Doubting God…

This is a really long post, but it is worth it for you to take the time to read through all of it. – Especially if you are working through doubting God.

I’ve mentioned this before, but somewhere back in June I began asking God to reveal the lies I had been believing, and the hope I had lost. – It was a challenge *I think* issued to our staff from our lead Pastor, but… It could have been one of our other pastors as well… I am not entirely sure the accurate genesis of this whole process for me.

While on mission and leading a team in Uganda, God began to do just that, He began to sift through my heart and show me primarily one area that I was believing total lies couched in actually accurate logic; plus, super fun: The hope I had lost was directly connected to the lies.

*shocking to no one*

Almost six months later, God and I are still working through these lies. The intensity, the clarity, confusion, processing, mulling things over, and emotions that are connected to working through these lies and hope lost varies day-to-day and week-to-week. Some days it is just overwhelming and I cannot possibly do anymore thinking or praying or processing through my heart with God. Other days there are incredible amounts of revelation and clarity, soon followed by so much thankfulness to God for His patience and graciousness to me.

Last week, while I was reading through scripture – which primarily is currently working my way through the Psalms, I found myself for no real reason flipping to James 1 (this is the NLT version) again. I have found myself bouncing back to James regularly lately, so I began to read once more… Only this time I was stuck on this one passage:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:5-8 (NASB version)

What kind of doubting is being talked about here? Is it all doubts that you’re praying through? Is there a Greek wording context that I’m missing?

What I knew is that I am struggling with doubting God in one particular area of my life. We have been working on this area since the summer, but the reality is I am still afraid, I still doubt, and while I know in many areas of my life that God is so gracious and full of love and tenderness… In this *one little area* I seem to believe to my core that God isn’t for me, that He will pull the rug out from underneath me, and that I will be left hurting again.

(I’m leaving the area I struggle with purposefully vague, because I want you to be able to identify your own area of struggle, not get distracted by the particular area where I struggle to trust God.)

So, as with all things that I want to know every possible expounding bit of information about, I reached out to my dad and posted on his Facebook wall, because surely someone else would benefit from this info too!

I wanted to share what my dad said because this matters, and the solution is of the utmost importance.

My actual post to his wall:
Pappersan!

I’m reading James 1.. (Which I seem to come back to lately about once a week haha)

Ok, so question about a couple verses:

James 1:5-8 (ISV)
“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without any doubts, for the one who has doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. Such a person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he undertakes.”

I’m assuming that he isn’t talking about basic doubts, but a deeper/larger doubts here? – Because it would seem contradictory to ask in faith, to press in and pray for/through things without also working on the human side of struggling and doubting on a basic level.

I ask for wisdom CONSTANTLY in my prayers, and have my whole life… but I also know that I struggle with doubts. I don’t at all see the problem with that since in my doubting and struggling and trying to cling onto faith I am turning to God with all of this…

So, my question then is what type of doubts is he saying makes you double minded? Because this would seem to be contradictory to the working out our faith in fear and trembling idea.

Here is the response from my Dad, along with his answer to my follow-up question about what scripture says we can do/need to do to overcome our doubts:

OK, first, there are a lot of different types of “doubting,” some of them distinguished by different words, some by context. Unfortunately, many translations use the same word for all of these.

1) “Unbelief” (ἀπιστία – literally, “not faith”). This is being confident that it will not happen. This is actually having a very strong faith that something is not true, or will not happen. Example: Thomas.

Thomas, one of the Twelve (called the Twin), wasn’t with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger into them, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe!” A week later his disciples were again inside, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were shut, Jesus came, stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he told Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Take your hand, and put it into my side. Stop DOUBTING [literally, “Stop unbelieving”], but believe.”
(Joh 20:24-27)

2) Waiver back and forth (διστάζω – literally “duplicate, think twice”). This word is derived from the word “twice,” which is derived from the word “two.” This is when you literally waiver back and forth in the moment, trusting God, and then immediately not trusting Him. You can’t make up your mind, wavering back and forth. Example: Peter.

“Have courage!” Jesus immediately told them. “It’s me. Stop being afraid!” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come on!” So Peter got down out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came to Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he was frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, save me!” At once Jesus reached out his hand, caught him, and asked him, “You who have so little faith, why did you DOUBT [literally “waiver back and forth”]?”
(Mat 14:27-31)

3) Talk yourself out of believing (διαλογισμός – literally “through reason” or “through thinking”). We sometimes call this “over thinking” something. This is when you often start out having faith, but gradually talk yourself out of that faith, think through the reasons why God probably won’t answer, and logically conclude that it probably won’t happen. Example: Disciples

While they were all talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and told them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus told them, “What’s frightening you? And why are you DOUBTING [literally “talking yourself out of believing”]?
(Luk 24:36-38)

4) Separate your faith from yourself (διακρίνω – literally “to make a judgment” or “to distinguish between yourself”). This is the most common word for doubt, and is used two ways: of general doubts about the faith, and of specific doubts about a specific situation. The implication here is that you actually have faith, and are not being true to yourself and what you KNOW that you believe. 

