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because life is full of twists and turns

Tag: faith (page 1 of 3)

I used to think… (a reflection on Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey)

I used to think the best faith was unwavering and unquestioning.  That in 20 years I’d still hold to the exact same beliefs and values.

But that was before.

Before life happened.  Before sh*t happened.  Before I grew up and realized that world can’t be clearly divided into black and white.

I spent time shoving down my questions and doubts.  When I couldn’t reconcile what I saw and experienced in the world with my rigid beliefs, I faltered.  It seemed easier to deny that I had any questions than to open the floodgates of doubt.

It’s a few years down the road now and those feelings have flip-flopped.  I’ve come to believe that my faith can’t be very strong if it can’t withhold any scrutiny.  Instead of being skeptical of doubt, I’m skeptical of those who haven’t doubted.  Instead of having answers and certainty, I am now certain that I will always have questions.   And while it is absolutely contrary to everything that I was taught growing up, I’ve discovered that there is beauty and freedom in not having all the answers.

I used to be certain.  Now I am not.

What happened in between these two places?  Well, I fell out of sorts.

*****

Few of us follow a straight line in our spiritual story: we squiggle and wiggle, stop and start, progress and regress, rest and recoup, charge ahead recklessly and take sharp turns or stumble into ditches that turn out to be portals.  This isn’t a bad thing.  On the contrary, I think it’s the thing that makes your story special and beautiful.  -sarah bessey (out of sorts)

*****

Sarah Bessey’s newest book is for people like me, people who are “making peace with an evolving faith.”

Out of Sorts feels a bit like an older sibling guiding you through adolescence.  If you’re at a point when your faith feels awkward and you’re despairing because you’re sure that nothing will ever be the same again, Sarah’s words comfort like an arm wrapped round your shoulder.  Sarah assures you that while things won’t go back to the way they were, they can actually get better from here.

As always, Sarah’s writing is gentle and gracious, but still marked with fervor.  She brings her own questions about religion to the book to assure you that your experience of questioning isn’t isolated.  But she also shares her story of going back to Church, to the Bible and to Jesus.  Her words are hopeful without being sanctimonious.

With so many people I know feeling disillusioned by the church or by the simple answers they were given growing up, this feels like an especially timely book.  However it’s one that I wouldn’t give to just anyone.  I’d wait until you were ready for it.  Until you needed it.  As much as I loved this book, it’s one that I think could be misunderstood by someone who hasn’t struggled with their faith, just as I have been misunderstood by those same people.  Rather than reading this book prematurely and risk misunderstanding Sarah’s message and misunderstanding where others are struggling, I suggest that you wait.  Wait until you’re a bit out of sorts.

**I was privileged to be part of the launch team for Sarah‘s book which meant that I was given a copy of the book to review.  All opinions are my own and I’ve since purchased a second copy of the book because I loved it so much.  Buy your own copy here!

A reflection on Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

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When I Wasn’t At Church.

Yesterday we went to church.

It was the first time that I had been in months.

It was never intentional, this skipping church.  At least, it wasn’t in the beginning.  Before my husband deployed we went regularly as a family as I had for my entire life.  Then he left and things started to fall apart.  It began with my default reaction when things are hard: hiding.

The Sunday after he left I didn’t want to see anyone.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone.  I didn’t want people to ask me how I was doing.  I needed time to sort out my feelings, privately.  I wanted space.

The next week it was a snowstorm.  The next, sickness.  Then picking up a visitor at the airport smack dab in the middle of church services, on the opposite side of town.

It went on like that for awhile.  Life honestly just got in the way.

Then a shift happened.  Somewhere in those long six months I just decided not to go.

The Evangelical-guilt began to grow.  In my (then) 27 years of living, I’d never gone that long without setting foot in a church.  I knew all the things that people would say to me, the same things that I might have said to someone else who started feeling wishy-washy giving up their Sunday mornings.

But still, I didn’t go.

Instead I enjoyed the lazy Sunday mornings with my boy.  We went to parks, we cuddled in bed, we shopped.  Once we went on a breakfast date.

Sunday mornings coincided with Caleb’s day off, at an hour that he could actually talk.  So lots of Sundays we would sleep in and then wake up just as he was available.  Skype would ‘ping’ alive and we would spend time as a family, Hadden and me from my comfy queen-sized bed in Nebraska, and Caleb from a tiny cement room on the other side of the world.

Then we moved to Ohio and I chose to wait until Caleb was home to visit churches.

And since he’s home now, we went to church.

