Wednesday, April 03, 2019

The Hatrack

      Way, way back when our oldest daughter, Carissa, was a mere toddler, I played a game with her. On cold days following worship, I would sit her on the top of the hat rack in the lobby of the church I pastored in Beaver, PA to bundle her up. It was easier. Because she was up high she wouldn’t squirm as much while I wrestled her into hat, coat, and mittens. (If you are thinking I was a negligent father, putting my daughter at risk, relax. She was safe. Otherwise Sheila would have killed me!) After she looked like Charlie Brown ready to play in the snow, I would step back. She would hold out her arms and stare at me. “Do you trust me?” I would ask. “Yes” came the little toddler voice. “Then jump! I promise I will catch you.” Since I was a step away, she could not bring herself to do it. She said she trusted me… but there was a limit to that trust.
      “C'mon,” I would coax her. “I’m your dad. I would never let you fall. I'm strong and you can trust me. Now, jump!” From that distance, she would not do it. So I moved a little closer and she would lean toward me, expecting me to reach up to grab her. Realizing I was not coming quite close enough, she would pull back, fear in her little eyes. Again, “Do you trust me? Then jump! I promise I will catch you. You have nothing to be afraid of.” She would try to reach me, to touch me, but could not quite make the stretch. And she’d pull back. She could not leave the “safety” of the hat rack, not realizing she was safer in my arms than up there.
      Finally, I would move close enough that she could lean to within a few inches. “Do you trust me?” I would ask again. “Then jump into my arms!” And she would. She could trust her dad with those few inches. I would pull her tight, hug her and tell her, “You can trust me. I would never, ever, ever, ever let you fall.” As time went on, she overcame her fear to jump from greater and greater distances. Sometimes trust takes time and experience to kick in.
Do you trust me??
      One of my favorite scenes in moviedom is when Indiana Jones comes to a seemingly impassable chasm while attempting to retrieve the Holy Grail to save his father. He looks down in terror, knowing he has only a few minutes to reach the other side before his father dies. The only clue he has to work with is, “The man of God will walk by faith.” He recognizes the implication: he must step out into thin air and trust that something good will happen. Indiana closes his eyes, lifts one foot and steps into the cavern. Instead of tumbling to the bottom, his foot lands on solid ground. The bridge is disguised to look like the ravine. He throws dirt onto the bridge so he can see it and quickly crosses over. A moment of faith changed everything.
Do you trust me??
      That was the question facing Jesus as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew that only a few hours separated Him from a Roman cross. He knew the agony of the physical pain because He had watched men hang exposed for days. He also knew the agony of shouldering the pain of all of mankind’s sin was awaiting Him -- being cut off from the Father. Crying out to His Dad, He begged for another plan. “Do you trust me?” were the words God seemed to be saying. “Do you trust me in My plan? Do you trust me in your pain? Do you trust me that it will be better on the other side? Do you trust me to raise you to life?” He did, and it changed everything! For Him. For you. For me. For the world now and forever.
Do you trust me??
      It’s pretty easy to trust God when He is within inches as we sit on the hat racks of life. When leaping into His arms is a fairly guaranteed deal. When there's not much chance He can or will pull away. It’s a much different proposition when He’s across the room, we’re stuck on the hat rack, no one else is around and there is not a ladder in the building. Then He says, “Jump!” from twenty feet away. In those times it seems that God is just not making sense. And there’s no possible way He can catch us. And He’s not answering our pleas for explanations. And we’re in pain. And the janitors are turning out the lights. And no one else appears to have to sit on the hat rack or jump. And we’ve got lots of reasons, facts and proven studies of why it is not healthy to jump. And God doesn’t seem to want to hear any of it; He just wants us to jump.
Do you trust me??
      It isn’t trust if Carissa can grab me before she leaves the hat rack. It isn’t trust if Indiana can see the bridge before he steps. It isn’t trust for Jesus if there is no cross, no pain, no death, no separation from the Father and no resurrection. And it isn’t trust for us if we don’t obey even when it doesn’t make sense. But in every case, it is better after making the leap of trust than it was before. Carissa’s safely in my arms, Indiana’s healing of his father, Jesus’ glory. And for you -- intimacy with God and experiencing His work in our lives in ways we cannot see.
Do you trust me??
      Whatever you’re facing, trust God. Listen carefully for His voice. (Don't you dare jump until you hear His instructions -- there's a difference between obedient trust and stupidity). But once you hear His voice, jump! God wants to, longs to catch you. Refuse to give into the human desire to be in control, to trust yourself. Just jump. Close your eyes if you have to, but leap! It is always better on the other side. It may take a while to get there, but you’ll be glad you did when you feel the strong, loving arms of your Heavenly Dad envelop you. Hold you. Protect you. Reassure you. Love you. Otherwise you may be sitting on a hat rack for the rest of your life. 

