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faith, hope, soul care, strength, trust, truth

Dear 20-someone

December 29, 2016

The creativity, fun and independence I pursued didn't conform to rules of religion. And then there was real God.

Dear 20-someone,

The recently silenced soundtrack of another 80s pop icon brought back realities and memories of my own 20s, prompting my letter to you. So many changes are going on in the larger world – and your own world too. I can’t speak how this right-now-crazy world will affect you with all its mixed-up changes, but I think I can speak to the life changes and confusion in your first quarter-life decade…the search for significance and purpose…hopes of making a difference…making your mark and the future that’s in front of you…surviving it all. I think too, that I can speak a little bit into the small world that’s right in front of you, that might matter a little too much than it should to you right now, the friends, the trends, the drama. Three whopping-fast decades ago, I’ve been there. And yeah, a lot has changed. But some of it remained the same.

Is every onramp to the twenties launched on a portion of luck, fierce independence and a small dose of angst…or was it just mine?

I entered college at seventeen, ran a fast pace through school and before my senior year, accepted an invitation to work in the field of my dreams and finish school at night. Before my twentieth birthday, I stepped into a pretty cool career not fully knowing how it all happened but whisked into the wonder of it all. The world of advertising handed a new rhythm of crazy-creative antics with people who thrived on fresh ideas and very big budgets, to this young designer who probably had more chutzpah than promise, but right-brained zaniness with left-brain practicality.

I audaciously adapted to working hard, and, at the end of our long days, playing harder. It was the decade of excess…music drove culture; drugs and sex drove music. Everything was at our fingertips or only a delivery guy away.

As I began searching for who I was, the beginnings of that quarter life decade brought a ton of fun as independence birthed new hopes and dreams, fueled on travel, relationships with the wrong people, relationships with the right people, champagne, frustration, loneliness, ways and means to numb it, preachy people, adventure, and frankly a lot of sin. I found myself in the middle of intense tension with heartache, on the edge of a future that I had never fathomed, and was convinced I didn’t want. Funny how you grasp at pleasure in the pressure, isn’t it?

But God…

I didn’t want Him. I knew what was best for me. God had rules in that book of His that I didn’t want anything to do with. The creativity, fun and independence I pursued didn’t conform to rules of religion. I knew about the God behind all the rules, the one I learned of in grade school religion classes, the one I was graded on. The one I put on the cross. The one who looked down on me with a painful-looking, accusatory scorn on his face, hanging from a crucifix against a two-story red velvet curtain as incense made me gag and sometimes throw up. The one who was stuck hanging forever in a cold, echo-y church that they wheeled dead bodies into in caskets and sang in Latin. That God was untouchable and mean…just like the hypocrites that followed him, and I didn’t want any association with them.

I bought into the lies when the world said there was no God. And if there was, I didn’t want him, her, whoever or whatever. I didn’t need God to mess up my life.

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction… So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 and 20)

However, there was this subtle love that kept pursuing me in my own crazy mess and I didn’t quite understand it. He kept showing up. Annoyingly. In little, gentle ways. Until things got under my skin to the degree that I went out and got my own bible to actually read and to prove that it too, was hypocritical, outdated and biased.

But I couldn’t.

God continued to pursue me. In my fight for independence, I found freedom: Jesus, the real person. He wasn’t a statue who hung with scorn on His face, and He wasn’t something made up by a bunch of yahoos who continued a myth like Santa Claus. But instead I got to know the person Jesus, who, out of love, offered living, open arms to hold me.

Jesus is as real as my husband sitting next to me right now. He’s as real as the three children I have raised, and as the parents who raised me with my brothers and sister. He’s the friend who meets me for coffee every morning that I ask Him to, and He’s the gentleman who waits to be invited in. He’s not trying to hide. He’s just waiting to be noticed.

I thought I knew better. In acutality, I didn’t need God to mess up my life because I was able to manage that all on my own. Can you relate? On the crest of this new year, I challenge you to just explore Him. He’s pursuing you and simply waiting to be seen.

“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:21-31)

The world offered so much to me in the first part of my twenties. What it delivered though, was heartbreak.

