More Than You Can Handle

The old saying goes like this: God will never give you more than you can handle.

It sounds good. It sounds biblical. The only problem is that it’s not.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says that God will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able to bear, but will provide a way out, so that you may be able to endure.

The key difference, as Chris Brooks explained tonight in Kairos, is that we are often given more than we can handle by ourselves. Our strength lies in community and our ability to endure rests in fellowship.

If God never gave me as an individual more than I could handle, I’d more than likely slip into self-righteousness and be completely lacking in grace toward others who are struggling. I wouldn’t know the sweet communion that comes from prayers of desperation and surrender. As it is, God often allows me to go through circumstances and situations that force me to rely on God’s sustaining strength and the combined power of community.

The problem with God never giving me more than I can handle is that if I’m struggling, then the fault must lie with me. I must not have enough faith. I must be doing it wrong.

Even the apostle Paul and his companions went through situations that were beyond their ability to bear. Paul himself was given a thorn in his flesh that he begged God to remove, but God declared that His strength would be made perfect in Paul’s very weakness he felt he could not endure.

I love what Chris said. He said that yes, God will give you more than you can bear. He will give you more grace, more love, and more mercy than you can handle. Not only that, but His mercies and grace will be new every morning.

I confess that God Himself is more than I can handle sometimes. If I could completely comprehend and grasp all that is the Eternal Mystery with my finite understanding, then what I am beholding isn’t the Infinite God but a god of my own creation.

God is so much more than anything I could dream up or imagine on my own. He’s big enough for whatever is too much for me to handle and strong enough to get me through what I cannot bear and tender enough to surround me with those who will be able to bear with me through seasons of trial and temptation.


Reaching Out with Joy

“Father, our source of life,
You know our weakness.
May we reach out with joy to grasp your hand
and walk more readily in your ways.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever” (from The Liturgy of the Hours).

I posted this prayer exactly three years ago today on Facebook and it still echoes the longings of my heart. Too often we’ve felt weak and afraid and unsure. Too often we listen to the wrong voices that lead us into isolation and loneliness rather than into community and fellowship.

Reaching out with joy to God is admitting that we can’t overcome our weaknesses. It’s confessing our great need for God to guide us through this life.

The joy part comes in knowing that God never turns away anyone who seeks Him in earnest and will not fail to come to those who seek Him in faith.

May we reach out with joy to the God who reaches out to us in our weakest and most shameful moments.

The Walking Greg

For my exciting Saturday evening, I binge-watched season 5 of The Walking Dead. Not all of it, just most of it.

It is interesting to me how the core group of the show has been scattered many times over the course of the series, yet they always find a way to reconnect.

That’s a great picture of the Church. We meet corporately on Sunday to remember and celebrate what God has done during the week and then each go our separate ways on Monday through Saturday, to reconnect the next Sunday.

I’ve learned that that by itself isn’t enough. You need more than once a week togetherness to pull through. You need brothers and sisters in Christ who will encourage and support, as well as hold you accountable at least once or twice during the week (other than Sunday).

There it is. Not exactly earth-shattering or new. The secret is community.

Yet how many times are we tempted and drawn to the whole “you have to fight your battles alone and trust no one but yourself” thing? It seems that the first instinct when any struggle arises is to retreat into isolation.

That’s where most temptations are fought . . . and lost.

Most of us aren’t strong enough to face demons alone. We do really need each other.

So that’s my not exactly original message to you. It’s been said before (and probably better), but it does bear repeating that community is vital to survival in a world increasingly hostile to those who proclaim and actually follow Jesus.

It’s probably only going to get worse from here on out, so take heart and reach out to connect with fellow believers.

That’s all I have on this Saturday night at 10:29 pm.

Good night.


Great Lines

As you probably know by know (if you’ve been keeping up with my posts over the years) is that I am a sucker for a great line, whether from a book or a movie or a song. I have been known actually to get chills from a great quote delivered at just the perfect time.

One such line that got me tonight goes like this: “I am a part of all that I have met.” It’s from Ulysses, a blank verse poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

For me, the reverse is just as true. All that I have met is now a part of me. All the people who’ve crossed my path and touched my soul are now in me in some form. I’ve learned a lot of little things– how to be kinder, how to live in the moment, how to be completely and unabashedly yourself– and incorporated them into who I am becoming.

