Posts Tagged ‘faith

20
Oct
09

Joy is in the Journey

Sometimes just sitting in church is overwhelming. I go to a church that nearly 10 per cent of my city attend. It’s huge and I never know who I will see…the mayor, presidents of banks, scandalized newsmakers, teachers, friends, and even enemies and convicts. Once in a while, I glimpse a moment for one of these people – a tear or a hug more emotional than just hello – and I realize that we are all journeying together. Regardless of station, good or bad, every one of us is a human being with very similar feelings and struggles.

Sunday was one of these days. There is genuine concern in these times. Children are at war, homes are being lost, and the future is uncertain. Pain is everywhere. Then I wonder how many people walked into this church, hanging their hope on a Sunday school promise that God will take their troubles away. Because of this pretty and simple package, how many will leave this building in a bitter sadness, defeated and even angry at a God they have never met?

I hold the church responsible, in “recruiting efforts,” for painting this simple picture of a joyful life lived with the Lord. I believe in this picture, but it stopped being simple the first time life got hard. When life got hard, I discovered that the Lord Himself does not just hand us a colossal aspirin and pain-repelling umbrella tied up in a red ribbon of exuberant joy.

What he does do is reach out a hand, often times from across a chasm, and promise to take the walk with with us. Unfortunately, when we have been promised a fluffy cloud will carry us along – over the hard parts – it’s hard to understand a God who still makes us take the long way. I worry that this is where people are lost, when they hoped to float over the chasm so they don’t take the hand and make the frightening leap.

Real life with the Lord is exactly that – real. The joy part of it is learned, through trials that are conquered because our faith is placed in a God who is unchanging. He never promised to remove the trials, he promised to make them smaller. Feeling the Love of God on my life reminds me most of being a child. There were scary times and sad times and so many times that I didn’t understand. In those times, there was my dad. He would pick me up, or put an arm around me, and nothing around me changed, but I felt safe. Somehow I knew that whatever came of us, at least something would be the same – my dad.

My dad was certainly not capable of fixing all the trouble that found its way into my life, but he made it more bearable. God cannot remove trouble from our lives, either. If He did, it would mean taking our free will, which is a dangerous but crucial blessing He gave us. He gave us rules to make the climb a little less painful; our obedience is up to us.

That is why there are so many severe warnings against sin. It is not to make us feel guilty or give us restrictions. As adults, we understand that there are just behaviors that are destructive. It would be miserable, if not even impossible, to live as eternal beings in a pattern of sin. And that’s where we got the provision, through Jesus, to give us the opportunity to live as was intended. God grieves that any of us perish, surely grieves in a way we cannot even comprehend. His love for us was the original first love. It is fully passionate, exciting, and hopeful. It never goes away – it may be put away, stashed comfortably in a recess of our heart, but it is never gone. He carries a torch for the world as we carry a torch for those we first loved, a torch that will never be extinguished.

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27
Jun
09

Forgiveness, Evil’s Parasite

The University of Miami recently released a study comparing the hunting habits of the Great White shark to those of serial killers. This is not a surprise. In fact, I believe that this proves a long-standing hypothesis: sharks are pure evil. They are behemoth killing machines, not evolved or adapted since their beginning, meaning that they were perfectly created for their grisly existence. I contend that serial killers may share basal instincts with the shark, not the other way around.

I briefly stated my position on FaceBook and I was told “Ponder this…If you believe in true evil, you have no room for forgiveness.” I pondered this. I have spent a lot of time pondering forgiveness. I am forgiven. I have forgiven some dreadful things. I live with a man who is bi-polar. Forgiveness is a big part of my life and it is a big word. We throw it around fairly easily, but how often do we mean it? More importantly, how often do we genuinely seek it? When we throw out a hapless “I’m sorry,” do we really hope for forgiveness or are we sorry we are in the situation and we want it to stop?

