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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Since I met Tim at the wonderfully fashionable tacky Christmas sweater party in 2008 we have just clicked.

Image

And marriage hasn’t phased us terribly yet.  We’ve definitely had some nasty fights, and there are days where we get so frustrated with this person we live with that we can’t fathom another day, let alone a lifetime of being with each other.

But most days we are just having a great time with the person we love: watching TV, walking our dogs, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, you name it, we will have a blast being together.

But what happens when all of a sudden two people have dramatically different visions for their lives?

I never considered this as a potential in marriage, I always assumed God would move both of our hearts in the same direction at the same time… always.

But apparently this can happen and it did.  After we found out that we would not be going to Malaysia, we were both really bummed out.  Instead of sulking (for too long) we decided to seek God on the matter, and what we found were two beautiful paths, that did not align at ALL.

As Tim prayed he became more convinced that this opportunity had been purposeful, and that we should be seeking other opportunities like it.  I always use the phrase if Tim could have packed up and moved us two weeks ago we would be gone to describe his enthusiasm for living internationally.  He was confident, steady, and determined.

I prayed as well, but instead of receiving this same message it became abundantly clear to my heart that God was calling us to live more intentionally in our community here in Houston.  I have at times felt Houston is not our forever city, but our city for now.  I prayed about this from the perspective of a teacher wanting to know if she should be looking to sign another contract, and received a very firm answer that we should plan to stay another academic year.  I was confident, steady, and determined.  And scared… but save that for another day.

So Tim was ready to pack us up and ship out, and I was ready to dig roots deeper here.  Hmmm.

So many nights we would get frustrated with each other both saying “I don’t feel like you are honoring the call that is on my heart” and both being right.

When I wanted to talk about what we could do here to settle in Tim wanted to talk about applications for positions across seas.  When I wanted to invest time in friendships, Tim wanted to invest connecting internationally.

Oh crap.

Compromise.  How do we compromise?

His heart:

Tim and I have decided to visit some friends in Kurdistan this summer and also take some time to visit Jerusalem.  On our trip to Asia, we will also be stopping in London and Istanbul.  Tim has been planning like crazy for weeks now and I have been doing my best to stay focused during our itinerary meetings and keep up with his enthusiasm.

I have no idea how we will react to traveling.  We are both so excited, but we could go and decide another country is indeed where we need to be, or we could go and decide that this country is where we need to be.  Either way there are so many questions we will then want to ask.

Her heart:

And when we are not running around new cities and airports? We will be focused on being present here where we are.  Being more intentional about time with others and service (hopefully starting in July when we return).

So many things are still undetermined.  We know that we will be in Houston this next year, but doing what? After that, then what? We don’t have a five year plan, or even a 5 month plan, but in this we feel most content.

Some may say we are being unwise, but we are learning to trust our Savior daily, a difficult lesson indeed.  For now we do our best to honor each other, and above this, the one who calls our hearts to live fully and wonderfully, individually and together.

Every so often we are all graced with a snappy punch line of a title and teasing synopsis, accompanied by an intriguing photo that sports several likes and maybe some comments on our News-feeds and Twitter-feeds. I’m not talking about the minor league blogs such as mine.  I’m talking about the real deals, the mega followed possibly highly controversial.  Maybe it’s a break through blog, a new shining star in the vast universe of blogs.  Recently one such blog has been gracing the screen of my Facebook page daily, you may have heard of it: 23 Things To Do Instead Of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23.  Due to the fact that I was married at age 22, I knew that I probably wouldn’t see eye to eye with the author of this blog.  I faced enough criticism when I was engaged, I didn’t need to go through hearing why I was too young again.  But it kept popping up! So I read it.  I read it and I didn’t love it,  but I liked parts of it..  

I told my husband about it in a “you won’t believe what I read” kind of way but our conversation lasted about 2 minutes ending with me thinking “marriage is awesome.”  Pretty great considering I swore at a young age that I would never get married.

Then the inevitable began.  The wide range of opposing blogs started to pop up. Someone even disliked the blog so much they began their blog because of it! That one kept popping up on my screen too, so I read it, among a few others.

I’m not an expert at blogging… or at being a good person, Jesus has to teach me a lot and be super patient with me. BUT I didn’t really like that people kept trying to argue against this blogger about her post.

