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Is it okay that I question things I’ve been taught about my faith?

The short answer is yes.

Does that surprise you? I think we get confused between theology and faith; a tension between the two brings moments of confusion causing us to seek clarity.

Theology is defined as the study of God and religion. Theo means God and ology means study of, it is a pretty straightforward understanding of the word. As believers we seek knowledge to better understand who God is and how to build a relationship with Him. That knowledge, appropriately applied, develops our wisdom as to how to properly live what we know.

Scripture is clear that we are to seek after wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 assures us that the knowledge and wisdom is in Jesus, we just have to look for it. “2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Some of theinformation presented to us can be misunderstood or misrepresented. This is why we test and search out the truth. 

Faith, although related, is based on belief in God, spiritual comprehension instead of proof. As it says in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Faith, pistis in the Greek, means a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is God.

Theology is knowledge based while faith is belief based. When we question theology, we are not to throw away faith. On the contrary, when we investigate, we are simply answering the why we believe to grow our faith.

As imperfect beings, we recognize we don’t know it all and we continue to seek wisdom and knowledge through our relationship with Jesus Christ. This builds a better understanding of who He is and who we are to become. Find a trusted friend and investigate these questions together. Accurately applying Scripture, while seeking Jesus, will help you sort out what He has for you.

Ask this Mom is a monthly post that investigates the questions that matter to you. 

On a cool summer morning, hinting at the approaching fall, we gathered. Each of us recognized this was a special moment, identifying it as a time worth celebrating. No speeches or toasts were given, just plenty of stories and laughter shared. We celebrated the intimacy of our family bond nurtured over a lifetime of experiences.


It started as a getaway weekend to my sister’s summer home. A quiet place on a river, a perfect escape destination from the stress of life. Within a few days of our departure, we discovered two of my other sisters were camping nearby. Texts flew back and forth as we realized our fifth sister also planned to be in the area. Expectations turned to excitement as we saw an impromptu party become a reality. For the first time all five sisters, with their five husbands, gathered without our children.


An extraordinary moment to treasure, the day remains a cherished snapshot in my mind. A simple backyard barbeque full of love and laughter ensued. Admiring the circle of family and friends, I quietly thanked God not just for them but for the legacy of my mom and dad. Their purposeful pursuit of family identity and unity permeated our time together. Essence of each of them peppered our conversation.


My parents raised five independent women during a tumultuous time in our history. However, their gifts to us remain timeless, a beautiful testimony to those who followed. Although far from perfect, they invited us into an adulthood centered on Jesus and His church with the freedom to choose our own path. Here are four intentional steps you can take, to form a similar legacy.


1. Make encouragement part of your daily lives.
No matter the age, recognizing both the gifts and struggles of the individual emboldens them to move forward in the path God set out for them. Encourage the good choices and coach them through the failures, reminding them that both develop us into our God designed selves.


2. Declare your family identity. I’m not sure when my dad started calling us “the good guys”, but it was a continual title used throughout my life. This is how my parents saw us and this is how we behaved. He set an expectation, through this positive declaration, of our character. When others urged us to step outside our family beliefs, that identity curbed the temptation.
Find a simple phrase that fits your family to undergird your identity. Make it positive and empowering.


3. Make unconditional love the expectation of your household. We were not measured by our achievements but loved because we were theirs. So much of our society rates our worth on what we do. However, a grace filled home counters that pressure, making it a safe place for the whole family.
Unconditional love extended into our poor choices as well. Living out the consequences of those choices impacted each of us as we grew and learned to navigate this world. No matter our choices, home remained a safe place.


4. Ask for wisdom before you act.
Even with all this in place, not all our choices lined up with the beliefs of our parents. Measuring the moment to determine their response took not only grace but wisdom. My sister moving to New York City challenged my parent’s peace, but it proved to be the correct choice.
Taking a moment to examine our own motivations before we comment or correct, helps direct a positive outcome. Measure our words and remember sometimes it is best to say nothing at all.


