Faithfully thinking: when your glad God doesn’t answer some prayers

Do you know what I’m grateful for today? I’m grateful that sometimes God doesn’t answer “yes” to some of our prayers. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? I mean, who is happy when God says “no” to them?

People who pray for things they really think they want but later realize they never did, are happy when God says “no” to a request. Of course, we aren’t happy in the midst of our disappointment but down the road, we are struck by relief.

“My word, imagine if God had answered that prayer my letting me have what I wanted,” we might think. “Imagine the stress I would have been under then. I think it’s bad now but if I had been given the desires of my heart back then – ouch. Nightmare for sure!”

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For me I know one prayer I’m actually glad God didn’t answer yes to was for a full-time photography business. Once upon a time, I wanted to be busy every weekend, taking and then editing photos of other people and their children. I imagined that if I could do that then I’d be a real photographer and I would be popular and yes, yes, Sally Fields, people would like me too.

When that dream never came I was crushed. I was rejected and I’ll let you in on a secret – there are many days I still am. But, my goodness, am I so happy I’m not dealing with the stress of worrying about doing the right things for a different group of people every weekend – juggling personalities and soothing egos and simply trying to please them all, no matter what. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very lucky that almost every client I’ve had for photography has been easy to get along with and a blast to photograph. Still, let’s face it, no client is perfect and even if they don’t mean to, stress can come with having clients, even if it is self-created stress.

I still accept requests for photo sessions or freelance assignments but I don’t ever see myself being a well-known or well-sought after photographer and I’m finally perfectly happy with that. I’m actually happy with my small, boring and run-of-the-mill life with my two children, my husband, the cat and Zooma the Wonder Dog.

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I have found joy in being Mom, in homeschooling, in rambling on blogs and sometimes being offered freelance assignments in writing or photography. I’ve even found joy in the daily chore of cooking meals. (Pray for me to also find the joy in cleaning.) I can honestly say that this prayer is one I’m glad God answered no to. And any of the rejection I felt from that “no” is something I can continue to ask God to heal me from, even as I rejoice in how His ‘no’ became a “yes” in many other ways.

How about you? Is there a prayer or two you’ve uttered and now, looking back, you’re glad God didn’t answer “yes” to?

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Faithfully thinking: I may not think, speak or do things like you but God can still use me

“To be honest, I don’t know why I even write anymore,” I thought to myself one morning. “I don’t know much about anything and I’m full of very little wisdom. I’m a mom and a wife and I take photos for myself and that’s about it. I’ve never written a book, I don’t have a thriving business and last school year I was called a bad parent and it makes me try too hard at this blasted homeschooling thing.”

Cleaning the house? Don’t get me started. Actually, if you did get me started I would be completely overwhelmed and would end up in a fetal position crying and still nothing would get cleaned.

Cooking? I try my best but I often find myself imagining that cardboard with salt would taste better than my dinners.

Parenting? Last week my daughter bit her brother in the shoulder because he was sitting in the chair she wanted and my son is addicted to Minecraft. I have a huge “Fear of Missing Out ” (FOMO) problem but it’s mainly focused on my children because I already know I’m missing out and I’m so tired every single day of my life I don’t even care.

In other words, I’m a mess, or so I feel most days.

My one comfort is knowing I’m not alone, that I may be a train wreck but somewhere in this world there is another mom in another house feeling as inadequate as me.

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And despite how we feel, the truth is we are loved, we are worthy and we can be used by God even when others have written us off. I express doubts often and recently, after three weeks of trials stacked one on top of another on top of our family, I tossed out a few words of doubt on Facebook about whether or not God even cares for us.

I received an admonishment from a fellow Christian who told me: “Repent of your thinking” because nothing comforts a person dealing with trials by telling them they’re falling short in their Christian walk.

Those scolding comments are something that tends to make me pause and decide I’m not worthy to talk about faith or Christ, wonder why I even thought I should, and lead me to withdrawal within myself and vow to keep my inferior opinions to myself. The truth is, though, we are all on our own journey and on that journey we are going to stumble more than once.

DSC_5409Maybe God can use me even if I have doubts and I express them and I say things that don’t fit your idea of what a “good Christian girl” should say or should be. Maybe I show my weak moments when you hide yours but that does not exclude me from being used by God.

