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likeagoodchristian
I used to be a good little Christian. I knew all the Christian-ese. I had a few key scriptures memorized. I did all the things good Christians do – I read my Bible pretty regularly, I went to church every Sunday, I listened to worship music in my spare time, I memorized popular Bible verses. I was really good at acting like a good Christian. And I counted it all as merits in my honor. I was doing a God a favor, I guess.

I used to think that there were levels of Christianity. Growing up in church, I was exposed to all kinds of Christians. The eager new Christians. The complacent Christians who were born into a Christian family. The wise old Christians who mixed scripture and clichés interchangeably. The obligatory Christians who were only there because someone was making them. The on fire Christians that seemed to know a scripture for every occasion. I wanted to be one of those on fire Christians. I wanted to have an answer for everything. I wanted to impress people, and God, with how much I knew.

But the key word was “knew.” I memorized scriptures, I acted the part, to get myself into that “club.” I became someone I thought I was expected to become. And while I know that His Word never goes void, while I know that despite my Pharisee-like behavior, despite my dogmatic religiosity, God was changing me, I wasn’t doing it because I thought I needed to be changed. I was doing it because I wanted to impress.

Pride. I reeked of it.

But then life happened.

There came a point where my rose-colored glasses were smashed by the well-intended and not-so-well-intended. There came a moment of crisis where I stood on the edge of a cliff called religion, looking desperately for the bridge to the other side – to real faith. By the grace of God alone, I found that bridge. He led me there. And I crossed it. Ran across, honestly.

There came a moment where memorizing scripture stopped being cute and started being a necessity. There came a moment where I didn’t want to have a bag of scriptures to throw out to impress, but where I needed droves of scripture to call on for the sake of my bleeding heart. There came a time where I no longer cared to impress and instead began to earnestly seek shelter in the secret place of the Most High. There came a moment where I laid down my crown of religious piety and picked up my cross to bear daily with Christ.

That was the moment I knew real faith. That was the moment I knew that the Bible isn’t something for good Christians to utilize for power or merit, it’s something for desperate, broken, lost, hurting, abandoned, rejected people to cling to as if their lives depend on it, because they do. The Bible isn’t meant for those who already have it together, as I thought I did. It’s for those who know they can’t get it together without Divine intervention.

It was in those moments that worship music stopped being something I critiqued for its musicality on Sunday mornings and started becoming something that brought me into the presence of the Almighty, giving me a taste of His glory, His goodness, His power, His overwhelming love. I will never forget the first time I experienced worship that literally brought me to my knees. I trembled with emotion, with an overwhelming sense of my need for Him. I cried that ugly, snotty, mascara-streaking cry that is neither attractive nor desirable in public places. And I didn’t care for a second. I knew I was smack dab in the middle of the presence of the Creator of the Universe and He wasn’t offended by my snot nose. So I worshipped. Oh how I worshipped.

If you grew up in church like I did, then you probably know how easy it is to make a religious routine. You probably know how simple it is to think you’re impressing God and others with your knowledge of the Bible and church things. But if you’re like me, that knowledge is nothing more than a pride-building lie that spreads its tentacles into every corner of your being, devouring you from the inside out. That knowledge won’t get you very far when you’re hurt, when you’re rejected, when you’re sick, when you’re broken. It might provide fleeting comfort, but if it’s not in your heart, in your gut, deeply rooted, watered daily, and growing, it will be nothing more than that – a fleeting comfort.

But when we take the Word to heart, when we let it be the Bread of life, the Water that quenches, the Breath of God we breathe in daily, we cannot help but rise to new heights of faith, of peace, of comfort, of joy, of Divine grace. That’s what I want. No more head knowledge. Deep, soulish, life-altering, mind-changing, soul-transforming faith. I don’t care about being a good Christian anymore. I care about knowing my Father in a way that drowns out all the rest of the noise the world throws my way. I care about resting in the arms of the One who loves me unconditionally. I desire deeply to press into the mind, the heart, the character of the Creator of the Universe. It is there and there alone I will find my hope.

didnthavetimeforgod

I was too tired to read the Bible. It put me to sleep.