5. Daily choose gratitude. Living on a salesman’s wages with five daughters held challenges beyond our understanding. Each night at supper, we declared God is good and God is great. Thanking God for what we had permeated our home. Comparisons to friend’s material possessions were quickly squelched.
Thankfulness, demonstrated daily, trickles down to our children. Make a point to invite your children into sharing their gratitude.


Intertwined within our celebration, and our lives now, dwells the promise of Jeremiah 31:13 “Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” Building a lasting impact in your family through subtle daily choices will ensure joyful family gatherings even after you are gone.

 

Day 1: Connecting the Generations
Light from her computer monitor reflected off her face. She rubbed her eyes, after hours of starring at the screen. Now the source of her work, entertainment, and social life, this machine illuminated her weariness. Freshly graduated from college, her childhood bedroom once a source of comfort now felt like a trap.

“I need to find a social life.” With a sigh, she leaned back into her chair, “I don’t know where to begin when I don’t know anyone here anymore.” In fact, working from home, she spends most of her time in her bedroom – alone.
The Covid 19 pandemic brought chaos to Gen Z and younger millennials. Current events including illness, divisive political rhetoric, social unrest, financial stress accompanied by job loss, and war in Ukraine pummeled the hope of younger people. Loss, division, and pain amplified around them pounding at their spirits and mental health. Anxiety levels spiked; uncertainty reined in their day to day lives. Eighty percent of the young people I surveyed said their anxiety is greater now than it was pre-pandemic.

Two years of pandemic and now economic struggles intensely affected both millennials (now in their twenties and thirties) and Gen Z (teens and early twenties). Mentoring these individuals now carries additional challenges. Older millennials, now parents themselves, faced the challenge of balancing their children’s distance education and working from home. Many with young children face finding ways to socialize their preschool kids. Generation Z entered the workforce during a volatile job market. Finding career jobs with lower pay combined with increased housing costs have forced many to move back with their parents.

Job loss was common, filing for unemployment brought confusion, uncertainty and even embarrassment. Hard working individuals never thought they’d find themselves in this position. Still launching their careers, financial pressure added to their pain.

Transitioning into adulthood during a unique historical event created difficulties new to modern times. Although they interacted via video, most of their workday remains spent alone. This greatly stifled workplace relationships, an essential part of transitioning from college to career. In addition, loss of church community put further pressure on them. Watching from home brought spiritual food without a community to nurture its growth.

How do we become a source of help to this struggling generation? In this five-day series we will:

  1. Look at the problem and try to understand its impact on our younger generations. Gaining tools to validate the real circumstances our young people are facing.
  2. Define anxiety and learn what to do and what not to do when walking with someone who struggles with this.
  3. Examine the deconstruction movement as it relates to our mentoring relationships? We will examine both the positive and negative impacts. In turn we will develop listening skills important to younger people. Listening is the greatest relationship builder we have.
  4. Develop ways to build intergenerational relationships and combat loneliness not only in their lives but also ours.
  5. Recognize in the long run this will build a stronger and resilient generation. There is a great potential in our young people, growing in your understanding will benefit all of us. Bridging the divide propels us toward unity.

Psalm 68:6 “God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” (NLT)

Action step: Who came to mind when you read this piece? What young people do you know that my need your encouragement? Take a moment to write down their name(s) and commit to praying for them during the next five days.

Feel free to send this to others that may be interested in this information. Invite them to join our journey. They can sign up to get the rest of these emails here. 

It’s Good for You

How does celebrating shift our emotional response to day-to-day life? Celebration causes a physiological response in our body, lifting our emotions in the process. Acts of joy release dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters essential for brain health. In their presence we feel happiness. This same response comes with exercise, acts of service, and petting animals. However, our goal is more than a biochemical response, we want it to be an act of worship. A lovely cycle that invigorates us to move forward in life.

