Tag Archives: Bible

Why I don’t believe in God

Happy kid playing with toy airplane

To say I believe in God makes God seem like a magical, imaginative entity I can call upon when I need a wish to be granted. It feels like putting God in the same category as the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and leprechauns.

“Believing in” God is analogous to me saying I believe in my husband. It doesn’t make any sense because he’s a real dude. I know my husband, and I live and engage my marriage in a way that both recognizes and honors my husband’s existence, not to mention my own. The same goes for God. I know Him, and I live and engage my life in a way that both acknowledges and honors God’s presence in my life. To say I believe in God is simply an intellectual truth: “I believe in God. I don’t believe in the tooth fairy.”

I know John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But merely believing in God isn’t enough to experience God’s full and real power–to experience spiritual truth. Believing is only the first step (albeit a necessary step!) to knowing God.

How does one “know” God? I have gotten to know God through knowing his son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both God’s son and God himself in human form. God wants us to know him so badly that he made himself human so we could reach him so as to be saved by Him. Why? Because God is madly in love with us. He adores you. He adores me. Equally and differently. It’s similar to how you love your children or how your mom and/or dad love you. Parents want nothing more than their kids to know how much they are loved and valued. Same with God for you, only the love is bigger and a billion times more intense.

I digress.

How do you normally get to know someone? By being in a relationship, right?  The way we go from simply knowing of someone to really knowing them is by getting into a relationship with them–talking, hanging out, learning each other’s stories, figuring out what each other likes and dislikes, and learning the core character of each other’s heart. It’s no different with Jesus. You can hang out with Jesus by spending time praying and reading the Bible. It feels awkward at first, but the more time you spend the less uncomfortable it becomes.

I know the Bible gets a bad rap, unfortunately, and that doesn’t help. It has the stigma of being a big boring book of controversial rules and regulations. I personally haven’t experienced this in my time with the Bible. God’s Word is the place where I learn who Jesus is, what He believes, what his backstory is, how He lived (and still lives), and His promises to me. Not only that, through Jesus I learn who I am as God’s daughter.  The trick with the Bible is to ignore the world’s negative commentary and just read it between you and Jesus only. Seek the help of trusted scholars and Christian friends who share their personal experiences with Christ with you. For me, Hannah Hurnard and C.S. Lewis are my go-to scholars who help me understand the Bible and God better.

In learning about Jesus and understanding how He loves me, I have fallen in love with Him.  He has yet to fail me; Jesus is the most loyal and faithful friend I’ve ever had. The more time I spend with Jesus, the more clearly I hear God’s voice and experience the power of His presence in my life. (I’ve recorded my experiences with God all over this blog. Just type “God” into the search bar you see at the right of your screen.) So deeply do I love Him that I seek to live my life in a way that pleases and honors Him. Not because “I’m supposed to” according to how Christian culture teaches, but because I want to out of respect and gratitude for Jesus and for continued connection to him. Think of how you love your most precious people and how/why you would do anything for them. That’s the same response I have for my love of God–it’s how God wants us to feel and respond in our relationship with him.

I don’t believe in God. He’s “realer” than that for me. I know God; I love Him; I follow Him; I experience Him; I hear Him; I obey his voice. I encourage you that if you believe in God but aren’t experiencing His presence, go deeper. He’s calling out for you to be in relationship with him. Meet Jesus and you’ll get to know God. Simple belief turns into deep and faithful love that is far more exciting and freeing than… magical unicorns with rainbow powers.

“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:18

If you feel shy or clumsy with prayer, I recommend Prayers that Avail Much by Germaine Copeland. It’s a book full of prayers for every prayer concern you can think of plus Scripture to help you learn and navigate the Bible. I love it!

Letting go of time– "Rest, dear one."

I wake up to the wind battering against my window. The ocean’s waves are loud and angry, yet still roll in rhythmic ebb and flow. Strange, though, I hadn’t heard the waves when I arrived yesterday. Yet now against the stormy symphony of rattling wind and pelting rain, the sea sounds like it’s right at my back door.

