A Good Father Gives Good Gifts

A good father gives good gifts.

This is a concept that I don’t struggle with. At leat not the statement itself.

I was fortunate to grow up with an awesome Dad who provided for my needs and many of my wants. So, the fact that God would do that too, doesn’t stretch my imagination too far.

And yet it does.

I was talking about this with some friends from church last week and it has been coming up in the study I am doing this Lent season.

God gives good gifts. Tons and tons of them.

For some people, that alone is tough to process because they grew up in environments where that doesn’t seem plausible. Where their loved ones didn’t provide good gifts, so the concept that God would is tough to grasp.

For me, it is tough to process because that is a lot of gifts. And those gifts don’t always seem good.

The thing is, that sometimes we are so needy that we miss out on the real gifts. And we miss out on the biggest gift of all, Jesus.

In church a couple weeks ago, we were talking about how we really shouldn’t be giving God ultimatums. Because ultimatum faith is not faith at all. The concept that we will believe if we see a sign. We will believe if good things happen. That our faith is based on our day to day experience only. That can’t be the case. There needs to be trust. Our reality needs to be changed.

Realistically, there have already been signs. The whole water into wine thing… A sign that God provides the best for his people. The whole healings and miracles chunk of time, again, sign of provision, sign of who He is, etc.

Should that be enough?

I mean, there is a place for seeking signs.  It happens in the Bible.  But, in our discussion it was that people sought signs in faith that God would respond.  And it wasn’t an I’ll do this if you do that kind of sign.  It was a seeking evidence for God’s will sort of thing.  And even then, if  you get down to it, often, it was more of a confirmation because the human was doubtful than a necessity.

I am an empirical person, so I admit that it is tough for me sometimes, as I am sure some of you reading this think I am bat crazy. But, I have read around the manuscripts and the origins of the documents and have drawn conclusions that God and Jesus make sense to me.  And that those gifts are good gifts.  And that the changes in me are good gifts that couldn’t be because of me alone.

The reading I have been doing asked the question last week that also kind of followed along with something we were discussing at church.

How would the presence of God be more satisfying to you than answers from God? –Huag and Walker (2013)

Agh. That is a tough one.

I would love to say that I am super holy and that the presence of God is always satisfying without answers.

I would be lying.

Realistically, I know the statement is true. The presence of God is comfort and peace and joy, but it just isn’t simple and happy go lucky butterflies and rainbows.

Answers are tangible. They are the evidence for an empirical mind. And I want answers because I like being worldy brand happy. I want my career to be perfect, I want my family and friends to be happy and healthy, I don’t want to worry about money or housing and I want to have kids. The thing is answers aren’t always what we think they should be and answers will only satisfy me for so long.

I have been struggling with answers. It is tough sometimes to remember that an all knowing, loving God is present when you are hurting and longing for something you can’t have.

It brings me back to ultimatum faith.

Belief because I got what I wanted and acts of faith because I want something. Or disbelief because I can’t have something. That when bad stuff happens, God must be judging us and we aren’t good enough.

It just doesn’t work long term. In fact, it can get to be soul crushing.

I have been learning, especially over the last year or so about valuing the presence of God even when things aren’t going right, when I’m not happy, when things are tough and when loss happens. I have lots of gifts. More than I can ever count. More than I realize I even have. My last couple years have been emotional roller coasters.  But, I feel best in the presence of God because that is better than the stuff I have here in the long run. Sometimes the best gift is no gift at all. Just time and love.

I am striving to switch my perspective. To value the presence over the gifts all the time, not just when it is easy or when things are going terribly or awesomely. Kind of like we should enjoy time with our loved ones, not what they give us.

Presence of God is more permanent than answers. Sure, it is more fluffy sounding, but really it is more hearty.

A good father gives good gifts.

I am thankful for that. I like my gifts. But really, in order to be a good father and give good gifts, being around is key, otherwise you can’t know what to give when. You need to know who you are gifting to.

