What do you do when God is silent?

What do you do when God is silent_

(Seemingly) Silent Saturday.

The day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. The day the disciples were in the middle of shock, bewilderment, discouragement and (I imagine) asking all kinds of questions.

Had we been wrong about Jesus after all? Maybe He wasn’t the Messiah.

What about all the miracles?

What about all the things He taught us?

We’ve all been there. We’ve experienced heart wrenching disappointments and wondered if God was aware or listening. And if so, why wasn’t He saying anything?! There are nights I’ve laid in bed so distraught and undone that the only prayer I could whisper was, “Please, God. Help.” The only response was the sound of my own heartbeat echoing in my ears.

What do we do then when God is silent? When we’ve prayed and there seems to be nothing but crickets on the other end of the line.

As I’ve meditated on Psalm 22, I feel like we can find some guidance there. Upon reading the psalm, you will quickly see that David was writing from a place of deep pain and walking through a difficult trial.  This psalm is full of prophetic language. In fact there are 33 prophesies found in it that would be fulfilled when Jesus was on the cross.

In Psalm 22 we find Jesus’ last words in the very first verse (1) and last verse (31). (I will be quoting from the Passion Translation throughout this post.)

“God, my God! Why would you abandon me now?”

“It is finished.” Or as Mark 27:50 describes it, “Jesus passionately cried out” these words with His last breath.

It sounds like Jesus is asking, “Where are you God?” Sounds like a familiar prayer. One I may or may not have prayed myself 967 times. Give or take a few.

But it’s Psalm 22:2 that words it so well:

Why do you remain distant, refusing to answer my tearful cries in the day and my desperate cries for your help in the night? I can’t stop sobbing. Where are you, my God?

There are times God feels silent. When that happens what do we do? Well, here’s some of my thoughts.

  1. Bring God a song.

Right after asking God where He is David continues in verse 3 by saying:

Yet I know that you are most holy; it’s indisputable. You are God-Enthroned, surrounded with songs, living among the shouts of praise of your princely people. (or common queens as the case may be 😉 )

David goes back to the basics. Even if God is silent, He is still holy and because He is holy it demands a worshipful response on my part. Not exactly my first response, to be honest. When I’m discouraged the last thing I want to do is worship and praise. Why is praise important when God feels silent? Simply put, I think it just keeps things in perspective for us.

2.  Remember His faithfulness.

In Psalm 22:9 & 10 David recounts how God has cared for him since the moment he was born! This reminder brings him to this conclusion at the end of verse 10:

I’ve trusted in you and you’ve always been my God.

You can trust the character of God….even when He’s silent. Everything you know about Him is still true. Go back and remember how He’s come through for you before. Maybe crack open an old journal (that’s what I like to do) and read stories of God answering your prayers and getting you through hard times. If He’s done it before, you can trust Him to do it again.

3. Know He is there.

In 2006, I experienced the worst pain I have ever gone through. In that season, I remember one night in particular where my best friend sat down on the couch next to me and didn’t say a word. She didn’t attempt to give me words of comfort or explain why this horrible loss had happened. All she did was sit silently next to me.

It was a beautiful act of love and all the comfort I needed because I knew she was there.

God may be silent, but I promise you He is there.

Psalm 22: 24 reads,

For He has not despised my cries of deep despair. He’s my first responder to my sufferings, and He didn’t look the other way when I was in pain. He was there all the time, listening to the song of the afflicted. 

I don’t think these are the only things we can do when God feels silent. One of the things I do often is reach out to a trusted friend who I know will immediately start praying on my behalf. She’s sent me countless verses to encourage me or songs to worship to on YouTube.

Sometimes (dare I say, oftentimes) we need people on this journey. Safe people you can go to and share your questions and hurts and know they won’t judge you or use those things as weapons against you. Those kinds of people are diamond friends. You’ll only have a few, but they are extremely precious.

If God feels silent in your life right now know that silent Saturday isn’t the end of this story. Sunday is coming!

 

 

 

 

 

Death by Religion

thecommonqueen.com

I don’t usually do this and I don’t want to make a habit of it, but I want to make a disclaimer before I get into the heart of this post. I write what I feel like God has placed on my heart– what He’s speaking to me about. It’s not always comfortable stuff and it may be uncomfortable to hear, but I refuse to filter my words in fear of offending someone. Believe me, this stuff is just as much for me as it is for other people.

