Why I Walked Away from Church and Christianity

Why I Walked Away from Church and Christianity

Part One: The day I stopped praying.

The look on her face said it all, fresh tears streaming down her cheeks, the loss and grief so evident in her eyes—in that moment my world changed, well, my spiritual world anyways. How could God let this happen again? I was so sure, we were so sure we knew what He was going to do for our friend. Both of us had reassured her how confident we were in God’s answer to our prayers. We kept telling her to calm down and relax, God’s got this. And then all of a sudden He didn’t “get” it. Cause if He did, He wouldn’t have let us believe He would do what He wasn’t going to do.

Anger and despondency towards God began to grow in my heart. So many ungodly people bringing children into the world with no problem, so many people choosing to kill their unborn children, so many unfit parents raising children, and yet when one godly woman wants nothing more than to raise more godly children, God says, “No.” Harsh. Unfair. Cruel.

I stopped praying that day. I didn’t know what to say to God anymore. Why bother? He’s going to do what He’s going to do, whether or not I ask for it. Whether or not I believe. So really, why should I even bother with it? I had literally been at the height of faith and belief one day, to the very bottom the next day, drowning in doubt and uncertainty.

Over the next several months a series of unfortunate events took over my life, as well as that of my friends. It seemed for all three of us, suffering and heartache have been the name of the game. After a while, after life has kicked your ass real good, hope seems rather elusive.

Part Two: The day I stopped attending Church.

Several months before all this, I had sat weeping in my Pastor’s office, confessing how I was at a point where I didn’t even want to go to church. That life had turned me into a cynic. How I used to be happy, positive, and outward focused, and now I was negative, cynical, and could barely get through each day. Church was torturous for me. Those who know me well know that I cannot stand lying and fake-ness. I don’t like being deceived, nor do I want to deceive others. So going to church every week, plastering on a fake smile and shaking hands with people seemed disgusting and reprehensible to me. I’d rather just sleep in, thank you very much. I left the church that day and really, that was probably the last time I experienced a deep connection in any way while in that building.

Sometimes you can feel your soul fading away. Hope running in the opposite direction while you watch helplessly. And then you just, stop, you give up, you quit trying. That’s pretty much how it went down for me. I tried to hang on, but seeing my friend suffer the way she did was the proverbial last straw for me. Of course, the ensuing tragedies to befall my life and that of my two closest friends over the next several months didn’t bode well for my dwindling spirituality.

Occasionally a glimmer of hope would shine through the deep darkness of despair but it was usually brief. Only lasting until the next setback in circumstances came crashing down. Of course, this is what I deserve, after all. You see, I’m not one of those people who believe God owes me something. Quite the opposite, actually. I see every “bad” thing as God giving me what I deserve for the many years I lived my life in rebellion. When bad things happen to my friends I feel crushed for them, they don’t deserve it. But when bad things happen to me, well, why not? You sow what you reap, after all. I’m just getting my just rewards. Eventually I succumbed to the belief that my life, despite my desire to atone for my bad choices, would never be happy, would never be “successful”. I would never be forgiven, but instead forced to live in a state of perpetual punishment. God was going to let me suffer forever. I gave up and basically told God, “I still believe in You, but I don’t trust you. And I don’t plan on talking to you anymore.”

Recognizing my starving spiritual state I immediately withdrew myself from ministry. I stopped going to church, except for the days my husband would drag me there, but sitting through the services proved to be quite uncomfortable. We started coming late and leaving early so we could just hear the sermon and avoid the mushy gushy singing stuff. It’s kind of ironic that my husband, new to the faith, turned out to be the stronger “Christian” than me, the one who spent most of her life in church. I never said this to my husband, but I often thought, “Just wait till you see what the Christianity stuff is all about. Just wait till you see what horrible things God allows in your life, now that you’re trying to obey Him. Good luck with that.” (I told you I was cynical!)

Part Three: The day I stopped identifying as a “Christian”

Another thing I “gave up” was social media. I took a huge step back from things like Facebook because I found myself constantly enraged at the BS I would read on a daily basis. The BS that came from none other than self-professing Christians. Combined with my lack of trust in God, I began to hate Christianity more than anything. Christians can be jerks, you know? I mean really. sometimes more than the average “heathen”…

You’re gay? You’re going to hell.

You believe in the rapture? You’re going to hell.

You believe in eternal security? You’re definitely going to hell.

You don’t have good theology (meaning you don’t share MY theology)? Better turn before you burn, my friend.

Oh my gosh, you have tattoos? You belong to Satan.

