Testing the Impossible

When Fear and Faith Collide

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I Just Don’t Wanna

Two months… ¬†it’s been two months since I’ve logged in to this site. That’s so long ago that I actually had to look up my log-in information. Good thing I had the foresight to record it in a safe place, I guess. Time and time again over the past two months, several topics to write about have come to my mind: fleeting thoughts about a Sunday message; song lyrics that pierce my heart; dreams half-remembered in the light of morning; midnight epiphanies that wake me from a deep sleep, only long enough to say, ‘OH! So that’s what this is all about! Thank you, Lord. May I go back to sleep now?’ And yet I have consistently and persistently managed to find meaningless fluff to prevent me from actually writing. In fact, when I logged in just a few short moments ago, I was still unsure what to write about today. I just knew that I have been avoiding this for far too long. Which I guess means that I know what I’m supposed to write about…

I have vertebral problems. They’re chronic. Sometimes the inflammation goes away for months at a time. In fact, I think I may have made it for an entire year once. But it always comes back – always. My greatest problem arises from the fact that the two vertebrae directly beneath the base of my skull are out of alignment – in opposite directions. Why am I telling you this? Because this was one of those ‘midnight epiphanies’.

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me (or maybe it is; I honestly don’t know), but submission is a major struggle for me. Anyone who’s read my other posts should be well aware of this by now, but it really does need to be repeated. My parents could easily confirm for any doubters: I was their strong-willed, not gonna back down, you can tell me til you’re blue in the face but i’m gonna do it anyway, kid. If you want me to do something, the best way to ensure I will is to tell my I can’t. Ask me nicely, and I might; tell me I have to? Don’t hold your breath waiting on me, because you’ll pass out. To say that I have a stubborn streak would be like calling the Colorado River a brook: a gross understatement. But there are people who know and love me who will tell you that this is an area where I am growing and improving. I am learning how to bend and yield.

I realize that this is a character trait that God has crafted in me; it is part of His unique design that is ME. But what I often forget is that this iron will of mine is to be used for Him; too often I am hell-bent on using it against Him. Knowing what He is desiring from me, and yet refusing to yield. Wait… how did we get from my chronic pain to my stubborn resistance of what God is calling me to? That was the midnight ‘ah-HA!’ moment.



Look through scripture; God used that phrase, ‘a stiff-necked people’, many, many times about His favored nation of Israel (Exodus, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Acts…) Seriously, hop on over to Biblegateway.com and do a keyword search; you might be surprised. And every time God applied that description to His people, it was because they were persisting in a state of rebellion, faithlessness, disobedience, and unyielding hearts. EVERY. TIME.

Think about it: when your neck is stiff, you cannot easily move your head, can you? It hurts to look to the left or the right. And it hurts to look down. Israel’s problem was that they refused to bow their heads before the King of kings and acknowledge their place before Him. They were ok with having their god (small ‘g’ intentional, so no snarky comments ūüôā ), but they kicked and fought and rebelled again and again against having a Lord and Master.


How many times do I refuse to bow my head to my God and my King? How many times to I refuse to surrender my will to His, always holding a part of me back? Always saying, ‘Ok Lord. You can have —>|this much|<— of me, but I can’t let You have everything, or there will be nothing left for me.’ Saying, ‘I know what You’re asking of me is for Your best and mine. I know that this is a blessing and I should be honored. But I don’t want it; give it to someone else.’ (I feel like Moses: why me, Lord? I don’t talk too good. Send my brother instead. But that is a subject for another day…)


That was the very phrase that woke me up around 3:00 am about a month ago, neck aching and headache threatening. And in those precious early-morning moments before drifting back to sleep, I heard my God say, softly and gently, ‘There’s a connection between the two, you know.’ God was being figurative regarding Israel, using the term ‘stiff-necked’ to illuminate a heart condition. But figurative speech is apparently too subtle for me; He has literally made my neck stiff as a reminder that I need to daily (hourly, moment by moment) bow my head before Him and acknowledge Him not only as God, but as Lord of my life.

Know what the most beautiful part of that awakening was? The pain of my stiff neck will leave when I am no longer stiff-necked. How do I know? Because God said so. And amen and amen, He is faithful!

