Monthly Archives

February 2022

The Myth of Happily Ever After

Dear Gatherers,

No matter where the story is set and who the lead character may be—whether princess, fawn, or lion cub—the formula remains the same. Life is fine until an evil force disrupts everything. There’s usually a curse or test of some kind, a villain lurking in the shadows, a need for love to light the way. Then (very quickly, with great fanfare) the pieces come together. Things aren’t merely restored to normal; they’re even better than before! Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme…

Disney may be the happy ending’s greatest merchandizers, but they surely didn’t invent it. Research shows we’re hard-wired to expect things will end better than they started. If stories and experiences end on a sour note, we avoid returning to them no matter how much pleasure we had prior to the final turn. So, in a way, it’s understandable why the Book of Job’s editors want a happy ending. Over and over, Job insists his faithfulness has no ulterior motive. He’s not in it for the blessings. He knows he’s not being punished because he’s done no wrong. And yet, in the end, the book contrives to give him more than he started out with. His faithfulness is rewarded.

This raises some very interesting questions. Is our insistence on happy endings a biological compulsion we can’t override? Would we even be reading this story if it were left in its apparent original form—a long, unwieldy conversation about divine justice—without the riches-to-rags/rags-to-riches framework that likely was added later? Is faithfulness for its own sake even possible if we can’t help expecting a big finale?

This coming Thursday we’ll end what has been one of our most challenging and exciting series yet, looking at big questions we’ve encountered in Job. The happy ending may actually be in what we discover about our own faithful living! Join us at 7:30p CST for another great discussion.

Peace and blessings,
Pastor Tim




Dear Gatherers,


Not long after finishing undergrad I fell into a high-school teaching job. That had not been my plan, nor had I trained for it. It began as a favor for a friend who taught at a private academy. Their English teacher had been dismissed and they just needed someone to supervise his classes until the end of term. They invited me to join the faculty fulltime, which meant I needed to become more than the guy taking attendance. I filed through memories of my favorite high school teachers. Each of them established their role as instructors and ours as learners, subtly sending the message of who was in charge. That seemed smart and it turned out to be very useful for my students and me. The lines were clear.


Last Thursday, we heard God do something very similar. In YHWH’s first speech to the despondent Job, the message is pretty plain: “I’ve got the plan and it’s bigger than you. Your comfort will come when you find your place in the bigger scheme of Creation.” To which Job—like the best kind of student—tells his teacher: “Got it.” But in this coming Thursday’s passage, Job 40-42:6, God takes things further, focusing the discussion on two mysteriously powerful, completely unmanageable creatures, Behemoth and Leviathan. Reams of paper have been spent on speculation about what exactly these beasts might be. Are they found in nature or myth? Nobody knows. But there’s an oddly comforting message underneath: We can never overpower the chaos of life. Nature alone is full of forces beyond our control. And there are situations—beasts, if you will—that we might think we can manage, only to find out they’re too much for us.


This week we wrap up God and Job’s dialogue with some big monsters and really big ideas. Join us on Thursday at 7:30p CST as we hear what God has to say about life’s chaos and how we confront it. See you then!



Pastor Tim




Dear Gatherers,


As most of you know, we had a real “Job moment” this week with an unexpected death in our family. While Kevin was not an active member of Gather, his mother, Marcella, has been a major contributor to life of our community and the suddenness of his passing was devastating. It also raised questions that often accompany profoundly sorrowful, life-altering events. Why did God let this happen? What could have been done to avoid this? Where was God? Where is God?


Legitimate Job questions in a legitimate Job moment.


There are no good answers to these questions—at least none that quell our confusion during times of loss and distress. And part of our struggle comes with recognizing a profound truth: God is not one of us. By virtue of God’s “higher power” and “creative right” and “sovereign governance” of time and governance, God’s perspective is uniquely God’s own. That doesn’t mean that God isn’t concerned about our emotional, spiritual, and physical welfare. But even how we view those matters is inherently—radically—different.


The gap between God’s knowledge and what we know is so great any time we try to make allowances for it, our acknowledgments tend to sound shallow and unfeeling. For instance, saying “God knows best” to someone in deep pain is technically true. But it offers little or no consolation to the suffering person. If God really knows best, why is this happening? For that, we have no good answer because we simply don’t know. As a friend of mine often puts it, “That’s above my pay grade!”


Job has deflected his friends’ simplistic theology with questions many of us found ourselves asking over the weekend. In this week’s study, God finally shows up and the conversation is, well, a bit one-sided, as God brings Job into the divine realm of responsibility and concern. It’s not an easy read, or an easy answer. Yet I would also argue that accepting there are enormous differences between God and us enables us to recognize there’s a lot more going on than we can see or comprehend. May take our egos a few minutes to learn to live with that. But in the end, I think it helps us reach peaceful acceptance of life’s tragedies, as well as opens our eyes to many miracles we might not otherwise see.


This week we hear from God as our Job study continues. Join us this Thursday at 7:30pm CST to find out what God has to say. (For a sneak peek, read Job 38-40:5.) See you online!



Pastor Tim

Fresh Outlooks

Dear Gatherers,


It is always good to have reliable counsel—the wise aunt, the truth-telling friend, the empathetic cousin. And we should cultivate these relationships, making sure we spend time with trusted folks, not just when we need them, but also when things are good. We can learn a great deal observing wise people from a more casual perspective. When problems aren’t blocking our sight, we get a better view to notice how they do things. We catch subtleties in their responses. We admire their passions and detachment. Hard to see that when you’re preoccupied with your troubles.


When it’s always about us, it’s hard to benefit from wisdom God places around us. Maybe a little less time spent with the “fun crowd” (i.e., folks who sympathize automatically and spout off conventional guidance). Perhaps a little more time with the more difficult “wise crowd,” watching how they do, seeing how they interact, learning to appreciate the arts of balance and patience.


The tensions in Job arise from a prudence deficit. His three “consolers” spout off simplistic explanations and theories that don’t satisfy. Thankfully, a younger man shows up to offer a new perspective. He’s bold and honest, a person whose integrity and worldview jibe with Job. His passion gives weight to his words and his detachment gives them credibility. Fresh outlooks will do that. They’ll challenge our approaches and opinions, shake us where we assumed we were surest. And, in the end, they’ll hone our appreciation for wisdom and candor as we realize they’re much more healing than sympathy and sentiment.


Join us this Thursday evening as a new character comes on the scene and we get a lesson in “what good looks like.” Our conversation begins at 7:30pm CST via Zoom. See you then!


Peace and blessings,

Pastor Tim