Growing Faith

Abraham is remembered as a person of strong faith, but it didn’t develop automatically, or overnight. How did he grow his faith?

Just last night I read Romans 4:20, a verse that I underlined long ago, and then forgot. It says Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Here is the secret: We grow our faith by praising God.

We honor God because of who God is, not because God has answered prayers to our satisfaction. God is always present, always holy, always loving, always eager to bless us, always faithful….the list goes on. Even in our distress, pain, and fear, God is all this and more.

So we can always praise God. When we offer praise, our focus shifts to Divine Love, and we are strengthened to go onward.

Giovanni Castiglione, Abraham Journeying to the Land of Canaan (detail)

Can we hope for “grand”?

Grappling with my offspring’s upcoming move to a faraway state, I was worrying at work one day when an energetic young colleague interrupted me. “Oh Mary, it’s going to be grand!” I rolled my eyes at her, but a mental switch was flicked. What if I could hope for that, believe that?

So much has been so hard for my child in recent years that I found it hard to reach for “grand.” Sometimes it’s even hard to hope for just “okay.” But doesn’t faith teach us that God’s plan is glorious? How could I square the pain of the past with the grandness of the future?

I didn’t come up with all the answers, but here’s what I’m working with: Yes, it’s going to be grand, with asterisks and definitions.
               *It = God’s design and plan
               *Going to be = In God’s timing and in God’s way
               *Grand = According to God’s definition

My job is to trust, cooperate, manage my expectations, repent when necessary, grow, and love love love.

But I don’t understand.

There is much that we do not understand. It often seems that the world becomes scarier and more confusing every day. When our concept of God does not square with our pain, sometimes we are tempted to turn away.

But I am realizing—again—that God is the unchanging factor which everything else has to fit around. Instead of expecting God to conform to my expectations and understanding, I have to focus on three foundational truths that are in the center of everything: God is LOVE. God is PRESENT. God is ACTIVE on my behalf. No matter what.

This is true for you, too. We don’t understand abuse, pain, sickness, war, injustice, and other cruelties. But we are called to focus on these three truths, and hold on in faith until we know more.

Peace Be With You

Jeff Millican, a chaplain at the school where I work, was in a small group that recently met for prayer on campus. We were discussing how Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, and Jeff reminded us that Jesus didn’t scold the disciples, or shame them. (“What a bunch of losers! You deserted me at my lowest point!”) Instead, he pronounced peace.

Let us work to remember this merciful truth. Jesus is with us now, always. But if we hear an accusing, critical, harsh voice, it is not his. Of course there will be times of reproof or correction, but always with love. Always “Peace be with you.”

Artist unknown to us.

What’s Next?

What’s next? I find myself asking that question, these days, in sadness and fear. With bad news swirling around us, it’s easy to focus on trouble. I imagine the Israelites wandering through the desert, post-Egypt, worrying: What’s next?

I have to remember that I can ask the same question with excitement, in anticipation of good things. This is not to say that we should ignore danger, scarcity, sickness, or tragedy. Hard times come to everyone, at some point. There are real challenges to be concerned about. But God’s loving presence trumps the scary things.

Let’s focus on hope—not in people, but in God. Let’s be confident—not in our abilities, but in God. Then the answer to What’s next can be Whatever it is, God will be there with me. And then we can rejoice. Not in what we see, but in our relationship with the Creator, Savior, Redeemer.

What’s next? Maybe water flowing from a rock. Or daily bread, falling from heaven. God is able.  

Photo by Sri Jalasutram on Unsplash.

What’s Next?

Where do we go from here?

After the drama, tension, and excitement of Holy Week, I imagine Jesus’ followers would have welcomed some peace and quiet. And predictability. Instead, there was a world of uncertainty. There were changes and new responsibilities. New decisions, new fears. Perhaps the biggest worry was, “What’s next?”

For them then, for us now, what’s next is simply to keep following Jesus, wherever He leads. Our focus has to be on our Lord, though, and not on the following. If we become obsessed with following perfectly, we will lose sight of our Savior and stray from His path. But if we keep our focus on Him, He will take us where we need to go, and eventually lead us home. When the time is right.

Photo by Romain Lours on

What’s God Saying?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been eager to hear what God says to me; I want to be obedient, I want to walk close to my Savior, I want to hear instruction so I won’t stray.

But just last night it dawned on me that God says more than corrections and orders and directions. Sometimes God speaks peace to us, and terms of endearment, extending comfort and lovingkindness. Sometimes God says, “You’re special to me” or “I really love you” or even “Good job!”

Let’s earnestly desire to hear God, whatever God is saying.

Photo by Larry Crayton on

Am I A Failure?

No. Nor am I a success.

I am a human, created by God. I have failed sometimes, yes. Other times, I’ve succeeded. Those endeavors do not determine who I am. If I value myself and measure myself by success or failure, I will be prone to pride, perfectionism, shame, and depression.

We don’t need to ignore triumph or defeat. But neither will change who we are: children of God, cherished, beloved. Neither will affect God’s love for us, which started before we were even born and which will never end.

It’s all right to evaluate and assess, to be happy about success and concerned about failure, to learn from both. Let’s just always remember that we are never failures, never successes. We are God’s creation. Period.

Photo by Lloyd Dirks on
Photo by Guille Álvarez on

Pray Your Feelings

Every Sunday, I enjoy hearing the children’s sermon at church. Yesterday Rev. Marissa Teauseau Horvath made a great statement. Referring to the midpoint of the story of Jonah, she said, “Jonah prayed his feelings.”

How important that is, for adults as well as kids! We are often not good at identifying our true feelings; I’m still working on developing that skill. It’s good for us to spend a bit of time looking inward, figuring out what we’re feeling, and then taking the most important step: Lift that feeling in prayer, no matter what it is.

Gladness? Fear? Envy? Contentment? Frustration? Joy? Anger? Anxiety? Excitement? Anticipation? Empathy? Whatever our feelings are, let’s make a habit of praying them. Starting now, maybe? What are you feeling?

Feelings chart by Ellie Peters

The Beauty of the Lord

My Bible reading today was Psalm 27, and one clause jumped out: “to behold the beauty of the Lord…” (v. 4).

We are surrounded by so much that is not beautiful. Wars, calamities, inflation, pandemic…fear, anxiety, distress…Where is the beauty of the Lord? But if we believe that God is everywhere, then we must also believe that God’s beauty is everywhere.

We can’t ignore sin, pain, grief, or fear. But if we focus on the ugliness, we’ll probably miss the beauty. Let’s look for glory first. God’s beauty can be seen in creation, of course. It can also be seen in God’s promises to us; we can find it in scripture. And it can be found in God’s plan, which we rarely see in one big blueprint, but we catch glimpses of glory as the plan unfolds.

So one of my prayers today is “Lord, please help me see your beauty.” Will you join me?

Photo by Josie Weiss on