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Life really is a roller coaster

I spent the weekend at a family reunion at Okoboji where the activity of choice for the teens and preteens was riding as many rides as possible at Arnold’s Park. I had NO interest in this particular activity but watching the anticipation and joy in their faces did remind me that I once had those same emotions each year when the carnival would come to town for Fun Days. The favorite ride seemed to be the roller coaster. Now I am no thrill seeker and roller coasters don’t interest me at all, but I began to think just a similar our faith in God really is like riding a roller coaster. Yes, we’ve all probably used this analogy, but I think there’s more truth to it than we tend to realize.



I recall the pit in my stomach as the roller coaster slowly climbed the hill, the pause at the very top that allows the anticipation to build, and then the exhilerating free fall as the coaster raced down the track. There was the sigh of relief when it was all over quickly followed by a strange desire to do it all again. There was no real fear. There was faith of an innocent and naive child. As an adult, my experience is completely different. I see all of the ways the ride could quite literally go off the tracks. I rarely allow the anticipation to build on the way up the hill and I hang on for dear life on the way down instead of throwing my hands up in reckless abandon. There’s no real faith and there’s no real enjoyment.

So which way would God have me approach life?

Following Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit really does feel so similar to that roller coaster ride. There are challenges and obstacles making the trek up the hill challenging and leaving us often feeling like we’re just barely inching or lurching our way up to the top. And then just when we think we’re able to maybe catch our breath from the climb, it feels as though we are hurtling down the other side barely able to hold on. Both aspects can feel exhilarating or exhausting, depending on our attitude and our perspective. Will I embrace faith like a child, which allows me to enjoy the view and long to go on the ride again? Or will I constantly assess the risk and the danger, close my eyes, and hang on for dear life essentially squashing any chance of experiencing any joy?

I want to throw my hands up, open my eyes wide, and experience life in its fullness. I want to trust the rollercoaster designer and engineer – the author and perfector of my life’s adventure. In what ways has life felt like a roller coaster for you? What feels like you’re creeping up? What has made you feel like you’re racing towards the bottom?

Today I walked away…

There are defining moments in everyone’s life – decisions that determine the very course of your life. Several months ago, I made one of these life defining decisions, and today I took the first step down the path determined by this decision.

Today I walked away from one career to start another. After 9 years, I officially left full time practice as a counselor at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, an organization I respect, that trained me, and took me from a scared, insecure graduate student to a (mostly) confident and competent professional. Today I left coworkers I love, admire, and consider family. In so many ways it could be a sad day. And honestly, in some ways, it is. But the sadness is tempered by two things.

1. Pine Rest is going to let me stick around a few hours a week to keep my clinical skills sharp and to make sure my coworkers don’t miss me too much. So it’s not really “good bye” or even “see you later” as much as “see you less”.

2. I’m leaving a career, but I’m moving towards a calling.

I’m following a calling to teach and so Monday I start what I hope to be a long career in academia. And it starts as a visiting lecturer at Central College. And you see, a “visiting lecturer” is just that – “visiting”. It means I have a full time job for exactly one year. So today I walked away from the security and predictability I’ve enjoyed for the entirety of my adult career. Today I walked away from the known and into the unknown, from the certain to the in between.


Today I walked away from doubt and towards belief that God is good.

Today I walked away from fear and towards faith.

Today I walked away from holy discontent towards peace that surpasses understanding.

Today I walked away from defiantly being in charge towards relinquishing control to the Lord.

Today I walked away from the comfortable and towards the courageous.

Today I walked away from settling towards living in God’s sweet spot He’s called me to.

Today I walked away from the good, in fact the very good, in order to walk towards God’s promise of great.

If you’ve been following my most recent blogs, you’ve been on a journey of learning about Jesus as our Good Shepherd, a trustworthy shepherd that protects, provides, knows us intimately, and loves us deeply. His voice is calm and steady. His guidance is certain and secure. He has my best interest always in mind. And he promises following him leads to a rich and satisfying life. So yes, today I walked away from a lot, but I also walked towards my Shepherd’s voice…

Is Jesus asking you to walk away from something and towards His voice? What’s holding you back? What is keeping you from following the Shepherd’s voice? Maybe today is the day to walk away from all that keeps you from walking towards Jesus.

And of course…Go Dutch!! 😉



Little Things Lead to Big Things

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me[a] were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.[b] They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd. ~John 10:1-16

So what does it actually take to follow the Good Shepherd? What does it take to please him? I read an interview with a shepherd who when asked what he liked about his sheep replied, “They come when I call their names. They love me. They paw at me and want my attention. They are responsive to me. They are not too afraid.” We have to trust what Jesus says in verse 10 is true – that he came to give a rich and satisfying life.

The amazing thing about our Good Shepherd, Jesus, is that he leads us in such a kind and gentle way that running when He calls our names ought to be so simple. He asks us to be obedient in small daily moments and when we take one faith-filled step after another, suddenly He’s taken us on an incredible journey we never thought possible.

My freshman year of high school, two students in our community, one just a grade ahead of me, had serious heart surgery. Both were named “Pete” and our teachers rallied the entire school to do something special for them. We began a campaign called “Pennies for Pete.” Admittedly, I was skeptical. What good can a lowly penny do? And yet, by the end of the event, over 900,000 pennies covered to gym floor – that’s 9000 dollars in pennies. And believe me, every single one counted. When you are faithful with little things, the Good Shepherd is able to make it something very big.


Christmas 2004 one of the largest tsunamis in history struck SE Asia, including the small island nation of Sri Lanka. And though I was smack dab in the middle of a rigorous doctorate program, I felt an undeniable call to go that can only be explained as the voice of The Good Shepherd. And so I found myself committing to go half way across the world for 5 weeks that summer. However, there was a significant barrier to overcome – money. I was a flat broke graduate student living on credit card debt and student loans. How could I pay the thousands and thousands of dollars the trip was going to cost?

With one obedient step after another in the form of postage stamps, I sent out letters to friends and family trying to explain the unexplainable – that I was putting grad school on hold to go to Sri Lanka simply because I felt Jesus wanted me to go. And within days, letters began to return containing donations – unbelievable amounts of donations. The donations didn’t just cover the cost of my own trip, but paid for half of a teenager who’s fundraising efforts didn’t go quite as well AND covered the cost of taking many more supplies for the local children than we thought would be possible. God takes small steps and turns them into incredible journeys.

sri lanka3

And you are never too young or too old to be obedient in the small things. After learning of how desperately in need of clean water people in Africa are, three 5th grade students begged, badgered, and pleaded wit their mothers to allow them to do something to raise money for a well. And the moms finally relented in furnishing everything necessary for a killer lemonade stand complete with baked goods, custom crafts, and homemade bookmarks. In one morning these faithful followers of the Good Shepherd had raised 705 dollars.


Jesus simply asks us to trust where he leads and to be obedient and faithful in the small things. A kind word makes a huge difference to someone who feels defeated. A simple heartfelt prayer falls on the attentive and eager ears of a good Father who gives good gifts. And forgiving someone who has wronged you brings healing and freedom. Jesus simply asks us to be faithful in the small things and let him reveal how they will lead to incredible things. And what’s even better is that we are not accepted because we do good things, we are free to be good because we are accepted. We don’t only have a Good Shepherd, we have the BEST SHEPHERD.

Do you recognize His voice? Do trust him enough to follow His voice? Do you believe He’ll turn your small faith-filled steps and turn them into a rich and satisfying life?