As a Christian, I have to take a very honest look at what forgiveness means because my entire faith hinges on it. There is not a person on the planet God would not forgive, but we have to ask for it. It has to be different from saying “sorry” as though we bumped into God with a shopping cart at Target. When we seek forgiveness from God, it has be sincere, heartfelt, and indicative of a major willingness to change.

The same is true for seeking forgiveness from each other. We are not charged to forgive someone who is not asking us to. But when we are asked, that is the test. That is when we have to turn our backs on the past and step ahead, leaving the hurt somewhere on the road. There has been a misconception among us Christians, though, as we assume a need to forgive everyone who has wronged us. This dangerous misconception fills the Christian walk with potholes.

I turned an ankle in one of these potholes about a year ago. I had just begun to really grasp unconditional love as a matter of faith and I made this assumption that forgiveness is inherent in that. Enter the Bad Relative. This man exhibits deplorable behavior that only gets worse as he nears 70. He has done irreparable harm to our family and continues to do so. I was struggling with this, wondering how to forgive when I know that it only required my own heart to change. After careful study and a lot of prayer, I found an answer. If he is not recognizing a need for forgiveness and therefore does not seek it, I am under no obligation to forgive. I have to love him and have to treat him with the gentleness that comes with that, but to forgive implies a rebuilding of trust. It suggests a commitment to carry on a relationship despite the rifts of the past. It is impossible to forgive someone who does not understand he has behaved badly, or who will not admit responsibility for his actions. If this person feels no need to adjust his behavior going forward, it is not possible to carry on a relationship washed in forgiveness.

Contrary to my Facebook challenger’s contention, I do believe in evil just as much as I believe in forgiveness. Evil is evident throughout history and the world. I witnessed evil at the mall today (nobody should wear shorts and high-heeled boots, please stop so I can forgive you). Evil is the feeding tube keeping forgiveness alive. Without it, forgiveness would be obsolete. We may live in a shallow existence where shopping cart bumps are quickly brushed aside, but without evil, we could not appreciate the sacrifice involved in overcoming it. And sacrifice is the greatest expression of unconditional love.

05
Apr
09

Trusting God’s Eyes

This is new. I am actually writing from church. My husband gave me this fabulous little gadget – a computer the size and strength of my Bible. Interesting. My husband. He has made but a few appearances on these pages. Right now, I am dealing with some frustration over him. Same argument, same results, same period of silence. In these times, I like to sit alone and wonder why in the world I married such a jerk. Unfortunately, that’s really what I do. It’s self-defeating, but here I am.

So I ask God. What do you see in this man? He responds. I love a God that responds. He reminds me of the many strengths this man has. God gave me a man uniquely suited to my needs. The issue is whether or not I can trust Him.

So often we fail to see our own needs and even more often, we fail to see those needs fulfilled. It is when we question that fulfillment that we contemplate needs. Those are dangerous moments where we become self-centered and lose the perspective necessary to our happiness and, I guess, productivity. Really, when we are unhappy, it is all to easy to give in to a night on the couch in front of the History Channel. Or a full bottle of wine. Or a day at the mall. We all know where we go when we’re unhappy and it is not a place of growth or productivity.

We have to trust. Trust is an extreme concept, really. To fully trust allows focus on things other than ourselves. When we place trust in the Lord, we understand that even though it makes NO SENSE, it is good. Then we don’t have to be angry or harbor resentment, or look out for our own interests. All that is covered.

This week I had to discipline my daughter. She is very very grounded. Her first response was, “it isn’t even a big deal, I don’t see why you are so upset.” I surprised myself by asking her if she understands that I see where she is right now and I want the very best for her. Nothing else, just the best, and that is where my motivation comes from.

That is our relationship with God. He wants what is best for us. To walk in trust means acheiving exactly that. In this case, we are looking at my recurring fight with my husband. It is a fight that makes me doubt his character and my judgement, which is why I have to bring it to God. The alternative, of course, would be divorce. Single parenting. Poverty. Daily struggles. I would be forced to focus on my immediate needs, and therefor would slowly, slightly, pull from the Lord. My marriage, provided by God, offers comfort and provision so I may look outside to the needs of others. I can spend time looking inside to my own motivations and be certain that I live from a pure heart. Regardless of the world’s vision of purity, it is truly the giver of freedom.

