Category Archives: Faith

Stoic Jesus

August of 2010 brought a lot of changes to our lives.  Caitlyn turned 4, my grandfather died, Patrice was born, Postpartum Depression and Anxiety barreled into my life,

That last one was an earthquake that shook it all, every last inch of me.

My mental upheaval lead to an unsettling in every part of my life.  It’s honestly impossible to say which of the issues were the most distressing, but I can say the most shocking, the most unexpected, was the desolation it brought to my Christian walk.

Attending church became difficult.  I still believed what I had grown up learning and knowing.  I just didn’t know how, or if, it applied to me.

Slowly, step by step, I am making my way back.  I am reading my Bible most days, I am sitting through sermons at church without feeling ill or trapped.  Things were, and are, better.  But, there is still a bit of hollowness, a fair amount of distance and knowing that something was just wrong.

It is like that word at the tip of your tongue, you know it, but you don’t.  The harder you try to figure out the word, the more elusive it becomes.

My days continue.  I keep doing what I know to be right, doing what I have done for the last 30 years.  Waiting for everything to be okay again.  I’m not looking for the blush and excitement of new love in my walk with the Lord, rather, I am very much looking for the place where I know I belong.

Or, at the very least, to know why the distance, to know why I don’t belong any longer.

I just might, 4 years after the turmoil began, have received a kernel of understanding this week.

A few months ago, I slowly began reading the Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.  I recently added a devotional based on the same book.  I am finding the writing a little circular, but I found my kernel, I found something to ponder, something to hold onto.

It is unimaginable to picture a wooden faced, stoic, joyless, and judgmental Jesus as he reclined with ragamuffins.  The human personality of Jesus is underrated when it is perceived as a passive mask for the dramatic speeches of divinity.  Such timidity robs Jesus of his humanity, encases him in a plaster of paris and concludes that he neither laughed, cried, smiled, nor got hurt but simply passed through our world without emotional engagement.

Wooden faced, stoic, joyless–that’s my Jesus.  That right there is what has been trying to come into stark relief for these many months and years.

It’s my truth.

Like any girl that spent her teen years lonely in life and at church youth group, week after week, I sat through teaching after teaching about how Jesus experienced pain, joy, happiness and emotion just like I did/do.  I heard it.  I know it was supposed to make my awkward teenage self feel better, just as it is supposed to make my Raging, Bipolar, weak self feel better.

And yet, it doesn’t.  It falls just short of truth.  It fell just short of truth when I tried to take my life 21 years ago, and it falls short today.

I follow along, I want to know him.  I want to live what I have been taught.  I would truly go to my death to defend these things I know and believe, but I have no idea how to live them.  None.

In all honesty, I know I am not alone.  There are innumerable people trying to figure out just the same thing.  Some, hang in there, keep trying to learn, keep studying; some walk away.  I understand both, though I sorrow when I see people surrender to this struggle.  I know I will keep fighting; honestly, it is all I know how to do.  I have been living the Christian life so long, I am entirely incapable of doing anything else.  This life is what I have known for the last 30 years.  Going to church, reading my Bible, studying, is in the very fabric of my being.  It is truly my default reaction.

Everyday, or almost every day, I open my Bible, I read, I study, I browse a Christian book or three.  Each week finds me in church either helping or in the actual service listening to the sermon.  On the weeks that I allow myself to walk in with little expectations, I find there are bits of truth everywhere that I can put in my pocket and carry with me.  It is good, for every day I keep putting one foot in front of the other in this faith walk I have always known is one day more where true comprehension and acceptance can come.

Waiting, I am waiting.

I see Jesus standing there.  Stoic.  Unmoving.  Not lifting a finger to draw me to himself.  But, if we believe what Brennan Manning has written, that is not the Savior Jesus is.  If we believe his thoughts on Jesus, there is a wildly loving, open, honest, cheerful, all encompassing lover of our souls just waiting for us.

