Archives For trust

fight

Challenge to Christian bloggers: read a blog you don’t usually read, find good content, share it. Reach across the table & find the commonness of the gospel.

That’s my status on Facebook right now and I mean it.

Last week there was yet another dustup in the blogosphere. You know how it goes. Blogger writes XYZ, Twitter erupts with 140 character-easily misunderstood opinions and all manner of logical fallacies, and 67 Bloggers all respond—many of them entirely missing the point of original blog or demonizing original blogger or making good points of their own which will undoubtedly be rebutted by another 67 bloggers.

Somebody hand me a paper bag and get me off this ride.

One of the ways I try to do damage control in the Christian blogosphere is to stare people in the face and tell them to slow down, breathe, be circumspect, trust Jesus is Who He says He is and that He is building His Church—with or without a troupe of bloggers all juggling their balls in amateur hands.

But one of the most helpful things, I think, a blogger can do is to simply read more than one polarizing post of one blogger. There’s something about even reading the “About Me” section of a blog that humanizes a person, takes the monster out of him, or at least shows the monster to be only a suit bought at half-price after October 31st. Underneath they’re real people with real lives who cook dinner with their spouses and stub their toes and probably really do love Jesus—even if He’s revealed Himself to them in different ways than He has to us.

The beauty of the gospel is that it is for all men, Jews, Greeks, Slaves, Free, Men, Women, but it does not eliminate differences, demanding a dehumanizing clone-like Christianity. No. Instead it reaches inside all the differences and finds the beautiful sameness: broken people in need of a Holy God, and then sends us out to reach all kinds.

So if you’re a blogger or a content creator of some sort, can I encourage you to do something radical this week? Go read that publication you shudder to think of. You know which one it is for you. Go read it and read it with the express purpose of finding the beautiful gospel woven through its threads and then share it with your followers. I think we’d be surprised at what might happen.

 

girl

I woke a few mornings ago and felt the familiar void. It is no stranger to me and I know it acutely. I feel the angst of it in my belly, the fear of it in my heart, and the curse of it every moment.

A friend sent me a link to an old sermon in which the pastor preached a strong and stalwart message about women being saved through childbearing (II Timothy 2:15), and I turned it off five minutes before its conclusion. “Why did you send it to me?” I asked my friend because we have been having ongoing conversations about these subjects and my soul balks at the customary consolation prizes of womanhood. For one who grew up hearing a woman’s highest calling was to be a wife and a mother, yet finds herself as single as the day she came squalling into the world, a future swaddled in babies sounds bleak.

This is my call? To bear what I cannot bear? To hold up a bargain as impossible as Sarah’s to her husband. As impossible as God’s to Abraham? This womb is dead, or feels dead. Oh, I have plenty of years until it is pronounced medically dead, but the hope has died. It has died seventy times over and dies each day a little more.

It is 2013 and most of my good-church-girl friends married a decade ago. They are all declaring the babes in their wombs, “The last!” and I barely hope for a first. To them two or three is enough, the curse lasts far beyond pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16) and they have seen enough of life to know promises about babies on schedules or Sunday-School attendance stars will not guarantee the safe arrival of their little ones to spiritual-adulthood. So it appears neither of us are saved through childbearing after all. We both limp with one hand held to God our helper and one hand anchored to earth our friend. Where is our salvation?

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In an early morning class last week we read Romans 4 and I wept tears in the second row. I felt them coming on again in this coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon. A thorough study of Romans is not for the faint of heart, and not for those who feel they have somehow escaped the curse by either perfect children or singleness.

The end of Romans 4 is about Abraham’s body, his circumcision of flesh, and calling into existence things that do not exist: his seed. God, who is the only author of life and the only bider of time, has made a promise that even with hope against hope still seems impossible. A father of many nations? A boy from these loins? From the barrenness of Sarah’s womb? If pain in childbirth was the curse on all daughters of Eve, it would seem Sarah’s only curse was she would never feel the twisting beautiful pain of birthing anything.

Anything but hope.

My friend was also in class that morning and I sent a text to him: “This is it!” I wrote. “Maybe this is part of how we are saved through childbearing!”

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Even if we never birth a child, we birth hope. We are built to birth hope. It lies restless in our womb, expectant in our hearts, and unlimited in its gestation. We are crafted to see the future, to look at what is not and believe God will still do what He said He would do. We are made to birth hope into impossibilities. I think about my sisters, those whose deepest desires are to take broken places and make them whole; who have been hurt, neglected, broken, and cast away, and who still come back strong and desperate to see wholeness birthed in dark places.

