Tag Archives: Thought

Religion and barf bags…

It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything truly thought provoking and then… I came across an article, written by a guy named Chris Kratzer, entitled:

“Why modern Christianity makes people vomit”.

http://chriskratzer.com/why-modern-christianity-makes-people-vomit-2/

I knew I wanted to read the article, but I waited until this morning because I wanted to give myself time to honestly evaluate whether it offered anything of value or challenged me in any way.  I guess I found it engaging because I’ve written something of a response to it.  One of the things I found most notable about the article were the comments.  One person “Matthew” offered his very “real” and direct life experience at the hands of what this article calls out.  (Matthew’s comment is below)

http://chriskratzer.com/why-modern-christianity-makes-people-vomit-2/#comment-129199

I found both very thought provoking to say the least.  I’ve been where Chris describes a number of times and I’ve also been surrounded by a “grace first” church congregation (and still am).  I’ve also spent a good deal of time during the last 4 years of my life as a single man hoping to find a relationship with someone who shares my faith.  During my search, I encountered in the online “Christian” world  much of what Chris describes in his article.

I was raised by two very loving and kind parents (unlike Matthew) who were heavily indentured into “religion”.  That’s not to say they both didn’t love Jesus… but it is to say that they allowed ritualism to blend into their faith, which then they tried to “have” me follow in too.

Long ago, I decided for myself that religion itself can be truly manipulative in nature (this is not restricted to Christianity alone), but in the same statement, I also acknowledge that’s not what Jesus came to teach or model, nor is it what many people of faith view as the basis for their life in faith.  That said, this was not my take away from the article.

You see (and I agree with a lot of things Matthew mentions in his comments), the one thing the article does not speak to is self-reflection and personal accountability.  The article goes a long way in exposing the underbelly of religious Christianity.  How it is rife with legalism and judgementalism, but it does not directly talk about the root of both of those labels which is based in a lack of choice and personal accountability.  “Matthew” in his comments, appears to have taken a very sober inventory of his life and has made a decision based on what he’s learned in the face of what he’s been taught and seen demonstrated in his life (sadly… he had, what by his account seems like an awful example and teaching).  Matthew’s taken the time to reflect on himself and his experience instead of blaming others as his mother modeled.  Some would call her actions “blind faith”.  I call it deliberate ignorance because it requires no personal accountability or action, just blind, unconfirmed or acknowledged obedience.  A very good friend (who also happens to be a pastor) once said to me “if you don’t question your faith, your faith is questionable”.  Damn straight!  Why do you believe what you believe and what do you stand for?

Unfortunately, there is much of modern Christianity that appears to the world as Chris’s article describes… it’s easier to label someone as horrible or sinful (insert your descriptor of choice here) to make yourself feel better about your own crap!  It’s easier to point a finger than it is to look at yourself.  The sad part though is that this behaviour is not held exclusive to religious behaviour, though the hypocrisy is far more common and prevalent.

Chris (the author), seemingly in frustration, appears to label the people he alludes to rather than simply handing them a mirror.  What they choose to do with that mirror is up to them, just as it was Matthew’s choice to turn away from God (my words), or deny His existence altogether.   Matthew evaluated for himself and made a choice.

It’s no secret that religion has been used as a tool or weapon of manipulation throughout history and my words or the words in Chris’s article are not likely to change that.

Jesus died for us to bring us freedom and yet, we still cling to and deal with chains!   I know that Christ was one tough Hombre when he needed to be, but in all things He taught and lived, He simply presented and modeled truth.  The rest is up to us to weigh and decide.   God leaves the choice to us.

Sadly, there are many who hide behind or twist God’s message to us to make their own crap seem more justifiable by manipulating or quoting scripture out of context to suit their means or worse… to whip and torture people with guilt and shame.  In the end though, they’re rationalizations and nothing more.    The result however, is that children and people who just need someone to be human and walk with them are judged as sinful and are scorned for their vulnerability and honesty.  They wind up being chastised for being honest and reaching out for help.  I suppose you could say that they too are being handed a mirror, but that mirror comes with a context of disdain and judgment rather than being offered in humility and love.

I have no idea of what it was like for “Matthew” to live what he has, but I do know what it was like to live what I have and that’s what I can own and more importantly, reflect and share.  I can offer to sit with someone like Matthew and reflect what I see when I look in my own mirror in the face of my life experience.  Hopefully, I will be honest with myself about what I see and Matthew will see the sincerity and integrity in my account, through my humility and humanity.

