Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Food for thought...

I just started reading A Year with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and already I've encountered some passages that resonate deeply. They don't seem to need a lot of preamble or explanation. So, here they are:

God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.


While we exert ourselves to grow beyond our humanity, to leave the human behind us, God becomes human; and we must recognize that God wills that we be human, real human beings. While we distinguish between pious and godless, good and evil, noble and base, God loves real people without distinction.

It's kind of amazing isn't it? That human is just what God created us to be. And as much as we rail against this human life, this is what God intends for us. God even joined us here, to redeem us...we human beings. We are where God's love is revealed, this world. We have borne witness to Love itself. "...this is for God the ground of unfathomable love."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Myself Less

I stole this quote from my friend Jessica at One Wild and Precious Life...

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.” -Tim Keller, The Reason for God (emphasis mine)

I just love that.

That's all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Get a Life

(the following is (another) response to a recent sermon. It may only make sense to me, but I needed to get it out of my head and in writing. I'm working through some things. Feel free to ignore me.)

It's a little stone, it's a little mortar. It's a little seed it's a little bit of water...
in our hearts, in our hearts this kingdom's coming. - Sara Groves

There is still hope.

We may look around, disgusted by the disgusting things people are doing in the disgusting world.

But there is still hope.

We look at it, we see no end to the pain and depravity, the lost and the broken, the ugly and the wrong. We can see no end to it. And then we're tempted to say, no this is not going to get better. I will not be so clueless as to say that the world can get better. I mean, after all, the Bible says that it will get worse and worse in the end times...so I guess I'll just ride this out because I'm one of the chosen who belongs in Heaven. I'll be right here waiting for that because it's not going to get better anyway...it's just hopeless.

Many of us really do believe that at least at some level, and we're wrong.

Sure, the truth is that there isn't an end to it. There's not supposed to be an end to it, not in this life. But if we simply say that it cannot get better, what are we doing here? If we cannot be positive, if we cannot say there's hope, why don't we just throw in the towel now?

I heard the words, if you think that way (believing that the world can change and get better) you need to get a life.

OK. I will get a life. A life of hope in the getting better.

When we turn our noses up in disgust, when we see something we cannot stand that goes against our personal beliefs, we are doing nothing to bring that hope. If we stay in our small circles with people just the same as we are and we talk about how wrong everyone else is, it's true, there is no hope. But you know what? The things we see as disgusting, they are a result of a poverty of the soul. The death and destruction, figuratively or literally, the kind that's brought on by man? That's a poverty of the soul and of the spirit. And it calls for acts of love.

When we step out in love, stand in the face of injustice, and serve the world around us...well, that's kingdom work, hopeful work. It is getting a life.

Heaven is still touching Earth in everyday miracles large and small. People are still reaching out and living in a freedom that is so contagious, it changes things, and it changes lives. Lives that looked so hopeless and are not.

There is hope.

When you speak of the world with such a lack of hope, it makes me want to stop caring about the world. I don't want to stop caring. So please don't tell me to get a life.

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:..18 & 19

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Last Sunday and it's seven numbers

"Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything that is written in the book of law."
Galatians 3:10

I start to get angry. Then I stop. I take a deep breath and grab a pen and write my thoughts. I listen to the sermon. I look up, I look around, and the words just keep coming so I write them down in response to the listening. No one else is looking around. It's like they're scared to be seen while they hear about their complete and total depravity from the pulpit.

I want to stand up and say STOP please stop, where is the redemption, where is the grace, where is the healing...

Because so often, in so many congregations and so many denominations, it is left at this:
1) you are nothing but depraved
2) God hates sin
3) you are hiding your secret sins
4) God can see your sin
5) God hates your sin
6) stop sinning
7) the end

It's dangerous, I think. If we leave it at that, what are we leaving out? And maybe even more importantly, what are we adding in?

I've listened to more sermons than I can count that followed the numbered steps above, and only those numbers. So at some point in my life, I started to believe I was nothing but bad and that God could not possibly want anything to do with me. I don't think that's just me, partially because I have many people in my life who tell my same story.

When we hear something that's left at the end over and over, we fill in the blanks with a whole lot of shame, shame that leaves us stuck in our pits, afraid to look up, to be found out. It leaves us alone.

When I began to face my internal beliefs, things deeply rooted through years of words like those from Sunday, I saw that the complete focus on sin had back-fired. Because if I believe that is all that I am, I live out that which I think I am. Failure, ugly, shameful, unworthy...

dangerous things to live out.

I don't want to live there. I want to live in the freedom that Christ came to bring for this life and the next. I want to love because He loves me like mad. I want to try because He loves me like mad. I want to stand up and say NO, that is not who I am, THIS is who I am, and then I want to live that out.

I don't want to focus on me and fixing me and then focus some more on me and what I'm getting right and what I'm getting wrong.... That leaves no room for living out my faith in the world around me because I'm never thinking about them.

But how do I do that if someone is telling me sin is all that I am?

It seems that many Christian leaders are afraid that we'll forget the seven numbers. Maybe some people do forget, and of course there are some that have never heard the gospel message. But for the most part, I think we already know. Let's face it, most preachers are preaching to a congregation that is mostly Christian. There aren't many non-Christians who find the church appealing.

As one of those Christians sitting in church, longing to be fed some life, I am already fully aware of the seven numbers because I'm the one wading through my own troubled mind and life just like the rest of the world. Of course, I may now and again need a good bonk over the head, reminding me that I've got a long way to go, but for the most part I'm keenly aware of that long way on a daily basis.

What I'm looking for is teaching that reminds me I can do all things through Christ because He loves me the way that He does, and then I want to live the joy that revelation brings.

Because you know what?

If I do that, if I really GET that love...all the other stuff, the shameful horrible stuff we're focusing on, will fall away in it's time.

the end

I wanted so badly for this sermon to end differently. (and to be fair, it's a four part series, so maybe it will end differently, I hope.) But it didn't on Sunday. It ended with the end.

I wanted to walk to the front and grab the microphone. I wanted to add what I think He would say to me...

8) I'll never let you go
9) I'm crazy about you
10) there is no the end to that.

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us."
Galatians 3:13

I want to believe that fully, and then love other people with that kind of love...

(I wanted to share a video here because it says what I'm trying to say, but embedding it on a blog is not a possibility. You can still check it out on YouTube: How He Loves by David Crowder. Thank you.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Red Light, Green Light

Sunday~ October 4, 2009

The other day I was sitting at a stop light, fingers drumming the steering wheel, leg bouncing. The boys were being watched by a neighbor that I was anxious to relieve, and the light seemed extra long. Well, it actually was quite long because it's that light. The light that seems broken, leaving a person to sit in a row of thirty cars, only ten of which will be the lucky ones to make it through the next small chance at conquering the intersection.

The light finally turned green and I inched forward, small jerking movements, attempts at teleporting myself through the sea of bumpers in front of me, hoping hoping hoping c'mon c'mon c'mon I need to make it...

There were still ten cars ahead of me when the light turned red again. UUUGH!

Just moments after we were beckoned to go, we were stopped again.

Well! Just kidding, I said to myself, sighing and settling in for some more wandering thoughts while staring at red. I shut down, zoned out, gave up. Fine, I'm never going to make it.

