Posts Tagged ‘Doubt’

Christian Community Saved My Faith

whatsavedmyfaithI’m joining the synchroblog for the release of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth by answering the prompt: ‘What saved my faith?’

One of the darkest times in my life was before I had my son and I wrestled with God about my infertility. What saved my faith in that time were my faith communities. I wrote more about that in an older post about coping with infertility. Here is an excerpt:

Even when I’m mad at God, I need the support of my faith communities.

It was a big turning point for me before we had our son when I finally asked to be added to the church prayer list for my infertility concerns. I had told one or two people in the church, but most people had no idea. When I asked for prayer it became public. I was nervous at first, but my church family at the time held my prayer need with utmost respect.

When I am struggling in my faith I am particularly glad for corporate worship and liturgy in particular. Even if I can’t pray, the community of faith carries me through their prayers. Churches who do liturgical worship are accused sometimes of “just going through the motions.” I have to tell you though, when infertility plunged me to my lowest point, those “motions” were all I had. Reciting liturgy that I have memorized, that I know by heart allowed me to pray when I would not have otherwise been able to pray.

One thing that helped me also was when my congregation and other supportive faith communities became aware of the pain of infertility. Due to awareness about infertility, my church family prayed for couples who cannot have children on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Before I had my son, fellow members of an online discussion group for Pastor’s Wives made a point to show sensitivity when sharing about baby news.

What saved your faith? Write your own post answering that question and then visit http://www.edcyzewski.com to learn how you can join the synchroblog or to read additional posts to celebrate the release of Ed’s book A Christian Survival Guide, which is discounted on Amazon this week.

P.S. I got to chat with Ed Cyzewski about A Christian Survival Guide for the Life & Liberty podcast. Listen to our chat here: http://www.davidhousholder.com/a-christian-survival-guide-ed-cyzewski/

On Why I Feel Free to Question God

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I’ve written before about the importance that asking questions has had in my faith-development. That post, The Ministry of Accepting Questions, made the case that God’s spirit worked through the people of faith who have accepted my questions.

I wanted to expand on this a bit because asking questions is still a big part of how I live out my faith. So, I wrote up a post for Life & Liberty, 5 Reasons I Feel Free to Question God. Click my questiony face in the photo above to see my reasons.

4 Simple Reasons Talking About Hard Stuff Can Enhance Your Life

20131030-194041.jpgIf there’s one thing I’ve gotten a bit of a knack for it is admitting that I don’t have everything all figured out. I’ve become rather at ease identifying and discussing challenges in life.

These challenges can be anything from disheartening health concerns to outright sin. Sometimes challenges we face are beyond our control, and sometimes we bring them on ourselves.

I’ve tried to be honest about some of my challenges here on the blog. They’re part of my resume as someone who seeks to live with integrity and I think it is important to share about them as part of the total package of what it means to live out our faith.

I’m not saying everyone should get a blog to blab out their baggage and angst to the interwebs. But if that’s helpful to you, then go for it.

More importantly though, I believe firmly that we need people in our lives–people that we trust–with whom we share about our challenges.

Here are four reasons I think talking about challenges in life can be of great benefit:

  1. We’re not alone. The more I talk about my challenges, the more I find solidarity with others. While each person’s challenges may be unique to their situation, I find that the reality of hardship is universal.
  2. Sharing feels better. Denial of challenges can eat us up, steal our joy and keep us from experiencing all the fullness of life in Christ Jesus. By contrast, talking about challenges with someone trustworthy can be a great relief.
  3. Talking is a constructive outlet for concerns. Secrets have a way of festering and fueling negative thoughts and behaviors. Talking about challenges with someone trustworthy gives us a safe place to let it out.
  4. The truth sets us free. When we’re saddled under the weight of our challenges it is hard to be fully present with others. Sharing our burdens can free us up to see and respond to needs in the world around us.

This is why I continue to talk about hard things on my blog and in my personal relationships. I hope you too will find strength and hope by sharing about your challenges with someone you trust.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these other posts about “How Christian Community Helps us Face Challenges.” (Please click the titles below to go to the posts.)

 

Essential Traits of a Trustworthy Friend

3 Different Challenges and the Types of Responses Needed
What an Active Listener Does & Doesn’t Do

The Ministry of Accepting Questions

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I was in elementary school before my family began attending church on a regular basis. Whereas Lutherans ordinarily baptize infants, I wasn’t baptized until the age of 9, the summer after my third grade year. As a school-aged kid who hadn’t been in church my whole life, I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do to learn about the faith. The attention given to me in my childhood that enabled me to learn more and grow in the Lord, I attribute to the Spirit of God at work.