Christians can be the most irritating judgmental people on the planet. And I totally get why people walk away from their faith. Many Christians tend to spend more time fighting with each other about who’s right and who’s wrong and who’s really saved and who’s not (like that’s any of our business???). It’s DISGUSTING. I can only imagine how this type of “Christianity” pleases Jesus—which is sarcasm because I know without a doubt, it does NOT please Him. It seems a great deal of Christians have missed the point. You see, you can stand for something (or against something) without being an asshole. Seriously. You can say why you believe what you believe without insisting everyone else who disagrees with you is an idiot and clearly not “really” saved. I’m sorry, I didn’t know we had so many perfect Christians qualified to judge people’s salvation and spirituality! Maybe we should live by example and let the Holy Spirit be the convicting one. You and me, we make terrible Holy Spirits because that’s NOT OUR JOB.

Think going to the movie theatre is a sin? Cool, don’t go to the theatre. Live by example. But don’t tell me that I’m going to hell, or that I’m clearly inferior to you spiritually because I still choose to go to the theatre. Live out your convictions people. Actions. If someone asks why you have your conviction, by all means, share your reasons with grace and love.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” –1 John 3:18, NLT
The other side of the see-saw.

And then there’s this other thing. The complete breakdown of integrity within the church. It’s like we’ve either got the Pharisees over here making a living out of judging everyone else, or we’ve got the Bible-is-optional group who believes actually following God’s word is up for debate if you’re a Christian. I’m talking about people in leadership positions who habitually practice lifestyles contrary to what is clear in God’s word. And let’s be real, it’s not too hard to figure out who those people are, because they’re the ones posting their personal drama all over social media. Of course, along with those Friday night drunken party photos, they’re also talking about how much God is blessing them in the church stuff their doing. Hmmm.

Am I saying you’ve got to be perfect to serve in the church? Obviously not. But have some integrity in your personal life? Yeah, probably a good idea if you’re in a position of leadership. And if you continue to struggle, admit it, and get help. And maybe step down from leading for a while. Positions of leadership really should be reserved for the spiritually mature (not perfect!). And while you certainly have every right to pick and choose what you want to follow or believe in God’s word, I also have every right to not allow you to be in a position to lead me or my family members because I flat out don’t trust you or your “commitment” to truth-seeking. (As I said earlier, going through a major season of depression and doubt, it was easy for me to withdraw from leading and serving because I knew I wasn’t in a spiritually healthy place to be telling someone else what to do! Common sense, y’all. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to teach people about defeating depression if you haven’t defeated it! Just like you can’t effectively teach kids about purity if you aren’t practicing it…etc.)

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”—Romans 6:1-2

So yeah, sometimes Christians suck and sometimes I’m embarrassed to use the term or identify with it. In fact, every time a crazy driver going 10-15mph over the speed limit zooms past me and gives me a dirty look, and then I notice the church sticker on their car, I’m even more convinced how much I loathe the term “Christians”.

“Wow, Rebecca, sounds like you’re the one being judgmental.”

I knew you would go there. Listen, I’m not going to defend myself here. Maybe it is judgmental to expect integrity within the Church, especially leadership. Maybe that’s just asking too much. And yeah, it’s none of my business what people are doing in their personal life. But then again, they make it everyone’s business when they post it all over social media. So…

What I’m saying is, I recognize the irony of my argument. It’s flawed, I know. But it’s where I’m at right now.I’m a fan of “real talk” and honesty, whether or not that realness is “Un-Christian”. And I have to add, I DO have a small group of ladies who feel the same way about Christianity and the state of the Church. They’re just nicer than I am about how they talk about it. That’s a maturity thing, they’re wiser than I am. And thank GOD they put up with me and “get” me.

Part Four: The day I finally understood what it all meant.

One of my favorite shows is “19 Kids and Counting” which follows the lives of the Duggar family. A Christian family with integrity, who live by and teach their children the Bible. They receive a lot of criticism from, you guessed it, Christians. They’re too strict, they’re cultish, they’re obviously abusive. Blah blah. Everyone’s an expert. Anyways, I don’t care about all that. I love them and what they stand for.

Samantha (my daughter who just turned 7) and I were watching the wedding of one of the Duggar girls, actually the first girl in the family to get married. They talked about how they saved themselves for marriage, including their first kiss. This is something we have taught to our daughter and continue to reinforce. How important it is to save the gift of kissing and hugging for our spouse only. And what a special gift it will be to know that your spouse is the only one you have ever kissed and held hands with (about as graphic as we’re going to get with a 7 year old). With great excitement (and some tear-shedding), we watched Jill and Derrick kiss for the first time at the altar, on their wedding day. Sam explained how she would be very nervous to kiss on her wedding day for the first time. I smiled, a proud moment to hear such a thing from your child. To know that the seeds are sprouting. And then I bawled like a baby.

