Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Return of the Prodigal Son

“So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”(Matt 26: 40-41, ESV). 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, 
and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:20-24, ESV)

Hi there. Remember me? I used to write here every once in a while, and then I stopped. I stopped for a long time. Do you wonder why? Have you missed me?

The last time I wrote, I believe I was wrestling with this feeling of apathy towards God. I was feeling detached and generally dead in the spirit. Everything had become academic. Routine. A bloodless investigation of literature, not a spiritual journey towards atonement with God.

It's so easy to drift away, so easy to sleep. It seems like human nature...maybe it is human nature. The spirit is willing - my spirit was willing - but the flesh is weak.

Thankfully, God kept me firmly planted in the Body and immersed in the Word. Honestly, had I not had such a strong connection with my church, my small group, my mentor, and the choir, I would have drifted away, maybe never to return.

A year ago, in my first post here, I talked about my church background and beliefs. Thinking myself theologically well-rounded and reasonably intelligent, some of my opinions were solid. Nothing could sway my understanding of what marriage should be like, what the nature of sin was, or the identity of Christ in relation to God. These seemed like really logical conclusions on my part.

Pride has always been and will always be my greatest sin, but thankfully, God knows that.

A sermon was given this past summer that awakened me to God's real work in my life. It was a solidification of what I had always known but had never been able to put my finger on - my testimony. So, here it is. Here is how I know that I have been saved from myself:

He has never given up on me. Even at my lowest point, even when I was so deeply immersed in the sin of my own making that even I found myself to be a vile waste of air, God has never stopped pursuing me.

He has pursued me when I needed to be found. He has let me fall away when I needed to be humbled. And He has set me back up again when I needed to be strengthened. Despite all my terrible sins, personal flaws, and outright disobedience to Him, God has remained ever faithfully my God. 

Now, dear Reader, I could go into innumerable detail on this, and if you really want to know how bad my life got, I am more than willing to tell you, but not like this. Call me. Text me. Facebook me. We'll set up a date to have coffee, and I will tell you every way that God sought to break me, humble me, entice me, and persuade me to worship Him as He deserves.

That being said, it is good to be back. Thanks be to God.

Doubting Thomas

And have mercy on those who doubt; (Jude 1:22, ESV)

To err is human; to forgive, divine. - Alexander Pope

Jesus and Thomas

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29, ESV)


In this anecdote from the Book of John, Thomas refuses to believe in the resurrection of Christ until he can see and touch Him.

Believers may rush to judge Thomas; perhaps we even believe that we would never have been so blind. How could he show such a lack of faith when he, himself, had fallen under the leadership and love of Jesus? Why does Thomas need to see and touch the wounds of Jesus before he could believe them? Surely the testimony of the other disciples should be enough for him. After all, Thomas had every reason in the world to believe - he heard the prophecies of His death and resurrection from Christ's own mouth. Yet, despite all that, Thomas doubts. Thomas wants proof.

There is a tendency among believers and non-believers alike to judge one another for their inability to believe in what the other sees as obvious and absolute truth.  How can someone deny the existence of the Divine God? How can anyone not recognize the validity of evolution? And so on...the storms of debate rage on. Always have. Always will.

But is seeing really believing? I wonder if that was Jesus's point. Upon touching the wounds of the risen Christ, Thomas immediately professes his belief, but Jesus responds with a question: "Have you believed because you have seen me?" 

"Well, yes," I would think at first. Of course that's why. He wanted proof. You came and gave him proof. End of story. Except that it's not the end of the story. It never is.

Did you ever see that magic act where the two people go around the stage doing completely insane quick changes? I must have watched it a thousand times, and I still can't figure it out. Seriously, go watch this:Quick Change Magic

Now, I don't believe that either of those people is magical; they're just really good at tricking me. And that, I think, might be Jesus's point to Thomas. Why would you allow the subjective reality of your senses to dictate what you believe? Any mother can tell you that intuition is a better judge of what is right and wrong in her child than any medical book could ever be.  Reality, for all its concrete, observable, quantifiable, reasoned elements, is still no more real to you or I than the dreams we have each night.  

Nonetheless, humans are built to trust our senses and our reason, and as a result, we doubt - even when we have no reason to doubt at all.

Why do I tell you this? Well, in the past few months, I have come across at least two friends who have sought me out and questioned the validity of the Bible, the realistic probability of its accuracy, and what I believe on everything from the origins of the Universe to homosexuality as a sin. And I have gladly answered them to the best of my ability, but there is something that I still need to say:

I know what you are going through. I still have doubts myself.

