another common phrase i hate

“everything happens for a reason.”

ugh. makes me want to slap somebody every time i hear it. it’s usually said by someone that doesn’t know what to say to comfort someone that is hurting. usually, it’s not malicious, just thoughtless. instead of just being there for the hurting person, sharing their load and crying with them, they feel this need to say something profound or that will fix it. it usually doesn’t.

there’s a few reasons i hate this platitude.

one is that this platitude assumes a really twisted economy. it presumes that for good things to happen, bad things must happen. as if we must pay in pain for joy.

it also devalues loss and suffering. as if there is some outcome down the road that will be “worth” present loss and suffering. do you think that any parent that lost a child could come up with one outcome that would have made their child’s death ok? if God said he could achieve world peace, but at the cost of your spouse or parent or treasured loved one, would you be able to say “oh, in that case, sure. i mean, that’s a fair trade.”

further, it sets up a false expectation that for every misery we experience, we will be able to see a future positive outcome that was enabled by that misery. i just don’t think that’s how it works. i don’t think i will ever be able to point to a blessing and say “oh, that’s why i was molested! now i get it. sure, that was worth it.” i think this sets us up for disappointment and a distrust of God.

last for now, the real reason we are tempted by “everything happens for a reason” is that we really, desperately want a reason. we can’t understand why this wretched thing is happening to us. it doesn’t seem fair, and we feel like God owes us an explanation.

in reality, we do not need a reason. “why” will not comfort us. “why” will not mend our broken hearts. because there is no “why” that is sufficient for our suffering.

what we need in our suffering is Jesus. we need more and more of Him–his person and his presence and his grace. we need the gospel: that Jesus loved us so much that he died for us and that we are dependent on him every moment. and that he is sufficient to meet all of our needs–even in the most painful circumstances, in the things we are sure we cannot survive.

for me, this is a moment by moment struggle. am i going to side with my flesh and demand a why? am i going to indulge myself and feel entitled to an explanation? or am i going to press into my Savior, and believe Him that his grace is sufficient for me?

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comfort for the grieving

all of us at one time or another must deal with the death of a loved one. it is a pain unmatched. today, i stumbled upon some words from Arthur Pink on Psalm 116:15. i think these are the most comforting words i’ve ever read on the subject. for me, they also provided comfort as i live this life, reminding me of God’s thoughts towards me and his great love for me. most importantly, it reminded me of his grace towards me.

i highly recommend that you read it right now. let me know what you think.

…it shall not be so among you…

the apostle Paul on knowledge vs. love:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. I Corinthians 13:1-3

it is not enough to have good doctrine. it’s not enough to know your bible forwards and back, to have a masters degree from seminary or have written a multitude of books. it’s not enough to be gifted spiritually.

without love–God’s love, the kind of love modeled by Jesus–it’s all meaningless.

it’s not enough to be right. without love, you’re wrong.

Jesus on leadership:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. John 13:12-17

the apostle Peter on leadership:

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock… I Peter 5:2-3

the apostle Paul on leadership:

For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. I Titus 1:7-9

God’s warning to leaders that mistreat his people:

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the LORD.  Jeremiah 23:1-2

concerns about mark driscoll, mars hill church and the acts 29 network

note: i’d like to preface this by simply saying: i didn’t go out looking for problems. i read a blog post, and something felt wrong. so i kept reading. and the more i read, the more i saw that something was seriously wrong. at least, serious to me. i spent many years respecting mark driscoll as a bible teacher and a pastor. i respected his direct approach, and the fact that he seemed to have a view of christian masculinity that respected christian women while still being biblical. i defended the man. i enjoyed his series on song of solomon.

i didn’t go out looking for reasons to dislike him. i almost wish i’d never found them. then i would be able to go to an acts 29 church without reservation. it’s hard enough to find a church out there without eliminating a whole group of them as contenders in one fell swoop. 

but i did find this information. and i can’t ignore it.

the purpose of this post is simply to provide information and brief mention of why that information concerns me. it’s already a mile long without my in-depth thoughts on the matter. i may post more about my thoughts later.

at this point, if you are reading this, i’d just like you to check out these articles and see what you think for yourself.

so, lately a lot of stuff has come up about mark driscoll and mars hill church. stuff that really concerns me. stuff that i think is bad for the church. i think that the consequences could be devastating in a number of areas:

  • mark has a lot of visibility in the world and his work and ministry reflect Christ to the world.
  • it seems like there is potential for a lot of christians to be hurt by some of the things he is writing/saying or by his methods of ministry–either for those attending his church or those that attend churches pastored by men that look to him as an example.
  • there are over 400 acts 29 network churches across the united states,  plus more around the world.  acts 29 was led by mark driscoll and it’s current director is a staff pastor at mars hill church.  that’s 400 pastors in the US alone that are looking to mars hill for leadership. if there are big problems at the root (mars hill) of the tree (acts 29), then fruit of the tree (the acts 29 churches) is going to have big problems.