But God…
He extended grace I never knew about through Jesus, delivered my life from anguish and remorse, and replaced it with peace that I can’t describe. I truly don’t know how I would have made it through the past three decades without Him.

Sure 20-someone, I know the church is full of hypocrites, and you don’t need the institution. The church has made mistakes and we’ll continue to trip up and make mistakes. But instead of looking at our failures and missteps, will you take a chance and look to Christ, whom we follow? We still have decades ahead to learn and grow in holiness in this lifetime…through Him, through His love, together. And we have so much to learn from you.

Follow HIM, He’s waiting quietly for you. You have so much promise ahead. And there’s a lot of fun, creativity, and freedom in Jesus; more than I ever found without Him. Encounter Jesus, and don’t go it alone.

Much love,
An Old(er) Friend

 

faith, fortitude, soul care, strength, trust

The Perfect Storm

August 10, 2016
Sometimes it takes a storm to get you to the other side of the lake

Sometimes it takes a storm to sweep you to the other side of the lake.

It was the perfect storm, a collision of two air masses with rapid change in wind direction and violent gusts that blasted me off my feet. Howling winds and furious squalls picked up debris as it raged; I bent my head into the gale.

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”  So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

I cried in the nights, “Jesus, don’t you care that I’m drowning?”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”  Mark 4:35-41

There are times when storms crash and dark skies will open to pour out a deluge. Sludge may muddy your path and rock your faith in the Creator and the created. No one is immune. This is when it’s most important to hang on, because sometimes it takes a storm to put you exactly where God wants you…anchored in His presence in ways you’ve never known before.

It was actually this perfect storm that rescued my soul.

I was hurrying to catch up to who I was becoming, but the hurry made me become who I was not. I began losing myself in the whirlwind…adapting for someone else, and succumbing to the rushed expectations of who, and demands of what, others said I am and should do in the midst of a fast-paced world.

Christian philosopher Dallas Willard wisely warned, “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Cutting through the vicious wind, Jesus’ rebuke whispered to me, “Silence! Be still!”  I heard His sweet voice urging:  “Quiet your life, unhurry your soul…submit your will, settle your thoughts, decelerate your body and stop doing what others expect of you. Rest child, and wait, I’m in the boat.” Suddenly the wind stopped and there was great calm. Shipwrecked, yes, because the storm swept me to a different place, but anchored in His love. Jesus restored my faith and breathed abundant life back into my soul.

If a storm blasts you, invite Jesus into your boat. Rebuke the darkness, and assert your authority in Christ over the wind and the waves. Remain steadfast in spirit, keep your heart focused on Him, get to the back of the boat and rest with Jesus. It’s all grace.

You keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3

faith, transformation, trust, truth

unencumbered

May 16, 2016

 

unencumbered: living as if you believe

Forget the lies others have told you and labels that have been slapped on you.
Put your trust in what Christ did for you and who He says you are.

Now walk forward in that grace
unencumbered
by the past
changed in the present
and excited for what’s ahead.

faith, gratitude, strength, truth

living as if you believe

April 28, 2016

living as if you believe

 

The winter season hung weighty like a tired Monday, shivering under heavy sweaters that couldn’t fend off the draft blowing under my door. What does a Jesus-following life look like through a season of bitter Mondays, when your world seems amiss and wrong…frostbite not only stings at exposed skin, but attacks underlying tissues too? Sometimes your best choice is to walk into the whipping wind…and rise in the courage of praise to melt the ice threatening to freeze the soul.

That’s right, you praise God. Praise Him, not to be happy about it, but praise God to become joy-filled in it. A life of praise is a celebration of God’s sovereignty. Praise cements deep-rooted trust to know God’s got it, He’s got you, and He will, in time, upright the bleak arctic wind and breathe out the bright summer sun into your soul again.

When the world gets worked up, stops you cold and freezes you in your tracks…worship like the psalmist David. Dwell in Psalm 34, as he wrote, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” David didn’t write this Psalm when he had reason to celebrate, he wrote it in a cave against the backdrop of 1 Samuel 21. Not only had he run to save his life when jealousy ignited between David and Saul while serving in King Saul’s court, but he ran straight from one enemy into another’s hand. Escaping that too, David penned these words hiding in the cave of Adullam, abandoned, alone, and confused by people he had trusted. Yet he began from a heart of worship,

“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”

Through it all, he lived like He believed.

