Unanswered Questions

Unanswered Questions

I’ve got questions.

Some questions are less serious in nature like:

“Why do I love beards so much?”

“Do you think Starbucks will ever deliver?”

“Is there a chocolate only diet?”

Don’t get me wrong, those are important questions. Beards, coffee and chocolate are ranked pretty high on my list. In the scheme of things though, if they went unanswered my life would continue on much like it does. No matter the reason, I’ll always love beards. Even if Starbucks doesn’t take my suggestion and start delivering, I’ll still stop in and buy my White Mocha in person. And chocolate, well, chocolate seems to be around for the long haul.

Some questions are a bit more serious. Like my questions about God, spirituality, faith, church, death and (ya even) singleness. I can’t just sweep these questions under the rug and ignore them. They need to be expressed, discussed and studied…in a safe environment.

Not everyone understands the questions you’re milling over.

There will be people, upon hearing your questions, who will immediately get defensive. They’ll rattle off answers left and right making you feel like an idiot for even verbalizing such a foolish question. Have you ever met someone like that? If you have, and I’m sure you have, did you ever want to ask questions around them ever again? Probably not.

Sitting around a table last night with some friends, we began discussing things we’ve been wrestling with in regards to our faith. Each person shared what was on their heart and no one judged them for it. And I realized, love listens.

Listening to a podcast this week, the theologian was discussing how we can go through phases in our life where it seems like we have more questions than we’ve got answers. Either we’ve read a book, taken a class, gone on a trip or experienced some kind of life event but something has caused us to re-evaluate our beliefs. Whatever the case, most of us will go through it to one extent or the other.

“It’s normal,” he said.

As I’ve been wrestling and questioning and searching I’ve often felt very alone. I often kept my questions to myself and wondered what was wrong with me. Questions were bad, right? It was a sign of backsliding or a mark of the beast or something. I’m not sure anyone outright told me my questions were bad, but it was usually implied by the contortions of their face or the way their head tilted to the one side with raised eyebrows that indicated that maybe I’d better just keep those things to myself.

Sometimes I was the voice saying, “Just be quiet. Keep that to yourself.”

Hearing that my searching and questions were normal brought me immediate peace. My shoulders immediately relaxed and it was as if the ground stabilized again.

Driving home after meeting with my friends I began to thank God for the opportunity to share transparently with people and to not feel ashamed or any less of a Christian. As I prayed, I recalled Jeremiah 29:13,

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

There is a bigger purpose to my questioning and seeking. It’s not to be rebellious or to try and find a loophole in order to do things my way. All of it is to know God more– to truly know His heart. I can no longer live off truths I’ve been told second hand, but need to explore. We need to seek. Children are told stories of adventure, but adults live them. (Or in a biblical analogy, babies drink milk, but adults eat meat.)

God is not troubled by my questions. He is not insecure or defensive or even worried. Not in the least. In fact God is pleased I want to know more because it shows I’m interested in participating and not satisfied in spectating. In my looking, I may have unanswered questions, but I know I will find Him because that is where the compass of my heart is set.

“In the silence You won’t let go
In the questions Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea”

My Lighthouse (Rend Collective)

Do you have unanswered questions? If so, lease leave me a comment and let me know how your search is going. I’d love to encourage you or pray for you on your journey!

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You’re Invited!

ONE

Sometimes…oftentimes….I find church boring.

It’s just that it seems a lot like a meeting to get through. Granted, a meeting that starts with a song, or rather, a half a dozen or so. For some the songs come out of hymnals with an organ accompaniment while others use songs written in this decade. I’m not picking on either one, I enjoy both.

The point is every service starts the same way.

Music. Check!

Next, there’s the offering/ announcement/ hug your neighbor time. When visiting a church, this is my least favorite time. I’m not a fan of hugging strangers. That could be because I’m all of 5 feet tall and hugging anyone means my face automatically goes in their arm pit, shoulder or chest. Here’s the deal, people. If you’ll bend down a few inches I’ll stand on my tippy toes. Ok?

