God Speaks from the Storm

I had to sit down on the step outside my door. I just couldn’t ignore the awesome display of God’s greatness unfolding across the sky. Thunder constantly rolled in the background. Lightning danced from cloud to cloud as mesmerizing as any fireworks display. And the clouds visibly moved across the horizon like rafts floating down a swiftly moving river.


In both good and bad ways, so much in this world can make us feel so small. Senseless shootings. Political unrest. Terrorism. Poverty. It all feels so overwhelming and makes us feel so powerless and out of control. Thunderstorms. Stars. Mountains. The ocean’s tide. Miracles. They all feel so overwhelming and make us feel so powerless and out of control.

You see, it is all about perspective. We can spend time anxious about all of the things that are out of our control. Or we can relax because we are not in control and be grateful we know the One who ultimately is.

Proverbs 19:1-4, 7 says,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

    The skies display his craftsmanship.

Day after day they continue to speak;

    night after night they make him known.

They speak without a sound or word;

    their voice is never heard.[a]

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,

    and their words to all the world.

The instructions of the Lord are perfect,

    reviving the soul.

The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,

    making wise the simple.

The commandments of the Lord are right,

    bringing joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are clear,

    giving insight for living.

In times of doubt, anxiety, fear, confusion, anger, or grief, God’s creation proclaims His glory and reminds us He holds all things together. It is so tempting to wonder why this world is the way it is because so often it just doesn’t seem right. But God isn’t done redeeming yet. When Job questioned God about the suffering he had endured, God reminded Job that he was not there when God created the world and everything in it. For an entire chapter (Job 38), God reminds Job of how great God is and just how small Job is. The chapter starts with, “Who is this that questions me with such ignorant words?” I used to imagine God scolding Job and putting Job in His place. I used to read the first verse as the Biblical version of, “Who do you think you are!?” But I’ve grown to read it differently. Now I see God as a compassionate Father telling a beloved son that the way of the world is not his concern, that it is too big for him to understand, and what he must do instead of question is simply trust. Essentially, God is saying, “Job, I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing.”

Isaiah 55:6-9 says,

“Seek the Lord while you can find him.

    Call on him now while he is near.

Let the wicked change their ways

    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.

Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.

    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.

    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so my ways are higher than your ways

    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

No, this world doesn’t always make sense. Yes there is unimaginable suffering happening everyday. People are capable of causing such great harm to one another. And yet, God holds it all together. He is slow to anger. He is patient. He is full of grace. He is not to blame for the evil. He is responsible for redeeming it. And that redemption process in ongoing. In order for our relationship with God to be real and true, He must allow us choice to either love or hate. And even that truth doesn’t answer or satisfy all of our “why” questions.

So as I sat staring at the light show in the sky and took in the power of the rolling thunder, I was reminded that I have an intimate relationship with the Creator of those things. He created the thunder and the lightning. And He created me. And though I don’t understand it, He wants to relate to me intimately and He loves me fiercely. His ways are so much higher than mine, and slowly I’m learning to trust His way and love Him back.

Lessons from Losing Megan

A little over a week ago I learned of the death of a former student. I never expected to lose a student before losing a client. These types of things aren’t supposed to happen. Megan was only 24 and had her whole life ahead of her. Which means she wasn’t supposed to die and especially not in a tragic and unexpected way. Not to someone so full of life and possibility. It’s not supposed to happen to someone so intelligent and driven and talented. Not to someone who so clearly loved Jesus and loved others so intentionally. She was so kind, so humble, so joyful, and so compassionate. Tragedy was supposed to leave her alone. This wasn’t supposed to happen to her. Yet these things do happen, every day. But to someone else right…until it happens to you.


And when it happens, it simply takes your breath away. And you can’t think clearly. Or sleep soundly. And you find yourself weeping uncontrollably at your desk or in the arms of a friend. And the “why” questions begin to flood your mind…Why her? Why did God allow this to happen? Why…?

But great pain brings opportunity for great growth so the appropriate questions are not “why” questions but “what” and “how” questions…what can we learn and how shall we live in light of Megan’s life and death?

