God, are You Messin’ with Me?

I recently suffered a stunning disappointment. I mean, it was a heart-wrenching stunner. 

I thought God was pointing and moving in a certain direction. Guiding this way and not that.

I was wrong.

Dead wrong.

I was sorely disappointed especially since the movement in that direction was not initiated by me. Originally I thought it was initiated by God through others. Not now. When I heard the resounding ‘No’, I cupped my mouth. I had to swallow my anguish. I couldn’t allow the girls to hear my primordial scream. I didn’t want to move them to tears with mommy’s tears. They wouldn’t understand. 

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Finally Lord, I thought, after all these years, you are moving me in this direction. And then this. Why God? Why would there be a resounding “No!”? Why wasn’t I left well enough alone? I was fine, on my way, following you, content-all before this possibility turned up.

God are you messing with me?

Why was this an exercise in futility?

Jesus, I thought you told me to cast my nets, the way you told Peter and the others to cast their nets (John 21). I cast my nets and they turned up empty. Is this some sort of cosmically cruel joke? 

It can’t be. God, you’re not that way.

Again, I didn’t understand this one. Not this one. The invitation to move in this direction came through several trusted others. And so I thought it came from God too since it was also a desire of my heart.  But then the door was slammed shut. Right in my face. In the eleventh hour. 

I know God is kind, loving, and generous. He’s not stingy. But it’s moments like these that I am tempted to think that he is tight-fisted. This disappointment stings like crazy. I have to go on, hide my disappointment from my three little girls. My husband Shawn and I just need a moment to grieve together. Maybe more than a moment. 

Right now I feel like so many who have been disappointed in God. Like Martha told Jesus, “If you would’ve been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” My Lazarus, my dream, is dead in a tomb. I also feel like Joseph left in prison after he helped the baker and the cup bearer. Forgotten.

I’m fighting to believe in my Lazarus’s resurrection and my Joseph-like vindication.

Today I had to flip to chapter 8 of my book, “The Death of a Dream”. I had to preach to myself yet again, take my own advice. 

Here are my own words to myself and to others who are looking in:

Much of our disappointment over unfulfilled dreams is due to our inability to see. We see so little now. We are looking at reality through a peephole. So when I witness the death of my dream, or the dreams of others, and I can’t figure out what God is doing, I have to remind myself that I am looking at reality through a peephole. I have to remind myself that God is doing so many things, that he is interweaving the story of our lives into his grand story. It’s not just my life and my dream. It’s about our lives and our dreams.  

p. 121-122 A Beautiful Disaster

The problem is that I can’t see. I only see a locked wooden door and feel the fresh sting of a door shut on my face-a door that had begun to swing open but not enough for me to go through.

Today I shot an e-mail off to a friend who was standing vigil with me. She was hoping and praying with me. I broke the bad news. She told me that she doesn’t believe it’s the end of the matter. I cling to her hope and her prayers and what I wrote in chapter 8. 

God has got this in a way I don’t yet understand. And I know that if you find yourself in a similar situation, that we can grieve together. Find someone else to grieve with. God has got this. And when he turns the situation around in a way you and I could’ve never imagined, we’ll rejoice together.

 

 

Self-Examination Questions For Lent

 

These questions come from the Wesleyan heritage. They are here for you to ponder during Lent.

SELF-EXAMINATON QUESTIONS

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am a better person than I really am ? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all acts or words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence? Can I be trusted?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today?
  7. Do I give it time to speak to me each day?
  8. Am I enjoying prayer?
  9. When did I last speak to somebody else with the object of trying to win that person for Christ?
  10. Am I making contacts with other people and using them for the Master’s Glory?
  11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  13. Do I disobey God in anything?
  14. Do I insist upon doing something for which my conscience is uneasy?
  15. Am I delegated in any part of my life? Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  16. How do I spend my spare time?
  17. Am I proud?
  18. Do I thank God I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
  19. Is there anybody whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  20. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?

 Taken from HQL-9826, p.24

Right Now.

Our family just welcomed tiny little Isabella into our lives. She was born 10/2. We love and adore her. God protected me through a difficult pregnancy and a scary delivery. Most of this pregnancy I’ve been sick and immobile. I haven’t been able to write as much.

In fact, my book came out when I became increasingly immobile and unable to talk much about it. But God has his hand on these things and in these things.

