Tag: struggles

questions

Why it’s ok to question God

I had a great conversation with a twenty-two-year-old yesterday. She admitted she was struggling with her faith, that she had a lot of questions.

questions

“Good,” I replied.

“What do you mean?”, she asked.

Here’s how I explained it.

“I wasn’t brought up in a Christian environment although I did go to Sunday School as a little girl. In fact, one of my most treasured memories is of a dear teacher with one totally cloudy eye. She was so loving. Her eye didn’t even bother me, an eight-year-old who is usually put off by such things. Anyway, because there was no one in my family to teach me, I asked a lot of questions. The cloudy-eyed teacher never had a problem with that.

When I got to be a teenager and then a young adult, I entered the stage where one asks the big philosophical questions, the ones they think no one before them has asked, but in fact, have been asked by young people since the beginning of time.

“What does it all mean?”

“What is the meaning of life, anyway?”

“What is my purpose on earth?”

“Why is there good and evil if God is all good?”

You know the questions. They are typical of any emerging, thoughtful mind.

Hers is no exception.

I went on:

“I find that even now, I’m still asking questions, maybe even more of them. That means my faith isn’t handed-down by parents, teachers, or preachers, or books and sermons. It’s mine. I’ve done my homework. You should do yours. Besides, you are in good company.

Throughout the Bible, people questioned God. I can’t think of a single incident where God chastised them for it. In fact, there are a lot of words in scripture like, “seek”, “find”, “learn”, “embrace”, “be transformed”, etc., all of which, in my opinion, means asking some questions first.

God is open to all honest questioning. He invites it by the word choices he inspired.

It is those people who never question who never grow.

I present this next little popular Pinterest ditty as exactly how not to think. questions(I just want to hit my computer some days when I see what people post and what people believe is scriptural. I hate these little sayings and I’m very careful how I use them.) Trust is not the absence of questioning. Trust is the product of questioning. If Abraham hadn’t put a period where God hadn’t intended, the whole Sodom and Gomorrah situation might have turned out differently. He stopped too soon. How’s about we trust God while we question?

 

To trust someone without the answers is the greatest trust of all.

 

We are in a classroom all the time, the classroom of life. The greatest minds, the strongest Christians, have always been those with an inquiring mind, those who don’t just ascribe to the “standard” formula of faith. The most faithful of Christians are those who don’t let God “go”, much like Jacob. They keep asking until they are given some sort of answer, even when that answer is something like, “That can’t be revealed just now. Wait on me.”

We went on to talk about why she doesn’t necessarily “buy” into certain theological concepts. We’ve had these conversations before and as usual, I didn’t try to persuade her any different. “A person persuaded against their will, is of the same opinion still“, is an absolute fact of life. Instead, I encouraged her to continue asking and never quit.

Some of you may wonder if I wasn’t a little afraid to go that route. What if she falls off the deep end? What if she gives up on her faith?

She won’t. And now you’re sure to be asking how I can be so sure.  Now, you are asking the questions.

I know because she is my granddaughter and I’ve prayed for her her entire life. My hubby and I were intimately involved with her and her brother’s childhood. My son and his wife invited us into almost every decision regarding them. We have spent countless hours (My spell-checker told me this was a cliché. I ignored it as some clichés are totally correct) with them. We have been there through their struggles and their triumphs.  They are more like our children than our grandchildren.

So when she left, I knew that all my prayers for her are being answered. She is going to be a strong woman of faith. I know it, even if she doesn’t. It has been hard with both of them to learn to adapt to them as young adults who happen to be our grandchildren, instead of our grandchildren who happen to be young adults. I talk with them as I would any young person their age. And then do you know what I do?

I pray.

I pray as hard as I can for them. I pray that they will always be willing to talk to me and their grandfather, that they will always be one hundred percent sure of our love for them.

I have to say that I wouldn’t want to be a young person at this time of history. Not because I think the world is any more stressful but because my world was “quite-er”. I wasn’t bombarded with everyone’s opinions every minute of the day because of social media. Interesting to note, neither her nor her brother are on Facebook a lot. They don’t “tweet”. Yes, they have Instagram and yes, they are on their phones texting a lot with their friends but the rest of it is not something they’re interested in. I’m grateful for that.