Maybe I show my weak moments when you hide yours but that does not exclude me from being used by God.

Those comments that don’t sound “Biblical” to you or don’t fit your personal narrative, those comments I throw out there in a moment of frustration or under the heavy burden of trial after trial after trial in a short amount of time, don’t dismiss me from God’s list of people who can be used for His Kingdom.

As I heard Pastor Steven Furtick say in a recent sermon: “There is nothing wrong with you that isn’t right with God.”

If you’re like me and feel your imperfect attitude disqualifies you from speaking your feelings about faith and God, let’s remind each other God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called and maybe what some of us are called to do is let our messy moments show so others know they’re not alone.

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To follow my blog you can find a follow button at the top of the sidebar to the right. To follow my photography you can find me at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler
To can also see my photography at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or Lightstock.

When you’re afraid to let your thoughts go beyond the surface

I’ve been keeping my thoughts at surface level lately, finding ways to distract myself from the “deep thoughts” I don’t want to face.

It’s been going on for months, but it got to the point of fully crawling into a psychological  hole of denial around the time my aunt died in the end of December. When those thoughts would come to mind – the ones that reminded me everyone dies and others will follow my aunt soon – I grabbed my phone and flipped through photos on Instagram, or watched clips on Youtube. Anything to keep my mind from going there – the dark part of my mind where thoughts grab me and pull me down and hold me in the darkness while my soul spins around and around in a panic.

“I don’t want to grow up. I hate that daddy can’t carry me anymore and I’m too big for us to cuddle at night,” my almost 12-year old told me one night as we turned off the lights for bed.

My stomach tightened and I mumbled something about knowing it was hard but that it was natural to feel worried about the future and growing up. Then I hugged him and rushed off into the darkness of my room and tried to hold it together. I searched for comedians on YouTube and watched them until I didn’t have to think about it anymore. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I knew if I cried it was all over. I’d fall apart and it would take me days, if not weeks, to recover because if one rock slipped out of place they would all crumble down.

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The rock that said my little boy is growing so fast and I can’t slow it down.

The rock that said my daughter doesn’t fit snuggly in my lap anymore either and it’s leaving me feeling out of control.
The rock that said I thought about calling my aunt the other day to tell her a funny story and then remembered she wasn’t there to tell.

The rock that says my mom’s health isn’t good and someday I won’t have her to call and seek comfort from.

The rock that says my dad is so tired from Lyme and taking care of two properties and I’m worried he’s going to end up in the hospital, but I can’t make him slow down because he’s an adult.

The rock that says our finances are often not great and it scares me. The rock that tells me I’ve failed at making a career and helping support my family.

The rock that says I don’t pray enough and I know it.

The rock that says I don’t trust God the way I should.

And when all those rocks come down – what will happen?

I have to keep the rocks in place because with them in place I am less of a spazz, less of a person people shake their heads at sadly, less of a jumbled mess of anxiety and more of what a good Christian is supposed to be.

At least, this is what I have told myself as I hold myself hard against the rocks, holding them back, putting them where they belong if they threaten to fall, while the tears try to leak through and push my feelings out into the open, where anyone could see them and know I don’t have it together at all.

I know I’ve said I’m not a person who says “I had a vision” and I wouldn’t call it a vision when I was thinking about all this late one night and I saw Jesus in my mind’s eye, standing by me, looking at me with a small, gentle smile, as I held the rocks in place and then watched as he took each rock in his hands and they faded into nothingness, one by one.

“Don’t worry about these,” he said. “I’ll hold them for you. You can let them go.”

I don’t let go well, Lord, you know that, but I’m trying.

I’m trying.

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Why lip gloss…why?

One day a couple of weeks ago I was trying to convince my friend Tiffany to help me with a blog for moms in our area. “I don’t know. I’m not a good blogger,” she texted back to me. I don’t know what a good “blogger” is but I do know what a good writer is (well, I think I do anyhow) so when Tiffany sent an old blog post to me this week for “laughs” I said, “The voice in your head is a liar. You’re a good writer AND you will be a great blogger.” And then I asked her if I could share this as a guest post on my blog and she said “Do whatever you want” and I said, “awesome. I’m going to.” So, all this to explain that this is a guest post from my good friend Tiffany Kuhn, who is not a blogger, or a writer. Yeah, okay. She’s also in denial so when she starts a blog up again for fun or laughs, I’ll link to her blog. Tiffany wrote the following post in 2014, maybe right before baby number five entered the world. Yes, she’s an amazing mom of five really cool kids, six if you count her husband, which I do because he’s a fun, goofy guy with a youthful outlook on life.


