When Questions Just Delay the Answer

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Sometimes questions are simply stall tactics.

If we are asking questions then we can postpone committing to one direction or another.  On the outside questions may even appear to be the “smart” thing to do.  But, on the inside, it’s often fear that drives this decision to stay in the question asking phase. Fear of the unknown and the uncomfortable, fear of being wrong, fear of looking stupid, fear of letting go of our control (or perceived control), fear of being vulnerable.

FEAR

I think about this every time I read John 3 and the story of Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to Jesus (secretly, in the middle of the night…umm…fear).  He knew there was something to this man Jesus.  “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” v 2

He knew. Yet, despite all the proof staring him in the face, he was scared to commit. And, Jesus, calls him on it:

“Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” v 12 & 13

I love how the Message translates these verses:

Listen carefully. I’m speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?

Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions.

Yikes. How often do we do this when Truth knocks us up side the head?

I know I’ve been guilty of it many, many times.  Questions are like a security blanket we wear when, secretly, we know that commitment would be like running up the street naked.  Okay, maybe not always…but sometimes. Making a life altering decision will often leave us exposed and vulnerable. It can be, for a time, the most awkward and/or most painful place God will ever ask us to log time.

BUT…it’s worth it.

I can’t help but think back on the season in my life when I was coming to terms with an addiction.  Boy, did I have a ton of fear based stall tactic questions for God…and all of them began with the word “why.”

Why can’t I drink like a normal person?

Why can’t You compromise with me God?

Why can’t I just hide this part of my life and get on with following you in every other area?

Why?

Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions.

A day does not go by in my life now that I am not eternally grateful that I finally stopped asking questions and simply trusted Jesus to do what He kept promising me He would do.

I will be Your strength.  I will give you peace. I will satisfy your thirst. I will lift you up out of that pit you are in and set your feet in a spacious place!

Are questions holding you back today?  Maybe it’s time to let go of the blanket, grab hold of His hand and commit to trusting the One with the answers.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

 

The Big in Our Small

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It’s the end of May and we’re nearing the halfway point in the year.  This morning I took some time to think about my One Word for the year.  The word I’ve been focusing on for 2015 is “small.”

The first small update in my life would be this little guy curled up next to me as I write this post.  Jax was our neighborhood stray for over six weeks. Multiple neighbors took it upon themselves to make sure Jax didn’t get hit by a car. He had an owner, but because of his hectic work schedule the owner was never home to care for Jax. Every single day someone from the neighborhood would find Jax roaming the streets and every single day we would take him back to his house. But sometimes, within just a few short hours, Jax would be out on the street again.

Each time I’d go out for my run, Jax would find me and follow me home.  Each time he did, I would deliver him back to his house. I did this on many occasions, until one day, I recalled the definition of insanity…”doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  On that day, I held onto Jax and decided to wait until I was able to talk to the owner directly.  I told the owner our fear of Jax getting hit by a car. He shared with me that there was no way he could keep Jax inside his house. He said he knew Jax should be an inside dog (and used to be) but there was no way to keep him locked inside for all the time he was away during the day.  He told me he would try to figure out a plan. I gave the owner my phone number. I told him where I lived.  It’s been over a month now and he has never once reached out to me or inquired about Jax.

Though unexpected and unplanned, this small bundle of joy has entered our life. Jax is a beautiful, energetic, and welcomed new addition to our little family.

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My second small update has me thinking about some words I shared with you all back when this journey first started in January.

My trail isn’t a major highway. It might never be a major highway. But when I keep my eyes focused on the reason behind the journey then I am more than okay with this. This journey is for Him. Every step and every direction should glorify Him. More than anything, I desire to follow along the paths that He calls me down.

Occasionally, I even have this thought: Maybe all the little roads are in fact the big roads. Major highways in disguise. I just can’t fully comprehend it from my human perspective.

The more I travel the little streets God tends to take me down, the more I appreciate them. He reminds me over and over that the most beautiful and life changing attractions aren’t on the major roads, they are tucked away off the beaten path. I don’t want to miss all the heart touching scenery God is showing me along the way.

He knows a truth that I sometimes have hard time remembering. Popular, fast-moving, interstates have a way of bypassing many of the joy-filled lessons.

I need the small because I need the lessons.