For me at least, being a Christian isn't about certainty of facts or an iron fisted handle on the full reality of God. For me, being a Christian is only about accepting with faith that which is unseen. 

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, 
the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

To doubt is human. We are not meant to fully understand all which is or has been or is to come. We question. We ponder. We consider the possibility. This is the very essence of what it means to be human, not beast.

It must have been very lonely for Thomas in those eight days. All of the other disciples having seen Jesus resurrected from the grave, and poor Thomas is left to only imagine what it would be like. I feel for him. I am him.

I am thankful for are those moments when I can actually feel God moving my heart towards Him. I am thankful for the sunsets that could only be created by a Divine God. I am thankful for the sounds of my children's laughter, reminding me of His love. I am thankful for all of those moments that re-solidify my faith because, like Thomas, I need it. We all do.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
                                                                                                 - Proverbs 2: 1-5 

See, the thing is, if God is working on you, you know it. He's not subtle. Now, not every bit of direction is going to come as a booming voice from Heaven or a burning bush, but the intention is still the same - to get your attention. However, not everyone is going to pay attention. Not everyone recognizes it as God. I didn't.

For some, it's "coincidence." You are stressing and sweating and generally freaking out over, I don't know, how you'll get work done or how you'll pay for something. You stay up nights. You start trying to figure out what you can sell, what you can barter, what you can exclude. You snap at people and forgive yourself because "they don't understand the kind of pressure you are under." BOOM, windfall. Seemingly out of no where, good fortune finds you, and all that anxiety turns out to be needless. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God - Phillipians 4:6. Keep calm; God provides.

For some, it's "bad luck." You're speeding on your way to work. <flashing light> Here's your ticket. You speed on your way home from work. <flashing light> Here's your ticket. You back out of your driveway absentmindedly. <Boom! Crash> Here's your ticket. Eventually, you throw your hands up in supplication and surrender. "Fine!" you say, and your driving habits receive their due correction. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it - Hebrews 12:11. Keep calm; God loves you.

And for others, it's your "conscious." You know that fast food is bad for you, yet it seems that every other day or so, you find yourself in the McDonald's drive-thru. May I take your order, please? A news report comes on the radio citing evidence from a new study that finds people who indulge in fast food more than once a month will die five years earlier than others. You order a double-quarter pounder. A high school classmate of yours dies from a heart attack, leaving his two babies and wife behind. With fries.  Strangers approach you with discount fliers to join the new, local Weight Watchers chapter near your house. And a large Coke. Your jeans no longer button and you can't find a shirt that will cover your belly completely. Add a large chocolate milkshake to that too. And with every one of these events, your mind tugs on your heart - "Don't do it!" it says, "Just put down the waffle fries and no one will get hurt!!!" But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you John 14:26. Keep calm; God will guide you.

I have been all three of these people at some point in my life, and most notably lately, I have been the last one. I have been ignoring what I knew was the tug of God on my heart to get myself back in alignment, to reestablish my relationship with Him.

Now Reader, if you've been paying attention, you may remember that I've been complaining/worrying for some time now about what I felt was a lack of emotional connection with God. I didn't understand - I was attending church and praying and singing and volunteering...I was doing my best to be devoted to Him. But, in the back of my mind, I knew that this was not enough. Not enough, at least, to cement my relationship with God.

I used to read and discuss the Bible every day with my mentor. I used to write poetic song lyrics during sermons as I felt inspired by the message. I used to host a Bible study group at my house. I used to wake up early and study a small passage and pray before getting ready for work. I used to be focused on being a homemaker and a mother more than a teacher and breadwinner. And for some of you, that may seem "extreme." But for me, I guess it was more of a way to keep myself immersed and focused. It wasn't always awesome to wake up at 5am and read the Bible, but I was always glad that I did afterwards.

And then I stopped asking my mentor questions. I stopped writing lyrics. The Bible study crumbled. I slept in. The laundry piled up.

What I've realized is that I used to live for God, but I found that recently, I was spending more time just living Biblically. 

Now, whether it's serendipity, discipline, or the Holy Spirit, the idea is still the same - God wants your attention. He wanted my attention. 

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you -Job 42:5

To believe that you are good with God just because you have heard 'the good news' is dangerous ground, but keep calm, God provides, God loves, and God directs. It is only when we let our pride step in His way, only when we believe that we are in control of our lives or masters of our circumstances, that our relationship suffers.
So, I start over. I know now what I was neglecting and what I need to begin again. Devotion, humility, self-control - I let those get away from me and replaced them with routine acts rather than living sacrifices.