Luckily, we live in an age with smart phones, so this is also a great opportunity to look busy on your phone. I think there’s added points if you update your Facebook status with a Scripture or some lyrics from a song sung that morning. (I get it. I’ve done it, too) Extra, EXTRA points if you use #blessed in the description.

The capstone of your morning is listening to a sermon. It’s a trail mix blend of stories, Scripture and pithy truths to scribble down in a notebook or on the back of a bulletin (and most likely) never read again. Heck, by mid-week I’m not even sure I remember the verses that were referenced. That might be because, periodically, throughout the message I’ll find my mind wandering to the weather outside, the fact that my leggings are cutting off my circulation or the laundry list of tasks I need to accomplish the coming week.

I’ve been to numerous churches in my lifetime and the general outline is the same. Come, sing, give money, hug people, listen to sermon and go. Ya sit, stand, sit and you’re out of there by lunch. You can almost taste the Chinese buffet now. Mmmm….Sweet and Sour Chicken.

I’m not saying any of this stuff is wrong. It’s good to worship. It’s good to give. It’s good to hug (sometimes). It’s good to be taught. I just think we’re missing the point.

Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven. 

Matthew 6:10

I think about Heaven a lot. Maybe it’s because life is so freakin’ hard or maybe it’s just because I’m homesick (Heb. 13:14). Its been said, “Don’t be so Heavenly minded that you’re of no earthly good.” That’s a bunch of bologna.

If anything, we need to be more Heavenly minded. What would that look like? I’m not exactly sure, but sure isn’t some mandated meeting. It’d be more like a party. There’d be laughing and food and celebration. No one nods off at a party. No one checks their watch at a party. No one is worrying about work the next day at a party.

I love inviting friends to parties. Meetings…not so much. This isn’t some lame-o excuse for me not inviting my friends to church, then again, maybe it is. The last thing I want to do is bring a friend to church and have them leave thinking, “If that’s Christianity, it sure is boring. I’d rather stay home and watch football.” I think they call that doing more harm than good. Truth be told, I’d rather stay home most Sundays, too.

But, if I can invite my friends to a party, that’s a different story. I’m not talking about flashy lights and fog machines, either.

Our modern day church services seem to place a much smaller value on relationships and community and a lot more value on me facing a podium or a stage or a screen. Before anyone loses their mind, or thinks I’ve lost mine, let me be clear– I’m not anti-church. It’s great to gather together with a common focus (Jesus) and sing songs to Him and learn about Him and build relationships with one another.

I just don’t think what we’ve always done is working. It looks an awful lot like a four-walled box. You come in, you do your time, and you go. That sounds awful because it is awful. I want something more and I think the world is looking for more. Something significant. Something worth getting out of bed for…and not just because there’s shame propelling you through the church doors.

In the end, I want a slice of Heaven on Earth. Not just on Sundays, but every day of the week and I want people (all people) to see that and want it too.

We All Need Someone to Lean On

thecommonqueen.com

There’s a word that’s been on my heart since just before the start of the new year: lean.

It’s kinda random. I get that. Yet, the idea behind it (as I am going to share with you) is my theme for 2015. I have not perfected this concept, but it is something that I feel compelled to pursue in this coming year. Let me explain.

I worry a lot. The kind of worry that wakes me up in the middle of the night wracked with anxiety and fear. My mind will flip flop between cares as my heart races pounding at the walls of my chest. For hours, I’ll lay there praying (begging) God for relief until I fall back to sleep in mid prayer.

I’ll reawaken the next morning feeling like I’ve made it through a war. I layer make-up on top of the bags under my eyes in hopes to conceal the previous night’s battle. The morning is spent fueling up on caffeine so I can power through my day.

The day is not much better than the night. More worries. More anxiety. I busy myself as much as I can to distract my thoughts. I’ve found myself longing for peace– some relief from the constant barrage of uneasiness. Something to steady the waves and bring some calm.

I’ve tried calming my own storms. It only made things worse– the more I strived the more I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t live like that anymore. There’s no way I’d spend another year, another month, another day, another second like that. Something needed to give.

In my sigh laden prayers, God told me to just lean.

Leaning means no more striving. It means no more busying of oneself. It means rest.