I suppose that that isn’t the whole story though.  Mixed into this narrative are some pretty complicated feelings about church.  I cycle through feelings of anger, love, sadness, disappointment, excitement, confusion, and hope.  And even though I’m back in church, those feelings haven’t left.

But this is what I want you to hear:

When I wasn’t at church, I still was the Church. 

I prayed, for myself and for others.

I attended our small group regularly.

I was convicted and so I confessed.

I was involved in the lives of Christian friends.

I read my bible and I studied theology and church history.

I worshipped.

But still I didn’t go to church.

It was the kind of faith that I would have ridiculed ten years ago.  I would have been suspicious of someone who claimed Christ, yet didn’t attend to church.

Even now I can’t bring myself to recommend it to someone else.  I can’t claim that it’s good practice for a Christian to avoid church.

But, as strange as this sounds, when I went to God with my guilt over skipping church, God came back to me with grace.  Grace for skipping church.  Grace for needing space.  Grace for being where I am.

It comes down to this:

I am the Church whether or not I am there.  Whether or not I like it.  Whether or not I am feeling and believing all the right things that day.  I am the Church on my best days and I am the Church when I’m at my very worst.

I am the Church when I consume Christ’s body and blood and when I drive through Starbucks.  I am the Church when I sing out my faith alongside other Christians, but also when a secular song shakes me to my core.

I am the Church.

Are you okay with that?

When I Wasn't At Church

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Trusting God When Life Hurts (Guest Post By Meadow Rue Merrill)

Well, it's been over two weeks since we got the keys to our new house. But we areSTILL without our things! Our moving truck has been (majorly) delayed, but we're hoping it will arrive this week. 

Meanwhile, I'm thrilled to be the first stop on Meadow Rue Merrill's Faith Notes blog tour.  Meadow is a fellow member of the Redbud Writer's Guild and today she's sharing about trusting God when life hurts.  Thanks, Meadow, for sharing your story here today!

TRUSTING GOD WHEN LIFE HURTS

I never once felt as if my mother were dying. Perhaps she was trying to protect me. Perhaps I was in denial, despite knowing that the cancer had spread from her liver to her bones and that in such cases less than 2 percent of people survive two years. Perhaps it was due to her abiding faith—and mine—that God would, or at least could, heal her.

Either way, last winter when I buckled in my 18-month-old son, Ezra, in his car seat to drive from my home in Maine to visit my mom in the Connecticut nursing home where she’d gone to recuperate from a small fracture, I had no idea that the next morning would be her last.

If anyone deserved a miraculous intervention, it was surely my mom who had sold her house to earn a master of divinity degree; who gave up playing with her grandchildren to live in far-flung lands while translating portions of the Bible into a little-known Central Asian language; whose greatest love and supreme joy was Christ.

“I’m healed,” she proclaimed, not long after her initial diagnosis last summer. “I really truly believe it.” She couldn’t wait to see the look on the doctor’s face when new scans showed the cancer was gone. Only they didn’t, and despite aggressive treatments and earnest prayer, the cancer spread.

“If only I had more faith,” she said after one particularly disappointing check-up.

In her words, I felt the deeper wound of her suffering, as if she was to blame for her lack of healing. And I, loving her, praying for her, driving eight-hours round trip with my son to be with her, angrily questioned where was this God my mother had given up everything to follow?

This was not my first foray with trusting God in the midst of irreconcilable grief. Three years before my seven-year-old daughter Ruth had died without warning. In the agonizing days and months that followed, I was confronted with a choice: I could either draw closer to God or, in pain and distrust, I could turn away.

One thing my mother did not do in her sickness and suffering was to lose faith in God. Even when she didn’t understand his purpose, even while the cancer spread, she kept looking to him for her strength, her hope, her purpose, her encouragement, and—most importantly—her destiny.

Where we focus determines our destination. In hard times, we need to be even more determined to keep looking to God for direction rather than at our circumstances.

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” the author of Hebrews writes in 12:1-2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

But how do we do this? How do we trust a God who allows us to suffer? Over the next six weeks, I’ll share six ways that will build your faith when you are experiencing hardship. I’ll then introduce three friends who will share their own experiences with trusting God before wrapping up with a final post at the end of August. To join me on this journey, subscribe or follow along at www.meadowrue.com.

05_CindyMerrill

Meadow Rue Merrill is an editor, speaker and Christian columnist who writes books for children and adults from her home in Mid-coast Maine. For more information, find her at www.meadowrue.com

 

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