I check my phone. 4:17 a.m. My stomach twists in angst. Not a gluten reaction this time. No. This is definitely anxiety writhing in my gut. “Lord, I don’t have much time here. I have to leave tomorrow. We only have one day. Today.” I click on the light above my head and grab my Bible from the floor next to my bed. “Okay, what do you want me to  know? I need to feel your presence, Lord. To learn.”

I furiously turn the tissue-paper thin pages waiting for that burst of… of… something. “Lord, we don’t have much time. Please, I need to feel you.”

IMG_20140329_063109I lean back on my pillow with a uneasy sigh, close my eyes and flip through my mental to-do list for this weekend away by myself.

  • Write: my blog post, my flash-fiction story, my business article, my client’s manuscript report.
  • Read: my Bible, my favorite bloggers, my current favorite book (Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard), my new book (Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott)
  • Pray: for spiritual refill, for guidance on what I’m supposed to do next, for what I am supposed to be writing.

Resting my eyes feels good and for one tiny moment I let my brain stop and let the room’s silence fill in around me. Silent room, stormy weather. I listen and begin to feel peace embrace me like a tentative hug.

Go upstairs to the third floor library. Take your favorite book, your orange pen, and your notebook.

I don’t question the thought, but I do pray no one is in the library. I crave being alone. It isn’t even 5 a.m., so it isn’t shocking to see the library dark and empty. I click on a light. The storm is pounding even louder up here … the windows in this space face the ocean directly. I cozy up in one of the leather club chairs and cover myself with an afghan. I lean my head back and close my eyes again. I listen to the storm rage against the windows.

What do you hear?

I mentally compose a prosical piece about the stormy symphony, words pour in…

Grab your pen and paper. Write it down. 

And so I do:

IMG_20140329_074646“Stormy sea on a Saturday morning. Early to rise. Wind and rain batter my window. A beckon to arise. Heart uncertain of what to do. A yearning to be with my Lord. I can hear him through wind and waves and feel Him in my presence, yet a connection-collision of epiphany seems so far away. How can he be so close yet feel so far?

Stormy sea and rolling waves. Wind batters the raindrops against the window. I have no fear, a sign to stay indoors. Rest, says He. What do you want me to know? What do you want me to say? What do you want me to do?

Rest, says He.

Is it coincidence the flashy light of hotspot died–right after a prosical pour about prayer? God does not waste time with coincidence.

Listen to the sounds. You notice for a reason. The wind battering, the rain pelting, the sea roaring in ebb and flow. You could not hear it the day before. But at 4:17 a.m. it resounds through your quaint little room. Oscar Wilde; what a lovely space. Quaint and old and charming. The perfect size for one.

Come out to the living room and see what you hear.

Rest. Watch what I created. Stay safe in the warmth–thick blanket, cozy chair, hot coffee. Your favorite book–My words in you have spoken through visual literary excellence. An allegory just as I knew you’d learn.

Rest, dear daughter. Know you have done well. You have much to learn but it is a journey. You desire to please Me and work so hard. Dear child do not work so hard. Your desire and faith is all I need; your heart for Love is enough.

Look at the pink of dawn touching the waves. It is beautiful, yes? You have seen my beauty upon the water before and it mesmerizes you. You have captured its image on your fancy device yet look up, dear one! I have a vast of expanse to show you beyond the square in your hand.

Rest and enjoy.

I know it is hard. You feel you don’ t deserve. Daughter, I love you and made this for you. You don’t earn my gifts, dear one, they are yours freely. Take and enjoy.

You are tired. Please rest. In Me. I show you every day what is yours.

Do not worry about what is undone. In my time it will be complete. Other people’s expectations do not matter. Only what I have for you does.

Rest, dear one.

Tell me what you see.

“Layer of grey lays low, a hem of blue peeks from beneath. The ocean water IMG_20140330_094013moves swiftly. A reflection upon the glassy sand where the waves have smoothed it down. Everything moves. The grey is parting away showing a hole of peaceful blue and a tinge of pink where the coming suns shines through. All is in motion and the blue is gone. An albatross flies across my view, against the wind it soars. I wonder why he does not seek shelter out from the wind. I hear the rain pelting against the window; gusts push against the walls. It is all so loud yet I feel peace, Lord. There is beauty and peace within such a storm. Thank you for nature and its lessons, dear Father.'”