For the first time in several months God spoke to me plain as day. I finally understood why I had no choice but to trust Him and cling to Him no matter how ugly life gets. Because He is my daughter’s only hope in life, and without a praying, faithful mommy, she stands little chance of standing by her faith when temptation strikes. She needs a strong foundation. Without Jesus, there is no hope. Trusting Him is our only chance of making it through life. Even if that means sometimes (or most of the time) we don’t seem to get what we want.

I’m not saying all the depression melted away, but a great deal of it subsided. The fog began to lift. My daughter is the reason I gave my life to Christ in the first place after living many years in rebellion, and she is the reason I have to press on. I have to be the example, I have to live the example, because words are just words. People, especially children, can see through lip service. It means nothing. Showing what I believe through my actions says everything and that includes trusting Jesus when it doesn’t make sense. When it hurts. When it doesn’t seem fair. Without that trust, there really is no hope. No hope for my daughter to make it through life as a God-fearing woman of integrity. Jesus is her only hope. And I will spend the rest of my life on my knees praying for her to remain strong in her faith—much stronger than her mommy. That she chooses to cling to Jesus even when society (and likely other Christians) are screaming at her and calling her a right-wing lunatic. The only hope for her, for any of us, is Jesus. If you take that away, well then, you’ve got nothing to anchor your life on. Even with Jesus, tragedy and hurt is hard enough to deal with, but without Him? Not a chance. I would have given up on life by now, if it wasn’t for Jesus.

Why trust God? Because there is no hope beyond God and what He promises to those who choose to follow when nothing makes sense, when nothing is going “right”, when we’re not getting the answers we think we need. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.” God was here all along and I know that. But it was nice to hear Him speak once again and to feel the comfort of His presence. To see Hope again, after over a year of darkness.

In Conclusion:

In the end I have decided to walk away from the Church and Christianity, and embrace the Bible and Christ alone. I’ll worship with other Christians in a place called a church—whatever church God calls me to on any given Sunday. But I won’t make church and churchy things my idol. I won’t find my identity in church and activities, but in what God says about me. I won’t reach for redemption and atonement through works, because grace is free. I won’t search for accolades, because in God’s eyes, I’m already “one of a kind”. I refuse to insert myself into the holy huddles that plague every church. You know what? I don’t want to be part of the “in” crowd. I want to be part of Jesus’ crowd. Sometimes that means standing alone. But really, with Jesus, you’re never “alone”.

And I no longer identify as a Christian, but as a Jesus loving, truth seeking Christ follower. I’m not interested in beating people up with theology (which really only turns them away). I’m not interesting in debating doctrine. I’m interested in following God’s plan for my life and living out the truth of God’s word to the best of my ability and through the leading of the Holy Spirit. That’s really the life I’ve been called to and that is now the life I seek. I don’t want to be in any box but Jesus’ box. I want to live grace and be a beacon of grace because that’s all my life is—an outpouring of God’s immeasurable grace. I have no right or place to point fingers at anyone but myself, but at the same time, I will carefully choose who I will allow to influence my daughter and who I will sit under and learn from, because integrity is important to me. That is simply my personal conviction.

I will never really understand why God allows some things to happen, and I have since given up trying to explain the why’s or maybe’s of it all. I’ve learned through all of this heartache that what people really need is someone to listen to their hurts, be there for them, hug them, maybe send them a note of encouragement, and only give “advice” when it is clearly asked for. Hurting people don’t necessarily need answers and explanations, they just need someone to hear them and meet them where they’re at. They need someone to reach out and notice their need and show that they care. They need to know they’re not alone. They need to know that Jesus (LOVE) is their only hope.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT

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PS–I realize I used some strong language in this post and, no doubt, offended someone. You can save your comments about it. I know I’m probably not a “real” Christian and am doomed because I used “unChristian” words. Thank you for wanting to warn me though, I appreciate it.

The God of the Unexpected

The God of the Unexpected

Am I the only one who prays (i.e. asks God for something) with a generalized idea of how I think God should (or could) answer that prayer? Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Well, this summer has been a massive test in Faith-Building 101. I mean, I thought I had faith, but God showed me what’s up (and that I don’t have as much faith as I thought. Ok—that I am more or less riddled with unbelief.)

And basically what has come from all of these “trials” has been a new name for God: The Unexpected God. This part of God delights in answering my prayers in the most unusual ways—just to make sure there is no room for boasting on my behalf, I’m pretty sure. (Because pride is that ever present sour note seeking to wreck the symphony of life as I know it.)

And since you’re on the edge of your seat dying for specifics (surely I’m not the only one who wants to know all the details), I will whet your appetite with some examples.