And that is why I prefer the presence of God. Even if I like the gifts.

Medical Mondays: Making Lists

It is Medical Monday again.  If you are somehow medically affliliated, check out the button below for information on linking up or for some interesting reading.


I love lists.

I am sure you noticed if you are around here very often.  I am all about top ten lists and the like.  I am pretty sure I could make a top ten list of my favourite top ten lists.

But it isn’t just ranking my favourite things.

It is also my favourite organizational tool.

I have my to do list on the wall in the resident’s room. I update it weekly and check things off and such, much to the fascination to the other residents.

photo

This is an over month old version of the list, but you get the picture.

I have our household chores list on the refrigerator. It even has magnets to check things off.photo

I am excited thinking about the address list I need to formulate in order to write and send our Christmas cards (on an aside, this is the first year I am properly sending out Christmas cards… It makes me feel very adult).

I was excited to find a Christmas card list. Okay, I probably won’t take it this far… Image from janesapple.com.

I make pro-con lists.  I made one about dating Patrick, marrying Patrick, getting a cat, picking an apartment, picking a residency program.  Yes.  I am pretty much the real-life Rory Gilmore of pro-con lists.

In medicine, we use a lot of lists.  We memorize protocols for different procedures or issues or differentials.  Some people mneumonics.  I hate those things.  I can’t do it.  I need to understand the logic, the pattern.  And then I can hammer out the list.

Image from protomag.com.

I have a life list.

As in I, although it is not written down, have a basic outline for how I see things going.  A 5 and 10 year plan, if you may.

I know that these things aren’t set in stone.  I mean, I get that.  I also get that it is not always in my control.  But, I know we are here until 2017… Probably more like 2018.  I know when we want to have a baby… And another baby.  I know what fellowship I want to do and where I want to work.  Where Patrick could work.

It is all in there in my head.

I hate it when my lists don’t work out.  When a condition doesn’t fit the pattern I expect.  When life throws a curve ball.  When I am out of the cleaning supply I need to get the next thing on the cleaning plan done.  When the budget doesn’t work out.

I like plans.  I like lists.

Life and medicine throws curveballs.

I feel like medicine excels at the curveball.

Curveballs mess with my lists.  They add to them or change them in ways I can’t otherwise predict.

But, figuring out how to get around the curveball is pretty cool too.  And trusting that eventually, it will hit the ground or your glove and then you get to try to start over from a different point.

Then, I can make a new list.  Or at least try.

And have the satisfaction of checking things off or sorting things out in the end.

The big picture thing for me is that God plays a HUGE role in the whole list thing and rearranging thing.  The rearranging often comes with me not paying attention to Him to see that He is moving things in a different direction or wants me to move in a different direction.  He has a bigger plan.

God is the ultimate list maker.

Sometimes I just like my list.  It is easier to see and to process.  But, I keep telling myself His is better.  And often our lists are the same.  But sometimes, He is the one that throws a curveball.  And I trust that those work out for the best in His time.

Some big things have been checked off my list recently.  The LMCCII, a presentation, some scheduling issues, getting a new coffee table set (it is sad how essential this was starting to become).  All of these are notches in the belt, ticks on the list.  Evidence of progress, even if it seems like there are a ton of big things still to come.

Progress is progress.  And plans and patterns are helpful, but they aren’t perfect.  I just want them to be sometimes to make things easier.  I just need to trust that there is a better list maker at work here.

Reblog: How I Balance Faith and Medicine and Exams

Check out this fantastic post by  Nathan called Lessons from Psychiatry Part 1: How I Balance Faith and Medicine and Exams.

Seriously.  Read it now.

I read this and I thought… Wow… Here is a lesson I have learned over and over again.  And a lesson I forget more often than I should given the number of times that I should have learned it.

