Spirituality · Uncategorized

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made


The other night, we were driving and my seven-year-old was in the backseat, lost in her imagination. She was staring into her luminous window-reflection and my own childhood memories told me that she was delighted with the way her eyes shone and that she felt beautiful. I wondered when I last felt beautiful that way.

I watched her eyes gleam again and her chest puff on her birthday when she announced that she was seven and I remembered the delicious taste of a new age on my own tongue when I was a kid. But on my birthday this past week I hardly stopped to consider how old I was and felt instead a vague sense of melancholy at thoughts of things I haven’t yet accomplished.

The psalmist knew that he was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and he praised God for it. He acknowledged the miracle that is the human body and mind, despite our many shortcomings. I don’t find that miracle often enough – in the mirror or in the faces of those around me. When I do stop to appreciate it, the limitations I place on myself seem trivial. So here’s to a year filled with the kind of awe and wonder that break down cynicism and invite God to work through me.

Happy 2018!

Spirituality · Uncategorized

What difference does it make?

Some time back, someone whom I love and respect whose spiritual views are very different from mine asked me what difference my faith made to me. I gave her an inadequate and inarticulate answer about hope. Once in a while that conversation comes to mind and irritates me. I’m not promising a magical answer here, either, but I want to address a few things that I failed to convey then.

A lot of people claim that God makes their life better without qualifying the statement. Others seem to work really hard to qualify it, pointing to his supernatural influence as the thing that got them a new job, perhaps, or a clean bill of health after an illness. I am not here to disagree with them; I’m not in their shoes. Usually, though, that’s not how I feel about my interactions with the divine.

So, how does my faith enrich my life?

  • The most important thing I can say is that it doesn’t fix my life in the short term. I can’t objectively judge what God has effected in my life because his hand is not always visible to me. So maybe he has made my life easier and better in ways I’m not aware of, but I still struggle to not let depression get the better of me, to motivate myself to do the stuff of daily living, to build relationships and show love. Bad things happen and will continue to happen. But you know that desperate feeling that life is not as it should be? That restless, almost angry stirring that says you should be feeling another way that you try really hard to suppress with worldly distractions? I still have that feeling a lot and still occasionally try to buy or exercise or plan or volunteer my way out of it. But I know that it won’t work. And this is where I find comfort: I believe that I DO know where that feeling comes from and what will ultimately fix it. I will continue to experience it here, but I don’t seek its resolution in the same unhealthy ways I might if I didn’t believe the way I do. I’m also not destroyed when I recognize the futility of those efforts because I already knew they were futile, but I believe that the thing I’m missing IS obtainable after death. Waiting still stinks, though. 🙂
  • This seems off-subject, but to relate the meaning that faith holds for me, I need to address two things about Christianity which often concern people: the biblical assertion that Christ is the only way and the related concept of Hell. I understand why these topics upset people – they absolutely ARE upsetting. My view of faith is dependent on God’s goodness and I don’t believe these apparent hang-ups are obstacles to that goodness. These views likely won’t sway people who don’t already have Christian sympathies and they aren’t unique or revolutionary, but maybe they will be another perspective for someone struggling to reconcile these facets of the religion with their faith. To be clear, though, I may be way off-base. I am not the one who defines goodness, so while I seek truth and have feelings on the matter, I’m no authority.
    • Many of my more conservative friends will passionately disagree with me, but while I believe Christ is the only way, I don’t believe that looks the same to all people. I think it entirely probable that acknowledgment and acceptance of Christ can even happen when the person doesn’t know him by that name. This is not a post-modern or universalist assertion. But I think Christ affects us all individually, quite outside of human religious constructs. I think it is presumptuous to assume that Christ couldn’t reveal himself in a completely different way to someone whose life experience and soul is different from mine. Bottom line: I don’t know, but I do trust God’s goodness.
    • Hell is one of those things that is still largely mysterious to me. I haven’t read anything in the Bible that gives me a solid grasp. What I do believe is that God created humanity and the world we live in. I believe that he cares about that creation and hates what hurts it. I trust that if my soul is so polluted that it would threaten the goodness of his creation, he won’t allow me to continue beyond this life. I also believe that separation from God would be unbearably painful.

Thank you for letting me define the fruits of my faith in a small way. Feel free to weigh in, disagree, agree, whatever floats your boat – as long as you keep it kind. Happy Tuesday!


