Whether you’re a Christian or not reading this, have you ever had those days and nights in your life where nothing seems to be working for you? Where you feel completely lost and totally confused? Well, I have been having one of those months and I just had one of those nights. It is about 5:00 in the morning as I start writing this and I have not slept a wink all night and I’m actually at the office to just start working when I finish writing this. It is going to be a long day.
I have been wrestling with God about a great number of things tonight. Please allow me to be extremely vulnerable and personal in this post. Yes, I am a full blown “sold out to Christ” Christian, but I feel really lost right now.
I don’t know who I am supposed to be in life, I don’t know where I am supposed to go in life, I don’t know who I want to walk along side me in life. I just don’t know. So I was up all night asking God some really hard questions and frankly getting sort of upset at Him. Then I became even more frustrated because I realize that God is probably trying to give me the answers but I probably don’t even know how to listen for the answers. I am so very confused, broken, and frustrated.
I heard this song called “One Thing” by Paul Coleman earlier tonight on the radio. It is one of my favorites, but today it really hit home for me. I made bold the things that really resonate with me right now.
Well Here I am In a river of questions
Can I pour my heart out to a listening ear?
Well I see this life
Its valley’s and mountains
And I think of all the roads that brought me here
Oh that brought me here
Walkin' down, walkin' down those roads
Well I’ve questioned my reasons
This life I’m living
I’ve questioned my ability
To judge wrong from right
Well I’ve questioned all the things I’ve ever called certain
My race, my religion, my country, my mind
Chorus 1: But the one thing I don’t question is You
You really love me like you say you do
You really love me like you say you do
So hold me, 'cause I need you
Well I’ve questioned my significance
Meaning and relevance
Does the work I’m doing really matter at all?
Well I’ve questioned my friendships
Who will still be here when I fall?
Chorus 2: But the one thing I don’t question is You
You really love me like you say you do
Yea the one thing I don’t question is You
You really love me like you say you do
So hold me, (come on now) hold me
Hold me, (come on, I need your love)
Only one thing doesn’t change
Only one thing stays the same
All I know at the end of the day is your love remains
I know I have a great number of questions right not but I suppose I don’t really question God. I know he will be here for me and will make things clear in time. I did seem to get one answer from Him when I was asking why I am going through all this. The answer seemed to come as He gave me a mental picture of a hurricane.
I feel so surrounded by the storms of this life right now just like a hurricane. The strong winds surround me and are beating me down. I can’t see which way to go and feel so lost. To be honest, I’m a little scared.
Then it hit me and I know it was God talking to me. It just clicked.
At the center of the hurricane in which they call the “eye” there is great peace and I can have clear vision in one direction which is up...toward God. I feel so lost and surrounded by life’s storms but I fully believe I can look up and know God is looking right down on me. I just can’t stop looking up and I can trust He will give me peace in the eye of the storm...
Thank you God. I still love you. (Even though I was mad at you last night.)
I only have 26 minutes and 43 seconds to write this, so I’m going to be as efficient as possible.
Yes, that was a stab at our culture.
Lately I’ve been reading a pretty cool book called Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships. The author, Sherwood Lingenfelter, talks a lot about breaking down cultural barriers in inter-cultural relationships and ministry, and it’s really helped me put my life as an American (and especially as a Christian) in perspective. It’s a life-long battle to try to see the world through God’s eyes, and when we can strip away the biases and influences of our own culture, it helps that much more!
One thing that Lingenfelter did that really struck me was to compare a time-based culture (America in a nutshell) to an event-based culture. In America, everything is about time. We make the most of it when we have it, and we never seem to have enough of it. Investments in technology help us become more efficient with our time. We conduct business through email and telephone to make things happen faster. We have clocks everywhere so that our rigid schedules are adhered to down to the minute.
However, obviously not everyone in the world works like we do. Lingenfelter spent several years as a missionary in a Pacific Island state called Yap, where time matters little, and events matter most. He gave many examples of how time doesn’t matter in the Yapese culture, including most “scheduled” events beginning 2-3 hours late on average, as well as local movie theaters waiting for a full crowd to begin showing a film.
As an American, this sounds ludicrous, right? If an usher came into a movie theater and told the customers that they were going to wait an hour to allow more people the time to arrive, most of the movie viewers would get upset almost instantly and probably demand their money back. But in Yap, this is common. They’re more concerned that the movie be seen at all than when it is seen.
But there was one example that blew my mind. It wasn’t so much the example itself, but the way that Lingenfelter explained the attitude of the man in the story. He said that in the village where he lived, he watched a man take two years to build a new house for his family by hand.
