Why I Believe

It’s supposed to be spring in Minnesota, but nine inches of new snow has given me reason to doubt. I believe, if we are honest with ourselves, we all have times of doubt. We all have questions. I grew up in the church and learned all the right stories, but I didn’t own it for myself. So, why do I believe?

Much like Thomas, I needed more to accept my faith. Reading the Bible wasn’t helpful at that time.

24-25 But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”

But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it. (John 20: 24-35 NIV).

Why I believe – I was on a mission trip as a teenager where I was experiencing God’s grace in lives of the people we served. During one of the worship services, a re-enactment of the crucifixion took place. Something about it, combined with the week in mission, and it all became real. Jesus died for me. It became personal. It overtook my heart. It was no longer a history story. It became real.

Since, there have been many moments of wrestling, questioning and doubts. It has never been about getting it right or irrefutable proof. Scripture is full of the same questions and doubts.  It’s about a relationship about that lives out love, grace and mercy. All of the moments of wrestling and questioning have been places of growth in my faith, places where God has shown Himself in unexpected ways. Sometimes I have to look back to find it.  This is why I believe.

Why do you believe? What are you wrestling to understand? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

 

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Change Me

We all have those days when the best parts of us are hidden from those we love. We say things we don’t intend. We are harsh and unkind. There may have been such an incident in our house, recently. I spent many hours afterwards coming up with changes others needed to make in their behavior. I was doing a great job at focusing on other’s flaws. I want to change them. I want God to change them, but I should be inviting God to change me.

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn is that I can’t change others, but changing me can have a great impact on others. The more I grow in kindness, compassion and love for others the greater the impact I can have for positive change in others. Bringing compassion to a difficult conversation can diffuse it.

Taking time to look at my own reactions, words and emotions is difficult. It forces me to see my own flaws and failings. It doesn’t feel good. It feels like a mountain to climb, but God uses those moments to form us into His likeness, to show us  how to turn from old ways and grow in Him.

Take good counsel and accept correction— that’s the way to live wisely and well. (Proverbs 19:20 MSG).

16-18 Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18 MSG).

Changes in me have had an impact on others. When one person stays positive or kind, it is easier for others to follow suit. A life with Christ is more than eternity. It’s the opportunity to be transformed today. Change me, Lord is my new mantra. I want to be transformed. I want to love more. I want to show compassion more. Okay, there is still a part of me that wants others to change. I really just want everyone to experience transformation.

Are you willing to say to God, “Change Me?” Are you ready for transformation? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Resurrection

Volkswagen vans are an icon of the 1960s, When I see them on the road today, they are generally full of rust and barely running. They look run down, and ready to retire.  Once in awhile, I see one that has been completely restored. Sometimes, they receive a resurrection. Sometimes, they are given new life. We are all offered that same kind of ressurection, if we are willing.

I walked through life feeling normal. I carried wounds from an icky neighbor and other. I carried rage. I carried fear. I carried a low self-worth. Then came resurrection.

Resurrection to the Christian is when Christ rises from the dead. It is a vivid reminder of the love God has for each of us.

22-25 Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God’s living Word. Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That’s why the prophet said,

The old life is a grass life,
    its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers;
Grass dries up, flowers droop,
    God’s Word goes on and on forever.

This is the Word that conceived the new life in you. (1 Peter 1:22-25 MSG).

What God did in my life was a resurrection. God reached into my life and changed me from the inside out. He took the rage, the fear, the low self-worth and replaced it with love and compassion. He took what was dead within and gave me new life.

God continues to give new life to His children. He changes us from within. He shows us, personally, love, compassion and grace. He reaches into our everyday lives and makes us new.

Sometimes the restoration is swift, and sometimes it is gradual. When I said yes to God, I didn’t know this was possible. It took years for the fullness of resurrection to enter my life, and I wouldn’t change any of it. I wouldn’t change what I have learned, or who I have become.

Are you ready to have God reach in and breathe new life into you? Are you willing to trust in His resurrection power? Are you ready to experience love and grace in a profound way? Say, yes.

