Nameless: Centurion in Capernaum

He was a centurion. That’s all we need to know: a Roman invader, part of the occupying force. He commanded 100 men. Is that where he found his identity: in his authority and nationality? He was also generous, perhaps as a political move to placate the local religious leaders or perhaps genuinely desiring to do good. His words and actions suggest the latter.

This powerful, generous person of authority is quite a contrast to the others we’ve studied in the Nameless series. That’s why I find him so interesting.

Luke 7:1-10. Matthew 8:5-13.

Continue reading

Faith Comes First

It was prayer time, and Peter and John were doing what they usually did.

It was prayer time, and the lame man was doing what he usually did.

They were going to pray. He was going to beg. No one expected anything out of the ordinary. Isn’t that how it often feels when God begins to work? Continue reading

Abraham: Obedience Over Outcome

We’re wired to make plans, to expect results, to accomplish goals. (I think it’s a Western thing, actually.) Our wiring makes it difficult for us to obey God.

God says, “Jump.” We say, “How far?”

God says, “Go.” We say, “Where?”

God says, “Be still.” We say, “Why?”

In every command from Him, there’s an unspoken affirmation: “Trust Me.” But we don’t trust.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of a guy named Abraham (Hebrews 11:8-19). Maybe you’ve heard of him? Continue reading

More Than One Way to Move a Mountain

Since before I wrote Walls and Weapons in October, we’ve been singing “Do It Again” from Elevation Worship at church. (The first line is about walls. It’s an obvious connection.) The bridge goes like this:

I’ve seen you move, you move the mountains, and I believe I’ll see you do it again.

Well, the walls I described back in that October post are still standing. The mountain that needs to move isn’t gone. As we sang this song again on Sunday, I mentally reminded the Lord that, while I absolutely believe He’ll “do it again,” we’re still waiting. Immediately, this phrase came to my mind:

There’s more than one way to move a mountain.

I stopped singing. My mouth may have hung open. The wheels in my brain started turning, and images began to cycle…images of the many ways mountains can be moved.

Erosion

07-15 trip to Cherokee (8)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, NC (c) Carole Sparks  (My Grand Canyon pics are on film. Sorry!)

The Grand Canyon is the product of erosion. So are most cave systems and the smooth tops of the Appalachian Mountains. Slowly and steadily, wind and/or water wear away at soil, rock, and everything else, turning jagged edges smooth, wearing towers down to nubs. You can’t watch it happen, but you can clearly see evidence of it.

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Cumberland Caverns (c) Carole Sparks

Sometimes our problems very gradually dissipate as “springs of living water” (Revelation 7:17, also John 4:14) flow in and around us. The key is to keep the water flowing, that is, to stay close to Jesus. We’ve seen the smoothing of some rough edges on our mountain, making it a little easier to manage every day.

Equipment

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A long way down – from the cable car station atop Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. (c) Carole Sparks

I love heavy equipment! (How could I not have any photos?!?) A bunch of bulldozers and dump trucks can roll in and remove a mountain in a matter of weeks. It’s not pretty and may not be good for the environment (e.g. strip mining), but it’s possible.

We can move our spiritual mountains through the application of human resources, too.

  • Doctors and medicines
  • counselors
  • friends lending their services
  • charity organizations…

all help us tackle the mountains in our lives. After praying for God to move our particular mountain, He has guided us to some heavy equipment to tackle part of the job.

Environment

04-24 Tarangire (51)
In Tarangire, the river grows wider due to erosion and animal traffic on its banks. (c) Carole Sparks

The mountain’s environment: Beavers chop down trees to make dams that back up streams. Birds carry away twigs for nests and deposit seeds that become trees. Moles tunnel through the ground, loosening soil that the wind blows away. Men clear space for roads and fields. Many factors alter or remove small parts of the mountain.

05-28c Bean Station overlook (3) lake hills view bridge
TVA dams turned mountains into hills and islands. (c) Carole Sparks

As our environment changes, our mountain changes. It wears down. It loosens up, making erosion easier. Some small things have changed, some small steps have been taken so that the mountain is looser. It’s a little easier to live here now, and it may come down more quickly in the future.

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Mt. Kilimanjaro is the snow-capped peak on the right. We were about 100 miles away. (c) Carole Sparks

The believer’s environment: It’s also possible to simply move away. Maybe the mountain doesn’t need to move as much as we need to move out of its vicinity. A change in our environment produces the same results as moving the mountain. Mount Kilimanjaro doesn’t look quite as impressive from one hundred miles away.