I’m not saying that it is not good to voice your opinion or stand your ground, but sometimes people hiding behind their computer screens can be a bit too snarky and even be just plain mean. Cyber bullying is a thing and I see it too much.

I have this  belief I always share with my students, something I have learned the hard way through my short life’s experiences.

1. It is always easier to be mean than nice

2. It is always easier to ridicule than compliment

3. It is always easier to criticize an idea than to remain open minded to it

4. It is easier to be negative than positive

The same may not be true for your life. You may have a really easy time keeping a positive mind set.  You may be kind to all people, It may not be difficult for you to always see the best in others, and you may mostly stay open to someone’s view points and ideas.  For myself, and for most of the people I have encountered, this just isn’t the case.  For students who are struggling I share my ideas with them and I conclude by asking the following of them:

Please don’t settle for what is easy, always fight for what is good.

I write about some pretty controversial topics on here, namely Christianity.  I talk about Jesus a lot, or I hope I do. I talk about my relationship with Him, my struggles.  I share portions of my life.  People use the word vulnerable a lot in reference to my blog, and I am ok with that, because to me, that allows Jesus to come through.  He was vulnerable and in my vulnerability His love will hopefully come through.

If ever my blog graces the news-feeds of hundreds or thousands of Facebook pages or Twitter feeds, then there are bound to be people that do not like what I have to say.  Some just won’t agree, because people just don’t agree about Jesus right now.  But my hope is that people will be kind and respectful in their disagreement.  

Rather than picking a fight in my comment section or writing a blog post that that points out everywhere I went I wrong, I hope they will bring their arguments to me.  Message me, call me, write me, I don’t care, I just hope they attempt to come to me.  That they ask me about the things they disagree with and argue their point to me so that we can dialogue.  Maybe there will be too many who disagree to talk to!  Hopefully despite what they disagree with they can find some good in what I write.

I’m writing this because I think we need to be kinder to each other on the internet.  

Does this make me lame? Maybe. I am indeed writing an entire blog post about being kind to one another.  Maybe this is the teacher in me that hates to see students fight unnecessarily or belittle one another.

It’s easier to dismiss someone’s ideas, it is much more difficult to invest in them, or at least consider them.  This blog entry about enjoying the single life, which gets a little snarky towards my folk (we who marry young), reminds me of how much I want to travel, of how much I want to see and taste and experience in this life.  It makes me love the thirst for adventure that exists within me.  It especially makes me grateful that I have a partner who has brought this out in me, who makes me more courageous, who makes me the most me, and will make the colorful experiences of this life more vibrant.

I hope that I will find the benefit in what someone has to offer always, that I can always appreciate their courageous choice to voice what they believe in.  My argument isn’t perfect, but readers of my blog know that I embrace imperfection, everyone’s, including my own.  I wear it on my sleeve, I drink it up, and let it spill out.  Because in my imperfection shines my Jesus, the only perfect man that ever lived, died, and lives on.

 

We live in very confusing times.  As a Christian this really isn’t surprising.  God never said the world would get fixed after he left, he said it would continue to spiral until he came back.  The problem though, isn’t the confusion in the world; it’s how the church and non-church respond to our circumstances.  From my perspective, the two most controversial non-essential spiritual issues I have faced have been drinking and views on gay marriage.

 My experience with alcohol has presented itself to be the epitome of how poorly we handle confusion and of the tension Christians feel in and outside of the church.  As a kid, I knew that beer and wine were for the adults, and I never had a problem with that.  My dad usually had a few of what he called, cold “brewskies” in the fridge and it was never a shock to find a box of mom’s weird grape juice in the lower cabinets.  I knew the rule that the wine was for my momma, and the brewsky for dad, leaving all other liquids in the fridge up for grabs for my sister and I.  This never concerned me, and alcohol never stood out to me, it was just there.  This isn’t to say I didn’t see the problems alcohol could cause.  My parents and adults around me weren’t perfect, but they were great at teaching me from a young age that when I would drink when I was older, moderation would be the key word (though to say I didn’t learn this lesson fully the hard way would be a lie).

It wasn’t until college that I first began to see that alcohol was the great divide between the prudes and the popular.  As a freshman before becoming a Christian I drank underage a few times thinking that it was just “what you did.” However, after becoming a Christian and getting involved in a youth ministry I chose to stop drinking until I was of age.  No big deal right? It’s not like I actually enjoyed the Natty Light frats served or that disgusting mix o’ crap they called punch. 