Chris’s article mentions (please read the article to get the whole context):

“Nothing enflames the passion of your cause more than to discover a new enemy. If you can’t find a real one, you simply string one together—homosexuality, liberality, wars against Christianity, prayer in schools, transgender equality—always some ax to grind. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails than to be absent of sin-targets for which to take your self-righteous aim— those who sin differently than you, your favorite sitting duck.”

While this seems an accurate account, it doesn’t mention the downside of identifying this without offering some personal experience or testimony.  It winds up achieving  the very thing you’re upset about.  To be honest… I agree with nearly everything Chris writes in his article, but the article only identifies the behaviour so many have come to suffer from or revile.  It doesn’t challenge the reader or the subject of his text (religious, judgemental people) to take a look at themselves before looking for something or someone else to blame so their living is easier to bear or justify.

As someone who leads in worship, I was a little startled by these words:

“Where are the choruses, “My life sucks right now, and so does God?” I know, that would be too raw and real to where many are truly at I guess— doesn’t fit a starch-ironed, pleated theology, or look good on LED-shaded projection screens.”

Worship is a lot more than lights and music… it’s a willingness to sit with someone or welcome them in their pain or joy and share your shoulder and honest experience too.  It’s also about being vulnerable when singing “Lord, I need you, Oh, how I need you”, because you honestly find yourself doing that whether you’re crying in a pew, singing from the stage or all alone in your bedroom at night.  Gratefully, I “live” in a church where humanity, humility and grace come first.  Where everyone is aware that someone walking through the doors may have used what seems like their last bit of strength to be there and the last thing they need is to have their ass kicked by “religion”.   I also want to add… not all songs sung in church are about feel good praise and worship.   Many dig deep and say… life hurts, but there is a flip side…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGUKWiw7Wk

Thanks J.J. … this is a personal favourite… and then there’s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEn74zP1glQ

Which has seen me wondering this on more than one occasion.

Modern Christianity itself doesn’t make people vomit, it’s some of the people practicing it that makes them ill!  When people find out that I’m a “Jesus follower”, they immediately say “oh, you’re religious”, to which I reply… “No, my faith is in Christ because He meets me where I live!  My life isn’t about rules, it’s about choice.”  The article misses something very important.  The “Christians” it mentions are using the Bible as a hammer, rather than a mirror.

I used to get “sick” myself and on some occasions, I even allowed myself to be hurt or angered by much of the rhetoric and judgmental garbage the article identifies.  Then I realized that the very people who are pointing their fingers and looking down their noses are also in pain.  They too need grace and forgiveness… they just don’t realize it because they’ve been taught to and find it easier, even convenient to judge, hate and fear rather than be humble, vulnerable and self-reflective  enough to ask for help and receive love.

I apologize for the long winded response, but if there’s a part 2 to the article, I think it’s what I mentioned in my response to “Joe” who asks about a “next steps” proposition.

The next steps are simple… take an honest inventory of your life and be prepared to be completely honest with yourself about what you see.  Be honest with yourself about the good and the bad and then, be willing to own it.  The rest may be hard because, if you don’t like what you honestly see, it probably requires action and accountability.  The steps are simple, I didn’t say the work would be.   It isn’t for me!

This article itself points a finger, but doesn’t propose a solution (though I think it’s implied).   The solution is to ask yourself with no one else around… Who are you really?  What do you honestly believe if there’s no one there to judge you?  Do you like who you are, your convictions and how you’re living?   Do you like the choices you make for yourself?

Now, with that in mind, act based on your answers about yourself and if that seems overwhelming… ask for help and be prepared to be honest and vulnerable.  Hopefully you’ll find someone just as flawed as you are to help and encourage you… just like I did.

A good friend of mine sent this to me yesterday… the timing seems a little uncanny, but maybe this will help you when it comes time to finding that honest someone…

Character and words

Pastors… who are they really?

Christianity is a bumpy ride at best… if anyone says differently, they’re not being honest or they’re not living life! I don’t care who you are, life can definitely be hard (even when it seems to be going well). Choosing to follow Jesus is not a promise of sugar cane lollipops and clean sheets! Following Christ is a demanding choice that brings with it the promise of a healthier life if we choose to follow the example that Jesus taught and what God promises.

I’ve been more challenged in my latter adult life than at any other time, because I choose to follow Christ! I choose to make the hard choices I do to help me live the best life I can. I can’t say I get it right all of the time or even most of the time for that matter, but it’s incredible to know the difference because it means I have a path to follow and a guide to help show the way. It gives me hope!

God does want not tell us how to live our lives in terms of what we choose to do when buying a house, what we want for a career, where we want to live or what colour to paint the bathroom. I do believe though, that He hopes we’ll share or offer our choices to Him and ask for His guidance and wisdom. I know there are probably some people who just read that who may in part disagree with me. That’s completely OK… that’s between you and God to wrestle with. I’ll continue to engage God and wrestle with that stuff too.

