Tag Archives: Faith

Hurt in the Church

I love my church family.  Always.  But I have had more than my share of hurtful experiences from the church as well.  Some of the most hurtful people that I have met and known have been leaders in churches (though I have also had my share of wonderful leaders as well!) and I wonder how can that be when we are meant to love each other.  But people are not our God.  God is our God.  So I have kept my eyes on Him at hard times.  My kids fight a lot.  They do not always reflect my values.  But they are still part of my family…I am not kicking anyone out of the family!  That is how it works.  We don’t usually blame mom and dad because our sister hit us.  Blaming God for hurts from Christians isn’t the best way, either.  They are growing and learning just like we are.

What has been your experience in the church?

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74 Cents for a Mustard Seed of Faith

I went to the ATM that morning to withdraw some money for a bagel and coffee, but was horrified to find that I had only $275.74 remaining in the account.  I had just written my rent check out for $275, which left me with 74¢ to pay for my upcoming two weeks of bills and groceries.  My heart raced, but I decided to bring it to the Lord and trust in him.  I had heard stories of his amazing provision for people in the past, and would try in my weak faith to believe he would do the same for me.

The week or two before this, I began tithing again.  I not been tithing for a while because I was in debt and figured I should pay that off first.  More recently I had realized that God had asked us for our “firstfruits,” not our leftovers, and so I would trust him to help me pay off my debt even while tithing to Him.

But now I found myself in this situation.  I recently incurred some unexpected medical and car expenses; and a company kept automatically withdrawing money from my bank account long after they kept saying that they had it stopped.  From an earthly perspective, tithing hadn’t gotten me too far!    I prayed that the Lord would somehow provide for me in this, and then went on to work to face a dismal day.

I didn’t say anything at work, but my emotions there were visible.  A coworker asked me what was going on, and I didn’t say, but she asked if it was financial and I nodded.  Another coworker took me aside and said “You know God will take care of you, right?” I nodded, attempting to have faith.  I had a long day of talking to God at work.

Later that day, I would be going to a coffee shop to lead a Bible study we had there.  Just my luck, Danny stopped in my workplace—he was a long-haired hippie-type man who was a self-proclaimed prophet of something, but not of God.  He came in and said he was going to join our Bible study that night.  He stepped out of the shop and I began to pray, “Lord, I am not able to handle him today.  Either you will need to give me your wisdom in dealing with him, or you will have to make him not come.”  Just after the prayer, he came back into the shop and suddenly changed his mind about coming to the study.  This was my first breakthrough this day.

As I left work, I found a fifty dollar bill under my coffee mug with a note that said, “for you!”  I asked my coworker if she had put it there.  She suddenly began to dig in my purse, and then said, no.  I found that behavior a little strange, but she then told me she had put some money in my purse earlier that day and had wondered if someone had taken it out and put it under the mug.  No one had taken it out—the money she had given me was still in my purse.  I went home overwhelmed with people’s generosity and God’s provision.

As I walked to the Bible study that night, I was still shaken by my financial crisis.  I prayed to God to provide me with someone who would pray for me to have the peace of God before I would have to lead the study.

I walked in and ordered my coffee, shared about God’s provision that day with the barrista whom I knew a little, and this man asked if he could pray for me.  I was so blessed God was answering everything almost as soon as I prayed.  I sat down at my table to wait for others to gather, and as I waited, I talked to God to ask him for a longer-term provision so that I would not be in such a place of crisis if I had unplanned expenses again.  A few minutes later, my roommate (who had absolutely no clue of my situation) came in and asked me to pray about if I would want to tutor her brother in reading—her parents were looking for someone to help him, and would pay for the tutoring.  I told her I had already prayed about it, it was an answer to the prayer I had prayed just minutes before.

To top it all off, another friend came into the Bible study and had decided (out of character) to buy a ton of food from McDonald’s to share.  It was the icing on the cake.  God would provide!  He did provide for me throughout the upcoming weeks in very unusual ways through people who had no clue I was in need.  Somehow, I paid all of my bills off, was able to pay back my coworkers who had given me money, and in the long-run to pay off my debt in less time than I had anticipated.  I do not think I would have seen the Lord’s amazing provision had I not been faithful to show my trust in him by tithing.  The Lord is faithful and I am so glad I now know him as my Provider!

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Where the Birds Gather

Living on the reservation had been a very difficult thing for me.  Not only did my cultural behaviors clash with the culture I found myself in, but so did my personality of vivacity, playfulness and love of deep truthful talks with friends.

I worked where the “evils” of whites where constantly preached about and were talked down about, breaking down the already fragile bonds of friendship between those friends of different races.  (Not to say that we haven’t been people who have brought great atrocities on others—but there is a point where forgiveness is necessary and the love between peoples needs to be restored). After I began to notice my racist mindset toward my own people after being constantly indoctrinated with the negative talk—likely from the desire to remove myself from the hurtful words through disassociation from my culture—I realized I needed to get a healthier perspective again.  I left the reservation for the sake of sanity.