How have you experienced resurrection? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Searching

Searching for answers is part of the human condition. We all have different questions, but want the right answer. Is that the right approach?

I had a random, yet inspiring conversation after church this week. The conversation was mostly about things we read and listen to for our spiritual well-being. We shared about making God bigger and not wanting God to fit in a box. We shared struggles with current dogma. It got me thinking about how I am always searching.

I am always searching for answers. I want the right answers. I want to understand. I want to be understood. I want to be seen and known. This friend then said something I so needed to hear. It struck hard. I have heard it before, but clearly needed to hear again. He said quoting a book, “God knows what you are thinking, so stop talking and listen.”

I am really good at talking. I talk to God all the time, non-stop in fact. I often think He tires of listening to me. I talk and I search, so stopping to listen is so hard for me, and so necessary. It is when I am listening that I find comfort. It is when I am listening that I find what I am searching for in that moment. It’s when I’m listening that I realize God knows my every need.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. (Psalm 139:1 NIV).

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139:23 NIV).

I seek to search and know God. I want the right answers. Yet, the entire time God is right with me showing me the intricacies of His care. He shows me the details of my life that He is providing care. I seek to know, to quantify, to put science around what God will and won’t do. God simply enters in to my world and brings love and compassion.

How often do we all do this? We want to put parameters around what is possible and what is right. I’m coming to understand that I’m searching in the wrong places, asking the wrong questions.  God knows my anxious thoughts and meets me exactly where I am at.

Are you searching? Are you finding the answers you are looking for? How is God entering your current circumstances and showing you His presence? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Enslaved

I learned a new word, mizriam (mitsrayim). It’s the Hebrew word for Egypt, the promise land, of a territory and people, and it’s also a name. So what? Well, it is a reference to a place, but as I was listening to a Rabbi explain it, he expanded it to leaving a narrow place, journeying through the desert to get to the promise land. This lead me to reflect on being enslaved

What is keeping me in the “narrow place”? What do I need to travel through the desert with to find the promise land? What is keeping me enslaved? Is it my need to keep up my image on Facebook? Is it my love of money? Is it my need for employment that represents status? Is it my unwillingness to forgive? Is it my resentment that God isn’t doing what I want? Is it my fear of the desert?

Let’s face it. I stay captive in the narrow place because the desert is scary. The desert is miserable. It forces me to examine myself and see my faults, and the many ways I have let others down.

I face the desert because I don’t face it alone, and it’s His promise of a promise land, of freedom, that pushes me forward. This reminds me that the desert is worth it to experience freedom.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence? (Psalm 139 NIV).

Choosing to leave enslavement for freedom isn’t easy. Trusting God in the desert can be one of the hardest things we face. The promise of freedom is worth it. Freedom brings with it greater love, compassion, grace and mercy for myself and others. It brings a closer relationship with Christ. As Easter approaches and I reflect on the gift of Christ, I’m humbled to know this was for salvation and freedom on earth. He declares me forgiven and free. I just need to accept it.

Are you willing to accept the gift of Christ? Are you ready for freedom? Are you willing to trust God in the desert? Are you ready give up being enslaved?  Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Rocks in Our Heart


I can go about my days assuming my current state is just who I am. Have you ever said, “It’s just my personality?” I would often make that  reference when talking about my negative personality traits. It was a way of justifying the negative aspects to myself and others. I would even think, “God created me this way.”

A statement in an email this week got me thinking about this again. Here is the statement, “If I am living this then it is okay with God.” It was in reference to the emotional state of her heart like it was a burden God intended her to carry forever. She had begun to think that God was okay with the emotional rocks in her heart, the rocks that prevent her from loving fully.

Scripture reminds us that God is continually refining us. He is teaching us how to be more like Him. He wants to help us remove the rocks from our hearts and replace them with His love and grace.

God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. (Hebrews 12:7-10 MSG).