God asks me to write. I didn’t choose this life or calling, but I have determined in my heart to be as faithful and obedient as possible. I won’t always get it right, but there is nothing that I share that I haven’t carefully considered.

I’ve seen religion kill a lot of things. Creativity. Relationships. Purpose. Heart/Passion. I’ve seen it bind people with made up rules and expectations for the sake of appearances. Religion has locked people in boxes of tradition and thrown away the keys. Religion can go to hell.

Religiosity is what sent Jesus to the cross. Rather the fact that Jesus refused to obey the religious expectations (legalism) put in place by tradition. He did things like:

Heal on the Sabbath (HOW DARE HE?! Doesn’t He know there’s 6 other days in the week for that. Our Sabbath rules are much more important than hurting PEOPLE.)

Hang out with drunkards and outcasts of society (Come on, Jesus. You know better to hang out with people like that. They’ll get their sinner cooties on you.)

He gained a following (The religious did not like this because they were jealous. Jesus was becoming more popular than them.)

The final nail in the coffin (or cross as the case may be) for Jesus was the fact that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Jesus simple admission of identity secured His death sentence. What’s interesting to me about this point is that these religious leaders knew the prophesies and Word of God (they only had Old Testament at this time) more than anyone else. Like, that’s what got them to the positions they were in– even having huge portions of it memorized. Yet, they missed it. They knew the Word and yet missed the Word when it was standing right in front of them.

That’s was religion does though…it can blind you.

Good Friday shows this so eloquently in Scripture. I will be referencing verses from Mark 26:47-Mark 47:44 (TPT) and reiterating a few points I stated earlier.

  • Mark 26:47 It was the ruling priests and Jewish leaders who ordered Jesus arrested.
  • Mark 26:57 It was the chief priest, religious scholars and Jewish council who held the meeting to interrogate Jesus.
  • Mark 26:59 These same religious leaders “were doing their best to find false charges that they could bring against Jesus because they were looking for a reason to put him to death.”
  • Mark 27:1 The religious leaders resolved to take action against Jesus.
  • Mark 27:12 The religious leaders slandered and accused Jesus.
  • Mark 27:18 Pilate recognized the Jewish leaders were handing Jesus over because of jealousy. (As the Passion Translation puts it their bitter jealousy)
  • Mark 27:20 The religious people were inciting the crowd– literally getting them riled up and on their side.

So, what’s the answer? What am I getting at?

If I were to sum it up, it would be this: Jesus showed us that we were not meant to be led by religion but by the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit). Jesus did what His Father told Him to do. If it was healing someone on the Sabbath, He did it. If it was hanging out with people that didn’t fit the status quo, He did it. If was saying something that made people uncomfortable (like eat my flesh and drink my blood kinda stuff), He did it.

What I love so much about Jesus and find so absolutely freeing is that He didn’t allow people (or fear of people) to dictate His actions. He simply wanted to bring His Heavenly Father pleasure.

Even if that meant going to the cross. And He did so willingly and loving for the wildly religious and the blatant sinner both categories of which I have found myself.

 

 

Feet Washing in the Age of Hand Washing

Feet Washing in the Age of Hand Washing

It’s Holy Week.

I feel inspired and passionately spurred on, which means you’ll be seeing a few extra posts from me this week. My hope is that they will encourage you during this difficult time. We can admit that, right? This crisis is a difficult time for us all in some way or another. We are all being effected. Our routines messed up. Plans on hold. Life is different.

I’ve been thinking about COVID-19 in relation to Easter. What a juxtaposition of events. I think that’s what fires me up most. Death comes (it’s purpose!!) to steal, kill and destroy, but man Jesus came on the scene and was like, “I see your death and I raise you a RESURRECTION!”

That’s powerful.

But today I’m not talking about Jesus’ resurrection. I’m backing up a little bit to the Thursday before that amazing resurrection Sunday. The day that Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Passover together. Later that same night, He would be betrayed, arrested and accused.

If you read John’s account of that night (John 13) he shares how before dinner Jesus got up from the table and prepared a foot washing station for His disciples. All of them mind you. Judas included who, John tells us, had already been prompted to betray Jesus.

And we know Jesus is aware of this, too. If you read a little further (verse 21) Jesus let’s them all in on that secret. “Someone here is going to betray me.” Eleven of them stumped and horrified at this news. One released to do what he intended on doing.