You can never know how much I hope Brennan Manning is right.  I hope Jesus is there wanting to woo me, wanting to know me, wanting to accept me.  I am taking Brennans’ image of Jesus, an emotionally invested Jesus, and holding it up in front of my face.  I am inspecting the nuances of this portrayal of Jesus he offers.  I am listening to words, waiting for truth, Jesus’ truth.  I am looking to know, believe and trust the truths made so relate-able in this song by 4Him.

Shelter in the Rain

How long have you been
Waiting on a little sun to shine
To take away the night
Hold on for you are never alone
Through the darkest skies
There is a guiding light


For our God is a refuge
Where the weary can run and hide
in times of trouble
He’ll be the calm in the midst of the storm
‘Till it passes by
Oh, you need to know


CHORUS
There’s a shelter in the rain
There’s a hope for your tomorrow
There’s a cover through the pain
When you’re underneath the weather
Jesus is the shelter in the rain


Sometimes when hope is hard to find
We’ve got to walk by faith
Until we see the way
Hold tight for we are promised in time
Those who patiently wait
Will never wait in vain


For we know God is faithful
He’s a fortress to run into
In times of trouble
He’ll cover us with the wings of his love
‘Till we make it through
Oh, we got to know


REPEAT CHORUS


So tell me why
Why could you ever run away
From the cover out into the storm
Just know in time
The rain’s gonna bring a brighter day
And the clouds will be gone
But while you wait on the Lord

Lyrics found at http://lyrics.astraweb.com/

I seek, I wait.  I hope.

I Desire to Nurture

I spend a lot of time planning, printing, cutting and laminating in this homeschooling gig.  And that’s okay.  I want to teach my girls all they need to know.

This week, one of the focuses is learning to tell time, on an analog clock.  I have activities and games.  I have laminated  pieces, or I will before I sleep tonight, and dry erase markers.

By Friday, I hope we are telling time.

But, that is not all I want, by a long shot.

I prayed the same thing over each of my girls as I met them, “We love you.  We pray that you come to know Jesus and follow Him all the days of your life.  There is nothing more important.”  That is what I believe and know to be true.

Toward that end, we go to church, we go to AWANA (Bible Club), Pioneer Girls (think Girl Scouts) and, yes, even homeschool.

But I realized something glaringly obvious today.  I/We do all that, but I rarely pray for my girls.  I DO all the right things, all the while terrified they will walk away from Jesus when they get older.

Why?  I live with that fear for two reasons.  First, it is something I can’t control.  Their faith is their own.  They have to decide to let Jesus into their lives or to not.  Second, I have been trying to do it all in my own power.  I have been trying to do all the right things to get the right result.  The right things are good, but they alone, will not get me where I desire to have my children be.  That, is the Lord’s work.  It is my job to pray.  To lift up each of my lovely girls to the Lord.  To commend their present and their future to Him.  I also need to give my present and future to the Lord.  Only He can change me, and the things I do as a sinful human to drive them away from their Heavenly Father.  I desire to draw them to the Lord, not away.

I have a long ways to go on all of those fronts.  I don’t do all the right things perfectly.  I don’t pray for them perfectly.  I definitely don’t act in a Godly manner perfectly.

Thankfully the Lord’s mercies are new every morning (or every 5:00 pm when a mama is reminded to pray) and He DOES hold my girls in His hands and He loves them even more than I do.  That fact blows my mind, humbles me, and reassures me.

I desire not only to teach my children, I desire to nurture them.  And with the Lord, and hubby’s help, I will.

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My heart and prayers belong to these girls.

Missions. Safe?

Missions.  The calling to tell and demonstrate the love and truth of Christ to those who may not know Him.

I just finished reading a biography about Hudson Taylor, Hudson Taylor  Deep in the Heart of China by Janet and Geoff Benge.  He was a missionary to the interior of China who lived from 1832 to 1905.  He founded the China Inland Mission.

Taylor is noteworthy for many reasons, not the least being he never asked for a dime of support.  He prayed and depended on God to provide every cent needed for the missionary work (and God did provide every penny).  This is a radical way to live, even within the missionary world.  The typical model is those being sent as missionaries go out to the churches and people and let them know what support they need to raise (I have served as a missionary with this model) and ask the people to come alongside the work the missionaries will be doing wherever they are called.