Over the last few weeks with my exams and presentations and relationships all seeming to want to demand my attention, my relationship with God has been a struggle for me.  It came up at small group, it came up in my own (very rare) Bible reading.   It came up everywhere.

And really, my relationship with God should not be a struggle.  It should be something I work at.  Something that I want to have.  But, really, I think it shouldn’t be a struggle.

And yes, I realize that is kind of putting pressure on myself.

God wants a relationship with me.  But like any relationship, it takes time and effort to maintain it.  And I should want to maintain it.  Just like I maintain my marriage and a million other relationships.

I don’t always make it the priority that He deserves.

It is easier sometimes to put my human priorities in front.  Things that seem more pressing.

Nathan points out the example of Daniel and his friends.  They put God first in  what I consider to be a more trying situation than anything the world of medicine can throw at me and look where it got them… Right at the right hand of the King.  Sure, they had some struggles and trials, but really, it worked out.

And that is the main thing.

I can’t doubt the promises of God.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  -Jeremiah 29:11

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39.

He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.  -Isaiah 40:29-31

He is pretty much the only person I can’t doubt.

So, I should put Him first.

Did I?

Honest answer… Not so much.

Really reading this post was kind of a slap in the face.  I had so much faith in myself.  So much pressure on myself.  And I took God time to make it more study time or sleep time or anything else time.

And yet, I feel like the prayers and love of others and God’s grace and peace were upon me.   Because that is how great God is.

I think I would have felt better had I given Him the time and credit he deserves.

The beauty is He has so much grace I can learn for next time (hopefully with a different exam, though).

Twisted Mix-Tape: Songs that are spiritual to me

It is my usual top ten tuesday day from the Broke and the Bookish, but I wasn’t a fan of the topic this week.  And I am so swamped with all sorts of work stuff, I couldn’t be bothered trying to piece together a list.

Then, I remembered this meme that I saw a few weeks back from My Skewed View called the Twisted Mix-tape.  I like music.  I love a classic mix-tape.

Win.

This week’s mix is themed around songs that are spiritual to you.  My list are spiritual songs that get me through the rough days.

More Time by Needtobreathe.  Yes, this has been on this blog a number of times before, but it always reminds me that things take time and my timing isn’t always’s God’s timing.  “Please don’t worry now.  It will turn around.”  Those lines get me every time.

Your Hands by JJ Heller.  It is a good balance of upbeat and slow and the kind of simple that makes me think of it as a little prayer.

Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns.  I know, some people see this as a very cliché song, but it got me through the MCATs and I still sing it to myself from time to time when things seem big.

Waiting For My Real Life to Begin by Colin Hay.  Yes, it was on Scrubs and no, I haven’t watched the show.  I sang it in med school choir, though (don’t judge).  It takes me to an imaginary place and a very real place in life all at once.

The Precipice by The Classic Crime.  “I dreamt I stood on a hill that I wished was a mountain to look back on all my accomplishments.  Well, they must have been small because I couldn’t seem to find them, so I took a leap off of the precipice.”  So true, so true.  And this is another song that has great sing along potential, build up and meaning.

Amazing Because It Is by The Almost.  Another one of my all-time favourite songs, it isn’t so much motivational as profoundly meaningful and one of those songs where the variety of volumes, combinations of voices and instruments and all that stuff really put it together as something powerful.  Thus, why it is the conclusion to the mix tape.

I could add so many more songs to this.  It was one of those moments where I wanted to make the 5ish songs 10, but that would turn into 20 (and me getting no work done tonight).  It was fun to make.  And made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Funny how good music can do that.

In the Mundane

Last Sunday in church, we were wrapping up a series on 1 Corinthians.  I have written about the series or related topics a few other times on here (refer to this, this and this)

Something (well, three verses in particular) struck me in the last service.  Right in the face (of note, face has been my word of the day today).  They are (I learned because it was pointed out) both imperative statements.  Things to do because of our victory through Jesus.  Things to do to demonstrate our faith and serve our Lord.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.  Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.  1 Corinthians 15:58.

