Doubtful Faith

One of the hardest things about being a Christian is, for me, struggling with doubt. 

Other Christians tell you the cliches that seem to be bred into our Sunday School faith. “God has a plan,” “God never gives us more than we can handle,” “Everything happens for a reason.” In other words: how dare you be in doubt! If you believe in God, you can’t doubt! It’s un-Christian!

Non-believers who know you are a believer, jump on you. They make the doubt stronger and more uncomfortable because they are looking for a reason not to follow this “Jesus thing.” You are an example/ experiment that is being played out in real time in front of them. You are the reality star in their Survivor: Faith edition.  

I want to hazard a thought. 

I think doubt is good for a strong faith. 

It’s taken me a long time to come to this conclusion and feel comfortable enough to share it. 

Doubt can make my faith stronger.

Doubt comes in many flavors. 

Strangely though, when one believer hears that another believer is doubting, they seem to always think it means doubting in God. Like I doubt He truly exists. That soon I’m going to be one of those missing-link-believers-big-bang freaks they are afraid of who is killing God.

At least that’s what I feel like they think the few times I have voiced the burden of doubt on my shoulders.

I know people who have gone through this doubt. I understand it. You watch the horrible things happening in the world and possibly the own pain you are going through and wonder: Why? If you believed and loved well…why would a good God allow so much pain? 

So the doubt you struggle with, the doubt other believers don’t help you carry, wears you down. Some of you might tentatively cling to your beliefs, but maybe not necessarily your faith. You keep the good things of the ‘religion,’ by helping others and attempting to live well, but you don’t give credence to the heart changing soul saving aspects of the faith anymore. It hasn’t changed the world for the better, so if there is a God out there, He is no longer involved with His creation. 

Others throw the baby out with the bathwater. God is not real. He can’t be. A loving God would never allow this, so He doesn’t exist. You were brainwashed. 

I have never questioned if God was real since I placed my trust in Him. I also have never questioned His grace or love. That is not a burden I have been forced to struggle with yet, thankfully. I truly feel for those who have to. It is an extremely difficult burden to unload. 

God has always been very real to me. Things have happened to the good, that there was absolutely no way it would have happened by human hands. I have been greatly comforted in heartwrenching sorrow, by an unexplainable peace.

Instead, what my doubt is, is my worthiness. Its not necessarily my worthiness of God’s grace and Jesus’s sacrifice, though on rare dark nights of the soul I find myself wrestling with that question. 

Rather, I doubt my worthiness to be a part of God’s plan. 

I see myself as too insignificant to be a gear in His plan. I’ve always have had this weird vision of the Book of Life open in front of the throne at Judgment Day, turned to my name. There isn’t anything written under it. There is no accounting for what I’ve done or haven’t done. Simply my name, written in Christ’s blood. Proof that I loved Him, but no proof that I lived for Him. 

Some days that snapshot of a daydream haunts me. It fuels a discontentment in my present day environment that I struggle with. 

And I ask myself: What am I doing for God? 

>>I want to take a moment here and make myself abundantly clear: I believe that according to what the Bible has taught me, salvation is not based on my good works. There is absolutely nothing I can do to earn my salvation. It is a gift freely given by Christ when He took my punishment for my sins and died on the cross. The only thing required of me to receive that unearned blessing is to ask for it. Even if it is on my death bed, I still can ask for it. And I will receive it. Because its a gift waiting for me to unwrap it.<<

I am surrounded by some on-fire people with the vision of what God demands of them. They see a chunk of His plan so clearly that it seems that their mission field is so ripe that the fish are jumping in the boat and the fruit is falling from the trees. They have that brilliant passion that just drives them forward. 

I know that what I perceive isn’t always what is happening. I know that they all have their own fears and struggles. But my very human doubting mind wonders. 

Have I missed God’s call? 

But, then again, why would He want me when He has her? She gathers people without trying, she’s so energetic that people line up to help. 

I can’t do that. 