Everyone has general doubts from time to time. What we are supposed to overcome are the specific doubts.

A) General doubts.
Example: New Believers

But you, dear friends, must continue to build your most holy faith for your own benefit. Furthermore, continue to pray in the Holy Spirit. Remain in God’s love as you look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, which brings eternal life. Show mercy to those who have DOUBTS.
(Jud 1:20-22)

B) Specific doubts.
Example: Praying believers

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without any DOUBTS, for the one who has DOUBTS is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
(Jas 1:5-6)

The idea on this last one is that we are actually insulting God, or treating Him like he is not trustworthy or faithful. This is when we pray for something, but deep down inside, we don’t really believe He’s going to answer this specific prayer. He might answer other prayers, but not this one.

This is akin to telling someone that they can call you at any time, and you will help them. And when they do call you, it is clear from their attitude and tone that they do NOT actually believe you are going to follow through. 

THAT is what James is talking about. When we KNOW God is faithful, and will answer this particular prayer, but we doubt Him ANYWAY!

Solutions found in scripture:

OK, the solutions to the problems of doubting.

It does not appear that the various kinds of doubting have different solutions. From the strong doubts that are actually negative faith, being certain it won’t happen (unbelief) to the common general doubts, there are the same recommendations. In other words, the principles for building faith are pretty much the same no matter what kind of doubts you have.

1) Fasting and prayer. We are encouraged to fast and pray in areas where we might have doubts, so that our doubts can be overcome, and our faith gradually take over.

As they approached the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, knelt down in front of him, and said, “Sir, have mercy on my son, because he is an epileptic and suffers terribly. Often he falls into fire and often into water. I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.” Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and perverted generation! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me!” Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him, and the boy was healed that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He told them, “Because of your LACK OF FAITH [1) unbelief]. I tell you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.”
(Mat 17:14-21)

2) Listen to and be encouraged by the testimony of those who have experienced God’s faithfulness. We are encouraged to use the testimony of God’s faithfulness in other people to build our own faith, and silence our doubts.

After Jesus had risen early on the first day of that week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Jesus and who now were grieving and crying. When they heard that he was alive and that he had been seen by her, they REFUSED TO BELIEVE Mary [1) unbelief]. After this, Jesus appeared in a different form to two disciples as they were walking into the country. They went back and told the others, who didn’t believe them, either. Finally he appeared to his eleven disciples while they were eating. He rebuked them for their UNBELIEF [1) unbelief] and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who had seen him after he had risen.
(Mar 16:9-14)

3) ACT on what we know to be true, in areas where we do have faith. If we act on the faith that we do have, it will silence the doubts in other areas, and build our overall faith.

Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the gentiles had also accepted the word of God. But when Peter went up to Jerusalem, those who emphasized circumcision disagreed with him. They said, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” Then Peter began to explain to them point by point what had happened. He said, “I was in the town of Joppa praying when in a trance I saw a vision: Something like a large linen sheet descended down from heaven, lowered by its four corners, and it came right down to me. When I examined it closely, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter! Kill something and eat it.’ But I replied, ‘Absolutely not, Lord, for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ Then the voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘You must stop calling common what God has made clean!’ This happened three times. Then everything was pulled back up to heaven. “At that very moment three men arrived at the house where we were staying. They had been sent to me from Caesarea. The Spirit told me to go with them WITHOUT HESITATING [4) Separate your faith from yourself]. These six brothers went with me, too, and we entered the house of the man from Caesarea.
(Act 11:1-12)

Warning on number 3: This is specifically about acting on those areas where we have faith, so that our faith can be built up. That is NOT the same as acting on areas where we have serious struggles with doubt. We are actually warned NOT to act if we have unbelief. The scripture does NOT teach that if we do not believe, we just need to jump out there and do it, and pretend that we believe, and eventually we will believe. It actually teaches the opposite: if we have serious doubts, or unbelief about something, then it won’t happen, no matter what we DO.

We are told to act in areas where we have faith, and that will build our trust in God in areas where we have doubt.

In other words, scripture does not teach us to take blind “leaps of faith” when we are struggling with unbelief. If there is an area where we have serious doubts, scripture teaches us to first build our faith, and once our faith has been built up, then STEP OUT IN FAITH in areas where we USED to have doubts.