When I did get out, it was either to church, or to visit people as part of the pastoral care staff at my church. I couldn’t run and jump and play with my two daughters. My husband has for the last 10 months while also working full-time and trying to care for me. A neighbor he just met asked if he was a stay-at-home father (no shame in that). It’s because she never saw me-just him and the girls. That goes to show how absent I’ve been, physically isolated. It’s not because I’ve wanted to be, but because that’s what pregnancy does to me.

Since she was born, I’ve been out and about a little. People comment “You’re out so soon!” And I say “Yes, I’ve been in all year.” I am thankful I am alive and can walk. I am thankful for friends that helped/help out with the girls. I am thankful for social media so I can read about what others are doing and stay somewhat connected to those far away. When I was extremely nauseated, I could do very little. I moaned prayers. Then when I was more physically immobile, I found I couldn’t do too much more. But I could pray and I did pray. I believe James 5:16 – the prayer of a righteous person is effective.

I know many righteous friends have prayed for me.

My prayers are the loaves and fish I offer for my friends and for the world when I am immobile or up during the watches of the night. I think of the monastics who rise to pray throughout the night and of the prayers of brothers and sisters across the world whose day is my night and who are praying.

I like to join them.

 

God’s Power & God’s Peace Again

Mark 2: 3-5,12

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.  Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven”….He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God,saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The story above is one of my favorites in the Bible. I wrote about it in my book. And tonight I come back to it. 

Recently, I’ve been really discouraged. Discouragement has come for several reasons: financial, relational, and because of the grief over the grief of friends, loved ones, and of those suffering in the world and in the church. Also, I’ve had some recurring anger about how the wicked seem to get away with abusing and oppressing the innocent-part of the problem of evil. I’ve been absorbing a lot of it. And, I am 9+ months pregnant and can hardly get around when I need to get around nor meet certain deadlines because I am exhausted. I could go into details about all of these things, but I won’t.

However, I will tell you that I did go into detail with a group of my friends the other night (online) because I stand by and wholeheartedly believe James 5:16:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I confessed my sin of resentment toward God and others. I told them how I felt paralyzed by circumstances and how I thought life unfair at this moment because I’m following hard after Christ and still afflicted. I didn’t say this to them, but essentially, I started feeling like Job. And I’m tired of feeling like Job, especially financially. I am ready for a long stay in the Promised Land! I thought I was out of the wilderness, the treacherous land where the devil and his demons and evil want to eat us alive, and where we are tempted to turn from God in order to figure things out on our own because it seems much easier that way-much easier than walking by faith. But then I remember and remind myself that we can see God in all of his glory while in the wilderness if we persevere under trial or have friends persevere with and for us when we just cannot. That’s the whole theme of my book!

But I did confess my sin and soul sickness and my dear friends lowered me through the roof-me the paralytic-me when I was all twisted up inside and despairing. They boldly lowered me through the roof to the feet of Jesus, the throne of grace, where I am promised that I will find help my time of need (Hebrews 4:`16).

And I did find help in my time of need. That very evening when they prayed. Sounds like stories in the gospels, right?

That miracle occurred 48 hours ago. And you know what, I got up. Past nine months pregnant, my spirit leapt up and praised God. I have experienced that peace that defies understanding. Circumstances haven’t changed, but God has done a work of grace in me. He has been loving and kind and faithful and assuring. But that’s not all. I do think he’ll meet my family’s needs as we seek his kingdom (Matt. 6:33). My soul feels stronger and more robust than it has in months -thanks to my friends who lowered me down through the roof to the feet of Jesus.

The thought sometimes comes to my mind that I shouldn’t confide in them – that I am always in need of grace and favor and why ask them for the umpteenth time to pray for me and my situation. They’ll think me needy. But I am needy, in constant need of grace. And God invites us to come in our time of need no matter how often it is. And these friends, they do the same. So I cast the temptation to go at life alone and to suffer alone aside and find the grace of God pouring out on me through the conduit of my friends’ prayers and other concrete acts of love.

May you do the same.

 

 

Go and Learn This: Mercy

Today something happened that brought these words of Jesus to mind: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice'” (Matthew 9:13).  When I got home, I then thought about this verse in connection with the first one and with my experience today – again in the words of Jesus: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). And finally, I thought of James 2:12,13 that I read last night: Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What do you take these to mean all together and how do you apply them to your circumstances – especially in “mercy triumphs over judgment”? I can understand what “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” means because of the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). To whom do we choose not to extend mercy?