Keep calm. Carry on. And praise be to God who forgives us our trespasses. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Faith Reviewed

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 
2 Corinthians 5:17

I don't feel very born again. I was going strong there for a while, and the presence of God in my life, in my mind, in myself was a constant source of energy for me. But lately, there has been this very noticeable lull in my energy and enthusiasm for God. 

This has waxed and waned for a month or two now. At first, it was just for a day or so, and then I would be reinvigorated by some passage or experience or sermon - something would happen to pull me from the funk I was in. And then it became more extended. I would be distracted during service, unable to concentrate or absorb the message. It was frustrating because no matter how much I tried to keep my mind on God, I would always wander off into my own little thought-world. Someone could cough in the back of the sanctuary, and I would start scrolling through my mental rolodex of "things associated with this cough." It would go something like this:

<cough cough cough>

My Brain: Hmmm...sounds like someone is getting sick. I wonder who it is. I hope we don't all get sick. Everyone was getting sick around Christmas. That one guy would only give fist bumps. I wonder why fist bumps got started. Surely not to keep disease from spreading. Hmmm...if they had known to fist bump in the Middle Ages, would the Plague have spread so aggressively? It's funny to think about a virus being aggressive, like "Ha! Puny humans! I will bring you to your knees with phlegm and fevers!!!" knees hurt. This pew is uncomfortable. I need more leg room. I don't even have long legs. I have short legs - how do all these tall guys sit here without squirming? Squirm. That's a fun word. Not as fun as "loquacious." Kids never know what that means. Loqua = to talk. I'm such a nerd. Nerds would be tasty...I'm hungry. 

And from there it would continue. Every once in a while, I would stop my inner-voice and remind it to be quiet and let my brain focus on the message or the prayer, but inevitably, someone would sneeze or the air conditioning would turn on, or I'd find a literary device in the passage we were studying and it would all fall apart.

Now, I don't know. It's begun to feel academic...bloodless. I still have moments - I had a huge moment last Sunday - but it seems like, unless I am in the sanctuary actively worshipping, I'm just back to "normal." And I don't want to be normal. I don't like this normal self. I like who I was becoming, but it feels like I've stalled out on a very big hill and I'm holding the brake on for dear life. 

I thought that receiving God's grace of salvation would change me - would make me a "new creation." And it had...but now that seems fleeting, and with it, I have been constantly reviewing the depth of my faith. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." I hope that I am saved, but I am feeling less and less assured of it. And couple this with the constant reduction in my feelings of conviction, I have to wonder: Am I losing my faith?

So, I need your prayers, though only God can pull me from this. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but in the absence of my own strength of conviction, I am hoping God will accept yours on my behalf and renew my faith again.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Square One

When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73: 21-26 ESV

In 2007, I cried because I couldn't eat a hamburger. This wasn't some radical diet; I just couldn't open my jaw wide enough to take a bite. And all I wanted was to eat a hamburger.
I have a kind of inflammatory arthritis - rheumatoid arthritis. All that means is that my body periodically tries to attack itself and floods my joints with white blood cells, leaving them swollen and painful.
It started around September of 2006 with my right thumb, and I thought that I had just jammed it, but by February of 2007, I was practically immobile. Every joint in my body was painfully full of fluid. I couldn't function. My feet and ankles hurt so badly that the weight of a blanket was too much to bear. I got locked in my own bedroom once because I couldn't grip the doorknob hard enough to turn it. I had trouble washing my hair because it was difficult to raise my arms that high, and standing up took so much energy that I could only manage it for ten minutes at a time.

And then my jaw locked up and I couldn't eat.

The medications were never ending - Planquenil, Methotrexate, Enbrel, high dose Naproxen, Prednisone, and Cymbalta were all on board - every day. I even had one of those old-lady pill dispensers.

Most of the time, I couldn't wear shoes because my feet were too swollen. A lot of the time, I couldn't sit down or stand up without help. And some of the time, I couldn't drive because I couldn't control the steering wheel.

I wanted to die. That's not hyperbole. One of the meds I was on, Enbrel, has psychological effects, and I, who am already prone to depression, was swept into the darkest emotional pit I've ever been in. All I did - all I did - was lay on the couch and sleep. In a nut shell, it was the worst year of my life. A total loss of independence and self-sufficiency coupled with extreme pain.

And then - it stopped. All of the sudden, within a couple of weeks, my flair ended and I could stop the meds. I could flex my fingers. I could stand. I could rest comfortably.

Thank. You. God.