some of the things i’ve read really horrify me. the last two churches i’ve attended have been part of the acts29 network. God has done amazing things for me through acts29, but i’m concerned that membership in a group that is led by driscoll signifies approval of the man’s methods and message. for me, the things i’ve read in the last few weeks make it crystal clear that i can’t approve of his message or methods, most especially about leadership accountability.

a friend asked me to repost some articles that brought these issues to light for me and that’s the purpose of this post. i don’t want to argue with anyone or offend anyone. happy to discuss with respect for one another, though.

these are the original blog posts i read that raised concerns for me about driscoll’s latest book real marriage:

you can read the first chapter of real marriage online for free. on page 29 of the document in that link, you read this

“I have stood in line, where Grace has joined me when she was able, around the nation and the world, talking for hours with hundreds of thousands of couples.”

this might sound small to some of you reading this, but it jumped out at me and was a big deal. hundreds of thousands of couples. that’s a lot of couples. a LOT of couples. technically i would argue that hundreds of thousands is at least 200,000 thousand, but to give the benefit of the doubt, let’s say that mark only meant 100,000 couples. that’s still a LOT of couples.

i decided to do the math. mars hill church started in the spring of 1996. mark was not a pastor prior to this point, and has also said that he wasn’t even consistently involved in a church prior to starting mars hill. so, i don’t think he was doing this kind of talking with couples prior to 1996. giving the benefit of the doubt, let’s say the church is a full 16 years old. in order for him to have talked with 100,000 couples in 16 years, he would have had to talked with 6,250 couples a year. that’s 17 couples a day. every day. in a day with only 24 hours. for 16 solid years.

i’m sorry but that sounds like a lie to me. and such a stupid one. why tell it? who cares? you could have just said “thousands.” maybe it’s not a “big” lie. but it’s a lie. a deciet. and for what? it’s disconcerting to me. especially in a book that’s supposed to be written by authors being honest about their marriage.

the other day some serious issues came to light about church discipline as practiced at mars hill. andrew’s story is particularly sad. you can read part one of his story here and part two here. the graceless, unloving, manipulative response to his confessed sin horrifies me.

then i read some other stories about authoritarian leadership at mars hill:

together with andrew’s story, they have really raised red flags for me, not only about how church discipline is handled at mars hill but also about the noticeable absence of discussion about how the pastor and leadership are to be held accountable. who can give them church discipline contracts? who are they accountable to if there is unrepentant sin in their lives? who can rein them in if their leadership becomes ungodly, controlling and excessive?

and then i remembered the stories i read back in 2008, about 2 paid staff pastors leaving mars hill in late 2007. stories about concerns of consolidation of power, half truths told to the congretation and secrets kept from members.

there’s a lot more at that blog if you want to read it.

there are other links i could post. links in which i believe drisoll acts like a self-important bully who disrespects anyone that disagrees with or challenges him. links in which i believe he blatantly lies and is caught doing so! for now, i’ll leave that out since this is so long.

so, there’s your information. draw your own conclusions.

it’s never too late

note: i’m over “new year’s” blog posts. i’ve done it, i’ve seen countless others do it, and i think it’s pretty tired. kind of like resolutions. they are so empty, and why wait until 1/1/12 to start doing things that you want to do, or not doing things that you don’t want to do? 

so i had no intention of doing a new year’s type post. and yet, what i have been mulling to write about next turns out to have an obvious new year’s corollary.  c’est la vie! it’s still a good topic, and what’s been on my mind lately.

dreams and wishes. 62/365

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. – C.S. Lewis

the last psychiatrist i saw asked me if i had any dreams for the future. i hate that question. having been so sick for so long, all i can think to dream about is to feel better, so that i can envision being well enough to accomplish dreams. i told the doctor that i feel like a man with a gangrenous leg: the leg has to be addressed before he can run a marathon. his dream to run a marathon can’t be achieved until the illness is addressed. and so my dreams are about being well so that i have the energy, etc. to dream.

he didn’t seem to get that. it seemed like he was judging me, like he thought i was failing because i didn’t have dreams beyond wellness at this point. needless to say, i’m not going back.

but, dreams are something i think about.

i’m 36, and i’ll be 37 in less than four months. it’s easy to think that my life can’t really change and that i’ll just be as i am until i die. same job, same relationships, etc. and that can be kind of a bummer. i certainly didn’t picture myself in this place at this point in my life.