I’m not sure which is better or if one is right and the other is wrong.  I have an inkling both are just fine.  But I was very surprised at one readers’ response on Goodreads.  The commenter stated she did not see Hudson Taylors’ action as trusting God, rather as testing God.  She said Hudson Taylor took too many risks with his life, the life of his wife and children.

Yes, the risks were big, but isn’t that often the case?  Especially in missionary work?  Not everyone can be called to stay home and witness to others at their nice job.  Some, many, are called to go far away from home, loved ones and security.  Thanks to technology, we can now reach the far off places more safely and quickly, but still, Christian missionaries bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s truth is not welcome everywhere.  Some places the rejection is peaceful, other places, the reaction is angry and violent.  God doesn’t hide this truth.  Jesus was actually pretty blunt that the Gospel is divisive.  But that doesn’t stop Him from calling people to fulfill the Great Commission.

And when He calls, obedience is the best response.  It may not be the easiest or the safest, but it is the best.

I spent a short time traveling as a missionary.  It was wonderful.  It wasn’t always easy, but it was the best place to be.  I will tell you it was easier to be traveling as a missionary than it is to be at home trying to be a Christian wife and mother, but this is where I am, so I will embrace it.  I will throw my arms around all it’s mess and it’s beauty.

For right now, THIS is my mission field.

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In a Relationship

I have been in the church all my life.  I accepted Jesus as my savior at 9.  I spent two years on the mission field.  I know this gig.

You’d think the sermons would get old, the words would get stale.  But more often than not, it’s brand new, a revelation.

Today was another of those.

We, as a church, are working our way through the entire Bible during a 2 year period.  Today we were in Second Chronicles, chapters 5-7.

Solomon has built an amazing, awe inspiring temple for the Lord.  He, knowing he’s a servant king, in service to the one true King, has built himself a very small platform, in relation to the rest of the temple, to speak and pray from.

Solomon stands on this platform, opposite the Holy of Holies, and prays.  In his prayer, he comes to God with humility.  He asks God to please listen, forgive and heal the people.

God responds, I am here, my house is a house of sacrifice and I am listening and looking for my people.

He is looking for us.  He is looking for relationship.  He doesn’t want to be our sugar daddy, He wants to be in relationship with us.

He wants prayers from us, but not always what we want, need, desire for him to do for us.  And that my friends, is what I don’t know how to do.  I have no idea how to just sit with Jesus.  I have no idea how to get to know Him.  I have not a clue how to pray without asking for stuff.  I simply don’t know how.

I’ve heard these ideas, truths before, but today it really hit me, I don’t know how to do that.  It’s not that I don’t want to, I do.  I have spent 34 years of my life learning about God and Jesus.  I spent years going to church camp, which I loved.  I went to youth group every week as well as several youth mission trips and conferences.  I went to a wonderful Christian College, Spring Arbor University.  I did every assignment to the best of my abilities, I sat through every chapel.  I went on the mission field as I was called to do.  I sat under great teaching while there.  And my church now is amazing.  It doesn’t skirt the real issues.  They preach it as it is.  But all that still leaves me not knowing how to sit in relationship, how to worship God without asking, wanting, needing.

The raw truth there, leaves me avoiding church and Bible by being there, but being busy volunteering.  I’m serving.  That’s good, right?  It is, but when I am brutally honest, it’s because there, outside of the preaching, I feel safe.  I don’t hear the hard truths in 3 year olds class.  I don’t have to think about changing my life or truly being known.  It’s safe.

But is that the way it is supposed to be? Is being in relationship ever safe?  Not really.  The beginnings are especially hard.  They are so scary.  You don’t know if the other party is safe.  If letting them in will turn out well.  Relationships are a dance.  Each taking tentative steps.  Relationship with God is different though.  He kind of has the upper hand.  He knew me before I was born.  He knit me together in my mother’s womb.  There are no surprises to Him.