Health:

This summer was the first time the “c” word came into play (cancer). I was hit with a crisis of conscience, so to speak, and faced with the reality that my life wasn’t as invincible as I thought. Maybe even that “I know the plans I have for you” could include leaving the earth sooner than I would have dreamed. I said I trusted God for a lot of things (like the safe-keeping of my one and only child) but faced with this possible crisis, my true heart was revealed. No, I didn’t trust God; I trusted my control and decision-making skills regarding the raising of my child—and not much else. And what would become of my precious baby if I wasn’t around to make sure it all turned out ok??? “Touché, Lord. I see now. I’m supposed to trust you before the crisis, not when trust is the only option I have left.” In the end, after a lot of uncomfortable testing, the issue turned out to be what I call, “The Un-sexy diagnosis”. God has a sense of humor too, does He not? I’ll spare the details, but this unfortunate illness, while quite painful and even embarrassing at times, is not going to send me to an early burial (and I am thankful for that!).

During the wretched times of waiting (as I’m sure any of you who have been thrust into the modern health care system have experienced) were many anguished prayers, “Lord, just give me another 15 years…” after all, that wasn’t too much to ask, was it? Then the Unexpected God swoops in to deliver an answer, albeit a bit slower than I would have liked. “No, child, you don’t have cancer, instead, you will undergo an array of embarrassing and uncomfortable tests only to find out you’re pretty much stuck with this for a while—oh, and you won’t really even want to talk about it, that’s how un-sexy this health issue is.” He did answer my prayer though—not in the way I imagined (and with more irony and humor than I would have thought possible), but an answer none-the-less.

Finances:

Towards the beginning of the year my husband and I decided we needed a little Dave Ramsey in our lives. We were tired of merely “existing” as far as finances goes—we knew there had to be a better way because playing the lottery hadn’t panned out for us (imagine that). So we sacrificed and sacrificed and said “NO” to our somewhat spoiled only-child as well as to ourselves. I mean, we said no a lot. It was kind of depressing, to be honest. I mean, who doesn’t like instant gratification? But we kept our eyes on the prize and pressed on. In only a few short months we managed to pay off three of the credit cards. At the same time, my twelve year old Ford Taurus was breaking down every five minutes, and my precious kitty (yes, I’m a goofball of an animal lover) was diagnosed with diabetes. It seemed for every financial move forward we took two steps backwards. The savings would be built up, only to be used again and again for health, car, or pet issues.

I can’t tell you how many times my prayers were uttered so eloquently (and with a screechy tone of desperation), “Lord—help!” Of course, I had my ideas of how this help would come—but so did the Unexpected God. Turns out, He had a two-for-one deal in the works.

He laid it on our hearts to look into purchasing a new car (something we have never done, and even when purchasing a used older car, had high interest rates nothing short of highway robbery.) I thought, “Buy a new car, God???? But that will just increase our debt!!!” “Trust ME,” He says. So we bought a new car—and got a loan with an extremely low interest rate. Turns out, paying off those three credit cards had significantly improved my husband’s credit score, even though it had only been a few months. On top of that, we were not required to give money down (Hallelujah—the savings account was SAVED!!!). So in the end, we sold our beat up Taurus for cash, and used the cash to pay off more debts. So much so that the monthly payment of those debts almost equaled the monthly car payment. And our new car insurance premium? It went DOWN! So all in all, the monthly cost of the new car was nearly entirely offset by paying off a few other things (vet bill is gone!).

I came away from that experience in awe, “Only You God, only You could have worked that one out in that way! Your plans seem to really work out well, especially when I stay of out of them.”

Just Be Real—Be You

 

I could ramble on about the dozens of other Unexpected God moments of the summer, but the moral of the story for me? Just be real. Be real with God (about your fears, doubts, and insecurities) because He can see through that façade of religiosity anyways. He knows how to get to the heart of the matter.

Part of being real for me is writing in a “real” way. I don’t want to be a “preacher” of words, but a “sharer” of life with my readers. Like two buddies having a beer together, (ok, two proper ladies having a tea-time—whatever floats your boat). For so long I have attempted to disjoint my personality from my writing to be more “likeable” and build a bigger audience (because trusting God to increase my platform is too hard, right?). But you know, life is too short for all that bravado and I don’t intend to waste any more of it. I especially don’t want to waste it on doubt, insecurity, and the most hideous of all diseases—pride. Because in the end, putting up a front, as they say, is just another form of pride; as well as telling God how to answer my prayers or make Himself visible to me.

After all, God really does know what He’s doing. Who would’ve known?!

In what ways has the Unexpected God visited you this summer? How has He increased your faith and trust in His plan for your life—and that all things really do work together for your greatest good?

Discerning the Devil’s Voice: Who is Satan?

