Tag Archives: Theology

Just another blog about Rob Bell

360_wbell_0425My first introduction to Rob Bell was in Atlanta at a Catalyst Conference in the early 2000’s.  He was just being discovered by those outside of his home base at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI.  I remember he was introduced in an up-and-coming typical evangelical-superstar manner, and the fact that his church was growing into the thousands must have been mentioned a half-dozen times by the emcees.  Normally this would be enough to make me gag (the reason why I don’t attend that sort of conference anymore), but then he hit the stage and I was spellbound.  I instantly fell in love with his communication style and was deeply impacted by his talk.  It was the one entitled, “Tassels on Garments.”

I went back to my job as a youth pastor and quickly began buying up Nooma videos, listening to his sermons from MHBC, and keeping tabs on what he was up to.  Velvet Elvis remains one of my favourite books; I still give it to people.  Rob’s teaching was instrumental in helping me put words and ideas to my faith.  And in many ways his teaching helped deepen my faith in Jesus and his Gospel.

However, it was only a short time before some of my peers and “the internet” started picking on Rob.  At first he was accused of bad teaching, but that quickly morphed into name calling.  Words like “liberal” and “heretic” started to be used (not like anyone could ever agree on what being “liberal” meant, exactly).  He got lumped into the emergent church movement which was quickly becoming passé and outlawed in some evangelical circles (though I don’t remember Rob ever claiming to be a part of any movement outside of his home church).  And eventually the reality of the, at times, messed-up evangelical machine started making it dangerous for someone to remain a fan of Rob.  If you admitted aloud that you liked Rob, you took the chance of being immediately dismissed or labelled in some pejorative way.  I still maintain that most of the negative critique of Rob’s teaching was completely unwarranted — the result of clashing Christian cultures and vernacular.

And then came Love Wins and the whole world blew up.  (Unless of course you aren’t in some way tied to the evangelical church, then you didn’t care at all.)  I remain confused by the reaction to the book.  Discussions concerning Christian Universalism have been going on within the halls and writing of academia for centuries.  My view is that Rob took on a particular subject at the worst possible time for him; the wolves were out to pounce.  And then he didn’t do the best of jobs in writing on the subject.  Regardless, Rob was mostly anathematized by evangelicalism and eventually had to leave his church for the beaches of sunny California.  He disappeared from the scene with only the odd interview popping up here (this one’s worth the watch!) and there.  And any sort of interview that did emerge was usually only about investigating one thing: is Rob still one of us in any shape or form, or can we indeed say, “Farewell, Rob Bell”?  (Many Christians, ashamedly, love deciding whether or not people are “in” or “out.”)  His answer-a-question-with-a-question answers drive many people crazy.  (Hmmm…now who’s that speaker from the 1st century who did that an awful lot?)  And his “unclear” responses to questions that include the words “do you believe…” have only helped to make those who doubted him already, doubt him even more.  (I sympathize with him.  Most of the time I think he’s put in a lose lose situation by his interviewer.  It’s no wonder he refuses so many interviews.)

Now, a few years later, he’s emerged again and has a new and powerful friend in Oprah Winfrey.  Of late he’s been on tour with her and yesterday The Rob Bell Show debuted on Oprah’s television network.  And because of all this, the evangelical internet has once again weighed in on Rob and it’s been mixed reviews (see here and here).  Now he’s not just a heretic, he’s “new age” and in bed with the empire.  Or he’s doing something extraordinary for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus on a massive stage.  Everyone is sure they know which option is happening, they just don’t agree with each other.

Okay, so none of this is news to anyone.  And why am I bothering to write just another blog about Rob Bell?  Well, for some reason unknown to me, I’ve had a handful of people ask me in the last month, “What do you think about Rob Bell?”  I usually respond with, “You don’t have the time to hear my take.”  I’ve also been paying attention to the internet’s latest discussion concerning Rob.  So I want to answer that question and I want to give my two cents about the recent internet dialogue.  Most importantly, I want to do so in a way that I hope someone would treat me were I in Rob’s shoes (understanding fully that I’m not famous, don’t want to be, and likely never will be).

