Ever Present, Ever Patient God…

Not to steal the thunder from the mothers of the world or from my little sister who turns 20 today (Happy Birthday Jessica!), but today is also the day I was baptized. Eleven years ago in a small church in Lincoln City, I stood in swim trunks and a t-shirt in front of some 40 or 50 people (15-20 regulars, the rest visitors) on Mother’s Day dedicating my life to following the Lord. Last year I wrote a post reflecting over the ten years I had been a Christian and in that post, I mentioned how it felt longer. This year, I’ve been wondering why that is.

Believing and trusting in God has had an odd affect on how I think of the fourteen years prior to my baptism. Having grown closer and closer to the Lord over the past eleven years, it is difficult to remember those earlier years without seeing God in the picture. It’s like watching a highlight reel of all the significant moments of my life and finally noticing the Figure in the background, watching over the characters in the foreground. Instead of seeing a fourteen year-old kid sitting alone in his room with a pair of scissors pointing toward his chest, I see the strong, but gentle Hand gripping his wrist and pulling it away until he dropped the scissors.

Simply because I have acknowledged God’s presence for eleven years doesn’t mean He’s noticed me for only eleven years also. He was there all along waiting – waiting for the right moment when He knew I’d be listening, when He knew I’d be paying the most attention. God waited fourteen years just to have these last eleven with me. And He would have waited longer in order to have a shorter time. That is the kind of God He is.

Seeing God in all the horrible moments of my past, in a weird way, gives me courage. Sure, it beckons the question of why He was there during my worst moments, but did nothing to prevent them, but it also tells me He’ll be there when I experience even worse things. And perhaps if I think of those moments long enough, if I freeze the highlight reel and simply notice everything going on at the time, maybe I’ll see how He was doing something – how He was preventing even worse things from happening. Maybe I’ll see and recognize those moments, as Sheldon Vanauken describes them, of “severe mercy.”

Our ever present, ever patient God never stops waiting. Even after we’ve dedicated our lives to following Him and living out His ways, we get busy. We take up jobs and causes or we marry and raise families or all of the above and all our free time is spent on our to-do lists and projects. In these seasons God is often pushed to the back burners, often told – whether we realize it or not – to wait a little longer. But then bills start piling up or a loved one gets hurt and hospitalized. Soon after that some other bad thing happens and we start to worry how we’ll make it through. We become so fixated on what’s happening now that we forget what happened back then and we certainly don’t see how things will happen down the road.

In the past couple of weeks, I have felt that worry. As some may know, I am hoping to attend seminary in the fall of this year and what I’ve been wondering about lately is how much I’ll owe in student loans. And then I think of car expenses and medical expenses and credit card debt and I begin to feel suffocated by worry. Such a time is critical to remember God’s presence in past moments. If He was there that night when I wanted to end my own life, what reason do I have to believe that He would not be there to help me find a way to pay back the money I owe? Why do I have this unspoken belief that I’m alone in this?

God is waiting, even now, for us to turn to Him for help, for guidance, for peace. He doesn’t want to remove our problems and trials; He wants us to hold His hand as He walks us through them – as He helps us overcome them. Believing and trusting that He’ll appear in tomorrow’s highlight reels is tough. Seeing Him again and again in yesterday’s highlight reels, even before I was consciously aware of His presence, makes it a whole lot easier.

Worry, fear, and distrust are all natural emotions. When it comes to trusting God, we feel these emotions all the time because we’re learning how to let go of the control we think we have. We’re learning to wait on God instead of making Him wait on us. Our nature is changing.

This morning Scott shared a message out of John 2 focusing on the wedding at Cana. He told us a couple important pieces of information that aren’t really spelled out in the text. He said that wedding celebrations would often last a week or so, which meant that all the supplies (food and especially wine) would have to last that long. So when Jesus’ mom tells Him that the wedding’s run out, it’s safe to say she was a little concerned for the families involved; they would have both been embarrassed.

Of course we all know what happens next, Jesus turns a bunch of water into wine and saves the party. But, as Scott pointed out this morning, notice what Jesus says to His mom, Dear woman, why do you involve me?… My time has not yet come, (2:4). In other words, Jesus is reminding His mother who He really is and that His public ministry was not ready to begin. So when she tells the servants, Do whatever he tells you, she’s actually acknowledging that Jesus is going to help in His own way. He’s not going to buy more wine; He’s just going to make it.