Did you know that Mother Teresa, a woman well known for her faithful service, had doubts? In 2007 a book came out with letters to her confessor that poured out the pain of doubt. 

It rocked the world in many ways. The media of course used it to show how fruitless faith in God was. If a woman as sacrificial as Mother Teresa wondered about a loving God, how can He be real? Some people even labeled her a Christian Atheist.

Supposedly, when she first reached out for comfort and guidance in her “dark night of the soul,” one priest urged her to keep quiet and confess her sins. He did nothing to help her understand her doubts or to strengthen her faith so those dark nights didn’t become dark years. He was fearful the impact it would have on other people’s faith.

Where is my Faith–even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness–My God–how painful is this unknown pain–I have no Faith–I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart–& make me suffer untold agony….Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?— Mother Teresa, Saint of Calcutta. Undated Letter, quoted in “Mother Teresa: Come be my light” (2007) 

How heartwrenching. If only this woman had someone to walk with her in her dark nights. To hold her faith until such a time as she was ready to carry it again. Not to condemn her for wrestling with her questions, but to love her until she could feel God’s love again.

Isn’t that what the Body of Christ is for? We are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep for those who weep (Romans 12:15).” Those who are doubting are weeping. Do not be Job’s friends who tell the man he must have sinned for everything that happened to him. It isn’t a sin to doubt. 

We live in a very broken sin-filled world. Bad things happen. Any believer who says they don’t question it has to be lying or hasn’t read their Bible.

We do such a great disservice to other believers when we don’t ask for prayer and guidance when we struggle.

Church has too often become a building where you come to show off your perfect mask of peace and contentment, rather than the raw honesty of broken tears and uncomfortable anger. There is an unspoken law that we must not make other people uncomfortable because then we can’t win their souls. So we peddle the Prosperity Gospel lie. “When you become a Christian everything become perfect. You no longer struggle, you no longer cry, and you always win.” If mature Christians can’t handle hard times of doubt and bad things happening, how can we expect brand new believers to?

And the first time a new believer stumbles, they beat themselves up. They are a failure. They either run from God, thinking they are unworthy, or they no longer advance of in a deeper relationship with other Christians and God. 

We will stumble. 

We all have our trip ups, our temptations, our trials. We will make mistakes. You are human. God knows that. 

If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself wondered if God could let the heavy burden pass from him, or voiced His concern of His Father forsaking him– HE UNDERSTANDS. (Matthew 26:39, 27:46)

God never created us to be mindless followers of Him. He wants a relationship between us. He knows that questions will come, arguments will happen, tears and laughter will be shared. He knows that we will have doubt. This world breeds it like cockroaches. 

He just asks us keep the communication channels open. 

We could totally be Jonah. And God will still use us. I think He’d prefer us to be willing though. 

Jonah questioned God’s justice. He questioned it so hard–because he knew God was just and forgiving– that Jonah ran! He tried to get away from God’s sight even though he knew it was impossible. He got swallowed by a large fish as a disciplinary action. The prophet finally went to Nineveh, dragging his feet. When he told the town about the judgment God was getting ready to mete out, it wasn’t with a passionate cry to listen. It was “God is going to kill you, so repent. Or not. I don’t care.” Then when God actually did forgive the people- like He said He would- Jonah basically said “Kill me now.” Then got another lesson from God.  

Jonah spoke to God and heard His voice. And still he doubted.

Abraham and Sarah, the very beginning of the faith of Israelites questioned God’s plan. They tried to make God’s promise work because they could simply not see how they were to have a child in their advanced years (Genesis). And Abraham is still considered a Hero of the Faith  (Hebrews 11). 

Peter denied knowing Christ three times– even when Jesus told His disciple that he was going to do so. And he lived with that regret even as he worked his mission. (Luke 22:54-62)

All the twelve men with Christ’s inner circle struggled with great doubt when they saw Jesus die. How can this man die? He says he’s the Son of God. How can he die? 

Thomas doubted so strongly the story of the Resurrection, that he said he wouldn’t believe until his fingers were within the wounds on Christ’s body. (John 20:24-25)

Doubt is real.