As for the faith you do have, have it as your own conviction before God. How blessed is the person who has no reason to condemn himself because of what he approves! But the person who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not act in faith; and anything that is not done in faith is sin.
(Rom 14:22-23)

4) Refuse to let circumstances dictate our faith. Discipline our mind to rule our emotions.

His faith did not weaken when he thought about his own body (which was already as good as dead now that he was about a hundred years old) or about Sarah’s inability to have children, nor did he doubt [4) separate your faith from yourself] God’s promise out of a lack of faith [1) unbelief]. Instead, his faith became stronger and he gave glory to God, being absolutely convinced that God would do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now the words “it was credited to him” were written not only for him but also for us. Our faith will be regarded in the same way, if we believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was sentenced to death because of our sins and raised to life to justify us.
(Rom 4:19-25)

5) Cry out to God for help in areas where we continue to struggle with doubt. God listens to desperate cries for help.

So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into convulsions. He fell on the ground and kept rolling around and foaming at the mouth. Then Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He said, “Since he was a child. The spirit has often thrown him into fire and into water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us!” Jesus told him, “‘If you are able?’ Everything is possible for the person who believes!” With tears flowing, the child’s father at once cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that won’t let him talk or hear—I command you to come out of him and never enter him again!” The spirit screamed, shook the child violently, and came out. The boy was like a corpse, and many said that he was dead. But Jesus took his hand and helped him up, and he stood up.
(Mar 9:20-27)

6) Remain faithful to God during trials, and they will harden and strengthen your faith.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you are involved in various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But you must let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
(Jas 1:2-4)

7) Regularly feed yourself with the Word of God, then the Holy Spirit will bring it alive, this will water your faith, and help it to grow.

Then the tempter came. “Since you are the Son of God,” he said, “tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One must not live on bread alone, but on every word coming out of the mouth of God.'”
(Mat 4:3-4)

I am hands down, all the struggle of the third type of doubting.
I “logically” talk myself out of faith in God.

It. Is. Terrible.

God has been speaking to me a lot since the summer; as in a whole heck of a lot. He has answered prayers, and spoken to me in the ways I’ve asked to confirm what I’m praying for/over/through (via dreams, fasting, words from friends, scripture etc..). The problem is, it always starts out renewing my faith and trust, and then, over time I begin to fear again and doubt if what I heard was just me wishful thinking. – This is why journaling my prayers has been crucial to this whole process for me, it allows me to go back and re-read the exact day. I get to read through the prayers, what I asked, how I asked for Him to speak, and the answers I have gotten along the way.

This is when you often start out having faith, but gradually talk yourself out of that faith, think through the reasons why God probably won’t answer, and logically conclude that it probably won’t happen.” – This is me in my struggle to work through the lies that have found themselves entrenched deeply within my heart. Or maybe, a better way to say it is, I start out hopeful, and as God speaks to me I find my hope full, yet as time goes, I find myself struggling to not grasp fully onto my fear and desire for control. I desire to protect and keep myself safe rather than fully and totally trusting God, His timing, and His plan.

I have begun to detail out and write down explicitly the fears and doubts I have. I have started telling God every bit of what I think is going to happen in my fear, with my lack of trust in Him, the areas I do not believe He is for me, and how I feel regardless of what I know to be true about Him in other areas of my life. I have also started begging Him to help me see these things, face them, and then give them over to Him totally.

  • Just because God’s timing is not mine, that does not make Him untrustworthy.
  • Just because I experience pain, that does not mean that God is cruel.
  • Just because I pray a lot for something, that doesn’t mean that God is going to do things my way.
  • Just because I ask God to release me from something, that does not mean it is what is best for me.
  • Just because I don’t understand, that does not mean that God doesn’t have the whole picture clearly before Him.
  • Just because I hear God speak clearly in one part of the journey does not mean He will explain every bit of it to me.
  • Just because God tells me something months ago, and then hasn’t updated anything, that does not mean what He said is no longer valid.
  • Just because I am afraid and doubt, that does not mean that God is not tender and patient and faithful to me and my process.

If you are doubting, if you are losing faith:
Renew your process and press into our Savior. Jesus is there with the Holy Spirit to meet you. But, be aware, letting go of doubts is not easy, nor is it a pretty process; it’s raw, and very painful. And, never forget that the enemy of your soul is plotting against you with carefully crafted tactics to prevent this process from taking place. – Because the enemy of our soul is an @$$hole.

Yet, even still, our Lord is tender, patient, gracious, merciful and so incredibly faithful and trustworthy to you and your process. He wants to be a part of you giving your doubts, fears, and struggles to Him; no part of this is meant for you to do alone without His help.

You are not without hope in your doubting.

Today’s Theme is Brought to You By…

A few months ago I told a couple of people that I knew God and I were entering a new season. I felt like God was going to start speaking to me again, but totally differently than he ever has before. I was excited about it, and felt like it was just going to be this really sweet season between God and I.