I never take my relationship with my grandchildren for granted. I work on it all the time as they go through the growing up process. I always try to remember what it was like for me and then I get all “teary-eyed” with gratitude as I remember that they have not had my experience. They have always had us to come to.

If you have young adults in your life, treat them with respect. Remember how confused you were at their age. Think what it would have felt like to have an older adult talk with you as they would anyone their own age, who would have been honest about their own questionings, who would have been honest about their own fears. Maybe you did;  I didn’t. I would’ve loved to have had those kinds of conversations with an adult I loved and respected.

Have enough faith to know that the same God you question, and you do, is the same God they question.

questions

He has seen you through and he will see them through as well. Encourage their questions and don’t be afraid that by doing so, you are sending them down a wrong path. If you are praying for them at the same time, God is protecting them.

God bless and have a good day.

 

 

 

 

 

Humility-what it is, what it isn’t

We were in Bangkok.

Bangkok skyline

There was a quiet knock on the door. It almost sounded apologetic.

I opened the door in response .  A timid young Thai woman bowed her head and mumbled some words. “Why was she bowing?” I asked myself.

She had on a uniform with the name of the hotel embroidered on it, so I knew her to be one of the hotel staff.

I let her in and in her broken Thai/English vernacular, she said, “Housekeeping, Madam.”

I understood what she said but still couldn’t figure out the “bowing” part.  My first instinct was to tell her to straighten up, but I knew I couldn’t make her understand what I was saying.

My second instinct was to gently place my hands on her head and lift it but I know better than to touch a stranger in a foreign country.

Over the next two weeks, I was bowed to so many times, I felt like royalty. My husband laughingly explained it was protocol for the staff at this particular hotel. I grew to like it a little too much, I’m ashamed to admit.

Fast forward twelve years later.

I’m at a motel chain in Atlanta, Georgia, a far cry from the Bangkok Hilton. On the flight there, I was reading a book by John Ortberg, entitled, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”.  It’s a book that focuses on spiritual growth and at the end of one chapter the author suggests we ask this question, “Am I becoming judgmental or exclusive or proud?”

That question is what prompted me to remember my experience in Thailand.

When my husband’s job transitioned to internal travel, we knew it was important that we handle what others would view as a “WOW” in the right way. We knew people can be impressed easily and we didn’t want that.  We knew we were the same people.

So we decided early on that we wouldn’t broadcast the bit about the international travel. I remembered the times I’d heard other women talk of international travel and how I felt I had nothing in common with them.  I always felt a little inferior. That was my fault, not theirs but I didn’t want others to feel that way about me. It’s too easy to get a big head. Besides, the glamor wore off after about the third trip.

Humility doesn’t mean we can’t feel good about our achievements. We all feel good when we’ve worked hard on a project and it turns out even better than we expected.  I feel a healthy pride when one of my paintings turns out good.

Unhealthy pride almost always leads us to think we’re more valuable than the next person.

 We can judge unhealthy pride in ourselves by how we treat others.  

We can enjoy the fruits of our labor without feeling we’ve abandoned humility. Physicians make the salary they do because they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education, years of internship and often hold a patient’s life in their hands. Respecting someone’s expertise is very different from elevating them.  My husband earned every one of his frequent flyer miles the hard way: cancelled flights, long layovers, being away from his family and friends, being sick In a foreign country, having to rush every minute when he was home to see the people he needed to see, and never getting any time to enjoy his own pursuits.

When God blesses us with something we need never apologize for it. As long as we acknowledge that God is the ultimate source of every blessing and show our thankfulness in meaningful ways, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of our labor. Pride rears its head when we twist our thinking to convince ourselves we did it all on our own. That’s when we cease to be humble.

Many people confuse personality traits with humility.  Some of the most humble people I know are extroverts. Some of the least humble people I know are introverts.  Further, humility doesn’t mean we never confront or share our opinions either.  Christ was humble but he wasn’t meek or timid acting. Hardly.  He often harshly addressed the hypocrites around him.  Even during his trial, he never backed down from the truth.