It isn’t a sin.

Jesus didn’t reprimand His disciples beyond telling them that He said this was going to happen.

Don’t let anyone shame you for your doubt. And don’t shame anyone for their’s. 

I urge you, as someone who doubts, to speak about it. Do what you need to do to move through your dark night of the soul. 

Pray. Get into nature and feel God’s power. Read the Scripture. Listen to music, read devotions. Find the stories of missionaries that speak to you. Find the prayer warriors in your church and ask them to pray. 

God gives us ways to work through those moments/ years of doubt. We just need to learn how to use them.

I doubt. My heart and mind go to battle and I doubt. I wonder how God can use me. But I still move forward.

Find a way to keep walking until your doubt doesn’t cling to you anymore. And help someone else when they start to doubt.

Advertisements

‘Mr. Spock goes to church’: How one Christian copes with Asperger’s syndrome

I truly appreciate these glimpses into someone’s mind when talking about faith and disabilities. Brant Hensen is an radio personality on the national syndicated Air1 Christian Alternative. Take a walk with him as he describes what is like to be a Christian with Asperger’s.

CNN Belief Blog

Opinion by Brant Hansen, special to CNN

(CNN) — In the book “Jim and Caspar Go to Church,” an atheist turns to a Christian minister as they’re watching a Sunday morning church service and earnestly asks, “Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?”

I’ve grown up in churches and I’m a Christian, and I’m right there with the atheist.

I honestly don’t get the connection. (To be fair, I’ve grown up on Earth, too, and there are times that I don’t understand any part of this place.)

You see, years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome — and like a lot of “Aspies,” sometimes I’m convinced that I’ve landed on the wrong planet.

