Not Disappointed – Part 3

In the previous two posts we went from Not Disappointed  to Very Disappointed. Now we’re back to “Not Disappointed and Why Not”. And this is how it stays! My Good Father is not disappointed in me, and I’m not disappointed in the life my Good Father has given me! In Not Disappointed Part 3 we’ll look at how God sees us and why God is not disappointed in us.

Expectations – Disappointment is directly tied to expectations.

    • Me: “I thought we were going to be able to do go to the beach this weekend but I have to work all weekend, and I’m so disappointed!”
    • Her: “I was depending on you to be available to look after the kids while I’m at the board meeting, but you didn’t show up! I’m so disappointed!”
    • All of us: “I’m so tired of the pandemic and lockdowns and restrictions, and it looked like we were about to be able to get back to normal! Now the cases are rising again and the restrictions are back in place! I’m so disappointed!”
    • God: “I gave you a bucket load of blessings, expecting that you would appreciate my generosity and adjust your behavior to reflect your gratitude, and now you go and break all the rules I set for you. I’m so disappointed in you!”

Disappointment is caused by unfulfilled expectations, by a failure to live up to or deliver on expectations. Does God know me? Does God know what to expect from me? If God already knows what I’m going to do, how can I disappoint God?

Look at this story of Jesus and Peter...

69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 71 Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. 73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” 74 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75 NLT)

Peter had brazenly insisted he would even die before denying Jesus! Jesus had predicted that before dawn the next morning, Peter would deny three times even knowing Jesus! Peter’s expectations of himself were based in ego, pride, and overconfidence. Jesus’ expectations were based in knowing Peter inside and out (and loving him unconditionally), and his foreknowledge of the things that were about to happen.

It looked to Peter like total irredeemable failure! Peter was crushed and broken and weeping bitterly in his soul-crushing disappointment in himself. It was over! He had failed! He had no further hope!

Here’s how it looked to Jesus:

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32 NLT)

Jesus was able to look ahead: Through desertion and betrayal, through torture and crucifixion, through death and the tomb, to resurrection and restoration on the other side. Jesus saw Peter restored and faithful, filled with the Spirit, preaching to thousands, healing the sick, strengthening the church, advancing God’s Kingdom!

But Peter had to live through it all in real time. Peter denied Jesus to a servant girl, then to another servant girl, then to a few bystanders. When Jesus’ words flashed through his mind, he was undone! Peter was broken! Peter the brave was a coward. Peter the bold was fearful. Peter the strong was weak as a kitten. And he was so disappointed in himself!

Peter was disappointed in himself, but Jesus was not disappointed in Peter! Friends, we must get this! To be disappointed would mean Jesus had an expectation different from what happened. Jesus knows you and me just as he knew Peter, friends! And he knows when we’ll disappoint ourselves. But Jesus sees us on the other side, restored, and he’s forgiven us already! In fact Jesus has big plans for us!

Jesus said to Peter, “When you are converted, strengthen your brothers.” And Peter did just that! He rose to the occasion, and along with James and John, assumed a key leadership role in the church that was birthed on Pentecost in the Upper Room. He preached boldly, he healed miraculously, he led effectively.

We get disappointed in ourselves and others, but God is not disappointed in us because God’s expectations of you and me are real and true.

Ten years ago I learned a lesson from that many-years-ago experience with my Dad when he said, “Your mother and I are very disappointed in you!” The lesson I learned was that my Mom and Dad were always very disappointed in me. The reality was in that moment they were disappointed in my behavior. And rightly so. But I learned the wrong lesson, and it in some ways affected me for the next 50 years!

Let’s be careful out there! Let’s be careful what we expect of ourselves, of others, of God, and of the life God has given us!


Father, Help us to grasp the truth that you’re not disappointed in us. Help us to grasp that you know everything about us, what we’ve done and what we’ll do, where we’ll fail and where we’ll fall, and that you see us on the other side of it all, restored and faithful. Grant us grace to receive your total forgiveness and full restoration. For Jesus’ sake!

Next week we’re going to dig into the “Not Disappointed” thing a little deeper. We’re going to look at four ways we get disappointed and some things we can do about each of them. Don’t miss “Not Disappointed Part 4” in next week’s blog.

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.