The American evangelical machine, not unlike the American entertainment machine, has a way of making people famous and enabling us as the viewer to successfully remove the person from his or her fame.  The fame becomes what we know.  The person behind the fame is unknown.  Now, much could be said about how some people promote themselves into such status: some people willingly or unwillingly allow the machine to promote them, and some maybe even fight the machine hoping to remain un-famous, but fail.  To further complicate things, even if I, from a distance, tried to know the person behind the fame, that would be incredibly difficult because I’m not his or her friend or family; I’m an outsider making judgements about someone, no matter how it is that they became famous.  This is dangerous on many levels.

Despite the danger, here I go.

My family and I visited Mars Hill Bible Church in August 2010 and May 2011.  Both times we heard Rob preach.  But what I will always remember about those visits isn’t the content of Rob’s sermons (as good as they were), it was the experience at MHBC, a church deeply influenced by Rob (he did, after all, start the ministry), his personality, and values.  And I loved it.

I’ve visited several “famous” churches in the States.  They all had several things in common: big shiny expensive spectacular buildings, book stores filled with the pastor’s writings/dvds/cds, their own curriculum for the world to purchase, and an aura of corporate America that always made me very uncomfortable.  MHBC had none of that.  Not one ounce of it.  It was an old abandoned mall that was donated to the church when they outgrew the run-down warehouse in which they were meeting previously.  It didn’t even have a sign out front.  The thousands of people that walked into that building over the weekend were only greeted by a 3×10 inch sticker on the doors that said, “Mars Hill Bible Church.”  Inside, well, it was an old abandoned mall with new carpet and paint.  That’s it.  The Sunday School classes were the old stores.  And the large gathering space was what used to be a Zellers.  In the middle of that space was a platform about 15’x15′.  No big lights.  No big show.  Simple.  In fact, the one thing that MHBC had that I never saw in any of those other churches was racks of Bibles at the start of every aisle for people to take to their seats and use during the service.  And the service itself was as plain and simple as you could get.  They didn’t even dim the lights.

And no book store.  I couldn’t have bought an “I Love Rob Bell” t-shirt even if I wanted to.  There was a welcome table in the foyer that consisted of a handful of different sheets of paper to tell you about what was happening at the church, but there was not one inch of that place dedicated to its pastor.

So there was this church of a few thousand people with their “superstar” pastor, and you’d have sworn that no one in that building knew any of that to be true.  It was a breath of fresh air.  Humility.  A sense of their smallness in the grand scheme of things.  And an even deeper sense, for me anyways, that something powerfully spiritual and meaningful was taking place within those walls and then out into the community.  It was the only big church I’ve ever attended that felt small.

For these reasons, I have never bought into the idea that Rob is out to make a name for himself.  It just doesn’t fit.

The second time we visited MHBC was only weeks after the release of Love Wins.  Rob preached from 1 Corinthians and then led the congregation into communion.  But it was evident that he was shattered — broken.  He was visibly sad and came across beat up.  He asked for care from his friends and asked that the church would break bread with him, symbolizing the care and compassion of Jesus in the midst of their community.  Again, I felt a sense of authenticity and genuine desire for Jesus’ presence in and through the church that has therefore always made the caricature of Rob, suggested by his critics, sit uneasily with me.  Liberals, if there are any true liberal Christians left, don’t live into resurrection.

Now Rob is working with Oprah.  Not surprisingly this has come under fire.  He toured with the likes of Deepak Chopra and has since been lumped into that camp.  And now his new show is being slammed by some evangelicals for being a capitulation to culture, liberalism, the “empire,” new age philosophy; they say “he’s watering down the gospel”… and the list goes on.  All this from the 30 second teaser that’s been out for the past few weeks.

These recent events have once again brought up the notion that Rob is a lone wolf, accountable to no one, somehow outside of the church, and dangerously making up his own religion as he goes along.  I find this to be a complete misnomer.  It’s true, responding to a question about which church he currently belongs to, he said, “We have a little tribe of friends…We have a group that we are journeying with. There’s no building. We’re churching all the time. It’s more of a verb for us.”  But again, I find this to be a simple case of in-house bickering about vernacular.  Is he a registered member of a denomination or community church?  Not that I know of, and not that he’s making public.  However, if you’re into Gungor or their project, The Liturgists, then you’ll notice that Rob seems to be a part of that “tribe.”  (He also seems to be spending more time with Richard Rohr these days.)  Now, you can critique these individuals all you want for their theology, but it seems to me like they’re living out a form of community.  From what I know off them, I chose to believe that within that community are opportunities for accountability, discussion, critique, prayer, and Table.  I’ve seen mega-churches do far worse.

