I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Posts tagged ‘faith’

Wordless Wednesday

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  So here are a few pictures to convey what is currently on my mind!

A Search for Peace

It is my privilege to work as the choral department accompanist for the local high school.  The head of the department has chosen the theme “A Search for Peace” for the fall concert.  As a part of the concert, the entire department – four choirs in total – will perform a massed choir number titled “Inscription of Hope.”  The lyrics come from a poem that was etched on a wall in Germany by Jews who were hiding to escape the Nazis.  The lyrics are powerful –

I believe in the sun Even when it is not shining

And I believe in love

Even when there’s no one there

And I believe in GOD

Even when HE is silent

I believe through every trial

There is always a way….

      But sometimes

In this suffering

And hopeless despair

My heart cries for shelter

To know someone’s there

But a voice rises

Within me

Saying

“Hold on my child

I’ll give you strength

I’ll give you hope

Just stay a little while”

May there someday be sunshine

May there someday be happiness

May there someday be love

May there someday

Be peace…

Z. Randall Stroope wrote the song and it is beautiful in its simplicity.  The choral director’s inspiration for the concert theme was the current state of our world and what has been referred to as “The Summer of Terror”.  He asked me to research the details regarding terrorist-type attacks – those motivated by extremist views – and give a synopsis of some of what has happened.  As I began researching, I had to turn off my brain and simply look at facts, details, and numbers.  To allow myself to think about what I was reading was just too much.  As my day winds down, the details of what I read have come back to me and I won’t allow myself to emotionally detach this time.  The truth is hideous but turning a blind eye will do nothing.

From the first of June through the end of August, there were at least 568 incidents in 59 countries around the world.  These incidents resulted in a total of at least 4,652 deaths and even more injuries.  The good news – and yes, there was good news – were the number of “lone wolf” incidents where no one was killed.  An individual with extremist beliefs acting alone would attack another individual, couple, or small group because of something that offended the attackers  religious sensibilities – mixed race couples, homosexuality, women who were not covering their faces, etc.  In many of those instances the attacker was fought off by either their intended victim or law enforcement officials and no one was killed.

But some of the stories brought tears to my eyes and made me sick to my stomach –

A suicide bomber that investigators believe was between 12-14 years of age attacks a Kurdish wedding celebration, killing 54 and injuring 66.

Two different hotels where car bombings were followed by gunmen entering the building and taking hostages.  Between these two attacks, 31 people were killed and 80 injured.

52 fisherman executed by Boko Haram.

Coordinated bomb attacks in a market in Baghdad, Iraq, left 342 dead and injured 246.

Most of us heard of the attack at an Orlando night club (49 killed, 53 injured) and the attack in Nice, France (86 killed, 303 injured).

And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

The world is a much scarier place than I remember it being when I was a child.  In the name of “faith”, individuals or groups in 59 countries on every continent have committed heinous acts of violence.  In some cases they were hoping to intimidate others into joining the violent cause.  In other cases the motivation came from ethnic conflict.  The difference in cause doesn’t change the facts.

4,652 dead.  Most in the name of religion.

Now, more than ever, those who claim to be followers of Jesus MUST embrace the lesson that Jesus tried to convey to a teacher of the law.  When the teacher asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, Jesus didn’t stop with just the greatest.  He gave the man the top two –

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ there is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

My heart still hurts and I’ve shed a few tears after processing the information I read today.  So much hatred, so much violence and the vast majority of it in the name of “religion” or “faith”.  It’s time that those who claim the name of Christ focus on what Jesus himself called the two greatest commandments and start loving those around us.  ALL of those around us.  It’s the only hope we have.

Forbidden

Rather proud of the fact that I am still in the thick of the Reading Challenge I took on for the year.  I finished my “book from the library” by starting a series I’ve wanted to read.

“Forbidden” is the first book in a series called “The Mortals” and is written by two of my favorite authors – Ted Dekker (my absolute favorite author ever) and Tosca Lee.  It takes place 400+ years after the human race nearly destroys itself.  In an effort to bring the Chaos under control, alchemists developed a treatment they called “Legion”.  It was really more of a disease than a cure – it removed EVERY emotion except fear.  It was fear that those in power used to bring everyone under control.

Dekker is a man of deep faith and his writing always reflects that.  I’ve had the privilege of hearing him speak publicly and even got an autograph and my picture taken with him!  (Just keep scrolling and you’ll see it!)  One of the things I love about all of his books is the fact that each one is so much more than just a good story.  Yes, the writing is fabulous, the characters engaging, the storyline captivating . . . but the stories always make me think.  They push me to examine my own faith walk a little more deeply.  It’s rare to find an author that engages the imagination as well as prompting meaningful self-evaluation.

While the rest of the books in the series don’t really conform to ANY of the categories on my reading challenge list, I do intend to finish the series.

