What Does Faith Really Look Like?

Is faith always a never-faltering, wild “Hallelujah!”?

I don’t think so.

I think faith is essentially this:  turning my face toward the God I love even when (especially when!) I’ve stopped expecting an answer and maybe even when my heart has despaired of help.

I would argue that faith is precisely that step forward into the dark unknown, onto the broken road, lifting  the unbearable heaviness as an offering and trusting that

God sees,

that He hears

and that He will not abandon me.

We’re all encouraged when we read through Psalms. But what did David endure to experience the depth of love he has for God? What kind of heart-shredding pain did he go through before understanding how real and present God was and just how much God loved him regardless of his brokenness?

Understanding the whole story of the Bible, it’s much easier to see that my brokenness has a purpose.”

~Laura Story, When God Doesn’t Fix It

faith-deliberate-trust

Repost: Monday Musings-Mercy

A precious sister-in-loss created this image.

It’s my theme song.

And the message of my heart.

Read the rest here:  Monday Musings: Mercy

Exposed

When you pass that accident on the side of the road or read about the mass shooting in the press, what do you think?

What do you say?

Do you breathe a sigh of relief that no one you loved or knew was part of such a tragic disaster?  Do you feel chosen, special, “above it all” because you follow Jesus?  Do you think that your faithful, Bible-focused life and worldview will protect you from random accidents or the sinful actions of others?

Do you say, “Thank You God, it wasn’t me (or mine)?”  Do you pray for the ones caught up in the death and destruction?  Pray that they knew Jesus?  Pray that their families will be able to bear the weight of grief and sorrow that is just this moment bearing down on them?

Or do you snap a photo with your phone and post on social media something like: “Awful wreck on the interstate.  So glad I was a little late this morning or it might have been me! God is good!”

Or worse:  “Awful wreck on the interstate.  Traffic backed up for miles.  UGH!

I walk in two worldsone where I am so very thankful for each life and family spared what I now know by experience, and one where I am brought to tears every time they aren’t.

I wish believers in Christ would choose words that are consistent with compassion-whether the person is spared or not.

Jesus is a man of tears.

He was moved by love and compassion in every human encounter (even with the Pharisees-He wished their eyes were opened).

I want my heart and my words to reflect that I know this Saviour full of love and mercy.

Spared or not, it’s no doing of mine.

To say otherwise reflects only arrogance and ignorance.

Just a moment, now, you who say, “We are going to such-and-such a city today or tomorrow. We shall stay there a year doing business and make a profit”! How do you know what will happen even tomorrow? What, after all, is your life? It is like a puff of smoke visible for a little while and then dissolving into thin air. Your remarks should be prefaced with, “If it is the Lord’s will, we shall be alive and will do so-and-so.” As it is, you get a certain pride in yourself in planning your future with such confidence. That sort of pride is all wrong. No doubt you agree with the above in theory. Well, remember that if a man knows what is right and fails to do it, his failure is a real sin.

James 4:14-17 PHILLIPS

Help! I Need Somebody!

So, almost twenty years on a farm and I can NOT back a trailer.  Nope.  Can’t do it.

One day I spent hours trying to teach myself how to do it.  Never was able to do anything other than manage to jackknife the trailer, go unhook it and start over.

So when I go somewhere with a trailer I do one of two things:  (1) I find a space where I can drive in and be able to just make a loop or (2) I find the nearest person who CAN back a trailer, hand them my keys and ask them to do it.

I feel NO shame.

But that’s not the case with other things I can’t do.  So many times I try to avoid admitting that I am unable to meet certain people’s expectations or do certain things that I either used to be able to do or feel I SHOULD be able to do.

I think the reason I don’t mind outing myself on trailers is because that confession usually gets a laugh or a knowing look from the person who helps me or an admission from someone standing near at the feed store that they also have trouble backing up a trailer.

But when I say, “I just don’t think I’m up to teaching VBS” or “I’d love to come to that event but I’ve reached my social quota this week” or “I’m still struggling with driving by that spot or eating at that restaurant” it’s often met with (at best) a quizzical look or (at worst) a comment about how I should be “better” by now.

And then I DO feel shamed.  I feel like I don’t measure up, like I’m not as valuable as the next person or that I have failed some cosmic test.

shame-is-the-intensely-painful-feeling-we-are-unloveable-brene-brown

You know what though?  That’s a reflection on other people’s lack of compassion and experience or their personal insecurity NOT a reflection of my worth.

It is really just fine for me to admit my limitations because EVERYONE has limitations.

I can’t lift a 250 lb barbell.  But I can whip up dinner for fifty people.  I can’t read Chinese but I can read Dr. Seuss with an accent and hit all the rhymes on cue.  I can’t run a marathon but I can work all day without complaining (most of the time).