AND…

Be on guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be courageous.  Be strong.  And do everything with love.  1 Corinthians 16:13-14.

Besides this being yet another chunk where the Bible tells you what to do or not do, what does this really have to do with anything?  Why did this bit strike me?

I like practical things.  I get annoyed when people ask superficial questions that are answered directly in the passage.  I get annoyed at discussions about the differences in wording in a certain passage or why something might not mean what it looks like.  I am not saying I hate really getting into the meat of something, but I hate when people seem to miss out on something obviously there or try to look for something that probably is not.

Sometimes, when people look for practical applications in the Bible, I get annoyed.  The whole thing is practical.  That is the point.

But these imperatives really bring out the practical.  They are succinct, blunt and basically say how we need to behave.  I like that.

But what I liked even more was something the pastor drew attention to.  Something I know but something I struggle with.  Something that is said in the verses, but is not always obvious on a surface level.

These things are ways of being faithful.  Of living out faith.  And the cool part is that being faithful does not simply consist of the big stuff.  The healings and giving big gifts and doing the obvious.  Being faithful to Jesus also happens in the mundane.

The pastor actually used the word “mundane.”  I was glad he did.  That made it make sense to me.  And I totally see it in these verses.  That nothing you do for the Lord is useless.  That standing firm, being strong and courageous is not just in the giant scary times but even in the every day average times.  But, had he not used the word mundane, I am not sure I would have picked up on how big these verses are.

I sometimes feel trapped in the mundane.

I work an average of 60-70 hours per week. Like most jobs, sometimes things are very routine and can be full of going through the motions (I know, this is totally shocking after the exciting world of medicine I paint on here).  I am fortunate that there is much variety, every disease process can do something a bit different and, thankfully, people are so unique things do not seem monotonous.  But, there is still a ton of paperwork to plow through, meetings to sit in on and all that good stuff.  Plus, I have the whole school/studying side.  I love to learn.  But, sometimes reading books and journal articles, preparing presentations and all that good stuff in your “spare” time gets aggravating.

Plus, I am still a wife.  And I want to be a good wife.  The kind that keeps a clean house, cooks proper meals and such.  Laundry never ends.  The house gets messy as soon as it looks clean.  Cooking a good meal one day is awesome, but you still need to eat the day after that.

Some days I feel trapped in a work, cook, study sleep cycle.  I feel like I am doing nothing “great” for God.  In fact, I just feel like I am spinning my wheels.

But that is where the whole mundane thing comes in.

I know my life is not boring by any means.  But, monotony does set in (but when yo switch rotations every four weeks, it can’t linger too long).  Sometimes, I feel like I am just going through the motions.  That most of what I do makes no difference.

I have heard over and over again that “whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men.” (Colossians 3:23)  But, I forget.  And these verses reminded me.

But the mundane bit is what struck me.  I tell myself I know it is everything, but really when I read “do,” I think of employment, like when we ask people, “What do you do?” meaning what is your vocation.

It blows my mind that when I am serving others in ways like navigating laundry heaps, making my husband supper or studying to be a better doctor that I am serving the Lord.

I have to admit that I don’t always do this stuff in love.  That I am not always thinking about God when I do it.  Sometimes, I am resenting the person who gave me the assignment, or my husband for being messy or my friend for being needy.  That really isn’t how or why I should do these things.  It doesn’t say I have to always “want” to do them, but I do need to adjust my focus… God and love.  Such is a life of serving God.

I found myself this afternoon wasting time staring at our tax return and being bitter about the work I have to get done.  And then I remembered this passage.  The whole mundane thing.  That these things do matter and do have purpose.  That when I do them in love and with a serving attitude they are serving God.

That is pretty cool.

Does it make me enjoy them more?

Not that much.  But maybe a little because trying to be enthusiastic, loving and Christ focused helps.

