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Contradictions

How can we be honest with both our faith and our doubts? Sometimes I'm afraid to doubt, and sometimes I'm afraid to believe. Both stem from a lack of love. John says that he who fears has not yet been perfected in love because perfect love drives out fear. When I am afraid to be honest with my doubts, I am somehow believing that my lack of faith has made me unworthy of God's favor, God's work in my life, God's love, God's forgiveness and grace. I am somehow afraid that my questions are stronger than God's power and grace in my life. That his love for me is conditional. When I am afraid to show those same doubts to others, I am believing the same about their love. I have not yet been perfected by the love that drives out fear, knowing that that love is unconditional and eternal. He has loved before the creation of the world and will love long after this world is gone. That's pretty amazing...


On the other hand, there are times when I am afraid to believe…

The Song

Standing high for all to see,
Sure of the woman I would be,
Sure I could love and live my dream,
So sure that he was meant for me.

A distant doubt whirled swift around,
A fearful heart now pushed it down.
I pushed my way through a tunnel of weeds,
Dark and moist surrounding me.

I tried to stay while days went by,
Safer there, afraid to see.
Hoping there my doubts would hide,
The light that shed it's truth on me.

The Lover came there calling me,
I hid still waiting hopefully,
That those I loved would come and give,
The joy I craved, the love I hid.

He didn't come, he didn't see,
The heart there breaking hopelessly.
The Lover called again to me,
Waiting for me patiently.
He waited there,
He waited there,
He waited always there for me.

Made for Him and for Him alone,
His touch could mend my broken soul,
His love could give me perfect peace,
For He alone could comfort me.

But still I hid there stubbornly...
And as I did, the weeds grew deep,
The roots around my heart took hold…

Extravagant Grace for Extravagant Need

For those of us who have grown up in the Protestant tradition, grace is an utterly common word. Salvation by grace through faith is our motto. Growing up, I understood that grace was "unmeritted favor." It is when God gives us a gift, something undeserved, free and unearned. I remember that illustration, "I have a gift for someone here today. You, in the red shirt, come up here. I have a gift for you. See it? Do you believe I have a gift for you? Do you believe I will give it to you? [Holds out the gift to the volunteer] I am giving it to you. What do you have to do in order to have it? That's right. Just accept it. [Person takes the gift and leaves.] It is the same with salvation. Salvation is a gift from God. He is offering it to you, and you do not need to do anything to earn it. All you have to do is accept it." That is the grace I grew up with.

Somehow though, I think I missed something along the way. While this gift metaphor encompasses a very important …

The Servant King

John 13:3-5 (New Living Translation)
"3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him."

How was Jesus, who was equal to God, able to empty himself and serve in such a humble way, washing the feet even of those who would abandon and betray him? In the passage above we see that Jesus knew who he was. He knew where he came from and where he was going. Because of this he did not have to prove himself in any way. He did not have to put on a show for anyone because he was not seeking anyone else's approval. It was the knowledge of the Father's approval and the security in his identity as coming from the Father that gave him the ability to serve in humility.

The same is true of us. Ephesians 5:1-2 s…

Come to me... and I will give you rest

How often do we truly rest? We rush to work, rush through lunch, rush conversations, rush the deadlines, rush growth (physical, spiritual, financial), rush relationships, and we even rush through pain, doing anything it takes to make it go away and to make things better.

I was reminded today of Matthew 11:27-30 that says:


"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

 I have been working so hard recently... saying, "Debbie, you should be able to handle this. You should be able to get over this. You should be able to believe the right things, feel the right things, think the right things. If I just try …

Diamond Diaries

As women, there are a lot of cultural influences that tell us who we are, what we want, what we do or do not deserve, and what makes us of worth, of value. Most of these voices, unfortunately, are broken, replacing the voice of God with the voice of selfish desires in a culture that is often striving to lift oneself up and push others down. The voices of broken hearts by broken people.

As I think about my own heart responses, those of my beautiful friends, and the stories I see in movies, television shows, trashy romance  novels, and even the classics of Jane Austen, I see a subtly destructive message that I believe has led many a woman (including me) to live in ways that destroy our hearts, bodies and minds. Think of any chick flick you've seen recently. He's Just Not That Into You, Pride and Prejudice, Everafter, Never Been Kissed, etc. The woman is portrayed as having an ordinary, unremarkable life, until the fated day when her "savior" comes into the picture. The…

Follow the Leader

I was reading a book by Francis Chan about the Holy Spirit recently, and the thing that keeps coming back to me from that book is the question, "Are you trying to lead the Holy Spirit, or are you being led by the Spirit?" There's a big difference. I think many Christians (including me), believe in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and we recognize the importance of involving the Spirit in our ministry, lives and decisions. But I think what happens a lot of times is that we see the Spirit as a means to an end, a tool to be used, a source of power and experiences, rather than as God, to be followed and submitted to. The Spirit gives us power, so we manipulate our experiences and conditions in order to receive that power when we want it for the results we want.  The Spirit gives wisdom and guidance so we try our hardest to get the Spirit to tell us what we need to know for the situations we think are important. We know we can't accomplish God's work on our …

You ask but you don't receive...