I can’t stop thinking about it all week. And I think about it when I wake early a few mornings ago, feeling the familiar ache of the barrenness accompanying singleness.

Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Faith in the hope against hope God was who He said He was and would do what He said He would do. Sarah, our barren sister, laughed at the promise and so Laughter was given to her for the rest of her days, a reminder that sometimes the only pain in childbirth we experience is 80 years without childbirth. A reminder that God is a God who saves and He saves by bringing life from dead things, hope from hopelessness.

Penned sometime this past spring. 

Silent Sanctification

August 1, 2013

still

I’ve written here for 13 years, about doubts, fears, concerns, questions, deaths, divorces, heartbreak, joy, moving, lessons, and learnings. In many ways this place is the very public working out of my salvation. Were you to peruse the archives you would find much poor theology and even more straight up narcissism. This page was my heart splayed out for anyone to read and I bled myself dry for it.

Last night I said to one of my closest friends that sometimes silence is the best sanctification, and I gave her a numbered list of all the things happening in my life right now that I can’t talk about publicly. At least not this publicly.

There’s so much of the blogosphere that lauds transparency and authenticity, but even that is rife with trophy stories and humble brags and I am strangled by the fear that I will join their ranks if I so much as whisper the numbers aloud. The truth is that even good things bring with them deep breaths and open palms. I do not know how this or that will turn out and I can’t even guess. And I don’t want to give you the opportunity to guess. Because I am selfish? Perhaps. Because I am fearful? For sure. But also because some things are best worked out in quiet, gentle, and still ways. Sometimes our rest is found there, in the stillness, in the mind’s sleep.

Sometimes writing in this place has been the best sanctification for me. But today silence might be my best sanctification.

In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

Speak What is True

July 26, 2013

quiet

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
Exodus 14:14

I cut my teeth on charisma, talk of tongues of fire and hands of healing. They said whatever I touched would be brought healing and it would be so natural I wouldn’t feel the power coming out from me. I have never forgotten those words.

It has been months now since I felt the power out from under me. Not that it ever came from me, no, but I have felt it like a rug pulled out from under me. My pastor preached a sermon a year ago about getting under the faucet of what the Holy Spirit is doing and I am standing in its stream, drinking and sputtering from the wealth of water and I am dry as a bone.

Powerless.

I ask not for your sympathy, though I covet your prayers. I do not even say this because it has been a very long, long, long time since I have written here and been fully honest. Nor because it must be said—everything true need not be spoken.

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Someone tweeted or retweeted this morning: Everyone tells at least four lies a day; one of which is usually, “I’m fine.”

I don’t know the scientific truth of that statement but I know how many times I said something akin to “I’m fine” today and it was more than four.

It is so common these days to always say what is true about self, to be honest, to be healed through telling your story, to be fully here, fully you. But I know myself to be the grandest teller of lies I believe. And if I lie even half as often to you as I lie to myself, then what does my story accomplish at all?

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Driving for a conference kept me in my car much this week and I listened to sermons and songs and tried not to use coarse language at street signs, my GPS, and other drivers. David Crowder sung a small refrain repeatedly: Here’s my life, Lord, speak what is true.

Tonight I’m overwhelmed with how much our culture, even our church culture, encourages us to speak what feels true. But—at the end of the day—He is the only one with the words of eternal life (John 6:68). He is the only one telling a story worth living. His story is the one that brings the power and healing and the hope. Tomorrow or next week or next month, I hope I will believe it more deeply. Until then,

Here’s my heart, Lord. You speak what is true.

daily

“Every morning, when you wake up,” he used to say, “before you reaffirm your faith in the majesty of a loving God, before you say I believe for another day, read the Daily News with its record of the latest crimes and tragedies of mankind and then see if you can honestly say it again.” He was a fool in the sense that he didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t resolve, intellectualize, evade the tensions of his faith but lived those tensions out, torn almost in two by them at times. His faith was not a seamless garment but a ragged garment with the seams showing, the tears showing, a garment that he clutched about him like a man in a storm.

