Scholarly Selfies

I don’t take many selfies (self shot photos). They are the latest craze however.

Everyone is the star of their own photo shoot.

Every now and again they are fine but On case you are wondering, I am not that interested in your 86th self shot photo of the day.

The lighting is bad and you should be using this time to do the laundry of he background of your selfie. Not taking another one.

I wonder what historians will use as historical sources in 2000 years. Will professors at the future universities of the world reference scholarly “selfies” and tweets that are detrimental to their research?

2000 years ago you had to be a ruler, a person of statues, a great war hero, or an infamous rebel to be penned in the annals of history.

Now we all right our own history, in 140 characters or less. We document our life whether we are a soccer mom, a college freshman, or a Billionaire.

Even though some stories get more press, more readers, and more interest, everyone gets an equal opportunity to tell their story. 

So what story are we telling?

Are we even telling a story?

I spend lots of time each week with the most tech savvy generation that has ever walked the planet, High school students.

And what I see is that they stories they are telling are the stories they think the world wants to hear, not the stories the world needs to hear.

And that is where most of us find ourselves.

The world wants to hear stories of success, so we pursue them and try to tell that story. The world wants to hear stories of vanity, so we try to look the part. The world wants to hear stories of “comfort”, so we pursue that ever elusive goal that is always slipping through out fingers even after the next promotion, or bonus, or milestone.

There has never been a time in the history of the world when so many have had an opportunity to communicate so much so fast. And those opportunities are only growing.

But is the story you are telling, the story you were created to tell.

Because there are stories the world wants to hear, but then there are stories the world needs to hear.

The world needs stories of irrational hope when international conflicts seem endless; Stories of unconditional love when the divorce rate in America hovers around half; stories of courageous generosity when millions starve, and freeze and die from easily preventable causes.

History is often a record of people who told stories the world needed to hear, in a time people wanted something else.  

What story are you telling?

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

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Transfer

Hey everyone! I am transferring all my content to my new blog How to Survive Christians. Howtosurvivechristians.wordpress.com

You can access my old posts via the “God and Other Stuff” link on the new page!

I hope you will come check it out and join the conversation.

Thanks! and sorry for the hassle!

Pat

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WWJD if he were a Zombie?

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I recently saw the movie World War Z. The movie follows Brad Pitt as he fights a one man war against the pending annihilation of the human race to a Zombie virus, infecting human beings in under 12 seconds.

The first question I have is: does he really need to wear his hipster scarf throughout the film? Is that the most necessary tool to fighting Zombies? He loses guns, knives, and all sorts of other resources, but don’t fear, his scarf resides snugly around his neck just incase he has Mumford and Sons tickets later that day.

Secondly, I wondered if this is how some people view Christians. We convert at random and sometimes by force, taking over all corners of the world. We don’t
spare the rich or the poor but at all costs infect all people with no purpose other than conversion and take over.

That’s what we do sometimes. But it isn’t necessarily what Jesus did, (looks like those WWJD bracelets were on to something after all). Jesus met a need while creating a relationship. He interacted with those who came near to him and pursued those who couldn’t or wouldn’t.

But he didn’t force himself upon people. He offered himself too people.

The first is about power, the second love.

The first appears strong but is weak, the second appears weak but is strong.

Might all we do be warped in love

Has someone ever tried to convert you by power and not love?

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

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Lady Liberty Fights Vampires.

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I saw this bumper sticker on a car recently and I thought to myself, Finally! The statue of Liberty is taking a hard a bold stand against vampires.

We all know vampires hate the cross, watch any vampire movie. We also know, Dracula is from Transylvania. So where better than the Statue of Liberty to put a giant vampire deterrent.

We all know, since vampires with be immigrating into the U.S. this could not have happened too soon. I am just not sure why it took Lady Liberty this long to get on board.

I wan’t my son to know that while he was still a small boy, a few brave men and women rose up to fight the threat of vampire invasion so he and generations to come could sleep soundly.

I can only hope we will surround Ellis Island with a circle of salt to protect us agains witches.