Actually . . . there WAS a sequel written called “The Keeper”.  So if I read that as well, the two books would count as “a book and it’s sequel” and I could check out book two as my “book from the library.”  Hmmmmmm.IMG_20131105_202156_425.jpg

Necessary Change

I’ve been away for quite some time because explaining where I am in my own personal growth is challenging at present.  I am finding my personal paradigms blown to bits with new ones being rebuilt that look nothing like what I used to think faith was and how it worked.  This passage – from Ted Dekker’s newest publication, “Waking Up:  How I Found My Faith by Losing It” – slapped me right in the face with an intense level of personal conviction.  I have so failed letting love define me and that has to change.  Read and do with this what you will; it’s just the latest step in a new way of looking at faith and how it affects my daily behavior.

“If there is one elephant in the room among most of us who call ourselves Christian, it is that what we think and say we believe and what we actually experience are all too often two, radically different realities.  Ironically, we ourselves are often the last to see this disparity.
We think and say we believe in Jesus, but we are anxious for tomorrow and cringe with fear in the face of the storm.  We think and say we love our neighbor and our enemy, but we court jealousy of those who have what we want, and we secretly despise those who lash out against us.
We are Christians from different denominations with various emphases in doctrine, yet in our daily lives we seem to be the same, often stumbling in darkness and feeling lost and condemning ouselves and those around us.
The evidence of our lives does not match our rhetoric.
Paul’s teaching was utterly clear:  The primary evidence show by those who know the Father is this:  love.  Jesus was just as clear:  Not just any love, but an extravagant expression of love that is kind to those who are cruel to us, not only those who show us love in return.  
As Paul wrote, a love that is patient, showing no jealousy or arrogance, keeping no record or wrong, not seeking its own and not provoked by another’s behavior.  These are the evidences of true love which flows from those who know the Father and his limitless love for them.
But it seems that we show all manner of evidence but the one that matters most.  We call ourselves Christian but we are not known for the kind of love Jesus said would mark his followers.  Have we lost the tune?  Are singing the wrong song?
We show the evidence of profound words to others, speaking truth in the tongues of men and angels, but we rise up in anger at our brother and are therefore as guilty as any murderer, as Jesus said.
We show the evidence of informed doctrine and all knowledge, having studied the Scriptures, and yet we do not love the lowest person as Christ, so our knowledge is worthless.
We may give all of our possessions to the poor and surrender our bodies to be burned and have faith to move mountains and heal disease, calling Him Lord, yet these profit us nothing if love does not rule our hearts.
We call ourselves born again, baptized in water and the Spirit.  We are diligent in taking communion, singing in choirs, serving the church, paying tithes, reading the Scriptures, fasting when called to humble ourselves, gathering in Bible studies, attending conferences, going on missions, voting for the right bills, and rehearsing our doctrine.
And yet rivers of love, joy and peace do not flow from us like living waters, and so, as Paul said, all of these profit us nothing.
Can you relate?
What matters isn’t our stated belief and doctrine but how we live and what we experience in the story of our lives, as Jesus, John, James, and Paul all make so abundantly clear.  It’s our actual experience and expression of life that shows us and the world what we truly believe and to waht extent we truly love, not what we say we believe or who we say we love.  If we say we have faith, but the working of our life don’t reflect that faith, that faith is either asleep or dead.  
This brings us back to the elephant in the room, easily seen by all.  We are not being who we say we are.  And if what we say we believe and what we experience in life are in conflict, we end up in misery.  One of the two must eventually yield.”

  

By This, All Men Will Know

I have this horrible habit – I try diligently to mind my own business and seem to attract those who wish to discuss things loudly within my hearing.  It’s not that I try to eavesdrop – I just seem to be surrounded by those having what should be a private conversation at a very public volume.

One such conversation occurred recently – a woman was griping to her male companion (husband? friend? co-worker? Not sure) about a woman who she has significant difficulty getting along with.  In the speaker’s opinion, the woman in question has absolutely no redeeming qualities.  At least that’s what it sounded like.  She listed several flaws this woman has.  In the end, it sounded like the woman speaking and the woman she was bad-mouthing just have different ways of approaching tasks to be completed.

Then my heart broke when the woman finished with, “I just cringe every time I see that woman walking toward me in church.”  Wait.  You were verbally shredding a fellow believer?!  Pretty sure that’s not an okay thing to do.

John 13:34-35 “Let me give you a new command:  Love one another.  In the same way I loved you, you love one another.  This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.”

It’s simple – disciples of Jesus are recognized by the love they have for one another.  Not how ornate their church buildings are, not what style of music they use in worship, not what translation of the scripture their pastor uses . . . their love for the family of faith.  There is no escape clause in that command – we are to love one another in the same way God loved us.  Period.

My heart often breaks when I see the rage and animosity that has become a part of the internet culture.  We all want others to accept/support the causes that are nearest and dearest to our own hearts but we can often be heartless and unloving when interacting with others of different views.  But my encounter today tells me that maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.  If followers of Jesus cannot love one another, how on earth can I expect those who don’t agree on “big” issues to treat each other lovingly?!  I’m not going to lie – what I overheard was also very convicting.  I’ve been guilty of the behavior I observed more often than I want to think about.  I screw up this command far too many times.