Why, lipgloss, why?

By Tiffany Kuhn

Oh boy. There it goes. As I stand in front of my washer, listening to the clanking, I realize my favorite tube of lip gloss is tumbling around and around in a sea of dirty water and dirty clothes. A sight I am all too familiar with since it seems I always find something hitchhiking in there on a monthly basis at least.

Ugh. To save it, or not to save it, that is the question. Do I dare let it dry and use it after the laundry is done? Do I really want to press it up against my lips knowing that it’s been swimming and bathing in dirty water, along with soap and who knows what else while the washer does its thing?  Yeah, I think not.

While I stand here I can think of a huge list of reasons that played a factor in how and why I forgot to check my pockets and grab that ever so luxurious tube of lip-awesomeness. Instead, I am choosing to focus on what can I learn from this all too common scene that I am sure takes place in just about every home at some time or another. So many times I find items at the bottom of the washer that are dirty and need a good clean wash or rinse before I put them back in their respective places. Some things, however, just can’t even be washed and used again, such as my lip gloss.

You can never get all the funk off of it. It may look all fabulous and put together on the outside, but you know on the inside it is crawling with filth and dirt that can never be taken away.

The same can be said for us. When we fill our minds with thoughts and images that are unclean, and hurtful we can never undo that. We litter our minds constantly with violent images, dirty words and envious thoughts towards others. So just as the lip gloss, on the outside, we look all inviting and great, but on the inside, in our thoughts, we are dirty and covered in funk. Do we really want our minds filled with grime or do we want our minds filled with joyous thoughts?

The Lord commands us in Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV):

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

While it is a bummer that I have forever lost my favorite tube of lip gloss, it has also been a blessing in helping me realize that not only do I have to change my laundry habits,(such as checking my pockets from now on) but that I also have to change my way of thinking. Be more like God and less like the lip gloss.

It is an awesome thought to know that God cares for us and wants the best for us. And may you ever be reminded of Philippians 4:8 when you are collecting items from the bottom of your washer.

The day God told me I needed to create a war room

One day last month God told me (in so many ways and with various hints) that I needed to go to my war room and pray about all that has been leaving me stressed and tied up in knots inside. The problem was, I didn’t have a war room. I’d never established one.

For anyone asking, “what in the world is a ‘war room’?”, in modern Christian terms a war room is a small, quiet place without distractions, reserved to meet with God about specific issues you are facing in your life.

In all honesty, God has been laying this whole “war room” idea on my heart for months, after I watched the movie War Room, but I’ve been ignoring the prodding because this Mom can’t even use the bathroom alone most nights, let alone lock myself in a closet to pray.

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Yet there I was one day, anxious about so many things and scrolling through Instagram, when I should have been praying, and two posts hit me full in the face. They were both written by women who were also struggling with anxiety. One wrote about withdrawing into her war room during the difficult times.

A half an hour later, this time while I was avoiding life by wasting time on Facebook, the word was in front of me again in a post by blogger, Roslind Jukic. 

“When you find yourself soul-weary, the first place you need to go is to your war room,” Roslind wrote. “And here’s why: Satan will take advantage of your weariness. He will whisper lies to your heart. He has already been creating a strategy for your demise. He wants to use your weariness for his purpose, to steal your joy, to rob you of your purpose, and to destroy your testimony. When you are weary, you need to get in your war room and begin developing a strategy against the enemy….a war plan for victory!”

So I made a war room in my bedroom closet. I cleaned it out (tossed clothes and stuffed animals to one side), taped a piece of paper with some pressing issues written on it on the wall and sat in there to pray.

My 11-year old son, who I had practically forced to watch War Room with me one day, found me there and looked bewildered for a moment but then had a moment of realization and said “You’re making a war room aren’t you?” And then he crawled inside with me and I held him for a few moments before he left to make sure his sister wasn’t pulling knives out of drawers to cut open her yogurt tubes.

