The messy entanglements of pain in relationships

I often think that I would be the perfect Christian if it weren’t for other people. I am convinced that I would be a better servant of Christ if it were just Him and me. Sounds ridiculous, right? Being a Christian is all about other people!

The second commandment is . . . “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:39-40

My ideal world would give everyone their own island. There, they could do their own thing with God, uninterrupted by relationships. But since this is God’s universe, I guess I’ll have to do things His way.

This is God’s universe, and God does things His way. Now you may have a better way, but you don’t have a universe.  ~ J. Vernon McGee

My quiet times alone with God are focused and worshipful. I love getting cozy on the couch and diving into His Word. We have a good thing going. However, the complicated mess that is my past, my feelings, and my wounds tend to muddle up the picture when other people enter in.

I was recently talking to my husband about how good I felt about my relationship with God and how strong I had become. I feel as though His Word is finally becoming a part of me and my nature is changing. I am pulling away from my sin nature and participating more in the divine nature.

“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:4

I have often wondered, ‘Will I ever learn? Will I ever change?’ However, I know now that I am growing and changing. I feel Him doing a good work in me! Hallelujah!

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

But, the moment I step out of my front door, that all changes. When people are introduced into the equation of my faith, it becomes infinitely more complicated. And if I cannot love, then everything else is meaningless (1 Corinthians 13:1).

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I am not talking about the people that we are to serve. I expect those situations to be challenging. I am talking about relationships with friends, family, and other brothers and sisters in Christ. I am talking about people at church, ministers and musicians, coworkers, neighbors and people at family gatherings.

Relationships have a way of rubbing old wounds and ripping off scabs.

Not to long ago I found myself being envious of somebody. I didn’t feel like I was making a conscious decision to be envious. And I didn’t know how to stop it in that moment. The pain came from a place of woundedness from my past. 

Our faith can easily get entangled in our pain. It can cripple us. Having faith, doing the will of God, and participating in His kingdom require us to first deal with our pain and difficult relationships. Ugh!

If we don’t deal with these messy things, than sin will have a hold over us.

The truth is, without the blood of Christ we fall short . . . . by a lot! We can’t be a good enough person; we can’t keep from sinning;  and we can’t untangle the mess of emotions and pain that lead us to darkness. We need a Savior who brings the light. We need a Savior to wash away our past and give us hope for the future.

The beautiful words from the song, His Eye is on the Sparrow come to mind. Praise God! Your eye is on the sparrow!

Why should I feel discouraged and why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home?
When JESUS IS MY PORTION, a constant Friend is He,
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.
His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I SING BECAUSE I’M HAPPY;
I SING BECAUSE I’M FREE;
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

So, the only thing I can do is lay my mess down at the foot of the cross. And sing, because I’m happy. And sing, because I’m FREE!  I have been washed clean by the blood of the lamb!

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

It is amazing that our wounds are healed by the wounds of our Savior. And, through our wounds we can bring healing to others as well.

Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.  ~Rick Warren

I am always a work in progress. God is so lovingly patient with me.

The longer we walk with Him, the more He will grow a love for others in us. If we seek Him, the ultimate love, He will fill us. Our cup will overflow and the love will spill out on others.


 

Building a Christ centered marriage; 4 Things that I wish someone had told me before I got married

I used to be a wedding photographer. What fun it was! Everywhere you looked was a magnificent picture just waiting to be taken. And, all around you beauty and sparkly things abound. It was a photographer’s dream! Everyone was happy, love was in the air, and anything was possible!

Oh, if marriage could be frozen in time on the wedding day! But as we know, these moments can’t last forever. Getting home from the honeymoon means beginning the work of marriage.

Twenty years ago, my husband and I said ‘I do’ on a drizzly fall day. I am so blessed to be married to a wonderful man. That’s not to say that it has been easy . . . no, it has NOT been easy. It has been quite a bumpy journey, indeed. 

One thing that I have learned over the years, that I never would have guessed, is that . . .

marriage is a crap shoot

As Forrest Gump would say, ‘marriage is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.’

There is no perfect girl or perfect guy for anyone. There are only human beings who are flawed and messy.