Let’s face it – followers of Jesus are humans.  We fail, fall down, sin, hurt others, get hurt, deal with disappointment or cause it . . . we all screw up.  But none of that is an excuse to treat each other harshly.  The command above is pretty clear.  It is our love for our brothers and sisters that will distinguish us as follower of Jesus.  It doesn’t mean we pretend not to have differences or that we act like we never disagree.  In fact, I personally think it would have MORE impact if those outside of the faith could see us deal with differences of opinion/disagreements with gentleness, empathy, compassion, and love.

As I said earlier, it was a convicting experience.  The challenge to myself sounds simple but is going to be a challenge – all those who claim to be followers of Christ are my family and I will seek to treat them with love first and foremost.  I have no delusions – it won’t be easy!  But it’s a behavior that needs to become so deeply ingrained in me that doing anything else would be impossible.

Quotes

Nothing super profound from my own head today.  Just some quotes from a Joyce Meyer study I’m doing!

These two deal with the painful issues from the past –

“I encourage people to let go of their past, but never to run from it.  The only way to gain victory over the pain of our past is to let God walk us back through that doorway of pain and into victory.”

We have to let God take us through things and let Him work in us so our mess becomes our message. Difficult things that we have endured in our past prepare us for God’s blessings in our future.”

(Can you tell which phrase really jumped out at me?!)

These were on the subject of joy –

“We will never enjoy life unless we make a quality decision to do so.  Satan is an expert at stealing and our joy is one of his favorite targets.  Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  In John 10:10 we are told that “the thief” comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but that Jesus came that we might have and enjoy life.  Satan is the thief, and one of the things he seeks to steal is our joy.  If he can steal our joy from us, we will be weak; and when we are weak, the enemy takes advantage of us. Weak believers are no threat to him and his work of destruction.  In order to live as God intends for us to live, the first thing we must do is truly believe that it is God’s will for us to experience continual joy.  Then we must decide to enter into that joy.

“Joy and enjoyment are available just as misery is available.  Righteousness and peace are available and so are condemnation and turmoil.  There are blessings and curses available, and that is why Deut. 30:19 tells us to choose life and blessings.”

And this was probably my favorite!

“Regardless of how it may happen or who may be responsible, it is hard to go on when everything we have counted on falls down around us.  That’s when those of us who have the creative power of the Holy Spirit on the inside can get a new vision, a new direction, and a new goal to help us overcome the downward pull of disappointment, discouragement, and destruction.”

Still “mentally chewing” on all of these so I’ll just let you do with them what you will! Enjoy!

Faith or a Road Map?

I recently finished reading a challenging book entitled “Sifted: God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand” by Rick Lawrence.  It was a timely reading choice in my own life but those details are for another post. Maybe.

I read this particular book in ebook format but that didn’t keep me from highlighting the parts that were thought-provoking, striking or even those parts that made me bristle a bit.  (Let’s face it – sometimes we really CAN’T handle the truth!)

I keep coming back to a handful of the passages that struck a chord with me.  I will likely be sharing a few of them in the next few posts.  Maybe very few.  Just not sure where all of this is heading yet.  But this one I knew I needed to share:

Martin Luther King Jr. was embracing the beauty of the darkness when he said, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  And we’re motivated to take that “first step” because we know who made the stairs, not because we’re sure of where they’re leading us.

When the author mentions “the beauty of the darkness” he’s talking about those times in our lives when we don’t see a way out of the circumstances we’re in and all we have left is faith.  Those times when we can’t see the “light at the end of the tunnel” and we secretly fear that the tunnel may have collapsed around us!

I keep coming back to the idea of taking the first step without seeing the staircase (thank you, Dr. King).  If I can see the end – if I have the road map or a clearly marked path to follow – is that really faith?!  Those who are wary of technology may say that it takes ALOT of faith to trust their GPS.  But not really.  When I can see where I’m going I don’t have to have much faith to get me there and it allows me to be in control (or at least feel like I am!).

In recent weeks, my life has been an interesting experience because some doors have been very clearly opened and others very clearly closed while in other areas big fat questions marks seem to cover the landscape with doors that may or may not be slightly ajar.  To say that my plans for the next school year are still rather fuzzy would be pretty accurate.

I’d like answers.  A clear agenda.  I’d like to have all of it spelled out for me; not only the actual plan but the reasoning and thought behind all of it.

But none of that takes faith.

Yeah, taking that first step of faith is hard.  Maybe even scary.  And you just might be too exhausted to even THINK about stepping.  But to simply sit and do nothing is to guarantee stagnation.

So there are my choices.  Step out in faith and risk . . . something.  Maybe.  Or sit and do nothing and guarantee that nothing will happen.  One brings with it the chance for growth and reward.  The other is safe and predictable and ultimately sucks the life out of you.

Well, . . . here goes nothin’.

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