I came out of my bedroom closet ten minutes later having difficulty breathing because of all the dust in there, but I did it! I had established a war room.

“We pray because our own solutions don’t work and because prayer deploys, activates, and fortifies us against the attacks of the enemy. We pray because we’re serious about taking back the ground he has sought to take from us.”
― Priscilla Shirer

Now I just have to be more consistent about going in it and actually praying about issues facing our family instead of worrying about them.

Do you have your own war room? Or have you thought about creating one? If you have one, how has it helped you and how do you keep yourself consistent in entering it during the tough and stressful moments of life?

When you realize what you thought ‘won’t happen here’ is actually here, right in your backyard

Sitting in our homes in rural Pennsylvania we often watched the news and thought to ourselves, “Whew. Glad that’s not happening here.”

We watched children being killed in their schools by children their own age and drug dealers being arrested and drive by shootings and little babies being killed by their mother’s live in boyfriend.

And we thought, “Whew. Glad that’s not happening here.”

We thought that until one day we were picking up our local newspapers and turning on our local news and suddenly, as if out of nowhere, it was here. 

There it was – a teenager dead – only 13, by suicide. Rumors that he was bullied and rumors that he was just depressed and couldn’t pull himself out of the pit.  Many didn’t know why but they knew it hurt. A family was hurting. A community was hurting.

And then there it was again – a teenager charged with not only threatening to become a school shooter and trying to buy a handgun so he could become one – right here, in our backyard, down the street from our homes, at the school we send our children to – but also being charged with rape.

A teenager.

A kid.

A child.

Someone’s child.

One of our neighbors.

One of God’s children.

Filled with hate at an age that should be filled with hope.

We live in a small collection of towns, two in Pennsylvania and one in New York. Their borders blend together and spill over into each other. Sometimes we like to pretend life here is fairly idyllic and that we all sit on our front porches in a rocking chair and wave at the children riding by on their bikes.

But, that’s not true, and we know it and we don’t like it.

Our towns are hurting.

Our neighbors are hurting.

Our children are hurting.

And hurt people hurt people.

Behind closed doors there are drugs being pushed through needles into veins while a baby sits to one side and plays with a rattle.

Behind closed doors young children are being ignored or told they aren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough or enough at all because if they were mom and dad might spend a little more time with them, stop drinking, stop shooting up or stop smacking them in the head no matter what they do.

Behind closed doors people are frightened.

They are frightened of not fitting in, of not measuring up, of there being no God, of there being a God.

Behind closed doors people ask if there was a God then why did their mom die, why did their dad leave, why is their mom more interested in drinking or smoking or snorting than hugging them and telling them it’s going to be ok?

Behind closed doors is the anger that has been pushed down day after day and week after week and year after year and now it’s spilling out and all over and it looks like arrogance and it looks like boldness, but what it is is fear, sadness, despair, loneliness, emptiness, apathy, and anxiety.

Anxiety looks a lot like anger when you don’t know where to turn.

Fear looks a lot like anger when no one listens.

Loneliness looks a lot like anger when no one cares.

Despair looks a lot like anger when you feel rejected and lost and confused and twisted all up inside like a rope tied tight on a tree limb.

Let’s be honest, we’d rather keep the doors closed. We don’t want to know what is happening behind those closed doors because if we knew we’d have to do something and if we had to do something we’d have to get involved and if we had to get involved we might get hurt.

And then it would go around and around and around again.

Hurt people hurt people.

The first time I heard someone say that – hurt people hurt people – I was angry.

I was the one that was hurt. Why should I care if the other person was hurting?

I didn’t care.

I didn’t want to care.

I never would care.

But eventually I did. 

I hurt.

The other person hurt.

We hurt together.

When we hurt together we no longer wanted to hurt others.

Maybe that’s what we need these days.

Maybe we need to hurt together.

So, it’s here now, not only there – on the news, on the TV, in the paper – in another community.

The pain is here.

Death is here, knocking on our doors.

Hate is here, walking the halls of our schools.

We can take away their weapons, we can lock them away, but until we stop the hurt they will keep coming.

The hurting want the pain to stop but if they can’t stop it they want others to suffer along with them because then they won’t suffer alone anymore.

They will find weapons even if laws say they can’t have those weapons.

They will use whatever they can to hurt and take away just as they have had things held back or taken away.