View original post 673 more words

Team Hoyt & Apostle Paul run the race

This last Sunday, I was leading my Ladies group in a study of Philippians 3:12-21. I was suddenly struck by the beauty of Paul’s words in verse 14  I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus (HCSB).
We tend to recognize that racing, reaching the prize, pursuing the goal, as favorite metaphors of Paul. One of the most well known being found in Hebrews 12:1-2 (bold) Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.
I realized while reading it with my class, that I had the wrong vision of what Paul’s race might look like. I admire Olympiad athletes who can run full out in quick sprints and break records of the fastest run in so many seconds, but it never truly echoed in my life.
Christian life is not a sprint. It is a marathon race where we do not get to pass off the baton to someone who can do that scary obstacle course right in the middle of the race. Reading the various race metaphors before, did tug a little on the heartstrings, but it never sank in in regards to the enduring dedication that is needed to continually run when your energy is flagging.
My life has been more of a marathon. It has never been a sprint. Racing round a track in under 4 minutes is an amazing feat, but the energy is gone. I have had to see some people race ahead of me in life while others fall behind, and still I must doggedly continue to race towards the goal of my life- complete humble perfection in Christ Jesus. The prize that will hopefully await me upon entering the heavenly kingdom of God.
The vision I now carry with me is the idea that the marathon race that I am in the midst of is closer to what the amazing Team Hoyt might go through.
Team Hoyt is a father son duo who have ran in various races since 1977. The duo officially ran their 1077th race as of April 2012.
What is so amazing about Team Hoyt?
Dick Hoyt, the father, is now in his 70s and races for the benefit of his son Rick, who was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia. Rick had told his dad after their first run together, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” Since that moment, Dick has done whatever he could so that his son could feel freedom.
They have raced in marathons, triathlons, and the difficult Ironman competitions. They have also biked and run across the United States in 45 days.
Throughout the races, Dick carries his son. Depending on the competition, Rick is either placed on the front of the bike in a special chair, pulled behind his father on a small boat, or pushed in a specially designed racing wheelchair. He is in the midst of the race. And he always finishes before his father.
So why did reading Paul’s “pursue as my goal the prize before me” suddenly make me think of Team Hoyt? I’ve known about Team Hoyt for years. I’ve always greatly admired the duo and follow them on Facebook. I remember praying that they weren’t near the horrible tragedy at the Boston Marathon, which happens to be the duo’s favorite race.
So why now?
Perhaps my last year of life has focused my attention more on the fact that I cannot face this race as a sprint. Becoming mature in Christ is not a quick one-two thing that happens. It is something we must struggle with. We must sweat, cry, and bleed over our spiritual life.
Dick Hoyt shows how important his son is to him by continually bleeding and sweating over that which makes his son feel free. I’m sure he has shed more than his share of tears over the years as exhaustion and illness plague him, but still he continues to strive towards the goal of the finish line. His focus is totally on that which is in front of him- Rick, his son.
It is not about the ‘prize.’ It is about the growth of his son’s sense of freedom.
Applying this to Paul’s metaphor might seem like a stretch, but stick with me.
Paul, throughout his letters has mentioned that that he has shed blood, sweat, and tears in the service of Christ. He praises that that which is behind him (the old him who despised the salvation of the cross) no longer has the power to sway him from his goal. He has beaten his body into submission and is wholly focused on coming perfection at the end of the race. He encourages those he writes too, to bring their own bodies into submission and run with endurance towards the prize, to not be swayed by the world’s glitter, but focused on the true reward.
I’m sure that Dick Hoyt has wanted to just collapse in the middle of the Ironman competition more than once (or any of the races), due to the exhaustion of going from biking, to swimming, to running. But, rather than give into his flesh, he puts one foot in front of another, his eye on his prize- his son’s joy.
Paul was not a sprinter. If he was a sprinter, I believe he might have renounced Christ rather than go through torture at the brutal hands of the Romans. A sprinter would not have the fortitude to withstand his faith being questioned. Sprinters in the faith burn brilliantly and quickly. The first time there is a small bump in the track they will fall away, unable to handle the difficulty of the race.
Marathon racers on the other hand, will conserve their faith in the midst of the race. It is for when those hiccups come their way, they have the knowledge and strength they built up during the calm moments that will help carry them through the tough moments.
Christian marathon racers should not be trying to leave everyone in their dust, but rather be helping our fellow racers finish their race well. We all are striving for the same goal.
The beauty of racing for the prize of fellowship with Christ, is that there is enough of him to go around to all the winners!

hoyt12You can read about the amazing Team Hoyt here on their website

 

Preaching Judah’s and Tamar’s story

I was tossed back into my memory when a friend mentioned he was translating the story of Judah and Tamar from Hebrew to English for his class.
Genesis 38 is a hard narrative. Preaching it in a homiletic class as the only female among at least 10 males in undergrad? Yeah, even harder.
I had chosen this passage because it was something the men were shying way from, possibly because of how difficult it was to turn the story into something positive. How would you even make this story of this …caliber… into something that can glorify God?
I worked hard to try to figure out how to use that passage as a way to point to God.
I finally had gotten to a point where I felt comfortable with my message, then it was my time to preach to the class.
I choked. My professor could attest to the deer-in-the-headlights panic I had going on. It was so bad that my mouth was flapping but no noise was coming out. To add to the fear, he was taping the disaster. It was so bad he was about to get up and shut off the camera, when I finally started to talk.
I got through it, eventually.
I just had this fear that every thing I had studied, every thing I prayed about, and every thing I had written and practiced was wrong. Not only wrong, but horribly wrong. Because of the topic and the importance of what the story means to the greater narrative, I was terrified of getting it wrong. Sure, some of that terror was that I would be laughed at by these guys but I ultimately I was concerned about twisting the Scriptures.
How do you talk about the twisted story of a man having sex with a woman whom he believes to be a prostitute, but who is actually his daughter-in-law? How do you find the grace of God in such a passage?
His fingerprints are all over it. It took me awhile to get pass the ick factor, then anger at Judah, to eventually see how God worked in such pair of unrighteous people.