After conceding that maybe this is not about vampires, I wonder, what is it actually about?

I wonder, if Jesus had a bumper sticker on his donkey, what would it say?

The thing is, I think I agree with this bumper sticker while disagree with it at the same time.

I remember at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, when he was being tempted i the desert, he was offered rulership of the whole world, if he would just give up his mission of liberating the world from the sins that kept us in captivity.

He didn’t.

I am all for religious liberty. Really I am. But maybe if we concerned ourselves with loving God and loving our neighbor, we wouldn’t need these stickers anyways. I don’t know of anyone who is anti loving our neighbor. I have not felt that right suppressed.

So

If Jesus had a bumper sticker on his donkey, what would it say?

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

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My car is a better christian than me

 

If aliens were to discover our planet and inspect the cars that we drive, they would believe many of us to be huge fans of fish. So much so that we put embalms of them on our bumpers.

You know they ones I am talking about, the small chrome fish stuck to the bumper of a Christian’s car.

My brother and I began calling these Jesus Fish when we were younger. It’s the Christian version of pimping my ride.

Instead of putting chrome rims on the wheels, we put chrome fish on the bumper. Jesus probably had one on the back of his donkey.

But Jesus didn’t come for our cars. He came for our hearts. The truth is, sometimes our cars are more Chirstian than we are. 

It’s not an external label that defines us but an internal conviction.

In Luke 6 Jesus speaks to this issue. He tells his disciples that a good tree can’t bear bad fruit but a bad tree cant bear good fruit.

We speak from the content of our heart, not from the decal on our bumper.

All too often I am content with the title of being a pastor, the few minutes I spent reading scripture the day before, or who saw the way I helped my wife around the house that I fall into the trap of letting those things define my relationship with God. In the same moment I will act out of anger, not pay attention to my wife, and neglect spending time with God.

I forget that God is more concerned with my heart now, than what I did before.  If our heart is good, good comes of it. If its not, then no matter what we do, it wont be as good as it can be, regardless of what’s on our bumper. 

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If Jesus jumped off a cliff

Everyone’s parents have asked the question of them at least once.

As a kid you would come home and talk about a friend you have. This was typically the friend who lived in a house that seemed more like Vegas than a home two doors down. The friend got to do whatever they wanted. They got to buy whatever they wanted. They were the masters of their own destiny.

You would come home and tell your parents how Bobby got to light his pants on fire while he was still wearing them. You told your parent’s that his parents encouraged. You stood dumbfounded and frustrated when your parents refused to allow you to light your pants on fire. On and on you would make your case why because this friend did it, you can do it too.

Then your parents pulled out the question out of some magical parenting toolbox filled with, because-I-said-sos and My-house-my-rules.

If Bobby jumped off a cliff would you too?

Even though I was clearly bested by a greater wit than my own, I would still respond, “Yup.”

Your parents intention was to help you understand that just because someone else does it, doesn’t me we have to.

And there in lies the problem. As crazy as it is, we have applied that to our spiritual lives.

Jesus jumped off a cliff and we didn’t go.

He jumps off a lot of cliffs. He goes a lot of places we see as dangerous. He does a lot of things we don’t see as safe. He calls us to a lot of places we aren’t sure if we can make it back from. But he calls us nonetheless.

One of the central topics of Jesus’ 3-year ministry was the idea that God was doing something on earth now, not in heaven out there but bringing Heaven here. His life was to be the exclamation point to their perspective that isn’t just going to do something but God is doing something now. He wants us to be a part of it.

But all too often we simplify what Jesus calls out of us: Our attendance, maybe a little money, maybe a quick prayer before dinner, and likely not much else.

Matthew records that shortly after the begging of his ministry that Jesus went and called his first disciples. This was not a unique task to rabbis of the day. One of the central foci of rabbinic culture was that you would find a group of followers to train in your ways. A rabbi would pass on his yolk (or practice and interpretation of the Torah) to his followers.

In Jesus’ case, as he was walking along the sea he saw Peter and Andrew fishing off the shore. He called to them, “follow me” and at once the followed him. Shortly after he saw James and John. Again fishing, and again he called to them. Matthew records that James and John left their boat and father who was fishing with them and immediately followed Jesus.