I am letting go of my need to be in control. I am learning to bow my head before my King. It is not an easy thing to do, but as Chris Tomlin says: ‘As I pour out my heart, these things I remember, You are faithful, God, forever’.

Dear Lord, heal this stiff-necked person.


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Where there’s a Will, there’s bound to be a blog…

Why? Because clearly I suck at this writing regularly thing – but then so does my friend Will. So he’s taking a class in which regular blogging is part of his homework. Of course, that doesn’t help me, so when he asked if I wanted him to call (or text, or email, or FB message me) to make sure I’m staying on top of this little site, I jumped all over the offer. After all, I decided to start blogging about my faith (or lack thereof) journey because I need people to keep me accountable. So thanks to Will and his incessant nagging (kidding; he’s only still at the ‘hounding’ stage), here’s an article.

All kidding aside, I have really been wrestling with this whole writing experience. It’s not usually challenging to come up with things to write about; it’s more that I know that in order for this journey to be beneficial to me – and hopefully to others as the Spirit leads – I need to be willing to take honest stock of my own life. And the reality is that the longer I wait to take that hard look in the mirror, the easier that mirror is to avoid. So I am truly grateful to my friend(s) for coming along and prodding me when I am slacking. And looking back over the dates, it shames me to see that ¬†have been slacking for so long. My apologies.

This past month, between birthdays, the stomach flu (the whole family got hit), and the blizzard that buried the Pacific Northwest – well, we thought it was a blizzard anyway! – with 10 inches of snow in four days, ¬†I started baking bread. A LOT of bread: white bread, rye bread, Italian bread, bagels… and that got me thinking about yeast. And fear. How yeast-like fear is. Start with a sprinkling of doubt and add a pinch of stress. Let it fester and ferment for a while, and before you know it, a full-blown panic attack is on the horizon. Is it any wonder that the bible tells us that A LITTLE leaven affects the whole batch of dough? Well that’s me: a quivering, shaking, fully-risen batch of fear-dough. Where IS God when I’m scared?

The beautiful thing is that He is where He’s always been: right there with me. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I really do know that on a conscious level and on a faith level. So why do I treat Him like He’s a rescue line to cling to as I’m going under, when in reality He is the life-jacket wrapped securely around me from the moment I stepped off the shore? Heck! Why even think of Him as a life-vest when He is the God who not only walked on¬†water Himself, but called Peter out to Him? And why oh why – especially when I know how that story ended – do I time and again insist on behaving just like Peter, taking my eyes off of Jesus to look at the storm? I really think that that could be part of the reason I constantly feel like I’m stuck in a storm these days. And why I always feel like I’m going under.

But oddly enough, these overwhelming times are the perfect opportunity for faith to abound. I can give into the storm, or I can give into God. ¬†My very dear (and talented) friend Megan Thoma¬†beautifully depicts this dichotomy in her song Drown: ‘Today I drowned, gulping in the water. Today I drowned, flailing at the sea. Today I drowned, water over my head…’ The song goes on “Today I drowned, lapping at the water. Today I drowned, dancing in the sea. Today I drowned, water over my soul. Today I drowned, I drowned in You…’ To me, this song is a very graphic reminder of the choice in front of me: do I allow fear and faithlessness to rule my life, or do I let myself sink deeper into my loving Lord and trust that He’s got this – whatever ‘this’ may be (In case it escaped your notice, I have a long list of ‘this’es…)?

Daily I am having to acknowledge my fear – my anxiety over the unknown, my desire to be in control of things (especially things beyond my control), my inadequacy – and lay it down at His feet. And praise God, He is empowering me to do exactly that. I am keeping my eyes on Jesus. More and more, prayer is again becoming my go-to rather than my last resort. I am sharing my struggles and my worries with Godly men and women that I trust and respect (most of you are reading this blog ūüėČ ) and asking them to lift me up in prayer – sharing with them the specific details of where I need it most. And maybe most importantly, I find myself falling effortlessly into an attitude of worship. Probably because what I am putting INTO my life is coming out in my life. Paul says in Philippians 4:8 ‘Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.’ That means to meditate on them; let them fill your mind. It really does make a difference! And this goes hand-in-hand with what he says in Romans 12:2 ‘…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is; that which is good and acceptable and perfect.’