And then there is the whole be strong, firm, etc. chunk.  I just like hearing them.  I like the reminders.  I need the reminders.  I feel like I have been waffling on this stuff lately because things have been overwhelming and busy.  I think you need to be on guard for things that deceive, that you need to be strong, not just in times of trouble, but in good times too, that being firm in your faith can help these thing along.  And that this combination can make the mundane seem maybe a bit less mundane.

I feel like all of this calls for a song that basically says what I just said to wrap things up…

Faith and Why I Would Lose My Mind Without It

Today’s prompt from the Daily Post is entitled “Un/Faithful.”  The suggested writing topic is to write about the role faith does or does not play in my life.

When it all comes down to it, I think faith has a role to play in everyone’s life.   Let me refer you to a delightful dictionary.com definition:

noun
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

Faith is a lot of things.  And I think often we narrow it down to a religious thing.  And at that a Christian religious thing.  So, people presume that if you reject that, you reject faith.

Honestly, I think even if you don’t  believe in God, you still have to have faith in something… Even if it is just a trust that your car will start in the morning… Still faith.

I know some people are at baseline mistrusting of everyone but themselves and even things.  But when you turn the shower on and expect water, really, at the foundation of the word, that is a form of faith.

But, we are supposed to be talking about me here.  So, back to that.

Faith is extremely important in my life. 

First of all, there is the obvious.  I am not shy on here to admit that I believe in God and that Jesus came to the Earth to sacrifice himself for our sins.  This takes faith.  Although, a good read of The Case For Christ for a bit of scientific evidence doesn’t hurt either.  I believe this without seeing it.  Although I can argue that I have firsthand experienced the grace and peace that can come only from God.  I have heard God speak to me (maybe I am bat crazy, but that takes faith).  This faith keeps me going through the bad times and makes me more grateful for the good.  This faith is what motivates me to do strange things like head to church on Sundays when I could be sleeping or cleaning my house.  This faith is what drives many of my actions, and, for that matter, my inactions. 

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls-1 Peter 1:3-9
These verses really help put together the whole faith thing for me. 

But, faith is more than just faith in God.  Although that, for me, that most important aspect of faith.

Faith is believing in things unseen.  As I said before, that can sometimes be as simple as knowing that when I turn on the tap, I have faith the water will come out. 

Faith is trusting in others.  I have a blind trust for people.  I have a bit of House in me, but for the most part, I believe things at face value, unless they are things that I know everyone lies about.  I am married, so every day we practice faithfulness with one another.

Working in medicine takes a lot of faith.  Yes, we are extremely evidence-based.  However, whenever you use that evidence and apply it to a person, it is a bit of a leap.  People’s bodies don’t read textbooks, so they don’t always do what you expect.  But not only that, it takes trust to function on a team.  I have to have faith in the nurses and other physicians and patients and families to know they do what is necesary.  I trust that they are competent to do certain tasks.  Sometimes I am wrong, but you have to have some trust in order to survive.

If we don’t have faith, then it seems we miss out on so much.  If I didn’t have faith, I surely wouldn’t be able to function.  I couldn’t trust anything or anyone.  I would lose my mind at work trying to prove every diagnosis (sometimes you just have to try something and see what happens, as opposed to pinning things down).  And realistically, I would have nothing to live for.  All of this would be for no greater purpose.

Faith is big.  It is bigger than the box we put it in.  So, faith is a big part of my life.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Stop and Refocus

Today, in Sunday School, we continued our study in the book, Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Horger Alsup (again, I recommend it, if you get the chance and I am only half done reading it).  The class is small.  I am only there once in a blue moon, but today was a worthwhile day.

God has me come home for the lessons I need to hear.

I worry about everything.  I like to control things and, as I talked about earlier this week (check out that post here), I need to let go of things.  To top it all off, I care way too much (and yes, it is possible) about people and things that happen to people.  I mean this in the sense that I grieve and worry for people and things that I have no connection to or control over.  Aside from praying for them, there is nothing else I can do.  Yet, I often get into a spiral of thinking there is.