—on Union Theological Seminary professor James Muilenburg by Frederick Buechner in Now and Then, pg. 16

Worriers in Remission

July 15, 2013

worry

I have a friend who worries she has “lost her salvation.” I listen for long hours and ask questions because I had friends who did the same for me three years ago. My friends worried about me, but I want to go to bed without fear, so I lay my worry on the doorstep and cross over the threshold of trust every moment.

I ran into a friend while getting coffee this afternoon. Five minutes only and tears well up in both of our eyes—the world weighs heavy on shoulders not meant to carry it. Our Father is a better Atlas, rolling our globe on His fully capable back. We are worriers in remission. This is the life of the Christian.

I read an article today about a girl grown with Sunday School sashes and Memory Verse Answers. She doesn’t believe in that god anymore and I see myself in her story. We didn’t end in the same place, but there is time still. It is God who numbers our days and He knows every one of hers. My heart wants to worry about her, but my God clothes lilies and counts hairs—surely He has not fallen asleep at the helm of her life?

I don’t mean to excuse trouble, but I know enough not to borrow it. Or to borrow it long enough to have it pierce my soul and my heart with empathy and then bring it to the throne with confidence—not that my plan will be accomplished, but that His will. And I don’t mean to be lazy. Take my arms and my legs and my mind and my time, take it all, but give us Jesus, only Jesus.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Matthew 6:25

All that Matters

June 26, 2013

Whenever there is some politically charged event or theological hot-button topic making the rounds, it can be tempting to be myopic about issues, especially issues about which we are particularly impassioned. Same-sex marriage, pro-life initiatives, gender roles, church membership—just a few of the polarizing issues I’ve seen just this morning.

I’ve been mulling on the second verse of Psalm 50 all week:

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.

It’s so short, so simple, so poetic—I wonder how there can be so much power in such a small bit of scripture. But these short lines tell me three things:

God is on His throne, out of Zion: He has not abdicated and will not. He is still King of Kings.

God is the only perfection of beauty: As much as we convince ourselves that a political majority or denominational thrust will move us into a more perfect society or Church, God is the only perfection of beauty.

God shines forward: He is the most progressive, forward thinking, eternal light we will ever need or experience.

I’m loathe to take a camp, step off the fence, call my cards, or slap a label on myself, but all it takes is one quick glance through Sayable, a brief perusal of the publications for which I write, and the local church I call home for others to safely land me in with the neo-reformed. I won’t reject the title, but in normal fashion, I will not lay claim to it. However, there’s been something rotten in the state of Denmark recently and all fingers are pointing back at, well, I’ll say “us” for the sake of this post.

If you have no idea what rotten piecemeal is being bandied about, I have no interest in educating you. Others have done so much more thoroughly than I, with much more anger than I, with many more bones in the game than I. I weigh in today because May was supposed to be my sabbatical month and instead I have been peppered with more questions than ever on why I haven’t written on the SGM civil suit.

Here are the main reasons:

1. I am not affiliated in any way with SGM. Though I may be affiliated with those who are affiliated with them, we can play that game all day in every which way. Kevin Bacon anybody? These days everyone knows everyone somehow. It is a small world after all.

2. I am not a lawyer, but I think I am a fairly intelligent person, and even I had a bit of trouble getting my mind around the legal jargon of all the documents. And I’ve been in my share of courtrooms, with my share of lawyers spouting legal jargon—two can play that game. All I’m saying is, someone wants to win and so it’s hard to trust a system where winning is the goal. Last shall be first and all that.

3. I’m one of those fools who trusts the men who keep watch over my soul. Maybe that play isn’t for everybody, but I figure the Bible spent a lot of time talking about it, so nuff said.

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Just because I didn’t say anything about it, though, doesn’t mean I didn’t feel complicit in the alleged ongoing silence by “us.” I was a bit confused as to why men and women I respected within the Church at large weren’t weighing in on the suit at all, save from a post by Tim Challies. It is good to be slow to speak, yes, but not speak at all? It didn’t seem right. I knew I didn’t have anything to add to the civil suit conversation, but surely something could be said to acknowledge the situation period?

(Adding my voice to the cacophony of the Christian blogosphere wouldn’t assuage those out for an admission of guilt, though, if you’re wondering why I didn’t say anything. I’m under no illusions—I might be affiliated with those affiliated with SGM, but I’m no Kevin Bacon, if you get my drift.)