Not Disappointed Part 2 – Very Disappointed

Hey Everybody, if you haven’t read last week’s blog post I’d like you to read it before you read this post. You can find it here . It’s a 6 minute read.

One Saturday night when I was about seventeen years old, I came home late after a night of partying. We lived four miles from town and I often had to hitch-hike home or if I was lucky one of my friends would drop me off at our driveway on the dirt road a quarter mile from the house.

I lived apart from my folks’ house in a little travel trailer under the locust trees across the yard from the house. I could usually come in without their knowledge, but for some reason this night my dad was watching and came out to talk to me.

I remember my dad sitting on a stack of lumber in the moonlight in the driveway area between the main house and my little trailer. I know it was moonlit, because I remember the dappled shadows of the locust leaves on the ground around us. He was sitting, kind of slump-shouldered and sad or angry looking. I was standing in front of him, kind of like the defendant standing before the judge.

My dad said, “Your mother and I are very disappointed in you!”

That’s it! That’s all! That’s what I remembered fifty years later!

That happened when I was about seventeen years old. I didn’t remember it until I was in my mid-sixties and was living my way through the process of learning that God was my loving father and he was not disappointed in me. When I learned my True Personal Identity (See last week’s post) it gradually opened up my mind and my memories to something that had happened fifty years earlier, something that had clearly impacted me deeply, but something I had never remembered until after I discovered that “I’m God’s beloved child, and he’s not disappointed in me!”

I don’t want to get bogged down in the idea of repressed (suppressed?) memories or try to be an armchair psychologist, but it’s interesting that I had lived my life most always feeling that God was disappointed in me, that no matter how hard I tried, the fact remained that I “should have done better”. Not always, but most always. I didn’t feel a sense of God’s disappointment always, but often. I didn’t think that God was always disappointed in me, but that he often was disappointed in me.

Suppressed memories? I don’t know. But I do know that when I had become secure enough in God’s love for me to know that he isn’t disappointed in me, that memory came to me so clearly that I can actually relive it in my mind! And that has been a healthy and healing thing for me.

Does that story, that incident that happened over sixty years ago, that I remembered only a little over ten years ago, mean my Dad didn’t love me? Absolutely not! It means that I had frustrated him (and my Mom) to the point that they didn’t know what to do with or about me! It means that my attitude and behavior, my selfish attitude and my “childish” behavior that flew in the face of everything my Dad and Mom stood for and hoped for in their son, had deeply disappointed them. I had not fulfilled their expectations and that was a disappointment to them.

My Dad actually misspoke. In his frustration with me he said “Your mother  and I are very disappointed in you!” What he meant was “Your mother and I are very disappointed in your rotten attitude and stinking behavior!” But I heard “disappointed in you” and somehow that stuck in my soul long after the frustration and emotion my Dad and Mom were experiencing faded away.

This really makes me think about the power and lasting impact of words spoken by one in authority or in any of a range of other significant relationships. Parents, bosses, partners, siblings, teachers, think deeply and seriously about the power of your words!

My parents were born in 1917 (my Mom) and 1919 (my Dad). They were raised in poor families and were in their teens when the Great Depression hit. Their lives were simple and hard. The way they grew up shaped them and shaped how they raised my brothers and me. We’d ask, “Dad, can we get a TV?”  Dad would say, “We’ll see.” (That meant no, it would cost too much)

We learned not to anticipate or look forward to things. We learned to lower our expectations. I remember my Mom saying, “Don’t get your hopes up then you won’t be disappointed!”

I know now that my parents lived with a lot of disappointment in their lifetime. For any number of reasons, things didn’t work out the way they had expected, the way they had hoped. They made a good life, but when I look back on what I know of their growing up, their youthful enthusiasm and zeal, then the hard knocks that came along through the years, it looks like as their expectations remained unfulfilled, their disappointment level rose.

I’m sorry that for a season, I contributed to raising their disappointment level. But that wasn’t a lasting thing. And even though we didn’t see each other much in the final years of their lives, because Jean and I lived outside the US for almost the last two decades of their lives, they were proud of the person I had become.

Did my Dad and I finish our relationship that way – me rebellious and him disappointed? Not at all. Our relationship matured through the years, mostly as I matured through the years. Thirty years after that night, when I was around five years older than my Dad was on that night, our relationship was a relationship of mutual love and respect. He was pleased (Not Disappointed) in me! I knew he loved and respected me and I loved and respected him.