In the midst of Mary’s concern (and presumably the concern of all those who knew the wine had run out), Jesus makes a lot more and makes it better. He responds to worry with celebration. We’re constantly trying to do things our own way and create our own realities as if we were J. Gatsby, but the real celebration – the one that comes free of worry or anxiety – is the one where God takes control. While we’re trying to create bread crumbs, He’s waiting with baskets full of bread loaves.

In 25 years of living, I have known God. It took 14 of those years to notice Him, but looking back I now know he was there all along. Now the trick is to remember He’s still there when things get crazy, when the wine runs out.

May we never forget God’s everlasting presence.

God bless.

To Trust or Not To Trust?

Over the past three or four months, I’ve been studying through the book of Isaiah with Tony Overstake, U of O’s FCA pastor. In our discussion today we talked about what it means to say that we trust God. This might seem like a no-brainer and not worthy of a 30-minute discussion, but Tony raised a good point: What do we trust in God for?

Keep in mind that this is a pastor who’s been leading people in the faith for a good number of years – at least 8, but if he’s reading this, then it changes to whatever number makes him feel ancient, which he is. Anyhow, my point with this is to say his questioning isn’t for the purpose of debunking the existence of God or some confession that he’s falling away from faith. In fact, it’s in the effort to deepen his faith that he raises the discussion.

What do we really trust God for? Jobs? Spouses? Acceptance into seminaries? Asthma medication? In essence, we typically say that we trust in God for His provision, which is true, but isn’t it possible, hypothetically speaking, to provide for ourselves?

An example is if I were to get fired from my job today, what would I do? I’d probably write a mean blog post, call my old bosses a bunch of mean names, and then delete the post later on (like a minute later, probably). But after that, I’d probably do the sensible thing and figure something out for a new job. And chances are I’d eventually figure something out. So where is God’s hand in all the mix?

Again, it’s a Devil’s-advocate sort of question, but I think it’s helpful to recognize the meaning of the phrases we so often take for granted. Oftentimes we use the Christian buzzwords of forgiveness, repentance, belief, faith, or trust (and there are many, many more) without really knowing or understanding their meaning. So what does it mean when we say that we trust God? What are we trusting Him for if we’re capable of providing for ourselves?

I know, I know, the scenario breaks down if I were to get hit by a car and be paralyzed from the neck down – all of a sudden I wouldn’t be able to provide for myself. But even in that case, I know I have loving friends who’d step in to help. So even then I’d still be cared for. Where’s God’s hand in that?

What Tony and I kept arriving to, though, wasn’t God’s involvement in our every day lives, which we both believe He is, but rather the posture of the heart. When we say we are thankful for God’s provision, we are saying that there is something outside of ourselves at work within ourselves. “For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” (Matt. 5:45). God causes it for everyone, but only a few recognize it. Even fewer say so.

Of course this turns the issue toward the fact of God causing pain and suffering, but I’ll save the bulk of that issue for another time. What I felt needed to be said here is that our posture is everything. If we believe that we don’t need God and can be fully satisfied and provided for within ourselves, then our lives are going to reflect that. We’ll be self-sufficient and independent and all that jazz. But when our strength fails or when our hearts give out, which they will, what happens then? What happens when we no longer have a choice over our spiritual posture? All I can really say at this point is that I’d rather not find out.

I suppose it comes down to a choice; either we choose to trust ourselves or to trust God, ready to give thanks to Him for what He has done – even if it is merely allowing us to live.

What do you think it means when we say we trust in God? Has become an empty buzzword or does it have the deepest of meanings?

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” (1 Thess. 5:18)

God bless.

Faith: A Slippery Slope with God…

After reading the introduction to Peter EnnsThe Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins, I decided to research a little more about the Torah and the Hebrew Bible as a whole. My roommate Brian is taking an introductory class on the Hebrew Bible, so I bought the same text book he had. After realizing it was only the “brief” introductory book, I then bought the longer one.