I suppose this is where our Pastors come into the picture. What a huge responsibility they have. They have to be available for questions or thoughts like I just mentioned. They also have to be there for us as we struggle through our challenges, losses and triumphs. They’re an amazing group of people wouldn’t you agree? They choose to be an earthly guide to us as they present the Word or Message of God. They do this not just every Sunday, but every day! Every single day, our Pastors are on the spot because they must lead lives of example; the example that Jesus left for all of us to follow. That is an awesome responsibility! Not only must our Pastors lead lives of example, but their husbands or wives also share and present a similar example. On top of that, they must try to live out in their own lives the same advice they offer us. Talk about a hard road to walk!

While they engage in this life of service, they knowingly choose to be held by God to a higher standard! They are held accountable because they have chosen to publicly accept the responsibility for leading His people in a life committed to following Jesus Christ! WOW! I don’t know about you, but to me that seems like a pretty incredible responsibility to accept! To add even more responsibility, they must do what I just described with absolute grace and humility! When you think about it, it’s a pretty incredible life choice to make!

I hope by now you’re beginning to see my point. Our Pastors are pretty incredible people who have taken on an awesome responsibility! It’s been my privilege to make and maintain deeply bonded friendships with nearly all of the Pastors and families who have come into my life! I’m getting a little choked up thinking about it actually! Some of the very best friends I’ve ever had are Pastors! If you’ve known me for most of my life, you’d quickly realize how bizarre and unusual that sounds! I spent the 80% of my life outside of any form of Church or organized religion. I still do not consider myself a religious person, but I am definitely a deeply committed man of faith and follower of Jesus Christ! I’ve been a follower walking in grace for nearly 30 years, but I’ve not been involved in a church or with any pastors for the majority of it. In fact, it’s only in the last 10 years of my life where I’ve really become closely connected with any church or pastors. There’s a long story to my testimony and maybe one day, I’ll write about it, but this is about pastors and so I’ll continue to focus my thoughts on them. To do that though, I’ll have to share a little bit of what I’ve seen through my friendships with them.

Probably the most significant thing I’ve notice is THAT THEY’RE PEOPLE TOO! They experience the same struggles and trials in life that we do. They have to pay bills, maintain mortgages, raise children, buy food, face trials and cry tears like the rest of us do. When it comes to experiencing all that life can bring, they are no less subject to the trials of life than we are! I won’t share specifics about what I’ve seen, but I can tell you that what I’ve seen is no less challenging than anything I’ve faced in my lifetime.

When our pastors have trouble with their children, who can they turn to? Of course, they can and will turn to God, but it’s also nice and real to need a certain amount of human support too. They’re there for us when we need them… are we just as available to them when they need us? When their kids or family get sick, when they maybe having a marital or relational problem or when they’re struggling in their faith just like we do, who here on Earth can they turn to?

So far, I’ve only focused on the stuff life can bring their way, but what about the stuff that really doesn’t belong to them like our expectations of them? Do we consider that they have lives and trials just like we have when we say we need them? Are we aware of the difficult decisions they must make like whether or not to help someone financially? They have to make financial decisions every single day with funds entrusted to them by their congregation and by God! They must discern whether someone is truly in need or is fabricating a story just to get a hand out. They choose to help guide our children, teens and young adults and they have to deal with our expectations of how they’re to do that too.

Who do they turn to when they have troubles within their own pastoral community? Managing a staff of church employees and pastoral staff is no different than managing regular employees because they’re all regular people, but who can they talk to about it. Peer review and experience are important resources to lean on when making business and staffing decisions and they exist beyond the church. Are we available without judgment and in confidence?

Who do they turn to when they’re struggling with a problem themselves? What if they need someone who isn’t in the pastoral community to listen to them because they need someone who has shared the same experience? What if they need to turn to you for help, would you be ready or willing? I don’t necessarily want to talk with my girlfriend about everything. I may be struggling in a relationship issue with her and I need to hear another perspective before I try to discuss it with her. I’m not saying that we should air our laundry publicly, but sometimes, it’s helpful to say what you’re thinking to someone else and have them reflect back to you what they heard you say. Maybe the issue is all me and I need a checkup from the neck up. Our pastors needs are no different.

I think we have an conception or understanding that our Pastors are infinitely wise, their lives are largely without trouble or trial and that they probably don’t need us. Well, guess again! They’re people just like us and they need the same love and grace we do! They’re no less human and therefore no less prone to the trials or temptations in life that we are.