I laughed at my grumptified self a little then and started to think about how life is a lot like waiting at a stop light. How I'll be chomping at the bit to do something, to change something, to make something happen. I'll be motivated and ambitious and ready, tap-tap-tapping at the gas, revving my engine. I'll see just what I want on the horizon, my hopes will rise with the green light of a seemingly obvious answer, and then...

Yellow light.

Oh no, I'm not going to make it. Why are there so many people ahead of me? Why can't I be up there with them? I need to go now!

Anxiety. Impatience. Discontent.

Red light.

I thought about this again today as I drove the two hours back from my parent's house. We weren't stuck in traffic, we were on the freeway, moving along without a hitch. I thought about how often that's the case in my life, this fast moving pace filled with only small problems like a sticky steering wheel and the annoyance of stopping for gas.

But I still have a tendency to get focused on the times I'm given the signal to wait. I shut down, zone out, give up. So quickly.

He's not sleeping through the night (whine stomp) When will I ever have time for me (fingers drum the steering wheel) When in the world will they sleep past 6 in the morning, I'm so tired (leg bouncing let's go let's go let's go) Look! I think I saw God open a door! (concentrating hard to teleport myself through bumpers) I really want to move, WHY can't we sell our house? (more whining and stomping)

In those times, I'm only thinking about me, how I should be the first one to go when the light turns green, how I should never have to wait.

But today as I drove, though I may have learned the lesson a thousand times, it hit me full force...

There are drivers around me who are truly suffering, they are stuck in a line of traffic much longer than thirty cars at a light that never turns green. I have been in their shoes. I know how it feels, and I know what got me through the worst kind of traffic jams. Other drivers, ones who weren't so self-obsessed that they passed on the right and kept going. They were the kind of drivers that looked out for me, those were the people that got me through. Grace people.

Some of the hurting commuters are in my life and I love them, and now I want (and need) to pull up alongside them, get out of my car, and climb in their passenger seats. Or drive. Or sing. Or tell a funny story. Or just sit. Whatever they need, I want to do it. I want to do what has been done for me. Whatever the cost is to my valuable time, I want to be there, doing.

When I forget myself, I'm not irritated by things like traffic lights. I'm much lighter, with less nail biting and leg bouncing. Suddenly, all those distant open doors and hopes off on the horizon are right there with me, in a much better form than I'd imagined.

It's good, getting what you needed instead of what you thought you wanted, because you gave of yourself.

Green light.

(photos courtesy of flickr)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm going to have to hug her...

Amidst the overstuffed boxes of memories sat a stack of notebooks, the kind I started to use as journals or for school and then somehow quit. The first couple of pages were scrawled with words I can't remember writing, and then nothing, page after page of empty.

I set them aside and continued to pour over things I've kept over the years. I knew I was taking a risk, leafing through notes from a first love, scanning cards and letters from family and friends, staring long at pictures of a girl I hardly know, and yet know all too well.

With a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat I asked myself why walking down memory lane is so painful for me. I realize that traumatizing things did happen in my more youthful years, some brought on by me and some brought on me. But it seems like other people can look back and say Water under the bridge, no big deal, I was young and that's over now. Live and learn. Move on.

Not me. Starting at a young age, I did take a whole lot of detours, creating pot holes of pain all over my memory lane, and I haven't really been able to let it go even though I know it all serves it's purpose in making me...me. And I'm okay with me...now. Mostly.

But it's still as if I made a choice to attach my past to my ankle and drag it around as some sort of punishment. Which ironically, leaves me living in many of the same behaviors that bring me that feeling in the pit of my stomach, the one that seems so big, I'm terrified it won't ever go away, that pit that leaves me depressed and impatient and distant.

Because it's attached to my leg, the past always seems very close, pulling me from the here and now and leaving me back there, somewhere very lonely, since everyone else seems to have left it all behind, moved on...grown up.

Here I am, 34 years old, stomping my foot and begging God to work some kind of miracle in me, one that would change me, making me more peaceful and less moody, more joyful and less melancholy. Like yesterday, after a particularly difficult road trip with the boys in which I totally lost my cool, I actually resorted to begging God to hurry up and zap me, change me with that instant miracle I've been waiting on my whole life. But He didn't.

(What He did choose to do that very moment was to paint a rainbow across the sky. That was nice, and it did bring me some tears of relief, thinking on how He does still keep promises, but I still wanted to be zapped.) (Just saying.)

Then today I talked with a friend who could be me if we were allowed to share the same body. I told her about the notebooks, the ones filled with things I feel like I'm still saying all these years later, and the ones that are mostly empty. I joked about how those notebooks are a great analogy for my life. How I've wasted so many chapters on what seems like nothing and how it makes it feel like I'm never going to just get over it and change already.

To which she said, "I want to shake that old me. I want to slap her."

ME TOO. (not her, me.)

That's when we both got it at the same time.

I want to be able to say that if I could go back in time, I would hug me. I would forgive me. I would somehow love me no matter what I was doing.

I haven't been giving her that grace.

One thing I know for sure is that God loved me despite all of it, and He still loves me now.

Instead of doing the same, I've looked back in disgust, shaking my head and feeling a whole lot of shame, whether I think I've worked through it or not.

Being hard on yourself for things you cannot change is just as much a waste of time as not forgiving others.

Then my friend said, "I think this is more about love than it is about change."
The change will come with love. Love is a change magnet. Like a rainbow to the rain.

We joked then about how we're not quite ready to hug our former selves.

"Maybe tomorrow," she said. "For today, let's just go with a high five."

Yeah, I guess that's a good place to start, better than a slap or a kick anyway.

Perhaps the next time I sit down with the old notebooks, instead of cringing, hating that young me for what she did or what she said or what she didn't do, I will look at her differently, forgive her, and then leave the pages behind. I hope so. I'd like to love her so she can stop effecting my present.

That would be just the miracle I'm looking for, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to hug her first.

(If you would like to read another redemptive story brought on by the notebooks from my past, I wrote more about them here.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Part

Miles called me back to his bedroom.

"I'm scared."

"I'm right in the next room, what are you scared about?"

"Remember that guy with the slurpy tongue? That big guy who ate up people by slurping them in the cave?"

"No, I don't remember that. I don't know what you're talking about, but if you feel scared, why don't you talk to God about it, ask Him to take those thoughts away so you can sleep."

A few minutes later, I'm back to sorting through piles and piles of paperwork, and from the monitor I hear, "GOD, GIVE ME A CHANCE HERE AND MAKE.ME.STOP.THINKING.THAT. UUUGGGHHHH!"

I feel a tinge of recognition, a pain in my heart. I can relate to his frustration and fear.

Moments after that, he's calling me back to his room again. He tells me (with his exasperated-I'm-trying-to-sound-like-a-grown-up-voice) that God is not listening to him. He says God won't take away the scary thoughts.

Then the words just poured from me and I found myself standing there talking to my boy and myself about something very important.

"You have to do your part, Miles."

I went on and attempted to explain that God can give him the strength, but he needs to make a choice to think about something else too. He needs to decide to think a different way, like maybe about Curious George, something good or funny.

Oh, how I too want a magic wand experience with God. World peace - Pazow! An end to world hunger - Whamo! Healing for the sick- Kaboom! Overcoming my own demons - DONE! Patience and peace with a touch of a zen-like state - YOU GOT IT! BOOM! Money tree - IT'S YOURS!

