Faith when God doesn’t make sense

In my last post, earlier this week, I talked about full surrender to God even when He doesn’t make sense.

In full surrender

In our youth group on Wednesday evening, one of our other leaders brought the message because our pastor and his wife are on a trip. His message was literally about how to have faith in God when He doesn’t make sense.

I know I said I should never be surprised at how God works… do you sense a pattern here? Think He’s trying to tell me something?

The examples Mike used were God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and God asking Jonah to go to Nineveh, and Gideon’s army. Perhaps I’ll unpack the depth of these accounts later, but I will share a bit about the discussion in our small group afterwards.

Sometime when we read the Bible, we think it’s characters had some supernatural power that gave them the ability to know how things would turn out. But the reality is they are just like you and me… and Abraham, for example, didn’t know for sure that Hod would stop him before he actually sacrificed his son. He was human, just like us.

We talked about how you’d want to be pretty sure it was Gods voice you were hearing, especially if He was asking you to do something that didn’t make sense.

That brought the discussion to discerning Gods voice above all others. How do you know it’s Gods voice instead of one trying to deceive you? One of the girls said God wouldn’t ask you to do something against His word… but isn’t murdering your son against His word? Has God ever asked you to do something you thought was crazy?

Abraham had to know God so well to know it was His voice. He had fully trust God to even begin to do what was asked. In the same situation, I’m not sure if I would have had enough faith, to be perfectly honest. After all, Abraham waited almost 100 years for Isaac… and now being asked to sacrifice?

Are we willing to give up what we believe we want because we trust God so completely with our lives? May I learn to have a faith that strong. I am truly humbled by this lesson that I learned from our other youth leader this week. I am truly honored and humbled by the fact that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is aligning these lessons in my life to keep building me for His purpose in my life.

I love you, Lord. Whatever You’re asking me to do, I am Yours. Mold me, shape me, use me to further Your Kingdom. Humble I pray,

Amen

In faith that amazing things are happening,

SB

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In full surrender

Living in full surrender of the one true King…  what does that even mean?

Many years ago, in a previous role within my company, I was a member on a team performing a process audit of one of our suppliers.  During the close-out meeting, our lead auditor summarized the visit by saying, “There are islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity” I would summarize my life by saying, “There are moments of clarity among a sea of confusion”.  Some of those moments last days, others months or even years, in different aspects of my life.

I can point to specific moments in my life where I felt like I was 100% on-fire to tell everyone I knew what Jesus had done in my life, feeling certain that He called me to take specific initiatives, step out in faith, and trust Him to guide me even though I can’t see where we’re going.  I’ve alluded to this in previous posts – that I’m waiting for a miracle, confident that God will be faithful.

There are times I can feel the miracle swelling like a pregnant deer about to give birth.  Other times I feel it slipping through my hands like grains of sand… and then God sends a sign.

Doors open and close in my year of wait.

I pulled my Bible out the other day, searching for some answers.  I opened to  Deuteronomy 29:4 “But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.”    I posted it on Facebook to see what other people thought it meant…   I was cautioned not to take it out of context, but in all honesty, I felt a certain peace about it… almost as if God was saying to me, “do you trust me?” as if it’s a question He needs me to answer before He’ll show me more.

Do I trust what He’s doing in my life?   Do I trust the trials He’s brought me through? Am I confident that He’ll bring me through others?   Although there is a part of me that is dying to understand, at the present moment in time, I am resting in the peace that I know He is my Savior, and has created me for a purpose, and, as far as I can tell, I’m still being prepared to fulfill that purpose in a mighty way despite some left turns in my life.

I can see the lamp unto my feet, and I see changes on the horizon, some good, some I’m not sure about, but in all of it, I am trusting Him.

Is that what full surrender is all about?  If so, I’m all in.

Yes, Lord, I trust you – with the little things and with the big things, and I will keep putting one foot in front of the other doing my best to find the path or pasture you have for me.