I’ve seen in a few cases where people live their faith lives vicariously through their pastor. They “do what they do” and happily accept the grace they receive from their pastor or friends, but are very quick to judge a pastor when they fall in the same things they’re guilty of because their expectation is that their pastor is beyond sin! Well… I’d rather have a sinful, repentant and real pastor than a fake, holier than thou pastor any day of the week and twice on Sunday!

I happened to be at an event recently where my pastor and his wife wept openly while they watched their son admit to a part of his life he’d been struggling with. It was not easy for their son to admit to and it was no easier for my friends to watch their son make his obviously honest and sincere testimony! What I can tell you is this… they were not crying because they felt shame or guilt because of what their son was publicly offering in his testimony. They were weeping tears of joy because their child had claimed freedom from the dominion of pain they’d been labouring under and the guilt and shame of that past. What was my response? I cried with them, held them and supported them too because they’re my friends and I love them!

Pastors have kids who have to go through the same teenage years that ours do… those waters can be shark infested at the best of times and it’s no different for them. They have illness, financial challenge, need for retirement and other challenges to face within their own families and lives just like we do. They do all of that and still listen to our burdens and suffering because let’s face it, most of the time we need their counsel when things aren’t going too well in our lives. We usually need them when we have a difficult challenge or question we’re facing and we want or need their time to work through that stuff. They share with us as we watch our kids being born and they weep with us when we lay our loved ones to rest. All the while, they’re facing the same stuff in their own lives!

I think we should have a national “love your pastor” day because they definitely deserve our love and respect! One day seems too little considering they give back to and serve us nearly every day. Think about that… they’re living a pastoral life every day of their life. Here’s a challenge from me to you. Make a day in your own life to honour or thank your pastor… just as they do for you each and every day of theirs.

I have to say that I’m overwhelmed when I think of all of the pastors who’ve been giving, loving and kind to me. They’ve sacrificed their time when I’ve needed them. They’ve been there to help guide me through very difficult moments in life and in my faith. God has richly blessed me by allowing me to become closely connected with my pastors! They are among the wisest and most gracious people I’ve ever met. Not because they bear the title pastor, but because they choose to be kind, gracious, humble, truthful and above all, human!

I’m writing this today because I want to honour the pastors who’ve always been there for me and who continue to remain willing to be there for me. Beyond that, they choose to call me friend and share friendship and life with me! What a blessing they are. I’ve been told that no matter where I am or what time of the day it may be, I’m always welcome to call… not because I’m anyone special, but because they truly love me, care for me and want the very best for me!

What an amazing blessing our pastors are to us each and every day… let’s all take time to give them a hug and tell them that we not only we appreciate what they do for us, but why! Tell your pastor that you love them if you do and how they’ve helped you or helped shape your life. Worshiping God is about more than music. Worshiping God is about recognizing and rejoicing in his blessing and provision for us. Celebrating your pastors and their families with love and acknowledgment of their life choice is God honouring worship too, not to mention, it’s just kind appreciation for all of the love and sacrifice we receive from them every day.

Larry, Don, Arden, Mike, Sara, Heather, BrianD, BrianT, Ed, Lynda, Doug, TimB, TimD, Scott, Rick, Anthony, Nate and any that I’ve missed; to you and your families, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all of the love, care, compassion and patience you’ve shared with me over the years. Thank you for loving me enough to kick my butt when I’ve needed it. Thank you for always being willing to ask the hard questions and then walk through them with me. Thank you for trusting me with your confidence when you’ve needed my friendship and thank you especially for always being real people! You’re a light unto my path and my life would not be the same without your loving friendship!

Always and with love,
Tim

Hearing from God

As it often happens on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I find myself lounging for the first couple of hours of the day with my coffee and my laptop. I’m an early riser and because I’m usually up before the rest of humanity, I do something that allows me to be silent and still and that feeds my heart and mind. I read and enjoy the nectar produced by pouring hot water over carefully roasted beans and then blending that nectar with cream… but I digress.

The results of my reading usually find me inspired or challenged by a topic. Today, as I often do, I was reading a blog post at Relevant magazine. The post I’m referring to was about God’s hearing voice or waiting in what we feel is His silence (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/3-reasons-god-silent#h7EARcT5zmWlUuOV.99).  It was an interesting read and for the most part, I agree and feel similarly, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.

At the bottom of the blog article, there is a place for reader comments. My writing today is in response to a question posed by a reader named “Jennifer” who asked “What if you kind of feel like you have never “heard” from God? Could someone explain what hearing from God means?”

I too have felt like this in the past. I wondered what it would feel like, look like or sound like if I were to hear from God. I didn’t have the first clue what hearing from God would resemble. Jennifer… I’m going to try to answer your question, because it’s a tough one and it may challenge us both. You’re going to have to be a little patient with me though… I’m going to share my experience and my take on how it might happen or at least, how it’s happened for me.