You see, answers to the “why” questions always seem to leave us unsatisfied. While the “what” and “how” questions can comfort and help us find a new normal. So what have I learned? I’ve learned how important true friendship is in the wake of tragedy. Friends showed up and sat with me every night last week. Those who lived far away texted  and called and emailed. My neighbor brought my trash cans in from the curb. Friends hugged, and asked, and genuinely cared to listen. They didn’t try to fix. They simply showed up. They didn’t leave it up to me to tell them what I needed. They simply did what they felt called to do. I hope you have people around you like this and if you do not, my prayer is that you will begin to reach out and foster these kinds of relationship. And if you know someone who is grieving, reach out, show up, and just do.

What does tragedy teach us? That though it is awfully easy to blame God or accuse Him of evil (which He is no stranger to – see Job, the prophets, and even Christ on the cross), that in the midst of the pain, He is ultimately our greatest source of comfort. God does not abandon us in the darkest of moments. In fact, that is when God shows up most tangibly. The power of death is destroyed by the immense love of the cross and the greater power of the empty tomb.

How then should we live? At the risk of sounding cliche, like Megan did. We should send birthday texts and hand written notes. We should grab coffee and enjoy slow, deep conversation. We should take genuine interest in the other and treat all with great kindness and respect. We should choose joy, unexplainable joy. We should ask questions, passionately seek answers, and be inquisitive lifelong learners. We should have fun. We should laugh.

How shall we live? Unashamed of our faith but humble and full of grace. One of my favorite comments about Megan came from a graduate school classmate of hers who identified as an atheist. She wrote, “Megan was truly one of the most beautiful and gentle people I have ever been lucky enough to know…Megan lived so gracefully in her strong faith. She was never in your face about it, but was influenced by it in all she said. She was so smart and would bring up very compelling points in classes that challenged my own belief system without ever making me feel shamed or condemned. I told her once that her faith was a beautiful example of what a Christian should be, that her actions made me want to be a better person. She responded with something along the lines of ‘thank you, its always nice to be able to discuss difference of opinion without anger’. She not only believed in her faith, but she lived it, and that is something I will never forget.” I’m afraid this can rarely be said of me, but this is what I aspire to and hope one day it will be true of me as well.

I will never forget Megan. I’ll always remember her challenging questions, fired from the back row after consulting with her buddy Blair. I’ll remember how embarrassed and fake angry she was with me for playing “God Save the Queen” as she walked into class after being crowned Central’s homecoming queen.


I’ll remember watching her counseling skills develop right before my eyes. She was a natural, but she also worked so hard to improve. And of course, I’ll never forget the way she and her group members decorated the observation room to look more like an actual counselor’s office.  I’ll never forget conversations about her future goals and dreams and what she felt was God’s calling on her life. We all took Megan for granted when she was alive. She is not taken for granted in her death and may her death remind us not to take our own lives or others for granted either.


“3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.” 1 Corinthians 1:3-7 NLT


Experience Still Changes Everything

So I might be obsessed with Mat Kearney. But I don’t believe it is entirely unhealthy. I’ve loved his music for over ten years. Three years ago I wrote this blog about my first Mat Kearney concert. A year ago I re-posted it after my second Kearney concert. Now I’m reposting it for a third time after my third concert. I can’t help it…I just really like him, the music, and the lessons I learned as a result. 


This concert was different from others – although isn’t that always the case? No two concert experiences are ever the same. My friend purchased the tickets and we were well aware it was general admission. What we foolishly did NOT realize until we arrived was that it was an OUTDOOR concert. Oops. A lesson originally learned at my first Mat Kearney concert is that you should never be an observer. No, it is important to be a participant. And so in true form, my friend and I made our way to the front (and as you can see from the pictures that follow, we did pretty well)! Thankfully GORGEOUS weather made an outdoor concert a welcome surprise.

The heart is courtesy of my 23 year old googly eyed, smitten compadre.

And just as we got settled in for the show, I heard someone call my name. I turned around to find my beautiful cousin and her husband sitting right behind us! 


It wasn’t long before my friend also ran into treasured friends and had an opportunity to reconnect with them as well. So…incredible music, incredible friends (and even family!) made for incredible memories. So what are the lessons? Life is sweetest when shared with others. Music moves us but live music connects us and moves us together. Whether family, dear friends, or complete strangers, for a few hours we sing the same songs in a shared moment that simply cannot be replicated regardless of how many dates are on the tour. We really are better together and life is sweeter experienced in community with others. Individual experience matters, but shared memories are magical – they have the ability to deepen relationship, develop intimacy, and pave the way for authenticity.