Jesus washed Judas’ feet.

I can’t understand this. Every year I meditate on this Truth– that the Son of God would stoop down and wash the stinky, disgusting feet of a traitor.

How absolutely humbling when I think about the people who have stabbed me in the back or spoken unkind, hurtful words to me. I don’t want to be within 10 feet of them (Have I mentioned I love social distancing 😉 ) let alone wash their stinking feet.

Worse yet, Jesus washed His disciples feet so He could show them what He expects them to do, too. Or rather, US to do.

If Jesus was just washing the disciples feet to show us how humble and wonderful He was that would be GREAT. But you want me to do that too? Uhhhh. Not so great. In fact, I do NOT want to do that. Are there some other options? Something less….messy.

Alas, that is not the case and we are in fact strongly encouraged (aka voluntold) to do this. Which begs the question: How do we wash feet in the age of hand washing?

How do we exemplify this in a practical way? No, I don’t think we need to go around actually washing people’s feet. Social distancing again, remember? Jesus was showing the heart of the issue and not the method. Humbly lowing ourselves to serve was the point. Not the feet.

During a global pandemic, it practically looks like washing your hands and staying home for the health of those around you when you’d rather be out and about doing just about anything. On a more personal level, it might mean calling a person and saying, “I know we don’t see eye to eye, but I want you to know love and unity matters to me more than my opinion or being right.”

Humility is shown in action/service. Though this is a season where we are separated and isolated we can still follow Jesus’ example. We don’t get a free pass here. I’m praying and asking God to help me. This isn’t easy and I don’t like it, but then I picture my Savior, my beautiful Savior, stooped down and showing me how it can be done. It must be done. Not as some religious requirement, but rooted in love. Just like when He did it.

 

 

 

Rising Up From the Ashes

Rising Up From the Ashes

This one is for the people who find themselves burnt out from life or ministry or marriage or disappointment or anxiety….or whatever is leaving you a heap on the floor (literally or figuratively).

I’ve been burnt out for a number of years now. It’s not a new realization by any means. I knew it. I tried to deny it out of shame convinced if I was a good enough Christian I wouldn’t be feeling this way. It was this drive that sent me deeper, much deeper into this pit where I was determined I could serve my way out of this condition.

Serving. That was my hamster wheel that kept me spinning endlessly and getting nowhere but tired and angry and hurting. Things that once brought me pleasure and joy now left me anxious and bitter and I wonder if I was ever called to ministry after all. I question my purpose and calling, which has been the very core of my being since I was a kid.

It was…is.. my identity. It has entwined itself around my worth and in order to be loved I needed to DO. Holly wasn’t enough. Rather Holly simply BEING wasn’t enough.

So, here I sit in my ashes.

There’s a story of man named Job who had everything he could have ever wanted– money, prestige, family, friends, a thriving business. Then, one day, he lost it all. He lost his family, his health, his wealth and found himself in an ash heap. He sat there (according to Job 2:8, CEV) to show his sorrow.

Ashes can so often represent destruction and devastation. Earlier this year, Australia experienced horrific wildfires that destroyed more than a fifth of the country’s forests. People and animals died, too. Sure sounds like devastation to me.

And yet, every time I think of ashes I am reminded of the Phoenix. A Greek mythological legend says the bird dies by bursting into flames and then is reborn from its ashes. In its death there is renewal and resurrection. It does not limp or walk away from its ash heap. It SOARS away with a grand, majestic and glorious display of strength and vigor.

As we enter this Holy week, that is the image I am mediating on because that is the image Christ Himself exemplified. Not some folklore story mind you, but an actual literal empty grave where His body once lay. Christ did not limp from the borrowed tomb, but victoriously trampled death, disease, discouragement and everything in-between.

In doing so, He has given that same victory to me (and YOU)– to soar on the wings like eagles (& Phoenixes) , to run and not grow weary (or burnt out), they will walk (not limp) and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31, NIV with parenthetic additions made by yours truly).

To go back to our friend Job, he didn’t limp away from his ash heap, either. In fact, he got back everything that had been taken from him and MORE. As you’ve reflected on what has been lost maybe you need that reminder. You will get back more than you had before.

In your marriage that has been on the brink of divorce you will see redemption. In your soul that has been wracked by anxiety you will experience a peace that transcends even a global pandemic.