My usual mode of processing the world is to ask questions, lots of questions. And I’ve been that way since I was a child. So, as I tried to catch up with my peers, I asked a lot of questions about all this God and Jesus stuff.

I am deeply grateful to the Sunday school teachers who fielded these questions. To be honest with you, I don’t remember anymore exactly what questions I asked. What stuck with me though was the sense that it was okay to ask questions.

I mean, if you think about it, there is something rather bold about some kid questioning the very existence of the God of the universe. But one Sunday school teacher after another stuck with me as I tried to get my mind around it all.

One year in particular I remember asking my usual million questions, but it seemed that my questions were beginning to annoy my fellow students. I began to feel self-conscious when I had a question to ask and wondered whether it was worth asking knowing that I was irritating the other kids.

But I asked anyway. And when the other students groaned and begged to get on with class, the teacher, Mrs. Johnson, patiently entertained yet another question from me. I saved a couple of less pressing questions for after class, after the other students had left. Mrs. Johnson gave me the extra time I needed.

When I then apologized to Mrs. Johnson for asking so many questions and for holding up the class, first she told me not to worry about holding up the class. But then she said, “Keep asking questions! That is how you learn!”

When the world might otherwise dismiss a pesky kid, when other kids would rather get on with the lesson, Sunday school teachers like Mrs. Johnson saw me and my questions as valuable. And I just know the hand of God was in that. The love and patience that my teachers showed me were evidence of God at work in their lives.

In turn, the faith that took hold in me is evidence of God at work in my life. My friend, Clint Schnekloth just posted on his blog today about a conversation he had with a mentor about different ways of being in the world. It was an interesting post, but it was something Clint said in the comments that really struck me as I prepared to write this post:

One thing another mentor told me one time: “For some people, there is a division between heart and mind. For you, your mind and heart are the same thing.”

For me, thinking through issues, asking questions and processing things in my head is inextricably linked with what stirs in my heart. So, when I asked questions in Sunday school as a kid and tried to get my mind around who exactly God is, the answers I got and the care I received sparked my life-long and heartfelt journey of living faith.

Shrinking, Shirking and Shutting Down

20130726-181414.jpgSo this whole self-image and self-importance thing has been a theme here lately on the blog. What I thought was going to be a simple post about a little snippet of The Deaconess Litany has turned into a mini-series complete with lots of my own drama.

Dana Hanson, one of my fellow contributors at Life and Liberty had a sermon about “Self-Forgetfulness” that made me really wish I could get myself out of my own way! (Have I mentioned what an extraordinary tribe it is that I’ve found there?) But I’m not quite able to forget myself just yet.

I gotta keep writing about this stuff because it is exactly what God is doing in my life right now. And working through this is part of how I am living out my faith (which, of course is the tagline of this very site). Also, I think that awareness and mindfull release of unhealthy self-focus is better than pretending I’ve already got this figured out.

So far I’ve shared about my desire for fame and glory (that bit from The Deaconess Litany about thinking too highly of myself). But I haven’t said as much about the other side of me that wants to hide, to shrink away from what God has called me to do.

The Deaconess Litany requests “the mind of Christ” that we not “deprecate ourselves in unbelief, calling common what you have called clean.” The temptation to dismiss my own gifts has been all too great over the years.

I’ve found myself relegating my creativity to paper crafts that hardly anyone sees instead of putting words on paper to share as widely as possible as God put on my heart in high school.

I have kept many of my ideas quiet instead of using the speaking ability that God has given me.

Why? Because I didn’t think it mattered. I didn’t think I mattered. What good is it to write if nobody wants to read it? What good is it to speak if nobody wants to hear it?

In a lot of ways, I just shut down. I shirked my calling because I decided for the world that my voice was better off muted.

A funny thing happens when you don’t write or speak, nobody knows that you have something to say. And if you’re not saying it, they’re not listening because there’s nothing to hear!

It is only in daring to share that you can have any sense of whether what you want to say matters. So for my lost years when I was busy hiding and assuming nobody cares, I was getting zero actual feedback.

There may have been a time or two that I tried to pipe up but was given a gag order. But to universalize that negative feedback was to do myself and my gifts a disservice. And ultimately to not do what God was calling me to, was indeed an act of “unbelief.” I was “calling common” or unimportant what God had already blessed and set before me.

So then, if I am walking with God, submitting my will and my ego to Jesus, and praying in the Spirit that other people will hear the Gospel through me, maybe I will indeed soon forget myself after all!

Thanks be to God!

What about you? Are there things that you feel drawn by God to do, but you’re dragging your feet? What is holding you back?