So this, for me, is one of those moments when I can choose to believe the best in someone, based on my limited and very distant connection to that person, or I can decide to take a stand and publicly denounce this person and intentionally work against him or her, believing that this approach is somehow more beneficial for the cause to which I subscribe.  I choose the former.  Do I plan on directing people to Rob’s new show?  No, not really.  But I certainly won’t be blogging about the perils of watching it, because my hope isn’t with Rob Bell somehow using his stature and position to “save” or “rescue” Christianity from the grip of rampant secularism.  I hope he uses his position well.  I hope he helps people come to know the hope of Jesus Christ.  I hope he helps people to see and realize that Christianity can handle intelligent conversion.  I’m actually inclined to believe that he will, in fact, do those things.  But whether he does or not, I’m a Christian.  My hope for this world is in Jesus and his church, not in Rob Bell.

Though I would very much like to grab a cold beverage with him someday.

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Your church will die.

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Drive down the main street of the city in which I live and you’ll see them: big, old, church buildings.  There are at least a dozen of them that sit either completely empty, devoid of all activity, or inhabited by congregations of less than 50 people looking quite scarce in their cavernous sanctuaries.  A few have “For Sale” signs on their lawns, a few are condemned, a few are being used by smaller churches paying minimal rent (which is great!), and even one is being turned into a high-rise condo.  There were days when these buildings were packed.  Those days are gone.

Someone, somewhere along the line, felt compelled to rally people around a fund-raising project and to build big.  Thankfully in those days, the majority of the buildings were constructed with theology and beauty in mind.  Yes, sometimes at the expense of function, but what we have now are at least buildings that, from the outside, add to the look of a city.  100 years from now I can’t imagine that the same will be said of the mall-style churches that are built these days out in the suburbs or warehouse districts.

But whether it’s a century-old beauty or a brand-new mall-style building, there is an unavoidable and obvious truth: buildings don’t last.  They fall apart eventually.  They don’t get better with age.  They demand upkeep and a whole lot of money to maintain infrastructure.  Millions of dollars are spent on maintenance let alone the amount spent to originally erect the facility.  And where does that money come from?  Usually the people who make up the church congregation.

I’ve worked in a money-sucking church building.  It was one of those projects that was undertaken at the height of “success,” only to go through the inevitable shrinking of its congregation.  It became an 1,100 seat auditorium hosting a congregation of 300.  When the numbers went down, the building became a heavy weight around that congregation, doing more than just demand money; it deeply affected the psyche of the congregation.  The building and its issues became to define the church.

Unfortunately my experience is not uncommon.  In my denomination alone we have several of these stories.  But here’s the kicker: we just keep doing the same thing.

I presume that in many cases the early days of all big-building projects and capital campaigns are exciting.  No doubt some buildings have been constructed for less-than admirable reasons, but generally I’m sure most have been built because people were coming to the church or settling in a neighbourhood in such numbers that a structure to facilitate the group needed to be created.  And in those moments, I wonder, where many people asking this question: “Who is going to pay for this in 20, 30, 60, 100 years from now?”  I bet that question isn’t asked very often because in the midst of the excitement, it likely feels like whatever this is, it will never end.

But it always does.

For 2000 years there have been local church congregations.  And for 2000 years every church that has been birthed has eventually closed its doors.  The Church will last forever.  But Scripture does not give us any indication that the local church will do the same.  Every church that builds will someday be tasked with figuring out how to maintain and sustain their infrastructure while dealing with dwindling congregations.  History suggests that this is an inevitable outcome.

So why do we not pay attention to our past?  Why do we continue to raise millions of dollars on a particular type of infrastructure that has shown itself to be unsustainable?  Do the ends justify the means?  Does facilitating current excitement and growth justify hamstringing future generations with all the problems that come with big infrastructure?  Why build big instead of building small in multiple locations — forming new contextual outposts of the Gospel in new communities and neighbourhoods?  Why build big and new instead of investing in existing structures and helping to solve the problems of brothers and sisters in Christ who are saddled with deteriorating buildings?  I believe that building big and raising the money to do so should be an absolute last resort — the idea at the bottom of the barrel.  There are better options.