Then, as if to confirm my feeling, over the last couple of months I have had several different people either pray over or speak into me about how they feel or see God doing a new thing with and within me. – Some of these people trusted and close, one stranger, and a few people who were oblivious to the inner workings of my heart.

While I was ready for a new season, and I felt like it was going to be “sweet,” I was also a bit worried about entering into a new season. Because the last time He warned me a new season was coming, it was incredibly painful and I still refer to it as having put myself in an induced emotional coma to survive it… So I was anxious, and journaled my prayers to God about it a couple of times because, I am an external processor if there ever was one!

Don’t get me wrong, I so much love and enjoy my life.
I find joy in life every day, I love my community, friends, family, ministry.. Life is rich and full to overflowing with so many blessings!… But, I also live in reality, and that means that life is sometimes hard; as in, really incredibly heavy, full of sorrow and words that cannot comfort adequately. Sometimes, life feels more like just putting your head down and trying to weather the storm with as little damage done to you and your heart as possible.

(Anyone else feel like lately the world seems to be hell-bent on pain, destruction, divisiveness and sorrow?)

I also believe life should be lived authentically, and that while our stories are intensely personal, they were never meant to be kept private. So much of God’s power and help is experienced through people’s incredibly personal stories (just read the Bible, it’s full of these stories!).

When life is hard, I think we should admit it to people who ask that actually care for an answer. We should allow people to love us and help us (ok, so I am actually not always the best at this, but truly working on it).
When life is full to overflowing with joy and happiness, that needs to also be shared. – It pushes back and fights off the darkness.

While I can confidently say that I would not describe this season with God as “sweet” in the moment, I believe that after the fact, when I look back I will be content and find joy from this season. However, IN this season, it is hard, painful, challenging, and actually re-wiring me internally. It feels like a mental, emotional, spiritual breaking down of muscles, being intensely sore, and then finding yourself slowly getting stronger in the process. It also takes intentionality, determination, and a whole heck of a lot of hard work. You can read more about the Perseverance and Grit I am also learning in this season.

My heart is changing, growing, healing, and finding a healthy balance with my head. I am finding more and more that I am first seeking our Lord in moments of questions, uncertainty, thanksgiving, frustration, or any need or emotion really… It is good, it is refreshing.

In fact, I have discovered, that when I take time lately to process, read scripture, and journal, a theme almost immediately bubbles up to the surface.

I have started referring to my day’s like it’s a Sesame Street skit: “Today’s theme is brought to you by….”

Peace.
Steadfast.
Perseverance.
Anxiety.
Renew.

These words (and others) have bubbled up, and subsequently created a place for me to dig in and find out what the Lord has said throughout scripture on these topics. It is interesting, intense, convicting, challenging and comforting all at the same time. I find that many of the passages I am aware of; some vaguely, others are common, but then, there are these little gems that I have somehow never seen before! It has begun creating anchor points in my rock foundation for me to wade through these very hard, intimate, and difficult topics… I know that one day these Sesame Street style themes will also be able to be used to help create anchors for others, but for now, they are creating a space for breaking and healing my own heart and mind.

I tend to use Biblegateway.com so that I can easily pop between a couple different translations, re-check words and other possible translations for those words, and see which translation speaks to me the most… But, I prefer to also use my physical Bible so that I can write all over it! Then, of course, I copy the passages of scripture that speaks to the theme for the day into my journal and have therefore begun to compile a list to reference as I continue through this “sweet” season.

And, of course, like any good researcher, I also google the definition for these words, and find their synonyms to expand the words I use in my journey through scripture.

What a unique season I find myself in; one with so many emotions, so much mulling and thinking through things, loads of prayers, and lots of sitting in silence… But also some processing with people.

One of the daily themes recently was Hope, as I worked my way through the different passages on Hope, I came upon one of my life verses, and I saw it anew:

“Sustain me according to your word, that I may live;
and do not let me be ashamed of my hope.”
– Psalm 119:116

In this season, I have found that I am being sustained, and am so much better able to weather this season because of the words of our Lord. – I also know that I am struggling with hope in a particular area of my life, and have a tendency to rationalize things away rather than choosing faith and hope because it feels too risky for my heart… It feels foolish to choose hope.

So, Lord, do not let me be ashamed of my hope.

It is so interesting to connect to one of my life verses in a new way, and see it suddenly differently than I have for well over a decade. What a beautiful example of how God breathes new life into scripture and all of a sudden it has fresh life directly connected to where we are in our journey.

(Also, just for kicks and giggles, my other life verse is Colossians 1:10)

This season is hard.
This season is painful.
This season is beautiful.
This season is forever changing who I am at the very core and foundation of who God made me to be, and I am grateful beyond words.

