God in the Little Things, For Us

Car Keys Syria

For the first time in my life, I locked the keys in the car. Worse, it was borrowed. All the movie tricks with wire hangers came into my mind, but none seemed like they’d work. I was stuck.

Stuck an hour away from home. With two of my kids, picking them up from camp. One eager dorm leader suggested we break the back window. It would be cheap and easy to fix, he said. He’d do it right now with his fist. Seemed like the only way out at the time.

But then one after another, God brought solutions.

There was a spare key back in Cairo, but in the apartment of our friends who let us borrow the car. I called my wife, who was at Bible study in the international church offices.

She quick asked a friend, who coincidentally was right then going to that apartment to take the house sitter to the beach for the weekend.

My wife got a ride over, and got the key. Fifteen minutes later and we would have been lost.

Back at the campsite, another father overheard the dilemma and offered us a ride home.

Once there, spare key in hand, our whole family piled into the Uber. I had planned to take the two girls to the near-to-camp expansive mall to hear about their experience. Now, we could all go, and experience their joy all at once.

And this week, Uber even offered a 30 percent discount.

An hour later we unlocked the car. Several hours later, we came home exhausted.

It could have been a disaster. But one small coincidence after the other had the handprint of God, making the day even better than we expected.

It also came with a valuable lesson to discuss with the kids: All things work together for good, to those who love God. Let’s not complain, but wait expectantly.

I believe this.

But don’t you think it is also a little crass and self-serving? One day later marked the four-year anniversary of several hundred protestors killed, as their sit-in camp was cleared by authorities.

Our nation borders a territory that is hemmed in on all sides, an open-air prison. One nation over is torn by civil war and terrorism.

Yet God arranged quick access to a spare key, so I could get home more conveniently. So I could take my whole family to a food court.

That’s a different lesson to share with the kids, isn’t it? Believe me, I tried. Their eager celebration of God’s goodness shifted into sullen confusion. Death and destruction can do that to a dinner conversation.

We talked through the possibilities. A Syrian refugee opened our favorite ice cream shop across the street, and is doing great business. God did well to work that out for good, right?

Our good, absolutely. Best and cheapest ice cream in town. But I’m sure he’d rather be back home.

The Syrians are Muslims, was one possibility. Maybe God worked things out for us because we’re Christians?

Perhaps there is some fidelity there to the verse above. But a good number of those Syrians are Christians, too. One kid shot it down more broadly. God would want to do good to everyone.

Maybe that’s it? There are bad people in the world, destroying God’s good? Certainly, but is God’s good coming? It’s hard to see, and a long time in coming.

One child recalled the Israelites in the wilderness. Already in a tough situation, God sent snakes to kill many when they grumbled. Sometimes disaster is discipline, even punishment.

True, but hardly satisfying when we consider the tragedies of another.

Sullen, and glum. There are no easy answers.

There are things we don’t understand, I told them. Even more so, Jesus foretold difficulties for those who follow him. He was not saved from the cross, and this should not be forgotten in the hope of ‘all things good’.

God has given different promises to those who suffer. He is with them in the middle of it. Many have said their fellowship with him has been closest during the harshest times of trial.

And we must not forget, in heaven, one day, all will be good. The resolution is coming.

Until then, we have a choice.

Was the car key episode simply a series of well-timed coincidences? Yeah, maybe.

Or was it the loving hand of a personal God upon his wayward creation and adopted son?

Which would you rather?

We do not need to extrapolate the universe to find his favor in the little things. But neither should we believe the universe revolves around us.

There is blessing, and there is suffering. In faith we hold that both work out for good, even when we cannot see it.

It is not my place to find the good in Syria. That is up to the Syrians. It is up to God. I can help as I am able, but I dare not interpret.

Sometimes lessons are simpler for children than adults; I don’t think this is one of them. But best they hear them now, I think, than struggle with them later. There is mystery in our faith, and it cannot be avoided forever.

But likely, a child will take it to heart much more readily than we will.

If this is the good from a neglected car key, it is sufficient. Far better than a ride home and a family night out.

But thank you, God, for those little things also. For us.

And, take care of the Syrians. Amen.