I struggled for a long time. I felt like a failure. I looked around me and saw my Christian friends reading the Bible, growing, learning, praying, in what seemed like a perfectly disciplined faith. I felt like I couldn’t live up to that anymore because I was a mother. What little time I had to myself, I was too tired to read the Bible. It put me to sleep. I felt so guilty that reading the Word of God put me to sleep, but it did. I had an infant. And then a toddler and an infant. I just couldn’t find the time or the motivation to read regularly. And the guilt was eating me alive.

Growing up, I remember my pastor saying not to feel guilty if you ever fall asleep reading the Bible. “What better way to fall asleep than in the arms of the Father?” he would ask. True, I thought. But if you never read more than a sentence before you fall asleep because you’re so tired that a moment of stillness is like a sleep aid, you begin to think maybe that sentiment doesn’t apply to you.

And so the guilt piled higher.

This went on for a few years in my life. I still prayed. I still worshipped God in the car, listening to my favorite live worship albums. I still went to church. But I felt like a colossal failure because I couldn’t seem to find the time to actually read the Word of God. I knew that’s where the power was. I knew that was what I needed to go to the next level in my faith. And I just couldn’t seem to have a breakthrough.

If you’re a mom reading this, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. A moment of stillness is like a fine wine – you cherish every sip, every second, like you’ll never have it again, because truth be told, you may not. Throw in the obligatory daily Bible reading and it seems like an insurmountable mountain to climb. It might as well be Everest.

But I have good news! There is a way to be a mother of young children and still nourish your walk with Christ in a meaningful way.

I was listening to a sermon from my pastor in my car one time when I heard him talk about his son. He said that his son was given some advice when he was a young entrepreneur – to get a copy of the Bible on audio and listen to it as much as possible throughout the day. My pastor laughed that his “cheap” son bought the King James Bible on audio because it was only $9 as opposed to $50 or more for the other audio translations. And because of the Elizabethan language he was immersing himself in day in and day out, he began to speak like Shakespeare. “How goes thou, dearest brother?” he would say. Pretty funny.

But that funny little story flipped a light on in my stubborn brain.

My faith doesn’t have to be defined by the actual physical act of reading the Word right now. I can listen to it instead! What a concept!

It’s so simple, and yet for me, it was profound. I am just in a tired season of my life. A busy season. A season of dirty diapers, and tantrums, and messes, and cries, and more messes, and more dirty diapers, and sharpies on the wall, and jelly on the floor, and rocks in my cup, and… you get the picture. Sitting down to read anything, while it sounds luxurious, just ends up being a recipe for sleep. Glorious sleep.

Any parent will tell you that the car is one of the few sacred places left where you can actually do a little thinking once you have kids.

So when God showed me that all I have to do is listen to the Bible, it opened up a whole new world for me! Now, every morning when I’m getting ready, I whip out my handy little smart phone and turn on my free audio Bible (any translation I want!). I listen to a chapter or two while I’m putting on my makeup. It’s awesome! I get to have a few moments to myself and immerse myself in the scripture all at the same time. It has become my favorite part of the day.

But it hasn’t stopped there. Whenever we drive, I listen to the Bible on audio some more. Any parent will tell you that the car is one of the few sacred places left where you can actually do a little thinking once you have kids. They’re strapped down, you see. They can whine all they want, there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re on the highway going 70 miles per hour. You can’t take their shoes off for them or find their monster truck. You have a legitimate excuse. And it’s a perfect time to listen to the Bible! (Plus a bonus: you’re immersing them in the Word, too!)

I live thirty minutes from my church, an hour and a half from my parents and generally twenty minutes from anything else I want to do, so needless to say, we’re in the car a lot. I made it through Leviticus that way.

The point, my sweet friends, is that your walk of faith doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. And in fact, it won’t. And that’s great! If you are in a season of life where sitting down to read anything, even for five minutes is out of the question, don’t fret. Find another way. There are endless resources out there. Even if it’s just a simple five minute devotional read from a free app, you can find a way to be with God each day. But I’ll forewarn you – it will only leave you wanting more! (What a great problem to have!)