In Him,

SB

Check out this song that fits my state of mind today…

SMS Shine – David Crowder

 

Send me a sign
A hint, o whisper
Fill me with life
‘Cause I am listening

Come break the quiet
Breathe your awakening
Bring me the light
‘Cause I am fading

Surround me with the rush of angels’ wings

Shine Your light so I can see You
Pull me up, I need to be near You
Hold me, I need to feel loved
Can You overcome this heart that’s overcome?

You sent a sign
The hint, o whisper
Human, divine
Everyone is listening

Death laid low
Quiet in the night is stirring

All around the rush of angels

O the wonder of the greatest love has come

Shine Your light so all can see it
Lifted up, ’cause the whole world needs it
Love has come, what joy to hear it
He has overcome, He has overcome

Songwriters: DAVID CROWDER,JACK PARKER
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.,Universal Music Publishing Group

 

Broken and Contrite…

 

In my blog feed yesterday, I came across this post.

Create in me a clean heart from blogger, He Bids Them Come

I know I should never be surprised at the way in which God works, but it was exactly what I needed to hear today.   I can relate to David – not in the exact way in which he sinned, but in the fact that, despite loving God, he found himself doing things he knew he ought not do.  In fact, I daresay that because of the humdingers that David committed, and the fact that God forgave him and cleansed him, gives me hope.

David came to God with a broken and contrite heart, God was faithful to him, and continued to use him.

My heart was broken yesterday, and in humbleness, I bowed before the Lord, asking forgiveness, asking him to clean me and change me.

As a follower of Christ, sometimes I think we paint an image to the rest of the world that our lives are perfect and that we never sin or make mistakes.  What I’ve learned as I walk this road, however, is that I haven’t walked a straight road.  My life is made up of a series of bad decisions and choices, peppered with some better ones, probably not unlike some of you.  I’ve asked Jesus to forgive me and shape me into what He needs me to be.  I am a work in progress for sure, still completely full of the sin that I could let define me but for Jesus.  I still have a sinful nature, and am still drawn to the sins of my youth.

If I could be real for a moment with all of you, following Jesus isn’t about preaching to others to make converts out of them. Following Jesus is about understanding His grace – his unmerited favor – that He gives to us freely when we come to Him with a broken and contrite heart. Following Jesus is about allowing Him to work in your life to shape you, and about walking with others who need Him, too, being real about who you are.

I’d like to think I’m real about who I am.  I am filthy.  I am broken.  I am worthless without Christ. But because of Christ, I am a new creation, and I am able to begin living in ways to help others see Jesus in me, so that they might be drawn to Him.  That’s my hope.  That’s my prayer this morning.

Broken In Him,

SB

 

 

Lay it down

Laying my burdens down before the King of all Creation, asking for cleansing for all my filth, for all my ugliness, forgive me for being so shameless. Help me to be strong in You, to follow you and run from wrong..

Is my stone too big to roll away?

If the stone that covered the tomb could be rolled away, is God able to handle the stone in your life? That thing for which you don’t believe you can be forgiven…

is your stone too big to roll away?

Yes, there are days that I believe my stone is too big to roll away… and true enough, by my own strength it is…

I sometimes forget that the same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives inside of me…that God has sent the Holy Spirit to live inside of me to give me strength when I am weak… when I don’t think I can roll the stone away.

Too often, I feel like I am trapped in my old sins, in my old patterns of self destruction. But God shows me differently.

He shows me that, “if I confess my sins, he is faithful and just and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. 1 John 1:9

When we confess our sins, and he forgives, he cleanses us and makes us new. The old things are put behind us. We are a new creature in Him

Blessed to be a new creature today, my friends.

