“In My Wrestling and My Doubts”

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Doubt.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

There Kate goes again…giving us a word prompt that hits me straight in the gut. 
Sometimes I stand in the mirror, looking at my face and body, self-doubt so easily creeping in. 
Sometimes I hear the news of another friend’s engagement or pregnancy, and I doubt whether it will ever happen for me. I honestly am excited for them, but there is a piece of me that has a hard time hearing those words. 
Sometimes I doubt if I am where God has called me to be in this time and place.
Doubt has a way of doing that, doesn’t it? Doubt has a way of creeping in and trying to tell us lies from the enemy. Yet the truth is that God wants us never to doubt ourselves, but most importantly, God wants us NEVER to doubt God’s promises for our lives. God gave each of  us gifts to share in the world and wants us never to take those gifts for granted. 
Faith=trust; trusting in God. Faith is the opposite of doubt. Faith is trusting in the words of God our Father. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters! Faith is knowing that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not yet seen.”
There are indeed days when I doubt whether or not God hears my prayers.* Actually to be honest, I often wonder if God hears my prayers. I still want to be a mom and a wife, but each and every day that doesn’t happen for me, I doubt a little bit more. Before I know it, doubt is finding its way into my heart and mind yet again.

As I doubt, I am thankful for the reminders that God is always there for us as long as we trust in him. In the words of one of my all-time favorite songs by one of my all-time favorite bands Rend Collective Experiment, I am reminded that God will never leave me or forsake me. The first verse even states “In my wrestling and in my doubts, In my failures, You won’t walk out; You’re great love will lead me through; You are the peace in my troubled seas.” Yes, God promises to never walk out and will be the peace in our troubled seas!
*Where my five minutes ended!

Walking by Faith and Not Sight

“Walk by faith, not by sight”

Those words are the words in the Jesus Calling devotional from today. They jumped right into my line of sight tonight as I glanced down to read today’s reading.

As the weather here in North Dakota has been GLORIOUS this week (We are talking 50s and above, my friends),  I have been spending more time walking from here to there. In the winter months, I walk as quickly as I can to get in and out of the cold. But this week I have found myself taking in God’s awesome creation all around me. I have found myself walking through puddles and not even caring that my feet have gotten wet. I have watched the snow quickly melt as the grass begins to appear again. I have listened intently to the birds in the morning.

As I have paid attention, I have realized that I definitely am not always good at paying attention.  More times than not, I am caught up in the busyness of life and forget to look at the world around me. And then I find myself asking, what have I missed? Have I missed God bring that special person into my life? Or perhaps that person is there and I am not looking closely enough.

Do you know what I mean, friends? Are you afraid you haven’t seen…or heard something that God has shown or placed right in front of you?

Somedays I wish God would give me directional signs–a stop sign, a yield sign, an arrow this way, etc. But the truth is my friends we need to remember those words I read in my devotional tonight. We need to remember to trust in this one who gives us hope, who promises to never leave us or forsake us. We need to walk by faith not by sight!

If you are at all like me, there are indeed days when that is so much easier said than done. Yet I believe in a God who asks me…asks all of us to trust in him. We are to indeed walk by faith not by sight! I do believe God wants  us to see what God created. But I also know that God asks us to trust fully and wholey in him.

We indeed need to walk by faith not by sight!

God, help us to trust fully in you; to know that even when the path is dark, you can see the entire staircase. You know the way for us to go. You are the conductor of a beautiful orchestra; a conductor who continually teaches us about life’s high notes and low notes; about life’s ballads and life’s laments. Each note is carefully crafted and played by the one who created each of us and always walks with us. Help us to remember that we are to always walk by faith and not by sight. Amen!

“Faith is taking the first step even when we cannot see the whole staircase.”–Martin Luther King Jr.

Testimony Tuesday

Good Morning Friends! It is Tuesday which means Testimony Tuesday over at Holly Barrett’s place. Today I am visiting at Hollys and sharing my own testimony of faith.

My journey of faith has not been easy. In fact, there have indeed been times when I have questioned God; “Why us?” “Why our family?” Yet in the midst of all of my questioning, God has shown God self to me in ways that I never imagined….Read the Rest!

Preparing the Way (Five Minute Friday)

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Prepare.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

“Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

My house is all prepared for Christmas. My tree is glimmering with Christmas lights as I type this. My television is on in the background. The Christmas cards are sitting on my kitchen table. They are addressed but I still need to finish them by printing and preparing the letter to be enclosed in the envelope with the car. My sister and I finished most of our Christmas shopping, but I still need to buy and prepare presents for my sister and my Mom. My nativity collection is displayed throughout my house. And every time I see a Nativity I am reminded of what this season is about.

