Faith and Doubt

path up the mountainPoet Theodore Roethke once wrote, “Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley” (thank you, MakeItUltra, for reminding of this wonderful quote). This quote is so close to my heart – particularly at this time when I am embarking on a new part of my journey, moving to a new home. It’s funny that only a few weeks ago I was feeling virtually crippled from fear at the thought of having to find a new place to live. So many people from my church and social media, not to mention my coworkers and friends, extended thoughts and prayers my way and I truly felt the love of every one of these people as I sought a new home.

To put all of your minds at ease, yes I have found a new home and yes, it was definitely a “God” thing. It is around the corner from where I grew up so I know the neighborhood well, it is closer to home and to church, and the home owner is a true blessing. Sure, there are things I’m going to have to get used to (sharing the house with people I don’t know, sharing a shower for the first time in 10 years, etc.) but overall, it was clear to me that God has this plan in place and all I had to do was show up to the party.

Of course, as those of you who read my last post can attest, I spent a good deal of time in the valley, unable to see that path up the mountain and honestly, a little unwilling to look for it. I was whining, kicking and screaming about the fact that things were not working out the way I had expected them to; the way I thought would be right. All of the signs I thought I was seeing didn’t point me in the direction I expected them too and I was not pleased.

But that’s the thing about God and His mercy and grace. He knows that those times when we can’t see the path are the times we need a little extra intervention a sign, a reminder of His presence, a voice of reason. Just like the disciple Thomas, we need evidence before we can believe and rather than judge us or condemn us because of it, He provides exactly what we need.

Poor Thomas. As the speaker at my church stated this past Sunday, all he did was come late to the party of Jesus’ return to the disciples after His resurrection and he has been condemned for his lack of faith ever since. This past Sunday, as I heard the story read for umpteenth time, I couldn’t help but shake my head and giggle to myself about how challenging Thomas was. I mean, seriously. How many miracles had he personally witnessed? And how many prophesies had he seen brought to fruition in his time with Christ? Yet, here he was, doubting yet again; struggling with understanding who Jesus really was and what had really happened. Certainly if you or I would have been disciples, we would have gotten it, right?

No, probably not. I venture to say that at least I, if not all of you, would have been as “doubting” as Thomas, if not more. And the thing is, Thomas neither wanted nor was provided anything more than what the other disciples had received from Jesus earlier. John 20:20 clearly states that Jesus showed his hands, feet and sides to the disciples when He appeared to them. The only difference that I can see is that Thomas stated out loud he wouldn’t believe unless he saw the Jesus’ wounds. But since the Lord knows our hearts and minds who’s to say that Jesus showed the other disciples His wounds because their disbelief was just as clear to him because of the looks in their eyes or their mannerisms? Why is it only Thomas who is called out for doubting?

The thing is we are all “Doubting Thomases”. We want to see proof before we actually take that leap of faith; to see that big neon sign in front of us telling us what direction we’re supposed to turn before we actually turn. We want to make sure that we speak exactly the right words in a given prayer to ensure that the outcome we are seeking will come to fruition. Do a quick Google search or walk into any bookstore and you will find listing after listing offering that secret prayer recipe that will virtually ensure God gives you what we want when you want it. We may truly be believers in Christ and God, we fail miserably at acting in faith. Each of us is at one time or another can be found standing in that valley Roethke wrote about and screaming about the path that is supposed to be there, but isn’t. And what makes it even more of a challenge is that even when our prayers have clearly been answered, we (or at least I) tend to fall right back into doubting. Maybe it’s because doubting is easier than taking a stand of faith. If I doubt, I don’t have to worry about those who don’t believe challenging my position on something or worry that they might treat me differently (or, gasp! Not like me) because I believe differently than they do.

Doubting not only leaves the door open just enough to allow us to fall in with everyone else, but it also gives us an out if things don’t pan out the way we anticipated. If I doubt – even a little – and God’s answer takes longer than I want or is different from what I wanted, I can always dismiss that by saying I never believed He was real or that He answers my prayers anyway. In other words, doubt is at its base level, selfish…

… and very, very human.

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God fully expects us to doubt. It’s all part of the growing and maturing process that we are here on this planet to do. God’s hope and desire for us is that we will, at some point, be able to see beyond the doubt. I don’t know about you, but I am only able to do that with some things but I do pray that as I continue to mature in my faith, I will be able to be the “blessed who believe without seeing” for more than just one or two things in my life. Until that time, I will rest in the comfort of knowing God will provide whatever I need to believe – even the perfect house at the perfect time.