If the story of the calling of the disciples were going to be re-written for the average American Christian it would be told as such.

 

Jesus was walking along the shore when he saw Peter and Andrew behind the bar at Starbucks. Peter was working the drive-thru while Andrew was making drinks. Jesus said to them “follow me.” They got excited. They accepted the offer. They couldn’t believe it. They talked about their lives being changed. Then they told him they would see him Sunday. Jesus left alone.

He walked into Chillis where he met two brothers eating a meal with their father. Jesus approached the table and said to the two boys, “follow me. “ Their father was ecstatic. The boys also couldn’t believe that such an important figure would care about them, that he would want to spend time with them and mold them. As Jesus turned to leave the restaurant he looked back and noticed the boys focused back on the bottomless chips and salsa. “Aren’t you coming to follow me?” he asked them. “Oh, um, yeah. I mean we will see you Sunday right? We have a lot of things to do here. We only have so much time you know? But we will definitely see you Sunday. Unless we are out too late Saturday night, definitely the next week though!

 

Now I spend a lot of time at Starbucks and I love me some chips and salsa so I am not criticizing there. But I wonder how many of us who are “followers of Jesus” are actually following Jesus. We may like him, know about him, see him around town, but are we really going to the places he is going? Are we really following him?

I know more often than I want to admit, I am not. Time gets in the way. Responsibilities pile up. I get tired. I get lazy. And sometimes I really just don’t want to follow.

But you know what God does when he calls us to follow and we don’t go? He calls us again. Moses gave a laundry list of excuses, but in the end, he followed. Elijah was hiding in a cave, from the enemy and from God, but God found him and called him. Peter had sold Jesus out publicly, but three days later, Jesus was there again, reminding him that written on Peter’s heart was the desire to follow God.

So when Jesus jumps off a cliff, go. It’s scary and you can’t see the bottom. You aren’t sure if you will be hurt, you aren’t sure if it’s safe, you aren’t sure if you will ever be back again. But wouldn’t you rather face the fear of following than the regret of missing out?

And even if you don’t, have confidence that he will be back again, calling you once again to follow him.

So, if Jesus jumped off a cliff would you too? Yup.

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Is my Jesus is broken?

My son gives a lot of unsolicited hugs. He is 19 months old and if giving unsolicited hugs was an Olympic sport, he would be the youngest Olympian ever. What is an unsolicited hug? What Patrick does is identifies his target, zeroes in, moves in for the kill, and wraps his arms around his prey before they know what hit them. They usually squirm with their arms tucked to the side and a face of both confusion and anguish and Patrick maintains the warm embrace. He doesn’t have to know someone for this. Perfect strangers and the play place can all the time receive these hugs, unprovoked, unsolicited. His mother and I, the ones who are always grateful to receive such hugs, begging for them sometimes, receive them all too seldom.

 

Patrick doesn’t see it as unsolicited however. He has hugs and it is his duty to release them upon the world.

 

Christians give a lot of unsolicited hugs. I don’t mean literally, well sometimes literally, but most often it is in the form of advice, counsel, Biblical insight, revelatory prophecy we have received in the clouds during a summer solstice.

 

The unmarried couple moves in across the street and we wonder when it will be time to, “let them know,” you know, that their living arrangement is against the Bible. Your son want’s to go see the Harry Potter movies at a friends house but first you need to call the parents of his friend to let them know that witchcraft is obviously of the devil. You have to let your friend know that God is not in favor of their particular political party.

 

C’mon, we give these hugs all the time. We don’t even know we are doing it sometimes. And yet, although we mean it as a warm embrace, all in the name of Jesus of course, the other person is left squirming with a look of both confusion and anguish on their face.

 

Here’s a rule to follow: only hug people who are ready to hug back

 

I work with a group of high schoolers who by and large understand the principle of only hugging people who are ready to hug back better than any people I know. I see new faces in our ministry weekly because the high school students who are committed to our ministry are committed to influencing their friends where they are at. They don’t force them anywhere, to do anything, or to change anything. We have kids who come who leave and get drunk or get high and a host of other things during the week. But their friends who love Jesus also love them. They pursue them.