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In the light of more recent occurrences, though, and now that some of “us” have issued a public statement, I thought a few things might be said. Take them for what they’re worth to you. Remember comments aren’t open on Sayable ever so I’m not shutting you down and there’s no need to respond. They’re just my simple thoughts for those who might need them.

If you are a pastor:

Please protect your sheep. I meant what I said above about trusting those who keep watch over my soul. I mean that because the Bible says it and I trust the words of God. However, you, by nature of your position and your God-given authority, help illuminate those words for your sheep. You can use or abuse your authority and position, and you can, unknowingly, be the voice of the accuser to people—even in your silence. Always protect your sheep. If one of your talented, seemingly godly, charismatic sheep turns out to be a wolf, go after him. If one of your sheep leaves the fold, go find her. Pastor your people, don’t just preach at them.

If you were abused:

This case feels like the nail in the coffin, trust me, I know. Even if it wasn’t the same as your experience, you can easily relive your experience every time someone dismisses the concerns of the victims, every time someone seems complicit with their silence. Your heart means well here. The grace of God for you takes a horrific experience and gives you the tools to minister to these issues in a way those higher-up might never be able to do. That is not your blight or your stain, that is the precious work of grace to take the broken and make beautiful. Now is your time to speak in and with grace.

If you were an abuser:

You did wrong and you know this. You ought to make recompense for what is considered a crime in the eyes of God and the judicial system. But this does not mean forgiveness is withheld from you, or should be withheld until you “pay for what you did.” Forgiveness doesn’t work that way. I pray you know the fullness of the gospel covers your crimes, but does not blot them from history. Repent, accept the judicial punishment, and if you are His Child, look forward to a lifetime of His grace and an eternity in His presence.

If you want to leave the church because of this:

Part of me wants to say, please do, and trust me, there’s no snark in that statement. I’m fully convinced that no matter how far you run, you cannot outrun the wild, ferocious, loving heart of our God. If leaving the Church for a while helps you clear yourself of the clutter of its underbelly, please do. You have the freedom to leave abusive situations, Christ sets us free to do that, and you should. But I will also say this, as a child who has seen her fair share of the underbelly, if you’re His? You’re grafted in. You’re knit so tightly into His body and flesh, his scars and blood-bought redemption that you can’t leave the Church because you are part of it. And it’s beautiful. Really beautiful when you see it like that.

If you are neo-reformed (or whatever it is called these days), but embarrassed by the silence or complicit responses:

Can I implore you to press in close to your leaders, your elders, your editors, and your pastors. Sometimes they know things about a situation that you don’t know, isn’t public knowledge, isn’t on some legal document, and isn’t widely known. Sometimes they’re withholding comment because it could actually make it worse for the most helpless of the situation. You don’t know. There’s a lot of speculation, regardless of who you are and who you know and who you know who knows someone else. You aren’t Kevin Bacon, you just saw one of his movies once or twice. Reserve judgement.

If you know someone who knows someone (who was abused, who went to an SGM church, or anyone at all):

One of the things I love about the Bible is there are all these portions where it’s just one man or one woman and God (or the enemy). There are no eye-witnesses, it’s just Moses and the burning bush, Daniel and the lions, David and the bears, Jesus and the enemy. We get this birds-eye view into the situation, but really, when it happened it was just them there.

So we have perceptions of how things looked or played out, but I’ll bet you could poll any thirty of us and we’d all have a different setting in mind for Moses and his burning bush. There would be similarities, of course, but it would be different. This is how it is to hear any story second hand. We can know that some things are true, but some things are simply perceptions. Because of this, it is almost always better to reserve your own words about another person’s experience. There may be truth to it (and in this case specifically, it seems like there is definitely much truth to it), but the retelling of it multiple times will never end well. Mourn with those who mourn, bring it to the authorities if need be, but keep silent about the specific matter unless you know you speak the canonized truth.

If you are a mere onlooker:

If you’re just a casual reader, a blog reader, a curious atheist, a questioning agnostic, I am sorry. This entire situation, from twenty years ago until today is unfortunate and shameful. This is not becoming to the Church and I deeply regret it happened. However, let me say this, I am firmly convinced the Church tries to keep its wedding dress too squeaky clean, and this case is a perfect example of it. The reality is we’re blemished and broken, spotted and wrinkled, and Christ is the only way we’re getting presented cleansed. He’s it. It’s not through a denomination, a pastor, a friend, a court system, or a blog post that the resolution of all things comes, it’s Him. Him alone. Be encouraged, there’s room at the table and we don’t mind if you’re messed up. Really. We’re messed up too.