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I recently said “yes” to a part-time assistant position at my church.  In many ways this direction is big. It will require adjustments in my weekly schedule. It will require me to learn new things. I have no doubt that this new chapter will stretch and grow me. Yet as I read through the mission and vision statements of my church, I realized how this step, this decision, really is just a small piece of a bigger puzzle…

I smiled as I read these words.

“We see ourselves as a small part of a God-glorifying movement to make disciples of all nations.”   

“Small things matter. Don’t forget the key.”

Small intentional steps placed in the hands of a Big God cease to be small. 

I think of David, the small shepherd boy, bravely standing up to a giant with his slingshot and his five stones. “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty” -1 Samuel 17:45

I think of what an all-powerful God can accomplish with just a tiny mustard seed of faith. -Matthew 17:20

I think of Moses when he tells God “if Your presence doesn’t go with us, then don’t send us” Which translates into… God, if BIG YOU doesn’t go with SMALL US…then don’t let us move! -Exodus 33:15

Today, Lord, this is my prayer.
Be the BIG in our small.
Help us to cling to the Truth that You are infinitely bigger than anything this world throws at us.
Give us the courage to move forward with the strength You provide.
And, Lord, help us to curl up (kind of like this puppy, Jax) and rest in the safety and in the shadow of Your wings.

Unconditional Love Follows This Rule…

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A couple of weeks ago, I read a fantastic article by Scott Sauls.

Here’s a quote from the article that has lodged itself into my brain:

“I have never met a person who fell in love with Jesus because a Christian scolded them about their ethics.”

You really should take a couple of minutes and read the entire article.  Really you should.  I’ll wait for you. Lessons From a Drunk Man in a Prayer Meeting

This morning I read the famous account again in John 8 where a group of Pharisees brought a lady caught in adultery to Jesus. They brought her to be punished and Jesus simply asks the angry, finger-pointing mob to search their hearts…”If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  We know what happens next. Slowly, one by one, they all drop their stones and walk away.  

Then Jesus turns to the lady and says some of the most beautiful words in all of Scripture.

“Woman where are they? Has no one condemned you?
No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I love the point Scott Sauls makes in his article…(you read it, right? :) )

“Jesus, left alone with the woman, simply says to her two things: I do not condemn you. Now leave your life of sin. The order is everything. Reverse the order of these two sentences and we lose Christianity. Reverse the order and we lose Jesus.

I love this crucial observation! You want to know one of the reasons Jesus lovers tend to get all excited about Jesus…this is it!

A song verse came to mind as I was thinking about the declaration Jesus makes to this lady and to us…

“That’s why we praise Him, that’s why we sing, that’s why we offer Him our everything.”

For anyone reading this who is holding onto the lie that they have to “get their act together” before coming to Jesus, now’s the time to reread John 8: 1-8. I agree with Sauls, the sequence is everything. Change the order and we lose Jesus.

Change the order and you get conditional love.
Change the order and you have to earn your way into the arms of Jesus.
Change the order and you get a checklist of rules to endlessly try to live up to.

Change the order and I would want nothing to do with it.

You see, for a big part of my life, I struggled with being a people pleaser. I struggled with trying to earn the approval of others.  It’s a futile and exhausting goal. And, if I’m not careful…I can make the mistake of falling back into this trap of trying to earn the love and acceptance of others.  But the truth is, ultimately, your opinion and acceptance of me doesn’t matter.

Today, I know that Jesus is standing among the crowd of people too.  He’s standing there and reminding me over and over of the order of His unconditional love for meChild, I love you.  I accept you just as you are.  Now follow ME.

“That’s why we praise Him, that’s why we sing, that’s why we offer Him our everything.”

Change

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I’ve realized that change (good or bad) tends to bring with it some form of grieving and/or a period of adjustment.  Our lives are in a constant (yet sometimes subtle) state of change.  We are continually having to learn to adjust to new normals.  We have to learn to say good-bye to the way things were and embrace or accept the way things are now. I shared a few memorable “new normal” moments from my journey in this old post, New Normals in a Field of Dreams.

Change reminds me that there is so much in my life that I don’t have control over. Yet, on the flip side, it also reminds me that there are many things I do have control over. Every day we are given the opportunity to make decisions. We must choose the left path, the right path or to stay where we are. We must choose to say no or to say yes. We must choose to see the glass as half full or half empty.  We must choose to either seek out the beauty or the opportunity hidden away in a hard situation or to just fixate on the obstacle blocking our way.