 

One of the most important aspects of fighting spiritual warfare is the ability to recognize Satan’s voice when we hear it. And by voice I am not referring to an audible sound that resonates through our ear canal and bounces off our ear drum. I’m referring to a thought strategically placed in our minds. The same place where our own thoughts originate, like, “I want pizza for lunch,” or “I’m tired, I think I’ll take a nap.” (Click here for a more in-depth discussion on the Voice of the Flesh)
Satan’s voice: Incomplete truths, deceptions, schemes, tricks, lies, temptations, partial Scripture quotes taken out of context to support a view that is opposed to God (see Matthew 4:1-11).

Satan’s Bio

Liar:
“He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies he is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NLT)

Did you catch that important phrase? When he lies he is consistent with his character. In other words, it is impossible for Satan to tell a complete truth. Maybe he can spew some half-truths, but as we know, a half-truth isn’t really the truth. It is a lie or a deception. Just as God can only act according to His character (holy, loving, just…etc.), Satan can only act according to his character (lie, deceive, accuse…etc.).

Destroyer:
“The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy.” (John 10:10, NLT)

Any thought Satan (or his demons) place in your head has this purpose, to destroy you, steal from you, or kill you (physically or spiritually). While Satan cannot snatch us from our Father’s loving hand (see Romans 8:38-39), he can render us spiritually dead, or ineffective for the cause of Christ. Nothing pleases our enemy more than seeing us stumble around in a fog of confusion over our purpose and place as children of God.

Powerful Controller:
“The world around us is under the power and control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19, NLT)

We know from passages like Job 1 that Satan is limited in power to only what God has allowed him to have. So we need not have an exceptional, hysterical fear over what Satan and his minions can do. However, we should take note of and respect the power that he does have over world forces. Why else would Satan be able to offer Jesus the kingdoms of the world (see Matthew 4:8-9) if they did not belong to him? He controls the world (as God allows)—albeit temporarily. Nevertheless, until Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom on earth, binding Satan for a thousand years, we will continue to see the work of the devil not only in our own lives (as he tempts us, speaks to us, accuses and oppresses us) but also in the world systems controlled by unbelievers.

Deceiver:
“Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9, KJV)

One of Satan’s chief purposes is to deceive. Of course, one of the subtleties of deception is the deceived usually don’t recognize that they’re being deceived—hence the term, deception! If we think it will be easy to detect demonic influence, we are wrong. It won’t always be easy, and once Satan sees in our behavior that we are on to his schemes, he will try new ways to trick us. This is one of the reasons why putting on the armor of God daily is imperative to our spiritual health.

Life is not a joke to Satan. He knows what the Bible says, in fact, having been around for thousands of years we can be certain he knows the Bible better than we do. He knows what it says about his future, and he knows what it says about us, as God’s creation. We have authority over Satan, and he knows it. Rest assured, he’s not looking at us and laughing it up. A book I read recently says this: “Satan has you in his cross-hairs, and he’s not smiling.” He wants to destroy us in any way possible.

So, the first step in recognizing Satan’s voice is in understanding what his character is. When you hear “thoughts” you can test them against what we’ve already discussed (God’s Voice, the Flesh, or Satan) and see which voice the thought seems to line up with. For example, one thing I often hear, almost daily, is a thought that goes something like this, “God can control everything, and yet He is allowing this to happen. He’s not listening to your prayers anymore. He gets pleasure in seeing you suffer.” Sometimes it is easy to entertain such thoughts because there is partial truth to them. (God does indeed control everything and certainly could stop whatever is happening even though He has chosen not to.) However, it’s not enough to ignore these thoughts—we must rebuke them and reinforce the truth in place of that lie. If we fail to take this step, we are only leaving ourselves open to new attacks of a similar nature. (More will be discussed on this in the next post.)

I’m sure you can think of similar thoughts too. What sort of deceptions has the enemy consistently hounded you with over the years, either through your own thoughts or the words of others?

Still have questions? Check out these posts for more:

Is Spiritual Warfare real?

What’s the difference between the flesh and Satan?

Can Satan’s influence affect children?

**If you enjoyed this post and others, please take a second to enter your email address into the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!**

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

Happy Accidents–A Lesson from Bob Ross

While most kids my age were watching the Simpsons and the Rugrats, as a young child I marveled at the skill of Bob Ross, a Christian painter who had a “how-to” painting program on PBS. I can’t imagine kids these days sitting around watching that type of show, but it was something I found inspiring.

He would take these globs of paint and turn them into glorious masterpieces of art. My favorites were always the oceans. The way he painted the waves, the shades of blue-green, the way he made the painting appear to glimmer—it was magnificent.

But more than all of those things I remember something he said while teaching the viewer how to paint. He said, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Sometimes he would purposely throw a stray mark in the midst of the beautiful picture only to prove his point. Skillfully working around it, blending it, and adding new colors he made it appear as though it was done on purpose.