I appreciate that infrastructure of some sort is needed to facilitate local churches.  We need space and that’s not a bad thing.  What I’m suggesting is that we don’t do a very good job of stewarding, creating, and using the right kind of space.  We too often fail to ask the right questions.  Instead of giving future generations within our churches the blessing of appropriate infrastructure, we saddle them with the types of infrastructure that make maintenance and the constant need for money the defining aspects of their church.  Instead of an infrastructure that is agile, low-maintenance, and ready for the constant shift in both our churches and culture, we leave them anchored to something that will end up driving their values and daily discussion.  I have yet to meet someone from a large church turned small that is saddled with a big building where the burden of the building has not become the thing around which all other conversations are centered.

I am convinced that the direction and movement of our Canadian culture demands that we evaluate our building habits.

Right next to the hall in which our church gathers and where my office is located is a cemetery.  It’s an old one (by Canadian standards) containing the resting places of a few people from as far back as the war of 1812.  I often walk the path through the cemetery on my way to appointments or when I’m just out for a stroll.  Cemeteries are odd places.  You feel sorrow, pain, death, and suffering.  As a Christian you also feel hope, resurrection, and a sense that this is not the end.  Either way, though, walking through a cemetery is a good way to remember something very important: you will die.  It’s a great way to regain perspective.

I hope that this post is a bit like walking through a cemetery: a pause in which we may find perspective.  Because your church will die, or at the very least it will get smaller someday.  You may disagree with the perspective I’m presenting.  That’s okay.  But the pause may be beneficial none the less.  Perhaps God has something else to say to you while you think on your (church’s) eventual death.

Feel free to comment.

 

Tulips

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Today is February 7.  One year ago on this day my wife received news that a mole which had been removed from her skin and biopsied had returned positive for stage one melanoma.  In the grand scheme of cancer diagnosis, this is not that big a deal.  The cancer was less than 1mm deep into her skin and we were immediately assured that this sort of thing had a 99% positive prognosis.  So you’d think we’d be able to move on, be thankful for the early catch, and forget about it.

Not so.

One year ago today began a journey that is hard to put into words.  Both Shalene and I fell deep into a world of serious anxiety, fear, depression, doubt, pain, and questioning of our faith.  There were several times when I almost left this faith which has defined me for my entire life.

To put our whole journey into words would require a book, not a blog.  But today, on February 7, I want to share with you one of our stories.  To tell this story properly will require me telling you several preface stories.  Eight to be exact.

Preface story one.

My family moved to Ancaster to start a church almost two years ago this week.  Ancaster is a white collar city: educated people, professors, lawyers, CEOs, and that sort of crowd.  This is a city with an intense radar for BS — where people won’t get duped by slick sales jobs.  So if you’d asked me two years ago why I thought God directed my path towards Ancaster, I would have responded with a level of foolish pride in my answer.  I would have suggested to you that the fit made sense; that I fancied myself a well-read, educated, sort of guy.  And that we were going to do church in such a way that it was going to convince people in a way they’d never heard before that this Christianity thing made sense (my fingers tremble even writing such nonsense now).

Fast forward to November 2012.  I remember sitting in one of my favourite Ancaster hangouts with a member of our church’s leadership team.  Something had been building inside of me and I shared it with my friend.

“I’m pretty sure that the only way that this church is going to work is if Jesus shows up and starts doing some crazy things — stuff we just can’t explain.  I think that’s all we’ve got.  And I’ll be really honest with you; that scares the shit out of me.”  My friend looked at me.  He began to tear up.  And he said, “I absolutely agree.”  And in that moment I knew that that’s what had to happen.  But I was a skeptic.  I grew up believing that Jesus was powerful, able to do the miraculous, able to heal — all that kind of stuff.  But in that moment I knew that I only believed those things on paper.  I had serious internal doubts.  What I wanted was something I wasn’t sure that I could believe in.

Preface story two.

I serve on the Ancaster Ministerial.  Around the same time as the previous story took place, the Ministerial had a meeting wherein we were deciding what to do for the 2013 Lenten Lunch series we host and run in the city.  For seven weeks during Lent we host a lunch and provide a short Lent-themed devotional.  About 80 wonderful senior citizens from the community show up each week.