Take earlier this week, for example.  I was at a code in the middle of the night while I was on call.   It was a young person who I was not actually caring for (just in the right place at the right time).  They survived the initial resuscitation.  I had hear the nurses complaining about how messed up this family was earlier in the night… Their colourful attitudes and language.  This doesn’t change what happened.  But, it shaped my view of them.  And I wonder about them.  How they are.  I worry how choices made that night may have affected them.

Yes, it is good to think about it.  To improve on things.  To care.  But, sometimes, I think it is too much.  The amount I can think and worry.

I often take on other people’s grief.  I don’t mean to.  It just happens.  I spiral and think of how I would feel in that situation.  How they must feel in that situation.

It isn’t healthy.  That much I know.

But not only those sorts of things.  I worry about all sorts of petty things in life.  Not just big things.  Small things like supper or whether it will rain on our drive home tomorrow.  I worry about my future, unconceived (is that even a word?) children.

The chapters we read addressed living out faith.

It was all wrapped up with this quote:

Know Him and act like you know Him.  That is faith. –Wendy Horger Alsup

The author lines out a bit of a biblical approach to faith.

When things get crazy… Stop.

Sounds simple enough… But, how often do we really stop.  Just take a deep breath.  Arrest the flow of irrational and rational thoughts and pause.

She then suggests refocusing.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. –Colossians 3:1-3.

This is an interesting proposition.

My mind often races.  At work, on my way to a call on the floor, I often rehash what I need to do when I get there, the differential diagnoses, the worst-case scenarios.  At home, when things get rough, I think of how awful things could be if x happened.

The bottom line is that, with God’s help, we must stop in the middle of our struggles and force our line of vision back on the eternal perspective […] All else will pale in comparison when viewed against the backdrop of his eternal purposes.  –Wendy Horger Alsup

How different would things be if I stopped and refocused things on God?  What I know God to be.  How I know God is in control (even though I try not to let Him be in control sometimes).  And even more importantly, letting God take control.

Sometimes, it seems that things are terrible.  That we can’t see past our own sheltered lives of awfulness.  We are indeed selfish people.  Even when I fixate on the troubles of others, it is often still my reactions that I focus on.

But, when you take a step back, and look at it knowing that God has control.  And knowing how God has worked things out in the past, perhaps it might be easier to take a breath and move on.  To not focus on our sinful worries.  God hasn’t done anything to cause me harm in the past.  Sometimes things feel bad.  But, they turn out to be for good.  We just can’t always see beyond what is in front of us.

God does some of His biggest stuff in our lives in the hard times.  In fact, some of the hard times are used to show us the big stuff.

Maybe if we stop and refocus more, we would see it.  We would benefit from His work.  We would be acting more in obedience.  We would be acting more in faith.

It isn’t easy.  It takes practice.  One of the ladies suggested tattooing stop on her forehead and walking around with a mirror in her face to encourage her remembering to take time before responding to things with negative thoughts, worry and sin.  We decided that would look silly.

But perhaps, it takes conscious encouragement from others to remind us to stop and take a breath.  Refocus on God.  And remember the amazing things that come out of life through God, even in the times we spend freaking out.  Sometimes He takes things away or makes things difficult in order to make Himself clearer, to bring Himself glory, to help us grow.  Stopping and refocusing helps us to live in faith and act like it too.