Every experience, every conversation, every moment has played a part in shaping the present version of me. None of us have arrived at that place where we no longer need to learn or grow. There’s always room for improvement.

Still, the beautiful part of the life of community and faith is that we get to learn and grow together. We learn from each other’s failures and well as successes. We laugh and cry with each other. We spur each other on to keep going whenever one of us feels like quitting.

Yeah, the movie was great, too. I’d seen it before, but as I mentioned yesterday, I was able to enjoy the scenery a lot more when I knew that everything was truly going to be fine in the end.

My prayer for you and me is that we live not just for ourselves, but in such a way that makes people better and makes them not want so much to be like us but rather be like Jesus.

I think that covers everything I wanted to say tonight.


Waiting Expectantly

“Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.

Waiting for God is an active, alert – yes, joyful – waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes” (Henri Nouwen).

And so we wait.

Not in a passive sort of way, like a junior high girl waiting by the phone for her crush to call or a job-seeker waiting for a call from one of the places to which he’s applied.

We prepare as we wait. We anticipate as we wait. We hope as we wait. And we love God and each other well as we wait.

Waiting never gets any easier, but it’s always worth it. Taking shortcuts almost never is. Just ask Abraham and Sarah.

Waiting in faith and expectancy is a way of saying that God’s timing is better than mine and the gain in the end is better than any immediate gratification I’m giving up in the present.

I’m not saying anything new. In fact, this almost feels like a re-run of sorts.

Whatever you’re waiting for from God is worth whatever time it takes. Trust the heart of your Father who knows best what to give and when to give it. Trust that the best is still yet to come and that  it is still coming.

Just as surely as Advent follows into Christmas, so will faithful waiting follow into joy.



God of Wonders: Thoughts on Community

It’s amazing what true community will do for the weary and heavy-laden. Or just those who are in need of a nap.

My community group met again, and it was good. We started our study of Philippians, focusing on the first twelve verses.

For me, the best part was afterwards. I can’t really point to any one moment as extra magical, but it was really just the five of us sharing life together. One of the bright moments that I do recall is one of the girls breaking out the guitar and leading us in the oldie but goodie, God of Wonders.

Community doesn’t have to be earth-shattering or ground-breaking (or any of those other tried and true cliches). It can mean sharing the small moments of life together. It can be me saying to you, “I see you and I’m a witness to the fact that you’re not in this alone. I’m with you.”

Sometimes, that’s all we need– just a voice that says, “No, you’re not the only one who struggles with fear and doubt. No, you’re not weird or crazy. Yes, you will get through this. Yes, we will be with you.”

If you find a group of people who will let you be yourself, warts and all, you have truly found a blessing. It may not always look pretty, but then again, those healing moments never are. What we need most is quite honestly a lot less pleasant that what we’d like. But you’re never broken, you can never be truly whole.

My goal is to lead my own group soon. Hopefully sooner than later. But for now I’m enjoying being a part of a group where the leader sets the example of authenticity and honesty better than just about anybody I’ve seen. Thanks, David. Also, thanks to Jeff, Abbey, and Paige for making me feel so welcome.

The end.



A Moment of Whoa!


I had a Joey moment. It’s one where I literally almost said “Whoa!” out loud. I did said it in my head.

One of the men staying with us at Room in the Inn said something that paused me in my tracks. Proverbially, since I was already sitting down, but it got me thinking. Here’s what he said:

Sin has the letter I right smack dab in the middle of it, while Jesus has the word “us” in it.

There’s an I in sin. Right in the middle, which puts me in the center of my life instead of God. Sin is all about me doing things my way and setting myself up as the ultimate authority.

There’s an US in Jesus. As in although Jesus saves us one person at a time, He puts us together in community, what we sometimes refer to as the body of Christ. Jesus never saves anyone to live out their faith on their own, but in the midst of other believers. Simply put, we are better together.

Sin leads to isolation and loneliness. And as just about anyone can tell you, you are much more prone to temptations and pitfalls when you’re fighting alone. Jesus leads us to accountability and encouraging and mutual bearing of burdens. When we are together, we compliment each other because where I am weakest, someone else excels, and where that person may fall short is where my gifts and calling lie.