That which is GOOD and ACCEPTABLE and PERFECT: this is God’s will. Which means there’s bound to be a blog…


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Eventually I’ll get the hang of this. Maybe…

OK. One day it may become a habit for me to log in and blog daily. But one new habit at a time.

Ever feel like you set yourself up for failure? I know that I surely do. Repeatedly. I think that’s a big part of the reason I titled this blog as I did; I often feel like having the kind of faith that God desires for me is impossible. And as soon as those doubts set in, I have already failed.

The thing about failure is that it can paralyze us in the same way that fear can. Or maybe it would be more correct to say that the fear of failure is what paralyzes. And when you cut through all the crap – all the excuses, all the platitudes, all the encouraging words of self-delusion – the reality is that fear is practical atheism; it is, at its root, a disbelief in God. I think that that may be the part that convicts me the most: when I refuse to surrender to His will in faith, I am denying His ability – and more importantly His willingness – to keep His promises. Yet over and over again, scripture confirms that He is exactly who He tells us He is, and He can and will do exactly what He says He will do; I can read over and over all the times that God has proved Himself faithful to His word.

And that is really what this new journey I am taking is all about. It’s about letting God prove Himself to me. ¬†Not because I think I need Him to, or even because I want Him to (take my word for it: it’s a lot easier to sit back and say ‘I trust you God,’ than it is to actually ¬†step out and show, ‘I am trusting you, God.’), but because He is asking me to. Follow? It is God who is wanting to prove Himself to me! Crazy stuff, isn’t it? That the Lord of all creation thinks that I matter enough that He is giving me permission to put Him to the test?

I think for the first time in ¬†my life, I can actually understand why Moses made all those excuses. Why Samuel kept waking Eli. Why Sarah laughed, and why Zechariah was made mute. I also have so much more empathy for Peter, who wept bitterly after that rooter crowed, and for Jonah who had decided that death was better than submission – until he realized that the one true God wouldn’t even allow him that escape. I guess that when it comes to failure, I’m in good company ūüėČ

But in all of that, I find hope. Because – with the exception of Jonah – none of their stories end with their failure (and I don’t believe that Jonah died a failure; I am sure that God continued to use him to reveal His will to the people of Israel, we just don’t get to read about it. ). And if God still used these failures to bring about great things in His kingdom, I guess I’m not a total washout. Apparently He still has something He wants me to get done. ¬†And while it may not change the universe, I have no doubt that it will shake up my little world considerably.

So how did the official ‘Day 1’ of my faith journey go? Better than I expected, tho probably not as well as it could have. Instead of avoiding my personal bible study time, I embraced it, and found it to be a balm to my weary soul. I touched base with friends and followed through on my offers to pray for them (hint: if you tell someone you’ll pray for them, do it IMMEDIATELY. Otherwise you are likely to fall into a pattern of forgetfulness.) And at random times throughout the day, I found myself singing praises for no apparent reason, other than I desired to. The flip side is that while I may not have sinned in word or in deed yesterday (and i strongly stress the may not; no action stands out in my mind, but I am the queen of self-delusions), there were several times when inappropriate thoughts or words or frustrations danced through my mind. But again, God is so good; He brought it to my attention on the spot, I changed my heart, and we moved forward, one event at a time.


You want me to WHAT?

So like I said, I’m new to this whole blogging thing. I have no idea how often the average blogger blogs, or how much will be too much; then again, I already said that the purpose if this is for me and not my readers.¬†It’s been two weeks since I made my first post, and I realized something: ¬†that’s too long. Especially since this is supposed to be all about accountability. If I go two weeks – heck, if I go two days¬†– without reporting in, it will more or less negate what I am hoping this venture will do. So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: I need to post an update daily. ¬†Otherwise I will fall back into the same old patterns that I am desperate to change. ¬†They (anyone other than me ever wonder just who ‘they’ are, anyway?) say that it takes 30 days to break a habit. Logic dictates that the breaking of a bad habit naturally results in the creation of a new habit in its place; therefore, in a focused effort to create a new, healthy habit, I plan to drop by and post an update a day beginning today and going through the entire month of February. Truly, I hope that you will stick with me – whoever you are. ¬†I really am looking for people to hold my feet to the flame because scripture is clear: ¬†our works will be tried by fire, and all that is in vain will be burned away (1 Corinthians 3:11-13).