Is two years an incredibly long time to build a house by yourself? Maybe? But this is what I liked. He said that the man would just decide to take two days off of working on his house to go fishing. Or if his neighbors needed his help, he had no problem dropping what he was doing to lend a hand. The man had no reason to rush. He just knew that he wanted a new house for his family, but it wasn’t important that it be anytime soon.
Is that as inspiring to you as it is to me? The man’s primary objective could take a backseat at any time that he so chose. He didn’t ruin relationships or burn himself out in a race to the finish. He enjoyed every step of the way and did what he wanted, when he wanted.
Now, this IS a ministry blog, so let’s bring it back to Jesus. Remember the story of Lazarus? Jesus said he would heal Lazarus. But, Jesus didn’t make it back to Lazarus in time to heal him, and he died. When he arrived, Jesus was rebuked by the friends and family of Lazarus who said that if only Jesus had gotten there sooner, Lazarus would be alive now. However, as we all know, Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead, fully-healed, just as he promised.
As Americans, how often are we like those people who got upset with Jesus? How often are we so blinded by the perceived importance of time that we lose sight of the big picture? Have you set an unrealistic goal for yourself to lose weight after New Year’s? Do you keep in touch with most of your friends with your phone? Or maybe you’re upset that God hasn’t given you a spouse in your early twenties like everyone else.
Do you have the eternal perspective to understand that, although achieving goals is important, quality of time spent is as well? Do you know that, once God fulfills the desires of your heart, because you’re so spiritually-filled, you will be able to look back and laugh about all the time you spent worrying? I know I’ve done that before!
Obviously we can’t turn our culture on its head, or even remove ourselves from it. But, I know that stories like this are always great reminders for me. I can rest easy knowing that God WILL deliver on my prayers. That doesn’t mean it will be tomorrow, nor does it mean it will be 10 years from now. But he knows the desires of my heart, he hears my prayers, and he came so that I would live life abundantly. With my time, I "plan" to let God do just that.
Dang, that took me almost 40 minutes… Oh well… :)
This is not going to be a well-planned entry by any stretch. This topic literally came to me this morning a matter of hours ago, and having had very little time to think about it, I don’t have many of the important details sorted out. But, I’m just going to throw what I have out there and hope I might stir up some controversy… :)
I realize it sounds cliché to say this to a certain extent, but I’m not the kind of person to lie about my shortcomings. So when I say that I don’t like accepting praise for things that I firmly believe I would not have been able to do without God’s grace, I mean every word of it.
I’ll use my involvement in the worship ministry as an example. This is a little-known fact in the church community, but a LOT of us musicians (not all, but a lot) honestly don’t like being told what an awesome job we did after a service. Being that each and every one of us is a flawed human being, it’s always a struggle for us to remember that we’re playing our instruments to and for God alone. But being told that we did such a great job in a song, although the compliment is no doubt heart-felt, is somewhat counterproductive. It takes something we brought to God as a prayer and offering, and turns it into something to puff up our own egos. It’s pretty tough to not let those kinds of things go to your head sometimes.
Through that lens, it’s equally frustrating to never hear the same people who would compliment a worship musician for a job well-done offer a single piece of gratitude to those who ran sound, set up the stage, served communion, prayed for people during the service, or even set up the coffee and snacks before the whole night went down. Not a one of us who serves God through volunteering in a ministry wants human praise for what we do, and I’m willing to bet that it would be pretty awkward if someone came up to a greeter and said, “Wow, you did an excellent job shaking people’s hands tonight!”
Now, I don’t mean to pick on anyone. Like I said, I realize that the compliments given are coming from a place of good intentions, but I wanted to expose the issue for all of us to think about a little bit. There are a million and a half questions to ask about this kind of thing, so I’m not even going to try to do justice to them. Instead, I’d much rather see some kind of discussion if people would be so bold as to post! ;)
When you’re complimenting someone, are you thinking about why you’re really doing it? Are you doing it because you appreciate what they brought to the ministry as a whole, or are you doing it to get on their good side? Are you offering the same praise to other people who work just as hard for the ministry, or are you swayed by a bias?
When you’re on the other end, receiving a compliment, where does it end up in your heart? Does it make you feel, “Oh, wow, finally SOMEONE appreciates me!” or, is it more rightly something like, “Well, God really deserves the gratitude, not me.”? Is your satisfaction in your servitude contingent upon human praise, or are you fully serving God with what you do?
As I said, I sure don’t have all the answers. Though, I’ll suggest that if you’re out to offer praise to someone, it’d be best to thank God for that person’s heart as well. And if you’re frequently receiving compliments for your servitude in the church, well then, thanks are also due to God for your gifts and abilities that have allowed you to serve in such a way.
Cheesy title...but it's only been in the past year that I've come to accept this truth: The Creator of the Universe is in Love with ME. Say that to yourself...