This season is all about waiting and preparing for the birth of the Christ child. We prepare for the One who is the babe born in a stinky smelly stable in Bethlehem. We prepare for the One who comes as the light in the midst of the darkness. We prepare for the One who comes as an infant and then later dies on a cross for each and every one of us. We prepare for this precious infant who is the Way, the truth and the life.

This time of the year isn’t all about who has the prettiest decorations or the most presents under the tree. This time of the year is for us to prepare our hearts for this holy one. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, as we hear again the story of this precious holy child we again prepare our hearts and minds to trust in this holy one. This holy one who the wise men came to see as they followed the star that would prepare the way for them. This holy one who prepares the world to know that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. This holy one who prepares us to know that he will bring about his justice and mercy.

So during this Advent season, may we all cling to the promise and prepare the way for this precious holy one who is born under the night sky in a manger in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph by his side.

Perplexed and Pondering Them In Her Heart

 “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary, and he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  

The angel said her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’  

Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’  

The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month of her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’

Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.’ “—Luke 1:26-38

Perplexed by the angel’s words…
Pondering them in her heart….

As a virgin, no wonder Mary was perplexed. How could this be? How could she be pregnant? And how could she be the mother of this holy Child? I don’t blame Mary for being perplexed by the angel’s words and for taking the time to ponder them in her heart. As a virgin women, I know that I would be extremely perplexed and puzzled if someone told me that I was to bear a child.

And then there is her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth, in her old age, thinks that she will never be able to bear a child. Yet that is exactly what happens. She becomes pregnant and bears a son. I can picture Elizabeth laughing as she hears that she will bear a child. How can this be? She asks the same questions as Mary. Together these two women share this experience together. I’ve never really thought about it before but I wonder what it was like for Elizabeth to come and meet baby Jesus. Why had Jesus chosen Mary and not herself to be the mother to this precious holy child?

The thing is that God sent God’s one and only son into the world as this beautiful baby boy; born in a manger in Bethlehem. There is something so holy and peaceful about watching a baby sleep. This morning at church I held a baby girl in my arms. She peacefully slept in my arms as I talked to her Mom. And then later this morning, I held another little baby in my arms. These two little infants remind me of how this infant Jesus came into the world as a sign of hope and light in the midst of a dark world. Jesus is born the unlikeliest of places in a stinky, smelly stable where hope is born into the world. 

I am reminded of the words to the song “Mary Did You Know?” “Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?; Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?; Did you know that your baby boy has come to deliver you?; This child that you delivered will soon deliver you.” As she held her precious son in her arms, as he peacefully slept, I wonder if Mary really realized the magnitude of the ways her son would change the world. I think of these words from the song as well: “Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?; Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?; Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?; This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.” Mary was indeed holding the Great I am. Mary was indeed holding this precious holy gift that God sent into the world for each and every one of us.

“The birth of the child into the darkness of the world made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it.”–Frederick Buechner

Yes, through the birth of this precious holy child, God calls us to be his disciples in the world. God calls us to follow the examples of his Son; the one who, throughout his life, isn’t afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners; the one who ultimately dies on a cross for YOU and for ME; the one who rises from the dead and shows us his power; the power of Resurrection. As God’s people, we are to live our lives knowing that we have been ravished and continue to be ravished by God’s love for us.

I love these words from Ann Voskamp’s book The Greatest Gift:

“God gives God. That is the gift God always ultimately gives. Because nothing is greater and we have no greater need, God gives God. God gives God, and we only need to slow long enough to unwrap the greatest Gift with our time; time in His Word, time in His presence, and time at His feet.”–Ann Voskamp

Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those…

I am participating in this month’s synchroblog (a blog where numerous bloggers blog on the same topic) which can be found at http://synchroblog.wordpress.com. This month’s synchroblog topic is posing this question: “What would it look like for the Church as a whole when abusive leaders are held accountable and then are reconciled? How do we do that in such a way as to let victims be heard and redemption be the end goal. What does redemption and/or reconciliation look like in real life? What does grace look like in these situations?”

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”–Matthew 6:9-15

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Or in another version, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” How often do we go through the motions of reciting these words from the Lord’s Prayer without truly thinking about what they mean? How can we forgive those who have hurt us…especially if those we need to forgive are those who are leaders in our lives and who we have trusted?

I have been extremely lucky in my life to have leaders who have been wonderful leaders. Yet that is not always the case. In fact, several years ago, the synod I was serving in had an unfortunate situation happen. A member of the synod staff had been embezzling money from the organization. I’ll admit that many of us were hurt and had (still have) a hard time forgiving this man. However I am reminded of a story where neighbors of this man and his wife invited them over for supper. What a powerful witness of forgiveness and grace! The neighbors wanted him and his wife to know that it was about the act and not them as human beings.