 

They give hugs, but they wait until others want them.

 

We get paranoid that our Jesus is broken. That if we don’t tell others to change, who will? If we don’t inform others of their sin, who will? But we are called to love Jesus, and our friends, and neighbors, and gas station attendants, and even that guy who cut you off this morning. We don’t change people, we love people and Jesus changes people. Our Jesus isn’t broken. He is doing just fine, and we need to let him do what he does. We need to stop the unsolicited hugs already. Love people in a hand shake, a passing

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t like a lot of verses in the Bible.

I sin a lot…

 

If you are reading this, and your response to the previous statement is not, “yeah me too,” please go check out one of the many blogs on lying to yourself. It’s true. I sin a lot. Scripture, as well as the other major world religions, uses the word sin to describe a violation of God’s (or supreme) will. And truth is, most all of us, sin a lot.

 

So what’s the point? The point is that the Bible, in a ton of places says don’t do it. And yet, here we are, a lot of people, who all, sin a lot.

 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like a lot of verses in the Bible. I don’t know if I can say that, but I m saying it anyways.

 

I get the whole, Thou shalt not kill thing. I’m good with that. No problem here.

 

A lot of times though I will read scripture and my response will be, “yeah right! Like that’s possible.” Or, “I just don’t want to do that.” I am not saying I don’t believe them to be true, valuable, relevant, or inspired, I am just saying I don’t like them.

 

The other day I read one such verse: “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the son go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26)

 

Yeah Right, I want to respond back, “So, if not in anger then when can I sin?”

 

Seriously though. How many times have I gone to bed angry? How many times has my anger been the motivating force to my breaking God’s will, hurting someone, or hurting myself?

 

When I was a junior in high school, I punched a hole in the wall of my bedroom. I didn’t do it because I was remodeling and was missing a sledgehammer, nor because I had always hated that particular 6” space of drywall. I was angry. My dad had told me I was not allowed to run in the sectional track meet for my school. My hamstring was torn by the way, he was not some power hungry tyrant. Yet at the time, in that moment, I felt like I was living in a house with Stalin. Sorry dad, he’s not Stalin. But I was angry and at the time all he was missing was a mustache and an accent.

 

So I walked downstairs, and punched a hole right into my wall. Why the wall? No clue. The repairman who came later that week reminded me that the next time I did it would likely be the last because I would probably hit a stud and fracture my hand. I have since transitioned to punching baby kittens in my anger. Just kidding, but I haven’t punched another wall.

 

Why does God make a point of telling us not to sin in our anger? When I am angry is exactly when I want to sin. It’s like adding rockets to my tricycle; sin I never thought imaginable is easy when I am angry. Words I can say, things I can do, all come easier in anger.

 

And yet I think that is exactly why he reminds us to be careful when we are angry. Don’t flip the switch on the rocket, because it can spiral out of control. You aren’t yourself. Anger is an emotion and sin is an action. Paul doesn’t say, “don’t get angry.” He knows we will get angry. He instructs us what to do, or rather, what not to do, with our anger. Don’t let our anger turn into the wrong action.

 

I think the reason I hate this verse because It’s hard. Don’t let the sun go down? What if the fight was just before bedtime and the sun is already down?

 

But this verse is also powerful beyond belief. We are given a choice, allow your anger to fuel destruction, or mold it into righteous anger that fuels change. Will your anger fuel harsh words or honest conversation, slander or truth, violence or reconciliation?

 

I would love a passage that says, “Hey, here’s how to not get angry.” But I don’t get that because God doesn’t want us to abstain from anger. Righteous anger over global atrocities has sparked some of the most powerful and history-altering movements the world has seen.

 

It’s not about not getting angry, it’s about what to do with it. God doesn’t want us to waste out anger. It’s hard, I hate it. But when we let God inspire us from anger, we don’t allow our anger to inspire us to sin.

