Being punished by God

Do you ever feel like you’re being punished by God? I had one of those experiences recently, and I’m so glad it didn’t last long. In those couple of days one thing I found interesting is that I had anger towards God. And that, my friends, is me admitting I’m not very spiritually mature. To think about it another way, try remembering when one of your parents grounded you. More times that not, we were instantly mad at our parents, right? Forget whatever we did wrong, that was totally beside the point! How dare mom or dad discipline us and RUIN OUR LIVES!!!!!!!
rain

“I turned my back on everything that was true.”

That’s the same way I acted when I felt like I was being punished by God. I was all like, “Wassup with that, God?” “Why me?” “Why don’t you care?” And God was all like, “Read the Bible!” “Isaiah 58.” “Chump!” OK, OK, not in those exact words but I opened up to Isaiah 58 and yowza, a scolding. A brief recap: God’s people were wondering why He didn’t seem to care about them (this happened quite a bit with them). They did this or that thinking it’s what God wanted. But He called them out on it, with beautiful clarity and insight. That’s the first half of the chapter, anyway. It goes on to offer what God desired from them, and for them. It’s sweet, actually, and very encouraging. After reading that chapter, I saw my attitude for what it really was: sour, unjustified, and immature.

“Left to myself I realize / I am the maker of my own demise.”

I was upset with God when I should’ve been upset with myself. What I blamed Him for was actually just a consequence of my own shortcoming. And while He may have allowed it to happen, feeling like punishment to me, it might have simply been Him using the consequences as discipline. Like if you’re a parent, maybe you did’t save your child from getting suspended when they got caught skipping school or whatever. Know what I mean? They reaped (rept? rooped?) what they had sown. It’s a chance for them to learn something, even if it’s the hard way.

Father-and-Son-Holding-Hands

“Some people gotta learn the hardway.”

This experience was a low moment, but I hope I never forget it because man, God is so good. He hung with me through it and even had a blessing for me on the other side. Totally unfair. A blessing. I was all like, “Really?” and God was all like, “Really.”

Not in those exact words. 🙂

-Out of the Wilderness

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So you’re a newlywed, huh?

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 11.22.49 AMI was chatting with a friend recently about someone she knows who’s getting married. We covered some of the details most people love knowing about when it comes to weddings: location, the couple, the excitement of the families. It’s great when two people love each other, and side note, if you’re a girl wondering if a guy might be interested in you, check out another post of mine: 10 Signs He’s Into You.

My friend mentioned that the two people getting married aren’t Christians and neither go to church, which is why their wedding is taking place somewhere other than a church and not officiated by a pastor. We sort of left it as hoping for the best for the couple and that their marriage will last. I enjoyed the conversation but always wonder why I come up with my best comments well after any particular topic is over.

In this case, I didn’t have much to say in the moment about the folks getting married not being Christians. But if I could do it over, I’d say something about all of us, no matter where we are now, started somewhere. We all have a story and sometimes a relationship with God starts at a young age, sometimes not. Sometimes it never starts at all. My hope for these soon-to-be newlyweds is that in the process of getting married, and being married, that God reveals Himself to them. After all, marriage is spoken about a lot in the Bible and I believe God holds it in very high regard.

Another hope: just don’t screw it up! I say that playfully, yet reflecting on how mankind has pretty much screwed up everything at some point or another. God has given us so many good things, marriage included, and we’ve managed to pervert all of it. And that goes for Christ-followers, too. Here’s the thing about that, by the way. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat. People who call themselves Christians aren’t any better than anyone else. Like it says in the Old Testament, “We all like sheep have gone astray.” We’re all looking for an answer. We’re all seeking peace, happiness, and something to worship.

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 11.23.01 AMSo I still definitely hope for the best for my friend’s friends who are getting married. I hope it’ll last, that they positively wreck the statistics of divorce. And especially, I hope somehow they’re willing and able to understand a little more about God through their marriage. And if/when they have kids, they get another glimpse into the character of God, as it’s revealed through a parent’s love for their children.