Aaaaa! So many things I'm learning, and I want to write about them all! So even though I should be writing a paper for my Masters, I will write on my blog instead. :o)
James 4
"1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble."[b]

I read James recently…

I'm asking for WHA...?

James 1:2-16

"2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."

As long as I can remember, I've been asking God for wisdom. I'm not sure why I started. I just remember I decided one day that wisdom was something I really wanted.  I've always assumed that this passages in James means that if I believe when I ask for wisdom, I'll get it, and I pretty much stopped at that. But recently, I've been…

A Strange (but extravagant) Love

It is counter-intuitive to believe in God's love, especially when we are hurting... when it seems impossible that a God who loves us could allow or ordain such pain. It's the old saying that if someone has the power to prevent evil and does not, or the power to do good and does not, that in itself is evil. So how can we believe in a good God who allows suffering? It is easy to give a theological argument and brush off the question when the suffering belongs to someone else, but when it enters our own lives, that is when our true belief comes to the surface.

I have this picture of my faith being refined like gold, like it talks about in First Peter. I have a picture of my faith in a big pot, with fire under it, boiling, boiling, boiling... as slowly, all these ugly  impurities of doubt and anger and control, selfishness and pride creep to the surface. Boy, do we hate the fire! Not just because it burns, but because it injures our pride. Because when the fire is burning we see …

The Treasure Chest

This week has been tough, and at the same time I think I am finally learning to trust God a little. Or a little more than before at least. I think that trust is coming from really believing in his love and goodness. Not a selfish goodness that takes care only of me for my own pleasure apart from God, but a goodness that draws me into God's arms knowing He is my greatest good and that His kingdom is worth losing everything else for. Paul said it in these words... "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." Phil.3:8 Jesus also tells a parable about the kingdom of God, comparing it to a treasure that a man finds hidden in a field. The man recognizes the worth of the treasure, so he sells all his possessions and buys the field. Jesus is that treasure. Jesus is worth losing everything for. I think I had forgotten that. …

Joy in Weakness: Refining the riff raff

Isn't it amazing how God knows exactly how he needs to refine us? Wouldn't it be nice if he only gave us challenges that were easy to handle, where our character was already strong? Yeah, he doesn't work that way most of the time. It's exactly in our place of weakness that God throws us in the fire. Like he said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Isn't that the heart of the gospel? God's power in our weakness. This apparently was a lesson God drove home for Paul often. Elsewhere, Paul says, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Phil. 4:12-13  We often use this verse as a way to say we can accomplish anything we want through the power of Christ. But it seems to me that this passage is talking about the power to suffer, to be in "unfav…

God is Good - so we don't have to look for satisfaction elsewhere

I'm teaching in a few weeks about God's goodness so I've been thinking a lot about it. I'm reading 2 Corinthians right now and today read in chapters 11 and 12 where Paul talks about his hardships. Paul had incredible faith. Never once does he doubt God's goodness, and yet he saw more suffering in his lifetime than most people ever do. He says:
"23Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger a…

Fearless Love

I have been paying attention recently to all the things I fear, in decisions, relationships, actions or lack thereof. How much of our lives are motivated out of fear? Why am I afraid? Where does fear come from, and how can we be free from fear?

I had a dream a while back that has really stuck with me. Maybe it was from God. I'm not sure. But one of the things that keeps coming back from that dream is this statement, spoken by a "mediator" between me and another person: "So we are agreed then? You will not make any decisions based on fear, because God is greater than your fears." Ever since then I have been catching myself making (or almost making) decisions based on fear, and that phrase comes back to my mind. If fear were not present in my heart, what would my decision be?

I am a fearful person. Not anxious. Fearful. There is a difference. For me, fear causes me to want to run away. Anxiety usually makes me want to take control, but fear just makes me want to r…

Complex of Grandeur

I'm awake. It's 2AM. I wish I could say it's for a good reason. But it's not. I've been flipping a mental coin for hours, thinking, thinking, thinking. Praying. Evaluating. Worrying. Trusting. Afraid of making the wrong decision. Somehow I think this decision will determine the fate of the world. Ha...  It doesn't. And I wonder what God is thinking. If I could just hop into his mind for a second... Oh, wait... I can... Somewhere I read that I have the mind of Christ. Where does that theology meet my decision? I remember that God is great, and that he is good, gracious and glorious. He is pleased with me. He loves me. I am his child. Christ is in me. I'm accepted. It's not one strike and I'm out. There is grace. I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to know what to do. God knows, and I know through his story that he talks to people. I'll bet he'll talk to me. What must God be thinking? Hmmm... As he looks down on the world, all thi…