Heavy Days…

The Wounded Healer implies that grace and healing are communicated through the vulnerability of men and women who have been fractured and heartbroken by life. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.” – Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

Some days are just heavy days, full of frustration, heart hurt, aggravation, not being enough, and being helpless to fix it (whatever all the “its” are). Heavy days for me becomes an exercise of sheer will in order to be kind and fully invested in those who are not a part of my heavy day.

I have found that I cope mostly through praying… or rather, I slip away as much as I can and allow my thoughts the chance to let go of the clutter, which creates space for prayers to float their way through my head. I also spend a lot of time intentionally focusing on setting aside feelings and engaging well in my day.

Heavy days are some of the worst days for my heart because I have no solutions, no ways to make things better, so my heart just hurts, my head cannot seem to orient, and my body hurts more on heavy days. Yet, despite the struggle, I find heavy days good for me because they are the days that my heart is the most open to communication with my Savior.

On heavy days the Holy Spirit speaks to me differently, His voice is sweeter, softer with much more tenderness… and on heavy days, those are the days I feel God’s affection towards me. On most days tenderness is not particularly an attribute of God that I identify with (nor communicate to those around me), but on heavy days I feel the calming presence of His tender presence.

I never wonder why God allows heavy days or bad days, because those are the days that I do not have such carefully constructed walls around my heart and He and I communicate better.

All I want to say to you is, ‘You are the Beloved,’ and all I hope is that you can hear these words as spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold. My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being— ‘You are the Beloved.’” – Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

Hospitality To Strangers…

I have this fantastically challenging job that has forced me to dig deep to figure out what scripture says about Hospitality, welcoming, and loving those who are not like us…

Simply put, as believers and followers of Christ, “How do we care for everyone else?”

Because I have gotten so many people asking me what I have learned and discovered, this post is the basic scratching the surface of the information I have gathered for you to explore. This is by no means the end of my thoughts nor the information I have gathered, but it is a start.

Throughout the process of figuring out how to do Hospitality and Connections well, I have taken a few steps back and decided to base much of my beliefs and approach on scripture; not a new concept, but compared to what I can find in materials currently out there, this is not a topic explored much.

As I have connected with other churches working through this same topic, here are the thoughts and questions I keep coming up to:
“Anyone can do hospitality.” – (Theoretically, but not practically.)
“If you don’t know where to serve, join the hospitality team” – (This is a poor way to help people step into their giftings)
“Why does a church need to pay attention to ‘first impressions’?” – (Because God cares about it, cultures are based around it, and you funnel every decision you make through it.)
“Is there any scripture backing up hospitality?” – (Yes. Loads and loads of information.)
“Hospitality and connections always seems like such a fun feel good ministry.” – (It absolutely IS a fun ministry, but it carries the weight significantly more than a feel good ministry.)

Each encounter and discussion has created more questions, but more than that, a resolution to understand all facets of this ministry.

God HAS to care what the hospitality of His people looks like and how they act.

I found cute little google sayings about how you should show hospitality to everyone, because you may just be entertaining angels.
It is so cute.
It’s also scripture. 

So, then, we have to back up and find where the concept of Christian hospitality actually comes from and what does it mean? Only when we truly understand how we should approach hospitality as a church community can we begin to move towards healing relationships we have broken.

I started the only place I knew to when researching scripture, my dad.

The word “hospitality” is directly descended from the Latin “hospitalitas”
Meaning, “to be friendly or kind to strangers or guests.”

The Greek words φιλονεξία and φιλόξενος are translated “hospitality” in scripture,
Literally mean, “to show love to strangers.”

Both words derive from two Greek words, “philia,” which means, “love,”
and “xenos” which means, “foreigner, stranger or guest.”

So, that’s a start.

Straight up, hospitality means at the root, to show love to strangers.
This gets deep and complicated quickly from here on in.

Then I shifted my searching to BibleGateway.com.

I prefer the NASB translation, although I looked up all the same words in the NIV knowing that it is quite popular as well, and some words appear more or less in various translations.

80 Bible results for “Doorway” NASB – (16 in the NIV)
73 Bible results for “Entrance” NASB – (147 in the NIV)
25 Bible results for “Threshold” NASB – (18 in the NIV
24 Bible results for “Greeting” NASB – (46 in the NIV)
14 Bible results for “Doorpost” NASB – (7 in the NIV)
12 Bible results for “Welcome” NASB – (40 in the NIV)
6 Bible results for “Welcomed” NASB – (18 in the NIV)
3 Bible results for “Hospitality” NASB – (7 in the NIV)
3 Bible results for “Hospitable” NASB – (2 in the NIV)
2 Bible results for “Welcoming” NASB – (0 in the NIV)
269 Total Bible Results in the NASB – (301 in the NIV)

(Not every single reference is applicable to this topic, sometimes it’s merely a spacial reference)

So, why did I look up so many different words if hospitality or welcoming is really what I was aiming at? Because, I think there are elements to the physical setting prepared ahead of time that create a feeling of comfort and welcome.