You may not have ever had to deal with not being accepted, but it is likely that most of you have to one degree or another.  And some of you have felt rejection for who you are all of your lives.  Some of you are just going through a season of feeling rejected.  Mine had been an intensely devastating season.

I was left wondering if it was wrong that I valued what I did, that I was how I was, if my culture was so wrong, and what was the right way to do things.  About half a year after returning home, my friends swept me away to a silent retreat where we were encourage to listen and talk with Jesus in an old abbey surrounded by a beautiful nature area.  Many people stayed around the abbey, but adventurer that I am, I went cross-country and looked for a little hide-away in the field or trees.  I found a delightful pond to spend time near, and was absolutely fascinated by what I saw there.

Birds of all types and sizes were gathered in and near the little cattail-lined pond.  Redwing blackbirds sat on the cattails and would then fly off.  A hawk soared overhead, gracefully above all of the feathery activity below.  One kind of bird would playfully soar close to the water with others of its type, seagulls flew in unordered groups not so gracefully as the other birds, and ducks and geese swam around the water or would walk up on the shore.

I saw how so very different each type of bird behaved.  Some were very regal, some were very fun, and yet they all gathered by the water harmoniously.  They could act different, and it was alright—that was how God had made them to be!

Suddenly I realized that people groups all have different styles and ways of acting, and none was the right way.  If God made birds to act so very differently from each other, then people, too, were valuable as different and unique cultures with their different values and perspectives.  In a way, valuing other groups was not an awakening to me—but being alright with my own group was a great awakening to my heart.  I related to the playful birds who would flutter and skim over the water.  There was nothing wrong with a playful spirit.  The Holy Spirit would gather all types of peoples together and all would benefit by the same pool of water.

Ezekiel’s vision of the kingdom of God:

“Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows.  There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.  Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets.  The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Great Sea.”  Ezekiel 47:9-12

Every Tribe, people and tongue will be gathered at the throne of God in heaven (Revelation).  God values diversity—his love will bring all cultures and people together in Him.  And best of all, even if people don’t value me, it doesn’t mean that I am wrong by being who I am, it only means they do not understand the ways of a different type of bird—at least not yet.

Lord!  Let us love each other beyond behaviors, values, and appearance.  Let Your Holy Spirit bring peace between your people, and peace to ourselves. Help us know that our personalities are loved and valued by you no matter if anyone else values us.  But I also pray you bring us to a place where were are valued by others too.  Amen!?

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The Limit

The Limit

Don’t you hate having to follow those drivers who drive at the speed limit?  Well, before I let you rant too much, I will confess that I have been one of “those” people.  (And, as I am already making confessions, IZUIZ, I am sorry for any anxiety I have cause you in the past month; yes, that slow blue S10 was me.)

Sometimes God gives me a season of teaching me something-and it is usually  disciplining me in something I do not particularly want to learn.  Does he do that to you, too?

Once he told me I could not lead worship for a year.  Despite knowing that, I several times tried to leverage myself into positions where I would be leading worship…what was I thinking?  Every time this happened that I would try to work things out for myself, I would lose my voice or sound horrible the week that I was supposed to lead worship, and I lost the confidence of anyone around me that I had any sort of singing voice.  There was a lesson in it–but I will save that for another day.

This year, I had a long commute to Milwaukee for my job, which took me down some particularly slow roads where few people followed the speed limit because they were posted particularly slow for what they seem they should be.  I felt I needed to discipline myself to actually follow the very slow speeds.  Most of the year, I slowed down to about five over the posted limit, but still had not actually gotten to the point of obeying the limit.

Usually, when I would see someone in my rear view, impatiently driving behind me, waiting for the first opportunity to pass me by when the lines went from solid to dashed, I would speed up to accommodate them.  I knew this was really just trying to please people.  If I couldn’t even follow the speed limit because of fear of displeasing someone I didn’t even know in a car behind me, how could I possibly obey God in anything without being turned away by those who wanted me to do something else?

Not long ago, I decided I had to take the plunge and actually just go the speed limit all the way to work, no matter how many frustrated people were forced to follow me in this endeavor.  Only a couple of miles into the drive, I had a line of cars behind me, already impatient.  I fought to the resist the temptation of going just a little faster.  I couldn’t look in the rear view mirror or my resolve would crumble.  I turned up my worship music and just looked ahead.