What I’ve come to learn about “hearing” from God is this. Hearing from God is like hearing from anyone else… we have to play an active role in our relationship with Him and we have to be willing to communicate. Communicating means listening as much as it does talking. It also means being a little sensitive or perceptive toward God just as we must when we get know friends and family in our life. We learn those little unspoken mannerisms particular to them.

When we listen, do we know what to listen for when it comes to hearing from God? Does it sound like a booming voice? Is it a quiet whisper? In my experience, I’ve sensed God’s leading or voice, but I’ve also actually “heard” audibly and directly from God. Before you say “Really?” and roll your eyes, please let me explain. When I heard God’s voice, it was something that was completely unexpected! It was in a location that I would have thought would be the last place on Earth that I would have experienced God actually speaking to me. That’s exactly what happened to me though.

I was standing in a restaurant/bar in one of the major casino properties in Vegas when I was given a verbal and direct account by God of what was about to occur in the next few minutes. I can’t share the details of what he said to me as this involves more than just me. What I can say though, is that it was an amazing and powerful experience in which God used me in someone else’s life… to show them love and acceptance. God told me “word for word” what was I was about to hear… I did not hear Him tell me how to respond. He simply told me, in great detail, what was about to occur. Now… I have to tell you, having this happen to me while enjoying a beer in a restaurant/bar in Vegas was not lost on me. I’m here to tell you that I was a little more than blown out of my socks. I just stood there, leaning against a shelf, holding my beer and listening to the Author of the Universe tell me what was going to happen next.

I didn’t know why at the time God chose to speak to me, but I just listened (for about 3 minutes).  Call it 1 minute after God had shared with me what He wanted me to know, I was approached by this person and what happened thereafter had me holding my jaw from hitting the floor!  What I heard was exactly what God had told me that I would hear.  This person shared the same statements and the same questions God said they would… VERBATIM!  Yup… my mind was blown, but as a result what God had revealed to me, I was also quite prepared and at peace. The other person however… was a little more than surprised that I had such clarity in our situation considering I’d only met them a couple of hours beforehand and we’d not spoken ten words to each other. I was however, able to be used by God in this person’s life for the next 4 hours. We talked and connected because I had been prepared for this conversation by what God shared with me and by His Holy Spirit. I was led by and open to what God was doing. Why did God choose me to share this experience with this person? I don’t honestly know! I suppose he’d been preparing me for some time in various ways before this event actually happened. What I do know, is that it happened and that I’m humbled and grateful to have been a part!

I heard God clearly and directly before this person came over to talk to me and share with me what they needed to. God’s voice was clear and distinct, but I couldn’t describe what it sounded like if you were to ask. As I mentioned, this person was a complete stranger to me before that day began. I’d only become acquainted with them a few hours before our experience together. What I heard just before our experience was God’s audible (to me) voice. What I heard and felt afterward was a peaceful guiding of my mind and heart through the rest of the conversation that followed. God used the experiences of my life and also my life with Him to witness to another. At first, God’s voice was audible and then, it became spiritual. It was easy to follow because I was open to it. God was in my heart and guided me every step of the way. I know that God loved this other person enough to bring us together to answer some questions that they’d been seeking and suffering in their life. He talked to us and through us both, but make no mistake… it all began with God actually speaking to me in an audible form! I heard His voice.

So, after my regurgitation… what am I saying about hearing God’s voice? God can speak to us in many ways, but rest assured that He does speak to us! He can speak audibly to us, though I can tell you that in my experience, it’s rare. What I just described was the only time in my life where I’d actually heard God talk to me directly in an audible form… at least, that I’m aware of. God can speak through scripture. He can speak through the life of another or through a direct human interaction. He can use a tree or an eagle. He can us the laughter or tears of a child. He is not limited in any way. We however are limited in our ability to hear Him because OUR perceptions, intelligence and doubt get in the way.

Something I’ve come to learn about God is that He’s very direct. He lets me know what He’s thinking, but it’s up to me to listen or see what He’s trying to tell me. I have to do my part. I have to remain aware and sensitive. That can happen through prayer sometimes, but mostly, for me it happens through living my life. God does speak to us and answer us, but WE have to get out of the way to hear it! There was a time in my life when God was giving me answers. In fact, He was probably shouting at me, but I wasn’t listening to him at all! That said, He never stopped trying to share with me what He wanted me to know. He never stopped pursuing me!