I liken it to this, when I invite people over to my house, I clean, I prepare food, I ensure there is seating, the lighting is inviting and warm. I do as much as I can to be prepared well ahead of their arrival so that when they knock on my door, I am ready with my full attention, smiles, hugs, and the preparations already completed.

My entire goal is to make them feel comfortable, loved, cared about, and welcome in my home.

While we are under new blood because of what Jesus did on the Cross, I do not believe that God no longer cares about presentation. No portion of any culture does not still currently care about presentation. Where I think the shift has happened is that God has transitioned to the importance no longer with His physical tabernacle, Holy of Holies, but to us, his people.

You see, hundreds of references to the doorway, doorpost, and entrance to his temple are in the old testament. Right down to the decoration, carvings, colors, timing of and what sacrifices were to be done at the entrance. And then, if things were done incorrectly, he could choose to kill you on the spot.. Instant death.

In Egypt, the doorway/doorpost was where the angel of death decided if the first-born would die or be passed over.

There is no way that something so important simply ceases to be important, it just shifts to being applied differently.

Then, you get to the New Testament, and there is reinforcement of what happened in the Old Testament. There is a shift in the focus of ministry, we are told repeatedly to love our neighbors, which in some parables were people entirely different and disliked by us, including those who persecute us, it even goes so far as to say be hospitable without complaint.

484 Bible results for “Love” – NASB (686 in the NIV)

I am working through researching the trail that in order to show Hospitality to strangers, we must first submit ourselves entirely to love them without rules or stipulations. It is assumed that the stranger is not a believer, which means we have no space for comments or judgement on their life.
Instead, we are to love them wholly, completely, and in the process we create space for a relationship, which then gives way to sharing where our Hope comes from, and then we have the opportunity to show them Jesus, and then Jesus changes them from the inside outward.

The place I have started my search is through the intersection of love and hospitality is 1 Corinthians 13.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but do not have love,
I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy,
and know all mysteries and all knowledge;
and if I have all faith,
so as to remove mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor,
and if I surrender my body to be burned,
but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient,
Love is kind and is not jealous;
Love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,

does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;

bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Love never fails;
but if there are gifts of prophecy,
they will be done away;
if there are tongues, they will cease;
if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child;
when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face;
now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

But now faith,
hope,
love,
abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Hospitality and Love cross completely in Hebrews 13:

“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”

Like I mentioned at the beginning, this is merely the beginning, but because people have begun to ask what I have found, I thought I would compile some of my findings and thoughts. Soon I hope to continue to share what I find as I grow and learn.

To Be Continued…

Overwhelming and Overflowing..

Sometimes life is overwhelming.

Sometimes life is overflowing.

Such little differences in the word, I mean, they could almost be interchangeable. In order to overflow, it has to overwhelm.. but I think the emphasis has more to do with which action is the focus.

Lately, I have felt like life is overwhelming. As if, I am trying as hard as I can every day to keep up, tread water, make an impact… whatever it is, but despite my best efforts there is no overcoming it all.

I want my life to be overflowing. So that, no matter what I do or how hard I try, it is from the abundance of grace I have that is spilling out all over the place. Going before me and following after me.

Not long ago, I went to the doctor because I was fairly confident there was something wrong with me. I was perpetually fatigued, yet I had insomnia. I never felt good, like there was just something off. My throat hurt all the time, and I was tense, as in my muscles couldn’t completely let go. Then, one night while taking a hot bath, I had a full-blown anxiety attack. I couldn’t get my heart rate to come down, I was struggling breathing.. and all while candles were lit, soft music played, and I attempted to sooth my aching muscles in hot water.

Surely something was wrong.

I went through a few tests and some blood work to find out that I am in fact surprisingly healthy. So much so, that my doctor was quite pleased with my workout routine, my eating habits, the supplements I take, how much water I drink daily… Literally everything was perfect.

So what the heck?

Tension.

All of my symptoms now pointed to tension, which was a possibility even before he ran the blood work, but he wanted to make sure no chemicals were interfering.

Now what?

I’m the picture of healthy at 30.

I spent some time trying to figure out what else I could do to make it better… How do I make MORE time? I was already burning the candle from both ends in my attempt to fit everything in.

Jesus time.

I deduced I have been woefully negligent in carving out space for my Jesus time. As in, the I will sit here, and we will spend quality time together, talking, listening, learning.. being together. Like you would a best friend. Yet somehow I had forgotten to do this… for months on end… much longer if I’m being entirely honest.