1 Corinthians 15:58:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Another new year. Like most years, scads of possibilities for personal improvement and greater good have surfaced in my brain and, like most years, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of opportunities. This is also a time of year that typically ushers in, for me, lower mood and energy. This is not a pity party; I am not powerless to take action against this negativity, but I do feel like many people can relate to these feelings and might appreciate the acknowledgment amidst all the Facebook posts detailing the number of miles their friends have run (even though it’s eight degrees outside) and the new healthy eating plans they’ve implemented. There. Now I’ve acknowledged the crappy feelings and pray that my sympathizers and I can move on to being inspired by other people’s successes instead. 🙂

Before the new year started, my fellow-blogger and inspirational friend, Crystal, suggested that we try an adapted form of the 60/60 Experiment. We aren’t reading Soul Revolution, but we are using the idea to stop once an hour to honor, incorporate, remember God in our lives. After a rough start, I downloaded a customizable timer app that helps me remember, although I’m still not perfectly observant. I find that what happens when that timer sounds is a sort of accountability exercise. Because I get caught up in daily life and I’m not expecting to communicate with God at those moments, I wind up examining whether whatever is happening in my head or whatever action I might be taking is good and pleasing to Him. It’s been valuable and interesting. I’m planning to maintain this practice for the foreseeable future.

Now for the worst part. I decided to couple this experiment with a resolution to stop looking at my Facebook feed 1,800 times a day. I am not commenting on the evils or merits of Facebook, but for me, it was turning into a bad habit. I prayed about it and told God my intention to check it only once a day. I failed to honor my commitment. I am ashamed of my lack of discipline. This sin is not limited to this single, self-imposed thing. I struggle with laziness. While it might not appear that way to those who know me, I know myself well enough to make that assertion with no hesitation. Therefore, my “resolution” is to avoid idleness. I will continue to value R&R, but I have been lazy even in that, failing to take from it rejuvenation and joy. To my intention stated here, I add prayers for forgiveness and guidance.

Happy January, folks!


Words Fail Me

I talk… a lot. So much, in fact, that I get tired of hearing my own voice; even in my head. In that rare quiet moment – when I’m not praising, scolding, cajoling, singing to or explaining something to my three-year-old, she is downright confused. “Mommy,” she’ll say, “Why are you not talking?” So when Crystal suggested that we blog on the nature of words, I was game. It’s a subject I think about frequently, but never with very much direction.

I have a difficult time separating my thoughts and feelings from the words I use to express them; but I know they are separate because I often find that the words don’t accurately represent my thoughts and feelings.

I love words. I love to write and read and speak. Sometimes, though, I wonder if there isn’t a better way. They can make us so lazy! Babies can’t speak, but parents know to hold them tightly when they cry, to soothe, feed, change. We become attuned to those needs. But I miss (or ignore) those cues in my adult interactions. I might know something is bothering my husband, but if he says nothing is wrong, I leave it alone. I don’t attend to him as I should.

And of course, while words can build people up, show our hearts and be wonderful tools, they can also get us into loads of trouble. We don’t have great impulse control, we humans. The Bible is full of admonitions against idle or evil talk. James 3:1-12 is quite a passionate disparagement of such talk. And Romans 8:26: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words…” (Forgive me if I overuse this verse. It always speaks to me. So to speak. :))

But another story also came to mind. Genesis 11 gives us the confusing account of the Tower of Babel, wherein God recognizes that the people have united and are creating incredible things.

Genesis 11:6-8: And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

Huh. Seems awfully anti-progress. I don’t believe that God fears any threat from us, or even that we can pose a threat (other than perhaps grieving or angering him), so was He in fact protecting people from the detrimental actions they might take? Was it to keep us from hurting ourselves? How many scifi movies are there about very, very smart people making decisions that are ethically questionable or just downright scary? God’s unwillingness for Adam and Eve to know and understand certain things seems like it might stem from a similar concern. I know this isn’t exactly the same thing, but I wonder if our inability to communicate effectively with language could make us a lesser threat to ourselves. It seems counterintuitive that good communication could be a bad thing, but it is an interesting idea to explore. I know that I want the Spirit to continue to “intercede” for me. I never want be so cocky about my skill and sufficiency and mental clarity that I no longer seek His help.

Even if our confused brains and words are somehow a good thing, I don’t think incorporating a little more silence would cancel out any of that positivity :). In fact, I think it could augment it, giving us greater opportunity to notice His presence and seek His will.

Sigh. I’ve just reread this, and I’m arguing my own points. Ah, well. What do you think?