First of all, we must realize that Tamar actually went through a correct lawful plan. Culturally (and Biblically) to keep the inheritance in the family, when a brother’s wife is widowed without a son, another brother must marry and lie with her till she gets a son. A son was the only way Tamar (whose husband Er, was killed by God because he found him wicked), would be able to be cared for in her old age, as well as be able to stay on the family land, not to mention to keep Er’s name alive. She did not have money of her own nor did she have land. She would have been sent back to the care of her father because she had no son.
This is why God provided the widows the provision of a brother-in-law providing a son that would take the husband’s name, so that the land would still be in the family and the widow would be cared for (This became law in Moses’ time which is a few hundred years later after this story).
So, Judah at first, followed the rule of the land. He ordered his second son Onan to do his duty by the family and provide his sister-in-law with a son. But, wickedness seemed to have ran in Judah’s family. Onan’s deceit is detailed in rather non-conservative wording. Once more God struck down one of the brothers. Judah’s remaining son was still too young to do his duty, so Tamar was sent back to live with her father until such a time as Shelah was old enough to hopefully provide Tamar with security.
But, Judah was concerned that Shelah would be killed as well. So even though his son was old enough, Tamar was never called back to her rightful place. Judah who had recovered from his wife’s death, went traveling to check on his flock.
While he was away from home, Tamar decided to take matters into her own hands. Judah had failed her and his duty. She went up to where he was sheering his sheep and disguised herself as a prostitute. Tamar did not do it to be ‘loose’ or even to gain money.
Tamar did it to make sure Judah fulfilled his promise. Judah did it because of lust.
Judah did not question her about her identity nor attempt to look beyond her veil. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law unwittingly, but he still did it.
While he promised to pay her with a young goat, she asked for proof that he would bring the goat back. He gave her his seal, cord, and his staff. These are very distinguishable in what they look like, basically he was giving her his driver’s license, social security card, and his birth certificate as proof that he would come back and pay her. She got pregnant. Judah attempted to get his pledge back by sending a young goat with a friend, but she had disappeared.
Three months after Tamar got pregnant, Judah was told that his daughter-in-law as accused of prostitution. He ordered that she be brought before him and burned to death for her sins. As she was coming to Judah’s land again, she sent his seal, cord, and staff ahead of her, saying that she was pregnant by the man who they belonged to.
He was shamed and said that she was more righteous than he.
Judah never slept with Tamar again.
Tamar ended up giving birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah.
Later in the genealogy of Christ we see that Perez became a grandfather of Jesus Christ.

What is so important about this story? Why is it important to know that not only is Tamar, Jesus’ grandmother, but to know about Perez’s and Zerah’s conception? Why must we muddle through this sordid tale? What is the purpose?
What I came up with is that ultimately, despite our human failing and brokenness, God’s plan will still come into fruition. He works inside us and through us despite ourselves. God needed a son from the Judah tribe for the genealogy of Christ. Out of the 12 tribes, only Judah’s is considered worthy of the title of king (King David comes from this tribe). Jesus Christ, while heavenly royalty needed to have the human realm’s lineage of royalty as well. He gained this aspect through Judah’s tribe.
So God used a woman accused of prostitution and a deceitful father-in-law to gain the necessary blood for his son to be born with. What was the purpose behind it all?
While I do not know God’s mind, to me it was a story of redemption and hope. As are most of the stories in the Bible.
We see Judah and Tamar at the worst moments in their life, and still God uses them.
We see children born out of an unsavory moment between two people, who ended up carrying on the Judah line to the birth of Christ.
God works in the broken human to get his will done.
Judah and Tamar- their story is hard to swallow. It makes us uncomfortable, but still it was important enough to have in the Scriptures. It is not the worst story by far, but it is still hard to deal with.
There is a purpose to it’s existence and we must enter into the story and wrestle with it to see the glory and grace God provided.
God’s mercy is everlasting and overflows even the seemingly horrifying moments in life. We just need to train our eyes to see it.
That is what walking with Judah and Tamar taught me.