I also picked up the study Bible Brian’s class has been using – The Jewish Study Bible – and have recently begun to read it. In the introduction material to Genesis Jon D. Levenson (the author/scholar to the intro material) says something that stood out to me:

“The relationship of compositional history to religious faith is not a simple one. It Moses is the human author of Genesis, nothing ensures that God is its ultimate Author. If J, E, P (short-hand ways of referring to differing strands within the Torah), and various equally anonymous redactors are its human authors, nothing ensures that God is not its ultimate Author,” – Pg. 11

I agree whole-heartedly with him. Faith through uncertainty, which describes the compositional history of the entire Christian Bible, is never easy. It challenges much of what has been previously believed or assumed throughout history (i.e. understanding Creation). But in my personal experience, I have often found my faith in God deepened and strengthened through the various questions and/or intellectual issues that have been raised.

I bring this up because it’s something I’m looking for in a new church home. With Calvary and Danny O’Neil, it was second-hand nature to follow God wherever He leads even though it might be calling many Christian doctrines into question. I loved that church for that specific reason: doctrines were not the foundation for Christian faith; God was.

I still see many of Calvary’s faithful from time to time and when I ask them where they’re going, the answers are pretty similar: “I’m kind of floating around churches,” “Not really looking,” or “Haven’t found one yet.” When asked why this is it’s usually because of rigid doctrinal beliefs, which were rather open discussions with Danny. Of course, not all the cases were about belief, but I’d say most of them were.

I think the subjects of Levenson’s statement and finding a church home are connected because what we believe about Scripture has a major influence on what we believe about certain doctrines and theology sets. Faith can either be placed more heavily upon doctrine and what fellow Christians say about God and Scripture or it can be placed on God Himself from the complexities arising from Scripture. No matter what, Scripture is a pivotal player in the Christian walk, whether liberal or conservative.

When I sat down with a fairly conservative pastor several years ago, I was told that to question Scripture would be walking on a “slippery slope.” It’s a very common counter-argument to those professing faith, but denying important doctrines like inerrancy or infallibility. However, what I think gets overlooked is how big God really is. Is He the kind of God who can only exist within a rigid box of doctrines and beliefs or is the kind of God who’ll go after the “lost sheep,” even if that sheep is on the slippery slope?

In my casual search for a new church home, I have found it very important to define what I believe and value about God and His intended story for my life. And I think it’s quite simple: I would rather be on a slippery slope with God than anywhere else. If God leads me into an intellectual journey, which, as a byproduct, challenges “essential” Christian doctrines, then I would have to conclude that I would be neglecting God to retain personal comfort. In other words, I would love God with most of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, but not all.

To love God with all that we are, we must be willing to trust Him when our doctrines fail to adequately describe Him. We must trust Him when our fellow humans fail because, after all, we are temporal; He is eternal.

God bless.

Defining Jesus and Our Lives Thereafter…

For the past two Sunday mornings at Calvary, Danny has opened the microphone to anyone who would like to share their thoughts on the big transitions that are being made. Prior to Saturday night, I wasn’t planning on saying anything. But then I read some C.S. Lewis, a little bit of Scripture, and found myself writing several paragraphs about what’s most important for the members of Calvary.

It’s been tough to wrestle with what’s happening and how it’s so very different from what I’ve envisioned for Calvary’s future. I had hoped – quite selfishly – that Danny would still be preaching come this time next year and that we would have somehow improved our finances enough to hire on another person or two for full time ministry (myself included). And maybe, by some miracle, those things will still happen. But, as I talked about in my last post, those daydreams are gone.

What, then, is to replace them? That’s what I’ve been figuring out – or at least trying to. Does it mean I go with the flow of the new leadership and just see what happens? Does it mean I move on to a different group of believers – a different church – for a while? When we ask ourselves these kinds of questions, there’s usually one that gets overlooked: What does God want me to do?

When I spoke to the congregation Sunday morning, I shared what I believe to be the most important thing for every member: What are your own personal convictions and where are they leading you? Even after sharing this, though, I’ve been met with more questions and anxieties about my own future and what it looks like. What if everyone I’ve known and loved from Calvary suddenly left? What if I was one of the only ones to remain – if I were to remain? What would keep me there? What would draw me elsewhere?