And don’t let Satan keep you from reading the Word by making you feel guilty like he did with me. He robbed me of several years of meaningful growth in my faith by telling me I was too busy for God and by telling me that if I didn’t have an hour every morning before everyone woke up to sit in a quiet place and read and study, it wasn’t worth my time. But when your infant wakes up four times a night, what exactly is the definition of “before everyone wakes up?” See, that’s his plan – not to turn you to him, just to keep you from God. And he’ll use any means necessary, believe me. And a steaming pile of guilt is one of his favorite tactics with me.

Take back your walk. Don’t fall victim to preconceived notions. Ask the Lord today to show you how you might incorporate him into your day, everyday. And see if you aren’t radically transformed and blessed because of it.

If you would like to download the Bible app I use for audio (and reading), check it out here. There’s a kid’s Bible by the same company and it is awesome, too!

inthewilderness

When you can’t feel God, believe He’s there anyway.
When you can’t see God’s hand, believe it’s there anyway.
When you can’t understand God’s plan, trust it anyway.

That’s faith, friends. It’s easy to see a person of faith and assume they just walk on a bed of roses, perhaps blissfully unaware of the issues around them. It’s easy to look at someone else’s life and say, “Yeah, good for them, but they have no idea what real suffering is. They have no idea how hard my life or situation is.”

But they do.

How do I know? Because they’re human. And the human condition has always been the same. And whether we deal with unexpected illnesses, unexpected deaths, unexpected job losses, unexpected betrayals, or on and on, one thing is true: when it happens to us, it hurts worse than when it happens to someone else.

He may very well be keeping you somewhere you don’t want to be in order to protect you from somewhere else you don’t need to be.

Trust anyway.

That’s it. Trust God when you don’t want to. Read the Bible when you’re mad at Him for not answering you. Pray when you don’t think He’s listening. Do you know why? Because He is. And He cares deeply. And when you’re in a situation that seems impossible, or unredeemable, it’s not. And He may very well be keeping you somewhere you don’t want to be in order to protect you from somewhere else you don’t need to be. Or He may very well be letting you learn a few lessons before you destroy yourself and everyone around you. He knows now. He’ll tell you when you’re ready.

There have been more times than I care to admit that I’ve had to pray anyway, trust anyway, believe anyway. And it has always paid off. Want to know why?

Because I believe in the God who CREATED THE UNIVERSE. No big deal, just the UNIVERSE. And His eye is on the sparrow. How much more so on me?

Wow. God, give me the peace and grace to trust You despite me. That’s all I really need when I face the things that make no sense.

You can have the rest. Give me Jesus.

In Gethsemane the holiest of all petitioners prayed three times that a certain cup might pass from Him. It did not. After that the idea that prayer is recommended to us as a sort of infallible gimmick may be dismissed.” -C.S. Lewis

atheistsdontexist
It’s a new year, and while most of us are probably wrestling with our resolutions and how we are going to finally execute them this year, I have a challenge for you. Instead of a resolution, how about you have a revelation?

Scientifically, you can’t be an atheist.

My pastor told a story once about sitting on a plane next to an atheist. He challenged the man by telling him that he thought atheism was scientifically impossible. You can hear his witty banter here, if you want. Or you can read my summary.

My pastor challenged the man by pointing out a few facts. First of all, scientists tell us that the smartest human being probably possesses two percent of all knowledge. That’s everything there is to know about everything – science, history, language, human tendencies, philosophies, everything… about everything. In every culture, all around the world. Everything that has happened, everything that is happening now, and everything that will ever happen. Think about that. And the smartest of all of us probably only possesses about two percent of that knowledge. He went on to point out that in order to say that there is no God, you would have to have all knowledge. Sitting on the plane next to the atheist, my pastor asked, “Is there a chance, in the 98% of knowledge that you don’t possess, that God exists?”

I absolutely love this. It’s true isn’t it? Atheism is scientifically impossible. You can be an agnostic, sure. You can say “there probably isn’t a God.” But you can’t emphatically say, “there is no God.”

When he asked the man the question, he responded, “Well, yes, I guess there is a chance that God exists. So, okay, I don’t know if there’s a God.”

Is there a chance, in the 98% of knowledge that you don’t possess, that God exists?

My pastor’s response? “Well I do. Would you like to know something about Him?”