Of course, I didn't thank Him then. I chalked it up to the right combination of meds or a reduction in stress or just my body finally working things out and calming down, and in hindsight, it was probably all three of those things, but that doesn't mean it wasn't God's work.

I think sometimes that we expect God to make his presence known in burning bushes, booming voices, or parting seas. I think we look for His intervention to be over the top - a clear sign of his magnificence, mercy, and power. And sure, God can work in extremes - the plagues of Egypt, the salvation of the Jews, the Resurrection of Jesus - but that doesn't mean he has to.

Jesus healed the sick - not with a wave of his hand and everyone in the crowd was suddenly cured, but in an up-close and hands-on and painfully slow way. One by one.


I am in a flair again. After visiting my rheumotologist for the first time in six years yesterday, we have decided that I'm back to square one: trying out meds, monitoring symptoms, and tracking the progression. Thankfully, this flair is no where near as extreme as the one six years ago, but I have to admit that I have some anxiety about it. I'm scared of it developing into the same level as it has been in the past. It's already becoming difficult to take care of the babies - what will I do if I can't even hug them? How long will it last? How will I work? I am scared of finding myself back on the couch, sleeping fitfully, and in pain.

But, I will survive.

God will bring me through it, one way or the other. He did before, and He will again. This is just my road, but I don't have to walk alone. I have the strength of my husband, the love of my children, and the support of my friends and family. And I have God - God who does not abandon us in our hour of need.

Every day, God blesses me, and sometimes I see the miracle. And sometimes I don't.

My challenge, therefore, is to keep my eyes open - to count my blessings and look for the miracles that will shepherd me through. It is always darkest before the dawn, but joy comes in the morning.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cast Down

Psalm 42: 5-6
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Several months ago, I had a conversation with one of my best friends. She said something to me that, at the time, hurt my feelings. 

"I know how you're feeling now. You're really excited because everything is so new to you." (That's not an exact quote, but it's pretty close.) Anyway, I remember feeling insulted. The only reason that I'm excited is because Christianity is a new hobby? What I feel now isn't real? My interest and involvement in returning to God is temporary?

But now, six months later or so, I think I know what she actually meant: 

I've felt disconnected from God for the last two weeks or so. Not "abandoned in my time of need," just...I don't know - ignored? alone? forgotten?

I do a lot of things to maintain that connection. We go to church on Sunday and Wednesday. I've joined the choir. I'm working with a mentor and doing a study together. I'm doing another study with some friends. We listen to Christian music all the time. I read the Bible on my own at least every other day. We have a house "verse" up in our kitchen to memorize/think about. We pray. I pray...all the time.

Plus, I just think. I think about it a lot. But lately, the thinking has not been as inspired or in depth as it has in the past. While I'm in church, I'm distracted. A lot. I'll even catch myself falling out of step and pray for clarity and focus mid-sermon. And every once in a while, I will be focused. I will be moved. I will feel God return to my heart. But He's gone almost as soon as He's there.

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him...

Hebrews 11: 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 

It seems so simple to just have faith and be patient. God will return. It's easy to say. It's easy to conceptualize. Really, how hard can this be? Just hang out - God will come back. 

It's not though, not for me. I am afraid that I'll lose Him again, and He'll never come back. Or I won't.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Home is Where the Dirt Is

Proverbs 31: 30-31
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.

Every mom is a working mom. Let's just get that out of the way right now. Whether you are working in public service, business, or as a homemaker, you are a working mom. And it's a big job. A BIG job.

Most of my waking hours during the school year are spent "working" - either teaching or planning/grading what I've taught, and then when I'm not doing that, I'm doing my level best to do my "mom" chores like cleaning and cooking and reading and comforting. In the summer and fall, I coach the school's color guard, so any extra time I end up with, I'm just exhausted from one of those activities. That's when I blog, get on Facebook, read, watch a few T.V. shows (though I have gotten much better about that lately!). Plus, I'm not 22 any more. I need to rest sometimes.

I wish there were more hours in the day.

It's just so much. So much. And I get very discouraged because I never do all of it well. I have to do my "working" stuff because, well, we need the money for bills. And I'm good at the grocery/cooking thing, so I make that a priority.  And my kids are at an age where playing with them and reading to them and teaching them and disciplining them is a 24/7 activity, so when push comes to shove, cleaning is what I throw to the curb. As a result, my house is in a state of grimy chaos most of the time.