26
Mar
09

Road Rage is not Biblical

wyoming-plate2A Wyoming driver cut me off today.  In a big, dangerous way.  Now, far be it from me to stereotype, but I get many many closeups of the Cowboy State plates and I have some preconceived ideas.  So I loaded my verbal cannon and prepared to fire.

Then I remembered that I have a Jesus fish on my car.  I have made a choice to follow Him and turn my life (and tongue) over to him.  I ran my diatribe against the scriptures I happen to know and guess what?  Road rage is not Biblical.  I tried.  Momentarily, I wondered if Jesus would have been so perfect had he been in 5:00 traffic. 

Yes.  Yes he would. 

I stifled my anger and continued along my way.  As I drove, I realized that I have always given Jesus the obvious thanks.  He saved me from all kinds of horrors – single motherhood, drugs, alcoholism, a shopping addiction, bankruptcy, pregnant teenagers, probably even life on the streets.  Who knows what kind of damage I could have done on my own.  Really, though, I think my walk with Jesus has truly saved my life.  I have a poison tongue and I always loved to use it.  In fact, that was the hardest thing for me to let go of when I became a Christian.  Obviously, if I am loading verbal cannons in the safety of my Nissan, I still love it.  But out of obedience to the Lord, I stifle it. 

Odds are that if I had rolled down my window to fire away at Mr. Wyoming, he would not have shown me his 9mm, but if I were to fire my tongue every time inspiration strikes, I may not have made it very far.  It is amazing to me how God’s grace saves us.  I have always been greatful that my faith kept me from the world’s temptations, but now I reflect on my own self destruction.  Thank God for saving me from me.

13
Dec
08

Mirror, Mirror in the Crib…

Since I have been a mother, I have made an obvious assumption that God gave us family as an earthly expression of His unconditional love.  I noticed that when the girls were unselfish, I wanted to give them more.  When they made good decisions, I trusted them with more.  It felt like I learned more and more about the Lord my Father with each passing day and I have been grateful for His love and His example. 

So I thought I had it all figured out and things were good.  But then, God felt like I should learn a little more.  He loves that.  It’s time for the annual gift binge, complicated this year by the addition of my teen daughter’s social life.  Now it’s the annual gift and party binge from reindeer hell!  After spending yet another evening driving her to yet another party and waiting in yet another parking lot to pick her up, I thought about how much I love the words “thank you.”  There is a lot of thinking time in the parking lots I frequent, so I spent some time on this, mostly because I knew I wasn’t likely to hear it.  I love to hear “thank you.”  It is usually followed by “I love you” and is all around great.  It makes me so happy to hear and I am so concerned when I don’t, when favors from me or others are taken for granted. 

Aha!  If God gave us a picture of His love when he gave us a family, then he handed us a mirror when our children were born.  I began to wonder, sitting in that parking lot, if God loves to hear “thank you” from us as much as I love to hear it from my children.  The Bible mentions gratitude hundreds of times.  He must love it.  Like our children, there is a reason we should offer thanks.  The minute we realize we have something to be thankful for, our troubles miraculously shrink.  Gratitude makes us want to share.  It makes us happy and it brings true joy.

So I wondered if God was holding up a mirror for me, a reminder that I don’t remember to thank Him for the ride – ever – but I sure complain when it is bumpy.  Or crowded.  Or lonely.

When Daughter Number One was in kindergarten, I got The Call from her teacher.  She had done something awful and was more rude than remorseful.  My first reaction was exactly what the teacher expected, “Where would she pick up something like that?”  The teacher was silent long enough for me to realize exactly where she picked it up.  Number One showed me all kinds of bad habits and unacceptable behaviors I had, so I have known about the mirror.  The problem is, I thought the mirror was mine.  Fourteen years later, I understand that the mirror, like everything else, is the Lord’s.




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