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Tonight as Tim and I were driving around I saw the sign for a church stating PALM SUNDAY WORSHIP AND PICNIC!

It was undoubtedly the announcement for last Sunday’s service.  And just like last Sunday a part of me, bigger than I would like to admit, grumbled, so irritated by this repeated excitement.

Confession: I left church on Palm Sunday.

I know, I know, it isn’t right, but what is done is done.  We had raced out the door of our apartment to make it on time.  As we walked into the service I was handed a palm leaf, nice.  A speaker took to the stage as we found our seats, enthusiastically reading from one of the Psalms.  It was about a king, and gates, and a lot of joy. I took a deep breath and tried to convince my heart to resonate with the reading, but this wouldn’t happen. I found my heart shutting down and I just could not join in the excitement. 

My grumbling heart was not honoring to the Lord, and so I asked Tim if we could leave.  He is so patient and kind, and as soon as we walked out the door His first question was “do you want to talk about it?”  I love him deeply.

I got on Facebook today to find pictures of smiling kids with palm leaves only to feel disappointed in my inability to appreciate the celebration most people were experiencing.

Is it because I’m going through this time of questioning?  Do I have a dark and cold heart?

So today as we drove and I once again could not react to this excitement proclaimed in all caps, I grumbled. 

This Lenten season I chose to journal my journey to the cross, but after my experience the past few days, it seemed my journaling had been futile.

I came home and curled up on the couch ready to seek answers to more of my questions, choosing to read “The Problem of Pain” by C.S. Lewis.  However a few pages in I began to randomly flip through the rest of my book which is a collection of his writings.  I flipped open to “A Grief Observed” and I was instantly taken by the personal introduction written by his step son. Douglas Gresham explained that this work had been a product of Lewis’s grief after losing his wife.  Each heart felt word kept pulling me further into his writing.

“I have no photograph of her that’s any good.  I cannot even see her face distinctly in my imagination… But her voice is still vivid.  The remembered voice – that can turn me at any moment to a whimpering child.”

 Can you imagine that pain? Can you imagine that loss? Some of you may not have to because it is already all too real, and for that I am so incredibly sorry.

I read this, and I cry, deeply.  Sorrow reaches into the deepest parts of my heart and soul.  I read this and I cry because I know that this separation will one day be all too real for us as well.  Tim and I. One day, most likely, one of us will be without the other. I can’t imagine, I don’t want to imagine my life without this beloved partner and friend I have. I feel incomplete without Him. I can’t imagine, I don’t want to imagine him living a life where I can’t console him.

It may be silly to think in this way, I can hear people now: “Enjoy what you have now!” “Don’t worry about tomorrow!”

Here is the reason I am allowing these emotions to seep so deeply tonight.  Yesterday the church celebrated Jesus riding in on a donkey, Sunday we will celebrate him raising from the dead, but before that, on Friday, we will mourn his death.

Friday, we remember what he did, and we must also remember why: separation.

He from we.

I don’t want my words to ruin this powerful story, I am going to try to do it justice now.

He made us.  Why us? I don’t know. He made us. He loved us. Why? I don’t know. He and we shared everything, until the day we chose we before He.  He was our creator and our truest lover, and his heart was broken.  He was separated, like a groom from his bride. Can you imagine the agony He must have felt? Why would He subject Himself to this? I don’t know.

But because of our choice we and He were separated. We were separated like death separates loved ones.  And the resulting grief was as real as the grief of a husband for his dead wife.

How do I know that He felt the pain of separation from us?  Because of everything He did to get us back.  The story is long, stretching thousands of years, the people change, the kingdoms change, but the story does not: A God desperate to end the separation between Him and His creation.  A God desperate to end the death we chose, so desperate, He was willing to die Himself.

This is the story of Friday.  And without this, Sunday will have lost all significance.  We cannot celebrate if we cannot remember the depth of His grief in our death and separation from Him.  We cannot sing praise until we willingly mourn the reason this season exists in the first place.