It's an accomplishment to get most of the dishes done. Vacuuming and taking all of the trash out (all the way to the trashcans, not just to the front door) gives me the feeling that I have suddenly transformed our modest 4-square into a palace. And managing to scrub ALL of that mornings oatmeal/egg/peanut butter breakfast from the dining room table and chairs is usually only done minutes before we cover it in the hotdog grease/banana/milk lunch muck.

Removing the gunk and nastiness from the bathroom sinks and toilets is reserved for special occasions, like having someone over for a play date. But, by in large, if we're going to have company, it's just an exercise in damage control. Adam does the heavy lifting, running baskets of unfolded laundry (both clean and dirty) to hidden areas of the second floor. I run around with a trash bag, a rag, and a bottle of 409 power-cleaning anything that will hold still long enough (the kids included, you see).

And even if we do get all of the toys put away and dirt wiped up, there's still the random coat hangers in the dining room, the box of Goodwill clothes in the corner, the suitcase of snow clothes sitting next to the overflowing "shoe basket" in the living room, and the randomly broken curtain rods to round out my stellar decorating (If you've never been to my house, the irony will not translate here. I am a terrible decorator. Terrible. Seriously, I could have my own reality show). Every table top and shelf is just a place for "stuff."

Nothing is organized. Nothing is pretty. Nothing is clean. Nothing is welcoming.

So, I have to ask: is it just me? Is this just a testament to how badly I suck at homemaking?

And here's where irony enters (cosmic irony, for any fellow English teachers reading this):

I feel called more and more to be a homemaker.  Other than just after my daughter was born, I have NEVER wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But lately, all I can think about is that I am really unhappy with the state of my house. It's not a home; it's just a house. And I am feeling a deep seeded conviction to honor what blessings God has given us by making it a welcoming, clean, comfortable, organized, uncluttered environment.

I want to spend my evenings playing and reading with my kids. I want to cuddle with my husband and watch a movie or talk about our day. But if I do that, then things don't get done - the dishes continue petrifying in the sink, the trash piles higher and higher, the toys become so distended and unorganized that the kids won't play with them because they can't find all of any single one item. And then there are all of the papers to grade, lessons to plan, emails to return, yada, yada, yada...

I feel like I am dishonoring God because I am not keeping my home as it should be.  I want my home to feel warm and inviting to everyone. I want my husband to come in to a clean, relaxed, comfortable environment. I want my children to live in a home that is an example of making the best with what we have, and this is not it.  It's not that I want something lavish and expensive; I just want it to be nice.

So, what do you do? I don't know that there is anything that I can do other than to pray about it. Look for guidance and listen to God for help and comfort. He has always opened doors for me, and I have to trust that he will open this one too, but not until it's time.

Patience. This seems to be a theme with my journey. I will be patient, and I will do my best with what I have and what I can do. God will take care of the rest, and in the mean time, I'll just dim the lights.

You won't notice the cobwebs that way.

(p.s. God speed to all of you "working moms" out there. That which does not kill us...)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Of Things Not Seen

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is hard, hard for me anyway. For some people, it seems rather easy, "Yes, of course the Universe was created in six days. Yes, of course women were created from the rib of the original man. And two of every animal were rescued by a man with a very large boat. And Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt. And Egypt was overrun by plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, and locusts. And the Red Sea parted. And Jonah was swallowed by a whale...."

These are just, so unbelievable. I've been turning this kind of thing over an over again in my mind lately - questioning.

Is questioning wrong? I don't know. I think it's a matter of degrees. On one hand, you should be responsible for looking up things in the Bible yourself and studying it yourself and finding the right resources to help you understand it more. On the other hand, some things are just unknowable. 

Some things have to come down to faith.

But this is all Old Testament stuff. The miracles of the time before Jesus, who came as the greatest miracle of them all. The ultimate sacrifice. The one who would bear the wrath of God for all of the sins of those who would believe in him and follow his teachings.

I think about that a lot too. 

The weight of my sins on my heart can be overwhelming. There's a tightness there, a sort of stabbing loss of breath that catches me off guard and leaves me feeling hopeless...and helpless. The feeling of my heart breaking. 

Sometimes I think about how it would feel to have that experience compounded millions of times over, and I wonder if that must have been what it felt like for Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if that was the real torture of the cross. The physical pain, that's the fear of humans. It's horrible, to be sure, but it's superficial.

The crushing weight of the sin of millions would be more than any one human could take.

And maybe that's ultimately what killed Him. Once God the Father turned his face away from his dying son, removing what grace had leveraged from his soul, did the weight of a world of sins end his life?

Did Jesus die of a broken heart?

I don't know. There is no way to know, at least not now. Not in this life.

But I have faith that he did die for my sins. He did take my place and receive the punishment and judgement that I deserve.  