(Remembering my promise to myself to keep my blog “real” and to be authentic I share this personal bit.) There are days, when during my quiet time, I say to God, “God, I think I made you smile today and that makes me feel good.” I want to know I’ve made God smile. Why would I want anything less? I don’t feel the least bit prideful about saying that. Maybe that’s because on other days I have to say, “God, today, I think I made you sad and that makes me feel awful.”

If you can look in the mirror and once you look away forget about yourself, you are well on your way to humility.  If you can pick up someone else’s mess without complaining, you are well on your way. If you can graciously offer your place in line to someone behind you, you are well on your way.  If you can visit someone who needs a visit even though they’re not the most pleasant person, you are on your way.  I believe as with most aspects of life we have to be intentional or we simply will let things slide

Deliberately put yourselves in situations that keep you humble.

I want to tell you a true story. Your first thought may be that this woman I’m going to tell you about was less than humble by sharing her story. That’s not true. She’s one of the most genuine people I know. It happened in a Bible class I was teaching and the subject was relationships. Her demeanor in telling her story was gentle and sweet and I could tell she struggled with sharing it for fear she would bring too much attention to herself.

It happened in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  She has four children. She and her husband were struggling financially. This particular day everyone was getting on everyone’s nerves. Her husband was becoming frustrated with the children and with her. This was very much unlike him. This kept up for the afternoon and she was to the point of tears.  She was also getting irritated herself with her husband’s lack of understanding about a few issues that were transpiring that day. She went into a room and prayed.

She knew what she had to do.

Everyone was gathered in the family room sulking, no one talking to one another. She went into the kitchen, filled a large round bowl with water, and gathered some soap and a washcloth. She entered the room, and without saying a word she knelt in front of her husband. She said that everyone immediately became still and quiet as they watched what she was doing. Her husband was so taken aback, he just sat there. Without one word, she took off his shoes and socks and gently and lovingly washed his feet.  Her family was so struck by what she was doing, tears came to their eyes. (Mine, too, as I listened.)

She never said what happened next. She ended her story very quietly and none of us spoke, even the never-at-a-loss-for words teacher. As I recall, the silence in our room continued for quite a while as we took in what she’d done. I will never forget it. It is to this day the most graphic example of true humility I’ve ever heard about.

She would have been justified in nursing her wounded feelings but she knew her husband was upset with himself and rather than chastise him, she took the opportunity to humble herself before him.

Those of the Christian faith are beginning to celebrate Holy Week, the interval between when Jesus entered Jerusalem till the day he rose from the dead on Easter. During that time there were a few trials, many betrayals, and finally a crucifixion. In Philippians (a book in the Christians bible), it says that Jesus humbled himself.  Christians believe Jesus, being God’s son, had all the same power his father did. He could have stopped his own crucifixion but instead, he humbled himself and fulfilled prophecy. No one had to humble Jesus. He did it himself.

 Humility isn’t an intrinsic quality. Humility is an action. Humility isn’t something we claim’ it’s something we give away.

Christ was our example.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

 

decision-making

How to make good decisions?-part two

(This post today was a follow-up to yesterday’s post. This happened four years ago and I had kind of forgotten about it. That’s what is so great about blogging. I have a record of past events.

I was very vague when I wrote this but now with the recent death of my mom, I can tell you this post was about her. I loved her very much. I still do. But we had some difficult times. I tried really hard to make her happy. Sometimes I know I did but I often felt inadequate because I didn’t know what else to do. 

I can tell you now that this was about a trip to Florida. My husband and I love our two weeks away. He loves fishing there. I love the beach. To cancel our trip would’ve been a big deal. We had already reserved our usual place, stopped the mail, were packed etc.

The day before we were to leave, my mother told me she felt really sick.. I saw her every day and she had not mentioned it the day before.  It seemed she only had a cold with a slight cough.  When I asked her how long she had felt “really bad,” she said “days”.  I was not happy that she had sprung this on me at the last-minute knowing we had been planning this trip for months. I told her she was going to the doctor the very next morning then if she was that sick. She balked but I insisted.