If there is ever one question the gospels leave a reader with (especially the gospel of Mark), it’s this: Who is Jesus? And if there ever was one question the epistles leave us with it’s this: What does He mean to you?

“Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God,” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

If Jesus is a liar, then we can fault Him for trying to mislead and forget everything He ever said. If He’s a lunatic, then we can ignore Him altogether. But if He’s Lord and God, then we have some serious, life-altering decisions to make: Do we follow Him – even if He leads us where we do not want to go? It could be overseas, across the country, on the other side of town, or, ironically, to the very place we’ve been coming for years. If we decide that He is in fact Lord and God, then what will make the difference as to where we go is what He tells us.

“If He isn’t there, why stay? And if He is there, why go anywhere else?” my friend, Joe Tepe, asked me this morning over a cup of coffee. And I believe this question sums up exactly what I was getting at Sunday morning and exactly what God has been trying to teach me ever since: He is a personal God who went entirely out of His way to make Himself known to us when He could have left us alone. In the same way, He could leave us to fend for ourselves, but that’s not the God He is. He will speak to us as long as we are willing to listen.

Moving forward for many congregations whose churches go through the kinds of changes that Calvary is going through beckons two questions in one: What do you believe about Jesus and how does that affect your life? Do you move forward with the faith that He’s still speaking, moving, and writing our stories? Or do you doubt everything and run away from it all?

No matter what I decide to do, I must follow God and what He’s beckoning me to do. Danny isn’t resigning as head pastor because he’s suddenly lost faith; he’s moving forward because he has every bit of it. Neither he nor any one of us really knows what it looks like, but we know it’s there and we must respond accordingly. And if we’ve ever learned anything from Danny’s messages and lifestyle it’s to live out our personal convictions from God. Danny may be considered a heretic to many other Christians, but at least he’s lived out his convictions. At least he’s lived his life above reproach.

No matter where God leads each of us, we must do the same.

God bless.

P.S. For anyone who has ever been influenced by Danny and his teaching over the years, his last sermon is this Sunday. Service starts at 10 am and gets out usually around 11:20 or 11:30. If for no other reason, please come and send him off with the farewell that he, Craig Leonard, and their families deserve. 1 John 4:11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” The O’Neils and Leonards have never failed in displaying this kind of love.

Calvary Fellowship, Danny O’Neil, and the Future of Christianity…

Today feels worse than Maldanado’s missed kick two weeks ago. Danny O’Neil, Calvary Fellowship’s head pastor, announced two things: That he will be resigning and a church from Springfield will be taking over our building. All of this will transpire before Christmas. Until today, these things were in the future; sometime next spring maybe. But now, they’re three weeks away. And, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m feeling a little shell-shocked.

No, I’m not surprised by it all – Danny’s decision to resign or the building being sold. But I am finding the reality difficult to deal with. I’ve never really been part of a different church body here in Eugene. I have plenty of friends who go to different churches and I’ve hung out with them a few times. But being active in a different church setting is something I haven’t experienced. Knowing that I don’t have too long to decide has put me in a strange spot.

What’s so difficult about possibly changing churches? Why am I hesitating in leaving the community and fellowship I’ve known and loved for the past five years? It’s because I have questions. I don’t see the Bible as black and white on a lot of issues and most – or at least many – church communities do. Calvary Fellowship with Danny O’Neil taking the snaps (it’s a quarterback reference; he’ll get it) has provided an environment where those who like to think are welcomed.

No, I’m trying not to say all other churches are lame and only mine is cool. I’m just saying most churches are lame, some are cool, and mine’s the coolest…

Just kidding.

But seriously, I do not think someone like me with questions like mine would be welcomed into a modern-day evangelical community. Why? Because in many church communities, truth is black and white. Using your mind to think things through (much deeper than the surface) is discouraged and borderline heretical. Challenging “central” doctrines like the Trinity, inerrancy, or Sola Scriptura would demote any leadership role you might have or aspire to have, unless you came to the “light” and believed what they believe. Again, I’m probably over-generalizing a little too much, but honestly, I’ve been advised to leave Calvary because Danny was supposedly a “heretic.” My generalizations aren’t actually that far off the mark.