My favorite saying which comes from later in this chapter from Hebrews is, God is not an indifferent bystander. He cares deeply about our circumstance and wants to move us through it. So, how do we get rid of the rocks in our hearts? There are three steps I follow to continue to clear out my heart.

  1. Awareness
  2. Prayer
  3. Repentance

First, God gives me an awareness that I have a rock to clear out. I will notice that I have overreacted to a situation and begin to wonder why. I will notice that certain irritations are no longer minor. I will have a sudden awareness that my reaction is not about the current situation. God has a variety of ways of making me aware that he want to do some cleaning in my heart.

Second, I pray about it. I ask God to reveal the root of my anger, irritability or fear. The roots are never what is happening in the present. They are usually a learned reaction from a long time ago. The true root is usually fear or shame.

Third, I repent. I ask God to forgive me for misunderstanding His love, grace and mercy. I ask Him to forgive me for not trusting Him in the situation. This expresses to God my genuine desire to have Him change my heart. I, then, ask him to replace the rock with His love and grace.

Believe it or not, this practice has brought about lasting change in my heart. It has allowed me to grow in compassion and love for others. It has helped me be a better wife and mother. One of the rocks that has been gone for over a decade now is rage. My anger no longer feels out of control, and it takes a lot to make me angry.

God wants to remove the rocks for your heart, as well. Will you let Him, or will you continue to say, “It’s just the way I am?” Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Did You Learn Anything

It was dark and snowing. My parents didn’t want me to head back to my apartment due to the weather. I was young and dumb. I insisted that with Dad’s truck I’d be fine. Finally, he gave in and sent me on my way. My mom was furious that he let me go. Dad simply said, “She’ll be back.” Mom questioned how he’d know that and Dad told her to wait and see.

The roads in town were snow-covered but manageable. Then I made my down a county road that was open farmland on either side. With the wind, it was a complete whiteout. I could barely see the hood of the truck. Then I looked down and saw the gas tank on empty. I panicked. There was a gas station ahead, but I didn’t have any money. I pulled in. Told the owner who I was and who my dad was. I promised to come back and pay the next day if I could have a couple of gallons of gas to get back home.

I made it back to my parents home. My dad had a smirk on his face. My mom was relieved and asked, “How did you know she would come back?” My dad looked at me and said, “Wasn’t so easy to see out there was it?” “No,” I said. Then came is classic line, “Did you learn anything?”

It’s that phrase that I think God is often saying to me, “Did you learn anything?” Life is challenging. We have experiences we don’t understand. We make mistakes. I make mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities for lessons learned, so this scripture has become my prayer.

God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me— my whole life one long, obedient response. Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love traveling this freeway! Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way. Affirm your promises to me— promises made to all who fear you. Deflect the harsh words of my critics— but what you say is always so good. See how hungry I am for your counsel; preserve my life through your righteous ways! (Psalm 119:33-40 MSG).

Apparently, the truck was not out of gas. The gas gauge was broken. Dad knew it was an opportunity for me learn. God knows when it’s time for me to hear, “Did you learn anything?” Are you willing to pray this scripture? Are you willing to let God ask, “Did you learn anything?”

How does God speak lessons to you? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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My Apologies

“My apologies,” is a phrase I am saying more often than I would like these days. At work, I allow myself two mistakes per semester recognizing that we all make mistakes. It is easy for me to accept the mistakes of others, but not so easy to accept my own. Recently, I have been falling short of my own high self standard. My schedule has been exceptionally full, and yes, it largely my fault.

Stress, to many tasks occupying my brain, and not enough hours in the day have increased my mistakes. I believe we need to own our mistakes so the phrase, “My apologies” has become my mantra.

Let’s be honest, apologizing for minor errors is easy. Causing a wound in a relationship, getting angry, insisting on our way, letting someone down are all much harder to own. They bring feelings of guilt and even shame coupled with fear. We want to protect ourselves. We want others to see us in a perfect light including God.