I read this passage from Genesis 29 this past weekend and it made me think of my own past relationships:
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to have children, but Rachel could not conceive. 32 So Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said "The Lord has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me."
33 She soon became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She named him Simeon, for she said, "The Lord heard that I was unloved and has given me another son."
34 Then she became pregnant a third time and gave birth to another son. She named him Levi, for she said "Surely this time my husband will feel affection for me, since I have given him 3 sons!"
35 Once again, Leah became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She named him Judah, for she said, "Now I will praise the Lord!" And then she stopped having children.
Now granted, I have no children, but as a woman, I can totally relate to Leah's situation. We feel unloved, lonely, or scared we actually might end up alone, and so we manipulate circumstances or become someone we are not in order to gain affection, in an effort to feel loved and accepted. Looking back on most of my signficant dating relationships, I often compromised my values and lowered my standards in order to gain the love and affection of a particular guy I wanted to be in a relationship with. I desperately wanted someone to really get to know who I was and what I believed in. Someone who understood my hopes and dreams and fears and walked along side of me. Someone who pursued me with interest and was willing to go to great lengths to ensure my happiness.
I never realized it at the time, but what I was searching for all those years was God Himself. So it's no surprise to me that I never really knew myself until I knew God. This idea of a relationship with Jesus - it was completely foreign to me. For all the years I had been going to church, I never understood that the Creator of the universe wanted a relationship with me. I could've saved myself a lot of heartache if I had learned this earlier...
Is it possible this was God's plan all along? Maybe He knew exactly what it was going to take for me to accept His love, so He let me take my sweet time going after what I thought I wanted, only to end up with a bad ending every time.
I have to say I'm not where I thought I'd be at my age. But most importantly, I am learning who I am in the Lord's eyes and trying faithfully to follow His will for my life. It's not easy because the world tells me I am someone else - that I should look a certain way, act a certain way, that I should get nervous because I'm almost 30 and not even close to being married...
As women (myself included!), we need to do a better job at allowing Christ to be the One who fills our cups. We need to get out of the mindset that we need a man to bring any sense of excitement to our lives. We need to stop basing our sense of self-worth on whether or not a guy is interested in us. We need to focus on becoming who Christ says we are and who He created us to be, so that we are ready when He decides it's time to bring us the man chosen for us... the one who will be the overflow in our cup.
Why do we hide those items away? I suppose it is to keep the surfaces around us in our kitchens or rooms cleaner. It is so people (including ourselves) don’t have to see or deal with the junk. Interestingly enough, we know right where the junk drawer is and it usually the first place we check for the random item we need. Yet, we really never enjoy digging through the stuff and for some our drawer is so full things fall out when it is opened.
I think it will be obvious where I am headed with this but please follow me to the end. Here comes the transition....wait for it...wait for it: many of us have a junk drawer within our hearts as well. It is where we put the life experiences many of us don’t know what else to do with. All of us have made mistakes, but some of us have made really huge mistakes – ones we want to hide the rest of our life. The drawer might even contain wounds we carry from others who have hurt us. The thing about the junk drawer in our hearts is we know exactly where it is at and what is in there and we certainly don’t want others to see it.
I don’t want to come across as “preaching” today, but rather as one who struggles with this as well. I am realizing when we have a junk drawer in our hearts it prohibits us from loving with all our hearts because part of it is hidden away. We are not able to love God with all our heart and we are not able to love those around us with all our heart. We guard ourselves from vulnerability but in turn we guard ourselves from those who love us.
We say to ourselves “no one will love me if they knew the stuff in my drawer.”
That is a lie.
It is simply not true.
When we put things in our junk drawer we do not even let Jesus Christ love us. He already knows all the junk...the junk from our past, the junk we are in right now, and even all the junk in our future. Yet, He does not want us to put the junk in a drawer where we hide it and carry it and let it weigh us down.
What are we to do with it?
Jesus wants it.
Give the junk to him.
All of it.
Even the stuff that is buried so far down in the drawer that it hurts beyond words to bring it out.
I could go on and on with this but I don’t want to preach. I myself have tears in my eyes as I write this knowing I still have my own junk to give to Jesus. It is not easy and I will not pretend that it is, but let me tell you from personal experience that it is so, so, so much better once we give it to Jesus.
We are to have faith like a child, right? Well, when I was a little kid I remember I loved to go find stuff in the junk drawer and play with it to the dismay of my parents. The “junk” would be all over the house if it had been up to me, but I had fun with the stuff and found such joy in it.
Can we have that kind of faith with the things in our junk drawers?
Can we believe God can use them to bring us joy in life?