 

 

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I’m terrible with waiting

I have a major issue with waiting. I am not good at it. I think the call that a “lack of patience”, but seems like such a negative way to put the term. I prefer to think of myself as wait challenged. Truth is, some of us are more capable of waiting, we have more patience, but no one typically enjoys it.

As a culture, we are becoming more  “wait-challenged”. We like things now, not later. We can update our status, let people know where we are, find out where they are, make plans, tweet, pin, post, flickr, check-in, and a host of other verbs all from the comfort of well, anywhere. We can do so many more things now that used to require so much extra time that we forget what is like wait, and the value in waiting. Twenty years ago, it was common that if you wanted to correspond with someone, your letter would arrive within the week. Now if your email takes more than ten seconds to arrive in the other persons outbox, it’s considered a long wait. Whether it is grocery lines, traffic, important news, next week’s episode of Parenthood, we don’t want to wait and we want the waiting over, because the value is in the now.

What, if there wasn’t only wisdom, but value in waiting? In my life, even when I have to wait a week, it seems so long. (Insert Greatest Generation lecture here about climbing Everest both ways to school barefoot and listening and waiting weekly on the whimsical radio show the family would gather round and listen to). I know I am part of a generation that needs to learn to see the value in waiting but we are part of a culture that devalues waiting, and our world is steering farther and farther from a world in which you have to wait for anything. What if we were created as beings that are born to wait however? What if God valued what happened in the waiting, as much as he did the resolution?

No matter how you view the opening chapter of Genesis from a history of the world perspective, Genesis 1 communicates far more than simply a science question.

The chapter progresses over 7 days in which God creates all of creation. It is beautiful and powerful and moving to read the progression from chaos to creation. What if you got a front row seat and you got to witness the whole thing? Wouldn’t it be foolish to sit there on day 3 and say, “come on already, let’s get to the good stuff, I want to see you create a rhino.” Although we may be impatient, God is patient. It’s because he wants us to see what we miss when we want an instant result. HE wants us to experience the journey. He wants us to grow into the story.

An often quoted passage from Scripture is from Jeremiah 29:11 where the prophet, speaking to a nation of people in distress, on behalf of God, says, “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” You want to know when God spoke those words? Right after he told his people they were going to have to live with foreign people in a foreign land for the next 70 years. He tells them they have to wait, but then reminds them he has a plan. We love the idea that God has a plan for our lives, we are uncomfortable with the idea that we have to wait for it. Why not just give it to us now?

God uses waiting to refine us. He prepares us. Like a ten-year-old quarterback with a lot of potential, God guides us and strengthens us. You would not throw the best ten-year-old into the NFL even though that may be where he wants to go. He’d be crushed, literally.  You would prepare them for their future while helping them focus on the now.

God points to a future plan while he develops us in our current circumstances. Sometimes I want God to work now, to work here, to work on my plan, but what I read when I look at the story of God is that he calls me to wait, to be patient, to remember that he has a plan, that he is good, and he has got this. I feel like he calls back at me saying, “enjoy what I am doing all around you in this moment, don’t miss this, you’re going to need this later. And remember, I’ve got this all figured out.”

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Behind every great man, there is a woman flying from a tree in a hurricane.

I love the opening words of the Bible. They are so ominous and unprecedented yet so expectant and new.  In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, now the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of the Lord hovered over the surface of the deep. The word here for Spirit is used throughout the Old Testament. It’s the word RUAH. It means wind, breath, or spirit.

Have you ever been outside on a windy day? It’s powerful. Is it more powerful to see a news story of a Hurricane, or to be in the center of one? It’s one thing to see pictures of giant storms but it’s another to me in the midst of one. My mother in law was once in a Hurricane in the Bahamas. She thought she it would be fun to go outside and see if you held onto a tree that your feet would blow up in the air like in the movies. It worked. My father-in-Law wasn’t happy. I guess like the saying goes, behind every great man, there is a woman flying from a tree in a hurricane. Feeling the wind is far more powerful than seeing it.