Maybe it works that way sometimes, and I'm sure that's awfully nice. But for the most part, I think it's a two-way street. To be honest, most of the time I wish it were not. I don't want to have to do anything but believe. I want to sit back and watch goodness come from my wanting of it.

Then I remember what would be lacking.

If God always responded with immediate relief, the relationship and refinement that comes with doing my part would disappear. When I listen, when I pick myself up and do what I know I need to do, I finally take a good look at those purposes.

What we're working on here, together, is my heart.

I haven't been doing that lately. I'm standing in doorways and preaching to my child, but then on the other side of the wall I am fists tight and a stomping foot. I am shouting, "GOD, GIVE ME A CHANCE HERE AND MAKE.ME.STOP.THINKING.THAT. UUUGGGHHHH!"

I see the child that I am standing there, and I know I've got work to do. I just don't really feel like doing my part.

What amazes me is that my heart continues to grow and change despite myself, ever so very slowly, even when I don't want to try.


Miles somehow accepted my advice without an argument or a sound. He was sitting up, shoulders slumped in the dark and after hearing what he needed to do, he let himself fall back to his pillow. To try again. To rest.

Sometimes that's all we can do.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I want to be more like Sara Groves when I grow up...

I included the first two snippits below because of the conversation we've had in recent months about the validity of the Bible. I just really like what Sara has to say about that:

And lastly, one of my favorite Sara songs...I love the message of this song, the way it reminds me that if I see pain in this world (which of course I WILL), I want to be moved to action. Showing the love of God is really what it's all about...

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Spaces

Mindy Smith sings the hauntingly beautiful song below. (She also sings a mean "Jolene" with Dolly Parton. Just sayin') I thought about this song (not Jolene, the one below) during a discussion about the book The Shack recently. Someone mentioned that they loved the part when the character portraying Jesus in the book tells Mack, the main character, that he didn't leave his daughter alone when she was kidnapped. Mack had a lot of hard questions about why God would allow this to happen, thinking that his daughter was simply abandoned by the God that created her. Then Jesus says something about it not working that way, that he's always with us, even in the worst of things. He says, "I was with Missy in that truck."

"Worry not my daughters. Worry not my sons. "

We can only get so far when we ask the hard questions in this life. There's nothing wrong with seeking the answers, but the parts that don't quite make sense to us are the very spaces we are asked to have faith. If we believe the part about God's constant prescence and love, it's like we've set a magnet in one of our spaces, one that pulls our faith to it with it's strength and settles in with peace. So I love this line -

"In Heaven, we will wait for your arrival. In Heaven, you will finally understand."

We are loved.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Even for a duck

After a long day of fun in the sun, playing ball, flying a kite and grilling out, we turned on to our quiet street, a load of happy sun-kissed people, worn and ready for baths and bed. But in the shade of a tall tree, we noticed two ducks sitting right on the street. We unloaded ourselves and crossed the tar, hoping to get the Mallard and his wife to stand and rush, inadvertently removing themselves from the real danger of a vehicle tire.

The male stood and led the way, drawing his lady to a nearby tree, hopping up and over the curb to reach a spot to hide behind the trunk. Then we saw it, the way she was walking, one leg flinching with the effort. She was injured, slow, tired. She didn't panic as birds do. She seemed unconcerned, no energy left to fight her fear.

So we said things like "Oh look, she's hurt." And we watched her limp slowly over the curb, struggling to lift herself.

My heart was breaking, even for a hurting bird, watching her pain and wishing I could end it. I was biting back tears and trying to answer all of the three year old questions coming my way. Her end was very near, I could see that. My controlling tendencies started to hop around in my head and heart. For a moment, I tried to think of a way to fix the situation. Then I started to think about what our pastor had said that morning, about the inevitable pain of life. He said it like it is, "Your life will never be void of suffering. Never. That's just LIFE." Then he talked about how it's not so much about the suffering itself, it's about whether or not we have the faith to believe in greater purposes. Do we truly believe that God does not just leave us in our pain, does not strike us down with ailments and death with a big stick, but that He takes all of it and works it together for good? That pain is an inevitable result not of God's will, but of a world that fell away from Him? That He will rescue us at times, and not at others, according to the very best bigger picture that only He can see? That kind of trust is terrifying.

It won't stop the pain, it will simply bring hope in place of despair.

Asher watched the duck so closely, without a sound for the longest time. Until suddenly, a guttural cry came from him, a heart-piercing and loud, "OOOOH, ooowie....OOOH." There was so much sadness in his sound, buried in layers of empathy. Our friend who was with us, watched him and let out a soft, "Wow." Yes. That boy knows pain. And so, he loves any creature deeply enough to feel theirs with them. I suppose that's what we're to do with all this suffering. Love, feel for each other, lifting the burden even just a little, in a moment on the street as we observe, feeling helpless.

Miles stepped closer, carefully inching his way toward the ducks like a curious moth to an intriguing flame, firing off questions about what happened, why is her leg like that, and did we run her over when we drove by? "No, honey. No. She was like this before we came along, we didn't do it." He thought about it for a while and then he said, "God doesn't like it that the duck is hurting."

No, I don't think God does like it even one bit. And knowing that He doesn't somehow lifts the fear of the inevitable suffering in our future. If He doesn't like pain, He groans as Asher did, because He too knows pain, and I know that when He cries out, something happens. Peace. Mercy. Grace. Love.

Asher's groans, my tears, and Miles' questions serve their purpose in reaching the ears of a God who I believe cares deeply. Our cries are love. He is love. Love even for a Mallard duck, limping on a quiet street. How much greater is our love for each other, all held together by His love for us? When we enter each other's pain, we're showing a level of trust that we may not have even known was there. And it's good.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

So, why did God plant the tree?

This is cross-posted at The Midnight Cafe.

The question that stuck with me after my most recent meeting with my Bible study group was this: Why did God put the tree in the garden in the first place? I mean, ultimately, the tree represents the ability of people to choose their own destruction. If God did not give people the ability to choose, life would still be perfect in the garden of Eden. Perfect. Instead, the "gift" of free choice means that we live in a world where murder, rape, hunger, disease, and greed exist right alongside compassion, generosity, abundance, health, and joy. Love crashes and shatters against evil every day. Perfection does not exist.

So, why?

The best answer that I know of is that God wanted us to CHOOSE. God wants us to freely choose relationship with God, which means that there has to be another choice. Otherwise we are robots, creatures who worship God because that's what we were created to do, but not because we choose God. And, honestly, I believe that God wants to be chosen. God doesn't desire relationship with beings who have no choice.

God gave us the dignity of being free. God grants us the respect of autonomous beings.

I mentioned (in my Bible study) that it's a little like being parents. We could, potentially, protect our children from risk (and also choice and freedom) for much of their lives, maybe even their whole lives if we did a good enough job of isolating them. But then who would our children be? We've all heard of people who have been so isolated they can hardly function, and they certainly cannot think for themselves. They have no personality, no individual personhood.

Having read a fair amount about different types of parenting, I know that kids who are raised by more strict parents, especially strict conservative Christian parents may be less likely to endure a tumultuous adolescence, but they are also less creative, less adventurous, and less engaging than their peers who have been allowed more freedom...including the freedom to make some stupid choices.