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That’s all. I know this is long, and I’m breaking sabbath to share it, but I couldn’t sleep and I love to sleep.

Go in peace, brothers and sisters, pastors and sheep, abused and abusers, doubters and finders, He is faithful to complete His work. He seals it with His spirit.

Did y’all know there are whole websites devoted to uncovering the supposed-salacious details of Christian bloggers and pastors? I didn’t until today when my inbox received a google alert that my name, lo and behold, was attached to some very salacious details of its own. Who knew?

I didn’t read far—my constitution is affected enough by truths about my own soul to bother with what strangers make up about it. Suffice it to say the underbelly is alive and well, folks, alive and well.

All this has me thinking about the ever shrinking neutral ground and whether it exists at all, or ever has. It seems nothing is out from under the watchful eye of bloggers and critics these days. Mostly because everyone has a platform these days and if not, they build one from crates, soapboxes, and grudges til they get one. I’m a peace-making sort, but even I feel the pull to build a Babel—even to just protect my own name and sense of peace.

What most of these watchdog sites and bulldog bloggers are doing, though, is attempting to make their -ism (whatever -ism and -ian or -ist they are) seem more appealing than the others’. And if they can’t do that, or have already failed to do so, they’ll do their darnedest to pull all the -isms down with ‘em.

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One of my favorite passages in the book of Acts is when those seven silly sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons in the names of Paul and Jesus without any faith of their own. The evil spirits replied, “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” and I-love-that.

I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul.

But who are you?

 

 

 

 

 

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So tonight, this small writer, writing from a dark bedroom in a small, dark house in Texas, my roommate asleep next to me, her mom asleep in her bed, a friend asleep on the couch, and the rest of my girls snug in bed, I think about how small our lives are. How very, very small they are.

Who are we?

Precious few of us are Pauls; most of us are probably Peters, running at the mouth and sinking after three steps. Or Thomas, that beautiful faithless skeptic. Maybe we’re Mary, the whore with the hair at Jesus feet, giving much. Perhaps some of us are just shepherds on a cold night, to whom an angel appears with great news. Maybe we’re Joseph, asked to do hard things. But at the end of all things, we are very small people living very small lives. I think that with every new twitter follower, every facebook like, every email that comes into my inbox, every new invitation to speak or write: who are you, Lore? Who the heck are you?

Because at the end of all things, the world won’t care about my -ism or my name. They won’t remember anything when faced with the all-encompassing God of the universe. They will Know Jesus. Every one of us will bow and confess Him alone as Lord.

And until that day, I want to simply do my best to preach the gospel in His name. That’s all I am. And I hope, I hope that’s all you are too.

luke-7-by-reubens

Sucking on Stones

February 19, 2013

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Sometimes we just need to stay hungry, she says to me through tears, and I remind her that Jesus said His food was to do the will of Him who sent Him. We are silent for a few minutes before thanking one another for being bread and fish.

Last fall I wanted to ask for something or someone and the Lord told me no or wait or yes or maybe but that He would sustain in the meantime. What I did not expect was the sustainment He gave. She lives on the west coast, in rainy Portland, she studies Hebrew and is a whole head taller than me. She’s blond and beautiful and has a sleeve tattoo and we regularly cry through our conversations. I didn’t ask for her—she was not what I asked for.

Sometimes, she told me once, we think we’re asking for bread, but we’re really asking for a stone, and when He gives us bread we don’t recognize it because we’re still looking for the stone.

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I read a quote from Kathy Keller in the book she co-wrote with her husband, the inimitable Tim Keller, “Sometimes a pig doesn’t know the worth of a pearl, to him it’s just a pebble.” I underlined those words, scribbled beside them, and cannot stop thinking about them.

Sometimes I’m asking for a stone instead of bread and sometimes I feel like a pebble instead of a pearl.

I find it a bit strange that Jesus said He would built His Church on the rock, crooking his finger at Peter, petra, Rock. On the backs of men who would deny Christ three times before He could forgive His followers saying they know not what they do? On the backs of those who sink after three steps out on watery faith? On the backs of those zealots? Those fools?

It occurs to me that God is the only one who knows the worth of stones, pebbles, pearls, and rocks.