There are no guarantees in marriage. There is no magic formula. If you were hoping to find one here, I give you my blessing to stop reading this and go do something else.

There are 4 things that I wish someone had told me before I got married. Whether you are engaged, or already married, I hope you find these tips helpful.


1. You must die to self

A successful marriage that lasts is one in which both partners are willing to die to self.

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.  Luke 9:23-24

Contrary to popular belief, marriage is not a 50/50 deal. The idea that if you give 50% your partner will give their 50%, is an illusion. Marriage is rarely that clean or simple.

Getting married with the the expectation of getting your needs met, sets you up for disappointment. Marriage is not a means for getting your needs met.

Marriage is a 100/100 deal. You need to give 100% to your partner, regardless of how much they give to you. A marriage where both partners put their needs last has the greatest chance of success. Put another way, a marriage where both partners resemble Christ has the greatest chance of success.

This is God’s design for relationships. Everyone is to put the other above themselves, in so doing imitating Christ.

If someone grabs your shirt, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.   Luke 6:29-30, The Message

Do we see this happening today in society? Hardly ever. 

I recently found a person’s bio on twitter that read, “I only fear the slowing up of the engine inside of me which is pounding, saying, keep going, someone must be on top, why not YOU?” 

We are a narcissistic society.

The concept of putting yourself last instead of first is counterculture. What I am suggesting is not the popular view. Dying to self is not what people are talking about at parties, or wedding showers. But, it is God’s truth, and God’s truth works.

Marriage is a servant job. That is why so many fail. Who would sign up to be a servant?

However, this is exactly the position that Jesus embraced. He emptied Himself. Could anyone have humbled themselves more than He did? I think not.

He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.   Philippians 2:7

For a successful marriage you must be willing to surrender your hopes, dreams, desires and expectations. You must lay them down at the foot of the cross. Get rid of them. Surrender them to the One who gave it all.

2. Know who you are

You are a child of God, wholly and acceptable through the blood of Jesus. If you are not confident of this fact, you should not get married until you are.

zelweggerDM0102_468x768‘You complete me’ is one of the most quoted movie lines of all time. It is from the movie,  Jerry McGuire that came out in the 90’s. This movie showcased the epitome of dysfunctional relationships. And yet, many people walked around thinking that ‘completing me’ was what marriage was for.

No human being can complete you.

You are highly valued, extremely loved, wholly forgiven, and adopted as a child of God. You alone are a treasure. You are complete and wholly acceptable just as you are.

If you feel less than a whole person, God is the only thing that can fill the void. Ask Him to heal you and make you whole.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.   Philippians 1:6

Each person must be wholly self, while at the same time dying to self.

3. You will not be married to the same person in 5, 10 or 20 years

Am I saying that you will get a divorce and marry another person in 20 years? Nope.

I am saying that the person that you are now engaged to will not be the same person you will be married to 5, 10, or 20 years down the road. They will be different. And so will you.

This is why I say that marriage is a crap shoot. We change. We become different people. All of us do. It is inevitable.

As followers of Christ, we must change to become more like Him.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.   2 Corinthians 5:17

Are you the same person that you were 5 years ago? What about 10 years ago? 20?

I certainly am not. I hardly recognize the person I was when I got married in 1996. WhoDSC_0097 copy was that girl?!

Neither my husband nor I could have known the person we would become 5, 10, or 20 years down the road. We are different people. My husband is not who I married, and I am not who he married. 

If you are young, however, you may not have done much changing yet. Don’t worry, you will. The 40 year old version of you will be completely different than the current you. You are just going to have to take my word for it.

Invite God to be at the center of your marriage. This is your best chance for those two completely different people to have a marriage that lasts.

4. Your marriage must have a mission beyond itself

The idea of marriage in scripture is primarily introduced to show us the relationship between Christ and the church.

For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.   Revelation 19:7

For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.   Isaiah 54:5

You and I have one mission in life, and it isn’t marriage. We cannot substitute our marriage, our kids, or anything, or anyone for the Great Commission. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, making disciples is always our mission.