Another wise parent in the Bible study group responded that, of course, she allows her son some choices...but she wouldn't let him set himself on fire and dance naked on the kitchen table. ;) In other words, she limits his choices to protect his life.

It seems that God didn't do that. God put that tree right there in the garden and did not prevent people from eating the fruit that would lead to destruction...to unspeakable pain and evil.

I'm sorry to admit that I became swallowed up in my own thoughts after that and lost the discussion, and by the time I returned the topic had moved on (we were discussing The Shack, and there's plenty there to talk about).

Here's what I was thinking, though. It's true that while my children are young, I protect them from the serious choices, choices that could mean the difference between life and death. I don't let Mane run out into the street or set herself on fire. But, very recently, I've been faced with the fact that I cannot do that with Vespera. I cannot protect her from every choice that has the potential to harm her.

If I remove her choice, her freedom, even in cases where her life could be in danger, I destroy our relationship. I'm willing to beg, plead, and persuade when I think she's making an unwise choice. But if I cross over the line into removing her freedom, I open a chasm between us. We can talk, negotiate, and argue...unless I take away her freedom. Then I've shut down communication, broken the lines, built a wall, or whatever else you want to call it. And we are left with a quiet, empty chasm between us.

And God is a God of relationship, a God who wants to communicate with us, even if it's to argue and persuade. There's simply nothing to say if we don't have any choices. So, God gave us choices to keep our relationship.

I've been trying to post this for 3 days and keep changing it. So, go easy on me. I'd love a discussion if ya'll have anything to say, ask, or argue.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How Great IS our God?

I saw the below video this morning and wanted to share it here.

You know, I think about myself so much, that I make me (and my problems) really big and important. This video reminded me how very small I am in this big old universe. Not unimportant, just very small. Which reminded me of our discussion here recently on faith and humility and other things.

You may have to stick with it just a few minutes to really get into it, but I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed by the end. No matter what you believe about God, this will get you thinking. If you aren't able to sit through 5 parts at once, the post will still be here, come back later (with popcorn), this is really good stuff.

If you have older children, I think this would be a really good thing for them to see. It really drives home what miracles we (they) are, and how much God loves us. I think that's so important for kids to fully grasp starting at a young age. (I say "older children" only because it probably won't keep younger children's attention.)

OK, enough rambling Heather...


Oh OK, just one more thing. I have this tendency to doubt that God is actually really intimately involved with humans. I see all the sick kids, the death, the disease and I want to scream "WHAT are you doing???" But today I was reminded that He's there and He's HUGE. He is the One that picks up the pieces, helps us take one step further...even when He could have left us to do the pain thing all by ourselves. We see it. We see the miracles coming after death, disease, and pain. He didn't have to do that. But He made it so that the greatest good will eventually come from every pain and sorrow. There is an eternal hope.

The End. (of my part anyway) :)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

In which I attempt to answer two different questions at once

If you're new here, we've been carrying on a conversation in which my friend Jess asks questions about our beliefs and we make attempts at answering.
If you would like to start at the beginning of this faith conversation, please click here.

Also, please keep in mind that I don't claim to be right (correct). I don't think anyone can claim that when discussing all aspects of theology. That's why we argue so much, all those different interpretations of things and such. This is just me, sharing my personal thoughts, feelings, and beliefs based on my own experiences, and what bubbles around in my mind and heart.


"The groaning of creation is not a pretty sound."-

When I was a little girl my parents, my sister, and I would take camping trips Up North with friends and family. I don't remember much about these yearly adventures, it's been a really long time. But I do remember a big, black, scary dog that wandered into our camping space and sat at our fire like a mascot, and a horse on a country road that trampled a car.

They say the things that bring out the most emotion are the things you always remember.

I'm guessing at some time those memories will continue to fade, but there's one thing I'll never forget. And that's the day a little girl with blond hair was pulled from the lake to the shore, lifeless. She was gone. Her parents were left without her. What was left was a heaviness that hovered around that wide open space, the murmurs of grown-up speak, and my own confusion.

I didn't look to God, asking those difficult questions that I ask now. I simply wanted to know what her parents were supposed to do without her? Even at a young age I understood that parents need their children to be who they are, who they became when that new little person joined their family.

But it didn't surprise me that such a thing could happen. As a young girl, I think I more easily accepted that life holds both beauty and ugliness, disease and health, danger and safety, good and evil.

I was emotionally affected, but not doubting the goodness of God. I readily accepted that God is the beauty, the health, the safety and the good. I understood more easily that He was a shelter from this life, a loving Father who was very sad when something went terribly wrong.


Is it that I'm just more aware as I grow older? Is it the fact that I'm a part of the internet now, seeing so many sad stories, or is it really getting worse?

I guess it doesn't really matter. What matters is what we make of it. How do we go about loving each other? We have to, it's all that we can do.

There are times when I want to hide. I want to find a place in my own comfort zone and just ignore the groans. And then there are times when I just want to take it all in and see what I can do about it.

No matter what time it is, I want the groaning, the pain and sickness and dying to stop.

I can try to wax theological all I want, but I doubt that even twenty years in seminary would give me all the answers. I could approach it all psychologically, I'm good at that, I have a degree there. But no amount of therapy or understanding of the human brain could take away the pain. All I can do is pray, and even then I will not have all the answers in this life. There are some things that our mere human minds can't possibly ever know.

So many people ask me how I have any faith at all. What does it all mean? Why doesn't God stop this roller coaster ride and let us all off?

Do you want to know the truth?

I don't know.

I can only go so far with my answers before I hit a dead end. That end is usually at the question "Well sure, God works things together for good, He comforts, He loves, He cries...but if He's an all-powerful God why did He let us go our own way in this fallen place in the first place? Why doesn't He just make it all stop?"

I love the line from a Chris Rice song that responds to those questions with, "Maybe it's because He loves us that He's giving us more time here."

No, it's not always a fun place to be, but perhaps He's not snatching us out of it because there are so many that have chosen not to believe Him. He wants to give us all a chance to experience the joy and peace that comes with throwing caution to the wind and getting to know Him. He wants us to know Him, to realize He's more than worth knowing, so that when He takes us home to a perfect place we'll know Who it is we'll be joining.

Maybe we groan because there is something at the core of each one of us that just wants to go home.

I believe that we humans made a choice to separate ourselves from God, making our own road back to Him quite long. The result of our turning from Him in our free will is that He has to respect that. He has to let us go. Why would He want a forced love? So we go. Just as if our kids turned to us and said, "I don't want to follow your rules, you're not the boss of me, I'm leaving."

Oh how we would want them home. But we'd have to let them decide to get to know how much we truly love them, to trust us, and to return.

I think that the fact that there is so much good and beauty in the middle of all of this is the proof of the God we're looking for. I can't believe that He continues to lavish such gifts on us despite our propensity to rebel, to control, to fix things for ourselves. Despite our pride.

I'm humbled by that.

Jess, you asked me once how I can believe in God's plan when it includes children living in pain. "Why did Asher have to hurt for that greater good to be accomplished?" (and I paraphrase.) I've thought more about that recently...

I don't think God planned for Asher to be hurt, to have a brain surgery at age one. I don't think He likes it one bit. BUT, our life story here at the EO household is still in His hands, in His will. As we "free will" our way through and come up against the groans of humanity, He is turning all of it to good, somewhere, somehow, molding it to his will (if you will :).