Evangelical Christianity needs to change. Danny O’Neil took a stand not against a group of people, but against an idea – an idea that demanded your compliance rather than encourage your exploration. This idea practically walks hand in hand with evangelical Christianity and quite frankly, it’s disgusting. It’s disgusting because while we preach this gospel of grace – what should be the most inclusive message in the world – we push so many people away. Instead of emphasizing loving God and our neighbor, we’ve gotten into the habit of emphasizing the right belief and “sound doctrine,” and that only after those beliefs are established could you emphasize God’s love.

But Jesus said it’s the other way around.

Danny invited people up to the front to say a few words about Calvary or about his preaching before we closed in prayer. One man came up and directed our attention to the two most important commandments and said that “Jesus didn’t hesitate in answering.” Love God, love your neighbor. It wasn’t “Read the book of systematic theology before I say these next two things.” Love God, love your neighbor. And yet, we’ve taken that to mean we’ve got to correct everyone’s flawed thinking about the Bible, Jesus, God, and Truth altogether and that in so doing we’d be “loving” our neighbor.

When I was wrestling with the doctrine of inerrancy a couple years ago, Danny asked me what I was really placing my faith in: God or a book. But thinking back on it now, I don’t think it had anything to do with the Bible, but rather what the majority of my Christian peers were saying about the Bible. I was wrestling with whether or not I agreed with the idea that the Bible needs to be perfect in order for faith to take shape. I was wrestling with whether or not I wanted to fit in.

Danny saw this flaw in evangelical Christianity a long time ago, exposed it, and received the undeserved consequences of false rumors, slander, and not being considered a true Christian. What is that flaw? We have neglected to love God with all our minds. We set up these lists of doctrines, theologies, and various belief systems to provide our intellects with a comfort zone so we can get to the more important things of converting people over to our side, signing up for one of our memberships, and training people in our way of thinking so we can keep the wolves out more effectively.

So many people are indirectly barred from possibly meeting Jesus because we refuse to intellectually relate with someone else. We refuse to question the Bible, our pastor’s authority, and those smart guys who wrote some really cool creedal statements a long time ago. But, whether we like it or not, we live in a postmodern world.

It’s a world that’s growing and developing its own dialect – a dialect we must, at the very least, learn how to speak if we want to spread the gospel message. But, like learning any new language, the most important first step is learning how to listen to how the language is spoken. What’s most troubling about this language of the postmodern world is that it requires us to ask the tough questions. Is the Bible telling the truth? Did Jesus even exist? Is God even real? And those are just the surface level questions.

My whole point is that modern-day evangelicalism needs to adapt and Danny O’Neil’s leadership style has given us an example of what that actually looks like. So much of me wishes he could stay and Calvary Fellowship could keep going, but the reality is God wants each and everyone of us to change. As Ethan Holub shared for a moment after service, the influence we’ve received from Danny O’Neil can be what we leave others with in different communities.

Two weeks remain for Calvary Fellowship as we know it. It really isn’t too much time to decide what we want to do or how we want to move forward. But what I hope (for everyone, not just Calvary members) is that we begin to ask questions. Why does the church have to sign on to creedal statements and theologies in order to follow Jesus? Why do we have to approach non-Christians with some sort of conversion agenda? Why are we clinging to commandments of men rather than the commandments of God?

Life with God is an exploration; physically, emotionally, and even intellectually – but only if we allow it. We can close our minds and coast on through to the day we die in our mental comfort zones or we can dare ourselves to trust God and God alone. Christianity’s tomorrow hinges upon our trust in Him today.

God bless.

Our Hearts; God’s Palace…

I’ve talked about this before, but I have some serious trust issues. Few friends know of my deeper struggles and shortcomings in life and even fewer friends know of my doubts and fears. When it comes to making new or deeper friendships, “Trust is earned,” becomes my favorite motto. But is this mindset, this attitude, appropriate for our relationship with God?

