Tag Archives: faith

When God Isn’t Good



“Live (and die) so that anyone who knows you knows God is good.”

The night before we left to meet family for Christmas, my husband John and I drove 45 minutes to Pawleys Island (Pawleys for short), a community where we bought a creek lot this past summer. We wanted to decorate the property by hanging an ornament and putting spotlights on the live oak that shades it. One of appeals of buying in Pawleys was its close proximity to The Abbey, a church we joined just months before we made our purchase.

On the way there, John said, “They’ve called in hospice for Chuck.”

“I hated to blurt it out tonight,” he said, “but there wasn’t going to be a good time to tell you.”

Bishop Chuck Murphy was our rector at The Abbey until he resigned three weeks ago. He died a few days later.

Chuck was diagnosed last January with stage 4 brain cancer. Most of us anticipated him living many more years because he had powerful believers praying for and expecting his healing.


At Chuck’s funeral, Philip Jones, his successor as chairman of the Anglican Mission in America, told the story about Chuck saying to Margaret when they were 18-years-old and dating, “I don’t want to be 65 and not have made a difference in the world.”

Chuck ministered to thousands of people, probably tens of thousands. He oversaw the planting of more than 200 churches in America including The Abbey, where we started attending about two years ago. We also worshipped under Chuck’s leadership for six years at All Saints, another church in Pawleys. His bold regard for scripture changed the landscape of Anglicanism and impacted the world, and John and me too.

Bagpipers accompanied Chuck’s family to the entryway of the church. During his service, a trumpeter played Revelle. We sang, “What a Beautiful Name.” Twenty plus robed clergy traveled to pay homage.

Things were said like “Chuck left a legacy of family, leadership, and character.”

“He flew 40,000 feet higher and saw beyond what most of us see. He had a singular focus on the Kingdom of God.”

“He had little use for the praise of men, but wanted it from heaven.”

“His ways were generous and he was always asking, ‘How can I come alongside you and help make this happen?’”

The day after hearing the hospice news, John and I drove separately to the mountains to haul all the food and Christmas presents. On the way, I bargained with God that if he’d heal Chuck, I’d complete my manuscript. I couldn’t think of anything more important to wager. I pleaded with him when I remembered Abraham’s appeals for a town in the Bible called Sodom. I begged and bargained and bawled.

An hour and a half into my trip, I looked up and saw a billboard, a sign, advertising a can of Glory Foods field peas. I laughed at God choosing one with humor that said, “Peas Be With You.”

I hoped it was a “sign” that Chuck was being healed the way I wanted the miracle to happen. Having him survive and seeing prayer work so powerfully made sense for our church and for us. Attending The Abbey’s been a big part of John’s and my restoration in our marriage and individually. For us, Chuck’s healing wasn’t about only Chuck getting better. It was about us too.

We thought we needed more lessons from his nearly 50-year marriage to Margaret. We watched his three daughters and their families attend The Abbey and sit together Sunday after Sunday.  We learned from watching Chuck act as spiritual head of his household, as well as our church home.

He played his guitar and performed on the church piano, not for the congregation, but his family. I’ve never seen him play except in videos posted by one of his daughters. He believed every word of the Bible and taught it in a way that made me believe it too. He talked about dancing in the streets of heaven with Jesus. He laughed when he preached. I bet he was laughing when he died.



Margaret forwarded this message on January 9th, “Chuck, as he would say, peacefully went down the water flume before us this morning at 1:30, right into the glorious Kingdom of God. Our family is doing ok, but we know Chuck is doing great as he joins his Saviour and Lord.”

My stomach knots up when I think about Chuck not being here for our move to Pawleys and for us to move forward.

It’s at The Abbey where I’ve seen John raise his hands and get on his knees, tear up often, and soften.

It’s where I’ve felt safe and not because we have a security guard walking the grounds. It’s the place I learned to trust and lean into God being good. Genuinely good, not cliché good. It helped to watch Chuck and his family believe in God’s goodness in sickness and in health.

I’ve tried spiritualizing my pain instead of feeling it. Maybe you do this too. I like to think I’ll stop hurting if I pray, talk to friends, read inspirational books, read the Bible, practice gratitude, trust God, journal about it, ask others to pray, worship, listen to uplifting songs, seek wise counsel, do the next good deed. These things all help for a little while.

I thought about a passage in one of my inspirational daily readers. It says, “God is not a terrorist.” I imagine plenty of us question if God is out to get us sometimes. If Chuck was going to die so soon and the pain and loss feel so big, why’d I even stumble onto a post about The Abbey one late night on Facebook? This past week, I almost wished I hadn’t.