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I suppose it’s time to get down to brass tacks. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. ¬†No doubt it will blow your mind, offend your senses, and totally change your opinion of me, but that’s OK; it needs to be said. here goes: I’m a failure. That’s right. I have failed – and before I even managed to really get started, too. I want to please God. I want to submit myself to His calling, and to yield my will to His, but every time push comes to shove, I shove. HARD. I confess that I am the poster child for… I was going to say a rebellious spirit, but that’s disingenuous. The reality is, I’m the poster child for defiance. Because when you¬†know¬†what it is that your parent – biological or heavenly – is asking of you and you go out of your way to resist/ignore the direction, it’s more than simple rebellion. Are you disappointed in me yet? Because let me tell you, I am beyond ashamed.

But I realized today that that is the enemy’s plan.

See, the longer we run from God, the easier it is to run from God. Not that we can actually run away from Him; trying to flee the presence of God is like trying to flee from oxygen: ¬†it surrounds us. But we distance ourselves spiritually and emotionally. I know without a doubt that I do it daily. I stop spending time in focused, intentional relationship with Him. I stop opening His word. I stop praying. Dear God! I am so guilty of the sin of prayerlessness! And the longer I avoid my God and all the places, people, and things that are associated with Him, the harder it gets for me to humble myself enough to go crawling back into His presence. As I said, that is the enemy’s plan. I open a door, and his insidious voice creeps in and tells me that I can do it on my own, or that God really doesn’t want me to do ______, or that I can do ______ my way. And stupid me, I listen. And then comes the guilt – that anguish of knowing that I have failed once again. Which opens that door wider, so that now Satan has a foot in there, and is actually starting to push, telling me now that there’s no point in trying to fix it. ‘You’ve already failed,’ he says. ‘Do you really think you can go and ask Him to forgive you, knowing darn well you’re just gonna do the same thing tomorrow?’ he needles, ‘Why bother? God knows you’re just going to drop the ball again. How many times do you think He’s going to put up with an incompetent fool like you before He refuses to let you back, anyway? Before He realizes you’re not worth it?’ And stupid me, I listen. (And did you know that what that guilt trip is really doing is building up our PRIDE? I mean, really: who am I to think that I’m so bad that God won’t want to forgive me? ¬†Talk about an over-inflated sense of self!)

So I stay away. And move further away. And the further I go from His presence, the more miserable I become. What’s really sad is that too often I am content to stay in my misery! Don’t get me wrong; I do not enjoy it. And I am immensely grateful for the misery, because it is confirmation of the Holy Spirit living in me. Not only is it impossible to flee from an omnipresent God, but as a child of the King, I cannot escape His physical presence, either. He has sealed my adoption with His very self indwelling me! And He cannot abide the presence of sin. ¬†The result of trying to force sin into God’s space in my life is that I become completely miserable. Because while we are certainly free to suppress the Holy Spirit in our lives, He is not going stand there quietly as we sin. ¬†No, He will not let us be comfortable in our willful disobedience! But I confess that until now, I have been content to be miserable.

Sin in the presence of God. One of these days, it will be no more (can i get an AMEN?) But do I really have to wait until eternity to experience life without the presence of sin? In Matthew 5, Jesus tells the Pharisees, ‘therefore, be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ Isn’t this impossible for us in this life? Or am I just fooling myself? Here are the biblical truths that I know:

1) God created Adam as a perfect being (Genesis 1)

2) Adam disobeyed God and sin entered the world (Genesis 3; Romans 5)

3) The consequence of sin is death – not merely physically, but also spiritually (Genesis 1; Genesis 3; pretty much the first 11 chapters of Romans…)

4) Jesus was not born of Adam, but of the virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 7; Matthew 1; Luke 1)

5) Jesus didn’t sin (Hebrews 4)

6) Jesus said that only those who have been reborn can see the Kingdom of God (John 3)

7) The same Spirit that brought about the birth of the Christ is the One who brings about the rebirth of our own spirit (John 3; 1 Corinthians 15; Ephesians 2; Colossians 3; 1 Peter 3)

8) With God, ALL things are possible (Matthew 19; Mark 9)