We were separated from the love of our life.  You were separated from the love of your life.  I was separated from the love of my life.

 Because He chose to chase after, because he created a story that seamlessly weaves itself together over thousands of years and through countless people, because he ends this separation in death, which is our consequence, because we observe his grief on Friday we raise our hands on Sunday and our hearts are full of joy.

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Questioning God


Sounds prideful? Outlandish? Rude? At times it really is.

When I am most angry at my circumstances is when it becomes a question of pride.  When I put my own feelings on a pedestal and my questions become more of a demand.  When I am so frustrated I’m throwing a fit, this is when questioning God becomes a problem.

It also becomes a problem when my insecurity speaks guilt into my soul.  Pride is a problem, but insecurity is like a different form of pride, or is it the same? Pride says I am more important than God, insecurity says I am too un-important for God.  Pride says I am more than God, insecurity says God is not enough for me.

When I am in a state of pride I say that my questions are more important than God Himself.  When I am in an insecure state I say God’s grace is not sufficient for my questioning.

But sometimes I get to be right in the sweet center of these two extremes. 

I am neither demanding answers nor denying the existence of my questions, but instead seeing a need for resolution.  Right now I am in this sweet center, so I want to take advantage by writing down my end goal before I swing away.

For months now questions have been creeping into my mind.  Questions that have been scare and intimidate me. They all focus around one entity: God.  Who is He, how can I know? How does this determine how I make choices? These questions started out just as empty words with a question mark at the end, but slowly became like a common belief.  As an example: how can I really know Jesus is God?  Yes the bible says so, but why should I trust the bible? Wait, does the bible really say so, or is this just information I’ve heard that I’m just accepting as truth?

I would try to shake them off, blinking really hard as if I could open my eyes and the scary monster would magically disappear.  But they stayed, throughout the day, the evening, the week, and the months leading me to today.

So now I embrace the questions (or I try to, maybe Jesus won’t send me to hell for asking them after all…)  But this brings me to another problem: I am not an expert in anything to do with religion or faith.  I have no educational background in these matters, I am a teacher with relatively few connections to the church, and no connections to experts in the church.  I am a tired, young wife and educator.  I’m still trying to survive this school year with relatively few hours in a day.  I’m still trying to figure out who I am, and what I want to focus my time on (the classroom, family, community, questioning?)

I say all of this in my attempt to count the cost.

Not that I can count perfectly prior to this journey.  But first and foremost, it will take time.  I have prayed for revelations (don’t hate, I’m tired and a revelation would take a lot less time), but God does not seem to be leaning towards that route.  I have read the bible and been confused in the process feeling alone in my confusion.  Once I tried YouTube only to be disappointed.

Now I am going with a new approach.  I have started to reach out to people who may have resources or the connections that I lack.

This brings me to the next cost, humility.  Like I said, I swing between insecurity and pride, so being in a state where I can ask my question simply for an answer is difficult.  By asking questions I open myself up to criticism (put on that helmet! Protect  yourself from the flaming arrows of the satan!).  Not only for asking the questions but also for how I ask them.  Already I have been corrected in my approach, and though at first frustrated, I realized that it was a great correction and has reshaped my approach.  But how many more times will my question itself be criticized, and am I up for this challenge?  Can my ego handle it?

I can’t count the costs  of the journey fully when I am only at the start, but I can at least attempt to, and I pray that this will be exactly what I call it, a journey.  As I step away from the bubble that I have been in my whole life, the bubble of a Christian God with republican policies, of a manGod who I hold at arm’s length, I trust that God is and will be bigger than this bubble, that His grace will be sufficient, and that He will lead me to answers.

I will be asking the following questions one at a time, in the following order:

  1. Is there a God?
  2. Which God is the God? Is there only one?
  3. Why is the bible viewed as accurate? As a Holy and True source?
    1. In specific Paul’s writing.
    2. How should one approach reading the bible?
  4. Why is Jesus special? What makes Him God? Why is He the only way?
  5. How does this affect how people make choices?  How can one be considered a follower or Christ or a Christian?
  6. Where are there freedoms/liberties in Christ, where are there absolutes?
    1. In specific, what does the bible really say about homosexuality and marriage?