Teach me how to live to please you,
because you’re my God.
Lead me by your blessed Spirit
into cleared and level pastureland. (Psalm 143;10 MSG). 

37 …Jesus answered, “You tell me. Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.” (John 18:37 MSG).

Often the lessons I most need to learn lead me to remorse. My heart aches. I would rather ignore them and pretend they didn’t happen. The problem is, if I do nothing, I’m likely to face the same lesson over and over. Deciding to face those mistakes allows for healing and growth. It allows God to teach me to live in a way pleasing to Him. It still requires the phrase, “my apologies.” I will need to apologize to the one I hurt and to God. As soon as I do, healing begins. The hurt begins to subside. I become stronger, more compassionate and less focused on me.

God forgive me for resisting to do what is right out of fear, ignorance or self-interest. Show me your ways, and lead me by your Spirit. You care for truth and I chose to follow your voice. A voice that leads to grace, compassion and wholeness.

How are you at apologies? Do you resist? Do you hear the voice of God guiding you to a new wholeness? Share your story here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Contentment

Contentment is something I long for in my relationship with God. At times I feel like I have it; at others, I feel I’m holding on for dear life. This past year, filled with grief, obstacles, and new challenges left me holding onto the promise of this scripture.

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created  you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; (Isaiah 43:1-3a NIV).

All the while, I longed for contentment. Contentment is joyfully, yes joyfully, living within my current circumstance. I wanted a peace within that trusted the promises of Isaiah. Let’s face it, I’m not good at being content. I am always wanting more and looking to what is next in life, and strategizing my way out of anything difficult. Contentment in relationships is harder. It takes intention. I have to be intentional in my marriage, with my children and in friendships to reach and maintain contentment. I long for it all aspects of my life, but it starts with God.

So, how do I find that with God? Then I heard this scripture as a part of a Willow Creek Church message and a bit of a lightbulb went off.

But godliness with contentment is great gain (1Timothy 6:6 NIV).

Pastor Carter took this verse and turned it into an equation: Godliness + Contentment = Great Gain. Godliness is choosing to conform to God’s ideals. That, plus joyfully living within my circumstance will bring great gain. The context of this scripture is around financial gain and the want of money being the root of evil. The equation is about so much more than the pursuit of money. Focusing on the growing in Christlikeness, trusting in the promises of God and living in peace produces a life where I am left wanting nothing more. This sounds awesome to me.

I need to rest in the promises of Isaiah and strive for contentment, joyfully living within my circumstance. My life will be richer for it, and as always I have work to do.

How about you? Are you content? How have you learned to have joy in your circumstance? Share your story here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

 

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Justice

We all want justice. We want the person who wronged us to face consequences. We expect the law to protect us. When justice fails us, we are left wondering where is God.

Recently, two different families I know and love has had justice fail them. They were fighting for the rights and protection of children. We expect the law to make sense and be in favor of the victims. However, it seems that justice can’t be counted on. Laws have loop holes, and accountability is hard to come by.

The level of frustration was palpable through the phone when I heard, “We have to trust God.” I thought, “Wow.” I was impressed by her level of trust while I was dumbfounded wondering what to do next. She was right. God is at work in this, and just can’t see it, yet.

Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” (Luke 18:6-8 MSG).

She and this scripture reminded me that my sight is limited. I can’t see all the things that God is doing in these situations to change hearts, move mountains, save lives and bring grace and mercy to those in need. I only see what my heart wants. I can’t see 10, 20 or 50 years from now. I don’t know the testimonies He’s cultivating. I don’t see the  justice He is bringing.

I can wave my fist and stomp my feet all the injustice in this world and so close to home, but God calls me to listen carefully and pray fervently. There may be a time for me to act, to move, to participate in His justice. I need to be ready to do what I can when He declares the time is right. In the current situations, my hands are tied, but there may be a time in the future serve His justice. In the meantime, I trust He is in control, His love is more powerful, and He will not drag His feet even if I never see the outcome.

How have you learned to trust in God’s justice? How has he challenged you in this? Share your story here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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