So back to Genesis and the Ruah.  What I love is that this is our introduction to God so to speak. This is how we meet him. We hear that in the begging he created, but then our first image of him is the Spirit hovering over the waters. If you have ever been in caught off guard by a giant gust of wind, or held onto a tree because your feet are blowing up in the air, you know that just because you cant see the wind doesn’t mean you aren’t experiencing its force. Just because you cant see the wind doesn’t mean you aren’t witnessing its affect on everything around you. And no one is arguing that just because we can’t see the wind, it isn’t actually there.

All of us go through stages of contemplating God’s presence or absence in our lives. Those who are not followers of God sometimes may seem in a perpetual state of contemplating his absence or existence and even the most devout of may frequently stop and wonder, Is He really there?  In this chaos, when this is happening, when our world is going through this, with the loss of that person, is He really there?

In ancient literature, waters, or waters of the deep, especially rough or formlessness are often used to represent chaos, or an absence of divine control. This doesn’t mean deep waters,  as in an ocean, but unbridled mystery, darkness, etc. In the flood narrative of Noah chapters later, the author describes God as unleashing the waters of the deep into the world. That wasn’t a good thing.  The specific way Genesis describes the earth as formless, void, chaotic, says far more than just, “God hadn’t created land yet.” It says, there was chaos in creation, from its very origin, there was formlessness, emptiness, incompleteness. And yet, why I love this verse, is that we see, from the very beginning, God is hovering over it all. He’s got this. The waters don’t overtake him, the waters don’t subdue him, the Ruah of God is greater than the waters from the beginning.

Fast-forward some thousands (or millions, or billions) of years, depending how you read history. There are a group of twelve men aboard a ship in the middle of the open sea. Some of these men come from financial backgrounds, some from socio-political, but some are seafaring, accustomed to life on the open sea. They notice the boat starting to rock. They notice small white caps on the waves as the water beings to roll the boat harder and harder. They notice dark clouds that only moments ago seemed on the horizon but they are now already upon them. Water begins to fall ferociously, waves splash over the boat, no right minded person would be out in this sort of storm. The men begin to look at one another. They are all afraid but it’s the sailors first. Just in a look they tell each other that the small vessel wont survive the storm. Soon all the men know, amidst all the wind and waves and chaos there isn’t a word to speak to one another. They have one last task. Go and wake their leader, somehow he is sleeping amidst the storm. The waves have jostled him from his slumber. They have to let him know that this is over. These are his last moments. They wake him, concerned and perturbed at his reluctance to help save the ship. “Don’t you care if we drown?” they ask him.

Then he stands, as if he stands on solid ground not a rocking ship. Then he speaks, “Be quiet, be still.” Then he speaks again, this time to the men on the boat, “why are you afraid, do you still have no faith?”

Jesus had spent some time with these guys before. They know him by now. And yet when the chips are down, when their life is on the line, they believed the storm they could see was stronger than the God they could not.

They didn’t wake Jesus because the knew he could calm the storm, they work him because he wasn’t helping. They woke him to warn him the end was near. And yet Jesus looks at them as if to ask, “don’t you know by now? I am the God who hovers over the chaos, who has control over all things. Don’t you remember who I am? I am the God who has calmed chaotic waters since time began.”

Since the very beginning, we see the Ruah of the Lord hovering over the waters. But it is probably more appropriate to say we feel the Spirit of the Lord hovering over the waters. We don’t see wind. We feel wind. We don’t visually observe it although we may see what it does or its path. We interact with it directly. When the wind touches our skin it is as real as when we hug a loved one, or shake a colleagues hand. But we don’t see it.

Often I have instances when I question if God is there, if he has this, if he will show up. But too often I am looking for him to show up as opposed to trying to feel his presence already with me. God is described in so many different ways throughout Scripture, but we know of him, since the earliest of time, to be Ruah, breath, wind, Spirit.  He is a soft breath, a harsh powerful wind, and indescribable spiritual presence.

If God is like the wind, I want to stop trying to constantly see him, and start pursuing constantly feeling him. Whatever happens in life, I want to trust the God I can feel over the storm that I can see.

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