So where does that leave me?  I still don’t know how to sit and commune with someone I can’t audibly hear or see with my natural eyes.  It’s easier to ask Him for things.  It is easier to tell Him what I want or how I feel.  How to turn that corner, how to know Him.  I have no idea.  I’m creeping out of safe and into relationship, but I don’t know what to do next.

Do you?  Do you know how to be in relationship with the Creator of the world, the creator of you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings on the topic.

 

Awana and I Wanna

Sunday night is Awana, Bible club for kids, night around here.  The girls love it.  They are always excited to go, but last night they were absolutely ecstatic to go.

It was dress like a pilgrim night.  Here is what I came up with.

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Patrice wasn’t interested in dressing up, but she was having so much fun in her vest, I just HAD to take pictures.  Such a little ham.

I love that they love Awana.  They have verses to recite each week.  Well, correction, Caitlyn is currently memorizing the books of the Old Testament and Sue the New Testament.  They earn their electronics privileges by studying each  day.

Awana is a huge asset in our family life.

For lack of a transition, I am going to just dive in with what I Wanna.

I Wanna feel better in my own skin.  I am taking my medications, but something is still missing.  My anxiety is too high, my thoughts get jumbled.  I wanna be comfortable in my own skin again, so Wednesday I am taking the dive with a new therapist.  I am not real thrilled with meeting someone new that may soon know the darkest side of me, but I am trying to have hope, I am trying to be positive.

I Wanna like me, so I hope I can like her.

 

Sometimes Life Comes Full Circle

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote this post about my faith.

I was struggling.  Truly floundering.  Like I had never done.

Then suddenly, the struggle ended.  About the same time I lost my job, the desire to seek the Lord came back.  Praying seemed worthwhile again, whether or not there were answers, church wasn’t such a hardship.  I was still somewhat uncomfortable in the services, but it was livable.

Unfortunately, I have noticed over the last  month or so, that things have gotten harder.  I am still reading my Bible, thank you YouVersion, and praying some.  But man the services are HARD.  Today I had to walk out during the singing portion.  It just hurt too much.  I literally felt shock waves of pain going through me, radiating along my spine.

I went outside for a minute to get some food to donate to local food banks, then came back in, not sure what to do.  I looked at the books for sale in the church library.  And then sat down in the foyer in time for the sermon to start.

I was okay.  There were parts of the sermon that stung.  Isn’t that the point?  But I could sit there.  I could hear it.  I could receive it without pain and tears.

I don’t understand.  I really don’t.  I know the lat few days have been hard mentally.  I had to call the psych for some advice and renew my usage of Xanax.  That has taken the edge off.

But I didn’t expect today.  I didn’t anticipate walking out of church, needing to escape.  And once again, I don’t know where to go from here.  So, I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other until something makes sense again…and hope that’s soon.

Day 2

Here it is.  Day two of letting my girls go back to school.

Yesterday was horrible.  I begged God to let them wake up just sick enough to stay home.  They both had very mild colds.  I asked them a thousand times if they wanted to stay home with mommy.  No.  No matter how many times I asked.

I cried as I watched them get in the truck to leave.  I sobbed as they drove away. I cried throughout the day as I counted the hours and minutes until they got home.  I ran to the door several times in the afternoon thinking it was them.

I passed my day cuddling Patrice.  It did not go fast enough.

I was told on twitter and facebook that I needed to trust God and have more faith.  I don’t know what to do with that advice.  What good does that do except to insult me.  And insinuate the writer knows the state of my faith and beliefs.  I know it just left me cold and angry.  Maybe people are right, maybe I don’t have enough faith.

My heart just keeps replaying an agony I can not really imagine.  That is too horrible to imagine.  To lose a child.  My heart goes out to those mamas and daddies that buried their babies yesterday, and will in the days to come.  And I beg God to bring my babies home.

I again let them go to school today with bated breath.  I waved until they were out of sight.  And I am counting the hours.

Bring them back to me safe and sound Lord Jesus.