So, slowly, I am beginning to force myself, regardless of the time of day or night to spend some quality time with my Savior, with my Abba. I need Him more than I need the bombardment of distractions I encounter every day.

And, little by little, the throat feels better, the percentage on my sleep app is inching upwards, and I realized that the action has changed. I am beginning to no longer drown in the overwhelming and instead, I am inching towards living in the overflow.

How Are You?


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A beautiful sunset sitting outside overlooking Union Station (no filter).

My days are so long, filled to the brim, and often overflowing. Every night around midnight I debate on if I can do squeeze one more thing into my day or if it is a wiser option to finally turn the lights off and sleep. Usually I squeeze something else in…

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But, my weeks F.L.Y. by… Seriously. At the end of every week, I am totally and completely amazed by how quickly the week went. Even more, I cannot believe we are so far into March already! Where is 2015 going?!

So, how am I?.. That has been the question I am getting repeatedly… I am still trying to catch up to my own life I think. I have only just begun to find my cadence to life again. I guess it is for good reason I get asked often how I am since I am currently in a stage of full throttle, but I never really feel like I have a good answer for the question.

Or worse, as odd as it sounds, I really am not a fan of the “how can I pray for you?” question right now. Not because I don’t want prayer, but I cannot seem to be able to think of something when asked… things don’t seems to grasp my attention long enough to ask someone else to pray over.

Maybe the best thing I could ask for prayer for is my level of energy, for sleep to be restful, for wisdom and grace in all situations… especially despite any emotions I still find myself working through.

You see, I am still quite a bit more emotional than I am comfortable with.. or that feels normal for me.
I find myself pretty strongly still regulating what comes out of my head because I am aware that how I think things in my head is undeservedly severe oftentimes.

But honestly, I am good, life is busy, full of good and great things, challenging things, frustrating things, laughter, anger, contentment, exhaustion, all of the feels. Every one of the feels permeates my life right now.

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Thankfully, Spring has finally arrived.. Sorta. We have had DAYS of sunshine, and weather that has allowed me to wear a light jacket instead of try to cover every exposed portion of my skin! I was able to open the windows, clean the house, and breathe the sunshine in deeply this week.

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God is showing up so merciful, faithful, forgiving, and loving. Like I have always known, but much louder right now than normal. Earlier this week, I was having a particularly difficult day, and randomly several people called, texted or e-mailed me throughout the day saying they had been thinking of me and felt compelled to connect.
By the time the third one happened, I just couldn’t help but smile and something inside me shifted because I think I finally was getting the message from God: “I do in fact see you and care tremendously.”

2015 is certainly turning out to be a year unlike any other, and I am so thankful, and feeling quite blessed.

2014 in Review

I love reviewing my year and looking forward to the next one to come. Each year the review looks different and takes on a vast array of feel and styles. But, I love taking the time to pause and really look at how the year went, what I did, learned, went through.. friends I made, experiences I had, but mostly the growth that happened.

I think this year was one of the most difficult, different, and unique years I have had to date. So, to prevent a bit of rambling, here are 29 things from the year I was 29:

1. I was unemployed or not full-time employed for 50 of the 52 weeks this year. – I applied for more than 400 jobs, got rejected from almost 100 of them, didn’t hear back from 200 something of them, and finally got a job!

2. I started pursuing consulting work in February, and made the transition to doing it full-time in August. I discovered that I absolutely love consulting work. So much so, that I plan on continuing it part-time on the side even with a full-time job.

3. I made a list of 29 things I wanted to do this year, I accomplished maybe half of those things.. Some of them were hopeful, some are sad that I was unable to do them just because of my financial situation, and others I am surprised and pleased that I was able to do them.

4. I had three late payments this year, but didn’t miss a single bill all year. I actually have no idea how this happened. Knowing my lack of money all year, I am totally and completely blown away by this fact. Astonished.

5. So. So. So. many people literally stepped in and prevented me from:
being homeless,
starving,
without a car (three times),
pursued for the money I owed the IRS,
in severe neck/back pain,
and a plethora of other things.
I am so shocked and amazed at how so many people stepped in and helped me with so much love and support that came out in so many ways.

6. I was able to have so much fun this year despite lacking finances to have any fun. I played for my birthday, went to New Orleans with some of my favorite people in the world, visited friends, grilled out, game nights, long talks, surprised friends for their birthday, and I got to hang out and watch movies and tv shows with family and friends.. Just so many fun things.

7. I had my sense of self and identity destroyed by being incapable of taking care of myself. It literally shattered my understanding of who I was, and what I had to offer the world to not be capable.