Spirituality · Uncategorized

Biblical Marriage and Alienating Language

Yesterday, a few members of the men’s group at our church stood up to speak to the congregation about a study they recently completed. They were enthusiastic about it and, between the reading and fellowship, reported improvements in their romantic, parenting and work relationships. One of the things they talked about was following the biblical model for marriage; a partnership in which the husband takes a leadership role and the wife takes a more submissive role. Raise your hand if you read the last part of that sentence and started feeling irate, or at least uncomfortable. Yeah… me, too. I’ve thought this through before, and the idea of submission always stops me cold. Now, they did make a very important distinction yesterday, saying that submission is not for a man to impose; rather, it’s a gift that a woman can choose to give. Still, I was hearing that word louder than all the others. I’m still not entirely comfortable with this issue, but I do have a few thoughts. Before I dive in, please understand that I am not giving advice and am only exploring how it might affect a committed, loving couple who have mutual respect for one another.

What does the word “submissive” conjure for people? A submissive dog is one who pees whenever it is afraid or excited. A submissive woman might bow her head and quietly endure abuse. This is not a trait that ANY woman wants to embody, so I think we have to get past the loaded nature of the word and discover what’s really intended.

So, how else can we understand what this means? We do use “submit” in other contexts. A student might, for example, submit an assignment to a teacher. This is a voluntary action. The student gives their work to someone whose opinion they value (ideally 🙂 ) to read it and weigh it. The Vice President advises the President, but doesn’t have the same authority and we don’t call him submissive. I think in marriage it means choosing someone you love and trust completely to consider your family’s best interests. It means offering your opinions and support and allowing him to make decisions (heavy responsibility). It means gracefully refusing to be an obstacle. And here’s the other thing: If I choose to empower my husband to make decisions, that doesn’t mean that he can’t submit to me in return. He may decide that what I want is the best thing, even if it isn’t what he wants. I chose to marry someone I trust and we do run into situations sometimes where I really want something and he really doesn’t. Is it a good thing for me to push and push until he caves? Not usually. 🙂 OK, that’s never actually worked well for me. It damages the relationship. In instances where he’s wanted something that I really don’t want, he almost always respects my wishes. 

The sad fact is that women are still subverted in negative ways all the time. Feminism is such a big part of the culture that I grew up in. Any whiff of “inequality” sends us scurrying in the opposite direction, but honestly, that isn’t at issue, here. We aren’t talking about stripping power or rights from women – we’re talking about a completely voluntary way to structure a personal relationship.

Any comments? I know it’s a touchy issue…

Spirituality · Uncategorized

Faith and Religion – Subjectivity and Validity

I love to think about and study my religion. I don’t do it in a terribly deep way, but I also love the idea of making that study an academic pursuit; approaching it in a way that is objective, even scientific. Growing my knowledge and improving my critical thinking skills are ever-present goals (not that I’m always working very hard at them). But I keep coming face to face with the inherent subjectivity of the thing, and it frustrates me. Our personal experiences shape our faith. They affect our mental pictures and interpretations of scripture. I think there is both beauty and relevance… and a certain danger in that. Our culture expounds upon the truths we find in scripture until we can’t seem to separate biblical teaching from societal wisdom. But really, what philosophy, what science isn’t subject to these challenges? Doctors, scientists, even mechanics practice their professions according to different schools of thought. Just because people hold different opinions about religion doesn't invalidate it. If anything, it makes it all the more important, because some things are true. Some things are right and real. I’d venture to say it’s much easier to learn answers to questions if we actually ask them. Seems to me, putting our minds to the task of discerning those true and right and real things should be a priority for all of us.

Prophets Project · Spirituality

Prophets Project – Isaiah 37-48

On this New Years Day, as I consider plans for the year ahead and make decisions for myself and my family, I find myself reflecting on and in awe of God’s… bigness. And littleness. This post, then, is an attempt to put those reflections into words. It wanders a bit. I’d apologize, but that’s just the way I roll. 🙂

I wonder at the long-range plan of God. It seems incredible to me that while he understands and manipulates the long-term, he also reveals himself to individuals in very immediate ways.  Hezekiah’s deliverance from Assyria and his miraculous healing (Isaiah 37:6-7  and 38: 1-6) remind me of God’s personal interest, his willingness to show himself to us. Maybe these particular acts had more impact later, as a part of the prophet’s story, but they certainly were meaningful for Hezekiah, too.

And then I read Isaiah 40:22, which paints a picture of humanity as insects beneath an all-powerful God. Our individuality is almost… demeaned in this verse. Sort of the same way I feel when we read about God dealing with “nations” as though all the people in them are the same. It feels like God has a corporate mentality now instead of small and family-owned. Now, that might not be quite fair; I think the Bible is clear that we are God’s beloved creation and the drivel I read into things sometimes would probably be better left unsaid. It does seem, though, like we walk a bit of a tightrope in the ego department. Take Isaiah 45:9-10. We’re reminded of our place. Who are we to assume we understand what God is doing? Creation does not equal Creator.