One of my favorite moments in the Gospel of John comes during the Last Supper. It’s this seemingly insignificant note about how John was leaning (or reclining) on Jesus. For me, this simple intimate act causes me to ask myself: “When is the last time I’ve leaned on Jesus?”

I want to be like the disciple John and just lean on the chest of Jesus. To hear His heart beat. To be that close to Him. I can’t allow these worries, anxieties and fears to be plaguing me any longer. So, I’ve started being more intentional. The moment worry comes in I begin to lean.

What’s the look like? Well, for me, it means immediately stopping and taking a deep breath. No distractions. No more indulging the fear. I quiet myself and close my eyes for a moment and pray a simple prayer that consists of “I trust you with this, Jesus.”

I’m not saying this is THE magic formula for anxiety, but I can tell you that it is causing me to be deliberate about shifting my focus from my worry to my Prince of Peace. 

As I thought about this post, I was reminded of Elisha Hoffman’s hymn that proclaims, “Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.” His arms are strong enough to carry all our burdens and shelter us from the storm. He doesn’t need our help, but takes great joy in caring for us.

It’s easy to get caught up in the downward spiral of thoughts and endless “what if’s”. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or anxious or fearful take a moment to stop and turn to Jesus. It may sound silly or too simple, but give Him a shot. You may just find some peace and comfort in the fact that He can handle it. All of it.

Get up!

Get Up!

The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.

Proverbs 24:16 (NLT)

I’m not perfect. I doubt that’s a shocking revelation for you to hear, especially if you know me at all.

I love Jesus, a lot, but I mess up. Actually, I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where I think to myself, “Way to go! You did great today!” Most times, I’ll be in bed at night replaying events from the day where I fell short. I’ll remember an attitude I had with someone. Or the way I yelled at the idiot on the highway for not merging fast enough. Or for calling the person on the highway who didn’t merge fast enough an idiot.

And those things just compose the things I did wrong before 10AM.

I’m not here to showcase my long list of failures. I could, but that’s not the point. The point is that it happens AND I’m not alone. Ya, I’m looking at you.

Maybe you don’t suffer from acute road rage or give anyone attitude, but I’m sure there are things you struggle with.

Maybe you judged that girl in the grocery store for wearing leggings as pants.

Or you lied and told your kid there is a Santa Claus (sorry, kids).

Or you stole wifi from your neighbor.

Or you tried to convince me that it wasn’t really stealing when you used your neighbors wifi. 😉

We can all be more relaxed now that we admitted that we fall (or have fallen) at times. As a Christian, that is SUPER encouraging.

What?!?!

YES. It is super encouraging for me to know that I’m not the only one who falls down. That’s what stopped me in my tracks today when I heard Proverbs 24:16, even when I’ve heard this same verse 100 times before. There was this beautiful realization that godly people, righteous people, lovers of Jesus….FALL DOWN. There doesn’t need to be any shame in admitting that fact because I am not alone.

I’m not celebrating my imperfections, but I’m also not letting the realization that I have them keep me bound. There’s freedom in confession.

That’s not the whole story, though. There’s even better news. I can get up.

As a child of God, I have the power to get up. Circumstances, difficulties and hardships will come my way, and they may even trip me up, but they won’t keep me down.

Or in the words of the great Rocky Balboa, “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean, and nasty place an’ no matter how tough you think you are, it’ll always beat you if you let it. It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward.

Life….or our own stupid actions…can hit us hard, but the important part is that we get up. If you’re struggling, get up. You aren’t powerless, but have the most powerful Source within you. Don’t stay on the ground wallowing and complaining about how defeated you feel, but allow the power of God (the strength of God) to move through you and pick you up.

Dust yourself off and keep going.

But first, GET UP.

Patient in Pain

Patient in Pain

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12 (NIV)

For those of you who may not know, I am an Administrator at a church. One of my weekly tasks is to change the words on the church sign. It’s not as glorious or exciting as the Pinterest results may suggest. It’s actually one of my least favorite tasks, which is ironic considering I’m a writer. Shouldn’t I enjoy getting the opportunity to write a weekly message for the entire neighborhood to see?

No. Not one bit.