8. God strategically placed old and new friends in my life this year to slowly speak life back into my heart and soul. And, with their voices over the course of many many months, he slowly began telling me and showing me who I am and what my identity is once again.

9. I got more family time in the course of the last year than I have in probably the last ten years combined. Just so many fun memories, long conversations, laughter, joking, annoyances, tv shows, movies, date nights (with various family members), good food.. Literally so much wonderful quality time.

10. I have watched more tv in the last year than I have in probably the last ten years combined.

11. Last year, I had someone give what I have come to describe as a prophecy over me.. It was the awful hope that I clung to throughout the year.. Things were going to get so much worse, and I was going to look dead, and then I would grow back more fruitful and with more blessings than I would have otherwise been capable of beforehand.

12. I gained weight and was incredibly unhappy with my body.. Then I made some changes to my lifestyle and lost weight, and became much more content with how I look.

13. For the first time in my life I decided to be intentional about properly rehydrating myself. It was one of the best decision I made this year.. That is until the days I forget or am unable to consume the water my body needs/is used to.. those days I now feel awful.

14. I drove hundreds upon hundreds of miles this year. I loved every mile, and the time I got to catch up with friends or pray or contemplate and mull over things going on in my life.

15. I was able to see and re-connect with several old friends, and make a bunch of new friends.

16. I didn’t dye my hair for TEN MONTHS. Ten whole months I went (mostly cause I was poor) without dying my hair.. I spent the whole time telling myself I was giving it time to “heal” haha

17. Vormund and I spent so much time walking and traveling throughout the year. I am amazed at how much a dog can become such a place of comfort and stability.

18. I was able to spend quite a bit of time dancing this year! It had been more than a year since I was able to dance consistently so it was so nice to finally get to dust off my shoes and practice!

19. I got some pretty cool clients that are super fun to work with/for… Plus, it’s given me such great insight and knowledge into so many other industries.

20. I was reviewing my Facebook timeline for this blog post, and kept laughing at things people posted on my wall that were funny, insightful, interesting, and just overall engaging. I love the things that make my friends and family think of me, and how much they go out of their way to share those things with me! So much fun.

21. I got to take my two nephews out for birthday adventures. We had so much fun. I think I am going to try to make that a new tradition whenever possible!

22. Vormund put on around 30lbs this year, and turned two at the end of August.

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8.5 weeks old

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Just over 1 year old.

 

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Just over 2 years old.

23. I feel like this year was a year of pain and hurt.. but with a purpose at the end (that I do not currently entirely understand). Throughout the course of even just this year I have been able to encourage someone and completely understood what they were going through. It was weirdly encouraging for me as well to find people who we had struggling in common, as if not being the only one experiencing the issues helped.

24. My faith and relationship with God has been dramatically different in 2014 than it has ever been previously. We did very little actual talking, but a whole heck of a lot of sitting in silence together experiencing pain and just being in each other’s presence. I did a lot of sharing my heart, but more just pushing my heart towards Him and with a distinct lack of words to describe how I was feeling. My comprehension of who He is, and my faith in His unfailing love has grown into an unmoving solid understanding

25. I have never in my entire life stressed and worried or stayed up at night with straight up fear as much as I have this year. I spent countless nights just laying in bed physically stressing over money… I hope to never repeat those feelings or nights.

26. I gained a greater understanding of how frustrating cliché answers can be to someone truly going through a season or situation. There were days that cliché answers just made me see red and want to punch someone in the throat. When something is so profoundly emotion, cliché answers are not encouraging, but rather frustrating.

27. I learned so much about hope, hopelessness, strength, faith, pain, joy, anxiousness, stress, peace, and patience even without understanding. I would never choose to repeat this year, but I also am very thankful for how I have grown because of it.

28. It is hard to explain the level of relief I felt when I got the job in DC… To be moving back to a city I love, and to have a job, to work for a place I have loved for so long, and to finally feel like I have direction.. Huge amounts of relief… Followed by the stress of trying to figure it all out. I have been cycling through relief and stress on a regular basis for about a month now. Repeating to myself, God has carried me this far, He cannot let me go now.

29. Despite everything, love has been overwhelming this year. Friends loving me. Family stepping in and loving me, even when I was about as interesting as a little blank grey piece of paper. Loved when I couldn’t love well in return or had nothing to offer.

As I reflect on 2014, I am amazed. So many things went wrong, yet I am in a state of awe for the way that God has done things this year. Thank you to those of you who reached out and loved me, supported me, encouraged me, gave me money, did fun things with me, talked to me for hours, told me how much I mean to you, prayed for me, hugged me, took care of me and/or my dog.. Thank you for loving me strongly, gently, fiercely, and when I did not deserve the love. You all made this year possible (as in actually made it possible). I do not deserve the love and I am humbled knowing how little I had to give in return.

Thank you.