Don’t get me wrong, our marriages are important. God honors marriage and so should we. However, our marriage cannot come above God and His will for our lives.

amazing-race (1)In Francis & Lisa Chan’s book, You and Me Forever, marriage is compared to the TV show, The Amazing Race. On this show couples are on a mission that pushes them to their limits both physically and mentally.

The Chans go on to say: 

“the reason we don’t often fight is because we don’t have time to fight. We are busy trying to get to the finish line. Even in our victories we only have time for short celebrations because time is ticking. A quick high-five and then it’s on to the next checkpoint. We may take breaks to catch our breath, but we quickly get back in the race.”

This is what marriage should look like. A healthy marriage consists of two people working toward something greater than themselves. A healthy marriage has a mission beyond itself.


Marriage is a crap shoot. 

There is no magic formula to know that you have met the right person. There is no amount of marital counseling that can guarantee success. There is no length of time that you should date that assures that a marriage will last.

Mirroring the image of Christ is the best chance we’ve got for having a marriage that lasts a lifetime.

The Chan’s book finishes with the most beautiful prayer for marriage.

Prayer for Marriage 2


I would love to hear what you think.

What advice about marriage would you give to couples?

4 Things that I never would have thought of if I made up God

Atheists who argue that God doesn’t exist assume that a human being could have made up the God of the Bible.

I disagree.

I have heard many arguments for the existence of God. However, I have never heard the argument I would make. My argument is that we NEVER could have made up the brilliant complexity that is our God . . . . NEVER!

How do I know God exists? Because He is infinitely more complex and brilliant than I or anyone could have imagined. Our finite, human minds could not have even close to dreamed up a God like ours.


If I made up God, there are 4 things that I would never have thought of.

1. I would not have made up a God whose glory is directly tied to our satisfaction

A god who is indifferent to the satisfaction of his creation seems more likely than a God who goes above and beyond for us. Why shouldn’t God require us to obey him in order to receive love and blessings? After all, humans are cause and effect beings. It makes more sense to us.

However, our God requires very little and gives abundantly. He is good, and He desires good for us. Because God is good, we can be satisfied in Him.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

Our God is good, wholly and completely, and He wants good things for us. He wants us to be filled . . . to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:29).

How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ   Ephesians 3:19

I could never have made up a God in which . . . .

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Psalm 23:5

My cup overflows?! Nope, I would never have made up a God like that! We have a God that goes above and way beyond for us. Why is it necessary for Him to do this? It isn’t.

While everything that He does is for His own glory, according to John Piper in his book, Desiring God,

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

We want God to be glorified and He wants us to be satisfied. It’s mutually beneficial. The way He designed everything is perfect. He goes on to say,

“We get the mercy; He gets the glory. We get the happiness in Him; He gets the honor from us.”

He is so good! And when we live to glorify Him, our lives are transformed. No one would have ever made up a God that was so good.

The more I walk with God, the more I realize that everything he says and does works. Everything that He commands us to do brings Him glory, and in turn brings us the most good.

2. I could not have made up the story of Jesus

Earning our way to heaven seems logical. You get what you work for. The Big Man Upstairs doesn’t need to concern Himself with the tiny inhabitants of this insignificant planet.

We know that grace is freely given through Christ. However, earning our way to heaven seems much more logical.

Christianity is the only religion where God is really God. Because it’s the only one where God saves the people instead of the people saving themselves
~ Why So Many Gods, Tim Baker & Kate Etue

Even if I included a savior in the story of my made up God, it wouldn’t have been one like Jesus.

Jesus Walks On WaterI would not have made up a savior who was a servant of all. Before Christ, the idea of a servant king would have been absurd. Jesus was not who the Jews were expecting.

The Gospel writers never would have made up a savior that washed the feet of his disciples; or, a savior that during most of his ministry didn’t have any possessions or a place to call home; or, a savior that was born to an unwed mother in the midst of barn animals!

Who would make up a savior like that?! Especially if you want people to worship Him!

Even if I had made up a God who sent a savior that was a servant king, I could never have thought up the crucifixion story. No one could have. It’s unimaginable.

Jesus needed to die to save the world. Blood needed to be shed, the blood of a lamb. The horror and miraculous power of the events of Jesus death and resurrection is incomprehensible. No human being could have ever made it up.