 

Rolling waves, frothy white. Grey shines against the sun--hides away the warmth and light my heart desires. Yet my soul knows and my eyes see the evidence of what lay above the grey. Clear skies and vibrant light live just a  layer away.

Rolling waves, frothy white; grey shines against the sun–hides away the warmth and light my heart desires. Yet my soul knows and my eyes see the evidence of what lay above the grey. Clear skies and vibrant light live just a layer away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." (Exodus 33:14)

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"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." (Matthew 11: 28-30)

“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.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)

A welcome interruption

Through the early morning dimness, I could see my daughter’s little blonde head moving through the kitchen toward me. “Hi mama.”

“Good morning, Sugar Bear.”

Sensing she was invited to join me under my blanket of silence, she crawled up onto the couch and snuggled in tight next to me.

“It’s good to see you, honey; you’re up early today. I miss you when we sleep.”

She looked up into my face and gave me her classic smile,  revealing the tiny gap

Classic smile!

Classic smile!

between her two front teeth. She leaned her head on my arm.

She said, “I woke up and saw that your door was closed, but then I saw the light down the stairs, so I knew you were down here and I came down to see you.”

“I am so glad you did. You can always count on me being downstairs when you wake up. I get up super early to talk to God and read the Bible. Would you like to know what I am reading this morning?”

“Sure.”

“Today I was led to Philippians 2: 1-4.” I adjusted my Bible so she could see my finger move along the words.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

“Oh, oh! I get it, mama! You can’t just think of your own self, you have to think about other people.”

“That’s right, Sugar. We have to think of others and show love to other people and do it joyfully.”

“I know, like if you have a present and someone is sick, you don’t keep the present for yourself. You give the present to the sick person.”

“That’s right.”

“Or if someone doesn’t have flowers and you do have flowers, you don’t keep them for yourself, you give them away.”

“That is also correct. Keeping them all for yourself is selfish if you know someone doesn’t have any flowers. Or you can show you love and kindness to someone by giving them flowers.”

Haley grinned. “Oh I have another one!  If someone doesn’t have toys and you have lots of toys, then you give all your toys away.”

“Say, I bet you could lead a whole Bible study on this,” I said, giving her a squeeze.

“Mama? Is this Bible different than the other Bible in my cupboard?”

20140115_200223

She’s my snuggle-bug.

“Oh you mean your children’s Bible? Well, both Bibles are the same, but yours is written in kiddo language and mine is written in grown up language. But you seemed to understand mommy’s pretty well!”

She grinned at me. “Yeah. I get it.”

“Anytime you feel uncertain or curious or sad, you can just read the Bible to help you know what you are supposed to do. God tells us in here how to live our lives. You can read yours or mine or if you want help, you can just ask me to read.”

“Are you almost to the end of this book, mama? It is really long!”

I laughed. “No. The Bible never really ends, Sugar. It is a book that takes a lifetime to read  because there is so much to learn in all the verses. And sometimes the verses mean different things at different times of your life.”

“Oh. Can I watch Disney Channel now?”

 

Too many voices cause unnecessary doubt

I woke up at 4:07 a.m. today cloaked in heavy doubt. It probably didn’t help that I went to bed full of angst and a bit of anger*… those kind of emotions ferment while you sleep, causing your entire spirit to pickle and sour by the time you rise in the morning.

After tossing and turning for an hour, trying to relieve the pressure of doubt from every angle, I got up. I made coffee, grabbed my Bible, pen and journal. I needed to wrestle this out with God–whatever “this” was.

IMG_20131018_101722

This is my “I’m SO excited about what I have to share, but I woke up before dawn today so I’m kind of tired!” face.

I should mention there is something specific on my mind… a project I’ve been working on since the spring. It’s about to take an exciting turn, and up until this point I’ve been 100% certain about every step and delightful development–even when things seemed dark. It has been a God-led mission from the beginning, and He’s been clear about his presence the entire time.  (I can’t wait to share about this project–as soon as the time is right!)

