to the random outcome of her card games, and she destroyed her cards and returned to her relying on a real God.

The Bible warns Christians numerous times to stay away from superstition, the occult, or relying on anything other than God. In one verse it states: “[J]ust as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:6-8 NIV.

God always provides evidence of his handiwork (the incredible and un-reproducable earth), and he always provides evidence of his presence in our lives once we put our faith in him. Friday the 13th remains as ordinary and unpredictable as any other day: so embrace the day with a prayer to the One who can actually bless it.