There’s some really important lessons to be learned from the whole “disappointment” thing, you know? And one of the important lessons to be learned is not to learn too much from our lessons! Are you wondering what I mean by that? Mark Twain said, “A cat that sits on a hot stove lid will never sit on a hot stove lid again. But neither will it sit on a cold stove lid!”

Next week we’re going to dig into the “Not Disappointed” thing a little deeper. We’re going to look at the reason God is Not Disappointed in you and me. Don’t miss “Not Disappointed Part 3” in next week’s blog.

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.




Not Disappointed Part 1

Not Disappointed Part 1

A few years ago I had the privilege of spending five days at a hotel near the airport on the outskirts of Atlanta with a group of pastors and leaders from around the US in an intensive training workshop called “ReFocusing.” A good friend who was part of the ReFocusing team invited me to attend a workshop they were hosting on their home turf. I was in a season of significant transition (seems like I’m always in a season of significant transition!) and it was so very timely for me to be in that intense environment! I spent most of those five days at a round table with four other leaders from very diverse backgrounds. Along with the other five tables of five ministers in the hotel meeting room, we represented a broad spectrum of the Christian church in America.

As is true with most well-presented seminars, there were lots of charts and slides for the screen and there were notebooks with “fill-in-the-blanks” spaces. We received many hours of solid teaching about very practical steps and actions we as leaders could take and also lead our churches in to “Re-Focus” our lives and ministries on the specific mission and calling God has for us. As I said, it was a very timely and appropriate week for me and an experience for which I’ll always be grateful.

I spent hours on those five days listening and learning, speaking and sharing with men and women in Christian leadership with whom I hadn’t thought I had much “common ground”. But as we talked and listened, as we learned more about each other and about our respective faith journeys, it was clear that we had the common ground of faith in Jesus Christ, of a sense of God’s specific calling to serve, and of commitment to God’s Kingdom work in our generation.

I came away from that experience more focused on my specific calling and purpose. But I was also more accepting and respectful of others whose background and doctrinal framework and ministry focus is a little or a lot different from mine. I came away determined to be more diligent at seeking common ground with those with whom I serve, and with those I want to help.

But there was much more to the week than lectures and slides and charts; more than talking and listening at the tables; there was even more than the very enjoyable lunches together at nearby restaurants.

On the next to last day of our workshop, the Refocusing team prepared us for and led us into an activity called “Developing Your Personal Identity Statement.” This was not about fine-tuning and focusing your ministry, not about learning how to do your ministry job better, not about filling in the gaps in your ministry training, but about becoming clear on your identity as a person. It was not about what you do, but solely about who you are.

After a morning of instruction and discussion, we were sent out of the room on our own for 90 minutes to connect with God and with our inner selves and write a simple statement of identity. And we were firmly instructed “Don’t come back without your Personal Identity Statement!” So the pressure was on!

I should make it clear that attending this workshop this was a God-provided gift that impacted a significant season of change and a larger process that was going on in me. Much had changed in my life in the previous few months. A ministry season and task that I loved very much and felt I was actually good at had come to an end. I was in my mid-60’s and I was thinking about the first half and second half of my life. I was thinking about what I want to be when I grow up.

A good friend back home in Bend had recently introduced me to the teaching and writing of Fr. Brennan Manning. I’d read his well-known book “Ragamuffin Gospel”, and soon (this is a story in itself) found myself devouring his latest book, Abba’s Child. This was a pivotal season in my life and the writings of Brennan Manning on relationship with God as Father and the teaching of Fr. Richard Rohr on transitioning between the First and Second Half of Life had become something of a pathway through the wilderness for me.

It was a beautiful Atlanta Autumn day and I decided to do my personal identity discovery walking around the perimeter of the hotel complex. The hotel was in a wooded area and apart from the roar of planes taking off and landing at ATL, it was almost like one of my daily walks in the woods here in Central Oregon. By the way, I think better, more clearly, and more creatively, and I generally pray better when I’m walking outdoors. Especially if there’s no one around to think I’m an old crazy guy talking to myself!