I took her to the doctor the very next day and she was diagnosed with bronchitis. This was the day we were to have left for our trip. We cancelled it. And while I didn’t like it, I knew I couldn’t just go off and leave her.  Before you say, “Well, of course not,” I need to tell you my brother lived with her. He had lived with her about four years and lived with her until her death.  But let’s just say I was the one who kept on top of her health. I wasn’t sure he would take proper care of her. 

I look back and am very happy with that decision. God knew there was no way I could go off with a clear conscience and so he made it clear what I should do. Yes, my husband was fully supportive. I didn’t mope or carry-on or any such thing. I had a real peace.

The following post is all about that process of decision-making.)

 

 I just want you to know that my decision-making process has begun all over again because of new developments.  Developments that took me by surprise and threaten to completely mess everything up.

Remember I said in the last post that I was counting on God to make it clear if I am to change course. I should’ve added that it’s sometimes hard to know if God is telling us to change course or if it’s the enemy’s (you can call him what you want) way of causing us to doubt what God has revealed.  This can be very difficult to figure out.

There are some who would say otherwise, that God always makes things crystal clear, but I try to avoid contact with these people because it has been my experience that those people generally live with their heads in the clouds.) It would be wonderful if life were easy to figure out. Maybe for some people it is. Their life is easy; things just fall into place. My life is not like that right now-not at all.  It’s complicated. Very. And just a few hours ago, it got a lot more complicated.

So how will I know now what to do? I have a very narrow window to make a decision.  I’m honestly not trying to be vague. But the details of what’s happening in my life or yours are not as important as discussing this whole business of decision-making overall. I need to be general enough to help everyone. But if I’m aware of that, you ask, why can’t I just move on? Well, this same person is very elderly and not emotionally stable having suffered severe depressive episodes their entire life. Our decision is whether we leave on a trip tomorrow or not. If I had days to write and you had days to read, I still wouldn’t be able to explain it all to you. It’s that involved.

You can know that this is an elderly person who is not emotionally stable and has suffered severe depressive episodes their entire life.  Consequently, sometimes it’s hard to know if there is a valid crisis or not. Our decision is whether we leave on a trip tomorrow or not. If I had days to write and you had days to read, I still wouldn’t be able to explain it all to you. The history with this person is that complicated.

So once again I’m on my knees, if only figuratively. This morning the decision was made to go. We’ve rented the car. We’ve stopped the mail. We’re packed. Are you getting the picture? Now I’m having to reconsider. But I’m very proud of the fact that once again wisdom has been provided and once again I’m on the right track in my thinking. Tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment will seal the deal one way or the other.

I am hoping this will now be an easy decision to make but considering this person’s history, it won’t be. This is leading me to make an important point about decision-making.

A decision that is right for us may not feel that way to someone else. As long as God is behind our decision, it’s ok.

What do we do if our decision is going to cause someone some degree of discomfort? It depends on the degree and who’s going to feel it, doesn’t it?

Whose discomfort is going to be greater? I didn’t realize until I started to post tonight that this is what this decision is all about. Their discomfort or mine? I can handle a lot. I have a track record that proves it.

So here I am tonight. Not looking forward to tomorrow. Knowing there’s no way, no matter what decision I make, that I’m going to come out on top. Finally, God knew all this was going to happen so he must have a plan. Tomorrow it will unfold. I am trusting God will once again put a stumbling block in the way if going ahead with our trip is wrong. If he doesn’t I’m going to assume it’s still a go.

But God knew all this was going to happen so he must have a plan. Tomorrow it will unfold. I am trusting God will once again put a stumbling block in the way if going ahead with our trip is wrong. If he doesn’t I’m going to assume it’s still a go.

God is not a God of confusion. Scripture is clear about that. If I’m confused tomorrow about what to do, it will be my own confusion that I must muddle through.

God bless and I hope you have an non-confused day.

calm water

How to walk on water without a life jacket

Walking on water without a life jacket is pretty hard to do. Actually, it’s impossible to walk on water anyway.

Unless you’re the Apostle Peter that is. And even he started to sink.

But don’t you feel that sometimes that’s exactly what you’re doing?

I think back to the two weeks before my mom died. I can say truthfully that God’s hand was reaching out to me and keeping me afloat just as Jesus reached out to Peter.

We don’t always have a life jacket. But we certainly always have God keeping us afloat.