How do you stop the hurt? 

How do you heal a heart?

How do you whisper hope to a soul lost in the darkness of feeling worthless, unneeded, unnecessary? 

You don’t.

He does. 

God created us, He will heal us.

Then why is there pain? Why is there hurt? Why do humans hurt each other?

I don’t know.

There is sin and I don’t know why.

There is hurt and there was a fall from heaven of a heavenly being who said he would be God and God would not. When that happened pain entered what should have been a perfect world.

God doesn’t stop it. 

I don’t know why.

I don’t know why we are here or why we keep living or why we keep wanting to live.

So many of us want to live. 

Many say they want to die. They tell the world they want to die.

They tell their friends they’ll make sure they die, on their own terms and in their own way, but really, if they could only see through the fog that has fallen on them they would admit – it’s not that they don’t want to live it’s that they want someone else to tell them they are worthy of living.

Isn’t that what we all need? To know we are worthy. To be reminded that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by someone who loves us even when no one else will.

If we are really honest, we don’t want to see behind those closed doors because we don’t know where to start.

“But there are so many,” we think. “We can’t save them all. We can’t stop it all.”

We can’t save them all. 

Maybe we can save one.

And then one more.

And one more.

And one more.

And that one can save one and on it will go until maybe not all are saved from the darkness of hurting others but there are more than there were who can see light instead of dark. 

 

 

Don’t let someone else tell you what God is calling you to be

When you search the internet for the word “calling” one of the definitions is “a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation.”

In the Christian definition we often use the word to describe God’s plan for our life and we often believe God lays one calling on us and we are to do nothing but that ONE thing. This idea is further perpetuated by some in the Church who feel it is their job to suggest to others what their calling in life is.

When a well meaning friend or family member or church member says God called you to whatever it is that person believes you have been called to you can take what they say and think about it, but there is nothing that says you need to claim it. Remember that person  is human like you and not God and their definition of what your calling is not necessarily God’s definition

Today I heard an interview with Bishop T.D. Jakes and Pastor Steven Furtick. In it Jakes warns to not let what others say your calling is limit what God can do in you and through you. As someone who has not been limited by one title, Bishop Jakes has recently written a book, “Soar: Build Your Vision From the Ground Up”, about learning what God’s plan is for your life.

“I never knew the way people described you would become a prison until they did it,” he said. “When I met me I was not a preacher so I didn’t know they would incarcerate me with the title. You are at your best when you are authentic to your core and you have to be what you are, not what they call you. You understand what I’m saying? Some people will call you a name and you will start living up to that name and it limits you from what else God wants to do in your life. . . . What happens in life as we evolve as a person is we can not allow ourself to be incarcerated by anything people would describe us as because we limit what the Holy Spirit can do in our life.”

There are many women who are writers, mothers, artists and business people all in one.  There are many men who are fathers, entrepreneurs, employees and men of God preaching on Sunday.

There is not always one thing you were meant to do and now you’re not allowed to be anything else. Being a mother is the highest calling there is but I know mothers who harbor guilt because they want to be a mother and an artist, a mother and a business person, a mother and a writer but someone has told them, well meaning or not, that their calling is to be a mother and only a mother.

This guilt and unrealistic expectation is especially true in the Christian community where women are often told “your calling is to be a mother and that’s where God wants you in this season of your life.” Oddly I’ve never heard the same thing said to a man about being a father. Have you? Wouldn’t it be odd in our society to hear someone tell a man, “God wants you at home with your children and to pursue no other calling until they are old enough to go to college and live on their own.”?

Though I understand the premise behind such comments toward woman and while I believe God desires women to be the caretaker of children and engrained this maternal instinct in our sex, directives that a woman should desire nothing more than to be a mother and wide often heaps guilt on women already prone  to guilt biologically.

Some women believe that they must pour everything they are into motherhood and if they fall or fail (failure based on their own standards I might add) they failed at the only calling God ever gave them.

Yes, God called women to be mothers but no, He does not call all women to never pursue other passions, interests or callings in addition to being a mother. He never told Esther he couldn’t use her because she was a woman and meant to be a mother only. He never told Abigal, wife or Nabal, that she couldn’t  be a peacemaker between her husband and the warrior David (1 Samual 25:1-38) because she possessed a womb and desired to be a mother.