Sue’s Big Moment

We are Christians.  And in our religious beliefs and traditions, one comes to their point of salvation in their own time and place.  But it is absolutely necessary for each person to confess their sins to Jesus and ask Him to cleanse them from sins and come live in their heart.

Last night, all the kids and daddy were playing in the living room.  As only kids can do, they managed to each be doing something totally different–inches away from each other.  And I hear Sue saying “I’m pretending to be baptised so Jesus can wash away my sin.

This was a moment I couldn’t miss.  Facebook could wait.

I headed into the living room.  “Sue, come here.  Do you know what it means to have Jesus wash away your sins?  Do you want to talk about it?”

“Yes.”

So in simple, clear terms, I explained sin and forgiveness and asked her if she wanted to pray to ask Jesus into her heart.

She did.

She prayed.

You could hear the truth ring through.

This mama is so proud and happy.

Sue has Jesus in her heart.

Deeply Personal

I am about to write a post that may be the most personal I have yet to publish.

I picture a huge auditorium of women. They are of every age, culture and church denomination. There are thousands of them.  They are all there for one purpose and reason–to learn about and worship God. 

I’ve been there, I have gone to the conferences and concerts many times. And enjoyed them. But today, this day? I can’t imagine going, or wanting to go, ever again.

Something has happened over the last few months. I have gone from ambivalent about my faith, to just not caring.

I know what I believe to be true. I know Jesus is the Son of God, born to the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day. I know it to be true, I just don’t care. And I don’t care if I ever care again.

I have believed this since I first went to church at age 4. I went to a Christian liberal arts college and was a missionary in my 20s. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have questioned God about things, but I have always cared about my faith; my response has always been to pray. This, this is different. I don’t even know what it is.

I am not mad at God. I am just done. Going to church is so hard. Last time I went I had to take anxiety medication to get through it. Some of it is because of a crowd, but some of it is this serious disconnect between what I believe and what I care about.

There is no feeling left. There is no sense of direction. There is no hunger for the things of God.

Verses I have known and found comfort in seem hollow and empty. I know all the right things to say, they just fall flat. Now, more times than not, I find my comfort in music like P!nk, Cold Play and Adelle, not in Christian artists like Wayne Watson, Steven Curtis Chapman and Mikes Chair.

Will I ever find myself drawn back to the Bible? To prayer? To church? To large conferences? To concerts?

More importantly, will I feel a tug toward the Lord, toward His truth? Will my walk with the Lord come out of this intact? What will it look like if it does? What will I look like?

I have no answers. I am quite rudderless right now. I put one foot in front of the other to walk, but don’t know where I am headed or if I want to go there.

 

 

 

Linked up for Pour Your Heart Out.

Working out the Struggle

I know you’ve heard the truth that God has set you free

But you think you’re the one that grace could never reach

So you just keep asking, Oh, what everybody’s asking

[Chorus] Am I more than flesh and bone?

Am I really something beautiful?

Yeah, I want to believe,

I want to believe that I’m not just some wandering soul

That you don’t see and you don’t know Yeah,

I want to believe,

Jesus help me believe

That I am someone worth dying for

From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/m/mikeschair-lyrics/someone-worth-dying-for-lyrics.html

This song was “dedicated” to me by a college friend after I wrote this post  about  being worth fighting the depression for, but admitting I wasn’t sure  Christ came to die for me.

It is aptly named “Someone Worth Dying For”  I love the truth of this song, but must admit I am still grappling with it; I am also working through a lot of other aspects of my faith and personality.

I’ve put a lot of my struggle out here on my blog, but at the same time, there is much I cannot verbalize or express.  It’s hard to have all the words, btu this I know to be true…

God is okay with my struggle.  He knew, before my mother found out she was expecting a baby, what my path would lead to.  He knew about the Multiple Sclerosis, depression and other issues that have arisen.  And, glory to God, He knows the outcome, though I do not.

In what areas are you struggling?  Where is your faith in the struggle?  How can I pray for you today, and in the future?