Risky Faith, Exciting Trust

At some point during Virginia’s graduation weekend, her grandfather asked if she was excited to trust God for what’s next. Like so many new college grads, Virginia has a lot of irons in the fire, but the specifics (jobs, housing, learning to cope without acai bowls until she starts earning a paycheck) are all still swirling around in her blender, and post-college life can be daunting.

Which is why I love it that Papa John asked if she was excited.

On a good day, I might look at an uncertain future with a willingness to trust God, or maybe a resigned sort of readiness…but excitement? I don’t know. For me, trusting seasons – those times when the future (or even the present) is out of my control – are more often endured than enjoyed. Excitement rarely plays into the picture.


But my pal Susan Yates would have understood John’s question. Her new book, Risky Faithdoes not discount the fears and worries of our lives (both the real and the imagined ones), but she challenges us to reorient our perspective. Instead of letting our “issues” (things like children, jobs, health concerns, relationships) take up the whole screen and cloud our vision, Susan encourages us to stack these things up against the awesome power and love of our Almighty God.

With 46 years of marriage, 21 (or more?) grandchildren, and a lifetime’s worth of trusting God, Susan is quick to share her own failings. But she doesn’t wallow in them. Instead, she takes us through the hard places of pain, betrayal, and disappointment and leads us into a new reality marked by gratitude, growth, and a confidence that God is soooo much bigger than our problems. Because he is.

And at some point, whether we are a newly minted graduate or a seasoned grandmother, we are all going to have to trust God for what’s next. It might not be easy, but one thing’s for sure: When we live the “risky faith” way (taking our eyes off the circumstances we see and fixing them on Someone we don’t), trusting God becomes less of a muddle, and more of an adventure.

Some people might even say it’s exciting.


“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

(Jeremiah 17:7-8)

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Strength and Joy

Back when Robbie Jr. turned ten, he wanted a family wrestling tournament for his birthday. Big Robbie was delighted with that idea and immediately set about making a bracket (which he literally put on a poster, with a title and everything). It didn’t really surprise me when I didn’t make it past the play-in round, but I was surprised by the scoring. I had no idea you could win (or lose) a wrestling match by so many points; I thought it was just pin or be pinned. But every time one of the children twisted me in a different direction, Robbie gave ’em more points, and I lost big.

I should have known better than to try to compete in the push-up competition we had a couple of weeks ago, during our family vacay. I’ll spare you the details, other than to say that my new favorite person is son-in-law Geoff, who was, I think, the only relative who did not criticize my form (and who, I am sure, spent the entire morning wondering why God couldn’t have hooked him up with a normal family, like maybe golfers).


Suffice it to say, I am not a strong person. And during the past few months, as I have been working on the manuscript for Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children (more info on that one in a future post), I have not had all that much time to work out. You can imagine my dismay when I opened my Bible to Isaiah 10 this week and saw this:  “The yoke will be broken because you have grown so fat.”

I was like, seriously God?

Maybe you’re a fitness guru, the kind of person who wins wrestling tourneys and push-up competitions. Or maybe you’re not. Either way, the good news is that God has given us a secret source of strength that has nothing to do with muscle tone. It’s joy – and it comes from believing what God says in his word, and acting like you know it’s true. Because it is.

So here’s our Friday prayer. It’s one of my favorite verses in the Old Testament, partly because it pops up in a section where God’s people get to hear and understand his word, some of them for the very first time. May it encourage you as much as it encourages me:

May the joy of the Lord be your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)



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No Quahogging

Why is it that when somebody tells us we “can’t” do something, that becomes the very thing we want to do?



Like, I didn’t even know what “quahogging” was, but when I saw this sign near the water in Martha’s Vineyard, I found myself inexplicably eager to try it. Was it a forbidden dance move? A locals-only term for shacking up on the beach? Something having to do with a boat?


As it turns out (and maybe I am the only person who didn’t already know), a quahog is just a fancy name for a clam, and when you put it that way – “No Clamming” – it doesn’t sound nearly as illicit or adventurous. But still. Quahogs or clams, what’s the allure?

Bible brainiac Warren Weirsbe says, in his commentary on Romans, “Something in human nature wants to rebel whenever a law is given.” No kidding. Truth be told, though, resisting the call of the quahog isn’t really my biggest problem. For me, it’s more about things like letting worry steal my joy. Or coveting my neighbor’s shoes. Or, when Robbie is out of town, pairing a batch of chocolate chip cookies with a nice chardonnay and calling it Dinner.

know all of these things are bad and, time and again, I resolve not to do them. But at the end of the day, I am no different from the Apostle Paul. He’s the guy who wrote to the Romans and confessed, I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.

And, every time I blow it – every time my ears perk up at a choice bit of gossip, or I let loose with some sarcastic remark that isn’t nearly as funny coming out of my mouth as it was in my head – I find myself echoing Paul’s despair:  “What a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”

Who indeed?

I’d be sunk, except for the fact that Paul solves his own riddle:  Thank God!” he writes. “The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The answer, in other words, is that we can’t save ourselves. I can’t even get rid of my bad habits – how much more would I fail at cleaning up my act enough to warrant a ticket to heaven? But, thanks be to God, the same Lord who covered my capital-S Sin Problem can also be counted on to conquer my daily challenges, those oops-I-did-it-again moments when I look at God and say, “Ugh. I can’t do it. I stink.” and he says, “It’s okay. I’ll help you. I love you.”

If you’re like me and you find yourself making the same mistakes over and over again, doing the things you know, deep down, that you really don’t want to do, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, admit your weaknesses and failings to God – and ask him to help you. And then read the next part of Paul’s letter:  “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus…nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God.”

(Even if we sometimes accidentally go quahogging.)


Scripture quotations in this post are from Romans 7:18-25 and 8:1 & 39, NLT

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A Prayer for Fathers


That’s Robbie’s dad (“Pop Pop”) about to tackle a lobster at Coop deVille in Martha’s Vineyard.

Robbie’s cousin, Petey, launched the wharf-front restaurant 30 years ago, and all manner of Berndt relations were on hand last weekend to help him celebrate three decades of serving up wings, seafood, and 70 different kinds of beer that Petey says “pair well” with things like lobster. (I sampled a grapefruit beer that was probably less healthy than it sounded, but it did bring out the best in my onion rings.)

Anyhow, watching Pop Pop’s happiness at being surrounded by his brood, I was reminded of one of my favorite “man psalms.” The newer, gender-neutral Bibles have tweaked the pronouns so that passages like this one apply to everyone (which they do), but I’m kind of partial to my old 1984 version, where Psalm 112 is distinctly masculine, chock-full of good things for guys. And since Father’s Day is on Sunday, I invite you to pick a few verses and pray them for your dad, your grandfather, your husband, or any fella who could use God’s blessing on his life today:

Heavenly Father…

May _____ find great delight in your commands and be blessed. (v. 1)

May his children be mighty in the land; may each new generation be blessed. (v. 2)

May his household be marked by wealth, riches, and a righteousness that endures. (v. 3)

Even in darkness, may light dawn for ______; may he be gracious and compassionate. (v. 4)

Bring good to ______. Cause him to be generous, and to conduct his affairs with justice. (v. 5)

Let him never be shaken; may he be remembered forever. (v. 6)

May _____ have no fear of bad news; give him a steadfast heart that trusts in you. (v. 7)

Give him confidence, security, and victory over his foes. (v. 8)

May ____’s legacy be one of generosity and good deeds, a life marked by influence, dignity, and honor. (v. 9)


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