Therefore I don’t believe He has told other mothers their only calling is to care for their children. Yes, there are women whose main calling is to raise her children, but it doesn’t have to be her only calling.

So often we think we only have one calling and we need to find that one calling. If we don’t find that one calling we have failed in life, we have failed God. I have held on to this one calling lie for the majority of my adulthood, searching it out like one might search for the lost grail, waiting for it to be shown to me with a bright light from heaven. Unfortunately, that just isn’t going to happen and I have begun to accept that my “calling” may go beyond one vocation or role.

Hearing Pastor Jakes remind me not to be limited to what others have called me to be. Hopefully we can all remember to not limit God and to encourage others, especially mothers, to join us in taking the chains off God. Let’s take God out of the box we have put him in and let him show us a path of limitless opportunities,  possibilities and callings.

 

Faithfully Thinking: A little more of a little less: why the fear of missing out is killing us

Our brain was not wired to process the amount of information we throw at it on a daily basis.

The shows we watch.

The news we tune into.

The podcasts we listen to.

The social media we scroll through.

The trends and news and health warnings and even the good stuff that is aimed at growing us spiritually.

It is information over load.

Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church said it well in his sermon “why are we anxious?”

“There is no way that we can’t take it all in and still have room for the peace of God,” he said. “You’re praying for the peace of God – God doesn’t have anywhere to put it. Your mind is too full. You were not designed to have the entirety of the conversation of the whole human race buzzing on your back pocket on your butt bone. Just walking around like snipers. ‘What did they say?’ ‘Where did they go on vacation?’ ‘What about that press conference?’ It was not supposed to be this way. Of course we’re freaking out. Of course we’re zombies. Of course we’re numbing ourselves and drinking and smoking and popping. Of course we can’t stop it. The devil’s got a shock collar on our back pocket and we don’t even know it.”

We are constantly shackled to the world through our devices.  Our minds are constantly filled with digital noise.

We are listening to a new song or reading a new post or receiving notifications about who is presenting something “live” on one of our social media outlets. And while they are live we are dead inside because we can’t even hear ourselves think.

We have a constant buzz of knowledge and information in our heads. So much we can’t hear our voice, our spouse’s voice, children’s voices or more importantly God’s. 

How can God speak to us if we never shut the voices off?

Notice I say “we”  and “us.”

How can God speak to ME if I never put the phone down and stop searching for help and validation in social media instead of His Word?

Ouch. That one hurt. 

Because it’s true. 

Because it’s what I heard in my spirit today when I tried to quiet the voices and just listen. I tried to listen to what God was saying and it was hard. 

It was hard to hear His voice beyond the anxiety and the doubts and the worry and the efforts to fix it all in the twenty minutes between when I woke up and my toddler woke up.  Not too mention I tried to force myself to listen and we all know what happens when you do that: you start making grocery lists in your head and wondering how cellophane works.

But then I did have a thought, that felt a lot like a reminder to my soul; a reminder that we can’t place ourself in chaos and expect to feel peace.

There are times chaos whirls around us, out of our control. Often, though, we are in control of what sweeps us up into its current. We can step back, close computers, uninstall apps, shut off devices and quiet all the voices except His.

We can decide that less is what we need.

Less people telling us how to be a better us.

Less “motivational” posts that make us feel we’re getting this Christianity thing all wrong.

Less busyness.

Less voices whispering we need to do more.

Less of us telling ourselves we need to be everything to everyone

Less expectations.

Less running toward what we think will make us happy.

Less determination that if we just have more of what we don’t have we’ll have all we need to be happy.

Is social media all evil and no good?

Of course not.

There is good mixed in the bad but less of it can mean more of what matters to us.

More of him.

More of her.

More of them.

More laughter with them. 

More of your voice, not “theirs”.

More of hearing your soul.

More peace.

More Him.

Faithfully Thinking: More thoughts on the doubts even Christians have

Last week I wrote about feeling fake as a Christian when I find myself doubting my faith because of the suffering some people face.

I never know if anyone will read my posts when I write them but I write anyhow, I guess as a form of catharsis for myself and also in case someone else feels they are alone in the same thoughts.

I don’t often receive a response to my more melancholy posts, which is okay because I assume my friends are simply praying for me and aren’t sure how to respond. When a friend or reader does respond it is usually to thank me because they have felt the same way but never knew how to say it or even if they should.  