While I was struggling to reconcile what seem like two separate sides of God’s character (the intimate and the CEO), I realized that they aren’t separate at all. I mean, to be able to act in the best interest of both future generations and the current population all at once speaks simply to his love and crazy awesome power. Chapter 48:3-5 brought this home for me. Reading this book, I frequently wonder what the people of Isaiah’s time made of his prophecies; maybe I even harbor the occasional suspicion that they had more to do with future events and people than with Isaiah’s own; and then I get this awesome reminder that those people, too, had seen old prophecies come to fruition. God does things for us here and now, but those same things might be carefully planned to impact the future, as well. The scope and magnitude of God’s action… breathtaking. Trying to imagine the ripple effect of the actions of earth’s millions of people over thousands of years never fails to astound me and, quite frankly, make me sweat. When I consider the potential outcomes of even a small personal decision, I might feel quite paralyzed.

How must the view be from the top?

Happy New Year, all! And one parting holiday/food/theology thought: How can one deny the existence of God when faced with the miracle of whipped cream? 🙂



A few Thoughts on Communion

Honest admission: Communion has never really… clicked for me. I sit there on Sundays and try to really think about it or feel the gratitude I know I should and usually wind up drawing a bit of a blank. Recognizing and reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifice through a physical act is all well and good, but for some reason the symbolism hasn’t ever had much impact. And it should! The strangeness, the enormity of the thing; the incredible, voluntary suffering of God should feel like a big deal. God found a way to offer us salvation despite our obstinacy and unwillingness to love and honor him. Can I better grasp the sacrifice itself? Can I feel it more deeply?

I recently heard an interesting comparison worth sharing. I can’t seem to find the source for this sacrifice analogy but in it humanity is likened to a human body with a faulty heart that needs a transplant. Jesus offers his at the cost of his own life. I kind of like that, but the question it doesn’t address for me is this one:  Does Jesus’ resurrection make his sacrifice less meaningful?

After some reading and thinking, I don’t think so. The greater our love for our loved ones, the greater our pain when they are hurting, making terrible choices, dying. If God’s love for humanity and Jesus is not only great, but perfect, perhaps his suffering is that much more agonizing, whether temporary or not. The same might be said of Jesus.

Another interesting idea is that the way we understand sacrifice today is different from its biblical meaning. We seem very focused on suffering when we talk about sacrifice, but maybe it isn’t about how much Jesus suffered or even IF he suffered. Scripture tells us that he did (Heb 2:18, Mat. 27: 46, Mat. 26:36-39), and I believe that DOES make a difference, but should it affect our view of the validity of his sacrifice? In the Old Testament, it doesn’t seem that a sacrifice is more or less effective based on the level of suffering. Sacrificing to God means to me that we present something valuable to him, saying in our hearts, “yes, this thing is important to me, but I can give it up, offering it to you as an expression of my gratitude for your love and because I know that YOU are greater. I have faith that if I surrender to you, you will do more for me and through me than this ever could.” So Jesus offered his blood, simply because that is what God said it would take and because he understood the greater benefit.

Another way of thinking about it is in terms of WHO did the sacrificing. We always talk about Jesus being the one who made the sacrifice. And that is true, according to the Bible. He offered himself. BUT – he did it on our behalf. Usually, I understand that to mean that he died for our sakes.’ Also accurate, but I think there is more we can infer from that.  Let’s consider the necessary players in a typical, Old Testament-style sacrifice.

  1. People – gotta have a sacrifice-or
  2. Lamb (as an example) – gotta have a payment
  3. God – gotta have a sacrifice-ee (someone to whom payment is owed)

So, how do we apply this format to Christ’s sacrifice? When we say he did what he did on our behalf, he took on the roles of both sacrifice-or AND lamb.  Christ gave himself over at the betrayal and urging of the people. But if he had not willingly gone to the cross, and the people still executed him, the only motives would have been those of the people and the desires of their hearts were not good, faithful or God-seeking. Could God have honored such a sacrifice? I don’t mean to limit his power at all here, but I don’t think so. I think it is against his nature and innate purity to accept anything so unclean (Gen. 4:7).  But the offering Jesus made was pure and right.

Another few thoughts on communion: We see god “eating” in Exodus, too, but in very different context. When Moses comes down from the mountain after receiving instruction from God only to find the people worshipping an idol, he has the idol crushed and the people ingest it (Ex. 32:20). They are, essentially, eating their sin. It is an interesting parallel to think that we practice God eating when we take communion, too. Jesus’ body was broken and his blood shed because we broke it and spilled it.  So when we take communion, perhaps we should reflect on the fact that our God is powerful enough to use even our most terrible evil to ultimately deliver us from it. God worked our sin for good so that we may truly “commune” with him. That is true sovereignty.

Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

***Please don’t hesitate to point out any faulty presuppositions or errors you may notice! I would love to hear from you.


An Odd God

No one around me seems confused by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. But I am. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is this big SOMETHING that bothers me about it; or at least about the way we Christians interpret it. I’ve always attended traditional protestant churches. Every year we try to get in touch with the enormity of the sacrifice and subsequent miracle. Every year, we fail to feel the appropriate impact. I could segway into a post about desensitization here, but while that might be relevant, it isn’t what I’m getting at. Maybe the reason we can’t fully appreciate the death and resurrection is because we can’t fully understand it.

I really think that God is downright odd! I mean, he’s known our hearts from the very beginning, knew we would not choose him, knew we would require intervention and salvation. And yet, it had to be thousands of years after the fall, had to be complicated and involve things like prophesy and bloodlines… it seems so strange.

And in terms of sacrifice, well, God didn’t walk away empty-handed. I frequently hear people say that Jesus did what he did for our sakes. I think that is true, but not the whole story. Is God’s joy not affected by the joy of his creation? As a parent, I feel joy when my child feels joy and pain when she feels pain. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, but it does have an element of selfishness. I want to make her happy, in part because it makes me happy. I don’t want her to suffer, in part because I feel that, too. Is our idea of selflessness skewed? Maybe the focus should be on doing the will of God and focusing on the needs of others because that is the only way our own joy can be fully realized. And that is showing true gratitude to God. If he feels joy when I do, then I should do what I can to be genuinely happy. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is a commandment that is interesting in this context. We always emphasize the neighbor, but how many of us can say we love and value ourselves in a pure and right way?

I can’t tell you exactly why I believe (although I’m working on that) in the literal death and resurrection of Jesus, but I do. I believe that miracle is the reason humanity can have hope. I know people have tried to explain it metaphorically, but that really makes no sense to me at all. I used to think I had a brain that could handle abstract concepts, but lately they elude me. 🙂

So, I do think it’s possible our Lenten and Easter traditions miss the mark a bit. I also think that perhaps there is a big picture element here we can’t see; but I am still full of gratitude and awe. And the mystery only deepens my ever-present desire to know and understand my creator.





It has been quite a while since I last posted to the blog… too long. I know because my brain is swimming in idea snippets. I’ve been having some trouble deciding which one deserves my focus today, and confession: I still don’t know. I’m hoping that it will just magically come together. 🙂

Looking for a job has got me a little distracted and little stressed. It isn’t so much the thought of returning to work that bothers me, but the idea of leaving my daughter in daycare. It seems terribly unfair to me that my child should spend the vast majority of her waking hours with people other than her family. I know that lots of people can relate!

I’ve prayed for guidance, but not perhaps in the right way. I want God to reveal a clear path, neon arrows flashing. But I haven’t really been watching and listening for him.

Between illness and trying to corral my little girl during the service, this morning’s sermon was the first one I’ve heard in a while.  One of the members of our congregation delivered the message. He talked a little bit about his personal struggle to make God the focus of his life and ministry. It was very easy to relate. In my recent parenting and financial endeavors, my focus has been on the distractions at hand. I throw some prayers in there, but I’ve just realized that I’ve been praying with a closed mind. There are certain directions I don’t think I want to go, so even though those possibilities are on the edge of my consciousness, I’ve been refusing to really examine them. So… how to fix this?

I struggle a lot with the practical application of the adage “just give it to God.” It sounds really nice, but honestly, it never seems doable. The whole idea speaks to a certain undercurrent in Christianity; this notion that Jesus’ death somehow made things easier and absolved us of our responsibility. All you have to do is believe in Jesus. But what does that entail? Grace and forgiveness are very real, but Jesus asks a lot from us. Continual commitment of body, mind and soul is… well… the hardest thing ever.

So giving this decision up, saying that I’m willing to do whatever God asks of me, is NOT easy. The fact is, I still have to listen, decide and move in a certain direction. It isn’t like giving the decision about what we’re going to eat tonight to my husband, so that I can kick back and take a nap. No, giving something to God isn’t about making life easier, necessarily; it’s about a willingness to go where you’re led, and remain steadfast, working to accomplish what you think God wants from you because you know it’s the right thing.

Wish me luck.. and maybe throw in a prayer! 🙂 Happy Sunday!

1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”