Yesterday was a “Bob Ross” moment for me. A few weeks ago my digital camera took its last picture. Since then I had been using my phone to take pictures, but the quality was not the same. Knowing we were about to take a trip to Disneyland (we’re leaving tomorrow!) I was concerned about cataloguing the memories in my usual way—photos. My husband reminded me that we had an HD video camera which could also take pictures. So, I decided to figure out how it works and see if the pictures would be “acceptable”.

I took my daughter to AWANA and it happened to be a beautifully scenic evening with storm clouds glowing in the setting sun. I used the opportunity to snap some photos and quickly realized the quality of this HD camera was far superior to what I thought I had in my now broken digital camera. And then that phrase popped into my mind from nearly two decades ago, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

In that moment I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God. What I understood to be an inconvenience was actually a blessing. If my digital camera had not broken a few weeks prior, I would not have had the foresight to try the HD camera, and would have missed out on a glorious photo shoot—a divine photo shoot. Few things please the photographer in me more than an awesome sunset or scenic sky picture and those of my friends on Facebook will attest to that fact. But I have never had the privilege of capturing God’s beauty as I did last night. I have no words to express it. Every time I look at those photos I am in awe of my Savior. He planned that moment and in His great generosity He encompassed me with extraordinary feelings of wonder and worship.

Truly God plans all of our lives in such a way. There are no mistakes—even when we deliberately stray the canvas of our lives with ugly strokes of paint. The Master Painter simply takes His paintbrush and makes our mess beautiful. Beauty from ashes; this is the story of the redeemed. This is my story, my painting, and I am so grateful He takes the brush and continues to daily paint my picture with His infinite wisdom and care.

Lord Jesus, on my knees I confess my doubt, worry, anxiety, and disappointment—my unbelief. Help my unbelief and increase my faith ever more!

Enough…..

Yesterday was one of “those” days.  I sank into that darkness and allowed myself to be there. Overwhelmed by my circumstances because I chose to be overwhelmed. Did God make me overwhelmed? Did He design me to worry, and carry my burdens alone? No. I see that, I saw that, yet I turned from that truth and chose to wallow.

“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143 

This morning as I lay in my bed, awake far earlier than I needed to be, I became acutely aware of God’s presence.  He wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. So I got up, made my coffee, and sat and listened. What, God, what?

“I’m giving you an opportunity.”

Me: “Is that so? I’m not sure ‘opportinity’ is the word I’d use.”

“I’m giving you an opportunity to trust Me, an opportunity others don’t always recognize.”

Me: “Ohhhh, I see. I thought I did trust you?”

“Your behavior gives you away. You don’t believe; you doubt. You say Psalm 119:143 over and over, yet it’s not true. It’s not real to you, it’s what you want, but you don’t have it….yet.”

Me: “I want it to be real! I want to believe it and live it!”

“Remember, it is harder for the wealthy to enter My kingdom, easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle, actually.  You truly learn to trust Me when I am all you have, when I am your only hope, your only comfort, your only companion. When your friend leaves you, when money is gone, when your child is ill, when you are ill, and when you cannot fix any of it yourself, then you learn to trust. I am teaching you how to trust. Will you learn?”

Me: “It hurts, so much.”

“You are not alone. I have never gone anywhere. You choose to walk away from Me when you don’t believe.”

Me: “Teach me, I am ready to learn! Thank you for giving me this opportunity, I don’t want to waste it! I confess my unbelief!”

Nothing changed in my circumstances, but He began to change me.  In class this morning we talked of Truth. How I needed that! We act what we believe! The light bulb deep down flickers as we discuss….

We live our whole lives trying to be what God already made us. Who am I? I am a new creation, with a new heart, a heart that he turned from stone to flesh the moment I became His. That’s who I am; yet I live my life as if I need to attain that. Do this, be better at that…but I’m failing! Of course I am failing, because I am trying to be what he already made me! What I need to do is walk in the truth of what He said I already am. Live the truth of His word. I cannot do this unless I allow Him to grab hold of my heart. I cannot do it by grabbing Him, He has to call me, speak to me, and open my eyes to who I am in Jesus, and what His heart is towards me.

My new friend passes me a paper, “God just spoke to me for you”.

Paper reads:

“Paying bills in the spirit, paying bills in the flesh.

Faith vs Flesh

The battle begins at the first look—Thinking there is more than what I have in front of me.

Humble and grateful for all that I have, lots or little.

Are we thanking Him?

Thank you Lord for paying this bill. Asking Him to guide you to the rest.

What has God placed on my plate?—-What am I doing with what God has given,

protected and nothing

sharing a little

making a difference

giving what I’ve been given.”

My eyes were opening. On the way from class to the worship service I prayed….

Grab my heart, make me to see.

First the music….

He is mighty to save….

Yes, He is, I know that….and then He grabbed me…..

