All Things are Yours

"… whether Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life, death, the present, or the future— all things are yours, but you are Christ's…" (I Cor 3)



That Time I Did “Faith Over Fear” – part 1

I was 18 and I was sitting in the dentist’s office when the dentist said something I couldn’t accept: “Your wisdom teeth are coming in sideways and you need to have them removed.”

This was an insane thing in my mind. God gave me wisdom teeth. Surely He didn’t intend for them to be removed, like some medical rite of passage, before they had even showed up fully in my mouth. This was terribly “unnatural” and if I knew anything, I knew that natural was the way things ought to be.

I argued with the dentist.

The dentist explained, “If your wisdom teeth keep growing in at this angle, they will grow into the roots of the teeth next to them, and they will kill those teeth too.”

In that moment, in huge contrast to my own emotions of umbrage towards the dentist, I felt the peace of the Holy Spirit, as if the Spirit was gently indicating to me He agreed with what the dentist said. I couldn’t believe that either. Truth be told, I didn’t want to believe it. God was supposed to be on the side of natural things, not on the side of the medical establishment that wanted to unnaturally and invasively alter my body and remove my precious new teeth.

I left the dentist’s office having zero plans to see an oral surgeon and have these teeth removed.

Years later, my front teeth were all jammed together and twisted from the wisdom teeth pushing all my teeth into each other. A roommate tried to explain to me, in terms that to her were said so carefully but to me felt so rude, “You know, you’d be so pretty if only you’d get braces.” She didn’t know that my teeth had not always been like that, nor that there was a reason they were like that now.

Eventually I did get those wisdom teeth removed. The decade I had spent having “faith,” praying for my teeth to “align” and become straight, had only served to show me that there was such a thing as cause and effect after all, and spiritual things didn’t usually alter that reality.

And after my wisdom teeth were removed, I had to have another molar removed too. The pressure of the wisdom tooth up against it had caused it to absorb itself from the inside out, in something called, “spontaneous resorption.” I tried in vain to save the tooth first with a giant filling, then a root canal, but after a terrible abscess that was the worst pain in my life, that one had to come out too. Somehow the evil dentist had turned out to be more “right” than my wrongly placed “faith.”

I liked to think I was listening to the Holy Spirit. But I wasn’t. I still remember that moment when I actually encountered the Holy Spirit, and could have put my faith in the leading he was giving me to do the science thing. But I wasn’t ready, and made up a “faith” in what my own religious inclinations told me was right — a passion for what was “natural” over what was truly sensible.

I have more of these stories of learning hard truths from the effects my own foolish stubbornness, that have greatly shaped my journey. It seems the season to share. Stay tuned.

Update: Here is the next story in this series: Faith over Fear, part 2.

Placing all bets on Jesus

Warning: questionable content ahead 🙂 I was reminded of this story by responses to my note yesterday, in a backwards sort of way. So – it was two summers ago, and I was driving through the desert southwest. And I saw a casino.

And I had this faint sense, that the Lord was inviting me to go into the casino with Him. Since I had nothing else to do, and it seemed intriguing, I decided to take Him up on the offer.

I had little experience ever being in a casino. I also had very little expendable money – this was probably a good thing. I went into the casino prepared to waste $30. (I have since learned that not all casinos are as cheap as the ones in the southwest, but there most bets were between $2 and $5)

So I meandered about the casino, literally taking the opportunity to explore the Lord in the midst of it. My mind was filled with all sorts of info about chaos theory and chance, the Heisenberg Uncertainty principal, and how God seems to do most of miraculous stuff simply by playing with the rules of probability. In that zone of possibility afforded by the rules inherent to the functioning of the Universe, God has left Himself the ultimate loophole by which He can literally do anything. And I was enjoying exploring how to connect with Him in that aspect of His working – testing out whether I could discern when to bet and when to abstain, what to bet on, etc.

So I sat at the craps table, and learned how that worked. I played some blackjack. I wandered in on a poker game. I really didn’t know how most of this stuff worked but I spend some time listening and learning. And over the course of an hour or two my $30 went down to $15, back up to $40, down to $10, back up to $35, so I just kept playing figuring I’d either wipe out or win something.

So two hours into this, I was starting to lose interest, but still felt like I had not yet fully discovered what I was in that casino for to begin with, so I didn’t leave. I picked a new table and sat down – it was blackjack. I sat out a lot of the hands but whether I was in or out, every single hand the dealer either won or tied. (something like that..I don’t remember totally right now except that it was frustrating.)

So at some moment I turned to the guy next to me who was as frustrated as I was and said something like, “Wow – do you ever feel like the cards are stacked against you?”

The man answered resignedly, “Sometimes the card gods smile at you, and sometimes they don’t.”

And something rose up in me. I didn’t immediately know what to do or say. I tried to sense the Holy Spirit for a leading, but got nothing. Still, I felt compelled to say something – and yet I was afraid to put the Lord’s name on the line.

Somehow, something stammered out of my mouth to the man next to me – “Card gods? No….. there’s only One God.” And somewhat sheepishly, I did something I hadn’t done the entire night – I took ALL my chips, all of what remained of my play money, and put it in front of me all at once as my bet on the next hand. I felt like a fool. What was I doing? Yet I did it anyway.

The dealer dealt the hand. And suddenly I was looking at an ace and a king – blackjack. All my money was returned to me – with double and a half. I was utterly stunned. I looked at the man next to me and said again, “See? There’s only One God.” He nodded politely and respectfully, as I grabbed all my chips and figured I had found my cue to leave – I had what I came in for.

Not the money. I walked out a full $20 richer than when I went in. But I walked out in awe and fear. I had not seen God move until I put ALL my chips on Him. I had not seen Him move until His testimony was on my lips publically. I didn’t for a moment think that God was teaching me how to make money in casinos… I knew I had just lived a parable. He wanted all my chips on Him. I had to be willing to lose everything for His name’s sake, and just perhaps, He would bless me in that moment. If I wasn’t willing to lose all, I would never see how He might move.

I was gushing in the parking lot, and as I drove off, in awe – “Lord, what does it mean? How do I put all my chips on you? I want to do this for real – show me how.”

It’s good to remember this.

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