When I think about the meaning of the phrase, “Trust is earned,” I often wonder if people thought this way in the Garden of Eden. Did Adam and Eve ever have trust issues with God? Scripture doesn’t say whether they did or not; Adam worked hard every day with no notion of a wife nor any desire for one and yet God surprised him with Eve. It seems to me that trust in God was inherent in the Garden.

Why did this evaporate? Our simple answer is, “The Fall”; when Eve ate the forbidden fruit and gave some to her husband. But The Fall was only an act of sin; it was a break of trust. That snake persuaded both Adam and Eve – although he asked Eve directly – to distrust God; he told them He was holding out on them. When they ate that fruit, they displayed their belief that God wasn’t giving them everything. Their trust in Him was broken.

My trust issues, which I believe stemmed from never knowing my biological father, often have an influence on my walk with God. I often attempt to make moves on my own because I don’t believe God will provide. For example: finding a wife. There have been several seasons of my life where I was reckless with my approach to women. I didn’t proceed with caution to guard their hearts; I was trying – almost desperately – to win them over. I wanted a wife so badly that I took matters into my own hands. In a sense, I ate the forbidden fruit; I displayed to God that I did not trust Him.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life,” – Proverbs 4:23

This Proverb is often used as the reason behind the motto, “Trust is earned.” We want to guard our hearts and emotions lest we get hurt – and hurt badly. I completely agree with this idea and that’s why this Proverb is posted on the side of my blog: It’s the verse with which I go about my day-to-day and how I approach my friendships and relationships (obviously, not always; but most of the time). But when it comes to God, I think our trust in Him should be inherent.

In the prior chapter of Proverbs, verse 5 says this; Trust in the Lord with all your heart…” In fact this entire chapter lists the benefits of inherently trusting God; our paths will be straight, our bodies will be healthy, our bones will be well-nourished (Hebrew connotes a sense of “fattened” or “thickened”), and the Lord will be our confidence. Why then do I find myself becoming anxious about my future – finding a wife, getting a job, etc.?

I would have to say it’s because I’ve retrojected my experience with my fellow humans back onto God and His character. But this is something Scripture emphasizes throughout the entire Bible: God is not like our human fathers. He cares for us always; not sometimes and bails. Always.

Our lives in Christ are in constant change. Why? Because the side effects of that first break of trust long, long ago are still reverberating back onto us. We’ve become inherently dysfunctional; set to repeatedly mess up in our relationships with each other and God. The process in becoming like Christ – like the true sons and daughters of God we were created to be – is a process in which our old dysfunctional ways are being removed. We’re being rewired to the tune of God. What I am finding to be the most helpful action on my part is if I simply live out my days throwing my entire trust into God – truly trusting Him with all of my heart.

Yes, I will have doubts. Yes, I will worry. And yes, this life with all of its trials will bombard my heart and soul. But unlike my emotions, God doesn’t change. He cares for us the same today as He did yesterday and as He will tomorrow. The challenge of faith is then an issue of trust: If we remain steadfast with the One who is Perfect, our lives will be filled with peace. God wants us to inherently trust Him – not only so that we may remain faithful to obeying His commandments, but also because He’s building a new kingdom in and through us.

Earlier this morning, I met with my pastor, Tony. We were reading through John 12 and verses 42 and 43 stood out to him:

“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in [Jesus], but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

It reminded him of a quote from C.S. Lewis, which neither of us remembered correctly, but was something along the lines of this: We invite God into our homes and are glad He is there. But then he starts tearing down walls and removing the foundation; that’s when we want to throw Him out. What we don’t realize is that He doesn’t like the house we’ve built for ourselves; He wants to build us a palace.

No, our trust issues here in this life do not apply to God. We ought to do ourselves a favor by inherently – as if it were no problem at all – trusting in Him in all the renovations He’s doing in our hearts. He’s a big God and doesn’t want a small house; He wants a palace for His Kingdom.

God bless.

Prayer’s Power…

Retreats are awesome. The mere practice of getting out of a routine can be refreshing in itself; coupling the break with brothers and sisters seeking God practically quadruples the effect of getting away. And then on top of all that, receiving indirect lessons of the faith through the people around you is like, well, you get the idea. This weekend was an awesome weekend.

One man in particular really stood out to me. He might not like me writing exaggerated things about him (like the time he took on a whole biker gang with a single punch), but whatever. He’s cool and deserves the stories.