And yet, in the midst of the shared experience, we also maintain our unique individuality. Each as their own favorite song, their own reason for why it is their favorite, and their own unique way to take in the moment. Some sing along as loudly as possible – forgetting those around them came to hear the artist on stage instead of their out of tune rendition (I may be a singer…guilty as charged). Others close their eyes and quietly take in each note. Some stand. Some sit. Some fight to the front. Some retreat to the back. So honor one another’s unique perspective and experience, for even if you had the same experience, it is still uniquely yours and different from someone else’s. 

The original lesson learned so long ago? It is good to observe, it is MUCH better to actually experience. Below is that original post. I hope you continue to read and find the same courage to attend a concert or two (both literally and figuratively) and to move to the front where you can experience and participate. Rachel – thank you for helping me learn to fight to the front, hold my ground, sing at the top of my lungs, and truly experience.


I’ve been to more concerts than I can count. I love the experience of live music and spent much of my youth chasing my favorite bands around the country. When I first started attending concerts, location was everything. I’d fight and claw and scratch my way towards the front. I’d stand my ground against the jostling and positioning of others. I’d jump and sway with abandon, not caring about what others thought. This changed as I got older. With each passing year, I slowly moved farther back and I progressively became more passive during each show.

Recently, I attended a concert of one of my favorite artists held on a college campus. As I walked into the gymnasium with the student who had graciously secured the treasured ticket, I headed towards the bleachers in the back, as I had become accustomed to doing. I heard her say, “No, Karen, this way” pointing toward the mob standing before the stage. Suddenly the changes I had made in my approach to concerts became apparent! I found myself surrounded by excited college students, and I was suddenly quite aware that I was not one! Insecurities initially overwhelmed me – I’m too old, I don’t belong. However, excitement for the experience soon took over and I found myself no longer annoyed by the student repeatedly bumping into me as he jumped, or put off by the smell of sweat salient in the air.

And then something truly special happened. The artist jumped down into the crowd, breaking the barrier between performer and audience. And I was a part of it all. He realized he’d spent too much time among his adoring fans, and looked right at me as he proclaimed “I’ve got to get back to the stage!” Then he ran past me, actually knocking into my shoulder, as he scrambled back to the stage. At that moment I realized that I would have significantly missed out had I been sitting in the bleachers. I would have observed, but I would not have experienced.


The Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” After my concert revelation, I have to ask myself, “How often do I observe God instead of experiencing His goodness?” How often do I choose to sit on the bleachers in the back instead of standing in the crowd in front?  How often do I convince myself that sitting in the back is really no different than standing in the front when really I’ve missed out on something special and unique and maybe even life changing? The truth is that it is easier to sit in the bleachers. The bleachers are comfortable. It is work to stand in the front. It’s hot, smelly, crowded, and exhausting. But it’s in the front where the possibility of experiencing and even participating in the action takes place.

God seems to be inviting us to come to the front, to fight the crowds, to withstand the discomfort for a taste of what He has to offer. Is it possible that He is even inviting us to participate? What if He jumps into the crowd? Do you want to be in the bleachers or in the crowd with a chance of reaching out and touching Him and perhaps even receiving something from Him or being invited to join Him?

Now perhaps I’ve pushed the metaphor too far, as we are all called to join Jesus in bringing God’s kingdom to earth and because the Holy Spirit lives in the heart of every believer, we can fulfill this calling. And obviously Jesus isn’t a performer on a stage. But stay with me here, at one point He spoke to the masses – some clamored to be near him, some risked everything to touch him, some watched from a distance with skepticism, and some simply walked away. What about Zacchaeus who climbed a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus? Jesus ate at his house that day! What about the bleeding woman who dared to touch His cloak? She was healed after 12 years of suffering! What about the men whose love for their friend was so great that they destroyed a roof in order to lower him down to Jesus. Their friend was healed in more ways than one! Those who dared to get the closest to Him, experienced Him, and were never the same again. Those people ended up changing the world. Those who kept their distance have long been forgotten and are but an anonymous footnote in the annals of history.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve decided it is time that I stop sitting on the bleachers just observing. True change happens through experience. Learning about the artist and knowing the lyrics to the songs is great, but can never replace the impact and transformational potential of the experience. In order to truly believe that I am God’s beloved child and to truly comprehend His great love for me, I need to experience Him, not just learn about Him. It’s time I head to the front to fully experience His presence, and to “taste and see”. I hope you join me.