My point here is that God is not limited in the way that He communicates with us and that His communication with us is unique to us! It’s between Me and God as much as your communication is between YOU and God. It all starts with letting God into your heart and then spending time with him. You may feel a peace that you can’t explain. You may hear His voice directly. You may read a piece of scripture that speaks to you. You may hear an answer that comes from another person who may be a complete stranger or a trusted friend. You will know that it is God though. You will know it because it will be clear and undeniable truth. God is direct and purposeful and He wastes nothing!

My inspiration to write this post came because I read a question asked by someone I’ve never met or am likely to meet. It came because I saw something in the words that spoke to me. There was something about the question that prompted me to write this today. I don’t know if it will help or if it even answers Jennifer’s question, but I did sense that God wanted me to try. God spoke to me through the question of another because he needed me to know the answer to something that I’m going through right now. He also needed me to know that He’s there even though the answers I’m searching for right now seem elusive and hard to see. Now that I’m here, I see much of what I’ve been missing because I’ve been getting in the way.

There is a great DVD series by Bill Hybels called “Whispers”, which is an excellent resource that speaks to this very question that I would recommend anyone watch.

I am quite sure that there will be some people who will read this and think… “yeah… another God following nutbar!”. Honestly, if I read what you just did, I’d have my doubts too. It seems so far fetched and anyone with some patience and a keyboard could conjur up a story like this. If that’s what you think, that’s OK, you don’t have to believe a word I’ve shared. All I can do is to tell you is that this really happened to me. If you’re reading this and doubting what I’ve said, ask yourself this… “Tim will never meet me, he has no agenda in my life and he’ll likely never be aware of what happens to me… why did he take the time to write this?” I could offer you the answer here, but I’d rather you ask it by making a comment. Better still though… I hope you’ll try to answer it for yourself and maybe even ask God in the process. I promise you, God is listening and He would absolutely love to hear from you! He will answer, just be still and wait on Him… His answer may be subtle, but it will come.

I know this whole article sounds cryptic and weird, but that’s was my experience. God’s voice or method of communication is as varied as we are! Because of that, how He reveals Himself to us is personal and unique to us. I can tell you is that the best way to hear Him is to talk to Him and then, live your life. There is a lot of “noise” experienced while living life, but if you look or listen carefully, you’ll hear from God… You’ll know it’s Him because what you hear will be clear and identifiable truth. Absolute truth! You just need to be honest with yourself about what you hear! It may be very hard to hear, but trust that it will be exactly what you need to hear because God loves you and cares enough about you to tell you… and He’ll never stop! Ever!

Since when is it not OK to say “I don’t know” ?

I’ve spent the morning lounging, reading about Mothers everywhere and reading about God. I just read an interesting article that got me thinking… why do we (oftentimes) feel the need to have or supply an answer in a particular situation? The article I was reading was on “how not to debate an atheist” (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/how-not-debate-atheist#HVLU2VJukgdmlKW4.99).

No… my article is not at all related to the one I just mentioned (except that I enjoyed reading it and it inspired the thoughts I’m about to share with you).

Pick the situation… Should I get married, should I ask for a raise, can I trust Jesus, is there a God, will the economy remain stable, should I choose chemotherapy, holistic medicine or surgery? These are all very tough questions and each need very careful consideration. In the end, we’re the only ones who can answer them for ourselves. We’re the only ones because we must bear the responsibility and consequences of our choices. They may have great outcomes or they may bring new challenges or trials. In the end, we must choose.

If you’re like me, you don’t try to answer these questions alone… you reach out to someone you trust. A well meaning friend, a pastor, a teacher, your parent, God. Even the most introverted and introspective people need to lean on someone else from time to time. We just can’t do it alone because we don’t have all the answers. It’s what happens though, when we lean on another for an answer, that this article is about.

While reading the article on how NOT to debate an atheist, it struck me… why do we feel we need to have an answer for any given question that is beyond our knowledge? What inspired this question in me was this excerpt from the article:

“”Science doesn’t have all the answers,” is a weak platform—science is designed to admit its ignorance and look for better data. Science may not know what happened before the Big Bang, but that doesn’t make God the default explanation. When we ascribe to God that which science can’t explain, we put faith on the run, fleeing from the ever-advancing front of scientific insight.”

When we don’t have an answer to a question… why do we feel the need to provide one? Isn’t it okay to say “I don’t know, but I’ll sit here with you”? I was going to write “until one comes to us”, but sometimes, we just don’t get the answer we need (or when we need it). Sometimes, there is no answer because we just can’t possibly know. I can’t know what you’re going through because I don’t live your life, so I can’t know all of the circumstances or experiences you’ve encountered that have brought you to where you are currently.