We distributed the dates that we were each going to lead a devotional and decided that the series would focus on the seven miracles of Jesus from the Gospel of John.  I received my date and plugged it into my calendar.  I received my text and put it in a folder, not to be thought of again until a few days before I had to speak.

Preface story three.

Shalene’s favourite flower is the tulip.  And here’s something sad: I didn’t know that until this past year.  Chalk one up for the husband of the year.

Then came February 7, 2013.

As I mentioned, we fell apart on this day.  Days turned into weeks turned into months, in most of which you would have usually found us crumpled in a ball in front of our fireplace, in bed, or barely getting through each day.  We were in counseling.  We had a steady flow of amazing people coming to care for us.  I lost 30 pounds from not eating.  Our kids were suffering.  We had so many questions.  We spent hours in tears, prayer, and journaling (these were often the only times we felt peace).  Some of my worst moments included contemplating driving our vehicle, with my family in it, into oncoming traffic.  Yes, it was that bad.

Preface story four.

On the night of February 7th an amazing couple from our church came over to be with and pray for us.  As they prayed, they felt compelled to tell Shalene that somehow in the midst of the journey ahead, God was going to help her realize just how much he loved her.  This was pretty significant for Shalene.  Shalene feared God.  And not in the healthy way, but in the “He’s out to get me” way.  Her getting cancer seemed only a validation of this deep internal fear.  Accepting Jesus and the Spirit was easy for Shalene.  But Father God was not someone to be trusted.

Preface story five.

During several of our journaling times, both Shalene and I felt like Jesus was telling us that the coming of spring had something to do with our healing.  This puzzled us, but we clung to it.

One morning during a time of journaling, Shalene began to think about our circumstances as a time of trial, testing, and intentional shaping.  She felt compelled to count the days between her diagnosis and the first day of spring.  It just so happened to be 40 days.  She mentioned this to me and I responded with an intrigued but casual shrug of the shoulders.

Preface story six.

Several weeks after her diagnosis, Shalene was reading through the Gospel of John.  She read John 9:1-7.

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”  Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.

Reading her own sickness into the story, she read the story aloud for me and then asked what I thought.  I said this: “I’ll tell you what I think.  I think it’s stupid.  If God wants to make us sick just so that he can show up and make himself look good, then he can keep his goodness to himself. I don’t ever want to hear that story again.”

And that was that.

Preface story seven.

A couple of weeks later I remembered that I had to speak at the upcoming Lenten lunch service on March 20th.  I wasn’t doing much of anything work-related, but I was trying to keep up with some responsibilities.  I went into my office, picked up my Ministerial folder, opened it, and found the passage on which I was to speak: John 9:1-7.  Are you kidding me?  I was angry.  Really angry.

I sat down, pulled out some commentaries, and began to read.  Slowly my eyes started to open to a teaching that I hadn’t grasped upon first reading.  We all want to know why.  Why does crap happen?  The disciple’s question is often our question.  Did I do something?  Is this a consequence for something?  But Jesus doesn’t even really respond to that line of questioning.  His response is concerning what he’s going to do right now.  When Jesus says “this happened,” I think he’s referring to what he’s about to do.  He’s about to show his power, love, and presence by intervening into the brokenness of our humanity and doing something crazy.  He’s about to give people a story — a story that will demonstrate to the world that The Light of the World is in our midst.

I began to get excited.  Still incredibly anxious and depressed about my own circumstances, but I could find hope in this story.  And hope was something I found hard to come by.

Preface story eight.

The night before I was to speak at the Lenten lunch was a bad night.  Shalene and I put the kids to bed and then collapsed (again) on the living room floor.  Our anxiety was through the roof.  We cried and cried.  And then I did something I’d never done before.  As I knelt on the ground I began to pray.  “God, I need something I’ve never asked for before.  I need an angel.  I need you to send someone to tell me that everything’s going to be okay.  It was really great of you to send an angel to tell those around Jesus’ empty tomb that it was going to be okay.  Well I need the same thing.  I’m so desperate.”

Of course in my mind this angel was to be large, wearing a bright white gown, and ideally with a flashing billboard over its head reading, “I’m an angel.”  Trumpets would have been nice, too.  To be honest, I had little expectation of this sort of prayer being answered.

And with that, we made our way to bed.