(Pause for a moment and giggle if you need to. It makes me smile, too.)

You see, there’s a big problem in claiming that God doesn’t exist, because God is Absolute Truth. If you claim that there is no God, you are claiming that there is no such thing as absolute truth. And by making the claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth, you are in fact making an absolute statement. You’ve cancelled yourself out. Do you see that? You can’t claim there are no absolutes, because the claim itself is absolute.

If there is absolute, then there is God. There is no getting around this.

A Confessed Skeptic

I’m a skeptic. I never take things at face value. I chew on things and then chew on the cud. I think about the ways of the world and then I think about them again. And then I think about them some more until I’m blue in the face. It’s just my nature. So if I were to say to you that there haven’t been times over the years that I wrestled with the very existence of God, I would be lying to you.

I have definitely wondered from time to time if this is all for naught. But there are two things about this God business that I know to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt.

One.
When it comes to God, He is all about changing lives. I have seen it in people around me my whole life. And until it happened to me, I didn’t know if it was true or if they were just crazy people looking for attention. And perhaps some of them were. But the point is, when my life was radically, drastically, unequivocally changed by God Almighty, all my cynical, skeptical arguments for logic and reason of why it’s possible that God might not exist were thrown out the window. Something happened to me. I was going one way in life and made a sudden one-eighty the other direction. It was radical. It was transformative. It was life-changing. Say what you will about the scientific arguments for or against God, but you can’t argue with someone’s life being changed from the inside out. And there is no way to describe something like that other than by divine interpretation. And unless you’ve experienced it yourself, it’s easy to question. I would know.

Two.
My great grandfather is famous (in my family, anyway) for saying that he had come to the conclusion that even if it’s all a farce, even if it’s just a bunch of bunk, believing in God was worth it to him. For in what universe would it be a waste of time to live your life with peace, joy, love, and kindness to strangers? On the other hand, if this is real and you doubters are wrong, what then? I’d rather die and find out it wasn’t real than die and found out it was.

I know many of you who are reading this are self-proclaimed atheists, or perhaps agnostics. I’m not here to argue you into believing in God, nor am I here to scare you into getting your “fire insurance.” I am, however, here to challenge you to think past your own calculations of the known universe. Is it possible you’re wrong? Is it possible you’re missing something? And if so, isn’t it worth a try?

For me, God saved me from a life of the devastation of pride. I was wallowing in it and it was eating me from the inside out. I was completely unaware. But one day I saw it for what it was and it scared me, for I knew the hold it had on my life. I was eaten up with self-righteous, religious piety, and I hated myself for it.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this God is real, alive, active, and madly in love with us, His creation.

But on that day, God showed me that His grace is sufficient for even me. He showed me that He loves me too much to let me ruin myself. He showed me that He wants me, that He has a purpose for me, that He isn’t done with me.

And so I turned around. I took the plunge. I gave my heart to this Jesus and never looked back. And since that day, I have seen miracles. I have been blessed. I have walked places I never thought I’d walk, seen things I never thought I’d see and felt a peace deeper than I could ever explain in words. Above all of that, I have become keenly aware of a redeeming, transforming Love that is unending for me. That’s all I need to know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, this God is real, alive, active, and madly in love with us, His creation.

What about you? What is 2014 going to hold for you? Are you going to stay where you are? Are you going to look up and realize it’s February 3rd and you’ve already failed at your resolution? Or are you going to do something for yourself that’s better than any resolution? If you don’t believe in God, why not make 2014 the year you at least opened up your heart to the idea of giving him a chance? Just crack the door open. See if you’re not overwhelmed by the warmth, peace and power of the light that shines in. A revelation resolution.

Oh what a happy new year that would be!

secularsanta
It’s that time of year. When elves are being mischievous on shelves. When reindeer are flying around shopping center rooftops. When an old man can somehow see when I’m sleeping. He knows when I’m awake. He knows if I’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake. (That’s the only reason to be good, after all.)

I don’t ever want my kids to grow up thinking Christmas is all about Santa, or Santa’s birthday (thank you, Bart Simpson).