But it’s like the quote in Shadowlands, the movie about C. S. Lewis’ life, when he struggled to handle his wife Joy’s death. He repeated to his good friend something similar to what Joy had told him earlier, “The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”

Just as poignant even though from a cartoon character, Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Trying to make sense of Chuck’s death reminds me about a mom trying to do the same after letting go of her 41-year-old daughter to breast cancer. When questioned about God’s goodness, she said something like this, “I would never have said ‘yes’ to something like this no matter what good changes I was promised, but I also would never return to the person I was before my daughter died. Watching her die, I learned about benevolence and bravery and being ready to meet Jesus.”

Like the mom, neither would I go back to who I was before The Abbey and before witnessing Chuck and his family deal with dying and death.

Have you ever questioned God’s goodness? This time around, I’m trying not to question since I’ve noticed if we’ll give Him time (even if it’s a decade or so), he’ll prove himself good again and again.

In This Together,

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2017, A Great Year



“Faith don’t come in a bushel basket, Missy. It come one step at a time. Decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and before you know it, you find out He’s so trustworthy you be putting your whole life in His hands.” Lynn Austin, Candle in the Darkness

The day before our son received a cancer diagnosis in late February, he wrote a rare post on Facebook, “New job, new city, and bringing a new life into our family … 2017 is shaping up to be a great year!”

He’d texted me earlier that month to say the year was off to a great start because Clemson University, his alma mater, brought home the 2016 National Championship.

At the end of last year, I overheard him telling his dad about 2017 being great since he and his wife had several promising things in the works.

My stomach tightened each time I heard “great,” and not because I didn’t think 2017 held a lot of possibility, but because sometimes we don’t perceive great in the same way God perceives it.

Almost a decade later, I still remember my “great” year that brought me to my knees. I wrote about it here, “The year was 2008 …

Great typically requires footwork, and a lot of it. It means change and not always the kind we want. Coming into greatness often means walking through trials and feeling emotions we hadn’t factored in when we did our planning.

Great means being in relationship with God, in relationship with others, and living our purpose.

I had doubts about whether our family had worked out matters of the heart enough to usher in greatness. Like in Romans 2:29, the verse says “heart matters” are the heart of the matter for God. Since I didn’t think we’d gotten that far yet, I questioned what it’d take to make it happen.

What would “great” cost us?

I was bothered enough to mention my son’s text in February’s blog post, “It’s Always Something.” Even though I trusted what I wrote, I still felt uneasy about the messiness I mentioned, “My son’s right, 2017 will be great even with its messy moments because it is always something, and sometimes it’s something beautiful.”

For one minute, I wished I had not prayed long and hard for us, asking for realness and restoration and godly relationships minus the things that sometimes come alongside like devastation and humiliation. I’ve held my breath while we have skirted those last two.

Just before our son’s biopsy confirmed stage 1 cancer, not the result we hoped for, he and his wife, who is pregnant with their first child, had a baby scare. Thankfully those test results turned out well.

Less than a week after my husband John and I returned home following our son’s surgery, John’s 87-year-old dad took a fall, hit his head on a brick stair, and was rushed into surgery. Doctors did all they could over the next fourteen days, but last week we said goodbye to Pop Pop. He died the day before Easter.

In light of reassuring calls and messages, friendship, and signs that life was happening as intended, my stomach calmed down and so did my spirit.

Historic Great Cross at St. Augustine, Florida at sunrise


I didn’t have to wonder anymore. I was witnessing the price of greatness.

While John listened to his dad’s surgeon talk to the family in the Neuro-ICU waiting room, he leaned close and whispered, “Is this what great looks like?”

I believe it is, and we notice it most during times like these.

Great is recognizing our dependence on God.

Great is cherishing others’ demonstration of God’s love.

Great is acknowledging God’s goodness when we have to let go of things we want to control and keep.

Finally, great is learning the lessons God teaches by way of suffering, grief, and letting go because He calls us to the emotional journey before He allows us to take the action journey.

In other words, He prepares us for the great things (great according to Him) that He’s put in front of us to do.

How great is your year? It’s not so much about our surroundings as it is about coming around to Him.

In This Together,

Thanks, Pixabay, for photos of the Great Wall of China and the historic Great Cross in St. Augustine, Florida.

God Is Bigger Than the Bible

"God is bigger than people think." Jimmy Dean

“God is bigger than people think.” Jimmy Dean

I sat waiting for friends when I couldn’t help overhearing a gentleman at a nearby table. He dominated the conversation by quoting Bible scriptures, then elaborated on their meanings. The woman and man who accompanied him tried to join in, but mostly sounded like they were trying to impress or at least keep up.