The power of choice in the midst of change can be a beautiful thing.

Potentially good changes excite me almost as much as they scare me. Good change usually has me suspended in that space where I find myself bouncing back and forth between two emotions.

Oh!  A new adventure!! I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do!!

Oh. A new adventure. That means new and unfamiliar territory…yikes!! 

As I was wrapping up this post Matt Maher’s song “Lord, I Need You” started playing. It really seems to be the best way to end this post. In our world where things are constantly changing… THIS is the one constant and unchanging Truth we can choose to hold on to and not let go of through all of life’s changes!

The Bravest Request We Can Make

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Here’s my heart, Lord.  Speak what is true.

Was listening to David Crowder’s song yesterday, Here’s My Heart, and I was reminded of how beautiful it is when our hearts become brave enough to ask God to speak truth into them.

Now, I think God is always attempting to speak truth.  He IS Truth so He can’t speak anything but truth. However, we have a tendency to only hear what we want to hear.  Us humans are great selective listeners.

I am leery of the simple advice folks some times offer to “just follow your heart.”  I think of Jeremiah’s warning, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”  (Jer 17:9)  Following our hearts is not always the best approach. I like what the words of this song offer as a better approach.  Here’s my interpretation:

God…here’s my heart.  As scary as it is for me to give up control of it…here it is …it’s Yours.  Even though I am reluctant to see all the ugly parts, I also know that Your Light is the only solution to all the dark parts. You alone have the power to transform us from the inside out.  

I know that, sometimes, listening to You speak what is true can be uncomfortable and even painful…but I also know that You alone have the power to heal me and set me free!  

Lord, I choose freedom! 

Years ago, the Lord taught me a life long lesson.  A hiding heart doesn’t heal.  It slowly dies.

When I finally became willing to trust Him with all my heart…not just the polished portions…but the broken, sinful, rebellious portions too, He took me on the most incredible adventure of my life. It was hard. It was painful. Yet…it was beautiful and unforgettable.

And, I believe this is God’s desire for each of us.  Every single day of our lives His desire for us is to wake up and humbly utter those terrifying words…here’s my heart, Lord, speak what is true.

A Soul in Search of a Sunrise

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“Look at me in trust, anticipating that My infinite creativity can weave both good choices and bad into a lovely design. Because you are human, you will continue to make mistakes. Thinking that you should live an error-free life is symptomatic of pride. Your failures can be a source of blessing, humbling you and giving you empathy for other people in their weaknesses. Best of all, failure highlights your dependence on Me. I am able to bring beauty out of the morass of your mistakes. Trust me, and watch to see what I will do.” Sarah Young

These are words that fire me up. I am thankful that it is possible to look in the rear view mirror and see how the wreckage has been transformed into beauty. I love that where I once only saw dark stormy skies I now see a sunrise. Sometimes, I wonder if the “goal” of life is to look for the sunrise and then when we discover it, we spend the rest of our days reminding ourselves and others to look for the sunrise too. It may sound strange but a part of me feels as if my calling in life is to point to the sunrise, the one behind us and the one yet to come. This is what sets my soul on fire.

A couple of weeks ago, on the way to church, my son and I were talking about pain and suffering. One of the hardest parts about trusting Jesus is believing that everything we go through is part of a bigger piece of the puzzle that we sometimes (MOST of the time) can’t see. I quoted Romans 8:28 to my son. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” All we might be able to perceive, at the time, is that God seems to have failed us, seems to have been horribly unfair, or seems to be dragging His feet when we know He has the power to act.

Many years ago, I allowed many of those sorts of resentments to pull me off the path He wanted me on. I told my son that the journey of losing my mom was a hard one for me and I struggled to understand the “why.”  Today, I still don’t understand why…but I do know why. Let me repeat that: I don’t understand why…but I do know why.

Would I want my mom here with me today if I could have her? In a heartbeat! Yet, it took that pain and the wrong turns that followed after her death to get me to the point where I could look beyond the storm and see the sunrise….or maybe it’s more fitting to say the SONrise. When I surrendered all the shattered pieces of my heart to Him, I caught glimpses of His incredible faithfulness and those beautiful glimpses captured my heart.