I don't believe He strikes us down randomly. I think disease is a result of a fallen world, not something God plans. In short (ha!) He takes all the bad, that of our own doing and what's simply happening because this place is a mess, and he brings it back to good. Sometimes not in the timely way we expect, but in a perfect way that we would accept if only we were able to see the very biggest picture. The very end. The grand dream come true. Eternity. Infinity. Whoa.

The messes and the pain are something He redeems. He uses it all to bring beauty, grace, wisdom, and perspective. In our trials we learn what love really means, it grows deeper in us and then it's shared. So many times we're not even aware of what an impact our trials have on us and those who are changed in a positive way like a ripple effect.

He doesn't have to do that. But He does. He could say, "Well, most of you want nothing to do with me so good luck...see ya...I'm turning my face from you." But He doesn't.

And I'm humbled.

In the days I feared for Asher He drew me closer to Him because I so fully knew He was there...It's when your hurting, terrified and desparate that you start to see Him sometimes. I don't think He's playing games though. He's not making us hurt so we'll notice Him. I think it's that our pride finally is set aside in those moments and we can finally see Him.

He was there when the IV went in so easily for Asher's surgery. The nurses were stumped, shocked, and so happy. Not a peep out of the little Ash Man. Miraculous.

He was there when an unbelievable peace washed over me as I watched the clock and waited for the neurosurgeon to come and tell us Asher was OK.

He was there when Asher drifted off to sleep in his hospital bed despite hours of agitation, crying and pain. A peaceful sleep through the night. A miracle, in his condition.

And that's humbling. Because I ignore Him so much of the time. I don't believe He's going to carry me through sometimes. I even doubt His existence, and especially His never-ending grace, and yet He never fails to fit himself into the corners of my humanity...healing, loving, comforting, holding...Doing the very things He would do if we had lost Asher. I'm pretty sure I would have lost my mind if that were the outcome, but I would have somehow survived it.

And that too would be a miracle.

Healing that kind of pain? Miraculous. Humbling. I know for certain that is not something I could do on my own. Sometimes he heals the pain in the child, and when He cannot because of a much bigger picture than we can see, He's healing the parents through a million small miracles that all add up to love.
OK, I'm done.


In every explanation or attempt at understanding exactly how God works there are gaps. Things that we just don't like. We all want so badly to escape the horrors of this life. We want it all to make perfect sense. We want perfect answers that take away the pain. But we just don't. That's where the trust comes in. To come to a place of knowing that God really is good. All the time. And then believing that even in death, there is hope...in that biggest picture happy ending.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

To know God and to be Humble

Dear Jess,

You obviously ask some really great questions because it requires some serious thinking to get back to you!

I think you hit on the answer to your own question when you said that God's existence is questionable and intangible to you. Of course you cannot feel humble toward something you're not even sure exists. And you cannot have that fall-on-your-knees, totally awed type of response when you haven't experienced God for yourself. How could you? It wouldn't make sense.

On the other hand, you stand in awe of nature, of birth, of the cycle of seasons. And those things wouldn't be here without God. I don't think there's anything that we know as humans that is more amazing than nature - waterfalls and oceans, mountains, and canyons. Yet, I believe that God created those things. What a fantastic imagination God must have, what a deep and complex mind, what amazing power to spin all those things into existence! If I am amazed by nature, I must, in turn, be amazed by the God who created it all. ...if that's what I believe - that God created it all.

And the place where I stand truly in awe and humbled by God, is in that the God who made this whole big earth *knows* me, hears me, sees me, LOVES me. God is everywhere, continually creating and calling all of us into existence, holding this whole apparatus together...and, yet, God also has concern for me as an individual...me, so small in comparison to the rest of the world, yet I am held close to God's heart. What an enormous God...to know and love each of us that way.

In some way I believe your husband is right, it doesn't make sense to *try* to feel a certain way. I believe you when you say that you're already living a humble life, a life of goodness and compassion. And, certainly, these are qualities that are pleasing to God. You know why? Because you were created in the likeness of God, in God's image. These are the qualities of God in you. But I don't think this means you can stop seeking. You obviously have a drive to know the truth, to meet the truth, to encounter this God we're all talking about. The Bible tells us that those who seek will find. I can't tell you what that will look like for you because I think God has a knack for meeting us where we're at, in ways that make sense to us as individuals. That makes it different for everybody.

I guess I don't see your feelings of humility , or lack of those feelings, as the real issue. If you know God, humility will follow.

I'm curious about your response to this and where you want to go from here. You may be interested in something called Apologetics if you're truly interested in exploring the existence of God. Apologetics is the part of theology that addresses the existence of God and the historical Jesus. For me, Apologetics is fascinating and an encouragement to my faith, but I don't know if it would have fed my hunger to really know who God is or not. It's a very academic approach to God, providing proofs for the existence of God. If you're a reasoning/rational explanation kind of person, Apologetics may be for you. If you're more about feelings and emotions, maybe not. I know I need both.

I am inspired by your persistence!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


If you haven't been following along, our conversation with Jess begins here.

Below is my latest email from Jessica. Her thoughts have taken a turn from the topic of our last few posts, which is just fine. We're on to humility now. Does she know how to ask good questions, or what? I'll put my own thoughts into post form soon. For now, here's Jess:

I wanted to kind of go in a different direction. I finally had a sort of epiphany about HOW to ask what I was thinking about. It's been stewing for a long while, and it started from somewhere away from blogland but was reinforced when you pointed me to the conversion blog. It's about the term HUMBLE or having humility, and all its implicated meanings.

I feel that I am humble (or at least trying to be each day) in my everyday existence. I am constantly reinforced to NOT judge when I hear others dishing out how they think person X should have handled a situation or how person Y should have responded to another situation. I feel that I can never sit and tell another how they should behave because I am not them, I have not lived their life, and what they want for themselves may not be what I think they need. I try and remind myself of these things so that I will not judge and can be humbled by the fact that many people find the "RIGHT" ways for themselves, find better solutions, greater paths, and endure more than I could imagine. I am constantly reminded that I have not experienced nearly an IOTA of what others have, and this alone humbles my existence in my eyes.

What I cannot seem to FEEL is the concept of being humble towards God. That's not to say I feel braggerdly or greater than God, just that I can't seem to get to the "fall to my knees at the mere thought of you" humility. I think because the very existence is questionable for me, intangible, and therefore difficult to feel "small" in comparison. I am certainly amazed and in awe of things around me that live and thrive since the beginning of time. I am amazed that we can grow full human beings in our bellies, I am amazed that trees live and die and live and die in cycles, and keep coming back to green up our lives. I am amazed that people have been able to make amazing creations with things found on Earth. I just don't know how to get to HUMBLE with respect to God and religion. I am still so in the "moment" of being here on Earth that I cannot feel "at his mercy" or "weak with sin" as a humble human.

Does any of this make sense? When I asked my husband about this concept, he talked a LOT but then finished with how I need to stop looking to others to "get" God and religion, and stop looking to others to figure out how to live the life I obviously am seeking but already living. He said all I have to do is look in the mirror to find a humble human living like God would want. He said the fact that I come home a day after he and I have had an argument and continue going on about the night, keeping peace in the home, feeding him with the children, etc. shows acts of being humble and doing what is right versus what I might FEEL like doing. Do you think?