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Risen….AGAIN

1-1-1-1-He-is-RisenThe Lord Has Risen!

The Lord Has Risen, Indeed, Alleluia!

That was the call and response heard over and over again at my church and many others around the globe this past week for Easter. In my church, our priest was pretty gung-ho about making sure that those words were as engrained in our hearts and minds as possible by the time we left services so I believe made that call and response at least 20 times in each service.

But then, these words should be shouted from the rooftops over and over, shouldn’t they? After all, we as Christians believe in a God who is not dead but is alive with us each and every day because of the joyous blessing of His rising from the dead and defeating the enemy. His death also gives us each the ability to be resurrected from our “dead”, sinful selves when we choose to walk with Him.

But I often wonder if we as Christians do a disservice to ourselves and our non-believing friends and associates when we stop with the Resurrection. We proclaim over and over that our God is alive and risen from the dead and as a result, we, too, will rise from the dead on the last day…

…but that doesn’t mean that we have already been resurrected nor does it mean that we, like Christ, only need that one miraculous act.

I know. You’re getting ready to fight me on this so let me explain a bit.

First, lets start with Jesus.

Jesus was and is God. Always was and always will be. He came to earth in the form of man, but while He experienced the struggles and pain of being man, He didn’t fail; He didn’t sin. He only needed to die and be resurrected once because He was and is perfect.

We, however are not.

While we are created in God’s image, we have been nor will we ever be perfect . Because of this, our “resurrection” needs to a continual process, not a once and done type of prospect. Sure, we will die a physical death and the resurrection from that death will only occur once, but we need to die to our mortal, sinful natures over and over and OVER again. Our lusts, our greed, our selfishness and self-absorbed lifestyle all return, they don’t suddenly get whisked away from us when we choose to follow Christ. If anything, they become more firmly entrenched as part of our personality and we have to work that much harder to die to them and be resurrected again as a more Christ-like person. It’s an ongoing process – at least it is for me. Let’s take my recent bout of self-pity as an example.

As you may have read recently, I had come to the difficult decision to move away from my lovely little apartment and make some significant life changes to put myself in a better financial position. I was not happy about this new reality and have been kicking and whining about it for several weeks now. Whining to just about anyone who would listen.

Why do I have to move?stopwhining

Why can’t I make more money?

Why do I have to always be struggling?

Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Honestly, I was sick of hearing it so I can only imagine how sick of it those around me were. For any of you who have had to struggle through my temper tantrum about this, I truly apologize.

I finally realized that I had to die to the selfishness that I was feeling; to turn away from feeling sorry for myself for not being able to find the perfect, pretty little apartment I saw myself in with all of the bells and whistles I currently have – or more – allowing me to seamlessly move from one place to another, saving me money but not forcing me to make any other life adjustments.

I was clearly delusional and Sunday morning in the middle of the second service I suddenly saw just how much of a temper tantrum I had been throwing and how many of the Lords’ blessings I had been choosing to turn a blind eye to. I needed to be “resurrected” from this death spiral of self-pity and see the numerous blessings that were being put right smack-dab in front of me.

For example, about a year ago I left a much higher-paying position because of the extreme stress it caused and the health problems I developed as a result. God blessed me with a wonderful job I have a wonderful job which allows me to do work that I am good at for people who I truly enjoy and that appreciate me for what I am able to do in an organization that is nurturing, positive and relatively stress-free.

Also, because of this great job, I have the ABILITY to put a roof over my head, food on the table and clothes on my back. I am not in danger, I am not starving and I am not living hand to mouth. I may be living squarely in the paycheck to paycheck segment of society but that can be said for many of the people I know so I can clearly not in them minority.

But let me tell you – that is certainly neither how it looked or felt these past several weeks. I felt distraught, unable to have the life that is being portrayed in all the pretty pictures on-line and in my head. I listened to the whining of others around me and absorbed their negativity into my own thoughts. I became like the Israelites, constantly being given what I asked for and then complaining it wasn’t what I wanted.

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And it is for this reason that I, and I believe most likely you as well, need to be continually “resurrected”. I need to die to these little (or big) failings and come back to the Lord again and again for forgiveness, guidance and direction. Most importantly, I cannot for a minute either as though this is not the case because to do so provides all of the ammunition any non-believer would ever need to throw in my face as evidence against my loving, living God. Just because I believe in God and am saved by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, does not mean that I am on equal footing with Him. I am still living a human, mortal life and will continue to have the same issues that anyone else does. What makes life different as a Christian is that I have the ability to be raised over and over from my failures and hopefully learn how to make each fall a little smaller or each climb up from my fall a little faster.