 “These sufferings, this passing tide, under Your wings I will abide, and every enemy shall flee. You are my hope and victory. Praise the Father, praise the Son, praise the Spirit three in One; clothed in power and in grace, the Name above all other names.”

Weeping….I can’t even sing anymore. My friends behind me lay hands on me and pray. My friend next to me holds my hand. They know, they understand my pain and they care. But even if they didn’t, I know He would be enough.  He is enough. He is all I need.  My hope and victory is the Name above all names! I have victory, I don’t need to try to get what I already have! Eyes are open!

Then the sermon…..

“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” Acts 4:32-35

Wow! I couldn’t think of anyone in my life that unselfish and sacrificial, including myself! No, in my case I try and try and try to make it work in my own power. What little (and I mean little) I have I feel like I need or else….

I won’t be able to pay my bills

I won’t have my physical needs met

I won’t be able to feed my child

Or will I? No, I only think I am doing those things, when in reality I was never doing those things. It was always God, not me. And I was ungrateful because I thought I needed more! No God, it’s not enough. I need a “best” friend  an ‘ana duo’ like she has, I need health, I need food, I need money for bills…..Or do I? I am trying to get what I already have….Jesus. He is all. I need nothing else.

At that moment, when God changed my vision, I realized I had too much. I wanted to get rid of it. Oh how selfish a creature I am! Attempting to hang tightly on to what…scraps of money that isn’t “enough” to do what I need it to do? How ridiculous! I have the richest Ruler of all living in my heart, directing my steps, is He not fully capable of making provision? How dare I think “it’s not enough”! Oh when those scales fall off it’s marvelous! Freeing! No longer do I need to worry about getting this tumor removed, paying rent, or having a friend who understands me. I don’t need to make it happen, or force anything. God has intentionally placed me where He wants me, and that is where I want to be!

Give now.

Me: “Ok, how much?”

Sacrificially. I will take care of you.

When you hear Him so loudly, how can you not trust?! He was right in front of me. It was easy, all of a sudden, to give it away. It was never mine to begin with. Contentment that is not forced…that is a treasure. No longer am I trying to be content, because I realize IN HIM I have contentment already. No more trying, just resting. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know how He will work it out, I just know that He will. And it has nothing to do with me. I just needed to quit trying so hard to do His job. I needed to pray, “Grab my heart….open my eyes.”

I picked up my sweet girl from Sunday School and found another answered prayer. A teacher she had been having trouble with for months, afraid of and refusing to be around,  well Samantha was in her class and happy! So long I had prayed for that, and somewhat given up on the request. But there it was, a miracle before my eyes! And those who knew the situation knew it was a miracle!

“And you doubt Me.” 

Me: Thank you, Jesus. Thank you….

Home now….Not even yelling spouse or crying child will bring me back to the “self” I had been lost in.  Home is wonderful, the home He provided. It is enough because He was there….

He is here.

That is all I need, I have enough.

He is enough, and no one could make Him be enough except for Him.

Visions

Visions

“I seek you with all my heart.” Psalm 119:10 NIV

“I sought your face with all my heart.” Psalm 119:58 NIV

Car keys

Debit Cards

Remote Controls

People

Love

Happiness

Purpose

Have you ever found yourself searching for any of these things?  I have searched for all of these things at some point in my life! I have been guilty of filling my life with the things of the world in order to find happiness, love, or fulfillment. I have also spent a lot of time searching for missing items, like the remote control! (It’s always between the cushions!) If I were to look back and think, would I be able to determine how much of me was actually involved in the search effort? When I was attempting to find happiness apart from God, I searched with my whole heart! Why? Because I wasn’t satisfied and I didn’t have a purpose! Therefore my mind, will, and emotions were searching feverishly after a source of deep fulfillment. I wanted to be wanted, and I didn’t understand that I already was wanted by the Creator of the universe himself! This search led me to make many terrible choices, some of which will have lasting consequences here on earth. I’m very grateful to God that he continued to pursue a relationship with me, and never let me be comfortable apart from it!

The Psalmist reminds us that not only are we to obey, but we are also to seek after God with all of ourselves. Not just intellectually, but in our wills and emotions. Our affections need to be seeking after the only One who can satisfy.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17

“Seek his kingdom.” Luke 12:31

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” Luke 10:27, Deut. 6:5, Mark 12:30

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:3-4

One cannot truly obey whole heartedly unless they are first seeking whole heartedly. How do we seek God with all our hearts? The same way we obey with all our hearts! We look for him not just in our minds to expand knowledge, but in our will. We deliberately make a choice to search for his truth. Then in our emotions; when we are feeling like God must not be concerned with our troubles, we direct our emotions to search for God in our circumstances. He promises us that if we seek him, we will find him!