Beware of anything that leads you away from fellow believers. I understand that not all of us are extreme extroverts and some of us like times to be alone. But no one should spend all their time alone, away from others who can watch out for them and warn them of imminent dangers they might otherwise walk blindly into or possibly speak that word of encouragement that enables them to go on for one more day.

There’s an I in sin and and US in Jesus. It’s that simple.

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Community of Faith

Sometimes, it’s easy to believe. Everything is going your way and you seemingly are getting all the breaks.

Sometimes, it’s not so easy. Your prayers bounce back from the ceiling and you can’t hear God as well as before, but you keep praying and trusting, though with little seeds of doubt creeping in.

Sometimes, you don’t have it in you anymore to pray or believe for yourself.

That’s where community comes in. That’s what I believe we’re called to do in 2015.

Community means that I believe for you when you can’t believe for yourself when it comes to the promises of God. It means that I pray on your behalf claiming your promises for you when you can’t get the words to come out.

On occasion, I find it easier to visualize the person I’m praying for. I picture him (or her) in a small chapel, walking down the center aisle. I picture Jesus at the end of that aisle. I see myself as guiding that person toward Jesus and watching as He wraps His arms around the person for whom I’m praying.

Community means that we encourage each other. It also means we don’t accept easy answers, but push beyond the “I’m fine”s to get to the truth. It means that every now and then we speak the hard truth, but speak it in love, when we see the other headed down a harmful path.

Community means that we are honest, vulnerable, and transparent as close to 100% of the time as our imperfections will allow. It means that we choose to love the unlovable in our midst, remembering that we too were at one point unlovable before Christ made us loveable.

That’s what the 1st century world saw in the early Christians that won them over. That’s what God used to turn the world upside down (or more accurately, right-side up again) and transform a small band of believers into His Church.

That’s what the world around us needs to see more than ever right now and in 2015.


The Face of God

I get emails from the Henri Nouwen Society with daily meditations on them. I thought today’s was especially good and reminded me of a blog I’d written a few years back. This one’s better.

I love the imagery and the idea that every believer carries the image of God, but only collectively can the true imago dei of God be seen and truly appreciated.

“A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these little stones reveal to us a beautiful picture, telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.

“That is what our life in community is about. Each of us is like a little stone, but together we reveal the face of God to the world.  Nobody can say: ‘I make God visible.’  But others who see us together can say: ‘They make God visible.’ Community is where humility and glory touch.”

I think that says it all. People do see God in us individually, but people see God best when we are living in community. That’s where our unique gifts, talents, passions, and abilities come together to form something that collectively is more than the sum of its parts. That’s the Church.

So think about that the next time you’re gathered together with believers. You’re not just a group of people, but a work of art– a mosaic– displaying the great worth and glory of God.

Yet More Life Lessons from Downton Abbey


I watched the season finale of Downton Abbey season 4 and learned that yes, there will be a season 5.

I promise there will be NO spoiler alerts for those who haven’t made it this far in the show. There are a few life lessons I picked up from tonight’s episode, with all names and plot-twists left out to protect those who are still on season 3.

One character commented how another helped her to find the strength to no longer be afraid of any consequences from her past. I like that. I like that quite a bit.

That is community, where we can be strong for others when they’re weak so that when we’re the ones who are weak, someone else will be strong for us. We hold each other up and bear each others burdens, to put it in more biblical language.

The first part of that equation is the strength to admit weaknesses. You would think strength is keeping up the appearance of self-reliance and self-preservation, but really it is admitting that you and I need each other.

Ultimately, when we are at our weakest, that’s when Christ’s power is strongest in us, according to some dude named Paul who wrote a considerable amount of the New Testament. I think he knew what he was talking about.

I believe this strength is manifested in the context of community and flows through the hands and feet of brothers and sisters serving one another.

See? All that from one two-hour episode and no plot details given away. Not bad, eh?

So in summary, it’s okay to confide your struggles and weaknesses with committed fellow believers. It’s okay to let your weaknesses show so that you can allow others to use their gifts and strengths to meet your needs, knowing that you have gifts and strengths that will serve others in their own weakness.

Most of all, let Jesus be your strength and rest in His perfect sufficiency each and every day.