Joni and Friends Camp revisited

jonilogo

It’s been nearly a month already since the first day of camp. Time has been slipping through my hands as I had to quickly start packing up my apartment and making the move home. (This is a story for another time. God‘s doing something big, just don’t know what yet! 🙂 )
I promised at least one more post, if not more, on what I learned and experienced while serving at the Twin Rocks Joni and Friends Camp in August. I still seem to be struggling with the right words to use. I keep using “Beautiful”, “Amazing”, “Awe-inspiring.”
Weak words for the depth of life I felt there.
It is interesting trying to explain what I saw to people. There are two types of people I interact with, much like anyone who deals with disabilities. There are the people who have a ton of experience with disabilities because they live it, breathe it, speak it, and touch it everyday of their life. Then there are those who have little to no true interaction with any person who has a disability.
It is easier to talk to someone who has some experienced with the disabled culture, than one that has not. It’s because they themselves have interacted with the beauty of simple acceptance in the midst of worldly discomfort. The ‘Typicals’ (people who are not disabled) may not have ever been in a place to communicate with someone who they deem to be ‘different.’
At camp, it wasn’t about being different. It wasn’t about being normal, bizarre, ordinary, strange, regular, or extraordinarily. It was not about what you were like, how you acted, how you spoke, how you moved, how you dressed, or who you knew. This camp was not about what you could do for me, or what I could do for you.
This camp was extraordinary for the simple fact that it managed to strip away all the worldly distractions somehow and boil it down to the most simplistic view I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
You are human and you are loved by God.
That is what this camp was about. In the midst of taking care of the child who was disabled or giving the one on one personal interaction desperately needed by a typical sibling, there was this life affirming belief being shown. “I love you because God loves you.” 
Many parents have had to struggle with ‘well-meaning’ people who see their child as being less than human. They almost have to fight for the right, so their children can be seen as a human being. At this camp, they didn’t have to fight to have their child noticed and accepted. They simply were, with open arms.
Each family as they entered the campground, was welcomed with shouts of joy and personalized banners. Their Short-Term Missionaries (STMs) were the first to meet them when the doors were opened. All this excitement for people who are for the most part quietly shunned by the outside world. Acceptance was given before they even got out of the car.
I had the chance to see a little bit of what the STMs did to get ready for their campers. Families had filled out a detailed questionnaire about what the camper’s special needs were (disability, allergies, medical, behavioral etc), what they like in ways of activities, interests, favorite colors, and any other piece of information (such as fears) that can help the STM get ready. They then had a small lecture that was an overview of typical aspects of that disability (Such as ‘most’ people with Down Syndrome, Autism, quadriplegia, Cerebral Palsy ect… might react like this:…)  But, it is also driven home that every person we deal with is an individual. We cannot put them in a perfect box and expect them to act the same way as every other person with that disability. That is not how the world works. That is not how camp works.
A good portion of STMs meshed well with their campers, others had what might be called difficult campers who didn’t interact well. Mostly this was due to certain aspects of their disability. One story that was related said that a STM who had a particularly difficult camper, had a horrible week. But when he was asked if he would serve again, he said, “I would have the worst week of my life so they can have the best of theirs.” That is the type of attitude that most STMs had. I think that is what made the difference in how the camp felt.
Even I was embraced by the acceptance of the camp. As part of the leadership, I was entering into what I saw as a tricky position. I needn’t have worried. I came into the camp as at the request of the director of the Southern Oregon chapter of Joni and Friends. He had come to my seminary to talk about the ministry for the class I was leading last spring. We had continued to communicate and I eventually was prompted/persuaded to step way out of my comfort zone and serve at the camp.
Best decision of my life.
The director and his wife, along with the rest of the leadership were extremely helpful and so eager to put me at ease. These people have been working together for the last four years and here I come to participate as an administrative assistant with no clue about what I was doing. There could have been the usual cliquish attitude of them creating a united front against the newcomer, instead there were smiles and hugs.
This translated into the actual camp where veteran campers welcomed me equally as any new camper. They were excited to see a new face and eager to make me love it.
They succeeded.
I can’t wait to get the chance to go back. I have no clue where I might be in a year or what I might be doing, but I have a strong feeling that God is going to clear the way to make sure I am back there come next August.
Joni and Friends camp, a place where everyone is loved.