Though born from pain, suffering and many, many mistakes, I wouldn’t trade those gift-filled glimpses for anything. Tucked away inside those gifts is all the hope, all the joy, and all the peace I need to keep traveling up life’s path.

P.S.  After I quoted Romans 8:28 on the way to church that morning, guess what was one of the verses the pastor quoted in his message? Yep, Romans 8:28. I got home from church and decided to Google “how many verses are in the Bible?” The answer: 31,102.

31,102 verses in the Bible and the pastor quotes that one.  God is good!

Trusting the Melody

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I woke up with a song on my heart this morning. It’s been a while since this has happened.

Sometimes, there are seasons in my life this happens every day.
Sometimes, it’s more sporadic.
Sometimes, I can hear the words coming through loud and clear.
And, sometimes, like this morning, all I can hear is the melody and I can’t remember the words that go with that melody.

In my quiet time this morning, that melody kept on playing so I finally decided to look it up and remind myself of the words.

“It’s Your love that we adore.
It’s like a sea without a shore.
We’re lost in You.
We’re lost in You.”

I smiled. This is from the David Crowder song, Sometimes. I heard it playing yesterday as I was working and listening to Pandora. I hadn’t heard it in awhile.

As I thought more about this ability to hear the melody but not the words, I thought about how this is like the journey we call life.

We can hear the melody. We know and trust that’s it’s beautiful but we have a hard time hearing the words.

And then I thought of those words I couldn’t hear in the song.

His love is like a sea without a shore and we discover the most joy and most peace in our life when we are “lost” in it. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Sounds like things that would make you panic…a sea without a shore and being lost. Yet, if we are swimming around in His love it’s the most beautiful place in the world.

Sometimes, there are seasons in your life when all you can hear is the melody…and that’s okay.

Trusting my lifeguard today.

My First Best Friend

This is a post I wrote about six years as a tribute to my first “best friend.” The words have been tucked away over at my inactive blog, the one I had when I first started blogging. This morning it popped into my brain and I decided to share it again since Mother’s Day is right around the corner.

I cherish every single memory…the painful ones, the happy ones…all of them.  I don’t want to miss the lessons, the beauty and the healing I tend to find in each one that crosses my mind.

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I was 13 when my mom broke the news to me and my two older brothers. I remember exactly where I was sitting, on the couch in our living room. My mom calmly explained to us that she had been to the doctor. She was going to need an operation. Cancer had been found in one of her breasts. I don’t recall being scared. My 13-year-old mind simply developed a plan…my mom would have an operation and then she would be fine again.

As a very shy child, my mom had always filled two important roles in my life, Mom and best friend. In school, I never fit in with the popular or the unpopular group. I always felt uncomfortably stuck in the middle—getting along well with both groups, but never developing very many friendships. I remember being so uncomfortable in high school, that during lunch time, I would often go to the library and study rather than have to go to the cafeteria and eat with the other students or by myself. Despite graduating with a 4.0 GPA (I guess one of the rewards for hiding in the library), I never liked school. I just always felt self-conscious and uncertain about who I was and where I belonged.

Because of this, my mom became my closest friend. I loved hanging out with her. My mom had been instrumental in leading me to Christ and she and I would often have bible studies together. She had a love for the Lord that I truly appreciated and respected. We did everything together and this didn’t change after my mom’s surgery or after the rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments began. For her treatments, we always had to travel 80 miles up to Tucson. Oddly enough, I usually had a good time on these trips. After my mom’s treatments, rather than drive all the way home, we would always stay a few nights with my grandparents who lived in Tucson. My mom and I would share the double bed in Grandma and Grandpa’s spare room. We would stay awake talking and laughing, just like two girls at a slumber party.

I was 17 and in my last year of high school- when the simple plan I put together in my mind four years earlier suddenly began to unravel. Again, my mom sat me down. Her cancer had metastasized into her bones and she would need more radiation treatments. Even after this news, I still had a difficult time grasping the enormity of the situation. I still assumed that everything was going to be okay. It just had to be.

It wasn’t until a few months before she died that I woke up in the middle of the night in sheer panic. One thought was racing through my mind. What if she dies? It was as if the huge wall of protection that my mind had built around me years earlier was collapsing. This can’t happen. I’m only a teenager. This happens to other families, not mine.