By now you may see where I’m headed, and it’s OK if you think I’m crazy. Heck, I think I’m crazy, but I cannot deny what I believe that God is asking of me. I am convinced (and convicted; I have the misery to prove it) that God is asking me to test Him and see if, in Him, it is possible to ‘go and sin no more’. And I am scared to death (well, not really DEATH, but you get the idea) to do it. Scared that He is going to ask me to surrender things I don’t want to; scared that the journey is going to be long and painful; scared that I’m going to fail – which is really funny, because I ¬†know¬†that I’m going to stumble if I try to do this in my own power. Which really means that what I’m truly afraid of is a) that I can’t trust God to do this FOR me, and/or b) I will continue to let fear prevent me from yielding (the illusion of) control.

This is going to be a completely new experience for me. I realize that I am going to have to un-clench my fists hourly¬†so that I don’t try to wrest control from Him. It is going to be a constant battle that can only be won by vigilant prayer and deepening roots in Him. And truth be told, I am kind of excited to see where this journey is going to end up. (Which reminds me of another ugly truth I have discovered about myself: I am a true-to-the-core, gratify-me-NOW American; I want the blessings that God has in store for me, but I don’t want to have to do the work required to obtain them. Like the masses of my generation, I was raised on a diet of ‘Have it your way’, ‘You deserve it’, and ‘Why wait? Get it now!’ ad campaigns. And it makes me ill to see just how deeply entrenched that mind-set is in me…) What I do know is that God has promised that the end result – no matter what happens in this life – is His absolute best for me; that whatever He asks me to surrender now¬†is going to be replaced with something even better (even if it is less), because He knows exactly what I need. So I pray that I will find my hope, my peace, my contentment, and my delight in Him. That I will moment by moment surrender to His will. ¬†And that I will soon be able to say with absolute honesty that it is WELL with my soul! ¬†See you tomorrow.


What Was I Thinking?

It’s a question I ask myself frequently. ¬†But this time, I think I have completely lost my mind – tho to my great surprise, when I announced to sons #1 and #2 that mom was starting a blog, neither of them fell into a fit of gut-bursting laughter…

But really, what am I thinking? ¬†Why have I decided to suddenly start – of all things – blogging?? ¬†In all honesty, I can think of a thousand things that would not only be simpler (like totally remodeling my house) but would also make more sense for someone like me to undertake. ¬†The simple fact of the matter is that I am not doing this to make money, or to make new friends. ¬†I’m not blogging about happy housewife adventures, or mommy mishaps; I don’t have a melt-in-your-mouth, gluten-free, completely organic pound cake recipe I want to share, and I am the last person you’d want to get dieting tips from. I don’t expect people to come seeking this page out to get words of wisdom or (what they may think is) sound advice. ¬†Quite frankly, I am not doing this for you; I’m doing it for ME. ¬†You read that correctly: ¬†my motives are 100% SELFISH. ¬†Because I need – not want, but NEED – people to keep me accountable.

I am absolutely, positively, and irrevocably convinced that there is a God in heaven who not only knows me fully, but desires that I fully know Him.  And I know that He is asking me now to put Him to the test Рto try His faithfulness to me and allow Him to prove that He is the Promise-keeper, the God of His word.  To see how His blessings abound when I yield myself to His will.

Sounds simple enough, right? ¬†Who doesn’t want God’s blessings poured out in their life? ¬†Who would be foolish enough to say, “Thanks God, but I have enough; You don’t need to bless me anymore,”? ¬†You guessed it: ¬†THIS girl. (Yes, you can feel free to come by and smack me upside the head; the line forms to the left). ¬†So the obvious question now becomes WHY? ¬†Why would I stand here with my arms crossed defiantly, glaring at my heavenly Father (not necessarily metaphorically…) and refusing what He wants to give me? ¬†Because I am allowing FEAR to smother my faith. ¬†And I’m fed up with it. ¬† So I’m taking my cowardice public. ¬†I plan to blog my experience and be brutally honest about how I’m doing in trading fear for faith; with putting my God to the test. ¬†And I am asking some select friends (and anyone who unwittingly stumbles across this page) to stop in often and see how my journey is going. ¬†In the mean time, please pray for me. ¬†I need it.