Matthew 25:34-36: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Highly recommended links:

For families who are interested in learning more about the Family Retreats please go here —}   http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/for-families/
For people interested in volunteering your time and money please go here—}
http://www.joniandfriends.org/family-retreats/for-volunteers/

Irked in a bookstore

I love bookstores, I love walking among the stacks of fresh minted books, and thinking of the possibilities. I love the library too, because of the stacks of well used and loved books that have passed knowledge from one person to another. But, this weekend, the bookstore annoyed me.
I love seeking knowledge. I love seeking God focused knowledge even more, why else would I be in a Seminary? But, anyways, I digress.
I went to my local Christian Bookstore to mosey through the new books. I like spending time there because every once in awhile I find a great book, like Special Needs Special Ministry (which sadly seems to be now out of print) that really helps me either spiritually or educationally. I would have totally missed it if I hadn’t spent time there. It was the only type of book on Disability Ministry (which proves to me we need more authors out there working on this topic..hint hint 🙂 It is now a part of my class curriculum and I love it.
This weekend though, when I was walking through the books, I was confronted with all of the “self-help” literature. Odd titles that rubbed me wrong and made it seemed that we can do certain things through our own power. “How to Diet like Adam and Eve,” “Be the Perfect Godly Wife,” “Turn your loveless marriage into a Godly one,” “Change your Child’s attitude in 48 hours” (Or something like that)
We are so focused with doing things through our own power. Even when finding ways to have a better prayer life, it is about what you need to do -finding a quiet place, doing a ritualistic action- rather than asking God to teach you how to pray.
Hello!! The Bible covered this!
The disciples asked Jesus about how to pray! “Lord, teach us how to pray.” (Luke 11:1-13)
Christ answered, he gave us a format if we need it. When we are first learning to pray, or to learn how to pray deeper we follow it. “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
Christ reminds us that we need to remember that
1) God has the power, not us.
2) He will give us what we need for the day.
3) He has forgiven us, and we MUST forgive others.
4) God won’t lead us to be tempted. (We can do that all on our own)
Why do we need self-help books on how to pray more, when we have the greatest teacher giving it to us…for free?
I’m sure these people who are writing these books are great, they are Christians who want to help others. In someways, they are teachers who are reaching out to numerous hurting disciples.
My complaint, hesitancy, whatever you want to term it, is that we are so busy saying that can change through my own power, that we forget that we can ask God, to change our hearts.
We can ask for more faith- Romans 12:3 “God has allotted each a measure of faith.”
We can ask that our faith will be sustained- Luke 22:31-32 “”Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that you faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”
Why do we ask for other people to guide our faith when we can ask God to help us?
We can get disciplers who encourage us on our walk and who teach us to get deeper into our faith (I talk about the Paul, Barnabas, Timothy relationship here) and we should have them. They are helpful, and we are all called to do the same.
I am just hesitant to have someone I do not know, have no clue about their own spiritual walk telling me how to find God and be his child. I have the Bible for that.
Self help books have helped people. I know this. But, it’s not Scripture and it is not inspired by God. On the ladder of helpfulness, for me the self-help book isn’t even represented for me.
What are your thoughts on Self-Help books?
Romans 15:4 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

 

The Foot Saga Continues!