If you are a believer, a Christ-follower, then God is with you! If you don’t see him, it is because you are not looking. God has not gone anywhere, he is there. He never abandons his children, whether or not his children feel abandoned.  Often I am tempted to pray, “Be with me, God” or “Be with them”, and then I check myself. God is already there! If I am a believer, how much closer can God get to me when he is already in my heart? No, instead I need to be praying, “Let me see you, Lord, because I know you are here!” If I seek him, I am promised that I will find him! Likewise, this promise is for all God’s children! What a marvelous truth!

“God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out to him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:27

The problem in seeing God is that we are not looking with a united heart, most notably with our emotions. No wonder we doubt so easily! Our minds look for him in his word, or in outward signs, but our will does not act with the authority of his promises. We don’t realize he has been there all along; we just missed him. We cannot be satisfied to seek him only for greater knowledge; we need to seek his truth with our whole heart. It’s a simple formula; seek and find. This formula involves not only reading his word, but spending time listening to his voice. Usually we are too busy to sit and listen, and we miss his direction and purpose. Prayer is a very important part of uniting the hearts vision of God. We never want to become out of balanced, full of knowledge without application.

The one who is whole heartedly seeking after truth will find it in God’s word and from his voice.

He is not far from us, we simply need to look.

Prayer

Jesus, I know I often get overwhelmed in my circumstances and fail to see you. I often ask you to come to me when you have been here all along waiting for me to catch a glimpse of you! Open my eyes and let me see you in my every day! I don’t want to miss what you have for me because I am too busy looking around instead of at you. Help me to learn how to be still and listen to your voice. Give me a new vision of you, and unite my heart to see it clearly with all that I am!

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art:

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.”

Expectation

“When will you comfort me?” Psalm 119:82 NLT

Expectation

“I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.” Micah 7:7

I can’t think of anything much worse than getting the silent treatment, especially getting the silent treatment from God. Sometimes our afflictions come in the form of silence. We cry out, we plead, beg, anguish, and it seems to fall on deaf ears. “Where is that God of yours?” you hear while wondering within yourself, “I don’t know.”

We have the word, we know the promises, we claim the truths and yet we get nothing but silence. What are we to do? When will we receive our comfort? The Psalmist went through this awful silence, and he didn’t seem to like it much either. There is an answer, and we do have a choice.

The real answer comes in the waiting. The Psalmist knew that God would comfort him, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was when? It seems that this waiting is usually the problem with us. There is a reason for the silence, though. We can be sure God is not ignoring us, mocking us, playing games, or tricking us. He does care. (1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 55:22)

Do we trust what God is doing? Do we trust him in the silence, while we wait for his answer? Micah 7:7 says we can be certain he will hear us. Certain! Right now if you are experiencing the silence, you simply need to be reminded of who God is and how he feels about you. If you believe the Bible is infallible, then you must take the truth that he does care, and wrap it up in your heart like a treasure. Hold on to that during the silence. He will sustain the righteous. Hold on to that during the silence. Truth; hold on to it, stay in it, remind yourself of it, and do not give in to doubt and unbelief that threatens your security in Christ!  The enemy would like nothing more than to get us off the path of trust and into the darkness of doubt. We are rendered ineffective when we are wrecked with unbelief. We cannot help but drip the scent of that poison like garlic cloves hung around our necks. NO! Refuse the unbelief, and embrace the joy of his words to you.

We are called to be active in the waiting. We expect our God to answer, we look for his reply. We don’t stop living life and curl up in a heap while tragedy strikes. We actively trust God and walk in that trust. That is what we are shown throughout the word.

“Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

“So now, come back to your God…always depend on him.” Hosea 12:6

“The Lord is good to those who depend on him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.” Lamentations 3:25-26

“But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.” Romans 8:25

Lastly, we wait with confidence. When we trust someone, we have confidence in them. We know they will come through for us, and that encourages and motivates us. We have confidence in God because of his word that has proven true over and over again in the lives of millions throughout the centuries. Is it even logical to doubt now? When we consider the stars, the heavens, the earth, and all of creation so well designed, does it really seem reasonable to doubt that God will take care of our situation, silent or not?

“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

We wait expectantly for him to answer, we know he hears us and sustains us in the silence, we have confidence in him, and we live like we believe what he says!

When the answer comes, when the words are spoken softly to your heart, when understanding is clarified, you can rest assured it was in Gods perfect timing, and not a moment too soon.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I thank you for the silent times, when you have allowed me to learn to wait on you. Thank you for developing a deeper level of trust and confidence in you. Thank you for increasing my faith. I confess my times of unbelief and doubting to you, and ask that you remind me of who you are and how you care for me. Combat the lies of the enemy that tell me you’ve abandoned me with the truth that you are sustaining me. Make that truth real in my heart and open my eyes to see you clearer in my circumstances. Teach me to trust while I am waiting on you.