The truth is that we are all created as saints and sinners. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Yet God promises that God will forgive us of our sins if we confess our sins. I am reminded of these words from 1 John 1:9-10; “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

As I think about all who have been hurt and experienced brokenness by a leader in the church, I find them (actually all of us;sinners)being convicted in the words we hear in verse ten. The Message translation captures 1 John 1:9-10 so well. “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins–make a clean breast of them–he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.”

The reality is that all of us including leaders in the church are sinful beings. We all make mistakes. Forgiveness and grace are marvelous gifts, yet I don’t believe God is telling us to forget the sin. In fact, I think God calls all of us to seek the help, counsel and forgiveness that we need. This is shown to us through this wonderful humble servant leader God’s son Jesus Christ. Jesus was not afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus wasn’t afraid to pick up basin and towel and wash the feet of all God’s people even those who would later deny him and betray him. Jesus’ example of humble servanthood is the ultimate example of God’s grace. And by the humble example of Jesus, we all especially leaders in the church are called to embody a life of humble servanthood too.

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”–2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV)

 “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people–free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!!”–Ephesians 1:7 (The Message)

**Please note these are my own views and are not necessarily the views of my church.

Read other SynchoBlog posts here:

  • Justin Steckbauer – The Servant Leader: A Radical Concept
  • Mary – Can I Get A Doctor?
  • Glenn Hager – The Man Of God Myth
  • Lisa – Forgive
  • Jeremy Myers – Reconciling Mark Driscoll
  • Peggy Brown – Abi and November’s Synchroblog: Spiritual Abuse and Redemption
  • Edwin Pastor FedEx Aldrich – Shooting Stars: Of Scandal, Abuse, Restoration, and Systematic Failures
  • Liz Dyer – Sorry


    This summer while attending one of my favorite continuing education events in the heart of the Rocky mountains, we had a conversation in one of our classes about administering the sacraments to family members and/or friends who have memory loss and can’t always remember who they are. I remember saying that they may not always remember but we need to remember for them. Through the waters of Baptism, God has called and claimed us as God’s precious children. In fact, we are all made in the image of God. “Tara Lee (insert your name here), you are baptized child of God; whatever else you are remember that you are that; for that is the basis of whatever else you are.”

    For Mom, when she was sick and in the hospital, she couldn’t always remember…so we had to do the remembering for her. I would sit and hold her hand; knowing that the touch of my hand would remind her that I/we were there. I would talk to her knowing that she hopefully was hearing at least some of what I was saying. Growing up, I would worship and commune with Mom. I also know that she has been asked to commune when she is in the hospital. I hope and pray that she takes it knowing that she may not remember but that we can remember for her. (I am sure not all of us would agree here, but it is how I feel) In sharing at the table together, we are sharing in “koinonia.” Koinonia is the Greek word translated to mean “communion.”

    And when we gather together in “koinonia,” we see the person not for the illness but for who they are as beloved children of God. I have volunteered with Special Olympics and they continually educate to get rid of the unpleasant descriptions of these individuals such as the R word. They teach us to say, “T lives with a disability” rather than “T is disabled.” In other words, they are not defined by their illness. I think we would do well to use that language when talking about any kind of illness. And when we see the person for who they are which is hard, hard work sometimes, we see their humanity, their vulnerability, their brokenness, their intelligence, their wonder, their awe and their beauty. (Thanks for commenting and leaving this reminder yesterday, C!) I constantly see these things in my Mom and sometimes, if for a brief moment, I forget that she is living with a mental illness.

    Seeing my mom and others daily struggle with a mental illness, it is so important for me to see them for who God created them to be rather than define them by their illness. I think when we are able to do that we can find a greater freedom and grace in our relationships.

    Nadia Bolz-Weber captured this so well in her sermon this past weekend (Nadia is the Pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver CO) when she wrote, “No matter what, no matter the competing voices or violence or low-self-esteem or anger that comes from a world that simply does not know how to love perfectly. Depression and loss and addiction might create pain and that pain is real. But how good is God that God has protected in you a thing that can never be harmed. And you carry within you the light of God, the Imago Dei – the image of the one who created you and here’s the thing: that and only that is the true source of your value and identity.” (You can read the rest of Nadia’s sermon here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/10/sermon-on-suicide-caesar-and-beautiful-newborns/#ixzz3H4tgjUZA)

    I also love what my friend HW said during our class this summer, “When it (HW meant Alzheimer’s disease but I think you could replace it with the words mental illness, cancer, etc as well) strikes, may we listen well to the heart of God, listen well to the heart of the other, listen well to the heart of your own, and try to be Christ to them as they are the body of Christ before you.” Amen, my friend, Amen! Together it is important for us to reach out and to listen well to each other knowing that together we are the body of Christ. And together we “bear one another’s burdens” knowing we are not on this journey alone!

    Together God calls us all to join in “koinonia,” to gather around the table, break bread together, and share in the cup of blessing that God offers to all God’s people who are all made in the “image of God.”