Maybe you can’t exactly relate to getting married, being a newlywed or even becoming a parent. Hey, I certainly can’t! But we can all relate to one key take-away:

Whatever you’re doing, just don’t screw it up. 🙂
Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 11.22.36 AM-Out of the Wilderness

PS. All of these stunning photos were taken by amazing photographer Joe Hendricks. More incredible wedding photos can be seen on his website, along with breathtaking landscape photos (available for purchase)! Click here, you won’t be sorry!

God is able

A phrase that’s been on the front of my mind lately is one you’ll hear in sermons, in songs, or written on posters or in sympathy cards. It comes from Ephesians 3:20.

God is able.

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If you’re like me, though, every once in a while you might ask yourself, “What is He able to do, exactly?” I think the Sunday School answer is everything. But that doesn’t necessarily help me when I’m stuck in traffic and frustrated, or when I make a mistake at work, or when I say something that’s not exactly encouraging to someone. Or for you, maybe you’re losing patience with your kids, or lost out on a big work project, or didn’t do so hot on a recent test. Or maybe you just accomplished something significant, or did get that big work project. There’s still a need for God even in those situations, right? It could almost be anything at all that points us to a need for something more.

What has made the phrase relevant in my life recently is acknowledging that I sometimes get caught in this cycle:

Feeling discouraged <turns into> thinking something will or won’t happen <turns into>  doubt <turns into> unhealthy behavior <turns into> guilt.

So I’ll admit, then, sometimes I wonder about it. “Is God able?” I’ll ask. Is He actually able to help me with what I’m doing today? Using the cycle above, is He able to keep me from diving into discouragement, etc?

Then recently it dawned on me: Yes, He is. Because His ability to “do” isn’t constrained by and doesn’t rely on my belief that He can. He can. He can. That’s it. He can. It’s like wondering if a beagle howls. Or a dolphin jumps. Or if grass is green. The answer is yes, yes, and yes. Whether I believe it or not, the grass is still green. A dolphin will still jump. A beagle will still howl.

And God is able.

So I’m thankful today that even in my wavering ups and downs where for one minute I’m singing How Great Thou Art and the next I’m quoting one of my favorite lines from Rescue Dawn – “God, why don’t You help us when we need You most?” – God is still there, and He is still able.

-Out of the Wilderness

Life: Laughing together like people in Japan probably do

Laughing.

We all do it. Babies. Old folks. Democrats. Republicans. AP English teachers. Criminals. People in the smallest town in the US to people in the largest city in Japan.

ms smilingWhen God created us, he included something that makes life so much more enjoyable. The sense of humor. And it’s pretty cool that there are different types. Something I find funny isn’t the same as what you think’s funny. Sense of humor can be seen in all areas of life; from TV ads like this one…
…to funerals where someone giving the most heartfelt eulogy can pepper in a bit of humor that works perfectly, even in the midst of heartbreaking loss.

I’ve been thinking some this week about this thing called humor. How it fits into my life. If you know me at all, it’s needless to say I value it very much. I absolutely love making someone laugh with a timely thought, an odd look, or a movie quote. And I equally love when someone can make me laugh. There’s more to it, though, and this is what I’ve been wrestling with the past few days.

When do I use humor to keep people from knowing the deeper things in my heart?

I think there are times I don’t like to admit that I’ve used humor as a way for you to like me. Sort of a social resume. It’s especially true when I first meet people. Humor is a way to say, “Hey, I’m a fun person!” I hand over a piece of paper with a few topical one-liners, a personal quip about my dogs, an impression of Jimmie Fallon doing an impression of Donal Trump.

“Let’s build a waalllllll.”

But hey, I’ve already built a wall! Yes, perfect segue. I can comfortably hide behind this wall to keep from revealing the other things I value. Deep conversations. Complete trust. Working hard and not cutting corners. No one wants to talk about those things in social scenarios, right? So a wall’s constructed, beautified, updated with the most current news or movie quotes, all in an attempt to:

  1. Get you to like me
  2. Keep me from being vulnerable which could lead to rejection

This weekend, though, I’ve longed for that vulnerability. I feel it most alive, or most exposed, when I have conversations with long-time friends, those handful of people that’ve climbed over the wall to experience the deeper parts of my personality. Beyond the humor I sometimes hide behind.