(Jesus said) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”   John 14:1

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.   Romans 8:28 (TLB)

(This blog entry is chapter 37 of my book, "From Where God Sits," available at

Thursday, March 07, 2019


Can You See It?
      “Dad, Dad! Look at this!” said my oldest son, Andrew, as he walked into the living room with an open book in his hand. “This is so cool!” he said, pointing to a multi-colored graphic of…nothing. To me, it was a bunch of colored shapes. Nice colors, mind you, but I didn’t get his excitement. Ordinarily, this middle-schooler was impressed with nothing short of shaking hands with a professional baseball player or landing on the moon. I felt his forehead for the fever that would explain enthusiasm for a book of colored shapes.
      “There’s nothing there,” I said confidently. He smiled. I know that smile. So do you. It’s the one that communicates with a simple facial expression that he knows something that his dad doesn’t, therefore he is highly intelligent and his dad is a cave man (with all due respect to cave men).
      “Yes, there is, Dad. The picture is hidden.”
      I looked again. More closely. Stared and searched, grasping to regain my “dad is smart” standing. Not. A. Thing. And the boy once again smiled that condescending smile.
      “There is nothing there,” I said, with what I hoped was confidence. “You’re just trying to fool me.”
      “No, really, Dad. Look at the picture. There are dinosaurs.”
      “Sheila, what is the doctor’s number? We need to take this boy there quick. He’s hallucinating.”
      “Daaaad!” he said, using the universal pronunciation children use when frustrated and disgusted. Especially when the man who sired them tells “dad” jokes.
      “You have to look through the picture to see the hidden picture. It’s a ‘Magic Eye’[i] picture.”
      I made for the car keys thinking we should go to straight to the ER and bypass the doctor.
      “Just try it, Dad.” I tried it. Nothing. Except the mish-mash of colors as before.
      The smile turned to delighted, patronizing laughter.
      “I can see it,” a voice sounded. I glanced up to see my daughter peering over my shoulder. “There are four dinosaurs. Two in the back, one there and a baby in the front. Aww, isn’t he cute?!”
      “You guys are just messing with me. How long have you been concocting this? You’re all grounded.”
      “I don’t go anywhere, Dad. How can you ground me?” said the little female at my side.
      “Here, Dad. Let me show you,” Andrew said, appearing to be helpful. I couldn’t help but wonder what the next act in the humiliation play would be.
      “Hold the book up to your nose, keep your eyes the way they are now and slowly move the picture away from you.”
      But I dutifully did it expecting raucous laughter at any moment as these hooligans pulled something on me.
      “OH! Right. RIGHT!” I exclaimed in amazement, the dinosaurs coming more and more clearly into focus.
      “See! SEE! I told you!”
      “You were right, I conceded. I saw it all along. I was just pulling your leg.”
      But he was right. I didn’t see the dinosaurs at first, though they were always there. Not until I learned a new way of seeing could I make out the depth of what was there, the real beauty in the picture.

A New Way of Seeing and Knowing God
      The problem was not that the dinosaurs were missing, or that the design of the picture was wrong, or that I wasn’t trying, or even that my eyes were not working. The problem was with the way I was looking. To see the Magic Eye picture for what it really was necessitated a new way of seeing; the ability to look past the superficial to see the real picture. I couldn’t do it by myself, though. This new way of seeing required a guide who had experienced it to show me the way. As a result and to my delight, I saw what had been there all along.
      I believe that many people are looking for God, but not seeing Him. The problem is not that God is hiding from us, but that we need a new ways of seeing. Ever since the Garden of Eden debacle, men and women have struggled to see God as He really is. Sometimes hidden, sometimes distorted, sometimes defaced, the true picture of God calls to us just beyond the superficial. As a result, we are hindered from experiencing a true relationship with God. A relationship that satisfies the longing in our hearts, fills the hole in our souls, makes sense out of life, provides us purpose and gives us hope.
      My hope is that this book will lead you to a new way of seeing and thus a new way of experiencing the relationship with God you have always longed for. That it will guide you to see past the superficial to what is really real with God. That, through this book, you will allow me to be your guide to a relationship with God of intimacy and awe. Not because I have it all figured out, but because I might be a few steps farther down the path.
‘You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord,     -- Jeremiah 29:13–14a

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’                                    -- Isaiah 55:8–9

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’      -- Jeremiah 33:3

(This blog entry is the introduction of my book, "Intimacy and Awe," available at

[i] Magic Eye® images are a product of Magic Eye Inc., PO Box 1986, Provincetown, MA 02657