Looking back, it’s amazing to me how much my adolescent mind protected me from the circumstances going on in my life. My life was changing drastically, but I never viewed it that way. It was just my life. I watched my mom go from walking independently to getting around with either a walker or a wheelchair depending on how bad her pain was that day. I went with my dad and brother down to the local Red Cross so that the three of us could donate blood for a blood transfusion my mom needed. I did the grocery shopping for the family because my mom could no longer do it. I prepared lunch for my mom and would bring it to her on the couch. The innocence of my adolescence had disappeared and I never fully comprehended it at that time. You know, I’m really thankful for this lack of comprehension. I think God knew exactly how much I could handle in my young life.

At 18, I was by my mom’s side when she died. Ironically, over the years, this has become one of my favorite memories from my teenage years. I will never forget those precious hours we spent together. It was one of those rare times in my young life when I knew, with total certainty; I was exactly where I belonged, holding the hand of my best friend.
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one thing

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“One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.” John 9: 25b

After my eyes caught sight of these words this morning, an older post (Rejoice and See) popped into my mind.  A couple of years ago I shared how I wonder what was going through this once blind man’s mind when he was being interrogated by the Pharisees.  Here’s what I wrote then:

You’ve got to be joking. You’re missing the point. You want proof that this man Jesus is something special…here it is!  End of story. Stop and really look at what just took place in my life. I was blind…now I see!  So, if you’ll just let me be on my way now, I have so many sights I want to go look at for the first time.  I want to go see if they look anything like I’ve imagined in my dreams!

I love this account in Scripture. I love how it reminds us of how one personal encounter with Jesus will prompt us to see and understand our stories differently.

After thinking about all of this, a story Lee Strobel shared in his most recent book The Case for Grace, came to mind.  Lee shares the story of Cody.  Cody was a homeless man and one day he was standing in line at a church waiting for food and a shower when a woman walked up to him and said…”it looks like you could use a hug.”  The stranger proceeded to give him a big hug, even though he was all dirty, stinky, and hadn’t showered in days.

That moment, is what I would call Cody’s “I was blind, now I see” moment. Extravagant love captured his heart that day. Cody’s life went on to do a 180 degree turn. Today, he ministers to other homeless folks and shares about his encounter with the woman who chose to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

A few final thoughts:

When the love of  Jesus reaches out and collides with our pain…nothing is ever the same…nor should it be!

Today, I want to be as overjoyed as the once blind man who was sharing his story with the doubting Pharisees.

Today, I want to live like the woman who walked into a “filthy situation” and simply offered love and acceptance.

Today, I want to be like Cody and choose to share that love and acceptance with the folks Jesus puts in my path.

Would you join me?

one day

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“When I get to Heaven I’ll understand the pain
And I’ll hurt for those who have not come yet
But I won’t hurt the same”  ~Steve Moakler, Holiday at Sea

May is one of those months when I am more aware of loss.  Mother’s Day, my mom’s birthday and the anniversary of my dad’s devastating (life changing) stroke show up on the calendar this month.

Years ago, I had a few questions for God. I took comfort in the fact that, one day, He would supply me with answers.

Why did He allow this?  

Why did He not stop that?

But, nowadays, I don’t think I’ll ask Him a single one of my questions.

I don’t believe they’ll even cross my mind.

I’ll know.  I’ll understand.

“as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  Psalm 103:12

I think my questions will, one day, be that far away too.

Sometimes, I wonder if it will be like giving birth. The journey of child-birth can hurt like hell and yet when we are holding that little child in our arms, we don’t ask why it had to hurt. The answer is right there resting in our arms. The answer is bigger than the pain. The beauty shines brighter and deeper than all the questions and doubts.

The pathway to unending love isn’t pain-free.

I’ve experienced pain in order to grasp the depths of His love for me.

I’ve experienced bondage in order to recognize and cherish the sweetness of freedom.

I’ve experienced the cold, dark winter nights so I can look at the sun rising out of the valley and know, really know, who to thank.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my friends and family whose grief is still so fresh. In a sense, they are still giving birth, they don’t know when the pain will subside…and it hurts like hell.

Yet, the one thing I know for sure, the answer will, one day, far outweigh the pain.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18