    Out of the Darkness

    I have
    been doing a lot of driving this weekend. Most of my driving has been in pure
    daylight but last night I found myself driving in the dark. I have never been
    much of a fan of driving in the dark. I think a lot of that has to do with the
    fact that I can’t completely see everything around me or that I have to constantly
    keep my eyes peeled for deer who want to jump out onto the road and could cause
    an accident. However last night I found myself reflecting even more on the
    As I
    looked up in the midnight black sky, littered with beautiful twinkling stars, I
    found myself thinking about what it must be like to be pulled in by the
    darkness of depression or a mental illness. Now I have never experienced it for
    myself, but I have watched friends and family members who have been pulled in
    by the darkness. As I drove, I wondered what it was like for them to be pulled
    in by the darkness. Is it like their lives are constantly lived like they are
    continually driving in the dark; no light in sight? I think often times that
    yes, they are pulled in by the darkness and cannot find their way out…and
    that makes me so very sad. I want to offer them healing and so much that I
    don’t have the power to give them. Yet I know that God loves them in the midst
    of their brokenness and can offer them those things they need.
    God is the
    one who offers light to them…even if that light is just a little glimmer of
    hope. In many ways, it reminds me of a lit candle in a darkened room after a
    power outage. The candle gives just enough light; enough light for us to see what
    is around us; to find our way around the room. God is that eternal light; that
    brings hope to the broken hurting people in the world. Yet so often in the
    midst of mental illnesses and depression, I think that light isn’t always
    enough. Those suffering with those illnesses need more light to overcome the
    darkness that they are pulled into. Yet God asks them to trust him; to know
    that God has the power to bring light, hope and healing into their lives.
    I was
    touched by the following words from writer Anne Lamott. Her words
    remind me; remind all of us that God is with us even in the
    uncomfortableness and that God promise to never leave us or forsake us. 

    “Faith includes
    noticing the mess, the emptiness, the discomfort, and letting it be there until
    some light returns.” 

    So let us
    hold onto hope for and with each other until some of the light returns!

    Broken and Loved

    I am currently attending a youth gathering. It’s amazing to see these youth gathered together. I am here because a friend and I are leading an adult breakout group tonight (It’s past midnight). Sadly I didn’t bring any youth from my church, but it’s such a Holy Spirit filled gathering that I’m glad to be here. The theme is “Broken and Loved!

    The theme verse is Romans 8:38-39. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, neither anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.”

    I think these are words that we all need to hear; not just the youth.

    As a young child who was teased, I didn’t feel beautiful. My mom and my other family members and friends who are pulled in by the darkness of a mental illness don’t
    feel particularly beautiful at times. My best friend who died about five years ago and had a kidney transplant when she was in Kindergarten, missed a lot of school and put on lots of weight from the medication didn’t feel beautiful all the time. I think we all have had times when we didn’t feel particularly beautiful!

    The truth is that God loves us despite all of imperfections. Through the waters of Baptism, we are all called and claimed as God’s precious children. God says to each of us, “All are welcome here!”
    The mentally ill woman, the single mother, the disabled veteran, the man in jail, the special needs child, and YOU–are all welcome here!!!

    Like clay jars; broken, shattered and pieced back together, God loves us and in our brokenness, pieces us back together. In all actuality, we are not just broken! We are not just loved. But we are all broken and loved!

    Broken and loved, God continually wraps God’s arms around us. Hear God’s strong firm voice saying to each of you, “You are beautiful. You are loved. You are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

    For you are not just broken…..

    For you are not just loved……

    But you are both broken and loved!

    And that my friends is enough!!

    God Is Holding You!

    First off, I want to begin by saying “Thank You” to all of you who prayed for my friend Karen and her family who I wrote about in my Day Six post. Karen died peacefully yesterday. Please continue to pray for Karen’s family and friends as they grieve her loss. “Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords”

    Secondly, I opened up my Timehop this morning and came across a video my dear friend Sarah shared with me when I was going through a difficult time in my life with my mom and the illness. I decided to click on the video link again this morning. These words are so powerful and I hear them speaking to so many of you who are struggling. The video is called “Arms that Hold the Universe/Promise of A Lifetime.”  This verse from the song really caught me this morning: “I know it seems that this could be the darkest day you’ve known, but believe you me the God of strength will never let you go” as well as this verse: “The Arms that hold the Universe are holding you tonight.”

    Yep, my dear friends and readers, God is holding you today…holding you in the midst of your joy, but especially in the midst of your sorrow. God is holding you in the midst of the light, but most especially in the midst of the darkness. And when it seems your world is falling apart, God is holding you most especially there too!!! “I know it seems that this could be the darkest day you’ve known, but believe you me, the God of strength will never let you go!”

    I think I will leave it at that for today. Have a blessed Sunday friends!!