Now, as for seas parting and boats carrying two of every kind...I don't believe it's a lie. I have faith that God saves His people and destroys the wicked. The fine details, well there's just no way of knowing. 


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Identity Affirming Crisis

"Am I trying to be something that I'm not?"

 I wrote that in my last post, but when I went to edit it, it struck me.

Yes. Yes, I am trying to be something that I'm not.

Anyone who is a Christian is trying to be something that they are not.  That's the point.

People are wicked by nature. We are selfish, prideful, materialistic, wrathful, worldly, impatient, gluttonous, lazy creatures. And if you don't believe me, take a hard look at humanity.

I don't have to teach my kids to take their toys and throw fits if someone else tries to play with them. I do spend countless hours trying to teach them to share.

It's not difficult to be angry and try to get revenge on someone that hurts me. It is to forgive and forget.

Just being near a Target can inspire me to spend the $150 that I didn't think I could afford to donate.

And let's not talk about dieting....doughnuts and thin mints are a weakness.

Now, does that mean that we have no virtue? No. 

Romans 2:15
They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, 

We do have a bit of God in us - we know what is right and wrong.

The problem is, we're not set up to follow our hearts or our conscience. We're set up to defy it.

And that's why I feel good when I give in to temptation (<drooooool>...doughnuts...), and why I feel better when I defy it.

I am trying to be someone that I'm not.

Love is patient...

1 Peter 5:
10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

“Cast not away your confidence because God defers his performances. That which does not come in your time, will be hastened in his time, which is always the more convenient season. God will work when he pleases, how he pleases, and by what means he pleases. He is not bound to keep our time, but he will perform his word, honor our faith, and reward them that diligently seek him.” ~ Matthew Henry


I'm lonely. I shouldn't be, but I am. I have a husband, a wonderful mentor, a growing relationship with the church body I am visiting, and many friends who have always stood by me.

But, I'm lonely, and I feel very discouraged at times.

Will I ever feel the connection with God in my every day life that I feel in services? I keep reading all of these posts and essays from people who say that they "love Jesus," and I want to love Him, but I don't feel it. At least, not yet.

I feel humbled by His works. I feel dependent on His mercy. I feel amazed and inspired by His grace...but love isn't the noun that I immediately go to.

Is that the same thing? I don't know.

I know that I'm impatient to know Him more deeply, to feel Him working in my life. But for now, I just feel very lonely and lost. I don't know what to do next. I know where I want to be, but I don't know how to get there. 

So, is that it? Is this the suffering for me? I have to wait.

Patience has never been my virtue, not by a long shot. 

But, I will be patient. God works in His time and in His way. I will continue doing what I can to be worthy in His sight. I will continue searching for Him. I will continue working and reading and building my faith.

I will be patient.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Baby with the Bath Water

It's ironic how many questions you begin pondering when you begin walking in faith. On any other normal day, I don't think about how the universe was created or what my genetic relationship is to chimpanzees. I find it interesting, sure, but it doesn't define my life in any way.

For whatever reason though, these are just some of the hundreds of questions that people have when they approach Christianity. And sadly, it is the inability of science and religion to rectify their differences that turns so many people off.

"But the Bible says that all of creation was made in 6 days..."
Yes, it does. And obviously, most scientists disagree with that timeline. Not all of them, but most of them believe that the universe began with a big bang and that over the course of billions of years everything that exists formed. Being brought up in a pretty typical, public school education, that's what I have understood to be truth as well, and quite frankly, I don't understand how anyone familiar with the science could dispute it. It seems very solid. It seems well-founded, and I mean, I don't think that the scientific community has banned together to try and hoodwink us with some carefully executed, mass dis-information campaign.

But, I don't think that God is either.

Now, how I rationalize it doesn't matter. In fact, rationalizing it at all doesn't matter. That's not the point. There are any number of concepts in the Bible that I cannot fully understand - the Trinity, the justice of God, the presence of sin, predestination, free will, angels, demons, saints, the death and resurrection of Christ, the identifcation of God as "I am" - just to name a few.

Not that I don't understand their definitions, but to fully conceptualize what they are, what they mean, and how they came about, are beyond what many, if not most, of us are capable of.

Can you even fathom just how big our galaxy is? I mean, really, really get an idea of just how far away 100,000 light years is? Did you know that the sun, just our sun, is 8 light-minutes away? Traveling at the speed of LIGHT, it would still take you eight minutes to get there.

If you can, you've got a better imagination and sense of depth than I do because I really can't. Maybe I'm not supposed to be able to. Maybe that's not the point.