It’s a lot of pressure. I get all of 90 characters to convey a thought. That’s an entire 50 characters less than Twitter. And, unlike Twitter, I can’t use internet shorthand. Although, sometimes I can get away with negating some punctuation by reworking the verse. I don’t think God minds me taking the liberty, either. If I remember correctly, from my painful year studying Greek, there wasn’t any punctuation in the original text, anyway.

Even without the use of punctuation, I still need to have a complete thought. Or that’s what I attempt to do. Maybe this is the wrong approach to have– maybe I should want those passing by to have questions. That seems like some kind of weird marketing scam though, and I can’t bring myself to manipulate people into walking into church.

I keep the hell and brimstone verses off the sign, too. I’m not sure we should be using fear as an evangelistic tool, but maybe that’s just me.

Honestly, each week, I want to convey love, hope and peace to people. I figure they get enough bad news each day that maybe the Church should be a place they find something different. People are weary, broken down, tired and scared, but Jesus isn’t wearisome. It was Jesus after all who said,  “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt.11:30)

Most weeks, I have no idea what to put on the sign. Sometimes I’ll text my best friend to see if there’s something she’s been meditating on. Sometimes I use a verse from the previous Sunday’s sermon. Other times, I use Google. How’s that for spiritual? If it makes it any better, before I hit “enter” I exhale a simple prayer, “Seriously, God. Can you help me out?”

This week, my search led me to Romans 12:12. A nice short verse that would fit on the sign without too much finagling. Score! As I prepared the large plastic letters, I read and reread the verse over and over again.

Paul is one sneaky dude.

Sandwhiched in between being “joyful in hope” and “faithful in prayer” he lays down a landmine.

PATIENT IN AFFLICTION.

Or as the New King James version so eloquently puts it “patient in tribulation,” neither wording taking away the sting that this guy is telling me to be patient when life hurts. I don’t want to be patient in the pain, I want to speed up and get the hell through it. Right? Or is that only me?

I can rejoice in hope, no problem. Hope is worth celebrating. And being faithful in prayer, that’s not too bad, either. I may not hold hour long prayer vigils in my bedroom, but I try and capture moments throughout my day to pray– like when I’m in the car driving, or laying in bed, or talking with a friend on the phone.

It’s a whole other story to ask me to be patient in affliction. It’s uncomfortable. Painful even. If anything, in those times, I am my least patient self. I’ll be crying out to God, “PLEASSSSSSE, get me out of this already!” with fists pounding my pillows in a tantrum-like state. God listens, but seemingly does nothing letting me carry on like a child.

As I prepared the sign, I thought of numerous friends who were in the middle of a season of affliction. How it seemed like all they were experiencing was pain and, as much as I prayed, things hadn’t seemed to change. So, I did the only thing I knew to do, and I prayed some more. This time, I asked that God would give my dear friends patience– that in the trials, in the desert– that they would be able to stand strong and be unmoved.

The most logical question, the one I’ve asked God repetitively, would be: “Why doesn’t God just take the affliction away?”

I don’t have some pretty bow, to put on top of the answer, for that question.

I heard a story once about a grandmother explaining to her granddaughter the effects of boiling water on two objects. First, she took an egg and put it in a pot of boiling water. After a few minutes, she took it out and it had become hardened. Again, she took boiling water and added it to a tea bag. Within moments, there was a lovely aromatic smell coming from the cup and the water had changed color. It was no longer water but tea.

Everyone is going to face their own form of boiling water– a friend dying unexpectedly, the loss of a job, difficult family members, illness, etc. I know you’ve got your own story, like I have mine. It is in those seasons of difficulty and pain that we can choose to become hardened by the hurts, or we can give off a sweet fragrance despite it all.

It’s not easy. I don’t think God ever intended for us to have an easy life, everything points to the contrary, but He did intend for us to trust Him. At the end of the day, that’s all that patience really is– the realization that no matter what is going on around us that we can trust Him to come through for us. 

Give it a shot. Start praying for patience when life is hard. Ya, I know what “they” say…to never pray for patience. But “they” are wrong, take it from me. You may just be surprised what happens and how you’re changed through that one simple act of obedience.