According to healthline.com, Celebrating is good for your brain, circulatory system and autonomic nervous system. As pleasure is stimulated in the brain our blood vessels dilate delivering more oxygen to our body. The ANS controls our fight or flight response, joy suppresses stress responses lowering blood pressure and breathing rate delivering an overall calm to the body. Fun is good for you! Now there is something to celebrate!

This physiological response is recognized in Scripture. Elizabeth’s baby John, leapt inside her when he heard Mary’s voice. His joy ignited Elizabeth’s, which in turn encouraged Mary.(Luke 1:39-45) David danced through the streets, emulate the dancing but don’t do it scantily clad.(2 Samuel 6:12-16) No, I’m not a prude, I just don’t want you to get arrested. Even the apostle Paul reminded us to rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and to celebrate with sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8)

Pick one joyful activity you can do right away, by yourself. What needs to be done to cross that item off your wish list? Now is the time to live it out. Make plans to do that one thing this month.

Second, pick something that includes your spouse or a friend. Work to find a mutual interest and make it an adventure. Keep in mind I’m using the word adventure loosely. Find something that you both are excited about that is out of the ordinary. Celebrate time together.

Third, pick something that will take some planning. What do you need to implement it? How do you need to proceed for it to come to fruition? It brings as much joy to a person to plan out a fun trip or activity as it does to do it, even if you don’t do it! Go for it, set a date, start saving, do what it takes to get this from an idea to action.

Here are some of my ideas:

  • I’m going to make something from my Pinterest boards. You know the pins put in place when there wasn’t time to do them? Now is the time. Keep in mind the process is as important as the product. Enjoy the creative part of it, not just completing a project on a to-do list.
  • My husband and I do Sunday adventures. We hike in local parks, go to farmers markets or a museum. These adventures include discovering new places and trying new activities. The actual event isn’t as important as getting out and enjoying time together.
  • We are planning a trip to Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. It won’t be possible for a while, but the planning is part of the fun.

How you choose to chase joy depends on your individual personality. Whether simple or splendid, the point is to do it. God’s goodness is not dependent on our circumstances. The purpose is not to eliminate sadness in our life, it is an important aspect of our humanity. Reveling in the good in our life lifts our spirits so that we don’t ruminate on what we’ve lost but recognize the joyous gains. Take time this month to seek joy and celebrate the good around you.

Embrace_Spring.png

Each March the chorus frogs song usher in spring.  April arrived and we still haven’t heard our frogs. Spring continues to lay dormant. It is a bit irritating. I like snow in February but not April! So, we wait, because we know it will come. It always comes.

Spring reflects the promise we hold dear, new life. It symbolizes Jesus, our hope of life reborn, not just in heaven be on earth as well. (Matthew 6:10) As we wait, we know even when God appears quiet, He is working. After a dark season, it is important to remember that promise. New life is developing in our mind, soul, and body as we learn to love Him more.

The world has tarnished and dented our designed. The Holy Spirit however is at work resurrecting us back to the initial plan. 2 Corinthians 3:18 reminds us, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” Transformation polishes our imperfections, removing sin's damage from both our soul and spirit. 

Transition is ongoing. Funny how we can see the need to change in others, but we miss our own need for growth. Improvement continues in the process of life, a slow development into Christlikeness. Embrace the process and yield to Him. Be transformed back to His image, our true self, as we were created.

We cry out, "refine us to reflect Jesus." We stretch to react the way He would in each and every situation with humility, love, and truth. 

We wait. We notice it when change is drastic but are frustrated when we don’t see progress. As time and change crawls forward, we need patience. If you are like me, that is hard. I’d rather not see the flaws that remind of the lack of progress. Then I need to go back to my earlier statement, life is a process. Recognize He is good, press into the Lord and let His refining work continue.

The Spirit lives right here, dwelling in us.

Speaking to us.

Molding us.

Changing us.

All while loving us.