In Him,

SB

Copyright Journey For Life. All rights reserved

Get off my lawn…

If you’ve ever seen the movie, Grand Torino, you may remember the phrase, “get off my lawn”.  The movie opens with the death of Mr. Kowalski’s wife, and the gathering of family after the funeral. In this scene, it is clear that he and the rest of his family do not relate well to one another – in fact, in an understated way, I would say Mr. Kowalski was not particularly nice to the rest of his family, nor the priest with whom his wife had trusted.  Classic model of the “strong, silent type”, his cantankerous demeanor can seem cold and uncaring, even rude.  Although his son tries to interact with him, it is clear that the relationship is tense.

As the movie progresses, the Hmong teenager next door tries to break in and steal Mr. Kowalski’s prized possession, his Grand Torino.  We see that, despite the hard and calloused exterior, deep down, Mr. Kowalski isn’t such a bad guy as he begins to teach the teen some life lessons.

get off my lawn

A few weeks ago, I engaged in a discussion with a friend of mine about this movie.  His perspective of the movie was a man who was protecting his prized possession.  Mine was one of familial relationship – or lack thereof.  His perspective was the “bigger picture”, which I believe is the intended perspective the writers / producers had in mind with the movie.  My perspective was more trivial, focused on the characters’ personality, and the fact that he couldn’t get along with either his family or his neighbors and was destined to die a crabby, lonely man.  My perspective was, no doubt, colored by the similarity of the main character to someone in my family (withholding the name to protect the innocent.. lol).   In the movie, Mr. Kowalski had become embittered by life, as has the person I know.  Years ago, a pastor friend of our told me that he knew beneath this person’s gruff exterior lies a tender heart.   I couldn’t see it then; I can’t see it now.

As I reflected the conversation about the movie, and about my own life, I realize that my “dark” years WERE a reflection of the bitterness I developed after losing my dad.  I understand HOW life can hurt and how we can become bitter about things that happen to us.  I get it completely.  But I also know that I didn’t have to stay there… and I didn’t.

What causes life to embitter some people while shaping others to be stronger and relate better to others? What enables some people to pull through the bitterness to become better while others fall prey to life’s snares, becoming disgruntled Mr. Kowalski’s?

In , Ezekiel 36:26 , God says, 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh

Out of the ashes, God took me and gave me a purpose – His purpose for my life.

I can honestly say that, because I have chosen to leave the bitteness at Jesus’ feet, He has continued to refine me with a giving heart – a heart that breaks over brokenness and despair; a heart that desperately tries to right the wrongs; a heart with a tremendous capacity to love.

Throughout my life, I have oscillated several time between withdrawing due to pain and standing strong despite the pain.  During one of my withdraw phases, where I made a conscious decision to shut off feelings toward certain people in my life, a friend of mine challenged me that they would rather fully feel at the risk of being hurt than to miss out feeling the deep connection that comes from the right relationships. Having recovered from that withdrawal period, I would now agree with their perspective – it is much better to love fully, risking being hurt than to never experience.

I believe it’s possibly to not become a victim of life. It requires a choice be made on how you respond to things that happen. It requires believing that you are better than your circumstances. It requires inner strength.

Be blessed today, my friends.

SB

Copyright 2019 Journey For Life. All rights reserved

Happiness Engineer

Sometimes if you “color it pretty”, you can make something awful seem altogether pleasant.   I came across the term “happiness engineer” a week or so ago.  Having an engineering background, and a generally positive view of life, I thought the term so idyllic (almost like a Disney Imagineer) that I was immediately intrigued to learn more.   When I read the job description, I discovered it really was a technical customer service professional who works to resolve problems people have with technology.  Don’t get me wrong.  These people are invaluable.  Despite having an engineering degree, my stomach turns in knots at the thought of trying to resolve a problem with my WI-FI repeater, or setting up surround sound for a new TV. There are times when the Happiness Engineer resolves your issue and you are grateful for them – you let them know how much you appreciate their help. But there isn’t anything in me that would make me want to be one of them.