So to my long-time friends, thank you for letting me be vulnerable. To new friends, please like me! I hope one day soon we can let our guards down. To laugh together like people in Japan probably do, but also trust each other like long-time friends do.

-BW
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I Don’t Know What the Future Holds

…but I know who holds the future. Have you ever heard that before? It’s a catchy, thoughtful little quote that Christians like to say when things are uncertain. I’ve certainly used it for comfort at various points in my life and when I say various points, I mean when I wonder who I’ll marry or if all my mistakes have lead me miles away from where I should be or could be. Earlier this week I thought more about the word ‘trust’ and how it connects to faith. Because that ‘holds the future’ thing is really all about trust. If we really believed, like if we really, really believed, knowing that God is in control, that He really “holds the future,” that we can really trust Him completely, believing that everything that happens, happens for a reason, and even beyond that, He knows about everything that happens and that nothing happens that He hasn’t accounted for or planned on, if we believed that even with the chaos we see every single minute in our hometowns, in our states, in our country, in the world, in our heads, that He is actually in control, that He actually has a plan, that He actually isn’t surprised by anything ever, that nothing happens beyond what He allows, that there is an end goal and a finish line for all of us, that the world, as in the actual earth, is longing for Him, too, that as society crumbles and people act more and more crazy, act more and more selfish, less and less tolerant to Him and what he brings, less tolerant to those they call intolerant, even through all that, He counts the hairs on our head, He’s still got compassion for those that love him and those that hate him, He reaches out to hug us, to protect us, He loves us and even likes us, His angels are entertained by watching His creation (us) like I’m entertained watching His creation (dolphins and horses, more specifically), to really believe he can hold all the love and all the hate and all the greatness and sadness, all the victories and defeats that every one of us face, all the disappointment and all the success, all the governments that may or may not acknowledge Him, he can hold all of that in a balance that allows us to still live even when we don’t deserve it, to love even though we don’t really know how, to laugh even when we might be suffering… well, if we really believe He’s actually in control, as if He’s actually got a plan for the big future (mankind) and the little future (mine and yours)…

I don’t see how that wouldn’t change everything about everything.

Miracles, What Are They Anyway?

After barely making the playoffs, your favorite hockey team wins the Stanley Cup. Not a miracle.

Speeding down the highway in the pouring rain, just missing the jack-knifed semi-truck trailer. Not a miracle.

A man turning water into wine. Miracle.

The word miracle is far too often associated with something that is simply not miraculous. It’s a word that is overused, like a standing ovation during American Idol performances. When the audience stands and cheers after every performance, the honor of a standing ovation is lost. If a miracle is God acting in a situation, then anything that happens naturally is not a miracle. Take the stories from the Bible: Jesus turning water into wine, Moses parting the Red Sea, Lazarus coming out of the grave… these are miracles. Water never turns into wine. The Red Sea never splits in two. Death has never released it’s grip on anyone (up to that point). I’m sorry, the last I checked, a baby being born is not a miracle. Why? Because reproduction is the way humans were designed. It’s what is supposed to happen. It’s natural. It seems miracles occur in specific instances for specific reasons, mostly to make people aware of God’s presence. While there are plenty of other ways to see God- in nature, in people, in the birth of a baby- miracles are extremely rare, and extremely unnatural. The exciting part is when you do witness a true miracle, I have a feeling you won’t be able to keep from giving God a standing ovation. Or at least tweeting about it.

How ‘Bout Now

I want to ride down the highway
barely aware of what’s around us.
So caught up in each other
we may run out of gas,
but isn’t it a blast
to hold hands because we trust
that what we have will last?

I want to wake up in the morning
still smiling from the night before.
When we were shopping at Old Navy.
An unexpected twist,
thank God we didn’t miss
the Thursday in that store.

Tell me have you gave up drinkin’?
because I’ve stopped overthinkin’.
We can work it out.
What’s between the dream and reality
is a ‘yes’.
Well, baby, how ’bout now?

I want to wake up in the morning,
barely aware of what’s around us.
Well, baby, how ’bout now?