We can’t do it all on our own.  We have to let God carry us through.  And truly, it is a beautiful thing once we stop and let it happen.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God, the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. –Habakuk 3:17-19

Reblog: Engaging Young Adults In Faith

As a young adult who happens to still go to church and such, I feel that being connected to a faith community offers the accountability, teaching and challenges that I need to really grapple with my faith. For me, personally, church is not an option, but a part of life because God is a part of my life.
Often, I am asked by people of all ages and backgrounds why I still choose to go to church in the midst of people leaving. I have watched friends leave, I have been in churches where I am one of the few under 50. Honestly, I don’t know. I have left the faith practices in which I was fundamentally raised. I am sure some of my relatives think I am bat crazy for attending an evangelical church and being so in to God. But, that made it real to me, it made Him real to me. Plus, I had a community of people who supported those choices.
People my age aren’t anti-God or anti-faith. But, they are cynical. We live in an evidence based society. Many have had a lot of hurt. They don’t trust the church as an organization.
Lynda MacGibbon, a lovely writer, wrote this post on young adults and the church. She works for the organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and was one of the staff that helped guide me and many of my friends through our undergraduate years by both challenging and encouraging us.
She concludes the piece by saying she hopes the Church can welcome and engage young adults, not for the sake of the church, but for the sake of the young adults. And that point rings true to me. We need to be concerned about those people out there, not just the numbers game at the church.
I think people need to admit there is an issue, as the paper she referenced does, in order to find a solution. Young adults are people too and they want to be engaged. Just maybe not in the same traditional Sunday Service ways.
Practical thoughts… As suggested in the post… Maybe invite them to a Bible study.  A good one with opportunity to ask questions.  Or just have an honest discussion.  Or invite people to low pressure events.  But seriously and most importantly, treat people like people, not matter what their past or their attitude.  Friendship goes a long way.

Lynda MacGibbon

Is Christianity becoming irrelevant to Canadian youth?

That’s a big question, and one that I have been interested in for a long time, particularly in the past 10 years, as I’ve worked for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, an organization dedicated to helping young people think about faith.

If I were to answer the question, based on the conversations I’ve been privileged to have with hundreds of high school, college and university students, the best I could offer is that I wonder.

In my experience, young people are still quite interested in engaging in conversations about faith in God and whether it’s relevant to life on this earth. But are they interested in Christianity, spelled with a capital letter and attached to that other big C word, Church?

Not so much, according to the findings of a new report released this month in Canada called Hemorrhaging Faith: Why Canadian Young Adults are…

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Things 1 through 5 of how God was faithful this one weekend.

When we were away for small group, it was amazing what God was showing us.  Both about His faithfulness in the small things and in His sense of humor.

Image via entertainyamania.com.

Thing #1.  Part of the group of us drove up early in the afternoon.  We ate supper (BBQ pizza… A fascinating concept), had a fire going and played the game of Life.  The other part of us drove up after work (foolish working people) and had to drive in the dark.  Now, I may have mentioned before that we live in somewhat of a moose breeding ground.  And that moose are lovely until you see them anywhere near you.  Especially at dusk.  And in the fog.  Well, they drove up in ridiculous fog at dusk.  So, they were a bit concerned about moose.  They saw not one, but two moose… One of which crossed the road in front of them after it was spotted.  They were lucky to see them.  There are many moose-vehicle accidents every year, especially on nights like the one they were driving on.  Yet, they made it safe and sound.

Thing #2.  Strangely, this is also moose related.  M, one of the girls in our small group is from Slovenia and has never seen a live moose.  She really wanted to, but did not really want us all to die in seeing it.  She was in the early car and missed the initial moose adventure.  So, on the way home, she said she had prayed that we would see a moose from a safe distance.  And about an hour later, we did.  A moose off in a clearing facing away from the road.  She was so excited.  And I was relieved it wasn’t heading for us.

Thing #3.  We planned this trip hoping to be able to go hiking and have a bonfire and all of that good stuff.  However, for the week leading up to the trip, the entire forecast was rain.  The day we left… The forecast was fog… And rain.  But, that evening, it changed to rain, then just fog in the afternoon and evening of the Saturday.  And, on Saturday at about lunchtime, the sun came out.  It was mild and sunny and we played “monkey in the middle,” goofed around on the lodge playground and even went for a nice long hike.  It was still pleasant enough that night that we had a chance to have a bonfire.  We couldn’t have asked for a much better day.  It was like it was made to deliver.