It’s hard to always feel his strong arms holding us and keeping us steady but sometimes we’re acutely aware of it.

I know those two weeks were really hard but when I look back I don’t recall them as hard. Not in the sense of physical and emotional exhaustion. I really felt like the water beneath my feet was totally calm, like Lake Michigan when there is no wind. Like glass. Have you ever seen a lake that is totally calm? It’s really quite rare but it’s the most calming scene ever.

calm water

It’s almost like you could “spread” it on toast.

I never once felt like I was going to sink. While it’s still really hard because I miss her so much, I still feel like I’m walking on water. I still feel calm like that rare calm lake. Oh, it still hurts. A lot. I miss her so much but I remind myself  I should. When you love someone and you lose them, you are supposed to feel sad.

If you are where I was and you are facing some really tough weeks, I want you to know that God is able to keep you afloat. Watching my mom die and being there when she breathed her last breath was the most heartbreaking experience I’ve ever known. At no time, though, was I unaware that God wasn’t aware of what I was going through.

We can have that reassurance that God is always aware of what we are going through. We don’t go through the tough times without God knowing about it. 

I know what the next question is,  “Well, why then doesn’t he prevent it, stop it, etc?” If I had a definitive answer that everyone could accept, I’d be a wealthy woman. Besides, so much of what happens to us is in our own hands, it’s hard to untangle it all.

Don’t you think I questioned, “Why, my mom? What did she ever do to deserve the events of her life the last year? Why her?”

Of course, I did. I told God I didn’t get it. I told God it wasn’t fair.

Did I get an answer that satisfied me?

Nope.

Did I get a life jacket, a way out? Can I avoid this grieving process?

No.but I felt that peace that surpasses all understanding, I felt calmed just like that lake.

But I felt that “peace that surpasses all understanding” as described in Philippians 4:6-8. I felt calm, just like a serene and calm lake.

If your seas are rough today, take heart. God will not let you sink.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

 

 

 

 

growing

When you say, “I would never do that.”

Have you ever thought, “Oh, I would never do that, say that, feel that, etc.”

I used to say those things, too.

No more.

I’ve been pulled up my be bootstraps these past few weeks as I’ve had to deal with something I never thought would give me a moment’s concern. It’s a blessing but it also carries an obligation. I received a gift I didn’t ask for and now I’m responsible for it and all the ramifications that it brings with it.

And all this happens as my mom’s health continues to decline which means that my attention has been diverted from her somewhat and that bothers me. As of next week, much of what I am dealing with will be settled and I can relax a little.

But just like it can be in all of life’s challenges, much good came of it. These are the five things I’ve learned so far. I have a hunch there will be more.

First of all, some old resentments were brought to the surface. Once I became aware of them, I was able to put them to rest. Had I not been faced with this situation, I might never have had to confront them.

We think we’ve gotten over some things and when we find out we haven’t, it’s disheartening. But when we face ourselves, God’s love comes shining through reminding us we’re human and presenting us with opportunities to grow. 

growing

Secondly, I learned that satan (I never capitalize the name) is very alive and well. I’ve lost sleep over some decisions because I’ve let him influence my thinking process. I’m trying hard, most people would say, perhaps too hard, to be fair. What never occurred to me was that I should be fair to myself as well. I woke up one night and that is exactly what I felt God was saying to me, “Be fair to yourself, too.”.  So there’s that.

Thirdly, now I can rest knowing God will always “check” me when I’m heading down a wrong path, that my relationship with my heavenly father is such that I will have no rest unless I heed his voice. I’m so glad to know this. I would never want to think that I’m unteachable or “unleadable”.

Fourth, I’ve learned that honesty and openness with people are the only options. Sometimes it’s easy to assume in advance how people are going to respond. And it’s nice to be wrong. I was pleasantly surprised.

Finally, I’ve learned that if we give God enough time and if we just “coast” a little (assuming we have the time), the answer always comes and we feel that enormous sense of relief. When Philippian, chapter four, talks about the “peace that passes all understanding”, it never says it’s going to come easy.

I could write volumes about the roller coaster ride that has been my life these past few months. I’m looking forward to a smooth carousel ride in the future.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

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