Thanks for being patient with me.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Infinite Love

This is a cross-post from The Midnight Cafe. Thanks, Heather, for asking me to post it here.


I found a passage from Mister God, This is Anna that was so profound and so full of sense that I posted it in my sidebar, and I'm posting it again here.

"Mister God is different from us because He can finish things, and we can't. I can't finish loving you because I shall be dead millions of years before I can finish, but Mister God can finish loving you, and so it's not the same kind of love, is it?"

Sometimes I sit and listen to the sounds of my house, I look around at the beautiful faces that surround me, rest my head on Mango's shoulder, close my eyes, breathe the familiar smells of home, and I know I can never, ever finish loving these people. Nothing I can say or do or even think or write is enough. Not even music and pictures can say what I cannot say. Long hours of late night conversation, fresh enchiladas, head massages, notes hiding in Mango's suitcase, Valentine balloons...none of them will ever tell the whole love story.

But God. God can love us all the way, completely, fully and to the end. God is infinite while we are only finite. Human. Small. Fragile. Incomplete.

I have a thought, though. A very small thought because I'm finite.

Maybe, God's love is different because it's infinite, and if we abide in God, God will draw us into infinity, too. And, in that infinitely, we will be whole, strong, complete, and able to finish loving...to love God fully, to love each other fully. We will be there in the middle of God, engulfed by the God who is love. And then we can know what love is.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I respond (sort of) (finally)

Hello Jess,

It's taken me a while to respond to your latest question because I'm not sure where to start. To simply answer why I think God allows children to hurt, be hurt, get sick or even die doesn't seem the right thing to do. Because the answer sounds way too simple without some major theological foundations being put out there first.

I mentioned the "mean dude" in a previous post. I talked about believing that evil exists and I believe also that because of free will, God has allowed us the freedom we think we want. And then we just go on ahead and totally wreck the place. So things like cancer or hydrocephalus are a result of what you'll hear Christians call "a fallen world."

That's all I'm going to say because I think that maybe we should talk a bit more about this. What do you think about it? Do you think God causes the bad things to teach us lessons? Or do you think maybe that stuff isn't from Him? What other questions does that bring up?

I think if we talk more about this, the answer to your question about children being hurt might become more clear to you. Not that our human minds can EVER make sense of the injustices done to children, I don't believe we're supposed to be comfortable with that, but maybe we can understand a little more that God's role in it is always love.

Take your time and throw more questions out. I'll make Midnight Cafe answer them :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Some very good questions

(If you'd like to start at the beginning of this conversation, click HERE)

My latest email from Jess:

One of the points you made has stuck with me through these past couple of weeks and I still cannot wrap my thoughts around it. You spoke of the evil that God has us dealing with here on Earth, but you don't think it's an intentional guinea pig scenario. I would LIKE to believe this, but I always come back to the question that seems so cliche: A child dies. Yes, there might be a lesson of love and understanding for the people who must survive this baby. But what about the suffering the baby had to experience? Now, what makes sense to me is that our bodies are created in the image, but are flawed. Death is inevitable too...but I just can't see how God plays a part in such tragic situations. Please help me understand how you keep glorifying God every time you see your baby boy in pain from his condition. I do NOT know how you do it....but I sense that your faith gives you peace regarding this situation as well, so maybe that's all it takes to believe in times like that???
Jess sent me this email quite some time ago. I thought I had an answer, but the more I've tried to write it out, the less I feel I can do the answer justice. Anyone want to help out? I will add my thoughts soon. I've just been doing a lot of thinking...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dear Jess,

(if you're new here, you can start at the beginning of the conversation with Jess, HERE.)

It's been awhile since I've written any kind of response to your thoughts or mine. So I have to apologize in advance if this is too much at once. I've been thinking a lot about what to say and I've had a hard time knowing what to write because there are some things that we haven't gotten into yet, and without those things it's hard to know where to go next. I want to know what you think about these things. So...HOLD ON, here we go: :)

I've just started this book called "Walking with God" by John Eldredge. It will most likely take me about a year to read it, but I'm going to try. I love this writer. I love the way he thinks and how he expresses himself. The first pages got me thinking about our conversation.

Christian or not, we've all got this longing. It's what brought you to the point of asking, "But HOW do you know God? How do you believe?" And it's what keeps me asking, "Am I finding Him, am I doing this right?"

If He were not there, our Creator and source, I highly doubt we'd be so concerned. Sure, we'd be bombarded with people's opinions of a Higher Power, religious ideals and theological guesses. But both you and I know that those things are not what pull at the deepest parts of us.

He does.

I believe that He made us to be in relationship with Him. One that runs much deeper than Sunday mornings, being good and doing right, and checking off some list of tasks that need to be done in order to be considered religious.

Sometimes I feel like you and I are actually more on the same page than you would ever think. Because even though I am a Christian and I do believe, I'm still struggling to make a connection in a way that means I'm truly in relationship with God. And a lot of that has to do with me. It's not about Him being distant and abstract, it's about me not knowing exactly how to walk with Him the way He made me to walk with Him, and not thinking that I'm good enough.

I came flawed in the first place. And then I made mistakes and believed a lot of lies that have kept me feeling "not good enough" for that walk with God. I know this so fully about myself. It is one of the things that keeps me aware that there really are forces of good and evil.

I believe that the evil in this world also has a source. And that mean dude will do everything he can to keep us from the relationship with God we're longing for. (Yes, I just said "mean dude," because it sounds less crazy religious than satan) It's what every good movie and book is based on. Artists and writers are drawn to writing and expressing stories of good overcoming evil because it exists. And we're drawn to reading and watching these stories because we too know that we're fighting against something dark. We're fighting it because we're inherently good, made in God's image.

Now I'm not saying this so you picture a big red man with horns on his head and a long tail, peeking around the corner, waiting to pounce on you. I don't think we have to look at it like that. I think if we've lived very long we're pretty aware of a whole lot of evil in the world, a lot of hard things that don't come from a loving God.

Sometimes I think it's pretty frustrating that God would have us here dealing with any kind of evil at all. And other times I understand that there is a much greater depth of love and understanding that come through trials. I don't think God looks at us like a bunch of guinea pigs, watching and waiting to see what we'll do with our latest test.

I do believe that we've made a choice. It started with Adam and Eve in the garden, the day they went against what God asked and chose themselves over God. That's what we still have a tendency to do. God allowed all of that because He would much rather have us choose Him, than to be forced into relationship with Him. I think about my kids a lot when I try to work through that. Do I want them to love me because they know me and find me lovable and worthy of their love? Or do I want to control them into loving me? Even though it's risky, I'd have to say I want them to choose me. I want a genuine love. And so does He.

Okay, that's probably about enough for today. I've most likely sounded like a zealot of some sort, but I just wanted to put some of the basics behind my beliefs out there. I may not have done a very good job, but I hope I made some semblance of sense. Take your time and let me know what you think.

Thank you again for putting up with my scattered thoughts and ideas,

(If you're new here and would like to start at the beginning of this conversation, click HERE.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

More from Jess

Below is my most recent email from Jess. Once again, I want to thank her for her candid way of expressing herself. Jess, you are NOT offending anyone with your questions. We can all see that your tone is one of careful questioning, not of judgment. Thank you for that.
I have read and re-read the posts in Highway, but Sabrina's most recent post about giving touches on another subject/list of questions I have.