I believe so because it has been true in my life even though I am so often quick to forget. I have made some serious mistakes and deal with some serious wounds, yet God has used them for good in my life and I can celebrate what He has done in and through my “junk”. I know it sounds Christian cliché but it is true. I get so excited when I need a little tool or trinket or some random item and I find I have had it stuffed away for years in my junk box under my bed. It is a great feeling to have the perfect little tool or item for the time when you need it. Give your junk over to Jesus and allow Him to give you joy where there has been fear, shame, and condemnation. I guarantee you he will use your “junk” in exciting and miraculous ways you never would have dreamt imaginable.
I know this from my own experiences.
Don’t take my word for it. Here are some promises for you:
Galations 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,who have been called according to his purpose. (“All” means all and that is all “all” means!!!!)
I can’t remember where I first heard it, but this quote has been ringing like a bell choir in my head for weeks now:
Love is giving someone the power to hurt you, and trusting that they won’t.
Maybe it’s just me, though I doubt it, but it seems like it’s a pretty big deal when someone knows the depths of your heart these days. And by depths, I mean information that could collapse you into a ball of tears if someone were to use it against you - some of the most humiliating and depressing things you’ve come to experience in your life. It takes a heck of a lot of trust in someone to be comfortable giving them that kind of power, doesn’t it?
At first, I wanted to think that it was a quote that really only applied to our societal format where we’re very inwardly-focused, and where we all walk around with a thick coat of verbal armor should anyone try to expose the parts of us that we don’t like. But it wasn’t until a good friend told me a story yesterday that it really hit me how God used this same model.
Think about what we commonly uphold as divine attributes (God’s characteristics). God was not created, he is the creator. God, in the blink of a figurative eye, could wipe out existence as we know it. It’s only by his will that we are given each breath we take.
So, with that in mind, why even bother with people? Well, I think the aforementioned model of love might lend a good answer to that. In doing what God did through Jesus (ie: become fully human and allow us to hurt him, both physically and emotionally), he extended his own vulnerability to us.
Chew on that for a second. The creator of the universe, that could end our existences if he so chose to, allowed himself to be vulnerable to us as an expression of love. Jesus’ teachings can be read as “good advice” in one way, but if you really think about how God demanded reparation for sin in the Old Testament, Jesus was effectively saying, “This is how you can betray my love and trust for you, and sin against me.”
And he continues to do so in giving us the freedom to sin and receive his grace. It’s through this model, where we are given the choice, that the love God receives from us is genuine. Were we forced to obey God, there would be no love, because there could be no absence of love.
At this point, I’m sure I’ve said something that has poked or prodded some philosophy buff’s last nerve, so I’ll quit with the extra-biblical implications for now. But as long as we’re here, why not bring it down to Earth? How are you doing in this regard? How vulnerable are you to the people you’re close to?
I’ll lead by example and bluntly say that, for the amount of “friends” I have, I think it’s pathetic how few of them know me on a real personal level. And it’s entirely my own doing. I trust small handful of people in my life with very personal information. I know those people will never hurt me because they’ve proven it time and time again. But to those whom I don’t willingly share my personal life, I’ve developed some kind of “rationale” as to why I don’t. Rationale, at the end of the day, is just a reason for me to continue to be scared.
Perhaps I’m scared of what people will think if they knew that I’d been medicated for clinical depression on more than one occasion. It could be I’m concerned that people will think less of me for having been engaged once upon a time, and ending the relationship and leaving my fiancé in the dust. Maybe I’m petrified to think of how most of Immersion would react if they knew that one of their worship leaders used to be a raging pothead.
Last week I wrote about being a sideliner. My question for you now is: what would you do if you knew you could not fail and money was not an issue? What are your dreams and passions? What are your God given talents and gifts that have been hidden deep down inside you over the years? If you cannot think of anything, I challenge you to list 100 things you love to do. Maybe a few things will come to mind.
I wonder what was going through the mind of David when he volunteered to fight Goliath. (Check out 1 Samuel 17.) David was just a little shepherd boy, but yet he was the only one willing to step up and fight the giant Goliath. He had to be afraid deep down inside. Yet, I think he knew what he was cable of with God on his side. Everyone around him, including his brothers and the King, probably thought he was crazy and was signing up to commit suicide. However, I think David knew he had been practicing and training with a sling shot day in and day out all his life. God had prepared him and had given him the gifts, talents, and tools to do the job. So finally the King agrees to let David fight but then tries to tell David to use the King’s armor and sword. Basically, he was telling David he needed to do it his way...the worlds way. David tried on the armor and he had to have been thinking, “This is not me. I’m not a soldier. I’m a shepherd boy. I’m going to do it the way I know how and the way God wants me to do it. It may look differently than the way the world would say to do it, but watch this because my God is about ready to rock your world.”
What is your Goliath?