New Post: Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

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I sit in the early morning dark. It is 4 am and I am awake. I like this time of quiet and solitude. My mind is clear. But also my fear clouds out  my hope.  Fear woke me.

Sometimes when I wake this early I believe God woke me. Presumptuous to believe that God has something for me in this moment. Enough to wake me. Why?

There are many things to fear in this life. As a believer, my hope is in a powerful God who is in control of the universe. As a fearful being I doubt God’s control over my universe.

This has been a season of doubt. So many hardships, confusion over and questioning; the constant why’s of suffering and my lack of control.

Here is the crux. For much of my life I have lived, even as a believer, as if I am in control of my future.

When work falls out underneath you, when money is short, when children suffer, when the depression that plagues me is a battering ram on the soul then, for me, only then do I find in the Scriptures the truth that I am not in control.

Why do some people have to lose so much, and feel inordinate pain, to gain this understanding? That is my story.

The God of Job finally draws out the conclusion. For Job and his nefarious but loyal friends, it isn’t circumstantial at all.  I am God.  You are not.  But the book of Job is inconclusive for me.  He lost everything but his life.  That is a kind of pain you wonder how knowledge of God’s sovereignty helps.  Where’s the comfort?

This is stirring and unresolved inside me.  But I know the questions are authentic ones, banal. Today, I understand this truth. God does not mind me pounding on his chest, screaming, throbbing in pain, and filled with discomfort.  He does not mind the doubt and heartache.  God is okay with my rage. That’s the lesson of the Book of Job, for me, so far.

Melody

I am reading Walking with God through Pain and Suffering Tim Keller and Where Is God When It Hurts?Philip Yancey.

Questions, cause I’ve been thinking

I have a lot of questions right now because I’ve been  thinking.  And when I start thinking I find I end up with more questions.

diversity @ church.

One of my favorite writers, Philip Yancey, recently scoured his hometown churches to see what he might find.   His comment about diversity in a church stood out to me.

As I read accounts of the New Testament church, no characteristic stands out more sharply than this one. Beginning with Pentecost, the Christian church dismantled the barriers of gender, race, and social class that had marked Jewish congregations. Paul, who as a rabbi had given thanks daily that he was not born a woman, slave, or Gentile, marveled over the radical change: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Huh, diversity is Biblical.  ‘Nuf said.

MLK day was it ignored or forgotten? does it matter which.

Can I just say I love my church.  I have never grown in my spiritual life the way I have at this church.  It is amazing.

That said, yesterday I realized a stunning thing.   I attend one of those “mainly white mega-churches that don’t mention commemorating Martin Luther King Day.”   That made me sad.  They likely bumped it because of praying for Haiti and there are many challenges managing program time.  Still, I think it is important for a church to communicate from the platform that remembering and celebrating with our friends of color is significant to us all and valuable.   It’s a national holiday?  How are people going to spend it? Just made me wonder.

I’ve been writing on multi-ethnicity.

A friend asked me to reflect on Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, after reading these thoughts I wrote about my experience of going to a white church and my question of whether I should consider attending a multi-ethnic or even Black church.

Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. ‘The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless.  So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living.  But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.  (New Living Translation)

From my post:

To live our lives based on that simple truth means our lives are built on self-sacrifice.  Every time we respond in love to someone else, we are laying down our lives for them.  “This is my commandment,that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” Strange how Jesus did not say to us, “these are my commandments.”  He said is as if it were one commandment.

To believe and love is one idea.

Believing in Christ means that we love one another.  Looking at it that way, there is a lot that I can do as a person with my affluence & power &  a voice for the cause of reconciliation in my city.  Things that have nothing to do with where I worship on Sunday.

What my friend Jimmy was gently saying (I think) is that people are living with oppression in our nation my city, in my kid’s schools.  And no one white people don’t seem to genuinely offer care and comfort.

I will do further study on the word: COMFORT.  And that will sooth my intellect.  But can I DO something.  What can I do?