WRONG!                          

Oh my gosh, you would have thought I was a leper from the way some people reacted to me and my friends for not drinking.  Not all people, I met some really awesome people who drank underage and were really cool with me not joining in.  But oh my gosh, this was like THE thing that distinguished a “Christian” from a true Christian in college, or it was the thing to defend if you were a Christian.  I felt so on edge and left out all because I wouldn’t drink! In the defense of the insiders, I probably acted as awkward as I felt, which was probably more of the cause for being (or should I say feeling) on the “outside” than drinking.

No big deal, push through and it will all be over after college.  We’ll all move on from the drinking issue and no awkwardness will exist when the drinking age has come and gone along with the rebelliousness or newness that had come with it in school.

WRONG!

Now I’m not worrying about people on the outside of the steepled buildings thinking I’m a prude, I’m more worried about the people inside thinking I’m living in sin (gasp!).   This feels ridiculous to write about, but I know I’m not alone.  Once when I offered wine to a couple friends, a girl came up to me and whispered “I really needed some Christian friends who drank, thanks.” I totally knew where she was coming from, and I totally understood her need to whisper.  For whatever reason, alcohol has become this very uncomfortable topic.

What? Why?

Why is this such an unspoken hot button issue for the church?

I’m going to go ahead and get it out there right now: I drink! I love a good margarita, white wine, Dos Equis, or hard cider! Yum!

To some people that may not seem like a big deal, and back in the day I wouldn’t have thought so either.  However, having experienced people whose view is that drinking means I can no longer be a part of the church, and having felt the pressure of not letting others see me participate in what is really such a simple thing compared to, oh, I don’t know, war, hunger, poverty… just to name a few, I love being able to just put in writing that I drink.  Moderation, like my parents so wisely taught me, is key.

This isn’t to downplay that drinking can be a problem. I have seen what alcoholism can do to a person and their family, and I always want to respect that person and their sobriety over having a freaking drink.  In other situations a person may not be able to drink because of medication they are taking (I have been this person at times).  In instances such as these, a beer just wouldn’t cross my mind. It just isn’t a big deal to not consider alcohol in that case.

I write all this to show how something so unimportant in the big picture (again, war, poverty…), can be blown out of proportion.  And amid all of what I wrote about, amid my whole experience, how often did Jesus come up?

It should have been simple when I was in college: I met a man named Jesus, and his love has changed me, so now choices I make look different than before, but that doesn’t mean I love you any less or look at you as any less.  If anything it is the exact opposite. I love and value you more than ever. 

The same awkwardness and tension arises in our nation over things such as the marriage debate.  In our hearts there are so many devoted followers of Jesus that know that our job is well defined: love others.

Not love others unless they drink or unless they are homosexual or unless they use bad words.

And yet we’re scared because you see all of these controversies where the church is trying to protect the “sanctity” of marriage (let’s just ignore the 50% divorce rate in and out of the church), and we’re scared into silence.  Are we not being truthful enough? Defending what God defined as marriage? Are we not honoring God if we vote the “wrong” way? God, am I going to have to be the prude once again?

And amid all of this, how often am I, are we, mentioning Jesus?  How often do we ask about him, talk about him, consider him? After all, he is the cornerstone of our beliefs and our church, and yet we aren’t talking about him at all.  No one is discussing the man who lived over 2,000 years ago, let that soak in.  People will argue till they are blue in the face about the morality in marriage without considering who they are following, a man who died, over 2,000 years ago.

Everything about this situation is strange. 

First, that we aren’t talking about the foundation of what we believe; the one who started our movement, the reason we (Christians) exist, while we exhaust ourselves trying to figure out how to defend which politics we side with.

Second, that who we are forgetting is strange in and of itself considering he died over 2,000 years ago.

We are distracted, as individuals, as groups, as a nation.  We are so caught up in defending what we believe is morally “right”, that we have forgotten to discuss the one we believe in.  This is really our loss, because it is quite fascinating that 2,000 years later, a lower-class individual from an afterthought of a country still has people so devoted to his story and to him.

My sincerest desire is to step outside of our cloud of confusion, step outside of alcohol, outside of the marriage debate, outside of the politics and the mundane distractions, and focus on the question that matters, the question that started over 2,000 years ago, the question that changes everything.

I want the masses to stop bickering, so the individual can ask: Who was Jesus?

 

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