As I began writing and praying I found I couldn’t focus or even sit still. The doubt was relentless on my mind and body. So I forced focus and printed out the study material for the sermon series at our church.  Perhaps, I thought, God would like me to start inside the Bible today; maybe he’d like me to get out of my own head and into His lesson. 

I couldn’t read the lesson. I saw the words, but I wasn’t focused on the reading. So in frustration I pushed everything aside and sat there… totally uncomfortable. I closed my eyes and cried out (quietly since my household was asleep):

What do you want me to do? I’ll go where you lead, but I’m not sure I’m going in the right direction. I’ve been listening to you this whole time and now I am totally uncertain I’ve heard you correctly. Have I totally messed this up?? I was so sure about everything because I was following you! Was it you? Did I just convince myself it was you so I could follow my own whims? All the pieces are coming together, and now I am totally filled with doubt. I’m scared that I have not done this well. I feel certain it was you yet I am burdened with doubt. Tell me what to do!

Then I fell silent. Tears escaped from under my eyelids. I leaned back on the couch and for the first time in almost two hours I sat still. I let the doubt–black and heavy–weigh down on my body. It was so heavy but I did not squirm. I just listened.

In the blackness of my mind an image appeared– of Jesus with his arm around my shoulders walking with me through the darkness. We didn’t walk away from the doubt… He walked beside me through the dark. I looked for some sort of bright light–you know the kind people talk about when they talk about seeing the light of God? I guess I was looking for obvious certainty.

But it was dark… just me and Jesus walking with his arm around my shoulders. Ephesians 6:10-20 resounded clearly through my mind. It’s a familiar passage that has come to me multiple times on this particular journey–especially lately.

The light I was looking for...

The light I was looking for…

I opened my eyes and glanced over to my Bible that I had shoved to the side. It was already open to Ephesians from when I had force-focused myself on the study lesson earlier, only I had been reading Ephesians 4:29, which sits on the opposing page.

The proverbial light bulb clicked on; I understood what was happening. Comforted, I wrote the following in my journal:

Too many voices make it hard to hear; the voices of criticism and ridicule will stand out the loudest causing you to listen to the wrong thing. Too many voices cause unnecessary doubt. There’s only One voice that matters. Especially in the dark.

If we gather pieces from the path upon which we follow God, then we can trust that what He has us produce from those pieces is also God’s.

What we produce from God’s pieces won’t look conventional– it will not look like what all those other voices describe and manufacture. But it will look as how God needs it to.

The cloak of doubt lifted as I wrote these words. As I’ve said, God has led the journey I’m on from the very start. And I am not alone on the journey–there’s a team of us walking together. I can trust that what’s about to happen is prepared just as it should be because we’ve gathered the pieces from God’s path.

He’s been by my side the whole time as I’ve collected and added my contributions to the work. He’s made his presence known countless times over the past several months–handing me the pieces. I have no doubt that when all the pieces come together, it will look just as God intended.

Now I have peace… and I can take a nap. 😉

*Side note: The whole “never-go-to-bed-angry” motto (and biblical recommendation) has much merit. This idea doesn’t just apply to the martial relationship, which we often hear it attached to. It doesn’t matter where or who your anger sources from, don’t let the sun go down before you find some sort of resolve–even if it is just a Band-aid for temporary relief until you can fully tend to the wound later.

Sticks and stones… words change everything

Words

Sticks and stones can break bones, but words…

carry meaning, power, influence.

Words can heal … if you let them.

Words can kill… if you aren’t protective.

Words can inspire… if you are passionate.

Words can teach… if you are intentional.

Words can dishearten… if you are arrogant.

Words can enlighten… if you are honest.

Words can change perspective… if you choose wisely.

Words can change a heart… if you choose them in love.

Words can change the world… if you choose to speak them out loud.

Sticks and stones can break bones, but words…

Words change everything.

Doesn’t matter who you are.

Doesn’t matter what your religion is.

Doesn’t matter what your sexual status is.

Doesn’t matter what your politics are.

Words are powerful because they strike the human spirit.

Use them to build, to empower, to encourage… your fellow people.

That’s the Word.

Related post: Words. Are. Powerful.