As a writer I understand the importance of crafting a story to draw the reader in. As a blogger I understand the importance of keeping it real so that those who read it can relate. The simple fact about this unexpected journey is that it isn’t always headline news. We have come to live in a time where sensationalism rules and entertainment is king. We quickly change the channel if our interest isn’t piqued within a few seconds. The truth is that life isn’t always about the headline. There are times—perhaps more than we would care to admit—when life is simply mundane, boring even. Although I would not call this past week mundane or boring—some positive things happened and we celebrated them—nothing spectacular took place. In fact, if the prior week was difficult then this past week was nearly unbearable. I don’t know if you recall the Mary Mary song Shackles—it was released in 2000. One of the verses went something like, “Everything that could go wrong all went wrong at one time.” Can you relate to that? The question is what do you do when you can build a darn good case that God has not shown up in your circumstances? The lesson to be discovered is the simple patience of resting in the unfailing trust of Abba Father. Patience really is simple. The ensuing action of living it out is what can be challenging! I have learned—perhaps I should say, I am learning because it still effects me when the challenge comes my way—that the answer is not to raise my fist shaking it wildly toward God in heaven while shouting “I trusted you! You promised!” I think this is what separates a relationship from a religious encounter. Just prior to his suffering, Jesus cried out to his Father for another way. This kind of expression can be evidence of either a relationship or a religious encounter. The difference comes with what follows. Jesus continues by saying, “Your” will be done Father! That is only defined by a relationship. In other words, I really do not like anything about what is doing on. I really would prefer another option; however I submit to what you want—you Father know best. The chorus of the song Shackles goes something like this, “Take these shackles off my feet so I can dance. I just want to praise him.” The question that needs to be answered is this. What are the shackles? Are they the circumstances that we are in? A religious encounter would say yes. It would say, “God if you remove these circumstances then I will be able to praise you.” A relationship would say, “Father my desire is to praise you. Will you help change my outlook of the circumstances so I can do that?” This is what defines a relationship. A relationship trusts in the midst of not understanding the circumstances while a religious encounter focuses on the circumstances asking God to remove them. It was the apostle Paul who told the young Timothy that we are to endure (to suffer), hardship (evils, troubles), as a good solider of Christ. For me, this verse of scripture began to bring me some comfort because I know that the circumstances are not because of evil or self-centered actions on my part. I know that my heart is endeavoring to follow the will of the Father as closely as possible. This means that there is a reason for this—like it our not. So as a soldier follows orders trusting or believing that a greater good will be the outcome, I too endure the circumstances trusting, believing that my Father has a better outcome that will benefit his kingdom while taking care of me. This can be difficult to comprehend without a relationship because it sounds like one void of confidence or self-preservation. That could be a lesson by itself. The fact is that the circumstances are not the challenge. The challenge is looking beyond the circumstances to the one whose trust I have committed my care to. Do you recall the movie Patch Adams starring the late Robin Williams? There is a scene where he is talking to the self-committed millionaire who holds up four fingers asking him how many fingers he was holding up? Patch told him four, but the millionaire corrected him by telling him it was eight. The religious encounter experience would tell you four. The relationship experience would tell you eight, because you are looking past the circumstances to the one you are placing your trust in. It was wise old Solomon who said the Lord’s name is a strong tower where those that are in right standing with him—the Lord—run for safety. King David said it slightly differently in his writings in the Old Testament book of Psalms. He said the Lord is a stronghold for those oppressed and in trouble. All of that to say this; while looking for some direction I believe that I heard the voice of the Lord impress upon me that this coming week I would see an answer. I stated in an earlier post that once he shows up that I would shout to any and everyone willing to hear it. I have also learned—this one I can that about—that if something doesn’t go according to what I thought I heard, not to get upset but to reevaluate what I heard to determine if I missed something. I have found that I tend to be guilty of hearing a portion of something then bolting off while saying, “Thanks, I got it from here!” That simple patience really is simple—it’s just the living it out that can be a challenge.