The private message I received from a friend in response to that post was heartfelt, deep and thought provoking.

With his permission I am sharing part of that response here today. 

“I read your blog post about sometimes we are fake. I wanted to share some thoughts on it and thank you for authenticity.

Suffering and struggle and doubt do not make us less Christian. St. Thomas doubted the ultimate hope until he was knuckle deep in the wounds of Christ. The Apostles huddled in doubt and fear and would not believe the first message of the Resurrection. Face to face with Christ in life and in glorified resurrection….they denied and doubted.

We are weak. That is not an indictment of humanity, but one of the gifts. If we were not weak, we would not need each other. We would not know we need Christ. In Scripture and the history of Saints many of those who are loved and called by Him scream at Him in rage, doubt…run….weep.

When I was ten my mother was dying. No one would say it out loud. But there I was, a little kid good at theology, pious  to a fault. Everyone said I would be a priest. I thought I would. But I asked Mom, because I could not understand…”Why are you going to die? Why are you sick?”

And she said that when God forms us it is art and sometimes it is like a painting…painless. Sometimes it is like pottery. Sometimes there is fire and there is pain. But the potter alone knows the form of the clay and what will make it the best it can be. And pottery, even with the suffering because of the suffering, is stronger than a painting.

She said if someone else had her cancer maybe they would lose faith in Him. And if that was so, she was glad to have it.

Glad to have it.

I remember even then thinking, ‘I will never be her. I will never be that much of a Christian.’

I did not understand it all.

And I asked her why God would fire her like pottery into death. And she said, “Love, my life was a painting. I’m not the one He’s forming right now.”

Through the pains and poverty of my life, that continue in many ways, I have held on to the fact that the most Christian woman I knew faced slow painful death, fading from her children, without blinking, without hate or accusations at God. And she held herself weaker than others. She, to herself, was a painting. Wonderfully made and beautiful but less hard, tested and worked than pottery. She was telling me, it will be ok to doubt, grieve, scream at the heavens. It will not make you less a Christian. It will make you a stronger member of His army.

When my brother died at age 35, his two daughters were just younger than my sister and I were when Mom died. My sister had been so angry at God for years after mom died. So angry before dealing with it all. And our youngest niece (not knowing how her aunt had been) asked if it was ok to be mad at God. And my sister knelt to get eye to eye with her and said, “God’s big enough to handle it. He wants you to give it to Him. And if you do that by being angry with Him, doubting Him…it’s ok. He loves you.”

As Christians we walk a balance between the weakness of our humanity and the strength of being made in the Image of God.

Tolkien puts it best in this work “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” in the history of Middle Earth books.

It is a debate between the human wise woman Andreth and the Elven lord Finrod on the nature of things.

Andreth: They say that the One will himself enter into Arda, and heal Men and all the Marring from the beginning to the end. This they say also, or they feign, is a rumour that has come down through years uncounted, even from the days of our undoing.

And earlier Finrod gives a perfect description of Christian Hope:

‘Have ye then no hope?’ said Finrod.

‘What is hope?’ she said. ‘An expectation of good, which though uncertain has some foundation in what is known? Then we have none.’

‘That is one thing that Men call “hope”,’ said Finrod. ’Amdir we call it, “looking up”. But there is another which is founded deeper. Estel we call it, that is “trust”. It is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruhin, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves. This is the last foundation of Estel, which we keep even when we contemplate the End: of all His designs the issue must be for His Children’s joy. Amdir you have not, you say. Does no Estel at all abide?’

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The History of Middle-earth X: Morgoth’s Ring, “Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth”

So our hope..is in the Resurrection we have Estel. But it is not less Christian to have failings in Amdir.

We all doubt. We all wonder why at times. We all scream it inside at time until our heart breaks. Thank you for mentioning it out loud because I do believe God wants us to – because that shows us we are not alone, we need each other in this world.

He could take all suffering in this world away. He could make reward and prosperity and joy here a point by point reward for goodness. He does not. There are many reasons Theology lists for why that is. But those reasons are flat and tasteless to a suffering heart. And that suffering heart is united to the Cross. So that alone means it can never make us less Christian. Even though we often worry about that.”