The pressure was on! By the time the hour and a half was finished, I had to have a Personal Identity Statement! I had to develop the statement, write it down, and be prepared to reveal my God-given unique and personal identity to that group of men and women I’d been talking with and listening to for the past five days. I needed to know who I am!

My process was pretty much my usual approach to listening for God’s message to me: I reviewed what had been happening in the seminar, what I was processing in terms of things that were happening in my life, things I was hopeful or anxious about. As usual, I tried to frame my thoughts and concerns into questions to ask God, then when I’d expressed myself as clearly as I could, I walked and waited and listened. All this in the context of knowing that I had to have a Personal Identity Statement and be able to share it with my table and the clock was ticking.

Somewhere in that process, the inaudible but unmistakable Voice whispered these words: “I’m God’s beloved child and he is not disappointed in me.” Such a sense of joy and acceptance flooded over me! At some point in the days yet ahead of me I realized that those words were the essence of what I had been reading and hearing and trying to grasp for several months, that God is not only my Dear Lord, God is my Loving Father! And that God’s love for me is not based in my performance, in fulfilling his expectations of me, but it is entirely based in his Fatherhood, in his unconditional acceptance of me for who I am!

Friends, it’s been more than ten years since that afternoon when my identity became “God’s beloved child in whom he is not disappointed”! Over the years, I realize that truth more often, I get to that point more quickly, and I am gradually able to hold on to the reality of that identity for longer at a time. I’ve still got a long way to go to live the fullness of that God-given identity. But I’ve got the rest of my life to get there!

My identity, my truest identity, is found solely in a relationship with the God who created me, loved me, gave himself for my redemption, and wants nothing more for me than that I live in the light of his love and let his love flow through me to others.

Whether you’re at the stage of your journey I’m at now or the stage I was at that Autumn day in Atlanta, or even if you’re at a different place in your journey altogether, here are some things I want for you:

  • I want you to be on a journey of faith. I want you to be learning and growing and changing and dissatisfied with “settling.”
  • I want you to have a Personal Identity Statement of some sort that is not about what you do or have done or hope to do, but about who you are in relationship to a loving Father God.
  • I want you to never fear the truth. I want you to ask questions, have deep conversations with God and others, use your imagination, listen for the whispers of “The Voice.”

And I want you to read this blog post thoughtfully and then I want you not to miss my post next week “Not Disappointed Part 2”. I couldn’t put all I want to say in this post, so please don’t miss the rest of it!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.



Fall River – A Walk In The Woods

When Jean and I moved from London to Central Oregon in October of 1999, we lived for twenty months in a small cabin in the woods south of Bend on the Fall River. It’s in a fairly remote area of forest west of La Pine State Park, mostly lodge pole and jack pine with some majestic old growth Ponderosas standing above the other trees. That little cabin is about thirty-two miles and one universe away from where we live now in Bend!

It had been over a year since we had been down there and because this April Friday was one of the warmest days so far this season, Jean and Buddy and I drove down there to look around and walk in the woods. We thought most of the snow would be gone and we might be able to get in without much trouble. It’s a little over two miles of pretty bad forest road after turning off the paved highway. We only saw one other vehicle in the few hours and several miles we drove and walked back there in the woods.

We parked the Explorer in a clearing beside the dirt road. There were no tire tracks but ours since the winter snows had melted. Our footprints in the dirt were the only human prints, the only ones besides deer, coyote, and bobcat. Buddy eagerly sniffed the air for deer scent and the ground for chipmunks and squirrels. There were still a few patches of snow on the shaded north side of trees and rocks. I’d forgotten how alive the forest sounds and feels with the wind blowing through the tops of the Ponderosa pines. I kept wanting to look up and over my shoulder to see who was just behind us. The sense of “The Presence” is so strong in the woods!

As we walked and talked Jean began to remind us of how God had provided in such surprising and appropriate ways when we moved from inner-city London to this remote place in the Central Oregon woods. He provided a place to live, a vehicle to drive, and an increase in financial support that was exactly enough to meet our needs.

God had given us a season of solitude there in the woods to restore our weary souls and enough ministry opportunities and interaction with people that we didn’t lose complete contact with the real world.