In my burn out, I believe, a passion will be reignited that will propel me on to do the very thing(s) I was created to do. Not to get love, but from a beautiful understanding that I am loved simply for who I am and not the ways I serve.

Rise up from the ashes, friends! Soar!

Sin & the Coronavirus

Sin & The Coronavirus

Her eyes were fixed intently on her schoolwork as she traced the letters “V” both upper and lower case. Without looking up she asks, “Did sin cause the Coronavirus?”

“Hmm.” I say.

While inside my head I’m screaming, “Hey God! This is a bit outside my pay grade! Mind tossing me some Truth and wisdom a 5 year old can understand? That I can understand?!”

This was important. You don’t want to mess this one up. Ya know? We’re all asking hard questions right now or so I’d imagine. You don’t walk through a global pandemic without one or two boinking around in your brain.

So, I ask her, “What was it like before sin entered the world? Before Adam and Eve sinned?”

“It was perfect!” she says with a smile.

“Yup! It was perfect. No sickness. No sin. None of that.” Things are going smoothly and I’m shocked. SHOCKED I tell you.

We spend a few more minutes discussing the effects of sin– selfishness, greed, fighting with your siblings, being disobedient.

She seems satisfied with our discussion and we move on to other important conversations. Like how one of the boys in her class put chocolate down his pants and then ate it. I’m horrified at this news though less shocked because it’s coming from a girl who tells me boogers are considered dessert.

This story is true, by the way, ALL of it. I wanted to share this cute one in hopes that when I transition into my next point, which will undoubtedly step on some toes that you’ll remember that you once found me funny and endearing.

I’ve been seeing Christians post some pretty “interesting” things on social media with the onset of this global crisis. And it’s those kinds of posts that shake me from my silence and stagnancy in regards to blogging/writing.

My 5-year old niece isn’t the only one thinking about sin and the Coronavirus. I recently read a post that said, “What if this nation were to deal with the problem of sin as strongly as we are with the threat of COVID-19?” My! What a mighty high horse you have!

Mind you, there were many Christians (disclaimer: NOT ALL) who upon first hearing our leaders talk about social distancing and self-isolation were LAUGHING at the thought. How dare they ask us to not meet in groups of 10 people or more!

So, let me get this straight….is THAT how you think I should be dealing with sin in my life? According to your model, we laugh when a sin seems insignificant or at least not relevant for my life, but those other people’s lives. Until we realize that sin is actually effecting MY life and I should probably do something about that, but not before using it as an opportunity to shame some people on the internet first.

Let me stop here for a minute.

It’s much easier to see other people’s sins (and flaws) and not our own. MYSELF INCLUDED.

It was Jesus who reminded us of this Truth in Matthew 7. Other people have specks in their eyes while we’ve got logs. I can’t overlook my crap by putting a spotlight on someone else’s. Doesn’t exactly work that way and yet we try to do that because we don’t want to confront it. Again, I get it. I’m in this support group, too.

Am I saying we never discuss sin? No. Am I saying we should never talk to other people about their sin? Again, no. (Keep reading Matthew 7 for how we should actually go about doing this. I’ll give you a hint: deal with your own crap FIRST.)

What I’m asking is that we STOP SHAMING PEOPLE on the internet. This is a time where people are in need of encouragement and peace and we have the opportunity to offer hope through the social media platforms we are on. You have a voice. All I’m asking is you use it wisely.

 

Social Distancing & Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

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People loved to ask Jesus questions. What do you think about this? Do you know who that person is? Why do you eat with those people? Don’t you have an answer?!

Many of these questions were asked by the super religious and sometimes their intentions weren’t exactly “pure”. Sometimes though there’d be some religious people who wanted to engage with Jesus honestly.

In Mark 12:28-34, we see one of those exchanges. Jesus was asked a simple question: Out of all the commandments, which is most important?

Come on, dude. Give us the Cliff Notes version. And so, He does. And I’m going to shorten it up a bit more.

Love God & Love Others.

That’s the MOST important. So, in this age of social distancing and pandemic and quarantine how do we do the most important things?

Love God

If loving God for you is solely summed by walking through the sanctuary doors on a Sunday morning, I think you’ve missed the point.

Loving God happens Monday through Saturday, too.

We can love God by reading our Bible app devo while laying in bed. We can love God by singing while we wash the dishes. We can love God by eating a homemade dinner. And we can love God by getting a good night’s sleep.