We simply respond by listening, yielding to His crafting, embrace the change and love Him back.

Spring is coming. Soon we will see our backyards turn to green, the birds will sing, and the frogs will call. A new season buds, reminding us He makes all things new.  Let spring erupt inside of us, as we witness its return to the world around us. 

but the godly have deep roots Proverbs 123

As a young woman, I visited a California beach with my cousin, a Golden State native. His goal for the day included teaching me to body surf. He instructed me from the beach convincing me this sport was easy. I entered the churning water with trepidation. Although only in knee deep water, the waves crested over my head. We dove through the waves to get far enough out. In a lull of the crashing water, I turned to the beach to let it carry me in or crash over me.

The first time wasn’t bad; I made it to the beach. Determined to improve, I attempted another run. This time I didn’t quite time it right. The water rotated my body topsy turvy in a moment of panic it became clear I didn’t know the way to the surface. After a bump off the ocean floor, I found myself spit out onto the beach. A few bumps and bruises but no real damage done.

This is exactly what the last two years felt like to me. Some inconvenience but also great loss upon loss. I found myself in grief counseling feeling like my younger self unable to discern which way to the surface. Therefore, my word for the year is STABILITY, picked way back in November before much of the loss occurred.

Circumstance can overwhelm us. It can get to the point where you go through the motions just to survive the day. BUT and this is important, we cannot allow this to become our habit. This is an unacceptable normal. Survival seasons are just that, seasons. They come to an end. Our roots in Christ (Proverbs 12:3) stabilize us putting a halt to the tumbling in our mind and spirit. We need to fight back to enjoyment and a flourishing full life. We continue to say “we can do this. It is fine. It is better. God is with us” and we need to mean it.

I am determined that the difficult experiences of life will strengthen me through God’s grace. I am struck by Ezekiel 47:12 “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.” Throughout Scripture trees represent people. I choose to hold onto this truth God is stabilizing me. He will use the fruit from my experiences as food for others and the leaves for healing.

 

Reaching

Reaching Up

Amusement parks are an important part of our family fun. Taking our kids on their first roller coaster ride became a rite of passage. Nervously our middle child waited in line with me. She tried to grasp what this ride entailed, keeping up an excited chatter as we moved slowly forward. As our turn approached, her little hand grasped mine. I promised she would love it.

During the ride, uncertainty dominated her countenance. Her grip on the shoulder harness matched the grimace on her face. Later, I learned her inability to predict the experience overshadowed the ride. Yet, afterwards, she shared her delight and wanted more.

This is how I feel about the last few years. Except, I’m not enjoying the ride. Twists and turns have not brought thrills but pain. With both community and personal tragedies, I’m holding on tight. My ongoing effort to find fun needs to be a healthy adventure. Not to avoid the pain but to invigorate my life again. 

Proverbs 14:13 reminds us “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.” I am not seeking fun to conceal my pain. If we do that the pain will fester like an untreated wound. I don’t want a puss filled heart. I know, gross, but we must face the sadness and dissatisfaction to live a life of freedom. When sad moments creep in remember that Jesus “heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) Enhance your life by facing your grief and releasing it to the Lord.

The Psalmist understood grief. They wrote about it in repeatedly. I love that God allows these emotions to be expressed in His word. It encourages me to know that I am not the only one who felt this way. Psalm 42:5-6 “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.” A key to the relief of our despair is worship. Praising God reminds us of who God is and He is in charge. It relieves our stress to know He is always there for us.

We need to ask ourselves the same questions posed by the Psalmist. What is the source of my downcast heart? Am I dealing with a real-life trauma or is this feeling wrapped in my self-worth? When we feel discarded, it can lead to depression. Like our Psalmist friend we need to turn to God in worship. He is not done with us! In trauma, God promises to be with us. Isaiah wrote “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10).