but honestly, i don’t know what to dream about. certainly, my younger self thought i’d be married with babies by now. but the me that i am now is not so sure about that stuff. i think i’d like to be married some day, but i know it will be hard and that the older i get, the less  likely it will be. and babies! my body is ensuring that biologically at least, babies are less and less of a possibility, and i don’t even know if i’ll ever be ready to be someone’s mom. i know enough now to be frightened of it! 🙂

i sure hope i’m not in retail for the rest of my life, but i don’t know what i really want to do for a career. i can’t imagine going back to school, and i’m not sure what i’d study if i could make it work.

am i a loser because i don’t know what to dream about? because my dreams aren’t so specific?

i have seen the movie Julie and Julia twice in the last few months.  i love the story of julia child. she was 34 when she got married, which was scandalously old in 1946. and her marriage was delayed most  likely because she was off adventuring and living life instead of looking for a husband. she went to smith college and worked for years writing and working in advertising.

at 6’2″ she was too tall to join the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) or the U.S. Navy’s WAVES, so she instead joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (the predecessor to the CIA).  she started as a typist, but was soon a top secret researcher for the head of the OSS.  she went to sri lanka and managed a vast amount of top secret communication. while in sri lanka, she met her husband, paul, who was almost 11 years her senior.

she and paul went to paris with his government posting and he gave julia her first cookbook when she was 37. read that again: julia child got her first cookbook when she was 37. THE julia child, the french chef, didn’t start cooking until she was 37!

she lived this fabulously interesting life, and THEN went on to find a passion in cooking at 37. so many of us,  so much of our culture thinks that by that point our lives are set in stone by then and aren’t going to change much. but julia child reinvented her life entirely, because it never occurred to her not to.

i’m not even 37 yet! surely there is time for my life to change, too. julia gives me great hope that my career, my earthly passions could still be waiting to be discovered and aren’t limited by my age.

but more than that, i’m not going to let society tell me what kind of dreams i should have. the biggest dreams in my life aren’t tangible; they don’t have to do with work, or wealth or position or status. this world says i’m supposed to want to be rich or powerful or respected or famous, but those things to me are at most side benefits in this world. the things i really dream about aren’t tangible, or measurable.

i dream:

  • of consistent wellness and mental balance
  • of knowing Jesus more,
  • about more of my life being dedicated to Him,
  • of being more like Him,
  • of more consistently showing love to the people around me,
  • of complaining less and being grateful more,
  • of letting go of anger and hate and unforgiveness,
  • of dying to myself and living for Christ,
  • of freedom from all the trappings of a self-centered existence.

are those really less valuable things to dream about?

i hope i dream about them every moment until the dreams come true.

p.s. you can read more about julia here and here.

my apologies

i am grotesquely remiss in updating my blog.  please accept my apologies and i hope you can forgive me!

picking up where we left off, i headed to the hospital on 11/26. it was interesting. they had a lot of resources, because all the whole complex did was inpatient mental health. so, we got to go outside, see the sunshine, go to the gym, eat meals in a cafeteria (and get them the way we like them!) and not be cooped up in a little section of a hospital floor like in oklahoma. i was constantly grateful for being able to go outside. it was so nice to have the freedom.

so it was a good hospital, good staff, good therapists, etc.  i met a lot of interesting and nice people there. God blessed me with Christians to talk to, to remind me of his presence.

and, i had a BIG breakthrough.

i have known for a long time that i was fundamentally caught up in negative thinking. (automatic negative thoughts or ANTs, so they say) and that i hated myself.  but everything i ever heard or read about breaking the spells of self-loathing and negativity seemed so stupid. it all sounded so hippy dippy and smarmy and foolish. it sounded like trying to convince yourself to believe a lie by just repeating it often enough. logically, i could not accept it.

but, at the hospital, i finally realized/accepted/believed that if the way i thought didn’t change, i would end up cycling in and out of hospitals forever, until i eventually did kill myself. if the way i thought didn’t change, nothing would change. no matter how stupid it seems, i have to do whatever it takes to change the way i think, or i will never get better. i’m tired of momentarily feeling better without really being better; only delaying the inevitable.

so, i got out of the hospital on 12/3, and i’ve been taking it easy at work. i’ve been to see a psychiatrist here. i’m not sure if he will be permanent, or just until i find somebody else, but i took the step.  i will also be auditioning counselors/therapists after the holidays. there’s a christian counseling center less than a mile from my house and i’m going to try there first.

and i’m researching on my own, looking for things that will reach me about abolishing negative thinking and accepting myself as i am.

i’m sure it’s going to be a long process, but i feel like i have a plan, i know what to do, and that is reason to hope.

thank you, Jesus. without you, i could never have understood or believed the truth. and i know you will be the one to see my through the road to wellness.

Going to the hospital

Sadly, I’m on my way to the hospital again. And despite the fact that there are like 5 hospitals in within 10 miles of my house, not one of them provides mental health services. So I’m going 17 miles away.

I have no hope, but it would sure be nice if they could help me, as impossible as that seems.