“Yea, though I walk through the valley of Costco parking…”

Tonight, it feels like my heart is going to pound right through my chest. I’m laying in bed, trying to sleep, and it starts. Fears, worries, “what if’s”. You probably know the feeling too, right? Worst-case scenarios playing in my head like an “end of the world” movie on crack. There’s no way out, no hope, and the only light at the end of the tunnel looks to me like a head-on collision with a speeding locomotive.

Yeah, I know, a good Christian’s supposed to have faith. He’s supposed to believe God’s got his back. And especially if you’re a pastor, people think you’ve got the inside scoop. Like you’re a DisneyWorld employee who knows where all the secret doors are to that underground system. You know – the one that gets you to anywhere in the park hassle-free? Yep, that’s me! Boy, do I know my way around life! I can bypass all the long lines, traffic jams and jump to the front of the line on Space Mountain.

Hardly. I get no preferred status. And anyone coming to Christianity for a “jump-to-the-front-of-the-line Easy Pass” is in for a big surprise and a lifetime of frustration.

Sometimes I get fearful. Ok, terrified. Terrified of how things are ever going to work themselves out. Terrified of what might happen if I don’t get out of the current “mess du jour”. Terrified that if I get out of it, what the next mess might be coming around the bend. And morbid introspection, Monday morning quarterbacking and crystal ball gazing rarely ever happens in the daylight, when I think I can actually do something…anything to fix the problem. No, it comes at night…in the darkness…when all I can do is imagine the worst.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. There’s some of you Christians right now who are looking down on me. I should just “claim victory in faith” and cheer up, right? Because God never wants me to be in fearful situations, correct?

“The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will”, they tell me.

“God will never give you anymore than you can handle”, I’m assured.

Sorry, but both of those are lies.

God has rarely led me into “safe places”, but often into down right dangerous ones. God led me to move my family to the inner-city of Chicago once to work with a great church there. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve had drunk people urinating on your front lawn and a burglar wrestled to the ground in front of your wife, with full tactical squad, guns drawn.

“Oh, but Pastor, God would spare you from any danger”. Try telling that to the Christians in Middle Eastern countries right now being persecuted for their faith. They’re in the center of God’s will, standing for their faith…and very often watching family members die horrible deaths.

If your God only leads you into safe places, then you’re serving a much-too-safe god.

As to the second statement, unfortunately it has been my experience God ALWAYS gives me more than I can handle. He intentionally puts me in circumstances beyond my control, way past my own abilities, and leaves me there way longer than I want. There are times I seriously feel I’m going to break, like tonight when I’m afraid my mind or my will either one will just snap from all the pressure.

Then there’s my wife’s stress. She’s in the midst of taking care of our three children, one of whom had gotten her own job and moved out, the other two are teenagers (prayers appreciated). Recently we added my son’s friend to our household, who was kicked out of his home. It’s pretty funny – we now have one African-America (my son’s friend), one Puerto Rican (my adopted son), and a white southern belle (my daughter)! Oh, and here’s a sudden news update…we are now guardians for a 7 month old baby girl! So all this, while my wife holds down a couple of part-time jobs and continues to be an incredible spouse, mom and homemaker.

There are other challenges too many to mention here. Suffice it to say, we are in over our in over our heads. We live way beyond our ability to see very far down the road. All of life seems to be swirling out of control around us. And yet I feel we are more in the center of God’s will for our lives than we have ever been before…

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” – Isaiah 26:3

Yep, that’s the kicker. Focusing your mind on Him. That’s easy to do when everything is calm. How ‘bout trying that in the midst of a life free-fall?costco2031

When you’re kids are in trouble?

When you’ve got no money left?

When you’re trying to get out of the Costco parking lot alive?

I’ll start right now by believing him for those first two. Surviving the angry retired folk in Costco parking may take a miracle of Biblical proportions! Baby steps…

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