I know lots of families who wrestle with faith versus culture this time of year. I’ve read many blogs on many different philosophies. “Santa represents the magic of this season. Why would you deny your kids that magic?” Or, “Jesus is all the ‘magic’ we should ever need. How dare we replace Jesus with Santa!”

I’ve thought and prayed a lot about where our family should fall on this apparently polarizing topic (at least for Christians). On one hand, I don’t ever want my kids to grow up thinking Christmas is all about Santa, or Santa’s birthday (thank you, Bart Simpson). But on the other hand, I grew up with Santa but I still knew what Christmas was all about. I think I turned out alright (some of you are shaking your heads in dissent, I’m sure).

So what is the answer? Sure, people will point out that Santa comes from Saint Nicholas, a really nice guy from centuries ago that helped children and gave as a representation of the gift of Christ. Great. And some people would say that anything America associates with Christmas – trees, evergreens, red and green itself – is of pagan origin and should therefore never be in a Christian home. I’ve heard it all, haven’t you?

Their Santa figurines will be kneeling with the wise men at the nativity.

I suppose the answer is the same answer for any Christian in any circumstance, with any topic that is not expressly spelled out in the Bible: let the Holy Spirit lead YOUR family.

For some families, that’s going to mean a strictly orthodox Christmas – the nativity, the advent candles, and absolutely NO Santa whatsoever. For some families, it’s going to be some hybrid of American Christmas tradition and religion. Their Santa figurines will be kneeling with the wise men at the nativity. (The wise men were never at the stable, by the way.) And for some families, it’s going to mean Santa, candy canes, stockings hung by chimneys with care, and perhaps the Christmas candlelight service at church – you know, give Jesus his due respect.

Wherever your family falls this season, just make sure you have prayed about it and let the Lord lead you. If you’re a Christian, that’s your job in all things, after all. And if you decide to incorporate Santa, don’t feel bad about it for one minute. If you decide not to, don’t feel bad about it for one minute, either.

As with most things in life, when put in their proper place and perspective, they can be completely used for the glory of God. After all, if we wanted to strip the church of anything remotely “secular,” we would never sing hymns, for those are mostly composed of the melodies of old bar tunes. And we would never use evergreens at Christmas because those were originally used by pagans to celebrate the winter solstice. We wouldn’t do a lot of things in the church if we avoided anything that was possibly linked to the secular world in some way: technology, air-conditioning, and on and on.

The truth is, it’s easy to become dogmatic when it comes to religion. But at the end of the day, as long as we teach our children that Jesus is the reason for the season, because Christmas is the celebration of His birth (which, consequently, was probably not on December 25th, or even in December for that matter) and the celebration of the beautiful gift God gave us by sending His son to the world to save us – as long as we teach them the truth – the rest is just details.

And to quote my husband, that’s my Christian opinion.

Either way, have yourself a Merry Christmas!

icepocalypse2013
“The worst ice storm in years!”

“The coldest weather DFW has ever seen this time of year!”

“Icemageddon!!”

“Icepocalypse!”

These are just some of the phrases floating around social media and local news over the past few days here in Dallas/Fort Worth. It has been the coldest, iciest weather I can remember in DFW. It started on Thursday with freezing rain and sleet, coming down in droves, for a solid day. And here we are, Monday morning, and about 2% of it has melted. Literally entire freeways are shut down. People have been stranded on the highway for days. No one can go anywhere. Schools are shut down. Businesses are shut down. Churches didn’t meet this weekend. Needless to say, this would be the absolute WORST time for your heater to go off.

Which is exactly what happened to us.

Last week was Thanksgiving and the kids and I spent a few days with my family while my husband had to stay behind and work. (Don’t worry, he got to come out and spend Thanksgiving day with us!) When we got back home last Sunday, he told me that the heater had been making strange sounds and that I should tell our landlord. My first thought? “Oh Lance, you and your worries. I’m sure it’s nothing.” I almost said it but something (which I now know was nothing other than God Himself) told me to call our landlord immediately. So I did. I never do that. In the past when we have had the inevitable little problems that arise in a home (water heater going out, toilets on the fritz, etc.), I’ve always waited a few days to call. Perhaps out of a fear of sounding like a whiner, but whatever the case, I NEVER call immediately when a problem starts to arise. But this time, I did. Never having even heard the heater make the sound myself, I called.