When I was in college, I worked part time at a hardware store called, Hechinger’s (similar to Lowe’s or Home Depot).  I started as a cashier, but was moved into a customer service role at the service desk – a sort of “happiness engineer” for the home improvement world.  (By the way, it is my believe that EVERY person should spend a stint working in the retail or fast food industry just to understand what it’s like so that you can always remember to be nice to those who work in those industries).  The problem with such a role in the retail world is that the public is generally not very nice, and the adage “the customer is always right” sometimes can tempt people to take advantage of the situation.  Typically, customers who came to the service desk were returning items that either didn’t work, were extra, or that they simply didn’t want anymore, so they are already dissatisfied with something.   One evening, an older woman came in and asked for help with her order, and asked if I would accompany her to the “housewares”department.  Glad to help, I actually left my post at the service desk (with others there to help other customers) and spent the next hour or so walking around the store with her at her beck and call, helping her get items that she wanted.  When she was finally done and checked out, I apologized to my manager because it was unusual to leave the service desk for extended period of time, especially to simply help someone shop.    No harm, no foul, he said, glad to help the customer.   Until the next day when she returned.   Both the manager who was there the evening before and I happened to be on duty again when she came back.   To our surprise, she was returning ALL of the items that she bought the night before.   She pointed her finger at me and began yelling obscenities at me and threatening me, blaming me for her purchases.  It was such a bizzare tirade that the store manager actually asked her to leave the store and not come back.  Although I could probably chalk that experience up to an out of the ordinary issue with an older woman perhaps with dementia or mental health issues, it forever colored my desire to work in a customer service role.

As a matter of fact, I used to say that I never wanted to work in either a contract manufacturing role or a customer service role (have you ever heard the adage, “want to make God laugh… tell him your plans”? (topic for another day).   Ironically, I have found myself in BOTH of those roles during my career, the past seven years working in a Service Management role for a medical device company.

Happiness engineer..     there are some people you can’t make happy no matter how hard you try.  (perhaps that’s also a topic for another day…)

What have been your experiences with “happiness engineers”?

Be Blessed today, my friends,

SBhappiness-engineer

Lyrics for Bach

Life is very difficult to live on pins and needles, but much more rewarding when you can travel through life with people you love who love you for being you; people with whom you can be yourself, even if that self is goofy at times. (In fact, sometimes the goofiest friends are the best)

Weeks (or months) ago, a man at our church gave me a CD he thought I’d enjoy – it took classic 70’s and 80’s music but gave them Christian lyrics.  He asked me once if I had had a chance to listen to it, but I hadn’t, so last week, I gave them a try.

As an aside, I generally consider that I have successfully raised my three children because, in part, they have quite extensive taste in music, and are very familiar with the songs with which I grew up – 70’s and 80’s.   I must admit one very large parenting failure in this week, however.  When I asked my youngest daughter (now almost 14) what the title of the song was to which she’d heard the chorus modeled after Prince’s hit, Purple Rain, (lyrics, “Jesus Reigns”), she replied (with quizzical look), “Jesus Reigns?”     Umm.. no.   She hadn’t heard of Purple Rain.  (sigh)

At any rate, on Sunday morning, I saw the man who’d given me the CD talking with one of my good (and goofy) friends, so stopped to say, Hi.   Of course, he asked me again if I had listed, and I was pleased to tell him I had.  He then turned to my friend and began to describe the CD.  He said,   “it takes classical music and puts Christian lyrics to it”.   A puzzled look washed across her face, so I gently corrected, “Classic Rock”    She laughed and said, “Oh, I was trying to remember the words to the last Bach piece I learned, and I couldn’t remember ever learning any… it’s just chords”. (another reference to something I tell her often about music.)

Later that day, I remembered that I had something I wanted to give her, so I sent her a text to ask her to help me remember next time I saw her that I had something for her. She replied, “is it the lyrics to Bach?”

I absolutely love her sense of humor. She cracks my up every single time I talk to her. It’s good to have friends that make you laugh.

If you haven’t laughed with friends lately, make it a point to reach out to one who will brighten your day.

Be blessed today, my friends.