If at any point I arrive to a negative answer, for example, I tackle question number one and arrive at the conclusion that there is no God, then I will stop my search for answers, as the remaining questions stem from the previous questions.

I need to also state that I am obviously biased in my search.  Not necessarily for Christianity, but of the Jewish God.   There is just something about his fierce devotion to his people that makes me love Him.  In this process I hope to grow to know Him better, and if Jesus really is, his Son as well.  May God be gracious, my husband supportive, and my heart mind and soul persistent.


 

I wrote this several weeks ago and have already begun the process of seeking answers. I am posting this now because after many many frustrating months I have finally reached a point of peace in my questions, no longer feeling angry or guilty for having them.

My husband supported this effort best while reading about the next steps I have taken:

“I don’t want to rob you of this journey, but know that I have asked these same questions before, and that I have found answers, I know you will too.  I’m here to talk when you want to.”

I hope in some way to encourage you as I am encouraged while Questioning God.

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It was late, the sun had gone down, the apartment was a disaster, and it was time to start thinking about bed time (teachers have to get up early).

Our typical routine of dinner, a show, and then bed had been interrupted.  A typical night completely derailed  all because of four simple words: “tell me the truth.”

Now we sat, staring at each other, crying.

It was late, the sun had gone down, and for the first time I felt how truly young and dumb I really was.  It was one of those “God, we’re only kids how the hell are we supposed to figure out marriage” moments.  He cried, then I cried, we cried, then I cried some more.

Marriage is hard, but it is so good.

We had come up against our first true blunder in or marriage.  No more bickering over soccer games or stress levels, no more wondering why he wouldn’t take the dogs outside or why she wouldn’t just chill out for a second.  This was a blunder that helped us see a huge hole in our marriage, and it hurt.

It wasn’t a him problem, or a her problem, it was a we problem.

The next day I went to work and received disappointing news that crushed me.  Normally I would always call Tim, and out of habit I still did, but it felt hard, forced, not natural like being with or going to him always has.  I hung up the phone feeling confused and hurt and guilty.

I came home feeling heavy, and confused as to how I should react to Tim when he came home. Do we sit and talk more? Do we continue feeling this pain in silence? Do we act like it never happened just so we can actually try and enjoy the night?

Little did I know Tim had taken care of these questions earlier that day. I walked into my apartment to find it spotless, clean, neat, and orderly.

For those of you who don’t know, it stresses me out to have things messy.  If my environment is messy it is hard for my thought process to be orderly.  I can’t explain this but it just is.  Messy spaces bring me down in a weird way.

As I walked throughout our apartment finding not just one room, or two rooms, but the whole thing clean I began to cry.  I knew Tim hadn’t done this out of guilt or of feeling like he had to get out of the dog house (like I said, and I can’t emphasize enough that this was a WE problem) he had done this out of love.  He knew that  I enjoyed having a clean space, and without even realizing the news I would receive later in the day, he just wanted to make life a little less burdensome for me, because he loves me, and wanted to serve me in some way.

Well that snapped me out of my confusion quickly and when he came home I hugged him and cried again, this time out of gratitude.

The door to communication had been opened and we realized that there was a hole in our marriage, one that had been there for a while, but that we were just now seeing.  There was a problem, and we began strategizing how to fight against it.  We came together to fight for each other, for us.

Fast forward 3 weeks, and once again the apartment is a disaster (we’re working on ways to KEEP it clean throughout our busy weeks, we have not mastered this).  Our daily routines have resumed with some exciting additions, such as guests having come down to see us.  We’re laughing, I’m crying, we’re having fun, we’re feeling stressed, we’re trying to look to God, we’re just living life.

This morning I woke up and realized how grateful I am for marriage.