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If we don’t ask for bread, we might feel satisfied for a long time sucking on the cold, hard emptiness of a stone—thinking it was all He had for us. Or perhaps we have ourselves convinced, like the old fable, that our stone soup is satiating and full.

And still, somehow, He’s building His Church, accomplishing the will of the Father, on the backs of stone-sucking fools like us.

Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me
and to accomplish his work.”

John 3:34

That God Doesn’t Exist

February 7, 2013

Before I knew I would move a thousand miles from four seasons and local coffee shops, before I knew that my faith was going to fall apart on the threshold of spring and questions about tithing, membership, and provision, before all that. This all happened before that.

I knew that God wasn’t real and if He was real, He wasn’t good, and if He was good, He wasn’t good to me. What I couldn’t wrap my mind around was why I’d been dragged through the whole charade in the first place. Why a decade of spirituality and suffering and questions and confidence? Why all that if He was just going to walk me into the desert, spin me around in circles, and tell me to sort it out from there?

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One of the first sermons I heard preached after I moved down here was from a series about authority. In it my pastor, who was still in the middle of 18 months of chemotherapy for a brain cancer that kills most of its victims, said these words, “I believe that He did not cause my cancer, but He could have stopped it, and He chose not to.”

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There are all sorts of mental gymnastics in faith, right? In that sentence above you could spend hours and weeks and months trying to sort out what each word means and how it plays itself out. You might decide you cannot serve a God who doesn’t cause suffering, but could stop it and chooses not to. But in that one sentence, my mind stopped the questions and just believed.

Because here is the truth about what God promises and what He doesn’t:

He promises He is good and He promises His word endures forever.

He promises eternity to His children and He promises justice to us all.

He promises His character is inscrutable and generations will speak of His faithfulness.

And those promises trump. They win. They win because they pile these light momentary afflictions of cancer and unbelief, suffering and fear, and they place them in the hands of a Creator, an Artist, an All Good God, and He blows away the chaff, the things that feel like wasted time and wasted energy and wasted you, and He makes all things new.

All things.

New.

Context Can Save Your Life

January 27, 2013

A friend told me a long time ago that it was the unanswered questions that scared him most. He is an answerer, his wealth of knowledge is vast and he gets paid to answer people’s questions about faith and theology. “I fear being unable to answer a question for the lack of time or knowledge, or simply because the answer I give doesn’t satisfy,” he said.

I thought about what he said for a long time, a few years, and I’m thinking about it still.

This week I’m thinking about it because I saw a quote from a theologian. The quote was taken out of context and not linked back to the original context, thus painting him (and his ministry) in a negative light. If I hadn’t seen his name below the quote, well, I would’ve lost my faith in Jesus, humanity, and the Church if that’s all I knew of it right there. It was that bad.

But I am also an answerer—though mostly for myself and not for others. I cut and paste the quote, found its original source and wept through the entirety of the sermon because it was so beautifully about God being God and on His throne and loving us as only God can love.

Context can save your life.

But this isn’t what I told my friend the night he told me his fears. Instead I told him about the night I realized I didn’t believe in Jesus. I told him it was because I had spent a year asking hard, hard questions and not getting answers. It was because I read everything I could get my hands on, listened to sermons, read blogs, prayed, fasted, and still.

Silence.

There isn’t much context for silence.

A friend told me recently she sits by her window, sits long and quiet, waiting for God to say something to her. Anything.

But what if He doesn’t? I ask her. And what if that’s okay?

This morning I’m thinking about the phrase “out of context.” It doesn’t mean the words said were incorrectly quoted or never said. It simply means out of the context in which they were intended. Without the whole picture. Apart from the whole.

And I’m thinking about God who is so much more sovereign and good and holy and set apart and whole than I will ever be or see. I am a soul out of context, a body apart from the whole, a mind void of completion. I am only a part and I see only in part. I exist in unanswered questions for the whole of my days and, Oh God, I pray He gives me more vision, more sight, more view into the whole, but what if He doesn’t?

At the end of my year of questions without answers, one night on my bedroom floor, I told God what I really believed about Him which was that I didn’t believe Him. Not at all. I told him what I thought I knew to be true was not true. And He began to show me what I thought to be true of Him was taken out of context, apart from the whole. Then He spent the next year drawing me back, helping me to see the whole, and how fully beautiful the whole was, even if it was still only part.