David’s life was one of triumph, defeat, outrageous joy, fear, depression, loneliness and danger. He sinned, was forgiven, and he worshiped. He ‘sought the Lord and He answered David, God delivered him from all his fears.’ He allowed himself to ‘dance with all his might’…total abandonment, no self-consciousness, holding nothing back. Alive, exposed and accepting all God allowed, David ‘extolled’ the Lord at all times—he bent his heart and his knee to trust his God and live like he believed. God’s grace saw him through.

Those who look to him are radiant…” Psalm 34.5

Stay courageous and watch how God will fill your praise.

 

faith, fortitude, strength, trust, truth

Do I question my faith?

February 15, 2016

I live a life immersed in the world. I read books/articles/blogs that support my faith, and then read others that challenge my faith. I don’t live with my head in the sand, nor exist in circles with only church people. Conversations sometimes challenge my faith. But I don’t question it. Know why?

I made a covenantal declaration of faith at an earlier point in my life.
And faith grows.

Before I knew Jesus, I wrestled a long time with the topic of faith. I knew about Jesus, and actually thought about Him quite a bit. But to trust all of me with the unseen? Honestly, that was weird to me. To add to that, I knew Christians I categorized as weird too, with their flighty church words, holier attitudes than I ever wanted…and I’ll admit, I didn’t trust “them”. So I reasoned, why would I put my faith in something they thought was so great…that chose to be so abstract?

But God began pursuing me with an overwhelming love that I couldn’t run from nor deny. He put situations in front of me that led me closer and closer to Him, chipped away at my heart, and I was swept up in His love. I made a decision at a single point in time, and put my faith in Him. In that moment, I secretly wanted bells and whistles, even listened for angels to sing…none came to announce it. However, everything inside me marked that covenantal moment. Jesus overwhelmed me with His authenticity, love, power, pursuit, grace, peace and mercy. Faith in the unseen didn’t matter, because what He allowed me to see through my heart was so much stronger than what I could see with my eyes.

Fast forward a few decades, blessings, challenging situations, celebrations and trying seasons.  The faith I had then is different than the faith I have now. I’ll admit there are fleeting moments when questions plague me. Sometimes doubts knock on my door, or uninvited junctures hit me and I question His love and faithfulness…

But they are moments, and I will not permit moments to shipwreck my faith. This is a decision, a resolute choice. There’s no turning back. (1 Timothy 1:19 warns, “…fight the battle well, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck…”)

My son once asked me how I know it’s really God when I can’t see Him. He continued, “How do you know God’s not some really nice thoughts in your head, how do you know He’s real?” His questions stopped me in my tracks, causing me to find words to explain how I fully knew, God is real. I realized my initial moment of faith and trust triggered a trajectory through which God revealed more and more of Himself to me over time. While life’s troubles spark questions, a choice of faith increases faith. I explained to my son that for me to deny His existence now when He’s made Himself so tangible to me at times would be to deny my own son’s existence sitting next to me in the car. Years later my relationship with God requires less ‘blind faith’ on my part, but provides more reassurance of His presence.

There’s no denying though, those moments creep in. When they do, consider this:

  1. You can’t trust your emotions. Jeremiah 17:9 says, ““The heart is deceitful above all things…” 
  2. If you’ve given your life to Christ, you formed a covenantal relationship with God the Person. He’s not the ‘man upstairs’ or a ‘higher power’, He’s your Abba Father who created you only to have an ongoing relationship with you rooted in His deep love for you.
  3. Jesus declares you righteous when you turn your life over to Him (Romans 5:1) but He doesn’t cause you to be righteous. You’re still vulnerable to temptations, and still have a free will and choice. Choose what you will do ahead of time.
  4. Stand in the promise of 2 Corinthians 2:17-18, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Hold onto faith. The Cross is ahead, the the world is behind. Don’t turn back.

The Cross before me, the world behind me. No Turning Back