The story. (Finally)

The next day I got ready for the lunch.  It was a cold, snowy, and blistery day — the kind of day that makes a bad mood even worse.  As I was getting ready, Shalene reminded me of something: today, March 20th, was the first day of spring.  I guess I knew it, but I didn’t want to think about it much because I was pretty convinced I was going to be let down — that it was just going to be like any other day: a day filled with worry, anxiety, depression, and doubt.  But so it was, the first day of spring.  A snowy, cold, blistery, crappy day.

I arrived at the church in which the event was being hosted.  I went and sat down at a table awaiting my time to go up and speak the message which I’d prepared.  A little old lady came and sat down beside me.  We exchanged names, though for the life of me I can’t remember hers.  I didn’t think anything of this new acquaintance and when my time came to speak, I got up and instantly forgot I’d even met the woman.  I shared a bit of our story since Shalene’s diagnosis, my first run-in with the text from John, and then my understanding of the text upon doing some research.  And although I shared how the text gave me hope, I didn’t shy away from saying that I was still filled with worry and anxiety.  I finished speaking and took my seat.  When I returned to my table I didn’t even notice that the little old lady wasn’t there anymore.

When the service concluded I was greeted by several well-meaning people who came over to give me a hug and offer their prayer support.  I admit that all I wanted to do was get home and go back to bed.

Then it happened.

The little old lady returned.  She stood behind me and tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around and she placed into my hands a large bouquet of flowers.  Tulips, to be exact.  She looked into my eyes and said, “I want you to give these to your wife.  Tell her spring is coming and everything is going to be okay.  I have to go now.  Someone is waiting for me.”  Then she smiled and left.

“Where on earth did she get these flowers from?” was all I thought.  I left the church and returned home.

When I got home I gave the flowers to Shalene and told her what the lady had said.  Neither of us thought much of it except that it was a little bizarre that this lady had a bunch of tulips on hand on such a cold and crappy day.

Later that day we’d planned to have some friends over, and it just happened to be the same couple that was with us the night of February 7th.  As we sat down in the living room for coffee they asked us how our day was (knowing that most of our days were pretty awful).  I began to tell them about my day: the speaking, the little old lady, the flowers…  and then Shalene stopped me.  “Aaron, do you remember what you prayed about last night?”  We both looked at each other stunned — like what the heck just happened here?  And slowly we began to remember all of the prefacing stories that I just shared above.  One by one we reminded each other of the moments along the journey: the conversations, the journaling, the connecting dots — all of it.

Our friend’s eyes lit up.  “Don’t you see it?” they asked.  “He’s chasing you; he’s wooing you; he’s revealing himself all around you; he’s answering you with angels.  He gave you flowers!

Our eyes filled with tears.  We still had the anxiety, the questions, the doubts, and our journey was far from over.  But on that day — the first day of spring — God brought us tulips.

He’s all around us.  He is so good.  He is so loving.  He is with us.  And the same Jesus who said, “this happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him,” is still at it.  He’s still doing his thing and giving us stories to tell.

All we have are our stories.  Looking back to that conversation with my friend in the coffee shop, I believe now that the only way God could use me to lead a church where the unexplainable could be a part of our story, was to walk me through the unexplainable so that I could live it firsthand.  Now I have my stories.  I have a testimony of God’s loving presence that I never had before.  And now I expect the unbelievable.

Some will read this and call it simple coincidence.  Maybe they’re right.

Some will read this and think I’m nuts.  Maybe they’re right, too.

But for me, and I pray for you, this has deepened my faith.  This has turned a skeptic (which is an exhausting way to live, by the way) into a believer (who still has more questions than answers).

We are doing much better these days.  Shalene is in the clear health-wise, though we have a monthly routine which includes mole-checking and doctor’s visits.  We have both learned all sorts of things about the human battle with fear, anxiety, worry, and depression.  We continue to get help for these powerfully debilitating mental health issues.  Our journey with this isn’t over; it will likely never be over.  And this isn’t the sort of thing we’d wish on anyone and we pray we never have to walk through this again.  But we are so thankful for our time in the valley.  It changed us.  It’s made us into something better for one reason: God met us in the darkness so that we could know his light.

Today, on February 7th, I brought tulips home for Shalene.  They’re sitting directly in front of me as I type this.  They represent far more than just flowers on what is another cold, snowy, blistery day.

May you recognize that God is all around you, walking with you, and constantly wooing you into his presence.

May you receive your tulips.