Context matters. It matters to theologians and babies, mothers and sons, it matters to good writing and better thoughts. It ought to matter to us because it matters to God. He is less concerned with us getting answers than He is with us seeing in wholeness that He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is God and we are not. He is full of mercy and justice, goodness and fury, grace and insight. He is Whole and we are only part.

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God, are you there?

January 25, 2013

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I found the raspberry ale, the one I like because it costs more, some small round clementines, some ginger lemon tea, and I’ve been wearing my glasses all day and no makeup. An old tshirt.

You think you know what I’m talking about when I tell you this week was a beating, and you might know a fraction of why, but you don’t know the whole of it. You don’t know the tears started on Sunday and have fallen clear through the floor of my heart all week. You don’t know the ache settled itself somewhere in my throat and caught itself there strangling me with my old friend Fear all week.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In The Brothers K there’s a page where the oldest brother, Everett, spouts prayers off at the dinner table in front of his devout Seventh Day Adventist mother. His prayer starts, “Oh, God, if you’re there…” and proceeds onward. It’s one of the most achingly poigniant pieces of prose I’ve read in a long time, the whole chapter, and what we find, sweet readers, is that Everett wrestles with the beautiful question we all ask. We all have to ask:

God, are you there?

We have to ask this question, we all do, because if we don’t ever feel the full on, gawking, haunting lack of Him, we cannot feel the full on, grasping need of Him. And I want to say we ask the question once and done, and it’s answered in pew-side confessionals, altar call moments, or gasping breaths on the floors of our bedrooms. I want to say the question is brought once to our lips and then in holy awe, He touches our mouth with a hot coal and we go, we go, we cannot help but go.

But even Jesus, there on the cross: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?

Are you there?

The heaviness of my soul this week was not death fringed around my doorstep or martyrdom for the cause of the Gospel. It was being jilted of an invite, being misunderstood by a friend, an unexpected email, feeling like a pebble instead of a pearl, a glance shooting disapproval my direction, an inbox that didn’t stop filling with reactive messages all week and still. It was not having enough time to read or pray or write or be. It was leaving work and someone noticing my tires needing air and saying so. It was me saying I need a husband because I can’t do this. I can’t be alone anymore. Not if it means putting air in my own tires for the rest of my life.

It was the cross He asked me to bear this week. And it was a down-pillow compared to His cross.

But somewhere along the way I asked the question: God, are you seeing this? Are you going to battle for me? Are you going to defend me? Are you going to be near me? Are you going to sustain?

I wish, reader, I didn’t have to wrestle with this question as often as I do. I wish belief came as naturally to me as unbelief does. I wish I had natural born faith instead of fear.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I learned in one of my classes this week that we in the Church have been taught to believe belief leads to new birth, but the Bible teaches it the other way around: being reborn leads to belief.

And I nearly wept, right there, I didn’t care who saw. I nearly wept because I can grab hold of this, because I know I’m reborn. I know it with every fiber of my being, I know Jesus is right and real and good, and His word is true and Holy and forever. And I know belief is born in the truth of my new birth and that’s it. My birth, the new freshness and delight of my salvation, doesn’t change because my belief is pushed on and what a comfort it is.

I felt the gawking, aching hole this week. I felt the lack of belief, but not the lack of birth, and I sit deep in this tonight. God is here, patient and parenting, battling and bearing on my behalf.

The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes. 
Deuteronomy 1:30

Wait Up

January 20, 2013

We’re all waiting for something. You’re waiting for the raise and you, right there, you’re waiting for a baby. You’re waiting for that guy to notice you and you are waiting for a job you love. You’re waiting for a better living situation or your due date, something to make sense and something to stop hurting. You don’t have to dig much to find what you’re waiting for.

A friend told me last night he’s waiting for joy. Another friend is waiting for healing. One more is waiting for her wedding day. And one more can’t wait until she gets to go Home, her final resting place.

In all of history there have only been 33 years where what we waited for walked here on earth. A mere drop, dew on the morning grass. And here’s the thing: they didn’t know their wait would begin again after that short respite.

Late last night I talked with a friend about what we wait for and where our hope is in the meantime. It’s hard to wait. Doubly hard when we see others receive what we’re waiting for. But the deeper truth is no matter what comes our way in this lifetime, 80 years and a few more, a vapor, a breath, a moment—He is the sustainer and He is the culmination of every lesser gift.

We wait for you.

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