After turning to Jesus, turn to a friend. Confide your struggle to someone you trust. Don’t hesitate to seek counseling if you continue suffer. God provides wisdom and compassion through trained professionals. Healing will come, God desires to give it to you.  God is carrying us; we need to remember to each up and hold on.

Struggling to fit rest into my schedule, I turn to activities to distract me, but they don’t fill me. I didn’t recognize it right away, but I know I need a change. There is nothing wrong with distractions like TV, books, and social media but when I turn to them for true rest, they fail.
Sitting still remains hard for me. Friends of mine, sit in God’s presence for hours, soaking Him in. I can emulate this practice, but it takes discipline and that is not always restful. The beauty is we have freedom to seek the Father, through Jesus, in the way we are wired. I love that about God. Today, I started my morning with a hot bath, resting in its warmth and the love of the Father. Tomorrow it will look different, but the point is to seek the rest and just "BE".
The Sabbath was introduced to the Jews in the 4th Commandment, found in the book of Exodus. Scripture reminds us to keep it holy – set apart. We are instructed schedule sacred day of rest.
Over the years, many rules and regulations became associated with this term. That is not the Sabbath I am referencing. Sabbath is a time and place where we can "be" and no longer must go. The word Sabbatical reflects the modern way to Sabbath. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, sabbatical means "of or suited to the Sabbath, bringing a period of rest that occurs in regular cycles." This is our time to be rejuvenated. We are refueled so that we can "go" and do.
During most of the year, my daily mini sabbatical is found in walking. I love this time; it invigorates my body and frees my mind and spirit to pray. The beauty of the nature around me invites me to worship my Creator. The peace in my neighborhood allows me to speak to my Heavenly Father and to hear Him speaking to me.
Rest looks different for different people. I love to walk to relax, my daughter loves to swim. She loves the sensation of the water surrounding her entire body. As the water envelopes her, it limits her senses. The stresses of her life are dampened as her brain no longer receives information from her eyes and ears. She simply feels the comfort of the water and her body relaxes. I love this picture of Sabbath, the water represents the Holy Spirit, who revitalizes and refocuses us. However, we choose to rest, environmental noise decreases as we invite the Spirit of God to surround us. In His presence, we relax, restore, and rejuvenate.
In Jesus’ gentle and humble presence, we are safe (Matthew 11:29). Yes, we receive direction but also, we receive acceptance. I love the idea of seeking this place of security. I am thankful no matter how long we have been away, we can run back to Jesus. Words escape me as I ponder this, oh God that all would know this wonder! Jesus ends this verse with this promise. In this manner, you will find rest. Take a sabbatical with Him. Let the Holy Spirit gently and humbly restore you and He will show you, His rest.

Love camp

Love has a broad definition. I love my dog, a delightful book, a warm spring day, spaghetti, my husband, and Jesus. I'm pretty sure you can tell, each one of those things I "love" is cherished on different levels.

After thirty years of marriage, the shared love between my husband and I is comfortable. Anchored in security we easily take each other for granted. Tired from life’s stresses, unguarded comments slip out, especially after long days at work. What should we do? Simply put we remember to love and to reflect Jesus in our relationship. I Corinthians 13:13 reminds us “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

A beautiful sentiment easily repeated but difficult to live out, especially in a tense and uncertain season.

Love is a double-edged sword. Untainted it provide the essence of life. Sadly, it also can bring forth the emotions of disappointment, rejection, and pain. Why is love so important to us? Why can't we just throw it aside and plunge into our career, school, or ministry? Simply put we NEED love. As Relational beings, God created us to thrive on unconditional love. Agape love, implanted in us by the Holy Spirit, grows when we nurture it. (Galatians 5:27)

Often isolating this chapter to marriage, we forget 1 Corinthians 13 applies to the church. However, it should be true for all our relationships. Friends, we need to own what is in the chapter of Scripture. To love unconditionally we need to recognize it and imitate it. In 1 Corinthians we find there are two camps. What love is and what love is not.