Finally, the burgundy PT Cruiser behind me got so impatient that he didn’t even wait–he passed by me in a no passing zone.  I didn’t look over to see “the glare”–you know the one; I kept my eyes on my small goal for today.  He sped ahead of me, as if to brag of his freedom in having passed by my constraint.  He got quite far beyond me, but ironically, I caught up with him at the next stop light, where he had to wait quite some time.  I imagine if he saw me, he was not happy to see that I was right behind him.

Even more amusing was the fact that this happened for seven miles of our journey, until he turned off the road to pursue his destination.  he was always caught at the stoplight, and I was always pulling up behind.

Now, this is no amazing event, but as is the case when God is teaching us, and we finally try to listen, He has something important to say.  I know my weakness is to please people around me, which frequently leads to some sort of compromise.  The Lord told me through this car ride, that though someone may try to achieve something by going outside of the Lord’s limits, and though I may look like I am taking the slow route and will never reach my destination for following the Lord’s limits; we will end up at the same destination, and I will have done so with a clear conscience and a clear record, when others do not.

And before you start thinking I am judging you for going over the speed limit, be assured I am only relaying my own lesson for the day and what the Lord was teaching me.  What has He been teaching you?

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The Apostles’ Treasure

1 Corinthians 4:9-13

“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena.  We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.  We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!  We are weak, but you are strong!  You are honored, we are dishonored!  To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.  We work hard with our own hands.  When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.  Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of this world.” (1)

I have questioned why, when coming back from a difficult missionary placement, I felt so beat down and small.  I expected that when I arrived back in my church, I would be warmly welcomed, perhaps asked about the work, my experiences, and what the Lord was doing there.  I was not, which left me feeling even more rejected than I had been.

It made me question if the only valid ministry in the eyes of the church was one that didn’t leave you poor and needy, cursed by people and disliked.  That is what it seemed.  The church I had been a member of for 8 years didn’t mention my ministry when I came back, even though they had sent me out in prayer, and I felt as though the church leadership was ashamed that I had been beaten down by it and was in need of healing.  I felt my weakness was deemed to disqualify the work that had been done.

Even during my time on the missions board at my church, I heard the believers say that a missionary’s poverty on his arrival back from the field was his own mismanagement of money.  Thankfully this was not about me, but I certainly took it to heart since I came back quite poor.  It was not considered that it was just the nature of serving people with all that one has, that one gives up much of earthly comfort.

That is why these 1 Corinthians chapter 4, verses seem so tremendous to me.  I had figured that the apostle Paul had the support of his churches and enough income not to struggle; or else he had enough faith that God would give him what he needed in great measure.  So…all was not easy for Paul and the other apostles.

It also seems in Paul’s letter, this great gap between apostles/missionaries, and the general church body has been present since the beginning of the church.   And that—even with the miracles God has provided for the church and the Apostles—they still didn’t live in abundance, and did struggle and face trials.  Real ministry does not necessarily look glorious to the world, or even the church, but it is the call of the apostle.

Even the prosperity philosophy of the church was present back then, as the Corinthians call themselves “kings” according to Paul.   There is truth that the Lord blesses his people.  But many people of the Lord didn’t prosper according to the world, and cannot be a standard to judge someone’s closeness with Jesus.  Even Jesus himself did not have any earthly prosperity, and yet he was walking in his calling.  God provided his needs.  He did not give him castles of gold on the earth during his first coming.

An apostle’s work requires him to give up much, to prosper God’s kingdom.  In a way, it is like the priests of the Old Testament, whose portion of wealth was in the Lord God, not earthly treasures.  This call is not a call for everyone, but it is for some, and it is important for the church to acknowledge and understand these few people who live a very different lifestyle for the kingdom of God.

And if you are a missionary or apostle, be encouraged that your struggles are not for nothing, but have been preceded by those who have walked in faith before you.  We do walk by faith and not by sight, and we also remind ourselves that the struggles on earth will not compare with what awaits us in our true home in the kingdom of our God.

(1)The Holy Bible, New International Version ®, 1973, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN. Pp1335-1336

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No Reason to Cry

I was happy to see my friends Mike and Laura and their little one year old daughter walk into the coffee shop.  They came over to my table to catch up and talk, and I was enjoying watching their daughter climb around and adventure.  During the course of our talking, their daughter suddenly reached up for her bottle–which she wasn’t able to reach without help–and began to cry as if she would never be able to get it.  I looked and laughed. 

“Doesn’t she trust yet that you will give it to her?” 

Laura laughed and said, “No,  she throws a fit all the time even though we always give her her bottle!”

Suddenly, the Holy Spirit told me that their little girl was just like me.  The last couple of weeks I have been whining and having a fit in my head, about not having found a job yet.  Suddenly I realized that I was acting that way because I wasn’t trusting my Heavenly Father to give me what I needed when I needed it.

Matthew 6:31-   “So do not worry, saying ‘What will we eat?  What will we drink? or “What will we wear?’ …for your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

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