That takes me back to my Advent Lament and prayer. Oh God, Tell me what you want me to do.

And from someone I am coming to read often, a cautionary quote to white people.

I can only speak anecdotally on this, but there seems to be a growing movement of white people—including Christians—who feel so victimized by political correctness (and how it’s robbing them of their rights) that they’ve hardened their hearts to any suggestion that racial injustice is a factor in our society today. And they’ve become cold to how their privileged words and actions might affect others. That defensive mindset and callousness could be the biggest obstacles to true reconciliation in our churches and nation. Ed Gilbreath, emphasis mine.

I believe God speaks and it is not random.

I believe that God challenges and moves people from within by breaking our hearts over injustice around us.  He is not random about this.  He leads us toward things.  And away from things.  Problematically I have been told  and I can affirm that I have the gift of mercy.   I pop open my laptop and the needs and issues all over the world, and in my community, flood toward me and it all hurts.   If I open myself up to it it’s crushing.  It makes me sad, and mad, and sometimes depressed.  Hopeless and sometimes despondent.  And I slam my laptop shut, but that’s just an excuse for doing nothing.

I challenge  myself to pray every day asking God to tell me how to respond to the OPPRESSED in my life and community.  Who are they?  How can I comfort?  Help me to know what it means to comfort the oppressed?

This means that I cannot be free until all men are free. And if in some distant future I am no longer oppressed because of blackness, then I must take upon myself whatever form of human oppression exists in the society, affirming my identity with the victims. The identity must be made with the victims not because of sympathy, but because my own humanity is involved in my brother’s degradation.  The Christian Century (15 September 1971)

what should I do with myself?

I continue to pray that I would know what God wants me to do with my time, work, contribution, opinions (*smirk*), and talents.

I’m still mulling on a conversation I had with one of my girlfriends (Someone I would trust with my life.)  We discussed what I am doing now.  I found myself saying this,

“I need a job.  I’m feeling like a kept woman.”

Why she asked? Laughing at me, if can you believe it.

“I need to make a contribution. I feel guilty that I don’t have a ‘job.’ The feminist in me is screaming that I should be carrying my weight… I was never going to be a stay-at-home mom..  And look at me, my kids are in elementary school.”

After leaving full-time work in 2001, I had no idea as it was happening that was beginning a long journey of “recovery” from being totally addicted to work — the rush, the sense of purpose, the affirmation (Oh, how I miss the affirmation!)  I came out of that detox a better person.  A stronger person.  Much better understanding that I am not what I do.  And I’m glad (mostly) that I have been able to be at home with my children for the last eight or is it nine years.  I feel okay about it, some days even good.  I can see every day why I am home when it comes to my kids.  Jacob’s need for an advocate for his learning disabilities is just one example.  On one level, I think I started Imagine Photography to dispel that feeling of being ‘a kept woman.’  Bring in a little income myself, but still have the at-home life.  But I haven’t taken off with that even though with my marketing background I know how to promote myself.  Something has held me back.

But I digress.

What Carol did was confront those ideas head on (yes, the voices in my head) that say I should be ‘making money.’  It freed me to consider any job or volunteer situation because  I was thinking about it only in terms of money not in terms of values and interests and calling and heart’s desires.

I just feel freed.  It was inconceivable to me at first that someone who manages to work and be a mom (my friend who I really respect and need) would not look down on me for not working.  She actually said, you do work.  Every day.  Well, we don’t need to have a debate about what I do all day and whether it’s work.  Her blessing (not that she represents all women) and her opinion is one of the more important to me.

But now,  I can pray and wait.  Listen.  Try things.  Explore.  I can give of myself without thinking about “earnings.”

Haiti

When it comes to Haiti I have more questions than answers.  This poem is a part of that conundrum.  Also, a post.

This week’s message @ church

I wanted to respond to the message this Sunday at my church.  But I don’t have the time or energy today.  But something new I am going to add to this blog, is a personal reflection on the talk.  I think it will force me to take it to the next level of integration into my life.

Be well.