Where Fur Meets Faith

I Paw Moses

Since I began contributing articles to Christianity Today my name and email have been linked into a database used by many to promote their cause, article idea, new book, or, in this case… canine apparel. I can unsubscribe anytime I’d like, but every once in a while interesting things come across the board. This one, however, is worth sharing. Perhaps in some odd way it will help their business:


Temple of Dog, a manufacturer of dog apparel and toys, has launched a fun faith-based line of cotton shirts. With sayings like “Kiss me, I’m Chewish,” and “Boneified Christian” these canine tees are great for faithful Fido to show off his faith! And, just in time for Halloween and the holidays, your furry friends can sport a slew of festive tees, like “Fleas Navidad” and “Yappy Yamaka.” Temple of Dog provides pure tail-wagging canine couture.

Temple of Dog (TOD), a manufacturer of dog apparel, toys and cards, today announced the launch of their faith-based line of cotton dog shirts, offering dog owners a variety of sku’s and sizes designed within the Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and Mormon disciplines.

They weren’t interested in the Muslim market? Perhaps they did their research well; many Muslims consider dogs to be unclean.

“The idea started as a ‘chocolate-meets-peanut butter’ moment,” explained co-founder Cynthia P.  Jenkins. “Blending one’s personal dogma with his or her dog is a match made in heaven.”

Dog and dogma… Clever, or way too obvious?

The American Pet Products Association reports that Americans will spend $55.3 billion on their pets this year, a 7.9% increase over 2012. Halloween pet spending accounts for $371 million and the average holiday shopper averages $46 per pet. To that end, Temple of Dog will be adding additional religions and products to their line this month, including: “Yappy Yamaka” and “Fleas Navidad” greeting cards; “Doggie Lama” and “Latter Day Saint” dog shirts; and “Let’s Nosh!” and “My Bowl Runneth Over” bowls.

“Our pets – along with our faiths – are essentially recession-proof,” said Gardenswartz and Jenkins. “Our only limitation is the real estate on a dog’s body.”

In just about every culture the religious temple has also been a marketplace – it’s where people congregate. See my previous article on atheism if your disgust runneth over.

If not, click here for more information. Jesus also said to use worldly wealth to make friends for yourself, so perhaps Temple of Dog should be saluted instead!

Temple of Dog


Praying for a President

President-elect Morsy

In the last few days, President-elect Mohamed Morsy has made very encouraging signs about his inclination to govern from the center. He has met with Christian leaders, revolutionary icons, and even issued directions to not hang his picture in government buildings throughout Egypt, as was done under Mubarak.

Of course, critics may say it is only posturing. A coming battle looms to pit him against the military, over the restrictions to his power made only days before the election. To assert his will, he will need the full scope of moral support from both domestic, and probably foreign, forces. The critic may point to a video like this one about what Morsy truly represents, if he wins.

Regardless of the truth of Morsy’s intentions, I am not fretting much. Instead, I have been trying to rest in the prayer I have repeated for months: God, give Egypt a good president, give Egypt a good government.

This matter of the presidency, in addition to trying to write my best analysis of events, has had me walk the tightrope of all the contradictions imposed by a foreigner’s sense of belonging.

We want the best for Egypt, and wish to enter into the struggle for it. Though, we do not know the best for Egypt, and even if we did, it is not fitting to enter into the particulars of the struggle.

Yet I read, speak with people, form my inclinations, and try to test and communicate what I learn – both with readers and with Egyptians. Faithful visitors to this blog likely have a sense of where my biases, convictions, and opinions lie.

Beneath all of this, however, is a hopeful faith. ‘Hopeful’ in that it imagines the best for the future; ‘hopeful’ further in that I wonder over this faith’s strength and reality.

This faith, I trust, undergirds the prayer. It is not specific – ‘Give Egypt a good president now, with my favored characteristics.’ Nor is it idealistic – ‘Give Egypt a good president someday, who will do all things well and in accordance with your full and complete will.’

The cynic may well say the lack of specifics or ideals means only that my prayer cannot be disappointed. I would rather say it is reflective of the balancing act required of a sense of belonging.

I want a good president for Egypt; I don’t know exactly what this looks like.

Will God answer this prayer, honoring my sincere heart? Has he answered it already? Is Morsy the man? Or is he only a stage necessary for the eventual fulfillment of this request?

I trust that faith and humility gives this sort of answer: Yes, and I don’t know. I will trust this president is the working of God’s best for Egypt, while confessing my inability to know with absoluteness the will of God.

Therefore, within the contradictions, may God bless and guide President Morsy. And as the question of God’s will shall remain forever unanswerable with him or any man, may God bless and guide Egypt.


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