The story of Jesus is perfect; it is divine. A finite mind would never have come up with a story of redemption so perfect as the story of Jesus.

3. I could not have made up the concept of Church

Who would ever make up the idea of a group of followers that make up a ‘body’ with the savior as the head? Uh . . . not me! It’s kind of a crazy concept!

As the church, we are part of Him, and part of each other as He is part of us. There is a divine connectedness between us all and our God.

 

 

4. I would not have made up a God who uses suffering to annoint us

I definitely would not have added this on the list if I made up God! I would never have made up a God that would require me to walk through the fire; to face the trial head on; or, to walk through the storm. The fire is hot and it burns. Storms beat us up. Trials push us to our limit and are exhausting.Untitled design (11)

I would make up a religion that included avoiding pain and suffering because that is consistent with human nature. Our instincts tells us to avoid pain at all costs.

When everything in me says ‘go around’, God says, ‘I will get you through’.

Our God perfectly designed us so that we gain when we lose. Through suffering, we receive that which we could not without it.

The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. ~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

God knows the human condition. He knows that most humans will not surrender their will in the midst of comfort. And, God does not require that we do in order to follow him. He has made a way. It is called suffering.

It is through suffering that the scales come off our eyes and we begin to really see and know God intimately. Who knew?!


God’s story is beautiful. It’s perfect in every way. It’s divine. It’s brilliant beyond what the greatest storyteller could ever write.

 

The 2 sides of the coin of faith

This past semester I taught a worldviews and apologetics curriculum at my church that required a lot of supplementation and additional research. As I prepared, I found myself swimming in a sea of endless philosophical, theological and scientific statistics, facts, and arguments. This was a whole new world to me. My head was spinning! Who knew that the world of Christian apologetics was so extensive?!

For more than a decade, my brother has followed theologian, Christian apologist and philosopher, Dr. William Lane Craig. Since I started watching debates several months ago, however, I have gained a great deal of respect for him.

Aside from the fact that Dr. Craig is brilliant and intellectually WAY over my head, his heart and his faith make him a compelling evangelist as well. It isn’t often that you see someone who has a healthy balance between the intellectual and the emotional side of their faith.

In his debates, he speaks of five arguments for the existence of God.

  1. God is the best explanation for the origin of the universe
  2. God is the best explanation for the fine tuning of the universe
  3. God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values in the world
  4. God is the best explanation for the historical facts pertaining to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth
  5. God can be immediately known and experienced

The first four deal in the realms of science, philosophy, theology, history, and are basically facts and proofs. Then you get to the fifth argument, and it is purely personal and experiential.

A statement about knowing and experiencing God is emotional and quite bold for such a scholarly environment. It takes tenacity, and a humble heart to make such claims in the presence of highly esteemed intellectuals. Often, the world of academia has divorced the heart from the mind.

“Arguments for God could actually distract our attention from God himself”
~ William Lane Craig

I greatly admire him for not putting all of his eggs in one intellectual basket. Believing in God purely based on Kalam’s Cosmological argument, the teleological argument, or Leibniz’s contingency argument, as interesting and intellectually stimulating as they are, can only get you so far. At some point, one has to go beyond the intellectual realm to the heart and soul. For that is the realm of faith.

God is personal. And, The most wonderful part of this life is to know and experience Him.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.   James 4:8

I do believe that we can experience God intellectually as well as emotionally. My brother has said this for years. After all, He is the source of all knowledge.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.  Proverbs 2:6

I would encourage the more emotional believers to not neglect the intellectual side of God’s character. It’s sad when people assume that apologetics is dry and boring. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is like saying God is boring. How absurd!

When I started exploring apologetics, I was like a kid in a candy store! I found so much joy from gaining more awareness of this awesome God I serve. It added to my awe of Him. Discovering new aspects of God’s character is absolutely thrilling!

Similarly, intellectual and scholarly Christians should seek to know God on an experiential and emotional level. Things like singing praise songs or raising hands to God in worship may seem trivial to a scholarly person. However, exploring the different aspects of God’s character can only enrich your faith.

God is so immensely . . . . well, immense!! There are so many aspects of His character that it would take an infinite number of lifetimes to explore them all.