Transcending the “Whys?”

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power and love. 2 Timothy 1:7

It’s the news that changes your life for ever. It either illuminates your faith or nullifies it – it strengthens your friendships or dissolves them – defines your character or distorts it. Nothing is the same–the familiar is no where to be found and “normal” no longer exists.

While awaiting a liver biopsy, my friend and I sat in the waiting room- she explaining the steps that brought them to this point and me understanding the familiar journey all too well. Holding back tears–I listened. The results came at the end of the week–stage four liver cancer.

People call times like these “defining moments” and for some, this is the case. It is also the commencement of questioning.  Why? Why is this happening to me, my kids, my family? Why is God allowing this to happen? Why, after all we’ve been through…? Why….? It is the natural human response.

I personally believe that the “whys” matter little. If, by some inexplicable means, we were able to know the reason, would it matter? Would we then be able to say, “Sure God, now I get it. That makes perfect sense to me, no problem.”? – of course not! No answer would be sufficient.

The obstacle lies when “why” living begins to bog us down, when we allow the “whys” of life to stifle our ability to live fully in the here and now. Dwelling in the “why” causes us to drown in our circumstances, leaving us depleted of energy and faith.

To transcend living in the “why” is a choice, albeit a difficult one–a choice to put faith above doubt, hope above despair, and gratitude above pity. Perhaps it is even an opportunity to see God through the pain, to know God more fully – to experience His grace and love even when we can’t comprehend the “whys”.

Life Without Facebook Part I

“Time has no meaning in itself unless we choose to give it significance” -Leo Buscaglia-

I have survived almost two weeks without Facebook. I haven’t checked my status, your status, your photos, my news feed–you get the idea. Guess what I have found? TIME! Yes, I have an unexpected amount of extra time on my hands. I do miss “socially networking” with friends and family, but the residual blessings have been worth it.

When I exited Facebook I did so with wordage similar to “now you will have to contact me in the old-fashioned way: phone me, email me or text me”. Who would think “texting” is old-fashioned (chuckle)? I had no idea that so many would take me up on my request. I have had more folks call to “check-in”, email to share a story or simply connect, of all things, in person. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Part of the decision I made when giving up Facebook was the promise that with the time I normally spent “networking”, I would use more constructively – writing, praying, reflecting etc… I had no understanding of what this change would entail or look like in reality.

On my first day without Facebook, I walked into the house, plopped my book bag on the kitchen counter and thought to myself, “Now, what are you going to do?” Seems that I normally spend a good deal of my initial “down time” after work networking on Facebook. Only a moment passed before a friend came to mind – one who lives far from me, but who is going through an amazingly trying time. I sat down to write her a note. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a handwritten letter to someone.  A few days later, a friend called with grave health news. She needed someone to just listen and asked if she could stop by. I not only had the time to spend with her, I had the energy and focus to lend an ear. Just yesterday, another friend called to say, “I miss you on Facebook (I had to smile) and want you to know about this great decision I am making for my life (extra big smile), so I decided to call.”

I wonder if I would I have made these same decisions even without the Facebook “fast”? I would like to think so, but I am not sure if that is the case. This act of self-denial has not only provided the time to contemplate, it has caused me to become more intentional in the use of my time. My aspiration is to live more in the present, to find a way to reach beyond the “noise” of life, and to learn to tame the “hurry”.

I just finished a book by Ann Voskamp entitled One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. The entire book was a blessing, but her words particularly resonate when she articulates the frenzied life we sometimes live.

Hurry always empties the soul….I speak it to God; I don’t really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven or wild to get it done– yesterday.”

This is where I often reside–robbed of my joy and strength because my life is too hurried. I understand that Facebook is not the reason I feel drained of time, it is simply one of the many diversions which exhausts my energy each day. Only by reducing the life “noise” am I able to hear, enjoy and experience the now. I am learning to live fully in these moments of life when God is ever near–these moments that allow me to slow down the pace, get my breath and live fully with thanksgiving (eucharisteo).

As a disclaimer:  My blog is set to automatically post to Facebook (even though I am not on it right now)–ironic isn’t it? So if you wish to make a comment on this post that you would like for ME to see–then you will have to view it from my blog and comment there.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Throughout the course of my life I have sat through more church sermons than most would deem healthy. My father is a minister, both grandfathers were ministers, my uncle is a minister, my brother is a minister and at the same time I lived in a parsonage for 19 years influenced by a multitude of evangelists and missionaries. The fact that I don’t walk around expounding the three-point sermon should be amazing to most. 

Funny thing is, I don’t remember many of the sermons I heard growing up—granted I might have been passing notes to my best friend or the cute boy behind me in the pew during that portion of the service, but it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t remember many sermons. One thing I do remember is eating Sunday dinner at my best friend’s house and sitting through some wonderful discussions following the morning message. My best friend’s father was a man of few words. I don’t remember hearing him talk all that much, but he always had great dialogue about the sermon. I am NOT talking about “pastor stew” where you pick apart a sermon or what the pastor was wearing. I am talking about truly intellectual discussions of Biblical truths and their application, or discourse extending the main points of the message. These were times I loved to simply sit and listen. 

We do have a tendency to hear what we want to hear while sitting in a church pew and often skew scripture to fit our circumstances. To quote my brother, Evan, “I think we have to always be careful not to apply Scripture to our lives, but to apply our lives to Scripture.” I hope that is what I am doing with this post. I wish to clarify the way my life applies to a particular passage of scripture.

I was sitting in my home church this past Sunday listening to another great sermon. My pastor’s text was from the Beatitudes, particularly Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”. The sermon pointed to the fact that most likely this passage was referring to the repentant or those who grieve for other sin’s, but not necessarily for those of us who mourn the loss of a loved one—because what is there to be blessed about? There was even a video of a couple who lost a child to SIDS. The video ended with the couple explaining how they blamed God for their loss. That was it—video over. 

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I don’t agree with my pastor’s interpretation of this scripture because I most certainly do, but with strong conviction I additionally believe this scripture DOES speak volumes to those of us who have lost a loved one. The Beatitudes speak to injustice—loss is unjust plain and simple. It is a scripture of hope for those who grieve.

I am sure it is difficult to look at those of us who have lost a great deal in earthly terms and consider us to be “blessed”. If we are to discount this fact then how is God honored through our suffering? Where is the evidence of His work if we, in fact, continue to play the “blame game” with God and not embrace the fact that we live in a world where death is inevitable and loss is equally unavoidable? How much more then should we embrace the blessedness of our plight and be willing to find our solace within the circumstance? What about Isaiah 61:1-3 especially verse 3 where we are assured “beauty..for ashes..gladness instead of mourning”, or my very favorite Psalm 30:11 “You turned my mourning into dancing”? Instead of allowing these times to break our spirit and steal our faith these times of great loss become one of life’s defining moments. It is one of the only times we can completely know that God is, beyond doubt, all we need. 

I have not come to this realization overnight. It has, and will continue to be, a process. Strength is found in the realization that God is greater than our circumstances—he does transcend our condition to create within us a “blessed” state. So, do I believe “blessed are those who mourn”?You bet I do.

This I know for sure….