Camp #1 Love is

Camp #2 Love is not

Patient: implies process

Jealous

Kind

boastful

Loves truth

Proud

Perseveres

Rude

Faithful

Demanding

Hopeful

Irritable

Endures

Record of other wrong

= doing what is right

Rejoices of injustice

You see many of us don’t move into love as a permanent home. We move from one side to the other depending on our situation. We become offended by thoughtless actions or differing opinions. Driven by righting the wrong we move to the “love is not” camp. Acting out of an offense drives us to feel we need to defend God instead of being Christ-like, which requires us to love. 1 John 4:8 tells us "But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." God does not need our defense; he requires our witness to love through difficult circumstances.

So how do we stay in the love camp? We actively and purposefully choose it. We choose to be there. When we find we have wandered or even bolted into the Love is not camp, we ask forgiveness pack up our gear and move back. Circumstances do not dictate our love location. Other’s actions do not dictate our love location. Jesus as our example, reminds us to choose the enduring love in patience, kindness, truth, perseverance, faithfulness, and hope.

I struggle to stay there but today I choose the love camp. Tomorrow I will ask myself where have you pitched your tent? When I recognize my location shifted, I will choose to move.Revive in us the deisre to love LORD! Are you with me?

Empty nests do not equate to dissolved families

Empty nests do not equate to dissolved families. Celebrating our family identity keeps those relationships fresh and alive.

Although our nuclear family has transformed into an extended—and even long-distance—family, we still maintain our core identity. Who are we and what it means to be a member of this family changes over time as the children mature and add spouses, but that sense of family can always be there.

I asked my kids to give me a list of descriptors that described us. They immediately responded with silly, goofy, and weird. My son added “zany at times.” (Their friends say our family is not normal.) Don’t worry, they also included open, communicative, loving, adaptive, loyal, and close.

How would you describe your family? What is your family identity that keeps you close even when you are apart? Here are a few things we do; feel free to adopt and adapt to your family!

  • Humor is an essential part of our relationships and keeps us in touch in a lighthearted way. We love puns like, “I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down!” (You heard the rimshot, right? Ba-dum-SHH) Whether we laugh or groan, it’s a simple way to connect and requires little-to-no response. It simply says, I thought of you today!

 

  • Communication is key but doesn’t need to be constant. Regular and diverse forms such as phone calls, texts, video chats, and visits all work together for this. It allows us to keep our relationships a priority. But be flexible, and give each other grace; just because you didn’t hear from them in the past week doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they are living an active life. When you do talk, learn to be an active listener. Reflect to them what they are sharing so that they know you are engaged.
  • Shared Experiences: Occasionally, we choose a show series or movie to watch. We don’t watch it at the same time, but we set aside time to discuss it. The content ranges from light to serious to a little bit of both. The point is to connect—you don’t have to be together to be together!
  • We regularly meet with extended family on both sides of the family. This reaffirms our relationships with our core family, reunites us with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and promotes the value that family is important. Of course, it depends on your family dynamics and who is willing to participate. For us, it’s not a coerced event, and our kids participate eagerly.
  • Share hospitality. Friendly reception of their friends increases your family reach. When college friends came to our house for short visits, we tried to embrace them as our own, doing our best to make them feel welcome. Not only does this show love to the friends, but it also honors your kids’ and makes them feel loved as well.
  • Keep an Open-Door Policy. Our ongoing relationship needs to be a place of security. No matter their choices in life, they need to know they are an accepted part of the family Luke 15;11-32). We may not agree with you, but we will always love you. Love outshines our opinions; they know what we believe.

My son summed it up this way, “We’re all so comfortable with one another. We celebrate our strengths and support each other in our weaknesses. We enjoy our similarities as well as what make us each unique.”

We’re not a perfect family. We get frustrated and annoyed with each other at times. But we work hard to see past the frustrations to celebrate and support each other.

What does your family value? I’d love to hear about how you would describe your family identity. Send me an email and tell me all about it!

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