I heard an interview on NPR once with this Christian scientist, and the interviewer asked her how she rationalized the two. I was intrigued by her answer. She said, and I'm paraphrasing, that the reason people have such a hard time trying to rationalize science and religion is because they think that science and religion are trying to find the answer to the same question. However, what they fail to realize is that the question for scientists is 'How?', but the question for religion is 'Why?'.

How the universe was created versus why it was created like that are two different ideas, and the truth in one does not necessarily negate the truth in the other.

Now, why do I say all of this? Well, what I've been thinking a lot about lately is how often I have resisted faith, resisted what I have felt in my heart to be true, because of a singular issue like the creation of the universe.

Why does it matter? I mean, really - on a day to day basis, how often does the question of how the universe was created matter to you? How often do you find that Darwin's Theory of Evolution affects your morning commute?

But the power of God to create and why He chose to do it - that does affect me daily. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Is this what I am supposed to be doing with my short life here? Am I doing right by my children? Why do I deserve their love? Why do I deserve them at all? These are questions that faith does give me answers to. These are questions that I need answers to.

There are so many profound truths in Christianity - so many words of wisdom and peacefulness and hope and love. There is so much good in it. Why would I throw that all away - the baby and the bath water - just because it conflicts with something that I can't possibly understand the greatness of anyway?

Now, am I curious to know? Sure. I'm human, and we are curious by design. Curiosity is the driving force behind intelligence - but it is not uniquely human. Wisdom is, and as many people know, there is a difference between intelligence and wisdom: "Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad."

So in closing, I am thankful that God made me intelligent, and now I pray that He will grant me wisdom. I pray that this stumbling block of "How?" will be removed from my feet and replaced by a stepping stone of "Why?" I pray that God will continue to open my eyes and my heart to His wisdom, His intelligence, and His grace.

Ephesians 5:15-16

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Friday, February 1, 2013

From Bondage

 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)

Being a control freak has both positive and negative connotations.

On one hand, it can be seen as a sign of leadership skills. On the other hand, it can be seen as arrogant. "I know what I want, and I know how I want it, and well if I don't get my way, watch out." Now, this is not to say that I'm a brat. I don't think that I'm mean-spirited about it. I am just really, really, REALLY uncomfortable with someone else telling me what to do and how to do it.

Now, I know that even if I have thought long and hard about something, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right or best idea. It's just the one I am most comfortable with - the one that I have built up in my mind.

Being controlling like this leads to any number of problems - but the most difficult one for me to deal with has been the toll it has taken on my emotions.

When I feel out of control, I get a mix of angry and anxious. I lash out in a useless attempt to force whatever is out of my hands back into submission. I have yelled at my children, my husband, strangers in cars in front of me, inanimate objects, my dogs...I have yelled at an empty sky - at God.

Anger is underscored by anxiety, and anxiety leads me to act foolishly. I over plan, over prepare, try to use every mental faculty I can muster to snuff out any stress-creator the moment it pops its head into my line of sight, but at that moment, I panic. I get tunnel vision and lose all rational thinking ability. All I can focus on is making it stop. Just stop.

Both give way eventually to depression, to an unhealthy level of resignation. I feel overwhelmed and helpless. I withdraw. I lose my voice to the sustained silence of despair. I feel nothing, see nothing, take joy in nothing. I wait for the worst - hope for the worst - because in my mind, it couldn't possibly be worse that where I am.

I have been a slave to my emotions. Put in chains by my depression; yoked by my anxiety; whipped by my own anger. 

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2 ESV)

What I have been thinking about lately and learning about lately is the destructiveness of the sin of pride. And pride is BIG problem for me. 

I am so prideful in my own abilities that I try to control all things - as if I could. That is the sin of pride. I have to let go of this mindset that I can do anything, much less everything. I can do nothing, nothing at all, unless God gives me the strength, knowledge, and opportunity to use whatever gifts He gave to me to affect the world in a way that He sees fit.

"Be angry, and do not sin." (Ephesians 4:26 ESV)

This has become my new mantra at times when I feel my stress level rise and my anger surge. Anger is an emotion, not a sin, but what you do with that anger, how you let it take hold of you, that's the sin. Job was angry, and he questioned God, but in the end, Job was never arrogant - never prideful.

So, my challenge now is to let go of my pride before it ever becomes anger. And it is hard. HARD. But, in the end and by the grace of God, I will be a better mother, a better wife, a better citizen, and a better disciple because of it, giving all glory to God.

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 ESV)

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Hard Thoughts...