Yes, I’m certain God cares about all that.

I think He cares about how we’ve reduced His Gospel to a building that’s open once or twice a week. Which might be why so many people are struggling when those doors CAN’T be opened for a time being. It’s not because a government or a politician is trying to restrict our rights….rather, they’re trying to do their due diligence to keep us safe and healthy.

Love Others

In a matter of weeks (or days), what it meant to practically love your neighbor drastically changed. It meant being patient with the long lines at the grocery store, only buying toilet paper when you needed it and calling friends to check up instead of meeting up at a crowded restaurant.

Loving others means considering another person’s health as important as our own.

As we all try to wade this new and uncharted territory together let us remember what is most important. Loving God is a lifestyle that encapsulates every DAY and every THING we do. And loving people looks like washing our hands more than we ever thought possible.

Keep on doing those MOST important things during this season of social distancing and once we find ourselves beyond it. Love has always and will always be the most important thing.

 

 

Accomplishing Nothing

Accomplishing Nothing

Up until last week, it had been 2 years since I had written a single blog/article. I’d have friends ask me why I wasn’t writing and my response was, “I don’t have anything good to say.” And I had decided, following that old golden rule, if you don’t have anything nice to say than you shouldn’t say anything at all.

So I didn’t.

I decided that maybe I was done with trying to encourage others with the written word. If I couldn’t encourage my own heart how in the world was I going to encourage someone (ANYONE) else?!

Then, recently, a week after I had preached at my church, I had someone call me a hypocrite. “How could you preach with such anointing and then act the way you do?” If I was what that person said I was — a hypocrite– than I certainly shouldn’t be speaking publicly.

It seemed like only more confirmation that I should continue to be muzzled. I didn’t want to risk saying something wrong or worse yet hurtful. In many ways, that philosophy ran over into my personal life, too.

My struggles had kept me silent and I thought that I couldn’t write until I was “better”. Whatever that means. But here I am, chest deep in struggle and I’m clawing myself to the keyboard to squeak out something that might bring us hope.

When we go through suffering one of the questions we like to ask is “Why is this happening to me?! The rest of the conversation, at least from my end, goes something like this: Haven’t I done enough?

Ah. There it is: the sting of Truth. I’ve been working at trying to be enough since I was a kid. I thought if I wasn’t so fat maybe then I would be enough. If I got better grades maybe then I would be enough. If I was athletic maybe then I would be enough.

Those thoughts easily moved into my relationship with Jesus. If I read the Bible more then I will be enough. If I pray and fast more then I will be enough. If I serve every week at church then I will be enough.

Sitting across the table from a dear friend and mentor last week I asked her, “What do I need to do to get out of this difficult season? Just tell me, what am I not doing?”

Rest.

::groan::

I do that so well. (Please read that in the font: sarcasm)

But I also knew what she was saying was right because God has been telling me the same thing. Actually, two days earlier I was at a Youth Conference and sang these words:

“I won’t rest until I find my rest in you. You are where my hope is!” (Find Rest)

The words landed heavy in my chest and I knew that simple phrase was what God was trying to get through to me. He wanted me to be just as devoted and determined to rest as I had been about striving.

To continue to drive the point home further, I was brought to this verse in John 6 twice this week:

John 6:63 (NLT) “It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

Those words are from Jesus. At the time, He had just shared some difficult Truth with His disciples and they were complaining because it offended them and it was too hard for them to get. (Uh, relateable.) So, He reminds them it’s the Holy Spirit that does the work and all of our effort or striving gets us nothing. At which point, many of His disciples left.

Guess they didn’t like what they heard. Kinda like how I didn’t like what I was being told. But Jesus was/IS right and I know it.

All our “trying so hard” is getting us burnt out and discouraged. It’s not going to bring us the freedom and PEACE we’re searching for. Admittedly, working/doing/striving comes easier for me. It’s easier than quieting down and allowing the Holy Spirit to work– to give over control and trust that He will do a good work in me.

Maybe you find yourself in a similar season. You’ve tried it all and nothing has worked, but you keep spinning your wheels finding yourself in a deeper hole. Give rest a shot. Put as much energy and devotion into rest as you do in your work. Hold it as sacred time where God can do some repair on the areas of your heart that have been bruised and broken.

It may seem like you are accomplishing nothing. In fact, that’s exactly right. You aren’t so He can.