Actually, I feel that she said what I've always thought was "more right" if there was actually a "more right". I remember the money basket going around the pews when I was small, but I didn't understand what it was or what it meant, and I had never known the word tithe.

After I met my husband, he explained the theory on tithing, the 10% rule. But I always wondered if Jesus was himself poor, and taught people for free, how does it make sense for common churches to consider tithing 10% of their earnings as WHAT they're supposed to do to give? I understand giving enough to allow a pastor to live completely in his passion of teaching God's way, but it seems that the act of giving has come to dollars and cents as opposed to aiding common folk through common sense.

Maybe my feelings on this topic are touchy because I haven't ever been and don't forsee a time in the near future where I can afford to give up 10% of ANYthing I make. Paycheck to paycheck prevents that. And I guess I feel a bit angry at the idea of going to church and knowing I'd feel guilty for not being able to contribute much to a tithing bucket. I feel like it would be expected, watched over, and judged by the neighbors sharing my row of seats. I feel a bit angry that if I didn't hand over that ten percent, I'd be judged as not worthy of the praise lavished by "good Christians".

Please don't take this last paragraph as angry-sounding; if we were speaking face to face, you would see that it's not. I just get confused by the "rule of tithing" versus my ideas of giving and versus my guilt for what I can and cannot do and versus my perception of how I am judged by those who believe and do as the tithing rule states.That's a lot of versuses. Sorry if it gets confusing to read. It's all a jumble in my head most times.

I have read just a bit of the conversion diary, but intend to go back and read more. I enjoyed her five step plan post in April 2008, I felt it made "sense"...which I am figuring out is a common theme. I don't think, for the most part, any of you have been speaking "Christianese" as you all put it. :) I appreciate the effort everyone has made to put things into "simple terms" for this confused gal. IT HELPS.

I hope you've had a wonderful weekend and that today has started off a great week for you. I hope to get to a bookstore later today to browse through selections in the Religion section. Wish me luck that the children will behave long enough for me to find what I need/want!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

On Giving...

Hello friends,

It's been awhile since I've posted on this blog. Lately it's been more interesting reading what has been written between Heather, Midnight Cafe and Jess. But I was reading a blog by a very dear friend Diana. She has a lovely, thought provoking blog called extra grace required, and by all means go and check it out. Recently she was able to hear Shane Claiborne speak. If you don't know who that is, I would highly recommend you check him and his ministry out. He wrote a book called The Irresistible Revolution : Living as an Ordinary Radical. This book will really make you think about serving, giving and living radically.
Diana said that one thing that stood out to her was something Shane said:

"The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away."

That also resonated with me for a number of reasons.
Lately I have been thinking about giving.

Does giving just mean tithing? Or can we give in other ways too?
Tithing is a touchy subject because there are so many different view on tithing.
Generally if you belong to a specific church you tithe to that church. But what if, like me, you do not belong to a church? What if you don't know to who or what you should give to.
And can you tithe in other ways besides giving money?
What if you give money but you can only tithe five percent or what if you can only tithe one percent of your income?

Okay so we do know this:

2 Corinthians 9:7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. NIV.

First of all, it should be from your heart, and with a joyful willingness.

Luke 21:2-4 NIV
2He [Jesus] also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3"I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

Then we see God honors those who give even when they have nothing to give. Ten percent or not. Give what you got.

Micah 6:6 & 8 NIV
6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I am a firm believer that the Lord always looks at the heart and motives of people.
I suppose I could give all the money in the world to God, but if i was just doing it to receive praise from others, I really don't think the Lord would be impressed.

I guess what I am trying to get at is this:

Give what you can, with a cheerful heart, and with a willingness to give even when it's tough.

It may not always be with money.

I don't have a lot of money to give but these are things I do have:

hands to make a meal for someone who is hungry
time to visit someone who is lonely
clothes that I rarely wear that someone else may need
a house to open its doors to someone who needs shelter
a car to drive someone who needs to go somewhere important

Yes, I will still give money when I can. But I also have a lot of other ways to give as well.
Give my best away by giving the best of me.

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dear Jess,

I loved what Midnight Cafe had to say in the last post. I'm hoping that post was a response that helped you with the questions that have come up so far in our discussion. It helped me :)

I've been thinking about the beginning of your last email. You said that you don't know where to start, where to go from here, especially with not having enough TIME. (for extra reading and stuff.) I totally get that. For now, why don't we just continue our discussion here? Myself and others can share our stories and if questions arise, you can email me and I'll include them here.

I know there's no time for extra reading, so I'm going to keep this short by saying READ THIS. It is a post by a blog friend of mine that speaks what I've been unable to speak any time that I'd like to open a discussion about what I believe. I hate to steal Pam's words, but they really are what I think too. So check that out. It will help you understand where I'm coming from and then we can take it from there. I'll tell more stories and you'll have that foundation in your mind. Coolio?

Thanks lady,

Friday, January 9, 2009

More on the Bible and Knowing God

Dear Jess,

I’m not good at beating around the bush. So, I’m going to just dive right in & see if I can make some more sense out of the answers you’re asking for…

About the Bible… Ultimately, I don’t think there’s definitive, empirical proof that the Bible is God’s book. There are the things I already mentioned – like the fulfilled prophecies – that seem highly unlikely if the Bible is just a book written by men to scare the common people. Regular men don’t have the ability to see the future. And, then there’s the fact that the Bible is 66 books, written by many different people, over more than a thousand years, in three different languages and it still has a high degree of unity. That also seems unlikely if it wasn’t inspired someone by One singular being. So, for whatever those things are worth, it seems plausible that the Bible was divinely inspired.

I can only totally agree with you that many people have twisted the words of the Bible over time to achieve their own ends, to enforce their own rules, to condemn others. I’m so sorry that it is that way. I have had my own moments of being so frustrated that I don’t even want to call myself “Christian,” and I still prefer to qualify that statement somehow when I talk with people. All I can say is that I don’t think that the condemnation and hypocrisy are what God intended. I think the key word is “twisted.” People have twisted and distorted the Bible to say what they want it to say. That’s sometimes easy to do since we’re reading the Bible in a language different from any of the 3 languages in which it was written.

Heather already mentioned how she enjoys Beth Moore’s studies because Ms. Moore so often goes back to the original language to check out what a word or verse or passage means. I believe this is essential in the study of scripture, and that’s why having a guide with some commentary can really help. If we know the historical context and we understand what some of the words meant in their original language, I think we see how the Bible is really and truly a story of God’s love, of God continually drawing people into relationship with God and with each other. When we don’t understand the historical context or the language it can all be kind of fuzzy.

Having said all that, I get the sense that what you’re really asking is HOW people believe on a personal level? HOW do we know God? You asked before how we can tell if something is God working in our lives or just life happening the way it was going to happen anyway. Heather and I talked a little about this today, and we both came up with the analogy of childbirth. I know, sounds crazy, huh? But, you see, childbirth is a little bit different for everybody. It’s unpredictable. And it’s not something you can usually describe and put into words. I even teach childbirth classes, and I still cannot tell people exactly what to expect. I can’t describe a contraction. But now that I’ve had them, I certainly know what they are. It’s like that. It’s hard to explain how you know that it’s God working in your life, but once you experience it, you know. I can imagine how frustrating that answer is. You probably feel the way I did sitting in my midwife’s office begging her to tell me if there was any way to know if labor was coming soon…because I sure wanted it to come soon, and she just kept saying that there was no way to tell ahead of time, but I’d know when the time came. So frustrating.