There's something I've been trying to write about since my last post, and I have started and deleted and started it again, over and's the hard thoughts. The awkward stigmas. 

One part of my mind realizes that these are just "golden calf" issues - things that people focus on and elevate to a level of overwhelming importance, but that are, in the grand scheme of things, neither more nor less important than anything else in a life of faith. Rationally, I realize that I still have to come to terms with these things, and that will require me to go outside of my comfort zone. Real faith though... living a redeemed life, I'm not sure that it should be comfortable. I'm not sure that's the point.

Anyway, the other part of my mind is cringing and wringing its hands at the thought of these issues coming up with my friends or the more liberal side of the family. I know how they feel. I was raised to feel that same way, and I am struggling with a fear of being rejected by them.

But that's not what this blog is about. This is supposed to be a chronicle of my new life as a renewed Christian, and part of it, a big part of it, is going to have to be devoted to dealing with my old life and my old ways.

This is going to be awkward. Awkward, awkward, awkward....but I don't feel like I can move forward with this project until I get these issues out.


I said "obey" in my wedding vows, and it was humiliating. 

I did it because I love my husband, and I wanted to make him happy, but I didn't mean it. I grew up with boys. I was always a strong girl. I was always a force to be reckoned with, and I can count on one hand the number of time I have done something I didn't want to do since I left for college. I am stubborn, and I am a know-it-all, and I REALLY hate the idea of not getting my way.

I was wrong.

Scripture isn't misinterpreted when it comes to this. I am commanded to submit to my husband as I would to the Lord. And conversely, Adam is commanded to love me as Christ loves the Church. 

Society has twisted this concept to commit all kinds of politically misogynistic atrocities. But this is not, as I understand it, the true meaning of this piece of scripture. Women are not to be objectified and regulated by men because of some kind of God-given superiority. That's how it's been played in the last 2,000 years, but that's not what it means.

First, the relationship is reciprocal - to submit to the Lord is to honor him with a loving heart. To obey, surely, but to obey out of love, not fear or mere obligation. Also, men are commanded to love us as Christ loved his Church - to be self-sacrificing. To give all of themselves for the betterment of the other. In a marriage that abides by these principals, a wife would never feel conflicted about supporting her husband because the husband would consider all things, including his wife's opinion. God views men and women as equal in value, but that does not mean we are the same beings. Even the kind of love that scripture uses to direct us as husbands and wives is tailored to our roles. Men are commanded to love their wives with a self-sacrificing love, but women are commanded to love their husbands with a tender, affectionate love. And quite frankly, this is exactly what Adam and I already want from each other. 

When we would fight, it would stem from the same basic issue - we didn't feel that the other person valued us. And I didn't get it. How could he think I didn't value him? Didn't he see how hard I worked to pick up the house or get groceries or take care of the children? Didn't he see all the things I did for him each day?

He didn't get it either. He didn't understand how I could question his love for me. After all, he always made sure to be affectionate, to kiss on me and cuddle.  To tell me that I am beautiful. To make sure I knew he desired me.

The problem was, we were doing for each other what we wanted the other person to do for us. I wanted him to take care of things. I wanted to come home to a clean house or a cooked dinner or a set of sleeping babies without it feeling like I had guilted him into it or made it a prerequisite for him getting any kind of love and affection.

He wanted me to love on him. To make him feel wanted and special and desirable. He wanted me to continue being in love with him and appreciating him as a lover and not a roommate.

Does that mean that I don't want affection? No. Does that mean that he doesn't appreciate my picking up the house? No. Of course, there has to be balance. But since we started this new philosophy within our relationship, things have been so much better. So much more peaceful, loving, and harmonious, that I can't believe we didn't do this earlier. We are idiots.

Is this the issue in every relationship? Probably not. It would be silly to generalize or project our problems and their solution onto every couple in the world. However, I can say that no matter what the specifics are, every relationship needs balance. This is not a uniquely Christian concept. Ying and Yang. The comic and the straight man. Jack and Jill. The Jedi and the Sith.  

I have come to accept and appreciate that men and women have different roles to play in life. Not more or less valuable roles, just different ones.

Is this copacetic with modern feminism? No. And there's no way to make it be so. Like I said, these are the hard thoughts, and they are ones I have been mulling over and studying about and praying for clarity on for the last several months. And I will continue to do so. This is not the end of these hard thoughts...

...but, they're no longer on the front burner. I feel like, because I've confronted them this much, I am somehow O.K. to start really studying the issues of faith that actually matter - redemption, grace, and salvation.