Corey Hunt… The singer of “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night.”
Image via wikipedia.

Thing #4.  While out for our hike, Patrick somehow lost his glasses.  You see, he was wearing sunglasses and then, about partway through the hike, he realized he did not have his normal glasses.  He figured he left them in the car… He did not.  So, he spent all of Saturday night wearing sunglasses… Inside, outside… In the dark.  It was quite funny.  We sang “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night” to him, he made a good Horatio Kane joke like on CSI, someone beat boxed when he spoke like he was a rap star.  Clearly, Patrick was rotted because he had no glasses and can’t see without them (thus the sunglasses).  I was rotted too because getting Patrick new glasses would have been tricky, given the Europe trip in a week and such.  Anyway, we got up early the next morning and went back to find them (I was not the most enthusiastic of helpers).  As we searched the others (unbenounced to us) prayed we would find them.  I begrudgingly prayed a similar prayer, but more because I wanted to be warm and dry in the cabin, not in the forest hunting for glasses at 730am.  Shockingly, we found them.  Definitely a God thing.

Thing #5.  The church we went to was having a children’s’ themed service.  And it was fun.

So, as you can see, there were some little things that we saw God’s faithfulness and a bit of humor in.  It was a good thing too, given that sometimes we all need those sorts of reminders.  And it made the weekend with lovely friends just that much better.

Old Identity – New Identity… Hooray Easter!

Since it is Easter Monday and some people have the day off (including me thanks to the wonderful ACLS schedule), I figure it ought to be another Easter themed post.

That and I am trying to bake for a bake sale, apartment hunt, do laundry and study for the LMCC all while spending time with the spouse because it is his day off too.  So, as you can imagine.  There is a touch of time crunching here.

So, yesterday in church, we (by we, I actually mean the pastor spoke and I took fervent notes) talked about how Jesus changes us.

Look at the disciples.

When Jesus was crucified.  They all peeled.  I bet I would.  You too.  The ran and hid and were afraid.  Because buddy who they thought they knew and trusted was arrested and crucifed.  Pretty scary stuff.

Peter swore he would never deny Jesus.  And then, being one of the few not hiding in the hills, he still managed to deny Jesus.  Not once, not twice, but three times.   To be honest, I do this too.  More often than I want to admit.

But, here is the interesting part… Christ rose again.  And appeared to the disciples.  They saw it and they believed it.  We read it.  Do we believe it?

Once they saw Jesus and really put the whole thing together… With a little help from the Big Man Himself, they changed.  The disciples went from men who were cowering for their lives… Considering taking up fishing (for marine life instead of people) again.    Then, they changed.  They became epic preachers.  They, with the help of Jesus and they Holy Spirit turned out to be courageous beyond what we can imagine and performed miracles and shared the Good News with all who heard.

These men… People who, like us, get scared and run away.  People who deny their faith.  People who screw up.  They changed.  They did things that we can’t imagine.  But, we can read about them.  In the Bible.

They did these things because God became man and Jesus died, so we wouldn’t have to suffer.

So, what is the point of all of this?  I mean, I don’t really want to go around preaching and performing miracles (well, I do, but I don’t know if I really do).

The disciples began to identify with Jesus.  They were ambassadors to Him.  They weren’t afraid to pledge allegiance or take a stand.  He made them new.  He changed them.

When we identify with Jesus, we can find a new identity in Jesus.  Because He basically erases the fact that we screw up all of the time in God’s eyes.  Because He can change us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  -2 Corinthians 5:17-21

I think that means that the least we can do is admit we know Him.  And maybe try to take a stand.  And pledge allegiance.  It won’t kill us.

Also, we sang this song in worship Sunday morning.  Written by a Newfoundlander (woot woot).  It was quite moving and has a great message.  Take time to take a listen!