We’ve changed a few things around here (and stood firm on a few other things) to get a better perspective on our mountain. While we can’t move, we’ve learned to simply look in a different direction occasionally by getting away for a vacation or holiday.

Earthquake

Very rarely, the earth shakes and the mountain crumbles—gone in a matter of minutes. That’s entirely the hand of God. Earthquakes are dangerous for miles, the land often racked with instability and aftershocks. (Kinda thankful I don’t have any first-hand photos of earthquakes.)

When Jesus talked of moving
mountains, He was thinking
about motives, not methods.

It seems I was looking for the earthquake or some miraculous disappearing act—a heavenly sleight of hand—that would solve our situation without much work or patience on my part. Clearly, that’s not God’s only way to work.

When Jesus talked of moving mountains, He wasn’t worried about methods, just motives.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.  –Matthew 17:20

So I’m willing to wait and watch, knowing God has a purpose in the methods He’s using for us. Because God does move mountains, one way or another.

Or perhaps, one way and another.

God does move mountains—one way AND another. This #mountainmoving is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Have you seen a mountain move in your life? Please encourage me by sharing a bit in the comments below. I really would LOVE to hear from you!

Random connection: Good fiction about moving actual mountains

Podcast Interview

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Chester doing the interview at our dining room table. He makes house calls.

I recently sat down with Chester Goad on his Leaderbyte podcast to talk about the creative process, writing, faith, and some other fun stuff. Chester made it interesting and easy to talk–even about myself. Still it’s #NotAboutMe, as you’ll hear.

If you want to know more about me or where I’m coming from, listen to this. Continue reading

One Man’s Treasure

11-24 children's Bible (1)
my first “real” Bible  (c) Carole Sparks

Jesus had just spent an hour or so with some kids. He hugged them, patted their heads, and blessed them (Mark 10:16). How do you picture that scene? I think he probably stooped down to be on their level or pulled them up to sit on his lap. I think he chatted with each one, smiled at them, comforted them, and just generally enjoyed himself. I think he learned their names, their pets’ names, their favorite activities, and anything else they wanted to share. I think he was patient when they stuttered and laughed at their silly jokes. After all, the Kingdom of God belongs to “such as these.” This is one of my favorite images of Jesus, and not just because it was on the front of my very first Bible as a child.

Mark 10:17-22.

As Jesus stood to go from that happy, relaxing time, a man ran up and fell onto his knees in front of Jesus. Did he push some children out of the way? Did he see that Jesus was Continue reading

What I write when I have nothing to write

I’m spiritually dry. I feel like there’s a vacuum cleaner above my head, and every time I begin to sense the Lord’s presence, that vacuum whirs into action and immediately sucks the feeling out of my reach.

This often happens to me around Christmas. Maybe it’s the extra obligations and travel. Maybe it’s the overblown expectation of some sweet spiritual experience. Maybe it’s the disruption of my regular schedule with kids home and husband off work and late nights which lead to late-rising mornings. Maybe it’s a new plan for my daily quiet time, and I haven’t adjusted yet. Maybe it’s the cold weather that makes it hard to go for a run and compels me to cook warm things instead.

What I’m trying to say is that I have nothing fresh and unique to offer you today. Even as I look back through my journals and find these great spiritual insights, I feel no conviction to write about them.

Faith is a choice founded
in conviction and ratified
in experience. (click to tweet)

But my faith is not a feeling. Faith is a choice founded in conviction and ratified in experience. It is an ever-present rock which cannot be shifted (Psalm 62:2).

God told Isaiah that people are like grass, and their faithfulness is like wildflowers in a field. The grass (which is the people) dries up and turns brown. The flowers (which is the people’s faithfulness) fall off their stems, but neither He nor His Word are like that; on the contrary, “the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8).

So I will do what I do what I do when there’s no doing left in my muscles.

I will sing what I sing when there’s no song left in my heart.

I will think what I think when there’s no thought left in my mind.

It’s the same thing so many before me have done.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior. -Habakkuk 3:17-18

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. -Psalm 71:14-16

I can always praise Him.

I can always declare His faithfulness back to Him even when my own faithfulness falters.

I can always remind myself of His sovereignty, His presence, His goodness.

What about you? What do you do when the well of spiritual nourishment goes dry? Let’s refresh each other with your comments below!

What to do when it’s not just your skin that’s dry in winter. (click to tweet)