Have you ever had the experience of having something raise your awareness about something, and then suddenly you notice it all over the place? For example, we just bought a Saturn Vue. Before October, I had no idea what a Saturn Vue was, and I would not have been able to recognize one. Now, I see them all over the place, and I end up saying things like, “EVERYONE has a Saturn Vue.” Knowing God is something like that. If you’ve never noticed God in your life before, you’re likely to think that God just isn’t there or isn’t involved. When you finally have an experience that you really KNOW is God, you start seeing how all those random things fit together in a not-so-random pattern, and God was there all along.

I am just now seeing how some seemingly random things in my earlier life are coming together to benefit my oldest daughter, Vespera. We adopted her almost 3 years, and I’m seeing how my life experiences and my education, Mango’s experiences and personality, and her needs & life experiences all meet up in this amazing way…in a way that seems “meant to be.” It’s far too perfect to be random. That’s when I have to believe that it’s God.

I have to say this one more thing, but I’m not entirely sure how to say it. I think it’s important to remember that God is not only in the miraculous “meant to be” moments in our lives but also in the mundane day to day moments. And God can be active in the lives of people who don’t even believe in God. God is working in and through whatever humans are willing and able to help carry out the plan of love and redemption for the world. The Bible tells us that God IS love. So, in essence, anything that is love is from God. It’s kind of like the way that I said before that humans are created in the image of God, and, therefore, it is human to love and care and nurture people and relationships. Because God is love, humans love, and, in this way, God is part of every loving thing we do. Hmmm…hope that made sense.

Again, I hope this helps. I know that, in part, it can be just kind of frustrating. Unfortunately, I can’t give you any “pat” answers.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dear Heather (and friends)

The latest email from Jess:

I am going to attempt to see where I want to proceed in this conversation...I think that's why I'm hesitating in my response. I'm not sure where to go NEXT. I don't want to use the word overwhelm...I don't feel that emotionally...I guess the best way to describe what I'm feeling is UNDERTIMED. LOL I've found it hard to find time to reflect. I'm anxious to get to a bookstore and look these books up. I am not certain I will have many valid questions without starting some "research".

My first goal was to try and hear real stories about HOW you feel, how you CAME to feel, what it means to believe that Jesus' death saves us....I guess I would like to read through Midnight Cafe's post and see what questions I get from there. After that, I will re-read your most recent post and see what questions I have from there. Here goes:

With regard to the Bible - I guess the cynic in me says this: If the Bible is truly God's word (inspired or direct), then the mistakes that are bound to occur from translation don't affect me, and seem insignificant. BUT...if the Bible is just a combination of stories that old men made up and passed off as a "higher being's" philosophy for life to scare the commonfolk, then it bothers me. I do think that the stories in the Bible provide a good basis for solid, healthy living. I also feel that some people who base their life on religion twist the stories in the Bible to say doing THIS or doing THAT is "evil". I don't want that to sound judgmental, but even re-reading it I fear it will come across that way.

I want to say that the last paragraph that Midnight Cafe wrote about acting in a human way vs. Christian way really hit home and made SENSE to me. Thank you for that.

Heather - these recommendations are wonderful. The blogs AND the books and the studyguides. I am going to look for some this weekend, and take time to go read these blogs this week. I bought my Bible years ago, and have not been able to find a way to crack it open. I knew there were studies available and the "read it in a year" help guides, but I was afraid if I started it alone, I wouldn't have anyone to bounce my questions off to. So thank YOU for this forum, again. I know I've been saying it a lot, but it's easier for me to do while typing rather than in person. I think I'd get too nervous in person! Choke up, forget my words, babble about nothing. Much like right now. I will be back with more questions, but in the meantime....thank you to EVERYONE who has responded and will hopefully continue to do so. In the near future, I might put this information and link on my blog to point others in this direction. I'm just not ready to "face" the bloggy
world with my religious ignorance. LOL

Good night!

From Heather:
A HUGE thank you to Jess, once again. I appreciate the candid way you express yourself. That's how I do it too, so of course I like it :)

(The bold emphasis in Jess' email is mine. Not because I found it judgmental, but important. I will respond to Jess in post form very soon.)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dear Jess,

I was relieved by these words in Jessica's last email (yesterday or the day before):

"I hope you know how much you are helping me. It was stories like these that I really needed to hear in order to see where people come from....and I don't know if books about "miracles" were going to help. You did, however, suggest some books, so feel free to pass those titles along whenever you get a chance. Happy New Year!"
Dear Jess,
I'm so glad to hear that our conversations have been more helpful than totally overwhelming :)

(Thank you to those of you who have shared your stories in comments and emails. That's a vulnerable thing to do, but I whole-heartedly believe that when we tell our own personal stories, the message of the beliefs within them become more valid. When we can speak from our hearts rather than talking in vague terms about religion, we learn more than we thought possible from each other.)

You asked if it would be okay to take a few days to ponder things. Absolutely not, hurry up!! (Kidding of course.) Take your time, lady. A lot has been said, so much to chew on. If I were you it would take me two weeks to respond.

You and I have also been talking about books that might help, so below are my recommendations. There are quite a few, but I thought if I gave you a bunch to check out, you could decide what interests you the most:

Philip Yancey:
"What So Amazing About Grace?"
"Soul Survivor"

Anne Lamott:
"Traveling Mercies"
"Plan B: More Toughts on Faith"

John Eldredge:
"The Sacred Romance"
"Waking the Dead"

Francine Rivers:
"Redeeming Love" (fiction)

You also asked about starting to read the Bible and wondered about recommendations for where to begin. Many people think the New Testament is the best place to start. I think it's difficult to just sit down and read the Bible at any point without some guidance, especially if it's new to you. I would encourage you to get a study to go along with what you choose to read. Some are cheesier than others, or maybe even just boring. So I'm hoping someone could give recommendations for good studies in the comments.

Any Bible study by Beth Moore is excellent in my opinion. I love how she so frequently teaches the definition of the words of the Bible from the original language. Learning the original definitions of the words has been one of the key things in having the Bible "come alive" for me. I am constantly saying, "OH, so that's what He meant." I'm moved and touched by how I can see LOVE in what He was saying when I truly understand it.

I'm pretty sure you could get Beth Moore studies on Amazon or something. There are books and workbooks that carry you through certain parts of the Bible. It might all sound kind of foreign at first (the studies) but I think if you're patient with it, you'll be surprised (in a good way) by God's intentions for you. He has the ability to make the Bible "come alive" for you too.

I also wanted to pass on two blog links for you.
Conversion Diary (a former atheist becomes a believer)
Bring the Rain (a Christian music artist's wife who lost a full-term baby girl shares her faith and her walk through grief)
(the links are going to take you directly to two posts I think might be of some help to you.)

I love it that you're interested in giving Bible reading a try, you brave woman! Be patient with yourself and open to it taking some time to grasp what's so great about it :) I know if you're taking this step of faith, God will speak to you. I just know He will. Cause He rocks.


Related Posts with Thumbnails