I hope that as you read this, you have been both blessed by Jesus’ Resurrection and encouraged by the thought that we all can be resurrected from our own small deaths each and every day.

Worse Than Speed Dating

Speed DatingI know it’s hard to believe, but I have found something that is actually worse than speed dating.

It’s worse than any of the numerous dating sites I’ve dabbled on in the last ten years.

Honestly, it could be one of the worst things I’ve had to do…well…ever.

What could be so bad?

Apartment hunting.

I know. You think I’m crazy, but let me just give you a taste of  how the last several weeks have gone for me and maybe you’ll agree.

For those of you that have read my most recent post, you know that I have made the very painful decision to move to put myself in a better financial situation. Now, let me say that when I was in my 20’s, moving wasn’t a big deal. It was kind of exciting – finding a new place to live, seeing what’s out there, and then picking up and doing it all over again if I didn’t like the space.

But I’m old(er) now and I am not relishing the idea of packing, let alone the backbreaking moving of my furniture and things over a weekend. If I had the money, I would JUMP at the chance to hire someone to come do it all for me while I sipped Mai Tai’s poolside.

But this is not to be.

So here I am, just a mere 20 days out from having to relocate and I have been madly scrambling to find a new home for myself and my dog. Being the technologically savvy person that I am, I jumped right into the online apartment finding sites and set up alerts for apartments that fit my criteria (cheap and dog friendly) and the race was ON!

I diligently researched property after property analyzing the drive times, amenities that I was probably going to never use, looked at demographics, crime rates and location appeal. I created a huge spreadsheet of what I liked and why, broke it down by area of town, and got ready to march right into the perfect place.

I scheduled a day off from work, made a list of the properties that looked to be just about perfect, and set off to find my new home!

Now let me just reiterate that I have seen these properties ON LINE. They have beautiful websites, lovely pictures and their marketing teams have done a stellar job of writing enticing descriptions that make people want to come reside on their property…

..and then you get there.manhole

Yep, just like the dreaded dating sites, the pictures from the website have been photo-shopped to within an inch of their lives. Flowers and landscaping have been added, floor plans “adjusted” to be more attractive and spacious, and I swear the “communal” areas are just architectural renderings of what the space “could someday look like” if someone actually took the time to do the work.

Ok. Maybe a couple of the communal areas looked essentially the same, but there was little to no resemblance to anything else.

But I was not going to be dissuaded! I had a task at hand and, dang it! I was going to accomplish it!

Honestly, I would have preferred to have been speed dating. At least there I could sit still, let potential suitors come to me, and I could numb the disappointment with a nice glass of wine.

Sigh.

Don’t think it could possible be that bad? Oh, you poor, unsuspecting soul. Let me give you just a snapshot.

Property number one: Located just a couple of miles from where I grew up, this little gem had probably last seen an exterior paint job somewhere in the  mid ’80’s. The fencing was collapsing, the balconies looked as if they could fall off the face of the building at anytime, and did I mention that I passed not only a drug deal but a drug arrest on my way TO the property itself?

Forging ahead!

Property number two: Interior hallways that reek of an interesting combination of both Indian food and marijuana. The carpets are falling apart under my feet as we walk to the apartment itself, and the electronic dead bolt, knowing how bad the interior is, doesn’t even want to let anyone in. It finally, with a very loud moan, let us enter to see the dingy, run-down space it was hiding. Metal bi-fold closet doors from the 70’s, popcorn paint covering up untold years of grime, and despite the fresh coat of paint and carpet, the ever-present permeation of the exterior odor. I was supposed to be in awe over the view of the mountains which were visible….just past the equally hideous exteriors of the properties other buildings and flat roofs.

I could go on, but let me end all of our pain with this little summary:

If these apartments were men on a speed-dating session, the apartments I visited would have looked a great deal like this:mullet-man-flexing-muscles1

or maybe this:

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Now I’m sure both of these individuals are fine human beings but that doesn’t mean that I want to be associated with them on a daily basis…including living where I might run into them every day.

Ok. So there were a couple of options that weren’t quite that bad, but all in all, as I continue to look for the next place to lay my head for the foreseeable future, I have come to the conclusion that those people who have the tiny house on wheels may not have such a bad idea. Ok, sure, I’d have to clean my own sewage, but honestly, I’m not sure that would be significantly worse than some of the options I’ve found.glass1

Here’s to hoping the next batch of site visits goes better.