LIFE Author Q&A
The quarantine for COVID had just started, and I felt like I was leaking hope like a sieve. On one particularly cold spring day, after I’d accidentally chain-sawed through a propane line on our property, I realized that I’d better get a grip or else I was going to blow up (figuratively and maybe even literally!) the joy and peace God had graciously woven into our little family.
So, I took a deep breath and took a long, hard look at my whole life with nothing off the table—not even the extremely difficult, super sad or embarrassing “blooper reel” kind of chapters. And when I placed the sum total of my more than five decades’ worth of experience against the backdrop of our Creator Redeemer’s immutable kindness, I found myself more convinced than ever before that ultimately everything really will work out for our good and his glory!
I wrote it for everybody who longs for more delight and less duty in their relationship with God. For stumbling saints who’ve wondered how an absolutely perfect and holy Creator Redeemer could possibly be pleased with a recurring hot-mess like them. For anyone who’s secretly pondered if Jesus is actually as accessible as the lyrics in modern worship songs claim he is. For recovering prodigals who sometimes think words that aren’t in the Bible when they’re stuck in bad traffic and then realize with white-hot dread that GOD. CAN. HEAR. OUR. THOUGHTS! The only people group that didn’t come to mind when I was writing this devotional are people who insist they have it all together at all times and/or those folks who can still fit in their jeans from high school. I tend to distance myself from those two tribes and probably don’t write anything they’d relate to anyway.
Because I think we spend far too much time assuming the Creator of the universe is preoccupied with someone or something more important than us instead of basking in the unconditional love he consistently and intentionally lavishes on us. Feeling unseen, unimportant or unworthy came with the Fall. God never intended his image bearers to try to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and brave the sometimes scary, mostly beautiful wilderness of life alone.
Whether in the micro or the macro aspects of our humanity, he designed us to be in constant communion with him. And when we step outside of the divinely intimate relationship God created us for, we’ll find that molehills morph into seemingly impassable peaks, and mountaintops aren’t nearly as glorious when we aren’t savoring the view with the One who promised to never leave or forsake us.
I don’t think spiritual depth is always synonymous with a huge expenditure of time. Even just fifteen minutes alone with the lover of our soul can renew our perspective, recharge our heart and redirect the trajectory of our day. Plus, I believe even bite-sized pieces of the Bible are like spiritual antioxidants; God’s promises replace toxins like depression and anxiety with tangible hope, joy and peace, plus they realign our hearts and minds with his redemptive plans for our future.
In light of how the enemy, that lying lizard called “satan” (I refuse to capitalize his name), tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness by appealing to his hunger (“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread”), questioning our Savior’s identity (“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you…”) and then finally trying to provoke a need for power in Jesus ( “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. All these things I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” [Matthew 4:1-11]), these tend to be the three on-going struggles of God’s image-bearers.
All too often we try to satiate the hunger in our souls with cheap substitutes that only Jesus can fill We have a hard time basing our worth and identity solely on his unconditional love, and we foolishly assume that having power or control equates with having joy, hope, peace and perhaps even a high metabolism! This book deals with all of those by highlighting the perfect and sole sufficiency of Jesus Christ in every single moment—including all the trials, tragedies and triumphs—of real life.
If I could only use a few phrases to describe the shape of my heart, it would be the subtitle of this book. I’m not slick and I sure as heck don’t have it all together, but I’m madly in love with Jesus and wake up most days acutely aware that if it wasn’t for his compassion, I’d still be stuck in the bottom of a pit I’d dug myself!
I also wanted readers to feel safe before they even cracked the cover—to have the assurance that this isn’t a Pollyannaish, faith-based, self-help book filled with lofty prose and impractical takeaways that sound good on social media but are all-but-impossible to apply to real life. It is instead a devotional that delves into sticky, messy, real-life stuff and offers practical hope you can sink your teeth into.
Almost exactly month after the COVID pandemic effectively shut down the world in March of ’20 and it seemed the only local, national and global news we were getting was bad, I received the devastating personal news that someone very dear to me had committed suicide. There were moments in the weeks following his death when I wondered whether or not I had the fortitude to keep my head above water in what seemed to be a wide, storm-tossed sea of sadness.
And it was during one of those dark nights of grief this past spring that I remembered an experience from college, when I worked as a lifeguard at a Florida state park called Wekiwa Springs. It’s a beautiful area with lush, tropical vegetation surrounding a large, natural pool of crystal-clear water that stays 72 degrees year-round. However, the clarity of the water tends to distort the actual depth and sometimes causes inexperienced swimmers to panic when they try to stand up and realize they’re in over their head. It wasn’t uncommon for there to be four or five near-drownings on a busy day, which is why we always had three lifeguards on duty patrolling an area where two would’ve normally sufficed.
Plus, it meant that one of us could talk to the panicked swimmer—sound travels really well over water—while the other guards dove in and swam toward them to perform the rescue. It was amazing how effective very simple instructions like, “You’re going to be okay. Just kick your legs because your lifeguard is almost there,” were in helping out-of-control swimmers regain a sense of calm prior to being physically assisted. We logged hundreds of rescues that summer and didn’t lose a single person. Most of them weren’t in as far over their heads as they initially feared.
And so it was with me. When I chose to open my Bible and peruse God’s promises smack dab in the middle of my sorrow—when I felt like I was drowning emotionally—assuring words from our Heavenly Father were enough to help me stop flailing.
It answers the question by sharing true stories from all of the above genres—from the easy, everyday stuff of life to the awful, heartbreaking stuff—and how through his Word and his Spirit, God effectively climbs over the fence and squats down in the dirt of our personal backyard and begins transforming our mudpies into miracles. When we begin to view human history and our own history through the supernatural lens of Scripture, it becomes increasingly clear that God has always been and is currently still in the process of redeeming and restoring his image bearers to a place where we can experience the perfect love, hope, peace and joy he created for us to enjoy in an intimate relationship with him.
I hope they’ll begin to understand and believe one word of John 3:16 bigger than ever before: “For God SO loved us, that he gave his one and only Son, Jesus, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Because when you begin to believe you’re “so” loved by the God who breathed the universe into existence, everything else falls into the proper perspective. Whether you’re having a great day or a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad one, the lavish and always-accessible affection of our Heavenly Father enables us to hang onto authentic peace, hope and joy and rest securely in his embrace!
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