Riding up with Ethan was a learning experience in and of itself. I first learned that taxicab drivers make a lot of money in a single year. Sure there are a lot of hours spent sitting down and maybe a few too many drunks to deal with on a single night, but they seem to pay out. Ethan ended up buying into the business and now owns a good portion of Eugene’s cabs.

How he got there, though, is an amazing story; one that I don’t think I could fully cover in 100 blogs or even a 1,500-page text book. But I think it’d be cool to write like a three volume set about the guy and then translate it into as many languages as humanly possible because the guy has been to like 60 different countries (legends say within one month…). The first story I picked up on, though, was the story he carried with him everywhere he went: his habit of praying before making any decisions (and yes, I mean “any”; I overheard him whispering a prayer about what kind of gas to get before we hit the road).

When I now read Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing,” I now think of Ethan. While he was talking about what he’s going to do next after owning Oregon’s Taxi (at least the vans), he said that he was praying about it. He’s got a few ideas with what he wants to do, so he definitely needs it. And given his history of praying and receiving an answer, which I learned from a mutual friend, Nathan, I think Ethan will be alright.

Instead of riding back with Ethan, I decided to mix things up and ride back with two girls I hardly ever talked to during Cross Training. Well, that and there were a lot of guys in Ethan’s van (3 of which were defensive linemen for Oregon). Even if all the guys showered that day, riding back in a girl’s car is much easier on the nostrils.

While riding back, I started talking to Nathan about how I now want to be a cab driver when I grow up and how I was inspired by Ethan. One of the first things Nathan mentioned about Ethan was how often the man prays – and gets a relatively quick answer. Nathan said that Ethan once prayed for land to buy over in eastern Oregon and within a span of two days received a random offer from someone he happened to run into. Whether or not that’s true; Ethan prays and God gives results.

One major thing I found lacking in my walk during the introspective moments that retreats usually provide was my prayer life. And what I mean by this isn’t merely the number of times I pray or even praying on a regular basis; I mean praying with the faith that my supplications are not only heard, but will be answered as well.

I usually pray at least once or twice a day (usually in my morning shower and the final five or six minutes before I go to bed). But rarely, at least recently, have I prayed with the childlike faith that what I ask for will be answered. For whatever reason, I roll through my mental-list of prayers and hop out of the shower or lay down in bed. It’s a terrible habit and I think on some level, it’s kept me from truly engaging God. I mean, I talk to Him, yes, but after saying all that I wanted to say, I’m not in the habit of listening for a response.

No, I don’t mean God literally speaking to me (although that would be helpful [and freaky] at times), but letting me know in some way that He has heard my prayer and has given or will give an answer. Right off the bat in Luke is a story about prayers being heard and answered (1:13). I know it’s not in an angel’s nature to drop by every day or even every once in a while to say that God has heard us and is in the process of answering (and I wonder if we’d really believe them if they did), but within this story is the implication that Luke was an avid and frequent and faithful pray-er.

God is a God who wants our trust, especially when we’re entering a foggy patch on the path of life. He wants us to trust Him that when we fall He’ll be there to catch us. Or when we have a thousand different ideas about what we’re going to do with our degrees or whom we’re going to marry, that He’ll give us some direction and guidance. He’s a loving and good Father who wants the best for us, no matter what. A girl named Melanie told me this weekend that what keeps her going is a little, repeated phrase, “God is faithful, God is faithful.”

I know; all of what I’ve written here can basically be summed up in Melanie’s personal phrase. But I think seeing God’s faithfulness working through Ethan (and particularly because of Ethan’s faithful prayers) was the lesson I needed to learn. Melanie delivered God’s thesis statement for the weekend and Ethan’s testimony gave the bulk of the essay culminating in a very persuasive and promising lesson.

Prayer’s power is unimaginable when it comes to faithfully directing those prayers to God. Barren wombs suddenly give birth, starving thousands suddenly receive their fill from a mere dozen loaves of bread, and the dead come to life by faithful and frequent, God-trusting prayers.

When I die, I want to be known like Ethan is known to me; a man of prayer.

God bless.