Sure… sometimes the answers appear to be clear, but are they really? It’s arrogant and presumptive to believe we can provide an answer in someone else’s life. There are times, that we need to help someone make a choice because they’re suffering or under great stress or uncertainty, but we must do that with complete and total humility, because the decision has the potential to change the course of their life.

I will admit that I’m someone who likes to have an answer. I used to feel the need to always have an answer, but I came to learn that I have very few answers to my own questions. If that’s true, then what makes me an authority on what someone else is going through?

Sometimes, we just need to sit with someone and bear out their circumstance with them in a loving and gentle way. Admitting that we don’t have an answer to a question is a good thing (though sometimes scary). When we admit we don’t know about something, two very important things happen. We receive an opportunity to learn and we receive an opportunity to challenge ourselves to find an answer and in so doing, we grow! In the process of that learning, we’re likely to learn even more than the answer that launched us into this unknown area.

Because of a good friend of mine, I discovered that I didn’t know much about Crohn’s disease, but I’ve learned through my friendship how to be his friend! I have no magic answer, no antidote, no diet. All I can do is to learn (with him) how this condition affects his life and how I can be there to support him. I wish I could answer why he has to suffer with unpredictable fatigue or why stress can dramatically and inexplicably change what seems like a “string of good days” into a crash. I don’t have those answers any more than I know what will happen tomorrow in my own life.

Running away from questions by trying to feign knowledge or even worse, by writing them off to a mystical source (God) is foolish and a missed opportunity. What’s even more important though is that sometimes, we just need to be a friend in silence and support through love and community. Just sitting with someone and talking with them may bring the answers to the questions being faced. Either way, the point here is to love the person through their trial without heaping your agenda on them too. In my case, spending time with God and asking Him these very same questions is paramount!

Sometimes, our answers are right in front of us, but we can’t see or hear them because of all of the distraction or noise. This is something I’ve become very aware of and sensitive to. Because I believe in God and that he has a plan for my life, I choose to listen to him. I can’t always do that well though, because the noise of my life can get in the way of my hearing his voice or seeing his direction. My good friends help me to face the truth of my situation, to challenge me to ask hard questions or to walk into the unknown; but a very wise and cherished friend asked me to consider spending a little time just “being” and to let the “noise” of my life subside until I can hear God’s voice. Wise advise indeed! (you know who you are and I love you for it).

Do we need to help ourselves and our friends by helping them answer tough questions… sure, but sometimes, that means asking even more questions that help to illuminate the truth in the situation. Just be willing to be patient and expect not to have the answers in your time frame. That part is not up to us and impatience won’t bring the answers any sooner… trust me! Sometimes, the best thing we can do to find our answers is to live our lives and not focus so directly on our problems.

Getting back to my point, ignorance is not a bad thing! It’s an opportunity to lean and to grow. Being willing to admit that we don’t know is wise! Wisdom is about not having an abundance of knowledge. It’s knowing how to apply that knowledge and admitting that we may need to learn even more. Wisdom is a combination knowledge, love, compassion, truth and humility.

The next time someone says to you… “I think I’m going to ??????????, what do you think?”, rather than blurting out an answer, why not try doing the verb in the question… why not try spending some time “thinking” with the person who is struggling, especially if you really don’t have an answer?  Friendship is about patience, love, respect and above all, honesty.

I don’t always practice this myself… but I’m learning to.

PS

You always encouraged me to learn and ask to questions.  You always encouraged me to engage!  You always encouraged me!  I love  and miss you Mom!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Men, Women, communication and silence…

Lately… it’s been blog articles that have inspired my writing… “my writing”. There’s something I never thought I ever hear myself say.

I read an article this morning while sipping on my coffee and chatting with a few good friends (http://www.tickld.com/x/the-difference-between-men-and-women). How many times have we read this kind of parody on non-verbal interplay between a man and a woman? It’s a fairly common stereotype and sadly, there’s a significant amount of truth to the story.  The truth underneath this article is I think, all too prevalent in our relationships.

Before I get into this, I want to say that I don’t necessarily buy into the gender stereotypes presented in this scenario though I do know that they do exist. I see it far more often than I should and that’s a sad statement. Of course, not all women or men are like the characters in the story, but there is a certain thread of truth to their reactions and thought processes.

At face value, we could conclude that this is just the way it is between men and women, because of what and how we value and how we process. Women value relationship and are connection oriented. Men also value relationship but are compartmental and task oriented. Again… these are generalizations which I think are for the most part… nonsense. I think it is rude and assumptive to lump the behavioural patterns of individuals within their gender set because of their gender alone! While men are generally task focused, we’re not always that way… neither too are women brooding ninnies who constantly postulate scenarios because of a single spoken word or sentence. It’s preposterous and dismissive!