That was my take on their interaction, probably skewed by young adulthood memories around my parent’s kitchen table. Cousins excused themselves after they ate, my sister-in-law and husband found couches for a nap, but I hung in there, trying hard to impress my dad. The problem was, I couldn’t quote scripture like my brother. Still can’t.

It wasn’t until I gave up trying to hold my own in their conversations that I realized reading scripture, although important in my daily life, isn’t typically where I meet God.

Instead, I spent hours with him while listening to Rascal Flatt’s song, I’m Movin’ On. When my husband corrected me from singing “I never dreamed one would end up where I don’t belong” (I know, it makes no sense) to “I never dreamed home would end up where I don’t belong,” I was able to leave an emotionally unsafe situation.

There was also the time I walked on the beach for miles and talked with God until I got an answer about how to handle a situation with my mom. God responded out of the blue, not the black and white print.

Another time, I dreamed I walked out of a courtroom where I had explained my life for years and still didn’t feel understood. I closed the tall wooden doors behind me, then sat with my back against them, relieved I never had to go back in. When I awoke, I knew I had my answer to a longstanding prayer.

I could go on and on naming times I’ve encountered God outside the Bible, but still I’ve hesitated to believe these hold the same value as the scripture I can’t quote. That was, until God gave me another message out of the blue. This one, I could remember.

He’s bigger than the Bible.

When have you been tempted to underestimate an experience because you couldn’t explain it or back it up with facts? God inspired scripture, but he’s not limited by it.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Remember all the times the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the laws? Well, there are still Pharisees and Jesus still breaks the laws.

Faith, Hope and Love


“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

At our mountain house, we have three words (well, four if you count “and”) spray-painted on an old screen window. It hangs as decoration over our living room couch.

When we pull into the driveway at night, even before lights are turned on, the screen is the first thing I notice. The reflection from the streetlight keeps the message lit like a beacon.

Lots of times I wonder about each word, think about which I’d choose if I could only pick one.

Being a visual learner, the symbols are also especially meaningful.

Faith   +       [cross]

Hope  o–)    [anchor]

Love   ♥        [heart]

If you could only choose one, which is most important in your life?

Write wHere I’m supposed to be – I smiled big the first time it occurred to me the chapter and verse for faith, hope and love. It is our lucky number, 13:13. I don’t just play with words. I’m pretty crazy about numbers too.

It’s Wagnanimous: Naps are Necessary


“Grammy, wanna take a nap?”

“You’re getting sleepy. Very, very sleepy.”

At least I think that’s what Tanner’s saying when he looks at me with those big brown eyes.

Especially this afternoon. Rain splashes against the windows and chimes swing in the breeze just loud enough to hear them through our screen door. Inside, the house is quiet except a humming refrigerator and our yawns.

Tanner’s right. I am sleepy.

When our daughter’s 70-pound chocolate lab mix snuggles into his sleeping bag, even in the heat of summer, he makes me want to curl up beside him. He makes sleep look heavenly.

It’s probably because he knows how to prepare himself. Tanner has a ritual.

It goes something like this.

He paces around the room a few times, then stretches his front paws as far forward as they’ll reach while wagging his tail in the air. Then he pushes in the opposite direction and stretches out his back legs and drags them a little, just to work out any tension. At least, that what I figure he’s doing. He yawns big enough to swallow a person. When he straightens up, he’s ready to get into his sleeping bag. If no one helps, he walks over within inches of your face and stares. He’s tall enough to make eye contact so it works.

I guess you’ve guessed Tanner is serious about his naps.

And I get it after reading napping articles and tips from Sara Mednick. She’s a sleep researcher at the University of California, San Deigo, and she’s written a book, Take a Nap! Change Your Life.

That’s a huge claim, but likely valid. Nappers are in good company with the likes of Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and George W. Bush. I’m starting to agree with Susan, Tanner, and my husband (a huge nap enthusiast), naps are necessary.

Do you take naps or skip them? If you nap, do you hunker down for the afternoon or take a 30-minute power nap?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Even after reading numerous stories about naps, submitting my own article to be published, being encouraged by my siesta-taking friends, and listening to my husband preach the benefits of 40 winks, there’s nothing quite as convincing as a dog’s sleepy eyes. Hope you’re convinced too.

On the side: I posted this under the category of Faith after writer and friend Lori Roeleveld commented, “I think sleep is an act of faith. It’s our way of saying ‘You run the world, Lord. Me, I’ve got limits.’”