I had a surgery. My foot, let’s just say that my ankle had a whole lot more damage than first thought. And it has been a huge blessing. It’s strange thinking that I have had to have surgery to realize how important the Body of Christ is to me.
OK, let’s back up here.
In September, during an attempt to be careful, I fell down the stairs. (You can read that story here: Tumbling Trust) Over a two month period of icing it and keeping it wrapped, the pain got worse. I was still walking on it and working. It hurt, but I could still deal with it. But, then suddenly the pain rocketed up and my foot started spasming so badly I couldn’t sleep. That’s when I finally went to Urgent care to get it looked at. They gave me this horrible brace that did NOT work and caused more pain. But, they also sent me to a specialist.
That was the right move! It took another month though before they realized the depth of the injury. During that month, I had a new brace and physical therapy, where I met my very interesting physical therapist– for that story you can read: Breaking the Christian Bubble.
But, my ankle was slowly getting even worse as the pain got harder to handle. Ice just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
So, after an MRI, the doctor scheduled me for surgery. He said I ruptured at least one ligament but probably two. (actually the two ligaments that the arrows are pointing at)image001 When the doctor actually opened me up on December 11th, the damage was a whole lot worse than he even thought. I didn’t rupture it, I liquefied the ligaments. His exact words, “The ligaments were the consistency of snot.” So I now have someone’s donor tendon drilled into three parts of the ankle bone. Eventually, my ankle will be much stronger than ever before. But, the process is going to be a bit long.
For two weeks- which the day after Christmas will be over- I am in a split cast. This way the stitches can come out and the post-surgery swelling can eventually go down. Then for a minimum of 4 weeks I will be in a full cast from knee to toe. Then there will be an undisclosed amount of time in a walking boot. All of this with absolutely no weight bearing. If I put weight on my foot, I can split my heel which is even more surgery.
One thing I have to insert here…I am horrible on crutches! I’ve never broken anything and have no experience with crutches. I’ve nearly fallen three times- on my foot! Luckily, I have a donated knee scooter that I can get around on.
But, I digress. Let’s get back to the main reason for this post.
I am so very blessed! Because I lost my job due to new management, I was in the midst of finding a new job when the doctor said that I basically cannot do any driving or walking for about 2 months. This freaks me out! I’m a custodian and a caregiver- for those jobs you have to walk!
I was in the midst of trying to prove that I was trusting God when God showed me how amazing his church can be. My roommate and another good friend worked behind my back to have the Student Government in the Seminary use me as their student to support. That generous gift gave me enough money to cover a month of medical bills. Then the school has an “Angel Fund” that Financial Aid gives out, they gifted me with enough to cover a month and a half of more bills. Other sweet souls from undergrad, seminary, and my church also donated money, two of whom I’ve never met! I also got a wonderful casserole that helped take care of food for my family on a very busy day.
My parents brought me back home for the first month of healing so that I can have all of the help I need, while I get use to only one foot and the pain pills I’m on.
An anonymous friend gave me a gift card for Fred Myers which is a huge blessing while others gave me gift baskets to stave off boredom. A sweet couple from my church blew me away by the amount of their gift that answered so many of my worried financial prayers.
Transportation has been offered during my school days from a few sweet people- which I will be taking them up on!
And another BIG thing- my roommate asked our landlord if we can move apartments! I’ve been trying to figure out where I can stay for the 2 months of not walking- I can’t do the stairs because I barely can do 3 steps much less the number of stairs up to my apartment! She is such a blessing! My roommate is willing to move after being in our apartment for only 5 months. Just to move downstairs. This was such an answer to prayer, I can’t tell you how much this has taken away some of my worries! The major one being that I can actually stay in the place that I’m paying rent on- without having to pay another rent as well. This frees up money that I can give those who are willing to chauffeur me to my classes and doctor appointments.
This injury has opened my eyes to so much love. As a natural caregiver, it is easy to feel forgotten and under-appreciated. When you are always helping others, it makes it hard for people to help you. It’s hard to say “I need help!” when you don’t want to be a burden to others. But, the act of accepting that help has been so heartwarming and humbling. So many people have stepped out of the woodwork to just help.
I am beyond thankful for the Body of Christ. Through the sweet souls, God has answered my prayers. Through my injury, God has shown me how important the Body is to the individual- and how important the individual is to the Body.
Thank you so much for every prayer and however you have helped me. You are special to me!

Colossians 3:15-17
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.