Over the past week I’ve been thrown into a position where I’m having to look at myself a lot;  I have to reflect on my strengths, and my weaknesses, I have to believe in myself, and be ready to show others why they should believe in me.   In that sentence alone I mentioned myself 5 times.

I’m not trying to be prideful, and I don’t want to be prideful, I’ve prayed to the Lord several times this week first thanking him for the supernatural confidence that had been filling me, and then second confessing that I was worried that I was actually just a puffed up marshmallow of a person full of pride.  I think God answered this prayer of gratitude and concern this morning as I laid next to Tim enjoying the first few moments of daylight snuggling in bed with my partner (I treasure these moments as during the week we don’t get them).  That’s when it occurred to me one of the beautiful aspects of marriage: you’re constantly needing to think of someone else.

Breakfast: what foods should we invest in?

Money: what does Tim think about this budget plan?

Work: how can I get my work done prior to Tim coming home so that I can spend that time with him?

Recreational: when is Tim busy doing things, I will try to plan my events alongside those.

Lunch: what foods should we invest in, frozen meals, sandwhiches?

Hairstyles: what is tim comfortable with? How much maintence do I want to put into a hairstyle, this affects our budget.

Dogs: should we go to the dog park together tonight? Is he willing to go for me so that I can get things done? Am I willing to go for him so he can get stuff done?

Dinner: Tim doesn’t like mushrooms, I’m craving mushrooms, how can I make a meal where I satisfy this craving without making him feel like he is going to throw up.

Bed time: Tim wants to stay up and watch a game tonight, do I stay up with him so that we can go to sleep at the same time, or go to bed and sacrifice that extra time together?

At every moment, in everyday, my thoughts have to go back to my partner, my friend, my beloved, my husband.  I am so grateful for this.  At every moment I am forced to think about someone outside of myself.  I don’t always love doing this, but I do it because I love the one I’m thinking about, and I am grateful that this causes me to take my thoughts off of myself.

The dictionary defines pride as having a super high opinion of oneself. I think though that having a super low opinion of oneself is also pride.  Having an obsession with yourself, whether it be through arrogance or insecurity, puts a person a risk.

Out of arrogance one risks getting to the point of pride where they say Look at all I can do and have done, I don’t need God.

Out of insecurity one risks getting to the point of pride where they say Look at where I am or what I am not, not even God can help me.

Pride, in either form, challenges the power of our Perfect and Loving Lord.  Focus on the self puts one at risk of distancing themselves from God.

Marriage is a beautiful thing, because when good times come I don’t become puffed up with pride to the point where I think I can do all things on my own, and when the bad times come I don’t become so consumed with prideful insecurity that I think no one, not even God himself, could help me out of my situation.  I don’t, because my thoughts are not solely on ME.

I’m thinking what can I do to help my beloved, how can I build him up through this situation? How can I support him through this new trial? How can I make him feel like the amazing man God made him to be? How can I show him that I care about him? How can I get past my insecurities to better love him? How can I level the confidence I feel on my good day to build him up on his bad day?

Marriage is a beautiful thing for so many reasons.  It has helped me grow so much over the past 9 months.  It has challenged me in areas I didn’t know existed, let alone needed to grow.  God has worked through our marriage to stretch me in ways I never perceived.

I am utterly grateful that I have a God that loves me so much, who knows my needs, and gave me a partner to walk through this life with. I am utterly grateful for a night of grieving over a hole in our marriage, that as Tim and I work together to fill, we are drawn even closer, something I arrogantly thought impossible prior to marriage.

Marriage is not easy.  It goes against every natural human instinct to fend for yourself.

But Marriage is so good.

**I want to make a quick note that if you are unmarried I do not think that your are prideful, only you and God know where you stand in that area.  God began working on my humility prior to marriage, we still have long ways to go after marriage, marriage has just been a helpful outlet to see and help me in working through some of my prominent areas of pride.  I am confident that God is doing incredible things in his followers whether or not, in the words of Beyonce, they “put a ring on it.”

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