The cabin in the woods had been available to us for as long as we needed it. The owner of the house provided a man with a snow plow to keep the more than two miles of forest road open through the winter so we could get in and out. When the road got so bad for a month that our four-wheel-drive Ford Explorer couldn’t negotiate it, God provided the loan of a larger, taller truck that handled the mud and snow without any problem.

As we walked along the forest paths that April day, we thanked God for his provision during that wonderful season of solitude. We spoke blessing on the friends God used to provide for us during the time we lived on the Fall River. We talked about other seasons and experiences of God’s faithfulness to us. Our faith grew stronger. My eyes grew brighter. As we walked and talked, and the wind soughed  in the pine trees along the old logging road, the sense of “Presence” remained strong.

Throughout that season of change and transition, our faith was stretching and strengthening, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. God was working deeply (and a little painfully!) in us to clear away accumulated layers of grime and rust from our souls. That day walking in the woods beside the Fall River, we began looking forward with fresh eyes and hopeful hearts to the surprising and appropriate ways God would direct us into a new season and provide once again in surprising and appropriate ways! It’s who God is. It’s what God does!

Looking back to that moment from the vantage point of years and experiences and miles and ministry, I can still remember that strong sense of “The Presence” I felt that day as the wind blew through the tops of the pines. I kept wanting to look up or look behind me to see who’s there!

That spot on that old logging road beside the Fall River is more difficult to reach now. Elimination of roads by the Forest Service, selective logging, and gates across the remaining road mean it takes more effort to go there. But we still drive out there and park in the woods and walk out to the spot. It was a sacred moment of sensing God’s faithful presence and the spot seems sacred as well.

Sometimes I hesitate to tell about my experiences of “The Presence.” I hesitate because those times are very personal. I hesitate because of the temptation to try and replicate spiritual experiences through copying others’ practices. I hesitate because sometimes people can feel “left out” if they don’t have the same experiences. But I’m going to tell you a couple of things that just may be helpful, and if they aren’t, please feel free to disregard them.

I still have places I go and practices I do to connect with God’s felt presence. It’s not a mechanism or a ritual, but it’s a choice to go to the place and a choice to quiet myself and open the eyes and ears of my soul in case God wants to drop by and say “I love you”!

I’m convinced that study and knowledge and doctrinal interpretation are helpful and necessary to provide a framework to hang our beliefs on, a foundation to build our faith on, and a structure to contain our experiences. But those structural things can become dead and dry and empty if we don’t have experiences of the things we believe, if we don’t have the experience of the “Presence”.

For me, there are two significant components of preparing myself and my heart for God encounters. First is creating a place, a space, in my mind, my schedule, my practices. This is the inner landscape of my life. Second is finding places and practices to make myself available to whatever God does or does not want to do. This is the outer landscape.

First, the inner landscape. I make time in my day. For many years that involved rising very early. Now, with a more flexible schedule, it means setting a time and making the effort to be available. It means shutting out other stuff. I know that listening to music can sooth your soul, and listening to podcasts can help you learn new things. That has its place. But it’s most often noisier than God’s quiet whisper and gentle nudge. (1 Kings 19:7-18)  I find it helpful to carry on a conversation with God much of my day. Either in my thoughts if others are around or aloud if it’s just me and Jake the Dog in the desert. Lots of stream of consciousness words and thoughts to God. Lots of questions to God about all sorts of things (Don’t forget to stop talking and listen when you’re asking questions). Listen for God to answer in what you see, in conversations with others, in words from songs, in scriptures, and even in dialog from movies!

Second, the outer landscape. Jean and I are so fortunate to live where we live in Central Oregon! Forested mountains to the west and spacious juniper and sagebrush desert to the east. Winter limits our access to the mountains west, but the desert east is accessible pretty much year round. If you don’t live in Central Oregon, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck! We’ve always been able to find somewhere! Neighborhood walks, parks, trails, backyards. In London there were churches we could go into and sit in silence, bathed in the glow of light through the stained glass windows. Make the effort, be creative, find a place.

Friends, I’m not talking about “on demand” encounters with God. I’m talking about putting yourself in a frame of mind and a place of access. God is a communicating God and God wants to communicate with his beloved children! That’s you and me!

You and I make ourselves available, with a hungry heart and an open mind and God will show up in his time and his manner. Keep your eyes open. Keep your ears open. Be hungry and thirsty for “The Presence”!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.