The landlord sent someone out that night to look at it. Sure enough, it was dying. He said we needed to order an entirely new unit! (Wait, what?) The weather had been predicting the ice-apocalypse that was headed our way for a few days so I asked the repairman if we could get a new unit before it hit. He assured me we would. The weather was due to hit overnight Thursday going into Friday. He said we would have a new unit by Thursday.

So when the sleet started at 2pm Thursday afternoon, I knew the prospects of a new heater were slim. But no worries, it was still working, it was just making weird, loud sounds. But those weird sounds got weirder and weirder and louder and louder. By Friday evening the heater would kick on for about 3 minutes and then shut off again for hours. But oddly enough, it never got arctic in our house, despite the temperatures in the teens and wind chills below zero outside.

We called the landlord again to tell her what was going on. I could tell she felt really bad. I didn’t want her to – it’s not like she planned this perfect storm of freezing weather and a dying heater. Nonetheless, she asked her repairman to brave the icy roads and come see if there was something he could do to keep it going. He came on Saturday, worked some magic, and got it up and running again. He said he thought it would hold out until he could get the new unit here on Monday. But again, it still wasn’t arctic in our house.

The “fix” was short-lived and our heater died again. Lance and I were worried sick about our kids. We have two pathetically small space heaters and we kept them on in their rooms at night and rotated them around the house during the day in the areas we were using the most. We each separately laid hands on the heater (unbeknownst to each other) asking God to keep it going. We laughed when we both, embarrassed, admitted to each other that we were laying hands on our heating unit. Every time it would try to come on, I would start my 9-1-1 prayer, begging God, “Please, oh please, oh please keep it on! Let it work this time!” Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. But still, the house wasn’t cold.

I was tired of begging God to keep the heater running and tired of feeling like sometimes He answered and sometimes He didn’t.

By Sunday night, I was frazzled and tired. I was tired of worrying about our kids, tired of praying like a dying woman every time the heater tried to come back on. I was tired of begging God to keep the heater running and tired of feeling like sometimes He answered and sometimes He didn’t.

Our sweet neighbors offered to let us sleep at their house last night (Sunday). Lance and I talked about it and as we did, I realized something – it had never really gotten cold in our house, despite the fact that we hadn’t had a heater for days and the temps were at record cold. Then it hit me. I had been praying all weekend for the heater to keep coming on. I had been riding a roller coaster of ups and downs – elated when it would come on, disappointed and upset when it didn’t. But never once on that roller coaster did I stop to take into account that we had never gotten cold. In fact the temperature gauge on the thermostat never went below 68º. And most of the time it stayed around 72-73º. It was a miracle. A true, no reason this should have happened, bonafide miracle. And the miracle made me realize that often we pray for something specific like “keep our heater on” when all we really need to do is say, “God, I trust You to keep our house warm, heater or not.”

How often could we apply that to our prayers in life? More often than not, I would imagine. When we have financial problems, it’s easy to pray to win the lottery. Sure, that would solve your problems (maybe), but what’s the real need there? The real need is for God to provide for and protect your family. Perhaps that’s what we should be praying. Because miracles don’t always (or ever) come in the form we think would be best (and thank God!). When we have a sick loved one, we often pray for their illness to be healed. And while I know healing happens all the time, and there is a time to pray for healing, sometimes we need to just pray that God would deliver them in His way. And sometimes that deliverance may even mean death. I’m not saying this to sound crass or callous. I’m saying it to point out that God’s ways are bigger than our own and infinitely better than we could imagine.

Our little ice-capade has given me a new perspective on what miracles really are. And as I sit here at my computer typing this blog on what should be ice-cold keys on the keyboard, I’m marveling in the warmth of my un-heated house, and resting in the warmth of the miracle that took place when I wasn’t expecting it.

We are a blessed house, indeed.

Isaiah 55:8 – “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.”

Pictured above:

Left – Icicles on our house, some of them as long as two feet!
Center – The ice so thick it looked like snow. 4-6 inches in some areas.
Right – Virgil “helping” daddy try to dig the car out of the ice.