What I found very true about the article though was what happened because of silence and lack of communication. Fred’s silence or apparent lack of interested (in Martha’s view) spawned a dizzying array of scenarios in Martha’s mind, based assumptions which were based on a single word response! Let’s do away with the female stereotype for a moment and ask ourselves what’s wrong with this picture…

Was Fred wrong for answering as he did? Was Martha wrong for reacting as she did? Maybe and maybe not. This phenomenon is all too common and it’s based on one thing… our willingness to face truth. To be truly honest with ourselves and with those that mean the most to us.

Why is it that we have trouble expressing ourselves on topics that matter most to us? Clearly, relationship was very important and valuable to Martha. I would say it was a core value to her. That isn’t to say that it’s not also for Fred, but in this scenario, Martha is clearly thinking about moving to the next level in their relationship. Why then does she not pick a time to talk to Fred about it? Why not just be direct,  willing to face reality and ask? I know… I’m blowing this scenario out of proportion, but honestly, why do we let ourselves live in limbo? If the truth is that Fred would rather eat Doritos and watch re-runs of sporting events than share his life with someone, that is what he’s going to do and there is nothing that Martha can do to change it. It’s is what it is… that is simply the truth of the situation.

Martha clearly values Fred and feels that he’s a good match for her., but is he really?  Instead of respecting her values and engaging in a conversation with Fred about her hopes and the reality of their future though, she allows the situation to end in a cloud of uncertainty. Even worse, she further proceeds to play out scenarios by talking with people who can’t possibly hold any of the answers she seeks. I’m not suggesting that we do not seek the wise counsel of friends, but those conversations should be about us, our character and conduct, not what the other person should do or might be thinking.   If we truly find ourselves in a good and healthy relationship, we should be able to share the truth and be accepted and respected for it.  The subject may be difficult, but that doesn’t change reality!  It doesn’t change the truth that must be faced.

Why do we fear the truth? It’s just the truth. It’s reality. We have no control over what someone else will do. We may have a small amount of influence here and there, but honestly, we have no control!

The answer to this riddle is not at all complex. It’s simply based in truth and a willingness to hear, understand, accept and live in it! Martha can “suppose” all she wants to with her friends, but the truth she seeks lies in the heart and mind of Fred. Hopefully, he has enough integrity in himself and respect for Martha to answer with equal honesty.

This by the way, this isn’t limited to intimate relationships. It is applicable in all of our relationships… We could be wondering about the conduct of our child at school, a relationship at work or the status of our current position at our workplace. We could be wondering about our relationship with our neighbour… there’s no end. In the end, the truth exists and it exists in the honesty and minds of the people involved. The honesty shared between two people creates the truth in any situation.

Martha could have just as easily asked Fred “Wow… Six months… I’m glad to be here… how do you feel about the next six?” Fred could answer in many ways, but in the end, Martha knows what she values and if Fred does not share her values, then Martha’s reality becomes one of choice. Does she respect her values or does she compromise them? I could write a book on this scenario, but I think you can guess what I’m getting at. We must be willing to explore the truth and reflect it against what we believe and value because that is our truth. You can’t make an apple be an orange no matter how promising it may look to be. If Martha hopes to be married one day, to have children and live out her life sharing it in a family, then that is her truth. If Fred is not quite ready for that scenario and can’t say when he will be, then Martha has some thinking to do. She can do nothing of course, but then where does that lead? To more indecision and angst!

These choices are not always easy because of the promise that we may see in a situation, but it is far better to let go of what merely looks good and promising to us and instead seek something or someone who will value and accept us for who we are and what we value. A wise friend once said to me “it’s better to be single than wish you were”. Truer words were never spoken.

I’m sure that Martha and Fred are kind and wonderful people, but they may not be wonderful for one another. The only way for them to find that out is to be honest and open with each other. If they are unable to do that in the early stages… what might the rest of their relationship look like long term?

Being willing to accept and value who we are and then to accept someone opposite us is based in truth. The ability to be honest about who we are, what we value and what our goals are. It’s not rocket science. We just make it more difficult by not being willing to face and accept the truth of a situation. Phone a friend? Guessing? Will those bring direct answers or truth? Sometimes but mostly not. Ask about and face the truth with those directly involved and also be willing to share what you know to be your truth. You may not find the outcome you seek in that particular situation, but it will probably lead you to a much happier and grounded life.

Of course, this is just my opinion and you are welcome to challenge it, but do you have one on this subject or have you asked yourself… how do I feel about this?  If you don’t have an opinion then I challenge you to ask yourself to make one.  Please consider this… we’re depending on your truth.