I’m human (surprise!).    So are you.

brene brown vulnerablity sounds like truth

I have some limitations as a result of burying a child. You may have limitations because of age or disease or something else I don’t know about or can’t see.

That’s OK.

Let’s make a pact:  I’ll take you as you are and you can take me as I am.  I’ll help you when you need help and you can help me when I need help.

We will extend grace and receive grace as needed to make life work.

Isn’t that really the essence of human community?

brene brown we dont have to do it alone

Church Signs

Can I just say I’m not a fan of church signs?

I could list a dozen reasons but here I will simply list one:  It is impossible to constrain good theology to the few words that will fit on most church signs.

The temptation to be funny, cute or trite generally overcomes any desire to be biblically accurate.

Case in point-just down the road from me is this sign:

THERE ARE NO PROBLEMS, ONLY OPPORTUNITIES FOR GOD TO WORK.

I could write for days on why I hate (yes, HATE!) this sign.  But I’ll restrain myself.

Here are the top three reasons I want to close my eyes when I pass it:

  1.  It’s simply does not line up with Scripture.  Paul gives a list of “problems” in 2 Corinthians 11:25-27.  Did God help him?  Yes!  But was Paul discouraged?  Yes!  He turned to God but was also thankful for the practical help of those who cared about him and gave him aid.
  2. People who are struggling are not encouraged by platitudes.  Platitudes close the door to further discussion.  They are a giant “period” in a conversation.  If the purpose of your sign is to invite others in, this one will do just the opposite.
  3. Preaching this foolishness (in person or by sign) lets congregants off the hook.  If there are no problems then there is no reason to extend a helping hand.  If God will handle it-why should I get my hands dirty or waste my time?

This week alone I have dealt with at least ten “problems” that required practical solutions in addition to prayers that God would help work them out.

Did He make some things fall in place that otherwise might not?  Probably.  And for that I am very thankful.

But did He shower solutions from the sky like raindrops?  No.  I had to face the problems, look for solutions and ask for help from others.

When Christ instituted the church it was not for us to sit inside four walls and dole out pithy platitudes to passersby.  It was for us to be His hands and feet in the world.

Truth is that God DOES work.  But most often He works through US.

All around us are people hungry for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

If we are going to put out a sign, could it just say, “We welcome the broken, the wounded, the hurting, the ones with no hope”?

Isn’t THAT what Jesus came to do?

weary

 

 

 

Don’t Dare Hope

My prayer list is very short.  It’s been whittled down to the basics.  I don’t ask for much and I expect less.

But today I will be waiting with bated breath to find out if a prayer that’s been lifted up for months will be answered.

It’s risky business to ask when the answer may be “no”.  If I’m honest, I’m not sure my heart can take it.

I am confident that I will see Dominic in heaven when I get there.  My heart rests assured that the blood of Christ is sufficient and my salvation sure.

BUT….

I do not dare hope anymore that when I pray specifically for someone or something it will come to pass.  Oh, I believe God HEARS my prayer, that He knows the desire of my heart, that He COULD grant my request.  But I no longer rest my head on the pillow of peace, settled in my spirit that the “effectual fervent prayers  of a righteous man or woman availeth much.”

I will be the first to admit that to hold both thoughts simultaneously seems impossible and contradictory.  Yet I do.

Because I’ve learned the hard way that my prayers are not God’s “to do” list.  He is sovereign, not me.  His plans may or may not conform to mine.  His work in my life may very well include pain and sorrow and disappointment.

Sometimes I just want that old naive hope back.  I want to erase this dark knowledge from my heart.

Especially when someone I love needs my prayers.

I want to believe.  I want to trust.  I want to rest assured that not only is my prayer heard, but that it will be granted.  But it is oh, so hard!!!!

So I offer the only prayer I can still lift up with absolute confidence:  I plead mercy and grace.

I pray that God may have mercy on my fragile spirit, that He may grant my desire and strengthen my faith.  And I pray that regardless of the outcome, He will give me the grace to accept it.

It’s the best I can do.

 

 

 

 

 

I Will Not Be Ashamed of My Tears!

It happens when I least expect it.

I try hard to manage life so that I’m not blindsided by grief-that I don’t find myself in the middle of people when I can be sure some trigger will start the flow of tears

But you can’t prepare for what you have no way to predict.

So even three years down the path of child loss, there are times I am overwhelmed by a wave of grief and cannot stop the tears.

ann voskamp love will always cost you grief

I used to try to hide them.  I don’t anymore.

I will not be ashamed of my tears.

They are proof of my love.

They are evidence of a heart that refuses to grow cold, hard or bitter even though the frost of death has blown hard across it.

They are testimony to the promise that God is collecting them in His bottle and that one day all this will be redeemed and restored.

you keep track of all my tears

I will wear them as a badge of honor until I see Dominic again.